The next day and a half are silent between Kai and me. The only time we speak to each other is mealtime, during the occasional conversation about the weather, or the sea. The rest of the time, I am either attempting to catch up on sleep or watching the ocean waves while Kai sleeps. We are avoiding the awkward conversation I know needs to be had, and we make sure to never get too close to one other. Every time we dance around each other, it only reminds me of what I’ve done.
Again. You’ve fucked up, again.
I allow my thoughts to wander, attempting to keep Nerites out of them but failing. It’s too easy to close my eyes and recall him licking his lips for a taste of me or the way his eyes sparkled when he told me he loved me for the first time. Where is he now? Has he thought of me since that night? Does he still think about me? Does he still love me? I squeeze my eyes shut, my hands clutching the wheel of the boat. I barely stop myself from splintering the lacquered wood. I shouldn’t be thinking about him. Not when I have a mission at hand.
The sun peeks over the horizon, coloring the sky with orange and pinks. I take a deep breath, enjoying the salty smell of the water, letting it rejuvenate me. I wasn’t born to the sea, but I’ve made it my own. Since Gaia put the Trident in my hand, the sea has belonged to me and the other gods who call its crashing surf home.
We are almost at the island. The coloring of the water confirms it. The low thrum of the crest has the waves crashing against the boat. Kai stumbles up from the cabin, his eyes narrowing at the sun. His dreads are tied into a ponytail to keep them from falling into his face. He is wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off and brown shorts that show off his strong thighs and calves. Unable to help myself, I lick my lips before closing my eyes, trying to get rid of the memory.
You would be using him. Again. User. Abuser.
“We should hit the shore in fifteen minutes,” I say, looking ahead. In the distance, I can see the shadow of the island. My heart pounds in my chest. So close, and yet…something feels off. My grip on the wheel tightens.
Kai grunts and moves to the bow of the ship. He sits on the end, his toes touching the bright blue water. My gut twists with guilt. I should apologize, talk to him again. I can’t stand this coldness between us. Yet, I can’t seem to form the words. My throat goes dry, and I stay silent until it is time to anchor. Don’t forget your sandals.
Kai raises the sails and tosses the anchor over the side. We are a few miles out from shore to avoid the rocks. Once the ship settles, Kai removes his shirt, tossing it onto the deck. He turns back to me, his eyes lighting up as he smirks.
“Race you to the island?” he asks.
I snort. “You know I am only going to win.”
Kai ponders that for a moment before a sly smile appears across his lips. “Only if we play fair.”
He jumps into the water, and I laugh, removing my shirt before jumping in after him. The water helps push me along, and I catch up to Kai in a heartbeat. I wink at him before shooting forward, and I can almost hear him yell the word ass towards me. Maybe…maybe I haven’t ruined everything.
I am lying on the sandy shore of the small island, smirking as Kai trudges out of the water. He shakes his head, slinging water into the air. I push to my feet, trying hard not to look at his flawless skin.
“You’ve let yourself go.” I laugh.
Kai rolls his eyes. “That is what happens when you lose your fins.”
I smile softly at him. “Remind me to take you for swimming lessons then. I can’t have my number two on land lacking in the water.”
Kai rolls his eyes at me. “Where is it?”
“Hm.” I look around, my eyes glowing sea blue as I observe the small island. It has been hundreds of years since I last visited this place. I haven’t been back since I gave him the key, and being immortal, my memory can be a bit spotty. I search the ground for any sign of where I buried it and then pause to look at Kai. “I, um…I need to do this next part alone.”
Kai looks me up and down before nodding and stepping back into the water. “I will wait here and work on my breaststroke.”
I nod before spinning away. The sand sparkles in the sun, and slowly little blue streaks begin to glow ahead of me. I follow the illuminated path for a few minutes and arrive at a pile of sand that pulses with indigo light. I let out a breath before summoning my trident. I shift my weapon into a shovel and begin digging. Sweat drips down my back and the sun is high before I hit something. The shovel melts, the liquid metal tickling with a familiar warmth as it turns back into my anklet and wraps around my ankle. I kneel and use my hands to dig the rest of the way.
By the time the chest in front of me, my hands are shaking. I look it up and down, and fear clutches my heart. I press a hand against my chest to calm myself, though it doesn’t help. I can still hear the pounding in my ears as I pull the key from my pocket and open the chest.
A breath of relief escapes me as I find the contents still inside. My heart is still there. Not my physical heart, no, but items that remind me of the person who has stolen my heart. Nerites. Inside there is a large shell from the time we shared our first kiss on the beach. There is a small portrait of him that one of the painters drew, a bracelet of seashells, a couple of stones with paint on them, a coin, and a few other small objects. Each one has a story. Each one is a memory of him.
Tears sting my eyes as I shut the chest, locking it. I wanted him to find this. I wanted him to know that my love burns deep for him, but now…I look down at the key, squeezing my eyes shut as a tear rolls down my cheek. He threw it away. He probably doesn’t want to see me again, but…fuck, I can’t stay away.
I stand and make my way back to Kai and the boat. I am going to find him. I am going to apologize for hurting him all those years ago.