Ready to pounce on the first virile man she spotted, Margaid treaded water near a docked boat. I am the shame of Mannan. That's me, the leanan sidhe who hides in her cave for centuries.
With the salty taste of the sea on her tongue, she took a deep gulp of air. I have to do this or the sea god is going to turn me into a kelpie, and I don't want that. Wet hair whipped her shoulders as she shook her head in anger, still seething about the scolding the sea god gave her that morning. "You are the only one of the leanan sidhe who gives me problems. All the others use their beauty to lure and seduce men, drain them, and fill red cauldrons with the mortals' blood," she mocked Mannan beg mac y Leir in a clownish voice.
Margaid swept her long red hair back from her freckled face. Maybe he's right. I deserve to be turned into a kelpie. I haven't been a very good leanan sidhe all these centuries. I never once did what the leanan sidhe are supposed to do. Her muscles clinched like a knot tugged tight. But I don't like blood. Yuck. It's too ... red and smelly and ... it's blood.
The setting sun hung over Douglas Bay, a red ball in the sky. Margaid gazed at a huge building, lit up like gold. She'd heard people call it things like 'the Hilton' and 'the casino'.
I call it grand ... and so is he. Gazing at the man who had just walked out of the Hilton made her smile. With hair the color of the ochre-yellow sponge plants that clung to the boulders by the entrance of her cave, the only imperfection was a cowlick, which stuck out like the feathers on a crested bird.
Swimming closer to shore, she noticed he squinted his eyes, which made him look rather funny. It also eased the shakiness inside her. This one looks pretty good.
Drawn to him, she felt tingly.
He gazed directly at Margaid, as if he heard what she said. His eyes were the blue of the summer sky above the Irish Sea when it was mild and calm. She swallowed. I can do this. I can seduce this man. "Laa mie," she greeted him in her most tempting tone.
He stepped to the edge of the dock where she was treading water. "Hi."
"Come join me, the water's fine." Why is he still squinting? It's nighttime, so it's not because of the sun's glare. "Don't you want to jump in for a swim?"
"I don't have my bathing suit. My luggage was lost."
"Did you look for it?"
His rich chuckle danced in the air. "No, the airline lost it. My contacts were in it."
"Your contacts, people you know."
"You're funny. No, for my eyes, like glasses, but better." He shrugged. "My eyes irritated me, so to be comfortable on the flight, I took out my contacts and stuffed them in a carry-on bag before we boarded. But my mom had two carry-on satchels, so they shoved mine in the baggage compartment, where they lost it." He smiled."They should find it soon."
"You came in an airplane." Perfect, a stranger from far away. "I've seen them fly over the sea."
"Yeah, I'm from America."
"America? Is it a large island, like Man?"
"No, much larger." There was a trace of laughter in his voice. "And it's not an island. It's a country on the North American continent." Pausing, he tapped his finger against his chin. "Oh, you probably call it the United States."
"Continent, what's that? I never met anyone that didn't live on an island."
"Well around here that's all you have." His hands moved in the air as he spoke. "Man, England, and Ireland are all islands."
"So you've come to live here on Man instead of America or the United States?"
"No, we're just on vacation." He hesitated. "Well my mother and brother came to discover their roots, but I came as a world traveler seeking adventure. I stumbled from the hotel club to see what else was out here."
She bobbed her head in agreement. "I also come to the island at night to look at what's out here."
"Anything going down tonight, do you know the spot to go to?"
"Yes, I'll take you there, jump in."
"In the water?"
"Yes, it's under the sea."
His laughter at her response was bewitching.
Her giggles rippled through the air. "Really, I live under the sea. You don't need a suit. What you're wearing is fine. Slip your shoes off and dive in."
"Why not?" Having slipped his shoes off, he kicked them to the side. "Is that a bikini you're wearing?"
"No, it's a chiton, it's easy to swim in, since it's short and sleeveless."
"Oh, it's kind of hard to see without my contacts." He shed his black t-shirt with the graphic of a helmeted rider, tagged 'Isle of Man, Road Racing Capital of the World.'
Margaid gaped. His chest was sculpted by exercise in six defined portions.
With his jeans on, he dove in head first, then came up for air with a short yell. "You said the water was fine. Are you crazy? It's like ice."
"It's warm to me." To a leanan sidhe. I have to get this man to my lair or I'm going to be a kelpie for sure. "It'll warm up fast, come on, follow me." Ducking underwater, she swam away, hoping he was behind her. Through blue swirls of water dotted with tiny bubbles, she kept her pace slow so he could keep up. Forcing herself not to look back and appear over-eager, she glided on. I hope he's still there. I think I'm going to be able to be a proper leanan sidhe. I can do it.
A gray harbor porpoise playfully head-butted her tummy. She petted its smooth head before it glided upward to skim along the surface of the water. I just need to get him to my cave and by the red cauldron. And then, well I can't think of that now. I'll have to deal with it then. I have to. I can. I can do it.
When she swam back to Andrew, he let her take him by the arm and guide him to the cave. They passed a large leatherback sea turtle flapping its rough front and back flippers as its narrow head bobbed in the water.
As they dove to the depths of the watery world, Andrew pointed to rays with hooded eyes that sailed passed, flapping wide, dark wings as their serpentine tails swayed.
A red starfish curled one of its arms upward, as if waving hello as it lay on a massive boulder, blanketed with yellow coral polyps which resembled bright spring flowers. Margaid pointed to a large conger eel hiding under a nearby rock, sticking out its flat head. Its two black eyes stared at Margaid accusingly, as if it knew what she was about to do. The eel slithered over the boulders by her cave. Andrew drew back, but she dragged him forward until their feet hit the sand at the bottom of the sea.
Who is that eel to judge me? What can I do? It's either be a proper leanan sidhe or be a kelpie. I have no choice.
Holding Andrew's hand in hers, Margaid stood in front of a boulder engraved with ancient Celtic swirls, which formed a triskelion, the symbol of Mannan beg mac y Leir. Shoving the boulder aside, she stepped through the entrance onto the stairs, which led into the underwater cave. With Andrew inside, she shut the hatch.
"Wow, I can breathe in here. Just like on land, man this is crazy." He followed her down. "You really live under the sea." Andrew took the last step off the stairs and pressed his hands on her shoulders. "That's nuts. I thought you were joking."