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READ THE FIRST TWO CHAPTERS: Veiled by Desire, by Candace Robinson


Veiled by Desire, by Candace Robinson—out TOMORROW!!

In Laith, when the moons are high, Tavarra is allowed to walk the land as a human for one day, losing her seahorse-like tail. But should she remain out of the water, a curse will overtake her, turning her into a beast with sharp fangs and long claws. A beast that, on some nights, takes the shape of a rampaging, uncontrollable monster.

Rhona, along with her village, are under a sinister leader’s control. Their leader has taken Rhona from the boy she loves, stripped away her abilities and, under the threat of killing everyone she loves, forces her on a dangerous task to retrieve a dark prism that will increase his already massive powers. When Tavarra and Rhona cross paths, they discover they need each other. Rhona knows how to help the cursed sea creature, while Tavarra knows where to find the dark prism. They embark on a mission that could help them break Tavarra’s spell and save Rhona’s family and village. But with an untamable beast inside Tavarra, nothing is certain...

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CHAPTER ONE

TAVARRA

SEVEN YEARS AGO

As Tavarra tried to leave the gravitational pull of the

powerful ocean waves, each one crashed and pounded

against her strong body. She swished through the

murky sea, her tail flicking at the rough current as the liquid

attempted to haul her back into its clutches.

Tonight was a chance for her to escape the haunting depths

she so desperately dreamed of leaving behind. Tavarra pushed

her head out of the sea’s liquid claws, finally finding herself

near the sandy shore. She took a deep breath through her

mouth, no longer needing the gills etched on each side of her

neck.

Holding steady, she stared through the last rays of the

waning day, searching for him. But the young man wasn’t

anywhere in her line of sight yet. Keeping on top of the liquid

swells, her gaze fixed on the caramel-colored sand. As her arms repeatedly cut through the vigorous surge, a hint of desperation filled her—she couldn’t get swallowed back up. At last, her body struck the grainy granules, swept in blackness.

She sighed in relief.

With no time to spare, Tavarra dragged her exhausted

body by her forearms across the sand. Each tiny grain rubbed against the delicate skin between her fingers and nails. She

came to a halt and rolled herself to a sitting position, letting

the edge of a cool wave caress the end of her tangerine tail.

Bony plates fused together with a fleshy covering lined the

tail’s body, and the tip came to a curled point.

A heavy breath forced its way out and tugged harshly at her

lungs. “Goodbye,” she whispered, half to herself and half to the

ocean cage that, for seventeen years, had never been a true

home. “Please let this happen.” Tavarra’s heart pounded

rapidly, and had it beaten any harder, her sternum would have

cracked.

Bringing her sandy hands to her waist, she glided them

down her moistened tawny skin until they met the vivid

exoskeleton. The silver of the twin moons shone down in

answer, as if telling her it would work. It must work.

Tavarra had recently heard a tale of when the twin moons

would rise, there would be a way for her sea dweller kind to

truly walk the land of Laith. She desired it with everything in

her. If this worked, she would never return to the watery home

—her underwater grave.

Slowly, she slid her thumb beneath the soft plates of her

tail. To her surprise, the tail pushed away from her skin, as if it

were never a part of her at all. She thought there would be

pain, but there wasn’t, only a filmy residue left behind.

Tavarra’s lips pulled up on each side, and she let out a

rumbling, giddy laugh to the moons, to the ocean, and to

herself. Tugging the tail a little more, she shimmied out from

the exoskeleton and found smooth bare legs underneath—as

she had hoped. The story had been right. If only she knew

sooner that legs rested beneath the tail—then she could have

been doing this every time the moons were at their fullest. A

continuation of delighted laughter echoed from her as it

bounced off the waves and into the darkened forest.

She kicked these new-found creations, releasing the legs in

their entirety from the confined appendage. To her it felt

natural, more than surreal.

“Tavarra?”

The deep male voice caused her to whirl around and fall to

the sand, catching her upper body with her forearms.

Darkness surrounded them as the night grew to its peak,

but he would always be visible to her eyes—whether he was

carrying a lantern or not. Brice—one of the main reasons she

wanted to stay. Satiny, black curls fell against the pale skin of his

shoulders. His features became clearer as he approached—that soft, pouty mouth she had kissed time upon time, and the delicate nose which came to a sharp point. A blue tunic accented his broad shoulders, and with each shift of his body, the muscles flexed beneath it as he drew closer. She could never return now—not when he was there, real, breathing, waiting for her.

“Yes. It’s me, Brice.” Tavarra pulled her new legs to her

chest. As his boots scuffed through the sand, she didn’t tear

her gaze away from him. The ocean sounded with musical

whispers, its way of luring her back. Instead, she focused on

the crushing of his shuffling steps.

Brice knelt directly beside Tavarra, shining his lantern

toward her tail on the sand before he examined her new limbs.

His mouth agape, his green eyes opened even wider. “I don’t

understand,” he stuttered and stared at her face with both

longing and confusion written across his own.

Lifting her hand, she ran it across his cheek, and the rough

stubble scratched her palm. “I told you I had to show you

something.” Tavarra smiled. She had wanted to tell him earlier

that morning but decided that a surprise later would be better.

She had loved Brice since the day she first laid eyes on him.

There had been sea dweller females and males she’d been cozy with, but no one ever held her interest—until Brice. Each

morning, she had swum to the same shore to let her body lay

in the sand while the waves continuously beat against her tail.

One sunrise, when she thought she’d been alone—he had

stumbled upon her. For the past year, they had shared kisses,

secret touches, and endless dreams together. It wasn’t just all

kisses, though—he had told her stories, and she confided in

him all her fears and hopes.

Brice studied Tavarra’s stiff legs for a moment, then

returned his focus to her face. “Is this temporary?”

From the story a water sprite had told her, it was only meant for one day. But she would make it permanent, regard-

less of what the tale said. The story could be wrong. A fish

could never be with a bird, just as she could not live another

day with only meeting Brice for stolen moments.

They had wasted enough time. Tavarra pulled Brice’s fore-

head to hers and stared into those bright green eyes that gazed

at her, glinting with something forbidden and exciting. He ran

his hands through the wet tangerine hair that brushed her

hips, and she molded her lips to his.

Brice slid his palms up her naked body, enfolding a hand

around her breast. He tugged his tunic over his head and

pulled her into his lap. It was not the first time she felt his

sizzling touch on her naked skin, as they had pressed their

upper bodies together time and time again. But this... This was

infinitely better, and not just because she could feel the part of

him that wanted to be against the new piece of her.

She tore her mouth away from his, long enough to make

him as bare as she was. Without any pause, she let herself

press down on him, and a moan of pleasure escaped them

both. They had waited and waited, and there could be discus-

sions tomorrow, but tonight she wanted him in the ways she

never could have had him before.

In the morning, Tavarra awoke to an empty blue tunic and

her tail, both lying beside her. Brice had whispered he

would return that evening, but she hadn’t understood why she

couldn’t come with him. She slipped on the tunic to cover

herself and waited for his return.

The day bled into night as the dark pink sky faded to

blackened whispers. Tavarra was hungry, tired, and desperate

to find Brice.

He still did not come.

“Sister?” a familiar female voice called from behind her.

Nezarra.

What is she doing here?

“Go home!” Tavarra snapped. She loved her sister more

than anything. Perhaps not anything, since, to her, staying

ashore was more important.

“No.” Her sister appeared determined, a hard frown on her

face.

Tavarra’s jaw fell open when she fastened her gaze on her

sister, walking to her and carrying a tail. Nezarra’s emerald hair

fell to her waist, and her skin practically radiated. Above them,

the night sky had flecks of blue-diamond sheen highlighted by

the moons. Her sister was moving on two legs, same as Tavarra

now could.

Nezarra wore a pair of brown trousers and a white tunic,

her feet just as bare as Tavarra’s. Her sister must have been

keeping secrets back in the hidden depths of the sea.

“You’ve done this before, haven’t you?” Tavarra seethed,

realizing that her sister had always known something she

hadn’t.

“Yes, but only because I can handle it,” Nezarra said softly.

“I can come here and return back to our home without

yearning to stay and destroying myself.”

“Destroying myself?” Tavarra’s body heated with rage. She

didn’t understand why Nezarra had never told her about this.

Her sister knew how much she had wanted to live off the

shore.

Sighing, Nezarra swept her emerald hair over her shoulder.

“There’s a curse if you stay out of the water too long.”

“I can’t go back. I have Brice.” Tavarra hit the sand—

maybe her sister was lying.

Nezarra ceased moving, her eyes shifting to the side. “No,

Sister, you don’t.” Her gaze locked on Tavarra, a hint of sadness

in her dark eyes. “I know what you told me about him, and