Book Release Date Announcement and Excerpt!

by Kristina Ludwig
Oct 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: October 5, 2015 at 12:13 pm

I’m excited to announce that Amish Friendships Book 4, Amish Redemption, will be launching on October 10th! It’s only fitting, since I released Rumspringa Break, the Amish novella that started it all, on 10/10/13. :)

Here’s the very last excerpt I will be sharing from Amish Redemption…until the book comes out. I hope you enjoy it!

Photo courtesy of lancasterpa.com

Photo courtesy of lancasterpa.com

Chapter Three: Miriam

I sink into Abram’s strong arms, suddenly disappointed in myself for this outburst—but not enough to stop crying. I’d been doing such a gut job of holding our family together, as a fraa should do. I know I can’t fall apart now; yet, it’s happening whether I like it or not.

Naturally, Henry starts crying, too, and I take him into my arms, cuddling and soothing him. For a long minute, our family huddles there in a triangle of grief: Abram comforting me as I comfort Henry.

Finally, Abram pulls away and gazes deeply into my eyes. “Look, liebchen, I’m glad that you told me your feelings. It would’ve been much worse if you’d held them in. And you’re right, by the way. We shouldn’t lie to each other. Lying, for whatever reason, is what got us into trouble in the first place.”

I let out a laugh, and hollow as it is, it somehow makes me feel just a little bit better.

“Let’s talk to Bishop Herschberger again,” he says. “He told us that our repentance will be long and hard, but I feel as though we’ve prayed a great deal. Why don’t we ask him if we can make our formal confession? The worst thing he can say is no—that we need to do something else before we can return to the fold. But at least knowing one way or the other will be better than this.”

I nod. Abram’s idea makes so much sense that I wonder why I didn’t think of it myself. I suppose I was feeling too sorry for myself to think clearly. “When should we go? Can we head over right now?” I ask, my voice picking up speed.

“Not right now, liebchen,” he says. When I groan, he says, “We should go tomorrow. It’s too late now; tonight is no gut. And we should talk to all the elders after church this week, too—not just the bishop.”

I flinch at that, even though I know he’s right. Somehow the thought of talking with Minister Eichler gives me a sour taste in my mouth. If it weren’t for his overreaction, we wouldn’t be in the Bann in the first place.

I ignore Abram’s comment about Sunday, and say, “All right. Tomorrow it is,” and we finally go back to eating dinner.

The next morning, Abram has a clear tour schedule until half past ten. This means we’re free to pay a visit to Bishop Herschberger. I know from his usual rousing church sermons that he’s energetic bright and early in the morning, so I hope we catch him in a gut mood today.

His fraa answers the door, leading us down the hall to his small office. We pause in the doorway, not wanting to disturb him. He’s sitting straight and tall at his desk, reading his dog-eared old copy of the Bible and making notes in a small book, which he snaps shut the moment he realizes he has visitors.

“The Millers,” he says with a half-smile, toying with his wiry brown and gray beard. “What brings you here?”

“We’ve been working on our repentance, just like you said,” Abram says. “We have been praying a lot, and we’re ready to make our confessions so that we may return to the fold.” He pats my stomach and adds, “The bobbel is coming soon, and being born into the Bann is no way to enter this world.”

I feel my cheeks heat up in mortification. Even though my pregnancy is obvious, it’s embarrassing to have it announced in front of an elder this way.

The bishop, however, doesn’t seem to care at all. He takes a deep breath, glancing at Abram, then at me, and finally back at Abram again. “I realize that you want your bobbel to be born in gut standing among our community, but I’m concerned that this is the only reason that you’re so concerned with your repentance. You certainly weren’t repentant before, when you talked back and argued with us.”

I stare at Bishop Herschberger, speechless, as a strangled sound escapes Abram’s throat. The bishop peers at us over his wire-rimmed glasses, his eyes round and large, like an owl’s. “I can’t accept your confession and let you rejoin the fold until I’m convinced that you’re truly contrite and sincere in your motives,” he continues. “You know that.”

 

Book Excerpt from Amish Redemption

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 28
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

This week, I’m excited to bring you another excerpt from my upcoming eBook, Amish Redemption. It’s the final book of the Amish Friendships series, and full of challenges for our young friends Miriam and Abram.

Missed the first excerpt? Check it out here on the blog. And, as always, I’d love to hear what you think of the book so far. :)

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Beautiful autumn in Amish country. Photo courtesy of branhamphoto.com

Chapter Two: Abram

 After I settle the horses in the barn for the night, I brace myself to head back outside into the cold. Even on drafty evenings like these, the barn always seems to carry a warmth of its own, from the animals and the soft hay lining the floors and walls.

I cringe when I step back outside and a blast of frigid air hits me. I usually love that chill that tells me winter is on the way, but I suppose that lately I’ve felt so frozen out by the people in our community that I just want to feel warm all the time.

I frown as I unload the groceries from the English market and carry them toward the haus. Everything cost nearly twice as much as it does at Samuel’s General Store. But I’ve had to stop shopping at the Amish stores ever since my fraa and I were placed in the Bann.

I still think that our punishment was unfair. When the scraggly runaway teen showed up at our haus one day, we took him in and let him earn his keep by working for us. He hid who he really was, telling us that his name was Lee, but it wasn’t long until I figured out that he was actually Levi, Minister Eichler’s long-lost son.

Levi asked Miriam and me to keep his secret until he was ready to talk to his parents, and we did. The only problem was that the Eichlers found out that he was here before he’d had a chance to talk to them. Instead of being angry with their son, they blamed everything on us for lying and keeping his secret, and we ended up Meidung.

Now it’s up to us to pick up the pieces. We talked to the bishop, and he told us there’s much to do before we can come back to the fold.

It’s just not right that Miriam and I were shunned, while Levi was allowed back into his parents’ haus and barely punished. As an unbaptized youth, he was given a bit more leeway. I hope that he returns to Ohio soon to see Sadie, the girl he was courting before he ran away. He compromised Sadie, and now she’s expecting a bobbel.

I think of my own bobblin, one born and one on the way, and shake my head. I try to tell myself that I should forgive Levi entirely, but I just can’t. I don’t think he’s a man of character. If I were in his place, I would be back in Ohio faster than a shot, waiting for the miracle of my bobbel’s birth.

But who am I to judge other people? Only Herr Gott can do that. Sighing, I heave the grocery bags upwards and drag myself inside to see my fraa.

I’m greeted by the smell of roast beef and buttery mashed potatoes, two of my favorite things. As Miriam rushes downstairs to help me unload the groceries, and then prepares plates for me, Henry, and herself—last as usual—I look at the rounded swell of her belly, and realize that the bobbel is not far away.

“How was your day, liebchen?” I ask, kissing her.

Gut,” she says in a falsely-bright voice. She plops down in her seat and begins feeding Henry mashed potatoes. “I redd up the haus, and played with Henry. We made cookies and pies, and went for a short walk outside.”

I can hear the strain in her voice; I know that she’s missing the time spent with friends, family, and neighbors, just as I am. Although Miriam doesn’t have many close friends, she’s always been actively involved in the community, taking Henry to play with other children and attending quilting circles. Now she can’t do any of that.

“That sounds nice,” I say without any enthusiasm, taking a mouthful of roast beef. “My day was gut, too. I gave one tour, and then shopped with the Englischers.”

A strangled sob escapes from Miriam’s throat, and Henry and I both stare at her. I’m horrified to see that her eyes are bright with tears.

“Let’s not lie to ourselves anymore,” she says. “My day was baremlich, and yours was, too. All the days will be like that until we’re back in the fold.”

I hop out of my seat and throw my arms around my fraa. “Everything will be all right,” I whisper into her hair, and I feel her relax into my arms.

I can only hope that I’m right, and not lying, both to Miriam and to myself.

New Book Excerpt From Amish Redemption

by Kristina Ludwig
Sep 23
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: September 23, 2015 at 12:24 pm

I’m excited to announce that Book 4 of the Amish Friendships seriesAmish Redemption, will be coming out in early October! Young couple Abram and Miriam have been shunned after their idea to help out a runaway teen backfires. The road to redemption is a long one; they must prove to the elders that they’re truly repentant for lying about the youth’s identity. Can they find their way back into the fold before the birth of their new baby?

Until the release date, I’ll be posting free excerpts every week. So here’s the first one… Hope you enjoy!

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Amish country is so beautiful in the fall! Photo courtesy of akronlife.com

Chapter One: Miriam

Hurrying upstairs with a basket of freshly-washed diapers in one hand and my one year-old son Henry in the other, I hear Abram’s buggy pulling into the driveway before I can see it. The horses whinny and the rubber wheels crackle over the gravel as I hear him shouting, “Yah.”

Setting down the basket, I yank aside the curtains and peer out the window, my breath puffing out and making little clouds on the glass. I rub them away with my free hand, flinching at the chill on my fingertips as I gaze at my mann. He tugs his coat tightly around his sturdy, stocky chest, and then unhitches the horses, leading them around back to the barn. As he trundles past, I notice that his teeth are chattering.

There’s no doubt about it: winter is coming, and so is the new bobbel.

Henry had become calmer as he’d grown inside me, but this little one kicks and twirls more energetically than ever, as though it can’t wait to get out and see the world.

I reckon the bobbel will arrive in about three weeks. This was what the midwife had told me—before we were shunned, that is. Now she can’t tell me anything. She’s Amish, which means that she can’t examine people in the Bann—or deliver their bobblin—unless she’s willing to risk Meidung herself. My maemm and schweschders are forbidden from helping out with the birthing, too. How baremlich that our innocent, unborn bobbel is being punished.

I drop my head into my hand, suddenly exhausted as I think of my family’s problems. Ever since we’ve been Meidung, we’ve had so many.

We can’t do business with anyone Amish, which is harder than it sounds in our small community. Samuel’s General Store is off-limits, and so is Stoltzfus Bakery. Today, Abram had to drive all the way to the English store in Volant to pick up food and necessities. English stores are much more expensive than Amish ones, and we certainly don’t have the money to spare.

Abram’s buggy tour business had been booming before the Meidung, but he had to let his employees go, since they’re Amish and can’t work for a shunned man. Now he’s short-staffed, and had to cut down the number of tours he runs. We also shut down my bed and breakfast, but that hadn’t been doing very well, anyway. Still, the amount of money coming in every week has slowed from a steady flow to a pathetic trickle.

Now I turn around and slog away from the cold window, squeezing Henry tight and inhaling the warm, sweet scent of his scalp. At moments like these, it comes in handy to count my blessings. I may be shunned, but I still have a beautiful bobbel and another on the way. I have a mann who loves me, and since he’s Meidung too, we can still talk to each other and even sleep together. And we already talked to the elders about the steps we will have to take toward repentance. Bishop Herschberger said that there will be a long road of reflection and prayer ahead, after which we must make a formal confession.

I just hope the road to redemption doesn’t take more than three weeks to travel. I remember how I’d struggled to give birth to Henry. My heart sinks as the harsh truth hits me: I don’t have the money to have this bobbel in a fancy English hospital, nor do I have the strength or knowledge to bring him or her into the world alone.

Amish Blessings Release + Giveaway

by Kristina Ludwig
Jun 30
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: June 30, 2015 at 8:58 am

I’m psyched to announce that Amish Blessings has launched on Kindle… Check it out here. In this book, we catch a glimpse of the lives of Miriam and Abram, young business owners who, up until this book, have been minor characters. In past books, Abram and Miriam mostly cropped up in party scenes (Abram in the Amish Hearts series) or moments of annoyance for Mercy and Hannah (Miriam). However, I think readers will find love and compassion in their hearts for this surprisingly sweet couple as they take in a runaway boy…and face an unexpected shunning.

Interested in reviewing Amish Blessings? The first 5 people to comment here will receive free review copies!

Thanks to everyone who provided me with valuable feedback on the cover designs yesterday. Many readers commented on the Facebook post, and it helped so much! Here’s the finished version of the cover. What do you think?

 

You voted, we listened... Here's the Amish Blessings cover reveal.

You voted, we listened… Here’s the Amish Blessings cover reveal.

And, as always, I’m happy to share a free excerpt with you. Here’s Chapter 2. (If you missed Chapter 1, you can read it here.)

Chapter Two: Abram

 The brisk fall wind whips across my face, nearly blowing my straw hat off my head. I shiver, tugging my jacket closer around myself as I harness the horses to the buggy for the first tour of the day.

My Amish tour business is a relatively new one. Miriam and I started it, and the bed and breakfast, after my vadder passed away and left me, along with my bruders and schweschders, a bit of money. My dear maemm had died of cancer a few years before, and Vadder hadn’t taken it well. He’d simply stopped taking care of himself, despite the constant concern of the family.

The heavy gray clouds above make it the perfect day for gloomy thoughts, but I force the sadness out of my head and focus on the tasks at hand. Vadder and Maemm are with Herr Gott and each other in heaven, where they belong. At least, I hope they are. We Amish try our best to live purely and simply, and my parents were gut people. But even so, you can never be sure that you’re going to heaven.

I’m glad when the Quigleys, who will be staying at the bed and breakfast for the weekend, head out the front door. They’re scheduled for a morning tour, and it will be nice to be distracted from the turn my thoughts have taken. But I’m surprised to see that they’re not coming outside empty-handed; they have their bags, and the twin girls are pouting and whining.

I hurry over, wondering what could have possibly gone wrong. The tours are fairly popular, and I even hired two of my friends, Jeremiah and Aaron, to help out. They’ll both be coming in a little later today, when the tour schedule is full.

However, very few people have stayed in the bed and breakfast. So far, only a few families have visited, and all of them have either cut short their stays or canceled when they’ve found out that there’s no indoor plumbing.

Honestly, what do these Englischers think? We’re Amish!

I look down at the Quigleys’ overstuffed bags and ask Mr. Quigley, “Something wrong, sir?”

His cheeks flush pink under his light stubble. “We decided that we won’t be staying at your facilities,” he says, the timid tone of his voice making him sound rather embarrassed. With a little chuckle, he adds, “My wife can’t do without running water and indoor toilets.”

“Like you could, either,” Mrs. Quigley snaps. “We decided to skip breakfast, too, but we’d still like a tour around the neighborhood, if you’d be so kind.”

I raise an eyebrow. I’m surprised that they’d willingly miss out on Miriam’s breakfast casserole; it’s probably the best thing I’ve ever tasted.

However, they’re paying customers, and they did reserve a tour. So I force a smile onto my face and say, “Of course. Why don’t you let me take your bags to the car, and we’ll be on our way.”

After I’ve helped the family to repack their huge SUV to Mrs. Quigley’s satisfaction, I load everyone into the buggy and start the drive around town. The route stretches from New Wilmington to Volant, and I usually stop to showcase the shops and Amish homes if the Englischers are interested. Often, we’ll run across other buggies on the way, and the English tourists generally try to snap pictures with their cell phones. This has led to some pretty funny episodes, since we Amish don’t believe in having our photos taken. Just last week, a man tried to take a picture of Minister Eichler as he passed by, and the minister placed a hand over his face and nearly steered his buggy into a ditch.

As I begin the tour, trying unsuccessfully to block out the whines of the little girls and Mrs. Quigley’s constant griping, my stomach gives a slow, long roil, and not just because I’m getting hungry from thinking of my fraa’s breakfast casserole.

We have to get this bed and breakfast off the ground, or the business may not be able to stay afloat.

Excerpt of Amish Shopkeeper

by Kristina Ludwig
May 5
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: May 5, 2015 at 12:43 pm

I’m excited to announce that my new eBook, Amish Shopkeeper, will be coming out early next week! Jakob wants to buy the buggy repair shop where he works, but how can he afford it? All he needs is time, and his boss, Amos, is willing to give him that. After all, he’s not planning to retire right away.

However, all that changes when Amos finds out that he needs an expensive knee surgery. Suddenly, he’s forced into selling. The problem: Jakob can’t afford to buy it yet.

With the help of Samuel and the church elders, Jakob and Hannah plan a fundraiser for Amos. But can they raise enough money to pay for Amos’s operation, or will he be forced to sell anyway?

I’ll keep you posted here and on Facebook and Twitter with release dates. Until then, here’s an excerpt of the book!

A real Amish buggy shop in Pennsylvania. Image from amishbuggypa.com

A real Amish buggy shop in Pennsylvania. Image from amishbuggypa.com

Chapter One: Jakob

I gaze across the fields by my haus, holding up one hand to shield my eyes from the bright sunrise. My bruder, Aaron, will be married this November, and every morning, I’ve been tending the celery I’ve planted for him.  Celery is a staple in Amish weddings; it’s used in the recipes, as well as the decorations.

The tall, green stalks are sprouting up faster than my younger brothers during puberty. There’s been plenty of rain this year, unlike the baremlich drought two summers ago, when I’d been preparing for my own wedding.

I stifle a yawn; this extra chore means that I have to rise half an hour earlier. However, I feel as though it’s worth it. After all, Aaron and my other bruders helped to grow the celery, meager as it was, for my wedding.

Besides, I’m hoping that the extra favor will make Aaron more likely to do one for me. I’ve been trying to talk him into going into business with me for the last month or so, and he’s still not sure about it. My boss Amos might sell his old buggy repair shop, and I really want to buy it. The only problem is that I don’t have enough money to do it by myself—I need a business partner.

Aaron is meeting me at the shop for lunch today. He’s planning to look around, and then he’ll stay for a while to see how the place runs. I really hope he likes it. He makes gut money at the table and chair factory where he works. Plus, he’s thinking of moving to the next town over with his fraa-to-be. I’ll have a lot of work to do to convince him.

Turning toward the haus, I push the wheelbarrow of mulch back into the barn and begin my next chore: milking the cows. As I complete all my other usual morning tasks, I think about the way I’d run the repair shop if it were mine.

I’ve worked there ever since I graduated eighth grade, and throughout the years, I’ve become the guy who can fix just about anything. Not only do I perform all the buggy repairs since Amos’s rheumatism has started to act up, I also suggested that we expand our business to include random household items. Now, we fix anything people bring in—and since Amos has problems seeing close-up, I do most of those repairs as well.

I gather a basketful of eggs and head into the haus. There, Hannah has already begun cooking breakfast. I can smell the coffee brewing, and she’s frying up some bacon. Waffles sizzle on the griddle, while our five-month-old bobbel, Grace, sits at her high chair, eagerly waiting for her feeding. She’s a gut eater, although she usually gets more food on herself than in her mouth.

Gute mariye, liebchen.” I give Hannah a quick kiss on her soft lips, and then plant a loud, sloppy one on Grace’s round cheek, causing her to burst into giggles.

Gute mariye, Jakob,” Hannah says with a smile. She places two fragrant golden waffles and four crispy slices of bacon on a plate in front of me, and pours me a tall cup of coffee. “I made you extra food, and coffee, too. You have a big day today, what with meeting your bruder. Do you think he’ll finally agree to go into business with you?”

I shrug, chewing on a piece of bacon. “I can’t be sure, but all I can do is pray.”

“Well, in that case, I’ll be praying, too. Herr Gott is sure to listen if we both pester Him.”

I laugh along with Hannah, hoping she’s right.

New Vlog: Excerpt from Amish Gossip

by Kristina Ludwig
Apr 6
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: April 6, 2015 at 10:19 am

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter weekend!

My family and I celebrated Easter with a beautiful sunrise mass at the beach. I am not a morning person, and wasn’t sure how I felt about getting up before the sun like many of my Amish characters do. However, once I was up, ready, and sitting on the beach among the sand and surf, I was glad that I’d decided to go!

The other perk of getting up early was that I felt like I had so much more time than usual. We brunched and napped, and I prepared a banana trifle bowl for dinner with friends that evening. Plus, we shot this video!

So, here I am on Easter, reading an excerpt from my latest eBook, Amish Gossip. Click on the image to watch the YouTube video. My favorite part is when I’m interrupted by a cute surprise guest!

Screenshot 2015-04-06 10.01.19

The book also has a redesigned cover… In honor of the new cover, the book will be free today and tomorrow (April 6th and 7th), so be sure to check it out here: http://goo.gl/9q5LEL

The redesigned cover of Amish Gossip, courtesy of Antonio... What do you think?

The redesigned cover of Amish Gossip, courtesy of Antonio… What do you think?

The Mermaid’s Secret Cover Reveal

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 20
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 20, 2015 at 9:28 am

Tomorrow is the big day… the launch of The Mermaid’s Secret! I’m putting finishing touches on the book before I hit “publish” on Amazon tonight, and I’ve narrowed the cover concepts down to two options. So, here they are. Which do you like better?

Here are the two over concept options. Which do you like better?

Here are the two cover concept options. Which do you like better?

And to get you excited for tomorrow’s release, here’s another excerpt from the book:

Chapter Three: Doria

 For a long moment, the words just hang there awkwardly, suspended in the water between us. I feel instantly horrible as Dylan chews his lip and clenches his jaw, awaiting my response.

But I have no response; I’m too shocked. I can’t believe that he would tell me he loved me right as I’m about to travel to the surface. What a dirty trick. I’d always suspected he did, but he’d never told me so. To be honest, I didn’t really want him to. After all, we’re young and he’s the only male—merman or otherwise—that I’ve ever been able to call my beau.

A mermaid can’t be expected to fall in love with the first merman she meets, can she? True, my mother and father did, but I don’t particularly want to follow their example; they have no sense of adventure whatsoever.

Finally, I clear my throat and say, “Dylan, you’re a wonderful merman, and I’m very fond of you. But this is a difficult time for both of us. I have twelve moons to make the most major decision of my life. Are you sure that you’re telling me this because you really love me, or because you’re afraid to lose me?”

Dylan clutches both of my hands so tightly that I can feel my coral rings cutting into my fingers. I wince and pull my hands out of his vise-like grip.

“How could you ask that question? I love you. I was just too cowardly to tell you before, but I had to do it now.”

He swipes furiously at his eyes, which have begun to fluoresce with tears. We mermaids and mermen cry tears of aquamarine, so there’s no way to hide our emotions. I quickly look away to spare him some embarrassment.

We’re silent again for a long moment. I have no idea what to say, and the silence becomes more and more uncomfortable.

I clear my throat again. “Dylan, I appreciate your honesty, and I’m glad that you told me your feelings. I’ll certainly consider them when I’m on land. But I think we should both meet others. You can talk to some mermaids, and I can meet new landsmen. And when I return back here, we’ll know whether your love is true.”

“I already know my love is true,” Dylan chokes out, his voice cracking on the last word. My heart breaks for him as he avoids my eyes, probably trying to cover up the fact that he’s crying again. “But I’ll do what you want.”

“Thank you. That’s all I ask.”

Dylan and I float side-by-side; we’re mere inches apart, but I’ve never felt further away from him. We’d always enjoyed an easy, happy relationship, and I know him almost as well as I know myself. Now, however, he’s as distant as the Celtic Sea from whence he came. I try to tell myself that this is what I want—the freedom to make my decision unencumbered by matters of the heart.

But regardless, my stomach feels as though it’s being gnawed from the inside out by a school of hungry piranhas.

“I guess this is goodbye,” Dylan says in a flat voice. “Take care of yourself, now.”

“Thank you.” Fighting back tears, I swim away from the familiarity of my home and my mer-beau, toward the dark, unknown land above.

***If you liked this excerpt, be sure to check out tomorrow’s blog post for the final cover reveal and links to the book. Also, there will be a Facebook launch party tomorrow from 5-9 PM EST, so if you want to join in the fun, festivities, and giveaways, click the link here.

Book Excerpt from The Mermaid’s Voyage

by Kristina Ludwig
Jan 9
By: Kristina Ludwig Posted: January 9, 2015 at 11:17 am

Today, I’m excited to share an excerpt from my upcoming eBook, The Mermaid’s Voyage. This book follows Oceania’s niece, Doria, as she ventures to 1920s San Francisco and stays with Oceania and Xavier, who are now well-known jazz musicians. Doria discovers the wild life of the Prohibition era, visiting her first speakeasy and meeting a handsome but nosy reporter named Stanley. Meanwhile, her merman boyfriend Dylan is worried about her and follows her to land–undercover. Will Dylan blow his cover? Will Stanley discover that she’s a mermaid? Find out when the book is launched at the end of the month!

In the meantime, here’s an excerpt from Chapter Two. Chapter One can be found at the end of California Mermaids Book 2, The Mermaid’s WeddingLook for more excerpts coming soon to the blog!

mermaid-wishes-leslie-allen

Chapter Two: Dylan

I can’t help but notice the way Doria stiffens and averts her gaze when I tell her not to spend too much time with land boys. I’d attempted a flippant tone, but I probably didn’t quite succeed.

There’s no way to hide it—sometimes I feel as though I love her more than I love myself, although I’m unsure whether she reciprocates that sentiment. We’ve never exchanged any declarations of love, mostly because I’m reticent to tell her how I feel. She’s always seemed to regard the ocean as something temporary, until she can travel to the surface to see her aunt, and I’ve always been afraid that she thinks of me as temporary, too.

Everyone in the village of Mar is well aware of the curse in her family, and the fact that her aunt chose to live on land. I’ve always supported Doria when she talks incessantly about visiting her Aunt Oceania, but I’m secretly terrified that she’ll follow in her aunt’s footsteps. I would be devastated if she chose land. True, I could still visit her, but I know I could never build a life there.

“When will you be back, Doria?” I ask. I gaze into her eyes, which glow a shade of blue as dark and mysterious as the deepest waters of the ocean. The filtered light of the moon glints off her burnished-gold hair, and I run my fingers through it, aching for answers.

But Doria just shrugs. “I’ll be staying for at least a few days, with Aunt Oceania and Uncle Xavier. Father told me that they were touring, but now they’re back in San Francisco, so they can host me.”

Doria’s aunt and uncle played in the symphony for years, but now her uncle is a composer and they tour independently to perform his works all over the world.

“I’ll miss you,” I say. I don’t want to sound desperate, but there’s no way to avoid it.

“I’ll miss you too, Dylan. But I haven’t seen my aunt in thirteen years. Do you know how many full moons it’s been, how much I’ve missed the sound of her voice? She was always so wild and free, and spirited—much different than my mother. I feel like there’s a lot of her in me, you know?”

I nod. Unfortunately, I do know. “You’re right, Doria. But please come back.”

“Of course I’ll be back,” Doria says with a slight edge to her voice. I stare at her, taken aback by her choppy tone.

She’s silent for a moment as she studies my face, then glances down at the abalone D that I spent hours carving for her. Finally, she says softly, “I hurt you. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have snapped like that. But I feel as though I’m under so much pressure right now and you’re adding to it.”

“I never meant to do that.” My voice cracks, and I clear my throat in disgust. I want her to think I’m strong and capable, and mermanly, but I’m failing horribly so far.

“I’m sure you didn’t. But just remember that the decision of land or sea is one that I have to make for myself, and that means I need some time alone, all right?”

“All right.” It breaks my heart that Doria wants time away from me, while I know that she’s the only one for me. Suddenly, I realize that I have to tell her I love her. I can’t wait any longer. She needs to know the truth. If she knows how much I love her, it will temper her decision.

So, I gently cup her chin, turning it upward toward my face. “Doria, I respect the fact that you need time to make your decision, but there’s something you need to take into account while you’re making it.” I pause for a moment, swallowing hard. “I love you.”