Red Dawn by Ann Gimpel

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Ann’s story has a theme completely new to me–whale shifters and imminent ecosystem destruction. It’s unique, and you need to find out more about it!


 

Llyr is a whale shifter with a big problem. The seas are dying, poisoned by heavy metal contamination and barrels of trash. In a bold and desperate move, he and his mate Galatea, the Sea Witch, hatch up magic to allow him to spend as long as he needs to on Earth.

Masquerading as a marine biologist, Llyr signs on with a firm whose mission is to save the oceans. When his boss turns out to have malevolent underpinnings, Llyr returns to the sea for answers. With death lurking behind every corner, he and Galatea find themselves boxed into an impossible situation.

Excerpt:

Llyr stood on a rocky, deserted shore on an unnamed island south of New Zealand. Cold, damp wind sent shivers along his arms. Galatea moved from where she squatted a few feet away and closed her arms around him. “Do you need a break?”

He shook his head emphatically. “No. I can make this work. I know I can.” He watched with disgust as one of his arms shimmered into half a flipper.

Galatea blew out a frustrated sounding breath. “Let’s start over from the beginning.”

“Let’s not. We’re here on land. I don’t want to retreat to our whale forms again. We’ve done that, and it didn’t make this any easier.”

“All right.” She let go of him and stepped back, eying him appraisingly, as if she were taking his measure.

Llyr straightened. It was important she not find him lacking—on any front. He crinkled his brow in thought. “I have an idea.”

She crooked a finger his way. “Out with it.”

“You have two types of magic. The sort all whale shifters have, which you discovered, and your Sea Witch power. You’re trying to use your witch powers, and my magic is fighting you all the way.”

He glanced askance at her. “You’re the first Sea Witch to pick a mate. Men had sex with them and then ran the other way. No one ever wanted to get much closer than that.”

Galatea rolled her eyes. “Yeah, we scared the crap out of everyone because of Circe.” Breath whistled from between her teeth. “Idiots! If we’d wished to sow harm, we wouldn’t require proximity.”

He strode to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “You make it sound like we overreacted.” Llyr took a measured breath. “Circe and her nymphs turned Odysseus and his men into animals. Remember? They had to roust Hermes to save them.”

“Your point?” She screwed her mouth into a moue.

“Circe was the first Sea Witch, which makes you a direct descendent.” He tightened his grip on her shoulders. “I’ve always been proud and honored you broke tradition and mated with me.”

A corner of her mouth twitched. “Maybe I was relieved I wouldn’t have to spend hundreds of years by myself. Not that you weren’t the best looking whale I’d ever seen,” she grinned archly, “but you were also the only one who wasn’t scared of my power.”

He kissed the tip of her nose. “So can we try my idea?”

“Sure. Give me a moment.” She turned away from him, and the air around her glittered in diamond tones, some clear, some yellow, some a watery rose. When she turned, she nodded sharply.

Llyr reached deep to where his own magic dwelt and threaded a tendril outward to weave with hers. Muted triumph flashed through him when his power braided neatly with hers. He gave the spell time to mature, feeling the difference as it filled him.

Time dripped past; the sky shaded to deep purple as night approached. Clouds heavy with moisture peppered the horizon, and a light snow pelted down, but Llyr wasn’t cold anymore.

“Gala?” he ventured as the last of the dying day washed over them.

She opened her eyes. “Yes.”

“This will work.”

“I thought the same, but there’s a price.”

Llyr’s stomach tightened. “Tell me.”

“When I use the witch power, I can do more, much more. My own magic is closer, more personal. What we’ve created is draining me. I can maintain it, but not hold my human form at the same time.”

“What do you want us to do?” Llyr asked.

The edges of her body became insubstantial as she struggled to maintain her shifted shape. “Since our first efforts didn’t work, we’ll do it this way. I’ll see if I can’t figure out a way to keep both my magic and our combined spell afloat at the same time, but for now I must return to the sea while I can still get myself there…”

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