I'm going to be sharing a few deleted scenes that didn't make it into Watermark and won't fit in the next installment in the series. They are mostly from Noah's POV and take place between Waterdreamer and Watermark. They could be spoilerish if you haven't read Waterdreamer. I'm putting each scene through a Grammerly check but that's the extent of the editing being done. I think they are kind of fun.
There weren’t many things could get me to walk back inside Walton County High School. Fortunately, I only had to go as far as the gym to see Erin play her volleyball game.
I’d swung by and picked Caris up from the shop. We’d missed the first home match and I’d been determined to be here for the second one. With Caris’s dad still recuperating from his gunshot wounds and Jamie’s almost reappearance, we’d missed the first one.
We sat a few rows behind Marshall and I spent as much time staring a hole in his back as I did watching the game. I couldn’t help thinking he’d known more about Jamie’s accident than he’d told me and the thought soured in my gut.
I had a trickle of sweat wavering down my back and I shifted on the hard seat. The crowd erupted as the opponent’s ball sailed out of bounds. I slapped my hands together a few times. Watching Erin play was bittersweet. The last time I’d been to one of her games Jamie had been sitting beside me. And now he was out in the Deep, alive, and she had no idea. I had no idea how I was going to tell her. I didn’t know if I should tell her.
“Hey.” Caris bumped my thigh with her knee. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Only the brother I’d thought dead wasn’t but he might as well have been because he was a phantom monster. Once again, my searching had yielded absolutely nothing.
“No sign of him today?”
“No,” I said, my voice hard with frustration. I’d thought about tracking down Sol—the lying backstabbing traitorous bastard—who also happened to be Caris’s brother. I’d wanted to kill him that morning on his boat when he’d confessed to planting the bomb that had killed my brother. I’d wanted to wrap my hands around his throat and squeeze the life right out of him. The girl sitting beside me was the only reason I hadn’t. Knowing Jamie was alive hadn’t lessened that desire and though I wanted answers, I was afraid I wanted to kill him more and I knew Caris wouldn’t appreciate that. Lucky for Sol, not disappointing Caris was more important to me than killing him, so I’d stayed away.
“I’m sorry.” She leaned over and kissed me, her breath a whisper on my cheek. It was hard to stay in a bad mood around her. She made me better just by sitting beside me in this airless, sweltering gym.
Erin was up to serve and she made quick work of the last five points the team needed for the win. Game. Set. Match. Go effing Stingrays. Only for Erin.
“Thanks for coming guys,” Erin said after Caris and I waited around to offer congratulations. I hugged her neck, my elbows stiff, not quite pulling her into a full-fledged embrace. When she pulled back, she studied me with quizzical eyes. It was all I could do to stand there knowing what I did about Jamie. I was about to suffocate under the knowledge that he was alive, that he was a monster. At least that’s the way she would see him. And I was lying to her. My ideals weren’t so black-and-white that I didn’t sometimes believe lies were appropriate, that sometimes the truth would do more damage than keeping my mouth shut.
This was not one of those times. I was flat-out lying because I didn’t know how to tell my best friend the husband she’d thought dead wasn’t and he was so far from human I didn’t know what he was.
“Good game, Erin. You played well.” Shit. Could I sound anymore stiff?
“Thanks, Noah. It means a lot to me y’all came.” Erin turned a questioning gaze on Caris, who was a better liar than I was. Caris smiled and gave Erin a real hug, not some Tin Man, robot hug. Even Marshall was looking at me funny. If I didn’t get out of here fast I would light into him and demand to know if he were deliberately keeping things from me, but that would lead to explanations I wasn’t ready to give. For some reason, I didn’t feel bad about lying to Marshall.
I grabbed Caris’s hand and escorted her out the gym door. It wasn’t any cooler outside, but it was outside, and the air moved, and I no longer felt like I was about to vomit. We walked back to the Bronco in silence and a strand of hair blew across her cheek. When I’d met her it had been an unremarkable shade of toast. She could have been bald and I would have wanted her. Now her hair was like sunbeams shooting through gray clouds—sunbeams I could touch and feel and bury my face in.
“We have to tell her, Noah. Every day I see her and don’t tell her is another day I’ve lied to her.” She pulled up short, tugging on my hand, forcing a confrontation I wasn’t ready to have. I had it every time I was careless enough to look in the mirror in the morning. I wasn’t only lying to Erin, I was lying to my mom. I’d become real adept at the game of avoidance. I didn’t know how to tell Erin what Jamie was, what he’d become. I didn’t understand it myself. And as far as my mom was concerned, I had to find him first. It had been a week since he’d attacked Caris and scared the daylights out of me. That moment still burned in my mind. The absolute shock of seeing him—alive and breathing and standing on the beach, the sheer massive presence of him magnificent—only to lose him again. I’d followed him but he’d been too fast, and it had been like chasing a ghost. If it weren’t for Caris, I might have thought I’d imagined the whole thing.
“We will. I have to find him first.” Which had proven nearly impossible. I spent most of my time in the Deep looking and hoping he wasn’t beyond my reach. With each passing day, I was beginning to believe he was.
I ran my hand over the dry skin on her arm, hating I was involving her in my lies. “Give me a few more days.”
Her gray eyes pierced mine and I knew she didn’t want to give in. If it were up to her, we’d march back in that gym and tell Erin right now. I’d already promised myself if I hadn’t found him by the weekend, I’d go to my mom. “Just until the weekend.”
“At least let me help you. And your mom, she should be helping you.” She grabbed my face with both hands and forced me to look at her. “Nothing about keeping this to yourself is right. You aren’t the only one who loved him. Have you told Jeb?”
“No.” Damn she was right. Jeb was going to be pissed when he found out. The line to kick my ass was getting pretty long, but Jamie had shown himself to me. Not Erin. Not my mom. Not Jeb. He’d come to me. There had been a moment standing on that beach, facing him for the first time in almost two years, with his wild eyes on me as though he were looking for something he couldn’t find. Like he needed me. The same way I knew I’d looked at him in those months after our dad had died. He’d been my anchor. That’s what I’d felt like that day with his eyes on me—his anchor.
“You have to tell her. He could be dangerous,” Caris said.
“He’s not dangerous. You didn’t know Jamie. He’s not dangerous.” I insisted, knowing it was complete bullshit. Jamie had been dangerous before, lethal.
I’d experienced a small taste of what he’d been through. I’d stayed in the Deep to the point I’d spurred my own transition that takes a waterbreather from merely adaptable to the water to a true spawn of the Deep. My name had been hard to recall. I’d almost quit thinking in words, hearing only the sounds generated by my ability to Shape. A fine web of translucent membrane had grown, connecting each finger to the other. My skin had taken on a tough scale-like quality. If not for Caris’s Song and her calling me back, I might have ended up like Jamie.
Once I'd been back on land, the webs between my fingers had retracted and my skin once again became smooth. I’d lost some of my heightened sense of smell and my ability to see in the deepest ocean. From the quick, frantic glimpse I’d had of my brother that day, I was certain he was well beyond that point—well beyond anything I’d even believed possible. Which was maybe the real reason I’d kept my mouth shut, I was still having a hard time believing what I’d seen, what I’d felt on that beach—elated and terrified.
I tugged Caris the rest of the way to the Bronco and opened the door and stood silently as she climbed inside. I felt her eyes on me as I walked around to the driver’s side and sighed when I took my seat behind the steering wheel. My fingers paused on the ignition.
“I’d hoped for this,” I said. “That Jamie somehow survived but I never dreamed… you saw him Caris. What he is, it will change things for us, for all of us. I know I’m asking a lot but he’s my brother. And like you asked me to go against what I feel where your brother is concerned, I’m asking you to do the same. A few more days. That’s it.”
Her head rested back on the seat and she looked at me with flashing silver eyes, drawing me to her like a fish to a shiny lure.
I reached over and ran my hand up the smooth fabric covering her thigh. She was always wearing something new that Quinn had given her. Today it was a pair of what she called “swim tights” under a long shirt. I couldn’t imagine swimming in all that fabric, but I had a feeling I was going to enjoy watching her swim in them. It had been a long day without the taste of her mouth, and I was pretty much starving. I dove in and feasted. After a long minute, she pulled away.
“Okay, you win. A few more days.”
I kissed her again.
“As good as that is,” she said. “I need water.”
I kicked the engine in reverse. She sat back and tilted her face to the breeze, one hand resting on my shoulder. My house was about a five-minute drive from the school and as soon as I pulled in my driveway, Caris jumped out, laughing in anticipation. Her hands went to the hem of her top and she pulled it over her head, tossing it onto the seat, which left her in her bathing suit top and those swim tights that clung to the rounded curve of her ass and her thighs. Yeah, I was going to enjoy watching her.
Heat rose in my cheeks and flooded elsewhere. The thought was there to steal her away, no more school, no more work, no more days spent apart. “I’ll meet you around back. I want to go say hey to my mom.”
“Don’t take too long.” She smiled at me over her shoulder and it was all I could do not to follow her.
As soon as I walked in the front door of my house, I knew something was wrong. Jamie had been here. I could smell him. The rich scent of salt was so strong it stung my nose. The Deep had its own unmistakable smell that clung to skin and clogged pores and the house was doused in it.
“Mom!” I bolted into the kitchen. Orange juice and milk slicked the floor, mixing over the tiles in a marbled pattern. Something squished under my foot—blueberries. Most of the cabinets were flung open, the contents spilling over the counters as though someone had been scavenging for food. I followed a trail of peanut butter Captain Crunch into the living room. “Mom!”
She stood by the windows and her eyes were focused on the beach beyond. She turned toward me slowly. Her expression wore a vitality that I hadn’t seen in years, not since my dad had died.
“Are you okay? What happened?” I asked, my heart hammering in my chest.
“He’s alive. Your brother is alive.” I thought she’d be freaking out but she sounded hopeful, her eyes bright with barely concealed emotion.
“Where is he?” I stole a glance through the window.
“You don’t look surprised.” The change in her expression was instantaneous. She’d gone from delighted to suspicious in a half-second.
“I’m not,” I said, forgoing an explanation. “Where is he?”
She looked at the back door. It was still open and the frame was smeared with something that looked like blood.
“He cut his hand.”
“Caris.” I was out the door and running for the beach before her name died on my lips. All my declarations that he wasn’t dangerous came back to bite me. If he got his hands on her? If he hurt her?
It was a short sprint as my feet chugged through the sand. My breath hitched when I saw them standing twenty feet apart in a sort of face-off. Caris lifted her hand toward me and I skidded to a halt, resisting the urge to put myself between them. My eyes shifted and I got a good look at my brother.
My whole body shook in response to what he’d become, my heart drumming erratically. The last time I’d seen Jamie he’d been dressed in fatigues and his had been cut close to his head. The mass around his head barely resembled hair at all. It was long and corded and caught with bits of seaweed. His skin was scaled in a web-like pattern all over his chest and arms, a deep-dyed blue. A slash of blue crossed over one eye, making it look deep set and menacing. His hands were completely webbed, the iridescent skin catching the sunlight, flashing as though he wore reflectors. The left one was dripping blood from a cut I couldn’t see. I felt a strange impulse to fall to my knees.
Seeing him again, I knew I’d been right to keep his presence a secret. Landers wouldn’t understand this. Landers would fear this. Hell, I was a little scared.
“Jamie.” My mom’s voice was tentative as her cold fingers intertwined with mine.
Jamie’s eyes shifted in response to her voice. Something passed over his unreadable features and I hoped it was recognition. Green eyes, pale and opaque, shimmered, and he squinted as though the sunlight was too bright. His mouth opened and he tried and failed to speak. Nothing came out but a guttural tone that reverberated out of his chest like the droning horn of a tug boat. The sound seemed to surprise him and his hands came up, clasping the sides of his head. His eyes grew wild and in the next instant he turned and hurled himself into the Gulf, a fifty-yard leap, cutting like a knife through the flat surface—an impossible distance even for breather.
And like I’d done when we were kids, I chased after him. This time I wasn’t alone.