Not that I had thought up a way to celebrate, but I just realized it’s been one year since I first started messing with this whole list thing. I’ve learned a lot—and made a lot of mistakes—in all that time, and I’m happy to see that I’m making progress with this whole marketing endeavor!
I’m still trying hard to finish writing Beach, my upcoming dolphin-shifter romance, in the middle of all the mayhem, and thought maybe you readers who enjoy paranormals would like a peek at the first chapter in here…
(let me know what you think if you want to…)Aphrodite
I guess that ever since the day I was born, I had always had an affinity for the sea. I was even a Scorpio—a water sign, though not the one most people associated with oceans since scorpions mostly live in deserts. But still, it went much further than that, since my parents named me Aphrodite Graeme. Definitely a name associated with everything that I would eventually become.
I had always loved visiting my Aunt Myra and Uncle Jay, who ran a cetacean research facility in the Florida Keys, and although I was saddened at the loss of my mother, a single parent, when she lost her battle with cancer, I had no problem moving there myself when I was fourteen. It was like all my dreams would soon become a reality.
They sent me to college to learn marine biology, specializing in cetacean studies, so that someday I could help them with their study and research. And the truth was, I was stoked. All through college, I was ready to help them, and when I graduated, I was filled with bright ideas for the future of Graeme Dolphin Research and Play Facility.
Unfortunately, after being hit by a major hurricane, there wasn’t a whole lot left of our once thriving facility. Uncle Jay had not even survived those massive waves, and all the hopes of my aunt and I were swept away. Without Jay, Myra didn’t have any joy, and she soon decided she couldn’t stay in the Keys, where her true love had been lost.
Aunt Myra got herself a job at SeaWorld in San Diego, where she was welcomed with open arms as the knowledgeable and skilled animal tamer and biologist she was. For me, things were not so easy, since training and proven skill were not one and the same thing. I would be forced to look for work elsewhere.
On the plus side, with all that training and teaching at college, I was well-qualified for a wide diversity of ocean-related jobs, and Myra had just purchased a home right on the beach.
From that location, I would have my pick of jobs in the area, but as the two of us settled down in our new San Diego home, my aunt urged me not to decide on one of them right away.
“You need to live a little, Aph. All you ever care about is working with the cetaceans. Maybe it’s high time you got to know a few humans too.”
“Okay, okay,” I grumbled. “I’ve never particularly cared for our species, for the most part, but if it’ll make you happy, I’ll see if I can find a boy at the beach who isn’t of the dolphin variety.”
Myra chuckled. “Aphrodite, it isn’t about making me happy—that’s going to take some time, I think. I want to see my beautiful niece find some happiness of her own.”
Of course, with a nearby Navy base or two filled with seamen and officers, the concept of finding a suitable man on the beach was not far-fetched, and I caught sight of plenty of eye-candy even from our first days there. And a whole lot of them also caught sight of me.
Yet, even as I talked with them, and even though many of them were handsome enough, I just didn’t find myself drawn to one in particular, and over the next six months my life was filled with flirty friends, and nothing more.
Eventually, I did start to look for a job, and it was one of those young seamen, Jasper Ryder, who mentioned the possibility that I might hire on as a civilian consultant at a Naval research facility where he worked himself.
“We’re not talking about the main branch that is in the public eye, of course. But I can’t disclose anything more about the place than what I’m telling you now. I think you’d be a perfect fit, though.”
“Seriously?” I gasped, because such an idea had never crossed my mind. “But what would they need me for?”
“The civilian biologists are there to ensure that the animals are well cared for. It would be your job to make sure each animal was in good health, that the tanks are at the proper temperature, properly cleaned, and free from toxic materials or other hazards. And, they might even put you on a team to work directly with some of the cetaceans. I did hear correctly that you’ve been swimming with and researching dolphins for over ten years now, right?”
“Yeah, that’s very true,” I said, nodding. “We were doing research with the dolphins in the Florida Keys, teaching them how to communicate with whistles, clicks, and body language. At one point, we even had some of them working with special keyboards.”
He smiled. “A whole lot of that stuff is the same thing we’ve been doing here. I can’t tell you about any of it unless they hire you, but—well, if you get the job, you won’t regret it. That much I can guarantee you.”
“So, how do I apply?
“I’ll have my supervisor give you a call,” he said. “The guy is pretty straight-laced and official, but I wouldn’t worry about that too much. If he sees that you’ve got potential, he’ll get those higher-ups to agree, and you could be working as soon as a couple of weeks from now.”
“I didn’t think it was that easy,” I scoffed. “Don’t I have to get tested out to be sure I’m not some whacky foreign spy planted here just to find out if you’ve made your dolphins into landmines or something?”
He laughed. “All that crap in the media about weaponizing our animals, using them in actual combat, keeping the program classified so people wouldn’t find out we were torturing or abusing the mammals? That’s all it is; a whole load of crap.”
“I know that officially, all the Navy is doing is using them to paint a target onto enemy swimmers or locate harmful mines at the bottom of the sea but come on. You guys must be doing a few other experiments too. These creatures are highly intelligent beings. I’d hate to think you were wasting all their potential on that, when you could be training them to do so much more.”
“Like I said, I can’t tell you anything else unless you’re on the crew, properly sworn to keep your mouth closed and your eyes open. Beach isn’t going to hire anybody he doesn’t believe is trustworthy, and without Beach’s approval, no one sets one foot inside those facility doors.”
“Beach?” I repeated with a laugh. “Who is that?”
“Commander Jonah Beach is the man who has been holding this whole program together over the past fifteen years. His own father was stationed at the facility in Hawaii clear back at the inception of this program, but when they uprooted the whole thing and placed us in California, his father insisted on remaining to work with the University researchers there, and Jonah insisted on remaining with his crew—both human and marine mammal. You will never meet a man more dedicated to his work, or to the people he cares for.”
“He sounds like a pretty stand-up guy,” I replied. “So, when should I expect to hear from him?”
Jasper smiled. “It shouldn’t take more than a day or two, once I tell him about you, Miss Graeme.”
I snorted. “Aph works just fine. I don’t mind first name basis with somebody I’ll probably be working with, if all of this pans out.”
“Great, then, Aph,” he replied. “I’ll head on over and tell him about you right now.”
After that talk, I was feeling pretty stoked, and I kept hovering near the phone for the next three days. On the fourth day, I was starting to get worried that Jasper hadn’t spoken to Commander Beach at all. I wondered if I should give the guy a call—but quickly decided I didn’t want to do that in case doing so would completely ruin any chances I had at all.
Feeling stir-crazy and disappointed, all rolled up into a nervous ball of irritated ire, I decided that I wasn’t going to just sit around and wait another night as well. It was Friday, and I was in the mood to do something recreational.
Dammit, it was about time I headed over to Smitty’s for a good game of pool. I was in the mood to trounce a few guys and mock a few more, and there was nothing worth sitting around at home for.
“Aph? What’s up?” asked Myra when she saw me in my ass-kicking clothes.
“Nothing special,” I shrugged. “Just thought I’d go to Smitty’s. If the phone does happen to ring, and it’s that Commander whose had me tearing my hair out by the roots, feel free to give him the number to my cell.”
She chuckled. “All right, then. Will do! And for once, would you just cut loose and enjoy yourself? Honestly, a twenty-four-year-old woman should be dating or married by now. I’d love to see you settled down with a man, you know?”
I scoffed. “It’s been a year, Myra. I wouldn’t mind seeing you find somebody to settle down with either.”
She blushed. “I know. Maybe I’ll be ready soon. You never know.”