BY: TARA ELDANA
Gareth, a merman, will do anything to shark fight…
Even if it means entering the dreams of Ainsley Peters and making love to her so he can convince her to return with him under the tides to the Crystal Caves. Gareth faces sanctions and won’t be able to shark fight unless he gets Ainsley, who thinks she is human, to see her grandfather. Problem is his love for Ainsley blindsides him. Can he convince her she is his destiny and he loves her more than shark fighting?
Ainsley longs to see her grandfather, but Gareth is asking more than she can give…
Ainsley Peters is afraid of the water. She thinks she’s an ordinary elementary school teacher in Michigan. She can’t forget the hot guy who shows up at her school. She has no idea the father she never knew was a merman. But then she dreams of Gareth—and he shows up in Hawaii where she is on vacation. He asks her to forsake everything she knows to follow him under the sea. Can she trust him with her heart and stay with him under the waves, the last place she wants to be?
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: In Restoring Ainsley by Tara Eldana, Ainsley Peters is an elementary school teacher in Michigan. She has a great fear of water, so when a merman invades her dreams, she doesn’t know what to think. But she is even more confused when she discovers that the dream guy is real and that he wants to take her under the sea where he says she belongs. Can she trust him, especially when he tells her she is just an assignment he has to complete so he can continue shark fighting?
As with all of Eldana’s book, this story is hot and sexy, with great characters and an intriguing plot.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: Restoring Ainsley is the story of Ainsley Peters, a Michigan elementary school teacher who has run afoul of the administration and will probably be fired. Her aunt is going on a safari to Africa and offers to let Ainsley housesit her condo in Hawaii, so Ainsley agrees. She has been having weird dreams of a sexy guy, who then shows up in real life at her school in Michigan and also in Hawaii. Gareth wants Ainsley to come with him under the sea, once he reveals that she is part mermaid, but she is terrified of the water and resists. But if he doesn’t bring her to the underwater city of her own free will, he could be in serious trouble.
Eldana’s character development is superb, and you can’t help rooting for Ainsley. Heartwarming and sexy, Restoring Ainsley is one you won’t want to miss.
“Just do it,” Sara said. “What have you got to lose?”
“Everything,” Ainsley said.
It was the last week of school, and she was not on the permanent hire list. All the other teachers who were hired with her last year were offered tenure.
She was on probation for next year or until Old Man Packett sacked her. She’d pissed him off when she’d asked for a different mentor, not knowing the asshole he’d assigned her to was his son-in-law.
Next week she would be leaving for Hawaii. Her Aunt Cathy had asked Ainsley to stay in her house on Hawaii’s Big Island while she went to Africa for four weeks.
The plane ticket from Michigan would blow through most of Ainsley’s savings.
And vast expanses of water terrified her, despite growing up in Michigan, the mitten state surrounded by water. How would she stand being on an island?
She took a sip of the awful teacher’s lounge coffee. “I could teach summer school, make extra money,” she said. “It might help me get tenure, if they see I’m determined to quote, unquote, improve.”
Sara put her hand on her arm. “Ains, are you sure you even want to teach?”
“You’re wonderful with kids,” Sara said. “But you seem like a fish out of water. You had to start teaching a bunch of third graders two weeks after your mother died. You never shared that with Hackett, did you?”
“No,” she said. “I was afraid he’d give my job to someone else, and I have my lease and student loans.” She took another sip of coffee and winced. It was swill.
“Truth was you weren’t ready.” Sara lowered her voice. “I love you, sweets. But your heart isn’t here.”
Ainsley knew that.
But where was it?
“This coffee sucks,” she said, in an attempt to change the subject.
Hackett stood behind her.
“Why don’t you make a fresh pot, Ms. Croft? The pot is empty.”
She twisted her mouth into a smile and stood up. “Happy to.”
She put the filter in, switched the setting to strong, and flipped the switch to brew. How could he be pissed that she didn’t like teacher’s lounge coffee?
Her only hope of keeping her job was if he retired.
Sara was right.
Ainsley should take a real break and figure out what she wanted to do, put her big girl pants on, face her fear of endless water, and go to Hawaii. She could spread her mother’s ashes in the ocean like she’d wanted.
Cora, her mother, casually mentioned it to her over coffee a few weeks before a sudden stroke killed her at fifty.
Ainsley had never known her father. Cora said she had “joined with him,” and she believed he had died at sea, because he never returned to her. She never said what “joined with” meant. Her mother got so sad whenever Ainsley asked about her father, so she stopped asking.
She’d only said her father’s name was Reston, and he’d lived on a tiny island near American Samoa. Cora was a nurse, and she met him there when she went to help after a tidal wave devastated the island. Her mother never said what his last name was, and Ainsley had taken her mother’s last name.
Her grandparents were a huge part of Ainsley’s life until they’d died within a year of each other ten years ago. Aunt Cathy was the only family member she had left.
She sat back down, pulled out her Smart phone and credit card, and sent an email to her aunt saying she would come and got an immediate smiley face emoticon. Then she booked her plane ticket.
She lifted her hair off her neck, wishing she had put it up today. Sweat trickled down her back.
“I’m jealous,” Sara said. “We’re going out on the boat tonight. Why don’t you come?”
Ainsley had never told her friend about her fear.
Sara and her husband Mike kept their speedboat in a harbor in the suburbs of Detroit. The other times they’d taken Ainsley out on Lake St. Clair, the stretch of water leading to the Detroit River, she could see the shoreline.
It could be good practice to get over her stupid fear of wide open water.
“Sure,” she said.
Sara’s husband Mike started up the boat and eased away from the dock. It was a warm June night, and lots of boats were in the channel. Mike headed a different direction than he’d ever taken her before. She and Sara sipped margaritas.
Sara was telling a story about a kid who peed on a chair in Hackett’s office, and Ainsley laughed so hard, tears ran down her cheeks.
The breeze turned brisker. Ainsley looked around and froze in terror.
Water. All she could see was water.
Her throat closed up, and the margarita seared her stomach. She struggled to breathe.
“Ains, what’s wrong? Are you going to puke?”
“Shore,” she sputtered. “Could we go back?”
Sara ran to Mike. He turned the boat around.
Sara took the drink out of Ainsley’s hand, set it in a cup holder, and grabbed her hand.
“A panic attack, right? My sister gets them. What triggered it? I shouldn’t have brought up Hackett.”
“No land,” Ainsley said as Mike steered back into the channel. “All water and no land, and I’m going to Hawaii. I can’t do this. What was I thinking?”
“You have two weeks before you leave,” Sara said. “I’ll give you the name and number for my sister’s therapist. Ains, if there’s one thing I know about you, it’s you can do anything you set your mind to. You’ll do this if you want to.”
“I’m sorry I ruined your night,” Ainsley said as Mike pulled into their slip, and Sara hastened to help him.
“No problems, doll,” Mike said. “Too many assholes out tonight, anyway.”
Mike was a design engineer for General Motors. His tall, dark good looks were a perfect foil for her friend’s pocket Venus curves and natural blonde hair. Sara rejoined her as he fiddled with the engine.
“Your husband is a dish,” Ainsley said.
“I could fix you up. He’s got a friend you’d like.” Sara lowered her voice. “Punch that V-card, for the love of God. You must be the only girl who went to college without losing it to some frat boy.”
“I was a commuter student working two jobs,” Ainsley said. “Not much time for dating. And the guys I met were all jerk wads. Wasn’t for lack of trying.”
Mike looked up at Sara and winked. “Need a refill?”
Feeling like the proverbial third wheel, Ainsley told them she was going to drive home while it was still light out. She’d met them at the pier.
“Enjoy,” she said, climbing out of the boat. Would she ever find love like theirs?
Gareth stood before the sea forms making up the Crystal Caves Ruling Council and scanned their faces for any sign they might go easy on him. He had ignored an urgent summons to return to the Crystal Caves. Work on the reef he’d been assigned to restore didn’t take as long as expected. His ecomissions never did. The elders said he had a gift for restoration work and wanted him to take a leadership role, guiding others in the Alliance cities under the waves in that realm.
But Gareth’s life force ran hot, and he used his spare time to shark fight. It was not sanctioned by the cities in the Alliance, but sea forms swam through the depths to watch the blood sport competitions. It was likened to bull fighting on land.
He was advancing in the rankings and had competed in the bout in the Golden Caverns before he returned here. He had been needed to restore a breeding habitat for whales damaged from a quake on the ocean’s floor. He was always needed urgently somewhere.
But he deserved time for the blood sport he loved. It was the only time he felt alive.
He looked at Rylan, his fin mate, who held the ranking seat on the Ruling Council. Rylan had joined with Cari, a land form, and he had planted his seed inside her, again. She would bring forth their third offspring soon. Cari taught English language skills to sea forms still learning their fins.
Rylan’s ruler face gave nothing away. “We have decided you will take time away from restoration,” he said.
Gareth bowed and made to take his leave. He could still compete in the shark fight finals if he used his pass through a portal to bridge the vast distances between the cities.
“Wait,” said Lesia, an elder member of the council. She was Rylan’s mother’s sister and had reared Rylan since his parents perished in the depths. She held out a quartz crystal. “You have been assigned a different task. Ovon wishes to know the female land form his son sired before he perished in the depths. You must bring her to him.”
Ovon had damaged his fins on an ecomission and could not make long journeys through the depths, which were sometimes necessary if the portal was damaged.
Gareth stepped to the podium, looked into the clear quartz, and saw a woman with light-colored brown hair, with a reddish cast that fell past her shoulders, and blue eyes a shade similar to lapis lazuli. She had pleasing curves, and his cock twitched in response, but nothing more so than with the females who clamored to be with him after he bested a shark. The woman was on a mechanized machine that traveled over water. She struggled to breathe, and he felt an odd protective instinct stir to life.
The male steering the boat changed course. Gareth’s land form language skills were not the best, but from the words he understood, he believed she told another female she felt fear when she couldn’t see land.
“She is afraid of vast expanses of water and does not know she is sea form,” Lesia said. “She will be at the place the land forms call Hawaii in fourteen earth rotations.”
“It will be easier to bring her through the portal from there than from the lakes near her home, where she is now,” Rylan said. “That is where Cari started her journey. She will help you with English before you leave.”
Gareth looked into the crystals again and caught more words the female was speaking and grimaced. “She is not certain she can be in Hawaii because of her fear,” he said.
Lesia’s lips twitched in a slight smile. “Ainsley, her name is Ainsley,” she said.
Gareth had fondness for the female who reared his fin mate. But what did she find humorous? He had no desire to go onto land, seek out this Ainsley, and bring her through the portal. “I would rather restore habitat,” he said. “I’ll take on extra work.”
“You do not have a voice in this,” Rylan said.
Gareth’s life force ran hot.
How dare they?
He was best in the realm at habitat restoration, and he had agreed to resume his duties. He had no wish to bring a skittish female through the portal. “So this is punishment,” he said.
Rylan frowned. The other members of the Ruling Council murmured among themselves.
Lesia stood. “I looked in the hall of records. This journey with Ainsley is your destiny.”
Anger coursed through him. “No.” His voiced rang through the great hall.
The Ruling Council stared. Sea forms did not raise their voices to the assembled ruling body.
But he could not accept this. He took a deep breath and struggled to speak in even tones. “I will not ignore a summons again. I will share my restoration skill with those in the cities in the Alliance, in a leadership role, if you wish.”
He tried not to smile. They had been after him to work in a higher position for a time. This was perfect. He would be able to make time to shark fight in his travels to other cities when he was no longer under such scrutiny. He should have agreed to do this before.
Rylan stifled a laugh.
Did that mean he would support him in this?
“Gareth, we have decided,” Lesia said.
He paced, trying to think. When Rylan joined with Cari, old Breton, now deposed, insisted that she must do so with free will. “Free will. I cannot do this because she must make the journey by free will.”
“You must convince her or face sanctions for shark fighting,” Rylan said. His voice was firm. “Ovon hopes she will join with Micah when she arrives.”
Micah had charge of distribution channel for food to the Crystal Caves. Gareth found Micah’s meticulous ways humorous. So Lesia did not mean that his own destiny was with this Ainsley, only that he make the journey with her. Relief rushed though him.
He felt no pressing need to join or produce offspring, unlike Rylan who had longed for Cari after seeing her in the crystals, long before she was born, and waited for her for another quarter of a century of earth revolutions. It was said that Rylan had joined with her in her dream state while she was still on land. Rylan’s joy and happiness was apparent to all who made their home in the Crystal Caves. But, he, Gareth, had no such longings.
Lesia stepped down from the podium to where he stood. “You may have to, as land forms say, string her along, flirt with her, to gain her agreement.”
That would be easy, and she would be Micah’s to deal with after she arrived. And he would be off to his next reef and shark fight.
“Enter her dreams so she learns of you,” Lesia said. “After she is here, you may take your leadership role and fight sharks.”
He had one more thought. “Shouldn’t Micah enter her dreams and bring her back?”
Rylan looked amused. “Micah could not rouse her from slumber,” he said. “It must be you.” Rylan’s attention shifted. Gareth saw that Cari had entered the chamber. Rylan stepped down from the podium and made his way toward her.
Lesia patted Gareth’s arm. Her face was set in stern lines. “It will be an adventure, not as shark fighting but the change will bring the excitement you crave.”
Rylan claimed his mate and kissed her as if he was starved for her life force. Lesia followed his gaze and her expression softened.
Would Gareth ever feel such love for a female?
His mother and sire despaired he would ever join with a mate and bring forth offspring, although his sister Shara had given birth three times.
“Esteemed council.” Gareth raised his voice so all could hear and he could bring matters out in the open. “If I bring this Ainsley back upon her will, and I assume a leadership role in guiding others in the Alliance in eco restoration, my shark fighting—”
Lesia clutched his shoulder. “This fighting puts you in peril. Your loved ones cringe in fear until you return. They cannot bear to speak of it or watch the matches in the crystals. The Alliance cities tolerate this shark fighting—for now.”
She hadn’t said he would be sanctioned if he fought, merely scolded him for doing it. He bowed his head in thanks.
“Go,” Lesia said. “Study Ainsley in the hall of crystals.”
He had a better idea. He would go through the portal to her home near the great lake to ensure she made the journey to Hawaii. The sooner he started, the sooner he could get back to the only thing that made him feel alive—shark fighting.
© 2018 by Tara Eldana
“Eldana sweeps you away with an enchanted tale of mermaids, shark fighting, hot sex, and above all, love. You won’t want to miss this mermaid story in Restoring Ainsley.” ~ Anne Lawson, romance author of Harbor of Love Series.