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Gabrielle stood with her arms folded and her lips pursed. Her white catering uniform was a mess, and her long, dark hair had nearly broken free from its bun. The aroma of grilling fish had grown stronger and was now joined by lively music that drifted along on the warm ocean breeze. There must have been an event in the reception grotto, though she didn’t remember hearing about one.

Jayna swam to meet her, fighting the worry growing inside. “Hey, Gabs,” she said, trying to keep the concern from her voice. “What’s going on? Are you finally ready to join the mers?”

Gabrielle rolled her dark brown eyes. “Not in a million years.”

Jayna never could understand why Gabrielle worked in a mermaid-themed amusement park, given her aversion to all things aquatic. “What is it then?” Jayna asked.

“Obsidian Hayes,” Gabrielle said flatly.

Jayna cocked her head, confused. She had assumed Gabrielle was there to warn her that Carter was upset about the Bionic Cannonball or something like that. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. What’s an ‘obsidian haze’?”

Gabrielle’s eyes narrowed. “Not what. Who.” She kicked off her shoes and sat on the edge of the pool. With her bare feet dangling in the water, she patted the spot next to her and motioned with her head for Jayna to join her. “You’ll want to be sitting down for this.”

Concern turned to ice in Jayna’s gut. She hoisted herself up onto the edge of the pool next to her friend and nervously swished her turquoise tail in the water. “Gabs, what’s going on?”

“Obsidian Hayes is one of those billionaire investors who buys up companies in trouble, strips them down to the bones, and then sells them off for a hefty profit.” Gabrielle sighed. “Today he bought Realms.”

The news hit Jayna like a tidal wave of ice water. “Carter sold Realms of Neptune?”

Gabrielle nodded, her mouth in a thin line. “Yup—about three hours ago.”

While Jayna had no love for Carter Sterling, he was, so to speak, the devil she knew. This Obsidian Hayes character was a complete unknown.

Jayna’s mind raced, trying to process what this sudden revelation meant. “Have we all been fired?”

Gabrielle gave Jayna a dry smile. “Not yet. But there’s a meet-and-greet in the reception grotto for Hayes and his team. You should be there.”

The knot in Jayna’s chest grew tight. “Why didn’t Carter tell us he was selling the park? And why sell to someone who’s going to fire everyone and tear the park down? Why not sell to the Kingdom of Tangaroa?” Kingdom was a competing park in Manutai, started by former Realms employees shortly after Carter took over.

Gabrielle made a gagging noise. “Thanks, but no thanks. I know you and Kalani are still close, and I know he’s been helping you prepare for this mermaid competition. But I’m perfectly happy with him ten-thousand kilometers away.”

Jayna knew there was history between Gabrielle and Kalani, but neither of her friends had been interested in sharing details. “At least the leadership of Kingdom would treat us fairly.”

Gabrielle’s scowl deepened. “Not as fairly as we’d treat ourselves. I still haven’t given up on trying to secure financing for an employee buyout.” She sighed. “And if Obsidian Hayes is planning to turn around and sell the park, maybe he’ll be open to the idea of selling to us.”

“Have you met him yet?” Jayna asked.

Gabrielle nodded.

“Do you really think he’ll work with us? Or is he a psychopath like Carter?”

Gabrielle pursed her lips. “If he’s a psychopath, he hides it well. But I haven’t seen anything to make me believe he’ll be any better to work with.”

Jayna groaned. “Why did Carter do this to us?”

Gabrielle shifted her weight and said, “Apparently Hayes offered him $300 million. That’s almost twenty percent over the park’s appraised value. Carter would be crazy to turn down an offer like that.”

This whole thing kept getting stranger. “Why would anyone pay that much for Realms?”

“I don’t know. But Carter was in a giddy mood all day, and he left right after the Sirens of Atlantis show started. He only stuck around long enough to make sure that Hayes and his group were seated in section D, row one. Which is the other thing I need to tell you.”

It took a second for Gabrielle’s comment to sink in. Jayna’s mouth went dry. “No! You mean those toppers in the front row…”

“Yup. I’m afraid the people you soaked with your Bionic Cannonball are the park’s new owner and his management team.”

Panic flooded over Jayna. “And you didn’t lead with that?” Then a sudden realization struck her. “Carter told Roxie to run the cannon at full power. He knew Hayes and his team would get drenched, and now they hate me. He set me up so I would be the first to get fired.”

“Relax,” Gabrielle said. “They don’t hate you. I’m sure they know the Cannonball was part of the show, and if they blame anyone, it should be Carter.”