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“Um, no. Until thirty minutes ago I had no intention of ever becoming a merman.”

Jayna looked him up and down and gave an almost imperceptible nod of approval. “Well, you’re definitely a merman now. You need a proper mersona.”

Sid rolled his eyes. “Fine. My mersona will be Obsidian.”

Jayna pursed her lips and shook her head. “Not acceptable.”

“Why not? Merman Pala uses his human name as his mersona.”

“That’s because pala is a kind of fish. It works. Obsidian is a rock. It’s not the same.”

“Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass, thank you very much.”

Jayna shrugged. “It’s still not the same.”

“Too bad. I’m no good at coming up with names. That’s what my marketing team is for.”

“Whatever you’re paying them, it’s not enough.” Jayna cocked her head and studied him. “How about Merman Marevitrum?”

Sid opened his mouth to object, but before he could form the words, his brain untangled the Latin roots of Jayna’s suggestion. He laughed. “‘Sea glass.’ Clever. You came up with that on your own?”

Jayna grinned and nodded, clearly pleased with herself.

“Well done, Aaramere. If this mermaid thing doesn’t work out, there’s a spot for Jayna on my marketing team.”

A deep male voice called out, “Are you two going to chitchat all day, or are you going out to swim with the kids?” Kalani sat on the edge of the pool in a brown tiger-striped tail, his arms crossed in mock disapproval.

Jayna pursed her lips and flicked a spray of water at him with her fluke. “We’re going. We’re going.” She pointed to a small opening in the wall of the artificial cavern that surrounded the staging pool. “Follow me. I’ll show you what to do.”

Sid followed her as she dived down to the underwater tunnel that led out of the backstage area. Even though he had the merbreather regulator in his mouth, Sid found himself holding his breath the long fraction of a minute it took them to swim through.

They emerged in a small cave behind a waterfall, and from the other side of the cascade, Sid heard the laughter of children. As anticipation tightened his chest, he again questioned the wisdom of this idea.

“The meet-and-greet pools are through there. Give me about thirty seconds to announce you, and then come through. Wave to everyone and then swim over to me. After that, all you have to do is smile and talk to the kids. You can do that, right?”

Sid’s brow furrowed. “Of course.” Did she really think he was that incapable? Sure, this whole thing was outside his comfort zone, but not beyond his ability.

Jayna nodded, then disappeared under the waterfall. A few seconds later, her voice echoed through the pool area, amplified through a sound system. “Boys and girls, mermaids and mermen, please join me in welcoming our host and sponsor, Merman Marevitrum!”

Her enthusiastic introduction triggered something deep inside him, and he had a sudden, overwhelming need to show her just how capable he was. Sid let his mind go, and allowed himself to feel the water, the tail, the merbreather on his shoulders and chest, and truly believe he was a merman.

Trying not to think about how his actions would be perceived by the Order, he took a deep breath and burst through the cascade of water, one arm raised high in the air.

As he swam, he sang.

I’ve been swimming with the mermaids

Out in Hilo Bay.

I’ve been swimming with the mermaids

Where the friendly dolphins play.

He’d been in musical theater all through his school years, but after university he’d been too busy making a name for himself in the business world to continue performing. The thrill of singing for an audience came rushing back, and Sid gave his song everything he had.

He drew energy from the cheering children and merfolk and sang even louder. His song echoed through the grotto, and Sid could just make out the small hovering microphone that followed his every move.

Jayna sat alone on a small ledge at the edge of the meet-and-greet pools. Sid swam in a wide arc around the pool, singing about the joy of swimming with the mermaids, and timed his arrival at Jayna’s ledge to coincide with the end of his song.