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As the photographers called out their pose requests and hover-cams buzzed around them, jockeying for the best shots, Jayna took Sid’s arm and pulled him close to her. The air was filled with shouted questions about the Merathlon, Sid’s turn as a merman during the Service Day, and the status of their relationship. Sid forced a smile and braced himself to do damage control if Jayna’s answers strayed too far from the talking points Hazel had drafted for them.

But although Jayna smiled, waved, and posed like a professional, she completely ignored the questions being shouted at them. After a few short minutes, the streamers and photographers gave up and turned their attention to the crown princess of Tonga and her mid-list celebrity boyfriend.

Sid and Jayna were directed away from the red carpet by a security guard, and he felt a wave of relief as they resumed their walk towards the ballroom.

They passed through a covered courtyard dominated by an enormous fountain and had nearly reached the ballroom doors when they were set upon by a woman with shoulder length blond hair and a hover-cam. “Mermaid Aaramere, hi.”

The woman looked enough like Crystal that Sid moved protectively in front of Jayna. But he quickly noticed that the woman—girl, really—was much younger than his arch-nemesis. Based on her makeup, jewelry, and the aqua fish scale pattern on her maxi dress, Sid realized she must be someone from the mer community.

Jayna put a reassuring hand on Sid’s back and stepped up beside him. “Hello.”

“I’m Mermaid Scintille, and I run the Daughters of Amphitrite stream. Is it okay if I ask you a few questions?”

Sid was about to object when Jayna said, “Of course!”

Sid tensed, and his concerns about what Jayna might say during the interview came flooding back. But he gradually relaxed as Scintille peppered Jayna with question after question about everything from her Merathlon training regimen and performing at Realms of Neptune, to tail-care routines and treatments for swimmer’s ear.

Even though Sid found himself relegated to the sidelines during the interview, it didn’t bother him like he thought it would. He loved seeing Jayna’s enthusiasm as she talked with Scintille about all things mer, and the warmth and affection she showed to the young woman impressed upon him again her genuinely kind nature.

“What has been your favorite part about visiting Manutai? Aside from winning the Merathlon, of course.”

For the first time since the interview began, Jayna glanced at Sid and a smile spread across her face. She quickly turned back to Scintille and said, “I had a lot of fun at the Jubilee Beach Bash.” Her eyes flicked back to Sid briefly. “But I think my absolute favorite part of this trip has been the Service Day activity.”

Scintille nodded in agreement. “Oh, yes. That Swim with the Mermaids event at the Kingdom of Tangaroa was wonderful. And that Merman Marevitrum.” Scintille dipped her head coyly and fanned herself with her hand.

Sid felt his cheeks flush. She hadn’t even recognized him.

“He is quite the catch.” Jayna gave him a quick, wicked smile before returning her attention to Scintille. “But he’s more than just a dishy fish. Obsidian Hayes, aka Merman Marevitrum, sponsored the entire event. None of it would have been possible without his generosity and support.”

She reached a hand towards him and beckoned for him to join her.

Sid hesitated for a moment before moving to Jayna’s side and lacing his fingers with hers.

Scintille flushed bright red as she recognized Sid.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said.

Jayna gave Sid’s hand a squeeze. “Obsidian is humble and kind, but he has by far the biggest heart and the most generous, caring, giving soul of anyone I have ever met. His entire purpose is all about helping people who need help. And I am privileged to consider him my friend.”

The gesture warmed his heart and feeling Jayna’s hand in his melted away his concerns about the Cerulean Order. Yes, it was important for them to see him as someone who would work well with the organization. But his relationship with Jayna was important, too.

As soon as Jayna wrapped up her interview with Mermaid Scintille, Sid led her to a quiet spot away from the crowd milling around the fountain. He’d been stupid to worry about her. “Forget what I said earlier. We are here to have a good time, and I am going to make sure that we do. Okay?”

Jayna raised an eyebrow in surprise. “So, you aren’t concerned about doing something undignified?”

Sid moved close and put his hands on her hips. “I am. But it was wrong of me to put that concern ahead of letting you enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime event.”

Jayna reached up and adjusted his tie, and his heart raced at her touch. “Will that good time happen to involve dancing?” she asked in a low, husky voice.

“Yes, I do believe it will.”

Jayna’s smile grew. “Then I can promise you an evening you will never forget.”

Chapter 30

Jayna grabbed Sid’s hand and pulled him away from the fountain. She marveled at the magnificent splendor surrounding them as they entered the Grand Manutai Ballroom, and her heart raced at the thought of finding out just how capable of a dancer Sid really was.

Kalani’s band Mano Taika was on stage, playing a lively song with island rhythms. Jayna led Sid to a spot on the dance floor. She loved dancing but struggled to find a willing partner, let alone one skilled enough to match her ability. Sid was both, it turned out.