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Jayna’s eyes grew wide. “You’re no longer a candidate for the Order? But why?”

“I wanted to join the Order because that would allow me to make a greater difference than I ever could on my own.” Sid leaned towards her, and this time she didn’t hold him back. “But while the Order is a powerful force for good, their vision doesn’t align with mine the way I once thought it did. That’s why I’d rather work with a partner. I’ve seen firsthand how effective it can be to team up with someone who’s vision matches mine.”

His heart raced as realization crossed her face, and a smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. “Is that so? Do you have someone in mind?”

He nodded, his gaze never leaving hers. “There’s this girl,” he said. “She’s beautiful, kind, resourceful, intelligent…”

Jayna leaned in close so her face almost touched his. “Go on,” she urged, her voice barely a whisper.

Her closeness was nearly unbearable, but Sid continued. “She’s tenacious, talented, and her tail…” He smiled, and finished in a low, husky voice. “She has the hottest tail I’ve ever seen.”

Jayna grinned and then grabbed him by his merbreather and pulled him to her. Their lips met in a soft, gentle kiss that quickly deepened and grew in intensity.

Sid wrapped his arms around Jayna’s back, drawing her closer. She released his merbreather and wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers tangling in his wet hair. It was a kiss that spoke of reconciliation and hope, of two people accepting that they were made for each other.

A noise like thunder reverberated through the changing room. Alarmed, Sid broke the kiss and pulled away. “What is that?”

“That’s the sound of people leaving the theater.”

Sid sighed. “I guess I’d better change so we can get to the reception.” He attempted to back away so Jayna could help him with his merbreather, but she held onto him tightly.

“Is there food at this reception?” she asked.

“Of course,” he said, not sure why it mattered.

Jayna grinned and pressed her forehead to his. “Then it will be a long time before anyone realizes you aren’t there.” Her lips gently grazed his as she whispered, “I just barely got you back, and I’m not ready to share just yet.”



Emmaline paced nervously around the reception grotto, repeatedly stealing glances at the pathway leading to the aquatic theater. She knew Sid had already forgiven her for the mess she had made, but she grew increasingly worried that it would all be too much for Jayna, despite Kalani’s reassurance.

And if Jayna rejected Sid again, even after his grand gesture, Emmaline would still be persona non grata in his world.

Playing matchmaker for her boss hadn’t seemed like much of a risk at the time. Rosalind’s algorithm matched Sid and Jayna so strongly, Emmaline had been certain all she needed to do was give them a small nudge in each other’s direction and nature would take its course.

But then things had blown up at the Jubilee Ball and Sid had fired her, cutting her off from Hayes Corp and threatening to derail five years of careful planning and execution. It would be devastating to lose the access and influence she enjoyed as Sid’s assistant, and she couldn’t afford to start over again with someone new.

She threw another nervous glance at the walkway. Her concern wasn’t just for the clout of her position. She had grown to genuinely care for Sid, and she wanted him to be happy. The connection he had with Jayna was rare and special, and it tore Emmaline apart to think her poor handling of the situation might have ruined that for him.

She caught sight of Kalani talking with Gabrielle, the dark-haired food services manager. They were in what appeared to be a heated conversation, which only served to deepen Emmaline’s concern about the effectiveness of Rosalind’s algorithm.

Although Kalani hadn’t appeared on Jayna’s match list, their close relationship had prompted Emmaline to request a match for him as well—as a precaution. Gabrielle had ranked extremely high, but the two of them seemed to genuinely dislike one another.

Still, Emmaline decided to talk to them, hoping one of them had heard from Jayna.

As she approached, they caught sight of her, and their conversation immediately stopped. The scowl on Kalani’s face lifted. He smiled and beckoned for Emmaline to join them.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Emmaline said as she reached them.

“Nonsense,” Kalani said as he wrapped her in a hug.

A tight smile replaced the scowl on Gabrielle’s face. “Can we help you with something?”

Emmaline hesitated. “I was just wondering if either of you have heard from Jayna.”

“Not yet,” Kalani said. “But I’m sure everything’s fine.”