"I'm not going anywhere, Tempest. I'll stand out here as long as I have to. As many nights or weeks or months as it takes."
"And years?" My voice was rusty, my throat thick with tears. "Will you wait years for me, Kona? If you have to?"
"I'll wait forever." He swallowed and his hands tightened on mine. "But please don't, Tempest. Please don't make me wait that long. I'm useless without you."
I didn't answer him for long moments, just stood back and looked at him. I was starved for the sight of him, for the feel of his body under my fingers and the soft brush of his mind against my own.
The joy of being with him again swelled like a balloon inside of me, until it filled up all the holes and crevices that had stood empty since I'd left him.
I smoothed my hands up his chest, wanting to touch all of him at once. Wanting to crawl so deep inside of him that he could never get me out.
And then I was in his arms, my mouth pressed against his.
It was a sunburst. A rainbow. A million brilliant colors coalescing into one and then exploding outward.
I love you, Tempest. I love you. He didn't say the words out loud, but then he didn't need to. I could hear them in my heart, could feel them in my soul.
I love you too, Kona. I really do.
I pulled away then, and though he made a sound of protest deep in his throat, Kona let me go. And that made all the difference. Was this what my mother had felt like all those years ago, when she had walked out of the ocean and straight into my father's arms? Like his love filled her to bursting even as his understanding gave her the confidence to take a huge leap of faith?
I thought of her letter, of her warning to choose more wisely than she had. And then I looked at Kona and the ocean and knew I had done just that. They were my present and my future and nothing I had known before or since could ever compare with the way I felt when I was with Kona, really with him, as a mermaid. As I was meant to be.
"Take me home, Kona." I said the words out loud, wanting there to be no misunderstandings.
"Are you sure?"
I turned and looked at my house one last time, saw that Kona was right. If I looked hard enough I could just make out my father and Moku and Rio standing at the family room window, looking down at us. Moku's hand was pressed against the glass.
I extended my own hand and for a second I swore I could feel the cool smoothness of the window beneath my palm. I smiled and my family smiled back, nodding as if they understood my unasked question.
It was enough, though my heart broke just a little at the sight of them.
I turned to Kona, grabbed his hand. "I'm more than sure."
And then we were running toward the surf as fast as our human bodies could carry us. As I dove beneath the surface, relishing the feel of the water in my hair, I realized that I had been right all along.
You really could go home again. You just had to want it bad enough.
This book is the book of my heart and as such is very special to me. That it couldn't have been written without the help of a bunch of wonderful people makes it even sweeter. I am so grateful for all of your love and support.
Emily Sylvan Kim-an incredible woman and the most amazing agent on the planet-who is responsible for this book's very existence. What do I think about mermaids? A whole lot, obviously.
Stacy Cantor Abrams, for taking a chance on Tempest-and me-and giving us a wonderful home. I so appreciate everything you've done for me and this book and can't imagine what the journey would have been like without you.
Everyone at Walker Books who chose to take on Tempest and gave me the opportunity to finish the book I was dying to write.
Sh.e.l.lee Roberts, Emily McKay, and Ivy Adams-because it's been a crazy, mixed-up ride so far and I can't wait to see what the future holds.
Sherry Thomas, for all the hours of fun and gossip and chocolate cake.
My mom, for knowing I was born to write YA long before I ever did.
And my guys, who put up with mismatched socks, way too much Chinese takeout and frozen pizza, and me at my most excited-and most frantic-as this book slowly took shape. I love you and wouldn't want to do any of this without you.