Once again, I feel short on time, so I won’t spend a lot of it on this blog, as I’m working on the final edits for The Kraken’s Mate. Therefore, instead of writing a post, I’ll share one more excerpt from the book, which is the first encounter with Joanie from Nemon’s point of view.
This is just a little side note, but I did want to add that I know that octopuses don’t have tentacles, they have “arms.” I use the word tentacle because it is widely understood and arms would get too confusing given that Nemon also has humanoid arms on his upper body. Of course, Nemon is not actually an octopus. ;P He’s an alien version of the legendary kraken. 😀
I didn’t think I could trust Thrax. I was almost certain he planned to betray me, or at least go back on his word to find me a mate, so it was with some surprise that I accepted his gift when he came running into the middle of battle carrying her. He’d actually brought me a mate and handed her right to me, thrusting her into my tentacles as if he couldn’t wait to be rid of the burden.
Looking at her, I couldn’t understand why he would ever give her away. She was fascinating. Her hair curled like the waves just before they crashed upon the beach, her skin was as pale as the moonlight, her body as soft as a breeze and as fragile as the coral reefs where I’d once made my home. A home I barely remembered.
But she appeared to be broken, and this time, it was not my fault.
It was too easy to kill the fragile ones—by accident, mostly. Mostly. My father had told me to be more careful, but they’d changed me so much that my form felt unwieldy, awkward, wrong. When I clutched something in my tentacles, I clutched too hard, feeling disconnected from them. It had taken time to fix that—to grow accustomed to the way this new body responded, and regain full, fine control over my tentacle arms. Time to grow accustomed to living as easily outside the water as beneath it—to breathing air and traveling on land.
Suddenly, my new mate moved, and to my joy, I realized that she wasn’t actually broken. At least, not completely. Her eyes fluttered open. Stared at me. I felt her soft body tense in my grip, and willed my tentacles to relax when they wanted to do the exact opposite. They wanted to squeeze—to keep her in my grasp so that they could continue to enjoy the taste and smell of her. I was determined to never harm her. I had more control of this body now.
Her beautiful eyes studied me, though her gaze slid away from my lower body. I lifted her above my tentacles, towards the part of me that didn’t seem to disturb her as much. She was so small that I had no idea how our bodies would fit together, but she was my mate, so it had to work somehow. I was certain Thrax had found a way to make things work with his mate.
I have vague memories of mating before I was captured and changed, but they’d altered me so much that I wasn’t sure how it would work now. My genital tentacle had not regrown after they’d cut it off. My father had reassured me that it would return when I needed it, but I wondered if he’d lied. He’d been the only one I’d trusted when I’d awoken—frightened and in pain—inside a tank after they’d captured me from my homeworld. He’d been kind, concerned, checking over me with a deep frown when he noticed how much I’d suffered.
But Thrax had said Father had lied to me about being free and being trapped in the warrens alone with nothing but the eels to keep me company had not felt like freedom. When I was down there, my first attempt to find others like Father to keep me company had ended disastrously. I’d lost many arms that day, and I’d crushed a couple of Father’s people. The rest had run, abandoning the place to the rust and ruin that claimed it. And then Thrax and his mate had come along.
Now I had a mate of my own, and she was looking at me as if she expected me to crush her too. Like the people I’d found in the warrens, she feared me, and didn’t want to be my companion. If I released her, she would try to run. Like they had.
My attention was focused on my mate, and on pondering how I could ease her fear, but I remained peripherally aware of everything happening in the room. I could sense any movement for as far as my tentacles could reach. I could taste anything that came into contact with them, including the air itself. For the most part, they moved on their own, independent of my conscious thought, snatching up and crushing any threat before I even had a chance to give them the command. In this most recent battle, that had been useful.
Some were singed, cut, bleeding, but this time, I hadn’t lost any of my tentacles. The fact that they’d taken my mate so gently from Thrax also told me that they were getting better at determining the difference between a threat, and a friend. This was a relief. Father had been very disappointed in me whenever I’d killed someone he didn’t want me to kill.
My mate wasn’t screaming, but she was still afraid of me. I wanted to ask Thrax if he’d had the same problem with his mate, but he was occupied with trying to find us a way out. I trusted him to be successful in that, because he had incentive.
He did find a way to open the big door, after negotiating with one of the Iriduan scientists named Ilyan. I could only assume the negotiation didn’t go well for the Iriduan scientist, since he didn’t leave his security room. Given how angry Thrax was, I suspected that was for the best. Though I was curious about all of this, I remained too focused on my mate and the feel of her in my tentacles to pay close attention to them.
When the door opened, there were enemies behind it, and all of them had the painful kind of weapons that even my tentacles shied away from. I still would have killed them to help our escape, but a quick assessment of the situation told me that my mate would be caught in their fire if I attacked, so instead, I hid her beneath my webbing, tucking my tentacles underneath me to surround her in a wall of my flesh. My body would slow down the stinging missiles from their weapons enough to protect her.
As for me, I wasn’t easy to kill. Father had told me that. He’d said I had three hearts that beat inside me, and a distributed nervous system that allowed me to regenerate with full consciousness if only one of my hearts kept beating. My enemies had, at best, only been able to inconvenience me.
I stood ready to fight, even with my tentacles cradling my mate beneath me. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that, because Thrax had a gift for persuasion. He handed the aliens something he’d taken from his lair back in the warrens, and it seemed to pacify them.
I couldn’t understand their words, which made me uneasy, since it meant I had to trust Thrax. I wanted to trust him, since I had no one else, but he was dangerous. The kind of dangerous that made me want to shift my skin to hide in the background. I didn’t think he killed by accident.
The newcomers waved for us to follow them, their covered heads tilting to stare up at me. With my tentacles beneath me, I was much taller than any of them. Taller than anyone.
They seemed nervous about me, their weapons held in tense hands, but their leader had included me in their invitation to follow them. Thrax passed me, carrying his mate in his arms, trailing two more females who crept past me on the far side of the door, as distant from me as they could get and still be able to leave the building.
I curled my tentacles around my mate until she only had enough of a gap to breathe before I brought her out from under my webbing. It wouldn’t be as effective a shield for their weapons as my wall of tentacles and webbing, but in order to move forward, I had to take the chance of exposing her to that threat.
I felt her panic, and heard her muffled screams when I wrapped her up, but I couldn’t take the time to reassure her that I meant to keep her safe. Not while the newcomers stood waiting, watching me expose my treasure. Later, I would tell her what I’d meant by this behavior. Assuming she could understand me. Thrax’s mate understood him, and he and I could speak, so I reasoned that she should know what I was saying.
I’d never been outside this building before, though Father had tried to explain it to me: what they did, why they did it. He’d called it a research facility. He was ashamed at the end, though he’d been so proud of their work in the beginning. He’d told me his shame came from seeing what I suffered, and from realizing that I was not the monster they’d taken me for.
I’d never heard of a monster until I found out that I was supposed to be one. At least, I couldn’t remember hearing about it. The memories from before they changed me were vague and fuzzy, and many of them might’ve just been what I’d imagined, based on Father’s tales of where they found me and how they’d captured me.
I do remember the ocean. The feel of it. The taste of it. Living in freedom, but also in fear of creatures larger than I. There was also the hunger for anything I could capture. A hunger that had led to me attacking boats from an Iriduan colony. That was why Father said they thought I was a monster. To them, I had been.
These newcomers shied away from me as if they also feared I was a monster, but their leader had more courage. He spoke to me as I followed in Thrax’s wake, giving the other two females space so they would stop casting fearful glances at me and whimpering. I had no interest in them. Thrax had already given me a mate, and she was perfect.
She was also frantic. I felt her soft, useless claws scraping at my protective shield of tentacles. She was still fighting to get free, and I couldn’t help but admire her for it, even though I worried over how upset she was.
Soon, mate. I will free you as soon as the newcomers stop carrying their weapons so tightly.