The Siren Saves The Billionaire (Nocturne Falls #13) by Kristen Painter

For all the water babies who’d always wished they’d had a tail.

Late nights and early mornings were a girl’s best friend. At least when that girl wanted a little privacy to take a swim in the lake.

Privacy that was necessary, because said girl was also a mermaid.

By the light of the moon that still shone bright in the early morning hours, Undrea Seely went to her usual spot by the lake. She’d been coming here for about as long as she’d lived in Nocturne Falls. And although some of the area around the lake had begun to be developed in the last few years, there was quite a bit of it that remained forested and unspoiled except for the path that wound around it. Farther out, there was a road too, but in most places the trees and underbrush were thick enough to create a screen. The fog rising off the water helped, too.

The path was a popular walking, biking, and running trail for many of the locals, and since the new development had begun, tourists had started coming out here as well. Especially since they’d added paddleboat rentals at the other end of the lake where the shops and businesses were.

The paddleboats were quite a draw. Shaped like dragons, the boats came in black, green, and purple. The tourists adored them, judging by how often the boats could be seen tooling around the lake during operating hours.

But it all made privacy a little harder to come by.

Even more reason to be here before the birds were up.

She stepped off the path and walked toward the large rock formation near the shoreline. There were a few young trees and some bushes clustered around it in such a way that they formed a natural wall. It was the perfect place to shed her human trappings.

She stripped down to a simple one-piece black bathing suit, then folded the rest of her clothes into a neat pile. Her swimsuit would shift with her when she changed forms, like the clothing did for all the shifters she knew. It was part of the magic built into their systems and a rather convenient one.

With a quick look around to make sure she was alone, she left her things behind and walked into the water.

The feeling of sinking into the water, of having it lap around her, was unlike anything else. Winter or summer, cold or warm, being in the water was her equivalent of coming home. Her safe place.

That didn’t mean she missed her underwater life. She didn’t. Her life here in Nocturne Falls was about as perfect as she could want. She waded in deeper.

Sure, a little more male company might be nice now and again, but that would come. Eventually, the right merman would move to town and that would be that. Besides, she was in no rush to tie herself to that kind of anchor.

Not that married life wouldn’t be great. She saw that in her parents and in her married friends. But she wasn’t there yet. Her mom said it was because she hadn’t met the right guy. Maybe so.

The water was past her knees now, but the urge to shift had hit her as soon as she’d broken the surface. Legs were great for being on land, but nothing compared to the power and speed of moving through the water with a tail.

Hers was as beautiful as any other merfolk tail she’d ever seen. Granted, she was biased. It was her tail, after all. But the glimmer and shine and iridescence never got old.

She waded deeper in until it was safe enough to dive, then she did, shifting as she arrowed through the water and taking a deep gulp of it so that she could breathe, which was made possible by the gills behind her ears.

She swam forward in the same position for another few moments, then rolled over onto her back and flicked her tail once to propel herself farther.

She was about four feet under now, but even in the dark, her eyes could make out the sprinkling of stars still visible in the early morning sky above her. As for visibility below the surface, the moon shed enough light to allow her to see underwater. Didn’t matter if only a sliver of light filtered through; her eyes used it.

Too deep, however, and she’d eventually be unable to see. The lake only had those kinds of depths in a few places, none of which she’d be visiting today.

As she swam, she noticed something new. The current. Not long ago, on the commercial area on the far side of the lake where the shops and such were, a waterwheel had been installed near one of the natural springs as part of an eco-project to generate electricity.

It seemed like that wheel had added a new current to the lake, a subtle one, for sure, but she could feel it. Maybe not so subtle in some places.

Diving deeper, she passed schools of shiner minnows drifting amongst the aquatic plants that stretched toward the surface. Deeper still, she passed bass and sunfish, redhorse and darters. A few good-size trout zipped along, headed for the surface and whatever bug breakfast they might find in the early hours.