Here is the main character, Rea:
And here is how Stephanie brought her to life:
The Choice: Stephanie Park
Rea smiled softly as she studied her home. She knew this might be the last time she would see it and she wanted to remember it. She was not sure if she would be able to remember such things where she was going. At sixteen years of age, she, the youngest daughter of the king of Alteron had been given in marriage to a man who was not her choice. Rea’s heart beat faster as she walked cautiously on the slippery stones on the shore path being careful not to fall in.
Rea shivered in the misty breeze as she remembered the lecherous look the old man she’d been promised to had given her when the match had been announced. His eyes had devoured her as if he were some animal waiting to eat her. She felt revulsion tiptoe up her spine but she’d managed to keep it off her face. Rea had always been headstrong but the sight of that old man looking at her that way, as if he owned her was too much. Rea hadn’t been able to sleep since.
The next days passed in a blur as she pretended to ready herself for the wedding, even though she knew she would be long gone by then. Rea, youngest daughter of the king, princess of all she surveyed, had fallen in love.
Rea pushed a midnight strand of hair behind one ear and straightened her headband of hammered gold settling it more tightly against her hair. She’d known not to do it right from the start but something in her had been drawn to the new stable master’s apprentice the moment she’d seen him. His eyes, the deep blue green of the waves crashing against the castle had enchanted her. She’d longed to touch him from the first moment she’d seen him, no matter what. Her heart had made the choice for her before she’d even had time to think it through; it was like gravity, irresistible.
Rea had tried to avoid him, had tried to fight it, but her heart wouldn’t be denied. She and Ayden had fallen in love. They’d laughed and loved together, planning their escape. Rea had existed in a dream world, loving a man she knew little about. Rea had begun sneaking jewels out of her jewel chest, trying to get enough so they could slip away.
Rea bowed her head as she picked her way down the cliff trying to hold her ruby dress up out of the water splashing the cliff walk. She gritted her teeth and pushed forward as the water soaked her dress anyway, but she had to see Ayden. All was finally ready, but a heavy unease had fallen over her and she was desperate to see him, to have him assure her it was all going to be alright. The wedding date was next week and they were planning to leave in two days but she felt the walls closing in and the only thing that would steady her was his arms. She’d kept herself from going to him until sundown, and then she’d given in to her need for him and slipped away.
She breathed deeply as the rock walk turned into beach and she hurried, hoping to find him at their spot as he often was at twilight. She slipped her slippers off and began to run, holding her dress up to her knees, not caring if she looked like a hoyden. She rounded the bend and stopped as their spot came into view. The beautiful tidal pool was hidden behind a stand of trees and she pushed them aside eagerly hoping to see Ayden’s beautiful face. What met her eyes would stay with her forever.
Ayden swam lazily his skin seemed to glow in the fading light. He pushed his wet hair back from his face and stretched displaying his naked chest to her hungry eyes. Rea gasped and let her eyes travel over him, devouring him. She studied the planes and angles of his chest admiring them, admiring him. She smiled and started to step back as he began to rise from the water, she was a lady after all, but she stopped and gasped again as he swam to the shore and sat in the shallows. She had tried not to look but the huge tail that enclosed his legs startled her so much that she had no choice. The gleam of its silver scales caught her eyes and she gasped again loudly against her will.
Ayden’s eyes shot over to the sound and he felt his heart drop as he met Rea’s eyes in the dim light. He knew her confusion and could see it on her face and he immediately reached for her.
“Rea” he cried out hoarsely reaching a hand out to her “please wait.” She turned and bolted as he felt the change coming over him. Ayden found himself grateful that it was quick because the pain faded quickly, giving him a moment to grab his pants and slip into them. She ran as if the hounds of hell were after her and he didn’t blame her, but he couldn’t lose her, he couldn’t live without her.
He pushed his muscles, honed from years of swimming in the ocean and riding horses and caught her before she reached the stone walkway. She fought him, but he sank to the beach, cupping her in his arms holding her close. She struggled wildly but he held her tight keeping her wrapped against him. “Rea” he crooned softly in his soft Irish accent, “I’m still me, I still love you.”
Rea sobbed as the horror of the situation sank in. He was one of the mer, a race who had been mercilessly hunted to supposed extinction when her great grandfather had taken over the kingdom. Now here she was generations later, in love with one. She knew he would be killed if he was found out and she didn’t know how to save him.
“Let me go” she sobbed against his chest, not sure whether she should be pulling him closer or pushing him away, urging him to run.
“Never” he murmured softly “I’m yours and your mine forever, unless you’ve changed your mind?” His breath washed over her and she found herself leaning into it, leaning into him.
Rea shook her head, her curls now free of the headband. No matter how surprised and worried she was she could never deny him, deny their love. She stopped struggling and pulled him closer murmuring against his chest. “No, I’m still yours, always.”
Ayden lifted her head and looked into her eyes admiring the love he saw shinning there despite all that had happened. “My darling, it will be alright” he said softly as he kissed her, “as long as we are together, it will all be alright.”
She sighed and hugged him closer trying for a smile she didn’t really feel. She went to speak but stopped as the sound of booted feet broke the silence around them. She cried out as the first of the guards rushed onto the beach. Rea’s smile died as her father and her fiancée rushed onto the sand looking thunderous. Rea looked into Ayden’s eyes as the guards pulled them apart, praying that Ayden was right, praying that it would be alright.
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