As one of the #CMCon17 featured bloggers, I get to have a little fun with a few of the fabulous authors who will be hitting the beach for Coastal Magic 2017 by showcasing their many stories. We had so much fun with last year’s At the Beach feature, that we’re doing it again.
Today R.L. Naquin is taking us to the beach with Wynter Greene from Unfinished Muse. If Beached Muse gets your interest, make sure you check out the second book, Unamused Muse.
We weren’t supposed to take our Muse equipment with us when we weren’t on the clock, but I broke rules all the time. Not that I was a badass or anything—mostly I was known for being a screw up. But seriously, who wouldn’t want an invisibility belt while they were on vacation? Especially on the beach. My pasty-white Kansas thighs could get all the Daytona Beach sunshine they could take and nobody would have to be blinded by them but me.
Mostly, I’d spent the last two days invisible under an umbrella in an out-of-the-way spot where people wouldn’t wonder why nobody ever sat on the giant Pac Man blanket next to the blue cooler. Being invisible was peaceful. I finished reading two books—one of them for my Hags of the Underworld book club, and the other a romance novel about a schoolteacher who inherits an old train depot in New Mexico and falls in love with a snake wrangler with a lisp. It wasn’t great, but it was fun.
While I sat in the shade of my umbrella, sipping a glass of the sangria I’d brought with me and watching the people go by, someone screamed, shattering my slightly bored peace.
“Shark!” A hysterical woman in a pink bikini fled past me, looking over her shoulder as she ran. She nearly tripped right over me.
I had to wonder if she thought the shark had reached the shore and hijacked a dune buggy so he could chase after her. That would be a pretty high level of commitment on the part of the shark. Regardless, I couldn’t ask her. She’d already made it to the parking lot.
I sat upright and lowered my sunglasses to get a better look at the water. People had gathered along the shoreline, nearly obscuring my view of what was going on. The crowd parted, and I finally saw what all the commotion was about.
A dolphin—no, several dolphins had come too close to shore. The tide was on its way out, and three members of the pod were stranded. I watched, my heart pounding in my throat, as people stood around looking but not doing anything to help.
“Come on, people. What is wrong with you?” I grabbed my backpack and dug inside, frantic to find what I needed.
In addition to my invisibility belt, I’d also taken a small bottle of Thought Transference Bubbles with me—also a big no-no—as well as a whole bunch of regular bubbles, an assortment of mostly non-magical bubble wands, and one of those huge string things tied to two sticks for making mega bubbles. As a professional Muse, I wanted to improve my craft, even on my vacation. Learn new skills.
Plus, I had this picture in my head of myself in a gauzy, white dress, dancing around on the beach creating lovely, wobbly bubbles the size of a horse while a crowd gathered around and admired me.
For now, all I needed was a golden bubble wand and magic bubbles. My fingers curled around the bottle with its wand attached to the lid, and I tore off down the beach toward the crowd.
I big guy with a beard and red board shorts seemed to be the leader.
“Everybody stand back.” He waved his arms around like a traffic cop. “Don’t scare them.”
A blonde woman with a crooked nose and a floppy straw hat took a step forward, away from the crowd. “Shouldn’t we be helping them back into the water?”
Beard Guy put his hands on his hips. “Do you know how much they weigh? We’d never get them back in.”
A wave rushed in, not quite covering the three dolphins flopping helplessly in the sand. Their shrill sounds stabbed at my heart and brought tears to my eyes. The water fled out to sea, and some of the sand beneath the animals went with it. The longer we waited, the harder if would be.
Still invisible, I opened my bubble bottle, dipped my wand, and blew. Several bright, swirling balls of magical soap spun toward Beard Guy and Hat Lady, popping against their skin.
With each breath I blew, I sent my thoughts spinning into the iridescent spheres. “You can do this, guys. Work together. Make a plan. Tell us your idea. Help them.”
Beard Guy scratched his cheek. “I used to work in a nursing home. Had to change the sheets sometimes when people were still in the bed. If we could roll them a little, we could slide a towel or something underneath and use it to carry them back out.”
Hat Lady did an excited little jump. “I saw a huge blanket back there. Nobody’s used it all day. It might be sturdy enough to do the trick.” She spun in the sand, and her swim skirt flipped with her. To my horror, she ran off straight toward where I’d been hiding out all day.
I trailed after her, yelling at her to leave my stuff alone, but of course, in my state of invisibility, she couldn’t hear a word I said. When she reached my spot, she looked around for the owner, nudged my cooler and backpack aside, grabbed my blanket and ran.
“Dude.” I shook my head. “Fine. If it’ll save the dolphins, take it.”
I stood by my backpack and umbrella for a while, hands on my hips, watching from a distance. Beard Guy and Hat Lady did their best, but they needed more hands, and the rest of the crowd seemed to be doing what I was doing—standing around watching and giving encouragement.
I let out an annoyed grunt. “I’m the only one qualified to do that, people.”
My cooler still had a half a container of sangria, some bottles of water, and a bunch of ice in it. I dumped it all onto the sand, then did the same with the contents of my backpack. Two industrial-sized bottles of bubbles rolled out, and I poured them both into the cooler. Praying to the gods—who wouldn’t have been pleased if they’d known I had some of this stuff—I added the small bottle of Thought Bubbles into the mix. The contraption with two sticks and a piece of string was strapped to my beach umbrella, so I took it off and tucked it under my arm.
“I hope this works.” Talking to myself was a result of living with a talking houseplant. Phyllis, however, had refused to come with me. She said the salt air dried out her leaves. I really could have used her advice right then, but I was on my own.
I carried the cooler down to the water, set it where no one would trip over it, and dipped the string of my giant bubble maker into the liquid. As I pulled the string out of the goop, I held a stick in each hand and slowly pulled them apart. The loop of string formed a bubble that grew as I backed up.
The bubble swirled and grew until it was the approximate size of a large goat. As I pulled away to set it free, it splattered, hitting me in the face.
I sputtered and wiped the soap off my face, dipped, and tried again.
This time, I let the bubble grow more slowly, tugging away from it and letting the sea breeze feed through the two sides of the string until the elongated bubble was larger than a pony. I set it loose and watched it bounce directly at the crowd.
“Get it together, folks. Quit standing around. Everybody needs to help.”
For a moment, I thought the bubble would blow past them and miss, but a bald guy wearing a Mine Craft shirt made a sudden gesture with his beer bottle and hit the bubble square on. It popped and splattered the entire crowd—though they couldn’t see or feel it.
Nothing happened at first, and I bent to dunk my string again for another attempt.
“Hey.” Beer Bottle Dude made a dent in the sand and set his beer in it. “Let me give you a hand, bro.”
“Me, too!” A young mother shooed her kids back to their towels. “Stay there. Mommy will be right back.”
They joined the rescue in ones and twos until most of the crowd was on dolphin duty, and the rest stayed behind to watch all of the remaining kids. It was inspirational, watching how well they all worked together.
One at a time, the dolphins were carried out to the water. The animals hadn’t been beached long, so were in no danger of drowning once they made it back to deeper water. I wouldn’t have known there was a chance of that if Beer Bottle Dude hadn’t spoken up. Apparently, he’d worked at Sea World a few years back and knew a little about dolphins, despite only having worked with penguins and not sea mammals.
When the dolphins were safe and had re-joined their pod, the crowd split up and returned to whatever they’d been doing.
Honestly, it was a little anticlimactic, once the cheering was over.
I picked up my cooler and stick thingy, went back to my spot, and gathered up my stuff. So much for going back to what I’d been doing. My blanket was somewhere down on the beach, having toted multiple dolphins from certain death to the freedom of the ocean. Honestly, the blanket was the real hero here. But I wasn’t much interested in laying on it, now. It probably smelled pretty fishy.
Once my backpack and cooler were repacked, I headed to my hotel room for a nap. I smiled as I walked, aglow with the good feelings of having done a good deed. At least, I hoped I’d helped. As a Muse, it was often hard to tell when my presence was helpful and when it was a coincidence. Who knew whether those people would have saved the dolphins if I hadn’t been there to inspire them? My smile faded a little.
Maybe I’d had too much sun.
After a short rest, a shower, and a stop at the bar for a fancy rum drink, I strolled along the boardwalk, fully visible, and looked out over the beach.
I halted and nearly choked on the chunk of pineapple from the rim of my glass. “What the hell?”
The entire beach was covered in art. Sand castles rose to the sky with twisting turrets and delicate miniature balconies. In another area, seashells spiraled in an intricate pattern that spread across an enormous area. People with rakes made patterns in the sand as if the beach were a giant Zen garden.
“Holy hellhound. That bubble couldn’t have been that strong. Could it?”
Not far from where I was standing, a man stood next to a block of ice nearly as tall as he was. A chainsaw sat on a tarp beside him, but he appeared to be finished with it. He was using smaller tools to refine the design he’d been working on. Adding details.
My jaw fell open. I recognized the ice sculptor. He was the guy with the beard who’d orchestrated the dolphin rescue.
He stepped back and eyed his work, then scraped away a millimeter of ice with a tiny, delicate chisel. The sculpture was of a woman. She wore a toga-like dress with a full skirt, and one foot was kicked out in front of her as if the artist had caught her in the middle of a dance. She held one hand to the sky, and the other in front of her face. Her lips were pursed, as if she were whistling.
I sipped my drink and watched as he finished the details, evening out her cheekbones, trimming a rough edge on her elbow. A boy, about twelve years old, ran to the man, panting and out of breath, then handed over a paper bag.
“You found one?” Beard Guy grinned and opened the bag. “Perfect!” He sat in the sand and opened a package I couldn’t see, then pulled out a package of batteries as well. After a few minutes of tinkering, he returned to his already melting sculpture.
He placed the clear plastic object in the sculpture’s upheld hand and flicked the switch.
I took a step back in surprise.
“Bubbles.” Oh my gods, it was me. Somehow, invisible or not, he’d known I was there. And his artistic brain had seen me as I’d imagined, not as I actually appeared. I set my drink down on a table and hopped down into the sand to get a better look.
She was me, but prettier. She had my spiky hair, my fantasy beach dress, and she had my bubbles.
Beard Guy glanced at me and looked startled.
I smiled at him and winked. “I love her. You do amazing work.” I turned and walked toward the boardwalk and my waiting drink.
Behind me, I heard Beard Guy let out a sigh. “Thanks, lady. So do you.”
Meet R.L. Naquin!
R. L. Naquin is an urban fantasy novelist and short story writer. She writes the Monster Haven series for Carina Press. Rachel’s head is packed with an outrageous amount of useless Disney trivia. She is terrified of thunder, but not of lightning, and often recites the Disneyland dedication speech during storms to keep herself calm. She finds it appalling that nobody from Disney has called yet with her castle move-in date.
Originally from Northern California, she has a tendency to move every few years, resulting in a total of seven different states and a six-year stint in England. Currently, she’s planning her next grand adventure. Rachel has one heroic husband, two genius kids, a crazy-catlady starter kit, and an imaginary dog named Waffles.
She doesn’t have time for a real dog.
Want to purchase R.L. Naquin’s novels?
Mt. Olympus Employment Agency
To Catch a Stolen Soul (Djinn Haven #1) (Jan 9, 2017)
Dallas Fire & Rescue: Emergency Cupid (Mt. Olympus Employment Agency: Cupid #1)
Monster Haven (Omnibus)
Mt. Olympus Employment Agency (Omnibus)
Don’t miss your chance to meet over 50 fabulous urban fantasy, paranormal, and romance authors at Coastal Magic next February! This super casual book-lover weekend happens on Daytona Beach, and gives everyone the chance to hang out with fellow readers and amazing storytellers.
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