Sachael Desires (Melody Winter)

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The Mine Series Book II

During her ordeal with the Sect, Estelle Bailey dreamt of escaping back into the arms of the sea—and Azariah. But freedom came at a price, and though she’s back with the Sachael who’s stolen her heart, she’s also land-bound until the next full moon. And with the threat of Orontes looming ever larger behind them, Azariah, Estelle, and Michael—her once-captor turned rescuer and friend—are on the run.

Following Michael’s lead, they seek sanctuary amidst the natural beauty of the Orkney and Shetland Islands until Estelle can complete her next submergence ritual and Azariah can whisk her away to the safety of Saicean.
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Secrets, betrayals, and old enemies await them, though, and as events spiral out of control, Azariah makes a decision that puts all their lives at risk, forcing Estelle to face a journey she never wanted to take. With time running out and tempers running high, her only hope to save the man she loves lies in a reconciliation between two kingdoms who despise each other.

Book Two in the Mine Series, Sachael Desires further expands on the intricate underwater world of the Sachaels, and the hostility and isolation of not belonging.

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ISBN: 9781942111320 Category: Tag:

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Read The First Chapter

One

Safe. We were safe—for now. But who knew how long it would last? Orontes was not likely to just let me go. He wouldn’t let any of us go, not after what had happened on the beach at Ravenscar. It would only be a matter of time before any safe place would become one of danger. We’d have to keep moving, keep one step ahead of him.

I leaned against Azariah, watching Michael swing his mother around in his arms, his wet clothing clearly forgotten in his excitement to see her. Their laughter carried to us on the gentle sea-born breeze, and I smiled sadly.

“He missed her so much,” I said, feeling a twinge of sadness at my rushed departure from Ravenscar, from my own mother. When would I see her again?

“Not as much as I missed you,” he replied.

His arm tightened around my waist, and I pushed my gloom away as we walked toward Michael’s enthusiastic reunion. I was happy for Michael, really happy. He was home—where he belonged. But as I took in the finer details of where we were heading—a small stone croft house—I couldn’t help but compare it to my home in Ravenscar. There were differences, of course, between the two, but the similarity still made my heart twinge with longing. Michael’s home was in desperate need of repair. The thatch roof was blackened, and a small area of it was non-existent. A wisp of grey smoke snaked from the chimney, the tendrils twisting back on themselves, pulled by the fresh morning breeze. The house was only one floor, and the two windows visible from this side were tiny. I had always viewed my home as small and basic, but this was far less pleasant.

As Michael placed his mother back on the ground, I noted that she was a petite woman, the top of her head only reaching his chest. Her cheeks flushed as she rested her hands on either side of Michael’s face. She wore a long skirt that skimmed the clumps of grass growing randomly in the yard, and the top half of her body was wrapped in a dark brown shawl, which she pulled tightly around her shoulders as she finally looked in our direction. She ran her fingers through the sides of her hair, tucking wiry grey strands behind her ears. But when she turned, and her gaze caught Azariah, she froze.

“It can’t be,” she gasped as we approached, her hand shaking as she let it fall slowly to her side.

“Mum?” Michael asked.

I frowned and turned to Azariah. He shrugged.

“Do you know her?” I said, quiet with my words, not wanting her to hear my question.

“No.” He shook his head. “I have never seen her before.”

The tiny bit of color in the woman’s face had drained away. Not even her rosy cheeks kept their weathered tinge. She stumbled sideways, and Michael grabbed her shoulders, turning her so she focused on him. He spoke gently, cupping her chin in his hand. “What’s wrong? Are you feeling okay?”

“He . . . he . . .” Her head lolled to the side and she slumped forward, falling into Michael’s arms as Azariah and I rushed to help.

“It’s okay,” Michael said, but his eyebrows were drawn together as he held his mother. “I just need to get her inside.”

Azariah stepped back, away from Michael, who was trying to reposition his mother into his arms.

“What has happened to her?” he asked.

“I think she’s fainted,” I told him, recognizing the situation.

“Fainted? Why?”

“I have no idea,” Michael said, done sweeping his mother into his arms and striding into the house with her as if she weighed nothing at all. “But when she recovers, I hope she’ll tell us.” I expected Azariah to follow, but he remained where he was, staring at the door.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, surprised by his reaction.

“Will she be all right?” He nodded toward the open door, his eyebrows drawn together as he struggled to focus on me.

“Yes, it’s just that your appearance seems to have shocked her.”

His eyes widened. “I have caused her to be unwell?”

I shook my head. “No. She just fainted. Does no one ever faint in Saicean?”

He rubbed his face with his hands and shook his head. “The men are brave and would never faint if shocked. To do so would potentially end their lives, if they were in the ocean. Her body completely shut down.”

“Not quite.”

I smiled, wanting to reassure him. “Come on, I bet she’s already talking to Michael.”

“Are you sure?” He ran his hands through his hair, his gaze now fixed on me.

“Azariah, she will be fine. Stop worrying.” I reached for his hand and led him into the house.

“We’re in here!” Michael shouted from a room to the right.

I screwed my nose up at the smell of the damp, dingy interior. The stone flags on the floor offered no cushioning under foot. The curtains in this room were closed, but I was still able to see what little amount of furniture lurked in the shadows. Much like the exterior of the home, the inside was in need of repair.

“Turn the light on, please?” Michael asked. “It’s too dark in here.”

I turned to the light switch on the wall and flicked it. Nothing happened. I tried again, but still no light flooded the room. Glancing at the ceiling, I noticed why. There was no light fixture, only a bare wire. The natural sunlight was the only way to light our surroundings. I stepped to the window and pulled the dusty curtains open. The room flooded immediately with the rising sun’s rays. They illuminated the floating airborne dust, the tiny flecks drifting in random swirls. The cause of the musty smell became apparent; one of the walls was wet, and a vein-like pattern of green and brown growing mold fanned across the ceiling. In the other corner of the room, near the smoldering fire, was a bundle of blankets and a mattress. Sparsely decorated, the only items of furniture, apart from the make-do bed, were two single wooden chairs, a tall-backed and overstuffed chair, and a side cupboard.

Michael’s mum was sitting in the cushioned chair in front of the smoldering fire. Michael crouched on the floor in front of her, tucking a blanket across her knees. She was slowly regaining consciousness, her movements slow as she reached for Michael’s hand. From what Michael had told me about her, I’d always presumed she would be roughly the same age as my mum, but as I examined her thin, worried face, she could have passed for a woman of sixty, if not older.

Azariah took a sharp intake of breath as he stepped fully into the room. Walking straight to the old wooden sideboard, he picked up a solitary picture frame and blew on the glass before running his fingers over it.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” He directed his question at Michael, shooting him an accusing stare.

“Tell you what?” Michael said, still attending to his mother and not seeing Azariah’s glare.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, noting Azariah’s stiff posture and tight hold on the picture.

He brought the frame to me, tapping the glass. The man in the photograph was dressed exactly like Azariah. He even looked like Azariah. From the angle of the photo, you could only see part of his back, but I was pretty sure I made out the edges of a Sachael mark. I frowned. It made no sense.

“You?” I asked, dipping my head in his direction

“No, how can it be?” Azariah snapped. “I told you I never came to land before I left you the shell.” I stepped back, surprised by his sharp tone.

“It was just a question,” I mumbled, looking around the room for something to focus my attention on.

Azariah moved quickly, kneeling next to Michael and in front of his mother.

“Who is this?” he asked softly, in direct contrast to how he had spoken to me, and placed the framed photograph on her blanket-covered knees.

Michael shifted, twisting to see what Azariah had placed on his mum’s knee. His eyes widened. “Who?”

His question went unanswered as his mother raised her hand slowly, touching the side of Azariah’s face.

“You’re not him, but you look exactly like him. I never thought there’d be another . . . that there were more . . .” She paused but continued touching his face, studying the contours of his features with her fingertips. “Who are you?”

“I am Azariah, and this is Estelle.” He looked at me, and she followed his gaze. I ignored Azariah, but smiled at Michael’s mum as I walked to the side of her chair. She looked so fragile now that I was close to her.

Azariah placed one of his hands over hers as it rested on his face.

“Is this Michael’s father?” he asked, lifting the photograph closer to her face, watching her expression closely.

She nodded, barely glancing at the photo, seemingly hypnotized by Azariah.

“You never told me you had photos of him,” Michael said, pushing himself up from his crouched position. He shuffled back from his mother and stared incredulously at her. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Only that one,” she said, her words quiet as she looked up at him.

“Why did you never show me? I asked about him so many times.” He waved his hand at the photograph, and his gaze drifted between his mother and the photo, never settling on either for long. “I know nothing about him apart from the fact he died before I was born.” His voice became louder.

“I couldn’t tell you. You’d never have believed me.” Her gaze softened as she caught Michael’s gaze. There was no anger in her response, just a calm statement of the situation.

Azariah stood slowly. He watched Michael for a few seconds and rubbed his chin with his fingers. “Michael,” he said softly, placing his hand on the other man’s arm. “I think your father was a Sachael.”

“No way. Mum, tell him.” He pushed Azariah’s hand away and stared directly at him. “Just because this photo shows a man dressed in a pair of shorts like you all wear, doesn’t mean he’s one of you.”

“Take a closer look, Michael,” Azariah said. “Really look at the photograph.” He lifted the picture toward Michael, who snatched it from him.

“It’s true,” Michael’s mother said. Her words were quiet, like a confession. But saying them had clearly been like a huge burden lifted from her, as her next words were said with a lightness that defied the seriousness of her secret. “I didn’t want to tell you. You had no need to know. But what Azariah says is true. Your father was a Sachael.”

“No. No, I don’t believe you.” Michael pushed one hand through his hair. He stood rigid, shaking his head and taking in the details of the photograph. “I don’t believe any of this,” he snapped, looking to his mother. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“How could I?” His mother shifted in her chair and reached toward him with shaking hands. Michael stepped forward and crouched down beside her chair. Her eyes filled with tears as he looked up at her.

“I asked what happened to him,” Michael said, “so many times. Where he was? What he was like? You always refused to answer me.” His voice was quiet, edged with the sorrow of never knowing a father. I could relate to that in some way. Losing my father when I was twelve had had a dramatic effect on everything I did, everyone I met. But to have never known him, to have never spent any time with him and then be confronted with this? I sniffed as quietly as I could, fighting my own tears. I lowered my gaze to the floor, not wanting to witness Michael’s sorrow or eavesdrop on such an emotionally charged conversation. They both had so much to say to each other. And his mother needed to explain why she’d kept his father a secret.

“I had to keep you safe,” Michael’s mum whispered.

“Safe?” he mumbled. “What were you trying to protect me from?”

I frowned at her words. Why had she needed to keep him safe? Had she met Oceanids as well?

“Did he tell you about The Sect?” Azariah asked.

Michael’s shoulders stiffened, and he glared at Azariah. His mother turned her attention to Azariah and gave him the same angry look her son had. “I have never heard of The Sect. But he told me of others in the ocean who didn’t like his kind. He said it was dangerous for him to travel alone. He chose to live away from the water with me, and our son. I was five months pregnant when he. . . . One evening, on the night of a full moon, he went into the sea . . .” Her voice trailed off again, and she turned back to Michael, grasping his hands tightly as tears trailed down her cheeks. He shifted even closer, leaned across and pulled her into a hug.

“He never came back, did he?” Azariah’s voice was full of compassion and understanding.

She shook her head, her wet eyes filling with even more tears. “I know he would never have left me. Menelaus loved me.”

Menelaus. The name sounded familiar. I’d heard it before. I glanced at Azariah, about to ask, but when I saw his stiff posture and the gap he had created between himself and Michael’s mum, it clicked. Menelaus was one of Azariah’s brothers. One who had been killed by The Sect.

Azariah held his hand out to Michael. “Photograph. Please.”

Michael huffed and handed it to him.

“Menelaus,” he said, staring at the photograph in front of him. “You are certain that was his name?”

She smiled a tight smile, her eyes still glistening with tears. “Yes. That was his Sachael name. I called him Mitch.”

This whole situation was unbelievable, but it also explained the closeness I’d felt toward Michael when I was a prisoner. It wasn’t because he was my guard; it was because he was a land Sachael—one with no knowledge of what he was, just like Daniel. The image of Daniel, lying on the floor of my room at The Sect’s headquarters a week ago, dead, flashed in my mind, and I quickly forced it away. The memory of his begging, scared eyes, of the blood trickling from his mouth, wasn’t an image I cared to linger upon. At least he was finally gone.

“I don’t believe this,” Michael mumbled before rising to his full height. “I’m sorry. I need some air.” He ignored all of us as he rushed outside. Azariah’s gaze followed him. He appeared torn, as if he couldn’t decide whether to stay and find out more about Menelaus, or follow Michael.

“I’ll go,” I offered.

Azariah nodded, turning back to Michael’s mum.

“Would you, please, tell me more about Mene—I mean Mitch . . . ?” Azariah asked softly, his voice fading to a low murmur as I headed toward the door.

“Michael!” I called, stepping outside and looking for him through the laundry pegged on the line.

It didn’t take long to spot him. He was leaning on a fence across the yard. I hurried toward him, desperately trying to think of what I would say when I caught up with him. But I couldn’t find the words. How could I? This news had shattered him. He looked a lonely figure leaning on that fence, his head dipped toward the ground as he kicked at the earth beneath his feet. He slumped further when I came to stand next to him.

“I’m sorry,” I said. They were the only words I could think of to say.

He sighed heavily before lifting his head.

“She should have told me,” he mumbled. “I mean, let’s forget everything else I’ve discovered since I met you, but for God’s sake, I was in The Sect.”

“Michael, I—”

“She should have told me!” he shouted, but it wasn’t directed at me. It was said to the expanse of blue ocean that flowed away into the distance.

I followed Michael’s gaze across the land and out to sea. It held so many secrets. Ones that people knew, and ones that would never be discovered. The sun wasn’t far above the sea’s horizon, slowly rising in the morning sky. It held the promise of a new day, an exciting beginning. Not just for me. For Michael as well.

“She should’ve told me,” he repeated, quieter now, the anger gradually washing away.

“Did you ever tell your mum what you were involved with?” I asked, squeezing his hand.

He shook his head.

“I think she kept his secret from you because she didn’t understand. She was trying to protect you. My father never told me, either, remember?”

He still didn’t look at me. It was as if he was waiting for the sea to give him the answers he so desperately sought. “Maybe he had his reasons,” he said.

“In the same way your mother had hers.”

Michael sighed. “I don’t understand any of this.”

“I don’t think any of us do.”

I glanced toward the building behind us. Azariah would want to know everything about his brother. I contemplated going back inside to make sure everything was okay, but I didn’t want to leave Michael alone. I wanted to be here for him as he analyzed what he had just found out. Michael picked at a splintered piece of fence, concentrating on pulling the loose wood free. “My life’s turned as crazy as yours,” he said. “I’ve discovered my father was a Sachael, I have a mad Oceanid chasing after me, and I’ve been dragged through the water for the past few hours by men who swim in the sea.” He shook his head, as if denying the insanity of it all. “I mean . . .” He frowned, his jaw slackening. “Oh, shit . . . I . . . my father was a Sachael . . . that means that I’m . . .”

He pushed himself away from the fence. His hands were on the top of his head as he wandered in a small circle and looked up at the sky.

“I don’t believe this!” he shouted. “I’m a Sachael, aren’t I? I’m a Sachael!”

I was at a loss of what to say to him.

“I can’t be a Sachael!” Michael exclaimed before leaning on the fence next to me again. “I just can’t. I hate everything about them. They’re cruel, and vicious, and nasty. And I’m meant to be one of them? Never!”

“Michael,” I said, reaching for his arm. “You don’t have to be like them. Just because you were born a Sachael doesn’t mean you have to behave like one.”

He looked at my hand. “Well, you would say that, wouldn’t you? You’re one too.” His face was flushed, his eyes hard.

I flinched at his ferocity, but quickly composed myself. “And do you think I’m nasty, cruel, and—”

“You know I don’t.” He looked away.

“And Azariah?”

“He has yet to prove himself. I know you’re convinced he’s not like the others, but what about his father, his brothers, all of the ones we don’t know?”

I understood what he meant. His concerns were also mine.

“I can’t change what I am,” I said, at last finding some clarity in all the confusion. “I can ignore it, but I can’t change it. You can do the same. Ignore that your father was a Sachael, live on land, pretend to be a human. You’ve done it for twenty-two years, just keep doing it.” My words were sharp, harsher than I’d intended.

He sighed, a growl of frustration hovering around the edges of his breath. “I can’t. My father was a Sachael. I owe it to him to be what am truly am. I’m sure he’d have brought me up to be like him. He’d have taught me about life as a Sachael, about everything he knew. I have to know more. I want to know more. It’s just . . . this whole situation. It’s crazy.”

He looked out over the water again, and I followed his gaze.

“No crazier than the life you were previously living,” I said. “And if you don’t want to ignore what you were born as, then who says you have to live like they do. Azariah doesn’t follow their rules. Perhaps together, you can persuade others. I mean, Azariah’s not the only one. Your dad sounds like he was going to stay with your mum. And Azariah told me his other brother, Ammon, didn’t believe in the way they lived either.”

“So they’re not all evil prats.” The corner of his mouth lifted, a half attempt at a smile.

“Not all of them.” I nudged him with my elbow.

“I should have guessed I was a Sachael,” Michael said quietly, focusing his attention back on the piece of fence he’d pulled at earlier. “I’ve always been obsessed with the ocean. It used to calm me as a child, you know? I sat for hours on the sands, wanting to paddle in the water and just . . . stay there. But even as a child, I recognized that paddling in the sea wasn’t enough—I always wanted more. I never knew why I felt that way. When I found out about Oceanids, I actually wondered if I was one of them.”

His familiar grin made a quick appearance, and I chuckled at his admittance.

“I wonder what Orontes would make of that?” I said.

“Well, it would be better than him thinking I was a Sachael. He would have killed me if he’d known. I’d have experienced one of those horrendous venom bullets of his.”

“Not anymore,” I added, remembering that he’d destroyed the lab before we left.

He turned to face me, a grin pulling at his mouth as he pushed his hand into his pocket and lifted out the three golden bullets he’d stolen.

“I meant what I said earlier. I’ll wear these as a necklace, and then, if I ever have the misfortune of meeting Orontes again, I will have the venom, and I will kill him. Although, I hope I never see him.”

I recognized the fear in his voice. He knew Orontes would kill him if he found him. I was positive he’d not kill me, though. He had other plans where I was concerned. I shivered as I recalled his obsession. But it wasn’t fear for myself that worried me, it was the fear for Azariah and Michael. The two men who meant the world to me would be ripped from my life, killed in an impossibly cruel way. I had no doubt that Orontes would make them suffer. He wouldn’t give either of them an easy death if he ever caught up with us.

The silence between Michael and me stretched on for minutes as we both stared across the bay. Both of us were lost in our internal thoughts, our memories, and our fears of what was to come. But I’d been here before, feeling this way—scared, and yet excited. Melancholy, yet optimistic. My mother always said that life was an adventure, that it was for living. I smiled as I thought of her, and pushed my negative thoughts aside.

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Azariah said he would keep us safe. I had to believe him.

“I don’t think Orontes will get close to us again, not now. Azariah won’t let him,” I said, nodding at the sea. “Not with all those Sachaels in the water.”

Michael narrowed his eyes at the unseen men in the sea. “I think they are for your and Azariah’s protection, not mine.”

“Hey, he made sure you came with us, and he brought you home. He didn’t want to leave you.”

“But what are his plans now? He won’t want to stay here long. I’m sure this is the first place Orontes will look for me, and Azariah knows that.” He pushed away from the fence and kicked at the gravel beneath his feet. I linked my arm through his.

“I’m sure Azariah has it all worked out,” I said. “Let’s go and see what he’s up to.”

As we walked back toward the house, Michael groaned. “Look at this place. It’s a mess. There’s a hole in the roof. I really should stay and fix it. Do the jobs that need doing. She obviously can’t manage on her own.”

“Isn’t there anyone nearby who can help her?” I squinted into the distance, attempting to locate any other buildings in the area. There weren’t any.

“No. She moved here for a reason. She didn’t want to be near others. She always said she didn’t trust anyone. I understand why now. She had a lot to hide.”

As we neared the house, several chickens strutted across the yard toward us, clucking loudly.

“These need rounding up,” Michael said, scratching the back of his head and frowning. “The fence is broken. It’s one of the first things I need to fix, otherwise they’ll eat Mum’s vegetable garden.”

I nodded my agreement.

Azariah immediately looked to me and smiled as I opened the door, before turning his attention back to Michael’s mum. He was still sitting on the floor, exactly where we’d left him, but he’d obviously moved at some point. The small fire in the hearth had been replaced with a large roaring one that heated every corner of the room. It lit every surface with a warming orange glow.

Azariah stood and held his hand out to me. I hesitated for a brief moment before walking to him. I still hadn’t forgotten how he’d snapped at me earlier.

“I am sorry, Estelle. I fear I have ignored you since we arrived.” He placed his arm around my waist and kissed my cheek. All traces of his earlier frustration had disappeared. “Morag and I have had an interesting talk.”

“Morag?” I asked, turning to Michael’s mother for the first time since coming back into the room. My breath hitched, and I stared at her. She looked like a different woman.

“Yes, dear, I’m Morag.” She chuckled. The sound spurred Michael toward her.

“Mum? You’re laughing?”

She nodded, looking first at Michael, then me, and then finally to Azariah.

“Yes, yes. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

Michael shook his head, a deep frown line visible across his forehead. “But when I left, you were upset; you were crying.” He turned to Azariah. “What’s going on?”

The glow of the roaring fire danced in Azariah’s eyes. He held his hand out to Michael, as if wanting him to shake it. I grinned, remembering the way Michael had shaken his hand when they met on the beach for the first time a few short hours ago. Azariah had appeared amused at the gesture, but here he was, offering the same hand of friendship to Michael.

Michael cautiously took Azariah’s hand in his.

“Welcome to the family,” Azariah said. “We are related. Not only was your father a Sachael, he was also my brother.”

About The Author

Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in Finance. Melody is convinced the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody Winter lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the beach. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures. In fact, if she wasn’t such a terrible swimmer, she’d say she was a mermaid.

Sachael Dreams is her debut novel, and the first in her New Adult Romantic Fantasy series—the ‘Mine Series’.

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