Tortelion, Tort to his friends, is a tiger shark shifter. He spends his workdays awing human audiences with a few aquatic parlor tricks. To him, it’s a pretty good gig. Plus, the people who come to World of Aquatica learn about his kind…well, tiger sharks of the non-shifter variety, anyway. A day that starts the same as any other suddenly takes a turn for the better when a mishap sends two humans tumbling into his tank. Blood in the water tells Tort that one of them is his mate. Joining those taken to the doc’s office as a witness, Tort learns his mate is Kane Cornshun, a busy human graphic designer only visiting the area to see his sister and her kids for a few days. Tort has very little time to woo his unsuspecting mate. Can he convince Kane to give up his life and join him at Aquatica?
More blood poured from the gash in the human’s forehead. The guy’s eyes appeared to roll into the back of his head. An instant later, the man’s eyes closed, and he stilled.
The realization that the human had just passed out from his head injury struck Tort just as another thought stabbed into his brain.
This human is my mate.
Acting on instinct, the need to care for his Fate-given other half of his soul, Tort dipped his head. He swam under the human and rose, catching the guy’s torso across the front of his back and his fin. Ever-so-carefully, swimming slowly, Tort headed to the side of the tank where Gerard was crouching.
Tort fought his desire to shift and lift his mate from the water. Instead, he closed the distance between himself and Gerard. Resisting the urge to pause in the water, to make it easier for his fellow shifter to grab his mate—hell, sharks weren’t supposed to be able to do that, after all—he kept swimming even as he passed Gerard.
Meeting his fellow shifter’s eye, Tort spotted the worry in Gerard’s gaze. Gerard heaved the human out of the pool and laid him out on the concrete ground. Tort circled, unable to help himself, needing to check that the human at least breathed.
Through the distortion of the water, Tort saw a shifter he recognized as Doctor Keller jogging toward the cluster of people around where Gerard had sprawled Tort’s mate. There was also a small boy wrapped in a towel—probably the young human his mate had saved. A woman had an arm around the bundled-up youngster, as well as her second arm around a girl who could have been a teenager or thereabouts.
Water gods, please don’t tell me my mate is married with kids.
Knowing he had to find out, Tort sank beneath the water’s surface and swam to the far side of the aquarium. He rubbed his side against a tile that appeared like any other. It depressed ever-so-slightly.
In each aquarium and tank, there was a button. If for some reason a shifter had an emergency and needed to leave a shift early, the Roush brothers had even planned for that contingency, too. Each location had a panel that a shifter could push with their snout, body, or even a fin. It would set off an alarm in the security office, and immediate action would be taken to have the shifter removed from the aquarium.
Tort had never used it before. He hadn’t ever thought he would, either. As a tiger shark, he was the toughest thing in his aquarium, and that was even if he hadn’t been able to think and plan as a human. He didn’t have any family, and as a shifter, he didn’t really get sick.
The idea of running across his mate had certainly never crossed his mind.
It took everything in Tort to swim slowly around the aquarium as he waited. He saw Keller help his human turn onto his side and hack up water. Relief flooded Tort even as jealousy swamped him at seeing the doc’s arm around the human’s shoulders.
At least he’s breathing.
Tort chanted that to himself over and over as he watched Gerard help Doctor Keller load his mate into a wheelchair and out of the area. Then Gerard ushered the remaining chattering guests out of the stadium. Seconds later, Eban and River entered. They closed the doors to the stadium-enclosed aquarium behind them.
Eban squatted by the water as River stripped down. “Cameras are off. What’s up?” Eban asked, his brows furrowing. “If you just want to know about the human, Keller thinks he’s going to be fine, but he’s taking him back to his office to give him the once over just to be sure.”
Willing his body to shift from shark to man, Tort felt his frame change. His tail split, his skin thinned and lightened, and his body and face contorted. Even under water, Tort could hear the crack of his bones, the creak of his tendons, and the pop of his ligaments as his human form took shape.
With a swish of his arms and a kick of his legs, Tort cleared the surface and sucked in a deep breath. He treaded water as he looked up at Eban. Blowing out a breath, he glanced between the other shifters.
“That human is my mate,” Tort claimed without preamble. “I need to go to him.”
Eban’s brown eyes widened while River grinned.
“Well, damn,” River responded with a grin. “Congrats, and get out of here.”
Tort’s fellow tiger shark shifter dove into the water and began to change.
Eban stuck his hand out, drawing Tort’s attention. “I’ll take you to him.”
Tort grabbed Eban’s hand and climbed out of the pool. He snagged River’s cargo shorts and yanked them on. Next he picked up the blue polo shirt and tugged it over his head.
Once Tort had slid on the discarded sandals, he fell into step beside Eban. The great white shark shifter was a security guard—what a standard shifter group would call an enforcer. Eban knocked his elbow into Tort’s arm.
Unable to stop his grin, Tort responded, “Thanks.”
Now, if I can only figure out how to seduce the human.