Lost Daughters of Atlantis Book 1
When a girl runs away from the circus…
For all her sixteen years, Pearl Poseidon has been a fish out of water. A freak on display for her adoptive parents’ profit. Running away from her horrible life, she craves one thing—anonymity. But when she saves a small boy from drowning she exposes herself and her mutant abilities to Chase, a budding investigative reporter.
Now, he has questions. And so do the police.
Once Pearl discovers her secret identity, she learns she’s part of a larger war between battling Atlanteans. A battle that will decide who rules the oceans. A battle raging between evil and her true family. Will she find a way to use her powers in time to save a kingdom she never knew existed?
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“This is the first in the Lost Daughters of Atlantis series, I can’t wait to read the rest! Readers are in for a real treat. Make sure to pick-up your copy now and keep your eyes open for more by Allie Burton.” - Night Owl Review Teen
“Ms. Burton has woven a story of young love, betrayal, self-discovery and intrigue among the legend of the lost world of Atlantis. Your heart will connect with Pearl and her journey to find independence, self worth and someone who will see her more than a tool. You'll be turning the pages to discover more of Pearl's past and what may become her future.”
I ran away from the circus.
What a joke. Most teens want to run away to the circus, but not me. No, I could never do anything normal. Not with a name like Pearl of the sea Poseidon.
And yes, that is my real name. It’s on my birth certificate. Even though the certificate is fake.
My heart hardened with past pain. I clenched my hands around the broom handle. I continued to sweep the walkway around the fake lagoon at the Kingdom of Atlantis Miniature Golf Course. Instead of focusing on my past, I watched a teen balancing on a two-inch-wide black rail like a tightrope walker, his arms out for balance.
Trapeze artist or boneheaded boy? Only with hours and hours of training could a trick like that be pulled off.
I knew. It takes a lot of practice not to die.
Even though I didn’t want to be noticed, I had to say something. “That’s a twelve foot drop into a shallow pool. You want to crack your head open?”
The guy, wearing a black hoodie, narrowed his dark eyes. He wavered on the peeling black iron rail that guarded the fake lagoon. “Who are you? The janitor?”
His group of friends laughed.
Heat flooded my face and I found it difficult to keep my head up. I remembered all the times kids had made fun of what I did or what I wore. These teens didn’t realize the khaki shorts and T-shirt weren’t the real me. Just a uniform—another costume.
I ignored their cruel jibes. “Get down.”
My gaze searched for one of the workers dressed in mermaid costumes. Based on the designer’s idea of the lost island of Atlantis, the course boasted running rivers and a huge waterfall cascading into a murky pool. A cheap plastic statue of the sea god watched over the kingdom.
Funny, how my name related.
“Ah.” The hoodie guy glanced at a girl with purple streaks in her hair. “The janitor cares more about me than you do, babe.” He tossed a phone in the air and caught it.
“My cell.” The girl’s high pitched squeal hurt my ears.
An obviously-harassed mother squeezed by the little scene, pushing a stroller and dragging a small toddler behind her. The toddler scuffed his feet on the ground and smiled in my direction.
I smiled back but I didn’t want to seem soft, so I changed my expression to a scowl and glared at hoodie guy. “Get down or I’ll call a security guard. They’ll kick all of you out of the entire Boardwalk park.”
“Come on, Joe. Get down.” The busty girl held out her hand to him. “We’re supposed to have fun today.”
Must be nice to have a fun day where you didn’t have to worry about your next meal, your sleeping arrangements, or if you’d ever be discovered. If only ...
The steel inside me wavered for a second. But just a second.
“Only cause you asked nicely, babe.” Joe shook his dyed-black bangs before jumping off the rail and back onto the path. He wrapped his arm around his babe and then cocked his bushy eyebrows at me. “Janitor-Girl better watch her mouth. I’m not going to be bossed around by a wage slave.”
The put down should’ve hurt, but I’d been called worse things. Telling a customer where to shove his attitude wouldn’t be smart. I needed this job and didn’t need any extra attention.
Joe tossed me a superior smirk before moving on to the next hole. Disaster diverted. I blew out a large breath and returned to sweeping the walkways.
“Mommy. Look. I’m a big boy.” A bit further up, the sandy-haired toddler stood on a railing of the bridge that arched over the water. Balancing like Joe.
The mother, holding a dirty diaper, turned toward her older child’s voice. “Brandon, no!”
The toddler teetered, waving his arms in a lopsided-windmill fashion. His body leaned over the bridge railing toward the water. His sandaled foot slipped and his extra-large eyes widened. He lost his balance, tumbling into a free-fall. He plummeted into the pool below, landing on his back as he hit the water.
My heart plunged like the boy.
Water splashed. The mom screamed. The teens, the other families, the entire crowd in Kingdom of Atlantis went silent. People froze like they were watching an action scene in a movie. But this was no movie. No staged accident or stunt.
I dropped the broom, hopped over the railing, and peered into the dark waters of the fake lagoon. The murky water appeared about six feet deep. My mind trembled with varying scenarios. Diving in could expose my special abilities. Not diving in could lead to the boy’s death.
No other thought required. I couldn’t risk the child for my selfish reasons. I dove.
Submerging under the dirty water it should’ve been difficult to see, but I saw clearly in any depth. The icy water would make most people shiver, but the circus owners had loved that they didn’t have to spend money heating the pools because cold water didn’t bother me.
The boy, on the other hand, would become hypothermic. My talent could save him. If I hurried.
The narrow pool was for decoration and it wouldn’t take long to cover every inch. My gaze scoured the water as I swam. Clumps of mud gathered at the bottom. Stains lined the walls like a disgusting bath tub. I bet the lagoon had never been cleaned. Sludge dragged my speed, but I still swam faster than the average swimmer.
Or, not so average.
I flicked around and spotted Brandon at the bottom. I swam deeper and grabbed hold of him, but his tiny body wouldn’t budge. His stark expression broadcasted his fear and begged for help. His cherubic cheeks puffed with the water already inside. His arms and legs kicked and flayed. He understood the danger.
So did I. My body shuddered. I ran my finger down his soft cheek. Calm down. I’m here to help.
He stopped kicking and I pulled harder. His yellow jacket stuck to the bottom of the pool. I pushed the windbreaker aside revealing the filter cover at the bottom.
The six inch by four inch metal cover was slimy and old and Brandon’s body stuck like glue. Suction pulled at him as the drain sucked water to be recycled in the waterfall flowing at the top of the lagoon. The strong force held the boy in place.
I reached for the zipper and pulled the tab. Jammed. The zipper was broken and the jacket was too tight to pull over his head.
The boy reached out and touched my arm. His eyes gleamed with hope. He totally trusted me.
But time ticked away. I gritted my teeth trying to smile, to show reassurance and confidence. Inside my tummy twisted and my muscles tightened. I needed to hurry.
His eyelids flickered and rolled backwards. His lids closed. He reached out again and then went limp. His skin was cold to the touch. Way too cold.
Panic prickled through my veins at the possibility of loss. My chest burned and I found it hard to breathe. Like hyperventilating, but only with water instead of air.
The concern wasn’t for me. I could stay underwater for indeterminate lengths of time. But the boy, if he didn’t get oxygen soon he’d die.
My nerves rattled. Indecision wavered like the surface above. No one could see this deep in the dirty pool. No one had jumped in to help. No one would know. I placed my fingers in between the lines of the cover and tugged on the metal. The thick grate bent.
Another one of my weird powers that had been taken advantage of—super strength underwater.
“See the strongest girl in the world. See how long she can hold her breath. See her break diving and swimming records.” The master of ceremonies hawked night after night after night. I’d never forget his exploitive voice.
Shivering at the memory, I jerked myself out of the past and into the present. No time for day-nightmaring.
I yanked on the metal grate again. The six screws holding the cover in place popped out and sucked into the hole temporarily breaking the suction. I yanked the toddler away, tucking him under my arm like a football. I fought against the current to a position a few feet away but stayed under the water to conceal my next move.
The kid had been under water too long. If he wasn’t already dead, he’d have substantial brain injuries. I needed to take pro-active action. And fast.
I settled my mouth over his and breathed into him. His lungs inflated and his heart calmed. Another trick I’d learned in my other life—performing CPR worked better in the water, at least for me.
He opened his mouth. The boy didn’t choke on the water but inhaled it like air. His eyelids reopened with a new brightness. He didn’t look scared anymore. He was going to be okay, like he’d just fallen in, instead of being underwater for minutes.
A loud splash sounded a few feet away. A guy with longish-brown hair swam underwater toward us. His shirt and shorts dragged. Panic jolted my core. Had he witnessed my life-saving breath?
The guy held out his strong hand. He wanted to help pull me up. With Brandon tucked under my arm, I put my hand in his. Together, we kicked to the surface.
People clapped when we broke through the water. A crowd surrounded the lagoon. I gasped for air, not because I’d been underwater but because the people and the clapping circled me, closed me in.
My body flushed and grew clammy at the same time. Claustrophobia knotted my stomach. I hated applause directed at me. I’d left that life behind.
I searched the audience. Fear cascaded down my back like the waterfall behind me. No one here could discover my talents.
“You okay?” The guy wrapped an arm around the metal ladder built into the side of the lagoon. His wavy brown hair almost covered the concern in his blue eyes.
“Hand him to me.” His striped manager’s polo shirt was covered in mud and his khaki shorts were half hidden by the dirty water.
I’d never seen him around Mermaid Beach Boardwalk before. But I’d only worked here a couple of days and it was a big place with hundreds of part-time seasonal employees.
I handed him my valuable cargo. “Where’s his mother?”
“Up top. Ambulance is on the way.” His blue gaze pierced me. “Sure you’re okay? You were under for awhile.” His caring attitude threatened my anonymity.
I nodded and glanced away, avoiding his penetrating stare.
The guy climbed the ladder and laid the boy on the Astroturf grass near the fake palm trees. He rolled the toddler on his side and cleared his airway of debris. “He’s breathing.”
Of course he is. The guy didn’t even need to take any precautions. My breath was a life saving guarantee.
The mom rushed over to her son’s side.
I went up the ladder and climbed over the railing. Searching out the mother, I mouthed, “He’s going to be okay.” There was no doubt in my mind. I’d seen it all before.
Her eyes, bright from tears, sparkled. “Thank you.”
A gaggle of girls dressed in worker mermaid costumes rushed forward toward the Astroturf where the gorge-guy kneeled by Brandon. The show of concern on their faces appeared genuine, but focused on the guy. Not the small boy.
“Are you okay?” a red-headed girl who worked the snack shack cooed.
“You’re a hero,” a bleached blonde mermaid gushed.
“Save me next time.” A brunette shot him a flirty smile. “I’ll definitely need mouth-to-mouth.”
A disgusted snort shot out from between my lips. Sure, now the other workers showed up. Female workers.
Compared to the mermaids, I probably looked like a drowned Floridian rat. My clothes dripped like I’d been caught in a storm. I smelled like sewer. My long blonde hair in its once-neat ponytail shed water like a dog’s tail.
And because of the rescue my newest home might be my last.
Air wheezed in and out of my lungs as I rushed past the arcade and rides on the Boardwalk. I needed to get far away from the miniature golf course. Shaking, I tried to control my constant fear of being found, of being discovered.
All the memories I’d been trying to keep down rose in my mind, like a big top rising to the sky. The pop, pop, pop of the shots from the rifle game didn’t make me jump running past because my mind was somewhere else. I had to get away. Escape.
Like I always did.
I rubbed my burning eyes. Burning not from tears but because I wasn’t used to the salt-scented air of the Pacific Ocean.
Yeah, keep telling yourself that.
Tinny music scraped against my ear drums reminding me of the life I ran from. Only, today reinforced I’d traded one bad deal for another. A hysterical laugh bubbled out of my chest. From star of the show to custodian of the carnival. And I couldn’t catch a break.
I reached the edge of the Boardwalk and clomped down the wooden steps. Sand stuck to my damp feet and ankles. The tiny particles were like a massage on my skin as I continued toward the wide creek that flowed into the ocean. At times the creek ran fast and furious, at other times, like now, the flow was a trickle.
My natural instincts tugged west, toward the ocean, but my instincts weren’t so hot lately so I turned toward the rugged cliff walls instead. An ancient trestle bridge crossed the chasm between the cliffs and a new housing subdivision with the creek flowing beneath. It was there I headed.
I dropped down onto a large boulder shaded by the bridge and grabbed my head between my hands. My chest heaved in and out fighting a display of emotions.
“Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.” I banged the back of my head against the rock wall. “I never should’ve exposed myself to all those people.”
But I couldn’t let the boy drown. Not for my own selfish purposes.
My move to southern California was to get away from the circus. To be a regular person. To find myself.
It was not to show everyone on the west coast what I could do. To show them I was a freak.
“A super freak.” My voice cracked.
Saving the boy was simple compared to some of the things I’d done in the past. “I’ll pretend I was nowhere near the golf course lagoon when it happened. Maybe no one will figure it out.”
“Figure what out?”
“Ack!” I jumped and my eyes popped open.
The manager guy from the lagoon stood a couple of feet away. His blue and orange striped shirt still dripped with the lagoon’s dirty water. “Didn’t mean to scare you but I heard you talking…”
My muscles stiffened. I calculated why he was here. “What do you want?”
He took a few menacing steps forward. “I had to track you down. Followed your footsteps through the sand.”
I swiped my cheeks hoping tear stains didn’t show. Showing weakness never helped the situation. “Why?”
“I’m Chase.” He stuck out his hand.
I considered his tanned skin on long, lean fingers. I’d learned to trust no one, no matter how kind they pretended to be or how good looking. “I appreciate your help at the lagoon but the boy is going to be fine and that’s all that matters.”
“I can find out your name, you know. I have ways.” Chase imitated a bad foreign accent and his lips turned into an I’m-a-smart-guy smile.
My heart pulsed in a sharp rhythm and little pains shot through my ribs. Might as well tell him my name, it would appear less suspicious. Standing out, being different, only caused trouble.
“Pearl.” I stuck my hand in his.
Our fingers intertwined and tiny tremors ran up my arm, down my spine, and to my toes. Like holding a live wire under water, which I’d done in my previous life, little zaps shocked me. I yanked my hand away.
He held his hand in mid-air for a bit as if he’d felt the tremors, too. “Why’d you run away?”
“R-run away? What do you mean?” The vulnerability I’d lived with since leaving the circus coalesced in the rapid beats of my heart. How could he have found out about the circus?
“Why’d you take off from the lagoon?”
My shoulders loosened a bit and I let out my first easy breath. He hadn’t meant run away-run away, he’d meant run away from the accident. Whew.
“Break time.” I added a touch of bravado to my voice. Forced since birth to act, I decided to put the skill to good use. “I needed to change clothes.” Before too many other people noticed their condition.
“So do I.” He tugged his wet shirt away from his body, before peeling it off. Then, he tossed the shirt onto the rocks.
I sucked in a breath. His bronzed and sculpted abs made him look like a young Greek god. He didn’t just ride around on a manager’s golf cart all day telling others what to do, he must really work. Or workout.
“Are you going to change down here?” I’d never seen a naked guy before and didn’t want to start now. The warmth in my belly contradicted me.
“Are you?” His lips crinkled and his blue eyes widened, reflecting the Pacific Ocean nearby.
I wanted to dive into them.
Whoa. I didn’t even know this guy.
“No. I just…I just…” My glance swiveled around searching for an explanation from the rocks. A gasping, hissing sound caught my ear. “Do you hear that?”
His gaze narrowed and he tilted his head. “Sounds like an injured cat.”
I was already scrambling up the rocks toward the sound. “Oh my.”
In the cliff, a sea otter lay inside a small hole about the size of the over-inflated basketballs in the games section. A large rock sat on its belly and he was trapped. Green gook clung to his whiskers and covered a shiny, black nose. The otter hissed again.
“He’s stuck.” My heart ached for the little guy. All alone like me. Possibly injured. No one to help him or hear him cry. “We have to help.”
“I’ll call the lifeguard station. They’ll know what to do.” Chase had climbed behind me.
“That will take too long. We have to free him now. Who knows how long he’s been there.” I couldn’t let the animal die while we watched. And since the otter wasn’t in water, I couldn’t use my special abilities.
“Okay. Let me find a long stick or something to get the rock off.” He maneuvered around the rocks that had tumbled from the cliff, searching between all the crevices.
I moved higher, trying to get a better view. “What’s that green stuff?”
“Looks like paint.” He tugged on a piece of driftwood. “I wonder if the paint threw off his sense of smell and he headed in the wrong direction and got stuck.”
“But how’d he get paint on him? The spot is in a circle.”
“Don’t know. They’re usually pretty clean animals.” Chase got the stick free and moved to the side of the sea otter. Balancing above the place where the otter was stuck, he inched the stick down. “Okay boy, I’m not going to hurt you.”
Sweet how Chase talked to the otter.
“How’s the little guy going to get back to the ocean?” My gaze traveled the distance of the creek. “He won’t let us carry him.”
“Sea otters can walk on land, just not well.” He sounded so smart, like he knew lots of facts about ocean creatures.
Chase moved the stick closer to the otter. The otter hissed. His tiny front paws tried to whack the stick away.
“He’s trying to help you.” I made my voice soft and smooth, calming.
The otter’s beady black eyes sized me up. His paws stopped moving. His whiskers twitched.
Chase inched the stick under the rock. He shoved. The rock tumbled forward off the otter.
“You did it.” I sagged against the rocks.
The otter flipped to its feet. With one last long stare at me, he shuffled toward the trickle of water, and then started to follow it toward the ocean. The little guy appeared fine.
I almost reached out to hug Chase. “Thank you for saving him.”
“It was nothing.” His wavy brown hair touched his shoulders and I itched to run my fingers through it. “You saved a boy’s life.”
“You helped.” Again. There’d been a lot of people playing miniature golf and none of them jumped in. Except Chase.
“I didn’t do much. You probably didn’t even need my help.”
“You’re the real hero.”
“No, I’m not.” Just like last time. A bitter taste filled my mouth and my head spun like the Tilt-A-Whirl on the Boardwalk. Being a hero, being different, could get you burned.
I wasn’t a hero. I was a freak. A circus freak.
“I gotta go. I’m already past my break time and I still have to change my uniform.”
“I’ll talk to your boss if you’re late.”
I needed this new job, but I needed it without additional attention. Free uniforms. Lunch at a discount, that I couldn’t always afford to eat. No proof of age required. And I was paid in cash, which met my chief goal—anonymity—just fine.
Pushing my shoulders back, I placed a defiant expression on my face. Chin up, mouth firm. At least I hoped it was defiant. “Thanks, but no. I don’t make excuses.”
His smile widened. “Good to know. For when I ask you out.”