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Swimming Without a Net, Page 1

MaryJanice Davidson




  Praise for

  Sleeping with the Fishes

  “Ms. Davidson has created another laugh-out-loud, unique paranormal romance series that is bound to take off…Sleeping with the Fishes has the unique Davidson comic flair that readers have come to love…Among the many paranormal romances on the bookshelves, Sleeping with the Fishes is a ‘school’ apart!”

  —The Romance Readers Connection

  “A zany, amusing fantasy as MaryJanice Davidson provides her trademark wacky, fun tale of the tail…Readers will enjoy this delightful, whimsical story.”

  —The Best Reviews

  “Davidson certainly knows how to capture the reader’s attention…a hilarious romp with a mermaid, a merman, and a human with a Ph.D. that will have you rolling on the floor in laughter…funny with a side of danger all rolled into one neat little package.”

  —Romance Reviews Today

  “Known for her quirky sense of humor, MaryJanice Davidson launches what promises to be a smashing series with Sleeping with the Fishes. This book brought back the magic of first reading something new by this talented author. Her sense of humor and imagination know no bounds…pure delight to read from start to finish.”

  —A Romance Review

  “Davidson breathes new life into the frequently tired paranormal romance genre with this refreshingly witty entry featuring a decidedly bad-tempered half-mermaid named Fred…It will be interesting to see where Davidson goes with this new series.”

  —Monsters and Critics

  “Ms. Davidson is royalty in the ranks of paranormal comedy writers. Somehow, she manages to keep up a rapid-fire round of jokes without ever being too silly or skimping on characterization. It will be a fun trip to see how Fred’s life develops in coming novels.”

  —The Eternal Night

  “An amusing and sexy new series with a decidedly underwater twist. Employing her patented brand of offbeat humor and lighthearted fun, she serves up a new heroine whose life is about to get extremely complicated.”

  —Romantic Times

  “You will spend many an hour just laughing through her books.”*

  Praise for

  the Undead novels of MaryJanice Davidson

  “Delightful, wicked fun!”

  —Christine Feehan

  “A lighthearted vampire pastiche that recalls the work of Charlaine Harris.”

  —Omaha World-Herald

  “Chick lit meets vampire action in this creative, sophisticated, sexy, and wonderfully witty book.”

  —Catherine Spangler

  “A laugh-a-minute book.”

  —*Romance Junkies

  “Davidson delivers more wildly witty, irreverent, and just plain funny adventures in her patently hilarious style.”

  —Romantic Times (4½ stars)

  “One of the funniest, most satisfying series to come along lately. If you’re [a] fan of Sookie Stackhouse and Anita Blake, don’t miss Betsy Taylor. She rocks.”

  —The Best Reviews

  “I don’t care what mood you are in, if you open this book you are practically guaranteed to laugh…top-notch humor and a fascinating perspective of the vampire world.”

  —ParaNormal Romance Reviews

  “[A] wickedly clever and amusing romp. Davidson’s witty dialogue, fast pacing, smart plotting, laugh-out-loud humor, and sexy relationships make this a joy to read.”

  —Booklist

  Titles by MaryJanice Davidson

  UNDEAD AND UNWED

  UNDEAD AND UNEMPLOYED

  UNDEAD AND UNAPPRECIATED

  UNDEAD AND UNRETURNABLE

  UNDEAD AND UNPOPULAR

  UNDEAD AND UNEASY

  DERIK’S BANE

  SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES

  SWIMMING WITHOUT A NET

  Anthologies

  CRAVINGS

  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Rebecca York, Eileen Wilks)

  BITE

  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Angela Knight, Vickie Taylor)

  DEAD AND LOVING IT

  MYSTERIA

  (with P. C. Cast, Gena Showalter, Susan Grant)

  DEMON’S DELIGHT

  (with Emma Holly, Vickie Taylor, Catherine Spangler)

  BERKLEY JAM titles

  by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi

  JENNIFER SCALES AND THE ANCIENT FURNACE

  JENNIFER SCALES AND THE MESSENGER OF LIGHT

  THE SILVER MOON ELM: A JENNIFER SCALES NOVEL

  Swimming Without a Net

  MaryJanice Davidson

  JOVE BOOKS, NEW YORK

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, USA Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario M4P 2Y3, Canada (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) Penguin Books Ltd., 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England Penguin Group Ireland, 25 St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd.) Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty. Ltd.) Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd., 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi—110 017, India Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, North Shore 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd.) Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa

  Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third party websites or their content.

  SWIMMING WITHOUT A NET

  A Jove Book / published by arrangement with THE AUTHOR

  Copyright © 2007 by MaryJanice Alongi.

  Cover illustration by Brendan Dorman.

  Cover design by Judith Lagerman.

  All rights reserved.

  No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

  For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  ISBN: 1-4295-7161-6

  JOVE®

  Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.,

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

  JOVE is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  The “J” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

  This book is for everyone who was ever irritated by a Disney heroine. Detox with Fred, and rejoice!

  It’s also for my dear friend Cathie Carr, who had a crummy year, was lied to (repeatedly) by loved ones, deceived by friends (who had good intentions, but still), did everything she could to save her marriage only to be rewarded with a boot in the face (repeatedly), and managed to pick up the pieces anyway. I’m thirty-eight now, and I never thought I’d meet someone with a bigger pair of plums than mine. Cathie’s plums make mine look like raisins. Or is that an overshare?

  Contents

  Acknowledgments

  Author’s Note

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six


  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-one

  Chapter Twenty-two

  Chapter Twenty-three

  Chapter Twenty-four

  Chapter Twenty-five

  Chapter Twenty-six

  Chapter Twenty-seven

  Chapter Twenty-eight

  Chapter Twenty-nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-one

  Chapter Thirty-two

  Chapter Thirty-three

  Chapter Thirty-four

  Chapter Thirty-five

  Chapter Thirty-six

  Chapter Thirty-seven

  Chapter Thirty-eight

  Chapter Thirty-nine

  Chapter Forty

  Chapter Forty-one

  Chapter Forty-two

  Chapter Forty-three

  Chapter Forty-four

  Chapter Forty-five

  Chapter Forty-six

  Chapter Forty-seven

  Chapter Forty-eight

  Acknowledgments

  I could never write a book without adding an acknowledgments page (or two, or six). Some readers find this puzzling (and often annoying, but hey, nobody’s sticking a gun to your head, right?), but for me it’s always been simple.

  All writers know they didn’t create the book/story/play/ commercial jingle/tampon ad on their own. Just having a partner to keep the kids out of your hair is worth a mention on the acknowledgments page. And I’ve been lucky enough to have far more than that.

  My friends are quite jaded by now; when I told my buddy Todd he was getting a mention on the acknowledgments page, he said, “Can’t you send me cash instead?” Yeah, well, drop dead twice, O’Halloran.

  So! Thanks, in no particular order, are due to: my husband and coauthor (we write the Jennifer Scales series together), my children, my sister, my parents. My agent, my editor, the copy editors, the line editors. The marketing reps, the catalog designers, the cover designers, the flap copy writers.

  See, I just put a bunch of gibberish out and it happens to land on a page. The people mentioned above are the ones who take a messy, 300-plus page rough draft and turn it into a book. Maybe even a great book.

  For this book in particular, I ended the first draft on Chapter Thirty Three. Even for me, notorious for my tight (read: short) single titles, 200 pages is BAD. Even 300 is skating on the edge. As I explained to my editor, “I got nothin’.” I got to the end, it was done, the story was told, and I was on page 200.

  So Cindy, bless her heart, read the manuscript and sent me a page of suggestions. Pointed out where I broke Awful Writing Rule #1: I told, not showed. Suggested scenes I skipped altogether (it’s because of Cindy that we saw Moon Bimm again, and speculation about Fred’s mysterious merman father started up so quickly). Because of Cindy, we saw Dr. Barb in the Caymans and the disaster (and Jonas pummeling) that nearly followed.

  (Also, for those of you who haven’t read the preceding book, Sleeping with the Fishes, fear not: I think I did a pretty good job explaining the events in that book. You shouldn’t be too lost. But hey, if you are, just buy the first book!)

  (Go ahead. We’ll wait.)

  (We’re still waiting, here. You think we’ve got nothing better to—)

  (Ah. Very good. Thanks. Great cover, huh?)

  I must warn you, dear readers, that there is an act of somewhat annoying violence in this book, an act I pretty much glossed over. Cindy coaxed a truer scene out of me, one more suited to the situation and the story and the characters.

  The end result, I think, was not only a longer book (my true goal) but, thanks to Cindy Hwang, a better book.

  The latter, of course, is up to you, dear reader. And so, finally, thanks for picking up the book and giving it a try. If the cover caught your eye, hooray! If it was the flap copy, even better. If it was name recognition, that’s swell. But as every reader knows, there are all kinds of reasons to pluck a book off the shelf…or not.

  So thanks for the pluck. I’ll try not to let you down.

  MaryJanice Davidson

  www.maryjanicedavidson.net

  Author’s Note

  Note from the author (that’s me!): The actions of Fred’s third blind date were inspired by the fabulous movie Better Off Dead, starring John Cusack. I must have watched that movie a thousand times as a teenager. I saw a chance to pay homage to one of my all-time favorites, and jumped at it.

  Swimming Without a Net

  Not everything is a mermaid that dives into the water.

  —RUSSIAN PROVERB

  I declare that civil war is inevitable and is near at hand.

  —SAM HOUSTON, AMERICAN GENERAL

  I started early, took my dog,

  And visited the sea;

  The mermaids in the basement

  Came out to look at me.

  And frigates in the upper floor

  Extended hempen hands,

  Presuming me to be a mouse,

  Aground, upon the sands.

  —EMILY DICKINSON, Part II, Nature

  To Jove, and all the other Deities,

  Thou must exhibit solemn sacrifice;

  And then the black sea for thee shall be clear.

  —The Odysseys of Homer

  The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.

  —BAUDELAIRE, Le Joueur généreux

  One

  Fredrika Bimm trudged down Comm Ave. (known to tourists and other mysterious creatures as Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts) and tried not to think about the Prince of the Black Sea, or famed romance novelist Priscilla D’Jacqueline.

  She had, in fact, spent the better part of the last twelve months determinedly not thinking about them.

  And why should she? She had a fulfilling job. Okay, an irritating job. She had her own home, which she never had to herself anymore. She had a best friend who was infatuated with a new girlfriend and never had time for her anymore.

  A pity party already. And not even two o’clock! A new record!

  It was a typically lovely autumn afternoon—yawn—and her Wordsworth book bag bulged with D’Jacque-line’s last two novels, Passion’s Searing Flames and The Rake and the Raconteur. This did not count as thinking about Thomas Pearson, a fellow marine biologist who made big bucks writing under the D’Jacqueline pen name. This was supporting a colleague. That was all.

  A colleague with brown hair and lush red highlights, broad shoulders, long legs, and dimples. A colleague who carried a switchblade among other various illegal weapons. A colleague who told her he loved her and then left for eleven months and fourteen days.

  “Stop it!” she yowled aloud, ignoring the startled looks of passersby. “He had his fellowship to finish and he only knew you a week so just cut it out! What are you looking at?” she added fiercely, and the kindergarten-age child scuttled behind her mother’s legs.

  No, Thomas was gone and that was all. So was Artur, for that matter, the other man she determinedly did not think about. A full-blooded member of the Undersea Folk—a merman, in other words. Not a half-and-half hybrid like herself.

  More than that: a prince, the eldest son of the High King of the Black Sea. A prince with hair the color of rubies and eyes the color of cherry cough drops; a prince with big hands he couldn’t keep to himself. And a red beard that tickled whenever he did things she would not think about.

  She stopped at her brownstone, practically ran up the stairs, jammed her key in the lock, and rushed into the foyer. Too keyed up for the elevator, she walked the three flights to her apartment and almost knocked the door down
instead of fumbling with her key.

  She kicked the door shut behind her and snarled, “What are you two doing here?”

  “Waiting for you,” her best friend, Jonas Carrey, chirped. He was a tall blond, a couple of inches taller than she, who held several black belts and loved apple-tinis. Oh, and her boss, Dr. Barb, who was currently sitting on his lap.