"Da!" he cried. He ignored the twigs that tore at his bare feet. He forgot his shovel. There was Brett. There were the others coming in from the ocean. Rowan was swimming, Caitriona was wading, and Lukas had no choice. Tarin flew into his father's arms, nearly knocking Rowan off his feet and into the ocean.
"Faith, what happened?" Caitriona said. Mercy tried to wiggle out of her arms, but she held her firmly.
Tarin took a breath. "There's somethin' in the woods."
"It's a deer, Tarin," Brett scoffed.
"'Tis not a deer. It crawled like a spider, but it--it was a person it looked like--"
"A deformed deer," Brett said.
"It was the shadows playin' tricks on you, nothin' more," Rowan said.
"I wouldn't dismiss him so hastily," Lukas said. "Brett, go fer a walk. Tell us if ye see anything out of the ordinary, aye?"
"Besides the fact that you're wearing socks to the beach?"
Brett left, and Mercy screeched, crying that she wanted to go with him. Caitriona told her to hush and drew Tarin close to her side. "What do you think it is, love?" she asked Rowan softly.
"Probably nothin'." Rowan's voice was gentle as he set an arm around his wife. "If anythin', it was the nokken who taught me to play the timpan. I missed our lesson last Tuesday."
Lukas muttered something under his breath--probably a prayer along the lines of "God, have mercy"--as he doffed his undershift and wrung the water from it. "I say we head home," he said. "There's a few wolves on the island. One this close to people might be mad." He put his undershift back on, but his knee-length braies were dripping and scattering dark orbs of wet sand around his feet.
"It wasn't a wolf," Tarin said. "It had hands."
"Lukas! Rowan!" Brett's voice came from around a bend. He was jogging. "We should leave."
"You saw it, too?" Tarin asked.
"No, but I know it's real, it's a human, and I know how it got here." He shoved his boots on, not bothering to brush the sand from his feet first. "There's a wrecked lifeboat not a dozen yards from here."
M. J. Piazza is a Jesus-loving, dog-walking country girl who just so happens to write books.