Author: Alex Sventeckis

“Have you ever skinny dipped before?”

Raheleh winked with his second eyelid, and Rian tried mightily not to blush. She hid reddening cheeks underneath her mop of blonde hair streaked with magenta. While she held her own in the colony pool, she couldn’t move like the Water Folk. Raheleh and his kin gilded through lakes like the colonists’ skiffs slid on jet streams.

The damp loam of Kepler B-626 squelched when she turned toward his silver eyes. She swore that scarlet sunbeams bounced off his glistening chest when he breathed. Nervous glances exchanged like they did between rocketry equations and calculus differentials at the academy. For many weeks, while cloistered with mathematics at her desk, she had disappeared in the daydream of this moment.
Lake Tiq’qua lapped at their feet with playful waves. He splayed his webbed toes, grays blending into indigoes, and sighed.

“Mother said we couldn’t go…” Rian’s mind summoned Mother’s Tales of the Lake: ‘Don’t listen to them water peoples, that mountain’s dangerous! Y’know that peak blew when your daddy and me first landed!’

His belly laugh floated through five octaves and could travel a league underwater. Butterflies stormed her stomach when his slender fingers neared her hand. “And Grandmother said an angry mountain goddess made this lake bubble. Do you always listen to your elders?”

“No!” Her trembling shout skipped across Tiq’qua’s bubbling surface as she flew to her feet. The wet ground tripped her, and embarrassment followed her face into the dirt. She stayed there, her gut icier than the mountain’s peak a mile further up. Maybe she could dissolve into the earth and hide from his gorgeous eyes.

Instead, her hips shivered with electricity when his soft touch brought her back up and then to the lake’s edge. Rian squinted as fuzzy pterosaurs flapped overhead, and she felt light enough to swim through the air with them.

“I’ll start then,” he purred while unfastening the strap on his silk tunic that shimmered like iridescent moonfish. “But no peeking.”

With a smirk, she complied, though her disobedient eyes wandered to his bare back while it sank below the surface. A miniature mountain range ran along his spine and fractured the water when he dove.

“Come on in, scaredy-cat.” Ribbons of steam carried his human-gleaned taunt, and Rian ogled as he wrapped himself in the translucent turquoise lake.

Clothes slid off, and one shaky foot punctured the surface tension. Whiffs of popping bubbles tasted like the bad eggs Mother had thrown out yesterday.

On the water’s edge, Tales of the Lake made her throat clench. But her burst of fear dissipated when he unleashed his hypnotizing smirk and splashed. Beads of mountain water glistened in the maroon sunset as she entered.

They floated through the frothing water, bubble patches disintegrating in their lazy wake. Pure, joyful heat swaddled her. When her head dipped below the waves, Mother’s admonishments dissolved in his laugh that made the water sing.

Once she locked curious arms around his waist, she discovered the softness of his lips. Her sighs splashed between their bodies, buoyed by ecstasy.

She didn’t feel Tiq’qua’s shudder. Rian’s skin, dyed the color of sunset by the lake and Raheleh, didn’t sense the rising boil. Too lost in his silver eyes and the weight of his fingers on her back. They embraced when steam thickened to a blanket, and they vanished in turquoise froth as the mountain goddess unleashed her fury.