Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters, plot, names, and nicknames are all the property of the author of this fanfic. Unauthorized use of such material is plagiarism. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. And of course just in case that doesn't cover it, Stephenie Meyer owns anything and everything relating to Twilight. No copyright infringement is intended.
Beneath the Surface
Chapter 1 – Intro
This was Masen's favorite time of the day, when the sun was only starting to rise and the water looked like gray glass. There was a calm and a sense of balance at this hour of the morning and he felt it not only coming from around him, but inside of him. The sand between his toes was cool and soft and the only sound filling the air was the crashing of the waves against the rocks further down the beach.
He could have any life he wanted. He could sit behind some desk in a suit with a Rolex on his wrist and an Aston Martin in the parking garage. He could spend his days in a huge house on the beach, trading stocks from his computer in nothing but a pair of boxers. He could take his photography from hobby to a way to travel the entire world, photographing his travels for magazines and books. He could even use his marine biology degree to work at an aquarium if he couldn't stand not working with marine life.
But he didn't want any of those lives. He wanted the one he had right now in this very moment. He wanted to be right here with the sky turning pink above him and the ocean laid out before him. He wanted to spend his days aboard his boat doing what he loved. He wanted the chase, the fear, the awe, and the knowledge each of his days had brought over the past five years. Most of all, he wanted to share his knowledge and his love for the animals he studied with the rest of the world. One day, people would look at them and see them as Masen saw them: beautiful, powerful, and worthy of respect.
This was going to be an important summer, almost as vital to MMR's survival as their first expedition. It would be the first time they took on an intern, making them eligible for additional funding. If the program went well, they would be able to get new equipment next year. There was also a possible side benefit of the intern talking them up to others, spreading their name and gaining them more exposure. If the program failed … Masen refused to consider failure as a possibility.
Whit was suddenly standing beside him and wedging the end of his surfboard into the sand. "Looks like it's going to be a good morning for surfing."
"Should we call Lee?"
"She drove me here. She's changing into her wetsuit."
"Gopher tag along?"
"Nah. Said something about preferring to sleep-in while he still can."
Masen only nodded, not having expected Gopher to surf with them. He knew how to do it but didn't enjoy it the way they did.
While Masen and Whit waited for Lee to arrive, they stretched out their arms and legs, getting used to the restrictions of their dark gray rash-guard shirts and knee-length wetsuit shorts.
Lee finally joined them, dressed in her dark blue full-body wetsuit. "Zip me," she ordered, turning her back to Masen and piling her brown hair on top of her head with her hands.
"Only if I can unzip you after," Masen teased.
"We tried that, remember? You were always too busy," she said, smiling at him over her shoulder while he pulled her zipper up.
"Smart ass," he replied, pushing her toward Whit.
She spun around and tossed her arms around Masen's neck, hugging him tightly. "You know you're my one and only. Pain in the ass, that is."
Masen pretended to be offended as he pulled her arms away. "Whit, today's the day, man. I'm gonna drown her ass."
"No you won't," Whit replied with a snort. "You'd be out a mechanic. Plus, you'd never let her go without having beat her wave ride time."
Lee childishly poked her tongue at Masen but barely got to enjoy it before she was squealing loudly, caught in his arms and being carried toward the water.
"You're going in," he promised.
"Whit!" She screamed for him knowing he was her only hope for not getting tossed into the water.
Whit only laughed at first but then added, "Make sure she goes completely under, Mase."
"I swear I'll stay home and not go with you this summer if you toss me in," she threatened.
Masen smiled, fully confident that her threat wasn't real. "Say it and I won't toss you in," he offered.
Her eyes widened and then narrowed. "No."
He gave a fake sigh. "Then you're going in."
As soon as he lifted her higher, she screamed. "Alright! I'll say it." She waited until he'd lowered her back to her previous position and tried to ignore his cocky smirk while she said what he wanted to hear. "You are the master."
"What was that? I couldn't quite here you."
Instead of repeating the words louder, she twisted in his arms and caused them to both fall into the surf, momentarily going under before coming up laughing together.
"You two are so damn demented," Whit said, passing them with his surfboard. "Keep playing around if you want. I'm gonna surf."
Before he could move past them, they grabbed onto his leg and pulled him down into the surf with them. Whit came up cursing and slinging his long hair around, throwing water into Masen & Lee's laughing faces. He lunged at Masen and the two rolled around in the surf until Lee used Whit's surfboard to playfully hit him in the butt.
"Quit before you two drown each other," she said.
"I don't see you hitting him," Whit replied, pointing at Masen.
Lee shrugged and smiled. "You were closer."
Whit snorted and put as much sarcasm as he could into his one word response, "Right." He took his board from her, nudged her shoulder with his, and then started paddling out into the ocean.
While Whit was busy paddling, Masen got up from the surf and ran his hands over his wet hair, pushing it back and away from his face.
"Stop primping and start walking," Lee ordered as she gave him a push toward the beach and their waiting boards. "We've got surfing to do."
Masen gave her a push right back and after sharing a grin, the two raced toward their boards, pushing and shoving the whole way and completely enjoying their time together. All too soon, they would be working aboard Galeos and unable to play around like this.
Masen hoped that when he shared the upcoming changes with his friends, they would be excited and supportive. Knowing them, they would feel that way as his friends but not so much as his crewmates. But that was for another day. Today, he was going to surf with his friends.
Bella's dream job was right there in front of her. All she needed was to reach out and wrap her fingers around it. It was that easy.
Only it wasn't.
There was a problem. A problem with sharp teeth and beady eyes and an appetite for destruction. Disgusting monsters only concerned with ripping and tearing, bloodying the water and filling the air with screams of pain. They had already ruined her life once and she was determined not to let it happen a second time. She could do it. She could take the summer to conquer her … her trepidation and then start her new job and her new life just as the leaves started to darken and fall to the ground.
She would have to lie, though. It wasn't her strong suit, but she could do it when it really mattered. Her sister would never let her go otherwise. One word of what she would be studying and Alice would lock her in a tower and feed her through an opening in the door like in some fairytale. It wouldn't matter that Bella was older or how much she promised she would be safe because her little sister knew just as well as she did that bad things could happen in an instant.
It would only be a few months and a few lies and then Bella would have the life she dreamed about. She would have her cozy little home just outside of the big city and a steady paycheck for doing what she loved most. She could even get that expensive sporty little two-door she'd been eyeing each time she passed the billboard for it. She'd tell everyone she purchased it for the fuel mileage but she really wanted it for the speed and the rush it would give her. All it would take was one little summer and then it would all be hers.
When Bella had first approached her Uncle Carlisle with her big idea, part of her had hoped he would refuse to let her apply. At twenty-two, she was more than old enough to make her own decisions but she trusted his judgment implicitly. Not only had her uncle encouraged her to apply, he had helped her with the essay she'd been required to submit with her application.
After seven rewrites, Bella finally felt her essay was ready to be sent. She tucked it into an envelope with her application, resume, and references, and then grabbed her keys from her dresser.
She wasn't surprised to run into her uncle in the hall. "Is that everything?" he asked, nodding toward the envelope.
"Yes." She shifted her weight and hugged the envelope to her chest. "Do you still think I'm doing the right thing?"
"Do you want that job in Atlanta?"
"The more I think about it, the more I want it."
"Then you have your answer, Sweetheart." He put his arms around her small frame and held her close. "Your father would be so very proud of you, Bella. I hope you know that."
"I haven't done anything yet."
"I won't argue because I know you well enough to know it would be pointless. But one day, you'll look back on this moment and see what I see. Until then …" He paused and kissed the top of her head before letting her go. "I expect you to go straight to the post office and mail that out."
"I promise I will," she said, showing her keys as proof of her intentions.
"Come by my office for lunch today, okay?"
"It'll be a late one. Maybe around one-thirty. I'm heading over to the park after I stop at the post office. Jenna called in sick and they need help with the whales this morning."
"That should be fine. Just give me a ring when you're on your way."
Bella leaned up and pecked her uncle's cheek. "Love you."
"I love you too." He smiled as he watched her turn and walk away. Just before she left his sight, he called out to her. "Be safe, Bug."
While Bella's steps never faltered, her heart certainly did, aching for the one who had given her the nickname of "Bug". The entire walk to her car she considered changing her mind and throwing the envelope in the trash instead of mailing it. It would be easy. She could throw it away at the park and then tell her uncle she hadn't been selected.
Sitting behind the steering wheel of her car and staring down at the words "Masen Marine Research" written in her own scrawling handwriting, Bella reminded herself of all the reasons she had filled out the paperwork in the first place. Jobs like the one in Atlanta didn't come along every day and allowing a little trepidation to cloud her judgment and make her lose out on an amazing opportunity would be stupid. It would also disappoint her uncle and that was a kind of regret she couldn't bear to carry. She would mail the application. Whether she would be chosen to be an intern remained to be seen.
Once her application was out of her hands and on its way to Hawaii, Bella headed to the park filled with excitement for the tasks she would be performing today. She knew she would be working with one of the young whales instead of a full grown adult but she was just happy to have been trusted enough to be asked.
She practically ran through the park to get to the enclosure she would be working in today. "Morning, Mike," she greeted as she walked over to him.
"Morning, Bella. Thanks so much for coming in to help us out."
"It's no trouble at all. So what do I get to do first?" she asked. She had a huge smile on her face and was rocking on the balls of her feet, very clearly excited to get started.
Mike chuckled at her. "I'm afraid the first thing we'll be doing isn't all that glamorous, but Kiki really likes it." He handed Bella a hose with one hand and showed her an oversized toothbrush with the other. "You squirt the water into her mouth and I'll handle the brushing."
"Shouldn't we feed her before brushing her teeth?"
"The fish is how we get her to stay still long enough for us to do this. The whales are willing to do what we ask as long as there's a reward for it at the end. Kind of like getting a guy to go to a chick-flick with you."
"But, Mike, you would never be a stereotypical male who only wants to watch sports," she teased. They both knew it was hard to find anyone who was more the epitome of the All-American Boy than Mike Newton. He only talked sports and cars, he was good to his parents, and had a beautiful wife who had been with him since high school.
"Watch it, Bella. Or I'll have Kiki rinse and spit in your direction."
"Mike, that may just be the grossest thing anyone has ever said to me."
"You're working with the whales now, Kid. There's gonna be all kinds of gross before this morning is over."
Bella cringed on the inside a little, hoping he was really only teasing. She didn't mind getting wet at all and a little dirt had never hurt anyone, but there were levels of being gross that were acceptable and ones that were not.
"Ready, Bella?" Mike asked as he lifted the silver whistle hanging around his neck.
She gave a nod and a smile she hoped look confident while twisting the hose in her hands a little.
Mike blew on the whistle and not long after, a gorgeous whale popped her head out of the water right in front of them. Mike squatted down and reached a hand out, petting the front of her head. "Morning, Kiki. Are you ready to get your teeth brushed?"
The whale made a noise and shook her head in that age old sign for "no".
"Come on, Kiki," Mike coaxed. "I've got fish for you if you're a good girl."
She made the noise again, this time nodding her head in agreement.
"That's a good girl," Mike said proudly as he stood. "Alright, Bella, let's give Kiki some water to swish with before I start brushing."
He helped Bella get the spray setting right on the hose and then directed her on where to spray into Kiki's mouth. Bella watched with amusement as Kiki lifted her tongue into the spray for a second before flattening it back out.
"That's good," Mike said, pushing the end of the hose away from the whale. "Kiki, swish and spit," he instructed, pointing off to his right side. Bella lowered her head to make sure the water was hitting the pool and not the concrete and completely missed seeing Mike twirl his finger in a circle and point right at her.
Kiki had seen it though. She turned her head the way Mike had originally pointed as if she were going to follow his first instruction. By now, Bella was watching Kiki again and she saw the whale quickly turn her head back toward them. She knew what was coming just like she knew there was no way to avoid it so she clenched her eyes shut and held her breath. The water hit her forcefully just above her knees and Bella squealed while Mike laughed.
"Welcome to working with Kiki," Mike said, continuing to laugh as he tossed a reward fish to the whale.
Bella looked down at her wet shorts, legs, socks, and shoes and started to laugh. She generally had a pretty good sense of humor and she was no stranger to her co-workers having the animals "welcome" her to new activities. When she'd first started working with the dolphins, her trainer had gotten one of the dolphins to give her a blowhole shower.
"You alright there, Bella?" Mike asked.
"Yeah, Mike," she said as she stuck one of her feet out and shook off water from the top of her shoe. "Go ahead and give Kiki another reward fish," she encouraged. "She got me good."
"That's the spirit, Kid. Shake it off and laugh it off. And then come over here with the hose so I can show you where I need you to rinse."
As Bella watched Mike get on his knees and practically put his hand in Kiki's mouth to brush her teeth, she started to wonder if she had overly built up the scary factor of sharks in her head. Whales were far bigger than sharks but Kiki seemed more like an overgrown puppy than a threat. Maybe this summer wouldn't be so scary or hard. Maybe she would surprise herself just as much as the people at MMR with how well she did around the creatures. For the first time since looking over the MMR website, Bella truly hoped she would be chosen for the program.
A/N: Welcome to the newest story collaboration between My-Bella and Eternally Addicted! This first chapter is just a short little intro to Masen and Bella, letting you get a small taste of their personalities, relationships, and desires.
With the holidays upon us, the posting schedule will start off a little oddly, but by the New Year we hope to be posting every two weeks. Chapter 2 will post on December 1st, with a Twitter Q&A session to take place on December 2nd at 8:30pm Central Time. Chapter 3 will be up on December 15th with the Q&A on the 16th. MMR's twitter account is (at)teammasen
Not every chapter will have a Q&A as sometimes we'll be posting blogs from Masen and the crew on the MMR site. We'll let you know which we'll be doing when we give out the chapter's teaser a few days before it posts. Make sure you're signed up at www (dot) masenmarineresearch (dot) blogspot (dot) com to receive updates! You can find a clickable link on my profile page and Eternally Addicted's blog at www (dot) eternallyaddicted (dot) blogspot (dot) com.
Thank you for checking out our first chapter and we hope to see you around for the second! Or as EA so eloquently put it … God help the world 'cause here comes Masen!