A Mermaid's Ransom

By: Joey W. Hill


BRIMSTONE. How on earth did she know what brimstone smelled like?

Maybe she remembered it from that time she'd ended up in the outer catacombs of Hell, looking for the caverns where her parents had first met. She'd been twelve, and fascinated by the story of how Anna had hidden Jonah there when he was hurt and being pursued by Dark Ones. Of course, Lex hadn't been thrilled to run smack into Lucifer while on her romantic quest. She'd been told in no uncertain terms she would not be swimming down into his realm again, not if she knew what was good for her. She was twenty-one now, but the memory still made her shudder.

God, she loved her parents, but they had such scary friends. The Lord of the Underworld was her father's best friend, while Anna's was the seawitch Mina, a creature whose name no merperson would speak above a whisper.

But whether or not Alexis was smelling brimstone, this had to be a dream. Mainly because that part of the mind that kept things from being too frightening in dreams said so, even though there was a tenuous note that made it more hopeful suggestion than sure fact.

She was floating in fire. While she felt its heat, she wasn't burned. It was licking at the fronds of her tail, another curiosity. Usually, she appeared in dreams in her human form, not her birth form, which was merangel--half-mermaid, half-angel, with tail, fins and wings.

As she started to turn to see what was behind her, a hand touched her wings. Strong, male fingers penetrated the thick layers of feathers, curling to grip, knuckles stroking the fragile network of bones beneath.

Ah, it was going to be that kind of dream. This might be worth the nasty brimstone smell, though a funny, fluttery feeling in the pit of her belly recommended she run, even as her body refused to move. The hand teased the feathers where they were attached to flesh, the most sensitive area, and she drew in a breath. Tipping her head back, she found a broad shoulder waiting to support it. It was attached to a very male body pressing against her back, his bare thigh against her hip. The intriguing, muscular plane of a stomach brushed her wings. Another hand parted them as if opening a garment and slid down her spine, making her shiver.

As his breath caressed the side of her throat, because it was a dream, her hair conveniently tumbled over her right shoulder to give him access. His mouth closed over her skin. It wasn't a kiss. It was as if she was about to be eaten, her flesh savored. The fire was advancing up her body, making her wonder if it came from him, a creature of fire and hunger.

A fang scraped her, and she yelped as he punctured her beneath her delicate gill slit, bringing pain but pleasure as well. Because of that, she remained still, willing to give him blood. His hands made their torturous way to her hip bones, stimulating the tight overlapping scales below them. One hand drifted to the silver and diamond piercing through the thin skin of her navel. Oh, Goddess. She was so responsive there, almost as much as her neck. His lips moved on her, suckling, and she could hear the rush of her blood, eager to nourish him.

Her father had frowned when she got the navel piercing, but Alexis was enchanted by the way it sparkled. If she touched it with light fingers as she lay in bed at night, it sent frissons of sensual energy rippling out like tropical waves, making her imagine a lover's hands.

She'd never had a lover. It was hard enough to be an empath, but then to have an angel's energy on top of that? Men were attracted to her like insects to a bug light, but they didn't come close enough to be zapped. When Lex was in her teens, Anna, her mother, had pointed out that this trait saved lives. Jonah would have had little patience for the hormonal missteps of young males when it came to his only child.

Would have pinched their heads off like ticks on a hound.

Not her mother's words, of course. Alexis had a human friend, Clara, who'd been born in Georgia and who described her own daddy's attitude about boys that way. Since it seemed to apply to Jonah, Alexis couldn't help thinking of it when the issue came up.

But she wasn't a child anymore. And this was definitely a very grown-up dream. A little more than she'd ever experienced, actually. It was the last coherent thought she had as both of his hands slid up her abdomen, teasing the piercing again before they kept going. She arched back into his body, holding her breath, wanting him to go exactly where he was going, her flesh aching.