The Mermaid That's Sweetest

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4] A Dangerous Trade

4] A Dangerous Trade

Erebos didn’t come out during the day, which made this all the more strange to me that he returned now. I duck through tree branches and whack away the vines. When my work shirt gets caught in too many twigs, I wrench it off so I’m left in a white singlet.

I can’t see him up anywhere close and I panic.

Where.

Where did he go?

I jump up and I spot a tall man with black hair waltzing calmly towards the beach, far ahead of me.

Why to the beach?

I only slow down and walk the rest of the way when I reach the ash of the fire from the night before. I see the mysterious Erebos finally halt by the same spot he stumbled out of the tree line the night before.

From my view, it doesn’t look like anyone is at the beach in this area.

I assume they’ve banned this section of the beach until he’s caught.

I didn’t have to pretend I was desperate for help for Halina right now, but I was kind of desperate for so many answers. Why had he come back so soon? Was he going to thank me for attempting to help him?

I stand a good thirty feet away from him and stare at his back.

He doesn’t move or turn to look for me, he just waits.

I shuffle forward, holding up my chin, I clasp my hands behind my back and slip up behind him... and then I take a step beside him. He slowly turns his head to gaze at me as I gaze at him.

He’s just smiling... delighted.

So strange.

“Hello,” I whisper. It comes out, really, really, awkward, “My name is Lily.”

He seems to consider my name with a nod of his head towards the side... and then the other side... was he rolling my name around on his tongue... in his mouth?

I don’t know why I think that.

I don’t know what I’m doing, for that matter.

This gorgeous rare Merka could kill me if I strayed too close, yet here I was standing fairly confidently beside him.

One of the things I did know was that Erebos killed at night because they had no extra power during the day. So, Coral Mermaids were faster and stronger in the sun, and could escape more often in the daytime.

I guess that kind of gave me some strength now, too.

“So, um, what are you doing here?” I ask and when he turns to look at me, I snap my head to the sea, trying to fix the nervous tremble in my lips as he gazes at me so intensely. I didn’t want my jaw to drop or my eyes to stop blinking if we locked gazes. So, I avoid his ocean blue eyes.

“I saw the strangest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” his snarly voice was exactly as I remembered and I can imagine the air being chomped to pieces every time I hear his sharp teeth clack together, “...a cute little Mermaid... that was scared of the ocean.”

“I’m not scared of it, I’m actually...” I try to find the right word, “Disgusted by it. And scared. And terrified. When you stumbled out behind me, surprising me, I thought if the sea is going to kill me, or an Erebos, I’d take my chances with you.”

“So you’re cute and insane,” he murmurs this to himself, “I guess the insane ones are all strange.”

Did he just call me crazy?

I side step away from him and glare at the waves of the Rough water.

“I need a... a scale from your tail...” I start off, hoping I don’t rush this, even though my need to get away from him was suddenly rearing to the forefront of my mind. When I dare lock eyes with him now, he’s looking at me like I’ve just confirmed I am crazy by asking this question, “Um. Please?”

Maybe the manners would do.

I wait for his response.

He doesn’t.

He just stares at me, without a single feature moving on his face.

“Okay...” I take a step back and another, starting to put some distance in between us, “I guess not. Bye.”

His blue eyes were stunning like ocean jewels.

I gasp in a breath and turn, walking away.

I make it about twenty steps, trudging away with impatience... but then I stop and turn around.

He’s still staring, but this time he’s tilting his head as if he’s waiting for me to crumble.

I do.

I run back to him and grab a tree that’s between us, I hold it tight and say through gritted teeth, “I need your help and can you please stop your weird Erebos delusion thing, I can’t concentrate. I may sound insane. I don’t know. I just need your scale. I need one. Please. Please, sir.”

“If you walk into the water I’ll give you one,” he finally responds, “Then my curiosity will be sated and I’ll forget about you before I decide to ruin that innocent little neck of yours.”

That should terrify me.

What I say doesn’t exactly express that in the right way.

“You’ve been thinking of me?” I ask it before I can think twice.

Shit.

“You’re so cute,” he blinks at me but doesn’t smile. He stares at the ocean again, “Water. Now. Go.”

Wow, the trade was on.

Touch water for a scale; I could do that!

“Oh, okay, how far?” I force on confidence and he notices I’m sweating already.

“How long have you been out of the water?” he asks, almost sounding... concerned.

“10 years,” I admit and he physically jerks as if I’ve slapped him.

He turns away from me and suddenly swivels back around.

“You strange little...” he bites his tongue and shakes his head to himself, completely disbelieving, “So that is why they let you live here, because you are an Erebos and a half-wit.”

“I’m not an E-” I shut my mouth. Oh, crap.

He thought I was an Erebos?

I wasn’t.

I just looked like one because of my darkest green hair.

“...a Darv...?” he whispers, suddenly shaking his head as he realises his mistake... an eyebrow raises...

“On second thoughts, I might just go,” I murmur the words and watch as his eyes run over me, top to toe.

“Of course,” he murmurs, “My senses recognised you as a... friend... last night. I was the one deluded, little Mermaid. I was the one confused. I’m still not leaving until you touch the water.”

“What do you mean you were confused?” I snap out, I was more confused than him!

“You wanted me near, I felt your wish,” he shrugs, “Why would you wish for my help unless you were my kind? Or the other... no. You’re just a half-wit Darv, it’d be too easy to kill you. It’d be boring.”

“Or the other what?” I ask.

He turns to me.

“You are one of three things, little Mermaid. A fellow Erebos. A mate. Or a half-wit Darv. We both know what you are,” he smiles to himself and chuckles.

A mate?

Why did my mind jump to that conclusion the moment he said it as a possibility?

But he thought I was a half-wit. That was safer.

“I’m definitely a half-wit,” I agree with him, “Definitely. Can I just have a scale and go? Take pity on this half-wit. Please.”

“You know what? You’re right, you bore me,” he reaches into his pocket and pulls out a scale, “I always carry them as currency,” he wiggles his eyebrows and flicks one up between us.

I grin and pounce forward, my hand snatches the scale.

Just as his hand catches my wrist.

What?

Was this the part he decided he should kill me in broad day light just for the heck of it?

He jerks me closer, his smile gone.

He leans in and whispers, “It’s a good thing, half-wit... that you were so sweet... as to offer your blood last night... I do owe you this one favour. You should be so pleased you’re not my mate. It’d be a real terror to be chained to the the bottom of a tank, for me to use you whenever I wanted, take your blood, fuck your sweet little thighs... your little flippy tail... wouldn’t it be utterly terrible?”

“Y...y...” I shut my lips as he unhands me. He rolls his eyes towards the ocean like a possessed monster and walks away.

He kicks off his stolen pants. Now naked, he strolls into the water, transforms and disappears.

I look at the water for a good while before I open my palm and I look at the scale.

What in the world just happened?

I had no idea.

But my spine was chilled, my mind was melting and my heart was pounding.

I stare at the water again and see a black tail swipe up and down through the water, far out to sea.

I blink after him.

Not sure what to say.

I return to Halina.

All while I think.

If he was my mate, it made sense. But he would know if I was, wouldn’t he? So why did I think I was and he thought I was just a... half-wit Darv?

I stare at the ocean and I walk to the edge of it.

I dip my toe into the Rough water, which was darker than Calm water.

The water itself is nothing significant.

It’s the action I take that will keep me safe later.

I dip my toe in to seal the trade we made, so that he wouldn’t come back and decide to force me into the water later.

As the water runs over my toe, I look up.

I can’t see him, but I feel it.

His displeasure.

It rippled through me.

He’s pissed off.

I don’t know why. Nor do I know why I feel it... or how I know it... except that I just needed to ensure my safety.

And I did.

I mean, that had to be the last encounter now, didn’t it?

The trade was up.

The scale was in my hand.

And he was far, far away now.

Whoever he was.

He had no reason to return... no reason to haunt me... no reason to threaten me like he did at the end... no reason.

Yes.

No reason to return.

At all. Right?

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