When I looked at Johnson, his face was like a mirror, reflecting everything I didn’t want to see. He had his own ethics; anybody could see that, and they weren’t flexible. His rules were his own and he wouldn’t play by anyone else’s. There was no arguing with him. I knew he was right about Joy and his truth spoke to me.

I shook his hand and felt better. “I needed to hear that,” I said.

“Don’t mention it.”

I turned to walk away, but Joy was standing there. “Take a walk with me,” she said.

“If you say so.”

We walked behind the party, into the greenbelt where the wild woods made faces at us from the shadows. It was a warm evening. It had been hot and cold depending on the wind and my heart was starting to beat faster. It was getting very hot. She was leading me to the lake, with confidence.

“You think you can say ‘no’ to me, but nobody says ‘no’ to me,” she said. There was no argument in her. Her brown eyes were bigger in the moonlight, feral and full of life. My mind couldn’t think; all it could do was wait for her to speak again. I was hanging from my tail while she played with my mind gently, tempting my desire with her voice.

We were at the water’s edge when she grabbed the back of my neck with her claws and pulled me in. She kissed me until I lost my breath; then she pushed me away. “Take off your shirt,” she demanded. Joy removed her blouse and spaghetti strap top. I stripped and then she was gone, like a silent fish. I looked at the black water, waiting to see her form, but she had vanished. Then her face broke the surface at the center of the lake. “Come in; what are you waiting for?”

I swam towards her, but she went under again. In the moonlight, I realized how vulnerable I was. She was gone, but suddenly I felt her warm body against mine. She grabbed my chest, turning me around, and kissed my neck. We were intertwined above the deep, until I felt my energy waning. I motioned for the shore and she laughed, pushing me under. Terror seized my insides when I swallowed a mouthful of water and my imagination went to the bottom where several cold men lay, unable to warn me. Her laughter was like a siren as her mermaid form swam to shore.

I took my time coming back; not sure what to think. Her nakedness glimmered in the moonlight; her enticing curves wanted me, but then I saw her face, full of pride; she had defeated another man who could not be conquered.

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