|Her Contract Entails|
|by Nate Walis|
|firstname.lastname@example.org / also on DeviantART|
|© Copyright 2012 - Nate Walis - Used by permission|
|Storycodes: M+/f; surgery; bodymod; implants; transform; mermaid; mc; conditioning; enslave; dreams; escape; sea; caught; oral; sex; climax; reluct/cons; X||
|Her Contract Entails 4 Nate Walis M+/f; surgery; bodymod; implants; transform; mermaid; mc; conditioning; enslave; dreams; escape; sea; caught; oral; sex; climax; reluct/cons; X|
|continued from part three
Henry chanced a look into his mirror, supposedly checking out the flow of traffic, but in reality flagellating himself with another stolen glance at the occupants of the back seat. Aubrey Lister sat back on the leather like a king reclining on his throne, his face a picture of self-assured crapulence as he draped one arm over the shoulder of his favourite pet, the other lost beneath the fabric of her tight denim skirt.
Carla, who had been gazing out of the smoked window with the interest of a child a moment before, reacted to the attentions of his fingers with immediate effect. She began to wriggle in her seat, grinding her buttocks into the upholstery and reaching under her tube top to massage her own breasts. She moaned as she pulled her tail up towards her chest, making a show of trying to crawl into his lap in a desperate attempt to bring herself as close to him as possible.
These outings into the bustling traffic had become one of Lister's favourite pastimes in recent months. They would ride around whatever location they found themselves in, with the mermaid concealed in the back seat so that he could revel in the act of enjoying her in a public place while preserving the secrecy of his beloved pet.
Often he allowed her to lower the windows, looking out onto the landscape passing by as if she were an ordinary woman, thrilled at the fact no one could see her scales and fins as they drove by. The illusion was aided by the fact he had come to be aroused by the act of dressing her in conventional clothes as far as her form would allow, reminded of the fact that she had once done so in her former life before he gained possession of her totally. He garbed her in evening gowns, business suits, summer dresses and even a the regalia of a bride before her took her, thrilled by the fact that he had deprived her of the life in which she could have worn them by her own choosing.
But his favourite by far were the outfits that he imagined she would have worn had she been a prostitute of some kind. He was inspired by the women he saw in the most chauvinistic music videos of the time, where the women seemed to be there for little more than display and arousal no matter if they were in the background or the supposed artist themselves.
By these standards, the combination of a denim skirt that was barely able to cover her groin and an aquamarine top that strained to accommodate her breasts was relatively tame. But topped off with excessive jewellery and her hair done in thick ringlets, she could have been mistaken for a common trollop were it not for the sight of her tail.
Henry tore his gaze away and tried to keep his attention on the road.
He had grown used to the driving while all manner of things went on behind him, but today he was faced with the additional problem of a stop on the way. Lister occasionally fitted a business call into his rides and in those circumstances he left his driver in the company of the mermaid while he took care of the matter at hand.
When he was left alone with her like that, Henry felt as though she bored holes in the back of his head with her eyes, penetrating his skull with her accusatory stare.
But he was not about to disobey his orders, and so he took a deep breath and pulled the limousine off the road and into the gloom of a subterranean parking garage as he had been told. As the car came to a halt, he heard Lister whisper something to Carla before he stepped out of the door. The sound of a battery-operated toy filled the air and informed him that whatever had been said was less than clean in nature. Probably an instruction for the mermaid to keep herself prepared for his return or something equally as lascivious in nature.
Perfect, he thought, now I have to sit here and listen to that as well.
It came as a surprise to him that the sound of the vibrating toy ceased only a few seconds after Lister had left the limousine and was far enough away to be out of earshot. The silence that was left in its absence seemed heavier than ever, and Henry could hear his own breathing as though it were as loud as a jet engine.
Of all the things he could have imagined to break the silence, the instantly familiar voice shocked him utterly. He froze in his seat, unable to turn his head or even glance up at the mirror, afraid that he was moments away from being judged for the sins he had burdened himself with for years now.
"Henry," she was closer now, almost up to the hatch between the two halves of the limousine. "Please don't freak out… I know this is weird, for the both of us. But I need to talk to you… I need your help."
With a gargantuan effort, he turned in his seat and looked into her face as she clung onto the rim of the hatch with both webbed hands.
He could not have put it into words, but there was something different in her eyes and her expression, a depth of emotion that had seemed to be lost when she was transformed from a human being into a mermaid. For the first time he could remember, Henry was able to perceive the same woman she had been in the surgically tweaked face of the mermaid she had become.
"I'm sorry," it was short and pathetic as well as a thousand miles away from the intensity of the guilt he was feeling, but under the circumstances it was all he could manage right there and then.
"I don't need you to be sorry," Carla shook her head, "I need you to help me get away."
"He'll kill us both," Henry turned his head away from her as she started to pull herself though the hatch, breasts struggling to make it through the small space.
"I don't know about you," her voice was strained as she pulled her tail through after her and fell onto the seat beside his, "but I look at myself as I am right now and I can't help thinking that I'm already dead as long as I stay put."
Carla was struggling with herself even as she spoke to him, trying to hold together her sense of self in light of the seemingly random flow of memories and knowledge that was filling her mind unwanted and unbidden. The patchwork of images and recollections was not her own, but rather that of the other woman who shared her name, the human female who she was being forced reconcile with the radically different creature she thought herself to be.
Over the past few days the speed at which she had been uncovering these alien memories had become ever faster, filling her mind with awful realisations that she was only now able to absorb. With every new revelation she had become more certain that she was somehow akin to this other woman, that they were linked in a manner that she could not quite understand.
It was never a case of their being two distinct voices in her head, the mermaid that she had become was the entity that she remained. The feeling was more akin to discovering hidden doorways inside a house with which you were familiar, opening them to find whole rooms that revealed new aspects that had laid unseen for who knew how long.
Carla had found that she had little choice in the matter as these new elements of her mind became one with the whole. She was not becoming the woman as she absorbed her memories, the process felt to her as though aspects of the other woman became her own and were coloured by their mixing with her persona. She had become a gestalt of two different women, one seeping into the other and both changing as a result.
She suspected, or more honestly feared that she might have once been the human woman in her new memories. But the thought of being something other than she was now did nothing but upset her, make her gaze at her tail and try to tell herself that it was not true. Even now that she understood for the first time that she was being exploited and abused by the man she had seen as the centre of her world, she was still happy in her body and did not desire to be anything other than a mermaid.
This new blending of her persona with that of the other woman had left her still more of a mermaid with human traits than a human trapped in the body of a mermaid. For that reason she found that she could not simply talk her way into gaining Henry's trust and cooperation, but was compelled by her instincts to ensure her success by other means more in keeping with her nature.
Carla stretched out and crawled on her belly across the seats, her weight pressing down on his thighs as she came. Her hands gripped the lapels of his jacket and pulled her up his torso as she twisted her own lower half to sit in his wide lap. All the time he was as still as a statue, petrified by the feeling of her body against his.
She knew that Henry found her desirable, even the human woman had known as much. For the human woman it might have been enough to trust to her impassioned words as she sought to turn the man's loyalty away from his employer and towards herself.
But there was little chance that the mermaid would be satisfied to do the same, convinced as she was of the power that could be wielded through seduction and desire as a result of her intimate experience in such matters. Carla knew that if she could bind a man with her sexual allure, then there was almost no way he could deny her what she asked of him afterwards.
On a deeper level, the structure of her altered mind associated such things with a fundamental sense of security, forever linking the concepts of sexual attraction with those of her status and ability to trust the relationships she formed with other individuals. No matter how she tried, there was no way that she would be able to truly place her trust in another person when she was in a position of such need unless she had the reassurance of knowing that they were enamoured of her charms.
Carla was a siren in both body and mind, and as such there was nothing she could do to stop herself trying to seduce the man she needed to aide her in her plans.
She could already feel the effect she was having on Henry's body, the swelling in his lap below her buttocks and the labouring sound of his lungs as his pulse began to race. Whether the largest part of his stirring was on account of his reaction to her own attentions or his fear at their being discovered and the consequences she could not have said. But regardless of which it may have been, Carla was sure that she could steer the man according to her wishes with little chance of failure.
Deftly her hand opened his flies and found his member, not a difficult task under the circumstances. Henry was a large man and it seemed that his body was in proportion down to the last detail as she found a considerable amount of him gripped between her fingers.
Carla allowed herself the cruel thought of the comparison in so called manhood between the quiet mountain of a man and the vulgar individual who employed him. She had spent so long in what now seemed like insane worship of Lister that any chance to indulge herself with a man that was not him was the ultimate act of rebellion.
While it was undoubtedly true that she did need Henry's help and she was unable to think of securing it without this display of wanton sexual appetite, a part of her revelled in the fact that she was finally going against the will of Aubrey Lister. Carla realised in that moment that while she may have been settling into the idea of herself as a melding of the human woman she remembered and the mermaid that she had become, she was by no means as meek or retiring as the former had been. There was a streak of pure and unashamed independence emerging in her character and she vowed that she would never be put in the position of helpless dependency that the two elements of her personality had fallen into.
Henry had one arm gripped on the top of the front passenger seat and the other braced against the door, as though he was expecting to be thrown about inside the limousine by some unknown force. His eyes were wide and there was already sweat beading on his forehead, but he betrayed his true emotions towards what Carla was doing by making no attempt to stop her or voice an objection.
Carla gripped the steering wheel with her free hand and guided his penis beneath her skirt with the other. The size and state of his member meant that it had little trouble in pushing the skirt up and off her buttocks as it approached the silver flesh of her vagina.
She moved her backside in practised motions, an expert at the art of arousing a man after years of devoting her mind to contemplating little else. The lips of her vagina brushed against the head of his penis with the delicate touch of a gentle kiss, each contact making him shudder and building the anticipation of the inevitable next step.
When the moment came, Carla took him by surprise, pushing herself backwards onto him with a force that came out of the blue after her teasing foreplay. He was broad and well built, making the muscles of her body stretch and move to accommodate him until she could spare no more room. Filled to her capacity, she held still for an extended breath and simply allowed the sensation of his body entering her own wash over her before she began to move slowly forward and back again.
For Carla the experience was almost a joyous one, not for such a crude reason as the size of Henry's penis, but more for the sense of liberation that it inspired in her. She could not escape the fact that she was a sexual being who would need to be satisfied in order to be truly complete. And yet in this act she had proven that she could overcome the way in which she had been programmed to throw herself at the feet of just one man.
It was the very difference in the nature of the sexual act with another man that gave her hope, the unique way in which her body had sunk onto a formerly unknown member and come alive with pleasure. She had feared that she was incompatible with another partner. But she had proven to herself that not only was she capable of breaking free of her former master, she was also able to initiate intercourse with a new partner and gain something from the coupling that was hers alone.
Carla found that her enjoyment of the experience was abruptly cut short however, when Henry buckled and came no more than a minute or two after she had taken him inside her.
It did not matter, she told herself.
She was sure that his premature climax was the result of his nerves and the fact that he was being seduced by a seasoned professional.
That was another new characteristic to note, she was not in the least bit shy or humble about the power that she held or the desirable qualities of her body.
Why should she be?
A quick glance over her shoulder told her that she had him, the exhausted nod that he gave her almost surplus to requirements.
"Two weeks," he gasped between breaths.
"He's flying to Miami on business," Henry explained as his breathing slowed. "That's the earliest we can take a shot at getting you away from him."
His face turned serious.
"I don't suppose you've thought of where you want to go?"
Carla had pondered trying to rediscover her old life, make a fresh start in a new country or even asking him to take her back to the place where it had all begun and begging Dr Pickford to change her into a human so that she could blend into the masses. But the life of the Carla Largo who had been human was gone, destroyed by the machinations of Aubrey Lister. There was no way she could have begun anew as a mermaid amongst the millions of humans in any country on the planet. And she could not contemplate becoming another creature, she had apparently done so once before with the consequences being nothing but traumatic.
"The sea," she replied after a long pause. "Just get me to the sea."
The setting sun had turned the sky into a riot of colour as it inched below the horizon, vivid bands of yellow, orange and crimson made all the more striking by the effect they cast upon the churning waters of the ocean beneath them. Lingering warmth still carried on the breeze was the final memory of the heat which had characterised the day that was now past, making the night a balmy and pleasant place to be alive and awake.
Carla watched from the window of the limousine, able to appreciate the beauty of such a sight on her own terms for what seemed like the first time in her life as defined by the strange course her existence had taken over the past few years. The change that had come over her as she regained a sense of control over her own mind in the past few weeks had been ever harder to contain as the time approached for her chance to escape.
Where she had previously been little more than a simpering pet, forever clammering for the attention of the man whom she had perceived as her master, now she was fully able to see for herself just what that same man had done to her. It was a cruel irony that for the sake of preserving her means of being free of his clutches, Carla had been forced to maintain the illusion that she was still his wiling and obedient plaything.
For a period of two weeks, she had lived a lie which only served to remind her of the things that she had lost as well as the depths to which she had been taken. Aubrey Lister was by no means tired of his mermaid and made regular use of her body, requiring her to bury her hatred for him behind the adoring mask of the creature that he had turned her into.
Carla found herself wrestling with the urge to strike some kind of blow against him as she was made to degrade herself, stabbing for his eyes with a sharp object or biting down upon his penis when he forced it into her mouth. But the thought of her freedom always stayed her hand, keeping her focussed on the possibility of being finally released from her bondage rather than basking in the glow of violent revenge that would inevitably lead to savage retribution soon afterwards.
The only other human being with whom she had contact in that time was Henry, snatching moments here and there in which she was able to speak with her own voice and express her own opinions.
Carla found that she was able to distract herself from the attentions of Lister by taking the opportunity whenever it arose to make love to his most trusted bodyguard. The dual blow that the act struck, at once betraying her supposed position of his personal property and doing so with someone so close to him, soothed her anger to a degree and gave her the strength to carry on from one day to the next.
In her position, the average woman would have rejected utterly the very idea of pursuing a string of sexual encounters while at the same time being subject to the abuse that she was enduring. But as Carla had come to accept, she was not a human being and neither was she an average woman by any means. Sexual desire and the consummation of the lust that she was capable of inspiring in others was a fundamental element of her being and she would use it to both fend off the horrors of her treatment and at the same time keep intact her plans to escape.
And she had done just that, holding herself together until the arrival of the allotted day.
Henry opened the door and gazed inside, his broad face a picture of anxiety and urgency as he tried to keep his emotions under control. Not even the weeks of careful planing that had brought them to this point or the knowledge that his employer was more then six hours away by plane could reassure him that he was safe.
As she looked him in the eye and gave him a smile that she hoped would be some kind of balm for his paranoia, Carla could not help thinking that had the man been able, he would have picked her up and pitched her into the sea like a shot-putter simply to have the whole thing over with sooner.
Carla nodded and swung her tail out of the limousine, stretching her body in anticipation of the challenges that awaited her.
She was naked save for a functional top of tight-fitting lycra, the kind of garment that would have looked more in place on an athlete than a mermaid that could have been summoned from an adolescent boy's fantasies. In addition she carried nothing with her save for a small knife, secured in a sheath that hung from a belt around her waist.
The subject of kitting her out for this attempt at escape had been a matter of much debate between the two of them. Henry had fretted over her chances of survival and wanted her to make her way into the sea burdened with a myriad of supplies that she was sure would only have been a hindrance in the long term. She was touched by his fussing, but sure that his insistence on such a large amount of things that would more than likely be useless was an attempt to assuage his own guilt rather than equip her to cope with surviving with the sea as her new home.
Carla on the other hand favoured keeping what she took and wore to the bare minimum based not on her own whims, but instead on the cold hard facts with which she had educated herself. For longer than the two weeks that Henry had been a party to her plans, she had been labouring on the scheme alone.
What she had claimed were simply trips to the numerous pools on the estate for exercise had in fact been a concerted effort to at first assess and then improve her fitness and ability to swim for extended periods of time. She had also schemed her way into accessing books and even a limited amount of time on the internet so that she could read up on the environment in which she would be forced to exist.
Even after all the work she had invested in preparing herself, she was far from confident of her chances as far as survival was concerned. Carla knew that she would be leaping from the life of what amounted to a pampered pet and into that of a wild animal, in competition with cold-minded predators and in the clutches of an uncaring sea. The most potent weapons that she could make use of were her mind and body, and they had done nothing for a number of years now save being subservient to the will and whims of Aubrey Lister.
She raised her arms and allowed Henry to lift her off the seat, feeling for what she was sure would be the final the sheer strength that was contained in his limbs. There really was no way she could have turned him down on the offer, the distance between the road and the point where the waves reached the sand was simply too far for her to have managed on her belly. In addition he would most likely have ignored her protests and carried her there anyway had she refused.
They remained silent for the entirety of the slow walk from the limousine to the first few feet of wet sand. Carla had no way of knowing what thoughts might have been chasing through Henry's immense head, but she suspected that it was a typical parade of guilt for her condition and fear of what awaited him when their scheme was inevitably discovered.
He had assured her on numerous occasions that whatever fate had in store for him, it would be no more than a part of the punishment that he willingly accepted for what he had been a party to. Carla had tried and failed to keep herself from speculating as to what Lister would do when the whole thing was laid bare to him. She had even tried to urge Henry to make his own escape when she did, but he had refused to be drawn on just what he would do once she was gone.
Carla felt nothing but contempt for most of the human race at that moment in time. Her anger would fade until she was reconciled with the fact that her fate had been perverted by a single individual and realise finally that she did not truly hate humanity as a whole. But there and then she felt sympathy and obligation to no other human being apart from the man that held her as the waves began to surge around his ankles.
She realised with a degree of shock, that she would miss the company of this quiet giant of a man. Though they had only been speaking with one another in snatched conversations in the two weeks since she opened herself to him and asked for his aid, he had become the only person who approached a friend in her life. While he might have made love to her more out of obligation to his guilt and her nature as a mermaid, she could not deny that he had been an essential counterweight to the continued attentions of her supposed master.
Where Lister was domineering and actually revelled in the act of dominating her, Henry by way of contrast was in need of her constant guidance and urging. Sex between them was an act that she lead and he attended to her every instruction so that she was truly satisfied by the time her climax came. In the altered nature of her being, this affirmed her self confidence and gave her the strength to continue despite the challenges and uncertainty that lay ahead.
Carla weighed the possibility of taking him one more time, right there in the surf as an almost territorial act before she was gone. She was not addicted to sex in the way that a person could become dependent upon narcotics, instead the need for physical fulfilment with another was an essential part of her being. She could leave without another encounter with Henry if she chose, but in this case she simply found that she was contemplating the more pleasant aspects of doing so.
She dismissed the notion, sure that he would submit to her will, but determined to make this as clean a break with her former life as she could make it. Instead she placed a gentle kiss on his cheek and cocked her head to one side, indicating that he should let her down.
Henry knelt and lowered her into the lapping water, careful to ensure that she was safely deposited upon the sand beneath before he released her from his arms.
Almost the moment that he did so, a particularly strong wave surged up the beach and swept over Carla, drenching her from head to fin. Caught unawares by the freezing cold of the water after the warm air of the evening, she shrieked in a manner that instantly filled her with embarrassment and made her hug herself in a vain attempt to fend off the chill.
It was hardly an auspicious start for a mermaid intent upon making a life for herself beneath the surface of the ocean, and she steeled her will to ignore the temperature of the water in favour of the hard fight that lay ahead.
"This is it," she deliberately did not look back at Henry as she inched further into the water, determined to spare his emotions and her own dignity as she went. "Wish me luck and pray for some of your own while you're at it."
Henry said nothing as she made her way into the deeper waves, the water reaching ever higher until she was forced to begin to actually work against the water. Soon she was more than a ten feet out into the water, arms ploughing as she moved and her tail finally beginning to tell as she swam. Then she was twenty feet out and reaching thirty faster than ever as the advantages of a mermaid in her native element came into play and she truly made her way through the churning waves in the way that she was intended to.
He made no effort to move from the spot even as the water reached further up his legs.
Instead he watched until the very last glimpse of silver scales against the fading sun was lost to his eyes.
Only then did he turn and begin to make his way back up the beach.
His thoughts moved with immense effort from the creature he had helped escape and to the heavy pistol that lay in the glove compartment of the limousine.
There were only two men in the world that he would have turned the weapon on, and now he had to discover if he knew one of them well enough to be sure that man was capable of killing the other.
Jared Largo slipped off his shoes and walked onto the sand as he did at the end of every day. The solitary walk along the beach had become one of the rituals defined his waking hours, something that if asked he would have claimed was a time when he could collect his thoughts and meditate on the events of the past day.
In reality he walked the beach and performed a string of other activities between dawn and dusk each day for the sake of having any routine at all.
He was also unsure as to whether he could truly have called his strolls along the beach solitary in that as he lived alone, everything he did was technically solitary in nature anyway.
Jared hated the fact that he found himself alone with a head that seemed to be filled with nothing any more than other pointless and random thoughts. He could recall hoping that he would find himself again amongst these new surroundings, but so far he had done nothing apart from begin to sink into what he feared was a rambling and confused decline without the structure of obligations to a work life or loved ones nearby.
The location in which he had chosen to settle had gone from a serene retreat from the madness of the wider world to a mundane backwater as time passed. It seemed nothing but a cruel irony that he had once planned to retire here with his wife, before she had been taken away from him all those years ago. But in a way he was oddly pleased that she had been spared the depressing realisation that they could have been so wrong about the nature of the place.
But of course it was only in his more positive moments that he was able to think in such as way, ascribing the disappointment of the locale solely to her absence when he was in one of his more common dark moods.
There had been a brief burst of excitement in the region within the past year though, a supposed item of news that had brought legitimate media attention and the eyes of the world before it inevitably died down and the place was forgotten once more.
The story, as far as Jared was aware, went that a local fisherman had been out at sea alone and seen a brief glimpse of something that sent him scurrying back to the mainland filled with wild claims about what he had seen. As outlandish and fanciful as man's story was, he repeated to anyone who would listen the tale of how he had seen a mermaid as plain as the nose on his face.
Had the thing stopped there, it would have been nothing more than the deranged rantings of a man who had spent too much time alone at sea. But soon the details of his story were repeated by others who also claimed to have seen the creature, both after the original sighting and some who said they had seen the same thing before him and feared to share their own accounts due to the fantastical nature of the whole thing. Soon the place had come alive with a media circus, attempts to capture the non-existent mermaid and ever more sightings that became stranger and even more far-fetched as the affair ground on.
Of course nothing had been found, how could it? And after a few months the whole thing had petered out as the place sank back into quiet obscurity. Now it was almost as if the entire affair had never happened and Jared for one was pleased to see the back of it all. While there might have been nothing in his life that provided him with much excitement, he was nevertheless happier to live outside of such craziness on a daily basis.
He reached the end of the beach proper and began to make his way across the beginnings of the rocky outcroppings that lay beyond. From that point the open expanse of the beach gave way to a series of isolated inlets that were flooded at high tide, but when the waters receded revealed a network of picturesque coves.
Jared knew the timing of the tides well and estimated that he could make one of the more pleasant of the coves and be back on the safer sands of the beach before the incoming tide would cut him off.
Rounding the final arm of rock to arrive at his destination, he caught a hint of movement in the corner of his eye. It was rare, but not unknown to come upon another person already intent upon reaching the same cove while coming this way and Jared was about to shout an apology and turn back towards the beach when he was stopped in his tracks by what he saw before him.
Any man in his position would have been surprised beyond reason by the sight of a creature that seemed to be half woman and half fish, reclining in a tidal pool and regarding him with an all too human expression of shock. The realisation that such a thing could be a reality and the questions that it threw up would probably have come long after the initial surprise had run its natural course.
But to add to all of that baffling surprise and revelation the fact that Jared was instantly sure he recognised the face of the mermaid upon which he had stumbled elevated the experience beyond the realms of those who claimed to have seen the same thing before him.
He stood, rooted to the spot and unable to make the smallest move either towards the mermaid or away from her. But for her own part, the creature seemed to be afflicted by the same problem, frozen in the act of making what looked like a dive for the deeper waters beyond the pool in which she lay.
Neither seemed to be fixated upon the body of the other, which may have been harder to fathom in the instance of the man rather than the mermaid. But instead they each scrutinized the face of the other as if trying to discern something in the features that was either hidden or obscured in some way.
In the end, it was Jared who broke the silence.
"Carla," he had no idea if such a creature could understand him or even speak at all, "am I going crazy, or is that you?"
Suddenly the mermaid broke away from his gaze, as if she could not stand to be seen by him for a moment longer. She tensed her body and propelled herself with a strength and agility that amazed him, out of the pool and into the water that lapped against the rocks.
"No!" Jared reacted without a second of conscious thought, casting his shoes aside and throwing himself in the same direction in a desperate effort to follow her. But he was not possessed of the same grace as the mermaid and instead tumbled over the rocks she had leapt over. He landed heavily, pain spreading through his body as the jagged edges of the rock lacerated his skin and the force of the impact jarred him to the bone.
Trying to ignore the pain, he pulled himself over the rocks, desperate to locate the fleeing mermaid. Every inch he was able to crawl caused him to make a strangled cry of agony, but he would not relent in his efforts. Soon he reached the edge of the water and cast his gaze around, the realisation that she was nowhere to be seen visible in his eyes as he shook his head in frustration and disbelief.
Jared laid his head upon the rocks, still and silent.
He knew full well that the tide was edging ever closer, but he decided that he did not much care about what happened to him when it did. There was simply no way that he could make sense of what he had seen and then go back to what passed for his life. Either he was insane and did not realise the fact, or even worse the wife that he had thought dead for almost a decade was still alive and breathing.
On some level his mind was trying to process the fact that her legs seemed to have been replaced by a tail, but as far as he was concerned that ranked lower in the grand scheme of things.
Jared was emotionally hollow, unhappy with the prospect of the life he had ahead of him and most of all he was so tired that he had no reserves of strength with which to simply go on with the struggle of living as things were. He could not place on top of all that such a revelation and he knew that he could not dive into the sea and search for the mermaid he had just glimpsed.
So he made up his mind that he would lay there and be swallowed by the tide.
He closed his eyes as the water washed over him and unconsciousness took him.
Jared had no idea what, if anything he had expected to be the first thing a person might experience in the afterlife, but he was certain somehow that it would not have been the sensation of being pounded mercilessly upon the chest. His eyes sprang open just at the moment that his lungs gave forth the salt-water that had been pooling in them, heaving the liquid out onto the sand before he began to draw in a series of ragged breaths.
He rolled onto his side as the feeling of having been kicked in the gut doubled him over and only then did it occur to him to ask the question as to why he was alive at all.
A hand appeared in the corner of his vision and then was lost as it yanked his eyelid open in an effort that he could only suppose was intended to check he was reacting to the light and conscious.
Jared supposed that he should have been more surprised to see that the hand was webbed with silver and sported nails that could have been mistaken in the wrong light for a set of talons. But somehow he had already made the leap of the mind in which he was sure there could have been only one individual able to rescue him from drowning.
"I knew it was you," he was compelled to speak despite the fact he still could not make out the face of the person leaning over him. "Part of me could never believe that you were really gone." His voice was weak from the effects of choking up lungfuls of seawater and the emotion of what he was saying caused it to break further, but he was certain that he had been heard.
The sensation of the hand stroking his cheek seemed to confirm his assertion.
"Don't be so sure," the voice was at once familiar and yet tinged with something that added a tone that was totally novel to his ears. "I don't think that I'm the same woman you think I am," perhaps it was the flinty strength that he did not remember in the sound, or the resigned ease with which she addressed the reunion between man and wife regardless of the fact that one half of the former partnership seemed to have both returned from the dead and become a different kind of creature entirely.
"I don't care," he tried to focus on her face. "So long as even a sliver of the woman that I used to know is still alive then I won't take a step away from you again."
Her only response was a choked laugh that ended in what could only have been a cry.
Jared's vision was starting to clear as he reached out and gripped her hand. She made no attempt to pull away from his touch and he tried to make sense of the strange feeling of her webbed fingers against his own.
"Looks like being a mermaid agrees with you," he marvelled at the sight of her face as she finally met his gaze fully. "You look younger than you did the day we met."
"Flatterer," the hint of a smile was beginning to creep onto her face, and most promising of all was the fact that he was sure he recognised the expression as one his wife had often worn back when they had been together. "They gave me some serious surgery, but they changed more than you might think."
"I did notice the tail," he glanced down and stroked the surface of her scales, glad again that she did not flinch from his touch. He had not known what to expect when he touched that part of her body, but he found that the feeling of the scales was smooth and warm in a way that made him want to explore the length of her tail. "I was always a fan of your legs, but this is really something else. I think it's very beautiful, if you don't mind me saying so."
"No," she blushed, and again he noted it as a positive reaction on her part. "I mean that they changed me on the inside as well. They played with my mind and made me forget the woman that you called your wife. For years I thought I was someone else, and then her memories started to return and I came to the realisation that I was not the person I thought I was, but I wasn't the woman that I had been either. The person that I am now is made up of pieces from both of them and I don't think that I can ever truly be one or the other again."
"I can accept that," Jared nodded. "But why are you saying all these things as though you were telling me that you killed someone?"
"You have to understand that I'm not your wife," Carla shook her head. "I haven't come back from the grave to make everything okay. Probably you stumbling on me like that has just made your life a whole lot worse."
"I don't care," she could see from the look in his eyes that he was as serious as he could have been. "I came to terms with the fact that my wife was dead. It almost destroyed me, but I made myself go on and no matter what I did there was nothing that could really make me feel like my life was worth going on with. This is going to sound like I'm trying to blackmail you, and maybe I am. Maybe seeing a mermaid with the face of my dead wife has snapped my mind. But there's no half measures for me as far as you're concerned. Either you feel the way that I do and stay with me, or I walk into the sea and let myself drown. You saved me once before and you might do it again no matter what you think of me, but you can't watch me forever and I'll keep trying to take my life one way or another. I just need you to understand that without you my life lost all meaning and knowing that you are alive and out there now is not something that I can just go on living with lodged in my head."
For a moment he thought that he had gone too far, that she would simply slip away into the waves and be gone forever. But instead her eyes filled with tears and she looked out to sea, as if scared of something that lay out across the waters, invisible to all but her.
"You don't know how lonely life out there is, how hard as well. There were times when I almost died and times when I nearly gave up and tried to do the same thing as you. I never thought I'd miss human contact as much as I have, not after what I went through. But I can't come back with you and live in an apartment, not when I'm less than human."
The words were painful for Carla to speak for the genuine loneliness that she mentioned and also because she found that she truly wanted to stay with this quite, humble man who seemed to long for her mere presence. The loss of human contact that she had been forced to endure during the years she had spent living in the sea and along the coast had taxed her mind greatly. She had snatched the rare encounter with a human being in situations that she had been able to control and judge were worth the risk, seducing a lost and drunken wandered from a beach party whom she was sure would chalk her up to his state of inebriation and even taking advantage of a shipwrecked sailor on more than one occasion whom she had doubts would ever be rescued or believed if he were.
Now she had come face to face with a man who lived in her memories and was almost as singly devoted to her as she had been to her former master. Had there been anyway that she could have taken him with her then she would have done so. But how could she live in the small urban apartment that her former human self remembered?
"The apartment?" Jared sounded amused. "You really must be something other than human if you think I'm still living there! It's been more than a decade, things have changed since the days we lived in the city. How did you think that I came to be wandering along a beach out here?"
Carla gave him a look that seemed to urge him on.
"I got a new job pretty soon after you died," he shook his head and laughed. "I'm sorry, it just sounds so strange to actually be saying that to someone. Anyway, it was a hard job, but the pay was good and I made some headway into climbing the ranks before the whole thing came crashing down thanks to some corruption or scandal at the top. I was lucky enough to get out with a fair settlement, enough to buy myself a place not far from here that I planned to grow old in. It's not much to look at, but it backs onto the beach and the nearest neighbour is far enough away not to really count as a neighbour at all."
He looked at her appealingly.
Carla realised that there was nothing that she could say to argue against his proposal. Here was everything that she wanted as well as everything that she needed in the form of a man whom she was sure possessed nothing but a good soul and an enduring love for the human woman that she had once been.
How could she refuse him?
She nodded and wiped a tear from her eye, but was surprised when he leaned forward and took her in a fierce embrace that resulted in a passionate kiss. Carla reacted to the contact with his body and found herself unable to do anything except return his affection.
"I can't promise a happy ending," she held his hands and imploring him to listen to her as she spoke. "We're both different people from the couple who were married all those years ago, but maybe we can make a fresh start as the people we are now and go from there?"
"I don't think I could have put it better myself," Jared bent to scoop the mermaid up from the sand and she was unable to stop herself noting the fact that he did so with little sign of trouble, hinting that he would be able to accommodate her needs when the time came.
"Might seem like an ungentlemanly thing to say," he glanced down at Carla's naked breasts as they he carried her along the beach, "but I can never recall these things being that large in the past."
"If you think those are something," Carla could not help laughing, "wait until you see the rest of the package."
"You don't say?
"Oh, but I do!"
As they made their way up the beach in the fading light, Carla found herself strangely delighted at the prospect of the discoveries that he was about to make. It would be a new experience for her to be making her own a man who was in awe of and worshipped her rather than using her sexuality as a weapon to control another.
This would be a voyage of discovery for them both.
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