A Mermaid's Ransom
spat out a stream of invective in the angels' ancient language that was creative and frightening. Mina stood impassively, waiting him out, and his fists clenched. "You are as cold and heartless as ever, witch," he snapped. "Perhaps our mistake wasn't only leaving him alive."
    David stepped forward then. "That's enough, my lord. She's right. Listen to yourself."
    Jonah's gaze shot to him. A cool rush of air, tinged with sulfur, heralded another arrival. Lucifer materialized from the water, wielding his scythe. The dark angel's face was cold, mouth set. Jonah didn't turn, holding his attention on his lieutenant.
    "She's in that world, David. You told me what that world is. Have you forgotten that I saw what they did to you? She's never known . . . from the minute she was born, I . . . Damn you all, she's our child."
    The powerful angel broke off abruptly, turning away from them. Jonah had known loss for far too many years as a battle commander, the oldest of the non-Full Submission angels. He'd dealt with the fallout from that, but no one in the room needed to be told that his mate's love was what had brought him back to them. It was a fine line they all walked, fighting for the Legion.
    David swallowed and looked away, as did the four other angels in the cavern. Marcellus was one of them, Jonah's right-hand captain until he'd been nearly killed in the Mountain Battle. He bore scars that hampered his flying, at least for full battle, but his loyalty to Jonah had brought him here today. David knew the whole Legion would be in this cavern if they would fit.
    While they waited uncomfortably for their commander to get a grip on his emotions, Anna had no such reservations. She met his turn with open arms, holding him as she was subsumed in his own embrace, her body quivering in his arms. But she shed no tears, not now. The look on her face, the strained determination, reminded David that sometimes a mother showed a strength that could surpass the father's. It didn't mean her suppressed pain wouldn't shatter her if they lost Alexis. And if they lost Anna to that kind of grief, they lost Jonah. In Lucifer's face, he saw the same knowledge.
    Mina moved in then. In one of her unexpected acts of compassion, she touched Anna, bringing the parents' attention back to her, though her expression remained as flat as ever. "We'll get her back. She's my goddaughter, and I'm sworn to protect her. If you do not believe in me, believe in my resolve, which as you know is quite formidable." A cynical smile twisted her lips then. "I didn't say we were without options. I can bring them through but separate them, contain him, with a magic similar to what he used. But it will take a great deal of preparation."
    In Mina's gaze was a wealth of things David understood that no one else did, including the fact that Jonah wasn't the only one who'd seen what the Dark Ones had done to David. Mina had had a front-row seat. He knew the witch's heart was his, as much as every part of him was hers. As a result, when she looked at him now, he let that knowledge fill his gaze. The tension across her brow lessened.
    "I'll give you a list of stores I'll need from our home." She glanced back to Anna and Jonah. "I'll need blood from both of you, as well as my own. It's going to be a lot," she added, attention going to David again, "so cookies and juice for Anna might not be amiss, and manna to replenish Jonah when I'm done. I also need to work very fast without taking time to reassure or explain to anyone what I'm doing, because it will take hours to prepare. In forty-eight hours she'll be dead, no matter what he does to her."
    "Why is that?" Anna gripped the seawitch's arm. Rather than drawing away with the disdain she normally demonstrated at unwelcome touching, Mina covered the mermaid's hand with her own, met her blue eyes without flinching.
    "Because nothing other than a Dark One, and Dante, can live in the Dark One world longer than that. It drains life energy. You

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