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“This is your plan?” Daniel panted as they leaned against the door.

“This is more like my plan before a plan,” Gemma said.

“Let me in, let me in,” Lexi cajoled in the silkiest voice she could manage. The tone wasn’t quite up to her usual standards. Something about being the bird-monster made it impossible for her to sound sweet.

Her talons ran up and down the door, making a scraping sound that gave Gemma the chills, but she wasn’t really trying to get in. At least not yet. The eerie clawing at the door was for effect.

“Not by the hair of my chin,” Daniel shot back, and that made Lexi cackle loudly again.

There was complete and total silence for a few seconds, which Gemma didn’t like. She didn’t know what Lexi was doing out there, but it probably wasn’t good.

“You’re supposed to let me know before you do shit like this,” Daniel reminded Gemma.

“Sorry.” She grimaced as she pressed her weight against the door. “I thought I could handle it.”

“Why don’t you turn into the monster?” Daniel asked, keeping his voice low in case Lexi was listening.

Gemma shook her head, even though he couldn’t see her in the darkness. “I can’t.”

“Sure you can.”

“No, maybe I can, but I can’t control it once I do. I might hurt somebody,” she insisted.

“That’s kinda the point, though, isn’t it?” Daniel asked.

Ever since Lexi had started attacking her, Gemma had actually been fighting to keep the monster down. It was her body’s natural instinct to transform into it, to try to defend herself, but she was afraid that if she let it out, it would completely take over again.

Lydia had even given her the instructions on how to kill the sirens, but Gemma wasn’t sure she could do it. Well, she knew for certain she wouldn’t be strong enough to do it in her human form, and as a monster, she wasn’t convinced she’d be able to control herself enough to do it.

“I did it once before and I don’t even remember it,” Gemma told him. “I wasn’t in my mind at all. I was a complete monster, and I killed someone.”

Suddenly Lexi slammed into the door. Gemma and Daniel had simply been leaning against it, but now they pushed back on it with all their might, trying to hold it shut.

“Again, that doesn’t sound so bad, given the situation,” Daniel said through gritted teeth as Lexi ran into it again.

“Yeah, if I hurt Lexi, but what if I hurt you or Marcy?” Gemma countered. “No. I can’t risk it.”

“Well, we’ve got to do something or Lexi is going to kill us pretty quickly,” Daniel said as the door began to crack. “Can you at least do a partial change? I’ve seen the other sirens do that.”

“I don’t know how.” Gemma pushed against the door, but she knew it was going to give soon. “I’ve tried, but so far it’s been all or nothing.”

Lexi’s hand smashed through the door. It was a small hole, just enough room to fit her slender wrist, and wood poked up at Gemma with jagged edges and splinters. Lexi’s long taloned fingers reached out, feeling around for either Gemma or Daniel.

“Open the door!” Daniel commanded, and when Gemma didn’t do it immediately, he shouted again, “Open the door, Gemma!”

She was on the side by the door handle, while he’d been holding the side with the hinges, and Lexi’s hand was right in the middle, grasping for them.

While Gemma didn’t understand what Daniel’s plan was, she pulled open the door. Lexi’s wrist was caught in the wood, so when Gemma pulled it, she took Lexi with her.

Lexi stumbled into the pantry, knocking canned foods and spices off the shelves as she did. There was hardly enough room for her, and one of her wings was actually stuck outside. As Lexi screeched and struggled to pull free from the door, Gemma dropped to the floor and crawled between Lexi’s legs, barely avoiding getting stepped on.

Daniel followed Gemma, but he was less lucky. Lexi’s legs lashed out, and she kicked him in the ribs. He cried out, but he kept moving.

Gemma was running toward Marcy, hoping to reach her before Lexi freed herself, but Daniel was moving slower, thanks to Lexi’s kick. Gemma didn’t see him, but she heard him yell, followed by the sound of shattering glass.

When she turned back around, she saw one of the large back windows had been broken out, and Daniel was gone. Lexi stood in the center of the room, smiling pleasantly at Gemma. She’d grabbed Daniel and thrown him through a window toward the edge of the cliff.

“Lexi, you bitch!” Gemma growled and charged at her.

But Lexi was lightning-quick. She swung her arm out, hitting Gemma painfully in the chest. She fell back to the floor, and while Lexi towered over her, cackling like a bird, Gemma reached out and grabbed one of her legs.

Pulling as hard as she could, Gemma managed to throw Lexi off balance. She stumbled backward, flapping her arms and wings like mad and sending papers billowing around the room, until she finally fell backward.

Gemma scrambled to her knees and crawled over to her. Remembering the picture that Lydia had given her, Gemma climbed onto Lexi. She sat on her bare stomach, straddling Lexi.

As soon as she did, Lexi reached out and grabbed Gemma. Her long fingers wrapped tightly around Gemma’s throat, cutting off her air supply. Gemma balled up her hand and punched Lexi as hard as she could in the stomach, hoping her fist could break through Lexi’s soft flesh.