Page 92

Lexi squawked and threw Gemma off her, causing Gemma to crash painfully against the fireplace.

Gemma coughed and gasped for breath, and she knew she had to come up with a better plan. There was no way she could stop Lexi with her bare hands. She needed to find a weapon, unless she turned into the monster.

Unfortunately, Gemma didn’t have time to do either before Lexi was on her. Lexi reached out for her, and Gemma narrowly slid underneath her grasp. The golden wings were outstretched behind her, and Gemma grabbed one, yanking on it as hard as she could.

But Lexi was stronger. She flapped her wings and sent Gemma flying back on the floor. Lexi ran back over to her, running as quickly as her long bird legs could carry her, and when she reached Gemma, she kicked out at her.

Her clawed foot connected with Gemma’s stomach, tearing into the tender flesh, but that wasn’t the worst part. Lexi kicked her so hard that when Gemma flew backward and collided with the wall, everything went black for a moment.

She had no idea how long she was out, but when she opened her eyes, her head throbbing painfully and her vision blurred, she saw Lexi standing over her, cackling at her pain. Gemma tried to move, but she wasn’t getting up so easy this time.

“I’m going to go outside and finish Daniel off,” Lexi said as she stepped back. “But don’t worry. I’ll be back for you in a few seconds, after I eat his heart.”



Daniel had landed facedown in the mud among shards of broken glass. He rolled over onto his back—slowly, because he had a feeling that Lexi had cracked one of his ribs. The rain was pouring down on him so hard, it felt like needles stabbing his skin.

He squinted up and saw Lexi climbing out the window. She had to fold her wings against her back to make it through.

Daniel tried pushing himself up, but flying through a glass window had knocked a lot out of him.

Lexi walked over to him, her legs taking long, rather elegant strides. When she stood over him, her outstretched wings worked as a partial umbrella. She cocked her head, staring down at him.

“I cannot wait to eat your heart,” Lexi said, and flicked out an odd, serpentine tongue.

“Well, you’re gonna have to.”

Daniel rolled back and pulled his legs up to his chest, then he pushed them out as hard as he could, kicking her in the chest with both his feet. Lexi stumbled backward, barely managing to keep her balance in the mud, and she flapped her wings to steady herself.

He got to his feet just as Gemma came out the back door. She stumbled a bit as she walked, and one arm cradled her stomach, where he could see the blood seeping through her shirt. Gemma stood in between Daniel and Lexi, glaring up at her.

“That’s enough, Lexi!” Gemma shouted.

Daniel was standing behind Gemma, but he saw it start to happen. Her fingers were stretching out, and her nails were shifting into long black talons. Her mouth began to twitch, and he knew it was going to become filled with those awful teeth.

But before Gemma completed the transformation, Lexi flapped her wings. She leaned forward, deliberately hitting Gemma with her wing, and sent her flying over the edge of the cliff.

“Gemma!” Daniel yelled, and he ran after her. He barely stopped in time to keep from sliding off the edge himself, and one of the toes of his shoes actually did hang over.

He was too late to do anything other than watch as Gemma crashed into the rocks below. The waves were beating against the cliff face, turning a frothy white, and Gemma was lost instantly in them.

“You’ll be joining her soon,” Lexi said. “But first your heart is mine.”

She was taller than him, so it made for a strange angle, and he had to jump up to be able to punch her. But his fist connected, landing squarely in her temple.

As the bird-monster, her torso had elongated, and her ribs protruded grotesquely. Underneath that, the soft tissue of her belly was completely exposed, and Daniel punched it as hard as he could.

She squawked and stumbled back, so he stepped forward, punching her again with his other fist. Her wings flapped to keep her balance, and the powerful gusts of air from that motion nearly made him fall back, but he kept his footing.

His mistake came when he tried to punch her in the head again. She was leaning forward, trying to correct her stance so she wouldn’t fall back, and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. So he threw a right hook, hoping to connect with her jaw, but instead her head snapped to the side and she clamped her teeth right on his forearm.

Daniel cried out in agony. Lexi’s mouth was filled with hundreds of narrow teeth, sticking out haphazardly like needles in a pincushion. He could actually feel some of them going all the way through his arm and coming out the other side.

When she let go, Daniel collapsed to the ground on his knees. The rain was pounding against his arm, mixing with the blood and running down into the mud.

“Not so tough now, are you?” Lexi asked.

He tried to get back on his feet, but Lexi kicked him in the chest. It was even harder than she’d kicked him before, and the blow sent him flying. He landed on his back and skidded a few feet in the mud.

Lexi had knocked the wind out of him, and it was several painful seconds before he was able to take a breath again. He coughed hard, his lungs screaming as he gasped for air.

He tried to sit up, but then he felt Lexi’s foot on his stomach, pinning him to the ground. The claws from her toes pierced the fabric of his shirt and drove into his skin. He grabbed her ankle, her skin feeling reptilian under his hands, and tried to push her off him, but she wouldn’t budge.