“It’s over, Daniel,” she assured him. “I’m going to kill you now.”
Lexi bent down, reaching her long fingers out toward his chest. He steeled himself for the inevitable, and the biggest regret he had was that he’d let Harper down. He promised her that he wouldn’t let anything happen to Gemma, and he had failed.
He stared up at Lexi, unwilling to look anywhere else but her eyes. If she was going to kill him, he wanted to make her see it. Her wings were sheltering him from the rain, so he could look up at her without squinting.
Then suddenly Lexi pulled her head back and let out a tortured squawk. Her wings moved, and icy rain splashed into his face. He closed his eyes against it, and then he felt something warm mixed in, dripping on his skin.
The foot disappeared from his stomach, and Daniel lifted his arm, shielding himself from the rain as he sat up.
Lexi had taken several steps back from him, and one of her wings was flapping wildly. The other one … wasn’t there. Blood was spilling out from her shoulder as she wailed.
Penn stood in front of him, looking completely human, except for her arms. She had the same arms as Lexi, complete with the clawed fingers. In one of her hands she held Lexi’s golden wing, but she tossed it aside like it was an old piece of garbage.
“What’s your problem, Penn?” Lexi screamed at her. “I was only playing around!”
“I warned you to leave him alone,” Penn said. She stepped toward her, and Lexi took another step back, edging toward the cliff. “I said don’t hurt him or those stupid Fisher girls. And what did you do?”
“I was just fooling around, Penn!” Lexi insisted, but Penn didn’t seem convinced.
Lexi kept trying to back up, and her feet slipped in the mud. She fell back to the ground, her head hanging over the cliff edge while her body remained safely on land. Her one wing flailed horribly, but Penn was on top of her, pinning her down.
Penn sat on Lexi’s stomach, straddling her, and she wrapped one hand around Lexi’s throat. Lexi made a gurgling sound and began clawing at Penn’s hand. Lexi’s legs kicked aimlessly, unable to reach Penn.
With her free hand, Penn tore into Lexi’s stomach, going up underneath the rib cage to get to her heart. Lexi screamed louder and flailed even more, but it was to no avail. Penn pulled it out, holding up the small, black heart in front of Lexi, showing it to her.
Lexi gnashed her teeth and tried to push Penn off, so Penn tightened her grip around her throat. Lexi’s yellow eyes looked like they were going to bug out of her skull, and finally Penn tore through the flesh and bone. She ripped off Lexi’s head and let it fall, crashing down into the ocean below.
Gemma had hit the rocks first, snapping her back. The waves had crashed over, pulling her underneath before she had a chance to scream.
On land, she’d been giving in and was letting herself shift into the monster, and that became a problem once she hit the water. Her fingers had lengthened, and her feet had morphed into three-toed avian feet.
Not only did this make for horrible swimming, but the beginnings of transformation seemed to make it harder for her to change into a mermaid. She was frozen midshift, unable to become fish or fowl.
Her body wasn’t healing, either. Pain tore through her back, and she couldn’t feel her feet. But that wasn’t even the worst of her troubles. She couldn’t breathe, and the waves were pulling her out. She was drowning.
After she’d frantically clawed her way toward the surface, the salt water began to affect her. The flutter ran over her legs, and her clawed feet shifted into fins. Her lungs burned, but the pain in her back subsided. Her body was healing itself.
When Gemma was about to lose consciousness, air finally flooded her lungs as she could breathe underwater. Her tail pumped frantically behind her, and she burst through the surface of the water, breathing in deeply.
The waves had taken her a little ways from the cliff, and she swam toward it. When she reached the rocks that jutted out of the water, she found a large one and crawled onto it.
That was easier said than done. The rock was slick and wet, and the waves and rain kept beating against her, trying to push her down. Not to mention that her mermaid tail was like dead weight as she clawed her way up.
Gasping for breath, she sat perched until her tail shifted back into legs. She thanked her lucky stars that she’d worn a dress today, but she still had bigger problems.
It would take her too long to climb up the face of the cliff. Daniel was in trouble, and if she didn’t get up there fast, Lexi would have him for dinner. She closed her eyes and tried to will the transformation.
The problem was that any other time she had started to change, it had been because her life was threatened. It was something that happened by instinct. And while she cared about Daniel and wanted to save him, her body didn’t have quite the same reaction.
“Come on, just do it,” she whispered to herself, her hands balled into fists on her lap. “Just change, dammit.”
Then finally she began to feel something. Not in her eyes or fingers, which were usually the first things to alter. Her shoulders were itching, and then she felt a sharp sting. Unlike all her other changes, this was painful. The wings broke through her skin, and it actually felt as if bone and feather were tearing through her flesh. She had to bite her lip to keep from crying out.
Two massive copper wings spread out behind her. She turned her head from side to side and watched them beating in the rain. The rest of her transformation seemed to halt, and while she would’ve preferred becoming the full monster so it would be easier to fight Lexi, she’d settle for this.