Kirby walked over and joined their group, “I suppose a congratulations is in order.”
“Oh, uh, hey, Kirby.” Marcy wiped her mouth with the back of her arm, which was a wise decision since she had a clam-chowder smile. “I didn’t know you were watching that. But … yes, thank you for your congratulations. I won. And, um, I’m awesome.”
“Yeah, I’ve noticed.” Kirby smiled at her.
“I think I’m going to try the food at a normal human speed,” Gemma said, and looked up at Alex. “Would you care to join me?”
“I’d love to.” Alex squeezed her hand, and they walked over to the first station.
“They seem to be having some kind of moment,” Daniel said as he joined Gemma and Alex. She looked back over her shoulder, and saw Marcy actually smiling at something Kirby was saying to her. “Mind if I tag along with you?”
The samples they were giving out were in little plastic bowls not much bigger than a Dixie cup. The point was to be able to taste them and judge them, not get full of them, and not many people really wanted to fill up on warm chowder on a nice summer day.
Gemma had taken her first bowl, but she hadn’t even gotten to try it when she heard the sound of Liv’s laughter. It was light and lyrical, but it sent the same shivers down her spine that her song had. The hair on the back of Gemma’s neck even stood up.
“Oh, what fresh hell is that?” Daniel asked, looking around for the source of the laughter.
In fact, everyone was looking toward it. A siren’s laughter wasn’t usually that powerful, but Liv was purposely manipulating it, adding a musical edge to it. And she was doing it in the middle of a crowded park, where there were people all around she could control.
“That’s Liv,” Gemma said. She set her sample down on the table and stepped away, craning her neck so she could see what was going on.
“Hey.” Alex took her hand, and she glanced back at him. “If you’re about to get into something, I’m going, too.”
She smiled at him and held his hand as they walked. If they were going to be together, and he wanted to be a part of her life, then she had to let him actually be a part of it, even the dark, scary parts. She’d protect him when she could, but he was her boyfriend, and she had to trust him to be at her side.
Penn and Thea were easier to find. They were right outside the cook-off. Thea was looking bored and picking her fingernails, apparently unperturbed by Liv, who laughed again, only louder this time.
Right next to Thea was Penn, who for some reason was getting her face painted. She was sitting on the face painter’s lap, of course, with her arm around his neck and her chest pressed up against him as he painted sparkly waves along her cheeks.
“I just can’t believe you’d want to be with trash like that,” Liv was saying, and her sweet voice had a razor edge.
Gemma stepped out of the pavilion, with Alex right beside her, and she finally spotted Liv. The crowd had made a small circle around her. People were still walking and moving, but they couldn’t help but leer when they got within listening distance of Liv.
Between shoulders and heads, Gemma was able to see Liv staring down at Aiden Crawford and some poor blond girl next to him. His arm loosely encircled the girl’s waist, which apparently did not please Liv at all.
“I’m not really with her,” Aiden said. His words were nearly lost in the noise, and Gemma strained to hear him. Then he stepped away from his date and moved toward Liv.
“You think you can just come crawling back to me?” Liv asked. “You’ll have to do better than that.”
“I’ll do whatever you want. Anything. I swear,” Aiden pleaded, his eyes glazed over.
“Okay. You I can work with.” Liv laughed again, and Gemma wanted to put her hands over her ears to block out the sound. “But something must be done about that girl.”
“Me?” Aiden’s former date asked, staring up at Liv with wide, confused eyes. “I didn’t do anything.”
Liv stepped past Aiden, pushing him aside, and stopped directly in front of her. Liv wasn’t much taller than the girl, but she seemed to tower over her.
“You think you can just take what is mine?” Liv asked, and Gemma heard the subtle change in her voice.
Humans might not be able to perceive it, but Gemma knew what to listen for. An almost inaudible growling sound, a slight demonic warp to the vowels. That was the monster inside Liv talking.
“What’s going on?” Daniel asked, coming up beside Gemma to watch the show.
“I don’t know exactly, but it can’t be good,” Gemma said.
Then Liv’s lip began to twitch. Her fangs were either about to come out, or they were already starting to.
“Shit, she’s gonna change,” Gemma whispered.
Alex was right beside her, and stupidly, she hadn’t thought to bring any earplugs, so she didn’t want him anywhere near the sirens. Marcy and Kirby were standing just behind her, both of them staring ahead at Liv, Aiden, and the girl.
“Alex, cover your ears,” Gemma commanded. Alex looked like he wanted to argue with her, and she shook her head. “You can’t help me if Liv gets to you, so please, just cover your ears.” She turned to her friends. “Marcy, Kirby, get back in the pavilion.”
She glanced up at Daniel, but she didn’t know what she wanted him to do. His immunity to the song might make him valuable, but he wasn’t immortal. She didn’t want him getting hurt again.
So, without saying a word to him, she left and jogged over to where Penn was still getting her face painted, oblivious or indifferent to the commotion that Liv was causing.
“Penn,” Gemma hissed. “You need to do something about Liv.”
Penn didn’t even bat an eyelash. “She’s just having a little—”
“She’s going to rip off that girl’s head in like two seconds,” Gemma said, and looked imploringly at Thea. “Someone needs to get a handle on her.”
Thea sighed, but she walked off in Liv’s direction. Gemma stayed near Penn because she didn’t think Thea would have that much of an effect on Liv. She wasn’t completely sure that Liv would listen to Penn either, but Penn wouldn’t tolerate insolence.
“There’s nothing here to see, people,” Thea said, shooing away the crowd as she walked over to take care of Liv. It seemed to be working, too, and now Penn and Gemma had a clear view.