“Penn!” Thea shouted from downstairs, and the front door slammed shut. It hadn’t even been a minute or two since Penn had destroyed her phone, and Daniel had no idea how Thea had gotten there so fast.
“Dammit, Thea!” Penn sat up and shouted back over her shoulder, her voice filled with a rage that seemed to echo inside Daniel’s head. “I will come down there, and rip your—”
“Save it, Penn,” Thea said. She’d reached the top of the stairs, so she was standing at the end of the loft and staring right at Penn straddling Daniel. “I know that I’m only supposed to interrupt if there’s an emergency—”
“No, I said don’t interrupt even if there is an emergency,” Penn corrected her.
“It doesn’t matter.” Thea was totally unruffled by the venom in Penn’s tone, and Daniel sat up so he could see around Penn better. That’s when he noticed that blood was splattered all over Thea’s shirt and face. “All hell is about to break loose downtown. I can’t deal with this myself. You need to come take care of it.”
Anthemusa Bay was far too crowded for a swim, but the watersong was calling to her, so Gemma settled for sitting on the beach. Night was falling, and she’d hoped that some of the people would clear out, but At Summer’s End had brought in far too many tourists for that.
Earlier, there had been a classic car show at Bayside Park, but that had been replaced by a local band playing covers of hits from the fifties. The sound of their crooning an old Elvis song wafted over the beach.
Gemma dug her feet into the sand, not daring to go any closer. The water lapped at the edge of her toes, enough where she could feel the slightest hint of a flutter but not enough to bring on a shift.
Stars shone brightly in the indigo sky, and Gemma lay back so she could stare up at them. Searching for the constellations that Alex had shown her, she almost wished she’d invited him down here with her.
But she’d wanted some time alone. Her head was buzzing from the watersong, and she needed to ease it. Her failed attempts at breaking the curse had left her crestfallen, and her hunger pangs were only growing stronger.
She needed to do something if she wanted to keep from going mad, but it appeared that it would be very late before she’d be able to sneak off for a night swim without the risk of being spotted.
Her eyes automatically shifted in the fading light, and she could see clearly in the night sky. The ocean breeze went over her, soothing her headache some, and she watched as bats took flight from the nearby cypress trees.
As she was staring up, she saw a huge bird taking flight. She turned her head, watching as it flew toward the cliff at the other side of the bay, and quickly realized that it wasn’t a bird. The crimson wings were far too large for any bird in Maryland, and, more telling, she saw human legs.
Thea had taken off from Bayside Park.
Gemma sat up and looked over toward the park to see if anyone was reacting, but she couldn’t hear anything other than “Heartbreak Hotel.” People might not have noticed Thea—either because she’d somehow been discreet since humans didn’t have the night vision that Gemma had, or she’d used her siren song as camouflage—but that was still a big risk for her to take.
Penn and Liv might not care as much about attracting attention, but Thea always did her best to avoid it.
Her heart thudded in her chest, and Gemma began to fear that something was wrong. Thea had flown toward the cliff, but once she’d reached the heavily wooded area around the sirens’ house, Gemma had lost sight of her.
It was only a few minutes longer that she had to worry, because then her phone started belting out an old Heart song—Thea’s ringtone.
Gemma answered the phone. “Is something going on?”
Thea waited a beat before speaking. “Yeah. How did you know?”
“I saw you flying overhead,” she replied as she got to her feet. “What’s wrong?”
“Meet me behind the band shell at Bayside Park.”
“Why? What happened?”
“Just do it, okay?” Thea said, then hung up without waiting for a reply.
Gemma shoved her phone back in her pocket and jogged toward the park. It wasn’t that far away, but she kept glancing up to see if Thea or Penn was flying above her, which slowed her down.
The closer she got to the park, the denser the crowd became, and Gemma soon found it impossible to jog because she had to weave through the people. They normally parted for her, thanks to her siren beauty, but everyone seemed too entranced by the band onstage to notice her, and she actually had to push people out of the way.
Gemma wondered if that’s how Thea had flown away without being spotted—she used her siren song to get the crowd to focus completely on the band; so they wouldn’t notice Thea’s transition or any of the trouble going on around them.
The band shell was a concrete bandstand shaped like a seashell, so the music would project better. It was on the other side of the park from where Gemma had been, closer to where her father worked and Daniel used to dock his boat.
Behind the band shell was a thick cluster of cypress and maples, and it went down a rather steep hill before becoming the smooth trail that led to the docks.
Once she reached it, Gemma looked around, spinning in a slow circle to be sure she hadn’t missed anything, but she couldn’t see the sirens anywhere. She wasn’t even sure if Thea could get here so fast, but Gemma headed behind the stage, like she was told.
Large speakers were set up at the sides of the band shell, and Gemma ducked around them. She pushed through a prickly bush and was beginning to think that Thea had been tricking her for some reason when she finally rounded the back of the stage.
The problem was immediately obvious. There was so much blood. Splattered against the smooth, white concrete of the back of the shell and soaking the grass all around. The leaves on the trees were even stained dark red, and parts of human intestines dangled from a branch.
Worse than walking into a bloodbath like this was Gemma’s reaction to it. Instead of wanting to throw up the way she should have, her stomach growled impatiently, and she had to fight to keep her fangs in check.
It only got messier the closer she stepped toward the victim. He’d been completely eviscerated, torn open from his throat down to his groin. Most of his organs had been ripped out, and while some had certainly been eaten, parts of his liver and lungs had been left in chunks that littered the ground.