Marcy wiped at her eyes and nodded but said nothing.
“Are you okay?” Alex had been standing beside Marcy, and he reached out to touch Gemma’s cracked wing. It hurt like hell, but it still moved, so she didn’t think it was completely broken.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” She brushed off his concern. “I’m gonna go to help Harper. You two should go back to town.”
“Are you kidding me? After what that asshole did to Kirby and Lucinda?” Marcy asked indignantly. “I’m gonna help Thea kill her.”
“Stay safe, and stay out of the way,” Gemma said, since she didn’t have time to argue with her. Nor did she really have any right to. If Liv had hurt Alex like that, she wouldn’t have left until she’d finished her off.
“I’ll make sure Marcy doesn’t get herself killed,” Alex said. “And you stay safe, too.”
“Promise you won’t follow me again.” She put her hand on his chest and looked up at him. “I couldn’t stand if something happened to you like that.”
Gemma kissed him, and he wrapped his arms around her, mindful of her wings. The crunch of the trees, and Liv’s squawking in anger broke the moment, and she stepped away from Alex.
She gave him one last longing look, then she ran up the hill, pumping her damaged wings until they finally got enough air to take flight. It hurt, but since flying would be much faster than running all the way to the top, she’d grit her teeth and make them work.
Harper stood taller and stepped away from the railing, refusing to let Penn know how scared she felt. When Penn stopped in front of her, smiling her toothy grin, Harper dropped down. She leaned back, using the railing as support, and kicked Penn’s legs out from under her.
As Penn fell backward, Harper grabbed her hair, and, yanking with all her might, she pulled her toward the railing. Penn grabbed the edge, stopping herself just before she went over, so Harper grabbed her legs and flipped her upward.
Penn yelled as she fell over the balcony, but Harper didn’t stay to see her land. She knew she’d be up in a matter of seconds, so she bolted across the room to the bathroom door.
“Harper? What’s happening?” Daniel asked.
“I’m gonna get you out of here, Daniel,” she promised, but when she pulled at the twisted fire poker, it wouldn’t budge. Not even slightly.
“Don’t worry about me. Just get out of here!”
“You should’ve listened to your boyfriend,” Penn said, and her voice came from right behind Harper.
Before Harper even had a chance to turn around, she felt Penn’s hand in her hair, yanking her backward, and, reflexively, she yelped.
“Penn! Don’t hurt her! Dammit, Penn! Leave her alone!”
Penn didn’t listen, though. She picked Harper up by her hair and threw her over the balcony. Harper screamed as she fell, but she didn’t remember landing. For a moment, she blacked out, and the next thing she knew, she was lying on top of a smashed wooden coffee table, and pain was shooting through her entire body.
When she opened her eyes, Penn was floating down from the balcony, her black wings flapping slowly. Harper tried to move, but everything hurt so badly. Even just stretching out hurt her arm, but then her fingertips brushed up against the sharp, spiked end of a broken table leg.
“You have been one awful thorn in my side. I have dealt with you and your sister’s crap for far too long. But the one thing that kept me going is that I knew when the day came, when I could finally get rid of you, I would make you suffer.” Penn dropped to the ground next to her and crouched over her. “And today is that day.”
“You first,” Harper said.
With Penn’s focus on taunting Harper, she didn’t notice when Harper grabbed the table leg. She didn’t even see it at all, not until Harper stabbed it right in her stomach, staking her all the way through.
Penn squawked in pain, and her wings flapped wildly as she staggered backward. Harper scrambled to her feet, the adrenaline pushing her through the pain, and she ran to the adjoining kitchen.
“Oh, you bitch,” Penn growled, ripping the wood from her stomach and tossing it aside.
Harper pulled open the drawers and cabinets, frantically looking for anything to defend herself with. They had a hundred wineglasses, but she wasn’t finding a single knife. She pulled a drawer completely out, sending spoons and forks flying all over the floor, but found nothing sharper than a butter knife.
“I normally don’t eat girls’ hearts,” Penn began, her voice shifting from its usual silken tone to something positively monstrous. “But I am so excited to make an exception with you.”
Harper looked up from her search to see that Penn had totally transformed into the monster. She was at least a foot taller, standing on long, gray bird legs. Her arms extended several feet, with hooked talons at the ends of her extended fingers.
The negligee pulled grotesquely over her elongated corpse, taut against her protruding ribs and spine. Her cranium had grown to accommodate her larger bird eyes and rows of teeth, so her black hair had thinned into wisps.
As Penn walked closer, Harper finally found a shiny butcher knife, and she grabbed it, holding it up just as Penn reached her. She wanted to stab her, but before she even had a chance, Penn knocked the knife from her hand, and it clattered to the floor.
Then Penn leaned forward, her serpentine tongue flitting through her teeth. “Run.”
So Harper did. She didn’t know how to fight her, not like that, so she ran as fast as she could, her bare feet slipping on the tile.
She’d been going toward the back door, though she didn’t know what she would do if she made it through, but then she felt Penn’s claws tearing against the tender flesh of her back.
As Penn lifted her, Harper heard the fabric of her dress tearing and hoped that it gave way soon. Penn turned her around, so Harper was facing her. She flicked her tongue out again, almost as if she was trying to taste her, so Harper kicked her in the face, her toes scraping painfully against Penn’s teeth.
“Get away from my sister, you bitch!” Gemma shouted.
Penn craned her almost ostrichlike neck around to look toward the front of the house, and Harper peered around Penn’s massive wings to see Gemma standing in the doorway.
Her copper wings were spread wide, but they looked tattered. But then as Gemma began to shift from girl to monster right in front of Harper’s eyes, the wings began to fix themselves, the torn feathers replaced with glossy new ones.