“Is he bothering you?” the bartender asked, leaning over the bar and glaring at Jason.
“We’re just having a little fun, that’s all.” Jason laughed and moved away from Gemma, trying to look more innocent than he actually was.
“Is he bothering you?” the bartender repeated, and this time his eyes were fixed on Gemma.
Out of the corner of her eye, Gemma had seen the bartender hovering around her, sometimes ignoring the other patrons. Now at the other end of the bar a young man kept leering at her, much to the annoyance of his date. And Jason was next to her, stealthily trying to put his hand on her thigh under the bar.
Gemma had hoped to sit quietly, eat her meal in peace, and think about what she should do. But this was obviously not the place to do it. It was too busy, and she was drawing too much attention.
“You know what? I think I should just go,” Gemma said. Jason pouted, and she ignored him and jerked her leg away from his hand.
“You haven’t even finished your Cherry Coke,” the bartender said. “And if he’s bothering you, I can have him thrown out.”
“Oh, come on!” Jason protested, and threw his arms up in the air. “I wasn’t bothering anybody! We was just talking!”
“You’re always harassing ladies,” the bartender insisted, glaring at Jason. “We should have you banned from here.”
“How much do I owe you?” Gemma asked, interrupting their argument.
“Nothing.” The bartender smiled at her.
“I can get your drink,” Jason hurried to supply.
“I got it,” she snapped. “How much is it?”
“There’s no charge,” the bartender said, softening. “You didn’t drink any, anyway.”
She wanted to argue with him, but she wanted to get out of there even more.
“Thank you,” she said simply, and slipped off the stool.
Gemma hurried out of the restaurant. She wanted to jog, but she forced herself to keep her pace to a normal speed. Her stomach rumbled, and she knew she’d have to find someplace else to eat. It was nearly dark now, and she didn’t know the town, so she wanted to hurry.
She’d nearly made it around the corner when she heard footsteps pounding behind her, and she looked back over her shoulder to see Jason running to catch up to her.
“You sure took off like a flash.” Jason grinned as he fell in step next to her. “Sorry if I said something to offend you in there.”
“No, you were fine,” she lied, and shook her head. “I just didn’t realize how late it was. I have to be getting home.”
“You haven’t eaten anything yet,” Jason reminded her. “Let me take you out somewhere. I’ll find you something real special.”
“No, I’m all right,” Gemma insisted. She turned down the alley that led to the lot where she’d parked her car, and Jason stayed at her side.
“Please, Gemma,” he entreated. “I was a jerk inside. Come back in. Get something to eat with me. Let me make it up to you.”
She softened a bit and slowed down, but she still didn’t want to go back in there or eat with some stranger. Really, she just wanted to get out of there.
“Sorry.” She smiled up at him. “I’m not hungry anymore. I should go.”
“Wait.” He grabbed her arm when she started walking away, and while his grip wasn’t exactly painful, she didn’t like it. “If you’re not hungry, there’s plenty of things we could do.”
“I need to go home.” She tried to pull her arm away, but he hung on tighter.
“I know I’m older, and that scares you, but that’s no reason to be shy.” He smiled at her, but there was something menacing in the smile that made her recoil.
Thanks to her siren strength, she could overpower him, but just then he caught her off guard. He pushed her back against the brick wall of a building, putting an arm on either side of her and pinning her there with his body.
“Move,” Gemma insisted. “Jason. Please. Move.”
Just because she could overpower him didn’t mean she wanted to. It would be easier and create much less of a scene if he just stepped away on his own. Not that there was anyone there to watch the scene. The alley was deserted.
“Move?” He laughed darkly. “Honey, I’ll show you some moves.”
He rubbed his body up against hers, and something flared inside her. It wasn’t the lust she’d felt before, not like back at the house with Sawyer. At first it reminded her of when she went swimming, when the ocean hit her flesh and her body began to transform. It was that same kind of tingle running through her.
But instead of feeling the tingle in her legs, she felt it in her arms, and her mouth. Her lips trembled, and her vision changed. She couldn’t explain it exactly, but it was almost as if her eyes shifted and her pupils dilated, so she could see better in the dark.
Jason had been rubbing himself on her and trying to kiss her neck, his mouth moving gruffly against her flesh as with one hand he clumsily pawed at her chest. He looked up, maybe to see if Gemma was enjoying this as much as he was, and his eyes widened.
“What the fuck…?” he muttered, and those were the last words Gemma heard him say.
“I did something bad,” Gemma said, her voice quavering as she spoke. “Something really, really bad.”
She stood in the foyer of Sawyer’s house, her arms covered in blood up to her elbows. Most of it had dried on the drive home, but some of it still dripped wet on the white marble floors. Her clothes were splattered red, and her mouth was filled with a sweet metallic taste that was somehow both delicious and nauseating.
When she’d parked the car haphazardly on Sawyer’s front lawn after a frantic drive home, she’d caught a glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror. The entire bottom half of her mouth was covered in blood, except for the lines that were clean from her tears. She’d been sobbing so hard as she drove, it was amazing that she’d been able to see where she was going, let alone remember how to get there.
The commotion of her car skidding through the front yard had drawn everyone to see what was up. Sawyer was already in the foyer when Gemma entered the house, and Lexi and Thea arrived shortly after.
“Are you okay?” Sawyer rushed over to her, inspecting her for wounds. His concern made sense, since she was covered in blood, but none of it was her own. Still, she was in such a state of shock, she let Sawyer touch her and look her over.