“So how did it feel?” Penn asked, resting her hand on her chin as she flipped a page.
Gemma swallowed the bite of apple in her mouth before answering her. “What?”
“Taking a human life.” Penn kept her head tilted down, as if she were still examining the beach bodies, but she lifted her eyes to meet Gemma’s. Penn’s were black as usual, but they were dancing at the thought of murder.
Gemma forced herself to take another bite, even though she felt nauseated at the talk of murder, and she refused to answer Penn’s question.
“You really are one of us now,” Penn went on, smiling as she spoke. “You’re a monster now. Just like me and Lexi and Thea. You’ve had a taste of the human heart, and you won’t be able to stop yourself.”
“I’ll never be like you.” Gemma shook her head and stared down at the apple in her hands. “I made a mistake last night, but I’ll never let myself be out of control like that again. I’ll never be a monster.”
Penn laughed. “You said you’d never kill anyone in the first place. These little moral compromises you keep making with yourself. You’ll find that eventually morality will mean nothing to you. We chose you for a reason.”
“You chose me because you were running out of options,” Gemma pointed out. “Thea told me that I was your last chance.”
“You were my first choice, though,” Penn said, but her smile had faltered. “Do you know why I wanted you?”
Gemma toyed with the fruit in her hands, not wanting to admit to Penn that she didn’t really know, and she actually wanted to.
“I saw the evil in you,” Penn said.
“That’s not true.” Gemma shook her head. “I’m not … There’s no evil in me. Or at least there wasn’t before I became a siren.”
“Whatever you say.” Penn threw up her hands as if it were of no concern to her. “You’re not evil. You killed that man last night out of the goodness of your heart.”
Gemma tossed the half-eaten apple in the garbage can. “I’m not hungry.”
“Oh, hey, Gemma,” Penn said as Gemma was about to leave the kitchen. She paused in the doorway and glanced back over her shoulder at Penn. “I heard about your little rendezvous with Sawyer yesterday.”
When Gemma didn’t say anything, Penn turned to look back at her.
“He told me,” Penn explained, as if Gemma had asked how she had found out. “He has no secrets from me. He can’t have secrets.”
“That’s the basis for a really healthy relationship,” Gemma said dryly.
“He’s an attractive guy, isn’t he?” Penn went on as if Gemma hadn’t said anything. “He’s downright gorgeous. He’d have to be, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t have cheated on your beloved Alex.”
Gemma chewed the inside of her cheek and looked away from Penn. “Yep. He’s a very foxy guy. You’re one lucky lady, Penn.”
“You know luck has nothing to do with it,” Penn said, and slipped off the stool. “I make my own luck. I create my own destiny.”
She walked over to Gemma and stood right in front of her, but Gemma refused to look at her. She just stared down at Penn’s pedicured toes.
“If you ever want to join Sawyer and me, I understand,” Penn said, her voice turning low and sultry. “As a siren, you have all sorts of new urges, and they’re hard to contain. Sawyer would be happy to show you how to handle them, as long as I’m there to guide you.”
“What?” Gemma wrinkled her nose in disgust when she realized what Penn was talking about. “That’s a really weird offer, and also gross. Seriously. Ew, no.”
“You’re a prude now, and I don’t care,” Penn said, waving it off. “But the point is that if you ever touch Sawyer again when I’m not around, I’ll rip off your filthy little hands.”
Gemma looked up at her then, and saw that, though Penn had kept her tone sexy and almost cheerful, her eyes had shifted. They were no longer her usual black eyes but the odd yellow eyes of an eagle.
“You can’t have what isn’t yours,” Penn said, and Gemma could hear the monster under her words, the beast inside her growling. “Don’t touch things without my permission.”
Before, Gemma would’ve been afraid of this, and part of her knew she should be intimidated by Penn. She’d killed her own sister, so she would obviously think nothing of tearing off Gemma’s head. But Gemma didn’t care anymore. If she was going to live with Penn forever, she wasn’t going to kowtow to her. She’d rather end up dead than as Penn’s slave.
“Sawyer’s not yours, and he’s not a thing,” Gemma said. “Just because you have a spell over him doesn’t mean he’s not still a human being with feelings and thoughts of his own. You just won’t let him use them.”
Gemma had expected Penn to yell at her, but instead Penn threw back her head and laughed. When she’d finished, her eyes had gone back to normal.
“Oh, Gemma, that just shows how little you know about humans.” Penn turned back and walked toward the kitchen island, still giggling to herself.
They’d picked up Alex on their way out of town, not just because he would kill Harper if she went after Gemma without him, but because he might be useful.
Harper called her dad, leaving a message on his cell phone letting him know that she wouldn’t be home that night. She thought about telling him that she was going after Gemma, but if Harper wasn’t successful in finding her, that would only break Brian’s heart more.
They took Harper’s car on the road trip because Daniel didn’t have one and Alex’s car was so small. He sat in the backseat while Harper drove, and Daniel gave him the newspaper to read.
Both Alex and Harper couldn’t believe that they’d missed the article in the first place. Alex especially had been scouring the Internet for clues on Gemma, but he’d gotten bogged down with pointless e-mails. He felt obligated to follow every “lead” he got, but they all led nowhere.
Harper had probably missed it because she’d been out of sorts. After she’d woken up from that dream about Daniel that ended with Gemma saying, “Wake up,” she hadn’t been able to get into any kind of routine. Everything felt off, and she hadn’t done her usual search on the computer for the sirens.