“Or what?” Penn smirked. “What are you going to do?”
“Harper, let’s just go back the way we came,” Daniel suggested.
Penn’s eyes flashed when she heard Daniel speak, and she tilted her head toward him. Harper let go of his hand and moved in front of him, standing between him and Penn.
“I don’t know what I’ll do,” Harper admitted. “But we won’t let you go after my sister.”
She glanced back at him, checking to make sure it was okay she’d said “we.” Daniel had repeatedly told her he wanted to help her, and he had in the past. So Harper had decided to include him, instead of sending him away the way she normally would. If he was going to be her boyfriend, then they should be equals standing up against the enemy together.
“No, we won’t,” Daniel agreed, and stepped forward so he stood next to Harper, both of them staring Penn down. “We’re not going anywhere.”
“Look at the two of you.” Penn laughed. “You really think you have a say in anything that’s going to happen?” She stepped closer to them, smiling wider. “You’ll let me do whatever I want.”
Penn began to sing, low and soft, so as not to enchant all the people crowded around the bay. But the song was just as tempting as the last time Harper had heard the sirens sing.
Her panic melted away, and her whole body relaxed. A haze filled her mind, and she couldn’t remember why she’d been so worried. She knew she had been, but Penn was so beautiful, and the song was so wonderful. Harper wanted nothing more than to stand there and listen to Penn sing for all eternity.
“Harper, you’re going to do whatever I say,” Penn said in her lyrical way.
Harper nodded dazedly and said, “Okay.”
“Harper?” Daniel said, but she didn’t respond. She just stared dreamily at Penn.
“As for you…” Penn turned her attention to Daniel.
“She might do whatever you say,” Daniel allowed. “But I sure as hell won’t.”
Penn’s eyes widened when Daniel talked back to her; her eyes were like those of an animal surprised to be caught in a snare. She opened her mouth to command Daniel to do something, but then he punched her.
Sawyer had one arm around Gemma’s waist as he pulled her away from the crowd and toward the docks. Her legs flailed wildly, and she knocked off one of her flip-flops. His hand was pressed so tightly against her mouth that she could hardly breathe, and she clawed viciously at his arm.
As strong as she was, Gemma felt powerless against him. His arms were like granite around her, and he dragged her away with the singular determination of a man on a mission. The sirens had told him to get Gemma, and he wouldn’t be able to stop until he fulfilled their orders.
That explained his insane strength. When under the spell of a siren, Sawyer could tap into every ounce of strength to carry out their bidding. He could act like an uncontrollable speed freak if he needed to.
He was pulling Gemma down an embankment, toward the docks where her father worked. The docks would be deserted right now, and there Sawyer and the sirens could do whatever they wanted with Gemma. Or Alex, if they found him.
As a new panic took over, Gemma felt a change slowly wash over her. It reminded her of the familiar transformation when her legs shifted into a tail, but this was different. Her vision changed first. At first it blurred, then the night became clearer than it ever had before.
Her mouth trembled and tingled, like her teeth were beginning to itch. Her hands felt like they were stretching out, and the fingernails she’d been scratching Sawyer’s arms with were turning into full-on talons.
She was turning into a bird-monster, and she couldn’t let it happen. The last time she had, she hadn’t been able to control it. She couldn’t even remember what she’d done, but somebody had ended up dead. She couldn’t risk it this time.
And even though Sawyer was basically kidnapping her, she didn’t want to hurt him. Not really. He couldn’t control what he was doing, and in the few moments of clarity he’d had around her, he’d been a nice guy. He didn’t deserve to get hurt, and she didn’t want to tear him apart.
Gemma closed her eyes, concentrating as hard as she could to stop the change. She’d never tried to prevent herself from shifting into a mermaid before, or vice versa, so she didn’t completely understand how it worked.
One thing she knew for sure was that she had to get away from Sawyer. He’d gotten her down to an isolated dock, and her fear of being trapped was triggering the transformation. The siren part of her was instinctively trying to protect her by turning into a monster.
Using her talons, she clawed more forcefully at his arm, and finally his grip slipped and Gemma pulled away from him. They were on the docks, and she only ran a few steps down from him. She was in mid-transformation and had no idea what she looked like, but she knew she couldn’t be seen by the public.
She crouched down, putting her hands over her head, and concentrated as hard as she could. Her back had begun to itch, and she was afraid wings might unfurl from it. But then the itching stopped, and slowly the tingling began to fade as her body went back to normal.
“What are you doing?” Sawyer asked, and Gemma lifted her head to see him standing beside her, looking down at her. His arms were scratched up from her fighting him off, but none of his wounds looked particularly awful.
“I’m trying not to kill you,” Gemma admitted, and stood up. “So I suggest you let me go.”
“I can’t let you go,” Sawyer said, like it hadn’t even occurred to him. “We have to wait at the docks until the sirens come.”
“Listen to me, Sawyer,” Gemma said. “If you try to stop me from leaving, I will hurt you. I don’t want to, but I will. Just let me go, and everything will be okay.”
“No, Gemma, you can’t go.” His eyes were glassy, but his voice was firm. He grabbed Gemma’s wrist with the same iron grip he’d had before. “You must wait here until Penn tells me otherwise. I can’t let you go.”
“Sawyer, please,” Gemma begged him. “You’re enchanted right now, but you just need to clear your head and remember that you don’t have to do everything the sirens say. You don’t even like them that much.”
She started pulling her wrist, trying to get away from him, but Sawyer wouldn’t let go. The damn sirens had him trained too well, and her only hope of escape might be turning into a monster.