“Gemma!” Alex shouted from behind her, and she turned to see him running down the embankment toward the docks. He must’ve seen her struggling with Sawyer, so he was charging at them.
The sky above them suddenly exploded in bright red and blue lights as the fireworks began. The booming sound of them seemed to startle Sawyer for a second, but his grip on her never wavered.
“Please, Sawyer, you need to let me go!” Gemma shouted at him, but he ignored her.
“Let her go!” Alex yelled, appearing at her side.
“I can’t,” Sawyer insisted, his words barely audible over the crackle of fireworks.
That was all Alex needed to hear. He hauled off and punched Sawyer, hitting him so hard in the face that Sawyer let go of Gemma and fell backward to the dock.
“Thank you,” Gemma said, unsure how else to respond as she watched Sawyer hold his bleeding lip.
“What?” Alex turned toward her. Between his earplugs and the fireworks, he must not have been able to hear anything.
She kissed him once quickly on the mouth, since she knew he could understand that. But she didn’t have any time for more, even though, honestly, she thought it was pretty hot the way Alex had just come over and hit Sawyer.
But she did feel bad for Sawyer. She wanted to run off with Alex and find Harper, but she paused and turned back to Sawyer.
“Go,” Sawyer said. He sat up and wiped the blood off his lip with his arm. “Get out of here before the sirens find you.”
“What?” Gemma stepped back, surprised to hear him thinking for himself.
“The sirens will be here soon,” Sawyer said. “They knew I had you.”
“Wait. Are you you?” Gemma asked. “Can you think for yourself?”
“I think so.” He stood up slowly and rubbed his head.
“What’s going on?” Alex asked, but Gemma held up her hand to silence him. She couldn’t explain now, when he couldn’t hear.
Besides, Gemma didn’t know how to explain this anyway. Something about Alex hitting Sawyer must’ve cleared his head, but Gemma wasn’t sure if it was temporary or not. But his eyes had lost their glassy quality, looking a clear, brilliant blue.
“I can’t remember the last few days very well, but I know…” Sawyer furrowed his brow. “I don’t want to listen to the sirens anymore.”
“Then come with us.” Gemma beckoned him. “You don’t need to stay with them. You can escape with me.”
“No, if I leave…” Sawyer shook his head, his smooth features looking pained. “Penn will kill me. I can’t ever get away from her.”
“She’ll kill you if you stay,” Gemma warned him. “You need to leave with us, right now. We’re going to find my sister, and we’ll find a way to break free from the sirens. But you have to come with us.”
Gemma held out her hand to his, meaning to grab it so she could drag him along with her. She didn’t really have time to stand here and argue with him anymore, but she wanted to help him. Taking him with her would really piss off Penn, but he knew Penn better than Gemma. He might know some of her weaknesses and could help fight against her.
Sawyer reached out and just about took her hand, when Lexi surfaced in the water nearby. Her golden hair shimmered under the sparkling lights of the fireworks above them, and she pulled herself out of the water in one graceful move.
“That can’t be good,” Alex said.
Her sundress clung to her body as she walked up behind Sawyer, and he dropped his outstretched arm back to his side.
“You weren’t thinking about leaving us, were you, Sawyer?” Lexi asked, her voice flirty and playful.
“No, of course not,” Sawyer said. She was still behind him, rubbing up against his back, and he turned to Gemma, mouthing the word Go.
“Lexi, where’s Penn?” Gemma asked, trying to distract her. Gemma still hoped to get Sawyer away from the sirens, but she had to do it before Lexi put a spell on him again.
“Around,” Lexi replied absently. She rested her chin on his shoulder and whispered in Sawyer’s ear, “You’d never leave us, would you?”
“No, I’d never leave you,” Sawyer said, but he stammered a bit. He was still thinking for himself. Even though Lexi was whispering to him, she wasn’t enchanting him.
“I know you wouldn’t.” Lexi smiled. “Do you know how I know?”
Sawyer shook his head. “No. I don’t.”
“Because your heart belongs to us.” Lexi smiled wider at that.
Then her hand burst through his chest.
She was standing behind him, and her human hand had shifted into the awful monster hand, the long, powerful fingers with curved talons at the end. It had torn through Sawyer’s chest easily, spraying a bit of blood as it did, and she now cradled his heart in her hand.
Penn lay on the ground, a small stream of blood running from her nose, and blinked up at the trees above her. The fireworks had just begun, and the light glimmered through the leaves.
“I normally don’t justify hitting girls, but if you’re going to try and kill me and my girlfriend, then I’m gonna hit you,” Daniel said as he stood over her. “I’ll do whatever it takes.”
Harper stood behind Daniel, and she couldn’t shake the confusion from her mind. She wanted to go up and touch him, but she felt frozen in place, and had no idea what she should be doing.
“Daniel,” Penn tried singing, her silky voice causing a warm euphoria to spread out over Harper, and she smiled to herself. “Daniel, you will help me.”
“Why are you singing?” Daniel asked. “You’re just lying in the dirt and singing. That’s weird. I thought you were supposed to be some kind of scary monster.”
“Why aren’t you doing what I say?” Penn sat up, propping herself on her elbows. “Are the fireworks drowning out the song?” Then she glanced over at Harper. “No, she’s over there smiling like an idiot, so it’s working. What’s wrong with you?”
“There’s nothing wrong with me, but I don’t have time to argue about this.” Daniel grabbed Harper’s arm and attempted to drag her back the way they had come, but she wouldn’t move. “Harper, let’s go.”
“No, I can’t go.” She shook her head. “I have to stay here for … for…” She stared up at the lights flashing through the trees. “Fireworks.”