“Oh, but you did.” Penn smiled. “You sang to him, calling him. Thanks to that, he’s more susceptible to our charms. It’ll be harder for him to resist our commands.”
“It’s our song,” Lexi explained. She stayed next to Alex, his arms around her as he stared adoringly at her, but so far she’d avoided all of his attempts at kissing her. “We put men in a trance, make them follow our every order and lust after us. It works a little on women, too, but it’s not nearly as powerful.”
Gemma wanted to argue that she’d never sung to him, she’d never tried to put a spell on him, but then she remembered. Right after they’d turned her into a siren, she’d been singing in the shower. Alex came over, and that was the day they’d had the intense make-out session that neither of them could explain.
“This really is all my fault,” Gemma whispered.
“It’s all right,” Lexi said, her voice sounding too cheery for the situation. “We all make mistakes. But we can learn from them.”
“Lexi makes an excellent point.” Penn walked over to Gemma, stopping right in front her. Thea still held her back, but Gemma had stopped fighting. “And you’re going to learn a lesson tonight whether you like it or not.”
“You don’t have to do this,” Gemma said. “Penn, please don’t do this.”
“Lexi, let’s see what we’re working with,” Penn commanded, but she kept her eyes on Gemma.
Lexi slid down low, keeping her body as close to Alex’s as she could without touching him. She grabbed the bottom of his wet T-shirt, and in one smooth move she pulled it up over his head, leaving Alex half naked in the center of the room.
“That’s better.” Lexi smiled at him and admired his shirtless torso. “He’s pretty cute, Gemma. You have good taste.”
“What are you doing?” Gemma asked. “Why are you doing this to him?”
“You think he loves you?” Penn asked. “He doesn’t love you. He’s about ready to pounce on Lexi there and have his way with her.” She glanced back at him. “Aren’t you, Alex?”
“She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Alex said, his voice flat and faraway. Lexi took a step back from him, and he tried to follow her. She held her hand up, keeping him at bay.
“She has a spell on him!” Gemma insisted. “He can’t control his actions. He would never act like that.”
“But if he really loved you, it would overpower the spell.” Penn kept her eyes on Gemma, but motioned to where Lexi and Alex stood. “He would see he loves you. But he doesn’t. He can’t. He won’t.” She stepped even closer to Gemma, nearly speaking into her ear. “Mortals are incapable of love.”
In front of her, she could see Alex using all his restraint to keep from running to Lexi. She stood a few feet from him, tempting in a way that was driving him mad.
Gemma’s stomach twisted, but not with jealousy. The spell that Lexi had over him was making him do this, and that spell had to be hurting him, too.
“Fine, you’ve made your point.” Gemma squirmed against Thea’s arms, trying to pull away from her. “He can’t love me, and he never will! Now let him go!”
“Don’t you see?” Penn crossed her arms and studied Gemma. “Everything he’s told you has been a lie. Everything’s he’s done has been to trick you, because he wants to possess you and sleep with you, the way all men do. He never cared about you. He only cares about himself.”
Gemma took a deep breath, and as much as it pained her heart, she realized that what Penn said might be true. Alex hadn’t even really looked at her since he’d gotten here, and she was a siren, too. Maybe that meant he didn’t care about her.
But he was still the same guy that she was falling for. Even though his hair was dripping wet, a lock of his bangs managed to stick up a little. The way he’d kissed her and held her, that might be all be fake or temporary, but he wasn’t. Deep down, Gemma knew without a doubt that he was good and kind and worthy of her love.
“I don’t care!” Gemma glared at Penn. “It doesn’t matter because I love him!”
Penn narrowed her eyes at her, and Gemma saw that weird moving thing happening to her face again, like something underneath was shifting. But it stopped just as quickly as it started.
“Let her go,” Penn told Thea.
As soon as Thea loosened her grip, Gemma ran away from her, rushing over to Alex. When she ran in front of him, he tried looking around her, because he didn’t want to take his eyes off Lexi.
“Alex,” Gemma said.
He strained to see past her. She grabbed his face, forcing him to look into her eyes. At first he tried to fight it, but then something changed.
The daze in his mahogany eyes began to clear, and his pupils dilated. He blinked a few times, like a man just waking up, then reached out and touched Gemma’s face. His skin was cold and wet, and goose bumps covered his bare flesh.
“Gemma?” Alex asked, sounding confused. “Oh, my God, Gemma, what have I done?”
“You didn’t do anything.” With tears in her eyes, she laughed a little. “I love you.”
She stood on her tiptoes and stretched up to kiss him. His mouth felt cold and wonderful, and the kiss shot through her like lightning, spreading heat all over body. It was real and true, and nothing the sirens could say or do would ever change that.
“Enough of this!” Penn roared, and suddenly Alex flew away from Gemma.
Penn had come up and grabbed him, then threw him so hard into the wall behind them, he fell unconscious on the floor. Gemma wanted to run to him, but Penn stood in front of her. The rage burned so brightly in her eyes that Gemma didn’t dare cross her without a serious plan, lest Penn destroy everyone in the cabin.
“You’ve only seen two forms of the siren,” Penn said, and as she spoke, her voice began to change from the silky baby-talk to something distorted and monstrous. “I think it’s time you see our true form.”
Her arms began to change first, growing longer. Her fingers stretched out several inches, ending in sharp hooked talons. The skin on her legs shifted from smooth, tanned flesh to something appearing dull gray and scaly. It wasn’t until the feet changed into bird’s feet with long claws that Gemma realized Penn had grown the legs of an emu.
Penn arched her back and let out a scream that was more like that of a dying bird than a human. The sound of tearing flesh and rustling feathers filled the room as two wings tore out from her shoulder blades. When they unfurled, they were nearly the length of the room. The feathers were big and black, shimmering in the light.