He charged at Penn, but she was lightning-fast. In the blink of eye, she’d grabbed the pitchfork, ripping it from his hands. With her other hand, she backhanded Daniel, leaving three nasty gashes on his cheek.
Daniel fell backward, and Penn lifted the pitchfork, looking as if she would impale him.
“Penn, don’t!” Gemma yelled. She ran in front of her, standing between Daniel and the pitchfork. “I’m going with you! Let’s just get out of here! Okay? You’ve already got everything you wanted from this town. Let’s just leave.”
“Gemma, no!” Harper tried to run to her sister, but Thea elbowed her in the stomach as she approached. Harper collapsed to the floor, holding her belly and coughing.
“She’s right,” Thea told Penn. “We’re just wasting time. The sun’s coming up, and the police are already scouring the bay for more bodies. We should just get out of here.”
Lexi had gotten back up, and she kicked Daniel in the arm. “Jerk.”
“Lexi, come on.” Thea started backing out of the cabin, and Lexi gave Daniel one more disparaging look before she went after Thea. They didn’t move past the front porch, where they waited for Penn and Gemma to follow.
Penn rolled her eyes, then snapped the pitchfork in half with her hands. With her considerable strength, she threw both halves through a window, causing the glass to shatter and rain down on the floor.
With that, she started shifting back into her human form. Her wings first, folding into her back, then her legs and arms shortening, and finally her face, until she looked as stunningly gorgeous as she always did.
Harper and Daniel both watched, transfixed, as Penn changed her form. If they hadn’t seen it for themselves, they never would’ve believed it.
Penn cracked her neck and readjusted her bikini strap, but otherwise everything about her looked perfect.
“I spared your family and friends,” Penn told Gemma. “You owe me so huge.”
“I know,” Gemma admitted.
“Let’s go.” Penn grabbed Gemma’s arm, in case she decided to change her mind, and started walking toward the door.
“Gemma, don’t.” Harper got up, still cradling her stomach, and looked plaintively at her sister. “You don’t have to go with them. We can fight them.”
“Sorry, Harper.” Gemma turned around so she could look at Harper and walked backward out of the cabin with Penn. “Take care of Alex for me, okay?”
Thea and Lexi sprinted ahead, running down the trail.
Harper stepped forward, saying her sister’s name, but Gemma just shook her head. She turned around, and she and Penn raced down the trail. Harper chased after them, but Gemma was too fast, much faster than she’d ever been before.
“Harper!” Daniel yelled, and he got up and ran after her, meaning to stop her from doing anything stupid.
By the time Harper reached the dock, Penn and Gemma were already at the end of it. Gemma glanced back, then dove into the bay.
The sun had begun to rise, bathing the water in pale pink light, and Harper could see Thea and Lexi swimming away. They’d already transformed, and their mermaid tails splashed out of the water before they dove down.
Just as Harper made it to the end of the dock, she felt Daniel’s arms around her, preventing her from leaping into the water after her sister. Her arms were outstretched in front of her, as if she thought she could grasp Gemma with them.
“Gemma!” Harper shouted and tried to push Daniel off her, but he refused to let go.
Gemma surfaced just once, but she never looked back toward the dock. Harper just saw Gemma’s head, and then the iridescent scales of her tail shimmering in the sunlight before she submerged.
“Harper, stop.” Daniel’s voice was firm in her ear. “She’s not coming back, and where she’s going you can’t go after her.”
“Why not?” Harper demanded, but she stopped struggling. “Why can’t I go after her?”
“Because you can’t breathe underwater, and you don’t know what you’re fighting against.”
The fight went out of her, and she went lax in his arms. Daniel lowered her down to the dock, and she knelt on the end of it, still staring out at the ocean. He knelt behind her, his arms still around her.
“What the hell were those things?” Harper asked.
“I have no idea. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
“So I’m just supposed to let her go off with them, and do nothing?” Harper turned to look back at him, her face right next to his.
“No, you won’t do nothing.” Daniel shook his head. “We’ll find out what those things are, figure out how to stop them, and then we’ll go get your sister back.”
“But she’s with them now. What if they hurt her? What’s to stop them from killing her?”
“Harper,” Daniel said as gently as he could. “You saw her swim off with them. She looked like a mermaid.” He paused. “She’s one of them.”
“No, she’s not, Daniel. She’d never hurt anybody. She’s not like them!”
“I know that, but she can at least pass for one of them. And right now I think that’s a good thing. That’ll keep her alive.”
Tears swam in Harper’s eyes, and she wiped at them roughly with the palm of her hand. She turned back toward the water.
“Hello?” Alex shouted from back in the cabin. “Gemma? Is anybody here?” He stumbled out the door.
“Are you okay?” Daniel asked Harper, looking at her seriously. “Will you be fine if I leave you alone for a second to check on Alex?”
“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” She nodded. When he got up, she turned back to him. “Hurry and get him on the boat. The sooner we leave, the sooner we can figure out how to destroy those bitches.”
Daniel smiled wanly at her and nodded. He walked back up the trail to take care of Alex, but Harper stayed where she was, watching the water. She heard Daniel talking to Alex, checking to make sure he was okay, and Alex trying to make sense of what he remembered.
But Harper wasn’t really paying attention to any of that. She was focused on making a plan. She would get her sister back, if that was the last thing she ever did.