Tidal / Page 78

Page 78


“I cannot wait to eat your heart,” Lexi said, and flicked out an odd, serpentine tongue.

“Well, you’re gonna have to.”

Daniel rolled back and pulled his legs up to his chest, then he pushed them out as hard as he could, kicking her in the chest with both his feet. Lexi stumbled backward, barely managing to keep her balance in the mud, and she flapped her wings to steady herself.

He got to his feet just as Gemma came out the back door. She stumbled a bit as she walked, and one arm cradled her stomach, where he could see the blood seeping through her shirt. Gemma stood in between Daniel and Lexi, glaring up at her.

“That’s enough, Lexi!” Gemma shouted.

Daniel was standing behind Gemma, but he saw it start to happen. Her fingers were stretching out, and her nails were shifting into long black talons. Her mouth began to twitch, and he knew it was going to become filled with those awful teeth.

But before Gemma completed the transformation, Lexi flapped her wings. She leaned forward, deliberately hitting Gemma with her wing, and sent her flying over the edge of the cliff.

“Gemma!” Daniel yelled, and he ran after her. He barely stopped in time to keep from sliding off the edge himself, and one of the toes of his shoes actually did hang over.

He was too late to do anything other than watch as Gemma crashed into the rocks below. The waves were beating against the cliff face, turning a frothy white, and Gemma was lost instantly in them.

“You’ll be joining her soon,” Lexi said. “But first your heart is mine.”

She was taller than him, so it made for a strange angle, and he had to jump up to be able to punch her. But his fist connected, landing squarely in her temple.

As the bird-monster, her torso had elongated, and her ribs protruded grotesquely. Underneath that, the soft tissue of her belly was completely exposed, and Daniel punched it as hard as he could.

She squawked and stumbled back, so he stepped forward, punching her again with his other fist. Her wings flapped to keep her balance, and the powerful gusts of air from that motion nearly made him fall back, but he kept his footing.

His mistake came when he tried to punch her in the head again. She was leaning forward, trying to correct her stance so she wouldn’t fall back, and the opportunity seemed too good to pass up. So he threw a right hook, hoping to connect with her jaw, but instead her head snapped to the side and she clamped her teeth right on his forearm.

Daniel cried out in agony. Lexi’s mouth was filled with hundreds of narrow teeth, sticking out haphazardly like needles in a pincushion. He could actually feel some of them going all the way through his arm and coming out the other side.

When she let go, Daniel collapsed to the ground on his knees. The rain was pounding against his arm, mixing with the blood and running down into the mud.

“Not so tough now, are you?” Lexi asked.

He tried to get back on his feet, but Lexi kicked him in the chest. It was even harder than she’d kicked him before, and the blow sent him flying. He landed on his back and skidded a few feet in the mud.

Lexi had knocked the wind out of him, and it was several painful seconds before he was able to take a breath again. He coughed hard, his lungs screaming as he gasped for air.

He tried to sit up, but then he felt Lexi’s foot on his stomach, pinning him to the ground. The claws from her toes pierced the fabric of his shirt and drove into his skin. He grabbed her ankle, her skin feeling reptilian under his hands, and tried to push her off him, but she wouldn’t budge.

“It’s over, Daniel,” she assured him. “I’m going to kill you now.”

Lexi bent down, reaching her long fingers out toward his chest. He steeled himself for the inevitable, and the biggest regret he had was that he’d let Harper down. He promised her that he wouldn’t let anything happen to Gemma, and he had failed.

He stared up at Lexi, unwilling to look anywhere else but her eyes. If she was going to kill him, he wanted to make her see it. Her wings were sheltering him from the rain, so he could look up at her without squinting.

Then suddenly Lexi pulled her head back and let out a tortured squawk. Her wings moved, and icy rain splashed into his face. He closed his eyes against it, and then he felt something warm mixed in, dripping on his skin.

The foot disappeared from his stomach, and Daniel lifted his arm, shielding himself from the rain as he sat up.

Lexi had taken several steps back from him, and one of her wings was flapping wildly. The other one … wasn’t there. Blood was spilling out from her shoulder as she wailed.

Penn stood in front of him, looking completely human, except for her arms. She had the same arms as Lexi, complete with the clawed fingers. In one of her hands she held Lexi’s golden wing, but she tossed it aside like it was an old piece of garbage.

“What’s your problem, Penn?” Lexi screamed at her. “I was only playing around!”

“I warned you to leave him alone,” Penn said. She stepped toward her, and Lexi took another step back, edging toward the cliff. “I said don’t hurt him or those stupid Fisher girls. And what did you do?”

“I was just fooling around, Penn!” Lexi insisted, but Penn didn’t seem convinced.

Lexi kept trying to back up, and her feet slipped in the mud. She fell back to the ground, her head hanging over the cliff edge while her body remained safely on land. Her one wing flailed horribly, but Penn was on top of her, pinning her down.

Penn sat on Lexi’s stomach, straddling her, and she wrapped one hand around Lexi’s throat. Lexi made a gurgling sound and began clawing at Penn’s hand. Lexi’s legs kicked aimlessly, unable to reach Penn.

With her free hand, Penn tore into Lexi’s stomach, going up underneath the rib cage to get to her heart. Lexi screamed louder and flailed even more, but it was to no avail. Penn pulled it out, holding up the small, black heart in front of Lexi, showing it to her.

Lexi gnashed her teeth and tried to push Penn off, so Penn tightened her grip around her throat. Lexi’s yellow eyes looked like they were going to bug out of her skull, and finally Penn tore through the flesh and bone. She ripped off Lexi’s head and let it fall, crashing down into the ocean below.

FORTY

Liability

Gemma had hit the rocks first, snapping her back. The waves had crashed over, pulling her underneath before she had a chance to scream.

On land, she’d been giving in and was letting herself shift into the monster, and that became a problem once she hit the water. Her fingers had lengthened, and her feet had morphed into three-toed avian feet.


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