“Ugh,” I groan upon awakening. My head hurts something terrible. I drag my eyes open, rubbing my head, and sit up. Where am I? Trees. Dirt. Grass. Spruce Woods?
I see Logan sitting near me, seemingly fine. “What happened?”
“Your little plan didn’t work out too well is what happened,” she says. She nods her head to someone behind her. “Creepy McCreepster over there hit you over the head with a rock.” I look in the direction she nodded and see Z standing over us, talking to Lorraine. “I wasn’t near as lucky. I was awake for the whole ride over and the whole time here. Not fun.”
I glance from Z to her. “He didn’t do anything to you, did he?”
She shakes her head. “No. I think if he did something the rest of the group would tell Marcus, and Marcus would flip his lid because someone touched his precious dolls. Or, doll, considering he hates me. Although Creepypants did carry you to the car and then out here. Be happy you were asleep.”
Goosebumps run down my skin at the thought and my whole body shudders. I don’t even want to imagine him carrying me.
“Where are we?” I ask.
Logan laughs loudly. “Where do you think?” she says bitterly. “We’re at that clearing Marcus ordered us to meet at. The heart-rock is over there." She points behind her, and when I follow her finger I see the rock she's talking about, the one I've seen so many times before. It’s almost midnight. We’re just waiting on everyone to show up so we can get this show on the road.”
I gulp, worry flooding over me. This isn’t good. We still have a chance though. Cecilia and her group along with Luke and Sarah can still help us. We’re going to have to fight though. And I’m going to have to uphold my deal with them.
Z and Lorraine are still murmuring to each other about something so I decide I can talk to Logan aloud. “Hey,” I say, putting my hand on her arm, “we’re still gonna be fine. We have-” I freeze mid sentence when my eyes land on two figures walking our way from the woods. Past Z and Lorraine, I see Luke and Sarah walking toward us. Luke’s hand is wrapped around Sarah’s arm.
I shoot to my feet. “Oh my god.”
Logan stares up at me, then gets to her feet as well. “What, what is it?”
I raise my arm in front of me, pointing. “Them.”
I see her face change from confusion to shock as her eyes come across them.
I wait until they get within ten feet us before I start yelling. “What is this? What are you doing?”
“He’s with them, Julia,” Sarah says. I notice that she says my name, and now I have to correct her. She’s known us long enough to be able to tell us apart. But what I really want to do is scream at Luke, claw at his face, kill him. How could he do this?
“Logan,” I correct.
She furrows her brows at me and looks at me weird, but must decide to go with it. “Sorry. Logan.”
I look at Luke, knowing I have to act the part, though it shouldn’t be hard. I don’t have to be Logan to be absolutely furious. I forgave him after what he did he first time. He apologized and apologized and begged for us to let him help, and it was only so he could make sure that Marcus’s plan would work. He doesn’t care about us. Only himself. He got what he wanted from Marcus and now he serves him. I don’t know him anymore.
All of my feelings come rushing to the surface, though only three words are necessary to convey what I feel. “I hate you.”
I turn away because the betrayal and anger is making my eyes tear up. I can’t bear looking at him another second.
Logan starts screaming at him and I just close my eyes at the sound of the hurt in her voice.
“How could you? How could you? Do you know how hard it was for me to forgive you, let alone her! How dare you. I don’t know what kind of person could-”
“All of you shut up!” Z yells, stepping in between them. I look at him, crossing my arms.
He turns to Logan, Sarah, and I. “Sit back down.”
Logan looks like she wants to tear into him, but she reluctantly sits down on the ground. Sarah comes and sits on the other side of me. I feel terrible for dragging her into this. If she gets hurt I don’t think I could forgive myself.
I’m so pissed off that I can’t bring myself to sit down. I know I’m acting like myself, not Logan, and I should just sit down, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I feel no fear looking at Z now. I want to tear into every one of them, rip them to shreds, tear their hearts out. Bite out their jugulars.
Z glares at me, and I stay standing, my arms still crossed. He shoves me hard, causing me to fall to the ground. “Get back down, princess.”
On impact, my teeth and claws come out and I snarl at him. Before I can get up, Logan puts her hand on my arm, holding me back. I want to yank it away and grab Z, but her stopping me is probably for the best. We're outnumbered right now, and I don't want Sarah to get hurt.
“What’s going on?” I look up and see Marcus standing behind Z, Tiffany and the other two guys who were at my house earlier with him. I was so distracted I didn’t notice him come up.
“Nothing,” Z says. “They just weren’t listening.”
Marcus glances at me and back up to Z. “There’s blood in her hair. Did something happen?”
“She fought back,” Z replies, his voice monotone. “I had to knock her out.” Judging by the way his fingers are thrumming behind his back, I can tell he’s nervous. Better not make Master mad, I say to myself. I doubt Marcus would care about me being hurt, since everyone thinks I’m Logan, but if “Julia” got hurt, he would flip out.
I hear footsteps coming and when I look over, I see Cecilia, Roman, John, and Alyssa have all shown together. Thank god. Now maybe we can fight our way out of this.
Marcus grunts in response to Z and looks around. “Looks like everyone’s here.” His eyes fall on Sarah. “You,” he says, pointing at her. She stiffens a bit and her eyes are wide. She looks like she’s going to have a heart attack. “Don’t try anything or do anything and we’ll let you go when this is over. Okay? You can’t tell anyone what happened here either.”
Sarah doesn’t say anything, I don’t think she can, but her head bobs up and down quickly. Marcus turns back to everyone else, and I put my hand on Sarah’s arm, my claws back inside my fingers. “I’m so sorry, Sarah. This is my fault.”
She stares at me, but is still silent. I can hear her heart thudding in her chest, rapid. She’s terrified, and for good reason. My heart is beating fast and my hands are shaky myself. Although I do have a great deal of anger with me, too, so that helps. And I have my strength and healing. Sarah has nothing.
“Bring them to their feet,” Marcus says, pointing at us. Z and Lorraine pick me up, Z grabbing me viciously. Lorraine holds my right arm and Z holds my left, and I’m unable to move. Luke grabs Sarah and brings her to her feet, though he does it gently. The other two men grab Logn and drag her forward as well. Luke stays behind us with Sarah.
Everyone moves until they’re in front of Marcus, as he seems to be gesturing in a certain direction.
Marcus points at me and my heart freezes in my chest. “Logan. Bring her over here.”
I have no time to process how fast this is all happening. I fight with Z and Lorraine, but with both of them on me I can’t shake them off. I see Tiffany looking at me, confused. She glances at her dad. She knows that I’m not Logan. She knows. But she doesn’t say anything. Why? They drag me until I’m next to Marcus and Tiffany, a crowd of people just watching us.
Julia, don’t try anything, echoes in my ears. I look around because I think someone said it aloud, but it seems no one spoke. And I didn’t think it, so . . . Logan. I look at Logan and she gives me a small smile. She said it . . no, she didn’t say it, she thought it. But somehow I heard it. I feel shocked but it hits me that this is probably the next step in The Merging.
It’s okay, I think, trying to send it back. I don’t know if she heard me, but I tried.
Cecilia and them need to act now, I think to myself.
Marcus grabs my arm and Z and Lorraine let go. I let Marcus hold onto my arm though I could break out of it. I’m just waiting on Cecilia to make her move.
“This,” Marcus says, “is the girl who has killed so many, one of them even my own daughter.” His voice sounds like it’s about to break at the last part. I look at him and see he’s fighting back tears. “That’s not something that she’s allowed to get away with, that’s something nobody is allowed to get away with. She’s an example to all of you.
“I was kind enough to give her warning, and to give her several days notice so she could get her life together before she died. This is justice. It’s time for her to pay her debts.”
“Wait!” Logan screams, fighting against her restraints. No, no, no. “That’s not Logan! I’m Logan! Me, me! I’m Logan!”
Marcus stops, my arm still in his hand. He stares at me. “Which one are you?” he says through clenched teeth.
“I’m Logan,” I say calmly. “She’s just saying that so you’ll kill her and not me.”
“No, I’m not!” Logan screams. “She’s lying! I’m Logan.” Logan, shut up, I think. You agreed to this. But then I realize, that’s probably why she agreed to this. She knew I wouldn’t leave her alone until she agreed to it so she said she would, but would make sure it didn’t actually happen. Make sure she dies instead of me. No wonder she gave in so easy.
Marcus glares between us, then yells into the clearing. “Will somebody tell me which one it is?” Silence. Nobody says a word. No one knows, I think. Then I realize: someone does know. Tiffany knows. So does Sarah, though Sarah won’t say anything.
Marcus realizes it, too. “Is this Logan, Tiffany?” he says, pulling my arm to show which of us he means.
“Uh . . .” Tiffany stutters. She glances between her father and me, and her eyes linger on mine. I shake my head. Don’t do it. Her eyes seem sad, but after a long moment's hesitation, she turns to her dad anyway. “You have the wrong one. That’s Julia.”
Marcus’s face morphs into one of rage. He pushes me away and I stumble, though Z and Lorraine catch me before I fall and pull me back. The other two men pull Logan forward.
“No!” I scream. “No!” Cecilia, I realize. I turn to her and she makes I contact with me. “Now,” I say.
That’s all they were waiting for. Cecilia darts forward and grabs one of the men holding Logan, John grabbing the other. Alyssa pulls Lorraine off of me, and Roman goes for Z, but Luke intercepts him.
Marcus looks confused, then seems to take charge. “Kill them! Kill them all!” Everyone breaks out fighting with each other and it seems to have gone to all out war. He grabs Logan and time seems to slow down for me. “Don’t move,” he says quietly, and she won’t be able to. Because I took the drink to fight his power, not her. Why didn’t I get her one? What’s wrong with me?
The thing is, I don’t think Logan would move if she could.
I grab Z and flip him over, running after Marcus. Z must grab my foot as I jump over him because I tumble to the ground.
I see Marcus’s claws come out and I scream. “NO!”
But I’m not the only one screaming. So is Tiffany.
“NO!” she screams at the same time as me, and just as loud. She shoves Logan back and steps in front of her. “No, Dad.”
I get distracted because Z pulls himself on top of me, and I have to fight with him. But I hear the whole conversation going on while I struggle to break away.
“What is this, Tiffany?” Marcus hisses. I can imagine the anger on his face now, just like at his house whenever he almost killed me.
“I’m not going to let you kill her, Dad. I’ve been with them, I got to know them. You were wrong about her. She’s not a monster. She’s a good person. They both are. I understand them now. They’re just kids who are trying to do their best under the circumstances. It’s not their fault. I’ve seen them act braver than you and I ever have.”
Thank you, Tiffany. Thank you.
Z has my hands pinned down and he smiles in my face, snarling the whole time. That stupid, creepy smile.
“You get out of the way right now, Tiffany,” Marcus says. “I don’t have time for this.”
I glance backwards and see Tiffany shake her head. “No.”
Marcus grabs her shirt, and pulls her forward, then grabs her neck with his other hand. And he breaks it. His own daughter’s neck. Logan gasps and backpedals a few feet at the sight of Tiffany’s body falling to the ground.
“She’ll heal,” Marcus spits viciously. He steps toward Logan and I see how this is going to go down if I don’t break free. I kick Z off of me with my feet, then crawl on top of him, finishing it this time. I twist his neck, snapping it just like I did Marshall’s. His body goes limp on the ground and I have no one stopping me now.
Marcus grabs Logan and she looks at me. I feel like I’m running in slow motion. Everything is in slow motion. She smiles at me. And I get it. This is what she wants. She accepted her fate a long time ago. She just went along with everything for my sake. It all adds up now, in this moment, all the little signs she gave me that I just ignored. She’s ready to die, to pay her debt. And I’m not going to reach her in time.
Marcus’s claws sink into to her chest, and seem to wrap around something. Logan’s mouth opens and she gets one last thing out.
“I love you.”
“NO!” I stretch my arm out but I’m still ten feet away. Marcus’s arm jerks back, something red inside his fist. I catch Logan’s body before it hits the ground: limp, empty.
She’s dead. He ripped her heart out.