His boat took a minute to start, but this seemed to aggravate Daniel as much as it did Harper. He kicked it and cursed under his breath, then The Dirty Gull finally chugged into life.
The ride across the bay had never seemed to take so long. The early-morning sun was blinding as it reflected off the water, but Harper kept her eyes fixed on the shore.
When Daniel docked the boat, she jumped off. She started to run toward the parking lot for her car, but then she stopped and changed her mind.
“This way.” She pointed toward the beach just as Daniel reached her.
“We need to go this way,” she insisted, and started jogging down the path to the beach.
“How do you know if you can’t feel her?” Daniel asked as he ran after her.
“There’s something, but it’s not the same.”
On the beach, her feet slipped in the sand, but she didn’t let that slow her down. She could see a lone figure, sitting in the sand far away from them. As she got closer, she started to realize that the figure was Alex, and that he was totally alone, staring out at the waves.
“Alex!” Harper shouted, and by the time she reached him, she was screaming. “Alex! Where’s Gemma?” He got to his feet, looking confused, and she grabbed him by his T-shirt. “Where is she?”
“There!” Alex pointed out to the bay, sounding totally baffled by her intensity.
“Where?” Harper asked, but all she needed to do was turn her head.
Gemma was several yards away, in the water. “I’m right here.”
“Oh, my god, Gemma.” Harper ran into the water, not caring if she soaked her clothes, and hugged Gemma, crushing her to her. “I thought you were dead.”
“I’m not dead,” Gemma said, laughing and hugging her back. “I’m just not a siren anymore.”
Harper pulled back to look at her, but she kept her hands on Gemma’s shoulders, as if she would disappear if she let go. “You already weren’t.”
“No, I was before. I lied. But now I’m really not.”
“How do you know?” Harper narrowed her eyes.
“I’m in the ocean, and I have legs.”
The water came up to Gemma’s hips, and she pulled up her dress, revealing her normal legs. No fins, no scales. And then Harper really looked at her and realized that Gemma looked different. Her eyes were still the color of burned honey, but they were less sparkly. She was still beautiful, but she appeared younger—less like a model on a magazine cover and more like a normal, teenage girl.
That explained the feeling of being severed from her sister. There’d always been a strange bond, but when Gemma had become a siren, it grew more intense, which was how she’d been able to find her in Sawyer’s house when she ran off.
But now, without the paranormal element amplifying it, the bond had returned to its normal state, and she could barely feel it.
“How?” Harper asked in disbelief. “What’d you do?”
“We were so close, Harper,” Gemma said with a wide grin. “The blood of the siren, the blood of the mortal, the blood of the sea—that’s how to wash away the curse, and how I became a siren. But we were missing one thing.” She pointed back to where Alex stood on the beach, and Harper noticed the golden shawl shimmering in the sand next to him.
“That’s the golden shawl we found you wrapped in the night after you became a siren,” Harper remembered, then looked back at Gemma as the shawl’s importance dawned on her. “That was the golden fleece that Pine was talking about.”
“What?” Gemma asked, staring at her quizzically.
“The golden fleece,” Harper repeated. “Pine told me that he translated something in the scroll about it, but he thought it had to do with Jason and Argonauts.”
“It was Persephone’s shawl,” Gemma explained. “The sirens had told me that before, and Demeter told us that Persephone had been found in it after she died, wrapped up much the same way I was when you found me on the shore after I became a siren.”
“The whole curse is about Persephone, so Demeter made her a part of the curse as much as she could,” Harper realized. “She made the sirens use Persephone’s golden shawl.”
“Right. To become a siren, I had to drink the blood of the sirens, the mortal, and the sea, and I had to be wrapped in the shawl and tossed in the ocean,” Gemma said. “So to break the curse, I had to reverse it, using the mixture of blood, and I had to be wearing the shawl in the ocean. Do everything like I did before, but just undo it, using the blood to erase the ink on the scroll.”
Harper smiled at her sister. “What are you doing in the water now?”
“I wanted to see what it was like to swim with legs again, and it’s better than I remembered.”
“So now you’re completely sure it’s all over?”
Gemma laughed. “I’m positive.” And just because she could, Harper hugged her sister again.
“You scared the crap out of me, Gemma,” Daniel said as he slogged through the waves to reach them. He put one arm around Harper and the other around Gemma, embracing both of them tightly.
When Alex waded out to join them, Gemma separated from the other two, ran to him, and jumped into his arms. Her legs wrapped around his waist, and he held her as she laughed.
Harper turned and looked up at Daniel. “You know, for the first time I really feel like this is over. I thought it was over before, but now I know in a way I didn’t, and it’s like a huge weight has been lifted.”
“It’s really over.” He put his arms around her, pulling her to him. “Now just as long as you don’t get tangled up with a pack of vampires or deranged witches while you’re at college, everything will be wonderful.”
Harper smiled. “So I just have to avoid those things, and everything will be perfect?”
“No, I’m pretty sure that as long as we’re together, we’ve got it made.”
As the waves splashed around them, and her sister laughed in the distance, Daniel bent down and kissed her, and Harper knew that he was absolutely right.
Harper stood on the stepladder, stretching out as she taped up the end of the streamer on the exposed beams of the cabin. Then she climbed down and put her hands on her back, admiring her handiwork.
“The streamers and balloons might be a bit much,” Daniel said from behind her, and she glanced back to see him putting out paper plates and plastic cups on the dining-room table.