“You think you’re in the middle? You eat like once a week,” Thea said.
“It’s better than Liv, who thinks she should eat three times a day. And your once-a-month diet is impossible.”
“It’s not impossible.”
“What was all that about when I came in?” Penn asked.
“Nothing much. Just that Liv is totally insane and horrible and way worse than Lexi and Gemma combined.”
“She’s not so bad,” Penn insisted. “She’s new. Give her time.”
“Really?” Thea arched an eyebrow. “That’s the card you’re playing now? You were ready to behead Gemma for much less.”
“We’ve got two horrible sirens, and we need to make at least one of them work.”
“And your money’s on Liv?” Thea was dubious.
“My money’s not on anyone right now.” Penn sighed and stood up. “I should probably go out and join her.”
“You’re really going to swim with her?” Thea asked.
Penn shrugged. “Why not?”
“You’ve been swimming for a while,” Thea said. “I mean, I assumed you were out stalking Daniel, too, but it couldn’t have taken that much time.”
“I wasn’t stalking him.” Penn laughed and started walking toward the back door. “And I swam around for a bit after I talked to him.”
Thea got up and followed Penn. “How did it go?”
“What?” Penn stopped near the kitchen island and turned back to face Thea.
“Your talk with Daniel. Based on your current good mood, I’d guess it went fairly well.”
Penn smiled coyly. “Don’t worry about it.”
“Why are you sneaking off to see Daniel anyway? Why don’t you just tell me that’s where you’re going?” Thea asked. “I know you are, and I don’t care that you have some weird crush on him.”
Penn laughed and put a hand on either side of Thea’s face, almost cradling it as she spoke to her. “Thea, my dear sister, I love you. But we’ve spent nearly every day of our entire lives together. This is something that I want to keep private. Just for me. Let me have it.”
Then Penn leaned forward, giving Thea a quick peck on the cheek before turning around and walking away.
“Okay…” Thea was too dumbstruck to talk for a second. “What’s going on? You’re freaking me out. Did Daniel do something to you?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” Penn assured her as she opened the back door. “And don’t worry. Everything will be fine. I’ll get Liv under control, and this will all work out. I promise.”
Penn laughed again, then shut the door behind her. Through the broken window, Thea watched as she jumped off the cliff.
Thea put her hands on the back of her head and let out a deep breath. Penn’s attempts at calming her only made things worse. Whenever Penn assured her that everything would turn out okay, things always went to hell.
So if the past was any indication, all of this was going to end up very, very bad.
It was still strange, waking up in a house without Harper. The laundry wasn’t magically folded in the basket, and the dishes didn’t miraculously do themselves. Gemma didn’t mind stepping up and filling the hole her sister had left at home, but it still felt very weird.
The freedom was nice, not that Harper wasn’t still texting and calling her all the time. Gemma wasn’t completely sure how Harper managed to get schoolwork done, but knowing her, she was probably finishing it all, along with extra credit assignments.
The biggest thing Harper’s absence had left her with was time to think. Gemma no longer had somebody across the hall to discuss things with. She had told her dad everything now, but it wasn’t the same as talking to Harper.
As Gemma scrubbed the dishes from last night’s supper, her mind wandered to all the things that worried her. Like if she would ever really be able to break the curse, and what was taking Lydia so long with the scroll translations.
And why had Thea skipped play practice the night before? Thea claimed she had to babysit Liv while Penn ran an errand, but she refused to explain beyond that.
Daniel had shown up late for rehearsal last night, and he’d seemed out of sorts. Gemma tried to talk to him about it, but he’d just brushed her off. She couldn’t help but fear that Thea’s absence and Daniel’s uneasiness were tied together.
After Gemma rinsed off the last dish and put it in the drainer, she leaned against the sink. She stared out the window at Alex’s house next door, and her worries were replaced by a familiar longing pulling at her heart.
It had been over a week since she’d last spoken to Alex, and that conversation had been tumultuous. He’d yelled at her until she finally explained to him that she’d gotten him to break up with her using her siren song. He was hurt and furious, but then he’d kissed her.
It was the first time she’d kissed him in over a month, and sometimes at night, she’d replay it over in her mind. He’d been angry, so his lips had pressed against hers with urgency and passion, but the tenderness hidden beneath had been unmistakable. The very thought of it made her heart ache.
Gemma decided that she wasn’t going to live this way. He was right next door, and if she missed him, then she should go see him. She didn’t want to waste what little time she had left on this earth missing someone who lived right next door.
She dried off her hands, smoothed out her hair, and walked over to Alex’s house. Taking a deep breath, she knocked on his front door. But all of her confidence completely disappeared when he opened the door, and she saw him standing in front of her.
His T-shirt pulled taut against his chest and arms, and Gemma’d almost forgotten how much more muscular he’d gotten since he started working at the docks. He’d gotten his chestnut hair cut since she’d seen him last, but it was still a little longer than he usually wore it, so it landed just above his eyebrows.
Alex looked older, and she hadn’t gotten used to it. There was still some of his innocence, some of the boy next door hidden in his features, but he had a new maturity and strength to his face—a hardness in his jaw and brow that wasn’t there before.
But it was his eyes that struck her momentarily mute. For the first time in a while, she could actually see him in them. Lately, his mahogany eyes had been a mask revealing nothing, but now there he was, the boy she’d fallen desperately in love with, and it was enough to take her breath away.