Until then, she could only hope the spell would continue to weaken until any lingering enchantment eventually disappeared.
Not that it would make that much of a difference anymore, not if Alex had set himself free by falling out of love with her.
She was surprised to feel the ache in her chest growing, her heart tearing in half all over again. This is what she’d wanted. Setting Alex free and away from her to keep him safe. It was best for him, and she knew that.
But it felt like losing him all over again. After their kiss last week, she’d been rather stupidly and selfishly hoping that they would be able to be together again once this was all over—or sooner than that, if she was being completely honest.
“Is this about the scroll that Harper was telling me about?” Alex asked, pulling her from her thoughts.
He sat at the other end of the couch, his dark eyes resting on her, and the distance between them had never felt so great. All she wanted to do was reach out and touch him, to have him pull her into his arms one last time and taste his lips as they pressed against hers.
But she couldn’t, so she forced a smile and nodded. “Yeah. We’re still working on it, but we’ll find a way.”
“You do what you need to do for yourself, but you don’t need to worry about me.”
“How can I not worry about you? I broke you.”
“That’s the thing.” He licked his lips. “I don’t really feel broken anymore.”
“I noticed,” she said, hoping her words didn’t sound as pained as they felt.
“And I think…” A slight blush broke out on his tanned cheeks, and he lowered his eyes. “I think it was because we kissed.”
Her heart skipped a beat, and she stared at him in surprise. “Really?”
“Really.” He lifted his head, evenly meeting her gaze. “Every day I’ve felt more and more like myself since then.”
Gemma didn’t know if that was true, or why kissing would alter the effect the siren song had on him, but at that moment, she didn’t care. She’d been certain that she’d never be able to be with Alex again, and now she had a chance, and nothing else mattered.
“Well … we could try kissing again,” Gemma suggested with bated breath. Her blood pounded in her ears, and her cheeks flushed.
At first he only stared at her, his expression blank and his eyes unreadable, and she was afraid she’d gone too far. It probably lasted just a few moments, but to her, it felt like an eternity, where she couldn’t breathe, and her heart pounded madly in her chest.
Then, finally, he leaned in to her and kissed her gently on the mouth. There was the tenderness that she’d come to know and love, the almost innocent way he kissed her.
But that was quickly replaced by the sense of desperation. It had been so long since they’d really kissed, and that added a fervor that made her skin flutter. The way Alex was touching her whetted the appetite of the siren inside her, but she silenced it. She refused to stop kissing him.
He pushed her back down on the couch, so he was on top of her. He held himself up with his arms, but she felt the slight weight of his body against her, the firmness of his chest and stomach against the softness of hers.
As he kissed her deeply, she wrapped her arms around him, pulling him closer to her. He felt so much different than he had before. Through his shirt, she felt his muscles, warm and solid under her fingertips. His back and shoulders were broader than she’d remembered, and his kisses more demanding.
When she tried to pull him to her, Alex didn’t move. She’d have to use her siren strength to get him to budge, and she didn’t want to let the monster out. Alex was still kissing her. He had one hand on her side, gently squeezing her.
He seemed to want to take things slower than she did. The hunger inside was flaring up, and the flutter was running across her skin. Not to mention the heat in her belly, spreading like a flame down her legs.
Putting her hand on his chest, she pushed him up so she could catch her breath, and she felt his heart hammering against the palm of her hand.
“Is something wrong?” Alex asked, his eyes searching hers.
“No.” She smiled up at him. “You’re stronger than you were before.”
“No.” Gemma laughed. “It’s just … strange. I got used to the way you felt in my arms, and I’ve been kinda clinging to that memory. And now you’re different.”
“You’re different, too.” He brushed back a hair from her forehead. “You feel the same, but your eyes…”
“I don’t know. They look older somehow. You’ve been through a lot this summer.”
“We both have,” she said.
He took a deep breath and in a low voice, he said, “I’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you, too.”
When Alex kissed her again, Gemma decided that she didn’t care about the monster. In that moment, all she wanted was to feel Alex and be as close to him as she could be. She’d missed him so much, and she wanted to feel him, holding her, touching her, encompassing her.
With her lips still pressed to his, she reached down and started pulling up his T-shirt. Alex tried to mumble some kind of protest, but her mouth on his silenced him. They separated long enough for her to pull his shirt up over his head, then they were kissing again, his bare flesh pressed against her.
Alex had slid his hands up her shirt, preparing to do the same thing, when a loud clearing of the throat interrupted them.
They both looked up to see Alex’s dad standing in the living room. His expression was unreadable behind his glasses and graying beard, but both Alex and Gemma hastily proceeded to sit up and scramble to straighten out their clothes.
“Dad, I didn’t think you’d be home until later,” Alex said as he pulled on his shirt, muffling some of his words. He’d moved to the other end of the couch, putting as much distance between himself and Gemma as he could. “I thought you were at the school all day.”
“And I thought you got your job back, Alex,” Mr. Lane said in the same emotionless voice that Gemma had heard him giving lectures in at the high school.
“Uh, yeah, I did, I don’t start at the dock again until tomorrow.” Alex smoothed out his hair as Gemma combed a hand through her own.
“I haven’t seen you around in a while, Gemma.” Mr. Lane took off his glasses and began to clean them with his shirt.