“Your heart doesn’t change. You still love or don’t love who you always have,” Gemma said to herself, her words quiet and breathy, and Thea cocked her head.
Yes, the sirens told her that men would never love her, but Alex had. He’d been able to because he always had, and maybe he still did. The siren song couldn’t change the way he felt about her, and when she kissed him, it helped remind him of how he really felt, of who he really was, and it dragged him out from underneath the fog of the spell.
After all of this, he might still love her, and as the realization hit Gemma, she couldn’t help but smile.
A loud knocking interrupted her elation, and she turned to see her dad pushing open the Marilyn door to the dressing room.
“I hope we’re not intruding,” Harper said as she squeezed in beside their dad.
He nearly gasped when Gemma smiled up at him, and his words were barely audible when he said, “You look so much like Nathalie.”
She lowered her eyes, and her cheeks flushed a little. “Aw, thanks, Dad.”
Thea looked at Harper in the mirror, her green eyes flat. “Hello, Gemma’s family.”
“Hey, Thea.” Harper smiled thinly at her.
“Hello, Thea,” Brian said, nearly growling at her, and Gemma saw his hand clench into a fist at his side.
Brian knew what Thea was now, that she and Penn were sirens. His natural instinct was to yell at them and tell them to leave his daughter alone, but since their siren song could still work on him, Harper and Gemma tried to get him to interact with them as little as possible. That was hard for him sometimes, especially at times like this, when all he really wanted to do was wring Thea’s neck.
“I’d invite you in, but it’s so crowded.” Gemma gestured over to Thea, but it was their costumes hanging along the wall that took up the most space in the cramped room. “Did Marcy talk to you?”
“Yeah, yeah,” Harper said quickly, probably not wanting Thea to catch on that they were talking about finding Thalia’s journal. The less Thea knew about what they were doing, the safer it would be for her if Penn were to question her. “Marcy’s here, actually.”
Marcy had been lingering in the hall since it was so crowded in the dressing room, but she leaned around the doorframe. “Are you gonna yak?”
“No, Marcy, I don’t think I’m going to throw up, but thanks for that lovely euphemism.” Gemma smirked.
“Marcy, why don’t you and my dad go find our seats? I want to sneak back behind the sets and say hello to Daniel real quick,” Harper said.
“Good idea. We’ll let you finish getting ready.” Brian turned back to Gemma. “Knock ’em dead, sweetie.” He bent down and kissed her quickly on the temple before departing.
“We just wanted to wish you good luck,” Harper said, and started backing out the doorway.
“Thanks, Harper.” Gemma smiled gratefully up at her.
“You can wait here for one minute,” Penn insisted from out in the hall. Under her usual sultry velvet tone, Gemma could hear the irritation in it, and she stood up so she could look past Harper out to the hallway.
It wasn’t until Penn pushed past the assistant director and reached the doorway to the dressing room that Gemma finally understood why. Liv was trailing at her heels, her large eyes looking petulant and her mouth turned down in a tight scowl, and Gemma’s heart froze in her chest.
“Oh, good, you’re all here.” Penn’s face flushed with relief, her full lips turned up into a smile, then her dark eyes settled on Harper. “I think you two know each other, so it’d be fine if Liv waited here with you, right?”
“I…” Harper trailed off, too stunned to say anything, and her hand went to her throat.
“Great!” Penn clapped her hands together, then turned to Liv. “Stay here. Don’t move at all. I just wanna go backstage for a minute, and I don’t need you getting in my way.”
Liv rolled her eyes. “Whatever.” Once Penn was gone, disappearing into the crowd in the hallway, Liv turned back to Harper. Her irritation melted away, and her aw-shucks grin spread across her face.
“Liv?” Harper asked once she found her voice. “What are you doing here?”
“Just coming to see the play with Penn,” Liv told her in a voice that was all peaches and cream. “How are you doing?”
“Who the hell cares how I’m doing?” Harper hissed. “What are you doing here?”
“Notice anything different about me?” Liv asked, then twirled around for her.
Harper gaped at Liv, and the color drained from her face. “You’re the new siren.”
“Sorry, Harper, I was gonna tell you,” Gemma offered lamely.
Harper stepped into the dressing room, deliberately leaving Liv alone in the hall before slamming the door shut behind her. Harper crossed her arms over her chest and glared down at Gemma, making her feel small and guilty.
“How long has my college roommate been a siren?” Harper asked, her tone harsh.
“Former roommate,” Thea corrected her. “She dropped out because she sucks.”
Gemma shrugged, trying to seem calm and nonchalant. “I don’t know when she became a siren. A few days ago?”
“It was on Friday,” Thea supplied.
“Harper.” Gemma took a deep breath and looked at her apologetically. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about Liv being a siren sooner. But I have to be onstage in like ten minutes, so can we talk about this later?”
“Whatever. Fine.” Harper sighed.
“As soon as the after-party wraps up.”
“An after-party?” Harper raised an eyebrow.
Gemma waved her hands, trying to emphasize that it was no big thing. “Yeah, the mayor’s putting on this whole big thing because his son is in the play, and I’m going.”
“You can come, too, if you want,” Thea said. “Friends and family of the cast are invited.”
“Thanks, Thea,” Harper said, giving Gemma a hard look since she hadn’t bothered to extend the invitation.
Gemma looked up at her, her eyes pleading with her. “Can you please go find your seat, and we’ll talk about this later?”
“Okay. Fine.” Harper tried to put aside her anger and took a deep breath. “You look nice. And good luck.”
“Thank you.” Gemma smiled up at her, and Harper left her to finish getting ready.