The dream then shifted, and instead of the night she’d become a siren, she was now in the rainstorm from last week, treading water in the crashing waves below the cliff outside the sirens’ house.
Lexi’s decapitated head was flying at her, the strings of blond hair flowing out behind it. But Lexi was still alive, her eyes wide and aware of everything, and she screamed at Gemma through the razor-sharp teeth that filled her mouth.
That’s when Gemma would wake up, cold sweat on her brow and gasping for breath. She sat up in her bed, hoping that she’d be able to calm herself down enough to go back to sleep again, but she never did.
It wasn’t that she’d liked Lexi a lot. It was how powerless and trapped Gemma had felt. In that moment, when she had been at the bottom of the cliff while Lexi was fighting with Daniel at the top, she’d never felt so weak or afraid.
Gemma refused to let herself feel that way again. From now on, she had to be in complete control of her siren powers, and not the other way around.
A loud knocking at the front door disrupted her thoughts and made her jump. Gemma grabbed her cell phone from her bedside table, checking to see that it was after midnight, and she didn’t have any missed calls or text messages.
She waited a few seconds to see if the knocking continued, and when it did, she leapt out of bed. Her dad had work in the morning, and she didn’t want to wake him.
“Took you long enough,” Penn said when Gemma opened the door.
“Shh. My dad will hear you.” Gemma glanced back toward the stairs behind her. The lights upstairs were still off, so it was a safe bet that he hadn’t heard anything.
Penn shrugged. “So?”
“So, let’s go outside and talk.” Gemma stepped out into the night, closing the door quietly behind her. It would be easier to just go outside than try to explain common decency and consideration for other people to Penn.
It was a new moon, so aside from the dim stars, the sky was completely black. Gemma hadn’t turned on the outside light, so at first, she could only make out the dark shapes of three girls standing outside her house.
Then she felt a shift in her eyes, and her pupils expanded. The siren senses had kicked in automatically, changing her eyes into ones like an owl’s, so she could see clearly in the darkness.
Penn stood directly in front of her, but Thea and another girl stood a few feet back. The new girl had blond hair and wide eyes, and there was something familiar about her, but Gemma didn’t stare at her long enough to figure out what it was.
The only thing that really mattered was that there was another girl, and what the implications of that were.
“What do you want?” Gemma asked.
“I wanted to introduce you to your new best friend.” Penn stepped to the side, so she could gesture back at the girl behind her.
“Hi.” The girl smiled and waggled her fingers at Gemma, causing Thea to scoff and turn away in disgust.
“Who the hell is that?” Gemma asked Penn.
“Don’t you remember?” The new girl stepped away from Thea and moved closer to Penn, so Gemma would be able to get a better look at her. “I’m Liv. I was your sister’s roommate at college.”
“Until she decided to drop out today and come live with us,” Thea muttered. She stared out into the night, managing to look both bored and irritated in a way that only she could.
That’s why the girl looked familiar. Gemma had only met her briefly last week while helping Harper move into her dorm. Liv had been friendly, but Gemma had had too many other things on her mind to really register her.
Besides that, Liv’s appearance had changed. She hadn’t been unattractive exactly, but she had been rather plain. Now her face was brighter, her hair glossier, and there was a general sultriness to her that hadn’t been there before.
The changes were subtle, but they were unmistakable to Gemma. Liv still maintained some of her doe-eyed naïveté, and Gemma was a little surprised that she hadn’t recognized Liv sooner because of that.
“Why? Why would she drop out?” Gemma asked Penn, without acknowledging Liv yet. “How do you even know each other?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Penn asked, smiling wide. “She’s your new sister.”
Gemma sighed. “Yeah, I figured that.”
“Don’t look so disappointed,” Liv said cheerily. “I’m lots of fun, I promise.”
“She sure is,” Thea said, sarcasm dripping from her husky voice.
Penn cast an annoyed glare at Thea but turned back to Gemma with an overly optimistic smile. “Gemma. Must you always be a Debbie Downer? I mean, come on! This is a good thing. If we hadn’t turned Liv, we’d all be dead in two weeks. Liv just saved your life! You should be thanking her.”
That was true. And while Gemma hated to admit that she felt mildly relieved, she also felt tremendous guilt. Liv was now wrapped up in this horrible mess, too, and if Gemma had broken the damn curse already, nobody else would’ve had to get hurt.
“You never thanked me for saving your life,” Gemma said.
“That’s because you were a total bitch about the whole thing,” Penn reminded her. “Liv wanted this.”
“You did?” Gemma asked, speaking to Liv for the first time.
“You didn’t?” Liv sounded flabbergasted. “This is amazing, Gemma! This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me!”
Gemma held up her hand to silence Liv’s exuberance and glanced back at the house, but no lights had gone on, so they were probably safe.
“Oops, sorry,” Liv said. “I forgot about your dad.”
“See?” Penn pointed to Liv. “That’s the kind of response you should’ve had.”
“Sorry I wasn’t doing jumping jacks like Little Miss Sunshine over there.” Gemma motioned to Liv.
“Apology accepted,” Penn replied.
“So, why are you guys here so late?” Gemma asked.
“We were going to go for a swim, and I thought it would be a great time for you to meet Liv since she’s moving here now,” Penn explained. “Plus, you’re going to have to help show her the ropes.”
“The ropes?” Gemma shook her head. “I barely know them. How am I supposed to show her anything?”
“Penn just means that she wants help babysitting,” Thea said dryly.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” Liv interjected with what Gemma thought was a bitter undercurrent. “You guys already showed me everything this past weekend. I’m good. I’m ready.”