“If he was immortal like you guys, did that mean your siren song worked on him?” Gemma asked.
“No, it didn’t. Penn couldn’t manipulate him. And as much as she loves control, she’s always been the most drawn to the people she has no power over.”
“That’s bizarre,” Gemma said, but it did explain Penn’s infatuation with Daniel.
“Usually, I’d say yes, but there was something about Bastian that you couldn’t ignore. He was gorgeous, but it was beyond that. Charismatic, intelligent, funny, and he had these eyes…” Thea stared off wistfully. “They were blue, but not any shade I’ve ever seen in nature.”
“So you were into him?” Gemma asked.
“He was Penn’s lover,” Thea deflected the question.
“But did she actually love him?”
“I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and I can’t honestly tell you. She believed she loved him, and maybe that’s close enough.”
“What happened with Bastian?” Gemma asked. “If he’s immortal, why isn’t she still with him?”
“Like I said, she couldn’t control him. And one night, he was just…” Thea lowered her eyes, and there was a long pause before she finished her sentence. “… gone.”
“I can’t imagine Penn taking that well.”
Thea snorted. “Hardly. This was nearly three hundred years ago now, and she’s mellowed since then. But at the time, Penn went absolutely insane. I know you think she’s bad now, but you have no idea.”
“What do you mean?”
“She was inconsolable, and for Penn, that means she went on a rampage.” Thea pushed herself up, so she was sitting. “The first hundred years after he was gone, it was a bloodbath. Penn killed anything and everything without remorse. In a fit of rage, she murdered our sister Gia.”
“She just murdered your sister Gia? For like no reason?” Gemma asked.
Thea ran her hand through her hair and looked away from Gemma. “She had her reasons, not that they completely made sense to the rest of us.”
“So why didn’t you stop her?”
“The only way I could’ve stopped her would have been to kill her, and I just…” Thea shrugged. “I couldn’t bring myself to do it. She’s my little sister.” Then she shook her head, as if that’s not what she wanted to say at all. “And I felt responsible.”
“Why?” Gemma asked.
“It’s hard to explain. Aggie kept hoping that with enough time and encouragement, Penn would stop. Aggie believed that if we just loved Penn and tried to show her kindness, eventually Penn would come around. But nothing we said or did mattered to her. I think that was actually the beginning of the end for Aggie.”
“What do you mean?”
“Aggie’d never been as cruel as Penn, or even me,” Thea elaborated. “She really wasn’t cut out for the siren life. But she made do with it, killing only when she needed to and making it as merciful as she could. But Penn became relentless, and Aggie couldn’t live with it anymore.”
“But you could?” Gemma asked her pointedly. “All that senseless murder didn’t mean anything to you?”
“It’s not the same. You see the world in terms of one human lifetime, and you don’t understand the fragility of everything. You’re all going to die. Everyone will die quickly and easily. Illness, accidents, wars. It’s amazing humans live as long as they do. But I will be here for another millennium. I won’t turn my back on my sister for something that will be gone in the blink of an eye.”
“But Aggie did,” Gemma said.
“She’d always cared for human life.” Thea’s voice softened, the way it did whenever she spoke of Aggie. “Too much really. You’ll disagree, but when you’ve seen as much death as we have—not even from our hands, but by the hands of time—it begins to wear on you. So Aggie began looking for a way out, which Penn was angry about. It finally came to a head this summer.”
“Penn started going off the rails three hundred years ago, and it just finally got to be too much this summer?” Gemma asked skeptically.
“Aggie tried to change Penn at first, and when she realized that wasn’t working, she tried to look for a more peaceable solution. Like breaking the curse.” Thea motioned to Gemma then. “When she couldn’t do that, she finally said that’s enough.”
“You mean she told Penn to stop?” Gemma asked.
“Yes. She actually suggested that we all swim out to sea and starve ourselves until we died. Naturally, Penn disagreed, so Aggie threatened to run off right before a full moon, so we wouldn’t have a chance to replace her, and we’d all die that way.
“But I don’t think she really meant it. She was just provoking Penn, so she’d kill her. Aggie wanted her life as a siren to be over, and death was the only way she knew out of it.”
“If you both hated the way Penn was running your lives, why didn’t you and Aggie just stand up to her and stop her?” Gemma asked. “I mean, if it had gotten to the point where you had to choose between Aggie and Penn, why wouldn’t you choose Aggie?”
“They’re both my sisters,” Thea reminded her. “Our parents basically abandoned us. I’m eight years older than Penn.”
This admission surprised Gemma. She knew that Thea was the eldest, but she hadn’t thought it was by that much, since both Thea and Penn appeared to be around eighteen or twenty years old.
But then she remembered Penn saying that she’d only been fourteen when she became a siren. The curse apparently just made them appear to be in their sexual prime, and Gemma supposed that she looked around the same age, too.
“Eight years doesn’t sound like that much, but when we were young, it was a lot, especially when our mothers weren’t around,” Thea said. “So I raised them both as my own. It’s like asking to choose which one of my children to save. I couldn’t do it.” She shook her head. “I didn’t choose.”
“But you did,” Gemma persisted. “You turned your back on Aggie. You let Penn kill her.”
Thea didn’t disagree. For a moment she said nothing and just stared down at the floor. She wiped quickly at her eyes, but not fast enough to stop a solitary tear from falling down her cheek.
When she did finally speak, her voice was thick. “I never thought she’d actually go through with it. They’d been fighting for a while, but I never thought that Penn could really do it. Not to Aggie.”