“Yeah, I think I can tough it out.” He nodded eagerly, and Marcy gave him a smile of approval.
“Okay,” Gemma said, since she couldn’t argue with that. “Because I need some blood.”
“Does it need to be a certain type? Because I’m O positive,” Marcy said, then pointed her thumb at Kirby. “And Kirby is AB positive.”
“How do you know his blood type?” Gemma asked.
“I’m very thorough when I vet the people I hang out with,” Marcy said.
“Very thorough,” Kirby added with wide eyes and a heavy sigh.
“No, it doesn’t matter what type.” Gemma stepped back from the door and motioned for them to come in. “Let’s get inside. I feel strange talking about blood on the front stoop.”
“Whatever makes you comfortable,” Marcy said.
“The blood just has to be mortal, but I’m not even entirely sure how much I’ll need,” Gemma admitted, as Marcy and Kirby followed her into the kitchen. Kirby surveyed the mess in the kitchen and did his best to look unruffled, while Marcy didn’t even bat an eye.
“Should we be breaking into a blood bank?” Marcy suggested.
“I thought I’d start with a drop or two from you, then take it from there,” Gemma said.
“All right. Do you have a sharp knife?” Marcy asked.
“Aren’t you even gonna ask what it’s about?”
“I’m gonna go out on a limb, but I’m guessing it’s about breaking the curse,” Marcy said dryly, and gestured to the scroll on the table. “But if you wanted to elaborate, I wouldn’t mind.”
“Harper told me about her professor thinking the ink was made of blood,” Gemma said as she went over to the kitchen drawer to grab a new steak knife. “Then Harper told me that Lydia thought that made sense, since the curse was usually written in something that pertained to it. And then, finally, it’s so obvious—the way to break the curse is the curse itself.”
“Okay, right. That makes sense.” Marcy nodded. “So … you’re turning the paper into a siren?”
“I’ll use the methodology for it. I became a siren by drinking a potion—blood of a mortal, blood of a siren, and blood of the sea.”
“What’s the blood of the sea?” Kirby asked.
Gemma lifted up the mason jar to show him. “Just water.”
“So your plan is to make a mixture of your blood, my blood, and ocean water, and then just rub it all over the scroll?” Marcy asked, and Gemma nodded, so Marcy pushed up the sleeve of her hooded sweatshirt. “All right. Let’s get started.”
Before they began, Gemma used a paper towel to wipe the scroll completely clean. She didn’t want their blood and water mixing with residue from anything else that might screw it up.
Gemma tried to cut Marcy’s finger, but she felt weird about hurting her. Then Marcy tried to do it herself, also without success, so finally, Kirby had to step in and save the day. With Marcy looking the other way, Kirby sliced the knife down her finger.
Marcy held her hand over the scroll, squeezing droplets out. Gemma’s finger had already healed again, so, hurriedly, she sliced open her own finger and mixed her blood with Marcy’s, then added the water last.
It wasn’t as much as she would’ve liked, but it was enough that she could smear it on the words of the scroll. The symbols began to glow beneath, shining brightly through her blood in a vibrant crimson.
At first, it seemed no different from before, when Gemma had tried out the energy drink for herself. But then they began to blaze even brighter, the dark ink shifting from red to an orange flame, like they were on fire.
She held her breath, thinking that this might finally be it … and then just as abruptly as it started, it stopped. The ink faded to its usual russet color. Nothing had changed.
“Well that sucks,” said Marcy. “I thought the scroll was going to burst into flames, then nothing. It’s never reacted that strongly before, right?”
Gemma bit her lip and shook her head, staring thoughtfully at the scroll. “That’s definitely never happened before, not like that. I wish we had the translation because I don’t know why it happened.”
Daniel sat in the driver’s seat of the car he’d borrowed from Alex and took another fortifying breath. His phone was in his hand, still glowing from the last text he’d received. It’d been Harper, replying to his with, “I love you, too.”
He’d wanted to say something more, but he couldn’t think of anything else. This might be the last thing he ever said to Harper, and if it was, “I love you” was the only thing that really mattered in the end.
Before he’d left the house, he’d gone over everything. He made sure to leave the keys on the dining room table, along with his mother’s phone number and insurance info. He’d tried to write a letter as a last will and testament, but he wasn’t really leaving much behind. The only things in his life that really mattered to him were his boat and Harper.
Today was his twenty-first birthday, and he was going to have sex with a woman he hated, and though he hoped she would accept his offer to become her concubine, he knew there was a very good chance she might kill him when she was done. He would die on the day he was born. At least that had some nice symmetry to it.
He was focused on the phone, on Harper’s last text to him, and he didn’t notice Penn until she was knocking on the car window, smiling seductively at him. Trying to force a smile back at her, he pushed the button to roll down the window.
“Are you ever planning on coming inside, or did you wanna do it in the car?” Penn asked, leaning on the door so he could see down the front of her slinky black dress. “Because I’ve done it in cars before, and it’s not as hot as it sounds.”
“I’ll go in … unless you planned on changing your mind about today.”
Penn threw back her head and laughed. “No way. Let’s go.”
When he rolled up the window, she stepped back. He turned off the ignition and decided to leave the keys and his phone in the car. It would be easier for people to find if Penn killed him tonight.
He followed her into the house, and he was surprised to see how everything had been decked out. No lights were on, but there had to be a thousand candles casting a warm glow over everything. Civil Twilights played softly on a stereo, but otherwise, the house was silent.