“After the next full moon.” Daniel stood next to her, his hand on the table beside her. “Monday.”
“So in like three days, you’ll be with Penn, then you’ll be gone?” She looked up at him.
“That’s the plan.”
“Does Gemma know?”
“No. I haven’t told her. I hadn’t told anyone yet.”
She exhaled shakily. “Are you gonna do it?”
“I don’t have much of a choice.”
“Of course you have a choice, Daniel!” she shouted, and stood up. He was right in front of her, and she’d never been so tempted to slap someone and kiss them at the same time. “You always have a choice!”
“Then I’ve made my choice,” he said. “I chose the thing that keeps you safe and alive. I chose the thing that can help me stop the evil that’s destroying all our lives. I chose the only thing I can do to protect the people I love.”
“So on Tuesday, you’ll either be dead, or a siren?” Harper asked, since she didn’t know how to argue with that.
“Yes,” he said, and she let out a small sob.
“What if you die, Daniel? What then? You can’t help Gemma or me or anyone. You’ll just be dead.”
“I know, but at least I died trying.”
“No. That’s not okay.” She shook her head as tears streamed down her cheeks. “I love you.”
He wiped a tear from her face. “And I love you.”
“Daniel. I can’t let you do this.”
He dropped his hand and shook his head resolutely. “Harper, you can’t stop me. And if I don’t do this, she will kill you. She will kill me, and she will kill Gemma. Is that what you want?”
“No. Of course I don’t want that, but…”
“Then I have to do this.”
“What am I supposed to do? Just let you go? Stand by and do nothing?”
“Just this once.”
“No, I can’t do that. I can’t just … I have to do something.” She stepped away from him, wiping her eyes. “I should call Lydia and Pine.” As she dug in her pocket for her phone, Daniel sighed.
“You don’t need to call them this second.”
“The hell I don’t,” she snapped, but she decided to text Pine instead since she’d already bothered him once today.
Does the scroll say anything about males? Harper sent him.
It says some things about men. Can you be more specific? Pine replied a few seconds later.
Can men be sirens? Harper elaborated.
I don’t know. Is that important?
VERY, Harper replied in all caps.
I’ll check. Give me some time, Pine texted back.
Her eyes were nearly dry now, but Harper wiped at them again and shoved her phone back in her pocket.
“Good news?” Daniel asked.
“More like no news. Not right now.”
She looked over at him, and for a moment all her anger and hurt were forgotten. All she knew—all that mattered—was that she loved him so much, she wasn’t sure how she’d exist without him.
He wasn’t her whole life, but he’d completed it in such a way—he’d completed her—that without him, it would feel like half of everything was missing.
Harper walked over to him and put her hands on his chest. “Daniel, I don’t want to lose you.”
“You’re not losing me.” He put his arms around her, holding her to him as she stared up at him. “I’m right here, with you, right now.”
“But for how much longer?”
He smiled crookedly at her. “It doesn’t matter. ’Cause right now we’re together.”
Then he leaned down, kissing her more deeply than he’d ever kissed her before. There was a new desperation to it, and insistence and immediacy that made her cling to him.
Harper’s phone vibrated in her pocket, and for a second, she considered ignoring it. But she knew it could be important, so she untangled herself from Daniel and pulled out her phone.
All the language appears gender neutral, Pine had texted her.
Meaning? she replied.
Meaning I think that men can be sirens. They still have to cannibalize other men to survive, though, Pine responded.
“Pine thinks you could be a siren,” she told Daniel reluctantly.
“Good.” He pulled her back into his arms, and she tilted her head to look up at him. “In a few days, I’ll be stronger than ever, and Gemma and I will kill Penn. Then we’ll have all the time in the world to break the curse.”
“And I’m just supposed to be okay with that?” Harper asked as she struggled not to cry again.
“No.” He shook his head. “You don’t have to be okay with it. But whether you are or not, it won’t change what I’m going to do. What I need to do.”
“So what do I do?”
“Stay with me,” Daniel said. “Just be with me, until I have to go.”
As Gemma followed her boyfriend into the kitchen of his house, she pushed away her earlier anxiety and unease. She’d come here to be with Alex today because she needed to just be with him, to love and feel love without worrying about all the other things that were tormenting her.
Her fight with Penn early this morning had proven not only that she was not ready to take Penn on but that she probably never would be. Penn and Liv would always be far more powerful than her because they frequently dined on human flesh.
Some of the siren power was derived from the water, but most of it—the strongest, more monstrous parts—came from feeding on the hearts of mortal men. And unless Gemma was willing to do that, she’d never be able to match them. Not unless she started eating more, and Gemma would sooner die than take another human life.
With each passing day, her hopes of breaking the curse and ever being free of Penn were fading, at least not before she’d have to feed again, and she couldn’t do that. Gemma would never kill another human again, even if that meant she wouldn’t survive.
Her moments on this earth were growing shorter. So as she lay in bed trying to fall asleep when she got back from the fight, she’d asked herself—if she were to die today or tomorrow, how would she want to spend her last hours?
And at least that answer was simple. The only place she really wanted to be was with Alex. She loved her mom and dad, and Harper, and even Daniel. But there was nowhere else in the world that she felt more content or safe or happy than in Alex’s arms, and that’s how she’d want to spend the rest of her life.