“I don’t know,” Thea snapped. “We would’ve found someone else.”
“With only a few days before the full moon?” Gemma shook her head skeptically. “I sincerely doubt that.”
“Then we would’ve died.” Thea threw up her hands, exasperated. “But none of us did.”
“Except for Aggie,” Gemma pointed out. “I don’t understand that, either. Why didn’t you wait until you found a replacement siren before you killed her?”
“I didn’t kill her,” Thea said pointedly. “It wasn’t my idea.”
A cloud moved in front of the sun, casting them in shadow. The breeze coming off the ocean suddenly felt cooler. Gemma couldn’t see Penn or Lexi or even Sawyer anymore, but she didn’t care.
“Penn couldn’t wait,” Thea said finally. “She couldn’t stand to be around Aggie anymore, and she just…” She trailed off and shook her head.
“Penn’s younger than you,” Gemma said. “Why do you let your kid sister tell you what to do?”
“I don’t—” Thea abruptly stopped midsentence, as if changing her mind about what she wanted to say. “There are many things you don’t understand. You’re too young. You haven’t lived long enough or made any real sacrifices. You’ve never had to take care of anybody, not even yourself.”
Penn, Lexi, and Sawyer suddenly surfaced, only ten or twenty feet from the shore. Sawyer was gasping for breath, but Penn and Lexi were completely silent.
“It’s getting chilly,” Thea said, and stood up. “I’m going in.”
Gemma watched over her shoulder as Thea walked toward the house. Her sari was whipping in the wind, and she’d wrapped her arms around herself.
“Maybe we should go in, too,” Sawyer suggested, and Gemma turned back to look at him. He was standing waist-deep in the water, the chiseled muscles of his torso visible above the waves.
“No,” Penn said without looking at him. Her black eyes were fixed on Thea, watching her figure retreat into the house. Penn’s voice was normally like silk, but it had a harshness to it as she chastised Sawyer. “I’m not done playing yet.”
“Sorry,” Sawyer said, sounding genuinely upset, and he moved toward her, like he meant to touch her as part of his apology. “We can play as long as you want.”
She turned back to glare at him. “I know that. I’m the one that makes the rules.”
Before he could say anything more, Penn turned and dove under the water. Sawyer immediately tried to give chase, splashing roughly through the waves after her.
“Gemma!” Lexi called to her with that familiar singsong tone to her voice.
The sun had broken through the clouds, and a sliver of light managed to find Lexi’s long golden locks, making them shine.
“Gemma,” Lexi repeated when Gemma didn’t answer. “Come swimming! Join us!”
Gemma simply shook her head no. Lexi let out a flirtatious giggle, then dove into the ocean, leaving Gemma alone on the beach.
Alex had his sites going, so far generating mostly useless tips, and between Harper and Brian, they had called every single person they could think of. Nobody knew where Gemma was, and there really wasn’t much more that Harper could do.
So she went to work on Thursday. Brian had been reluctant to leave the house unmanned, but Harper pointed out that if Gemma came home, she probably wouldn’t leave just because nobody was there. Besides that, Harper had her cell phone on her, and Alex was sitting in the house next door, keeping watch for his girlfriend.
“Have you figured out how to kill the sirens yet?” Marcy asked when Harper sat down at the front desk of the library.
“Not yet,” Harper said.
She’d just punched in for the day, and she had to get ready to read a story to toddlers in twenty minutes. Marcy stood behind the desk, organizing the piles of recently returned books onto a cart so it would be easier for her to put them away.
“You could try holy water,” Marcy suggested, and Harper looked back at her.
“Holy water,” Marcy repeated. “Although the sirens do love water. But it works on demons and vampires, so it should work on a couple of skinny little sirens.”
“Maybe.” Harper turned back to her desk, flipping through the calendar to see what story was scheduled for today. “But I’ll have to find them first before I try it out.”
“No luck on finding Gemma, then?” Marcy asked.
“Not yet.” Harper sighed.
“That sucks. I was hoping that since you called in yesterday, maybe you had a lead on her.”
“I have to go get ready for story time,” Harper said, eager to change the subject. “Do you know if Where the Wild Things Are is on the shelf?”
“Uh, I think so,” Marcy said. “It should be, at least.”
Harper pushed out her chair and hurried over to the children’s corner. There were already a few little kids waiting with their moms or older siblings.
This was part of the summer reading program at the library. Harper or the librarian would read a book aloud to little kids a couple times a month, acting out the voices and engaging the audience as much as possible. Since the librarian was still traveling the world on her honeymoon, that left Harper to do it.
She didn’t mind, though. In fact, she usually enjoyed interacting with the kids. It was fun getting them excited about reading, especially when they were so young. They didn’t care if it was cool or not—they just liked a good story.
Today Harper liked it for a different reason. It kept her distracted. She needed to get her mind off Gemma, although the book Where the Wild Things Are didn’t help much. It had been one of Gemma’s favorites when they were kids, and Brian used to read it to them almost every night, acting out the parts.
At least she had that going for her. Harper already had her father’s dazzling renditions of the characters to use as inspiration. This should be her best story-time performance.
She got the book off the shelf, then settled into her chair in the children’s corner. As more kids came in, they sat around her in a circle. From where she was, Harper could see Marcy at the desk, loading up the book cart and directing children to story time as they came in.
When it was time to begin, Harper threw herself into her performance. All the kids came here today to have a good time, and it was her job to deliver, no matter how worried or distraught she might feel.