So though the lyrics played on her tongue until she had to bite her lip to keep them from escaping, Gemma didn’t sing. She was too afraid of accidentally luring another guy into this mess.
If Sawyer weren’t living here with them, she might have been tempted to try a soft lullaby or humming to herself. But it was bad enough that Penn and Lexi had him wrapped around their fingers. Gemma didn’t want to control him, too.
At least the shower was helping. Her body craved water the way plants craved sunlight. The tap water wasn’t exactly right, partially because of all the chemicals used to treat it, but mostly because it wasn’t salt water from the ocean.
Normally, when her skin got wet, she’d feel this fluttering sensation in her legs as they tried to transform into a tail. It wouldn’t work, not fully, because only the ocean induced the transition.
This time, she felt nothing. It was as if her body didn’t even have the strength to attempt to change. But her headache had abated, and that was all she really hoped for.
Gemma moved on to washing her hair, and she caught herself humming despite her attempts not to. The sound of the running water would probably drown it out, though, so she decided to go with it.
As she was washing her hair, something tangled in her fingers. She pulled her hand out to inspect it in the ever-brightening morning light. It was a whole clump of her own hair, and Gemma yelped in shock.
She reached up and pulled at her hair. Without her even really trying, another chunk of hair came out.
While she’d never considered herself particularly vain, the sight of her hair falling out was a terrible shock. It wasn’t about the way she would look so much as that she associated hair loss with people dying, like cancer patients.
The shower curtain flew open, and Gemma hurried to cover herself with her arms so she wasn’t standing there so exposed.
Penn stood on the other side of the tub, glaring at Gemma in the way only Penn could glare. It was like her black eyes sliced right through Gemma.
Beyond that evil death gaze, Penn looked stunning, for the first thing in the morning. She wore a black silk nightie that stopped at the middle of her thighs, and her glossy black hair hung down her back.
“Penn!” Gemma shouted.
“Your fucking hair is falling out,” Penn said, her tone going past annoyed to full-on bitchy.
“Yeah.” Gemma swallowed back her fear and tried to cling to her indignation. “I’m also naked. So it’d be great if you could close the curtain and give me some privacy.”
“You need to eat something,” Penn said, ignoring her.
“I’m not gonna eat anything right now,” Gemma said. “I’m in the shower.”
She wanted to reach out and grab the curtain so she could pull it shut herself, but that would mean leaving herself out in the open. As it was, one arm was barely covering her chest while the other attempted to hide her nether regions.
“You are no good to me dead, Gemma,” Penn warned her. “If you don’t eat something, you will die. And then I will be royally pissed. Do you know what happens when I get pissed, Gemma?”
Gemma sighed. “No.”
“I get even.” Penn leaned in toward her and lowered her voice. “That means I’ll go after that stupid boy you like and your ugly sister.”
Gemma lowered her eyes. The cold water was still dripping down her body, and it took all her strength to keep from shivering.
All she wanted to do was protect Harper and Alex. That was why she’d left, why she’d agreed to any of this. But there were still some lines she wouldn’t cross. Even if it meant risking the people she cared about most, Gemma wasn’t sure that she could do it.
“I won’t kill anyone,” Gemma said finally.
“You can’t even attract anyone to kill. You look like zombie Barbie right now.” Penn gestured to Gemma, who was looking pale and ill, with hair still tangled in her fingers. “You need to swim.”
“I don’t want to—” Gemma began, but Penn cut her off.
“That wasn’t a suggestion.” Penn smirked at her. “That was a command, Gemma, and as I recall, you promised to follow all my commands.”
Before Gemma could agree or disagree, Penn grabbed her arm and yanked her out of the tub. She tripped over the lip and fell to the floor, but that gave her a chance to pick up the spaghetti-strapped nightgown she’d slept in. Penn let go of her long enough for Gemma to slide it over her head, then she was pulling on her arm again.
“This has gone on long enough,” Penn said as she dragged Gemma out of the bathroom.
Gemma glanced down the hall and saw that everyone had come out to see what the commotion was about. Lexi and Thea stood in front of a bedroom door. Sawyer looked like he’d just stumbled out of a room, his hair disheveled from sleep.
“Do you need help, Penn?” Sawyer asked as Penn led Gemma down the stairs.
“Not now, Sawyer!” Penn snapped.
His entire face fell. “Sorry, babe.”
“The problem is that I’ve been too kind,” Penn said, returning to her rant at Gemma. “I’ve let you into our fold. I’ve given you the greatest gift you could ever ask for, and you throw it all back in my face.”
Gemma stumbled a few times, her wet feet slipping on the marble floor, but Penn never slowed down. If she didn’t hurry up, Penn was liable to rip her arm out of its socket.
When they made it outside, it got harder for Gemma to keep her footing. The back door opened right onto the beach, and the sand made it nearly impossible for her to stand.
Penn must’ve tired of dragging her along, because she yanked Gemma’s arm so hard Gemma stumbled to the ground. Gemma sat up but didn’t get to her feet.
“What is wrong with you?” Penn shouted, glowering over her.
“I didn’t ask for this!” Gemma shot back, trying to match Penn’s glare.
“Neither did I!” Penn growled. “But I made the best of it! Why can’t you?”
“How have you made the best of it?” Gemma asked. “What have you done that’s so great?”
“Don’t you dare question my choices!” Penn shook her head. “You have no right! And you know what? It doesn’t matter what you think or what you want or if you’re happy.”
“Why don’t you just let me go?” Gemma asked.
“You are a siren and I can’t let you go!” Penn shouted. “The sirens have to stay together. If one of us leaves for more than a week or so, we all die. You have to stay with us. As you agreed. If you want to be miserable, that’s fine by me. But you will not die. We had an agreement, and you will do what I say!”