Lullaby / Page 22

Page 22


“You should go, then,” Harper said.

“What?” Alex turned to look at her, confused.

“If there’s nothing new on Gemma, you should go,” Harper told him. “I’m home, so I’ll be here if she gets back. There’s nothing more you can do. You can’t sit cooped in your house all the time, waiting for her to come back. You need to do something.”

He hesitated before asking, “Are you sure?”

“Yeah.” She nodded. “Go on. Go track your storm. Have fun. I’ll be here.”

“You’re right.” He gave her a small smile. “I’ll have my cell phone if you need me.”

He hurried back in the house to gather his things, and it was almost as if he’d been waiting for permission. Harper knew he cared about Gemma a lot and didn’t want to do anything to betray her, but he couldn’t stop living just because she was missing.

Thunder boomed in the distance, and Harper watched the approaching storm. She thought back to what Alex had said about the sirens, and she couldn’t shake her new fears.

She didn’t believe that Gemma had hurt anybody. At least not yet. But if the sirens were monsters, how long would it be before her sister acted like a monster, too?

TWELVE

Compulsion

“Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” Gemma told her reflection. It was her attempt at a pep talk, but it wasn’t that effective.

What Penn had said to her the other day had finally gotten through to her. Gemma had made a choice to be with the sirens, and since they were immortal, it was a very long commitment. She couldn’t spend the rest of eternity moping because this wasn’t what she’d wanted. She’d been living with them for nearly a week, and that was enough sulking.

Admittedly, she’d had to leave behind everything she cared about, her friends, family, boyfriend, and the swimming career she’d worked so hard for. Those were plenty of reasons to be heartbroken, but she’d given herself time to grieve. Now it was time to make the best of things.

Since she’d started swimming every day, she felt much better. Not great, but better. She was no longer nauseated, which made the hunger more intense, but she was managing it so far.

Thea had told her that Aggie had been kind, and Thea herself didn’t seem so bad. That meant that while being a siren might not be a choice, being evil was. So Gemma would simply choose not to be evil, and try to make the best of everything else this life had to offer.

She woke up determined to have a new attitude about the whole thing. She got up, showered, got dressed, and went downstairs to see what the sirens were up to for the day.

Gemma found all three of them and Sawyer in the living room watching Splash on the giant flat-screen. Thea was sprawled out on her belly with her chin propped up on her hands, while Lexi and Penn were sitting on the white sofa with Sawyer between them.

Lexi kept laughing at what was happening on-screen, but Gemma couldn’t tell if it was because she thought the movie was funny or because of the way mermaids were portrayed.

“Hey, guys,” Gemma said.

Penn turned to her. Her eyes were as dark and sinister as ever, but a seductive smile played on her lips. “Look, girls, it’s alive!”

Sawyer looked confused for a minute, but when Lexi laughed, he joined in.

“Since you slept all morning, Penn thought you might be dead,” Lexi explained with a giggle.

“Well … I’m not.”

“What do you need?” Penn propped her elbow on the back of the couch so she could face her.

“Nothing.” Gemma tried to smile widely. “I just wanted to see what you were up to today.”

Penn narrowed her eyes. “Why?”

“I wanted to see if maybe I could join you,” Gemma said.

Thea turned to look at her for the first time, and for a few moments all three of the sirens just stared at her. Sawyer was too busy watching the movie to notice.

“We’re just watching a movie,” Lexi said finally, breaking the staring contest. “That’s probably what we’re going to do all day, if you want to hang out with us.”

“Sure, that sounds fun.”

Gemma planned on sitting on the other couch in the room, but Lexi scooted over, sliding up right next to Sawyer. He’d been sitting closer to Penn with his hand on her thigh, but when Lexi moved over, he smiled and slid his arm around her.

“Here you go.” Lexi tapped the empty spot on the couch. “You can sit by me, Gemma.”

“There’s not enough room,” Penn said, and glared at Lexi.

“Penn, there’s plenty of room.” Lexi gestured to the spot next to her, and really there was more than enough room for Gemma. In fact, Lexi hadn’t even needed to slide over, and there would’ve been room for her.

“No, there’s not,” Penn growled.

“Fine.” Lexi sighed and turned back to Gemma. “Sorry, I guess—”

“No, Lexi, there’s no room for you,” Penn corrected her.

Lexi’s head snapped back around so she could look at Penn. “What?”

“You know, I’m fine sitting over here,” Gemma interjected as she edged back to the empty couch on the other side of the room. “I can see the TV great from here.”

“Sit on the floor, Lexi,” Penn commanded, ignoring Gemma.

“Penn,” Lexi tried to protest, but Penn just kept glaring at her. “Whatever.” Lexi rolled her eyes, then got up and flopped down on the floor next to Thea.

With Lexi banished to the floor, Penn smiled sweetly up at Gemma. “Why don’t you sit with us on the couch?”

“Uh, sure?” Gemma sat down tentatively on the couch, careful to put as much room between her and Sawyer as she could manage.

Truthfully, she didn’t care where she sat. But this was obviously some sort of power play on Penn’s part, and she didn’t want to get caught in the middle of it. Especially not when she’d just decided to make the best of the situation. She didn’t want to start by pissing off Penn or Lexi.

“Oh, my god.” Sawyer laughed and pointed to the TV. “She thinks the video cameras are trapping her in the box. That’s so funny.”

Eventually, in large part to Sawyer’s oblivious commentary on the movie, the tension in the room seemed to ease. Gemma settled into the couch, and she ended up kind of enjoying the movie. She’d never seen it before, and it had its moments.

The funniest parts probably were Sawyer’s reactions. Most of the time, when Thea, Lexi, and Gemma were laughing, it was at something he’d said. Penn never laughed once, though.


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