“How does it feel to be back?” Harper asked.
“It’s pretty strange, actually,” Gemma admitted. “But I’m glad to be here.”
“And I’m glad you’re back.” She smiled a little at that and walked into the room.
“What’s the plan now?” Gemma asked. “Did you have one, beyond finding me?”
“Not really.” Harper leaned back against the wall next to the closet. “I was kind of hoping that you might have some ideas. Alex and I have been doing tons of research on sirens, but we can’t find anything.” She paused. “You are a siren, right?”
“Yeah, I’m a siren,” Gemma said with a heavy sigh. “So are Penn, Thea, and Lexi.”
“So what does that mean exactly?” Harper asked. “You turn into a mermaid, and then there’s that bird-monster thing that Penn changed into. You can sing and enchant people.”
“It’s kind of a lot of things.” Gemma lowered her eyes. She didn’t want to explain it all to Harper, at least not right now. That would mean telling her about the whole curse, and about how she had to kill to survive.
“We’ve got time to talk about it later,” Harper said, apparently noticing Gemma’s hesitance. “If you want to shower and relax a bit before Dad gets home.”
“Thanks.” Gemma smiled wanly at her.
“We do have time, right?” Harper asked. “How long do you think we have before the sirens come after you?”
“I honestly don’t know,” Gemma said.
She thought back to when she’d gone into town the other day and killed Jason. She’d been gone for several hours, after basically stealing Sawyer’s car. But when she came back, the sirens and Sawyer were all there, looking nonplussed.
Since Gemma hadn’t taken anything with her, they probably wouldn’t think she’d run away, so it would be a little while before they began a search for her. And even when they did, they wouldn’t know where she’d gone. It wouldn’t be too hard for them to figure out she’d gone back to Capri, but it might take them a few days before they went after her. They would probably expect her to come back to them, since she knew what it meant if she left.
Eventually, though, the sirens would find her. They had to. Part of the curse was that they had to be near each other at all times.
If they didn’t find her, Gemma would die within a couple weeks. And if the sirens couldn’t replace her, then Penn, Thea, and Lexi would die, too.
“We probably have a few days,” Gemma said finally. “Maybe a week, tops. But that’s it. They will come after me, and they will take me away with them.” She swallowed hard when she realized it. “If we haven’t found a way to break the curse by then, I have to go with them.”
“We’ll find a way,” Harper insisted, and Gemma wished she shared her sister’s conviction. “But for now, why don’t you just shower and change? Dad’ll be home soon.”
“What should I tell him?” Gemma asked as Harper turned to go. “I can’t tell him that I’m a siren, can I?”
“No,” Harper replied, but she looked uncertain. She furrowed her brow, then shook her head. “No, it won’t do him any good. It’ll just make him worry, and he won’t be able to do anything to help you.”
“So what do I tell him?” Gemma asked.
“Just…” Harper shrugged. “I told him you left with Penn, but I didn’t know why. So … just tell him you ran away because…” She shook her head. “I don’t know. Don’t give him a reason. You’re a teenager and were rebelling. That should be enough, right?”
“It’ll have to be, I guess.”
Harper turned to leave and began shutting the door behind her.
“Hey, Harper,” Gemma said, stopping her.
“Yeah?” Harper leaned in the half-open door to look back at her.
“Thank you for coming to get me and all that,” Gemma said. “No matter how this all turns out, I want you to know that I really appreciate all the stuff you do for me. Including but not limited to rescuing me from monsters.”
“Anytime.” Harper smiled at her, then closed the door, leaving Gemma alone to get ready.
Gemma had just gotten out of the shower when she heard her father come home. She was still in the bathroom, brushing her hair, when the front door slammed shut. Then she heard Brian’s booming voice telling Harper that he was home.
Gemma knew he’d be mad at her. He was going to yell at her a lot, and while she was dreading that, it suddenly didn’t seem to matter. She’d missed her dad. She hadn’t realized precisely how much until she heard his voice.
“Dad!” Gemma yelled as soon as she opened the bathroom door, and then she raced down the stairs.
Brian was standing in the living room, still wearing his work clothes, which were stained with oil and smelled vaguely of fish. When he saw Gemma running down toward him, his eyes widened and his jaw dropped.
She threw her arms around him, and he hugged her gruffly. He held her tightly to him for a moment, then moved so he could get a good look at her. He touched her face, his callused hands feeling especially rough on her smooth skin, and his blue eyes were brimming with tears.
“I love you so much, Gemma,” he said. “You had me worried sick.”
“I’m sorry, Dad,” Gemma said, stifling her own tears. “I love you, too.”
“Where were you?” Brian asked.
“I don’t know.” Gemma lowered her eyes and stepped back from him, because she still didn’t completely understand how to answer that question.
“What the hell were you thinking?” Brian asked, and he started yelling. “What in god’s name did I do that was so terrible that you needed to run off for over a week without telling me? I’ve been searching all over for you! The police have been looking for you! Do you have any idea what you’ve put me and your sister and even Alex through?”
“I’m sorry.” Gemma stared at the floor, unable to look him in the face anymore.
“Sorry doesn’t cut it, Gemma!” Brian shouted. “There’s no excuse for what you did! You can’t just leave without telling anybody. That’s not okay, and you know it.”
“I do know, Dad, and I’m really sorry,” she repeated.
“And with everything that’s going on, with the serial killer on the loose,” Brian went on. “That was so dangerous and irresponsible. You could’ve been hurt or killed! And Harper and I had no idea what was happening to you. Do you know how terrifying that is?”