“I don’t need a babysitter,” Gemma said.
“Yeah, you do,” Thea said flatly. “You look like shit.”
“Thanks,” Gemma muttered.
She brushed past Thea and walked down the hall to the bathroom. Thea followed her, but Gemma hadn’t expected any different.
When she looked in the mirror above the vanity, Gemma realized that Thea hadn’t completely told the truth. While Gemma did look worse than she had the day before, and even worse than she had the day before that, she was still remarkably beautiful.
Her brown hair had golden highlights and soft waves, and even though she’d just woken up from a fitful sleep, it actually looked pretty good. She’d always been pretty, but since turning into a siren, she’d become radiantly gorgeous.
As a siren, she should’ve been a deep tan color that almost glowed. That glow was missing, and her skin had a weird ashen quality to it, yet even that managed to look lovely on her.
She grabbed a hair tie and pulled her hair back into a ponytail. Her hair was damp from sweat, and she didn’t like how it felt hanging around her face.
“You must feel like hell,” Thea commented.
Gemma could see Thea in the reflection of the mirror, standing behind her with her arms crossed over her chest. Gemma turned on the tap so she could splash cold water on her face.
“I feel fine,” she said without looking at Thea.
“We can hear you moaning in your sleep,” Thea told her.
There were only two things Gemma remembered clearly from her dreams: the watersong, and Alex.
She’d dreamt of the last day they’d spent together, kissing and talking and holding each other in his bed. But in her dreams, that day never ended, and she got to stay with him forever.
It had broken her heart to leave him, but she knew it was the best thing she could do for him. Whatever it was that she’d become, it would only bring him harm.
She’d made a promise to the sirens that if they spared him, if they left Alex and her sister Harper alone, then she’d go with them.
Gemma was determined to keep up her end of the pact. She’d do everything in her power to protect Alex and Harper. Even if that meant leaving them forever.
“I’m fine,” Gemma insisted once she found her voice, then turned off the faucet.
“Today’s, what? Wednesday?” Thea asked as Gemma dried her face with a towel. “So you’ve been a siren for … eight days now? Yeah. You need to eat something.”
“I’ve been eating,” Gemma said, but at the mention of food her stomach did a weird growling, and she pressed her hand over her belly as if she could silence it.
She’d been hungry before, but nothing had ever felt like this. This was primal, and it seemed to encompass her entire body.
When she’d been kissing Alex once before, she’d felt something similar, although slightly more intense. They’d been making out pretty hot and heavy, and then she’d “accidentally” bit him.
That had snapped her out of the strange hunger she’d felt with Alex, but she was unable to shake her current hunger. Fortunately, it was a lot milder, and she kept herself from biting Sawyer. But every day the watersong grew louder and her hunger grew stronger.
“Gemma, you know what I’m talking about,” Thea said, looking at her seriously. “What you’ve been eating can’t sustain—”
“I just need to eat more,” Gemma interrupted her.
She didn’t want to hear what Thea recommended she actually eat. Gemma already had an idea, but she wasn’t ready to hear it aloud, for someone to put into actual words what she would have to do in order to survive as this new monster.
Thea sighed loudly but didn’t argue with Gemma. “Suit yourself.”
“I will.” Gemma raised her chin defiantly, then walked past Thea out of the bathroom.
Thea trailed after her, into the hall and then down the winding marble staircase.
“You don’t need to follow me all day,” Gemma said, casting a look back over her shoulder at Thea. “I’m not going anywhere. I said I would do as you guys asked, and I will.”
“I wasn’t following you.” Thea bristled, sounding annoyed. “I’m going out for a swim.” She paused, her expression softening to something only moderately bitchy. “You can join me if you want.”
Nothing in the world sounded more tempting than going out to the ocean for a swim. Gemma was hot and sticky with sweat, and the watersong was beckoning her. But ever since they’d arrived at the beach house on Monday, Gemma hadn’t swum. She refused to do anything fun.
The sirens had killed people and nearly killed Alex and Harper, and now Gemma was a siren, too. She was the same evil that they were, and she shouldn’t derive any pleasure from this life. That was her punishment for living and allowing herself to become one of them.
Gemma shook her head. “I’m just going to get something to eat.”
They’d reached the bottom of the stairs, and Thea stopped, leaning on the banister, groaning. “You’re making this so much harder than it needs to be.”
“I’m doing the best I can,” Gemma said honestly.
“If you would just eat and swim, you’d feel so much better,” Thea said. “I know you’re all hung up on the eating thing, but if you’d just spend, like, an hour in the ocean, you’d feel a million times better.”
Gemma shook her head again. “Go swim. Don’t worry about me.”
“Whatever.” Thea threw her hands up in the air. “I’m done.”
Thea turned, heading out the back of the house to the beach. Gemma could see it through the windows, the crystal blue water splashing against the shore. She swallowed hard and looked away before she gave in to it.
She went to the kitchen to root around for something to eat, even though she knew none of the food would appeal to her.
The appliances were stainless steel and stood in sharp contrast to the stark white of the rest of the room. She’d just opened the fridge when the owner of the house, Sawyer, wandered into the kitchen.
“Oh,” Sawyer said when he saw her, looking sufficiently disappointed. “I thought it might be Thea.”
“She’s out swimming,” Gemma said. She grabbed an orange from the crisper, since it was the only thing that looked even mildly appetizing, then closed the fridge behind her. “You can probably join her if you want.”
He glanced to the back of the house toward the ocean. A longing filled his face, but it quickly shifted to conflicted regret.