“Nah.” Sawyer shook his head and ran his hand along the smooth gray-and-white granite of the island. “Penn told me to stay around the house, so I should do that.”
That explained the conflict. Penn, Thea, and Lexi had enraptured him with their song, so he wanted to be with them constantly. But he also didn’t want to disobey them. So if Penn told him to stay at the house, that overrode his urge to join Thea in the water.
Penn had even told her that when Sawyer was under direct orders from a siren, it wasn’t just impossible for him to disobey. If anything tried to stop him, he’d destroy it if he had to. The enchantment made him so fixated on his cause that it could even give him a superherolike strength. The way a mother could tap in to her adrenaline to lift a car off her baby, a person under a siren’s spell would do anything to do a siren’s bidding.
Gemma had refused to sing and enchant him, which was why Sawyer had almost no interest in her. It had been hard to fight the urge, though. As soon as the other sirens began singing, bespelling Sawyer with their melody, Gemma had the strongest impulse to join in with them. Her very being tried to compel her to sing, and eventually she’d had to cover her ears and cower in the corner, hiding away from the sirens and their song.
Once Sawyer was under their spell, he’d gladly invited the sirens to stay in his house for as long as they wanted, with free access to his credit cards, his cars, everything he owned. And from what Gemma had seen, he seemed to own quite a bit.
Sawyer himself was stunningly handsome. When they’d come upon the house, Gemma had expected the owner to be some rich old man. So when she saw him, looking as if he could be a male siren, she was shocked.
He was young, too, probably in his mid-twenties. His skin was deeply tanned from so much time spent on the beach, and it stood out sharply against his clothes. He wore a thin white shirt with the top few buttons undone, revealing the smooth contours of his chest. His hair was dark blond, and his eyes were a shade of blue that rivaled Lexi’s in beauty.
From what Gemma understood, it was only Sawyer’s good looks that kept him alive. Penn was rather taken with him, at least as much as Penn could be taken with anybody.
“So…” Gemma said, attempting to make conversation with Sawyer since they both stood awkwardly in the kitchen together. “Do you own this house?”
Sawyer raised an eyebrow and looked at her like she was stupid. “Yeah.”
“I mean, like, it’s your house and not your parents’ or something,” Gemma said as she peeled her orange. “Because you seem awfully young to own a house like this.”
“My grandfather died when I was nineteen and left me a third of his oil company,” Sawyer explained. “And I built this house when I was twenty-two.”
“You built this house?” Gemma asked, using a section of the orange to gesture around the room.
“Well, I didn’t build it with my own two hands,” Sawyer said, but he didn’t need to.
His nails were perfectly manicured, and although he hadn’t touched her, Gemma would guess that his hands were baby-soft. He didn’t look like he’d done a day’s work in his entire life.
“So what’s the deal with all the white?” Gemma asked.
“It’s pure and clean and fresh.” Sawyer smiled as he talked about it. “I wanted a house that was filled with light.”
“But don’t you get bored?” Gemma asked. “Don’t you ever want to look at something blue?”
Sawyer laughed a little and gestured at the windows behind him. “I have an entire ocean made of blue. I can see all the color I want.”
She stared down at the peeled orange in her hands, almost willing herself to eat it. When she finally took a bite of a wedge, she instantly regretted it. Normally she loved the fruit, but now it tasted horrible, as if the juice were made of battery acid.
“Ugh.” She grimaced and tossed the orange in the garbage, unable to eat any more.
“Was there something wrong with it?” Sawyer asked, watching her shake her head in disgust.
“No, I don’t think so.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand.
“Do you want me to get you something else?” Sawyer offered, making a move toward the fridge.
“No, that’s okay. I don’t think I’m hungry after all.”
“Are you sure?” Sawyer asked. “Because I don’t have anything else to do, and I can make a pretty mean omelet.”
“That’s okay,” Gemma insisted, and started backing away from the kitchen. “I think I’m going to go lie down.”
“Okay,” Sawyer said, sounding disappointed.
He hadn’t been that excited to see her, but he still seemed sad to see her go. Gemma might not have the same kind of hold on him that Penn and the other girls had, but she was still a siren. Without even trying, she could still enchant a man.
She hurried away, practically jogging back up the stairs. Taking a bite of the orange had made her feel even worse than she’d felt before. As soon as she got to her room, she slammed the door shut, then leaned against it.
Her whole body was shaking, and taking in deep breaths of the salty air didn’t seem to help. She wiped the cold sweat from her brow, unsure how much longer she could do this. Eventually she’d have to feed.
Both Harper and Brian had really let the housework slide since Gemma had left. Their minds had been on other things, so the house was in disarray. Newspapers were strewn about the living room, and empty beer bottles covered the table next to Brian’s chair. In the small laundry room off the kitchen, a pile of dirty clothes was spilling out the door, but that had been building up since before Gemma left.
Eyeing their mess of a house, Harper chewed her lip. She didn’t want to clean, and it wasn’t out of laziness. It just felt sacrilegious somehow. Her sister was missing, and she had no right to resume her normal life as if something weren’t horribly wrong.
The problem was that Harper didn’t know where else to look, and real life didn’t stop just because Gemma was gone. The garbage still needed to be taken out. The lawn still needed to be mowed. And her father still needed to go to work.
Harper was supposed to be working today herself, but she’d only been able to convince Brian to leave by agreeing to stay home. In case Gemma came back or called, he insisted that somebody be at the house at all times.
After Brian had finally left for work that morning, Harper had waited nervously near the front door. He’d already missed two days this week and then showed up late today. She was afraid he might not have a job waiting for him. When he didn’t come back after an hour, she let out a sigh of relief and moved on.