“That’s different. My friends and family are here,” Gemma said. “And you’ve been all over the world and seen all kinds of exotic places. I can’t imagine this would be in the top ten, or even the top fifty places you’ve been.”
“I haven’t been as many places as you’d think,” Thea said. “We can never be that far from the ocean, so everywhere we go has to be a seaside town. Beaches, I’ve seen hundreds. To me, exotic would be an open prairie, land that goes on and on without any water in sight.”
Gemma sat down on the edge of a sofa as she waited, still staring up at the loft even though there was nothing to see.
“But there still have to have been more beautiful places than here,” Gemma said.
“Of course there are.” Thea’s voice was muffled a second, but when she spoke again, her voice was clear. “The coast of Australia is probably my favorite. They have the most gorgeous reefs there. I’ve swum there thousands of times, and it’s always changing and always beautiful.”
“I’d love to see that,” Gemma said.
“Maybe you will.” Thea appeared at the top of the stairs, now in a dark brown bikini. “But the ocean’s the ocean anywhere you go. The water’s just as wet here as it is anywhere else.”
“So then what could make you miss this place?” Gemma asked. “What makes Capri special?”
Thea breathed out deeply and came down the stairs much more slowly than she’d gone up them. When she reached the bottom, she finally answered.
“It’s not the most beautiful or entertaining place we’ve been, that’s for sure,” Thea said. “Penn thinks there might be some kind of supernatural draw, but I don’t know if I believe that.”
“Why did you come here in the first place?” Gemma asked, realizing that the sirens had never told her how they’d ended up in town.
Thea shook her head and wouldn’t meet her eyes. She hesitated before speaking, almost as if she were holding something back. “It was just a stop on the coast. We never planned to be here this long.”
“But you have stayed,” Gemma said. “And you want to stay longer. Don’t you?”
“Oh, I don’t know.” Thea walked away, going out to the back door, so Gemma got up to go after her.
When she went outside, Thea was standing right at the edge of the cliff, her toes almost hanging over it. Anthemusa Bay spread out before them. Boats were floating on the water, looking so small from the distance.
“All the places blur together eventually,” Thea said finally. “Even the beauty of the ocean, eventually it becomes … redundant. It’s not here so much as now that I want to stay in.”
“What’s great about now?” Gemma asked.
“It probably seems terrible to you. Your whole life is in upheaval. But for me, this is the calmest things have been in a very long time. Penn is more sated. Lexi is miserable, but that matters less. Lexi’s bitching and whining have nothing on Penn.”
Gemma nodded knowingly. “When Penn’s unhappy, she makes everybody unhappy.”
“That’s an understatement. She makes life a living hell.”
“So she’s happy here?” Gemma asked.
Thea shrugged. “She’s preoccupied, and sometimes that’s about as close to happy as she gets.”
“You’re talking about Daniel?” Gemma debated about saying anything more on that, but she decided she should tell Thea. That didn’t mean that word wouldn’t get back to Penn, but if Thea thought it should, then maybe it should. “I talked to Harper this morning, and she thinks she figured out why he’s immune.”
Thea turned her head sharply. “Really?”
“Yeah. Harper was with Daniel last night, and he couldn’t hear her whisper or something,” Gemma said, almost reluctantly telling Thea the story. “Five years ago, he was in an accident, and it messed up his hearing. He’s not deaf, but certain octaves and tones are out of his range.”
“So he’s deaf to whatever makes the siren song enchanting,” Thea said. She sighed and pulled the hair tie out, making her red locks fall free.
“Are you going to tell Penn?” Gemma asked.
Thea looked at her for a long moment. “I should … but I won’t. And I advise you not to, also. If she hasn’t solved that mystery, it might keep her interested in staying in town.” She gave Gemma a knowing look. “That might keep you alive longer.”
“She told me she’s looking for a replacement.” That was the first time Gemma had said it aloud, and the reality of it hit her harder than she’d thought it would.
She hadn’t told Harper about it—she refused to. Her sister already knew too much and was too wrapped up in the drama of her life. Gemma thought the best way to protect her was to keep her out of the loop. The less Harper knew, the better.
That didn’t change the fact that the very real threat of Gemma’s death was looming in the not-too-distant future, and it was hard for her not to throw up when she thought about it too much.
“I’m trying to hold her off, Gemma,” Thea said. “Penn thinks she found the right girl, but she’s being cautious. There’s still some time, but not much.”
“Can’t you just tell me how to break the curse?” Gemma asked, almost pleading with her.
“Gemma, honestly, don’t you think if I knew how to break the curse, I would’ve done it by now?” Thea asked. “I wish I could have a better solution for sure. I wish I knew the magic answer to make everything easy and wonderful, but I don’t. I’m trapped in the same mess you are.”
“I know, but…” Gemma trailed off and ran her hand through her hair. “I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
“Enjoy this life for as long as you have it,” Thea told her simply.
Thea slipped off her bikini bottoms and tossed them back on the cliff. Then she dove off the edge, her arms pointed out in front of her as she fell toward the waves crashing below her.
That was the apparent end of the conversation, so Gemma followed suit. She kicked off her sandals and panties, so she was left in her sundress. Unlike Thea, Gemma preferred swimming in a dress instead of a swimsuit. That way she had all her lady bits covered when she reemerged from the water, since the tail transformation ripped off suit bottoms or underwear. Thea had jumped right from the edge, but Gemma liked a running start. She went back to the cabin, then raced to the edge and leapt off.