The fall to the ocean below was exhilarating. The wind blowing past her was so loud, she couldn’t hear anything else. Her dress whipped around her, and her stomach flipped several times before she finally crashed into the water.
The first few moments after she hit were painful. It wasn’t as bad for Gemma as it was for Thea, because she’d missed all the rocks that lined the face of the cliff. Thea had to have slammed into some of them, but by the time Gemma made it into the ocean, any signs of Thea’s injuries were gone. She was just a beautiful mermaid, flitting about the water.
Within seconds of hitting the water, Gemma felt the change running over her. The flutter of her skin as it turned from flesh into iridescent scales. The water running over her made her skin feel electric. Every wave, every splash, every movement charged through her.
While Thea had waited for Gemma to join her in the water, she turned and swam ahead. Gemma raced after her. They left the bay, moving away from where there were so many people who could spot them, and then they really began to play.
They moved together, swimming around one another almost as if they were dancing. They’d dive deep, then race back to the surface as quickly as they could so they could leap, flying through the air before splashing back into the ocean.
In these moments, when her entire body was tingling and joy was rushing over her like a tidal wave, Gemma couldn’t feel any anxiety or fear or worry. She actually became incapable of it. The only thing she felt—the only thing that mattered—was the ocean.
The campus lawn was filled with maples, and the rather imposing brick university was partially obscured by the foliage. The fall semester hadn’t started yet, so it was quiet. A Latin inscription was above the door, but Harper, Marcy, and Gemma were too far away to be able to read it.
“This does not look like a bookstore,” Harper said after Marcy had pulled her Gremlin over on the street in front of Sundham University.
“It’s on the way,” Marcy said and turned down the stereo.
An eight-track of Carly Simon had been the soundtrack for their forty-minute drive from Capri, with the last fifteen minutes almost on full blast because Gemma had requested it to drown out the watersong.
Harper didn’t exactly know what the watersong was, and Gemma hadn’t really articulated it. All she knew was that the farther Gemma got from the ocean, the more obnoxious the song would get. This was apparently the farthest Gemma had gone since she’d become a siren.
“It’s really pretty,” Gemma said, leaning forward from the backseat.
“Yep, it looks the same as it did in the brochures, and it even looks the same as it did when I went to a college visit last year before I applied to go here,” Harper said. She turned away from the campus to glare at Marcy and Gemma. “I know what the school looks like.”
“Just thought it wouldn’t hurt to remind you,” Marcy said.
Marcy exchanged a look with Gemma and shrugged.
“Nice try, Marcy,” Gemma told her and leaned back in the seat.
“So you guys have been conspiring?” Harper asked, looking from one to the other of them.
Neither of them replied, and Marcy put the car in gear. It sputtered angrily and jerked backward, then drove forward.
“This isn’t going to turn into a tour of Sundham, Delaware, is it?” Harper asked. “You’re not going to try to show me all the sights in hopes I’ll come here?”
Marcy glanced up at the rearview, apparently meeting Gemma’s eyes for some kind of confirmation. Harper leaned over the seat to look back at her, and Gemma sighed and stared out the windows.
“Just take her to the bookstore,” Gemma told Marcy.
“Seriously?” Harper groaned and laid her head against the headrest. “You guys know that my issue with going to college has nothing to do with the town itself or even the college? I think Sundham and the university are perfectly fine. That’s why I picked here in the first place.”
“We were only trying to remind you how good your choices were.” Gemma faced her. “We thought maybe if you saw how awesome things were here, you’d be more enticed to go.”
“How did you even get involved with this?” Harper asked, turning her attention to Marcy. “You don’t want me to leave. Then you’ll have to spend all your time with Edie.”
“Yes, it’s true, it would benefit me if you lived in Capri forever, doing all the work that I don’t want to do,” Marcy admitted. “But it may surprise you to learn that I’m not the most selfish person on the planet. I know it’s in your best interest to go to college, so when Gemma asked me to help her convince you, I said sure.”
Of course Harper wanted to go. She’d worked her entire life for this. But it was for the same reason that Gemma was trying to convince her to go that Harper didn’t want to go—she loved her sister too much to stand by and let her destroy her life.
“The drive went by so fast, didn’t it?” Gemma asked when it had been a few minutes since Harper had said anything. “If you were speeding, I bet you could make it back to Capri in less than a half hour. That’s really not much time. If something happened, you could be back like that.”
“Let’s just go to the bookstore,” Harper said. “Maybe we’ll figure out a way to break the curse, and then this will all be a moot point.”
Marcy did as she was told, driving through town. If Harper had been looking around, she probably would’ve thought it was quaint—wide streets with potted flowers hanging from old-fashioned lampposts.
But she didn’t look. She just slouched in her seat while Marcy sang along absently to “Take Me as I Am.”
The car jerked to a stop abruptly, and Harper had to brace her hands on the dashboard to keep from flying into the windshield.
“What happened?” Harper asked as the Gremlin fell silent. “Did your car just die?”
“No, my car didn’t die. She would never die.” Marcy glared over at Harper. “My dad bought her used when he was sixteen, and he gave her to me when I turned sixteen, and she hasn’t died once in the past twenty-nine years.”
“Twenty-nine years?” Gemma asked. “How is that even possible? My car is, like, fifteen years old, and I can’t keep it running.”
“It’s all about proper maintenance and love,” Marcy said. “I love Lucinda, and Lucinda loves me.”