“Your car’s name is Lucinda?” Harper asked.
“My dad named her. Now get out of the car. We’re here.” Marcy opened the driver’s-side door and got out.
Harper looked out the window to see where it was that they were. They’d parked in front of a quirky little place nestled in between a flower shop and craft store.
The sign above the arch had CHERRY LANE BOOKS written in huge letters, and it creaked and groaned, even when there wasn’t a breeze. The wood was dark gray, nearly black. The bookstore’s front window was tinted too dark to see through.
Harper got out, and since the car was a two-door, she held the seat forward so Gemma could get out. She glanced around, admiring the neighborhood. Every other place on the street had cheery storefronts with bright colors, flower boxes, and signs in the window supporting the football team.
“Hey, Marcy, why is this called Cherry Lane?” Harper asked and pointed to the street sign at the end of the block. “This is Main Street.”
“It’s a reference to ‘Puff the Magic Dragon,’” Marcy explained. “It was Lydia’s favorite song when she was a kid.”
“Are you sure it’s open?” Harper asked as they walked toward the door.
The sign hanging on the door said CLOSED SUNDAYS. Sunday had been the only day that both Harper and Marcy had off, and Gemma didn’t have play rehearsal.
“I called ahead. She said she’d open it for me today.”
Marcy pushed open the door, and the bell above it chimed when she stepped inside. The scent of old books and incense wafted over Harper as she followed.
At first it seemed like a normal bookstore, with brightly colored displays of the new Danielle Steel book and a section of movie tie-ins, but, even from where Harper stood near the front door, she could tell that it held something darker in the back.
“Lydia?” Marcy called and started heading back to the dimly lit back corner of the store. “Lydia?”
“Are we supposed to follow her?” Harper asked Gemma quietly. Her sister just shrugged, then went after Marcy.
Harper had expected to see cobwebs clogging every corner, but there weren’t any. The walls were lined with books that looked about a thousand years old, except for one shelf that was filled with tarot cards, dead flowers, and weird stones. Naturally, that was where Marcy stopped.
“I don’t know where Lydia is, but the stuff that you’re looking for, it would be in this section.” Marcy gestured around her at the shelves overflowing with seemingly ancient texts.
Since Harper didn’t know exactly what they were looking for, she began to scan the shelves. Gemma crouched down, picking up a flesh-colored book below the weird stones. Harper ran her fingers against the spines of the books, and they felt worn and soft beneath her fingertips.
She spotted one that had no words on it—only a weird symbol. It looked familiar to her, so she plucked the book down and flipped it open. The pages felt like they might disintegrate in her hands, and it smelled distinctly of dirt.
“My god, where does Lydia get these books?” Harper asked, genuinely awed by what she found. “I think this is written in Sumerian.”
“What’s that?” Gemma came over to see what the fuss was about. Since she was shorter than Harper, she had to crane her neck a bit to read over Harper’s shoulder. “That’s not a language. Those are just shapes and symbols.”
“That’s how it was written,” Harper said. “It’s a dead language.”
“How do you know it?” Gemma asked.
“I don’t know it. Like, I have no idea what any of this is saying. I kind of recognize some of the symbols.” Harper ran her hand along the page. “I took an elective last year, Advanced Languages of the World. I thought the Latin part would help me with medical terminology.”
“So then … that doesn’t say anything about sirens?” Marcy asked.
“Probably not, but this is really old,” Harper said and carefully put the book back on the shelf. “You can’t just go pick that up at a garage sale or any old used book store.”
“I told you this wasn’t any old used book store,” Marcy said.
“Many of the books I get come from private dealers who wish to remain anonymous,” came a voice from behind them, and Harper whirled around to see a petite woman walking down the aisle toward them.
She looked to be in her mid-twenties, with black hair kept in a short pixie cut, which suited her, since she reminded Harper of a pixie. Her dark brown eyes appeared almost too large for her face, especially considering how delicate her features were. Her clothes were pastel and chiffon, looking much less goth than Harper had imagined the owner of this establishment would look.
“Hey, Lydia,” Marcy said, her voice the same monotone it always was, so Harper couldn’t really tell how happy she was to see her friend. “These are the people I was telling you about, Harper and Gemma.”
“You must be the siren,” Lydia said, instantly focusing her attention on Gemma.
“Um…” Gemma appeared unsure how to reply to that and looked embarrassed. “Yeah, I guess. I am.”
“Cool.” Lydia smiled widely. “I’ve never met a siren before.”
“Well, here I am.” Gemma shrugged.
Lydia bit her lip and her eyes sparkled. “You wouldn’t want to sing for me, would you?”
“No, that’s not a good idea,” Harper answered quickly.
“Yeah, it’s not really safe,” Gemma agreed. “It can get out of hand.”
“I understand. I know it’s extremely dangerous.” Lydia waved her hand. “I shouldn’t have asked anyway. You’d think I’d have learned my lesson after the werewolf.”
She pulled back her shirt to reveal her slender shoulder. A red scar in the shape of a large dog bite wrapped around it. Harper was content to look at it from where she stood, but both Gemma and Marcy leaned in to get a better look.
“Cool,” Marcy said.
“So does that mean you’re a werewolf now?” Gemma asked after Lydia had pulled her shirt back up.
“Yeah, I’m all, like, rawr.” Lydia made her hands into fake claws and pretended to growl, but she started laughing almost instantly, a light tinkling sound that reminded Harper of wind chimes. “No, no, that’s not how werewolves work. It’s a whole different process.”