“Really?” Gemma asked. “How does one become a werewolf?”
“Well, it’s, like—” Lydia started to explain, but then she saw Harper’s annoyed expression and stopped. “Sorry. You guys didn’t come here to talk about werewolves, did you?”
“I didn’t come here for that, but I kinda want to talk about it now that you brought it up,” Gemma said, her tone getting a touch sulky because she knew Harper didn’t approve of that as a conversation topic.
“You’re not missing much,” Marcy said. “Werewolves are boring.”
Lydia leaned forward and lowered her voice, like she was telling them a secret. “They kinda are.”
“See?” Marcy asked.
“Anyway, you’re sick of being a siren and want to break the curse. Did I get that right?” Lydia asked. “Or did one of you want to become a siren?”
“No, no, no,” Harper said and waved her hands. “No more sirens. None.”
“Yeah, we definitely want to break the curse,” Gemma said. “And not have more sirens. In fact, if we can find a way to kill the sirens that already exist, that’d be great.”
“You don’t know how to kill the sirens?” Lydia raised an eyebrow. “So you don’t know how you can die?”
“I know some ways,” Gemma said. “But I don’t know how I can be murdered.”
Lydia crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back, studying Gemma. She did it for so long that Gemma became uncomfortable and began to squirm.
“That leaves you vulnerable to attack, doesn’t it?” Lydia asked.
“Yeah, it does,” Gemma said.
“We hadn’t thought of that before, but thank you for putting it in my head now,” Harper muttered.
“Do you know how to kill sirens?” Gemma asked.
“Unfortunately, no, I don’t.” Lydia looked genuinely sad and shook her head. “If I’m being honest with you now, I don’t know very much about sirens at all.”
“Well, what do you know?” Gemma asked.
“That you can sing the most captivating song and enchant sailors, but I’m assuming it extends to all people and not just those that operate ships,” Lydia said.
“That’s accurate,” Harper said. She leaned against the bookcase, watching Lydia as she talked.
“And that sirens can transform into either mermaids or birds, depending on what I read.”
“Both, actually,” Gemma said.
Lydia’s eyes widened. “You can do both? Wow.” She laughed again and clapped her hands together. “That’s amazing. That has to be so exciting.”
“It does have its downsides, though,” Gemma said, refusing to get caught up in Lydia’s exuberance.
“Oh, you mean the cannibal part?” Lydia wrinkled her nose. “That would be disgusting.”
Harper looked over at her sister, and Gemma swallowed hard and lowered her eyes. Based on the fact that the sirens had torn apart Bernie McAllister and Alex’s friend Luke, Harper had figured that the sirens were eating at least some of them.
Plus, she’d read about the cannibalism in the mythology books. Gemma hadn’t mentioned it, though, so Harper never brought it up. She didn’t think Gemma had hurt anybody. Gemma would do whatever she needed to do to survive, but not at the expense of somebody else.
“Yeah, that would be the part I’m avoiding,” Gemma said quietly.
“I don’t mean to be mean, but if you don’t know that much about sirens, how can you help us?” Harper asked.
“I don’t know how much I can personally help you, but I might be able to direct you towards some information,” Lydia said.
“Where?” Harper asked.
“Well. Okay.” Lydia held her hands up. “Let me explain first. Back in the day, there were all these powerful, magical beings that roamed the earth freely.
“The population of regular mortals—like you and me”—Lydia gestured between herself and Harper—“expanded more rapidly than that of these other beings. I’m guessing it’s for the same reason that ants multiply at much faster rates than blue whales. We were small and expendable, bottom of the food chain. We died all the time.
“Many of these other beings were immortal—or at least appeared that way to humans,” Lydia went on. “In fact, your average human began naming these more powerful beings, and oftentimes those names included terms like ‘gods’ or ‘goddesses.’”
Lydia waved her hands. “Anyway, humans had a way of annoying these so-called deities. So the gods and goddesses would do things like trick them or curse them. But in order to make a curse real and take effect, the terms of the curse have to be written down.”
“The terms of a curse?” Gemma asked.
“Yeah, kinda like when you lease a car or click the box ‘yes’ to agree to the terms of service on iTunes,” Lydia explained. “In order for it to be valid, there has to be a contract.”
“So you’re saying that somewhere, the specifics of the siren curse are written?” Gemma asked.
“Right, it would have everything spelled out,” Lydia said. “Like what a siren can and can’t do, how to kill a siren, and how to break the curse. You know what? I’ll show you one.”
Lydia slid in between Gemma and Harper and went farther down the aisle. In lieu of a ladder, Lydia apparently preferred to climb up the bookcase, using the shelves as rungs.
“Do you need help?” Harper offered, since she was at least half a foot taller than Lydia.
“Don’t worry,” Lydia replied cheerfully. “I got it.”
Lydia grabbed something from the top shelf, then dropped to the floor. She held up a thin, battered book. The cover had completely fallen off, and it was held together by a rubber band wrapped around it.
“This is the one for Dracul, and it lays out the vampire curse,” Lydia said as she took off the rubber band and opened it.
Harper leaned over to get a look. The pages were falling out, and the lettering had faded so much it was all but illegible. It was written in a cursive that Harper didn’t understand but there were a few pictures alongside it, showing a stake through the heart.
“I can’t read it,” Gemma said.
“Of course you can’t. It’s in Romanian,” Lydia said. “But vampires aren’t your problem, are they?”