As soon as she stepped outside, Gemma could feel it. There was no real way to explain it. It was like something in her blood was magnetized. When the moon was full, it pulled to her, the way it pulled the tides, and the ocean seemed to call to her more loudly than normal.
“I should go swim tonight,” Gemma said, as she breathed in deeply.
“Why don’t you go home first?” Daniel asked. “I’m sure if you’re going for a night swim, Harper would feel much better about it if she were there.”
“Yeah, I will,” she agreed almost reluctantly. Not so much because she didn’t like swimming with Harper, but because it meant she’d have to wait longer to go.
Over the past few weeks, when she had to swim, she’d sometimes take Harper with her. More often she would go with Thea, and on the very rare occasion she’d gone with all three of the other sirens.
The agreement that Gemma had made with Harper was that she’d never swim alone again. As much as Harper didn’t like the sirens, like Gemma, she’d come to trust Thea. So she thought it was safer for Gemma to be around Thea than to be alone.
“If I asked you a question, would you answer me honestly?” Gemma asked as she and Daniel walked along the sidewalk.
“I would try,” Daniel said uncertainly. “But I usually don’t lie, so it’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll be straight with you.”
“Are you working on the play because of me?” Gemma asked, looking up at him to watch how he responded. “Did Harper put you up to it?”
“You’re asking if Harper wanted me to babysit you,” Daniel said, stealthily avoiding her question. “She never really used those words.”
“But she did ask you to?” Gemma pressed.
“Actually, no, she didn’t,” he said. “But I knew it would make her feel better if she knew you were safe. And it’s not like I would be happier if something bad happened to you.”
“It’s not like you’d be happier?” Gemma laughed. “Don’t lay the concern on too thick.”
He smirked and ruffled his already disheveled hair. “You know what I mean. You’re a nice kid. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, but I don’t want you getting the wrong idea.”
“There’s no wrong idea to be had, which is nice. You’re one of, like, two guys that I can actually be myself around.” She sighed. “It’s really just you and my dad at this point that aren’t leering at me.”
“As your sister’s boyfriend, I can do double duty as brother-in … boyfriend-in-law?” He cocked his head, trying to come up with the right expression, before shrugging and moving on. “Anyway, if there’s anybody you want me to beat up for you, let me know, and I’m on it.”
“Thank you.” Gemma smiled. “I appreciate the sentiment.”
“I don’t look that strong, but I make up for it by being tall,” Daniel said, and she laughed.
She glanced over at him, and he’d sold himself short. While Daniel was indeed on the tall side, he looked strong, too. He mostly wore button flannel shirts or faded T-shirts—the standard outfits of hipsters and handymen alike—but through that, she could see his thick biceps and broad shoulders. Plus, she’d seen him without his shirt on, and she knew that he was pretty ripped.
“Penn told me she offered you ten grand to put up a fence around her house,” Gemma said.
“That she did.” He scratched on the scruff under his chin. “I turned her down, obviously.”
“Obviously?” She looked up at him. “That’s a lot of money to turn down.”
“It is, but I’m sure it’s blood money,” Daniel said, without looking to Gemma for confirmation. “And it’s probably not in my best interest to spend that much time around Penn. All the guys in her life end up dead.”
“How is it going with that?” Gemma asked.
“With Penn’s somewhat obsessive interest in me?” Daniel asked and exhaled deeply. “It’s all about walking a very fine line of not pissing her off and not leading her on.”
“And you’re not attracted to her?” Gemma asked. “At all?”
“No.” He laughed and looked appalled. “Not in the slightest. Are you attracted to her?”
“No. Why would I be attracted to her?”
“Exactly. You were implying that she was so beautiful that any logic or reason or actual desire I might have would be overridden by her physical appearance,” Daniel said. “Since we’re both immune to her song or whatever supernatural hold it is she has on people, the same would be true for you.”
“That makes sense,” she said finally. “Have you told Harper about Penn’s little crush on you?”
“I’ve downplayed it as much as I can,” Daniel admitted. “She knows some, but not the full extent. She doesn’t need to worry about it.”
“No, I get that. I haven’t told her much, either.” Gemma sighed. “It’s better that way sometimes.”
They rounded the corner of the block, leaving the businesses in the center of town for the residential neighborhoods on the edges. A small brick retaining wall ran next to the sidewalk, and Gemma climbed up, walking on it with her arms out like she was walking a tightrope.
“Since we’re being honest, can I ask you something?” Daniel asked.
“Of course,” she said, but she slowed her steps and glanced over at him.
“The question is a bit weird, and I’m not even sure you’ll know the answer.” He shoved his hands in his pockets and stared down thoughtfully at the sidewalk. “But when we found you, after you’d run away with the sirens, how did Harper know where you were?”
Gemma’s forehead pinched with confusion. “It was because of the newspaper. Weren’t you the one who showed her?”
“No, I know how we found the town,” Daniel said. “We knew the general location. But as soon as we saw that house, she knew you were there.”
“What did she tell you?” Gemma asked.
“Not a lot, actually. I asked her a couple times about it, and she’s always very vague. She won’t say anything more than that she just knew.”
“That’s how, then.” Gemma shrugged. She’d come to the end of the wall, so she jumped down and landed on the sidewalk next to Daniel.