Gemma realized what she’d said and swallowed hard. Over the past few weeks she and Thea had become closer, and Gemma even considered her a friend. But to save herself—to break this curse—it could mean that Gemma would have to kill her, or at the very least Thea might otherwise have to die.
“So you think you could get into the house tomorrow?” Daniel asked.
“Maybe. Thea has play rehearsal, and if I skipped it, I could get into the house, assuming that Penn and Lexi aren’t there,” Gemma said.
“Okay, how about this: You go scope out the house. If Penn and Lexi are home, I’ll come up with some kind of distraction,” Daniel said. “I don’t know what yet, but I can come up with some reason to get Penn out, and Lexi tends to follow her around like a puppy. Then you get in and do your search.”
“That sounds like a plan.” Gemma smiled up at him. “Thank you.”
Daniel smiled back. “It’s no problem.”
She started to walk back toward her house, then realized he wasn’t following. “Aren’t you coming over?”
“Nah, I don’t think I should,” Daniel said. “You should go swimming with Harper, and if I come over, she’ll want to hang out with me.”
“Are you sure? I could always go swimming another night.” That was what she said, but she didn’t really mean it.
“No, you go. Have fun. Spend time with your sister. I’ll talk to her later,” Daniel said, taking a step back away from Gemma. “Tell her I say hi, though. And don’t forget to call me if you need me tomorrow.”
Gemma knew she should try harder to stop him—he’d walked her all the way here—but she didn’t. Once he was out of sight, she turned and jogged back to the house, already thinking of arguments to convince Harper to go swimming with her.
After Gemma got home from play rehearsal, she all but insisted Harper swim with her. Harper had refused as much as she could, but she knew that Gemma would go without her.
Because of the transformation that happened whenever she hit salt water, Gemma preferred swimming at night when there were fewer witnesses around, and Harper couldn’t fault her for that. So she put on her swimsuit and took Gemma out to the bay.
They went out past the beach, where the soft sand became jagged rocks lining the shore. The paved parking lots for the crowds were replaced by a forest of bald cypress trees. Harper parked on a dirt road as close to the water as she could drive.
Gemma led the way, walking delicately from one rock to another, and Harper was careful to copy her footing so she didn’t stumble or cut her foot on a sharp rock. When they reached the water, Gemma waded out first, and within seconds Harper saw the moonlight glinting off her tail.
She was much faster than Harper, but she waited for her, literally swimming circles around her. Harper never felt as uncoordinated as she did when she swam with Gemma. Her normally elegant strokes seemed more like clumsy dog-paddling compared to the way Gemma glided through the water.
She almost hated to admit it, but there was something awesome about swimming with Gemma when she was a mermaid. The grace and beauty Gemma had was truly stunning.
“Harper, hang on,” Gemma commanded, floating in front of her in the water.
“What?” Harper treaded water next to her.
“Grab my shoulders,” Gemma said, and when Harper hesitated, she goaded her on. “Come. Trust me. Just hang on to my shoulders.”
Gemma turned with her back to Harper, and tentatively Harper gripped her sister’s wet shoulders.
“Now what?” Harper asked.
“Now hold your breath,” Gemma said with a laugh, and then she plunged into the water, dragging Harper down with her as she swam quickly.
Just when Harper was beginning to fear she might drown, Gemma pulled her back up, out of the water and through the air, before they came crashing back down again.
Being with Gemma out in the ocean, seeing her when she was in her element, actually broke Harper’s heart. To know that Gemma had found someplace where she belonged so completely, and that she couldn’t really stay there.
The night may have been magical, but Harper knew that wasn’t all there was to the curse. If it was, she would gladly let Gemma relish it for the rest of her life. But that wasn’t the case.
In the morning, both Harper and Gemma seemed to wake up with a renewed zest to find the scroll. Gemma may have been unable to get into the sirens’ house or get a second alone with Thea yesterday, but she was determined to search today. She wouldn’t tell Harper what it was, but Gemma assured her that she had a plan to get into the house alone.
For her part, Harper had spent most of the day at work looking up anything she could about curses and sirens and ancient scrolls. The Capri Public Library wasn’t well stocked in books of the occult the way Cherry Lane Books was, so she hadn’t really come up with anything yet.
But she was certain they’d find something soon. They had to. Until they did, though, Harper couldn’t leave for college. She had to see this thing through. But if she didn’t go to college, she’d have to tell her dad about it.
When she came home from work, she cleaned up the house. Harper stared out the kitchen window as she washed the dishes. She was staring at Alex’s house, but her mind was a million miles away. She heard the front door open and close, followed by her dad’s work boots clomping on the floor. A minute later, Brian appeared in the kitchen behind her.
“Hey, sweetie,” Brian said, picking absently through the mail that Harper had left on the kitchen table.
“Hey, Dad.” Harper finished rinsing off the last plate, then shut off the tap and turned around to face him. “How was work?”
“Same old, same old.” He shrugged and opened up a bill. “How was your day?”
“Pretty good, I guess.” She leaned back against the counter and watched him read the bill. He cursed under his breath and shook his head. “Is it bad?”
“Don’t worry about it.” Brian set it down, then looked up at her and smiled. “What were you saying about your day?”
“Nothing really.” She smoothed out her ponytail and smiled at him. “Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?”
“I’m not in grade school, Harper,” he said, bemused. “I don’t need a snack.”
She laughed, but it sounded nervous. “I know.”
“Did you need something?” Brian asked, narrowing his eyes at her. “You look like you need something.”