“I—I—I don’t,” Gemma stammered. “I just … I wanted to … We haven’t talked much lately.”
“There’s nothing to talk about,” Lexi snapped, then she glanced around. “Wait a second. Where is that scruffy plumber or whatever that Penn is all hung up on?”
“Daniel?” Gemma asked. “He’s not a plumber. He’s a handyman.”
Lexi glared at her. “Like I care what he does. I was just wondering where he is.”
“He’s at Pearl’s Diner, helping Pearl fix an overhead fan,” Gemma said.
Lexi made a retching sound. “He’s so gross. I have no idea what Penn’s problem is. She’s…” She trailed off and shook her head. “Whatever. I should go find Thea.”
“You’re sure you don’t want me to come with?” Gemma asked again, trying to keep the desperation out of her voice. “I’m sure I could help.”
“Honestly, I would love to leave you in charge, wandering around this tiny little shithole until you found Thea, but that would take too long,” Lexi said. “I need to get Thea, and I need to get back.”
“Because Penn’s entertaining a guest?” Gemma asked, recalling what Lexi said earlier. She assumed that Penn had a guy over she was getting frisky with.
Lexi tilted her head. “That’s what this is all about? You’re trying to figure out who our ‘guest’ is?”
“I’m just a little curious, that’s all,” she admitted.
“You’re worried, aren’t you?” Lexi stepped forward so she was standing right in front of her. Lexi was taller than her, but thanks to the wedge heels, she now towered over Gemma. “You’re afraid we might be interviewing replacements for you? That we might have found a replacement?”
Gemma swallowed hard. “That actually hadn’t crossed my mind before.”
“Well, we are. And she’s marvelous.” Lexi smiled. “Thea’s meeting her tonight, and if it all goes well, then it’s all over for you.”
Gemma really didn’t have anything to say to that, so Lexi just laughed. She turned and walked toward the door.
“It’s a good thing I found the scroll, then,” Gemma said, stopping her.
Lexi paused and narrowed her eyes at her. “What?”
Gemma swallowed hard and decided to plunge ahead. Thea wouldn’t tell her where the scroll was, so there was no way that Lexi would, either. At least not if Gemma came right out and asked for it.
“The scroll that has your curse on it. If I destroy it, then I destroy all of you,” Gemma said.
“You did not find it.” Lexi stepped away from the door and moved closer to Gemma, but Gemma just held her ground and stared up at her.
“I did,” Gemma said. “It was the second place I looked, and if you don’t help me break the curse, I’ll find a way to destroy it.”
“Ugh.” Lexi groaned and rolled her eyes. “I told Penn we shouldn’t have hid it there. Once you knew who her dad was, it was, like, obvious.”
“Yeah, well…” Gemma licked her lips. “I did meet her dad, and I got it.”
“Met her dad?” Lexi smirked. “You little liar. You didn’t find anything. Her dad’s dead.”
“I’m close, Lexi,” Gemma insisted as Lexi backed away to the door. “I’m going to find it, and when I do, I’ll destroy the scroll and you along with it. If you help me break it, maybe there’s a way that we can all live.”
“Nice try. You won’t find it, you won’t stop us. At least not before we replace you. You’re out of time, Gemma.” Lexi laughed and walked out of the theater, letting the door slam shut behind her.
Aiden started talking to Gemma, asking her what that was all about, but Gemma ignored him. He’d been standing back up on the stage, so he hadn’t been able to hear everything, but he’d heard enough to know something was up.
The sirens were looking to replace her, and they were probably going to do it soon. If Gemma didn’t break the curse, she was as good as dead. And the only clue Lexi had given her was that the hiding place had something to do with Penn’s dead father.
“Pearl’s?” Harper asked with a raised eyebrow as she slid into the booth across from Daniel. “This counts as a proper date?”
“I never used the term ‘proper date.’” Daniel held up his hands defensively. “I said that we needed to get out more.”
Pearl’s didn’t have an oceanic theme like most of the tourist traps in Capri, aside from one painting hung behind the counter. It depicted a mermaid sitting on an open clamshell holding a huge pearl, and Harper avoided looking at it when they sat down.
When Daniel had said that he wanted to go out tonight, Harper thought he meant something a bit more special, even though it was only a Thursday, and she’d tried to get dolled up. She wore a light summer dress and kept pulling it down to make sure the hem fell below the scar on her thigh.
Pearl, the owner and namesake of the diner, made her way over to their booth. The diner had other waitresses, but every time Harper came with Daniel, Pearl made a special point of waiting on them. That was probably because Daniel was always helping Pearl out, and she wanted to make sure he was treated well.
In her early fifties, Pearl was a somewhat heavyset woman. She looked a little gruff, but Harper knew that she was as sweet as her blueberry pie. Which, incidentally, matched her hair. Harper assumed that Pearl attempted to cover up her gray with some type of at-home dye kit, and it left her with bluish curls that she pinned back.
“Don’t you both look nice?” Pearl commented when she reached their table and looked from Harper to Daniel. “Celebrating something special?”
Although Daniel managed to look foxy no matter what he did, Harper wouldn’t classify him as looking particularly nice tonight. He wore a Led Zeppelin T-shirt with Icarus on it, and he still had the perpetual stubble on his face.
Though Harper had come to prefer his scruff to his clean-shaven look. When he’d shaved once a few weeks ago, his kisses felt different and a little alien.
“No, just hitting the town for the night,” Daniel said, grinning up at Pearl. “What do you have on special tonight?”
“I have meatloaf with homemade gravy, and a chicken salad sandwich,” Pearl said. “The chicken salad comes with fries. But if there’s anything you want, I can make it up for you. And it’s on the house tonight.”