“We can’t leave him alone,” Harper said at last and looked up at Daniel. “If he has a concussion, we need to keep an eye on him. And I definitely can’t take him back to my house.”
“My place it is, then,” Daniel said.
“Why should I go to your house?” Alex asked.
“Because you just got thrown out of the only bar in Capri that would serve you drinks, and I have beer at my house,” Daniel said.
With that, Alex got to his feet. “Let’s get going, then.”
“My car’s parked down there.” Harper pointed to it, but lingered behind to whisper to Daniel, “He shouldn’t be drinking any more.”
“That’s okay, because I don’t really have beer.” Daniel smirked at her. “But once he’s out on the island, what is he gonna do?”
“Thank you.” She smiled up at him. “I’m really sorry about this. I know this wasn’t what you had planned for tonight.”
“I really didn’t have that much planned,” Daniel said. “But your friend needs you. You should take care of him.”
“Thanks for being so understanding.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“Are we going or what?” Alex shouted from beside her car.
Alex hadn’t been that drunk in the first place, so the boat ride seemed to sober him up. With Daniel up front, steering The Dirty Gull across the bay, Harper and Alex sat down on the benches in the back. He leaned over the rail, letting the cool breeze and ocean spray blow over him.
“I’m sorry for being such a jerk tonight,” Alex said finally. He turned back toward her, and even in the fading light she could see the pained expression on his face.
“You’re not being a jerk,” Harper said.
“Yeah, I’m drunk, and I’m an idiot.” He grimaced. “I’m sorry I called you a bitch earlier.”
“You didn’t call me a bitch,” Harper corrected him. “That was Gemma.”
“I’m so sorry.” Alex rubbed his forehead. “I don’t know what I’m saying. I don’t even know who I am anymore.”
“What is going on with you?” Harper asked, realizing that now might be her chance to get to the bottom of things.
“I don’t know.” His voice caught in his throat. “I swear to God I wish I knew, but I don’t. Everything’s so messed up lately.”
She’d been sitting across from him, so they both had to speak loudly to be heard over the engine. Harper got up and sat next to him on the bench. Alex struggled to hold it together, and she rubbed his back, attempting futilely to comfort him.
“Something happened, and I know it did.” Alex shook his head again. “But I don’t know what it was. Like I’ve forgotten something major.”
“What do you mean?” Harper asked. “What do you remember?”
“I know about the sirens, if that’s what you’re asking.” He stared down at his hands, absently picking at a callus on his palm. “I still remember them, and everything that happened with them.”
“Everything?” Harper had stopped rubbing his back and folded her arms on her lap.
“Yeah, they turned Gemma into a siren, and then we found them and they came back here,” Alex said. “I remember the fight at the docks. They killed this guy, and Gemma and I fought them. But they decided to let her live and stay here.”
“Do you know why they let her stay?” Harper asked.
She knew, of course, but she wanted to figure out how much Alex remembered. Gemma had told Harper that she’d used the siren song to get Alex to break up with her and stop loving her. But he’d barely talked to anybody since then, so Harper had no idea what Alex really knew or felt anymore.
“No.” His brow pinched in frustration. “No, I don’t. I remember that … I loved her.”
“Yeah, you did,” Harper admitted quietly.
“I don’t know why.” Alex looked up at the sky, as if searching for answers. “The thought of even caring about Gemma is repulsive. When I think about how I used to kiss her, it makes me want to throw up.”
Harper didn’t say anything to that. She didn’t know how to respond. Alex didn’t say anything for a while, either. He just lowered his eyes, his jaw clenching and unclenching as he thought.
“I was in love with her, and now I can’t stand the thought of her,” Alex said. “And I don’t know why. I don’t know what changed. You can’t just wake up one day hating the person you used to love. But I did.”
“People change,” Harper said in a lame attempt to support her sister’s siren-song-enforced lie.
She wasn’t sure if she agreed with what Gemma had done, but she couldn’t do anything about it now. Gemma had done what she thought she needed to in order to protect Alex, and Harper could understand that.
She just couldn’t imagine how painful and confusing it would be if she woke up tomorrow hating Daniel. Part of her wanted to believe that it wasn’t even possible. The way she cared about him couldn’t be changed by any siren song or spell.
But seeing the way this was obviously tearing Alex up, and knowing how much he’d loved Gemma, Harper had to believe that anything was possible. If a siren song could get Alex to loathe Gemma, it could probably do anything.
“It’s like part of me is missing.” Alex gestured to his chest. “Like something inside me has been erased. Whole chunks of me are just … gone.”
“What do you mean?” Harper narrowed her eyes.
Gemma had been very clear that her siren song was meant only to get him to stop loving her. She loved Alex and didn’t want to change anything about him. All she wanted was to keep him safe.
“Everything I used to care about, I just…” Alex shrugged helplessly. “I don’t anymore.”
“What about video games?” Harper asked. “Or storm chasing? Or your comic books?”
“No.” He shook his head. “I don’t hate them, but I have no urge to do anything with them. I just … I stopped caring. It’s like everything I loved disappeared.” He swallowed hard. “It’s like I’m incapable of loving anything anymore.”
“I don’t think that’s true,” Harper said, but her words lacked conviction. “You just went through a really bad breakup. It takes time for these things to heal, for hearts to mend.”