“Dear sister, but you must,” Thea pressed. “The only way I know to undo the curse would be to destroy the scroll, and that would lead to our demise.”
“We won’t destroy the scroll,” Penn said. “We will find another way. Maybe the gods can bless me the way they have Bastian.”
“There are hardly any gods around,” Thea reminded her. “And none of them will undo a curse to bless you.”
“I am in love, my dear sister.” Penn glared at her. “The gods always look kindly on love. We will find one, and that god will correct this mistake against us.”
“The god would want something in return,” Thea persisted. “Would you be willing to sacrifice anything for love?”
“I’m willing to sacrifice every other man on earth, and I think that’s more than enough,” Penn said with a wicked smile. “Now I must get ready to have breakfast with Bastian. The rest of you, scatter. Find a way out of this curse.”
Penn dismissed them to do her bidding, and Gia, always the dutiful servant, immediately ran off to do as she was told. Thea, on the other hand, lagged behind, and Aggie stayed to comfort her.
“Oh, my dear sister, what is troubling you?” Aggie asked. She looped her arm through Thea’s as they walked down the hall toward Thea’s chambers.
Before, the house had been crawling with servants and handmaidens, but now very few remained. Once Penn had begun her affair with Bastian, she had sent away the duke and killed his brothers. She’d also killed any staff who gossiped or attempted to interfere in her relationship.
If she had been able to, she would’ve sent away her sisters. She wanted absolute privacy so she could begin her life with Bastian. Since she was cursed to remain with the sirens forever, she’d seemed to relegate them to staff, treating them as slaves instead of sisters.
“She doesn’t love him,” Thea whispered. Her voice was sweet but her tone was harsh. “She doesn’t know the slightest thing about love.”
“Oh, let her have her folly,” Aggie said. “She’s in a better mood. That must count for something.”
“No, it does not,” Thea snapped. “I am sick of being at her whim. I am sick of following her demands and her vanity.”
“You know that she has always had a will of her own,” Aggie said. “And the best way to deal with it is to bend to it.”
“Why?” Thea turned to face her. “Why must I always acquiesce to my little sister?”
“Because she is your sister,” Aggie said simply. “And those are your options. You obey her, or you defy her. And if you defy her, you’d best have plans to kill her. Would you rather have your sister’s blood on your hands or play along with her games?”
“For once, I think I’d rather have the blood,” Thea admitted.
Aggie’s face contorted with anguish. “Don’t say such things. You made a promise to her, to both of us, that you would care for and look after us. I know it’s been many centuries since you made that promise, but it still holds true.”
“Does it?” Thea asked. “Haven’t I done my duty? To both of you?”
“We are sisters, and we always will be,” Aggie said. “I may not understand what is bothering you right now, but I know it will pass. Everything else will pass. We are the only things that will remain. Remember that.”
Thea wanted to talk more with her, but Aggie had had her fill. She turned and walked away, her footfalls echoing off the ceiling as she left Thea standing alone.
Thea went into her room, closing the heavy door behind her, and then leaned against it. Bitter tears stung her eyes.
Bastian strolled out from her bathroom. His shirt was absent, and the strings that held up his trousers were loose. He smiled broadly in the way that made his dimple pronounced, but Thea could only frown when she saw him.
“Come, now,” Bastian said, doing his best to act concerned as he strode over to her. “What’s all this, then?” She shook her head and wiped at her eyes. “Why is there salt upon your cheeks?”
He reached out to touch her cheeks, but she pulled away from him.
“Pay it no mind. It’s simply a fight with my sister.”
“Why would you fight with her?” Bastian followed her the few steps away that she’d gone, and he stood right behind her. “I hope it isn’t over me.”
“No, it’s not.” She turned back to face him. “But how long can we go sneaking around? She’ll catch us eventually, and we’ll have hell to pay.”
“She won’t catch me,” he promised with a grin. “I won’t let her.”
“Bastian. This is serious,” Thea said.
“I’m always serious.” He attempted to look grave and put his arms around Thea. She rested her hand on his bare chest, the smooth muscles warm beneath her hands, and she stared up at him.
“What if I don’t want to sneak around anymore? What if I want to have you all to myself?” Thea asked him.
“I would tell you that now is not the time,” Bastian said. “Your sister is the ruler of this place, and her vengeance isn’t something I want to cross. At least not now.”
“Then when?” Thea asked.
“When it is the right time.”
“Your tongue is as good at dancing around the truth as it is at singing,” Thea said.
He laughed warmly. “That’s not the only thing my tongue is good for.”
He tried to kiss her then, but she pushed him back and pulled free from his arms, taking several steps away from him again.
“She means to break the curse,” Thea said.
“Why ever would she want to do that?” Bastian stood with his hands on his hips, baffled by the prospect. “I thought she loved the power and the magic and torturing mere mortals.”
“She does,” Thea agreed. “But she also claims to love you, and she says that you can’t love her because of the curse.”
Bastian shook his head. “It’s not the curse that prevents me from loving her.”
“What is it, then?” Thea took a step closer to him, unable to hide the hopefulness in her voice.
“It’s that she’s horrible. She’s a monster, and a murderer, and detests everything.”
“Then why are you carrying on with her?” Thea asked. “If you know what a beast she truly is.”
“I needed a place to stay,” he replied simply. “I hadn’t planned on being here this long. Or getting involved with you. I just wanted a warm bed for a few nights.”