“So there’s more than one way to kill a siren, then?” Gemma asked.
“Since you were here last, I’ve been doing some research. I found a few ways to kill sirens, but most of them are longer-term,” Lydia explained. “Starvation, having fewer than four sirens on a full moon, being apart from each other for several weeks. There’s only one instantaneous way to kill them.”
“And would that involve a stake through the heart or a silver bullet?” Marcy asked.
Lydia shook her head. “Unfortunately, no. It’s not quite that simple.”
“Of course not,” Gemma muttered.
“Hold on.” Lydia leaned back and punched some buttons on the cash register. It made a loud ding, and the drawer popped open. She dug inside, then pulled out a small, folded square of paper. “Here.”
Lydia had her hand outstretched toward her, but Gemma hesitated.
“What’s that?” Gemma asked.
“It’s how you kill a siren. Not all of the sirens at once, but if you’re fighting one hand-to-hand and need to stop her in self-defense, here’s how you do it.”
“Thank you.” Tentatively, Gemma took the paper from her. “How do you know all this stuff?”
Lydia smiled slyly. “You could say that it’s a family business. My grandma is a witch, and my father is a vampire.”
“Wait.” Marcy narrowed her eyes, as if noticing Lydia for the first time. “Does that mean you’re a vampire? Or a witch?”
“I’m neither, actually,” Lydia answered. “It just means I have an affinity, a natural inclination, towards the supernatural.
“If it makes you feel any better, my grandma is more of a good witch,” Lydia said when Marcy continued to scrutinize her. “She used to help various immortals out when they were in trouble, but she was mostly a record keeper.” Lydia gestured to the bookstore. “Many of these books and scrolls you see here came from my grandma, handed down generation after generation.”
“Have you ever destroyed a scroll?” Gemma asked.
“No, I haven’t.” Lydia paused, then took a deep breath. “But if I’m being honest, I never wanted to. It’s always been our job to protect them.”
“Why? Some of these creatures are evil,” Gemma said.
“Some humans do bad things, truly horrendous things, but that doesn’t mean that they’re all evil or that we all deserve to die,” Lydia said. “Though if the right creature found the scroll with humanity’s curse, they might be tempted to destroy it.”
“Are you implying that we are a curse?” Marcy asked, and she seemed to have relaxed around Lydia again.
“Mortality is a blessing and a curse, too,” Lydia said simply.
“What if I find this scroll?” Gemma asked. “Will you help me destroy it? Or will that go against your nature?”
“My nature is to help those in need,” Lydia replied carefully. “If I have the tools or information you need to protect yourself and those you care about, I will gladly give them to you.”
“Do you have any ideas where the scroll might be?” Marcy asked, turning her attention to Gemma. “I know you came up empty a couple times.”
“I think it might be with the sirens now,” Gemma said. “It wasn’t before, but I told Thea I was looking for it. I think they’ll hang on to it to guard until I’m either gone or I’ve lost interest.”
“But you aren’t going to lose interest, are you?” Lydia asked.
“No.” Gemma shook her head. “I can’t.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t be of more help to you,” Lydia said, sounding sincere.
“No, you’ve been plenty of help,” Gemma assured her with a smile. “Thank you.”
Marcy thanked Lydia again, and Lydia promised she’d be in contact soon. They went outside, Gemma’s head swimming with everything Lydia had told her.
“So,” Marcy said once they were both sitting inside her Gremlin. “How do you kill a siren?”
Gemma unfolded the paper to find a photocopied illustration from an old book. It showed exactly what needed to be done, including a detailed diagram with suggested weapons written in English.
Marcy leaned over, peering at it. “That doesn’t look so bad.” Then she pointed to a particularly vicious-looking ax/spike combo labeled as a battleax. “It’d be easier if you had one of those, though.”
When Aiden had called to ask her out later that night, Gemma couldn’t think of a reason to say no. Actually, she could think of a million reasons, but between the mounting hunger, the suffocating heat, and the increasing impossibility that she would find a way to save herself, she needed a break.
She knew she needed to redouble her efforts to find the scroll, but since she was pretty sure it was with the sirens, she’d have to battle to get it. Thanks to Lydia, that might be a bit easier now, although Gemma still wasn’t sure she’d be able to actually go through with it. It looked brutal.
But she wanted to wait until Harper was gone. It was only a few more days until she left for college, and then Harper would be a half hour away, getting on with her life and safe from any kind of retaliation the sirens might want to dish out.
So for the next few days, Gemma’s only plan was to look up ways to destroy the scroll, keep her hunger in check, and avoid the sirens—well, at least Penn and Lexi. When she looked at it that way, Aiden calling her was a bit of serendipity.
Aiden picked her up for their date, and Brian emerged from the garage long enough to vaguely threaten him not to hurt or deflower his daughter. He didn’t seem to approve of the pairing, eyeing Aiden’s luxury car with disdain, but he let Gemma go out anyway, probably sensing that she needed an escape.
As far as dates went, theirs went pretty well. Dinner at the yacht club overlooking the bay. It was a little ritzier than Gemma felt comfortable around, but Aiden ordered white wine and poured her a glass. She’d only ever snuck a drink of her dad’s beer on a dare once before, and even though food didn’t really taste the same afterward, sipping the wine felt exotic and mature.
The meal ended up running long, so they skipped the movie, and Aiden took her to one of the clubs off the beach. This Gemma did not like. It was crowded and too hot.
But the solution to that was simple—they left. Everything else was closed on a Sunday night, so Aiden took her back home. Harper’s car was still gone, and the house was dark, so Gemma assumed her dad was in bed.