“You know what will fix that right up?” Edie asked. “Tea. I know it sounds cliché, but it really works! I’d never been much for it, but when we went to England, they had it with every meal. Now Gary drinks it every night. He can’t sleep without it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Harper said.
“You really should.” Edie leaned back against the desk and crossed her arms loosely in front of her. “There are just so many different things you can learn from other cultures. Gary and I came back from our honeymoon so much healthier and wiser than we were before.” Edie launched into a lengthy list of new facts she had picked up on her travels.
Marcy peered out from behind a bookcase at Harper, as if to say, I told you so. But Harper already knew she was right. She just couldn’t fault Edie for her somewhat incessant prattling. She’d found such intense happiness, and she wanted to hang on to it for as long as possible. Harper couldn’t blame her for that.
“That is true,” Harper said when Edie paused to take a breath, trying to cut off her train of thought. She turned to face her and smiled as brightly as she could. “Hey, Edie, my dad forgot his lunch again, and I was wondering if I could leave a bit early for my break so I could bring it down to him.”
“Of course you can,” Edie said. “But I have no idea what he’ll do when you go away to college. Then again, I have no idea what we’ll do, either.”
Harper didn’t say anything to that. She hurried into the office to get her dad’s sack lunch out of the minifridge before Edie could regale her with more tales of her magical time spent abroad.
When Harper went outside to get into her car, she glanced across the street at Pearl’s Diner. Since the sirens had moved back to town in July, she’d gotten used to spotting Penn, Lexi, and Thea hanging out in the booth by the window, drinking milkshakes. Penn had this awful way of staring at passersby the way a lion stares at a gazelle.
Today the booth was empty, and there was some relief in that. Even though they had come to some type of understanding, Harper didn’t like talking to the sirens or seeing them in any capacity. They were evil, and they made her skin crawl.
Unfortunately, her relief was short-lived. As she walked closer to her car, she saw the long, bare legs draped over her hood, and Harper slowed her steps. She briefly considered going back to the library, but she refused to run from the sirens anymore.
Lexi sat back on the hood of Harper’s Sable. Her head was tilted back, so her long golden hair cascaded down onto the windshield. The short skirt had ridden up high on her thighs, and the hot metal of the car should’ve burned her skin, but Lexi didn’t seem to notice.
“Can I help you with something?” Harper asked as she walked around the front of the car to the driver’s-side door.
“Nope,” Lexi said with her usual melodic lilt. “Just getting some sun.”
Harper unlocked the door and opened it. “And you just happened to decide to tan on top of my car?”
“I’m leaving now, so you might want to move,” Harper told her and got inside.
Lexi made no attempt to move, though, not even after Harper started the car. If it weren’t for the people walking by or watching from shop windows, Harper would’ve sped off with Lexi on the hood of the car. If she hurt Lexi, that would just be icing on the cake.
But people were watching, and she’d be liable to get arrested if she deliberately threw Lexi off her car and then ran her over. So instead, she revved the engine and rolled down the window.
“Lexi, come on,” Harper said, trying to sound as forceful as she could. “Get off the car. I’ve gotta go.”
“Don’t get your panties in a bunch,” Lexi said. “All you had to do was ask.”
She sat up straighter, then turned back to look at Harper through the windshield. Lexi lifted up her sunglasses, revealing that her normally aquamarine eyes had shifted into the odd yellow-green of an eagle. Her lips peeled back in their usual seductive smile, but her straight teeth had been replaced by jagged fangs.
Harper swallowed hard, then honked the horn loudly in response. Lexi laughed—a light, lyrical sound—and her features shifted back to their normal stunning state. As Lexi slid off the hood, she was still laughing, and Harper sped off as fast as she could.
While there had been an uneasy truce with the sirens over the past few weeks, they hadn’t exactly been leaving Harper or Gemma or even Daniel alone. Lexi especially had a habit of popping up and reminding them of exactly what kind of monster she was.
It was as if the sirens wanted to remind them not to get too comfortable, and that at any moment they could snap and kill anyone they wanted.
As she drove down to the docks, Harper tried to shake off her encounter with Lexi. By now she should be used to it, but those razor-sharp fangs chilled her every time she saw them.
When she reached the docks, she parked her car as close as she could get and took a deep breath, stifling what was left of her chill. On her way, she walked past the space where Daniel used to keep his boat.
He didn’t dock there anymore because he didn’t live on his boat. Daniel had been staying out at Bernie’s Island, and he kept The Dirty Gull at the boathouse. He used it to get back and forth across the bay, but he docked it somewhere else for a cheaper hourly fee.
When she went down to the docks where her father worked loading and unloading barges, she usually went to the foreman’s office, and he would summon her dad. This time, before she had a chance to even reach for the door, Alex opened it and stepped outside of the office.
“Oh, hey, hi!” Harper said, trying much too hard to sound cheerful.
“Hey.” Alex wouldn’t even look at her.
He’d started working at the docks a few weeks ago, and Brian had told Harper about it, but she had yet to actually see Alex here. In fact, she’d hardly seen him at all since he’d broken up with Gemma, and she was a little surprised by how he looked now.
Working at the docks doing hard labor had made a visible difference. He wore gray coveralls with the sleeves rolled up above his elbows, and the fabric strained against his biceps. His shoulders appeared broader than before. In the last few months Alex had looked more toned and muscular, but now he was downright buff.
His heavy work gloves stuck out of the back pocket of his coveralls, and his hands looked cracked and rough. Before, the only calluses he’d earned would come from playing video games, but in a short amount of time his hands had already come to resemble Brian’s.