And she really did. Deep down, she understood.
But just then it felt like a tidal wave was rushing over and crushing her, destroying everything in her life. And no matter how hard she tried, Gemma felt powerless to stop it.
Thea had begun wearing powdered white wigs to cover up the patches of hair that were missing. Nearly every moment she wasn’t with Bastian, she spent in the sea outside of the house.
It was all she could do to silence the watersong, and even with that, it was nearly driving her mad. It woke her in the middle of the night, and she’d have no choice but to slip out and hope the salt water would clear her head.
Nothing really worked anymore. On top of the body aches and constant migraines, she’d begun hallucinating. She’d hear crows cawing in her room when there were none, and out of the corners of her eyes she’d see the flutter of wings. She felt on the brink of madness.
The thick curtains were still drawn, but the windows were wide open. A wind was blowing off the Mediterranean, making the curtains billow out and allowing some light into the room.
Despite the icy temperature, Thea wore only a thin sleeveless slip. Her coarse red hair had been woven into two braids along the sides of her head, carefully covering up the bald patches, until they became one frayed braid in the back.
She paced the room, alternating between gnawing on her broken fingernails and scratching at her skin. The constant hum of the watersong nearly drowned out every other noise, and she didn’t hear Bastian open her bedroom door. When she realized someone was sneaking in—she’d forgotten his usual morning interlude with her after spending the night with Penn—Thea nearly attacked him.
“Thea!” Bastian grabbed her slender wrists before she beat them against his chest. She’d leapt at him as soon as he slipped inside. “What has taken over you?”
She’d been snarling seconds before, but as soon as she realized it was him, her body relaxed and she made a pitiful sob.
Thea pulled her hands from his and threw herself against him, pressing her cheek tightly to his chest. He wore a shirt, but it was undone at the top, so she could feel his warm bare skin against hers.
“I’m sorry, my love,” she whispered into his chest, her words coming out in a husky rasp. It wasn’t an unpleasant sound, but it was a great departure from the silk and honey her voice had been before.
“What is the matter?” Bastian grabbed her shoulders and roughly pushed her away from him. “It’s as dark and cold as the dead of winter in your room.”
“It’s too hot outside, and the sun is too bright,” Thea said.
He went over to close the windows, and Thea trailed after him, following at his heels. When he opened the curtains, she cringed in the sun, so he sighed and pulled them back again.
“Thea, you’re falling apart,” Bastian said as gently as he could. “You need to bathe, get dressed, and eat something. You should use this morning to put yourself together, then meet your sisters and me downstairs for breakfast.”
“I am falling apart,” Thea admitted with a sob. “I cannot do this anymore. I must eat something.”
“Then eat!” He gestured widely.
“No, I need to feed.” She whispered the last word as if afraid of someone overhearing, and hugged herself tightly.
“Feed?” Bastian cocked his head. “Haven’t you been feeding with your sisters?”
She shook her head. “No. You asked me not to, and I haven’t eaten in months. In the beginning it was no problem, but the last few weeks have been unbearable.”
“That’s what’s possessed you?” Bastian asked. “The unraveling of your hair, the pallor of your flesh, the violent rages you’ve been prone to.”
“I have not been violent,” she insisted. “And it was as you asked.”
“I never asked you to stop feeding.” Bastian was taken aback. “I would never ask you such a thing. When I became involved with you, I knew what monster you were and what it required for you to sustain that monster.”
“But I’m not a monster!” Thea yelled. “You told me before that you could not declare your love for me because of my shared bloodlust with Penn. But I have given it up. I’ve abstained from the evil for you.”
He stared at her, his brilliant blue eyes seeming to look through her, and it was several moments before he spoke again, moments in which Thea could hear only her heart and the nagging of the watersong.
“Thea, I never asked this of you,” Bastian said. “I’ve never asked you to give up anything. If you took my words that way, then you have misunderstood, and for that I am sorry.”
“So then you care not about my bloodlust?” Thea let out a long sigh of relief, and she smiled dazedly at him. “Then there will be nothing that stands between us. I will feed this evening, and we can be on our way.”
“On our way?” Bastian asked.
“Yes.” Thea continued smiling as she stepped toward him. “Penn’s been unable to find a way to break the curse. We’ve traveled as far and away as we can, and we’ve come up with nothing. Even the muses insist this is eternal. But if you accept that I have a monster inside me, then it doesn’t matter.”
“I do accept that, but I don’t understand what that has to do with us leaving,” Bastian said.
“We can be together. I love you, and though you haven’t said it yet, I know that you love me,” Thea said. “Without the curse in our way, we can be rid of Penn and move away from here.”
“That may have a nice sound to it, but Aggie and Gia would never stand for the murder of your sister,” Bastian said.
“They won’t care.” Thea leaned against him, wrapping her fingers in the soft cloth of his shirt and staring up at him. “With Penn gone, they will listen to me. If I say it’s as it should be, they’ll believe me.”
“You want me to help you kill your sister, then run off with you and live out our existence in some kind of lovers’ dream?” Bastian asked, but there was coldness in his words, something that frightened Thea.
“Yes,” she said, but her smile had faltered.
“Why would I do such a thing?” Bastian asked, laughing darkly. “Why would I even want to?”
“Because we love each other.” Thea searched his eyes, trying to find the warmth she’d once felt in them before.
“You’ve mistaken my affection for something far more than it is.” He pushed his hands off her and took a step away. “I never said that I loved you, and with very good reason. I don’t love you, Thea.”