Even over the sea, Thea could smell the blood on her. When she breathed in, it filled her with a familiar hunger that haunted her dreams. Except now it disgusted her, leaving a horrible taste in her mouth, because she knew where it came from.
“Is it done?” she asked. She stood on the rocky shore, staring over the sea, her back to her sister.
“You know it is,” Penn said. Although Penn was angry, her voice still kept its seductive edge, that alluring texture she could never completely erase. “No thanks to you.”
Thea glanced back over her shoulder at Penn. Even in the dull light of the moon, Penn’s black hair glistened, and her tanned skin seemed to glow. Fresh from eating, she looked even more beautiful than she had a few hours before.
A few droplets of blood splattered Thea’s clothes, but Penn had mostly been spared from it, except for her right hand. It was stained crimson up to her elbow.
Thea’s stomach rolled with both hunger and disgust, and she turned away again.
“Thea.” Penn sighed and walked over to her. “You know it had to be done.”
Thea didn’t say anything for a moment. She just listened to the way the ocean sang to her, the watersong calling for her.
“I know,” Thea said finally, hoping her words didn’t betray her true feelings. “But the timing is awful. We should’ve waited.”
“I couldn’t wait anymore,” Penn insisted, and Thea wasn’t sure if that was true or not. But Penn had made a decision, and Penn always got what she wanted.
“We don’t have much time.” Thea gestured to the moon, nearly full above them, then looked over at Penn.
“I know. But I already told you, I’ve had my eye on someone.” Penn smiled widely at her, showing her razor-sharp teeth. “And it won’t be long before she’s ours.”
The engine made a bizarre chugging sound, like a dying robot llama, followed by an ominous click-click. Then silence. Gemma turned the key harder, hoping that would somehow breathe life into the old Chevy, but it wouldn’t even chug anymore. The llama had died.
“You have got to be kidding me,” Gemma said, and cursed under her breath.
She’d worked her butt off to pay for this car. Between the long hours she spent training at the pool and keeping up on her schoolwork, she had little time for a steady job. That had left her stuck babysitting the horrible Tennenmeyer boys. They put gum in her hair and poured bleach on her favorite sweater.
But she’d toughed it out. Gemma had been determined to get a car when she turned sixteen, even if that meant dealing with the Tennenmeyers. Her older sister, Harper, had gotten their father’s old car as a hand-me-down. Harper had offered to let Gemma drive it, but she had declined.
Mainly, Gemma needed her own car because neither Harper nor her father readily approved of her late-night swims at Anthemusa Bay. They didn’t live far from the bay, but the distance wasn’t what bothered her family. It was the late-night part—and that was the thing that Gemma craved most.
Out there, under the stars, the water seemed like it went on forever. The bay met the sea, which in turn met the sky, and it all blended together like she was floating in an eternal loop. There was something magical about the bay at night, something that her family couldn’t seem to understand.
Gemma tried the key one more time, but it only elicited the same empty clicking sound from her car. Sighing, she leaned forward and stared out at the moonlit sky through the cracked windshield. It was getting late, and even if she left on foot right now, she wouldn’t get back from her swim until almost midnight.
That wouldn’t be a huge problem, but her curfew was eleven. Starting off the summer being grounded on top of having a dead car was the last thing she wanted. Her swim would have to wait for another night.
She got out of the car. When she tried to slam the door shut in frustration, it only groaned, and a chunk of rust fell off the bottom.
“This is by far the worst three hundred dollars I ever spent,” Gemma muttered.
“Car trouble?” Alex asked from behind her, startling her so much she nearly screamed. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you.”
She turned around to face him. “No, it’s okay,” she said, waving it off. “I didn’t hear you come out.”
Alex had lived next door to them for the past ten years, and there was nothing scary about him. As he got older, he’d tried to smooth out his unruly dark hair, but a lock near the front always stood up, a cowlick he could never tame. It made him look younger than eighteen, and when he smiled, he looked younger still.
There was something innocent about him, and that was probably why Harper had never thought of him as anything more than a friend. Even Gemma had dismissed him as uncrushworthy until recently. She’d seen the subtle changes in him, his youthfulness giving way to broad shoulders and strong arms.
It was that new thing, the new manliness he was beginning to grow into, that made her stomach flutter when Alex smiled at her. She still wasn’t used to feeling that way around him, so she pushed it down and tried to ignore it.
“The stupid piece of junk won’t run.” Gemma gestured to the rusty compact and stepped over to where Alex stood on his lawn. “I’ve only had it for three months, and it’s dead already.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Alex said. “Do you need help?”
“You know something about cars?” Gemma raised an eyebrow. She had seen him spend plenty of time playing video games or with his nose stuck in a book, but she’d never once seen him under the hood of a car.
Alex smiled sheepishly and lowered his eyes. He had been blessed with tan skin, which made it easier for him to hide his embarrassment, but Gemma knew him well enough to understand that he blushed at almost anything.
“No,” he admitted with a small laugh and motioned back to the driveway where his blue Mercury Cougar sat. “But I do have a car of my own.”
He pulled his keys out of his pocket and swung them around his finger. For a moment he managed to look slick before the keys flew off his hand and hit him in the chin. Gemma stifled a laugh as he scrambled to pick them up.
“Uh, yeah, I’m fine.” He rubbed his chin and shrugged it off. “So, do you want a ride?”
“Are you sure? It’s pretty late. I don’t want to bother you.”
“Nah, it’s no bother.” He stepped back toward his car, waiting for Gemma to follow. “Where are you headed?”