If it’d been quiet, she might’ve stopped by to thank him again for helping her out yesterday, but she didn’t want to disturb him.
It had made her feel bad when Harper yelled at Daniel, and Gemma still didn’t understand what her sister had against him. Sure, Daniel seemed like a slacker. Just because he didn’t have his life together didn’t mean he wasn’t a really nice guy.
Whenever Gemma went down to bring her dad lunch, Daniel always said hi to her, and he’d once helped her put her chain back on when it slipped off her bike.
At the end of the dock, Gemma secured her bike and stripped down to her bathing suit. She jumped in the water and swam out in the bay.
More people were hanging out on the beach and in their boats than normal for this time of night, leftovers from the earlier celebration. She’d have to swim out farther, closer to the cove by the mouth of the ocean, to get away from them.
In a way, that was better. She needed to do a long-distance swim to make up for her days without serious training.
Once she was far enough out that she couldn’t hear the people on the beach anymore, she rolled onto her back and floated on the water, letting the gentle waves rock her. Gemma stared up at the night sky, marveling at the beauty of it. She completely understood why Alex loved the stars so much.
Harper didn’t like swimming as much as Gemma did, but Gemma doubted that anyone liked it as much as she did. The times Harper had gone swimming with her, she had gotten scared when Gemma would float like this. Harper was convinced that the tide would take her out and Gemma would be lost at sea forever.
Gemma had never really believed that would happen, but even if it did, the idea had never frightened her. In reality, being swept off in the ocean had actually been more of a dream of hers than a fear.
“Gemma.” Her name floated through the air, like a song.
At first she thought she was hearing things, maybe the sound of somebody’s stereo on the beach mixing with the crashing of the waves. But then she heard it again, only louder this time.
“Gemma.” Someone was singing her name.
Treading water, she looked around for the source of the voice, but it was pretty easy to spot. Gemma had been letting the current take her, and she hadn’t realized how close she’d gotten to the cove. It was only about twenty feet from her, and it glowed from a fire burning in its center.
Even though she hadn’t been paying much attention when she was swimming out here, she was sure the fire hadn’t been lit a few moments ago. And Penn, Lexi, and Thea definitely hadn’t been out there.
Gemma had seen enough of them lately, and if she’d had any inkling that they’d be here, she never would’ve come out this far and risked running into them.
Thea was crouched right next to the fire, her shadow looming behind her. Penn twirled around, dancing in a slow, graceful circle to music that only she could hear. And Lexi stood right at the edge of the shore, so close that the water was splashing up on her feet.
Lexi was the one calling her name, but she wasn’t just saying it. She sang it in a way that Gemma had never heard anyone sing before. It was beauty and magic. It sounded like how Alex’s kisses felt, only better.
“Gemma,” Lexi sang again. “Come now, weary traveler, I’ll lead you through the waves. Worry not, poor voyager, for my voice is the way.”
Gemma stayed transfixed in the water, completely hypnotized by Lexi’s song. It was as if Lexi had somehow put a spell on her, and any unease Gemma had felt about the girls melted away. All she could feel was the beauty and the warmth of her lyrics, crystal and clear running through her.
“Gemma,” Penn called out. Her sultry voice wasn’t nearly as sweet as Lexi’s, but there was something enticing about it just the same. She stopped dancing and stood next to Lexi. “Why don’t you join us? We’re having so much fun up here. You’d love it.”
“Okay,” Gemma heard herself saying.
Somewhere way back in her mind warning bells went off, but they were all but obliterated when Lexi started singing again. When Gemma swam toward the three girls, the fear was entirely blocked out. Joining them didn’t even feel like a choice. Her body moved toward them, seemingly on its own.
When she reached the shore, Lexi held out her hand and helped her onto the land, into the cove. The only way into the cove was through the bay. It had no connections or openings to the land, yet somehow all three of the girls were perfectly dry.
“Here.” Penn had been dancing with a shawl around her, made of some kind of gauzy gold substance, and she wrapped it over Gemma’s shoulders. “To keep you warm.”
“I’m not cold,” Gemma said, and that was true enough. The night was warm to begin with, and the fire inside the cove made it warmer still.
“It feels better with it on, though, doesn’t it?” Lexi asked, her voice a soft purring in Gemma’s ear.
Lexi put her arm around her, and something about the touch made the hair on the back of Gemma’s neck stand up. Instinctively Gemma pulled away from her, but then Lexi began singing again, and Gemma melted beneath her arm.
“Come join us.” Penn kept her eyes on Gemma and stepped backward toward the fire.
“Are you guys having a party?” Gemma asked.
Gemma didn’t move, so Lexi took her hand and pulled her over to the fire. She led her over to a large rock next to Thea and pushed her gently, so Gemma would sit down. Thea stared at her, the flames reflecting in her eyes as if it were coming directly from them.
“We’re having a celebration.” Lexi laughed and knelt down next to Gemma.
“What are you celebrating?” Gemma asked, looking over at Penn. She stood on the other side of the fire, across from Gemma, and smiled down at her.
“A feast,” Penn answered, and both Lexi and Thea laughed in a way that reminded Gemma of how a crow cackled.
“A feast?” Gemma looked around the cove but saw no signs of any food. “Of what?”
“Don’t worry about it,” Lexi instructed her.
“You’ll have plenty of time to eat later,” Thea said with a sly smile.
That was the most Gemma had ever heard Thea speak, and she realized there was something wrong with her voice. Thea’s had a rasp to it, like Kathleen Turner’s husky whisper. It wasn’t unattractive, but it wasn’t quite right.
It had a tone to it that was the opposite of Lexi’s and Penn’s. If Lexi’s and Penn’s voices were like honey, Thea’s was like jagged teeth. It was prickly and somewhat frightening.