And then, even though Harper didn’t really think she would, Gemma groaned and turned her head to the side.
“Gemma.” Harper brushed back the hair from Gemma’s forehead, and her eyes fluttered open.
“Harper?” Gemma asked, her voice coming out in a croak.
“Oh, thank God.” Harper let out a deep breath, and relieved tears filled her eyes. “What happened to you?”
“I don’t know.”
Wincing as she moved, Gemma tried to stand, but the rocks were too uneven. When she started to stumble, Daniel put his arm underneath her legs and scooped her up. Gemma shifted and tried to hang on to him for support, but her arms were too tangled up in the mesh wrapped around her.
“Let’s get her back to the car,” Harper suggested, and Daniel nodded.
Once the realization that Gemma was alive had settled in, Harper wanted to sob and scream at her. But Gemma still seemed so weak and out of it that she didn’t want to interrogate her.
Harper had parked as close as she could get, which meant that she’d parked on the unruly beach grass lining the shore. Daniel set Gemma down on her feet once they got to the car, and she managed to stand up on her own. The mesh was pretty tangled around her, and Harper and Daniel intervened to help her get it off.
“What is this?” Harper asked. “Did you get caught in a fishermen’s net? Is that what happened to you?”
“This isn’t a net.” Daniel shook his head. Once they’d gotten Gemma free from it, he ran it through his hands, admiring the strange texture of it. “At least not any net I’ve ever seen.”
“No, it’s not a net.” Gemma put her hand on the car to steady herself and leaned against it. “It’s a shawl or something.”
“A shawl?” Harper asked. “Where did you get a shawl?”
Gemma grimaced, hesitating before she reluctantly admitted, “Penn.”
“Penn?” Harper was nearly shrieking. “What the hell were you doing with Penn?”
“You really should stay away from those girls,” Daniel said solemnly. “They are … there’s something off about them.”
“Believe me, I know,” Gemma muttered.
“So what were you doing with them?” Harper asked. “What did you do last night?”
“Can we talk about this later, please?” Gemma begged. “My head is pounding. My body hurts all over. And I’m so thirsty, it’s unbelievable.”
“Do you need to go to the hospital?” Harper asked.
Gemma shook her head. “No, I just need to go home.”
“If you’re fine, then you’re going to tell me what’s going on.” Harper crossed her arms over her chest.
“I was out swimming last night, and…” Gemma trailed off and stared at the sun rising over the bay, as if trying to remember exactly what had happened last night. “I went out to the cove, and Penn, Lexi, and Thea were … partying out there.”
“They were partying?” Harper asked, and now she was totally gobsmacked. “You partied with those girls last night?”
“Yeah,” Gemma answered uncertainly. “I mean, yes. I think.”
“You think?” Harper shook her head.
“Yeah, they invited me to join them, and I just had one drink. But it must’ve been really strong. It was only one drink, I swear.”
“You drank?” Harper’s eyes widened. “Gemma! You can get kicked off the swim team for that. And you have practice in an hour, which you clearly can’t handle today. What were you thinking?”
“I wasn’t!” Gemma yelled. “I honestly don’t know what I was thinking! I have no idea how any of it happened last night. I remember having one drink, and then I woke up on the rocks. I don’t know what happened, and I’m sorry.”
“Get in the car,” Harper said through clenched teeth, too pissed off to even yell.
“I really am sorry,” Gemma repeated.
“Get in the car!” Harper shouted, and Daniel flinched.
“Thanks for … helping,” Gemma mumbled to Daniel and stared down at her feet.
“No problem,” he said. She tried to open the car door and almost fell over, so he went over and held it open for her. “Get some rest and drink plenty of fluids. Hangovers are a bitch, but you’ll survive.”
Gemma smiled thinly at him and climbed into the car. Once she was safely inside, he shut the door and turned his attention back to Harper. Her arms were crossed over her chest as she glared down at her sister in anger and disbelief, but when Daniel looked at her, she smiled sheepishly.
“I’m really sorry for dragging you out to help me pick up my drunk sister. I mean, thank you. I appreciate it, but I’m sorry for bothering you.”
“No, it was no bother.” Daniel grinned. “I was just thinking to myself how tedious it is sleeping in until after the sun comes up.”
“Sorry,” Harper said again. “I should probably let you go back to sleep.”
“All right.” Daniel nodded and took a step back from the car. “But take it easy on her, okay? She’s just a kid. They screw up sometimes.”
“I didn’t.” Harper walked around the front of the car to the driver’s side.
“Really?” He stopped to arch an eyebrow at her. “You never screwed up?”
“Not like that.” She gestured to the car, where Gemma had her forehead resting against the glass. “I never stayed out all night or got drunk. I maybe overslept for school once.”
“Oh, wow.” Daniel smirked and looked genuinely surprised. “That’s actually a little sad. I mean, good for you, not drinking. But a life without any mistakes? That doesn’t sound like any fun at all.”
“I’ve had fun.” Harper bristled, and Gemma groaned in the car, interrupting her argument with Daniel. “I should really get home, though.”
“Right, of course.” He gave her a small wave and backed away. “I won’t keep you from your duty.”
“Thanks.” Harper smiled at him.
As soon as she got in the car, her smile and any sense of happiness evaporated. Her relief at finding her sister alive had turned into full-blown anger.
“I don’t understand how you could do this,” Harper said as she put the car in drive and pulled away from the bay. “Dad almost called out of work to look for you. He could’ve lost his job over this.”