“Maybe. But they don’t have accents.”
“You’ve heard them talk?” Alex asked, sounding impressed.
“Yeah, I’ve seen them at Pearl’s Diner across from the library. They always order milk shakes.”
“Didn’t there used to be four of them?”
“Yeah, I think so.” Gemma squinted, trying to be sure she was counting right. “Last time I saw them out here, there were four. But now there’s only three.”
“I wonder where the other one went.”
Gemma and Alex were too far away to understand them clearly, but they were talking and laughing, their voices floating over the bay. One of the girls began singing—her voice as clear as crystal, and so sweet it almost hurt to hear. The melody pulled at Gemma’s heart.
Alex’s jaw dropped, and he gaped at them. He moved away from the rock, floating slowly toward them, but Gemma barely even noticed. Her focus was on the girls. Or, more accurately, on the one girl who wasn’t singing.
Penn. Gemma was sure of it, just by the way Penn moved away from the two girls. Her long black hair hung down behind her, and the wind blew it back. She walked with startling grace and purpose, her eyes straight ahead.
From this distance in the dark, Penn shouldn’t have noticed her, but Gemma could feel her eyes boring straight through her, sending chills down her spine.
“Alex,” Gemma said in a voice that barely sounded like her own. “I think we should go.”
“What?” Alex replied dazedly, and that was when Gemma realized how far he’d swum away from her.
“Alex, come on. I think we’re bothering them. We should go.”
“Go?” He turned back to her, sounding confused by the idea.
“Alex!” Gemma said, nearly shouting now, but at least that seemed to get through to him. “We need to get back. It’s late.”
“Oh, right.” He shook his head, clearing it, and then swam back toward the shore.
When Gemma was convinced he was back to normal, she followed him.
Penn, Thea, Lexi, and Arista had been in town since the weather started warming up, and people assumed they were the first tourists of the season. But nobody really knew exactly who they were or what they were doing here.
All Gemma knew was that she hated it when they came out here. It disrupted her night swims. She didn’t feel comfortable being in the water, not when they were out in the cove, dancing and singing and doing whatever it was they did.
The slamming of a car door startled her, and Harper sat up, setting aside her e-reader. She hopped off her bed and pushed back the curtain in time to see Gemma saying good night to Alex before coming in the house.
According to the alarm clock on her bedside table, it was only ten-thirty. She didn’t really have anything to bust Gemma on, but Harper still didn’t like it.
She sat down on her bed and waited for Gemma to come upstairs. It would take a few minutes, since their father, Brian, was downstairs watching TV. He usually waited up for Gemma, not that she seemed to care. She still went out, even when Brian had to be up at five A.M. for work.
That drove Harper nuts, but she’d long ago given up that fight. Her father had set Gemma’s curfew, and if it really bothered him to wait up, he could make it earlier. Or at least that was what he said.
Brian and Gemma talked for a couple minutes, with Harper upstairs listening to their muffled conversation. Then she heard footsteps on the stairs, and before Gemma could make it to her own room, Harper opened her bedroom door and caught her.
“Gemma,” Harper whispered.
Gemma stood across the hall from her, her back to Harper and her hand on the bedroom door. Her sundress stuck to her damp skin, and Harper could see the outline of the bikini through the fabric.
With heavy reluctance, Gemma turned to face her older sister. “You know, you don’t have to wait up for me. Dad does that.”
“I wasn’t waiting for you,” Harper lied. “I just happened to be up reading.”
“Yeah. Okay.” Gemma rolled her eyes and crossed her arms over her chest. “So, get on with it. Tell me what I did wrong.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong,” Harper said, her tone softening.
It wasn’t like she enjoyed yelling at Gemma all the time. She really didn’t. Gemma just had the awful habit of doing stupid things.
“I know,” Gemma replied.
“I was only…” Harper ran her fingers over the trim on her bedroom door and avoided looking at Gemma in case she had a judgmental gleam in her eye. “What were you doing with Alex?”
“My car wouldn’t start, so he took me for a swim at the bay.”
“Why did he take you?”
Gemma shrugged. “I don’t know. Because he’s nice.”
“Gemma,” Harper groaned.
“What?” Gemma asked. “I didn’t do anything.”
Harper sighed. “He’s too old for you. I know—”
“Harper! Yuck!” Gemma’s cheeks reddened, and she lowered her eyes. “Alex is like … a brother or something. Don’t be gross. And he’s your best friend.”
“Don’t.” Harper shook her head. “I’ve watched the dance you two have been playing the last few months, and I wouldn’t care, except he’s going away to college soon. I don’t want you to get hurt.”
“I’m not getting hurt. Nothing is happening,” Gemma insisted. “You know, I thought you would be happy. You’re always telling me not to go on those night swims alone, and I brought someone with me.”
“Alex?” Harper raised an eyebrow, and even Gemma had to admit that Alex probably wouldn’t be a very effective bodyguard. “And those night swims aren’t safe. You shouldn’t be going on them at all.”
“I am fine! Nothing happened!”
“Nothing happened yet,” Harper countered. “But three people have gone missing in the last two months, Gemma. You have to be careful.”
“I am careful!” Gemma balled her hands into fists at her sides. “And it doesn’t matter what you say anyway. Dad says I can go as long as I’m home by eleven, and I am.”
“Well, Dad shouldn’t be letting you go.”
“Is there a problem, girls?” Brian called from the bottom of the stairs.
“No,” Harper muttered.
“I’m going to take a shower and go to bed, if that’s okay with Harper,” Gemma said.