Daniel closed his eyes, and with his lips about to touch hers, Harper finally acted on her impulse. Or at least she tried to.
She moved her hand, meaning to wrap her arm around him. Instead, she only managed to shove the ice-cold can of soda into his side, making him jump back from her.
“Sorry.” She grimaced and shook her head. “I forgot I was even holding the soda.”
“No, it’s okay.” Daniel smiled. “It was just cold.”
He stepped back toward her, like he meant to go in for the kiss again, but the moment was broken, and Harper once again remembered how stupid it would be to get involved with him.
“I should probably get back to work,” she said, moving away from him and toward the door.
“Sure.” He put his hands on his hips and nodded. “Of course.”
“Sorry,” Harper mumbled, feeling apologetic.
“Don’t be. You can stop by anytime you want. My door is always open for you.”
“I know.” Harper smiled. “Thank you.”
Harper headed back up on deck. After being in the dim light of the cabin, the sun was blinding. She squinted up at it and walked over to the railing.
Since Daniel refused to use the plank, he had to help her down onto the dock again. He wrapped an arm around her so he could lift her up over the rail, but before he did that, he held her to him for a moment. Harper already had one arm around his shoulder, bracing herself for when he lifted her.
“I’m glad you stopped by.”
Then he lifted her up and dropped her gently down on the dock. He stayed out on the deck of his boat, watching her as she walked away.
For the first time in her entire life, Gemma skipped swim practice.
She wasn’t sick, and she didn’t call. She simply didn’t go. Thanks to her new siren abilities, she was already crazy fast in the water. Besides that, Penn had told her she needed to leave soon, and while Gemma wasn’t sure if she’d go along with that or not, it did seem like she’d probably have to quit the swim team.
Despite all that, she felt guilty about it. Gemma had missed practices only when she absolutely had to. Coach Levi would be so disappointed, and she never wanted to let him down.
When she woke up in the morning, she’d gotten ready for practice like she normally would, but instead of going, she rode her bike around to the other side of the block and hid in the small patch of trees there until Harper and her father had both left for work.
Once she was certain they were gone, she went back to her house. She had to see Alex again.
After they’d kissed last night, she’d gone home and had gotten yelled at quite a bit by Harper and Brian. They were both dumbfounded and furious at her recent behavior. Gemma wished that she could explain it all to them, but it would just come off as insanity. Nobody would ever believe that she was a siren, let alone understand it.
Eventually they’d let her go to bed, but she lay awake for a long time. She knew she needed to talk with Penn more before she could really fathom what she was. But that wasn’t even what kept her mind spinning late into the night.
They had told her that nobody could love her, that was part of their curse. Maybe Alex didn’t love her yet, but he could. If she had enough time with him, Gemma was almost certain that Alex would fall in love with her.
If the sirens were wrong about that, then maybe they were wrong about other things. Like maybe she didn’t have to leave her family or her life. Even as much as Harper and her dad had yelled at her the night before, it broke her heart to even think of leaving them. She knew how much they loved her.
Last night, when she’d kissed Alex, she’d been about to give up. But she couldn’t. Maybe it didn’t mean anything that Alex liked her, but she had to try. He’d told her she was the most determined person he’d ever known, and he was right. She would try everything before she’d go off with the sirens.
Gemma knocked on Alex’s back door, but when he didn’t answer, she had to take more drastic measures.
His mother had a trellis covered in flowering vines that grew up the side of the house. It probably wasn’t strong enough to support her weight, but Gemma climbed up anyway.
One of the boards snapped under her feet, but she regained her footing quickly. A vine gave her a small cut on her finger, but other than that the climb up went surprisingly well. By the time she’d pulled herself up on the roof outside Alex’s second-story window, the cut had already healed.
Gemma peered in through his window, and it was just as she’d expected. Alex was sitting in front of his laptop at his desk with his headphones on, bopping along to some song. Based on the state of his hair sticking up all over and his attire of only boxers, she guessed that Alex hadn’t been up that long.
For a few minutes she was content to just watch him: the geeky and totally offbeat way he moved, and how every now and again he would spout a few lyrics from what sounded like an old Run-DMC song.
The silliness of his behavior was juxtaposed with how surprisingly sexy he looked shirtless. When he moved, she could see the muscles in his back and his arms beneath his tanned skin.
“Alex.” She rapped her knuckles on the glass, and the noise scared Alex so much, he leaped out of his chair.
“Gemma!” he gasped and tore off his headphones. “What are you doing on my roof?”
“You weren’t answering the door. Can I come in?”
“Uh…” He scratched his eyebrow, staring at her for a moment as if he didn’t understand what was happening. “Yeah. Sure.”
He came over and opened the window for her, but that wasn’t exactly the response she was hoping for. Maybe she’d made a mistake by coming here uninvited.
“Sorry,” Gemma said as she climbed into his room. “I didn’t mean to disturb you.”
“No, you didn’t.” He shook his head, then rushed around to straighten up his room.
“You don’t need to do that because I’m here.”
Alex ignored her and continued to pick up the dirty socks and tech magazines that littered his room. It actually wasn’t that messy. He was a relatively neat guy. Other than the stack of Xbox games and empty Mountain Dew cans, it was a fairly clean room.
“You know what, Gemma, I’m sorry. I can’t do this.” Alex abruptly stopped what he was doing, holding an armful of dirty clothes. He rubbed his eye and shook his head. “What are you doing here? What’s going on with you?”