“Oh, I can, and I did.” Penn straightened up and took a step toward Gemma. “It’s too late. You’re a siren whether you like it or not.”
“Why would you even do that?” Gemma asked with angry tears stinging her eyes.
“Because I wanted you.” Penn’s voice was cold and hard. “And I do whatever the hell I want.”
“No.” Gemma shook her head. “You can’t do this. You can’t have me. I’m a person, and you can’t just force me to be something because you want me to!”
“Honey”—Penn smiled—“I already did.”
Gemma wanted to hit her, but she kept her hands at her sides. She had a feeling that Penn was a lot more dangerous than she looked, and she didn’t really want to ignite her wrath. At least not yet.
“I don’t think you know as much as you think you know.”
“Like what?” Penn laughed drily.
“You said that it wasn’t possible for guys to really love a siren,” Gemma said. “But Alex cares about me, the real me.”
Penn’s eyes flashed hard and her smile vanished.
“That just shows how young and stupid you are,” she hissed. “Alex is what, seventeen? Eighteen? He’s a teenage boy with raging hormones. You think he gives a damn about you?” She laughed darkly. “Look at you! You’re gorgeous, and that’s all that matters to him.”
“You don’t know him, and you don’t know me.” Gemma glared at her. “You picked the wrong girl. I will find a way out of this. I will undo your stupid curse, and I’ll set myself free.”
“You are so ungrateful!” Penn shook her head, tossing her long black hair around her. “A curse? This is everything you’ve ever wanted, Gemma. I saw you. The water has been calling to you your whole life.” She stepped so close she stood right in front of Gemma. “I gave you everything you wanted. You should be thanking me.”
“I didn’t ask for this!” Gemma shot back. “And I don’t want it!”
“Too frickin’ bad.” Penn turned away from her, walking back toward the boulder. “You can’t undo it! You drank the potion, and now you’re a siren until the day you die.”
“Potion?” Gemma shook her head. “What potion? What was that?”
“The blood of a siren, the blood of a mortal, and the blood of the ocean,” Penn recited.
“The blood of the ocean?”
“It’s just water. Demeter always had a flare for the dramatics, especially when it came to composing the rules of the curse.”
“So what is the blood of a mortal?” Gemma asked. “Is that like tears?”
“No, that’s blood.” Penn looked at her like she was a moron. “It was Aglaope’s blood and human blood.”
“I drank blood?” Gemma’s stomach clenched, and she put her hand on her belly. “You tricked me into drinking blood? What kind of freaky monster are you?”
“It’s called a siren, remember?” Penn rolled her eyes. “You are so much dumber than I thought. Maybe I made a mistake with you. Maybe you’re right, and I should let you just go ahead and die.”
“Who’s blood?” Gemma asked, doing her best not to gag.
“Aglaope’s. I already told you that.”
“No, the human blood.”
“Oh, does it even matter?” Penn shrugged. “It was some human.”
“How did you get it?” Gemma asked.
“This is so tedious.” Penn stared up at the sky and shook her head. “I hate turning new sirens. Especially thankless ones like you. This is a waste of my time.”
“If you hate it so much, then why did you do it?” Gemma asked.
“I didn’t have a choice. We have to have four.”
Gemma couldn’t take it anymore, and she bent over and started to dry-heave. The thought of drinking blood, together with everything else Penn had been telling her, was too much to handle, not to mention the migraine she was getting from resisting the watersong.
“Oh, my God.” Penn sighed, watching Gemma cough and gag. “You already digested the blood, hence the whole siren thing. What do you think you’re throwing up?”
“I’m not trying to throw up anything. Just the thought of being like you is making me sick.” Gemma stood up straight and wiped her mouth.
Penn narrowed her eyes at her. “You are such a mistake.”
“Then tell me how to get out of this! Tell me what to do to change back!”
“I already told you!” Penn growled. “You have to die! That’s it! And if you don’t stop being such an ungrateful bitch, I’ll be happy to put you out of your misery!”
With frustrated tears in her eyes, Gemma shook her head. She pushed her hair back from her forehead and stared out at the ocean. Thea and Lexi’s heads occasionally bobbed out of the water as they swam around.
“So then tell me how to live with this.” Gemma took a deep breath and looked back at Penn. “You need a fourth, and I don’t want to die. So tell me what I need to do.”
“First, drop the attitude. Then you leave here and come with us. We’ll show you what you need to do.”
“Why do I have to leave?” Gemma asked.
“It’s better if we don’t stay in one place for too long. Things tend to get messy.”
“What about my family? And Alex?”
“We’re your family now,” Penn told her, and her voice bordered on something that resembled kindness. “And Alex doesn’t love you, and he never will.”
“But…” A tear spilled down Gemma’s cheek, and she wiped it away.
“It’s not his fault, and it’s not your fault. He can’t, Gemma. It’s not possible for a mortal to love a siren. I’m sorry.” Penn let out a long breath. “But the thing is, when you live long enough, and you see enough things, you realize that it’s impossible for mortal men to really love anyone. Knowing this will save you heartbreak.”
“How can I believe you?” Gemma asked. “You tricked me and forced me into this. How do I know anything you say is true?”
“You don’t,” Penn admitted with a shrug of her shoulders. “But who else are you going to believe? Who else knows anything about being a siren?”
Gemma realized bitterly that Penn was right. For better or worse, she’d been put in a situation where she didn’t have a lot of options. This hadn’t been her choice. This wasn’t what she wanted. But she had to make the best of it. She could still do the right thing, even if Penn had backed her into a corner.