She wasn’t thrilled about their friendship, but she’d already said her piece on it. Besides that, it was better if Gemma was at home playing video games with the boy next door than running around all over town in the middle of the night.
“There are only three,” Gemma said, pulling Harper from her thoughts.
“What?” Harper looked over to see Penn, Thea, and Lexi walking down the street.
It was pouring rain, but they didn’t have any jackets on and didn’t seem to mind. If it had been anybody else, she would’ve offered them a ride, but she purposely sped up as she drove past them.
“There’s only three.” Gemma turned to her sister. “What happened to the fourth one?”
“I don’t know.” Harper shook her head. “Maybe she’s sick.”
“Nah, I don’t think so.” Gemma rested her head on the seat and leaned back. “What was her name?”
“Arista, I think,” Harper said. She’d heard their names from Marcy, who’d heard them from Pearl, who usually was pretty accurate when it came to town gossip.
“Arista,” Gemma repeated. “What a stupid name.”
“I’m sure plenty of people think our names are stupid,” Harper pointed out. “It’s not nice to make fun of something people can’t control.”
“I’m not making fun of her. I’m just saying.” Gemma turned around to watch the diminishing figures of the three girls. “Do you think they killed her?”
“Don’t say things like that,” Harper said, although the idea had actually crossed her mind. “That’s how rumors get started.”
“I’m not spreading a rumor.” Gemma rolled her eyes. “I’m asking you what you think.”
“Of course I don’t think they killed her.” Harper hoped she sounded more convinced than she felt. “She’s probably sick or she went back home or something. I’m sure everything is fine.”
“But there is something off with those girls,” Gemma said reflectively, more to herself than to Harper. “There’s something not quite right.”
“They’re just pretty girls. That’s all.”
“But nobody knows where they came from,” Gemma insisted.
“It’s tourist season. Nobody knows where anybody’s from.” Harper rounded a corner and turned to her sister, meaning to admonish her for feeding the gossip.
“Watch out!” Gemma screamed, and Harper slammed on the brakes just in time to stop herself from driving over Penn and Thea.
For a minute neither Harper nor Gemma said anything, not that Harper could hear anything over the pounding of her own heart. Penn and Thea just stood directly in front of the Sable, staring through the windshield at them.
When Lexi knocked on the window next to Gemma, they yelped in surprise. Gemma glanced back at Harper, as if unsure what to do.
“Roll down the window,” Harper said hurriedly, and Gemma complied. She leaned forward and forced a smile at Lexi. “Sorry about that. We didn’t see you there.”
“It’s no problem.” Lexi smiled broadly, oblivious to the rain pouring down her blond hair. “We were just looking for directions.”
“Directions?” Harper asked.
“Yeah, we got a little lost, and we wanted to go back to the bay.” Lexi leaned her slender arms on the car and looked down at Gemma. “You know how to get down to the bay, don’t you? We always see you there.”
“Uh, yeah.” Gemma pointed straight ahead of them. “Just go three blocks down, then make a right onto Seaside Avenue. That’ll take you right there.”
“Thanks,” Lexi said. “Will you be down at the bay tonight?”
“No,” Gemma and Harper said in unison, and Gemma shot her sister a look before going on, “It’s no fun to swim in all this rain.”
“Why not? The water’s still wet.” Lexi laughed at her own joke, but Gemma didn’t say anything. “Oh, well. I’m sure we’ll be seeing you around anyway. We’ll keep an eye out for you.”
She winked at Gemma, then straightened up and stepped back from the car. Gemma rolled up the window, but Penn and Thea were slow to move out from in front of the car. For a moment Harper was afraid that she’d have to throw her car in reverse to get away from them.
When they finally stepped out of the way, Harper had to fight the urge to floor it away from them. Instead she offered them a small wave, but Gemma stayed rigid in her seat, refusing to acknowledge the girls.
“That was bizarre,” Harper said as they drove away and her heart began to slow.
“And creepy,” Gemma added. When Harper didn’t say anything, Gemma glared over at her. “Oh, come on. You have to admit that it was creepy. Why else wouldn’t you have offered them a ride home?”
Harper gripped the steering wheel and floundered for an excuse. “They seemed to enjoy the water.”
“Whatever.” Gemma rolled her eyes. “They came out of nowhere. You saw that! They were behind us, and then suddenly they were in front of us. They’re, like … supernatural.”
“They took a shortcut,” Harper argued lamely as she pulled into the driveway next to her father’s beat-up Ford F-150.
“Harper!” Gemma groaned. “Can you stop being logical for a second and admit that those girls give you the creeps?”
“There’s nothing to admit,” Harper lied. She turned off the engine and changed the subject. “Are you going to have Dad look at your car?”
“Tomorrow, when it’s not raining.” Gemma grabbed her gym bag from the backseat. She hopped out of the car and ran into the house, and Harper hurried behind her.
As soon as they’d pulled in the driveway, Harper had had the strangest feeling that they were being followed, and she couldn’t shake it.
When she went inside, she locked the front door behind her, and listened to Gemma and Brian chat about the day.
The house already smelled like pizza, thanks to Brian’s homemade sauce. But despite the cozy atmosphere, Harper couldn’t help herself. She peered through the peephole in the door and scanned the street around them, but saw nothing. It took about fifteen minutes for her to settle into being home, and she still couldn’t convince herself that they weren’t being watched.
“Sorry, honey, but this is an all-day project,” Brian said with his head under the hood of Gemma’s Chevy. Black—presumably oil or other car fluids—smudged his arms and stained his old work shirt.