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tidal Page 10

“You want me to lie to my girlfriend and put you in danger so she’ll leave?” Daniel summed it up.

  Gemma nodded. “It’s in her best interest. She’ll be safer if she’s gone, and she has a much better chance at a happier life. ”

  Daniel considered this and eyed Gemma. “I’ll make a deal with you. I’ll go along with you and try to shield Harper from the worst of it, on one condition—you tell me everything. ”

  “Why?” Gemma asked.

  “Somebody needs to have your back. I get why you want to protect Harper, but you don’t need to protect me,” Daniel said. “We got a deal?”

  “Okay. Deal. ”

  “Good. ” Daniel smiled. “Now you can start by telling me what you meant by not having much time left. ”

  “It’s…” She looked away from him and was surprised to find tears swimming in her eyes. “Penn thinks she found a replacement. ”

  “For you?” Daniel asked, and Gemma wiped at her eyes and nodded. “What does that mean?”

  “It means she plans to kill me and use my blood to create the potion to make a new siren to take my place. ” She smiled to keep the tears from falling. “And if I don’t break the curse soon, I’m dead. ”

  “Hey, don’t cry. ”

  He put a hand on her shoulder, almost awkwardly at first, but when she started crying, he wrapped an arm around her and hugged her roughly to him. She wept softly into his chest, giving in to the sadness for a few minutes before she let the embarrassment take over.

  “I don’t want to die,” Gemma said, her words muffled into his shirt.

  “Good,” Daniel said. “That’s a good start. Now, what do you need to do to live?”

  “Get along with Penn, and find the scroll. ” She’d stopped crying, so she straightened up and wiped at her eyes. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to blubber like that. ”

  “No need to apologize. No blubbering occurred,” he assured her with a smile. “I can help you keep Penn happy, at least for a little while. The scroll is the thing Lydia told you guys about yesterday?” Gemma nodded. “Harper told me you didn’t know where it was. ”

  “I don’t,” she admitted. “I want to check their house, and I need to talk to Thea and see what she knows. ”

  “Okay. So do that,” Daniel said. “Like, immediately. ”

  “They’re at home right now,” Gemma said. “I think it’d be better if I checked their house when they’re not there, and I want to do that before I talk to Thea. She said she’d do everything to help me just short of getting herself killed, and if I find the scroll and break the curse, it might kill her. So she would hide it from me. ”

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  Gemma realized what she’d said and swallowed hard. Over the past few weeks she and Thea had become closer, and Gemma even considered her a friend. But to save herself—to break this curse—it could mean that Gemma would have to kill her, or at the very least Thea might otherwise have to die.

  “So you think you could get into the house tomorrow?” Daniel asked.

  “Maybe. Thea has play rehearsal, and if I skipped it, I could get into the house, assuming that Penn and Lexi aren’t there,” Gemma said.

  “Okay, how about this: You go scope out the house. If Penn and Lexi are home, I’ll come up with some kind of distraction,” Daniel said. “I don’t know what yet, but I can come up with some reason to get Penn out, and Lexi tends to follow her around like a puppy. Then you get in and do your search. ”

  “That sounds like a plan. ” Gemma smiled up at him. “Thank you. ”

  Daniel smiled back. “It’s no problem. ”

  She started to walk back toward her house, then realized he wasn’t following. “Aren’t you coming over?”

  “Nah, I don’t think I should,” Daniel said. “You should go swimming with Harper, and if I come over, she’ll want to hang out with me. ”

  “Are you sure? I could always go swimming another night. ” That was what she said, but she didn’t really mean it.

  “No, you go. Have fun. Spend time with your sister. I’ll talk to her later,” Daniel said, taking a step back away from Gemma. “Tell her I say hi, though. And don’t forget to call me if you need me tomorrow. ”

  Gemma knew she should try harder to stop him—he’d walked her all the way here—but she didn’t. Once he was out of sight, she turned and jogged back to the house, already thinking of arguments to convince Harper to go swimming with her.

  THIRTEEN

  Vacillation

  After Gemma got home from play rehearsal, she all but insisted Harper swim with her. Harper had refused as much as she could, but she knew that Gemma would go without her.

  Because of the transformation that happened whenever she hit salt water, Gemma preferred swimming at night when there were fewer witnesses around, and Harper couldn’t fault her for that. So she put on her swimsuit and took Gemma out to the bay.

  They went out past the beach, where the soft sand became jagged rocks lining the shore. The paved parking lots for the crowds were replaced by a forest of bald cypress trees. Harper parked on a dirt road as close to the water as she could drive.

  Gemma led the way, walking delicately from one rock to another, and Harper was careful to copy her footing so she didn’t stumble or cut her foot on a sharp rock. When they reached the water, Gemma waded out first, and within seconds Harper saw the moonlight glinting off her tail.

  She was much faster than Harper, but she waited for her, literally swimming circles around her. Harper never felt as uncoordinated as she did when she swam with Gemma. Her normally elegant strokes seemed more like clumsy dog-paddling compared to the way Gemma glided through the water.

  She almost hated to admit it, but there was something awesome about swimming with Gemma when she was a mermaid. The grace and beauty Gemma had was truly stunning.

  “Harper, hang on,” Gemma commanded, floating in front of her in the water.

  “What?” Harper treaded water next to her.

  “Grab my shoulders,” Gemma said, and when Harper hesitated, she goaded her on. “Come. Trust me. Just hang on to my shoulders. ”

  Gemma turned with her back to Harper, and tentatively Harper gripped her sister’s wet shoulders.

  “Now what?” Harper asked.

  “Now hold your breath,” Gemma said with a laugh, and then she plunged into the water, dragging Harper down with her as she swam quickly.

  Just when Harper was beginning to fear she might drown, Gemma pulled her back up, out of the water and through the air, before they came crashing back down again.

  Being with Gemma out in the ocean, seeing her when she was in her element, actually broke Harper’s heart. To know that Gemma had found someplace where she belonged so completely, and that she couldn’t really stay there.

  The night may have been magical, but Harper knew that wasn’t all there was to the curse. If it was, she would gladly let Gemma relish it for the rest of her life. But that wasn’t the case.

  In the morning, both Harper and Gemma seemed to wake up with a renewed zest to find the scroll. Gemma may have been unable to get into the sirens’ house or get a second alone with Thea yesterday, but she was determined to search today. She wouldn’t tell Harper what it was, but Gemma assured her that she had a plan to get into the house alone.

  For her part, Harper had spent most of the day at work looking up anything she could about curses and sirens and ancient scrolls. The Capri Public Library wasn’t well stocked in books of the occult the way Cherry Lane Books was, so she hadn’t really come up with anything yet.

  But she was certain they’d find something soon. They had to. Until they did, though, Harper couldn’t leave for college. She had to see this thing through. But if she didn’t go to college, she’d have to tell her dad about it.

  When she came home from work, she cleaned up the house. Harper stared out the kitchen window as she washed the dishes. She was staring at Alex’
s house, but her mind was a million miles away. She heard the front door open and close, followed by her dad’s work boots clomping on the floor. A minute later, Brian appeared in the kitchen behind her.

  “Hey, sweetie,” Brian said, picking absently through the mail that Harper had left on the kitchen table.

  “Hey, Dad. ” Harper finished rinsing off the last plate, then shut off the tap and turned around to face him. “How was work?”

  “Same old, same old. ” He shrugged and opened up a bill. “How was your day?”

  “Pretty good, I guess. ” She leaned back against the counter and watched him read the bill. He cursed under his breath and shook his head. “Is it bad?”

  “Don’t worry about it. ” Brian set it down, then looked up at her and smiled. “What were you saying about your day?”

  “Nothing really. ” She smoothed out her ponytail and smiled at him. “Are you hungry? Do you want something to eat?”

  “I’m not in grade school, Harper,” he said, bemused. “I don’t need a snack. ”

  She laughed, but it sounded nervous. “I know. ”

  “Did you need something?” Brian asked, narrowing his eyes at her. “You look like you need something. ”

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  “Nope. ” She shook her head hard. “Uh, no. Um, well, I guess … I was wondering how things were going with Alex. ”

  He opened the fridge and grabbed a bottle of beer before responding. “At the docks, you mean?”

  “Yeah, I was just wondering how he was working out,” Harper said, hoping her dad didn’t see through her attempts at small talk. She couldn’t just tell him about her change of plans for the future as soon as he walked in the door.

  “He’s a good worker. ” Brian twisted the cap off his beer and took a long drink. “He doesn’t say much to me. He never really did, but now it’s even less. He was always a quiet kid, and weird. Still is. Just quieter and weirder. ”

  “He’s not ‘weird,’” Harper said. “He’s just … reserved. ”

  Brian leaned back against the kitchen table. “Do you know why Gemma and Alex broke up?”

  Harper lowered her eyes and shook her head so forcefully her ponytail whipped her in the face. “Nope. ”

  “I feel like it was something bad,” Brian said. “Something happened between the two of them. ”

  “Maybe it just, like … I don’t know. ” She shook her head again.

  He watched her for a moment, then said, “I thought she might tell you. ”

  “No, it’s teenager stuff. ” She shrugged. “You know she’s secretive. ”

  “Yeah. ” He took another drink of his beer. “Did she tell her mom?”

  “What?” Harper looked up, surprised to hear Brian even mention Nathalie.

  “I don’t know. ” He looked away, but not before Harper noticed how pained his blue eyes looked. “She always liked talking to her mom, so I wondered if Gemma still told her things. ”

  “Um. Yeah,” she said finally, nodding. “Sometimes I think she does. She knows Mom will keep her secrets. ”

  “Yeah, Nathalie will. Whether she wants to or not. ” He took a deep breath, then stepped back from the table. “There’s something I want to talk to you about. Why don’t you have a seat?” He motioned to a chair.

  “It’s a have-a-seat kind of talk? What is it?” Harper asked, already panicking.

  “Just sit down,” Brian said, taking his own seat at one side of the table. “I wanted to talk to you first, before your sister. She’s at play rehearsal tonight, right?

  “Yeah, until eight or so. ” Harper sat down across from him, literally sitting on the edge of her seat. “Dad, you’re really kinda freaking me out. Can you just spit it out? Are we losing the house?”

  “What?” Brian was confused, then appalled. “No, we’re not losing the house. Where would you get that idea?”

  “I don’t know! It sounds bad. ”

  “It’s not bad. You worry too much. You know, you worry more at the age of eighteen than I do at forty-one. You’re gonna give yourself an ulcer or have a heart attack if you’re not careful. ”

  “Dad!” Harper said, barely able to contain her anxiety any longer.

  “All right, all right. ” He held up his hand and took a deep breath. “Um … I think I need to go see your mom. ”

  Harper waited a beat, staring at her father blankly. “You want to visit Mom? That’s your bad news?”

  “I told you it wasn’t bad news, but…” Brian wouldn’t look at her when she spoke, and that didn’t help to ease her fears. “I’ve been thinking about a lot of things lately, and I need to see her again before I make some decisions. ”

  “What kind of decisions? What are you talking about?” Harper asked.

  “Harper, I told you there’s nothing you need to worry about. I want to see Nathalie, and I wanted to go with you and your sister. Are you both going this Saturday?”

  “Um…” She stopped to think. “Yeah, I think we are. ”

  “Okay, then. Can I come with you?” Brian asked, finally looking up at her.

  “Yeah, of course you can. You can go see her anytime you want. She’s your wife. ”

  “I know that. ” He began to peel the label off his bottle, and more quietly he repeated, “I know. ”

  “That’s all you wanted to talk about?” Harper asked, confused as to why he wanted her to sit down for something relatively painless.

  “Yeah. ” He nodded, then lifted his head. “Unless you needed to say something. ”

  “I do, actually. ” She took a fortifying breath before beginning. “There’s something I’ve been needing to tell you…”

  “You’re not pregnant, are you?” Brian asked, nearly cutting her off.

  “Dad! What? No. Of course not. ” Her eyes were wide. “Oh, my god, Dad. Daniel and I’ve been together, like … No. We’re not even … Dad. Just no. ” She couldn’t help herself and began to blush.

  “Good, because babies are wonderful, but not until you’re ready,” Brian said, sounding relieved. “They’re a lot of work, and you have all that college ahead of you. ”

  She saw her in, so she said, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. ”

  “College?”

  “Yeah, I was thinking about maybe holding off another year. ”

  “Harper Lynn Fisher, you are going to college,” Brian said firmly.

  “I know, Dad. I’m just thinking it might not be the right time. ”

  “Is this about Daniel?” He narrowed his eyes and his expression hardened. “If he’s holding you back, I will get rid of him. ”

  “Dad, stop. Get rid of him? Are you in the Mafia?” Harper asked in disbelief. “And this has nothing to do with Daniel. I’ve never let a boy interfere with my future before. Why would I start now?”

  “Then what is this about?” Brian asked, his tone carrying an edge of confusion and irritation.

  “I just think it’s not the right time,” she said simply.

  The real reason—that Gemma was a siren—she couldn’t tell her dad. He’d never understand or believe her. And even if he did, what good would it do? Harper was already driving herself crazy with worry. Brian didn’t need to go through that, too, not when there was nothing he could do.

  “If it’s about money, Harper, we can do this. ” He leaned forward on the table. “You’ve got those scholarships, and you’ll lose them if you don’t go. I’ve got some cash put away, and you’ve got loans lined up. We’ll make it work. You don’t need to worry about it. ”

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  “No, it’s not about money. ”

  “Then give me one good reason why you shouldn’t go,” Brian said.

  “Gemma. ” Harper gave the most honest answer she could. “There’s something going on with her. ”

  “I’m glad that you love your sister so much, but she is not your child. She’s not your responsibil
ity. She’s mine. I’ll take care of her. The only thing you need to concern yourself with is getting ready to leave for school. The rest of us will be fine. ”

  She sighed. “There’s stuff that you don’t understand. ”

  “Understand this—I have not worked forty-plus hours a week for the past nineteen years for you to throw your future away. Everything I have done, I have done so you and Gemma could have a better life than what your mom and I had. This is what we both wanted for you, and it’s what you want for you. I don’t care what the reason is for not going. There isn’t one good enough. ”

  “But Dad…” she said, but she was already giving up trying to convince him.

  “No buts, Harper. You are going to college. And that’s final. ”

  FOURTEEN

  Minotaur

  “If I were a magic papyrus scroll, where would I be?” Gemma asked herself as she stood in the entryway of the sirens’ house.

  For once, she’d actually lucked out. Harper had let her borrow her car—something Harper very rarely let her do—and when Gemma’d arrived up at the sirens’ house, Penn, Lexi, and Thea had been gone. Thea was at play rehearsal, but she had no idea where Penn and Lexi were, so she had to get her search under way as quickly as possible.

  The house was nice, but it wasn’t really large. That made it easier, because there were fewer places to look.

  Gemma did a cursory search of the kitchen, opening cupboards and drawers, but while she inexplicably found a drawer filled with lacy panties next to the fridge, she saw no sign of a scroll or any other important papers. The pantry was stocked with canned goods and a broom, but nothing else exciting.

  The rest of the downstairs was about the same. What little storage space they had in the living room was filled with movies and more lingerie. They had to have the most extensive collection of sexy undergarments outside of Victoria’s Secret.

  She’d made it two steps up the stairs to the second floor when she heard an odd flapping sound coming from outside. Her heart dropped, and she slowly turned back around. Through the windows she could see Thea just touching down on the driveway—her massive wings beating behind her.

  Thea hadn’t shifted fully into her bird form, so she still remained human, aside from the giant wings sprouting from her back. The wings were a gorgeous scarlet, shimmering in the sunlight, and the flapping caused her skirt to flutter up for a moment. The wings folded up behind Thea as she walked toward the house, and by the time she reached the door, they had disappeared into her flesh.

  Gemma thought about hiding or trying to sneak out the back door before Thea spotted her, but at the last second decided against it. During her quick search, drawers were left open and lingerie had been tossed about. It wasn’t like she had enough time to cover it up, and Thea would probably guess that she’d been the one ransacking their house anyway.

  When Thea opened the door, she didn’t seem that surprised to see Gemma, but then, she’d probably spotted Harper’s car in the driveway.

  “Looking for something?” Thea asked, surveying the state of the house.