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tidal Page 25

“Hey, Marcy. ”

  Marcy lost her concentration and the pencil dropped. She shrugged and sat up straighter, and Gemma leaned on the desk.

  “Are you here applying for the job?” Marcy asked. “Because we have a vacancy now, and one Fisher sister is probably as good as another. ”

  “That’s actually not a bad idea,” Gemma said. “Remind me to apply when I have more time. ”

  “You don’t have time now?” Marcy arched an eyebrow. “Then what are you doing here?”

  Gemma smiled at her. “I came to ask you a favor. ”

  “I’m not buying you booze or cigarettes,” Marcy replied immediately. “Harper would kill me if I did, and they’re both lame habits. If you want to get a tattoo, though, I know a guy who does underage tattoos. ”

  “How do you know a guy?” Gemma asked, momentarily distracted from her mission. “Do you have a tattoo?”

  Marcy stood and lifted up her shirt. She angled herself to the side so Gemma could see the tattoo right above her hipbone. It was of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. Her tentacles were twisting over Marcy’s hip, and Ursula smiled broadly with blood-red lips and winked.

  “You have a Disney character?” Gemma asked in shock.

  “She’s a sea witch, and she’s badass, okay?” Marcy pulled her shirt down, then sat back in the chair. “Hey, are there such things as sea witches?”

  Gemma shook her head. “I’m pretty sure there aren’t. ”

  “Lame. ” Marcy scowled in disappointment. “It would’ve been sweet if you could just make a deal with a sea witch. I mean, you’d give up your voice to stop being a siren?”

  “I would. But I don’t think that’s going to be an option. ”

  “Life would be so much simpler if it worked out like a cartoon,” Marcy said, her monotone sounding wistful for a moment.

  “It certainly would,” Gemma agreed. “Back to the favor I wanted to ask you. ”

  Marcy narrowed her eyes at Gemma. “You can ask, but I reserve the right to say no. ”

  “Obviously. It’s not a huge one, though,” Gemma said. “I just need a ride up to the sirens’ house. ”

  “Up on the cliff?”

  “Yeah, my car isn’t working, and I just wanted to go up there real quick before the sirens get back,” Gemma explained. “It’s a short car ride, but the bike ride up the hill would take too long. ”

  “Where are the sirens?” Marcy asked.

  “I don’t know for sure,” Gemma said. “Thea said they were going out of town to eat, and she didn’t think they’d be back in time for play rehearsal tonight. I wanted to have as much time up there as I could, and I wanted to be able to get out of there really fast. ”

  “Understood. When would you wanna go?”

  “The sooner the better. ”

  “So I’d have to leave work?” Marcy asked.

  “I could wait until—”

  “Hey, if I have to go, then I have to go,” Marcy cut her off and got up. She grabbed her car keys out of a drawer. As she walked around the desk, she called back over her shoulder to the office, “Edie, I’m heading out! I have to help a friend! It’s life-or-death!”

  “When will you be back?” Edie asked and came out of her office in time to see Marcy and Gemma departing out the front door. “Marcy?”

  In the short time that Gemma had spent inside the library, it had already dropped ten degrees outside. It still wasn’t really raining, but the wind had picked up, and Gemma was even more grateful that Marcy was driving her. Riding uphill on her bike, against the wind, would’ve taken forever.

  Even in Marcy’s Gremlin it was still almost a fifteen-minute drive through town and up the winding road through the pines. Gemma directed Marcy to park a little ways down from the house, closer to the overlook where Gemma had taken Alex before.

  “Thanks, Marcy,” Gemma said and unbuckled her seatbelt. “I don’t know how long I’ll be gone, and if you get tired of waiting, you can bail. ”

  “I’m not gonna bail. ” Marcy scoffed. “I should go with you up to the house. ”

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  “I don’t know. ” Gemma shook her head. “I don’t know when the sirens are coming back, and if they find us both there, they will probably be awfully pissed. ”

  “Then maybe I could be a lookout or something,” Marcy suggested. “You don’t know when they’re coming back, so I could warn you. ” Gemma bit her lip, debating, so Marcy pushed on.

  “Come on, Gemma. Harper will kill me if I let something happen to you. You can at least let me watch the door. That’s what Fred and Thelma always leave Shaggy and Scooby to do, and if it’s good enough for Shaggy, it’s good enough for me. That’s my life’s motto. ”

  Gemma smirked at that. “Okay. But if you see a siren, stay out of the way, especially if it’s Penn or Lexi. ”

  “Agreed,” Marcy said. “My mama didn’t raise any fools and she didn’t raise any heroes. ”

  Marcy and Gemma got out of the car and snuck through the densely wooded area that separated the overlook from the sirens’ house. The wind was blowing through the trees, stirring up pine needles and making a howling sound through the branches.

  The house was centered in the middle of a small clearing right at the edge of the cliff. The driveway was empty, so presumably the sirens had already left for the day. Just to be on the safe side, when Gemma went up to the door, she knocked and rang the doorbell. When nobody answered, she decided the coast was clear.

  The door was unlocked, but Gemma hadn’t expected any different. Penn didn’t think anybody would dare to steal from her, and even if they did, she didn’t care that much since none of the stuff was really hers anyway. She could replace it all with little or no effort.

  Gemma left Marcy waiting outside with instructions that if any of the sirens showed up, she was supposed to ring the doorbell and then take off into the trees. Gemma would hear the doorbell, then sneak out the back door. That was the plan, anyway.

  After doing a quick once-over on the main floor, Gemma went upstairs to the loft, which was where she’d thought they’d hide it anyway. Assuming they even had it hidden here.

  The second level was one massive room, having been designed as the master suite, but Penn, Lexi, and Thea all appeared to share the space. Two king beds fit easily in the room, with a twin bed shoved off to the side. Based on the small pile of hot pink panties sitting on the smaller bed, Gemma guessed that one was Lexi’s.

  Skylights in the ceiling let Gemma see the dark clouds swirling above. They were nearly black now, and she flicked on the closet light. She didn’t want to turn on the main bedroom light in case the sirens came home. They’d be able to see that from the driveway.

  The walk-in closet was large and overflowing with clothes. On hangers, in drawers, in piles on the floor. It had been customized with plenty of drawers and storage, which meant that Gemma had a lot to sort through.

  The sirens had an endless supply of shoes. Stilettos, wedges, boots, flats in every style and color. She started taking out shoes and rifling through drawers, hoping to find a false bottom or some kind of hidden compartment.

  Thunder rolled overhead, and the closet went black. Gemma froze, afraid that someone had turned off the lights, but then she realized that the wind had just knocked the power out.

  It was too dark to search properly in the closet, so she went into the bedroom. She moved over to the bedside table and began rooting around the drawer, hoping for a sign of the scroll, but she would’ve settled for a flashlight at that point.

  A loud crash against the skylights startled Gemma so much she nearly screamed. She looked up to the windows and saw that the rain had finally started, coming down in torrential sheets. It pounded against the glass and roof, the sound echoing through the room.

  She was about to recommence her search when she heard a clatter downstairs. She stayed where she was, listening carefully, but it was hard to hear
clearly over the rain. Then she heard a bang, and this time she was certain that it hadn’t been the storm.

  The doorbell hadn’t rung, but Gemma realized belatedly that the power was out. If it was a wired doorbell, that meant there would be no sound. Walking quietly and slowly, Gemma went toward the railing at the edge of the loft.

  It wasn’t until she’d made it all the way to the edge and looked straight down that she saw what had made the noise.

  Lexi stood staring up at Gemma. Her long blond hair was dripping water in a small puddle at her feet, and she wore a bikini. She was completely in human form, save for one finger on her right hand. Her aqua eyes sparkled in the dim light, and her smile was happy and playful, without a hint of malice, which made it all the more creepy.

  Her left hand was gripping hard on Marcy’s ponytail, yanking her head back sharply. Marcy’s glasses were smashed on the floor, next to the pool of water from Lexi’s hair. A cut ran across her eyebrow, with blood trickling down her temple, and Marcy’s eyes were wide with fear.

  She didn’t move or scream, and Gemma instantly saw why. Lexi’s otherwise humanoid hand had one longer finger with a razor-sharp talon at the end, poking right into Marcy’s jugular. If she moved or even yelled, it would slice right through her neck.

  “Hello, Gemma,” Lexi said sweetly in her singsong voice. “I know you were playing hide-and-seek, but I have a better game. Why don’t you come down, and I’ll show you how to play?”

  THIRTY-SIX

  Trepidation

  Liv had shown Harper where all her classes were, as per Harper’s class schedule. Liv was from a neighboring town in Delaware, but she’d moved into the dorm a week ago. The extra time, as well as orientation, had really given Liv a good idea of where everything was and how the college worked.

  While Liv was incredibly helpful and nice, there was something almost too nice about her. If Harper told a joke, no matter how lame it was, Liv laughed really hard at it. She also told Harper she was pretty and smart about a hundred times.

  The other weird part was that Liv kept making vague references to these “super adorbs” new friends she’d made. It was like she was trying to impress Harper, but whenever Harper tried to ask more questions about them, Liv completely shut down and changed the subject.

  Still, Liv had been good for distracting her, and Harper had managed to avoid calling Gemma or Daniel a million times. Though she did text them a few times to make sure everything was okay, and they both claimed it was.

  Even though Liv had taken the time to point out every one of her classrooms, Harper was so preoccupied that she forgot everything Liv had shown her. She was late for her first two classes, and the only reason she was on time for her third one was because it was with Liv, and she physically led her to the classroom.

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  They sat next to each other, and when the teacher passed out the class syllabus, Harper was both relieved and surprised to see that she’d actually read some of the texts in high school. The day was starting to take a turn for the better when Harper started feeling a weird pain in her chest.

  She took a deep breath, hoping that would ease it somehow, but the pain only intensified. Her chest tightened, and nausea washed over her. Then the terror hit her. It was intense and unrelenting, and adrenaline surged through her.

  Other people would’ve thought they were having a panic attack, and that was probably what a doctor would’ve diagnosed. But this was different. As soon as the fear hit her and a shooting pain stabbed through her stomach, Harper knew what it was.

  “Gemma,” she whispered.

  “Harper?” Liv asked, leaning in closer to her. “Are you okay? You don’t look so good. ”

  “No, I gotta…” She took a deep breath. “I gotta go. ”

  She stood up quickly, knocking her books to the floor with a loud clatter. Everyone turned to look at her, and she just mumbled an apology as she scrambled to pick up her things. The teacher asked if everything was okay, but she didn’t answer.

  Harper rushed out of the classroom as fast as her legs could carry her. In the hall, she had to stop and lean against the wall for support. The terror and pain were too strong, and it almost brought her to her knees.

  “Harper?” Liv asked. She’d followed her out of the classroom and went over to see if she was all right. “What’s the matter?”

  “I need to get to my car,” Harper said. “I have to go home. ”

  “I don’t think you’re in any shape to drive,” Liv said.

  “Please. ” She looked up at her, imploring her. “Help me to my car. I have to get home. Now. ”

  “Okay. ” Liv nodded, then looped her arm around Harper’s waist to help steady her.

  As they walked, Harper reached into her pocket and dug out her phone. Gemma’s name was first in her contacts, and she hit call. The phone rang and rang, but Harper only got her voice mail.

  They stepped outside of the building into the pouring rain. Harper had only gone to class a few minutes ago, and it hadn’t been raining then. Now it was coming down so hard she could barely see.

  That didn’t deter her from dialing the phone, though. She kept calling again and again and again. But Gemma never picked up.

  THIRTY-SEVEN

  Liberate

  Daniel had made an important decision—he had to tell Harper. After days of going back and forth about it, he’d finally come to terms with the fact that Harper needed to know about the deal he’d made with Penn.

  Once he came to that conclusion, he only had to figure out when would be the best time to tell her. Part of him thought it would be easier to wait until after the fact, because then it would already be done.

  He knew if he told Harper before he slept with Penn, she might try to talk him out of it. That wouldn’t be so bad, except that she might succeed.

  It wasn’t that he wanted to have sex with Penn—in fact, quite the contrary. When it came down to it, he wasn’t completely sure he’d be able to perform, although the other night when Penn had been kissing him had him partially convinced that it wouldn’t be an issue. No matter what his heart and mind felt, his body seemed to respond to certain things.

  But Penn was guaranteeing the safety of Gemma and Harper. He couldn’t turn that down.

  Of course, he knew that this wasn’t an indefinite guarantee. If he did sleep with Penn, one of two things would happen afterward. Either she would immediately lose interest in Daniel, and then probably kill him, Harper, and Gemma just for fun. Or she’d like it, and continue to blackmail Daniel into seeing her.

  There was a third option, one where Daniel also enjoyed and actively pursued a relationship with Penn. While she seemed certain that was the way things would end up, he was highly dubious. He didn’t think anything in the world would feel good enough for him to want to be with her.

  The best-case scenario was that Penn would keep blackmailing Daniel, promising him protection for Harper and Gemma as long as he was sleeping with her. His only hope to defend the people he cared about was to become some kind of indentured prostitute.

  And that was why he had to tell Harper before he went ahead with it. He didn’t want to sneak around behind her back repeatedly cheating on her, no matter how good the reason might be. She needed to know what he was doing so she could decide for herself if she wanted to continue a relationship with him.

  Daniel knew full well that he might lose her over this. Even though he was doing it for her, because he loved her, he knew it would be a hard thing to accept.

  But if he had to choose between losing her forever to keep her safe and happy or being with her and watching her suffer and die, then he would gladly choose the former, no matter what the cost was to him.

  Since he and Penn were set to seal the deal tomorrow, he thought he’d better have the conversation with Harper today. He didn’t want to have it over the phone, though, and he didn’t have a car.

/>  So that led Daniel to Alex’s house, where they stood in the driveway next to Alex’s blue Cougar. The sky was dark above them, but it hadn’t begun to rain yet.

  “Are you sure?” Daniel asked as he took the car keys from Alex. “I don’t want to put you out. ”

  “No, it’s fine. ” Alex shook his head.

  “Are you gonna be able to get to work okay?” Daniel asked.

  “I haven’t been working lately,” Alex admitted.

  Daniel eyed him. It’d been a week since he’d last seen Alex, ferrying him over from his island to mainland Capri. Alex had been rather hungover then, but even factoring that in, he seemed to be doing better.

  It wasn’t until they’d been talking for a little while that it finally occurred to him. Every time he’d run into Alex during the past month, Alex had been looking at the ground or staring off at nothing. This was the first time in a long while that Alex was actually looking him in the eye.

  “Oh, yeah?” Daniel asked. “Are you quitting?”

  “Maybe, if I haven’t already been fired. ” Alex shrugged. “I just need to do something different. Working out on the docks isn’t for me. ”

  “Did something happen?” Daniel asked.

  “I don’t know. ” He furrowed his brow. “I think I need to take some time off and figure things out. I’ve been in a weird place lately, and … I don’t know. I feel like things might be turning around. ”

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  Thunder cracked overhead, and Alex looked up, staring at the heavy clouds swirling above them. The wind blew his hair back from his eyes, which had a look of total fascination in them, like the storm was entrancing him.

  “I should be out there tracking this,” Alex said quietly, almost to himself.

  Daniel joined Alex in staring up at the sky. “It looks like it’s gonna start storming soon. ”

  “There’s something big on the way, that’s for sure,” Alex agreed.

  “Yeah, well, I should probably get going if I’m going to head up to Sundham before the storm really rolls in,” Daniel said, looking back at Alex.

  Alex nodded. “All right. ” He waited until Daniel turned to walk away before saying, “Hey, Daniel. Are you … You’re talking to Gemma a lot?”

  “Um, kind of, I guess,” Daniel answered uncertainly. “Why?”

  “I can’t…” Alex shook his head, as if struggling to find the words. “Right now I can’t protect her the way I want to. Things are … not right between us. But I want her safe. ”

  “Yeah, I get that,” Daniel said.

  “Can you watch out for her?” Alex asked, looking at him. “Just until I can get this mess under control. Can you keep an eye on her for me, make sure everything’s okay?”

  “Yeah, of course. ” Daniel nodded.

  Alex looked relieved and smiled. “Thank you. ”

  “No problem,” Daniel said. “And I’ll have your car back in the morning. ”

  “Yeah, that’d be fine,” Alex told him. “Take as much time as you need. ”

  Without any further warning, it started to rain. Earlier, when Daniel had been walking over to Alex’s, he’d felt the occasional sprinkle. But this was as if the sky had opened up and poured water on them.