tidal Page 6

If he woke up and caught her, she’d be incredibly embarrassed, but he looked so peaceful and handsome as he slept. His unshaven scruff made him ruggedly sexy, and she had a feeling that if he shaved it completely, he might look too pretty. His skin was smooth, and his mouth had a sexy, sinful quality to it.

  The urge to kiss him overtook her, and she decided that she’d better wake him first. They hadn’t had their after-dinner make-out session yet, and to set the mood, she wanted to wake him in the right way.

  “Daniel?” she whispered in his ear, doing her best to sound sultry and seductive. “Daniel?”

  He didn’t stir at all. Not even slightly, and she was speaking right into his ear. She instantly began to panic, and she couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. When she’d fallen asleep she’d heard his heartbeat, but had she heard it a few minutes ago when she awoke?

  “Daniel?” Harper asked again, and by now she was certain that he’d died while she was asleep. “Daniel?”

  He moved his head. “Hmm?” He turned to look at her, opening his eyes slowly, and she let out a deep breath. “What?”

  “You didn’t hear that?” she asked. She sat up a bit, and he moved his hand to her back.

  Daniel still appeared groggy and didn’t seem to completely understand the situation. It must’ve been apparent that she was upset, because he rubbed her back to comfort her.

  “What?” Daniel asked, becoming more alert.

  “I was saying your name. I was whispering right in your ear. ”

  He furrowed his brow. “Why were you whispering in my ear?”

  “I was trying to wake you up all romantic-like. ”

  “Aw. ” He smiled. “That’s very sweet of you. ”

  He tried to pull her down, either to kiss her or so she’d lie with him again, but she resisted. She was still confused and anxious.

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  “Yeah, but why couldn’t you hear me?”

  “The accident. ” He sat up a little bit, since he’d begun to realize that Harper wasn’t going to let this go.

  “You mean the boating accident you were in with your brother?”

  “Yeah. It messed up my back. I don’t have complete range of motion in this shoulder, and I have all these nifty scars. ” He rolled his right shoulder, trying to show it didn’t move so well. “But it hurt my ears, too. It didn’t damage the outer part, but it messed something up so I can’t hear certain octaves. I’m not deaf, but just some stuff I can’t hear. ”

  “Did it mess up both ears?” Harper asked.

  “Yeah, the right is worse than the other. ” Daniel motioned to the ear she’d been whispering in. “I almost lost my hearing completely in it, but I had a surgery, and it’s pretty much fine now. The other one was never that bad to begin with. But there’s a nasty scar running across the back of my skull. If I ever go bald, it’ll be gross. ”

  “Why didn’t you tell me this before?” Harper asked, and she knew her tone was more pointed than she wanted it to be, but she couldn’t help it.

  “I showed you the scars before,” he reminded her.

  “But you didn’t tell me about your hearing. ” She sat up completely now, pulling away from him, and that only made his confusion deepen.

  “I don’t know. ” He shrugged. “I didn’t think of it. Why does it matter?”

  “That’s got to be it. The sirens, Daniel. That’s probably why you’re immune to them. ”

  She leaned down, kissing him on the lips, and he wrapped his arms around her, pulling her against him. He moved, rolling her over so she was on her back, and he kissed more deeply. Harper felt the scruff of his face on her cheeks, and something about it seemed so perfect. The way Daniel kissed her summed him up perfectly—a little rough on the edges, but so sweet and sexy.

  Abruptly, Daniel pulled away from her and sat up straighter, looking around the room. “What was that?”

  “What?” Harper smiled, thinking that he was teasing her about when she whispered in his ear.

  She had her hand on his chest and slid it up, meaning to pull him back down to her, but then she heard something, too. For a few moments, she’d been lost in his arms. But now she heard it—a wet thwacking sound as something slammed into the front door.

  “Stay here. ” Daniel got up, managing to move both quickly and calmly while fresh panic spread out over her.

  Harper stood up and looked around, hoping to catch a glimpse of something through the windows of the cabin, but she saw nothing. “Did you see anything?”

  “I don’t know. Just stay here,” he repeated and walked to the front door.

  “Maybe you shouldn’t open the door,” Harper suggested. “At least not if you don’t know what it was. ”

  “I’m sure it’s nothing,” Daniel said.

  Harper lagged behind him and grabbed the poker from next to the fireplace. Daniel may not be cautious, but she wasn’t about to open a door unprepared. Not when she knew what kind of monsters could be out there.

  “You’re out alone on an island,” Harper said. “It’s either a wild animal or the sirens, and either way, it’s not safe. ”

  “I’ll be fine,” Daniel insisted. He smiled reassuringly at her, then turned and opened the front door.

  Harper gripped the cold metal tightly in her hands, preparing to strike Penn or Lexi dead if they were on the other side of the door. But when it opened, Harper saw nothing.

  “Oh, good,” Daniel said as he stared down at the ground. “It’s only fish. ”

  “Fish?” Harper moved closer to him so she could peer down and see what he was talking about.

  Two huge bluefish lay at Daniel’s doorstep. Or at least they appeared to be bluefish, but it was hard to tell, since they’d been thrown at the door with such force that their guts had splattered out, leaving droplets of blood and viscera all over the side of the cabin.

  Harper was about to ask him what that was about, but then she saw it—a gigantic black feather floating through the air. Rather fittingly, it landed right in a small puddle of blood, the black veins of the feather appearing almost iridescent in the moonlight.

  “Penn,” Harper said. A chill ran through her. “Do you think she was watching us?”

  “It’s hard to say. ” Daniel rubbed his hand on his forehead. “Well, I should get you home. ”

  “A siren throws dead fish at your house and your only reaction is to take me home?” Harper gaped at him.

  “It’s getting late. ” He turned back toward her, but he wouldn’t meet her eyes.

  “Daniel, I’m not just gonna leave you here like this,” Harper insisted.

  “Harper, it’s fine,” he said. “Penn’s just messing around. ”

  “Just messing around?” Harper scoffed. “She’s clearly threatening you. She could still be out here now. ”

  “No, she’s not. ” He shook his head. “If she wanted to hurt me or you, she would’ve. This is just a stupid prank. It’s the siren equivalent of egging my house. ”

  “Daniel, I think it’s a bit more serious than that. ” Harper stared up at him for a while before exhaling deeply and letting her arms fall to her sides. “Fine. You can take me home. But only if you’re sure you’ll be safe out here. ”

  “I’m sure. ” He smiled and kissed her gently on the mouth. “I can take care of myself. ”

  Daniel took her hand and led her down the trail back to the boathouse. The earlier magic of the night had faded away. The trees around them felt imposing, and the moonlight shining through them made the branches look like arms reaching out for her.


  Cliff Diving

  After weeks of it sitting immobile in the driveway of her house, Brian had finally gotten Gemma’s beat-up Chevy running again. He’d refused to work on it until after Gemma was ungrounded so she wouldn’t be tempted to take it.

  It was just in time for Gemma’s Saturday visit out to see her mom. With coll
ege rapidly approaching, Harper was picking up as many shifts as she could at the library. She usually had Saturdays off, but with Edie back around, Marcy had been more than happy to give up days to her.

  Harper had begun talking about not going off to college, saying it was too dangerous to leave Gemma now, but Gemma wouldn’t hear of it. As far back as she could remember, Harper had been talking about going off to school and becoming a doctor.

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  Well, maybe it hadn’t been as far back as she could remember, but it definitely had been after their mom’s accident. Harper had spoken with the neurosurgeon a lot while Nathalie was in the hospital, and she’d been preoccupied with the field ever since.

  Everyone had made it clear how much work and dedication it required to become a doctor, and even if she did all the work and the schooling, there was still no guarantee that Harper would ever be one. But she hadn’t been deterred. If anything, it had only made her work twice as hard.

  There had been many nights when Gemma had woken up to go to the bathroom, and Harper would still be awake, studying for an exam or working on her homework. She’d been working part-time since she was fifteen, on top of school and keeping the household running.

  Gemma knew how badly her sister wanted this, and she refused to take it away from her. If Harper didn’t go to college this year, she’d lose her scholarships and her place in the premed program. It would throw off her entire future and ruin everything.

  After all the things Harper had already given up for her family, Gemma wouldn’t let her give up anything else.

  As she made the twenty-minute drive out to Briar Ridge, Gemma tried to think of arguments to convince Harper to go. All the logical ones wouldn’t really work because they were stuck in a totally illogical situation.

  It would’ve been nice if she could have asked Nathalie for motherly advice, but she didn’t have any. She was in a good mood, chatting away about all sorts of things, and it was a little hard for Gemma to get a word in edgewise.

  Gemma had tried to tell her about the play she was working on, because Nathalie had been somewhat of an actress in her day. That was how she’d gotten involved in the Paramount Theater restoration in the first place. Nathalie had wanted a place to perform.

  But Nathalie couldn’t focus today. No matter what Gemma asked her or said to her, the conversation would veer in some bizarre direction. Her current obsession was a BeDazzler she’d gotten, although her lack of hand coordination presented a problem in her using it properly.

  Somehow Gemma managed to escape the visit without any new jewels stuck to her clothing. Seeing her mother was always a little draining, and that only exacerbated the watersong.

  When she went awhile without swimming or got too far away from the sirens, the ocean would call to her. It was like music in her mind, but the stronger it became, the more obnoxious and even painful it could become. The watersong had given her horrible migraines when she first became a siren and was refusing to swim.

  The air conditioner in her car was broken, so hot August air was blowing in through the windows. The watersong had gotten to an irritating level. Not to mention her hunger was beginning to gnaw at her. She’d need to go on a date soon. The physical contact could help stave off her hunger before things got completely out of control and she ended up hurting someone like she had before.

  Sirens craved four things—singing, the ocean, eating, and physical contact with boys. So kissing helped keep her appetite suppressed, as long as she kept herself in control.

  But since she didn’t have any plans with Kirby, she’d have to settle for a swim. It would help her blow off some steam, quell the watersong, and even curb her appetite a little.

  Right before she made it to Capri, she turned off the main drive and went up the winding road that led to the top of the cliff where the sirens were staying. Gemma didn’t particularly enjoy spending time with the sirens, but she had to do things with them sometimes. Not just to keep the watersong quieter, but to keep the peace.

  She needed to act the part of a dutiful member of Penn’s little clique, at least some of the time, so Penn would be less tempted to go back on their deal about staying in Capri and not killing anyone, including Gemma.

  Besides that, Gemma wanted to check up and see what the sirens were up to. She knew they were trying to figure out if there was anything supernatural going on in town other than themselves, but she didn’t really know how forthcoming Penn would be if she found anything.

  When she pulled in front of the sirens’ house, she didn’t see Penn’s car. That didn’t mean anything, except that Penn probably wasn’t here, but that was a good thing. Gemma got out of her car and rang the doorbell.

  She was just about to leave, deciding that nobody was home, when Thea opened the door. Her red hair was pulled back, and that was the first time Gemma had seen her with her hair up.

  “Hey, Gemma. ” Thea leaned on the doorframe. “What brings you up here?” She nodded at the car behind Gemma. “Other than that heap. How did that even make it up the hill?”

  “My dad just fixed it, and it’s running pretty well,” Gemma said, getting defensive of her battered old Chevy. “I thought I’d check and see if you maybe wanted to join me for a swim. ”

  “Sure. ” Thea shrugged. “It’s just me here, and I’ve been practicing my lines for the play for a while. I can use the break. ”

  Thea stepped away from the door, and Gemma followed her inside. Penn had complained that the houses in Capri weren’t nice enough, but Gemma thought this place was pretty swanky. The downstairs was an open concept, and the second floor was a loft above. The only walls on the main level were around the bathroom, the pantry in the kitchen, and the fireplace in the center of the house.

  The house was situated almost right on the edge of the cliff, not that far away from where Gemma and Alex had gone, back when they were seeing each other, to talk and make out. From the living room she could see almost the entire bay, including Bernie’s Island and a large part of Capri. The house was aimed toward the south, but if she stepped out on the cliff, she could almost see all the way up to the Achelous River, which was a few miles north of the bay.

  “It does have a great view. ” Thea sighed and stood next to Gemma, who’d wandered to the back of the house to take it all in. “I’ll miss it when we leave. ”

  “Really?” Gemma asked and looked over at her. Thea appeared strangely wistful for a moment, but she tried to hide it.

  “Maybe ‘miss’ is too strong a word,” Thea said as she walked away from her. “I’m going upstairs to change into my swimsuit. ”

  “But you’ll miss this?” Gemma turned to watch Thea climb up the stairs to the loft above, where the bedrooms were. “A drab place like Capri?”

  “I thought you liked it here,” Thea said, her voice bouncing off the pitched ceilings. She’d disappeared out of Gemma’s sight, presumably getting her suit on. “You’re always wanting to stay here. ”

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  “That’s different. My friends and family are here,” Gemma said. “And you’ve been all over the world and seen all kinds of exotic places. I can’t imagine this would be in the top ten, or even the top fifty places you’ve been. ”

  “I haven’t been as many places as you’d think,” Thea said. “We can never be that far from the ocean, so everywhere we go has to be a seaside town. Beaches, I’ve seen hundreds. To me, exotic would be an open prairie, land that goes on and on without any water in sight. ”

  Gemma sat down on the edge of a sofa as she waited, still staring up at the loft even though there was nothing to see.

  “But there still have to have been more beautiful places than here,” Gemma said.

  “Of course there are. ” Thea’s voice was muffled a second, but when she spoke again, her voice was clear. “The coast of Australia is probably my favorite. They have the most gorgeous reefs there. I’ve swum there thousands of
times, and it’s always changing and always beautiful. ”

  “I’d love to see that,” Gemma said.

  “Maybe you will. ” Thea appeared at the top of the stairs, now in a dark brown bikini. “But the ocean’s the ocean anywhere you go. The water’s just as wet here as it is anywhere else. ”

  “So then what could make you miss this place?” Gemma asked. “What makes Capri special?”

  Thea breathed out deeply and came down the stairs much more slowly than she’d gone up them. When she reached the bottom, she finally answered.

  “It’s not the most beautiful or entertaining place we’ve been, that’s for sure,” Thea said. “Penn thinks there might be some kind of supernatural draw, but I don’t know if I believe that. ”

  “Why did you come here in the first place?” Gemma asked, realizing that the sirens had never told her how they’d ended up in town.

  Thea shook her head and wouldn’t meet her eyes. She hesitated before speaking, almost as if she were holding something back. “It was just a stop on the coast. We never planned to be here this long. ”

  “But you have stayed,” Gemma said. “And you want to stay longer. Don’t you?”

  “Oh, I don’t know. ” Thea walked away, going out to the back door, so Gemma got up to go after her.

  When she went outside, Thea was standing right at the edge of the cliff, her toes almost hanging over it. Anthemusa Bay spread out before them. Boats were floating on the water, looking so small from the distance.

  “All the places blur together eventually,” Thea said finally. “Even the beauty of the ocean, eventually it becomes … redundant. It’s not here so much as now that I want to stay in. ”

  “What’s great about now?” Gemma asked.

  “It probably seems terrible to you. Your whole life is in upheaval. But for me, this is the calmest things have been in a very long time. Penn is more sated. Lexi is miserable, but that matters less. Lexi’s bitching and whining have nothing on Penn. ”

  Gemma nodded knowingly. “When Penn’s unhappy, she makes everybody unhappy. ”

  “That’s an understatement. She makes life a living hell. ”

  “So she’s happy here?” Gemma asked.

  Thea shrugged. “She’s preoccupied, and sometimes that’s about as close to happy as she gets. ”

  “You’re talking about Daniel?” Gemma debated about saying anything more on that, but she decided she should tell Thea. That didn’t mean that word wouldn’t get back to Penn, but if Thea thought it should, then maybe it should. “I talked to Harper this morning, and she thinks she figured out why he’s immune. ”

  Thea turned her head sharply. “Really?”

  “Yeah. Harper was with Daniel last night, and he couldn’t hear her whisper or something,” Gemma said, almost reluctantly telling Thea the story. “Five years ago, he was in an accident, and it messed up his hearing. He’s not deaf, but certain octaves and tones are out of his range. ”

  “So he’s deaf to whatever makes the siren song enchanting,” Thea said. She sighed and pulled the hair tie out, making her red locks fall free.