She hadn’t told Harper about it—she refused to. Her sister already knew too much and was too wrapped up in the drama of her life. Gemma thought the best way to protect her was to keep her out of the loop. The less Harper knew, the better.
That didn’t change the fact that the very real threat of Gemma’s death was looming in the not-too-distant future, and it was hard for her not to throw up when she thought about it too much.
“I’m trying to hold her off, Gemma,” Thea said. “Penn thinks she found the right girl, but she’s being cautious. There’s still some time, but not much.”
“Can’t you just tell me how to break the curse?” Gemma asked, almost pleading with her.
“Gemma, honestly, don’t you think if I knew how to break the curse, I would’ve done it by now?” Thea asked. “I wish I could have a better solution for sure. I wish I knew the magic answer to make everything easy and wonderful, but I don’t. I’m trapped in the same mess you are.”
“I know, but…” Gemma trailed off and ran her hand through her hair. “I just don’t know what to do anymore.”
“Enjoy this life for as long as you have it,” Thea told her simply.
Thea slipped off her bikini bottoms and tossed them back on the cliff. Then she dove off the edge, her arms pointed out in front of her as she fell toward the waves crashing below her.
That was the apparent end of the conversation, so Gemma followed suit. She kicked off her sandals and panties, so she was left in her sundress. Unlike Thea, Gemma preferred swimming in a dress instead of a swimsuit. That way she had all her lady bits covered when she reemerged from the water, since the tail transformation ripped off suit bottoms or underwear. Thea had jumped right from the edge, but Gemma liked a running start. She went back to the cabin, then raced to the edge and leapt off.
The fall to the ocean below was exhilarating. The wind blowing past her was so loud, she couldn’t hear anything else. Her dress whipped around her, and her stomach flipped several times before she finally crashed into the water.
The first few moments after she hit were painful. It wasn’t as bad for Gemma as it was for Thea, because she’d missed all the rocks that lined the face of the cliff. Thea had to have slammed into some of them, but by the time Gemma made it into the ocean, any signs of Thea’s injuries were gone. She was just a beautiful mermaid, flitting about the water.
Within seconds of hitting the water, Gemma felt the change running over her. The flutter of her skin as it turned from flesh into iridescent scales. The water running over her made her skin feel electric. Every wave, every splash, every movement charged through her.
While Thea had waited for Gemma to join her in the water, she turned and swam ahead. Gemma raced after her. They left the bay, moving away from where there were so many people who could spot them, and then they really began to play.
They moved together, swimming around one another almost as if they were dancing. They’d dive deep, then race back to the surface as quickly as they could so they could leap, flying through the air before splashing back into the ocean.
In these moments, when her entire body was tingling and joy was rushing over her like a tidal wave, Gemma couldn’t feel any anxiety or fear or worry. She actually became incapable of it. The only thing she felt—the only thing that mattered—was the ocean.
The campus lawn was filled with maples, and the rather imposing brick university was partially obscured by the foliage. The fall semester hadn’t started yet, so it was quiet. A Latin inscription was above the door, but Harper, Marcy, and Gemma were too far away to be able to read it.
“This does not look like a bookstore,” Harper said after Marcy had pulled her Gremlin over on the street in front of Sundham University.
“It’s on the way,” Marcy said and turned down the stereo.
An eight-track of Carly Simon had been the soundtrack for their forty-minute drive from Capri, with the last fifteen minutes almost on full blast because Gemma had requested it to drown out the watersong.
Harper didn’t exactly know what the watersong was, and Gemma hadn’t really articulated it. All she knew was that the farther Gemma got from the ocean, the more obnoxious the song would get. This was apparently the farthest Gemma had gone since she’d become a siren.
“It’s really pretty,” Gemma said, leaning forward from the backseat.
“Yep, it looks the same as it did in the brochures, and it even looks the same as it did when I went to a college visit last year before I applied to go here,” Harper said. She turned away from the campus to glare at Marcy and Gemma. “I know what the school looks like.”
“Just thought it wouldn’t hurt to remind you,” Marcy said.
Marcy exchanged a look with Gemma and shrugged.
“Nice try, Marcy,” Gemma told her and leaned back in the seat.
“So you guys have been conspiring?” Harper asked, looking from one to the other of them.
Neither of them replied, and Marcy put the car in gear. It sputtered angrily and jerked backward, then drove forward.
“This isn’t going to turn into a tour of Sundham, Delaware, is it?” Harper asked. “You’re not going to try to show me all the sights in hopes I’ll come here?”
Marcy glanced up at the rearview, apparently meeting Gemma’s eyes for some kind of confirmation. Harper leaned over the seat to look back at her, and Gemma sighed and stared out the windows.