Wake, p.10
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       Wake, p.10

         Part #1 of The Watersong Quartet series by Amanda Hocking
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“That cannot be possible. ” Gemma gaped at the reflection.

  “Did you say something?” Alex called from the hallway.

  “Uh … no. ” She dropped her shirt, as if he’d be able to see through the door. “I was just talking to myself. I’ll be out in a sec. ”

  Hurriedly, she ran her fingers through her hair to comb it out. Even her hair didn’t seem as tangled as it usually was. All the salt water and chlorine were harsh on her hair, but it felt silkier than it had in years.

  She didn’t have time to worry about it, though. Alex was waiting for her, and she wanted to hurry and see him while she still could. When she got home from work Harper would send him away, and Gemma had no idea when she’d get a minute alone with him again.

  “It’s actually really good that you stopped by,” Gemma said as she opened the bathroom door. She’d expected him to be out in the hall waiting for her, but he wasn’t.

  “Why is that?” Alex asked, his voice coming from her bedroom.

  “Because I’m probably going to be grounded from now until the end of time. ”

  She went into her room, trying not to let on how nervous it made her, having him in her room. It wasn’t a bad nervous, but this was the first time she’d had a boy she dated in here. This wasn’t Alex’s first time in her room, but it was different somehow. She hadn’t wanted to kiss him before.

  She glanced around quickly to make sure she didn’t have anything embarrassing out in the open. Her dirty bathing suit was crumpled up on the floor and her bed was unmade, but there wasn’t anything too bad. Maybe the poster of Michael Phelps on her wall, but Alex couldn’t really fault her for that.

  Alex had been standing next to her bed, admiring the picture on her bedside table of her, Harper, and their mother. As soon as Gemma came in the room, he turned to face her, and his brown eyes widened. His mouth opened, but no words came out. He tried to set the picture back on the nightstand, but he wasn’t paying attention, and it fell to the floor.

  “Sorry. ” He scrambled to pick it up, and Gemma laughed.

  “It’s okay. ”

  “No, I’m sorry. ” He looked back at her, giving her a sheepish smile. “I’m so clumsy. You make me…”

  “What?” She stepped closer to her bed, and his eyes stayed on her.

  “I don’t know. ” He laughed and furrowed his brow in confusion. “It’s like … I can’t think around you sometimes. ”

  “You can’t think?” Gemma asked dubiously and sat on the bed. “You’re the smartest person I know. How can you stop thinking?”

  “I don’t know. ”

  He sat down next to her, still staring at her, but something about his stare had shifted from flattering to unnerving. There was something too intense in his gaze, and Gemma tucked her hair behind her ear and looked away from him.

  Page 28

  “I’m sorry I didn’t call you today,” she said.

  “It’s okay,” he said quickly, then shook his head, as if that were not what he meant to say. “I wasn’t…” He looked away from her, but only for a moment, and then his eyes were locked on her again. “Where were you?”

  “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. ” She shook her head.

  “I’d believe anything you said,” Alex replied, and the sincerity in his voice made Gemma look at him.

  “What’s going on with you?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “I mean…” She gestured to him. “This. The way you’re looking at me. The way you’re talking to me. ”

  “Aren’t I talking to you the way I always have?” Alex moved away from her a bit, genuinely taken aback by her observation.

  “No. You’re all…” She shrugged, unable to find the right words to explain it. “Not you. ”

  “I’m sorry. ” His face pinched as he tried hard to figure out what she meant. “I guess … I was scared this morning. Harper wouldn’t tell me what was going on, and I was afraid that something had happened to you. ”

  “I truly am sorry about that,” Gemma said, deciding that must be what was going on. He’d been worried about her, so he was overcompensating with excessive staring, like Harper did sometimes. “I never meant to scare you. Or anybody. ”

  “But now you’ll be grounded?” Alex asked.

  She sighed. “Yeah, definitely. ”

  “I won’t be able to see you?” he asked, sounding as depressed about it as she felt. “I don’t know if I can handle that. ”

  “Hopefully it will only be for a few weeks. Maybe less, with good behavior. ” She gave him a small smile. “And maybe sometimes you can stop by when Harper and my dad are at work, like now. ”

  “How long do we have until Harper gets home from work?”

  Gemma glanced over at the clock and realized sadly that Harper had already been gone for an hour. “Not long. ”

  “Then we have to make the most of this time while we have it,” Alex said decisively.

  “What do you mean?”

  “I mean this. ” He leaned in to her, pressing his lips to hers.

  At first he kissed her in the same sweet way he always did—gentle, restrained, careful. But something changed. An eagerness took over, and he tangled his fingers in her hair, pressing her to him.

  When things shifted, when Alex began kissing her with an insistence that was almost forceful, Gemma grew alarmed. She almost pushed him back so she could suggest they slow down, but it was as if he’d awakened something inside of her, a hunger she didn’t even know she had.

  She pushed him back on the bed, still kissing him. His hands roamed over her body, at first over her clothes, but then sliding underneath her shirt to where her bruise should be. Everywhere his flesh touched hers, that same sensation she’d felt in the shower rippled over her.

  Their kisses were getting more frantic, like Alex thought he’d die if he didn’t have her. Gemma felt ravenous for him in the most primal way. She wanted him, needed him, couldn’t wait to devour him. It surged through her like a fire, and in some dark part of her mind she realized that what she wanted to do with him had nothing to do with passion.

  “Ow!” Alex winced and stopped kissing her.

  “What?” Gemma asked.

  She lay on top of him, both of them gasping for breath. Alex’s eyes were clearer now, no longer fogged with passion. His hand had been gripping her side, pulling her to him, but he let go and touched his lip. It came back with a drop of blood on his fingertip.

  “You … bit me?” Alex said uncertainly.

  “I bit you?” She sat up, still straddling Alex.

  As she ran her tongue over her teeth, they suddenly felt sharper to her. Her incisors were so pointed, she nearly pricked her own tongue on them.

  “It’s okay. ” Alex rubbed her leg, trying to comfort her. “It was an accident, and I’m fine. ”

  Her stomach growled, audibly rumbling. Gemma put her hand over it, as if that would silence it.

  “I’m starving,” she said, sounding confused by her admission.

  He laughed. “I heard that. ”

  She shook her head and didn’t know how to explain it. Kissing him had somehow made her incredibly hungry. And though she didn’t remember doing it, she wasn’t convinced that biting him had been an accident.

  “Harper should be home soon,” Gemma said, looking for an excuse to end their encounter. She climbed off of Alex and sat down on the bed.

  “Yeah, of course. ” He sat up quickly and shook his head, as if clearing it of something.

  Neither of them said anything for a minute. They both just stared down at the floor, confused by their recent actions.

  “Listen, I’m … I’m sorry,” Alex said.

  “What for?”

  “I didn’t mean to come over and … and…” He stumbled over his words. “Make out like that, I guess. I mean, it was nice. But…” He sighed. “I didn’t want to rush you or pressure
you, and … That’s not me. I’m not that guy. ”

  “I know. ” Gemma nodded. She smiled at him, hoping her smile didn’t look as pained as it felt. “I’m not that girl, either. But you definitely didn’t pressure me into anything. ”

  “Okay. Good. ” He stood up and touched his lip again, checking for blood, then looked back at her. “I guess, um, I’ll see you when I can. ”

  “Yeah. ” She nodded.

  “I am really glad that you’re okay. ”

  “I know. Thank you. ”

  He paused, thinking for a second, then bent down and kissed her on the cheek. It was a little long for a kiss on the cheek, but it was still over too quickly. Then Alex was gone.

  Of all the kisses they’d shared that afternoon, that one before he left was Gemma’s favorite. It may have been the most chaste, but it was also the one that felt the most genuine.

  TWELVE

  Pearl’s

  The library was slow today, thanks to the pristine weather. The sun shone brightly in the sky, and it was warm without being overly so. It was the kind of day that would make Gemma kill to be out on the bay, and even Harper would’ve been happy to join her.

  Not that Gemma could go anywhere. As predicted, their father had grounded her when he came home from work last night. He’d yelled in a way that almost made Harper stand up for her sister, but she didn’t. She hid out on the steps and listened to him rant about how he’d always given Gemma freedom and trusted her, but those days were over.

  Page 29

  In the end, Gemma had begun to cry. Brian had apologized then, but Gemma just went up to her room. She spent the whole night up there. Harper had tried to talk to her a couple of times, but Gemma just sent her away.

  Harper had hoped to talk to her this morning, but Gemma had already left for swim practice by the time she got up. On the upside, Brian had remembered to take his lunch to work with him.

  Although that was starting to seem like less of a positive now that Harper was sitting at the front desk of the library without much to do. She absently leafed through Judy Blume’s Forever.

  She’d read it before, but that was a couple years ago, so she wanted to refresh herself with the text. It was part of their summer reading program for middle schoolers, and on Mondays Harper met with the ten or so kids in the book club to talk about their weekly reading.

  “Did you know that the principal of the high school has had Oprah Winfrey’s biography out for the past six weeks?” Marcy asked, clicking on the computer next to Harper.

  “Nope, I didn’t know that,” Harper replied.

  Since it was slow, Marcy was going through the computer to search for people who had overdue books, then calling to remind them. Marcy had actually volunteered to do it. Even though she hated interacting with people, she loved calling to tell them that they’d done something wrong.

  “That seems weird, doesn’t it?” Marcy peered at Harper from behind a pair of black horn-rimmed glasses. Not that she needed corrective lenses—she just thought they made her look academic, so she wore them sometimes.

  “I don’t know. I heard it’s a really good book. ”

  “It’s like I always say—you can tell a lot about a person by the books they check out. ”

  “You just like to snoop on people,” Harper corrected her.

  “You say that like it’s a bad thing. It’s always good to know what your neighbors are up to. Just ask Poland about that after World War Two. ”

  “There’s never a good reason to invade somebody’s—”

  “Whoa, Harper, isn’t that the kid you know?” Marcy interrupted her and pointed to the computer screen.

  “Lots of people I know check out books,” Harper said without looking up from the Judy Blume book. “It’s not all that surprising. ”

  “No, no, I got bored with that so I was just checking out the Capri Daily Herald’s Web site to leave angry, anonymous comments on the op-ed piece. But I found this instead. ” Marcy turned the screen so it faced Harper more.

  Harper looked up to see the headline “Local Boy Missing. ” Below it was a picture of Luke Benfield that Harper recognized as his senior picture from her yearbook. He’d tried to slick back his red curls, but they still stuck out at the sides.

  “He’s missing?” Harper asked and scooted her chair closer to Marcy’s.

  In smaller letters the subhead read “Fourth Boy Missing in Two Months. ” The article went on to give a few basic facts about Luke—that he was an honor-roll student and Stanford-bound in the fall.

  The rest of the story told what little they knew about what had happened. Luke had gone to the picnic on Monday, then went home for supper. He seemed normal, and he left after he ate, telling his parents he was meeting a friend, and he’d never returned.

  His parents were at a loss as to where he might be. The police had just started their investigation, but they didn’t seem to know any more than they did about the other missing boys. Since Luke was eighteen, the police would have ordinarily waited longer to start searching, but with the recent rash of disappearances, the cops were taking this latest one seriously.

  The reporter drew parallels between Luke’s disappearance and those of the other three boys. They were all teenagers. They had all left to meet some friends. None of them ever came home.

  The article went on to mention two teenage girls who had gone missing from nearby coastal towns. All the boys were from Capri, but the girls were from two different towns more than a half hour away.

  “Do you think they’re going to question us?” Marcy asked.

  “Why? We didn’t have anything to do with that. ”

  “Because we saw him that day. ” Marcy pointed to the computer screen, as if to elaborate. “He went missing the night of the picnic. ”

  Harper thought it over. “I don’t know. Maybe they will, but the paper said the police just started the investigation. They’ll probably talk to Alex, but I don’t know if they’re going to talk to every person who went to the picnic. ”

  “That’s freaky, right?” Marcy asked. “We just saw him, and now he’s dead. ”

  “He’s not dead. He’s missing,” Harper corrected her. “He might still be alive. ”

  “I doubt it. They’re saying it’s a serial killer. ”

  “They who?” Harper asked, leaning back in her chair. “The Herald didn’t say anything about it. ”

  “I know. ” Marcy shrugged. “‘They’ everybody. The people in town. ”

  “Well, the people in town don’t know everything. ” Harper scooted her chair back to her spot at the desk, away from Marcy and the horrible news story about Luke. “I’m sure he’ll turn up all right. ”

  Marcy scoffed. “I highly doubt that. Nobody’s found any of these boys. I’m telling you there’s some serial killer on the loose picking off—”

  “Marcy!” Harper snapped, cutting off her train of thought. “Luke is Alex’s friend. He has parents and a life. Let’s hope for their sake that he’s okay. And we’ll leave it at that. ”

  “Okay. ” Marcy turned the computer screen back toward herself and inched her chair away from Harper. “I didn’t know it was such a touchy subject. ”

  “It’s not touchy. ” Harper let out a deep breath and softened her tone. “I just think we should be respectful in times of tragedy. ”

  “Sorry. ” Marcy was quiet for a moment. “I should probably get back to looking up fines anyway. I have lots of phone calls to make. ”

  Harper tried to go back to reading the book, but she hadn’t really been that into it anyway. Her mind wandered back to Luke and his senior picture that tried too hard. She’d never felt anything for Luke, not anything more than friendship, but he was nice. They’d shared a few awkward, strained moments together, and they’d even kissed once. Now he might never come home.

  Page 30

  Though she didn’t want to admit it, Harper knew t
hat Marcy was probably right. Luke wasn’t coming home alive.

  “I need a break,” Harper said suddenly and stood up.

  “What?” Marcy looked up at her from behind her ridiculous eyewear.

  “I think I’ll just go across the street and grab a Coke or something. But I need to just…” Harper shook her head. She didn’t know what she needed exactly, but she wanted to stop thinking about Luke.

  “So you’re gonna leave me here alone?” Marcy asked, sounding frightened at the prospect of having to deal with patrons.

  Harper glanced around the empty library. “I think you can handle it. Besides,” Harper said as she pushed back her chair, “I abandoned my sick sister yesterday to help out. You can cover for me for like thirty minutes. ”

  “Thirty minutes?” Marcy called after Harper as she walked out the door.

  Just stepping out in the sun helped alleviate some of her unease. It was too beautiful a day to imagine anything bad happening. She tried to shake off her discomfort as she went across the street to Pearl’s Diner.

  The diner was run-down and dingy, so it managed to keep away a lot of the tourists, who hung around the beach. It didn’t have an over-the-top seafaring theme like most of the places by the bay, aside from one painting over the bar. It was a huge picture of a mermaid sitting on an open clamshell, holding a big pearl.

  A few booths lined the large front window, and stools covered in cracked red vinyl ran along the counter. Pearl had a few pieces of pie displayed in a glass case, but she only served two kinds—lemon and blueberry. The tiles on the floor were supposed to be red and white, but the white was more of a beige now.

  It was usually only the locals who went there. That was what was so weird about Penn and her friends coming to Pearl’s. They frequented it so often, they’d nearly become regulars, and they weren’t even from Capri.

  At the thought of Penn, Harper immediately looked around the diner. The last thing she needed was to run into them.

  Fortunately, Penn, Thea, and Lexi were nowhere in sight. Daniel, however, was sitting at a small table by himself eating a cup of soup when Harper walked in. He smiled when he saw her, so she went over to him.

  “I didn’t know you ate here. ”

  “I gotta come here for Pearl’s famous clam chowder. ” Daniel grinned, then gestured to the empty seat across from him. “Care to join me?” She chewed her lip, debating whether or not she should, so he said, “You do owe me a rain check after the ice-cream incident. ”

  “I do,” she admitted, and, almost reluctantly, she sat down across from him.

  “I even got soup, so we’re right on track for a meal of equal value. ”

  “That we are. ”

  “So what brings you here?” Daniel asked.

  “Lunch,” Harper said, and he laughed at the obvious. “Actually, I work across the street at the library. I’m on break now. ”

  “You come here a lot, then?” He’d finished his soup, so he pushed the bowl to the side and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table.

  “Not really, no. ” She shook her head. “My coworker Marcy hates being left alone at the library, so I usually eat my lunch there. ”

 
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