Wake, p.11
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       Wake, p.11

         Part #1 of The Watersong Quartet series by Amanda Hocking
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“Except for when your dad forgets his lunch. ”

  “Yeah, except for that. ”

  “Does he really forget his lunch that often?” He gave her a curious look, his hazel eyes dancing.

  Harper returned his curious expression. “Yeah. Why?”

  “Really?” Daniel did nothing to mask his disappointment. “Because I was starting to think you were looking for excuses to see me. ”

  “Hardly. ” She lowered her eyes and laughed.

  Daniel smiled, but he looked ready to protest her dismissal of his claims when Pearl came over to take Harper’s order. She was a heavyset woman who used home hair-dye kits in an attempt to cover her gray, but it only left her with blue hair.

  “How was the chowder?” Pearl asked, picking up Daniel’s bowl.

  “Great as always, Pearl. ”

  “You should come in to eat it more, then,” Pearl said, then pointed to his slender frame. “You’re wasting away. What are you eating out there on the boat?”

  “Nothing nearly as good as your food,” Daniel admitted.

  “Well, I tell you what. My daughter’s air conditioner is on the fritz again. Her good-for-nothing husband can’t fix it, and she’s got those two little babies in that tiny apartment,” Pearl said. “They can’t handle the heat the way you or I can. If you swing by and check out her A/C tonight, I’ll send you home with a big bucket of my chowder. ”

  “You got yourself a deal. ” He smiled. “Tell your daughter I’ll stop by around six. ”

  “Thank you. You’re a real sweetheart, Daniel. ” Pearl winked at him, then turned to Harper. “What can I get for you?”

  “Just a Cherry Coke,” Harper said.

  “One Cherry Coke, coming up. ”

  “You can order more than a Coke if you want,” Daniel told Harper once Pearl had left to fill the order. “I was just kidding about you having to pay for something of equal value. ”

  “I know. I’m just not that hungry. ” In truth, her stomach was still twisted from thinking about Luke. It had calmed down some since she’d gotten here, but her appetite hadn’t returned.

  “Are you sure?” Daniel asked again. “You’re not one of those girls that won’t eat in front of a guy she’s trying to impress?”

  Harper laughed at his presumption. “First of all, I’m not trying to impress you. And second, I’m definitely not one of those girls. I’m just not hungry. ”

  “Here you go,” Pearl said, setting the glass on the table. “Is there anything else I can get you?”

  “No, we’re fine, thanks. ” Harper smiled up at her.

  “All right. Let me know if you need anything. ” Pearl touched Daniel’s arm gently before she left and gave him another grateful smile.

  “What’s that about, by the way?” Harper asked in a low voice and leaned across the table so Pearl wouldn’t overhear her. “You get paid in chowder?”

  “Sometimes. ” Daniel shrugged. “I’m kind of a handyman, I guess. I do odd jobs. Pearl’s daughter doesn’t have very much money, and I help out when I can. ”

  Page 31

  Harper appraised him for a minute, trying to get a read on him, before saying, “That’s very nice of you. ”

  “Why do you sound so surprised?” Daniel laughed. “I’m a nice guy. ”

  “No, I know that. I didn’t mean it like that. ”

  “I know,” Daniel said, watching her sip her drink. “So, you don’t usually leave for lunch, and you came to a diner even though you’re not hungry. What brings you here today?”

  “I just needed a break. ” She didn’t look at him directly, instead focusing on the thick black branches of his tattoo, which crept past the sleeve of his T-shirt and down his arm. “A friend of mine is missing. ”

  “What’s the deal with you?” Daniel teased. “First your sister goes missing, now your friend. ” Harper gave him a hard look, and his smile vanished. “Sorry. What happened?”

  “I don’t know. ” She shook her head. “He’s more of a friend of a friend, but we dated a few times. And he just went missing on Monday. ”

  “Oh, is he that kid from the paper?” Daniel asked.

  “Yeah. ” Harper nodded. “I just read about it before I came here, and I just needed to … not think about it anymore. ”

  “I’m sorry for bringing it up, then. ”

  “No, it’s okay. You didn’t know. ”

  “How is your sister, by the way?” Daniel asked, changing the subject.

  “Good, I think,” Harper said, then gave him a rueful smile. “I haven’t even properly thanked you for helping me find her yesterday. ”

  “You thanked me plenty. ” He waved off her apology. “I’m just glad she’s all right. Gemma seems like a good kid. ”

  “She used to be,” Harper agreed. “But I don’t know what’s going on with her anymore. ”

  “I’m sure she’ll turn out all right. You raised her right. ”

  “You make it sound like I’m her mother. ” Harper laughed somewhat uncomfortably. Daniel just looked at her and shrugged. “You think I act like her mother?”

  “I don’t think you act like you’re eighteen,” he clarified.

  She bristled as if he’d accused her of something terrible. “I have a lot to worry about. ”

  He nodded. “I can tell. ”

  Harper rubbed the back of her neck and turned away from him. Through the diner window she could see the library across the street, and she wondered how well Marcy was holding up.

  “I should probably get back,” Harper said, and she reached into her pocket for her money.

  “No, no. ” Daniel waved his hand. “I got this. Don’t worry about it. ”

  “But I thought this was my IOU meal for the ice cream. ”

  “I was just kidding. I’ll pay. ”

  “Are you sure?” Harper asked.

  “Yeah,” he said, laughing at her guilt-stricken expression. “If it bothers you so much, I’ll let you pay for it some other time. ”

  “What if we don’t ever eat together again?” Harper asked, eyeing him skeptically.

  “Then we don’t. ” He shrugged. “But I think we will. ”

  “Okay,” she said, because she couldn’t think of anything else to say. “Thank you for the Coke. ”

  “No problem,” Daniel said, watching her as she got up.

  “And I’ll see you around, I guess. ”

  He nodded and gave her a small wave. As she was walking out the door, she heard Pearl ask him if he wanted any pie. Harper went back across the street to the library, and it was very hard for her not to glance back over her shoulder at him.

  THIRTEEN

  Rebellion

  Part of her penance was helping Harper clean. It actually wasn’t specifically dictated as part of her punishment, but it helped ease Gemma’s guilt over frightening both Harper and her father so badly.

  Based on how much Harper complained about it, Gemma thought that cleaning the bathroom was her least favorite chore. So that was the one Gemma had offered to take over. Although, after spending five minutes scrubbing the inside of the toilet, she was really starting to regret it.

  When she got to cleaning the tub, she realized that the toilet wasn’t even the worst part. The drain in the bathtub was disgusting. Harper always claimed it was mostly Gemma’s hair clogging things up, but Gemma hadn’t really believed her until now.

  Fortunately, she wore thick yellow cleaning gloves, or else there would have been no way she could’ve handled it. As she pulled out a long wet rope of hair that looked all too much like a drowned rat, Gemma noticed something glinting in the light.

  Carefully, she picked it out of the tangles, and when she saw what it was, she dropped the wet mass of hair. It was another one of those weird iridescent scales she’d found in her bath sponge. She’d nearly forgotten about the last one. Or at least she’d tried to.

  Gemma sat in th
e tub, leaning her back against the rim, and stared down at the big scale in the palm of her gloved hand.

  Something strange was definitely going on with her. Ever since she’d drunk from the flask, something had felt … off.

  Not that it was all bad stuff. In fact, Gemma couldn’t actually think of anything bad about the changes at all.

  Sure, she’d bitten Alex yesterday, but he hadn’t really been hurt. And while the making out had been different, it hadn’t been bad. Kissing him like that had been fun.

  Her body healed crazy fast. All her bruises and cuts had disappeared in just over twenty-four hours.

  At swim practice today, she’d had her best times. Coach Levi was totally blown away by her speed. The weirdest part was that she actually had to hold back. She was afraid if she went as fast as she could, he’d think she was on something.

  When she was in the pool, that same thing happened to her skin again. That odd sensation that felt like butterflies running from her thighs down to her toes. But it was actually a pleasurable feeling, so she didn’t mind it.

  So if it was all good, what was she worried about?

  Except … it wasn’t all good. As much as she wanted to brush off biting Alex’s lip, she couldn’t. She hadn’t spoken to him since then, but he’d probably passed it off as a heat-of-the-moment, kinky kind of thing. But it wasn’t.

  When she’d been kissing him, she’d been so hungry. It was unlike any hunger she’d ever felt. It was part lust, like she’d wanted to kiss him and be physical with him. But the other part was actual starvation, and that’s why she’d bitten him.

  Page 32

  That’s what terrified her. The hunger inside of her.

  Gemma got out of the tub and flushed the scale down the toilet. Something was seriously wrong with her, and she had to stop it.

  “Harper?” Gemma said and poked her head in her sister’s room.

  “Yeah?” Harper was lounging on her bed with her e-reader.

  “Can I talk to you?”

  “Yeah, of course you can. ” Harper set aside her e-reader and sat up straighter. “Wow. Did you do something in the bathroom?”

  “Uh … why?” Gemma froze in the doorway. “What do you mean?”

  “You look … good,” Harper said, for lack of a better word.

  Gemma glanced down, looking herself over, but she knew what Harper meant. She’d already noticed it today. While she’d never been prone to acne, her skin was smoother, and it almost appeared to be glowing. She’d gone beyond her usual scope of pretty into something almost supernatural.

  “I’ve just been using a different moisturizer. ” Gemma shrugged, trying to play it off.

  “Really?” Harper asked.

  “No, actually”—Gemma sighed and rubbed her forehead—“that’s what I came in here to talk to you about. ”

  “You came to talk to me about moisturizer?” Harper raised an eyebrow.

  “No, it’s not moisturizer. ”

  Gemma went over and sat down on the bed next to her sister. She didn’t know why she found it so hard to tell Harper about what was happening to her, except she knew she’d sound like a crazy person.

  “What’s wrong?” Harper asked.

  “I don’t know how to explain it,” Gemma said finally. “But … there’s something wrong with me. ”

  “This is about the other night, right?” Harper asked. “When you went out with Penn and the girls?”

  “Yeah, kinda. ” Gemma furrowed her brow.

  “It’s perfectly normal to act out,” Harper said, trying to keep her tone soothing. “I mean, it’s not okay. You shouldn’t be out drinking, but it’s not uncommon. And I know I can be hard on you sometimes, but—”

  “No, Harper, I’m not acting out. ” Gemma sighed in frustration. “There is actually something wrong with me. Like on a cellular level. ”

  Harper leaned back and looked over Gemma again. “Are you sick? You don’t look sick. ”

  “No, I feel fine. Better than fine, actually. ”

  “Then I don’t understand. ”

  “I know you don’t. ” Gemma shook her head and stared down at her lap. “But something is very wrong. ”

  A loud knocking came from the front door, more of a demanding pound than an actual knock. Harper glanced at her bedroom door, hesitant to leave her conversation with Gemma. But Brian was working late, and the knocking only got more insistent.

  “I’m sorry,” Harper told her sister as she got up. “I’ll be right back. I’ll send whoever it is away, and we can talk. ”

  “Okay. ” Gemma nodded.

  As soon as Harper left, running down the stairs and shouting at whoever was at the door to keep their pants on, Gemma flopped back on the bed. She stared up at the ceiling and tried to think of how to phrase it to her sister that she thought she was transforming into some kind of monster.

  “What are you doing here?” Harper snapped downstairs, and Gemma listened more closely.

  “We’re here to talk to your sister,” came the reply, and the sultry baby-talk was unmistakable. Penn was at her front door.

  Gemma sat straight up, her heart pounding erratically in her chest. Part of her was afraid, the same way Penn always scared her. But the rest of her felt strangely excited. The sound of Penn’s voice drew her in, in a way that it hadn’t before, almost as if it were calling to her.

  “You can’t see her,” Harper said.

  “We just want to talk to her,” Penn said sweetly.

  “Only for a minute,” Lexi chimed in, in her usual singsong way.

  “No,” Harper said, but her voice had less conviction than it had a moment ago. “You’re not her friends, and you can’t talk to her anymore. ”

  Gemma got off the bed and raced down the stairs, but she stopped halfway. From her vantage point, she could see them at the front door. It was only Penn and Lexi standing outside, with Harper firmly blocking their path.

  Looking at Penn and Lexi just then, Gemma realized she’d begun to look like them. Not exactly like them, since Penn and Lexi looked distinctly different. But there was a certain quality to them, a preternatural splendor. Their flawless tanned skin seemed to glow, as if they were illuminated by their own beauty.

  “Hi, Gemma,” Penn said. Her dark eyes rested on Gemma in a come-hither way that she couldn’t deny.

  “Gemma, go back upstairs. ” Harper glanced back at her sister. “I’m sending them away. ”

  “No, don’t,” Gemma said quickly, but her words were so quiet, she was surprised anyone heard them.

  “Gemma, you’re grounded,” Harper reminded her. “Even if you wanted to see them, you can’t. But you don’t want to see them. ”

  “Stop telling her what she wants,” Penn said with just a trace of venom in her voice. “You have no idea what she wants. ”

  “Right now I don’t care what she wants. Get out of my house. ”

  “Harper, stop,” Gemma said and descended the stairs. “I need to talk to them. ”

  “No!” Harper shouted, looking totally appalled by the idea. “You are not talking to them. ”

  “I need to,” Gemma insisted. She swallowed hard and looked again at Penn and Lexi.

  They had done something to her. As certain as she was standing there, she knew that they were responsible for whatever was happening to her. That meant they knew how to fix it, or at least how to deal with it. Gemma had to talk with them to find out.

  Harper tried to shut the door, but Penn’s arm shot out in a flash and pushed the door back open. Penn smiled at Harper, the menacing smile that revealed too many teeth.

  “I’m sorry,” Gemma said earnestly. “But I have to go. ” She slid through the gap that Penn had made for her and stepped outside.

  “Gemma!” Harper yelled. “You can’t go! I forbid you!”

  “Forbid me all you want, but I’m going,” Gemma said, and Lexi wrapped
her arm around her in some kind of camaraderie.

  Page 33

  Penn stood between Harper and Gemma, and Gemma could see from her sister’s expression that she was considering whether or not to tangle with Penn. Harper turned to Gemma then, and Gemma gave her a pleading look. Harper’s gaze went from fierce to torn.

  “Gemma,” Harper said again, more helplessly this time. “Please come inside. ”

  “I’m sorry. ” Gemma shook her head and backed up with Lexi toward a car that idled in front of their house. “I’ll be home later. ” She waited a beat before adding, “Don’t worry. ”

  “We’ll take good care of Gemma,” Penn assured Harper, still with her too-wide smile.

  “Gemma!” Harper called out as Gemma slid into the backseat with Lexi, and Penn shut the door behind her.

  Thea was sitting in the driver’s seat, like she was waiting in the getaway car for a bank robbery, and Penn joined her in front a few seconds later.

  Gemma stared out the window as they pulled away, watching her sister standing on the front step. She looked up at Alex’s house next door, his bedroom window glowing yellow under the darkening sky.

  She pulled her gaze away, and her eyes met Penn’s in the rearview mirror.

  “What are you?” Gemma asked.

  “Not yet. ” Penn smiled. “Wait until we get to the bay. Then we’ll show you exactly what we are. ”

  *   *   *

  Gemma had always wondered how Penn, Lexi, and Thea got to the cove, and she was eager to find out. Thea drove the car around the bay and headed to the coast on the other side. Once she parked in a gravel lot behind a patch of cypress trees, all the girls got out of the car.

  Gemma noticed that they left their shoes in the car, and she would’ve done the same if she’d even remembered to put them on before she left the house.

  Nobody said much of anything as they walked on a beaten path through the trees. The moon was nearly full, shining above them, but other than that there was no light.

  Gemma’s heart continued racing, and she wasn’t completely sure she’d done the right thing by going with them. Part of her knew this was dangerous, especially after what had happened last time she was with them.

  But she had a feeling that if they really wanted to kill her, she would already be dead. They were the only ones who knew what was happening to her, and she had to risk going with them to find out what it was.

  When they reached a rather steep rocky incline, it took Gemma a minute to realize that they were at the back of the cove on the bay. She’d expected the girls to show her some hidden entrance that allowed them to get into the cove without getting wet, but instead they started climbing up the rocky face.

  “You expect me to go up that?” Gemma asked, staring at the sheer climb. She couldn’t see anywhere to grip or put her hands, and she’d never been much for climbing anyway.

  “You can do it,” Lexi assured her as Penn began the ascent to the top of the incline.

  “I really don’t think I can. ” Gemma shook her head.

  “You’d be surprised what you can do now,” Lexi said with a smile. Then, without waiting to see if Gemma followed, she started climbing.

  Penn, Lexi, and Thea were all moving nimbly up the rocks. Gemma debated for only a second, then went up after them. It came surprisingly easy to her. It wasn’t that she was a better climber exactly, but she was faster, stronger, more deft. She still slipped a few times, but she recovered easily.

 
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