Wake, p.21
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       Wake, p.21

         Part #1 of The Watersong Quartet series by Amanda Hocking
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“What needs to be done,” Penn told her. “I’ve tried to reason with you. I’ve given you everything you wanted. And you still won’t see logic. So now I’m going to make you see. ”

  “I don’t understand. ” Gemma glanced through the doorway where the other two sirens sang. “What do you have to make me see? Why can’t you just let me go?”

  “Because, Gemma, we only had until this full moon to find a new siren, or we all die. And you might be ready to throw in the towel, but I don’t give up so easy. I didn’t survive the past several millennia just to be finished off by a spoiled little brat. ”

  “Exactly!” Gemma latched on to a point. “I’m horrid. You don’t want me. Let me go, and pick someone else. ”

  “I wish it were that simple,” Penn said, and she sounded as if she really meant it. “The potion doesn’t always take. You’re the third girl we’ve tried, and the first that’s turned into a siren. ”

  “What do you mean, the potion doesn’t always take?” Gemma asked.

  “After you drink it, one of two things will happen. One, you’ll turn into a siren, as you did. ” Penn gestured to her. “Or two, you die. ”

  “What? Why?” Gemma asked. “How come I turned and other girls didn’t?”

  “We don’t know exactly. A siren needs to be strong, beautiful, and connected to the water. ” Penn shrugged. “Some of the girls we picked just weren’t strong enough. ”

  “But … you’re running out of time. If I died, you would all die?” Gemma narrowed her eyes at Penn. “What’s stopping me from killing myself?”

  “You don’t know how to, for one thing. Sirens aren’t mortal. You can’t just drown or throw yourself off a building,” Penn said. “And the other thing is on its way right now. ”

  Before Gemma could respond, Lexi shouted from the porch, “He’s coming! I can see him! He’s already on the dock!”

  “Good. ” Penn smiled. “You can stop your singing now, before we summon every man near the bay. ”

  Penn stood in between Gemma and the doorway, but now she stepped to the side, allowing Gemma to get by.

  She ran to the doorway, rushing past Lexi and Thea. She didn’t know whom they’d called or what exactly they planned to do with him, but Gemma knew whatever it was couldn’t be good. She had to send him away before the sirens sank their teeth in him.

  When she saw him coming up the trail, walking like he was still asleep, she stopped cold in her tracks. It was worse than she’d feared.

  “Alex. ”

  As soon as his name escaped her lips, Lexi was on him, putting her arm around him and leading him up the trail. Thea grabbed Gemma, holding her arms behind her back so she couldn’t fight.

  “Alex!” Gemma shouted, but he barely glanced over at her. His gaze was too focused on Lexi, who hummed a song in his ear. “Alex! You have to get out of here! Alex, run! It’s a trick! They’re going to kill you!”

  “Shut up,” Thea growled and started dragging her up the path to the cabin. “If you would have just come with us, none of this would be happening. It’s your fault we’re in this mess. ”

  “Please!” Gemma begged. “Please, just leave him alone. ”

  Penn was laughing when they entered the cabin. Gemma fought and kicked at Thea, but it was like fighting against granite. Thea was a three-thousand-year-old demigoddess, and it showed in her strength.

  Alex had followed Lexi willingly into the center of the room, and he couldn’t take his eyes off her. She circled him slowly, and he turned his head, following her. Lexi stopped in front of him, caressing his face, and he leaned in to kiss her.

  “Alex!” Gemma shouted, but he still tried to kiss Lexi. If Lexi hadn’t moved her head away at the last second, he would’ve. “What have you done to him?”

  “Actually, you did it. ” Penn stood off to the side of the room, watching Gemma’s misery with a look of intense satisfaction. “He wouldn’t have gotten here so quickly if you hadn’t already put him under a siren spell once before. ”

  “What are you talking about?” Gemma asked. “I never did anything to him. ”

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  “Oh, but you did. ” Penn smiled. “You sang to him, calling him. Thanks to that, he’s more susceptible to our charms. It’ll be harder for him to resist our commands. ”

  “It’s our song,” Lexi explained. She stayed next to Alex, his arms around her as he stared adoringly at her, but so far she’d avoided all of his attempts at kissing her. “We put men in a trance, make them follow our every order and lust after us. It works a little on women, too, but it’s not nearly as powerful. ”

  Gemma wanted to argue that she’d never sung to him, she’d never tried to put a spell on him, but then she remembered. Right after they’d turned her into a siren, she’d been singing in the shower. Alex came over, and that was the day they’d had the intense make-out session that neither of them could explain.

  “This really is all my fault,” Gemma whispered.

  “It’s all right,” Lexi said, her voice sounding too cheery for the situation. “We all make mistakes. But we can learn from them. ”

  “Lexi makes an excellent point. ” Penn walked over to Gemma, stopping right in front her. Thea still held her back, but Gemma had stopped fighting. “And you’re going to learn a lesson tonight whether you like it or not. ”

  “You don’t have to do this,” Gemma said. “Penn, please don’t do this. ”

  “Lexi, let’s see what we’re working with,” Penn commanded, but she kept her eyes on Gemma.

  Lexi slid down low, keeping her body as close to Alex’s as she could without touching him. She grabbed the bottom of his wet T-shirt, and in one smooth move she pulled it up over his head, leaving Alex half naked in the center of the room.

  “That’s better. ” Lexi smiled at him and admired his shirtless torso. “He’s pretty cute, Gemma. You have good taste. ”

  “What are you doing?” Gemma asked. “Why are you doing this to him?”

  “You think he loves you?” Penn asked. “He doesn’t love you. He’s about ready to pounce on Lexi there and have his way with her. ” She glanced back at him. “Aren’t you, Alex?”

  “She’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen,” Alex said, his voice flat and faraway. Lexi took a step back from him, and he tried to follow her. She held her hand up, keeping him at bay.

  “She has a spell on him!” Gemma insisted. “He can’t control his actions. He would never act like that. ”

  “But if he really loved you, it would overpower the spell. ” Penn kept her eyes on Gemma, but motioned to where Lexi and Alex stood. “He would see he loves you. But he doesn’t. He can’t. He won’t. ” She stepped even closer to Gemma, nearly speaking into her ear. “Mortals are incapable of love. ”

  In front of her, she could see Alex using all his restraint to keep from running to Lexi. She stood a few feet from him, tempting in a way that was driving him mad.

  Gemma’s stomach twisted, but not with jealousy. The spell that Lexi had over him was making him do this, and that spell had to be hurting him, too.

  “Fine, you’ve made your point. ” Gemma squirmed against Thea’s arms, trying to pull away from her. “He can’t love me, and he never will! Now let him go!”

  “Don’t you see?” Penn crossed her arms and studied Gemma. “Everything he’s told you has been a lie. Everything’s he’s done has been to trick you, because he wants to possess you and sleep with you, the way all men do. He never cared about you. He only cares about himself. ”

  Gemma took a deep breath, and as much as it pained her heart, she realized that what Penn said might be true. Alex hadn’t even really looked at her since he’d gotten here, and she was a siren, too. Maybe that meant he didn’t care about her.

  But he was still the same guy that she was falling for. Even though his hair was dripping wet, a lock of his bangs managed to stick up a little. The way he’d kissed her and he
ld her, that might be all be fake or temporary, but he wasn’t. Deep down, Gemma knew without a doubt that he was good and kind and worthy of her love.

  “I don’t care!” Gemma glared at Penn. “It doesn’t matter because I love him!”

  Penn narrowed her eyes at her, and Gemma saw that weird moving thing happening to her face again, like something underneath was shifting. But it stopped just as quickly as it started.

  “Let her go,” Penn told Thea.

  As soon as Thea loosened her grip, Gemma ran away from her, rushing over to Alex. When she ran in front of him, he tried looking around her, because he didn’t want to take his eyes off Lexi.

  “Alex,” Gemma said.

  He strained to see past her. She grabbed his face, forcing him to look into her eyes. At first he tried to fight it, but then something changed.

  The daze in his mahogany eyes began to clear, and his pupils dilated. He blinked a few times, like a man just waking up, then reached out and touched Gemma’s face. His skin was cold and wet, and goose bumps covered his bare flesh.

  “Gemma?” Alex asked, sounding confused. “Oh, my God, Gemma, what have I done?”

  “You didn’t do anything. ” With tears in her eyes, she laughed a little. “I love you. ”

  She stood on her tiptoes and stretched up to kiss him. His mouth felt cold and wonderful, and the kiss shot through her like lightning, spreading heat all over body. It was real and true, and nothing the sirens could say or do would ever change that.

  “Enough of this!” Penn roared, and suddenly Alex flew away from Gemma.

  Penn had come up and grabbed him, then threw him so hard into the wall behind them, he fell unconscious on the floor. Gemma wanted to run to him, but Penn stood in front of her. The rage burned so brightly in her eyes that Gemma didn’t dare cross her without a serious plan, lest Penn destroy everyone in the cabin.

  “You’ve only seen two forms of the siren,” Penn said, and as she spoke, her voice began to change from the silky baby-talk to something distorted and monstrous. “I think it’s time you see our true form. ”

  Her arms began to change first, growing longer. Her fingers stretched out several inches, ending in sharp hooked talons. The skin on her legs shifted from smooth, tanned flesh to something appearing dull gray and scaly. It wasn’t until the feet changed into bird’s feet with long claws that Gemma realized Penn had grown the legs of an emu.

  Penn arched her back and let out a scream that was more like that of a dying bird than a human. The sound of tearing flesh and rustling feathers filled the room as two wings tore out from her shoulder blades. When they unfurled, they were nearly the length of the room. The feathers were big and black, shimmering in the light.

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  She flapped them once, and they created a gust so strong it knocked Gemma down. She crawled back on the floor toward the wall, and stared up at Penn as the transformation went from bad to horrid.

  Penn’s face was still shifting. Her eyes first, from their usual black to the golden yellow of an eagle. Her full mouth lengthened and stretched out, so her lips were pulled back, like a bloodred line around her teeth. Her teeth not only grew but multiplied, going from a single row of flat teeth to row after row of razor-sharp daggers, so her mouth resembled that of an anglerfish.

  Her skull seemed to expand, growing larger. The silken black hair remained, billowing out from her head like a dark halo, but it appeared thinner and stringier, since her scalp had gotten bigger.

  The only thing about her that remained mostly unchanged was her torso. It lengthened and thinned out, becoming more skeletal, so her ribs and spine protruded grotesquely. But her human breasts remained the same, the bikini top barely concealing them, since the growth of her body had stretched out the fabric.

  With the transformation apparently complete, Penn stepped closer to Gemma. She tilted her head back and forth, looking like some sort of human-sparrow hybrid, and blinked at Gemma.

  “Now,” Penn said, her voice a distorted version of her normal one. “The real lesson begins. ”



  While Daniel untied the boat, Harper stood at the bow, staring in the direction where the song was coming from. She kept her hands pressed to her ears, afraid of what would happen to her if she listened to the song.

  Her hands weren’t completely soundproof, though, and some of the music still got in. It would be impossible for her to ever explain the way it made her feel, but the easiest way was that it dulled her senses.

  Her panic over Gemma’s disappearance or even Alex diving into the choppy water almost completely stopped when she listened to the music. If Daniel hadn’t been there, trying to talk sense into her, she might have stayed in the cove forever, or at least as long as the song kept going.

  “Oh, shit,” Daniel said, loud enough that Harper could hear him clearly, and she turned back to face him. He stood in front of the wheel, his expression grim. “No, come on, baby, please don’t do this. ”

  “Daniel?” Harper went closer to the cabin and stared up at him. “What’s wrong?”

  “The boat. ” He grimaced. “She won’t start. ”

  “What do you mean, she won’t start?” Harper asked, her voice getting shrill. “Why did you even turn it off?”

  “To conserve gas, but she’ll start. She just needs a little loving. ”

  Daniel hopped down and went around the back of the boat. Harper followed him, wondering if she should just dive in the water like Alex had. He flipped open the hatch over the engine, and while she didn’t understand what he was doing, she heard a few loud bangs as he attempted to fix something. Based on the expletives he shouted, she didn’t think it was going well.

  “Daniel!” Harper shouted, her ears still plugged. “I think I should go in after Alex. I can’t wait here like this. Gemma needs me. ”

  “Harper!” Daniel stopped what he was doing and looked around.

  “No, I need to—”

  “No, Harper, listen!” He held up his hand, which was covered with black grease from the engine. “The song stopped. ”

  “It did?” She lowered her hands, and all she could hear was the ocean around her. No more music. “Why? Do you think Alex did something?”

  “I don’t know. ” Daniel shut the hatch and stood up. “But hopefully I fixed the problem. ”

  Wiping his hands on his jeans, he ran around to the front of the boat. He climbed up to the captain’s seat, and Harper followed right behind. When he turned the ignition, it made the same chugging noise it’d made back at the dock, but it didn’t start.

  “Daniel—” Harper began, but he held up his hand to silence her.

  “Come on,” Daniel muttered to the boat. “Just start up one more time. For me. ” The boat made a loud clanking sound, followed by the engine roaring to life. “Yes!” As they pulled away from the cove, he glanced down at Harper. “I told you she would start. ”

  “I never doubted you for a second,” Harper lied.

  “Where are we going?” Daniel asked. He steered them in the direction Alex had gone, but that was all he had.

  “I don’t know. ” Harper shook her head, straining her eyes to see anything out on the horizon. “The only thing that’s out here is Mr. McAllister’s place. ”

  “You mean Bernie’s Island?” Daniel asked, pointing at the dark shape of the island a ways in front of them.

  “Yeah. ” She nodded. “The song sounded like it was coming from that direction, didn’t it?”

  “I think so. ”

  “Let’s head there, then. ” She crossed her arms and stared straight ahead. “How come that song didn’t make you crazy like it did me and Alex?”

  “I don’t know. ” He shook his head and glanced down at her. “How come it made you crazy? It was like it hypnotized you or something. ”

  “I don’t know. ” She let out a deep breath. “Let’s ju
st hope it doesn’t happen again. ”

  When they got closer to the island, Daniel turned off the spotlight at Harper’s suggestion. They had no idea what was going on there, but they both agreed that having the element of surprise would probably work in their favor.

  He pulled The Dirty Gull up next to the dock, and before it had even come to a complete stop, Harper tried to jump over the railing. Before she could make it onto the dock, Daniel grabbed her arm.

  “No,” he whispered, his voice low so no one could overhear them. “I’m not letting you go there alone. ”

  “But—” Harper tried to argue with him, but he just shook his head.

  Probably knowing she wouldn’t give him enough time to tie up the boat, he just tossed the anchor over. Daniel climbed onto the dock first, then helped Harper down.

  Her feet had barely touched the planks when she heard Gemma yelling. She couldn’t understand completely what she was saying, but it sounded like she was shouting for Alex. Harper wanted to run up to the cabin, but Daniel took her hand, keeping her from running into a dangerous situation like a crazed idiot.

  They still hurried along the dock, nearly running, but they slowed when they started up the trail. All the lights in the cabin were on, and they could hear Penn and Gemma talking. The wind blowing through the trees tried to carry their voices away, so they couldn’t understand them.

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  The front door of the cabin was wide open, so Daniel and Harper ducked off the trail before they could be spotted. Under the cover of trees, they crept closer to the cabin.

  Both of them were so focused on the cabin, trying to get a glimpse of what was happening inside of it, that they weren’t watching enough where they were going. Daniel stepped on something and slipped, falling to his knees in a wet puddle.

  He’d caught himself from falling on his face by putting his hand out, and when he lifted it, he had something stuck to his palm. It reminded Harper of a dead worm, but it was too thick.

  He looked down, and he noticed it before Harper. Daniel jumped, moving away from the dead body as quickly as he could, and wiped his hand clean on his pants. That was when Harper finally looked down and saw Bernie.

  Bernie McAllister lay on his back, his stomach torn open, with some of his intestines hanging out.

  A scream started in her throat, but before it could escape completely, Daniel had his hand over her mouth. He pressed her back against the trunk of a large oak tree.

  “You can’t scream,” Daniel whispered, and Harper nodded, so he removed his hand.

  The truth was that Harper didn’t even want to scream. She wanted to sob and run over to Bernie. This was the same old man who had taken care of her during the worst part of her childhood. He’d been nothing but kind to her, and he’d been gutted like a fish.

  Thankfully, between Daniel blocking her line of sight and the darkness underneath the trees, she hadn’t been able to get a really good look at Bernie. But she’d seen enough to know he was dead.

  Behind them, in the cabin, there was a loud banging, and someone shouting. Harper instantly recognized it as Gemma crying out. That helped her push back the tragedy of Bernie’s killing and focus on saving her sister. She turned to run in blindly, but Daniel kept her pinned against the tree.

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