Wake, p.7
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       Wake, p.7

         Part #1 of The Watersong Quartet series by Amanda Hocking
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“No. ” Luke scowled, then pointed to the Canadian flag on her shirt. “I thought Canadians were supposed to be nice. ”

  “I’m not Canadian,” Marcy corrected him. “I’m just wearing this shirt to express my anti-patriotism. ”

  “You really are a charming girl, you know that, Marcy?” Alex said.

  Marcy shrugged. “I do what I can. ”

  Since the park was filled with pretty much everybody in town, it had been buzzing with the sounds of talking and music. But somewhat abruptly, the area around the picnic tables seemed to grow quiet, as if everyone were speaking in hushed tones and whispers.

  Harper looked around to see what had happened and instantly saw the reason for the silence. The crowd had parted, making way for Penn, Lexi, and Thea, who were heading straight for Harper and Gemma.

  Penn wore a dress so low-cut her chest was all but popping out. When she stopped at the end of the picnic table, she put her hands on her hips and smiled down at them.

  “How are you guys doing?” she asked, surveying the table.

  “Great,” Luke said eagerly, oblivious to the tension that hung over them. “I’m, uh, I’m having a great time. You guys look great. I mean, you look like you’re having a great time. ”

  “Why, thank you. ” Penn looked at him, licking her lips hungrily as she smiled.

  “You’re not so bad yourself,” Lexi added.

  She reached over and tugged one of his curls, pulling it like a spring so it would bounce back. Luke looked down and giggled in way that was reminiscent of a schoolgirl.

  “Is there something you want?” Gemma asked.

  Harper noticed that when Penn’s dark eyes latched onto Gemma’s, her sister lifted her chin higher, as if defying her in her some way. Then Harper saw something that made her blood run cold—Penn’s eyes changed, shifting from near-black to an odd golden color, reminding Harper of a bird.

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  Her weird bird eyes stayed locked on Gemma, but Gemma’s expression didn’t change, as if she didn’t notice the startling shift in Penn’s eyes.

  As suddenly as they changed, Penn’s eyes went back to their normal soulless color. Harper blinked and glanced around, but nobody else seemed to notice the change. They all just stared at Penn as if mesmerized, and Harper wondered if it’d just been her imagination.

  “Nope. ” Penn raised one of her shoulders, managing a seductive shrug. “I just wanted to stop and say hi. We don’t know many people here in town yet, and we’re always looking to make new friends. ”

  Thea didn’t look like she wanted to make new friends, though. She stood off to the side, a bit back from Penn and Lexi. She twirled her long red hair around her finger, and wouldn’t look at anyone at the table.

  “You already have friends,” Harper said to Penn and nodded to Lexi and Thea.

  “You can always have more, though, right?” Penn asked, and Lexi winked at Luke, making him giggle again. “And we could definitely use a friend like Gemma. ”

  Harper was about to ask Penn exactly what she meant by that, wondering what on earth they could possibly want with her little sister, but Marcy cut her off.

  “Wait,” Marcy said through a mouthful of cheese curds. “Didn’t there used to be a fourth one?” She gulped down her food and stared up at them. “What did you guys do with her? Did you eat her? And then throw her up afterward, because obviously, you guys are bulimic. ”

  Penn shot her a glare so fierce it actually made Marcy cringe. She lowered her eyes and pulled her cheese curds closer to her, as if she thought that Penn might steal them from her.

  “So have you guys been on the rides yet?” Harper asked, in an attempt to keep Penn from slaughtering Marcy. After that look, Harper thought it would be better if she kept the conversation banal instead of confronting Penn about her interest in Gemma.

  Penn’s icy expression instantly melted, and her saccharine smile returned. Harper noticed that Penn’s teeth were unusually sharp. In fact, if Harper didn’t know better, she’d say that her incisors had actually grown and gotten more pointed than they had been a few seconds ago.

  “No, we just got here,” Penn explained in her silky baby-talk. “We haven’t had a chance to check anything out yet. ”

  As she spoke, some of the unease Harper had been feeling when she noticed her smile vanished. Marcy even seemed to relax a bit and braved looking up at Penn again.

  “I’d really love to win a teddy bear,” Lexi said, her voice going singsong as she spoke.

  Both Alex and Luke looked at her, and Luke’s mouth fell open, like he was in awe.

  Harper had her arms on the table in front of her, and she leaned forward. She couldn’t explain it, but she found herself hanging on her every word, as if Lexi were the most fascinating person she’d ever heard. Even the people around them seemed to move in closer, crowding around to get closer to Lexi.

  “What do you think?” Lexi tilted her head and looked down at Luke. “Could you win me a teddy bear?”

  “Yeah!” Luke shouted in excitement and got to his feet so quickly he nearly fell over the bench. “I mean, yes. I’d love to win you a bear. ”

  “Yay!” Lexi smiled and looped her arm through his.

  People parted for them again as Lexi and Luke walked through the crowd toward the midway. Thea followed them, but Penn stayed behind, smiling down at the table. Alex stared after Lexi, watching until she disappeared in the crowd, and Gemma would’ve noticed, if she hadn’t been busy doing the same thing.

  “Well, I’ll leave you to enjoy the rest of the afternoon,” Penn said. It sounded as if Penn were speaking to everyone at the table, but she was only looking at Gemma. “I’ll see you around. ”

  “Have a fun time,” Alex mumbled, his words coming out a little dazed. Penn laughed, then turned and walked away.

  “That was weird,” Harper said once Penn had left.

  She shook her head, clearing away this fog she didn’t understand. It almost felt as if she’d been dreaming, like Penn had never even really been there.

  “I do think they killed her. ” Marcy narrowed her eyes and nodded to herself. “There’s just something about those girls I don’t trust. ”


  The Cove

  As soon as the sun went down, Gemma hopped on her bike and rode out to the bay. She’d hadn’t been able to train at the pool with Coach Levi since Friday, and that made her especially anxious to get in the water. For the past couple of days she’d avoided going out late, as Harper wanted, so Gemma felt like she’d earned a night swim.

  Even though she’d had a wonderful day at the picnic with Alex, she couldn’t wait to swim. Actually, the day was better than wonderful. It was … magical, in its own way.

  They’d spent some of the afternoon hanging out with Harper and Marcy, and that had gone well—surprisingly, since Gemma wasn’t sure how Harper would react to her seeing Alex. Apparently Harper was mostly okay with it.

  Eventually Alex and Gemma had gone off on their own again, and that was better. He did little things that made her heart flutter. He fumbled over his words when he tried to impress her, and he smiled at her in a way she’d never seen him smile before.

  She thought she’d known him long enough to recognize all his smiles, but not this one. This one was small, almost like a smirk, but it went to his eyes.

  When Alex dropped her off at home at eight, he walked her to the door. She knew Harper and her dad were inside, and he knew it, too, so she thought he wouldn’t kiss her. But he did. Not too long or too deeply, but there was something nice about that. The way he kissed her was almost respectful and careful.

  Gemma had kissed only two boys before Alex, and one had been in the first grade during a game of Truth or Dare. Her only real kiss had been with her boyfriend of three weeks, and he’d kissed her with such ferocity she thought she’d have bruises on her face.

  Alex’s kisses were the opposit
e of that. They were sweet and perfect and made her heart tingle whenever she thought of them.

  She didn’t know how she hadn’t noticed before how amazing Alex was. If she’d only realized it sooner, there were months and months that they could’ve been together, time she could’ve spent stealing his wonderful kisses.

  At the bay, she rode her bike down to the dock, the same way she always did, since it was the best place to park. When she passed Daniel’s boat, The Dirty Gull, she heard Led Zeppelin playing loudly.

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  If it’d been quiet, she might’ve stopped by to thank him again for helping her out yesterday, but she didn’t want to disturb him.

  It had made her feel bad when Harper yelled at Daniel, and Gemma still didn’t understand what her sister had against him. Sure, Daniel seemed like a slacker. Just because he didn’t have his life together didn’t mean he wasn’t a really nice guy.

  Whenever Gemma went down to bring her dad lunch, Daniel always said hi to her, and he’d once helped her put her chain back on when it slipped off her bike.

  At the end of the dock, Gemma secured her bike and stripped down to her bathing suit. She jumped in the water and swam out in the bay.

  More people were hanging out on the beach and in their boats than normal for this time of night, leftovers from the earlier celebration. She’d have to swim out farther, closer to the cove by the mouth of the ocean, to get away from them.

  In a way, that was better. She needed to do a long-distance swim to make up for her days without serious training.

  Once she was far enough out that she couldn’t hear the people on the beach anymore, she rolled onto her back and floated on the water, letting the gentle waves rock her. Gemma stared up at the night sky, marveling at the beauty of it. She completely understood why Alex loved the stars so much.

  Harper didn’t like swimming as much as Gemma did, but Gemma doubted that anyone liked it as much as she did. The times Harper had gone swimming with her, she had gotten scared when Gemma would float like this. Harper was convinced that the tide would take her out and Gemma would be lost at sea forever.

  Gemma had never really believed that would happen, but even if it did, the idea had never frightened her. In reality, being swept off in the ocean had actually been more of a dream of hers than a fear.

  “Gemma. ” Her name floated through the air, like a song.

  At first she thought she was hearing things, maybe the sound of somebody’s stereo on the beach mixing with the crashing of the waves. But then she heard it again, only louder this time.

  “Gemma. ” Someone was singing her name.

  Treading water, she looked around for the source of the voice, but it was pretty easy to spot. Gemma had been letting the current take her, and she hadn’t realized how close she’d gotten to the cove. It was only about twenty feet from her, and it glowed from a fire burning in its center.

  Even though she hadn’t been paying much attention when she was swimming out here, she was sure the fire hadn’t been lit a few moments ago. And Penn, Lexi, and Thea definitely hadn’t been out there.

  Gemma had seen enough of them lately, and if she’d had any inkling that they’d be here, she never would’ve come out this far and risked running into them.

  Thea was crouched right next to the fire, her shadow looming behind her. Penn twirled around, dancing in a slow, graceful circle to music that only she could hear. And Lexi stood right at the edge of the shore, so close that the water was splashing up on her feet.

  Lexi was the one calling her name, but she wasn’t just saying it. She sang it in a way that Gemma had never heard anyone sing before. It was beauty and magic. It sounded like how Alex’s kisses felt, only better.

  “Gemma,” Lexi sang again. “Come now, weary traveler, I’ll lead you through the waves. Worry not, poor voyager, for my voice is the way. ”

  Gemma stayed transfixed in the water, completely hypnotized by Lexi’s song. It was as if Lexi had somehow put a spell on her, and any unease Gemma had felt about the girls melted away. All she could feel was the beauty and the warmth of her lyrics, crystal and clear running through her.

  “Gemma,” Penn called out. Her sultry voice wasn’t nearly as sweet as Lexi’s, but there was something enticing about it just the same. She stopped dancing and stood next to Lexi. “Why don’t you join us? We’re having so much fun up here. You’d love it. ”

  “Okay,” Gemma heard herself saying.

  Somewhere way back in her mind warning bells went off, but they were all but obliterated when Lexi started singing again. When Gemma swam toward the three girls, the fear was entirely blocked out. Joining them didn’t even feel like a choice. Her body moved toward them, seemingly on its own.

  When she reached the shore, Lexi held out her hand and helped her onto the land, into the cove. The only way into the cove was through the bay. It had no connections or openings to the land, yet somehow all three of the girls were perfectly dry.

  “Here. ” Penn had been dancing with a shawl around her, made of some kind of gauzy gold substance, and she wrapped it over Gemma’s shoulders. “To keep you warm. ”

  “I’m not cold,” Gemma said, and that was true enough. The night was warm to begin with, and the fire inside the cove made it warmer still.

  “It feels better with it on, though, doesn’t it?” Lexi asked, her voice a soft purring in Gemma’s ear.

  Lexi put her arm around her, and something about the touch made the hair on the back of Gemma’s neck stand up. Instinctively Gemma pulled away from her, but then Lexi began singing again, and Gemma melted beneath her arm.

  “Come join us. ” Penn kept her eyes on Gemma and stepped backward toward the fire.

  “Are you guys having a party?” Gemma asked.

  Gemma didn’t move, so Lexi took her hand and pulled her over to the fire. She led her over to a large rock next to Thea and pushed her gently, so Gemma would sit down. Thea stared at her, the flames reflecting in her eyes as if it were coming directly from them.

  “We’re having a celebration. ” Lexi laughed and knelt down next to Gemma.

  “What are you celebrating?” Gemma asked, looking over at Penn. She stood on the other side of the fire, across from Gemma, and smiled down at her.

  “A feast,” Penn answered, and both Lexi and Thea laughed in a way that reminded Gemma of how a crow cackled.

  “A feast?” Gemma looked around the cove but saw no signs of any food. “Of what?”

  “Don’t worry about it,” Lexi instructed her.

  “You’ll have plenty of time to eat later,” Thea said with a sly smile.

  That was the most Gemma had ever heard Thea speak, and she realized there was something wrong with her voice. Thea’s had a rasp to it, like Kathleen Turner’s husky whisper. It wasn’t unattractive, but it wasn’t quite right.

  It had a tone to it that was the opposite of Lexi’s and Penn’s. If Lexi’s and Penn’s voices were like honey, Thea’s was like jagged teeth. It was prickly and somewhat frightening.

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  “I’m not hungry,” Gemma said, causing the girls to erupt in laughter again.

  “You’re a truly beautiful girl,” Lexi commented once she’d stopped laughing. She leaned in closer to her, resting her hand on Gemma’s leg, and stared up at her. “You know that, right?”

  “I guess. ” Gemma pulled the shawl more tightly around her, relieved to have it covering her. She didn’t know how to take Lexi’s compliment, but it left her feeling both flattered and disturbed.

  “You’re a big fish in a small pond, aren’t you?” Penn paced on the other side of the fire, keeping her eyes on Gemma.

  “How do you mean?” Gemma asked.

  “You’re gorgeous, smart, ambitious, fearless,” Penn explained. “And this is just a seaside attraction. A small town that would dry up if it weren’t for loud tourists wreaking havoc on it every summer.

  “It’s nice in the off-season. ” Gemma’s defense of Capri sounded lame even to her own ears.

  “I doubt that. ” Penn smirked. “But even if it is, you’re still more than this bay will ever be. I’ve seen you out in that water. You swim with strength and grace and unbridled determination. ”

  “Thank you,” Gemma said. “I’ve been training a lot. I want to go to the Olympics. ”

  “The Olympics are nothing compared to what you can do,” Penn scoffed. “You have a natural aptitude that is almost impossible to come by. And believe me, I know. We’ve searched. ”

  That struck Gemma as odd, alarmingly so. To calm her, Lexi began singing again. It was little more than humming this time, but it was enough to keep Gemma sitting on the rock. Her concerns remained, though, even if she didn’t run away.

  “Why did you invite me out here?” Gemma asked. “And why’d you want me to swim with you so badly yesterday?”

  “I just told you,” Penn said. “You are something rare and special. ”

  “But…” Gemma furrowed her brow, knowing there was something off about this that she couldn’t pinpoint. “You’re way hotter than I am. You’re more of everything you said I was. What do you need me for?”

  “Don’t be silly. ” Penn waved her hand. “And don’t worry about any of that. ”

  “Don’t worry about anything,” Lexi added, and as soon as she’d said it, Gemma felt her worries slipping away, as if she’d never even had them.

  “We wanted you to come here and have fun. ” Penn smiled at Gemma. “We wanted to get to know each other. ”

  “What did you want to know?” Gemma asked.

  “Everything!” Penn spread her arms widely. “Tell us everything!”

  “Everything?” Gemma looked at Lexi uncertainly.

  “Yeah, like what you’re doing with that dolt you hang around with,” Thea said from beside her, and Gemma snapped around to look at her. “He’s way beneath you. ”

  “Dolt?” Gemma bristled when she realized that Thea meant Alex. “Alex is a really fantastic guy. He’s sweet and funny and nice to me. ”

  “When you look like us, every guy is nice to you,” Thea countered with an even stare. “You realize it doesn’t mean anything. Guys are shallow, and that’s all. ”

  “You don’t know Alex. ” Gemma shook her head. “He is the most genuine person I know. ”

  “Why don’t we talk about boys another day?” Penn interjected. “They’re too much drama for tonight. Lexi, why don’t you lighten the mood?”

  “Oh, right. ” Lexi reached down the front of her dress and pulled out a small copper flask. “Let’s have a drink. ”

  “Sorry, I don’t drink. ”

  “Penn told me you weren’t afraid of anything,” Thea said, provoking her. “And now you’re scared of a little drink?”

  “I’m not scared,” Gemma snapped. “But I’ll get kicked off the swim team if I get caught drinking. I’ve worked too hard for that to throw it away. ”

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