Wake, p.8
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       Wake, p.8

         Part #1 of The Watersong Quartet series by Amanda Hocking
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“You won’t get caught,” Penn assured her.

  “You guys go ahead and drink,” Gemma said. “It’s more for you. ”

  “Gemma,” Lexi said, her voice a song again. She held out the flask, but Gemma hesitated to take it. “Drink. ”

  Then Gemma didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t even think about another option. Her body moved automatically, taking the flask from Lexi, unscrewing the top, and putting it to her lips. It all happened the same way that she took a breath. Motions without thought or reason or control.

  The liquid was thick, and it tasted bitter and salty on her tongue. It burned going down her throat, almost as badly as the time she ate too much wasabi. When she swallowed, she nearly gagged. It felt too heavy and hot to get down, but she forced it.

  “That’s horrible!” Gemma coughed and wiped her mouth. “What was that?”

  “My special cocktail,” Penn said with a smile.

  Gemma held the flask away from her, not wanting the stuff anywhere near her. Thea snatched it from her hands, moving quickly, as if Gemma would try to stop her. She threw her head back and swallowed it down in a few big gulps. Just watching Thea drink it like that made Gemma gag for real this time.

  Penn shrieked. She ran over to Thea and smacked her across the face, sending the flask flying. Dark burgundy liquid splattered all over the walls of the cove, but the waste didn’t seem to bother Penn.

  “That’s not for you! You know better!”

  “I needed it!” Thea snarled.

  She wiped her mouth, then licked her hand, making sure she got every drop she could. For a second Gemma was afraid Thea might crawl over and lick the liquid off the dirt.

  “What was that?” Gemma asked, her words already coming out in a slur.

  The cove suddenly pitched to the side, and Gemma grabbed on to Lexi to keep from falling over. Everything swayed around her. She heard Penn talking, but her voice sounded like it was coming from underwater.

  “That’s not…” Gemma struggled to talk. “What did you do?”

  “You’ll be all right,” Lexi said. She got up and tried to put her arm around Gemma, maybe meaning to comfort her, but Gemma pushed her off.

  She stood up and nearly tipped forward into the fire, but Penn caught her. Gemma tried to fight her off, but she didn’t have the strength anymore. All her energy had left her body, and she couldn’t keep her eyes open. The world was fading to black around her.

  Page 22

  “You’ll thank me for this later,” Penn was saying in her ear, and that was the last thing Gemma heard.

  NINE

  Lost

  “Where’s your sister?” Brian threw open Harper’s bedroom door, banging the doorknob into the plaster.

  “What?” Harper rubbed her eyes and rolled over in bed to face her father. “What are you talking about? What time is it?”

  “I just got up for work, and Gemma isn’t here. ”

  “Did you check her room?” Harper asked, slowly becoming alert.

  “No, Harper, I thought I’d check your room first,” Brian snapped.

  “Sorry, Dad, I just woke up. ” She sat up and swung her feet over the edge of the bed. “She went out swimming last night. She probably just lost track of time. ”

  “Until five in the morning?” Brian asked, the worry in his voice unmistakable.

  But Harper knew he’d been through this once before. When she and her mother had gotten in the car accident. They’d left for a few hours in the evening, and Brian didn’t hear anything from them until the hospital called the next morning saying his wife was in a coma.

  “She’s fine,” Harper said, hoping to ease her dad’s fears. “I’m sure she just got sidetracked. You know Gemma. ”

  “Yes, I do, and that’s why I’m worried. ”

  “Don’t. Gemma’s fine. ” Harper ran her hand through her sleep-disheveled hair and tried to calm Brian. “I’m sure she’s with Alex or napping on the beach or something. ”

  “You think telling me she’s out with Alex will make me feel better?” Brian asked, but he actually did seem to calm a little. Being out with a boy was a much more favorable alternative to being hurt or dead.

  “She’s fine,” Harper repeated. “Get ready for work. I’ll go track her down. ”

  Brian shook his head. “Harper, I can’t go to work when my daughter is missing. ”

  “She’s not missing,” Harper insisted. “She just stayed out too late. It’s not a big deal. ”

  “I’ll drive around and look for her,” Brian said and started to leave her room.

  “Dad, you can’t miss work. You already missed too much when you sliced open your arm in February. You can’t lose your job. ”

  “But…” Brian trailed off, knowing she was right.

  “I’m sure Gemma is okay,” Harper said. “She’ll probably be home any second. You go to work. Give me a chance to look for her, and if I can’t find her in the next two hours, I’ll come get you. Okay?”

  He stood indecisively in Harper’s doorway, looking pale and gaunt. Brian clearly wanted to go track down his daughter, but he knew Harper was probably right. He couldn’t risk his job and being able to support his family just because Gemma stayed out too late.

  “All right. ” He pursed his lips. “See if you can find her. But if you haven’t heard from her by seven, you come get me. Okay?”

  “Yes, of course. ” Harper nodded. “I’ll call you as soon as I find her. ”

  Once he turned and left her room, Harper let her own panic set in. She didn’t want Brian to worry unnecessarily, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t scared herself. It wasn’t like Gemma to stay out past curfew. Gemma liked to push the rules, but she rarely broke them.

  Harper went over to her window and pulled back the curtains, looking out at Alex’s house. His car was in the driveway, so that meant he wasn’t out with Gemma. Harper grabbed her cell phone off her nightstand and dialed his number anyway.

  “Hello?” Alex answered groggily after the fifth ring.

  “Is Gemma with you?” Harper blurted out and paced her bedroom.

  “What?” Alex asked, and his voice suddenly became clearer. “Harper? What’s going on?”

  “Nothing. ” She took a deep breath and stifled the urgency in her words. She didn’t need to scare him, too. “I just wanted to know if Gemma was with you. ”

  “No,” Alex said. Through her bedroom window, Harper saw the light turn on in his room next door. “I haven’t seen or talked to her since I dropped her off at your house last night. Is she okay?”

  Harper held the phone away from her mouth and swore under her breath. Alex would never keep Gemma out all night, and she should’ve known that.

  If Gemma had been with him, he would’ve insisted that she get home right on time. Not just because it was the right thing to do, but because he was afraid of incurring the wrath of Harper and Brian.

  “Yeah, no, I mean, I’m sure she’s fine,” Harper replied quickly. “But I have to go, okay, Alex?”

  “What? No, it’s not okay. Where’s Gemma?”

  “I don’t know. That’s why I have to go. I’m going to look for her. I mean, I know she’s fine, but I have to find her. ”

  “I’ll go with you,” Alex offered. “I’ll put on some pants and meet you outside. ”

  “No, don’t. ” She shook her head, even though he couldn’t see it. “You stay here in case she comes back. You can keep an eye on the house. ”

  “Are you sure?”

  “Yeah, I’m sure. ” Harper sighed. “Watch out for her, and if she contacts you, let me know, okay?”

  “Yeah, I can do that. And you tell her to call me as soon as you find her. ”

  “Will do. ”

  Harper hung up the phone without waiting for him to say anything more. She knew where she had to look, and it twisted her stomach in knots. Gemma had gone out to the bay last night, alone, and
she hadn’t returned.

  Still in her pajamas, Harper slipped on her flip-flops and ran down the stairs. She moved fast in the hope that she wouldn’t have time to think about all the horrible things that could’ve happened to Gemma. Drowning. Kidnapping. Murder. Hell, even a shark attack was possible.

  “Did you find her?” Brian shouted from the bathroom. He’d heard Harper flying downstairs.

  “Not yet!” Harper yelled back up to him and grabbed her car keys off the rack by the door. “I’m going out now. I’ll call you later!” She jogged out to her car.

  As she sped through town, Harper looked around as much as she could. Gemma could’ve just as easily gotten hurt on the way to or from the bay. But somehow Harper knew that wasn’t what had happened. The terrified pit in her stomach insisted that it was something else, something worse.

  Page 23

  Since Gemma had ridden her bike last night, Harper went down to the docks where Gemma usually parked it. She raced down the worn wooden planks, praying the bike wasn’t there. If it was gone, it meant Gemma had left, that she’d gone somewhere else.

  As soon as she saw the bike, all locked up with Gemma’s backpack, her heart dropped. Gemma was still out in that water, as she had been for the past eight or nine hours.

  Unless …

  Harper whirled around and found The Dirty Gull moored in the same spot as always, just a few feet down from where Gemma had locked up her bike.

  “Daniel!” Harper shouted and ran over to his boat. “Daniel!” She reached out for the railing and tried to climb up. “Daniel!”

  “Harper?” Daniel called. He opened the cabin door and stepped out, buttoning up the pair of jeans he’d just pulled on.

  Harper was trying to pull herself up over the railing, but the boat was too far away from the dock. Her foot slipped off the edge, and one of her flip-flops fell off and splashed into the water. She would’ve fallen in right after it if Daniel hadn’t come over and grabbed her arm.

  He wrapped a strong arm around her shoulders and lifted her up, pulling her over the railing. To do that, he had to press her against his bare chest. Harper was cold from her panic and the morning air, and his skin felt warm against her.

  “What are you doing here?” Daniel asked when he released her.

  “Is Gemma here?” Harper asked, but by the confused expression on his face, she already knew the answer.

  “No. ” He shook his head, and his brow furrowed with worry. “Why would she be here?”

  “She didn’t come home last night. And…” Harper pointed at the bike chained to the dock. “Her bike’s still here, and she has swim practice in two hours. Gemma never misses practice. ” A shudder ran over her body, and her stomach lurched. “Something’s wrong. ”

  “I’ll help you find her,” Daniel said. “Let me go grab a shirt and shoes. ”

  “No. ” She shook her head. “I don’t have time to wait. ”

  “You’re obviously crazy with worry. ” He gestured to her as she stood trembling on his boat. “You need someone with a clearer head. I’m going with you. ”

  Harper thought about arguing with that, but she just nodded. The urge to panic was all but taking over, and it was hard for her to keep from sobbing. She did need somebody less frantic to help her.

  Daniel went belowdecks and came back up a minute later. A minute that felt like hours to Harper. Hours she spent staring out at the dark sea around them, wondering if Gemma’s body was floating out in it somewhere.

  “Okay,” he said as he pulled a T-shirt over his head. “Let’s go. ”

  He jumped onto the dock first, then took Harper’s hand to help her off the boat. When he’d fished her flip-flip out of the water, she’d protested, but Daniel insisted that it would slow her down if she had to hobble around without it.

  “Where do you want to look?” Daniel asked as they walked up the dock, back toward land.

  “I think we need to check the shore. ” She swallowed hard, realizing what she was suggesting. “She may have washed up…”

  “Is there a certain part that she likes more?” Daniel asked. “Maybe somewhere she would have gone to rest if she got too tired for the ride home?”

  “I don’t know. ” Harper shook her head and shrugged. “I thought she might’ve gone to your boat, since she trusts you. But … I don’t know. I have no idea what she could’ve been doing out all night on the water.

  “Well, I do have ideas. ” She sniffled and rubbed her forehead. “The only things I can think of aren’t pretty, though. She has no good reason to be out here. Gemma would only stay if something bad happened or if somebody hurt her. ”

  “Hey. ” Daniel touched her arm, causing Harper to look up at him. “We’ll find her, okay? Just think about places she would go if everything was all right. What does Gemma do out here? Where does she go?”

  “I don’t know!” Harper repeated, exasperated and terrified. She looked away from him and out at the bay, trying to think. “She loves coming out here to swim at night. She likes to go out past that rock over there. ”

  She pointed to a huge rock in the water on the other side of the bay. Harper and Gemma had had a few races to that rock, with Gemma always coming out the winner.

  “She likes the other side of the bay more?” Daniel asked.

  “Kind of,” Harper admitted. “Tourists and boats don’t go out there because of all the rocks, and she likes how deserted it is. ”

  “So if she was going to take a break, it would be over there. ”

  “Yes!” She nodded excitedly, realizing what that meant. “When she drives, she parks over there, by the cypress trees. ”

  It would be faster to drive over there than to walk, so Harper ran back out to her car, with Daniel close behind. To get around the bay, Harper drove as fast as she could, which meant running a few stop signs and cutting across the grass.

  Once she got to the beach, she was grateful that Daniel had rescued her flip-flop. The shore was covered in sharp rocks, and it would’ve been nearly impossible to navigate barefoot. Or at least it would’ve been for her. Harper knew the rocks would not have intimidated Gemma.

  She made it out to the edge of the shore, past the trees, so she could have a clear view of the coastline all the way down to the cove. Daniel came up behind her and pointed to a blob of black a ways down.

  “What’s that?” he asked, but Harper didn’t wait to answer.

  She went so fast she tripped on the rocks a few times and fell once, tearing open her knee. Daniel followed her as quickly as he could, but he moved at a more cautious pace.

  When she was close enough that she could tell for sure, Harper started calling out Gemma’s name. She could see it was her sister, lying on her back and tangled in something that resembled a gold fishing net. But Gemma didn’t respond.

  TEN

  Hangover

  “Gemma!” Harper screamed and collapsed next to her sister, ignoring the rocks stinging her skin. “Gemma, wake up!”

  “Is she alive?” Daniel asked, standing behind Harper and staring down at Gemma.

  It really didn’t look good. Gemma’s skin was drained of color, so she looked almost blue. Bruises and scratches covered her arms, and blood had dried on her temple. Her lips were chapped and dry, and seaweed entangled her hair.

  Page 24

  And then, even though Harper didn’t really think she would, Gemma groaned and turned her head to the side.

  “Gemma. ” Harper brushed back the hair from Gemma’s forehead, and her eyes fluttered open.

  “Harper?” Gemma asked, her voice coming out in a croak.

  “Oh, thank God. ” Harper let out a deep breath, and relieved tears filled her eyes. “What happened to you?”

  “I don’t know. ”

  Wincing as she moved, Gemma tried to stand, but the rocks were too uneven. When she started to stumble, Daniel put his arm underneath her legs an
d scooped her up. Gemma shifted and tried to hang on to him for support, but her arms were too tangled up in the mesh wrapped around her.

  “Let’s get her back to the car,” Harper suggested, and Daniel nodded.

  Once the realization that Gemma was alive had settled in, Harper wanted to sob and scream at her. But Gemma still seemed so weak and out of it that she didn’t want to interrogate her.

  Harper had parked as close as she could get, which meant that she’d parked on the unruly beach grass lining the shore. Daniel set Gemma down on her feet once they got to the car, and she managed to stand up on her own. The mesh was pretty tangled around her, and Harper and Daniel intervened to help her get it off.

  “What is this?” Harper asked. “Did you get caught in a fishermen’s net? Is that what happened to you?”

  “This isn’t a net. ” Daniel shook his head. Once they’d gotten Gemma free from it, he ran it through his hands, admiring the strange texture of it. “At least not any net I’ve ever seen. ”

  “No, it’s not a net. ” Gemma put her hand on the car to steady herself and leaned against it. “It’s a shawl or something. ”

  “A shawl?” Harper asked. “Where did you get a shawl?”

  Gemma grimaced, hesitating before she reluctantly admitted, “Penn. ”

  “Penn?” Harper was nearly shrieking. “What the hell were you doing with Penn?”

  “You really should stay away from those girls,” Daniel said solemnly. “They are … there’s something off about them. ”

  “Believe me, I know,” Gemma muttered.

  “So what were you doing with them?” Harper asked. “What did you do last night?”

  “Can we talk about this later, please?” Gemma begged. “My head is pounding. My body hurts all over. And I’m so thirsty, it’s unbelievable. ”

  “Do you need to go to the hospital?” Harper asked.

  Gemma shook her head. “No, I just need to go home. ”

  “If you’re fine, then you’re going to tell me what’s going on. ” Harper crossed her arms over her chest.

  “I was out swimming last night, and…” Gemma trailed off and stared at the sun rising over the bay, as if trying to remember exactly what had happened last night. “I went out to the cove, and Penn, Lexi, and Thea were … partying out there. ”

  “They were partying?” Harper asked, and now she was totally gobsmacked. “You partied with those girls last night?”

  “Yeah,” Gemma answered uncertainly. “I mean, yes. I think. ”

  “You think?” Harper shook her head.

  “Yeah, they invited me to join them, and I just had one drink. But it must’ve been really strong. It was only one drink, I swear. ”

  “You drank?” Harper’s eyes widened. “Gemma! You can get kicked off the swim team for that. And you have practice in an hour, which you clearly can’t handle today. What were you thinking?”

  “I wasn’t!” Gemma yelled. “I honestly don’t know what I was thinking! I have no idea how any of it happened last night. I remember having one drink, and then I woke up on the rocks. I don’t know what happened, and I’m sorry. ”

  “Get in the car,” Harper said through clenched teeth, too pissed off to even yell.

  “I really am sorry,” Gemma repeated.

  “Get in the car!” Harper shouted, and Daniel flinched.

 
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