Lullaby / Page 29

Page 29


Honestly, Gemma wasn’t too thrilled about that, either. She felt guilty enough just kissing Sawyer. She couldn’t imagine how awful she’d feel if she had to sleep with him. She was in love with Alex, and even if she never saw him again, being with someone else would always feel like she was cheating on him.

Besides that, she’d always imagined her first time as being romantic, with someone she loved, not because she’d die if she didn’t have sex.

But if it came down to killing someone or having sex with him, Gemma would pick the latter.

Of course, she had no idea if it would even come to that. She’d seen the kind of monster Penn had turned into, all fangs and claws. She doubted that that form was just for fun. Those teeth probably served a purpose, like devouring boys.

Gemma’s stomach rumbled, and that spurred her into action. She wasn’t wearing any shoes, but at least she’d put on a sundress over her bikini, otherwise she’d have real trouble trying to get a table at the restaurant.

Since Penn and Lexi were always off shopping, Gemma decided to check the trunk of Sawyer’s car and see if the sirens had accidentally left any shoes behind. When she popped the trunk, it turned out better than she’d hoped.

There were several bags with clothes spilling out. She found a pair of flip-flops pretty early on, and then discovered the real prize—a purse containing several hundred dollars and one of Sawyer’s credit cards. That was great, since Gemma hadn’t thought to grab money when she made her escape.

The steakhouse seemed kind of fancy, so Gemma continued to search through the clothes in hopes of finding a nicer dress than the one she wore. She grabbed some fabric with a flower print on it, and before she’d pulled it out enough to determine if it was a skirt or a dress, she saw dark red splotches all over it.

It was unmistakable. The fabric was stained with blood.

Her heart thudded dully in her chest. Once she realized what she was holding, she dropped it in a hurry, not wanting to touch the blood. Hurriedly, she slipped on the flip-flops, grabbed the purse, and slammed the trunk shut.

Gemma stared down at the trunk, swallowing hard and slowing the panic rising in her chest. She knew the sirens were monsters. She had to assume that they did bad things. But she couldn’t think about it. She couldn’t do anything about it, at least not right now.

The best she could do was get herself under control, eat something before she freaked out, and then decide how she was going to deal with the situation.

She had to walk through a long alley to get around to the front of the restaurant, and that gave her time to calm down and cool off. By the time she reached the front door, she felt normal enough to smile at the maître’d.

The straps of her bikini were showing, and she was clearly underdressed. It wasn’t a super-upscale place, but it was nice enough that flip-flops and a sundress shouldn’t have cut it. The maître’d looked as if he were about to tell her just that, but then she smiled at him, and everything changed.

He apologized profusely that he couldn’t find her a table right away and asked her to wait at the bar until one opened up. Gemma told him not to hurry, afraid he might actually kick people out to make room for her.

The sun was setting when she’d arrived, and based on the crowd, she guessed she’d hit the dinner rush. People were finally leaving the beaches and heading indoors to eat.

As she walked through the restaurant up to the bar, she could feel people looking at her. The room seemed to grow more hushed as she walked by. The power of the siren was still something she wasn’t used to.

“What can I get for you?” the bartender asked her before she even had a chance to sit down on the stool.

“Um, just a Cherry Coke would be fine,” Gemma said.

“Coming right up,” he said, smiling brightly before dashing off to fill her order.

A guy was sitting two stools down, nursing his Long Island Iced Tea. Gemma happened to glance over at him, and she caught him looking at her. He apparently took that as some kind of invitation, and he moved next to her.

“Hey,” he said with a Southern drawl. “What are you drinking?”

“Cherry Coke.” No sooner had the words left her mouth than the bartender appeared in front of her with the drink.

“I gave you a couple extra cherries.” The bartender winked at her and motioned at the three maraschino cherries in the glass.

“Thank you,” Gemma said.

Another patron called to the bartender from the other end, and he reluctantly stepped away to do his job.

“So…” The guy next to her leaned on the bar, moving closer to her. “Are you from around here?”

“No.” Gemma deliberately stared straight ahead and stirred her drink with the straw. She wanted to eat the cherries, but she was afraid it might be construed as seductive somehow, and she didn’t want the guy next to her to get the wrong idea.

“Me neither,” the guy went on. “It’s a nice town, though.”

“Yep.”

“Yeah.” He took a long sip of his beverage before turning back to her. “I’m Jason, by the way.”

She smiled thinly at him, doing her best to be polite. “Gemma.”

“It’s nice to meet you.” He held out his hand to her, but she didn’t shake it.

Jason was a little cute, but he appeared to be in his early thirties. Not to mention the fact that she definitely wasn’t looking to hook up with anyone. She’d run away from the sirens and Sawyer to avoid that. Besides, Jason wasn’t Alex.

“Are you here alone?” he asked.

“I’m having dinner alone,” Gemma clarified. “I wanted some time to myself.”

“Oh.” He scratched his head, and for one glorious moment she thought her rebuff was going to sink in. “A pretty little thing like you should never dine alone. Why don’t you have dinner with me?”

“Don’t you think I’m a little young for you?” Gemma asked. The guy was probably twice her age.

“Is that what’s bothering you?” Jason laughed jovially, as if he’d solved a problem that Gemma didn’t even know needed solving. He leaned in closer to her then, almost whispering to her. “The younger the better, that’s what I always say.”

“Wow,” Gemma said. “That’s actually really creepy.”

“Aw, come on, honey.” He brushed his hand against her arm in a way that was probably meant to be flirtatious, but it made her skin crawl, and she pulled away from him.


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