Harper had been rehearsing what she wanted to say to her roommate Liv all morning, but when Liv threw her against the wall of their dorm room, Harper knew she was in trouble.
It had only been six days ago that Harper moved into Sundham University housing and even met Liv. When she’d moved in, Liv had been almost tripping over herself to help Harper unpack and assuring her that they’d be “total BFFs” by the end of the semester. She’d shown Harper around campus, talking in a never-ending stream about everything under the sun.
But then Harper had turned around and rushed back to Capri the very next day, when all hell had broken loose with her sister, her boyfriend, and the sirens.
When Harper had been hit with an intense panic last week, Liv had followed her out to the car. She kept insisting that she ride back with Harper to make sure she got there all right, and Harper practically had to push Liv out of the car.
She couldn’t explain the psychic bond she shared with Gemma, let alone the monsters who awaited her back in Capri, so she couldn’t let Liv go with her.
That was how Harper had left Liv—standing out in the pouring rain, desperate to be her friend. And she returned to something completely different.
Liv slept soundly all day long—missing all her classes. Then she’d stumble in and out late at night, when Harper was trying to sleep, banging things and making noise without any apology.
Harper didn’t want to tell Liv what to do, but she couldn’t keep missing so much sleep.
By Tuesday, she’d finally thought she’d come up with what she wanted to say, and she kept repeating it over and over in her head as she walked up to the dorm room. Taking a fortifying breath before opening the door, Harper was determined to get her point across without lecturing Liv.
It was only a little after noon, and Harper had figured that Liv would probably still be sleeping. So it was with some surprise that Harper discovered that her roommate was not only awake but entertaining a guest.
Wearing only her pajama shorts and a pink bra, Liv was straddling a guy lying on her bed. Harper averted her eyes as soon as she realized that Liv wasn’t completely dressed, but she’d seen enough to realize that Liv was making out with him more ferociously than she’d ever seen before.
Both Liv and Harper had loft beds, so they were located on top bunks with their desks below. That meant that Harper didn’t have the greatest view of the guy from where she stood, but thanks to a pair of guy’s jeans and a T-shirt rumpled up on the floor, she discerned that he wasn’t wearing much clothing either.
“Oh, sorry,” Harper said quickly, and turned around, attempting to give Liv some privacy. “I thought you were alone.”
“Get out,” Liv hissed, and there was an edge to her voice that Harper hadn’t heard before.
The few words they’d exchanged the past couple of days contained a sweetness in them, like honey, but that had been replaced by something entirely venomous.
“Yeah, sorry, I will, but I just need to grab my chem book.” Harper hurried over to the desk underneath her loft bed and searched for her textbook.
Part of the reason she’d chosen now to have the conversation with Liv was that she needed to come back to the room to switch books for her afternoon classes.
“Hurry up,” Liv snapped.
“I’m trying,” Harper assured her.
She dropped her backpack onto the desk chair so it’d be easier for her to look. Normally, organization was her strong suit, and everything was in its place, but now that she was trying to get out of here, her book had vanished.
“Maybe you can join us,” Liv’s male companion suggested.
Harper chose to ignore him, instead thinking that her time would be better spent searching for the book. She still had her back to Liv as she was throwing everything off the desk, but she heard movement behind her, then a creaking bed.
Liv groaned. “Get out.”
“It’ll only be a second.” Harper turned around to scan the room.
“Get out!” Liv roared, and the anger in her voice seemed to reverberate through Harper’s head. For a moment, she could only stand there—dazed and unable to remember what she was looking for.
Harper shook her head, clearing some of the confusion, and feebly said, “I’m going as fast as I can. I just . . . I need the book first.”
“Not you,” Liv said. “Him.”
Before either Harper or Liv’s boyfriend could say anything, Liv pushed him out of the bed. He tumbled down, landing on the floor with a painful-sounding thud, and he groaned.
“Are you okay?” Harper crouched next to him, and he slowly sat up.
He rubbed the back of his head. “Yeah . . . I think so.”
Harper looked him over just to be sure, and she was relieved that he was still wearing his boxers. His bare torso revealed several fresh scratches on his chest and shoulders. His lip was bleeding, too, but she wasn’t sure if that was from the fall or something that Liv had done.
“What don’t you understand about the words get out?” Liv asked, leaning over the edge of her bed to glare down at them.
Her eyes— which had seemed wide and innocent when Harper first met her—now appeared much darker and more calculating.
“I’m going,” the guy said. He got up quickly, wincing as he did, and picked his clothes up off the floor.
That’s when Harper finally discovered her missing chem book. It had been hidden underneath his jeans.
He didn’t even wait to get dressed before he left, preferring to walk out into the hall in his underwear rather than spend another minute in their dorm room. Not that Harper blamed him.
“Got my book,” Harper told Liv as she shoved the textbook into her backpack. “So I’ll be out of your hair.”
“You don’t have to rush out of here now that he’s gone.”
Out of the corner of her eye, Harper saw Liv jump down from her bed and land on the floor in one graceful movement. The honey had returned to her voice, but Harper wasn’t sure if she could trust it, so she turned around slowly. Liv’s blond hair fell in waves that landed just above her shoulders, and though she wasn’t as tall as Harper, her tanned legs appeared long, extending below her micro pajama shorts.
“I figured he’d want some privacy, you know?” Liv glanced back to wink at Harper, then grabbed a tank top out of her drawer.
“Yeah.” Harper forced a smile and tried to sound happy for her roommate. “He seemed . . . nice. Is he your boyfriend?”
Liv scoffed. “He wishes. I woke up thirsty and hungry, so I went down to the commons to get a soda out of the machine, and I picked him up, too.”
“Oh.” Harper leaned back against her desk. She thought about straightening up the mess she’d made, but she didn’t want to take her eyes off Liv. “Do you think you’ll see him again?”
“Just because I said you could stay doesn’t mean we have to talk,” Liv said, pulling her shirt on over her head.
Harper sighed and considered leaving, but she knew she’d have to talk to Liv eventually. She might as well get it out of the way now.
“Actually, um, I have been wanting to talk to you,” Harper said, plunging into the conversation.
Liv narrowed her eyes. “About what?”
“Just life.” Harper shrugged and tried to keep her tone casual. “I haven’t really been able to talk to you much, so I thought we could check in with each other.”
“Why? It’s not like we need to be besties or something.” Liv snickered.
“No, but you said that you wanted to be friends, and I thought we could be.”
Liv tilted her head, as if she had no idea what Harper was talking about. “Did I say that?”
“Yeah.” Harper nodded. “You said it a few times, actually.”
“Oh.” Liv sounded utterly bored with the conversation and picked at a loose thread on her pajama pants. “Was that last week? It seems like a lifetime ago.”
Liv turned back around to go through her dresser again. Harper could only gape at her, astounded by the change.
“Did something happen?” Harper asked, as Liv pulled a jean skirt out of a drawer.
“Why? What do you mean?” Liv kept her back to her as she slipped out of the pajama pants and pulled on the skirt.
“I don’t know. You just seem . . . different.”
When Liv turned back to her, Harper noticed that same darkness in her eyes, like a shadow had been pulled down to mask a new malevolence, and Liv smirked. “So that’s what this is about?”
“I’m going out and having fun, and you’re jealous?” Liv stepped toward her, and instinctively Harper tried to take a step back, but she had nowhere to go. The desk was right behind her, so she just straightened up.
“What? No.” Harper shook her head. “I’m glad you’re having fun with college. But I was wondering if you could keep it down when you come in at night.” There was no point in making small talk anymore. “You’ve been waking me up, and I can’t sleep.”
“You don’t even want to be my friend, do you?” Liv kept walking toward her, and all the silk in her voice had been replaced with an icy edge. “You just wanted to tell me to shut up.”
“No, that’s not what I’m saying,” Harper hurried to correct herself. “I think that you’re a really nice girl—”
Liv cut her off with a laugh that sent an unpleasant chill down Harper’s spine. “Oh, I am not a nice girl.”
She was actually shorter than Harper, but it felt like she towered over her. There was something so imposing about her presence that Harper couldn’t explain, and she swallowed back her fear.
It was at that moment, with Liv staring up at her with her wide, cold eyes, that Harper realized Liv was insane. That was the only way to explain Liv’s dramatic and violent mood changes.
“What ever. I have no idea what you’re talking about, and I need to get to class,” Harper said. “You went from zero to crazy in like three seconds, and I don’t have time for this.”
“I’m not crazy!” Liv shouted in her face, spittle landing on her cheeks. “And I’m not done with you yet.”
“I’ll talk to you later, okay, Liv?” Harper tried to keep her words soothing and even. “I have to go, and if you were smart, you’d get ready and go to class soon. Or else it’s not going to matter if we get along or not because you won’t be here much longer.”
“Was that a threat? Are you threatening me?” Liv demanded.
“No.” Harper leaned over to get her backpack, taking her eyes off Liv for only a second. “If you don’t go to class, you won’t—”
Liv was a flicker of motion in Harper’s peripheral vision, then Harper felt a hand tighten around her throat. Liv slammed Harper back against the wall hard enough to make a mirror fall off and shatter on the floor.
With Liv’s hand clamped around her neck, Harper was pinned to the wall. Liv’s fingers were surprisingly long, and her grip was inescapable. Harper could barely breathe and clawed vainly at Liv’s arm.
“Liv,” Harper croaked out as she continued to struggle.
“Don’t ever mess with me, Harper,” Liv commanded in a low growl. “If you ever threaten or talk down to me again, I will totes destroy you, you dumb bitch.”
She let go of Harper then and stepped back. Harper gasped for breath and rubbed her neck. Her throat burned, and she bent over coughing.
“What the hell, Liv?” Harper asked between coughs. She was still hunched over and looked up at Liv. “I wasn’t threatening you! I was saying that if you want to stay in school, you have to go to class.”
A wide smile spread across Liv’s face. “You’re right. If I want to stay, I’d have to go to class. But I don’t want to stay. And I don’t care what anybody says or thinks. I’m not going to live with a shrew like you any longer than I have to. I’m out of here.”
Liv slipped on her shoes, grabbed her purse, and left the room, humming a tune under her breath as she did. Harper couldn’t place the song, but she was certain she’d heard it before.
t was the same dream she’d been having every night since Lexi had been killed. Gemma was out in the ocean. The water was cold, and the waves crashed around her, crushing her.
It was the night Penn had given Gemma the potion to change her into a siren and then tossed her into the ocean wrapped in Persephone’s shawl. Gemma felt like a fish in a net, trying to claw her way out of it before she drowned.
Then she felt the change happening, the siren monster taking hold somewhere deep inside her, filling her with an angry hunger. But her body didn’t shift. Her legs wouldn’t turn into fins, and she couldn’t fight her way to the surface.
Her wings broke painfully through her back and tore through the fabric, freeing Gemma. But they flapped uselessly underwater, and just when Gemma was certain she would drown, she surfaced. The relief at being able to breathe again was short-lived, though.
The dream then shifted, and instead of the night she’d become a siren, she was now in the rainstorm from last week, treading water in the crashing waves below the cliff outside the sirens’ house.
Lexi’s decapitated head was flying at her, the strings of blond hair flowing out behind it. But Lexi was still alive, her eyes wide and aware of everything, and she screamed at Gemma through the razor-sharp teeth that filled her mouth.
That’s when Gemma would wake up, cold sweat on her brow and gasping for breath. She sat up in her bed, hoping that she’d be able to calm herself down enough to go back to sleep again, but she never did.
It wasn’t that she’d liked Lexi a lot. It was how powerless and trapped Gemma had felt. In that moment, when she had been at the bottom of the cliff while Lexi was fighting with Daniel at the top, she’d never felt so weak or afraid.
Gemma refused to let herself feel that way again. From now on, she had to be in complete control of her siren powers, and not the other way around.
A loud knocking at the front door disrupted her thoughts and made her jump. Gemma grabbed her cell phone from her bedside table, checking to see that it was after midnight, and she didn’t have any missed calls or text messages.
She waited a few seconds to see if the knocking continued, and when it did, she leapt out of bed. Her dad had work in the morning, and she didn’t want to wake him.
“Took you long enough,” Penn said when Gemma opened the door.
“Shh. My dad will hear you.” Gemma glanced back toward the stairs behind her. The lights upstairs were still off, so it was a safe bet that he hadn’t heard anything.
Penn shrugged. “So?”
“So, let’s go outside and talk.” Gemma stepped out into the night, closing the door quietly behind her. It would be easier to just go outside than try to explain common decency and consideration for other people to Penn.
It was a new moon, so aside from the dim stars, the sky was completely black. Gemma hadn’t turned on the outside light, so at first, she could only make out the dark shapes of three girls standing outside her house.
Then she felt a shift in her eyes, and her pupils expanded. The siren senses had kicked in automatically, changing her eyes into ones like an owl’s, so she could see clearly in the darkness.
Penn stood directly in front of her, but Thea and another girl stood a few feet back. The new girl had blond hair and wide eyes, and there was something familiar about her, but Gemma didn’t stare at her long enough to figure out what it was.
The only thing that really mattered was that there was another girl, and what the implications of that were.
“What do you want?” Gemma asked.
“I wanted to introduce you to your new best friend.” Penn stepped to the side, so she could gesture back at the girl behind her.
“Hi.” The girl smiled and waggled her fingers at Gemma, causing Thea to scoff and turn away in disgust.
“Who the hell is that?” Gemma asked Penn.
“Don’t you remember?” The new girl stepped away from Thea and moved closer to Penn, so Gemma would be able to get a better look at her. “I’m Liv. I was your sister’s roommate at college.”
“Until she decided to drop out today and come live with us,” Thea muttered. She stared out into the night, managing to look both bored and irritated in a way that only she could.
That’s why the girl looked familiar. Gemma had only met her briefly last week while helping Harper move into her dorm. Liv had been friendly, but Gemma had had too many other things on her mind to really register her.
Besides that, Liv’s appearance had changed. She hadn’t been unattractive exactly, but she had been rather plain. Now her face was brighter, her hair glossier, and there was a general sultriness to her that hadn’t been there before.
The changes were subtle, but they were unmistakable to Gemma. Liv still maintained some of her doe-eyed naïveté, and Gemma was a little surprised that she hadn’t recognized Liv sooner because of that.
“Why? Why would she drop out?” Gemma asked Penn, without acknowledging Liv yet. “How do you even know each other?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Penn asked, smiling wide. “She’s your new sister.”
Gemma sighed. “Yeah, I figured that.”
“Don’t look so disappointed,” Liv said cheerily. “I’m lots of fun, I promise.”
“She sure is,” Thea said, sarcasm dripping from her husky voice.
Penn cast an annoyed glare at Thea but turned back to Gemma with an overly optimistic smile. “Gemma. Must you always be a Debbie Downer? I mean, come on! This is a good thing. If we hadn’t turned Liv, we’d all be dead in two weeks. Liv just saved your life! You should be thanking her.”
That was true. And while Gemma hated to admit that she felt mildly relieved, she also felt tremendous guilt. Liv was now wrapped up in this horrible mess, too, and if Gemma had broken the damn curse already, nobody else would’ve had to get hurt.
“You never thanked me for saving your life,” Gemma said.
“That’s because you were a total bitch about the whole thing,” Penn reminded her. “Liv wanted this.”
“You did?” Gemma asked, speaking to Liv for the first time.
“You didn’t?” Liv sounded flabbergasted. “This is amazing, Gemma! This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me!”
Gemma held up her hand to silence Liv’s exuberance and glanced back at the house, but no lights had gone on, so they were probably safe.
“Oops, sorry,” Liv said. “I forgot about your dad.”
“See?” Penn pointed to Liv. “That’s the kind of response you should’ve had.”
“Sorry I wasn’t doing jumping jacks like Little Miss Sunshine over there.” Gemma motioned to Liv.
“Apology accepted,” Penn replied.
“So, why are you guys here so late?” Gemma asked.
“We were going to go for a swim, and I thought it would be a great time for you to meet Liv since she’s moving here now,” Penn explained. “Plus, you’re going to have to help show her the ropes.”
“The ropes?” Gemma shook her head. “I barely know them. How am I supposed to show her anything?”
“Penn just means that she wants help babysitting,” Thea said dryly.
“I don’t need a babysitter,” Liv interjected with what Gemma thought was a bitter undercurrent. “You guys already showed me everything this past weekend. I’m good. I’m ready.”
“She might be a tad overzealous, and she needs a little reining in sometimes,” Penn said.
“I do not!” Liv shouted indignantly, which Gemma thought to be a completely out-of-place response.
Almost anytime Penn had ever spoken to Gemma, she’d done so either with a condescending sweetness or a bitchy bossiness, but here with Liv, she was speaking reasonably, even kindly. It didn’t seem to warrant Liv’s petulance.
“Well, that all sounds great, but I’m going to pass on the midnight swim,” Gemma said.
“Really?” Penn asked. “Since when have you ever passed that up?”
“Since I’m trying this new honesty thing with my dad,” Gemma said. “I told him I wouldn’t sneak out or run off anymore, so I’m not going to.”
“That sounds lame.” Penn wrinkled her nose in disgust. “You’re lame.”
The outside light flicked on above her, meaning that her dad was awake, and Gemma swore under her breath. A few seconds later, he opened the front door with his new shotgun in hand. He didn’t point it at them, but he wanted to make sure they knew he had it.
No matter how many times Gemma had told him that his gun wouldn’t hurt the sirens, Brian insisted on getting it every chance he got.
He didn’t know how else to protect his daughter from them. He couldn’t have them arrested or tell their parents, he couldn’t fight them because they would tear him apart, he shouldn’t even talk to them because their song would hypnotize him.
So he got a shotgun and glared at them from the doorway.
“All right, well, it was nice chatting with you,” Gemma said as she edged back toward the door. “But that’s my cue to head back in.”
“Lucky,” Thea muttered.
“It was nice to meet you again, Gemma,” Liv said, and leaned forward, like she meant to shake Gemma’s hand.
“Yeah, have fun,” Gemma said, and hastily slid back in the house without touching Liv.
“What’s going on? Why were they here?” Brian demanded, and he stood so close to the front door, Gemma almost ran into him as she came back in. Then he gave her a strange look.
“What, Dad?” Gemma asked, staring nervously at his confused expression.
“Your eyes . . . are different,” he told her, sounding a little pained.
That explained why the dim living room appeared so bright. Her eyes hadn’t changed back yet from their bird form. She blinked several times and willed them to shift back, and finally, the living room looked dark again, with only a small lamp providing light.
“Is that better?” Gemma asked.
“Yeah,” Brian said, though she could already tell by his expression that she looked normal again. “What did those girls want?”
“I don’t actually know,” Gemma said, and realized that wasn’t the whole truth, so she added, “They wanted to introduce me to the new Lexi.”
“They found a replacement for her?” Her dad raised his eyebrows in surprise. “That was fast.”
“Yeah, it was,” Gemma said.
She neglected to tell her dad that part of the reason it was so quick was that they already had the girl lined up. Liv had probably been meant to be Gemma’s replacement, but when Penn decided to kill Lexi instead, they had to change their plans.
The fight last week, where Lexi tried to kill Gemma and Daniel actually turned out to be a good thing. It bought her a few more weeks. Based on how quickly they turned Liv after Lexi’s death, it would’ve only been a day or two longer before Penn had killed Gemma. Liv was all primed to go.
“How long were they here for?” Brian asked.
“Only a few minutes.”
“Why didn’t you wake me up when they got here?”
Gemma walked past her dad and sat down on the couch in the living room. “I didn’t want to disturb you. I know you have to get up in a few hours, and I wasn’t going anywhere.”
“You know the deal, though,” Brian said firmly. “You tell me what’s going on. You keep me in the loop.”
“I know, and I am.”
Her dad seemed to relax a little and sat down in his recliner next to her. “How are things going with the scroll?”
“They’re . . . going,” Gemma said, and she was tempted to lie.
Things were not going well. After Thea had given her the scroll, Gemma, Harper, and their dad had stayed up all night looking at it. It was written in an ancient language. They’d originally thought it was Greek, but upon attempting translations from the Internet, they’d found it impossible to decipher.
Last Saturday, Harper and Gemma had gone up to see Lydia and show her the scroll. She made copies of it since Gemma didn’t want to leave it with anybody else, and Lydia said she would work on translating it and finding out any information she could from it.
While Lydia was busy with that, Gemma had decided to work on trying the next best thing—destroying the scroll. Harper was against it, arguing that they didn’t know for sure how the scroll worked. If they destroyed it, it might kill all the sirens—including Gemma. Gemma was willing to risk it, but Harper kept insisting that they should translate it first.
But it didn’t matter anyway. Gemma hadn’t been able to do anything to even slightly damage it.
The scroll was made out of a thick papyrus. It almost reminded Gemma of cardboard, but it was thin enough to roll up. The paper itself was beige, and Gemma wasn’t sure if it had always been so or if the color came with age. The ends were uneven and slightly yellowed, but, otherwise, it didn’t look the worse for wear.
The ink was a very dark brown and iridescent. When she tilted the paper in different light, the ink would shimmer and glisten. She wondered if it was the ink itself that gave the paper its powerful properties, or if it was under some kind of spell.
It definitely had some kind of magic protecting it. Despite its thickness, the papyrus felt fragile under Gemma’s fingertips, reminding her of a dried-up corn husk. It felt like she should easily be able to snap or tear it in half.
But she couldn’t. Scissors wouldn’t cut it. They just bent the paper without damaging it at all. She tried garden shears, and even got her father to help her with his table saw. The paper would just bend and fold. Nothing could break through. It even jammed up the shredder at the library.
Fire wouldn’t burn it. Water wouldn’t warp it. Gemma was running out of ways to try to destroy it. When she dipped it in water, the ink seemed to glow, but when she took it out, nothing had changed. The ink held strong, and the scroll remained intact.
If destruction was off the table, then she had to figure out how to read it. Until Lydia came back with the official translation, Gemma was doing her best to interpret it herself by searching the Internet for documents with similar writing.
Brian was trying to help out with the few clues Bernie had given him, but so far, none of them seemed all that helpful. The information Bernie had passed on to him sounded mostly like random superstition.
“Nothing new yet?” Brian asked.
Gemma pulled her knees up to her chest. “Not yet, no.”
“It’s only been a few days, though. Give it some time. When is that girl supposed to come back with the translation?”
“Lydia? I don’t know for sure.” Gemma shook her head. “She’s hoping sometime this week.”
“Once you get that, we’ll be able to figure this all out,” Brian assured her.
“Yeah, I know.” Gemma forced a smile. “I’ll be okay. You don’t need to worry.”
“I know you’ll be okay, but it’s my job to worry. I’m your dad.”
They talked a little bit longer before Brian went back to bed. Gemma went to her room, but she knew that she’d be unable to sleep for the rest of night.
It was still so strange talking to her dad openly about everything. It was nice, since keeping everything a secret had been a huge weight on her chest. Sometimes, she felt bad about telling her dad the truth, though. She didn’t want him to worry about her, not when he had so much to deal with.
That’s why she still kept parts to herself. Like how Liv’s turning into a siren was probably a very bad thing. It freed Penn up to look for a new replacement, which meant that Gemma’s clock was once again counting down.
But more than that, a new siren was another monster to stand in her way. Penn wanted to kill her, Lexi had actually tried to kill her, and with her luck, Liv would probably feel the same as Penn and Lexi.
Liv was just another siren Gemma would have to get out of the way before she could finally be free of this curse.
Excerpted from Elegy by Amanda Hocking. Copyright © 2013 by Amanda Hocking. First published 2013 by St Martin’s Press, New York. First published in Great Britain 2013 by Tor an imprint of Pan Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. Pan Macmillan, 20 New Wharf Road, London N1 9RR, Basingstoke and Oxford. Associated companies throughout the world: http://www.panmacmillan.com
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Pan Macmillan Australia solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.