“But I don’t want to do anything you don’t want to do,” he went on. “I know that you’re not ready, and that’s fine. I’m in no rush. So if you want to spend the night tonight, we can spend all night with our clothes on, spooning, and I’ll be more than happy with it. Okay?”
“Are you sure you’re okay with it?” Harper asked. “I mean, it wouldn’t change anything if you weren’t. I want to know if you’re not okay.”
“I am one hundred percent sure I’m okay with it.” Daniel smiled. “I waited months before I even got a kiss from you, and you know what I learned from that? You’re definitely worth the wait.”
Harper leaned against his chest and stared up into his eyes, and he wrapped his arms around her. She didn’t know whether it was the feel of his strong arms around her or the thought of sharing the most intimate part of herself with Daniel when she was ready, but heat swept through her.
“You can’t keep saying perfect things like that to me,” she told him.
“Why not?” Daniel asked.
“Because I can’t come up with anything perfect to say back to you.”
“Okay. How about this? How about I say, I love you, then you say, I love you?” Daniel asked with a playful smile. “That sounds pretty perfect to me.”
“I love you,” Harper said.
“I love you, too.” He leaned down and kissed her gently on the mouth. “But I was supposed to say it first.”
“I beat you.” Harper laughed and pulled away from him. She didn’t want to let him go, but the emotions swirling through her left her feeling overloaded, and she needed a moment to collect herself.
“So do you have any homework to do tonight?” Daniel asked, following her as she walked over to the couch. “Or do I have you all to myself?”
“I could do some studying,” Harper said as she leaned back on the couch. Daniel sat down next to her, and she laid her legs across his lap. “But I think I’ll skip it for tonight.”
“You sure? I don’t want to be the reason for bad grades.”
“No, I need to take a break every once in a while, or my brain will overload.”
“And nobody wants that.” He grinned. “Did you go swimming with Gemma today?”
“I did.” Harper nodded. “She took me out in the ocean, past the island. It freaks me out a little when she does that. She’s so crazy fast.”
When Gemma turned into a mermaid, she sliced through the water like nothing else. She’d been a fast swimmer as a human, but now she was like lightning. The waves couldn’t keep up with her.
Harper would cling to Gemma, her arms wrapped tightly around her as her sister pulled her through the ocean. She stayed at the surface, so Harper could breathe, and she’d feel the sun beating down on her skin as the waves splashed over her. Even Harper had to admit, there was something truly exhilarating about it.
“Did you have fun?” Daniel asked.
“I did.” Her wistful smile faded to something darker when she thought about the sirens. “What do you think of Thea?”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Why? What do you think of her?”
“I don’t trust any of the sirens, but Thea seems the most trustworthy.” Harper chewed her lip. “I just don’t understand why she gave Gemma the scroll.”
“She could be suicidal,” Daniel said, and she considered it.
“Penn’s pretty easy to set off. If Thea wanted to die, she could’ve just pissed Penn off, then”—Harper snapped her fingers—“no more Thea. I mean, Penn took Lexi out without a second thought.”
“Yeah, but maybe Thea wants to get rid of Penn, too.”
“Like a murder/suicide?” Harper raised an eyebrow.
“Kinda. Except Thea clearly doesn’t want to stand up to Penn or kill her.”
“Why not? Penn is an evil monster.”
“Yeah, but she’s still Thea’s sister,” Daniel said. “How bad would Gemma have to be before you plotted to kill her?”
“Gemma would never be like them,” she replied quickly, and shook her head.
“I know, but I’m not asking you about what Gemma’s capable of,” he clarified. “I’m talking about what you’re capable of. Could you ever kill your own sister?”
“I don’t know.” Harper swallowed hard and stared off into space. She wanted to say no, but deep down, she hoped that she’d be able to do the right thing no matter what. If Gemma ever went off the deep end, she hoped she’d be strong enough to stand up to her sister and protect innocent lives. “But I never want to find out.”
“That’s probably enough dark talk for one night, anyway,” Daniel said. “I think it’s time we institute a new rule.”
She looked over at him and tried to shake off her despondency. “So what should we do now?”
“We could watch some TV,” Daniel suggested. “I have a couple episodes of Quantum Leap on VHS.”
“Daniel.” Harper tried to scold him, but she couldn’t help but smile. “I thought you were gonna stop getting paid in videotapes now that you have rent to pay.”
“Hey, Quantum Leap is a viable form of payment,” he insisted. “And I already paid the rent for September. I made out pretty well working on the play.”
Harper laughed, and Daniel put in the tape. She curled up on the couch next to him, and they spent the rest of the night watching old television shows in grainy, warped VHS. It didn’t sound fun or relaxing, but Harper enjoyed herself immensely.
Everything was going well until she started falling asleep on the couch, and Daniel suggested that they go to bed. Harper changed into her pajamas, which consisted of shorts and a tank top. While she admired herself in the bathroom mirror, she couldn’t decide if she should’ve gone with something sexier or more matronly.
But there wasn’t anything she could do about it now, so she brushed her teeth, took a deep breath, and walked into his room.
Daniel had turned on the lamp on his nightstand, and he stood next to his bed wearing only a pair of boxers. Harper had seen him shirtless before, many times actually, and she’d always enjoyed it.
He wasn’t overly muscular, but there were smooth ripples of abs and indents on his hips from the muscles that started in his pelvis. Not to mention the thin trail of hair that ran from his navel down underneath his boxer shorts that Harper found oddly provocative.