“Dammit.” Gemma groaned and walked down to where Daniel was standing. “Liv is out of control. Even Thea agrees.” She shook her head, as if trying to clear it, and when she looked up at him, he saw a strange suspicion in her golden eyes. “What was that about, by the way?”
“What?” Daniel asked, trying to play dumb.
“You and Penn.” Gemma raised her chin, inspecting him. “Why did she have you follow her? And what were you talking about?”
He rubbed the back of his neck and looked away from her. “You know. Just Penn things.”
“No, I don’t know.” Gemma moved, so she was in his line of vision, and when he tried to look away, she moved again. She wasn’t letting him off the hook this time. “She’s always talking to you, but you never tell me what she says. Vague statements and shrugs are all I ever get from you. What’s going on?”
Ever since Penn had begun showing an interest in him, Daniel had been dreading this conversation. People—particularly Harper and Gemma—would demand to know the nature of his relationship with Penn, and he couldn’t explain it.
Well, he could, but he didn’t want to. He didn’t want to admit what was going on, not even to Gemma. Not just because he didn’t want to deal with the fallout but because he didn’t want to say it all aloud, to talk through all the dirty details while feeling shamed by Gemma’s scrutinizing gaze.
“Why are you interrogating me?” Daniel asked, unable to keep the defensive tone out of his voice. “I haven’t done anything wrong.”
He wanted desperately to get away from the conversation, so he started walking. Of course, Gemma followed, but he hadn’t really expected any different.
“Then why are you being so evasive?” she asked.
“I’m not,” he lied. “I’m just doing what I need to do.”
“And what’s that?”
He stopped walking, growing exasperated. “Can’t you just trust me?”
“Should I trust you?” Gemma countered.
Rubbing his forehead, he let out a long breath. And then he looked her in the eyes for the first time since she’d brought this all up. “You always say that you’ll do whatever it takes to protect the people you care about, right? Well, so will I.”
“And what exactly do you need to do?” Gemma asked, and he groaned. She really wasn’t letting this go. “Daniel. I tell you everything. You need to tell me what’s going on here.”
He laughed darkly. “No, I don’t, Gemma. There are some things in my life that you don’t need to know about that don’t involve you. Not everything is always about you.”
“I know that! But if you do something to hurt my sister, so help me, Daniel—”
“You really think I want to do anything to hurt Harper?” Daniel asked, his voice tightening with pain. “Everything I do is to keep her safe and happy. Do you understand that?”
“Yeah, I do,” she admitted.
“Anything that I do, I’m doing it for her.”
“Daniel…” She had a knowing look in her eyes, and that scared him. “I think you need to talk to her. About whatever’s going on here. It doesn’t matter what it is. She loves you, and she’ll understand.”
Before, when Penn had first propositioned him, Daniel had planned on telling Harper about it. He knew she’d try to talk him out of it, but that didn’t matter. Daniel would do whatever it took to protect Harper.
But after the attack with Lexi, Daniel had realized a fatal flaw in his plan. Sleeping with Penn wouldn’t be enough. If it was only one night, then he’d only prolong Harper’s life by a day. Once he had sex with Penn, he had no more bargaining chips to keep Harper and Gemma safe.
That meant that he’d have to begin an affair with Penn. Once he went ahead and actually got involved with her, he’d have to do everything in his power to keep her happy and satisfied. The second she got tired of him and lost interest, Harper was as good as dead.
Somewhere in the back of his mind, he’d been hoping that Harper would be able to forgive a solitary transgression, and maybe she could. If she truly believed he loved her and was repentant.
But there would be no way that she could tolerate an affair, with Daniel constantly going out behind her back and sleeping with Penn.
So once Daniel consummated his relationship with Penn, everything with Harper was gone. Forever. There’s no way she’d ever be able to trust him or look at him the same way again.
And that’s why he didn’t tell her. If he told Harper now, it would only lead to fights as she tried to talk him out of it. But his mind couldn’t be changed. He knew that he’d do whatever he had to do to protect her, even if it meant selling his soul to the devil.
He didn’t want to spend his last few days with Harper arguing. He’d never ask Harper to endure his liaisons with Penn, but all he wanted was a few more days before he lost her forever.
Since his date with Penn was set for Wednesday, Daniel planned on going up to Sundham on Friday and telling Harper in person about everything that was transpiring. They’d break up then, and in the meantime, he’d have a few more days of text messages and phone calls. A few more chances to hear her laughter, to tell her he loved her.
That’s why he’d shut Harper down when things had gotten heated on Sunday night. He’d wanted to be with her more than anything in the world. But that wouldn’t be fair to her. He couldn’t sleep with her only to break up with her a few days later.
Daniel shook his head. “Not this time. I just need you to trust me and let me handle this myself,” he begged Gemma.
“Okay,” she said reluctantly. “But if you need help … I’m here.”
After the incident, Penn refused to reply to any of Gemma’s text messages or phone calls. Gemma considered going out to the sirens’ house, and she’d even started talking to her dad about borrowing his truck to go up there.
Then Thea texted her, Penn & Liv getting into it. Better if you stay away for the night.
Is she getting rid of Liv? Gemma replied.
Unlikely, Thea sent back, and Gemma groaned inwardly.
I still want to talk to Penn.
She does not want to talk to you, Thea texted.
Can I talk to you? Will you call me? Gemma asked.
Liv & Penn going out to feed tomorrow. Come by in the afternoon. I’ll be alone.