“Aiden? What happened? Is he okay?”
“No.” He took a long drink of his beer before speaking again. “I just dumped his body off my boat—in parts—all over the ocean because Liv tore him up. She killed him.”
Harper shook her head in confusion. “Why?”
“I don’t know.” He laughed, a hollow sound. “Because she’s a demon from hell? I don’t know.”
“Why did you help get rid of his body? Did Gemma call you?” Harper glanced at the table, where her cell phone was sitting. She’d left it on, so if Gemma needed her, she would’ve gotten a call. “Is she okay?”
“Gemma’s fine. She’s good,” he assured her quickly. “No, she didn’t call me.” He paused, and it felt like a long time before he said, “I was with Penn.”
“You were … with Penn?” Harper leaned back, pulling away from him and trying to understand what he was saying to her.
“I went out to her house tonight.” He kept staring down, his words low and thick. “To have sex with her.”
“To…” Her breath caught in her throat, and for a moment, it was impossible for her speak. “To what?”
“She told me that if I had sex with her, then she wouldn’t kill you or Gemma. And if I said no, then she would kill you and Gemma. So I, uh … I said yes.”
It was like the floor had been pulled out from beneath her. She’d been on solid ground, and all of a sudden it was replaced by empty blackness below her, threatening to swallow her up. Her mind swirled with too many thoughts, making her dizzy, and she had to keep swallowing to stop from crying or throwing up.
“So you had sex with Penn?” Harper asked, hoping she kept the quaver out of her voice. “The horrible monster who is ruining my life and my sister’s life, who murders and takes whatever she wants? That Penn?”
“I didn’t have sex with her tonight.”
“But you did another night?” she asked, and if he said yes, she was certain she’d throw up.
“No,” he said quickly. “No. I’ve never had sex with her.”
“We were supposed to tonight, but Liv killed Aiden, and that interrupted us.”
Harper brushed the hair back from her forehead, and she realized her hands were trembling. “If she hadn’t interrupted, you would’ve had sex with her?”
He nodded. “Yes.”
“So … did you do anything with her?” Harper asked, but he said nothing. “Daniel. Answer me.”
“Did you kiss her? Did you take off your clothes?” she asked, and when he didn’t reply, she went on, “Did she get further with you than I have?”
He breathed deeply, then so softly she barely heard him, he said, “Yes.”
And then she couldn’t contain herself. Without even thinking, she reached out and smacked him across the face. It was hard enough to make a loud, cracking sound, and the palm of her hand tingled. Tear welled her eyes.
“I am so sorry, Harper,” Daniel said, and he finally looked up at her.
“How long has this been going on?” she asked, ignoring his apology. “When did she proposition you?”
“I don’t know.” He shook his head. “Maybe … two and a half weeks ago.”
“Two and a half weeks?” She looked up at the ceiling to keep the tears from spilling over and laughed cynically. “Holy shit, Daniel.”
“I didn’t know what else to do,” he said.
“You didn’t?” She smiled bitterly and wiped at her eyes. “You were kissing me and holding me and telling me you loved me, and I was telling you all my secrets and you were planning to sleep with someone else? I was here, on your birthday, planning to share myself with you fully, and you’re lying and sneaking around…”
“I know it’s wrong,” he insisted. “Sex with Penn is gross and horrible, but I had to protect you.”
A tear slid down her cheek, and she let it. “No, Daniel. I’m not mad because you planned to sleep with her.” She shook her head. “I mean, I am hurt, and I don’t know if I’d ever really be okay with that. Even knowing that you did it for me, and for my sister.
“But what I’m really mad about is that you didn’t tell me.” She looked him right in the eyes. “I trusted you, Daniel, with everything, with all of me, and you … You didn’t do the same.”
“No, Harper, it wasn’t about trust. I knew that if I told you, you’d try to talk me out of it, and I couldn’t…” He paused, sighing. “I knew that when you found out, this would be over. But I didn’t know how else to keep you safe.”
“That is bullshit, Daniel!” She got up and walked away from him, too angry even to be near him. Pulling the flannel shirt more tightly around her, Harper glared down at him. “You weren’t gonna tell me until after! Were you ever even gonna tell me?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted.
“I can’t believe you.” Harper buried her fingers in her hair, holding her head as she tried to process what he’d just told her. Then she took a deep breath and lowered her arms. “I sat on your couch today, texting you I love you, and you were about to go screw my mortal enemy. And I don’t give a shit how noble or valid your reasons are, you should’ve told me, and you know it.”
Daniel stood up, and she could see the tears in his eyes. “I am so very sorry, Harper.”
“What were you thinking?” she asked, restraining herself from screaming it at him. She wanted to hit him and yell at him and demand to know how he could do this, how he could ruin something that was so amazing and destroy the one thing in her life that was nearly perfect.
“I just had to protect you,” he said simply.
“And how did you protect me? By hurting me in the worst possible way?”
“No, I didn’t…” He shook his head. “I didn’t mean for any of this.”
“All this time, you’ve been pushing to get close to me, and I tried to keep you at arm’s length. But you clawed your way into my life, and you made me fall in love with you, and you promised never to hurt me, and you fought so hard to earn my trust.” She let out a small sob when she realized the horrible truth of what he’d just done. “And now I don’t think I can ever trust you again.”