“Oh,” Diana said, looking past the other girls and staring right at Gemma. “So you’ve come to kill me then?”
“It’s a great night for this,” Alex said as he surveyed the beer tent at Bayside Park.
“Yep. Just us two guys and a bunch of drunks.” Daniel took a swig of his beer. “Perfect.”
Just outside the tent, he could hear the sounds of the emcee announcing the Miss Capri Pageant, and the crowd’s applauding and cheering. But in here, it seemed much quieter.
The thick green fabric of the tent kept out the sunlight and the festivities of At Summer’s End. Sure, there were tourists inside, and a few frat boys getting wasted at the other end of the tent, but something about the beer tent gave it an illusion of privacy that Daniel found comforting.
That’s not what Alex meant by a great night, though. The weather was warm, the sky was blue, birds were singing. Even though it was officially September, this was still the perfect summer day.
Alex had come right from his shift at the dock, and he’d changed into jeans and a T-shirt, but he still smelled vaguely of grease and seawater. Still, he seemed happy to be here, and had a boyish grin on his face.
It was that grin that wouldn’t let him pass for twenty-one although he had matured and looked much older than when Daniel had first met him earlier this summer. But the bartender had slapped a bright orange wristband on Alex, meaning that he’d only be served soda in the tent.
That was fine by Daniel. He’d flashed his ID, gotten a cold beer, and sat down at a picnic table in the corner. Alex sat next to him, sipping his Mountain Dew.
“I was kinda surprised when you texted me today,” Alex admitted. “We don’t usually hang out.”
“Well, I’m always borrowing your car, so I figured that we ought to get to know each other,” Daniel said, but that wasn’t the whole reason.
He hadn’t slept much since his fight with Harper last night. After she’d left, he’d kicked a dining-room chair in anger, snapping one of the legs. He spent most of today mending it, but eventually he’d grown tired of sitting in the house and feeling trapped on the island.
He hadn’t even properly celebrated his birthday yet, not that he really deserved to celebrate. Harper was right, and he knew it. He’d blown it with her because he hadn’t thought, and now he didn’t want to think. Not about her. Not about last night.
So he’d asked Alex to join him for a beer. He’d like to believe that it was just because he thought Alex was a nice guy, but the truth was that his life had become so entangled with the Fisher girls that he couldn’t even hang out with someone who wasn’t somehow connected to them.
Gemma had texted him earlier, letting him know that she and Harper had left town to meet Diana in Charleston, so that he wouldn’t worry if he came looking for Harper. But he did still worry.
And maybe that’s why he’d invited Alex out, too. In case something happened to either Harper or Gemma, Daniel wanted to know. Even if Harper never wanted to see him again, he couldn’t go on without knowing she was okay. Without being there to help if she needed him.
“It’ll be good for us to get along,” Alex said. “Since the ladies in our lives are sisters, it’ll be easier if we can all hang out and have some laughs.”
Daniel scratched the back of his head. “I suppose Gemma didn’t get a chance to tell you.”
“I’m not sure that Harper is in my life anymore.” He twisted the bottle on the table, staring down at the condensation that dripped down the glass. “We might’ve broken up last night.”
“Really?” Alex sounded surprised. “Did she pull the same crap that Gemma did with me? Like how it’s for your own good?”
“No.” Daniel shook his head. “I did something bad, very, very bad, and she rightfully got pissed off. So…”
“Oh, man. That sucks.”
“It does,” he agreed. “So I got sick of sitting around the house, thinking about what a jackass I am, and I thought, what the hell? Why not see what Alex is up to?”
“Thanks.” Alex smiled.
“So you’re working down at the docks now?” Daniel asked when they lapsed into a silence.
“Yeah.” Alex nodded. “Just until I go to college. I’m trying to enroll for the spring semester. I’m going for astronomy or meteorology. Anything about what happens in the sky, and I’m into it.”
“Yeah? That’s pretty cool,” Daniel said, then he tried to remember if astronomy was studying the stars or horoscopes. If he figured knowing Alex, it probably had to be following stars and comets and not the zodiac.
“What about you?” Alex asked him. “Any college in your future?”
“Nah. I was never that into school. I did okay, but I’d always rather be working with my hands than reading books.” Daniel held his hands out, showing the rough calluses and faded scars from years of fixing anything he found broken. “And I like what I’m doing now.”
He’d worked on some pieces, like the chair he’d broken today and the coffee table in his living room. But he didn’t have as much time as he’d like. He’d been hoping that with the island, he’d be able to really get working on his carpentry projects, but it seemed like the sirens took up any free time he might have.
And then the silence fell over them, growing more awkward the longer they went without saying anything. There was no TV to distract them, and they couldn’t actually see the parade of girls entered in the Miss Capri Pageant.
“Look at you two,” Penn’s silky voice came from behind them. Daniel’s hand tightened on his beer bottle, and he groaned inwardly. “Boys just wanna have fun, huh?”
“We’re just two wild-and-crazy guys,” he said dryly.
He felt her hand on his shoulder, her skin hot through his T-shirt. He leaned away from it, and Penn dropped her hand but sat down next to him anyway.
“What is that?” Penn leaned over Daniel to get a better look at Alex’s glass, and she smirked. “Soda? Oh, Alex, I’ll never understand what Gemma sees in you.”
“And I’m more than okay with that,” Alex said.
Daniel wasn’t completely sure how the sirens’ charms affected Alex. He’d fallen under them before, and Daniel suspected that if Penn really tried, she could hold him captive to her song.