They’d kissed before, but Penn had always been more aggressive—like she thought she’d be able to devour him. This time, though, she showed the same gentleness and control that she had a few moments ago.
There was something almost tender about it, but he felt heat burning there, too. Even when Penn tried to use restraint, she couldn’t completely hold back who she was. The way her body pressed against him through the thin, wet fabric, and even the way her tongue encircled his—she was a creature made almost entirely of desire.
She sat back up, a light smile playing on her full lips. Her black hair cascaded forward, shielding her face from him. Daniel reached up, brushing her hair back and tucking it behind her ears. For a moment, he let his hand linger there, and she leaned into it, pressing her cheek against the palm of his hand.
He searched her eyes, scanning them for any of the warmth or tenderness he’d felt in her kisses. In a strange way, he almost wanted to find it. Somehow, it would make him feel better if there was some humanity to her, if she had some heart left.
Her irises were nearly black, only one shade lighter than her pupils, and he stared into them. But no matter how deeply he looked into Penn’s eyes, he could see only an empty darkness. She was cold and hollow inside.
“You’re going to kill me, aren’t you?” Daniel asked, and took his hand away from her face, letting it fall back to the ground.
“Do you want me to answer that honestly?” Penn asked. The hint of a smile had fallen away from her face, but, otherwise, her expression was the same.
“Probably, yes,” she told him without remorse. “But not for a while.”
“Will it hurt?” Daniel asked, keeping his expression and voice as calm and even as hers.
“Depends on whether you piss me off or not. But I have ways of making it painless.”
She was still staring down at him, and he couldn’t handle her gaze anymore. More accurately, he couldn’t handle this game she was playing with him. If she wanted him, and it would keep the people he loved safe, then he’d rather just hurry up and give himself to her.
He sat up and put his hand on the small of her back, pushing her closer to him, then he kissed her. He moved more aggressively than she had been just now, but it still didn’t match her ferociousness in some of their earlier encounters.
“What are you doing?” Penn asked, pulling away from him almost as soon as he’d started kissing her.
“I thought this was what you wanted,” Daniel said, bewildered by her resistance.
She shook her head. “I told you that I didn’t come here for that.”
“What’s wrong with now? We can just get it over with.”
“Just get it over with?” Penn laughed and pushed his hand off her back. “How romantic.” She got up and climbed off him while he just stared up in total confusion.
“Wow. It’s like the Twilight Zone out here. Are you seriously turning down sex?” he asked.
“No, but I want the mood to be right. It’s been so long since I’ve really had to chase someone down, and when I have you, I want to savor you.”
“So…” He scratched his head, then got to his feet. “If you didn’t come out today for the whole sex thing, then why are you here?”
“Daniel, I knew your hearing was messed up, but I didn’t know your listening skills were so bad. I already told you. I came out to see if you’ve healed enough to perform.”
“I hurt my arm and my ribs, and I have a couple scratches. I think I’ll be okay.”
She bit her lip. “You only say that because you don’t know what I have in store for you.”
“When you say stuff like that, you think you’re being flirtatious, but you’re really not,” Daniel said as he smoothed out his shirt and brushed off pine needles and leaves. “Given that I know what you’re capable of, that comes across as more of a threat than innuendo.”
She laughed. “Since you handled that roll in the grass just fine and seem to be doing so well, I think you’re just about ready for our date. So we should reschedule in…” Penn cocked her head, as if thinking. “One week from today?”
“A week? But that’s my…” He sighed as it dawned on him. “Birthday. You knew that. That’s why you picked it.”
“I want to give you the best birthday present ever. And what could be better than a night with me?”
“Oh, I’m sure I could think of a couple things,” he muttered.
“Now, Daniel, you shouldn’t say things like that. You wouldn’t want to hurt my feelings, would you? Because if you did, then I might get angry, and I might have to take out some of my rage on your girlfriend and her sister.” She smiled at him as she spoke. “I might even have to kill them.”
“I’m just keeping it interesting, Penn,” Daniel replied coolly, instead of throwing her to the ground and telling her that if she ever touched Harper, he’d kill her. “I know it’s the thrill of the chase that gets you off, so I can’t make it too easy for you.”
“That’s why I like you. You know exactly what I want.”
She leaned into him and kissed him on the mouth. She put one hand on the back of his head, running her fingers through his hair and holding him to her. Then he felt her teeth sinking into his lip. He was about to push her off when she let go and stepped back.
“Eight o’clock on Wednesday night,” Penn said as she backed away from him. “You and me.”
“I won’t forget,” he promised her.
Penn laughed, then turned and ran down to the end of the dock. She dove off and went into the water with hardly a splash.
He could taste the blood from his lip, and he wiped it away with the back of his hand. His heart pounded in his chest, and he felt like throwing up. Every encounter he had with Penn left him feeling like he needed to shower.
He was ashamed to admit that a small part of him liked it, which made him crave the shower all the more. As much as he detested Penn, she sparked something in his anatomy that he couldn’t completely control.
Penn had left his clothes wet and dirty from throwing him on the ground, and he’d have to change before he went down to the theater. He really did want to shower now, but he wasn’t sure he’d have enough time to, so he pulled out his phone to check the clock.
That’s when he saw he had two missed texts from Harper. In all the commotion with Penn, he hadn’t noticed his phone vibrating.