When she reached Daniel’s boat, she was surprised to see a flyer taped onto the side, right next to the boat’s name, The Dirty Gull.
It was warped and faded from the sun and water splashing on it, even though it had only been there for a few days, but the words Have you seen me? were still legible above a large picture of Gemma. Alex had printed up a bunch of flyers and hung them around town.
Harper leaned over and grabbed on to the boat with one hand. She had to get the flyer down. For one thing, she didn’t want the reminder of Gemma being missing, but more important, she didn’t want the sirens to spot the connection between this boat and Gemma.
She grabbed one corner of the flyer, and had just started to pull when a boat zipped by, creating a wave that made The Dirty Gull rock hard to the side.
“Oh, no,” Harper groaned.
She gripped the boat tighter to steady herself, but that only succeeded in causing her to lose her tenuous foothold on the dock. She tried to wrap her arm around the railing so she could hang on, but she couldn’t get a handle on it.
Just when she was about to slip and splash into the water, Daniel’s arm appeared over the railing and grabbed her.
“I’m seriously starting to wonder how you survived without me,” Daniel said, grinning down at her.
“Much better, actually,” Harper said as his strong hands held both of her arms. “I wasn’t always trying to climb onto boats, so I very rarely fell into the ocean.”
Once he’d lifted her up and set her safely on the deck, she lingered in his arms for a moment before remembering why she’d come here. It was hard to do when he looked at her like that, his hazel eyes full of something that created heat in her belly.
And he was shirtless—again—which only made matters worse. It was getting harder and harder for her to reject someone who looked like Daniel did when he wasn’t wearing a shirt.
“What can I do for you today?” Daniel asked, his arm still wrapped around her waist so her chest was pressed to his. His abdomen and chest felt so firm against the soft contours of her own body, like he was made of concrete instead of flesh.
“I, uh…” Harper couldn’t remember what he could do for her, so she shook her head and stepped away from him. It was impossible to think or even breathe when he held her close to him like that.
“Are you okay?” Daniel wrinkled his brows in confusion as Harper backed away from him.
“A flyer!” Harper announced excitedly when she remembered. “I was peeling a flyer off your boat.”
She’d actually managed to rip off half of the flyer. But in her attempt to hang on to the boat, she’d dropped it into the water, where the scrap of paper was presumably floating out to sea.
“You mean the missing poster for Gemma?” Daniel’s expression grew even more confused. “You came out to tear that off my boat? How did you even know that I had one?”
“I didn’t.” Harper leaned back against the railing behind her, trying to put some space between her and Daniel. “I happened to see it when I came out here, so I was trying to take it off, and then I slipped, and here we are.”
“Yes, here we are,” Daniel agreed as a bemused smile spread across his face. “The question is, why are we here?”
“I tried calling you earlier, and you didn’t answer the phone,” Harper said. “I thought maybe … I don’t know. Something might have happened.”
“You were worried about me?” He stepped closer to her, and his smile grew wider.
“Yeah. So?” Harper shrugged and tried to seem casual. “I worry about people. There’s lots of crazy stuff going on right now. It makes sense that I would worry. I worry a lot. That’s not a big deal. It’s just how I am.”
Another wave came up, and since Harper had been leaning against the rail, she almost fell backward over it. She caught herself at the last second, and Daniel grabbed her arm, just to be safe.
“Why don’t we go down inside and talk about how natural it is for you to worry?” Daniel asked. “It’s much less likely that you’ll fall overboard down there.”
“Yeah, sure.” Harper stepped back from the edge and followed Daniel down into the boat.
This was actually going against her original plan, which was to avoid getting on the boat in the first place, and, if she did go on the boat, not to go down into his living area. But it was better than standing on the deck and getting tossed around so he’d have to catch her.
When Harper went down, she noticed his tiny quarters appeared a bit cleaner than when she’d seen them before. A stack of neatly folded clothes was at the end of his bed, and his bed was actually made. There was an empty bottle in the tiny sink, but that was about all that constituted a mess.
“So?” Daniel leaned against the small dining table that sat between padded benches. “You were saying that you were worried about me?”
“No, I was saying that with everything going on, it makes sense that I would worry in general.” Harper sat down on the bed, since it was the farthest away from him that she could sit. “Why didn’t you answer your phone?”
“I was sleeping,” Daniel told her. “I went on this really long road trip yesterday, and I was awake for, like, twenty-four hours in a car. For some reason, that made me really tired, so when I got back, I slept a lot.”
“Sorry.” Harper smoothed out a wrinkle in his blankets. “I mean, thank you for coming with. And all the stuff you’ve been doing to help me, and Gemma. You really have been so helpful lately, and it means a lot to me.”
“That’s so weird how you can do that,” Daniel said, and she looked up at him. He was staring out the window, his lips pursed.
He shook his head and smiled crookedly. “You can say something that’s supposed to be nice, like you’re trying to compliment me, and you make it sound so bad.”
Harper bristled. “How was that bad? I was just thanking you!”
“Exactly!” He motioned to her, the sad, crooked smile still on his face. “You’re thanking me, and I can just hear the ‘but’ coming.” He changed his voice to a high falsetto, presumably meant to sound like Harper. “‘Thank you so much for helping me, Daniel, but the thing is, you’re a dick.’”
“I never said that!” Harper shot back, genuinely offended by his impersonation. “I would never say that! I don’t think you’re a dick!”