“Harper!” Gemma threw her head back and groaned. “Let’s say this is my last night here—”
“It’s not.” Harper cut her off and looked at Gemma severely. “We’ll find a way—”
“No, Harper, listen to me.” Gemma cut her off. “I’m not saying it is. I’m just saying, what if? Because there is a chance that we might not have that many nights together as a family. I mean, even if we fix this whole curse thing, you’re leaving in a matter of weeks for college.”
“That’s your justification for wasting food?” Harper raised an eyebrow.
“No, I’m just…” Gemma sighed. She looked at Harper, smiling, and her honey-colored eyes were hopeful. “Let’s just have fun tonight, and worry about the mess tomorrow.”
“Okay,” Harper relented. “But I am not having a food fight.”
“Fine.” Gemma turned and started making meatballs next to Harper. “But will you at least laugh at my jokes about the balls?”
“Probably not.” Harper grinned. “Plus, we probably have enough meatballs by now.”
“You can never have too many balls,” Gemma said.
“That’s what she said,” Harper said, attempting to make a bad joke, and Gemma burst out laughing.
“It’s not even that funny,” Gemma said through her own laughter. “I just can’t believe you said it.”
“Hey, I’m trying,” Harper said.
She might’ve even laughed along with her sister, but a loud knock at the front door interrupted her thoughts. Gemma didn’t seem to notice, happy to continue giggling, but Harper went over to the sink to wash her hands. She wasn’t sure if the sirens would knock at the front door, but they’d done it before when they came to get Gemma, so she wouldn’t put it past them.
“Harper,” Brian said as he came into the kitchen. “Someone’s at the door for you.”
“Who is it?” Harper asked as she hurried to dry her hands with a towel.
Gemma had finally gotten her giggling fit under control and turned around to see Brian standing in the kitchen doorway.
“Daniel,” Brian said, and that explained the pained expression on his face. He clearly wasn’t thrilled about boys coming around for his daughters.
“Oh, um…” Harper pushed her hair back behind her ear and shook her head. “I’m busy making supper.”
“Nonsense,” Gemma said. “You go talk to Daniel. Me and Dad can handle this, can’t we?” Brian seemed reluctant to agree to this, so Gemma smiled at him. “Come on, Dad. If you don’t help me make supper, I’ll find a way to burn everything. Even the noodles.”
“Go on.” Brian nodded at Harper and offered her a small smile. “I’ll help your sister.”
“Okay, then.” She smiled thinly at Brian and Gemma, trying to look grateful, when she really didn’t feel that grateful.
She’d spent the day with her sister preparing for a siren attack, so she probably looked horrible. Besides that, she’d told Daniel she didn’t want to see him anymore just the day before. And that had been hard enough to do the first time. She didn’t want to do it again.
In the living room, Daniel was standing with his back to her. He was bent forward slightly, admiring the pictures that lined the mantel.
Harper watched him for a moment, feeling a pang of regret at having to send him away, then she cleared her throat.
“Daniel?” Harper said, and he turned to face her.
“Are these your parents?” Daniel pointed to a wedding photo of her mom and dad.
She nodded. “Yeah, that’s them.”
“Your mom is very pretty,” Daniel said.
“Yeah, she is,” Harper agreed, and walked over to him. “Gemma really takes after her.”
“Yeah, I can see that.” Daniel glanced back at the picture as if to confirm the observation, then smiled back at Harper. “But you’re prettier.”
Harper looked down at her feet, blushing slightly. “You shouldn’t say things like that.”
“You know why not,” she said. Gemma and Brian laughed in the kitchen, and Harper looked back toward the other room. “I should really go back and help them.”
“They’re laughing, Harper, not screaming for help,” Daniel pointed out. “And your dad is a grown man. I’m pretty sure he can handle making supper without you.”
“What are you doing here, Daniel?” Harper asked, finally looking up at him. “Yesterday, I thought I made things perfectly clear.”
“You did,” Daniel agreed.
Harper stared up at him in disbelief. “So … why are you here?”
“After you left yesterday, I thought hard about what you said,” Daniel explained. “What stood out the most is that you finally admitted that you like me.”
“Ugh.” She sighed. “You totally missed the point of everything I said.”
“No, I didn’t,” Daniel insisted. “It came through loud and clear. You say you’re busy with your sister. I say I can help you with that, the same way Alex and Marcy can help you. Only better, because I’m the one that actually found Gemma, remember?”
“I’m the one that knew which house it was,” Harper said, avoiding his eyes. “I mean, I appreciate your help, but we could’ve … we probably would’ve found her. Eventually.”
“Maybe, maybe not,” Daniel allowed. “But I helped you find her this time, and I helped you fight the sirens on the island, and I helped you rescue her on the beach, and I scared the sirens away from her once. The point is, if you want to take care of your sister, you want me on your side.
“No, scratch that.” Daniel waved his hand. “You need me. So you can’t use that as an excuse to stay away from me anymore.”
“It’s not an excuse,” Harper said. “I’m trying to do the right thing here. I really am. I’m trying to protect Gemma and you! You conveniently forgot about that part, Daniel.” She lowered her voice, in case her dad might overhear. “These are monsters that kill boys, and you’re a boy. I don’t want them to hurt you.”
“I didn’t forget about that,” Daniel said. “You just don’t get to make decisions for me.”
Harper was genuinely offended. “I’m not!”