“You’re only listing the nicest parts of the fairy tales,” Harper said, looking up at him. He was so close to her, they were nearly touching. If she breathed in deeply, her chest would press against his. “What about the monsters?”
“Dragons aren’t the nicest parts of the stories,” Daniel countered, and she smiled crookedly. “But you don’t need to worry about the monsters. I’ll protect you.”
A breeze came up, bringing the sweet scent of the roses with it, and a lock of Harper’s hair came loose and blew in her face. Daniel brushed it back, but let his hand linger on her cheek for a moment as she stared up into his hazel eyes. The way he looked at her made heat swirl in her belly.
She was hoping he’d kiss her, but instead he dropped his hand and took a step back.
“Are you ready to come inside and see what I’ve done with the place?” Daniel asked and moved backward to the cabin door.
“What did you do?” Harper asked, tilting her head.
He smiled. “Come here and you’ll see.”
When Daniel had moved out here two weeks ago, Harper had helped him, but she hadn’t been able to visit him since. Then, the house had been in disarray as he tried to unpack and fix up some of the damage the sirens had left.
He leaned back on the front door now, reaching behind himself to turn the handle, and he stepped backward with it as he opened it. Harper stepped inside cautiously, unsure of what to expect.
She’d expected him to clean it up but she hadn’t known he would redecorate. The walls had been left their natural wood color, but Daniel had painted over them with a varnish, making them look brighter, cleaner, and more modern.
The countertops in the kitchen had been old and cracked, and he’d replaced them with dark stone counters. Bernie’s old furniture had been traded in for a soft couch, and for a coffee table Daniel used an old steamer trunk.
Somehow he’d managed to make the place look fresher and more contemporary, yet still maintain its rustic, seaside appeal.
“This looks amazing,” Harper said and turned around to look at him. “How did you do this? How could you afford all this stuff?”
“I’ve got my ways,” Daniel said. “I did some work for people and collected hand-me-downs and thrift store stuff. Then I just put it all together.”
“This is incredible.” She looked around the cabin again. “You’re really good at this. The sets for Gemma’s play are going to look amazing.”
“I know.” He smiled. “So do you wanna hear what I have planned for our anniversary dinner?”
“It’s not really an anniversary dinner,” Harper said, mostly because she felt a little silly celebrating a one-month. “That was technically two days ago. I think. We did decide that we officially started dating on the Fourth of July, right?”
“Right. It sounds more romantic that way.” Daniel grinned. “We kissed, and then there were fireworks, and we’ve been together ever since.”
She laughed. “There were literally fireworks.”
“That’s the point,” he said. “Now go have a seat. I’m making you dinner.”
“You’re making me dinner?” Harper tried not to look skeptical. “I thought you said you couldn’t cook.”
“I can’t. Now go have a seat.”
He put his hand on the small of her back and gently pushed her over to a small table that separated the kitchen from the living room. A tablecloth was draped over it, with two white candles set in the center.
“So how is this gonnna work, then?” Harper asked after she sat down. “You making dinner if you can’t cook?”
“I have a very simple plan,” he said as he went back to the kitchen.
“You don’t have to do this, you know.” She leaned on the table, watching him open the fridge.
“I know. I want to. I wanted to do something nice and normal.”
He took out a large Tupperware bowl. Harper could make out green leaves with red cherry tomatoes on the side, like he’d cut up and mixed together fresh salad greens earlier. He set the bowl on the counter, then went over to the cupboard.
“Yeah,” he said and pulled plates out of the cupboard. “I’ve never really gotten to take you out on a proper date. The one time I did take you out, it turned into a battle with sirens.”
“We’re not supposed to talk about that,” she reminded him.
He smiled. “Right. Well, you know what happened anyway.”
“So … why does this mean you have to cook for me?” She propped her chin with a hand and fought the urge to get up and help him. It felt wrong having someone else wait on her.
“It doesn’t. But it’s something that guys do,” Daniel explained.
“I can cook for you.”
“I know you can. You’ve done it before, and the food was very tasty, thank you.” He smiled at her, then dished out the salad onto plates.
“I can help you, at least,” she offered.
Daniel stopped what he was doing so he could face her directly. “Harper, I want to do something for you. Will you let me do that?”
“Yes. Sorry.” She smiled sheepishly and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I would love it if you made me dinner.”
“So … what are we having?” Harper asked.
Daniel carried two plates over to the table. He set one down in front of her and one at his place across from her. Fresh arugula, spinach greens, cherry tomatoes, and cucumbers were the only things on her plate so far.
“Well, I thought we’d start with a salad, with homemade vinaigrette,” he told her. “It’s my grandmother’s recipe, and it is delicious.”
“Ooh, sounds intriguing.”
“It is.” He went back into the kitchen and grabbed a small decanter of the vinaigrette from the fridge. “Then, for our next course, I thought we would have a bowl of Pearl’s famous clam chowder.”
“Pearl paid you in a bucket of soup again, didn’t she?” Harper asked as he sat down across from her.
“She did, but it’s amazing,” Daniel admitted. “For dessert, I have not one but two flavors of ice cream. Is your mind blown yet?”
She smiled. “Yeah, it kinda is.”
“So, yeah. That’s my dinner.” He stared expectantly across the table from her. “What do you think?”