“Why not?” Harper asked, but she’d already hit the call button and held the phone up to her ear.
“Because she’ll know that I told on her, and she’ll be pissed at both of us.”
“I don’t care.” She listened to the ringing and hoped Gemma would hurry and pick up.
“This is why she doesn’t tell you stuff,” Daniel said. “You act like her mom.”
Harper froze for a second. That was about the worst thing Daniel could call her. She’d been trying really hard to act more like a sister and a friend than a parent. It wasn’t good for either of them if Harper kept smothering Gemma.
She was just about to hang up when Gemma finally answered.
“Gemma?” Harper said. “Sorry. Pocket dial.” She paused as Gemma said something. “Yep. I’ll see you when I get home.” She hung up and shoved the phone back in her purse, then looked at Daniel. “There. Was that better?”
He smiled. “A little bit, yeah.”
“Why did you even tell me this?” Harper asked. “You knew how I’d react.”
“I thought you should be aware of the situation, so you can kinda keep an eye out for stuff,” he said. “But you have to let her live her own life, make her own choices. And right now all she’s done is flirt with a guy. It’s not time to sound the alarm.”
Harper swallowed hard and shook her head. “I don’t know how I’m supposed to act or what I’m supposed to do. If I see her in danger, I’m just supposed to let her be in danger?”
“If Gemma was standing in front of a moving bus, I would expect nothing less than for you to run and push her out of the way,” Daniel said. “But she’s not standing in front of a bus. And we’re on a date.”
“I know.” She took a deep breath. “I’m trying.”
“I know.” He reached across the table, taking her hand in his. “And I think it’s sweet that you have to work so hard at caring less. You’re like the exact opposite of the Grinch. Your heart is three sizes too big.”
She smiled and blushed a little. “That was really cheesy. But also sweet.”
“That’s what I was going for.” Daniel grinned. “I like to think that I walk the fine line between cheesy and sweet, and I always come out on top.”
“Most of the time, you do.”
Pearl brought them their dinner shortly after that, and the rest of their meal went well. Both of them made a point of not talking about Gemma or the sirens or college—any of the big three downers that consumed Harper’s life.
When they left the diner, the sun was still up, but it was beginning its descent below the horizon. The day had been bordering on overly hot, but as it grew later it managed to hit that perfect spot of just warm enough.
Harper had parked almost a block away, which was the closest spot she’d been able to find next to Pearl’s. She and Daniel began walking to her car, neither of them really speaking, just enjoying each other’s company and the beautiful evening.
“What did you want to do now?” Daniel asked when they reached Harper’s old Sable.
“I don’t know.” She leaned back against the passenger door and stared up at him. “Did you have anything in mind?”
“I was thinking maybe you could come back out to the island with me.” He leaned in toward her, putting one hand next to her on the car.
“Yeah? What will we do out there?”
He pretended to think about it, his expression comically serious, and it made Harper laugh a little. When he looked back down at her, he was smiling, but it fell away to something more intent.
“I could think of a few things,” he said, his voice low, and he leaned down to her.
His lips had just brushed against hers when a commotion down the street pulled her attention from him.
Penn lay stretched out on the sofa of her living room, languidly flipping through a tabloid as Lexi paced in front of her.
“Isn’t it time for Thea to come home?” Lexi asked.
Penn lifted her eyes to peer at the clock over the top of the magazine. “Play rehearsal isn’t even done yet.”
“But this is ridiculous. You brought Liv over last night, and everything went great with her!” Lexi sighed. “She needs twenty-four hours before she’ll even discuss it with us?”
“She said she needed time to ‘gather her thoughts.’” Penn let go of the magazine long enough to do air quotes with one hand.
Lexi stopped in front of the fireplace and turned back to Penn. “You should just go down and pick her up.”
“I let her take the car, remember?” Penn asked.
“Why?” Lexi demanded, her tone taking on a grating whine that made it very hard for Penn not to smack her. “You always drive her.”
“I didn’t feel like it,” Penn said as evenly as she could. “And I suggest you calm the hell down before I make you.”
“Whatever,” Lexi muttered and stormed upstairs.
Within a few minutes music came blasting out of the stereo, and Lexi sang along with it. Penn thought about yelling at her, but listening to Lexi sing was far better than listening to her complain.
It seemed to take Thea far too long to get home, mostly thanks to Lexi’s choice of songs. She seemed content to put Katy Perry on repeat, and while Penn had liked the song in the beginning, by the fifteenth time in a row it began to wear on her.
Fortunately, Lexi shut it off the second Thea walked in through the front door.
“So did you make your decision?” Lexi leaned over the banister in the upstairs loft and shouted down at Thea. “You totally love her, right?”
“Is it okay if I shut the door before you start interrogating me?” Thea asked, pushing her oversized sunglasses onto the top of her head.
“Relax, Lexi,” Penn said, all but begging her. She sat up on the couch and tossed the magazine aside. “We don’t need to make any decisions this instant.”
“Well, it wouldn’t hurt for us to make it now.” Lexi jogged down the stairs, but she tried to quiet the insistence in her voice. “So? What did you think?”
“Rehearsal was fine, thanks for asking,” Thea muttered and sat down in a chair.
“You know nobody cares about your play,” Penn said matter-of-factly, and Thea just sighed.
Lexi sat on a chair across from her, and she was literally on the edge of her seat, staring at Thea expectantly.