It was like she wasn’t really there. Penn hit all the right notes, but they all rang false. She was merely the façade of a human being, with nothing behind it.
“I was taking a walk around town and I spotted you working, so I thought I would say hello,” Penn said.
“Hello, Penn.” He smiled at her. “Satisfied?”
“Hardly.” She laughed. “You never leave me satisfied. Although I know a trick or two I’m sure you’d love.”
Daniel rolled his eyes and turned away from her. “Charming.”
“You say that like you don’t mean it, but I think you do.” Penn hopped on the sawhorse next to him as he bent over to write on the blueprints.
“Do you really?” He glanced up at her in disbelief. “What have I done to give you that impression? Was it that time I punched you in the jaw? Or when you were kicking me repeatedly in the ribs?”
He was referencing their encounter on the Fourth of July, the one and only time he’d ever hit a woman. Though he wasn’t completely certain that Penn could count as a real woman. After all, she was a man-eating monster.
Penn waved it off. “That was just a little fun and games. Nobody got hurt.”
“So you’ve forgotten how Lexi murdered your boyfriend?” Daniel asked her absently as he made a mark on his papers.
“Gemma told you about that?” Penn clicked her tongue. “I thought she kept murder a secret. Especially after what she did.”
For a minute Daniel tried to ignore her. He finished checking his measurements against the blueprints, so all he had left to do was the actual sawing. He stood up and looked over at Penn, who’d been watching him with a smirk on her face.
“Okay. I’ll bite,” he said, tapping his pencil against the palm of his hand. “What did Gemma do?”
“She didn’t tell you?” Penn asked with faux surprise. “I thought there weren’t secrets between you and your girlfriend’s kid sister. It’s a bit strange how much time you spend with her, isn’t it?”
“No. But it is a bit strange how much I spend with you.” He walked a few steps away from her to put the blueprints under a heavy chunk of wood so they wouldn’t blow away as he worked.
“You do have a point there,” Penn said. She hopped off the sawhorse, but she didn’t follow him.
“So … did Gemma do something?” He faced her. “Or was that all a lie to get my attention?”
“Oh, no, she did something.” Penn smiled widely. “She killed and fed on a young man when we were staying in the beach house. I can’t remember his name, but I probably never knew it. Gemma did it on her own.”
Daniel shoved his pencil behind his ear and tried to remember what he’d heard about that. It had been over a month ago, and Gemma had never really spoken much about it, at least not to him.
The only thing he really knew was what he read in the paper. There had been something about a guy named Jason Way, who was in his thirties and had been convicted of rape and domestic assault. That was how Daniel and Harper had been able to find Gemma after she’d run off with the sirens. They’d been staying in a beach house about an hour from Myrtle Beach. Harper had been searching everywhere for Gemma, until Daniel found the article about Jason Way’s murder.
He’d been eviscerated the same way the other sirens’ victims had been, so Daniel and Harper assumed that Penn or Lexi or Thea had done it. But now Penn was implying Gemma had.
“The body they found?” Daniel asked. “The rapist?”
“Maybe.” She lowered her eyes, seeming disappointed by Daniel’s calm reaction. “I don’t know the details.”
“Well, whatever Gemma did, if she even did anything, I’m sure she did it to protect herself,” he said.
Penn scoffed. “So that’s it? She gets away with murder, literally? But I endure the cold shoulder?”
“I give you the warmest shoulder I can, Penn,” Daniel said honestly.
He went on to continue what he’d been working on. He brushed past her to get his tools together.
“What is it that you’re doing?” Penn asked as he made sure the extension cord was plugged into the back of the theater.
“Building the sets for the play. Thea must’ve told you something about it.”
“She’s told me too much about it.” Penn groaned. “She won’t stop quoting Shakespeare. It’s obnoxious.”
“I thought you would like that kinda thing. Isn’t it from your heyday?” He came back to where she stood, since she was standing next to his saw. He crouched down next to the machine, checking the cords and blades.
“It’s still my heyday. I’ll never go out of style,” she told him confidently.
He smirked at that. “I stand corrected.”
“What’s on your back?”
Daniel’s tattoo took up most of his back. It was a thick black tree, with the roots growing below the waist of his jeans. The trunk grew upward, over his spine, then went to the side so the branches extended out over his shoulder and down his right arm.
The branches appeared to be shaded, but they were twisted along the scars that covered his upper back and shoulder. The shadows were real, and the tattoo was meant to cover up the scars that he’d gotten when a boat propeller ran him over.
“Not the tattoo,” Penn said. “The scars.”
He was still crouched down, adjusting the blade on the saw, and he wasn’t paying that much attention to her. Then he felt her fingertips gently touching the outline of his tattoo, and he jerked his shoulder back, pushing her hand off him.
“Whoa, easy there, Penn.” Daniel turned back to her and held his hand out. “I don’t touch you, and I’d appreciate it if you did me the same favor.”
“The difference is that I wouldn’t mind if you touched me.” Penn smiled, and he stood up to face her. “And you don’t know it yet, but you’d love it if you let me run my hands all over you.”
She reached out, meaning to run her hand along the contours of his stomach, but he grabbed her wrist just before she could. He gripped hard enough that it would be painful for a human, but she only smiled up at him.
“This is your last warning,” Daniel said, his voice low and threatening. “Okay?”
She licked her lips, undeterred by his apparent anger. “What will you do next time?”