Daniel didn’t say anything because he didn’t really know what he’d do. He didn’t have that much he could hold over her head. He let go of her and walked away, wanting to put distance between the two of them.
“I was in an accident,” he said finally.
“What?” Penn asked as she absently rubbed her wrist.
He motioned to his back. “That’s what the scars are from. It’s the same one that screwed up my hearing.”
“What?” Penn asked, and something in her tone made him look back at her. “What did you say?”
“It’s why I’m immune to your song.” He turned to face her fully. “I know you thought it was because I was related to some ex-boyfriend of yours, but I’m not. I’m just an ordinary human with a hearing problem.”
“You’re certain of this?” Penn asked, her voice barely above a whisper.
“Yeah, pretty certain.” He nodded. “So now maybe you can move on, put your interest in some other guy that’s up to your immortal standards.”
For a moment he thought she might take the bait. Penn even seemed to consider it, but then she just shrugged and tossed her hair over her shoulder.
“It’s better that you’re not related to Bastian anyway,” Penn said. “He was a jerk.”
“Lucky me.” He turned his attention back down to the outline he’d been making on the wood.
“You could have a surgery to fix it.” Penn leaned forward on the boards, purposely accentuating her cleavage, but Daniel barely noticed.
“I’ve had surgeries, and it’s fine.” He looked up at her, his hazel eyes squinting in the bright sunlight. “Besides, if we’re being honest here, would you enjoy me even half as much if I was just another zombie under your love spell?”
“Probably not,” she admitted.
“So why do you do it?” Daniel asked her directly. “Why don’t you just stop and let people act the way they want?”
“I can’t help myself.” She lifted up one shoulder in a small shrug. “Everyone grovels at my feet, and I’m not even trying.”
“That actually sounds like a pretty horrible way to live.”
“It can be,” Penn said, her voice sounding oddly small and far away. Then she shook off the mood and smiled brightly at him. “But most of the time life is exactly the way I want it.”
“How old are you?”
“It’s hard to know exactly.” She tucked her hair behind her ear. “We had different calendars back then. But the closest estimate is that I was born in 24 B.C.”
“And almost that entire time you were a siren, with everyone doing anything you wanted?” Daniel asked.
“Pretty much,” she replied cheerily.
He rested his hands on the sawhorse and shook his head. “That sounds lonely.”
Her smile faltered for a split second, a solitary flash of a moment when Daniel realized that he’d gotten it right. This big show that Penn put on about being happy and everything being perfect, that was all it was—a big show. She was lonely.
“I had my sisters,” she said, but she lowered her eyes. “And I was in love. Once.”
“Bastian?” Daniel asked, sincerely intrigued by the idea of Penn feeling anything real for anybody. “The immortal that was immune to you?”
“He was also a jerk,” Penn reminded him.
“You couldn’t control him,” he said, and she nodded. “Did he leave you?”
She licked her lips and breathed deeply before answering. “It was a long time ago.”
“Why don’t you spend more time with immortals? Maybe you could fall in love again,” Daniel suggested.
“I doubt that.” Penn brushed off the idea without really considering it. “Besides, there’s hardly any of us left. Eventually, everything dies.”
“Except me,” she agreed.
“Well, if you’re gonna be hanging around, I’m putting you to work.” Daniel walked back over to her and picked up his saw.
“What?” Penn sounded distressed by the idea. “I don’t work.”
“If you don’t work, I don’t talk,” he said. “Now hold that board.”
Penn didn’t look happy about it, but she did as she was told. He grabbed his safety goggles out of his back pocket, and then he went to work cutting out the set. The saw had the added bonus of being so loud he wouldn’t have to talk to Penn.
After the visit with their mother, Harper needed to clear her head. The ride back home had been suffocating, with Gemma seeming particularly shaken up. Both Brian and Gemma refused to talk about it, and they retired to their separate quarters to come to terms with their own emotions.
Harper decided that the fresh air would do her good, even though it was rapidly approaching ninety degrees outside. She put on the shortest shorts she felt comfortable in and a tank top, and headed out for a walk.
When she’d talked to Daniel the night before, he said he’d be working at the theater on the sets, so she decided to go downtown to see him. Maybe they could grab lunch together, but even if they didn’t, it would be nice to see him after the morning she’d had.
But as she approached the Paramount and heard Penn’s unmistakable laugh, she realized dourly that her day was only going to get worse.
“I told you it’s not that hard,” Daniel was saying as Harper rounded the corner.
His back was to her, his bare skin glistening with sweat, and Penn stood next to him. They were both leaning over a piece of wood, but Penn was leaning much too close to him for Harper’s comfort.
“I’ve never worked a day in my life.” Penn laughed again. “How was I supposed to know?”
“It’s just holding a board,” Daniel said. “Anyone can handle it. Even a pampered princess like you.”
“You think I’m a princess?” Penn teased.
“Working hard, I see,” Harper said loudly, interrupting their conversation.
Penn glared back at her, her dark eyes looking even more menacing than normal. Daniel turned around more slowly, but he broke out in a broad grin when he saw her.
“Hey, Harper,” he said. “I didn’t expect to see you today. I thought you were visiting your mom.”
“I was.” She folded her arms over her chest. “And I thought I would stop by and say hello, but I can see you’re busy, so I’ll go.”