Harper turned her attention back to Daniel. “Anyway, what can I do for you?”
“I know that you have that dinner with your family tonight, and I don’t want to intrude on that.” He’d been holding the box so it was hidden from Harper on the other side of the counter, and now he lifted it up and set it down in front of her. “But I wanted to get this to you before you left.”
“You didn’t have to get me anything,” Harper said.
Daniel laughed and looked ashamed. “Now you’re making me feel bad, because I didn’t get you anything. I found this.”
“What is it?” Harper asked, but she was already lifting off the top to peer inside.
“I’ve been cleaning out the cabin, and I found this little secret attic compartment in the top of my closet,” Daniel explained. “There were a few mice living up there, and then this box, containing some memorabilia.”
On top were stacks of old pictures. Some of them had been chewed at the corners, probably by the mice that Daniel had mentioned, but most of them appeared to be in fairly good shape.
“I thought we’d gotten all of Bernie’s stuff out of the cabin. I was wondering why he didn’t have any pictures of his wife in his old photo albums,” Harper said as she sifted through the pictures.
“No, he has quite a few,” Daniel said.
But she didn’t need him telling her that. She’d barely even dug into it and she’d already found dozens of pictures of Bernie and his wife. Both of them appeared very young, and Harper guessed that Bernie couldn’t have been more than twenty-two.
Their wedding picture was particularly gorgeous. Her dress was exquisite, and she was absolutely breathtaking. Her long blond hair had a few simple curls, and her smile was radiant. Bernie stood next to her, a young man who’d never looked happier or more dapper, but she stole the whole picture. It was almost as if the camera couldn’t focus on anything else but her.
“She was so stunning.” Harper admired a picture of Bernie and his wife in a modest 1950s-style bikini, then held it out for Daniel to see. “Look at her. And look at how handsome Bernie was. They were so happy.”
Since she was holding it out, she could see their names scrawled on the back: Bernard and Thalia McAllister—Honeymoon, June 1961.
“And Thalia,” Harper said. “That’s such a beautiful name. I always forget it, but it’s so pretty.” Something occurred to her, something she couldn’t quite place. “Does that name sound familiar to you?”
“No, I can’t say that I’ve ever known any Thalias.” Daniel shook his head.
“You say you found all this in the attic?” Harper asked.
“Yeah. This box was the only thing I found up there, other than mouse droppings.”
“Strange,” she said. “I wonder why he hid this.”
Harper set the picture aside and started digging deeper into the box, where the pictures gave way to papers. Old love letters, news clippings of their wedding announcement, even one with an article about Bernie buying the island with money he’d inherited.
“What happened to her?” Daniel asked. He leaned forward, trying to read the papers upside down.
“I don’t know exactly. She had an accident,” Harper said, then she discovered the clipping with Thalia’s obituary. “Oh, here. It says she fell off a ladder while trimming her rosebush and broke her neck. She was only twenty-four.
“They’d been married for two years,” she said sadly. “That’s so horrible. Can you imagine? Thinking you have your whole life together, and then … this. It’s tragic.”
“Well, Bernie seemed like he did all right,” Daniel said, trying to alleviate some of Harper’s unhappiness. “He had a pretty good life, up until the end.”
“Yeah, he did.” She nodded. “He loved that cabin. You know he built the whole thing just for her? He said that her love inspired him.”
“Pfft,” Daniel scoffed, causing Harper to look up at him. “That cabin’s not so great. I’d build you an entire castle. With a moat.”
“With a moat?” She grinned. “I must really be special.”
“You certainly are,” he agreed.
He smiled down at her, but something felt off. His smile didn’t actually reach his eyes, and the flecks of blue that normally sparkled in his hazel eyes were dull. It was like he was holding something back.
Harper had been about to ask him about it when the phone rang.
“Don’t worry, I got it!” Marcy called from the office. “You two just keep flirting. I’ll work and eat yogurt.”
“I think she’s kinda freaking out that I’m leaving,” Harper said.
“I can’t say that I’m too thrilled about it, either,” Daniel admitted.
And that was what she decided he must be holding back. He was getting a little upset about her leaving, but he didn’t want her to know. Because what else would Daniel be keeping from her?
“I could always—” Harper began, but he immediately cut her off.
“No. I know what you’re gonna say, and no. I’ll miss you, but I’ll survive. And so will you.”
“Edie called,” Marcy said as she came out of the office, empty yogurt container in hand. “She claims she’s having some kind of car trouble. But she’ll be here in ten minutes. She apologized for the terrible inconvenience.”
“I’m gonna go put this stuff back with my purse.” Harper put everything back in the box and put the lid on it. “I don’t want to forget it, and I don’t want to give Edie another reason to talk about marriage.”
“Ha! I told you it was annoying,” Marcy said, sounding victorious.
Harper walked to the office. “I never disagreed with you.”
Marcy pushed her glasses up, and then turned to face Daniel. “What’s up, hot cheeks?” she asked, completely deadpan.
“What?” Daniel asked as he laughed.
“I told Harper that I’d keep an eye on you while she’s gone. I figured that without her, you’d be missing the flirty banter, so I thought I would step in and try it out. That work for you, stud muffin?”
He smirked. “That sounds great, four eyes.”
“Four eyes?” Marcy was taken aback. “Really? That’s the best you can come up with?”
“I don’t know. I panicked.” He shook his head. “Four pretty eyes?”