Though she didn’t want to admit it, Harper knew that Marcy was probably right. Luke wasn’t coming home alive.
“I need a break,” Harper said suddenly and stood up.
“What?” Marcy looked up at her from behind her ridiculous eyewear.
“I think I’ll just go across the street and grab a Coke or something. But I need to just…” Harper shook her head. She didn’t know what she needed exactly, but she wanted to stop thinking about Luke.
“So you’re gonna leave me here alone?” Marcy asked, sounding frightened at the prospect of having to deal with patrons.
Harper glanced around the empty library. “I think you can handle it. Besides,” Harper said as she pushed back her chair, “I abandoned my sick sister yesterday to help out. You can cover for me for like thirty minutes.”
“Thirty minutes?” Marcy called after Harper as she walked out the door.
Just stepping out in the sun helped alleviate some of her unease. It was too beautiful a day to imagine anything bad happening. She tried to shake off her discomfort as she went across the street to Pearl’s Diner.
The diner was run-down and dingy, so it managed to keep away a lot of the tourists, who hung around the beach. It didn’t have an over-the-top seafaring theme like most of the places by the bay, aside from one painting over the bar. It was a huge picture of a mermaid sitting on an open clamshell, holding a big pearl.
A few booths lined the large front window, and stools covered in cracked red vinyl ran along the counter. Pearl had a few pieces of pie displayed in a glass case, but she only served two kinds—lemon and blueberry. The tiles on the floor were supposed to be red and white, but the white was more of a beige now.
It was usually only the locals who went there. That was what was so weird about Penn and her friends coming to Pearl’s. They frequented it so often, they’d nearly become regulars, and they weren’t even from Capri.
At the thought of Penn, Harper immediately looked around the diner. The last thing she needed was to run into them.
Fortunately, Penn, Thea, and Lexi were nowhere in sight. Daniel, however, was sitting at a small table by himself eating a cup of soup when Harper walked in. He smiled when he saw her, so she went over to him.
“I didn’t know you ate here.”
“I gotta come here for Pearl’s famous clam chowder.” Daniel grinned, then gestured to the empty seat across from him. “Care to join me?” She chewed her lip, debating whether or not she should, so he said, “You do owe me a rain check after the ice-cream incident.”
“I do,” she admitted, and, almost reluctantly, she sat down across from him.
“I even got soup, so we’re right on track for a meal of equal value.”
“That we are.”
“So what brings you here?” Daniel asked.
“Lunch,” Harper said, and he laughed at the obvious. “Actually, I work across the street at the library. I’m on break now.”
“You come here a lot, then?” He’d finished his soup, so he pushed the bowl to the side and leaned forward, resting his elbows on the table.
“Not really, no.” She shook her head. “My coworker Marcy hates being left alone at the library, so I usually eat my lunch there.”
“Except for when your dad forgets his lunch.”
“Yeah, except for that.”
“Does he really forget his lunch that often?” He gave her a curious look, his hazel eyes dancing.
Harper returned his curious expression. “Yeah. Why?”
“Really?” Daniel did nothing to mask his disappointment. “Because I was starting to think you were looking for excuses to see me.”
“Hardly.” She lowered her eyes and laughed.
Daniel smiled, but he looked ready to protest her dismissal of his claims when Pearl came over to take Harper’s order. She was a heavyset woman who used home hair-dye kits in an attempt to cover her gray, but it only left her with blue hair.
“How was the chowder?” Pearl asked, picking up Daniel’s bowl.
“Great as always, Pearl.”
“You should come in to eat it more, then,” Pearl said, then pointed to his slender frame. “You’re wasting away. What are you eating out there on the boat?”
“Nothing nearly as good as your food,” Daniel admitted.
“Well, I tell you what. My daughter’s air conditioner is on the fritz again. Her good-for-nothing husband can’t fix it, and she’s got those two little babies in that tiny apartment,” Pearl said. “They can’t handle the heat the way you or I can. If you swing by and check out her A/C tonight, I’ll send you home with a big bucket of my chowder.”
“You got yourself a deal.” He smiled. “Tell your daughter I’ll stop by around six.”
“Thank you. You’re a real sweetheart, Daniel.” Pearl winked at him, then turned to Harper. “What can I get for you?”
“Just a Cherry Coke,” Harper said.
“One Cherry Coke, coming up.”
“You can order more than a Coke if you want,” Daniel told Harper once Pearl had left to fill the order. “I was just kidding about you having to pay for something of equal value.”
“I know. I’m just not that hungry.” In truth, her stomach was still twisted from thinking about Luke. It had calmed down some since she’d gotten here, but her appetite hadn’t returned.
“Are you sure?” Daniel asked again. “You’re not one of those girls that won’t eat in front of a guy she’s trying to impress?”
Harper laughed at his presumption. “First of all, I’m not trying to impress you. And second, I’m definitely not one of those girls. I’m just not hungry.”
“Here you go,” Pearl said, setting the glass on the table. “Is there anything else I can get you?”
“No, we’re fine, thanks.” Harper smiled up at her.
“All right. Let me know if you need anything.” Pearl touched Daniel’s arm gently before she left and gave him another grateful smile.
“What’s that about, by the way?” Harper asked in a low voice and leaned across the table so Pearl wouldn’t overhear her. “You get paid in chowder?”
“Sometimes.” Daniel shrugged. “I’m kind of a handyman, I guess. I do odd jobs. Pearl’s daughter doesn’t have very much money, and I help out when I can.”