She put the car in drive and sped off so quickly she nearly clipped another driver, and that was very unlike her. As she drove down to the dock, slowing her racing heart, Harper once again thought about how much better it would be if Penn would just leave.
Harper had been hoping to miss him, but lately it seemed that none of her trips to the dock would be complete without running into Daniel. He lived on a boat that he kept docked there, even though it was a small cabin cruiser, not really meant for habitation of longer than a day or two.
Brian worked at the north end of the bay, unloading barges that came in. Because that side of Anthemusa Bay was used for working ships, it was less appealing to tourists, and most of the privately owned boats were moored down closer to the beach. Of course, there were a few locals who still kept boats at the working end of the dock, and Daniel happened to be one of them.
The first time Harper had met him, she’d been on her way to see Brian at the dock. Apparently, Daniel had woken up and decided to pee over the edge of the boat. She just happened to look up at precisely the wrong time and got a full view of his manly parts.
Harper had screamed, and Daniel immediately pulled up his pants. That was when he had jumped down from the boat to introduce himself and apologize profusely. If he hadn’t been laughing the entire time, she might have actually accepted his apology.
Today, as Harper walked by his boat—aptly named The Dirty Gull—Daniel was standing shirtless on the deck, even though the air was chilled from the wind blowing across the bay.
He had his back to her, so she could see the tattoo that stretched across it. The roots started just above his pants, and the trunk grew upward, over his spine, then twisted to the side. Thick black branches extended out, covering his shoulder and going down his right arm.
She held her hand to the side of her face, saving herself from looking at him. Just because he had pants on and appeared to be pinning his clothes on a line to dry didn’t mean he wouldn’t drop trou at any moment.
Because of her attempts to shield her vision, Harper didn’t see anything. It wasn’t until Daniel shouted, “Watch out!” that she looked up, and a sopping-wet something smacked her in the face.
It knocked her off balance, and Harper fell back onto the dock, landing unceremoniously on her butt. Daniel jumped over the railing on the bow and landed on the dock.
Harper immediately ripped the something from her face, still unsure of what it was exactly, except that it was wet and came from Daniel, so she could only assume that it was something horrendous.
“Sorry about that,” Daniel said, but he was laughing as he picked up the item from where she’d thrown it aside. “Are you okay?”
“Yes, I’m fine,” Harper snapped. He held out his hand to help her up, but she swatted it away and got to her feet. “No thanks to you.”
“I really am sorry,” Daniel repeated. He kept smiling at her, but he managed to look sheepish about it, so Harper decided to hate him a little less. But only a little.
“What was that?” Harper asked, wiping at her face with the sleeve of her shirt.
“Just a T-shirt.” He unballed it and held it out to reveal an ordinary Hanes shirt. “A clean shirt. I was hanging my laundry up to dry, and the wind got ahold of it and blew it out to you.”
“You’re hanging your clothes up now?” Harper gestured at the overcast sky. “That’s completely idiotic.”
“Well, I was running out of clean clothes.” Daniel shrugged and ran a hand through his shaggy hair. Harper could never tell if it was dirty blond or just dirty. “I know some ladies wouldn’t mind if I ran around without clothes, but—”
“Yeah, right.” Harper made a disgusted sound in her throat, which only made Daniel laugh again.
“Look, I’m sorry,” he said. “I really am. I know you don’t believe me, but you can let me make it up to you.”
“You can make it up to me by not traumatizing me every time I walk by,” Harper suggested.
“Traumatize?” Daniel smirked and raised an eyebrow. “It was just a T-shirt, Harper.”
“Yeah, it was just a T-shirt this time.” Harper glared at him. “You’re not even supposed to be living on these boats. Why don’t you get a real place, and this won’t be a problem?”
“Easier said than done.” He sighed and looked away from her then, staring out at the bay. “You’re right, though. I’ll be more careful.”
“That’s all I’m asking,” she said and started walking away.
“Harper,” Daniel said. Against her better judgment, she stopped and looked back at him. “Why don’t you let me buy you a coffee sometime?”
“No, thanks,” Harper replied quickly, maybe too quickly judging by the wounded expression that flashed across his face. But he erased it just as fast and smiled at her.
“All right.” He nodded. “See you later.”
Harper turned away from him without saying anything more, leaving him standing alone on the dock. She was actually taken aback by his invitation, but she wasn’t tempted. Not even slightly.
Sure, Daniel was kinda cute, in a grungy rock star sorta way, but he was older than her by a couple of years, and he didn’t have his life together at all.
Besides that, she’d made a pact with herself that she wouldn’t date until college. She was too focused on getting her life in order, and she didn’t have any time to waste on guys. That had been her plan all along, but she really recommitted to it after her dip into the dating world last fall.
Alex had set her up with his friend Luke Benfield, insisting they would be a good match. Even though they went to the same school, Harper had never had any classes with Luke and didn’t really know him, but after much prodding from Alex, she finally caved.
The only time she’d really seen Luke around was when he was at Alex’s house for a Halo party or some other video gaming event. Harper didn’t usually partake in those activities, so her interaction with Luke had been minimal before they went on a date.
The date itself went well enough that she’d agreed to go with Luke on a few more. He was nice and funny, albeit in an overtly geeky manner, but in his own way, he was sorta cute. It was when they’d elevated their relationship to kissing that things went sour.
Harper had only kissed one other boy, at a slumber party in the eighth grade on a dare, but even with her limited experience, she was certain that kissing wasn’t supposed to go the way it went with Luke.