“And you stayed here?” Harper asked.
“Well, I wasn’t exactly invited to join them, but I don’t think I would’ve gone anyway. My boat’s here, and that’s about the only thing I really owned. And I grew up here, so…” His voice trailed off.
“I’m glad you stayed.”
He looked up at her finally and smiled. “Me, too.”
They finished their salads, and moved on to dinner and dessert. Harper tried to wash the dishes, but he wouldn’t let her. He insisted that it was a romantic evening, and the cleaning could wait until tomorrow.
Daniel let her pick the movie from his rather modest collection, and she chose Edward Scissorhands. It wasn’t her favorite, but given a choice between that and Jaws, Mad Max, or The Godfather, she thought it seemed like the most romantic.
They started out sitting on the couch next to each other, but it wasn’t long before Daniel was lying on his back and Harper was curled up with him. Her head was on his chest, and he had one arm wrapped around her.
Normally, Harper would lie awake in bed for hours before she could fall asleep. Her mind would race through all her concerns, almost all of them involving Gemma, sirens, or college, and when she was really in a mood, she could stay up all night worrying about her mom, her dad, Alex, Marcy, really anything and everything.
But something about being with Daniel like this, feeling safe and secure as he held her to him, the sound of his heart beating slowly under her ear, was putting her to sleep.
For his part, Daniel had been working incredibly hard over the last few weeks. When he wasn’t at the theater trying to get the set together or doing odd jobs, he was fixing up the house.
So within minutes both of them were sleeping soundly on the couch.
She woke up first, and she knew she should’ve felt some panic at waking up in a strange place, but she couldn’t muster the anxiety. Lying with Daniel felt too good. Besides, the clock on his wall said it was only a quarter after eleven, so Gemma probably wasn’t even home yet.
He was still asleep, but he must’ve woken up at some point because the television was off. The only light was the moon pouring in through the open windows. It wasn’t full yet, but it was bright enough that Harper watched him sleep for a minute.
If he woke up and caught her, she’d be incredibly embarrassed, but he looked so peaceful and handsome as he slept. His unshaven scruff made him ruggedly sexy, and she had a feeling that if he shaved it completely, he might look too pretty. His skin was smooth, and his mouth had a sexy, sinful quality to it.
The urge to kiss him overtook her, and she decided that she’d better wake him first. They hadn’t had their after-dinner make-out session yet, and to set the mood, she wanted to wake him in the right way.
“Daniel?” she whispered in his ear, doing her best to sound sultry and seductive. “Daniel?”
He didn’t stir at all. Not even slightly, and she was speaking right into his ear. She instantly began to panic, and she couldn’t tell if he was breathing or not. When she’d fallen asleep she’d heard his heartbeat, but had she heard it a few minutes ago when she awoke?
“Daniel?” Harper asked again, and by now she was certain that he’d died while she was asleep. “Daniel?”
He moved his head. “Hmm?” He turned to look at her, opening his eyes slowly, and she let out a deep breath. “What?”
“You didn’t hear that?” she asked. She sat up a bit, and he moved his hand to her back.
Daniel still appeared groggy and didn’t seem to completely understand the situation. It must’ve been apparent that she was upset, because he rubbed her back to comfort her.
“What?” Daniel asked, becoming more alert.
“I was saying your name. I was whispering right in your ear.”
He furrowed his brow. “Why were you whispering in my ear?”
“I was trying to wake you up all romantic-like.”
“Aw.” He smiled. “That’s very sweet of you.”
He tried to pull her down, either to kiss her or so she’d lie with him again, but she resisted. She was still confused and anxious.
“Yeah, but why couldn’t you hear me?”
“The accident.” He sat up a little bit, since he’d begun to realize that Harper wasn’t going to let this go.
“You mean the boating accident you were in with your brother?”
“Yeah. It messed up my back. I don’t have complete range of motion in this shoulder, and I have all these nifty scars.” He rolled his right shoulder, trying to show it didn’t move so well. “But it hurt my ears, too. It didn’t damage the outer part, but it messed something up so I can’t hear certain octaves. I’m not deaf, but just some stuff I can’t hear.”
“Did it mess up both ears?” Harper asked.
“Yeah, the right is worse than the other.” Daniel motioned to the ear she’d been whispering in. “I almost lost my hearing completely in it, but I had a surgery, and it’s pretty much fine now. The other one was never that bad to begin with. But there’s a nasty scar running across the back of my skull. If I ever go bald, it’ll be gross.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this before?” Harper asked, and she knew her tone was more pointed than she wanted it to be, but she couldn’t help it.
“I showed you the scars before,” he reminded her.
“But you didn’t tell me about your hearing.” She sat up completely now, pulling away from him, and that only made his confusion deepen.