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.”
“Good, ’bye!” Penn said happily and waved to her.
“She’s not going anywhere.” Daniel shot Penn a look, then walked to where Harper stood at the edge of the lawn. “What’s going on? Are you mad at me?”
“Why would I be mad at you?” Harper asked. “Just because I had one of the worst days of my entire life and you’re flirting with my mortal enemy? And she is literally a monster that wants to kill you and me and everyone we know, and you’re just chatting with her like old friends?”
Daniel shook his head. “That’s not at all what’s happening here, and you know it. You’re too smart to be jealous over something like this.”
“I’m not jealous,” Harper scoffed, and Penn snickered from where she stood by the sawhorses. “I’d feel about the same right now if I saw you helping Hitler redecorate. She is pure evil, and you shouldn’t be nice to her or hang out with her.”
“I hope you’d be a little more freaked out if I was helping Hitler, because he’d be a zombie,” Daniel said.
“Just never mind.” Harper turned and walked away from him.
“Harper, wait.” Daniel went after her, but she didn’t stop until she thought they were too far away for Penn to eavesdrop. Even then she only stopped because he took her arm. “Harper.”
“I told you to stay away from her,” Harper said. “And I did it for your own good. She’s going to kill you if you spend too much time with her. And you know it. Is it so wrong that I don’t want to see you end up dead?”
“No, but is it so wrong that I want to keep her happy so she doesn’t hurt you or Gemma?” Daniel asked. “Because that’s all I’m trying to do. I’m just keeping the peace, Harper.”
“I know, but…” Harper pushed back her hair. “Maybe it was a bad idea getting involved with you.”
“No.” Daniel shook his head. “I absolutely refuse to do this. Not today. Not ever. You can’t just go into that mode again.”
“What mode?” Harper asked.
“The one where you say you can’t see me to protect me or some crap like that.” He waved it off. “We discussed it before, remember? You don’t have the right to tell me what I choose to do.”
“What am I supposed to do?” Harper asked. “I’m supposed to let you flirt with the devil?”
“I’m not flirting,” Daniel corrected her. “And yes, you’re supposed to let me do what I need to do to keep us all safe. And I let you do the same.”
“I don’t know if I can do that, Daniel,” Harper admitted.
“Look, it’s really hot out,” Daniel said. “Why don’t you go to Pearl’s, get yourself something to drink, and cool off? I’ll be down in a little bit, and you can tell me about your awful morning.”
“What about Penn?” Harper asked.
“What about her?” Daniel asked. “We’re out in broad daylight. She’s not going to eat my heart today.”
“Okay,” Harper relented. “I’ll meet you at Pearl’s in a few minutes.”
“Fifteen minutes, tops.” Daniel was already backing away. “I just have to put my tools away.”
Sighing, she took his advice and walked the few blocks down to Pearl’s. Part of her wanted to go back and help Daniel clean up his tools, but that was just to be sure that Penn left him alone.
Harper hadn’t really thought Penn would hurt Daniel, not in the middle of the afternoon in public, nor did she think that Daniel had any attraction to Penn.
He was right, and in the long term it would be good to stay in Penn’s good graces. But Harper just couldn’t believe that any good could come from being friends with Penn.