“Gemma?” Brian asked, opening her bedroom door.
“Everything is ruined, Dad,” she cried and fell back onto her bed. “I’ve lost everything that matters to me.”
“That’s not true.” Brian came into her room and sat down next to her. “I’m still here, and I’m never going anywhere.”
That only made Gemma sob harder. Brian wrapped his arms around his daughter and held her to him. As she cried into his shoulder, he stroked her hair and kept promising her that everything would be all right.
Daniel’s biggest problem with the island was that he had no cable TV. In reality, he knew he shouldn’t complain, because it wasn’t like he’d had cable out on the boat, either. At least now he had room to get his full-sized television out of storage and put it up.
Harper had come out to his house to escape the heat, and he was more than happy to comply. But once she’d gone home, he was left on the island alone, and he felt restless. He put in a movie, deciding that watching Jaws again for the fiftieth time would be better than staring at the walls.
The window air conditioner he’d put in the cabin when he moved out kept the place rather cool, but not enough. Harper had a rule that both of them kept all their clothes on when they were together, so he actually didn’t mind as much that she’d left tonight, because it meant that he could shed some layers.
He stood in front of his TV, watching an unsuspecting woman swim alone in the ocean as the great white stalked her, and he unbuttoned his shirt.
“Dun dun, dun dun.” Daniel was singing along with the growing intensity of the music when he heard a bang on his roof. “What the heck was that?”
He looked up at the ceiling, before realizing that was dumb and he couldn’t see through it. Then he heard another bang, this one sounding like it came from the ground. He paused the movie, then went to the front door to see if he could find out what was going on.
“Of course I’m going to the front door like a stupid chick in a horror movie,” he muttered. On his way to the door, he doubled back and grabbed a baseball bat from the closet. “Now I just have to remember not to go outside and ask if anyone is there.”
He opened the door, fully expecting to see a raccoon, Harper, or Jason Vorhees. Instead it was just Penn, smiling in that suggestive way that she always did.
“Hey, handsome,” Penn purred.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Daniel asked, but instead of answering him, she slid past him and walked into his house. “Sure, come on in. That’s what I meant.”
“I love what you’ve done with the place,” Penn said as she admired the cabin. “Much nicer than the last time I was out here.”
Daniel sighed and closed the door. He set the bat on the butcher’s block in the kitchen. Right now it didn’t look like he needed it, but things could always take a turn for the worse with Penn.
“How did you get here?” he asked. “You’re not all wet, so you didn’t swim.”
Her halter dress was open all the way in the back, allowing room for her massive black wings to spread out. They were away now, so her smooth flesh appeared normal, but Daniel had seen the monster that lurked underneath.
“Oh, right,” Daniel said. “You’re that bird-monster thing, too. I almost forgot how friggin’ hideous you really are. Thanks for reminding me.”
Penn appeared unfazed by his comments. She hopped up on the kitchen counter, crossing her legs languidly and deliberately, and Daniel averted his eyes.
“Your girlfriend was out here forever. I thought she’d never leave. I was about ready to swoop down and pick her up and drop her off a cliff.”
His heart stopped beating momentarily. “You didn’t, though, right? Harper’s alive and safe?”
“I didn’t touch a hair on her pretty head,” she assured him. “I knew it would put a damper on the mood if I hurt her, so I didn’t.”
“Mood? What mood?” Daniel asked. “And did you just admit to spying on me all night? Are you stalking me?”
She shook her head. “‘Stalking’ is such a strong word.”
“It’s also an accurate one, apparently.” He leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest.
“I was just thinking about what you said yesterday, and I wanted to talk to you about it.” Penn spoke cheerily, like they were old friends catching up over Sunday brunch.
“What did I say? I don’t remember anything that would imply I wanted you to stalk me.”
“I wanted to talk to you alone, and I knew I couldn’t kill your girlfriend, so I waited until she left. That’s all that happened, okay?” Penn sounded annoyed, and Daniel decided not to push it. Things went better when she wasn’t pissed off or homicidal.
“Sure. Okay,” he said. “Now, what did I say that prompted this visit?”
“I’m lonely,” she said, but without the vulnerability he’d seen in her before.
“I thought you had your sisters to keep you company,” Daniel reminded her.
“I kinda hate them.” She thought about it, then wagged her head. “Well, I don’t hate Thea. I don’t know if I hate Gemma yet. She’s a pain in my ass, though. But I do hate Lexi. She’s awful.”
“Yeah, families are tough.”