Tidal / Page 58

Page 58


His shirt was unbuttoned all the way down, so he was exposed. Almost tentatively, she put her hands on his stomach, and he let her. He stared down at her, his breath coming out ragged.

Penn stood up on her tiptoes, and he closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to see her as she pressed her lips to his. She kissed him gently—tenderly, even.

At first he did nothing, but then slowly he began to kiss her back. Her body was pressed hot against his, but he kept his arms at his sides, unwilling to touch her.

She leaned in, kissing him more deeply, and he was surprised to find his body responding. As much as she repulsed him, the way she touched him actually did feel good.

Her lips traveled down, kissing his neck and then his chest. He leaned back, resting his head against the wall, and he felt her hands moving south, unbuttoning his jeans.

“Penn…” He pushed her hands away. She let go of his pants, but she moved her hands to his sides, still hanging on to him. “No. Penn.” She tried to kiss him again, and he turned his head away. He grabbed both her wrists and pushed her back away from him. “I said no. I can’t do this.”

She yanked her wrists free from his and stepped back, stomping on the floor. Her eyes were yellow-green, and Daniel stayed against the wall, not wanting to set her off.

“It’s because of that stupid bitch, isn’t it?” Penn snarled. “If I get her out of the way, you won’t have any reason to deny me, will you?”

“Don’t even.” He walked to her, so he could stand right in front of her and tower over her. “Right now you’re just a nuisance. You’ve been harassing the people I care about, but you haven’t done anything to me. If you hurt Harper or Gemma, then you’ve crossed me. Then I’ll do everything in my power to destroy you, and you will never touch me again.”

“What’s the difference?” She threw her hands up in the air, but her eyes had returned to their normal color. “You’re already telling me that I’ll never have a chance with you. What incentive do I have to keep them alive? What reason do I have to keep you happy?”

He softened a bit and relaxed his stance. “If you care about me the way you supposedly do, you won’t want to hurt me.”

“I don’t think you understand the way love works,” Penn sneered.

He laughed darkly. “No, I think you’re the one with the skewed ideas here.”

“I’ll be completely straight with you, okay? I’m laying it all out,” Penn said. “I have been alive for thousands of years. And I used to care very deeply about things, but after a while, your heart kinda goes numb. Everything kinda goes numb.

“I may not love you,” she went on. “I may not love anything. But you are the first thing that has held my interest in a very long time, and I will lie, murder, and devour anything to get what I want. Do you understand what I am saying to you?”

“Yes,” Daniel said softly.

“So what’s it going to be? Your girlfriend’s head on a platter, or a night with me?” She crossed her arms and waited for his answer.

He swallowed hard. “Fine. But not tonight.”

“When?”

“After Harper leaves for college.”

“When is that?”

“A few days.” He ran a hand through his hair. “Her classes start this Thursday.”

“It’s Sunday,” Penn said. “So, in three days, we’ll do it.”

“Let’s make it Friday. Give me a day to … get myself together.” He paused. “But she can never find out, okay? Harper must never know. Gemma can’t know, either.”

Penn smiled. “I won’t tell if you don’t tell.”

“Penn. I’m serious.” He stared her directly in her black eyes. “I won’t lose Harper, not over you.”

“It’s a deal, then.” She smirked. “Shall we kiss on it?”

“I’ll shake, but that’s it.”

“Fine.” She held out her hand, and he took it, shaking it once.

“So I just sold my soul to the devil,” Daniel said.

“I’m really not that bad.” Penn leaned in to him, smiling up at him. “And once I’m through with you, you’ll think you’ve died and gone to heaven.”

Daniel stepped backward, away from her, and without looking he opened the door behind him. He motioned for her to leave.

“Thanks for stopping by, please hesitate to do it again; don’t call me, and I won’t call you,” he said as she slid past him, going out into the hot night air.

Penn turned back to blow him a kiss, and he slammed the door shut.

Resting one hand on the door, he leaned with his head bowed. He had no idea if he’d done the right thing making that deal with her, but he definitely felt like throwing up.

“Fuck.” He sighed. “I need a shower.”

TWENTY-EIGHT

My Discontent

The lights were dim enough over the stage that Gemma could see clearly out into the empty audience chairs, but she wasn’t really looking at anything. Her eyes were vacant, and she absently played with the silver chain around her neck. The theater stayed cool, despite the heat outside, but an odd humidity had crept inside, making it feel damp and musty.

She had stayed up late last night, crying as her dad tried to comfort her. This morning she woke up without all the telltale signs she’d spent the whole night a sobbing mess—no red eyes, no puffy cheeks, not even a runny nose. Her siren radiance was at an all-time high, but inside she felt like total hell.

Something had broken inside her. Gemma had destroyed the guy she loved in a misplaced effort at protecting him. No matter what she did, she only made things worse. All her attempts at saving herself and the people she cared about only put them in more danger.

“A pretty peat,” Thea said, and Gemma was dimly aware that Thea was talking louder than she had been a few seconds ago. “It is best. Put finger in the eye, and she knew why.” She cleared her throat, then repeated, “And she knew why. Bianca?”

“Bianca?” Tom asked, his British accent filled with irritation. He’d been sitting in the front row to more objectively direct, but he stood up when Gemma didn’t respond. “Oh, Bianca?”

“Gemma,” Kirby said in a hushed tone, and that finally broke through, pulling Gemma from her thoughts.

“What?” She blinked and looked around the stage dazedly, trying to understand what was happening.


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