“Oh, my God,” says Poppy.
Sunlight filters through the clock tower’s enormous glass panels and soaks the living room in lazy, late afternoon warmth. Kenji’s high-tops sit next to a Louis Vuitton purse and another, far larger knapsack, overflowing with ominous-looking prototypes. A few of them sit atop a sleek, glowing table where Dax stands, deep in thought, peering down at them through cartoonishly large goggles. He looks up only at the sound of Poppy’s voice. “What?”
Daisy rouses from her catnap in a nearby armchair and blinks sleepily. “Did something happen?”
Poppy glances away from her phone and goes red. “Oh. Sorry. Just, uh… I can’t believe that people use the word swoon seriously anymore.”
“They do?” She snorts.
“Oh, sure,” Kenji interjects. He dismounts the counter across from Dax’s worktable and throws him an entirely obvious wink. “I’ll use it in a sentence: Oh-em-gee, Talos is sooo swoon-worthy .”
Daisy reaches behind her and holds up a brightly hued pillow. “I’ll kill you.”
A musical laugh breaks into the conversation. Lounging on the chaise, Eva (or Minuet, as the rest of them know her, because she does pride herself on her secrets) delicately removes an earbud and smirks. “You can’t use that one lightly,” she says. “Not just anyone is swoon-worthy, y’know.”
Kenji nods solemnly. He’s migrated to the other side of the table and now leans on Dax, feigning interest in the worktable’s contents, ignoring the other’s light blush. “Minuet’s got it right.”
She waves a hand at him. “Easy there, pretty boy. You’re nice to look at, but I wouldn’t call you swoon-worthy.”
Poppy rolls her eyes, but she can’t suppress a giggle. “I can’t believe we’re having this discussion. Besides, if anyone’s swoon-worthy, it’s totally Daisy.”
I would die for you , Daisy mouths.
“Mm,” says Eva, noncommittally.
Daisy turns to her with an eyebrow that appears to be attempting liftoff from her forehead. “What, you don’t agree? I bet you think you’re the swoon-worthy one around here.”
“I never,” Dax tells the worktable, “ ever want to hear this word again.”
Eva hits Daisy with a smile that makes her feel rather like she’s melting into the armchair. “Am I wrong?”
“Get a room,” Poppy calls.
“Please,” Daisy splutters. “You think you’re so smooth.”
“I say again,” Eva drawls. Her voice on Daisy’s skin feels like the light that warms her from the inside out. “Am I wrong?”
Daisy sits up straight, then stands in a way that commands everyone’s attention. “You know what?” she says. “I’d tell you to go trip over your own ego, but that’s really just because I’d like to hold you in my arms.”
The room goes quiet, which is really a momentous thing for a clocktower that creaks and echoes and amplifies the tiniest of sounds. “Daisy,” Poppy starts, “that was so —”
“You know, I must be back asleep,” Eva interrupts, taking out the other earbud, “because you look like the girl of my dreams.”
Dax heaves an audible groan. Daisy ignores him. “Your legs must be really tired, huh?” she shoots back. “After running through my mind all night.”
“Just on my way to steal your heart.” Eva stands and takes a purposeful step towards Daisy, who, despite her bravado, has to bite back a blush. “I’d ask for a tall glass of water, but I think I’ll stick with what’s in front of me.”
“ Damn , what time does heaven want you back?”
“Guys, oh my God.” Poppy presses a pillow around her head and falls melodramatically back onto the couch. “My ears are bleeding.”
Eva’s lips curl as she steps forward and glides her fingertips along the zipper of Daisy’s jacket. “And I thought I was the thief, but it turns out you’re the one stealing my heart.”
Now she’s inches away. Daisy releases a breath. “Have you always been this cute, or did you need to work at it?”
“Didn’t need to. I’m one-hundred-percent, totally, naturally swoon-worthy .”
“Screw you,” she mumbles against Eva’s lips.
Her teeth nip lightly at Daisy’s mouth as Eva grins, soft and hungry. “By all means.”
A pillow hits them in the side. Dax has Kenji’s jacket over his ears. Poppy raises a couch cushion, hair disheveled and blouse askew, struggling not to let a smile break through her threatening glower. “I mean it. I’ll take you both out this time.”
Reluctantly, Eva pulls away from Daisy just far enough to look Poppy and her barely exposed bralette up and down. She nudges Daisy in the ribs. “I think this one can take us out anytime, hm?”
Poppy drops the couch cushion and turns a deep shade of fuschia. Kenji snorts loudly and claps a hand over his mouth. Somewhere under the table, Dax makes a sound that vaguely resembles one of his prototypes dying. And Eva and Daisy burst out laughing, knocking their foreheads together. Their giggles resound in the clock tower’s lofty ceiling.
“Stop it!” comes the embarrassed squeak. “You’re both impossible!”
Daisy launches herself onto the couch next to Poppy and catches her in a playful embrace. “I guess we’re just too hot to handle, huh?”
“Christ,” Poppy mumbles into her jacket. “I hate you so much .”
Eva’s fingers find their way under Daisy’s untucked shirt and pulls Daisy flush against her, away from Poppy, eliciting a tiny gasp. “Sorry, Patel,” she murmurs, craning her neck to kiss Daisy’s jaw. “A girl’s gotta have what’s hers.”
Poppy’s face is now a healthier pink. She adjusts her bralette and shoots a mock furious look at Daisy, who’s squirming good-naturedly under Eva’s touch. “I don’t mind.”
Across the space, Kenji helps Dax up from under the worktable, still shaking with laughter. His eyes darken, deep and sultry, as he laces his fingers through Dax’s. “Hey. Y’know something?”
Dax bites his lip and looks off at Daisy, Eva, and Poppy, squabbling over who gets the extra pillow. “Oh, come on.”
“No, seriously,” says Kenji, as serious as he can be while trying to fight off a smile. “You spend so much time in my mind, I should charge you rent.”
Dax stares flatly at him, then takes Kenji’s jacket off his head and hits him in the chest with it.
Over on the couch, Poppy shoves the pillow at Eva and whips her head around in their direction. “I’m sorry, what was that?”
“Nothing,” Kenji assures, “just that I hope one of you knows CPR—”
“—because this guy is taking my breath away.”
Poppy cracks up. Eva and Daisy, occupied with situating the pillow behind them, seem significantly more interested in each other, but Eva gives Kenji a thumbs-up. Daisy pushes it down. “Don’t encourage him,” she hisses. “They’re bad enough on their own.”
“I’m a terrible influence,” Eva whispers, and catches Daisy in a kiss that tastes like sunlight. She lingers against Daisy’s lips, resting a hand featherlight on her waist, then says something just quietly enough to be inaudible.
“I said, do you have a map? Because I’m getting lost in your eyes.”
“That… was awful.”
“But you liked it.”
“Give me a break.”
“Admit it. You liked it.”
“… Yeah, okay. I did.”