Chapter Twelve

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I drifted from table to table, struggling to remember the most basic things, like actually bringing people their drinks instead of letting the full beer glasses sweat on the bar. Since my afternoon at the beach with Owen, time seemed all confused, too fast, too slow, while I waited for tonight. Dinner at his place, with Suzanna just upstairs.

I realized that I had a new table - a high top that sat two - and hurried towards it. "I'm so sorry for the wait," I said, as I put down two coasters and two sets of silverware.

"It's just me," said a familiar velvety voice. "One place setting is fine."

I glanced up at the man at the table. He wore a dress shirt and tie. A hat and a pack of cigarettes sat on the table in front of him. That sensation of stepping into another era came over me again, like sliding into a warm bath.

"It's you," I said, bewildered.

"That's what I said." He smiled. "Miranda, wasn't it? The artist and aspiring bartender."

"That's right," I replied, trying to regain my chirpy waitress demeanor. "And your name is--"

"James," he supplied, before I could admit I had forgotten it. "James Emory."

I took back the extra coaster and silverware and stuck them in my apron pocket. "Can I get you something to drink, James?"

"A Manhattan, please."

"Oh, good choice."

He arched a dark eyebrow. "Do you drink them?"

"Sometimes. Usually I drink whiskey on the rocks."

"Interesting. I wouldn't have guessed that, looking at you."

I blinked at him.

"You seem," he added, by way of clarification, "so delicate. I imagine you drinking fine white wines."

"I like wine, too." Delicate? Me? People usually called me curvy, at best.

He leaned back in his chair and clasped his hands behind his head. Muscles rippled under his dress shirt. I had a vision of him working out with a personal trainer at a very expensive gym. "Remind me to show you my wine cellar sometime," he said. "How long have you been on the island? Have you gotten a chance to check out the local specialties?"

I doubted he meant the island's burger joint, Beer n' Buns. "I wouldn't really know where to go."

"Do you like seafood?"

"I love it."

"I know a great lobster place. I'd love to take you there sometime."

I'd just been asked out. "Wow," I said. "It's so kind of you to offer, but I'm... er... seeing someone right now."

Right? Wasn't I? Did it count as seeing someone if you never went out in public with them?

"That's a shame, although hardly surprising," James replied, with a grin. The man was confident, there was no doubt about it. "Well, if you ever change your mind, or if need a tip on where to find the best lobster in Maine, give me a call."

He pulled a business card out of his wallet and handed it to me in one smooth motion, as if he did it all the time. I glanced down at it and read:

James H. Emory

Proprietor, Emory's Auction House

Rare Art, Antiques, Collectibles

"You own an auction house?"

"One of the family businesses," he replied. "My father and grandfather opened it, and I was fortunate enough to inherit it. I love it, even though it means spending so much time in New York."

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