Chapter Fourteen

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"Everything okay, Miranda? You seem distracted tonight."

"I'm sorry, Andy," I said, looking up from punching in an order on the computer. "I'll get it together."

"I wasn't reprimanding you," he said, smiling.

"Of course. I'm sorry."

Andy quirked a pierced eyebrow at me. "Need a break? I can watch your tables for a minute."

"No, thanks." I smiled weakly at him.

I finished entering the order, printed out a check for a different table, and headed back out onto the floor. I had to stop thinking about Rhys, and Owen, and how much of an idiot I was for getting involved with another man while Rhys was still such a presence in my life. I'd been a fool to think that I could start over, or that I could ever be happy.

"Miranda." Emily, one of the hostesses and Bill's daughter, appeared in front of me. She was a petite girl a few years younger than me, with lots of black eyeliner and two long black braids over her shoulders.

"What's up, Emily?"

Her face was luminous in the bar's eerie blue and green lighting. "Owen Larsen is here to see you."

A jarring mix of fear and desire sprang into my chest. 

Owen stood in the doorway, wearing his big work boots and a hoodie. The restaurant had gone whisper-quiet, with every face turned towards him.

I handed the checkbook to Emily and walked towards him. The confused feelings slowly dissolved, leaving a dreadful stillness in their place. A certainty I couldn't fight.

"Hey." He reached forward as if to tuck a lock of my hair behind my ear, only to drop his hand, glancing over the top of my head at the people staring at us.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

"I have to talk to you."

"I'm working."

His jaw tightened, and I knew I had hurt him. I sighed. "Okay. Let's go outside."

I signaled to Emily that I would be right back. Owen opened the door for me and I slid out in front of him, all too aware of his presence behind me.

Outside, in the parking lot behind the Widow's Walk, twilight settled along the horizon in wispy violet strands. A chilly breeze blew in the scent of the ocean. I rubbed my hands over my bare arms, shivering, but Owen, as usual, didn't seem to notice the cold. He looked lost in his own thoughts, his brow furrowed.

"This was a mistake. I shouldn't have come here." He shook his head. "I just wanted to say I'm sorry about this morning, and... look, I have to tell you something. You weren't answering your phone, so I.... Obviously, this isn't a good time."

"I turned my phone off," I said. I hadn't texted Rhys yet to tell him that I wasn't in Florida. I wasn't sure that I could.

I was such a coward.

"You look upset," Owen said, glancing over at me for the first time.

"I—I can't do this right now." My voice hitched. "I'm sorry."

Slowly, all emotion vanished from his face. "'Do this,'" he echoed. "Do what?"

"Us," I said. "Not yet. I'm sorry. Last night was great, but—I just need some time to—to deal with some things, first, and then we...."

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