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The mood in the diner was just the way Ryker James liked it: bustling and upbeat, with enough background noise to turn the high walls of his booth into a protective bubble. As he scrolled through the messages on his phone, a server set a plate of food on the table in front of him.

Slabs of tantalizing bacon stuck out from underneath a slice of toasted bread. Stomach growling, he put his phone down. "Thanks, Gena."


The unexpectedly smoky voice caught his attention. He raised his head. Who indeed. The woman standing in front of him wore a black apron bearing the Iola's Eats logo, but this bit of clothing was where her similarity to Gena ended. Gena lacked the long, shapely legs of this new waitress, as well as her curvy begging-to-be-touched thighs. An equally pleasing and well-rounded chest poked out of her white, short-sleeve shirt. "You're not Gena."

Her steely blue eyes grew large. Ryker's simple three word statement seemed to have thrown her. She tucked a loose strand of auburn hair behind her ear. "No, I'm Aim...Emmie. I'm Emmie. I just started working here."

He nodded, wondering why his sister hadn't told him about the new hire. "I'm Ryker James."

"Oh!" Her doe eyes remained caught in the headlights.

He couldn't resist grinning. There was something enticing about Emmie's easily surprised state, as though everything in her life must seem perpetually new.

"So I take it you know the name?"

She must, of course. Everyone knew that Ryker James was the CEO and founder of MechaJames, named the number one technology start-up company by Popular Science three years ago. No wonder she appeared so shell-shocked. It wasn't every day that a girl in a dinky town like Moon Beach met someone famous. Kind of famous, at least. Okay, famous in the tech world, and famous in Oregon, but hey... that fame was spreading faster than mosquitoes in standing water. "You're probably wondering what I'm doing at this hole-in-the-wall diner, right?"

Her eyes narrowed, surprise replaced by wariness and what looked to be annoyance. "Why would I wonder that? This is your family's restaurant, right? Ryker James—that means your grandmother must be Iola James. And Trisha hired me. She mentioned she has a brother, which I take it is you. You look like her. Same nose. So, why wouldn't you be here?"

"Exactly, Emmie!" Still grinning, he raised his hands and gestured to the row of fifties-styled booths and a pair of swinging doors leading to the diner's small but tidy kitchen. Black and white photographs depicting important moments in the town's one hundred plus years of history filled nearly every available spot on the wall. Each image offered a jolt of nostalgia. "I practically grew up in this place. Despite everything, I think it's important to remember our roots. That's why—"

"I'm sorry," she cut him off. "Despite what?"

Now it was his turn to look surprised. "Well, I mean...after eighteen patents and the success of MechaJames, I could easily have left Moon Beach, moved the company to Seattle or Silicon Valley or really, anywhere I wanted, but I chose to stay right here."

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