Chapter 2, part 1

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Ryker James seemed hell-bent on being more than just Emmie's customer. First, he left her a twenty dollar tip even though all she'd done was drop a plate of food on his table. Then, he showed up right after the diner closed several hours later, claiming that it was for a reason other than to see her.

"I'm here to pick up my grandmother." He flashed her that dimpled smile of his and then brushed past her on the way to the booth his grandma sat in as she reconciled the diner's accounts. "She likes it when I walk her home."

Iola seemed surprised to see her grandson. "Ryker, dear." She bent her head so that Ryker could place a kiss on her cheek. "Didn't we just see you for lunch? What are you doing back here?"

Emmie, who was busy refilling the salt and pepper shakers and collecting the ketchup bottles from the tables, glanced up long enough to see Ryker's cheeks flush.

"It's a sunny day. I thought we'd walk through the park on the way back to your house."

"Well, now, that is a thought." She patted his arm and then went back to counting the money from the till. "I brought my car today, though. It's chilly out there, sun or not. Besides, I have another hour's worth of work to do here. And then I'm off to Zumba, just like every Monday. You know I never miss that!"

Emmie suppressed a laugh. The golden boy, stood up by a woman approaching octogenarian status who preferred spending her afternoon at Zumba than with him. She continued with her tasks, eager to finish so that she could head home. Trisha had already left to take her son to his violin lesson and without her there, Emmie felt ungrounded, especially now that Ryker had made a surprise reappearance.

"Ryker!" Iola's eyes slid over to where Emmie stood with her tray of ketchup. "Why don't you take Miss Marsden to the park instead? She's new in town and probably has never seen it. Why, maybe you could even walk her down to the waterfront."

Ryker held up his hands in protest, but his expression said Iola had played right into his plans. "I don't know, Gran. I'm sure Emmie is tired after working all day."

"Nonsense! Besides, what better way to get to know the town than on the arm of its most famous son?"

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"Nonsense! Besides, what better way to get to know the town than on the arm of its most famous son?"

Emmie scanned the restaurant, wishing there was a way she could sink under a table or disappear into one of the old photographs on the wall. Did she have any say in where she went after work today?

Just as she was about to tell them that yes she was tired and no she didn't want to learn about the town from its most arrogant offspring, she lost control of her tray of ketchup, which tilted and slipped out of her hands. It crashed to the floor, taking a dozen glass bottles with it.

The tile in front of her resembled a model volcano after it had exploded. Rivulets of tomato-based lava snaked outward between shards of glass. "Oh no!" Emmie stepped carefully around the catastrophe. "Iola, is there a broom in the back closet?"

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