Emmie could just make out Ryker's feeble protests as she exited the diner and turned down the road in the direction of her apartment, a small two bedroom above an art gallery a quarter of a mile away

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Emmie could just make out Ryker's feeble protests as she exited the diner and turned down the road in the direction of her apartment, a small two bedroom above an art gallery a quarter of a mile away. Her route would take her through the heart of Moon Beach's commercial district; tourist shops peddling hand dipped candles and keychains made from seashells intermixed with outside kiosks advertising tickets for whale watching tours. Yesterday she'd noticed three different candy shops with window displays featuring the town's famous saltwater taffy.

After several blocks of tourist traps, she would take a left, walk passed a fire station and the town library to another row of businesses, these more centered on the needs of the town's several thousand full-time citizens –a hardware store, a grocery, and a tiny corner pharmacy. Kitty-corner and one door down from that was the art gallery and above it, home.

It would take her under ten minutes to make it there if she kept a brisk pace, not hard to do considering that her puffy jacket might as well have been a beach wrap in the afternoon's bitter, winter wind. She couldn't wait to get back to her apartment, throw on her pajamas, slip under a wool blanket, and forget she'd let a man rile her up today.

Emmie stopped dead in her tracks. Was she only eager to get home because Ryker had aggravated her?

Just because she wasn't interested in taking the Moon Beach tour with Ryker James didn't mean she couldn't explore it on her own. The park Iola had mentioned did look appealing. She hadn't gotten out much since arriving in town last week. It had taken all of her emotional energy to organize her new space with the few meager possessions she'd been given. When that was finished, it had finally sunk in that this was it; this was her life now. She could never in a million years have predicted it would come to this.

Two months previous, Aimee Larson, as she had then been known, was living in Chicago, working as assistant director of Human Resources for a local hospital. She was in a committed relationship and was sure any day that her boyfriend, Ian, would pop the question. Her mother lived in the same neighborhood, her sister and niece were only twenty minutes away. She had friends, hobbies, ambitions.

She'd been happy.

Six weeks ago, police had shown up at the lakefront condo she shared with Ian. Their arrival came in the middle of the night and, disorientated, it had taken her a moment to realize what was happening.

A pounding on the door. Muffled yells from someone on the other side. Ian telling her to stay in bed. He'd take care of it. A flash of metal followed by her shocked voice asking "is that a gun?"

She was fully awake by then. This was the moment she realized she didn't know as much as she'd thought about her boyfriend. She hadn't even known he owned a gun. Emmie pleaded with him to put it down. What would the cops do if they saw him brandishing it?

Finally, he'd agreed, leaving it in the drawer next to their bed.

That decision had probably saved his life. But it had ruined hers.

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