Chapter 5, part 2

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Relief hit him first, followed closely by confusion. At the sight of a man making his way around the SUV Emmie had just gotten out of, another emotion hit: jealousy. That last one was particularly unnerving. Why should he care that Emmie was with another man. For that matter, this other man could be her brother or a cousin. Maybe he was her gay best friend from college come to make sure she was doing all right in her new town. It was totally plausible.

Emmie cleared her throat and he looked away from the strange man to her, just then realizing he'd placed his hands on Emmie's shoulders. Before he could say anything to her, Trisha came running out of the diner. "Emmie, we were worried about you!"

Emmie glanced back and forth between Ryker and his sister. "Worried?"

Ryker slipped his hands off of Emmie and into his pockets, trying to make the gesture seem as natural as possible. "Trisha went to pick you up this morning, but you weren't home. She thought something might have happened to you, so she called me."

She looked at him, an amused twinkle in her eyes. "So you came running?"

"Well, I..." He sized up the man Emmie was with, imagining women would think him handsome, he supposed, in a cop sort of way. "Who's this?"

Emmie paused. "This is Sam. He's... an old friend. Sam, this is Ryker. His grandmother owns this restaurant. And Trisha helps run it. Trisha, I'm so sorry. I totally forgot you were picking me up!"

Trish was already shaking her head, everything forgiven. "I'm just glad you're okay. I don't know why I overreacted, it's just..." She glanced at Ryker and then did her own evaluating stare at the tall man standing next to Emmie. "Well, we can talk about it later. Ryker, I apologize for calling you so early. Emmie, I'll see you inside."

With that, his sister rushed back into the restaurant, her face flushed with uncharacteristic embarrassment.

"Emmie, could I talked to you for a minute?" Emmie nodded, but Sam made no motion to move away from her side. "I mean... could I talk to you alone?"

Sam raised an eyebrow and turned to Emmie. She shooed him away. "Go on in and get yourself a coffee. I'll be right there."

Sam hesitated, glaring at Ryker with narrowed eyes. After a second, his expression turned conciliatory, his lips turning up in what Ryker imagined was meant to be a lighthearted smile. "All right, I'll be inside. Right inside."

What was this guy's deal?

Ryker kept his face passive as Sam pushed open the door and, as it swooped closed behind him, he was finally alone with Emmie. He couldn't help but recall the last time they were alone—was it only twelve or so hours ago?

He leaned against the railing leading up the wheelchair accessible ramp he'd helped Iola install a few years ago. "So... no wonder you wanted me to leave so quickly."

Emmie crossed her arms in front of her. "Excuse me?"

"Your old friend, Sam... was he on his way over when you tossed me out of your place yesterday?"

He regretted the harshness in his words as soon as they were out of her mouth. They did not go over well with her.

"First of all, I didn't toss you out, you left of your own free will. Second... no. You know what? There is no second. Sam's comings and goings are none of your business. Hell, maybe Sam brought a couple of friends with him and we all went at it. I have a right to do what I want with my body. I exercised that right with you, did I not? If I choose to do the same with another man, or men, I have exactly zero fucks to give as to whether that bothers you or not. Do you know why?"

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