Walking into Trisha's kitchen knowing she would have to face Ryker made for some sweaty palms.

"I can make him leave," Trisha had reassured her after she'd told Emmie about Ryker's unscheduled appearance.

Emmie shook her head vehemently. "No, I can't let you do that. He's your brother. It makes sense that he'd want to spend Christmas with his family after his own plans got cancelled. I should be the one to leave."

Trisha grabbed hold of her wrist. "That is not happening. Dan will be heartbroken if you don't stay for dinner. The kids will be crushed. Christmas will never be the same to them again and their belief in Santa will die. I'll drink way too much and curse at Ryker. Well, that last bit will probably happen regardless of if you stay or go, but..."

Emmie laughed. "I don't want to go. And really, I have to get over this." Get over him, she wanted to say. "Moon Beach is a small town, I work for his family and... you're my best friend here."

"Aww!" Trisha put an arm around Emmie's shoulder and pressed her friend to her.

"So, we have to get used to seeing each other. It's been weeks since we parted ways. It's going to be weird at first, but we have to act like adults and get over ourselves."

Trisha squeezed her shoulder again. "'Act like adults.' That's so cute! I'm sure you won't have trouble with that, but my brother isn't exactly a textbook example of emotional maturity."

"It won't be easy for either of us, I'm sure." Emmie sighed. "I wish he wasn't here, believe me. But he is and so am I. I wouldn't want to scar Penelope and Rhys for life, so I guess... this is happening."

Trisha gestured towards the kitchen. "Well then, my advice is to get the initial 'oh shit, I have to talk to my ex' over with. Just say hi, ask him how his robots are doing, and then say you're on your way to go see the kids. They're in the backyard."

Outside of turning around and walking the half mile back to her apartment, that sounded like the best plan at her disposal. Into the kitchen Emmie went. Naturally, the moment she entered the room, it became apparent that Dan and Ryker were talking about her.

"What might Emmie do?"

Dan had the good grace to turn back to the stove, red faced. Ryker met her gaze dead on. The tension in his jaw gave him the look of a sharpshooter about to pull the trigger. After a pause, though, he lowered his weapon and his face softened.

"So, this is awkward. I didn't know you were coming until I showed up here. I just wanted you to know, I didn't mean to ambush you on Christmas Eve."

Emmie bit her tongue to avoid saying something she might regret. Well, maybe she wouldn't regret it, but Ryker certainly would. Typical arrogant Ryker, having to make it known that he'd done nothing wrong. He was merely an innocent lamb whose presence was sure to be so emotionally tumultuous for her, it must be compared to a roadside bombing.

After a slight pause, she was ready to speak in complete, expletive-free sentences. "Oh, you don't have to worry about me. I was just thinking how difficult this would be for you." She began to lower the zipper on her jacket, revealing the sizeable cleavage her red blouse put on display. Ryker's gaze slid down to where her fingers lingered. "Oh, wait." She zipped her jacket up again. "The kids are outside, aren't they? Trisha said they wanted to see me as soon as I got here. I better stay bundled up."

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