Chapter 16, part 1

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Emmie scooted low in her chair

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Emmie scooted low in her chair. The stage was still visible between the heads of the two people seated in front of her, but hopefully, she wouldn't be noticeable to anyone on it.

Trisha nudged her. "You're being paranoid. The lights are going to make it impossible for him to see anyone in the audience. Besides, who cares, really? Is it such a big deal if Ryker knows you're here?"

"No." She scrunched lower. "Maybe." It was true; she was being paranoid. She'd come all this way to Seattle with Trisha to see Ryker give a TED talk and present UMA to the group of people gathered in this auditorium, and it was silly not to want to let him know she'd come. After all, it would shine her in a positive light: Emmie, who was mature enough to put aside their past issues; Emmie who could forgive and move on; Emmie, who was the bigger person between the two of them, clearly.

Only, perhaps this wasn't so clear. The thought of him seeing her made her want to revisit the tuna fish sandwich she'd eaten on the journey north. The truth was, she had so many conflicting feelings regarding Ryker, she didn't know if she wanted to hide from him forever, or throw herself into his arms and hope he'd wrap those arms around her. She hated both options, frankly. Both made her feel weak, broken, and co-dependent. She didn't need him; she was doing fine without him. But if that sexy dream she'd had was any indication... she still wanted him.

The fact that he hadn't shown up at her art opening stung more than she cared to admit. Feeling his absence that night, she'd chatted with guests and kept up a reasonably happy persona around Sam and her friends. On one level, she had been happy, of course. The opening was everything she could have hoped it to be, except for the fact that she had also hoped for Ryker. He was the one missing ingredient in an otherwise perfectly prepared meal.

To add to the emotional confusion, Melody had called her the day after the opening to tell her an anonymous patron had come in and bought every one of her pieces that were available for sale. It had taken her several minutes for the shock to wear down to the point that she could even begin to contemplate who that anonymous patron could be. Melody refused to say.

Her joy quickly turned to suspicion. It could be Trisha. She might want to cheer Emmie up by an act of kindness, but she and Dan had spent half of the opening debating between three pieces which they wanted to buy. It seemed doubtful after all of that that they'd go ahead and purchase the whole lot. Shelly had the money, for sure, but she probably wouldn't have seen the point in not taking credit for such a generous purchase.

She toyed with the uncomfortable idea that Sam might be the one. He'd come all that way just for her show. But it didn't seem very professional for him to buy so much of her art, plus Melody had said the buyer came to view her work in person, and Sam had mentioned he had an early morning flight to Chicago the day after the opening.

That left one extremely obvious suspect.

The lights in the auditorium dimmed and the "suspect" walked out onto the stage, trailed by UMA, who glided smoothly to the spot Ryker designated. They stood together for a moment, both staring out at the audience with an alarmingly similar crystalline grin on their faces. Emmie was grateful to be siting more than midway back and to the right of the stage. His gaze never ventured close to where she sat.

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