Chapter 19, part 1

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A dark funk shadowed Ryker all afternoon and the sleet grey clouds spreading across a dimming evening sky did nothing to lighten this mood

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A dark funk shadowed Ryker all afternoon and the sleet grey clouds spreading across a dimming evening sky did nothing to lighten this mood. He'd assumed rightly that Emmie's picture being leaked in the media would be a cause for annoyance for her--that was to be expected. He, on the other hand, couldn't help but secretly be pleased that the world now saw them as a couple. Sure, he couldn't show that satisfaction on the outside, but on the inside, a smidgen of hope bloomed that the world's mistaken notion of them might turn into a reality. Even the speculation and outright assumptions that he was the baby's father hadn't chafed him as much as he'd led Emmie and Trisha to believe. That could all get worked out later. For now, Emmie was talking to him again – mainly in civil tones. That was enough.

Then Emmie had dropped her bombshell: that one stupid picture might make her leave Moon Beach. The thought was so upsetting, he'd left Iola's without so much as a goodbye to her. It was as if saying goodbye might mean more than just "see you later" but instead be an admittance of a real and permanent parting of ways. "Goodbye, I'll probably never see you again. Have a great life without me in it!"

Ryker wound his way along the oceanfront, homebound after nearly twelve hours at the office, thoughts of Emmie's potential departure darkening his mind in pace with the sunset skies. His phone chimed. Trisha.

"What is it, Trish. I'm driving."

"Where are you?"

"Five minutes from home. Why?"

"Turn around. I need your help."

"For what? To uncork your wine for you? Isn't it ladies' art night?"

"It was supposed to be. But Emmie didn't show."

Ryker slowed the car. "What?" He glanced at the time on his dashboard. Almost seven-thirty. "Did you check her apartment?"

"Obviously. The door was unlocked, but she's not there. Her purse is gone, and it looks like some clothes might be missing as well. Mel, Shelley, and Ava are already searching around Moon Beach."

"Trisha, there's something..."

She cut him off. "Listen up, Ryker. I don't care if you two are fighting or fucking or whatever the hell is going on with you currently. Get your ass back here and help us find her!"

"Look, she told me today she might have to leave town. Something about that picture spooked the hell out of her. I thought she was overreacting."

"No. No, she wouldn't just leave town without saying goodbye or giving notice at Iola's. I do not accept that. Plus, she's got sketchbooks lying around in her living room. Why wouldn't she have taken those? And the collaborative sketchbook in the gallery is still there. That project meant everything to her."

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