Chapter Three

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"Zo? Hello? Is there anybody alive in there?"

Zoe glanced over in surprise. How long had Matt been waving his hand in front of her face? How long had she been zoned out? One second she'd been wiping down one of the Regal Café's marbled dining tables, and the next she'd been entirely distracted by a quick news update being broadcast on the giant flat screen in the far corner of the room. Usually she ignored the thing, but tonight that hadn't been an option.

Fire. That one word was all it had taken for the news reporter to gain her attention. Her heart practically stopped at the sound of it.

But of course the news report wasn't talking about a house fire on the other side of the world. They were talking about a small brush fire that had occurred a few towns over, reminding people that summer's heat had not yet fully passed and it was still necessary to keep gutters clear of dried leaves.

Zoe looked back to Matt, an apologetic expression on her face. He raised an eyebrow and held out the condiments tray she was supposed to be placing in the centre of the table, and she took it from him without delay. God only knew how many times he'd already tried to offer it to her.

"Sorry," she said. "I got a little distracted for a second there."

Matt snorted. "Yeah. You've been 'a little distracted' all day."

Zoe sighed. Matt was annoyed at her, and that wasn't fair. So what if she'd spent the day with her attention on a black leather jacket and the guy who had made it look so good? It wasn't like she'd spoken to the guy. In fact, she hadn't seen or heard either of the new guys speak to anybody all day, short of a quick dismissal from the blond when Sophie-Ana had tried to make her move. And even if she had spoken to him, what business was that of Matt's?

She definitely didn't deserve his irritation now, when her attention had been held for another reason entirely. This was different. This was life and death.

Not for the first time, she was tempted to drop into a seat and spill everything to her best friend: the content of her nightmares; the guilt that she felt for them. Surely he, of all people, would believe her—believe her and know exactly what to say to make everything better. He was good like that. Sometimes it was like he knew her better than she knew herself.

But she couldn't.

Zoe hadn't been able to keep the existence of the nightmares from him. Not when there had been a time when she had woken screaming every other night, and Matt and his father had been able to hear her from their own house. But she'd never told him what was in them. He'd never pushed her to, either. After a while he'd simply stopped asking about them.

Sometimes she wished that he'd pried a little harder.

"I'm sorry, all right?" She pushed in the last of the chairs that their customers had left out, even as Matt was heading back behind the counter. She followed him. "You know what it's like when we get something new around here."

"Yeah. Especially when the new comes in the shape of a guy. You turn into Sophie-Ana."

Zoe bristled. "Okay. Now you're just being a dick."

Matt frowned, as if he'd realised she was right.

She shoved past him and slid open the door to the display fridge. The sugary sweet scent of muffins and pastries wafted up to her, and she had to resist the urge to grab a cinnamon roll and toss it at the back of Matt's head. Sometimes they did it for fun. Today she wanted to do it out of frustration.

Matt must have known it too, because he reached out to take the pastry tray before she could. "Let me do that. I'll finish cleaning up the kitchen and then we'll get out of here. It won't hurt anybody if we close up five minutes early."

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