Page 21

Author: Jill Shalvis


“So you and Amy, huh? Funny.”


“How’s that funny?”


Josh shrugged. “She always acts like she hates you.”


“Turns out there’s a fine line between hate and lust,” Matt muttered.


Josh slid him another look. “You’ve wanted her forever. You should be grinning like an idiot. It wasn’t good?”


He’d done his share of grinning like an idiot. And it’d been good. Hell, if it’d been any better, they’d have gone up in flames. But—


“Yes!” Josh yelled in triumph, because while Matt had been thinking too much, Josh had used his gorilla arms to reach the ledge. With a whoop, Josh collapsed on the plateau like a limp noodle, lying there gasping. “I finally beat you.”


Matt rolled over the ledge. “Fluke. Just a one-time fluke.”


Josh came up on an elbow, sweaty and dirty and grinning. “Everything on the menu. I want everything on the menu.”


“Fuck.” Matt stared up at the sky, also gasping for breath. “Fine. But I’m not putting out afterward.”


Amy would have liked to be studying a map and planning her next leg of Grandma Rose’s journey. But nope. She was working. She was always working, it seemed.


And as a bonus, it was raining again. Or still. But Jan had put out a buy-one-entree-get-one-free Facebook post, and now, for the dinner rush, Eat Me was packed. The crowd was rowdy, but Amy had learned she could serve and daydream at the same time.


The call to her mom hadn’t yielded much help, and Amy still had no idea what the third and last leg of Rose’s trip had been. All she knew was that Rose had found her heart. Giving up a bathroom break, Amy pulled her grandma’s journal from her purse, and in a back corner of the kitchen, flipped through it.


It’s been three weeks since we’d last been on the mountain. A long three weeks during which I refused to give up my newfound hope and peace.


Good thing, too, because I needed both of those things to get all the way around and back.


But I managed.


And it was worth it. Looking out at a blanket of green, a sea of blue, and a world of possibilities, the whole world opened up. There on top of the world, I promised myself that no matter what happened, I would never settle. I would never stop growing. I would never give up.


And as the sun sank down over the horizon, I was suddenly at the beginning again.


Hope.


Peace.


And something new as well, something that had truly brought us full circle—heart.


All the way around and back… Not much in the way of directions, Amy thought. But she was beginning to wonder if maybe her grandma might have meant that they’d taken the Rim Trail all the way around from the north rim to the south rim. It was a good possibility, or at least the best one she had.


“Amy!” Jan yelled. “Another call for you!”


Amy put the journal away. This time when she picked up the kitchen phone and said “hello,” there was a pause but not a hang-up. “Hello?” she repeated.


The voice was raspy and male. “Tell Riley that she can run, but she can’t hide.”


Adrenaline kicked in. “Who is this?”


Nothing.


“Hello?” Amy said. “Don’t hang up—”


Click.


And then a dial tone.


Dammit. Amy served the food waiting for her and waved at Jan. “Taking five.”


“The hell you are.”


“Okay, two then.” Without waiting for approval that she wasn’t going to get, Amy grabbed the new backpack that she’d bought at the hardware store half a block down the street, then stepped out the back door on a hunch.


The hunch paid off.


Riley was sitting on the stoop, under the protection of the overhang, watching the rain come down. Amy sat next to her and set the backpack in the teen’s lap.


“What’s this?” Riley asked.


“Yours is all ripped up.”


Riley ran her fingers over the tags still attached to the pack. “So you bought me a new one?”


“Yeah.”


Riley started to shake her head and push the backpack away, but Amy put her hand on it, holding it in Riley’s lap. “It was on sale, and Anderson—the shop owner—gave me a big discount, so it’s no big deal. I want you to have it.”


Riley stared down at the backpack and then unzipped it. Inside were the incidentals Amy had put in there: flashlight, water bottle, beef jerky…


Riley swallowed hard and said nothing.


Amy looked at her for a long moment, not sure how to proceed. When she’d been in Riley’s situation, showing emotion had been the same as showing weakness, and there’d been no room for weakness and vulnerability in her life. None. Even if a person had meant well, Amy hadn’t been able to let her guard down to show any vulnerability.


Riley couldn’t either.


Amy got that, but damn, it was hard to watch, wanting so badly to reach out and help, knowing that Riley wouldn’t easily let herself be helped. “There’s a set of spare batteries in the inside pocket. Being unprepared sucks beans, and trust me, I know it all too well.”


“You didn’t have to do this.”


“I know.” Amy looked at her. “And you could have come inside. I’ve been hoping you’d show up. I’ve got a fully loaded club sandwich, fries, and a big fat glass of soda with your name on it.”


Riley stared at her, clearly at war between her pride and her need for sustenance. “How did you know I’d be out here?”


“Guessed.” Amy didn’t have the heart to tell Riley that kids like her were creatures of hard-learned habits. Along with Amy’s apartment, Riley had been fed here and taken care of here at the diner. Sheer need would drive her back to the same few places over and over until that changed. “Come on.” Amy stood and gestured with a jerk of her chin to the back door. “I’ve got to get back in there before Jan blows a gasket. Believe me, no one wants to see that.”


Amy sat Riley at the front counter and served her a big plate of food. Lucille and her cronies were at a table close by, cackling it up over something one of them had on her smartphone. Josh and Matt came in the front door. Both were wearing climbing clothes and looking like extremely fine male specimens. As they walked through the diner, every female in the place watched. Lucille even snapped a picture on her iPhone, which Amy figured would be on Facebook before she could serve their drinks.


Not that she was immune to the men, or their allure. Josh always looked good, and this evening, even dusty and slightly sweaty, he looked like he could walk right onto the cover of Outside magazine.


But Amy’s eyes were on Matt. Because if Josh looked good, Matt looked amazing, and way too sexy.


Why was he still so sexy to her?


He pushed his dark sunglasses to the top of his head and searched her out. There was no other word for it. His eyes roamed over the diner until he found her. He looked her over, making her every nerve ending tingle with awareness, though his gaze was more inquisitive than sexual, as if making sure she was okay, though she had no idea why she wouldn’t be.


Then he smiled, and oh, how her misbehaving nipples loved that predatory smile. If his intense, concerned once-over had done things to her, his smile just about undid her from the inside out.


Then she realized Lucille had left her table and was talking to Riley, though the teen was backing away, shaking her head adamantly. Amy moved close enough in time to hear Lucille say “all the newcomers do it, honey. And putting you up on Facebook will help you make friends.”


Riley looked horrified and not a little panic-stricken. Amy stepped between Lucille and the escaping Riley. “No Facebook pictures of her.”


“She says she’s eighteen,” Lucille said. “And she looks lonely. I thought I could help—”


“You can help by not putting any information about her on Facebook at all,” Amy said firmly.


At Amy’s serious tone, Lucille went quiet for a moment, studying Riley’s sullen face. “I understand,” Lucille finally said, quite gently. “If you need anything…”


“I’m fine,” Riley said, and turned and fled for the door.


Amy headed after her. “Riley—Hey, wait up.”


“Thanks for the food, but I’ve got to go.”


“Just a second.” She grabbed Riley’s wrist. “I wanted to tell you—that guy called here again.”


Riley went still for a beat and then turned abruptly toward the door again, moving much faster now.


Amy followed her outside and stood still on the top step for a beat while her eyes adjusted from the bright diner to the dark, moonless night. “Riley?”


Footsteps. Amy ran after them, barely catching up with Riley just as she was leaving the lot. Backpack slung over her shoulder, she was on the street, thumb out.


“No way,” Amy said. “No way am I letting you hitchhike.”


“This is Lucky Harbor, right? Nothing bad ever happens in Lucky Harbor.”


Amy shook her head. “Something bad is happening to you, and if you’d just tell me about it, I could help.”


Riley turned away and waggled her thumb at the cars going by.


“Dammit, Riley. Don’t do this.”


“Sorry, but I can do whatever I want.”


“Where are you going?” Amy asked. “Tell me that much, at least.”


Riley waggled her thumb at a passing truck, which slowed.


Crap. Jan was going to kill Amy for walking out on a full diner, but Amy couldn’t let Riley go, not like this. “Stay at my place again tonight,” she said quickly, watching the truck’s blinker come on.


Riley shook her head. Some of her color had come back but not much. She was clearly freaked out, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out it had been the phone call. “It’s time for me to move on.”


She was going to leave Lucky Harbor. Afraid Riley would get into the truck and never be seen again, Amy shook her head. “No. Please stay.”

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