Page 39

Author: Jill Shalvis

He stared at her. “No,” he said, to what exactly, she had no idea. He rolled her beneath himself, taking care to keep his weight off of her side by bracing himself up on his forearms. “No,” he repeated. “You felt something different with me.”

Her hands slid up his arms, his taut, ripped, gorgeous arms, because she couldn’t help herself. She had to touch him. “You can’t tell me how I feel, Matt. Nor can you make me tell you what you want to hear.”

“Maybe not.” But apparently she’d issued some sort of challenge to his manhood because he stripped the covers from them and looked down at her naked body with more than a little wicked, purposeful intent. “But I can make you show me,” he said.

Her good parts rippled with anticipation. “Don’t be silly. You have to get back to work.”


“After what?”

“After I prove that you feel a whole hell of a lot when I touch you.”

Which he did with slow, purposeful, shocking ease.

Much later, after Matt had brought Amy to her car, she headed back to town. Halfway there, she got a cryptic call from Jan to “get here, fast.”

Having no clue what she could possibly want after she’d told Amy not to come in today, she drove straight to Eat Me.

“Good Lord, girl,” Jan said at the sight of her.


“What? You just got yourself some, that’s what. You’re glowing. That should be illegal, flaunting your good fortune around like that.”

Henry was at the stove. He stopped stirring and stared at Amy, then let out a slow grin.

Amy clapped her hands to her cheeks. “You can’t tell just by looking at me.”

“Okay, and I suppose you still believe in Santa Claus,” Jan said. “I’d ask if it was any good, but that’s all over your face, too. You’d best get yourself together, Sawyer’s gonna be here any second. We have a problem.”

It had to be a big one if the sheriff was involved. Most problems Jan took care of herself—with sheer orneriness. “What’s up?”

“Mallory’s money jar went missing, that’s what’s up,” Jan said. “She’s on her way, too.”

Amy’s stomach hit her toes. “Her HSC money jar? The one for the teen center?”

“Yep. Luckily you emptied it out a few nights back. Still, I reckon we lost about a hundred bucks, and it pisses me off. That girl’s ass is grass.”

Amy had thought her stomach couldn’t get any lower than her toes, but she was wrong. “What are you talking about? What girl?”

Jan looked at her like she was a dim bulb. “Riley.”

“Wait—You can’t think that Riley did this.”

“Hell yeah, I can,” Jan said. “She stole the money, sure as day.”

“Did you catch her at it?” Amy asked.

“Well, no. But she was in earlier, and it’s her day off. She was slinking around, and then she was gone. And so was the jar.”

Amy’s gaze slid to Henry, who gave her a slow nod. “Sorry, babe,” he said. “But she was in here, just like Jan says, and she was looking guilty as hell.”

“But you know how she is,” Amy protested, feeling sick. How many times had she herself done something so stupid, something so desperate? But Riley wouldn’t. She had no such need anymore, Amy assured herself. She’d been feeding and clothing her, not to mention the girl had been working at the diner, so there was no reason for this. “She’s just sullen and defensive naturally. She always looks guilty.”

“She’s a loose cannon,” Jan said. “An unknown.”

“All teenagers are loose cannons,” Amy said. “It doesn’t mean she did it. How many customers have you had in here today? How many people at the counter? Hell, how many helped themselves behind the counter to pour their own coffee because you were too busy watching the cooking channel to be bothered?”

Jan shrugged, unwilling to be repentant about her own serving deficiencies. “She’s an unknown,” she stubbornly repeated.

“I was an unknown,” Amy said. “And you took a chance on me.”

Jan shrugged, again signaling that Amy might not quite have 100 percent proven herself yet either. Nice. “Look,” Amy said, not nearly as calmly as she’d have liked, “it wasn’t Riley, okay? She wouldn’t do that. She’s trying to get her life together.”

Jan was shaking her head. “That girl is feral. She’d do whatever she needed to in order to survive, and you know it.”

Yeah. She knew it all too well. Just as she also knew how shitty a person’s life had to get in order to live that way. “Well, I refuse to believe it of her. And I can’t believe you believe it. My God, Jan, just last night there was some guy out back attacking her. You saw that, both of you,” she said, encompassing Henry. “You both saw us come in here right after the fight. She’s in trouble. She’s not the trouble.”

“I saw you both afterward,” Jan allowed. “But I didn’t see anyone attack her.”

“So I made it up?” Amy asked in disbelief. “Because I saw, Jan. I saw him.” She lifted up her shirt to reveal the covered stitches. “I was there.”

Jan sighed. “Look, I get that, and I’ll be sure to tell Sawyer what I know. But the person who stole this jar was someone inside the diner. Today. Not the guy in the alley outside. This was someone who walked through here, familiar enough with our comings and goings, someone we recognize, someone we serve or talk to on a regular basis. Someone we know.”

“Yes,” Amy agreed. “So let’s start talking to the customers.”

“Oh, hell no.” Jan was already shaking her head. “It was the girl. I know it.”

Sawyer walked in the back door, immediately followed by Mallory.

And then Matt.

The sight of him both stopped Amy’s heart and filled her with dread, because she knew right then and there that the promise she’d made to Riley was about to blow up in her face. She whipped back to face Jan, who met her gaze evenly and without apology.

Thirty minutes ago, Matt had sent her skittering over the edge into an orgasm with just the heat in his eyes. Now those eyes were filled with concern.

For her.

She shook her head as the dread doubled, heavy in her gut.

Jan pushed everyone out of the kitchen and into the dining room, where they all sat at one of the big corner booths. Jan gave the gist of what happened, including last night’s alley fight.

All eyes turned to Amy, who then spent the next few minutes repeating the story from her point of view. When she was done, Jan jumped back in with her theory on Riley, making a damn tight case.

“Okay, so it looks bad,” Amy agreed. “But it wasn’t Riley. I really think we should question the customers—”

“No,” Jan said, standing up. “No way. I can’t have this getting out. I don’t want people to think I don’t trust them, or worse, that I hire thieves. I don’t want anyone to be worried about coming here.”

Amy opened her mouth, but Matt put a hand on her arm. She met his calm, quiet gaze, and got his silent message. He wanted her to know that this would be okay.

But she had no idea how.

“No one can know,” Jan insisted to Sawyer. “No one!”

“Then you should stop yelling about it,” Sawyer told her. “Sit down, Jan.”

Jan’s lips tightened, but she sat. “I’m not yelling.”

“Yeah, you are.” This from Lucille, who’d been eating two tables over with her entire blue-haired, bingo-loving, trouble-seeking posse. “And I couldn’t help but overhear…”

Jan rolled her eyes.

“You hired the girl,” Lucille reminded her, coming over. “Scoot,” she said to Sawyer, who scooted. Lucille sat. “You knew Riley was trouble. So raising your voice at everyone else isn’t doing you any good.”

“Riley’s not trouble,” Amy said, and when Matt’s hand tightened on her arm, she yanked it free. Screw being calm. “None of you know what you’re talking about. There’s no proof it was her. It could have been anyone.”

“Honey,” Mallory started.

Amy shook her head. “No. Riley’s doing her damn best to make a life for herself. She’s working hard at changing—” Horrifying herself, her breath hitched. She sucked in some air and met Matt’s warm gaze.

They both knew she was talking about herself. Dammit. “Move,” she said, shoving at him, needing the hell out of the booth.

He slid out in his usual unhurried manner, and she barely resisted shoving him again to make him move faster. When his big, stupid, perfect body was out of the way, she jerked to her feet and went to pull out her ordering pad because she needed something to do. She planned on insisting that everyone order a damn meal just to keep herself busy, except she pulled out her pocket sketchpad instead.

Before she could replace it, Lucille gasped in delight and yanked it from her hands, flipping through the small sketches, making little noises of approval as she went through. Finally, she looked up at Amy, eyes sharp. “You’re not a waitress.”

“Actually, I am.”

“Girl, you’re an artist.”

“Well, I…”

“A damn artist,” she repeated, almost accusingly. “And you’ve been right under my nose this whole time?” She looked around the group, thrusting the book at them of each in turn. “Seriously? I keep track of every single one of you and your needs, and no one bothers to tell me that I have the next hottest thing serving me coffee?” She snatched the book close and hugged it as she turned back to Amy. “I want to see all of it.”

“Excuse me?”

“Your portfolio. Your drawings. Your pads. All of them. Bring them to me.”

“I don’t—”