“Instead of being so keen on saving everyone, maybe look at what puts them in danger in the first place.” I opened the front door.
“Where are you going?” Rhys asked.
“I need to clear my head.”
He looked at me for a long moment. “I’ll leave and you can stay here.”
“That’s the opposite of what I want. I need to get out of here. Space. You said this town was safe.”
“Fine.” He walked toward me, dug his keys out of his pocket, and handed them to me. “Then take the car.” He grabbed his wallet and pulled out a fifty. “And here. Stay in town.”
“I don’t want your money.”
“Then I’ll come with you.”
“I just need some time, alone.”
“I get that. But you need money just in case you stop somewhere.” Even on the brink of a storm out, he was being gentlemanly. “Either take it or I come with you, Emma.”
I groaned, swiped the fifty and walked out.
I climbed into the car, knowing deep in my heart that Rhys was hurting, that he was a good man and that we would never be on the same page, because we were already in different books.
It was nine o’ clock and the only thing open was the damn diner. Seriously, nine and the town shut down? I was already missing the big city where there was always light and something to do. Of course, there were also stalkers.
I contemplated taking the fifty bucks and half a tank of gas and leaving for good. Aside from that being a financially stupid idea, there was something else gnawing at me that just wouldn’t allow my foot to stay wedged on the gas for too long. Rhys.
I couldn’t take off, couldn’t leave him. He had helped me, continued to do so, and for seemingly no other reason than that he was a good guy. My plan to find a flaw in him was failing miserably. I was aware of it, but not happy about it.
I yanked open the diner door hoping Sara wasn’t working and I could just have a glass of something and think in peace for a bit.
Though the place was open, it was pretty much dead. I went and sat at the counter and — ah shit.
“Emma?” Sara greeted me as she walked around the corner and behind the counter, her hair in a tight ponytail and not looking the least bit mangled or makeup smudged.
She smiled and looked around. “Rhys not with you tonight?”
“Nope, just me.”
She seemed equal parts happy and disappointed about that and I knew exactly which parts went with which.
“Can I get you something to drink? Eat?”
“I’ll just have a coffee and pour half a shot of rum in it if you would.” Just enough to taste the burn but still be able to drive later.
“Oh, okay,” she said and poured the coffee, then went to the other side of the bar to get the rum and put a shot in. She handed it to me with the same confused look she wore while examining my pancakes the other night.
I thought that would be it. Order a drink and typically the waitress gives you space. But no. Apparently Sara was feeling talkative and the world obviously wanted me to understand that a silent moment wouldn’t be happening for me.
“So, where are you from?” she asked.
“Chicago.” I took a sip of coffee. Not trying to be rude, but I just wanted a moment to clear my head. Besides, I was pretty certain I had nothing in common with Sara aside from Rhys. And even that was a stretch because she had been engaged to him while I was just . . . what? Hanging out? Hiding out? There was no title for whatever he and I were doing, which showed right there how lost I really was.
Sara nodded. “I hear Chicago is quite a place. Is that where you met Rhys?”
There it was. The real reason behind her new and obviously not nearly close to finished line of questioning. She wanted details on Rhys and me.
“No.” I wasn’t going to give out more information than necessary, especially since technically I was supposed to be lying low.
Sara could pretend all she wanted, but it was obvious she didn’t care for me. The way her upper lip pursed and she always found a way to look down at me was a dead giveaway. Which was fine. I wasn’t her biggest fan, either. Any woman who could cheat on Rhys was an automatic idiot in my book.
“So where did you meet?”
“New York.” I took another sip of my spiked coffee.
“You two been together long?”
I set the cup down and looked at her. “Why?”
“Pardon?” She blinked a few times, like my single-word question had physically slapped her in the face.
“Why do you want to know how long Rhys and I have been together?”
I used the term “together” loosely.
“Just making conversation.” She smiled and it looked more like something that got plastered to her face than an actual expression of happiness. “Curious about how a good friend of my mine is doing is all.”
“Good friend? You guys are exes.”
“Well, around here you can still be friends with your ex,” she snipped.
“Look, I don’t know you, and I don’t know the relationship you have with Rhys. But we can cut the shit. You and I aren’t friends. I know enough to know I don’t like you purely on principle.”
Her mouth dropped. “He told you?”
“Yeah, he did. And you cheating on him isn’t my business, but I’m not going to sit here and pretend I’m okay with you hurting him the way you did.” I don’t know why I said that, but I felt the need to point out her mistake and defend Rhys.
“Oh, that . . .” Her shoulders relaxed like cheating wasn’t a big deal. What the hell was her problem?
“What did you think I meant?”
She shrugged. “Doesn’t really matter now. But you should really have all your facts before you go around accusing.”
“I wasn’t accusing, I was informing you of why I don’t care to have a conversation with you. I don’t like my business being pried into just like I’m sure you don’t like yours.”
She smiled and shook her head. “You have no idea what kind of man he is, do you?”
What the hell was with this woman? Now she was offensive and almost cackling with some kind of weird evil grin, like a villain unveiling a doomsday plan.
“I have a good idea about the kind of man Rhys is. A good one,” I said.
In that moment, what we had fought about came rushing back. I did understand him. Enough to be talking to wholesome nurse Barbie here and getting thoroughly pissed because she didn’t have a clue as to the amazing man I’d come to know.