“Just another month?” Agnes asked as she handed the coffees across the bar in to-go cups. Her nail polish was bright pink, matching the one rebellious streak in her silver hair.
“Yep, one more,” I confirmed when she sighed.
“You sure you need to go all the way to London? We’re going to miss you around here.”
I slid my debit card into my wallet and tucked it into my purse. “I’ll be back before you even realize I’ve gone,” I promised, taking both of the coffees. Maybe I’d be lucky and get back before I’d even realized I’d gone. Not that I wasn’t grateful for the opportunity, but the whole purpose of the internship was political and I’d never been politically minded.
“Emerson Renee Kendrick, I’ve known you since you were a twinkle in your daddy’s eye. You’ve been coming to my diner just about as long, and getting coffee every morning since you turned eighteen. I’ll realize you’re gone the moment you walk out of those doors.”
I couldn’t hide my grin as I shook my head. She was right, of course. I’d basically grown up in this diner, doing my homework until Mom finished work across the street in her florist shop. “Yes, Ma’am. Well, I’d better get these to Mayor Davis.”
She leaned over the counter. “Ooh, is that hearing this morning? Everyone’s been dying to hear who’s been building up on the old Parson land.”
One of my eyebrows rose. “Are you telling me you haven’t driven up there a dozen times already and peeked?” Of course, she had. Everyone had. Except me. It wasn’t the new construction that bothered me, but rather what laid along the ridgeline behind it.
Her eyes widened in false innocence as she took a rag to the impeccably clean counter top. “Well, I mean…everyone’s seen the signs. Legacy, LLC. It’s odd, right?”
“About as odd as anyone naming a company after the town we live in, I suppose,” I said, slowly backing away from the counter. Agnes would talk all day if I didn’t’t get out of here. “It’s got to be someone local with all the money they’ve funneled into the rebuild. Just about every business owes them a debt of gratitude.” The money had started showing up just as the rebuild was in full swing a few years ago, a few thousand here, tens of thousands there.
“Right? And it’s a rather large complex. Don’t you think? Was it even permitted?”
“It’s just outside the Legacy town limits, Agnes, so it falls under the county.” Another few feet and I’d be home free.
“Well, you could ask that boy you’re seeing over there on the zoning board for the county. What’s his name?” She looked up from the counter, her blue eyes locking onto my brown ones with the accuracy of a guided missile.
“You know darn well it’s Greg Roberts. You’ve been serving him coffee just as long, and Agnes, we’re not seeing each other. We’re just friends, so you can stop hinting.” My butt hit the glass of the door, and the bells jingled as I bumped it open.
She waved her rag at me. “Twenty-four years old and you still won’t lock down a man. Don’t you want your name carved into my wall?” She gestured back to the soft pine wall at the south end of the diner, etched with the names of the town’s lovers. “I’m telling you, if I had your figure, or that hair, I’d have…”
“Love you, too, Agnes!” I slid out the door of the Chatterbox Diner and into the crisp August air. Summer was still in full swing in the mountains of Colorado, but the mornings brought with them the little bite of fall’s foreshadowing. The door glided shut behind me, and I winced, missing the squeaking hinge I’d grown up with, already mentally chastising myself. Of course, the damn door didn’t squeak. It was new.
Everything was new.
More or less.
That’s what happens when an entire town burns down. Everything gets replaced. I glanced over at the fire hall, its garage doors bright red against the stone of the building. Hell, everyone gets replaced.
My heels clicked on the smooth concrete as I walked two blocks through our tiny town’s heart, greeting everyone by name as they passed me. Greg’s Explorer was parallel parked just before the town office, proving once again how punctual he was…how dependable.
It would be so easy to fall into a relationship with him, to finally take him up on that date he kept asking for. But what good was that going to do? He was an attractive guy, sure, only a few years older than me and probably even a decent kisser. But there was no chemistry, no sizzle when he touched my hand, no longing within me. I felt just as frigid next to him as I did with every other guy, which honestly annoyed the shit out of me. It would be comfortable, safe, just like every relationship I’d had in college, but there was a reason I’d quit trying to date over a year ago.
No one was…him.
My eyes slid shut, and my grip tightened on the cups. Don’t go there. I caught myself just in time, stopping the onslaught of memories with an indrawn breath and mentally going through my schedule as I blinked. Focus on now.
The door to the Town Hall opened, and Greg stepped into the sunlight as it caught in his blond hair, his suit impeccable as his timing. “Good morning, Ms. Kendrick,” he said with a very cute grin.
“Mr. Roberts,” I nodded with a smile of my own as I walked through the door he held open for me. “Nice to see you,” I said over my shoulder as I walked up the flight of stairs to the mayor’s office.
He was totally checking out my ass.
“Greg? Up here.”
His eyes shot up to my face as his reddened. “Sorry.”
I laughed. “At least I know the skirt is effective.”
“Very,” he admitted as he raced ahead of me to open the second set of doors that brought us into Mayor Davis’s office. “Do you know who this Legacy manager is?”
I shook my head. “I figured you did since you sit on the zoning board.”
“No, I only dealt with the attorney,” he finished as we made it to the office.
“Good morning, Emerson,” Mayor Davis said, taking one of the coffees from me. “Thank you very much. I appreciate you doing that for me.”
I almost mouthed along as he spoke, knowing his routine by heart. It was as predictable as he was, as he liked everything to be. “I’ll make sure Jenn knows how you like it.”