One Secret Night, One Secret Baby(6)

By: Charlene Sands


He took her hand, his fingers lacing with hers.

How...unexpected. Her breath froze in her chest.

“It was a nice memorial, wasn’t it?” he asked as he resumed walking.

There was a slight tug on her hand that woke her from her stupor and she fell in step with him. “It was heartwarming. You honored Roy with a wonderful tribute to his life.”

“I’m the only family he had, aside from his crew. He was a great guy and it’s just a ridiculous shame. Roy was obsessed with his stunts. He spent his whole life perfecting them. He was the most cautious man I’ve ever known. It just doesn’t make sense.”

“They’re saying it was a freakish accident.”

Dylan took a sharp breath. “That’s what they say when they don’t know what happened. It’s the standard answer.”

They walked on in silence for a while, the heat from where he held her hand warming her entire body. It was actually a perfect evening for a stroll on the beach. Breezes blew at the twist of hair at the back of her head. She reached up and pulled it out of its band, freeing the long waves that touched the middle of her back.

“So tell me what’s going on in your life, Emma.”

Her brows gathered at the oddity of the request. Dylan knew just about everything about her. She was Brooke’s friend and business partner. She lived in a tiny apartment twenty minutes away from Moonlight Beach. She loved her work and didn’t go out much.

Oh, no! Did he remember something? Blood drained from her face as her mind worked overtime for signs that he’d remembered that blackout night. But as she dared to gaze at his profile, his eyes didn’t probe her but stayed straight ahead, his neutral expression unchanged. She let out a relieved sigh. Maybe he needed to break the silence. Maybe he was just making conversation. And maybe her guilty conscience was wringing her dry.

“The same old, same old,” she answered. “Work, work, work.”

“Still hoping to make your first million before thirty?”

Her laugh came out a little too high-pitched. Brooke must’ve told him of her long-term goal. How embarrassing. Ever since she was a child, money had been scarce. Her foster parents didn’t have much and were stingy in sharing. She didn’t know that until she’d grown into a teen, of course, and witnessed how they’d splurge what they did have on each other. Never her. She grew up mostly wearing thrift store clothes. From the age of thirteen, Emma knew she’d have to find her own way in the world. She’d worked her ass off, achieving a full scholarship to college, and vowed she’d become financially independent one day. The promise she made herself was that by the age of thirty, she would make her first million. She had several years to go, but her hopes were high of expanding Parties-To-Go into a million-dollar franchise.

“Your sister, my best friend, needs to button her mouth.”

“Don’t blame Brooke,” he said softly. “I think it’s commendable to have goals.”

“Lofty goals.”

“Attainable goals and you work hard, Emma.”

“Without your investment, we wouldn’t even have a business.”

“I just helped you get started, and in the two years since you’ve been working at it, you’ve come a long way.”

“We owe you, Dylan. You’ve been amazing. We want to make you proud.”

Dylan stopped, his Nikes digging into the sand, and when she turned to him, a genuine smile graced his handsome face. Gone was the sadness from before. A glint of appreciation twinkled in his eyes. “You don’t owe me anything. And I am proud. You’re a hard worker, and you’re paying me back faster than I expected or wanted. But, Em, I have to tell you, as much as you believe Brooke has helped you through the growing-up years, you’ve helped her, too. She came to California hoping to become an actress. God, it’s a tough business. I’ve been lucky...more fortunate than I could’ve hoped, but it’s not the same for Brooke. She’s much happier now, being in business with her best friend and earning a legitimate living doing what she loves. I owe that to you. So thank you for being...you.”

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