Mari sipped at her lemonade, enjoying the sun that filtered through to the patio outside of Janey’s café. It was nice to take a morning off from tours. She slept in and let the sun wake her before she rolled out of bed to enjoy a morning of relaxation. Raoul and Allison found her in the hammock in the backyard and suggested lunch at Janey’s. The temptation turned out to be greater than that of spending the rest of the day in the hammock.

“Business has picked back up since you’ve been back,” Raoul noted as he stirred his soup.

“Yeah, I meant to talk to you about that.” She swallowed a bite of her sandwich. “What do you think about hiring another guide?”

“We’ve discussed it. Are you planning on sticking around?”

“I don’t have any plans to leave as of right now. I spent enough time away as is. Whether I stayed or not, you’d still need another guide.”

“But whether or not we have you as a trainer determines how far out we can look.”

“You can count on me for the next month or so. I haven’t really thought beyond that. Still, I don’t have any plans to leave.”

“That’s good to hear.”

The relief in Allison’s voice made her smile. “What? You thought I’d leave so soon? I haven’t gotten over missing this place yet.”

Allison shrugged. “You hadn’t said much one way or the other. We didn’t want to make any assumptions.”

Mari glanced up from her plate and reached for her glass when she spotted him. Tyler was as attractive as the night before, this time dressed in jeans and a plain white shirt as he came through the side door. His hair was a little wild, ruffled and sticking up as if he’d run his fingers through it and forgot to brush it back down. She couldn’t fight the smile when they met eyes. She set her fork down just as he reached the table.

“Good afternoon,” he greeted with a warm smile.

“Hey.” She fought a laugh when Raoul looked pointedly at her. “Papa, Allison, this is Tyler. Tyler, Raoul and Allison.”

“It’s nice to meet you, Tyler.” Allison reached out and took her husband’s hand. “Raoul, I think I want to take a look at the to-go desserts before we leave. If you’ll excuse us.” She didn’t give him a chance to protest or even address Tyler, drawing him from the table and toward the bakery inside of the café.

Tyler smiled knowingly as he watched them go before he turned back to Mari. “I think Allison and I will get along just fine.”

“Yeah, well don’t count on her always being in your corner.” She rose from her seat. “What are you doing here?”

“I believe these are for you.”

He whipped his hand from behind his back and the flash of colors stole her attention. There in his hand was a bouquet of pinwheels. Surprised laughter spilled from her lips.

“Wow. Okay, yeah, you did pretty good with this. I might be a little impressed.”

She took the bouquet and playfully spun one of the wheels, a smile on her face all the while. It was an inconsequential story and yet he remembered the simple pleasure the pinwheels brought her. When she looked up again their eyes locked.

“I don’t want any confusion about what yesterday was.”

She opened her mouth to speak. Nothing came out but an exhalation of air. She wasn’t prepared for his forwardness but this was Tyler. Everything she learned about him indicated he wasn’t a man to play games. This only proved it. The question was, was she ready for it? She inhaled and tried again.

“And what was yesterday?”

He smiled that crooked smile. “We had fun. I want to see what else we can have together. Are you interested?”

Her fingers went back to the pinwheels. It would’ve been easy to stop by Louise’s and get a bouquet of flowers. The pinwheels were thoughtful. Sweet. Meaningful. Exclusive to her. The excuse of a busy schedule and previous thoughts of him being a complication or distraction completely left her mind.

“Yeah. I’m interested.”

The smile returned full force. “I was banking on that wild girl in you.”

She laughed. “I guess there’s still a bit of wild left in me then.”

“Good. It works to my advantage. Am I being presumptuous if I plan to get with you tomorrow?

She smiled and shook her head. “Tomorrow night is good as long as it’s not too strenuous. I’ve got a tough schedule and I’m still getting back into things.”

“Dinner then. We’ll get you fueled back up. Should I pick you up from the shop?”

She could just walk down to the shop in the morning instead of taking the truck. It would give her more of a chance to get to know him and she was finding she wanted very much to do that.

“Yeah, that works. Thank you for these,” she added lifting the pinwheels.

“Trust me. It was my pleasure.” He pulled her in for a brief hug and she went willingly, linking her arms around him. “I’ll see you tomorrow,” he promised as he pulled back.

“Tomorrow,” she echoed as he backed away from her before waving and walking back through the café.

Moments later, Raoul and Allison rejoined her. She wasn’t surprised to find Allison empty handed. Raoul’s gaze settled on the pinwheels she held before looking to the café for Tyler’s retreating figure.

“Should I be looking for my shotgun?”

Allison nudged him playfully while Mari rolled her eyes.

“No, Papa.”

He looked at the pinwheels once more; this time taking in the reverent way she touched them. He groaned softly.

“You like him.”

“Yeah…I think I just might.”

 << Chapter 7 || Chapter 9 >>

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