Flamingo Diner has always been a friendly place where everyone knows your name. Unfortunately, in the small town of Winter Cove, Florida, it is also the place where everyone knows everything about you. As a teenager, Emma Killian didn’t recognize what a remarkable business her family had created, and so she moved away.
Now her father’s tragic death has brought her home to face a mountain of secrets, debts and questions about why and how her beloved father died. As Emma grapples with her out-of-control family, the responsibility of keeping Flamingo Diner afloat and a pair of well-meaning senior-citizen sleuths, she finds support from an unlikely source.
Onetime bad boy Matt Atkins is now the Winter Cove police chief. Matt has always had a penchant for trouble and an eye for Emma. Now it seems he’s the only one who can help Emma discover the answers to her questions...and give her a whole new reason to stay home
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By Sherryl Woods
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
Copyright © 2003
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
The July humidity was as high as it possibly could be without rain pouring from the sky. Despite recent power company
improvements, another manhole had exploded just down the block in Washington's Georgetown area, shooting flames into
the air and shutting off power to several blocks of boutiques and restaurants. Without air-conditioning, Fashionable
Memories felt like a steam room in one of those fancy spas their customers were always running off to.
Emma wiped her brow and cursed the fact that today of all days five crates of antiques had arrived from an estate sale
in Boston. Normally she regarded the arrival of new treasures with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning, but
today the unpacking seemed a whole lot more like hot, sweaty drudgery. And naturally her boss was nowhere to be found.
Marcel D'Avignon, who was about as French as country ham and grits, preferred spending money to the hard work of
earning it. He left that to Emma.
In fact, in the five years she'd been at Fashionable Memories, Emma had taken over most of the day-to-day operations of
the high-end antiques business, while Marcel concentrated on acquisitions. For a woman who'd grown up in a small
Florida town more prone to wicker and plastic, she had an innate ability to spot priceless pieces of old furniture,
silver and porcelain and then sell them at a ridiculously high profit to the interior designers and bored Washington
society housewives who made up the bulk of their clientele.
Today, with the temperature in the shop approaching ninety, she could probably have gotten a better price for ice. Her
friends here still marveled that a woman who'd grown up in Florida could have any complaints about the Washington
summers. They didn't seem to understand that back in Winter Cove, power outages from outdated infrastructure weren't
kicking off the air-conditioning every couple of weeks.
Just thinking about home made her long to hear the sound of her mother's voice. Rosa Killian had been born in Miami,
but her parents had come from Cuba. Rosa had spoken Spanish before she'd learned English, and traces of the accent
lingered, along with strong beliefs about family and principles of strict child rearing. Emma had learned at an early
age that her father, Don, was a much softer touch than her mother when it came to doling out punishment, especially to
the daughter he adored.
Emma sighed thinking about how heartbroken he'd been when she'd announced her intention to leave Winter Cove to attend
college in Washington, then stayed on to work for Fashionable Memories. Hurting her father was her only regret about
the decision she'd made. Otherwise, it had been the exact right choice for her. She'd come into her own here, away from
the watchful eyes of family and neighbors, all of whom thought they should have a say in her life.
She loved Washington and the nearby rolling Virginia countryside. Being at the center of things in a city that hummed
with excitement and power filled her with an energy she had never felt in the small Florida town where she'd been born.
Winter Cove had its charms, but she'd felt as if she were growing up in a glass bubble with everyone watching
everything she was doing, every misstep she made. Here she could make a monumental mistake and there were thousands of
people who'd never have a clue about it.
Not that she made that many mistakes. She lived a fairly sedate and uneventful life. No messy relationships. No
wild nights. Not even a speeding ticket.
Sweet heaven, she was barely twenty-six and she was boring, she thought with a sudden attack of dismay. Wasn't that
precisely the fate she'd left home to escape? And wasn't that exactly what Marcel had been saying to her the week
before when she'd turned down yet another blind date? She'd argued the point rather emphatically at the time, but she
could see now that her boss had pegged her life exactly right. Fulfilling work that she loved was one thing. Having a
life was something else entirely, and it was time she did something about grabbing one. Otherwise all that
independence she'd moved to Washington to claim would be totally wasted.
Spurred on by the thought, she reached for the phone to call her best friend before she could change her mind.
Kim Drake had a social life that a Hollywood starlet would envy. Emma, however, had never felt the slightest twinge of
envy, because she knew that the one thing Kim craved - a family - was still as elusive as ever. She called Emma after
nearly every date for a postmortem to analyze whether the latest man in her life could possibly be the one. So
far none had even passed Kim's three-dates-and-he's-out test. Their Sunday morning get-togethers at a trendy Georgetown
coffee shop had become strategy sessions for meeting better candidates. Thus far Emma had doled out plenty of advice on
the topic to Kim, but followed none of it herself. Today Emma intended to change that pattern.
"Do we know anyone who has a swimming pool?" Kim asked plaintively as soon as she heard Emma's voice.
"I'm sure any number of men in your life live in singles complexes with pools," Emma told her.
"Given the disgustingly boring crop of men in my life at the moment, it's not worth it," Kim said. "I'd prefer to
swelter. So, what's up? I thought you were going to be hip deep in dusty antiques today."
"I am, and it's given me too much time to think."
"Uh-oh. What's on your mind?"
"I've decided I need a social life."
"Well, hallelujah! Isn't that exactly what I've been saying for months now? Even Marcel, who's oblivious to most things
that don't involve him, thinks you're a hermit," Kim said. "Do you want to go out tonight? I have a date with a
Congressional aide. I'm sure he has friends he could call. We could double."
"Which date is this for you and the aide?" Emma asked suspiciously.
"That's okay, then."
"What are you talking about?" Kim demanded. She sounded genuinely perplexed.
"If it were your first, then you wouldn't know yet whether his friends are likely to be awful," Emma explained
patiently. "If it were your third, you'd probably be breaking up at the end of the evening and that could put a real
damper on things for those of us relegated to being witnesses."
"I am not that predictable," Kim protested.
"I could run through the list," Emma teased the woman she'd known since their first year of college when they'd shared
a dorm room. "We could start with Dirk, freshman year in college. I believe you made a list of his attributes and flaws
after the second date and canceled the third. The pattern has been repeated more times than I can count."
"God, I hate having a friend who knows my entire life inside out," Kim grumbled. "Do you want a date tonight or not?"
Emma hesitated. "A Congressional aide, huh?"
"He's mine, but I imagine that's where his pool of available friends comes from."
Emma hated politics. Living in the nation's capital had given her a jaundiced view of the men - and women, for that
matter - who wielded power as if it were their God-given right. They might come to Washington full of high ideals, but
it seldom took long for them to learn the art of backroom deal making. As fascinating as it was to watch it all unfold,
she had no desire to get too close to that particular fire.
"Never mind," she said finally. Another dateless night wouldn't be so bad. She had a great book sitting on her
nightstand. "Call me when you're going out with an investment banker."
"You're too picky," Kim said, a charge she made frequently.
Excerpted from Flamingo Diner
by Sherryl Woods
Copyright © 2003 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd..
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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