This scene takes place soon after Riley begins working on Claire's case.
“Thanks. Take the rest of the cookies.” Claire slipped her feet into her shoes and went to the counter for something to put the treats in. “Riley ate a cake last night and doesn’t need any more sugar.” She slid the cookies into a red bag and handed it to Mary. “Tell Damien hi and I’ll see him Friday afternoon.”
Claire let Mary out the front door and locked it behind her. “Damien’s working with us on Fridays after school and all day Saturdays this season,” she said to Riley. “He’s a nice boy.”
“I did not ‘eat a cake’ last night. Maybe a big piece, but that’s all,” he said, following her to the back. He guessed she was over her mad spell—good woman. No grudge.
She spun around and walked backward for a couple of steps, facing him with a wide grin. “Okay, half a cake.”
When the smile reached her eyes, the corners crinkled. He caught her arm, afraid she’d stumble. He felt like a cat with a mouse—one hint and he’d have been on her. Shaking his head, he turned her around again and let go. “It was going to waste.” God, but he needed to finish this job and get out of here. “By the way, didn’t I tell you not to leave the store without me?” He gentled his voice, not wanting to be too hard on her, scare her.
“Yes, I believe you did,” she said, stooping to adjust a little tin soldier who kept watch over a glittering ballerina.
Maybe he’d been too easy. “But you went out anyway.”
“Yes, I did.” She looked up, giving him a guileless smile.
He glared. “I mean it. Don’t go out alone.”
She straightened. “I’ll try not to.” She spoke carefully, her tone deliberate.
“You’ll try?” He couldn’t believe her. He definitely hadn’t scared her. “Someone is trying to kill you,” he snarled.
“Yes, I know.” Her gaze met his without blinking. Under the honey lay a note of steel. “You’re supposed to find out who, not hide me in a closet.”
She was warning him. He stepped out of her path, at a loss, as she sailed toward the restroom with the empty cider carafe.
When she came back, she indicated the cash register. “I need to close out and take the money to the bank. I didn’t have time this afternoon. Want to go with me?” Her eyes tilted with amusement.
Riley surrendered. He watched her bustle around the shop, tidying and rearranging. It all looked fine to him. “Okay, then let’s go out for dinner. How about Shields Tavern? Unless you have other plans.” Like the guy next door. Or the nerdy lawyer.