By: Shirley Penick

Maybe he could draw something up for her. It wouldn’t take him long. He could offer, anyway.

He grabbed his box of advanced reader copies of his newest book, took out three, and quickly signed his name on the cover page. Then, he decided to give Amber a couple more copies she could keep on hand. In fact, maybe he should bring her over a couple copies of each of his books—to have a little lending corner to keep kids entertained. He’d have to ask her about that idea.

He got back into the restaurant and gave the obnoxious woman the three books, then turned to his table to find the biggest piece of chocolate silk pie he’d ever seen. He loved Amber’s chocolate silk pie—how did she know that? Well, he did order it nearly every day, so he guessed it wasn’t hard to figure out. He was going to enjoy every bite, along with the fresh cup of coffee that had also appeared while he was out at his car.

When he finished eating the chocolaty creamy goodness and could barely move, he dragged himself up to the cash register. Amber was manning it—she was such a pretty woman, with strawberry blond hair and blue eyes. Her hair had both light blond highlights and some darker—almost red—streaks. Her eyes were blue, but there was some green that radiated from the center—very pretty. She wasn’t tall, more an average height, and her curves were just barely visible under the uniform she wore. No wonder the rude woman hadn’t recognized her as anything but a waitress. She did dress like her staff. He wondered about that—why she didn’t set herself apart in her appearance, so it was clear she was the boss.

She shook her head at him and held out her hand like a stop sign. “Your money is no good here, Jeremy. Today’s lunch and maybe all your lunches for the rest of your life are on the house. Thank you so much for getting that dragon lady off my back. I owe you.”

Isn’t she cute. Jeremy smiled at her. “It was no big deal, and I was thinking, I could draw you up a children’s menu. If you want me to.”

“Oh, would you? That would be awesome.” Her eyes sparkled, and she put both hands on her face like a little child would and looked at him like he was amazing.

He hoped he didn’t start drooling.

“There have been other people asking for one, just never anyone quite so forceful. Someone suggested I talk to you about it a few months ago, but I didn’t want to bother you.”

Bother? Not likely. He would be quite happy to get her alone for a few minutes. “Oh, Amber, you’re not bothering me. I would be happy to draw something up. How about we sit down and talk it over. We can brainstorm, and I can sketch out some ideas.”

“Can you come in some afternoon about two? That’s when the rush is over from lunch and dinner prep hasn’t started.” Amber caught the attention of a waitress and pointed to some customers.

Jeremy watched the exchange. She seemed aware of everything going on. Fascinating. “I can do that. I was also thinking I could leave a couple copies of my new book here for any other kids.”

“That’s so sweet of you—I would be honored to have them for kids to read.” She took the books from him and set them down on the counter then straightened the menus next to the cash register, so there would be room for his offering.

“Great, I’ll be back later with a sketchpad. Are you sure I can’t pay for my lunch?” He hefted his back-pack to his shoulder.

“Absolutely. It’s payment for being quick to diffuse the drama and trauma.”

He laughed and walked out the door. He had something to look forward to. Working with her—not because he wanted to start anything. Amber was a beautiful woman but not his type. Well, she might be his type, but he had no idea how to approach a woman. All his relationships had been the result of women coming on to him. Shortly after high school graduation, his Tsilly books had started earning money and never stopped. Women loved him for his money. He had been thrilled to begin with; he’d always felt like a misfit before.

In school, he’d been a geeky kid who liked to draw comics. Which had been exactly what Pastor Davidson had been looking for when he’d asked him to draw the Tsilly stories that Sandy Anderson had made up. Sandy was having trouble with some of the kids she baby-sat and had used her Tsilly adventure stories to get them to behave. Only good kids got to go with Tsilly, the Lake Monster, on adventures. And some of the stories had morals to them, to teach the kids about bad behavior and the consequences of it. Pastor Davidson had heard about that and commissioned him to turn them into a flannelgraph and books to read in Sunday School. When Sandy’s game won the competition, the game company had approached him and they had hooked him up with a publisher—and that was all it had taken to skyrocket his career.