By: Shirley Penick

From that moment forward women had come on to him—for the money to start with, but as his name got to be a household one, they had also liked the fame. Some of them had even gone on book signing tours. He’d finally realized that having them on tour was more hassle than it was worth, so he’d stopped that. Except when he was with Sheila—she had been a great organizer, and she had been an asset. Right up until she’d left him for another sugar daddy. Jeremy was tired of temporary women and their demands and drama. He’d turned down the ones that had come on to him once Sheila left; he was happily single and celibate.

At least that’s what he told himself. Amber would be a completely different type of woman—a keeper, as they say, but he had no clue how to have a real relationship or even start one. So, happy and celibate was the way to go.

AMBER WAS WORKING on the schedule for next week. She was out in the lunch area so she could keep an eye on the room while her staff had a meal break. She heard the bell tinkle as the door opened and Jeremy strolled in with a backpack in one hand, and a box under his other arm.

He smiled at her as he came over to the table. “Is this a good time for our talk?”

She nodded, too dumbstruck to say much. The man was a well-put together package. It always took her a minute to get her brain to function when she saw him. She hoped he didn’t notice.

“It’s a great time. What is all that you’re carrying?”

He flushed a bit and ducked his head. “I brought in some copies of my other books. I thought maybe you could put them on a shelf somewhere. To let kids look at when they get bored waiting for their parents. If you don’t want them, that’s fine too. I can take them home.”

“I think that’s a great idea. There are a lot of times parents want to linger over coffee or pie and the kids get restless. That’s very generous of you, Jeremy.”

“They were just sitting collecting dust.”

“Uh huh.” She barely kept from rolling her eyes at him. Silly man, collecting dust. Like he couldn’t sell them in a heartbeat. She smiled at him. He was so self-depreciating toward his work. “Well I appreciate them anyway. I’ll get Terry to build a bookshelf—maybe one that looks like Tsilly to draw attention. I’m sure I can find the perfect place for them. Thanks.”

Jeremy nodded and cleared his throat. “So, is this a good place to brainstorm for your kids’ menu?”

“Sure, we shouldn’t be interrupted. My staff is having lunch, and we don’t get a lot of people in to eat this time of day, on a week day. Now that schools back in session, there aren’t a lot of tourists.”

“Great.” Jeremy set the box of books on the floor and opened his backpack. He took out a sketch pad, a notepad, a pen, pencils, colored pencils, an eraser and a pencil sharpener. Laying it all out on the table neatly, he settled into a chair and looked at her expectantly. “Let’s start with the menu. What children’s meals do you offer?”

“Pretty much the standard kid fare—hot dogs, chicken nuggets, spaghetti, and mac and cheese for lunch and dinner. Pancakes, muffins, eggs, and cereal for breakfast.”

“Do you do cutesy things with them, like dollar sized pancakes or smiley faces with whipped cream?”

Amber shrugged, she’d never thought to do anything like that—she’d never given kids much of a thought, at least not to entertain them. Feed them? Yes. Entertain? No. “Not so much, but that’s not a bad idea. Did you have something in mind?”

“Yeah, I was kinda thinking about it and I wondered if we could come up with meal names that went along with the amusement park. Since the whole town is playing up the game and amusement park connection to draw in tourists, you should get on board with that. In fact, since it was your brother’s idea to build the amusement park based on the Adventures with Tsilly game, I’m not sure how you’ve gotten out of it as long as you have. Hasn’t Mayor Carol or Gus been in here to nag you about wearing costumes and stuff?”

Amber laughed. “Oh, believe me, we tried. But, when Barbara drew up the costume designs we didn’t give enough thought to food. Serving it, cleaning it up, cooking it. We do it all day long, so the costumes were a disaster. Samantha can bake in her chef outfit in the morning behind closed doors. Then put the costumes on when she opens—to serve the rolls and donuts and coffee or whatever—without any real issues. Our first day we had open-faced turkey sandwiches with gravy as the special. The costumes had flowing sleeves. Let’s just say the two did not go well together.” She put her hands over her eyes and shook her head at the disaster that had been.