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Emma pressed her hand on his arm. ’’It\'s okay,’’ she said gently. ’’I invited him. He\'s cool I promise. And just so you know, he didn\'t leave me in the canyon that night. He got hurt and had to go to the hospital. I made him leave.’’

Mr. Mercer shot a suspicious look at Thayer. ’’Okay. But I\'m keeping an eye on you, understand?’’ he said, pointing the shovel at him before heading to his SUV, which was parked a few stores over.

Thayer looked shaken as he sat down next to Emma. ’’I\'m not sure this is a good idea. I\'ve actually been thinking of going to the police about what happened to me in the canyon.’’ He kept his eyes on a twenty-something hipster with a fedora entering the café, as if nervous to see Emma\'s reaction.

’’That\'s why I asked you to meet,’’ Emma said urgently. ’’My dad isn\'t the one who hit you that night. It was someone else.’’

Thayer\'s head snapped up and he gazed into her eyes. ’’Are you sure?’’

’’Positive. Actually, I found out something crazy.’’ Emma took a long sip of her iced tea. ’’My dad is my biological grandfather. The woman he was with that night? It was my birth mom. His daughter.’’

Thayer\'s eyes widened. For a second he looked like he couldn\'t quite believe it. Or maybe he worried that it was yet another prank.

’’I\'m serious,’’ Emma urged. ’’They were meeting and we surprised them.’’

Thayer looked astonished. ’’You mean your birth mother has been in town and has never tried to see you?’’

Hurt tears stung Emma\'s eyes. She\'d imagined Becky walking back into her life so many times, finding her and scooping her up in her arms and telling her everything was going to be okay. But then she thought of the note Becky had left at the diner. She wanted nothing to do with her children she hadn\'t stayed at the diner. She had ’’nothing to give.’’

’’She just left me and never came back,’’ Emma blurted out, thinking of the horrible day when Becky abandoned her at a neighbor\'s house. ’’And she still doesn\'t want to see me.’’ A tear spilled down her cheek.

Thayer leaned over and put his arms around her. ’’Oh, Sutton.’’

’’It\'s okay,’’ she said, swiping away the tears that wet her cheeks.

’’Does Laurel know about all this?’’ he asked softly.

Emma shook her head. ’’No. And my mom doesn\'t know what happened either.’’ Her stomach suddenly jumped. ’’You can\'t tell Laurel. You have to promise me.’’

’’Sutton,’’ he said in a low voice. ’’You know you can trust me.’’ He stared hard at Emma. ’’But what does that mean? Who hit me with your car?’’

’’I don\'t know,’’ Emma murmured. ’’Are you positive it was a guy you saw behind the wheel?’’

Thayer squinted, thinking. ’’I guess I\'m not really sure,’’ he said slowly. ’’I just assumed it was your dad since he\'d been running after us. It all happened so fast. I think the person had dark hair, but I never actually saw a face.’’

A shiver shot through Emma. Was it just a car thief...or someone connected to this case?

Just then a car backfired loudly, and Emma\'s head snapped up. A rusted, brown car rolled slowly into the complex. It kept starting and stopping in front of each store. Thayer frowned and hitched forward. ’’Is that person looking for something?’’

Emma leaned forward, too, as the car made its way toward the café. Someone was staring over the dashboard at them. Her mouth was drawn tight, her eyes were wide, and there was an eerie expression her face. It was menacing and threatening, wild and angry. Then Emma took in the eyes, that familiar nose, and high cheekbones.

’’Oh my God,’’ Emma and I whispered in unison.

It was Becky.

34

MAMA DRAMA

Time stood still as Becky\'s car slowly rolled through the parking lot. I stared into those hollow eyes, into that pit of a mouth, trying to recognize something of me in her, but all I saw was an unhinged woman. Someone troubled. Someone who definitely had issues.

And major secrets.

Suddenly, as Becky hit the gas pedal so violently the tires made a shrill squeaking sound, something clicked in my mind. That memory I\'d had of my grandmother and my dad talking, the one where I\'d lurked at the top of the stairs, surfaced once more, and I remembered what they\'d been saying. They\'d been whispering, but I definitely heard Grandma say the words She\'s mentally disturbed and She\'s violent. My father seemed frustrated, saying, We have to help her. Before it\'s too late. Had I crossed paths with her the night I died? Because if she was as mentally disturbed as they seemed to think, who knew what kind of reaction she would have had when she saw me.

I groped for the rest of that memory from the night I died, anything past the moment I\'d yelled at my father and then turned away in a rage. But it was just a huge, gaping hole. And yet I knew something was there. Something that would scare me to no end. Something that would break both Emma\'s and my hearts.

Because the only thing more devastating than my adoptive father killing me and threatening Emma was if our real mother had done it all.


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