The bell above the door to the diner jingled lightly. Emilee glanced up from the table she was wiping down with an expectant look, only to be disappointed. It was only Jack returning from a midday errand.

Emilee would never admit it out loud, but she had kinda hoped to look up and find Brandon walking through the door. It was a silly expectation, she knew that. He'd only been gone one week; they still had another week apart, and though she had been the one to insist on this time apart, a small part of Emilee was holding out hope that Brandon would surprise her by showing up earlier than planned.

Brandon had been gone only one day before Emilee started to miss him fiercely and question her adamancy for sending him back to California on his own. It was only for two weeks, they could do two weeks. She told herself this continually, but every time wondered how they had made it through the months between February and June when they'd only had phone conversations, and crappy ones at that, to satisfy them.

And she couldn't help remembering that bad things happened when they were on other sides of the county.

Returning to her task with a small sigh, Emilee told herself for the millionth time that she should have just gone with Brandon to California. She was too stubborn, and now she was kicking herself for the trait. To keep her mind off of his absence, Emilee had taken to working at Jack's and Diana's diner, like she had all those years ago.

And in her free time, she was texting Brandon pictures of the places she wanted to go when they took off on their escape from reality. Emilee had been reticent about his offer to go anywhere when Brandon proposed it, but now she was fully invested in the idea. The dream of it was really all that was getting her through these days apart; she couldn't keep her mind from drifting to the halls of the Louvre, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the streets of London, or the hustle and bustle of New York City.

If Brandon would go for it, she wanted to tour every world famous museum of art she had ever dreamed of visiting. Emilee was pretty sure he would go for it, with enough persuasion.

She pulled her phone from the front pocket of the half apron she wore and slid her finger along the bottom edge to unlock it before bringing up her collection of photos. She scrolled through them quickly; she'd been amassing quite a few, and found the one she wanted. It was the last one she would send, she told herself. If Brandon didn't get what she was hinting at, she would just have to tell him.

She was typing in his number when her own phone vibrated with an incoming message and his name flashed across the top edge of the screen. Touching the green stripe at the top of her screen, she cued up his text.

It was a picture of a key. Brandon had texted a picture of a key.

"Huh?!" She muttered aloud.

Brandon never texted, ever; if he wanted to say something, he called. He didn't like messing with typed messages, claimed his clumsy fingers couldn't hit the right letters and that he preferred hearing her voice.

"Hmm..." she murmured as she studied the picture for a moment longer. Emilee had no idea what he could mean by sending the picture that he had. It wasn't anything spectacular. The key was shiny and new, barely used, and had no meaning whatsoever to her.

Pondering the meaning of his text, Emilee returned to hers. She brought up her photo collection again and selected the last clue she would be sending Brandon. After quickly typing in his number, she hit send and then put the phone away as the bell above the diner door jingled again.

She wanted to call him, wanted to question Brandon on the meaning of the picture, but duty called. The call would have to wait. She fixed a smile on her lips and approached the couple who had entered the restaurant, while wishing she was on the other side if the country.


Brandon still held the key in his hands, toying with it nervously. He didn't know why he felt compelled to take a last picture of his house key, or why he had sent the picture to Emilee. That wasn't entirely true, he thought to himself. He had sent it hoping it would entice her to call him. He wanted to hear her voice again, wanted to talk to her again, but he didn't want to feel like he was bothering her, either. Emilee had insisted that she needed this time apart to think; he was going to give her the time she claimed she wanted.

A few moments passed with no response, and Brandon bit back the surge of disappointment that tried to wash over him. It was silly to expect her to answer his text immediately; especially when he rarely ever did the same for her. But there it was, disappointment nonetheless.

After a minute, his phone chimed from where it rested on the table in front of him, and his smile came instantly, and then turned to a laugh when he saw the picture of the Venus de Milo she had replied with. She had been doing this all week, sending him pictures of famous works of art. It had started with the Mona Lisa, then there had been Vincent Van Gogh's Starry Night, followed by a piece by Jackson Pollock that he couldn't name but recognized.

And now it had ended with a photograph of the famous statue. She was hinting at something, Brandon had no doubt of that. He just hadn't figured out what exactly. He glanced at the clock readout on this phone. There were still a few minutes to spare, time enough to find out what Emilee wanted.

"The picture is lovely, Emma," he said by way of greeting.

"You got the text, I guess," she replied with a laugh.

"I did," he agreed. "And I wanted to tell you, if you're gonna send me pictures of nude women, maybe send me one or two of yourself."

Emilee laughed with delight. "Brandon! I don't have naked pictures of myself readily available."

"But you do have some?" He teased.

Emilee groaned. "You wish! Sorry, but you'll just have to wait until were together again so you can have the real thing."

"It's getting harder and harder to wait, you know."

"I know."

"And I was wondering, when we run away, should Paris be our first stop?"

Emilee gasped in surprise. "Brandon," she mumbled. He could almost hear the smile forming on her lips. "You want to take me to Paris?"

He laughed at her breathy question. "Anywhere and everywhere you want to go, I want to take you. All I ask is that before we come back that I get one week on a beach with only you; I want nothing but the sun, the sand, the water, and you."

"I am so ready to get away from everything with you," she replied with a happy sigh. "A week on a beach sounds amazing. But, you know, we may never come back."

"Surprisingly, I'm okay with that."

Emilee laughed through the phone as Brandon slid his key along the table top with his free hand. He hadn't told her yet, but he was waiting for Cassidy. And as usual, Cassidy was late. Probably trying to make an entrance, he thought.

"I got your picture," Emilee commented after Brandon dropped into silence. "Of the key... Your key? I, um, I'm not really sure why you sent me that. I'm a bit confused, to be honest."

"Actually, I'm not sure why I took the picture, or why I even sent it to you, either. Maybe for posterity, I don't know. But it's the last piece of baggage I need to get rid of and then we can truly start anew."

"Oh, um, sure."

Brandon heard the note of confusion that tinged her voice and could picture her puzzled look perfectly, could imagine her biting her bottom lip anxiously.

Emilee fell silent, but not for long. "What exactly does that mean?"

"I'll tell you all about it when I get back home to you. But you should know that I am sitting in a Pinkberry waiting for Cassidy as we speak."

He waited for a defeated sigh or a jealous outburst. Neither came. Instead, Emilee surprised him by giggling.

"Have fun with that!" She exclaimed.

"Emilee Pearson, I am shocked and outraged. That's your response?"

"Yep! I don't envy you at all, Brandon. I am a tad curious as to why you're meeting her at a Pinkberry, and I... I lied. I am so jealous that you get to nosh on fro yo, but I'll get over that." She turned quiet again, but it only lasted a moment. "Why are you meeting her?"

"It will all make sense in a few days."

"How cryptic, Brandon. Well, be careful... Because I love you, and I need you back here soon."

"I love you, too, Emma. Nothing..." The sound of a woman clearing her throat had Brandon glancing up. Cassidy looked down at him, a frown playing on her lips. "I have to go. But I will call you before I get on the plane."

He ended the call as Cassidy joined him at the table. She gave him a pained smile.

"So... How's your girlfriend? You two are so sweet together!" The compliment was laced with venom.

"Don't be a bitch, Cassidy."

"Brandon!" Cassidy exclaimed. "You know, I didn't have to come today. But I did. I came because you asked me to, and because we were good together. We could still be good together. I think you're finally realizing that."

"Don't," he said stiffly. "I'm not here for reconciliation, Cassidy. I'm with Emilee. Today is for closure."

Cassidy glanced around the room, refusing to look at him. It was what she did when they disagreed. She would stave off eye contact until she pretended to muster the courage to meet his gaze again. When their eyes did meet again, hers would be glistening with unshed tears.

Brandon readied himself for it; he wouldn't be affected by it. Not this time.

But Cassidy surprised him. When she met his eyes again, she smiled shyly. Her hands had dropped to rest on either side of her nonexistent baby bump. She held his gaze for a moment and then looked down at her stomach.

"It's been a rough couple of weeks, Brandon," she said softly. "You've not made anything easy for me. I almost lost our baby."

"I'm sorry you've had a tough time, Cassidy," he told her. He knew he sounded like a jerk, but he couldn't help that. Any ounce of compassion he showed her would be misconstrued. "I am. It'll get better."

"How very positive of you, Brandon." She sneered and when she looked up the heartfelt look she had worn was replaced with calculation. "So, you had something you wanted to talk about? I was quite surprised when you called," she murmured. "You did say you didn't want to see me again, didn't you?"

Brandon nodded as he slid the key he had been toying with since he arrived at the yogurt shop across the table to her. Cassidy's eyes dropped to the table and she eyed the key suspiciously. A smile broke out on her lips.

"What... What is this?" She picked up the key and turned it over in her fingers as a smile slowly grew on her lips. "Really, Brandon? Is this... Have you changed your mind? Are you asking me to move back in with you?"

"No," he clarified quickly. "No, that's not it, Cassidy. I don't want you to move back in with me, but I do want you to have the house."

"What?" She looked up, her eyes wild with confusion. "You're giving me the house?"

He nodded solemnly. Brandon didn't know where he and Emilee would settle once the summer was over, but he did know that he could never bring her into the house he had bought when he expected to live his life with Cassidy. And he knew he didn't want to mess around with selling the house. Cassidy had helped pick out the house, had talked him into buying it, actually, and had decorated it, too. It was hers in all but name.

"You're giving me the house?" She still sounded incredulous.

"It's yours," he told her. "I've already had it transferred to your name. It's paid for, as you know. The rest of the keys are on the kitchen counter. I've changed the gate code to the one you used before, but you should change it once you move back in, and you should have the locks changed, too."

"I'm not going to lock you out of our home, Brandon." She dropped the key onto the tabletop. "I don't want this now. You can give me my key when I move back in."

"It's not our home."

Brandon had chosen to ignore her comment about her baby being their baby; she would believe what she wanted, nothing he could say would sway her any differently. But he would not let her believe they were living together again.

"I don't live there any longer."

"But where are you staying? I know you're working right now."

"It doesn't matter where I'm staying," Brandon told her.

She was right. He was still working. They were wrapping up the last few scenes that needed to be filmed for the season, but then he would be in the wind with Emilee. Cassidy didn't need to know he was crashing on a friends couch until he could catch a plane back to Connecticut.

"I'll only be in the city for a few more days." He slid the key back to her. "Take the key, Cassidy. This is last thing I want to give you."

"You understand what this means, don't you?" She refused to look at the gift Brandon was giving her. "This is it for us. For good, Brandon. You walk out on me today and we are done. Done."

"I'm okay with that." Brandon just wished the words Cassidy spoke were true. She had spewed the same threat at him once before, but yet here they were.

"You won't be. I love you, Brandon. So much more than she does. You'll realize that..."

"I don't think I will," Brandon interrupted

Cassidy ignored his interruption and continued. "And it will be too late when you do. Too late for us, too late for anything."

Brandon pushed away from the table and stood. He needed to make his exit before she started with her theatrics. She had remained relatively calm up until this last rant of hers. And people were starting to watch them now, more closely than they had been. He didn't want, or need, his business aired in the media before he had a chance to explain everything to Emilee.

"Brandon? You'll regret this. You will. Why do have to make me act so fucking desperate?"

Brandon only shook his head. "Goodbye, Cassidy."


The days were running into each other, Emilee thought, as she wiped down the countertop in the diner. Wasn't she doing exactly this the day before, and hadn't it been exactly the same time of day, too? It was a bit disconcerting to her how quickly she had fallen back into a routine she hadn't followed since high school.

It was the lull between the lunch crowd and the dinner crowd; the time of day Emilee hated most when working in the diner. It had always been that way for her; too much time and too little to do to keep her mind from wondering. She'd already wiped down all the tables, refilled the salt and pepper shakers and ketchup bottles, swept the floor, rolled silverware, loaded the industrial sized dishwasher, and in a moment she would have the countertop sparkling clean.

And then what was she supposed to do? She had to leave something for the others to do; otherwise, everyone would be bored out of their minds.

Emilee finished wiping down the counter and then took a seat on one of the stools. She considered calling Darcy. She hadn't talked to her best friend since she had left for her hometown, and she did wonder what Darcy had been up to over the last week.

She was reaching for her phone when the bell above the diner door jingled happily and she instinctively looked up, a smile forming on her lips. It fell away instantly before she could stop it.

"Don't look so disappointed to see me," Darcy muttered. "I came all this way just to see you."

Emilee's smile returned swiftly. While she was disappointed that it hadn't been Brandon to walk through the door, she was happy to see Darcy.

"Darcy!" She exclaimed. "What are you doing here? I was just going to call you."

"Oh, you know, I was in the area. I thought I'd stop by and see what you were up to. Though, I half expected you to be gone. Didn't Brandon come to whisk you away?"

Emilee didn't reply. She really didn't want to talk to Darcy about Brandon; especially not when Darcy was giving her the knowing smirk she now wore.

Darcy glanced around the empty diner. "So, um, where is he?"

"He's in Los Angeles, Darcy."

"Well, sure he is. You know, he did come by the loft looking for you, and I told him to fuck off just like you asked."

"Sure you did," Emilee replied with a laugh.

"Humph!" Darcy retorted. "I so did. I didn't want to tell him where you were, and I didn't. It was Desi who gave up your secret location."

"It's all good, I promise. I'm glad he came here."

"And did he, you know... Did he say why he left you, again?" Emilee only nodded. "Well...?"

"It's personal, Darcy. I won't tell you what he said."

Darcy frowned, and then shrugged. "Doesn't matter. I already know."

"Do you?" Emilee asked with a raised eyebrow.

"It's all over the gossip mags, Em. His ex, or whatever she is to him, she's pregnant. It's his kid, isn't it?"

Emilee was speechless. She didn't realize the whole world knew Cassidy was pregnant, or that everyone thought the baby was Brandon's. Her silence only lasted a moment before a wave of anger washed over her.

"She is pregnant," she confirmed coolly. "The baby is not Brandon's."

"Oh, Emilee," Darcy said with a sigh. The hint of sadness in her voice put Emilee on edge. "Please tell me you didn't fall for that line of his."

"It wasn't a line. Cassidy's baby isn't his."

"I know you want to believe everything he says. I would, too. But don't be so naïve."

It was Darcy's pitying smile that pushed Emilee over the edge she had been teetering on ever since Darcy began coddling her.

"Why are you even here?" Emilee asked scathingly. Darcy didn't reply. It was the first time Emilee had ever seen her friend surprised into speechlessness. "I mean, really, why are you here, Darcy? Clearly, it's not to be a friend."

"Bitch!" Darcy exclaimed. Emilee laughed unexpectedly and the tension in the room broke. Darcy giggled. "You know I care about you, Em, right?" Darcy asked. "I just want you to be happy."

"I know you do. And I am happy," she assured Darcy. "Brandon and I finally talked, really talked. This is his last chance, and he knows it. It's my last chance, too. Everything will work out... It has to."

"It will, Em," Darcy told her. "I know it will. He's in love with you. Did he finally tell you that?"

Emilee nodded, and couldn't keep the smile from forming on her lips, or keep the flush that just knowing Brandon loved her caused from coloring her cheeks.

"He's it, Darcy. He's the one. I'm not fighting it any longer."

"Good." Darcy's voice still had a sulky edge to it, and Emilee regarded her with a curious glance. "I'm still pissed at him, though."

Emilee laughed. "So, is that what brought you here?"

"Oh, no. I'm here for the wedding," Darcy told her. "Randi invited me that weekend that all hell broke loose, and she asked if I'd make cupcake favors for her. Diana said I could use the diner kitchen. I'm here to scope that out."

"Oh!" Emilee hadn't known that Darcy was baking for the wedding. Darcy certainly hadn't mentioned it; neither had Diana or Drew. "But the wedding is still a week away. You're a bit early, aren't you?"

"Maybe." Darcy replied evasively. "Can I take a peek at the kitchen?"

Emilee pointed in the direction of the kitchen then followed her friend through the swinging doors that kept the room separate from the dining area. The restaurant was still dead, and the bell would let her know if anyone came in for an afternoon meal.

"Why are you really here?" Emilee asked while Darcy investigated her surroundings. "You've seen a kitchen before."

Darcy turned to her with a sad look in her eyes. "I have this feeling you're never coming back to Charlotte; that you're staying here forever. It's a nice little town, Emilee."

"I'm not returning," Emilee replied. "You're right. But staying here, in Rosewynn... I haven't decided yet. I guess I'll know when the summer is over."

Darcy remained quiet, but still regarded her with the sad look.

"I'm sorry, Darcy. I should have told you sooner. I think I knew when I left I wouldn't come back. I'll come get the rest of my things soon."

"Don't be sorry, Em. I knew you wouldn't stay forever. Bigger and better things are waiting for you, I know. And, you're right, too, I didn't come here just for the wedding. I'm selling the cake shop."

"What?!" Emilee exclaimed. "Darcy! What are you talking about? You love cake!"

"Oh, I know. It's only the location. Charlotte is too saturated with specialty cupcake shops. The special occasion cake side of the business is still doing well, but for how much longer, I don't know."

Emilee didn't know what to say. Darcy had never mentioned selling her shop, ever. Darcy loved baking, coming up with new recipes, and decorating her creations. It was astounding to know Darcy had contemplated such a big life change without saying one word to her.

"Don't worry, Em. I know I have mad cake decorating skills, and that my cupcakes are the bomb! I'm not getting out of the cupcake business."

Emilee breathed a sigh of relief, but then curiosity took over. "What are you going to do if you sell your cake shop? And how does Desi feel about all this?"

"Oh, Desi is ecstatic. Baking was never her passion, and she's wiped out at the moment, completely overwhelmed, and way too hormonal to be doing business with right now. She's preggers, Em."

Emilee gaped at her, her mouth open and her brow furrowed. Desi being pregnant was unexpected news, even more surprising than Darcy selling off the love of her life.

"What?" Darcy regarded her with a concerned expression. "What is it? You look... I don't know, a bit worried maybe."

Emilee shook her head quickly. "No. It's not that. I, um, you said Desi was pregnant, and the image of her and Colby naked, and well, you know, popped into my head."

"Oh, dear!" Darcy exclaimed with a giggle. "Too funny, Em."

"And Desi is okay with you selling the shop?" Emilee asked. Darcy nodded earnestly. "That still doesn't explain why you've come here a week before the wedding. Something is up, I know it is."

"There's only one bakery in this town, you know," Darcy replied absently. She pushed back through the swinging doors and walked into the dining room. It was still empty. "And there are no specialty cake shops here, either. I looked that up."


"It's funny, I think. There are tons of tiny niche shops in this town, Em, but no one has opened a cupcake shop. Cupcakes are so trendy!"

"Rosewynn isn't known for being trendy, Darcy. It's not known for anything, actually."

"But it could be, couldn't it?" Darcy's eyes were bright with enthusiasm for an idea that Emilee still couldn't grasp. "There's a house that I found listed online, quite a large house, actually. I'd like to look at it. Come with me, Emilee! Come look at the house with me and I will explain everything to you. 112 Peach Avenue. Do you know where that is?"

Emilee didn't respond. Of course she knew where 112 Peach Avenue was. She had spent many summer days there, and had snuck over there on many nights. It was the house Brandon and his family lived in when they were still living in town. She hadn't known it was for sale.

"I think it has a ton of potential," Darcy continued. "This is so exciting! Aren't you excited, Em? Emilee?"

"Huh? Oh, um, right. Yeah, I know where that is. But it's a house, Darcy. Why do you want to look at a house?"

"Because it has potential, Em. I said that, didn't I?"

"For what? Are you planning a move?"


There was that evasive tone again, Emilee thought. Darcy was up to something. That was obvious, but Emilee couldn't fathom why her friend seemed hell bent on opening a cupcake shop in Rosewynn.

"Just come look at it with me, okay?" Darcy asked. "It'll make more sense after we look at it."


Jack was behind the counter and waved Emilee and Darcy out the door. He could handle the lack of customers on his own. Darcy walked quickly, excitement putting a bounce in her step. She walked ahead of Emilee, seeming to know exactly where she needed to go, though she had never been to Rosewynn before today.

Emilee tried to pry information out of Darcy while they walked, but her friend refused to tell her anything.

"You'll see, Em! And you'll love it, just as I do."

The house was just imposing as it had been when Brandon lived in it; three stories tall with a large wrap around porch, sitting on a huge plot of land. It had been kept up over the years, though it was obvious no one had lived in it since Brandon and his family.

There was a realtor's sign in the yard and lock box on the front door. What bothered Emilee the most was the word 'sold' that was written above the realtor's information. Darcy saw it at the same time.

"Damn!" Darcy exclaimed as she kicked the sign. "I'm too late! We're too late!"

"For what?" Emilee asked. Had Darcy really wanted to move to Rosewynn?

"It was the perfect space, Emilee. I mean, it could have been." Darcy gave the sign another kick before walking up the porch steps and sitting down on the top one.

"For what?" Emilee repeated.

"You, and me, and..."

"To live in?" Emilee questioned. "Darcy, I don't think I'm staying here past the summer."

"I know, I know," Darcy mumbled. "But you might have. You haven't heard my idea. It's amazing. You'll fall in love with it, too, so I won't bother telling it to you now."

"Spill it, Darcy! You can't drag me to look at this house, then not tell me why."

"So, I had this idea..." Darcy started.

She outlined the entire plan, a gallery for Emilee with a dessert bar for Darcy. The residents of Rosewynn and the tourists who visited the town could fill up on culture and sweet treats at the same time. It wouldn't be a huge gallery, but it would be big enough for Emilee to showcase her own work and other local artists. Darcy could have what she called her 'cupcakery'. And just like in Charlotte, they could live above the business, if they wanted to.

"It's rough, I know," Darcy concluded. "We would obviously need to refine the plan, but it's what you always wanted, isn't it? I mean, the gallery. And guess what?"

"What?" Emilee asked wearily.

Darcy's idea sounded like a dream. It was everything Emilee had always wanted. Her own gallery; she could be the director of her own gallery, and promote her own work while helping to build the career of others. Darcy was right; she was falling in love with the idea.

"I've perfected your Milano cookie cupcake, and Elsbeth wants in, too."

"Elsbeth has her own gallery to run."

"Not anymore. She quit," Darcy informed her. "And you'd be the director. Elsbeth is more interested in procuring the artists we'd showcase. Her connections would be invaluable."

"They would," Emilee agreed. "I think I should maybe call Elsbeth."

"Yes! Do that."

"And maybe you can scout out another location," Emilee added reluctantly.

"No! I haven't given up on this location, Emilee. This is the perfect location. We just need to talk to Diana and Jack."


Emilee couldn't argue with Darcy. Now that it was all laid out in front of her, she wanted it, wanted it so bad she could already see it would be a huge success. But she could picture it being nowhere else either. Darcy was right about that. The gallery had to be here, here in this house where she had made many of the memories that had gotten her through the last few months with Brandon.

But why was Darcy so adamant that the gallery and dessert bar be located here? She knew nothing of the house, or it's relevance to Emilee, did she?

"Why do you need to speak to Jack and Diana?"

"Because they own the house," Darcy stated, nodding at the sign plotted in the front yard. "They would know who bought it. We need to talk to whoever they sold the house to before the sale is final, Emilee. I know we can make it worth their while to give up the house to us."


Talking to Diana was a huge disappointment. The one thing Emilee and Darcy did not want to hear, she told them.

"I could tell you who bought it, but it wouldn't matter. The sale was finalized yesterday. "

Both Emilee and Darcy let out disappointed sighs.

"I didn't know you were thinking of purchasing a home, Emilee," Diana added.

"I didn't either," Emilee mumbled. She turned to Darcy. "So, I guess we should start looking for other locations."

"Maybe later," Darcy replied dejectedly. Emilee's mouth opened in surprise. "I still want to do this with you, Em," she added seeing Emilee's reaction. "I just need a bit of time to get over the disappointment."

"There is a place for sale on Spruce Street," Diana commented. "It may not be your first choice, but I bet you could make it perfect."

Emilee perked upon hearing Diana's suggestion. "We could... Come on, Darce. Let's go look at it."

Taking Darcy by the arm, Emilee pulled her from the room towards the front door. Diana waited until they were gone, then picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number, one she knew by heart.

"Please don't mess this up," she said when the other line picked up. "She's had enough disappointment." With that off her chest, Diana hung up without another word.