InkBy: Elizabeth Hunter
It’s everything but business as usual.
A Love Story on 7th and Main
Emmie Elliot hadn’t expected to come back to Metlin, California. She definitely didn’t expect to stay. She returned to her childhood home with a mission: sell the building that housed her grandmother’s bookstore and move on with her life.
But life doesn’t always go according to plan.
To reopen her grandmother’s bookshop, Emmie will need a hook. She’ll need a strategy. She’ll need an… Ox?
Miles Oxford doesn’t have much interest in quiet bookstore owners. He’s a tattoo artist without a space to work, and the last thing he wants is to get involved with anyone after his last disaster of a relationship. Work and pleasure don’t mix for Ox, but since he doesn’t have any interest in the cute girl with the bold business proposal, he should be safe from any awkward complications, right?
She sells ink. He tattoos it. Unusual? Yes. But a bookshop/tattoo studio might be the ticket for both Emmie and Ox to find success on their own terms. As long as they keep their attention focused on business.
Just on business.
Emmie Elliot lasted three breaths in the old bookshop, her measured exhalations stirring dust motes that danced in the afternoon light streaming in from the large display windows that looked over Main Street. She backed out the front door and turned her back on Metlin Books, staring at the lazy midday traffic driving south on 7th Avenue. Then she bent over, braced her hands on her knees, and let her auburn hair fall, shielding her face from the afternoon sun.
Daisy walked out of the corner shop and came to stand beside her. “What’s going on? You’re even paler than usual.”
“I can’t do it.”
“Can’t do what?”
Emmie straightened. “I can’t sell the shop.”
Daisy’s eyes went wide. “I thought you and your gran—”
“Yeah.” Emmie took a deep breath, clearing the dust from her lungs. “I know.”
What are you doing, Emmie?
She had no idea.
She’d spent her whole life trying to get away from this town. The bookstore was her grandmother’s. Sure, she’d grown up in it, and sure, she worked in a bookstore in San Francisco, but that was just temporary. She was just doing that until something happened. Something bigger. More important. More… something.
Emmie was twenty-seven and still waiting for something big to happen. She had a job she tolerated, an apartment she loved. No husband, no boyfriend, a mother she barely spoke to. She didn’t even have a cat.
Her assets in the world consisted of a newish car, a very small inheritance from her grandma Betsy, a circle of carefully chosen friends, and a three-unit retail building on the corner of Main Street and 7th Avenue, right in the heart of Metlin, a sleepy town in the middle of Central California.
She and her grandmother had talked about it a year ago, when they knew the cancer wasn’t going into remission. Emmie was supposed to sell the building and use the proceeds as a nest egg for…
They’d never really talked about that part.
“What’s going on, Em? What are you thinking?” Daisy frowned and twisted a lock of dark wavy hair back in the bun on top of her head. It was afternoon, but she was still wearing her apron from baking that morning. With her tan skin, dark eyes, and retro apron, Daisy looked like an updated Latina June Cleaver if you didn’t notice the tattoos at her wrists.
Her friend Tayla had offered to accompany her from San Francisco, but Emmie had refused. Emmie was taking a full two weeks off work from Bay City Books, but Tayla worked at a big accounting firm and couldn’t afford to take the time off. She’d never been to Metlin and had no desire to visit. Tayla was a city girl to her bones.
It’s fine, Emmie had told her. It’s not like I have any reason to stay. My mom cleaned out my grandma’s apartment. I’ll visit Daisy and Spider, sign papers to put the place on the market, and leave.
Emmie straightened her blouse and played with the buttons on the sleeve of her cardigan. She wasn’t dressed for Metlin; she was dressed for an upscale bookshop in union Square. If anyone from her childhood were to pass by, they would have a hard time putting Emmie’s sleek hair and tidy, professional appearance together with the rumpled girl who’d spent most of her life hiding behind a book.