You've Got Mail-verse prompt: Emma and Neal meet, but she doesn't know he's Gold's son.
“Pick whatever you want, Paige,” Neal advised the little girl, who saluted him solemnly. He grinned as she grabbed the entire stock of Animorphs and unceremoniously dumped them in her little tote bag.
“A dad who buys all the books his daughter wants,” Someone said behind him. “I respect your style.”
“Oh, she’s not my…” He turned and immediately lost his train of thought. The woman must have been one of the employees of the little store. Paige had insisted going in for Story Hour and he’d obliged her, because pleasing children validated his self-worth. But the woman who’d commented was nothing short of beautiful, with golden wavy hair and stormy blue eyes.
Neal cleared his throat. “She’s not mine. I’m just babysitting for a friend.”
She extended her hand. “Hi. I’m Emma Swan, I own this store.”
Shit. He was talking to the woman who owned Swan’s Way. Shit, shit, shit. The last place Neal wanted to be was bonding with a beautiful rival.
“I’m Neal,” He swallowed. “Neal…Cassidy.” It was a very small lie. He was Neal Cassidy–he used the pseudonym for novellas.
Emma smiled. “Like the writer?”
“Yup,” Neal cleared his throat again. “Hey Paige, you done yet?”
“Almost!” Paige yelled back. She was currently trying to stuff every “Unicorns of Bamarre” book she could in the small tote.
“Why don’t I grab her another tote bag,” Emma grinned. “I love voracious readers. It’s sweet of you to treat her like this.”
“Yup,” Neal repeated, grinning nervously. He had to get out of this store. He winced a little, thinking of how his father would handle this situation. His father would probably use this opportunity to flirt and charm the employee, get whatever information and intel he could about the store’s numbers.
But Neal hadn’t planned on doing reconnaissance. He had just wanted to spoil Page a little.
Emma returned to the register, this time accompanied by a petite brunette. He smiled at her awkwardly.
“You’ll come again, won’t you?” The brunette asked directly.
“Of–of course I will,” Neal stammered.
“And bring family!” The brunette said cheerfully. “Get the word out. There’s a Gold’s Books coming to our neighborhood. But we’re not leaving without a fight!”
“You got it,” Neal scratched his neck. “I’ll be sure to keep that in mind.”