He’d been in Haskins Corners yesterday.
Close. So, close. He stared at the clock in the dashboard. Only a few hours away. In the opposite direction of where he was headed. Pulling a U-turn was a bitch, but doable.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Jack said. “Deliver that load, Morgan. Leave the trailer. I’ll get Kyle to pick it up. Then you can head back to Haskins Corners in the morning after you’ve slept. You’re gonna need a clear head.”
“I’m going now.” He had to.
“It’ll be nearly midnight before you get there. You won’t find them. And if Sylvie sees that truck? She’ll get spooked. You could lose them again.”
Morgan hated it when his younger brother was right. He pounded his fist against the oversize steering wheel. “I know you’re right. But—” Why hadn’t he seen them? Why hadn’t he found them? “Okay,” he reluctantly agreed.
Jack ended the call, and Morgan turned the rig onto the highway, forcing himself not to floor the gas pedal, his heart and mind screaming for him to follow them instead of Jack’s common sense. But Jack was right. Morgan had to be smart about it. This time.
How many times had he driven all these small towns scattered around the Texas countryside? Dozens? Felt like hundreds. He knew the locals as well as if he was one of them.
He didn’t think Sylvie would immediately recognize this rig. They’d bought it after she’d taken off, and he’d purposefully not put the company logo on it. But she’d be suspicious of any eighteen-wheeler since he’d always driven.
And that was part of why they’d grown apart. The steering wheel survived another pounding—barely.
* * *
TARA GREW UP in a house full of brothers and sisters. One of six. As the youngest, she’d been the “cute” little sister. From the moment at Dad’s funeral where everyone looked at her with that “poor little baby” look, clear up until last week when she’d gotten her final permit from the city for this restaurant, she’d struggled to be taken seriously.
Now, standing in the center of the unoccupied dining room, she wondered if she wasn’t making the biggest mistake of her life. Every penny, every drop of sweat and several drops of blood were invested in this place.
She’d finally sent everyone home. She’d hired a good crew and they’d all worked hard to put in the final touches and last-minute cleaning.
She loved the result. Loved just standing here, soaking up the sense of homecoming this place exuded.
Tomorrow, she and her staff would return and start on what they all wanted to do. Cook and serve amazing food.
Slowly, Tara walked behind the counter, through the prep area, then through the big, metal swinging doors into the spacious industrial kitchen. She turned and frowned at the nondescript door at the back of the kitchen. The door led to the tiny closet she’d converted into an office. An office that held a small desk, just big enough for her computer and printer, a small two-drawer file cabinet and her chair. The chair from her mother’s house.
Tara had been only two when their dad died, so her memories of him were vague and little more than flashes. Her brother, Wyatt, was more dad to her in her mind, though he’d been only fifteen when he’d stepped into that role.
Mom, however, was strong in her memory. Tara had been the last to leave home and had gotten the most time alone with their mother after the others had left the nest. She hadn’t realized how precious that time was until Mom was gone.
Tara walked to the door and opened it. The desk lamp lit up the room, barely. Pulling out the chair, she settled in the well-worn wooden seat. It felt so good. “I think you’d like this place, Mom,” she whispered.
She often talked to her mom’s spirit, feeling, like now, that her mother was nearby. Hoping so anyway. “I’m going to use most of your recipes.” She knew her mother wouldn’t mind. Helen Hawkins had loved to cook, loved making big batches of food. Tara had inherited that love, and Helen had been more than willing to share the kitchen with her youngest child.
Tara remembered standing on this very chair, its back pushed against the counter, to stir a mixing bowl of something with a big wooden spoon. Those had been the happiest times of her life.