Watching the hurt and realization dawn in Morgan’s eyes cut through Tara. He’d been trying so hard to find Brooke, and the confirmation that she’d wanted him to find her was overwhelming to them all. Even Sylvie stared silently at the picture.
“I—I didn’t know,” she whispered.
Angry words flew through Tara’s mind, but she pressed her lips together. It wasn’t her place to voice an opinion about how Sylvie had ignored her daughter. It wasn’t her place to hurt Morgan more.
Emily, however, had no such qualms. “My guess is that you were too busy to pay attention to your daughter.” The anger in Emily’s voice was stronger than Tara had ever heard. “Just like you ignored her last night, when she could have drowned in those floodwaters.”
“I paid for a babysitter.” Sylvie tried to defend herself, but even she looked defeated.
Emily leaned back in Wyatt’s big desk chair. “I’m not going to make any final rulings today. There will need to be another full hearing.” Emily paused for a long time, thinking. Tara wished she could read her sister-in-law’s mind.
Finally, she spoke again. “But we are going to settle a few things. Morgan, I know your attorney has filed a motion for full custody. I’ve read it.” She looked up from the computer screen. “Is that still what you want?”
Morgan didn’t hesitate. “It’s not about what I want.” He took a deep breath. “It’s about what’s best for Brooke.”
“Give me a break,” Sylvie said under her breath.
Emily looked at Sylvie. “Do you have something to say at this point?”
Emily gave Sylvie every chance to explain her comment. Tara held her breath, hoping for Brooke’s sake that for once Sylvie could put her daughter before herself.
“She’s my daughter.” Sylvia said and Tara’s hopes faded. “I know what’s best for her.”
“Taking her away from her home, from a father she obviously loves and who loves her in return is in her best interest how?” Emily asked.
“You saw how she reacts when we talk to each other.” Sylvie threw her arms wide. “I had to get away.”
“For a year?” Emily asked.
“Yes. I had things to do. Being a truck driver’s wife sucks.”
“Hmm.” Emily paused before she asked, “If Brooke hadn’t gone to Tara’s diner, if we weren’t here today, would you have any plans to take your daughter to her father?”
Morgan’s sharp intake of breath was loud in the room.
“Why would I do that?”
Tara closed her eyes, afraid of what Morgan was feeling and thinking. When she opened her eyes again, he hadn’t moved, but his gaze dark. His anger and anguish filled the room.
“Morgan?” Emily’s voice broke in, and he slowly returned his gaze to Emily.
“I’m granting your motion for full custody. It’s temporary, until a formal hearing can be held.”
Tara figured this was the part where Emily would probably bang a gavel or something if they were in an actual courtroom. She’d never been in Emily’s courtroom, but she had a feeling it was a fair and just place.
“But—” Sylvie tried to protest.
“Don’t push your luck.” Emily faced Sylvie. “I get the impression you took that little girl away from her father a year ago for no other reason than spite. You’re the one who’s put her at risk. You’ve barely taken care of her.” Emily’s anger was rising.
“I did my best.”
“Maybe,” Emily conceded. “But it’s time for someone besides you to judge that. Dutch?”
“Yes?” The older man stepped forward.
“You’re my court witness on this. I know you don’t file motions, but can you put that in your report and submit it to my clerk?”
“Yes, ma’am, I sure can.” The older man didn’t even bother to hide his grin.
“You’re all crazy.” Sylvie stomped her foot, the thick carpet stealing most of her thunder.
“You’re right. The court will be looking more closely into this, if for no other reason than to settle custody of Brooke over the long haul.”