Sylvie walked toward Morgan. “This isn’t over.”

Morgan sighed, but the look he gave her lacked any anger. Tara wondered what he was thinking, what he was looking for.

“Sylvie, get your act together. Figure you out. I won’t take Brooke away from you. You’re her mom, she loves you, but we have to do what’s best for her right now.”

Time ticked by as their gazes clashed. Sylvie’s eyes shone, but whatever emotion she was feeling, whatever thoughts she’d let in, she quickly blinked away. Her eyes turned cold again and she stalked out of the room. The kitchen door slammed behind her.

Emily sighed, turning to Morgan. “She’s probably right. This isn’t over.”

“I know.” He smiled. “But it’s better than it’s been in ages. Thank you.”

“Don’t thank me. I’m just doing my job.” She turned to Dutch. “Guess we’d better make sure she doesn’t try to take Brooke again.”

“Oh, I’m her ride. She ain’t going nowhere.” The older man nodded but headed to the door. “Besides, she’d have to get her away from Juanita.”

“That’s something I’d almost like to see.” Emily laughed and smiled at Morgan. “Go get your daughter. I think she’ll be happy.”

“Thank you.” Morgan’s voice cracked. “Thank you all.”

Tara watched him leave, watched the gratitude shine in his eyes. Wishing for so much more, she heard his silent goodbye.


TARA STOOD IN the parking lot of the Someday Café and stared at the disaster that had been her diner. It had taken two days to clear the roads of Haskins Corners so the town’s inhabitants could return and begin picking up the pieces of their lives.

Roadblocks still limited who could enter this side of town. Today was Tara’s first chance to see what was—and wasn’t—left.

Mud and debris that looked like entire trees had wedged between the back door and the huge pine tree that had fallen from the creek bank. The familiar cab of Morgan’s truck was nearly buried in the muck. She couldn’t see through the branches well enough to know how badly damaged it was.

Wyatt, DJ and half the ranch crew had come with her. Wendy and Wade were meeting them here soon.

They couldn’t get to the back door, much less through it. Walking slowly around the building, Tara went to the front door. She couldn’t open it, either. It took DJ and Wyatt nearly ten minutes to clear enough mud from the doorway to open it.

Driving here, down the battered streets of town, she’d seen what had happened to the other businesses. She could tell who had worked to try to save their business, just as she could tell who hadn’t been able to do anything. The swift current had swept so much away, had broken walls, damaged Sheetrock and stained everything.

At least here, the structure was still sound.

Just full of filth that she had no idea how to get rid of. One shovelful at a time, she guessed.

Finally, the guys shouldered the doors open, and Tara stepped inside. And gasped.

Mud lay nearly evenly over the wood floor she’d had refinished a few short weeks ago. A thick, gray-brown blanket. Just inches above the top, on the faint blue walls, an uneven brown line marked where the water had risen to.

But, other than the counter and the stools bolted to the floor, the room was empty. “Where’s the furniture? My tables. My chairs!” It was all gone. She stared out the windows at the pile of sticks and twigs caught in the mud.

Her heart broke.

Even her chair from Mom’s house. Gone.

She wanted to cry. She wanted to fall to her knees and wail. Not that it would do any good and not that she’d do that in the thick mud. But, oh, how she longed to release all her pent-up pain.

“Oh, no!” Wendy came through the front doors and froze. “It’s awful.” Carefully, she picked her way through the muck to come over to Tara. They hugged for a brief moment before surveying the mess again.

“It could be worse,” Wyatt said.

Tara knew that. They’d all seen the house on Elm Street on the way here. The big Victorian that had sat at the creek bank for a century now sat precariously on the edge of…well, of nothing. A big gaping hole where the river bank had been last week.