Brooke didn’t stop scooping, carrying the little shovelful slowly, deliberately to the bucket. “Yep,” she finally answered once she dumped the mud. “Daddy said he wouldn’t’ve found me without you.”
“Hey, that was all you.” Tara forced herself to smile at Brooke.
“How long ’fore you can make more cookies?” Brooke looked up, hopeful.
Tara’s heart sank. “I don’t know.” She tried to shake off the sadness that loomed over her. “You can have the first batch. Promise.” She forced herself to smile at Brooke. The girl grinned back, and Tara’s heart warmed.
Time passed as the truckers joined the men from the ranch in the cleanup. Taking turns shoveling, carrying full buckets to the creek bank.
Tara and Wendy worked on moving boxes away from the stove. “I—I can’t believe it’s all gone. All my furniture.” Tara only realized she’d said it aloud when everyone fell silent.
Morgan stepped closer, frowning at her. “Wade didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what?”
“Come here.” Morgan took Tara’s hand in his, guiding her out the front door.
“What are you doing?”
He simply smiled and stopped when they reached the big trailer. He took a deep breath, and Tara wanted to know what he was doing. It distracted her from wanting so much more than gratitude and favors. So much of what she couldn’t have.
“Let’s see if my plan worked.” With a series of clanks and thumps, Morgan unlocked the back doors. His burly arms flexed as he pulled the heavy metal doors. They thumped hard against the trailer’s outer walls.
Tara could only stare. Her furniture. All of it—the chairs neatly stacked, the tables carefully placed on their sides, their legs safe and dry as they reached into the air. The buffet leaned against the sidewall as if it were meant to sit there instead of in her dining room.
And her chair from Mom’s sat front and center—dry and as inviting as ever. Her vision blurred and she hastily blinked it clear. Morgan reached a hand out and slid his palm along the seat’s edge. “When I walked into the diner and saw the meal you’d fixed Brooke on that table…” He swallowed hard. “I knew how special you were.”
Everything looked clean and dry and safe. “Morgan?” She didn’t know what else to say. “How did you do all this?”
“Wade helped.” Morgan scrubbed his hand down his face. “Damn, I didn’t realize until just now how worried I was that it wouldn’t be okay.” He took a deep breath and hung his head for an instant. “Thank God.”
Tara could only stare. First, at the furniture that was safe and sound. Then at the big tree that was still wedged against the back door. Finally, at his once-beautiful truck, now mangled by the storm.
“If your truck hadn’t been here—” She walked around to look closer at the damage. “The tree would have taken out the whole building,” she whispered. “And what the tree didn’t destroy—”
“The water would have,” he finished for her.
How close she’d come, how close they’d both come to losing everything—she looked at Brooke diligently scooping the dirt—suddenly dawned on her. Despite the day’s growing heat, she shivered. “Oh, Morgan.” She went to him. “You saved everything.”
“Tara,” he whispered, a caress, and slowly walked to her. She expected him to pull her close and maybe even kiss her, but he didn’t. Instead, he cupped her chin in his big, strong hand. “No, you saved everything.” He cleared his throat. “You saved me.”
“You gave me back my life, my daughter. More than that, you taught me how to live, to love.” He softly kissed her lips. “I’m being honest when I say thank you.” He paused, looking into her eyes with a depth of emotion, longing, happiness and desire like she’d never seen on his face before.
He moved in closer. “But that’s only a small piece of what I feel for you.” He paused and rubbed her cheekbones with his thumbs. “Long before we found Brooke, I was drawn to you. You, this place…it feels like home. No one’s ever made me feel this belonging before.”