But now she knew. Nothing. Nothing at all was going on between them.
She needed to get away. From him. Very far away.
Reaching the rear door of the diner, Tara yanked it open and hustled through the kitchen. The lights and clatter of cookware were painful contrasts to the quiet night.
She wasn’t supposed to be here. She’d taken tonight off—a first in the weeks since she’d bought the place. That’s why she’d gone grocery shopping, why she’d been heading to her apartment when she’d run into Morgan.
The idea of being home alone made her stomach twist. But facing anyone—her staff, customers—was not an option. She had plenty of bookwork to do. And recipes to work on. More than enough to distract her.
Her tiny office sat open and dark, nearly deterring her. No, she was stronger than some lying, no-good, married jerk…
Who tasted of damp and coffee…
She closed and locked the door, sinking into the much-loved wooden chair. She booted up the computer, trying to focus.
How could he? He didn’t wear a ring. He didn’t act like a married man, though what did a married man who was always on the road act like? Tara didn’t know. She’d never had any experiences like this.
The damp on her cheeks from the rain warmed. Or were those tears? She pounded the desktop. “Damn him.”
“Tara?” Wendy asked through the closed door. “Is that you?”
She did not want to talk to, or see, anyone right now. Maybe never again. She felt so stupid. So betrayed. So—disappointed. It hurt. Damn, it hurt. And that just added to her anger.
“I’m…I’m busy right now.” She tried to make her voice sound as normal as possible.
“I need to talk to you.”
“Not right now.” She couldn’t face anyone. “I’ll come find you. Later.” She glanced at the clock. Wendy’s shift didn’t end for a couple hours. “Before you leave.”
“Okay.” Wendy’s voice faded and only silence followed.
The deep rumble of an engine shook the entire building. Despite herself, Tara listened to Morgan drive away, listened until the roar faded into the night, the ache in her chest growing as the quiet returned.
The rhythm of the rain taunted her, trying to mask the sound of his retreat, and failing. At the last minute, she shot to her feet and stared out the tiny window. Red taillights shone on the damp pavement, brightening at the stop sign, then fading again as Morgan accelerated and slowly turned the corner. The night settled in dark.
And cold. Tara suddenly felt cold. So very cold.
* * *
TWO HOURS HAD passed and still Tara was angry with herself for letting Morgan get to her, and just as angry for reacting so emotionally to his revelations.
She’d holed up in her office for those hours, pretending to work on bills, making little headway and wallowing a bit too much. Another demerit in the Morgan Thane column.
But it was getting late. Wendy would be leaving soon, the night shift arriving at about the same time. She found Wendy watching a little girl seated, alone, in booth five.
“That’s what I needed to talk to you about earlier.” Wendy’s words came out only slightly accusing as she whispered.
“How long has she been here?” Tara whispered back.
“Almost three hours.”
The little girl sat in the corner of the booth with a ratty, stuffed purple dragon in her arms. She held it in her lap, talking to it as if she expected the toy to understand.
Most kids her age, which Tara guessed to be about six, had been asleep for hours.
Her uneven, dingy blond ponytails bobbed as she spoke. When she finished speaking, she hugged the dragon, burying her face in the matted fur.
Tara recalled seeing her in here a couple times before. She came in with a young woman who was usually more interested in the guy across the table or with her phone than the little girl. Was that why the girl was talking to the toy? A wave of painful empathy washed over Tara at the loneliness the girl must feel.
Where was the woman now? Tara looked around, but didn’t see her. She moved closer to the table. “Hello,” she greeted the girl, smiling, not wanting to upset or scare her. While the girl looked up at her with big brown eyes, she didn’t smile back.