“You let her go into debt for this?” Wyatt snatched one of Addie’s fresh cookies and bit into it, hard. “What were you thinking?”

“She can handle it. It’s a solid deal.”

She didn’t need Jason to defend her, and Wyatt needed to back off. “Hellooo…” She waved her hands. “I’m still here.”

Addie put the second batch into the oven, then turned to lean against the counter, arms crossed in front of her. Her frown said more than Tara wanted to hear. She looked so much like Mom when she did that. Tara’s heart hurt.

But Mom would have supported her. She wouldn’t have gotten upset about this. Oh, Mom. I miss you, she mentally whispered. Mom had always encouraged her to follow her dreams, like she had for all of them.

And Tara was not giving up on this dream.

DJ must have seen her stubbornness on her face. “We aren’t angry with you. Do you really think you’re ready for this?”

Tara knew she was ready, but damn it, they were making her doubt herself. As the youngest, she had always felt the weight of her siblings’ shadows. She slowly looked around the room full of people she loved. Their frowns said it all.

Addie and Wyatt shared a glance. An all-too-familiar glance that spoke volumes. Tara’s emotions bubbled to the surface. “You don’t believe in me!”

They both actually had the nerve to look surprised. “We didn’t say that,” Addie said.

“You don’t have to say it.” Tara threw up her hands. “It’s all in that look.”

Tara marched to the door, wishing and praying someone would stop her and deny all her fears, reassure her that she’d misunderstood, that she was wrong, that they did have total faith in her.

No one spoke. The only sound was each of her steps through the empty rooms and finally the smack of the front door banging against its frame.

She kept walking across the yard. “Do not cry,” she repeated half a dozen times before she reached her bright red Jeep and climbed in. She slammed the door and rammed her foot on the gas before tearing out of the drive.

“I’ll show you,” she said to the rearview mirror. “I’ll show you all,” she repeated to the dust cloud that rose up behind her as she headed toward the highway.

* * *

SILENCE SUDDENLY FILLED the room, telling Morgan Thane he wasn’t alone. The driving rock beat had swiftly faded away as his younger brother, Jack, turned down the volume on the stereo.

The weights in Morgan’s fists still moved rhythmically, the soft clink of metal on metal now the only sound left.

“Do you even know what silence sounds like?” Jack asked, pulling his own earbuds free.

“You’re listening to your own tunes.” Morgan pointed at the earbuds Jack never went anywhere without.

“This is white noise to drown out your racket. That stuff gives me hives.”

“Stuff?” Morgan tried to look insulted. “Stuff? College-educated guy like yourself can’t come up with a better word than stuff?”

“Nope.” Jack stepped farther into the room, leaving his phone on the table while he went to the fridge.

Morgan watched Jack move across the apartment. It wasn’t big, so it didn’t take him long. He knew his brother. He knew that body language. Trouble. Something was wrong. “You going to tell me what’s up, or am I supposed to guess?”

Jack yanked open the refrigerator. “You got any more of those energy drinks?”

“Yeah. Back of the second shelf.” Morgan knew where every single item he owned was located. He’d always been that way, and after having so little as a kid—and with his soon-to-be-ex, Sylvie, taking off with everything else—he’d become a bit obsessed about it.

Jack reached in for a can, then popped the top. After he’d downed half the drink, he walked over to the computer to boot it up. He set down the drink, then settled in the old kitchen chair that doubled as a desk chair. He didn’t say a word.

Morgan didn’t stop. He was only three quarters of the way through his workout. So, the only sounds that broke the apartment’s quiet were the hum of the computer fan and the easy rhythm of the weights against the bar as Morgan worked on curls.

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