Silence settled around Morgan. Empty silence that didn’t sit well on his shoulders.

Seated on the workout bench, he stared down, not at the steel and lead of the dumbbells that made up the next part of his routine, but at his hands. His calloused, scarred hands.

He’d earned every one of those calluses with good honest work. The scars? Not so much. The white line across the knuckles of his left hand was from the left hook where he’d connected with Big Ken’s jaw—and split his hand wide open.

The white line up his forearm had faded, but it was a cleaner cut. A scalpel when he’d busted his arm in the battle with The Mauler. His pinkie finger on his right hand wasn’t quite straight. Who was he kidding? It’d been broken three times, never quite healing right.

But those scars represented money that got him and Jack out of Dad’s reach, put Jack through college and gave them a chance to survive.

He wasn’t proud of how he’d gotten them.

Sylvie had been from that fringe world he’d slipped into when he’d first hit the road. She’d never asked where the scars came from. She’d probably already had an idea. And she’d have to actually care to ask about something like that.

Tara wasn’t from that world. Did she even know about it? He curled his mangled fingers into a fist. A position he was more familiar with.

He’d dared to touch her. Dared to reach out for something he wanted. Was he crazy? He knew better than to reach too high. That had never gotten him anything but pain.

Morgan didn’t have room for regret.

But it knocked on the door of his conscience now. He hadn’t lied to Tara, not really. He should have kept his distance, should have kept his libido under control. No, this was all on him.

How would she know he was married? There wasn’t any sign of a wedding band—now or past—on his left hand. Hadn’t been since Sylvie had taken off.

Oh, he’d filed for divorce. He’d done everything he was supposed to—except make it final. He had to find her to do that, but when he did… And not because he was pining away for Sylvie. No, mostly because he didn’t want to traumatize Brooke. His lawyer had assured him that he’d get custody of his daughter with little question from the courts.

Especially after Sylvie had taken Brooke away like she had. The lawyer had gone on to explain that they could put a warrant out for Sylvie for violating the provisions of any custody agreement.

Morgan could turn Sylvie into a criminal in a heartbeat—and terrorize his daughter when the cops swooped in and arrested her mother. His soon-to-be-ex-wife wasn’t smart enough to keep her temper under control. She’d make a scene. It would work in his favor.

But Brooke would be the one to pay the price, and Morgan wasn’t willing to take that risk. Or give Sylvie any weapons against him. He’d stay married and alone if he had to, if that were the case.

He’d stay away from Tara and the temptation she represented.

And there she was, back again, front and center in his thoughts. Tara. He could almost feel her, almost taste her sweet kiss. Taunting him with what he couldn’t have.

His curses flew around the room, filling the air with a deep blue. He tossed his drink at the trash and, missing, he returned to the pull-up bar.



THE STREET FAIR was in full swing. With a break in the constant rain the past few days, the vendors, visitors and Tara were taking advantage of the opportunity to get outside.

“Hi, Tara,” rang out from several booths as she walked along, perusing the offerings at each one. She liked this town, these people, and on the whole they supported her business. So she tried to support them and theirs.

Today she’d brought a basket of Addie’s amazing cookies, each wrapped up so she could hand them out as thanks. She stopped at the tin sculptor’s booth first.

Dave was doing a brisk business today. He looked up as she approached and smiled. “I’ll deliver your sculpture the first of next week if you’d like.”

“That would be wonderful.” She’d already cleared a spot by the door for Mr. Squirrel. “I wanted to bring by a gift for you, to thank you for all your support.” She pulled out a package of cookies that she’d wrapped in a ribbon. His eyes lit up.

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