“Eating.” Brooke shoved another bite in, not having finished chewing the other one.
“Slow down, sweetie.” Tara reached over and patted her arm. “There’s no rush.”
“We gotta go. Your mom called, and she ain’t getting off like she thought. You’re coming with me.” Brooke’s face fell, and she slowly set down her fork, turning to climb down.
“Please, let her stay and at least finish her breakfast,” Tara said in what she hoped was an authoritative voice that the babysitter would follow. Looking closer now, Tara realized she was a kid herself, a teen with an attitude to match.
“Make it quick, kid.” She sat beside Brooke with a thud. “I’m meeting Jake in five minutes. He’s my boyfriend,” she told Tara.
Slowly, Brooke put her legs under the table and picked up her fork. She finished half the waffle and all the bacon before she spoke again. “I’m full.”
Tara smiled. “Good. You don’t have to eat any more.”
“Can we keep it so I can have some tomorrow?” Brooke looked at Tara, pleading in her eyes.
“Waffles don’t keep,” the babysitter offered. “It’ll be gross by tomorrow. Come on, we gotta go.” She stood, impatiently.
“Tell you what.” Tara leaned toward Brooke. “You know where I work, right?” Brook nodded. “I own the diner, so I can make you a new waffle anytime you like.”
“Even for supper?”
“Even for supper. Anytime you’re hungry, you come see me. We’re friends, remember?”
“Come on.” The teen had already walked several yards away.
Brooke hastily climbed down, then instead of hurrying to catch up, she looked at Tara. “I like being your friend,” she said, then turned and ran behind the other girl. The crowd quickly swallowed them up, but not before Brooke looked back one last time and waved.
Tara tried not to worry about the little girl, but she did feel better now. It was a start.
* * *
BEING IN THE office was strange. The floor beneath Morgan’s feet didn’t move, and the view outside the window stayed the same.
“For gawdsake, sit down,” Jack grumbled from his desk. “You’re driving me nuts.”
Morgan planted his backside in the desk chair—that he’d had to dust off this morning—and stared at the computer monitor. He’d never taken any classes in accounting, but he understood it. He recognized the columns, knew what they were doing with all the numbers.
Except his brain wasn’t on work today. He fought the urge to get up and walk to the window again.
A short while later, the rumble of a truck’s engine drew his wandering attention. A black behemoth came slowly through the arched gate. Morgan stared. That rig. He’d recognize Dewey’s setup anywhere. The shiny black paint provided a vivid background for the bright orange flames on the sides. On the front grill of the Peterbilt, evil-looking teeth grinned maniacally at traffic. “What the—?”
“What?” Jack frowned, frustration on his brow. “Problem?”
“What’s Dewey Franklin doing here?”
“Probably showing up for work.”
“Since last fall. He’s a good hauler.” Jack shook his head, then with a shrug, turned to his own computer. “He takes most of the high-risk jobs. Makes us a good buck.”
“I’ll just bet he does.” Morgan slammed his teeth together and stalked to the door. He didn’t care how much money the asshole made for them, he didn’t want him here. Dewey—and the world Dewey represented—had no place in this business.
“Where you going?” Jack called after him. When Morgan didn’t answer, and kept going, Jack must have thought—rightfully so—that there was trouble. “Hey!”
Morgan heard Jack’s footsteps behind him but didn’t stop.
“Wondered when you were gonna come back.” Dewey’s gravelly voice, laced with laughter, came around the open door of the truck’s cab.
Morgan stopped. Not for any other reason than the smidgen of sanity he’d developed over the years. “You’re not welcome here,” Morgan ground out between his tight teeth. “Keep moving.”