He was young. And the woman with him was about the same age. They gave each other what she used to think of as puppy-dog eyes. Before the urge to roll her eyes grew too strong to ignore, she headed into the kitchen to see where she should help.
“Must be nice to be a rich business owner who doesn’t have to work.” A voice came from around the corner before Tara entered the prep area. She froze. She had to think a minute to figure out who it was. One of the part-time evening waitresses—Kaitlyn. She’d just started here.
Tara gulped back her disappointment.
“You don’t know what’s going on,” Wendy said around the clatter of dishes.
Tara started to step around the corner, then froze. “She’s always watching us. I hate that. She doesn’t trust us.” The sneer in the girl’s voice hurt.
“You’re paranoid,” Wendy said.
“I am not.”
“Then why are you so worried about what she thinks? Doing something you shouldn’t?”
“No,” Kaitlyn said too quickly.
“That wasn’t very convincing.” Wendy’s voice was louder, as if she’d just turned around to face where Tara stood. “Stop being stupid and just do your job. It’s a new place. She’s just watching to see how things are going.”
Wendy came around the corner then, a serving tray hoisted up on her shoulder. She paused, catching herself from tripping, barely. Tara met her employee’s gaze, making sure not to look away.
“Where have you been? Are you okay?”
Tara didn’t even know how to answer. She saw the real concern in Wendy’s eyes.
“Fine.” She stepped toward the swinging doors. “Just got caught up. Sorry.”
The silence was heavy. Wendy nodded, though she looked closely at Tara, as if searching for something beyond her words.
Tara stepped through the doors. She didn’t think Kaitlyn had known she was there. She knew she could never really be friends with her employees, but she thought she had a good relationship with them all. The reality that a lot of it was a lie hurt.
Slowly, Tara stepped around the corner, making sure Kaitlyn saw her. Did the girl wonder if she’d been there before? Did she care that Tara might have overheard their conversation?
Tara kept walking, heading for her office. She didn’t owe anyone any explanations. She’d left the diner, not even thinking about how long she’d be gone. She hadn’t planned to end up in Morgan’s arms, or feel so comfortable there that she fell asleep.
Inside the small office, she sank into the wooden chair in the corner. Its usual comfort did little good today.
She was doing it again, wasn’t she? Letting a guy distract her, letting someone else affect her ability to succeed. The last shivers of pleasure from being with Morgan slowly melted away.
* * *
MORGAN MADE DEWEY drop him off a mile from the site. “I want to scope out the place first. I’m not promising anything.”
Dewey had frowned but nodded. He knew Morgan well enough to know that he’d lose if he pushed him. There was only one reason Morgan was even here, and fighting was the least of his wishes.
Something Dewey had said, about Tate calling the authorities when Mack got too rough, came to mind. He wondered if the authorities were in on this deal since this location was entirely too obvious.
He took several trips around the area before approaching the door.
He’d worked too danged hard to clean up his reputation and leave his past behind to risk a trip to jail. He might get sucked in again, but a part of him hoped he’d be able to pull back. Finally, convinced it was clear, he hit the side door, slipping inside before anyone could see him. He stayed in the shadows as best he could. He’d just go in quick, look around, then leave. If he didn’t find Sylvie… He’d deal with that disappointment after.
The old days rushed back with a contact adrenaline high. His stomach turned from the intensity that hung in the air. Simultaneously, he wanted to jump into the ring to join in and head out the door to run as fast as he could in the opposite direction.
People, mostly men like those twentysomethings he’d seen earlier, filled the area between a circle of bright yellow school buses. Really, school buses? He almost rolled his eyes.