Standing there in the now dim light, inside a circle of strangers who yelled words he couldn’t hear through the rushing in his ears and the sawing of the breath in his lungs, Morgan stared.

What was wrong with him? He’d left this all behind and she’d dragged him into it. He cursed, loud and long before turning and stalking through the crowd. She had to still be here, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack. He headed to the exit. Maybe he’d see her leave.

The night air engulfed him, cooling his anger and the sweat on his body. He took in half a dozen gulps before his equilibrium returned.

He called himself every shade of a fool. The crowd was still inside, calling out for the next match. Fickle and foolish, those people saw the fights as nothing more than a way to make money and be entertained.

He’d been like that once upon a time. Before he’d learned the reality of icing injuries in the wee hours of the morning.

The pain grew. In his hand, radiating up his arm. In his face. Where the hell was Dewey? He cursed, waiting and watching. Just in case Sylvie showed again.

Time stretched out. Nothing. It was going to be a mighty long walk to town.


THE WIND CUT through the night, chilling Tara. She pulled her jacket tighter, taking her time crossing the wet pavement. It felt almost cold enough for the standing water from the past few days to freeze.

While she now had plenty of staff, they were in no way ready to be on their own if she fell and got hurt. She couldn’t afford to leave them in charge. Not yet, but hopefully at some point.

She’d parked on the far corner of the lot when she’d got here, leaving room closer to the door for customers. Lots of customers was a good thing. Really. Except when it was the end of the night, and she had to battle against the weather.

Now she almost regretted that decision. Brrr.

Morgan’s truck was still parked at the edge of the lot, dark and silent. He wasn’t back. Where had he gone in such a hurry? That same question had plagued her all through her shift.

Still more rain came down as she hurried through the dark. In the few minutes it took to walk to her car, she was drenched. Her fingers were cold and slippery. She had to pull the door handle twice, losing her grip the first time. Her fingertips burned from the slip. Damn it.

The dome light came on, light puddling at her feet with the raindrops. She tossed her purse, which landed on the seat with a squish. Great. She’d have to dry it out, too.

With a sigh of relief, she plopped behind the wheel and leaned back. She slammed the door closed, thankful for the relative warmth. The yard light glowed off the drops on the windshield, and in the distance, brake lights from cars at the stoplight spread red, then the green light added its glow on the glass.

Something moved. There. Up by the building. Leaning forward, she squinted, then felt stupid. Turning the key, she switched on the wipers so she could see. There. Near the back door. A shadow moved. Not low to the ground like a cat or dog or that pesky raccoon. No, this was taller.

A man. She smacked the button on the door handle, hearing the comforting thunk of the locks falling into place.

It wasn’t Wade. He was inside. Even his nicotine habit wasn’t standing up to these days of rain. And it was definitely a man, not any of her girls.

The man moved. First to the back door, where he lifted a hand, and she knew he was knocking, though she couldn’t hear the sound. Would anyone inside hear him?

His head bent, he leaned against the door, his hand slipping down. Tara rummaged in her purse. Where was her phone? She tried to remember where it was. Damn. She was fairly certain it was still sitting on her desk.

Should she leave? What if he broke in? What if he tried to harm one of her employees or a customer leaving this late?

She couldn’t afford to lose anything. She could drive to the police station. But what would he do by the time the cops, or she, got back here? She knew better than to confront anyone. But maybe if she drove closer, she could scare him away.

Tara pulled the car slowly across the lot. She expected the man to leave. To get away from the door. When he didn’t leave, when he actually seemed to stand his ground and face her oncoming car, she got a little ticked.

What was he doing? This was her place!