“I didn’t know.” Jack shrugged. “You used to do it all the time.”
“Yeah, when I had to.” Morgan looked over at Tara. This was not something he wanted to discuss in front of her. She probably already thought he was nuts. This wasn’t going to help.
But she surprised him then, walking over to stand on the other side of the counter. He didn’t dare look at her, didn’t dare face her and see the censure in her gaze. It was one of the hardest things he’d ever done.
The sweet scent of her wrapped around him, and her heat followed, tugging at him. He wasn’t good at resisting her. Damn. He finally gave in as the silence grew and met her gaze.
No anger, no pity, no disgust. Just curiosity. “Who’s Brooke?”
He knew everything hinged on his answer. Knew without even asking or thinking hard about it that the future was there for the taking, there for him to reach out and grab hold. He cleared his throat. “My daughter.”
The look of pain on her face, as if he’d slapped her, surprised him.
“The little girl with the toy dragon?”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded, her hurt all too painful to him.
“She’s seen Brooke?” Jack interrupted. “When?” To Tara he said, “Do you know where she is?”
Morgan looked at Jack, at Wendy, who stood there drying the already dry plate. Finally, at Tara. The only person here whose opinion really mattered. “Not yet,” he answered Jack but didn’t look away from Tara. “I tend to focus on Sylvie. If I find her, I find Brooke.” How did he explain that thinking about Brooke was too painful, too hard?
She gasped. “You didn’t trust me enough to share that?” Her anger flashed bright.
“No.” This wasn’t going to go well. “I trust you. I—” Slowly, Morgan stood, then took a couple steps backward to keep from vaulting the damn counter to reach for her. “I can’t take the risk.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
He didn’t answer, simply turned and headed out. He’d never be able to explain.
He’d lost too many people in his life. They’d left him. Death. Drinking. Hell, his wife had actually run away from him.
He’d been stupid to even toy with the idea that maybe he’d be different with Tara.
Brooke…might be all he had. If he had anyone.
The rain had returned—had it ever really stopped?—and the ice-cold drops fell over him. He didn’t care. Not this time. He walked with purpose to the truck. He revved the diesel engine and roared out of the parking lot.
In the rearview mirror, he saw Tara come out of the diner’s door. He saw Jack behind her, saw his brother reach out to grab her as she started to run after the truck.
Safety be damned, he flipped the mirror aside and focused on the road. He needed to call Dewey and get a fight lined up. It didn’t matter how badly Morgan was beaten or if he lost. He’d forfeit the fight and go after her if he caught even a glimpse of Sylvie.
Once that was done—he prayed Sylvie was there—he’d get his daughter and go home.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN, he never told you? You are Tara, right?”
Tara stared at the man she’d just learned existed a short while ago. The man who was a smaller, albeit just as feisty, version of Morgan. His brother, Jack.
“Oh, that’s so…Morgan.” Jack laughed. A smooth, warm sound, unlike the roughness that characterized Morgan’s laugh—something she suddenly missed.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She faced him, hands on her hips.
“Have you ever tried to get my stubborn brother to admit anything he doesn’t want to?”
Like where he went so suddenly yesterday? Or what happened? Or anything about what the doctor said?
Not once had Morgan shared any of the things Jack was telling her now. Things Jack seemed to think she knew.
But apparently, Jack knew about her. How many secrets did Morgan have?
Tara returned inside, focusing on clearing tables, on any task to keep herself from feeling the betrayal that was a ridiculous reaction. She’d known Morgan only a few weeks. Why did she think he owed her any explanations?