“Uh, no. This is great.” He looked at her then, and she couldn’t look away. “You, uh, have…” Jack reached out and ran a finger down the length of her arm. “Ketchup,” he said on a soft growl.
Heat ran up her arm, sizzling into her brain. Breathe, she reminded herself as she took a step back. Breathe. “I had a little accident.” She lifted her arm and saw the trail his fingertip had left in the smear. A white napkin appeared in her peripheral vision as he handed her one.
When she stood there, frozen, he wiped off her arm for her. She couldn’t stop watching him, watching his big hand move over her skin. Her mind went blank and she stepped back another step. “Thanks,” she whispered, then turned around before she made an even bigger fool of herself, not to mention shocking all the other diners.
She glanced over her shoulder as she turned tail and ran. He was watching her and the heat in his eyes made the big kitchen seem practically arctic.
What was wrong with her?
She looked down at her ketchup-stained shoes, at the rumpled uniform, knowing her hair was limp and hanging loose. Looking up, she saw her distorted reflection in the metal door’s surface. It only made her look worse. Made her feel worse.
The door swung open, that loud whumping sound startling her, making her jump. She tried to pull herself together. She looked up and found Jack standing there.
“Did you—uh, need something?” She tried to keep her voice from wobbling.
He looked as uncomfortable as she felt. “Uh, yeah.” He swallowed and tried again. “Maybe some ketchup?” He pointedly looked at her arm and smiled.
Their eyes met and she couldn’t look away. He moved closer. Slowly. Suddenly, he was just inches away, so close she could see the tiny lines around his eyes and the thick lashes that framed the dark blue.
“I’ll bring it out.”
“That’s okay. There’s some here.” He leaned in and she knew there wasn’t a single drop on her face. “Right. Here.”
His kiss was short and sweet. Then he left her there, speechless and staring after him when he returned to the dining room.
Oh. My. She didn’t move. She couldn’t. Oh. My, she repeated to herself another half dozen times before she could think straight again. What the—
She stalked through the doors, hearing them swing back and forth a dozen times. She didn’t stop until she reached the table again. “What was that for?”
NOT WANTING TO lose the glow of the time she’d spent with him, Tara drove to the diner in silence. Morgan sat in the passenger seat, looking rested, gorgeous and entirely too big to fit in her Jeep’s close space. She parked near Morgan’s truck, as images of what lay ahead flashed in her mind. Jack had called earlier with a load for him, and Morgan planned to take it.
“I know what he’s doing,” Morgan had told her at her apartment. “I can get the load and make it back in plenty of time for the match.”
Her heart sank, wishing Jack had found him a load that took him to someplace like Alabama or something. Of course, he wouldn’t have taken it, but still, she wished.
“He doesn’t realize how late the fight is.” He grinned. “I’m not educating him.”
Her grip tightened on the steering wheel. “Don’t do this,” she whispered. The idea that he’d be hurt as bad as or worse than before suddenly felt like a weight in her chest. It scared her.
“Don’t what?” He leaned in close. “Leave?” He was teasing, still caught up in the now, not the future.
His lips were so close. She almost leaned in to kiss him, to distract herself from her thoughts. “No.” She swallowed. “Fight.” She faced him. “There has to be another way. Please.”
Morgan pulled back as if she’d slapped him. “Don’t ask me that.” His hand curled around the door handle. “I’ve spent a year looking for her. Taking the safe route won’t get Brooke back. I’ve tried that.” He shoved open the door. “Go to work, Tara. Don’t worry about me.”
“How do I not worry?” She glared at him. “What if you’re hurt so bad you can’t take care of your daughter?” Breathing was a challenge as her anger grew. “What if—”