“Oh, um…with the babysitter. Somewhere. I told her I’d be back around two, so she took her for the night.”
Relief almost made him relax. “Where does she live? We’ll go get her, and then I’ll let you go.”
Sylvie stared at him for a long time. “Well, I—” She stopped midthought, frowning. “I don’t exactly know for sure.”
“She always comes to the store and picks Brooke up there. I don’t ever drop her off.” She shrugged as if giving his daughter to an unknown stranger to take god-knows-where was normal.
He was about to lose it. “Then we’ll go to the store and wait.”
“Jimmy won’t like that.”
“Who’s Jimmy?” He pulled her close, putting his face right in hers.
“My boss. He don’t like kids much. We rent a room from him.”
“A room? A single room?”
“Hey, it’s all I can afford.”
“Doing what exactly?”
“Hey, I’m good at sales.” She lifted her chin defiantly, nearly stumbling despite the fact she was standing still. “We make really nice T-shirts.”
The pictures in Morgan’s head kept getting worse and worse. The mysterious T-shirt vendor came to mind. Was that Jimmy? Was the woman who’d said she didn’t know Brooke the babysitter?
He started walking again, dragging Sylvie with him. He needed to clear his head before he talked to her anymore. The flashlight app on his phone helped get them there more quickly.
It also showed him the rush of the water beside them. Clouds were moving overhead, gobbling up the stars. It’d be raining again soon.
Finally, he saw the lights of town, saw the familiar outline of Tara’s diner and the hulking frame of his truck on the other side of the water. They’d have to go to the bridge farther down to cross.
“Hey. Is that your truck over there?” Sylvie asked.
Finally, they reached the familiar wooden bridge, and Morgan was surprised to see water lapping at the bottom boards, occasionally spilling over the top. It had rained for days, soaking the ground. Maybe too much now. He thought about that tree he’d seen the other day. How dangerous was it now?
Morgan stepped onto the wet bridge.
“I’m not going over that,” Sylvie screeched. “We’ll drown.”
“We aren’t going to drown.” He faced her. “You can either walk over that bridge with me, or I’ll carry you.” He leaned closer to her again. “I don’t much care, but one way or another, you’re crossing it and I’m getting Brooke back. Tonight.”
She huffed but stopped pulling against his grip. As if to accentuate his plan, those clouds that had been coming in settled close and started to dump even more water on them.
“Come on,” he said. “Unless you want to get drenched.”
Tentatively, Sylvie stepped onto the wood slats. He didn’t rush her. While he was beyond angry with her, he wasn’t trying to be cruel.
Finally, they reached the other side, and Morgan had to admit that it felt good to be on solid ground. That bridge wasn’t as steady as it had been a few days ago. If the water kept rising, it probably wouldn’t hold.
Morgan headed to the truck, still dragging Sylvie behind him. He glanced at the rear of the diner, then yanked his gaze and his mind back. Tara didn’t need to be part of any of this.
He prayed her brothers took her home, took her away from all this insanity.
Sylvie didn’t say anything, and the more the rain fell, the less she resisted. As he opened the cab door, he felt her shiver and knew that, if nothing else, her need to be warm and dry would keep her from trying to get away.
It was a temporary solution, but whatever worked. He lifted Sylvie inside ahead of him. He knew he was taking a chance that she’d try to run when he let go of her, but in here, in these close quarters, he knew he’d catch her.
He yanked towels out of a cabinet and tossed her one. “I don’t have any dry clothes to offer you.”
“I can borrow something of yours.” She leaned in to put her hand in the middle of his chest. Her fingers were cold as ice.
“I don’t think so.” He removed her hand and spread a towel on the edge of the bunk. “Go ahead. Have a seat.” He wanted away from her as soon as possible.