Tara’s heart sank. She blinked away the burning in her eyes. Was there anything left to lose? No! She’d worked too hard for this. She would not lose.
“Where do you want this?” A voice came out of the storeroom and Jack appeared in the doorway with his arms full of sacks of flour.
“What are you doing here?” she asked.
He glanced over at Wendy, who blushed furiously. Tara looked closer. The waitress’s hair was mussed, her lips swollen as if they been well-kissed.
“Offering a hand,” Jack said, waiting for direction.
“Put that on the counter out front.” DJ stepped in, his own arms full of supplies. “Come on.”
When the man with Wyatt’s pickup returned a short time later, the bed was full of bags filled with sand. The rest of the men, along with Tara and Wendy, worked to build a wall of sandbags around the back of the diner.
Almost as if the creek knew it was beat, which Tara knew was nothing more than her exhausted brain being wishful, the creek started to recede. The water meekly slipped back into its banks.
DJ was mopping up the mess that had reached several feet into the kitchen.
“I can do that,” Tara said.
“So can I.” DJ smiled at her. “Mom taught us all how to mop, Tara.” He laughed. “It’s okay to let someone help you, ya know.”
She smiled. “I know.”
Wade had made a big urn of coffee and she poured them each a cup. “Here.”
DJ took it and set it on the steel baker’s table. Putting the mop bucket away, he came back and took a deep drink. “Heaven. Come on, hon. You need some sleep.”
“So do you.” She sipped her own coffee, as if it would ward off the impending exhaustion.
They went into the dining room to find the morning crew just arriving with the sun. Kaitlyn frowned. “Are we open?”
Wade shrugged. “Disaster averted. Looks good to me.” He’d reconnected the gas and turned on the stove. “Robbie here yet?”
“Yeah,” the day cook called as he walked in. “What can I do to help?”
Nearly everyone was here. Her brothers, their crew who’d helped her throughout the night, her staff. All these people were here to help her keep going, to help her business succeed.
Everyone but Morgan.
“Thanks, all of you.” Tara cleared her throat. “You’re awesome. I love you all,” she whispered, her emotions running high.
The roar of a truck engine broke the silence of the quiet morning. Everyone turned to watch Morgan’s semi-tractor pull out of the parking lot. Morgan was behind the wheel.
“What the heck?” Jack ran to the door, staring out through the wet glass. “Was that Sylvie with him? He found her?”
You could have heard a pin drop.
TARA WATCHED MORGAN’S TRUCK, minus the long trailer, move through the nearly empty parking lot.
The sunrise was sneaking between the fading storm’s cloud line and the horizon, outlining the frame of the truck with a pretty, red-gold glow.
Then Jack’s words sunk in. Sylvie was in the truck with him. Tara had seen them leave the fight together, seen Morgan’s arm around Sylvie, holding her tight. He’d been searching for her for a year. Was Brooke with them? Had he finally gotten everything he’d been searching for? Since the trailer was still here, she knew he’d be back.
Tara looked around. At her staff, who looked as exhausted as she felt, at the men from her brother’s ranch and her brothers who’d gone with her to the fight. They’d stayed up all night stacking sandbags to keep the water out of her diner. At everyone who wasn’t Morgan.
Tara shivered, as much from the cold and damp as her own doubts. If he had everything he’d been searching for, where did she fit in?
“Damn him,” she whispered, her breath fogging the glass of the door that she hadn’t even realized she’d walked to. Damn him for making her forget her priorities and want something else—want more. Wasn’t this exactly what she’d warned herself about?
Turning, she faced the crowd. Every one of them stared back, some in trepidation—her brothers mostly—others openly curious. “Don’t worry,” she assured DJ and Wyatt. “I’m not going to lose it.”