“Thanks, little brother. You’re looking particularly lovely yourself.” Morgan pulled the ice pack away from his right eye, stared at it for an instant as if that could make it work better, then put it back over his eye. He was seated on the edge of the truck’s running board.
“I lost her,” Morgan whispered. He shot to his feet, palming the ice bag as if strangling it would relieve the desire to do something similar to someone else.
“What exactly do you mean, you lost her?”
“I had her. Sylvie.” Morgan turned on him, and Jack barely resisted the urge to back away. The man was one scary dude when he was riled. “She was at the fight last night, and I grabbed her. I brought her here. I had her.”
“Yeah, we saw her.”
“Tara and her staff were all here this morning when you drove off.” Jack relaxed, realizing that the pain—both physical and internal—Morgan felt right now wasn’t going to stop anytime soon.
Morgan cursed and sank onto the running board. He put the ice pack back on his eye again and cursed with a wince.
“What happened?” Jack spoke softly. Morgan needed to talk, but he’d fight against it. Dad had hit him too hard, too many times, for him to easily let go.
“She left Brooke with a sitter and doesn’t even know where the hell the woman lives.” A long silence. “I made her go to her job where she said the woman would bring Brooke back.”
“And did she?”
“I don’t know.”
Jack waited. Dad had beat that silence into him, as well.
“Her boyfriend gave me this,” Morgan pulled the ice pack away from his eye. Looking closer, Jack realized it wasn’t a fist print on his brother’s face.
“The butt end of his shotgun.”
“Idiot apparently doesn’t keep it loaded,” Morgan mumbled. “Thank God, or Brooke wouldn’t have any parents left.”
“Damn, Morgan.” Jack sat next to his brother. “This has gone too far. You need to call in the authorities.”
“I know.” The defeat was thick in Morgan’s voice. The pain just as strong. “I called Mitch again.” Their old friend, now a detective on the Dallas police force, had already offered to help Morgan. Guess stubborn had finally been beat out of Morgan, and Jack mourned the loss. It was one of Morgan’s most irritating, yet admirable, traits.
As if just noticing where they were and that Jack was here, Morgan asked, “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Spent the night helping Tara. That creek’s rising so we sandbagged the alley.”
Morgan cursed again. He stood and walked around the front of the truck. He stared at the building. Jack ignored the hurt in his brother’s eyes. “How ticked is she?”
“I don’t know. Her brothers took her home to get some sleep.”
“This is her dream. She’s worked too damned hard for it. It’s not fair she might lose it.”
“Who keeps telling me life isn’t fair?”
“Shut up, Jack.” There wasn’t much venom in Morgan’s voice. Jack laughed and clapped Morgan on the shoulder.
“Get some sleep. You’re going to need to be clearheaded pretty damn soon.” Jack walked away, heading to the diner.
“Where you going?” Morgan asked. Wendy stepped away from the shadows and waved. “Forget I asked.”
Jack climbed into the passenger seat of a car, Wendy behind the wheel. Morgan watched them disappear into the sun’s glare.
His eye ached, but the real pain was deep in his chest as he stood there. Alone.
TWO DAYS LATER—a day and a half of which it rained—the sandbags were still in place. And holding. Tara breathed a sigh of relief. The rain hadn’t let up, but the creek stayed in its banks. Barely. Upstream, according to the weatherman, was getting a break from the downpour, and as a result, so were they.
Tara sat at the old-fashioned counter, where scattered papers and her laptop covered the surface. Customers were few and far between this late in the evening, and with the flood alerts that kept going out, people were staying closer to home.