“I only got part of that. You’re breaking up.” His heart sank. He wanted to talk with her, wanted to clear the air between them. She was talking, but he couldn’t understand the odd syllables. Then he heard a full word. “Brooke…” Another long pause. “Here.” Then the phone cut out completely. The silence was too heavy not to be absolute.
“Tara?” He waited, hoping the call was still connected. “Tara?” No answer this time, either. He cursed and had to force himself to not slam his foot on the brake pedal. He took several deep breaths as he kept driving. Trying to see through each swipe of the wiper blades and the path in the beam of the headlights through the thick dark.
* * *
THE CALL CUT OUT, and Tara didn’t even try to call Morgan back. She knew he was out on the road, and with the rain coming down, it couldn’t be safe to be on the phone. She’d said all the things to him he needed to hear. She just hoped he’d heard.
The diner was empty except for her and Brooke. Wade had made a few trips in and out. He wouldn’t leave until she did.
Her phone blared again, and she looked over at the screen, hoping that maybe Morgan was calling back. Instead, it was another weather alert. The loud, piercing tones echoed around the room.
“What’s that?” Brooke looked up from her third grilled cheese sandwich.
“A weather alert.”
“Oh.” The girl fell silent, looking at the dragon. “Do Lanara and I gotta go?”
Tara sat on the stool next to Brooke. “That depends. Where are you going?”
Tara watched Brooke slowly, deliberately put the remainder of her sandwich on the plate. She looked out the windows, her eyes wide. “To Jimmy’s?”
Why would the girl ask that as a question? “Do you want to go to Jimmy’s? I can take you.”
The girl stared at the crust on the plate. Slowly, she shook her head, her now-dry ponytails bouncing against her shoulders.
The weather alert went off again. Could it possibly be more insistent? The phone’s screen filled with a map of the county and the words flood warning scrolled across it.
Wade came out of the kitchen then, and even his usually calm, weathered face looked alarmed. “We need to get going, Tara. I’m disconnecting the gas and turning off the stove.”
“I’m not going until you do.” She met his eyes.
“I’m right behind you,” he assured her. “That creek is at the top of the banks. It’s going over, and soon.”
“Will the sandbags hold?” All the work Wyatt’s men had put in had to hold. It had to keep her dream safe.
“I don’t know.” Wade disappeared into the kitchen and returned carrying her jacket and her purse. The man was serious. He’d never touch her purse otherwise. He’d pulled on his own jacket. “Let’s go. You, too, little one.” He roughly grabbed the stuffed dragon and lifted Brooke off the stool.
He didn’t really give Tara much choice, and the next shrill of the phone made her hustle ahead of him. She unlocked the passenger door of her car and they got Brooke strapped into the seat, Lanara settled safely on her lap.
“I’m scared.” Brooke’s eyes shone in the darkness.
“You’ll be fine, kiddo,” Wade assured her, snapping the seat belt tight. “Miss Tara’ll get you to a safe place. Now be strong for that dragon. Don’t worry her.”
“You’re a good man, Wade.” Tara hugged her cook. “Now, get out of here.” His pickup was a few feet away from her little car.
“Not until I get that gas line off. Then, I’m out of here. Get going.” He almost buckled her in, as well, closing the driver’s door behind her. He didn’t wait for her to turn out of the parking lot before he was sprinting into the diner. She trusted him and knew he’d take care of everything. She just prayed he’d also take care of himself.
As she drove past the alley, she saw the water slipping over the creek’s bank, heading toward the back door of the diner. Her dream. Was she seeing the beginning of the end?
“Where are we going?” Brooke whispered, hugging Lanara tight, her face against the worn fabric of the dragon.