* * *
WADE’S OLD FORD had seen better days, but the truck was high enough that they could make it safely through the rising water. Morgan had been convinced he’d made a colossal mistake when he’d seen that tree fall.
His truck was destroyed, but it looked like the trailer was intact. The big pine was wedged between the cab and the building, actually providing a level of protection to the back of the diner. He hoped.
“You think that trailer’ll hold?” Wade asked, leaning forward over the steering wheel as if getting closer to the windshield would make seeing easier. The rain was coming down so thick, Morgan could barely see more than a few inches beyond the hood. How was the old man even driving in this?
“I hope so.” Morgan glanced in the side mirror. They weren’t making quick progress through the water, but his truck—what was left of it—was growing smaller in the reflection. He didn’t speak, not wanting to distract Wade.
“Tara’s brother’s place is a ways out of town.” Wade stared straight ahead. “Might take us a while to get there.”
“I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You didn’t. I’m offerin’.”
“Thought your place was out east. Isn’t that where the worst of the storm is?”
“Can’t be much worse than this. If it is, I don’t think I could get there anyway. Might not have a choice but to go out to the Hawkins place.”
Morgan nodded, returning his gaze to the windshield and the view he couldn’t really see. Then suddenly, they pulled out of the thick water, the engine making only a few protests as they were obviously heading uphill. The rain seemed to thin, as well, and Morgan could see the road, and the line of red taillights ahead. “Maybe you can get some information on the radio,” Morgan suggested.
“Might.” Wade grinned. “If it worked. Yer phone work?”
Morgan stared at the blank screen. “Nope.” He didn’t know if he’d run out of battery or if the thing had gotten wet.
“Mine’s in the glove box. See if it’s charged. I ain’t looked at it for a while.”
Morgan rummaged around in the very full glove box. Receipts, odd gum wrappers and small tools were all he found inside. Then he saw a curled cord and grabbed it. A phone sat next to it. Morgan flipped the ancient screen open. It lit up, faintly. One bar. A smidge of battery. Not enough to justify the phone call he ached to make. Not enough to do that and have anything left for an emergency.
He told Wade as much.
“Yeah, we might need to call someone if we get stuck…oh, wait.” He pointed at the traffic jam they were firmly embedded in. The one surrounded by streams of water and muck.
Morgan chuckled, liking the man’s outlook on life. “Yeah, there’s that.” He stuffed the rest of the junk into the glove box but set the nearly dead phone on the seat beside him. He’d wait.
Brooke was with Tara—she’d told him that and Wade had confirmed it. She was safe. For now. The knot in his chest wasn’t getting any smaller. He wanted his little girl back. Ached for it. Now.
Patience was a virtue, he told himself, pretending he had some.
* * *
TARA AWOKE. WEAK dawn sunlight filtered between the storm clouds and the horizon. There weren’t any curtains on the picture window behind Wyatt’s desk, and she could see the soaking-wet world outside. Levering up on her elbow, she looked at Brooke. She was curled up on the big pillow, one of Grandma’s afghans snuggled over her tiny shoulders, her arms around the purple dragon that she hadn’t let go of since they’d left the diner.
The diner. Was it still intact? Had the water destroyed her dreams? Tara shook her head, hoping to dislodge the images of destruction that had to have come out of last night’s dreams.
She hadn’t been asleep long. They’d gotten here late and she’d stayed up even later talking to Emily and her brothers.
Slowly, Tara inched off the couch and left the room on tiptoe. She left the double doors ajar, in case the girl did wake up. She hoped she didn’t. Brooke was expecting her dad to be here when she woke up. And while Tara hoped for the same thing, she knew the chances were slim. And getting slimmer by the minute.