“And I know she’s got a sweet ass,” Tanner added.
Sam must have kicked him again, because Tanner spilled his beer and swore. “Whatever,” he said. “It’s true. And you know the rules. If he’d claim her, I’d stop noticing her assets.”
“I’m not claiming anyone,” Cole said.
“So her ass is fair game,” Tanner said. “That’s all I’m saying.”
“You know what?” Cole pointed at him. “I am claiming her, just so you can’t.”
“You can’t do that,” Tanner said. “That’s against the rules.”
“What the hell rules are you talking about?”
“I don’t know. The rules,” Tanner said.
“Let me put this another way,” Cole said. “Look at her ass again and—”
And he didn’t know what, exactly, but it didn’t matter because Tanner was grinning.
“All you had to do was say you’re into her, man.”
Cole ground his teeth and leaned toward him but Sam put a hand on his chest. “Yeah, he’s an asshole,” Sam said, “but maybe you could stop making yourself such an easy target for him.”
Cole thought about it and realized Sam was right. They had another beer and Tanner nodded at Cole’s shoulder. He’d removed the sling on the walk over. “You really better, or just bored out of your ever-loving mind?”
Cole leaned back and sighed in disgust. “Do you know how exhausting it is to do jackshit for days on end?”
“You didn’t do jackshit for days on end,” Sam said. “You tried to pick a fight with Clare, who didn’t bite because she’s smarter than you, and then you went sniffing around Unique Boutique. And then you spent the day building shelves instead of resting your shoulder.”
Cole froze for a beat before drinking more of his beer. “You don’t have enough to do with me out, you’ve got to hunt up gossip?”
“He sleeps with your new girlfriend’s BFF,” Tanner reminded him. “And Becca and Olivia live in the same building. Becca shares her updates with Sam, who shared with me. We all know that you asked Olivia out and got shut down.”
Sam shook his head at Tanner. “You’re a real dick tonight.”
Tanner didn’t look bothered by this assessment of his character.
“Olivia’s not my girlfriend,” Cole said. “I just met her a week ago.”
“Uh-huh. And had her naked two minutes later,” Tanner reminded him. “For two years the women in town have been falling all over themselves trying to get your attention, and you’ve ignored them all. Until now. Let’s just say I find this…interesting.”
Cole might’ve jumped down his throat again, or simply told him to shut his pie hole and mind his own business, except the fact was that they were each other’s business.
And there was another reason. Tanner’s eyes were dark, his body tense.
He was having a rough go of it. Cole knew it, Sam knew it, and Tanner himself surely knew it. Not that he’d complain. That was the problem with Tanner. He kept his shit to himself and deeply protected.
Hell. They all did. “Next time,” Cole said, “you can rescue the pretty girl.”
That got a rare smile out of the ex–Navy SEAL. “I don’t need to rescue them, man.”
This was true. Women had been attracted to him since the day he’d hit puberty, and he’d made the most of it—until karma had caught up with him and bitten him in the ass in the form of a teenage son with as much wild and crazy as Tanner had shown. Maybe even more.
Sam pulled out his tablet, and Cole groaned.
“Whatever,” Sam muttered. “It’s financial planning night and you both know it. We’ve got shit to do.”
Tanner poured himself another beer. “Hit me, Grandma.”
Sam narrowed his eyes at the age-old nickname for the one of the three of them who always worried about everything. “Don’t tempt me,” he said, and turned the tablet so that they could see the screen.
Cole settled himself in for the numbers crunch. Sam started talking and he tuned out, confident that the financial wizard with the Midas touch had taken good care of them as always.
Instead, he let other worries sink in. His mom, for one, who kept saying she was fine, but they were coming into another holiday season soon, her second without his dad, and that was going to be rough.
His sisters, specifically Cara, who still refused to let him help her.
Tanner, who seemed to be getting more and more bitchy as time went on instead of…well, better—
“He’s gone, baby, gone.” This from Tanner himself, and Cole blinked, realizing that they were both staring at him.
“What?” he asked.
Sam swore. “You haven’t heard a damn word, have you?”
“Nope,” Tanner said, answering for him. “He’s running through all his shit in his head again.”
“I am not,” Cole said.
“Right,” Sam said. “Then what did I say?”
“That we’re done?” he asked hopefully.
Sam shoved the tablet beneath Cole’s nose and started again. They went over receivables, payables, the bottom line. They went over their expectations for the next quarter and whether or not they wanted to get a second boat by next summer season.
Which brought a whole new level to the word expectations.