Tanner went belowdecks. By the time Cole followed, he’d stripped out of his wetsuit and was standing in the middle of the galley buck naked, dripping wet.
“Christ,” Cole said, and tossed him a towel. “Cover that shit up.”
Tanner swiped the towel over his head to dry his hair and then made a halfhearted attempt to dry his face, shoulders, and arms before wrapping the towel low and loose on his hips. “I’ve got a problem.”
“So you said on the phone,” Cole said. “You have some craptastic timing, by the way.”
Tanner’s brows went up. “I interrupt anything good?”
“Let’s just say you owe me. Big.”
Tanner looked at him for a long moment. “You were with Olivia.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Didn’t have to,” Tanner said. “Face it, you can’t keep shit to yourself.”
“I can when I want to.”
Tanner was quiet for a beat. “Two weeks ago you fell into the water and needed a rescue—”
“Jesus, I misstepped. I fell. No rescue. And you’ve never made a stupid mistake?”
“I’ve made plenty, as you damn well know. Now shut your pie hole a second and listen.” Tanner pointed at Cole’s mouth when he opened it. “You’ve been going twenty-four/seven since we got here, for two straight years.”
“We all have,” Cole said, unable to keep it zipped.
“Yeah,” Tanner said. “But it’s different. Sam gets off on the boats he makes, so that’s not work to him. Diving is the same for me. But you, you work around the clock, not because it’s your passion but because you want the charter company to succeed, and—”
“Like you don’t want that?”
“—And because you don’t want to deal.”
Cole stared at him, getting pissed off. “Deal with what?”
“You know what. Gil’s death. Your dad’s death. Both unexpected and huge blows—”
Cole made a no-shit-Sherlock sound and shoved his hands into his pockets rather than punch something. Like Tanner’s face.
“And then there’s Susan and the way she left you—”
“Okay,” Cole said tightly. “We’re not going there.”
“—On the day of Gil’s funeral.”
Right, like Cole had forgotten not only being dumped on the worst day of his life, but finding out that his best friend and his almost-fiancée had fallen in love.
Behind his back.
“I know you think you’ve moved on,” Tanner said, “but you haven’t, at least not until now. That’s why we’re happy about Olivia. She’s the first woman to catch your attention since—”
Cole spun on his heel and started off the boat.
Tanner grabbed his arm.
Cole shoved him hard.
“Fine.” Tanner lifted his hands and backed off. “It’s best that we don’t tangle right now, anyway.”
“I don’t tangle with naked-ass motherfuckers.”
Tanner’s smile was much more real this time. “Aw, now you’re just trying to hurt my tender feelings.”
“You called me here,” Cole said. “I’m giving you five seconds to get to your point.”
“Christ, take a Midol already.” Tanner dropped the towel and snatched up a pair of Levi’s. “I needed to ask you something.”
“The answer is yes, you’re definitely suffering cold water shrinkage.”
Tanner snorted as he pulled up his jeans. “You wish.” His smile faded. “I’m going to owe you for this one.”
“Elisa and Troy are back.”
Tanner’s ex and his son.
Tanner had married Elisa at age seventeen to give her and the baby his name, and he’d done his absolute best to make them a family. But kids having kids was never easy. Especially wild-ass kids like Tanner and Elisa.
When he had gone into the navy—the only way he’d been able to figure out how to support them—Elisa had packed baby Troy up and moved to Florida to be with her grandparents. The divorce papers had reached Tanner the day he’d become a SEAL.
Tanner had supported Elisa and Troy all these years, gone to see Troy as often as he was allowed, but it hadn’t been an easy relationship.
Troy had turned fifteen last week and celebrated by lighting a bag of dog shit on fire and leaving it on the front porch of the girl who’d dumped him. Problem was, she happened to be the principal’s daughter.
“Elisa wants Troy to live with me for a while,” Tanner said.
Cole nodded. “Good.”
Tanner choked. “Good?”
“You’ve wanted him closer to you for years,” Cole said.
“Yeah, but now he’s fifteen and out of control,” Tanner said. “And hates all authority, including his parents.”
“Yeah?” Cole asked. “Is it like looking in a mirror?”
Tanner didn’t smile.
“You’re not alone,” Cole said. “We’ll help.”
“Good,” Tanner said. “You start tonight. I’m taking a group out that I can’t cancel on.” Tanner tossed him his keys. “Be at my place by six. He’s going to show up by six thirty. Don’t close your eyes, turn your back, or relax. Tie him up if you have to.”