Cindy pulled out her wallet. “How much for the teddy bear?”
Kyle had set the bear on his mom’s shoulder, and then his head on the bear, his gorgeous baby-blue eyes drooping.
“It’s a gift,” Olivia said softly.
“That’s very sweet, thank you.” Cindy moved to the door, gave Olivia one last knowing look, and left.
Olivia stood still a long moment, then let out a shaky breath. Sweet baby Jesus, she was in over her head and going down for the count.
Cindy was right, of course. She had to tell Cole the truth.
That night Cole boarded the boat, but not for work. Tanner and Sam were right behind him, each of them holding a bottle of their poison of choice.
None of them prepared the boat to leave the harbor.
Tonight it wouldn’t be safe sailing. Not because of the weather—it was actually a hauntingly beautiful night. Crisp sky so clear that the stars looked like scattered diamonds on black velvet. No wind. Barely a swell on the water.
The three of them sat on deck, sprawling in various positions. Tanner knees up, leaning back against the bolster. Sam on the bow.
Cole at the helm.
In silence, they lifted their bottles to each other.
“To Gil,” Cole said.
“To Gil,” Sam said.
“To Gil,” Tanner said.
Then they each took a long pull, the first of many. Paused to swallow.
And then repeat.
It was their second annual Get Shit-Faced in Gil’s Memory drunk fest.
They didn’t speak at all through the next few shots, which left too much time to think. There was a dull ache in Cole’s chest. For Gil.
For his dad.
For Cara, who’d decided that her cheating husband needed to get the hell out instead of her leaving, and who’d needed Cole to help enforce her decision last night.
Which meant he’d never gotten back to Olivia’s…
He drank some more and enjoyed the burn down his esophagus. It matched the one in his gut.
And heart. “Gil would’ve liked it here,” he said. “Lucky Harbor.”
Sam blew out a breath. “He would’ve liked anywhere that wasn’t on a rig.”
Tanner’s mouth quirked in a barely there smile. “He did hate the rigs.”
And he’d never gotten to leave them…
They all drank again. Pleasantly numb, Cole leaned back and studied the starry night. “Remember that time he set all the toilets to blow at two in the morning?”
Both Sam and Tanner laughed. This was the tradition.
“You went apeshit,” Tanner said to Sam.
“Yeah, because two guys were on the pot at the time. Luckily no real injuries, but it took me days to sort that shit out. Literally.”
“He always loved a good prank,” Tanner said fondly. “Remember when he put laxative in the meatloaf?” He pointed his bottle at Cole. “You’re the one who went apeshit.”
“Because it was my guys who ate three servings and couldn’t work for two days. The shit really hit the fan then.”
They all laughed and drank again.
“How about when he left us fake messages from our girlfriends, moms, and sisters,” Sam said, “saying that they knew what we were up to in our free time.”
“Now that was fun,” Tanner said. “Getting hounded by the moms.”
“Yeah,” Cole said. “Mine said my mom had heard that I was getting serious with Susan, that she knew I’d been online ring shopping and wanted to give me diamond-buying advice.” He took another long swig. In hindsight, when the shit had once again hit the fan and he’d had time to think, it’d bothered the hell out of him.
Because he had been getting serious about Susan. So serious that he’d asked her to marry him. After a lifetime of not particularly seeing himself with kids and a family, something deep inside had shifted, and he’d changed his mind. He’d wanted his own unit to belong to. To belong to him.
But Susan had said no, that she wasn’t ready for that.
What she hadn’t said was that she’d fallen in love with Gil. Nope, she’d saved that little tidbit until the day of Gil’s funeral.
Cole didn’t register the long, heavy silence around him until Tanner sighed and set down his bottle. “He shouldn’t have pulled that prank on you,” he said to Cole. “He thought he was being funny, but he regretted it, big time.”
Cole stared at Tanner, a sudden sinking in his gut. “Why would he regret it?”
Tanner got a sort of oh-shit-I-fucked-up look on his face and said nothing, which did not help Cole’s gut.
Or his brain, as the organ helpfully rushed to come up with a few explanations, not a single one of which he liked. Cole set down his bottle as well. “Susan and I had talked about marriage, so he was right there.” He stilled as his brain finally settled on what was bugging him. He hadn’t told anyone he’d asked Susan to marry him, but clearly she had. Shit. Fuck. “Goddamn. Susan told Gil.”
Sam and Tanner exchanged a look that Cole had no problem interpreting. They knew something. And yeah, he was halfway crocked, maybe more than half, but he could still think.
At least a little bit. “What?” he demanded.
Tanner picked his bottle back up and tipped it to his lips.
Sam did the same.
“What?” Cole said again. Even though he knew. Yeah, he knew, and it wasn’t sitting well. In fact, he was thinking about throwing up.