“That’s what I’m afraid of,” Callie said. “I’m back in town to see how bad it’s gotten and if she needs help.”
“It’s probably a matter of opinion,” Leah said on a laugh. “But if you’re asking if she’s sane? Sane as Batman.”
Not helping. Callie slid another look at the doughnut case. “So how are your old-fashioned chocolate glazes?”
“Out of this world.”
Callie bit her lower lip. “I read that chocolate comes from a tree called cacao. Which makes it a plant. Which means it’s practically a salad.”
Leah grinned. “You want one or two?”
“I’ll be good and have just one.”
A minute later Callie took the only table available—by coincidence the same one as the other day. She pulled her laptop from her backpack and opened it, and kept her head down as she stuffed her face and pretended to be engrossed so that no one would bother her. It was okay to need to work up to being social, she told herself.
Someone pulled out the chair across from her with their foot and sat.
She inhaled a breath for patience and lifted her head. And then stilled.
Tanner raised a brow. “You’re not going to choke again, are you?”
Don’t you dare choke, Callie ordered herself. “No, I’m good,” she said to Tanner with what she thought was remarkable calm. “I must’ve been catching a cold yesterday or something.”
He flashed her a knowing grin.
Damn it. Deciding to look busy, she went back to her keyboard rather than let her eyes wander over him. Which wasn’t necessary since she already had him memorized. Battered boots, faded and ripped jeans riding low on his narrow hips, and a navy blue thermal, the sleeves shoved up on his forearms and stretched taut over his broad chest and shoulders. A build like that came from years of physical labor, and it had done a body good. His dark hair was damp and he smelled faintly of some really great-smelling soap. She found herself inhaling deeply just to catch another whiff.
“Yeah, it smells great in here, doesn’t it?” he asked.
She did her best not to give herself away with a blush. “Really great.”
“It’s the vanilla,” he said.
Actually it’s you, she thought but didn’t speak. Didn’t dare. She was already tongue-tied again. It was the way he had of focusing in on the person he was talking to, she decided. He gave his full attention, totally present. Rare in today’s electronic world. When Tanner Riggs looked at you, you knew he wasn’t stressing over his grandma driving everyone batty or whether his hair looked good today. Which, for the record, it did. It looked dark and silky soft to the touch— Her phone buzzed with an incoming text from one of her brides and she nearly jumped out of her skin.
Is it hard to get a plane flying over my wedding with a banner that reads HE FINALLY PUT A RING ON IT AND JUST IN TIME TOO as the minister says “I now pronounce you husband and wife”?
Oh boy. Callie hit REPLY and typed out her response:
Do you really want your 350 guests to know you’re having a shotgun wedding?
While she was waiting on a response to this, already mentally preparing to figure out how to do the banner as tactfully as possible, a white bag appeared between her eyes and her screen.
Tanner, offering a daring smile if she’d ever seen one.
“A Boston cream,” he said.
“Are you trying to make me be bad?”
He smiled, slow and wicked, and Callie’s face heated. “You know what I mean,” she muttered, looking around to find no one paying them any attention at all. The fakers.
“Just eat,” he said. “Enjoy.”
“Suspicious thing, aren’t you?” He stretched out his left leg with a long, slow exhale as if he were in pain. She thought of what her grandma had told her about the guys losing one friend and nearly Tanner as well, and her heart ached for him. She wanted to ask him if he needed anything, Advil, or…a massage. But just before she could make a total fool of herself, he shifted and his right thigh bumped hers.
He didn’t pull back. She doubted if Tanner knew the definition of pulling back.
“Consider the doughnut a bribe to let me share your table,” he said. “And a thank you for doing so.”
“I didn’t say yes.”
“Take a bite and you won’t say no.”
She narrowed her eyes. “Everything you say sounds dirty.”
His head went back and he laughed softly. The amusement transformed his features, and she found herself staring openly at him.
Still smiling, he leaned in. “You know what this means, right?”
She had no idea, and still staring at him, she shook her head.
“It means you’re the one with the dirty mind.”
She bit her lower lip and when he laughed again, she took a bite of the Boston cream—in spite of already eating the old-fashioned chocolate glazed—and moaned in pleasure.
Tanner stopped laughing. He looked at her mouth and his eyes went black, and right there in the middle of the crowded bakery Callie felt herself go damp. It was crazy. She sat staring at him, mentally tearing off his clothes, when her phone buzzed with another text from her bride.
You’re right. Disregard banner.
Callie smiled. She’d long ago discovered that most of her brides needed the ideas to be their own. Thinking she was in the clear, she started to set her phone aside but it buzzed again.