But neither did he look happy or thrilled, or any of the things Tanner had ideally hoped to see. Apparently, getting Troy’s head out of his own ass was going to take some time. And just as apparently, the two of them working together was going to make them or break them, though Tanner would accept nothing less than success—God help them both. Because there was no going back. Like the explosives Tanner had worked with for so many years, he had one chance to get this right, to avoid blowing things sky high with his son.
He received an email and glanced at it. It was from his mom.
Honey, I stopped by the B&B spa and picked up a deep muscle tissue cream for your leg. You remember Chloe Traeger? Well, she’s Chloe Thompson now, married to the sheriff, and she runs the spa. She says to come by so she can massage the knots out of your leg. She said you need to be doing this weekly. Also, she wants you to do yoga with her for PT.
Tanner did remember Chloe, vividly. She’d been as wild as he, and a lot of fun. But he would do yoga with her over his cold, dead body.
Troy read the email over his shoulder and snorted.
Tanner slid him a look. “What?”
“Grandma’s pretty bossy for a nice old lady.”
Tanner couldn’t help it—he had to laugh. “Don’t let her hear you call her old or you’ll really see bossy.”
“You going to do the yoga?”
Hell, no. But he didn’t want to form the kid’s negative opinions. “There’s nothing wrong with yoga.”
“Yeah, if you’re a girl,” Troy said.
Tanner deleted the email.
“You think she’ll be baking brownies again anytime soon?” Troy asked, an unmistakable note of hope in his voice.
Tanner met Troy’s gaze. “She told you she baked those brownies herself?”
Tanner laughed. “She buys them at the bakery from Leah.”
“Really? Why did she lie about it?”
“She didn’t. I guarantee you she heated them up in her oven specifically so as to not be lying.” He shrugged at Troy’s confused expression. “Look, for most of your life, you’ve lived far away from her and she didn’t get to spoil you. She wants to be the grandma who bakes. But she can’t bake, she burns everything, so she buys the brownies and reheats them.”
“For me,” Troy said.
Troy chewed on that for a minute. “Mom doesn’t even try to cook,” he finally said. “So I don’t care that Grandma buys the brownies instead of baking them herself. I just love to eat them.”
At this much of Tanner’s amusement faded. He really didn’t have any business judging Elisa. He didn’t care that she hadn’t baked their kid brownies. But he cared that Troy had been robbed of his mom’s nurturing company. “As much as you love to eat them,” he said, “that’s how much she loves to provide them for you. And she likes you thinking she made them, so pretend you don’t know otherwise.” He lifted a hand when Troy started to respond. “Look, I can’t explain the female mind to you. There aren’t enough hours in the day.”
Troy’s mouth quirked at the very corners in an almost smile and Tanner felt like he’d been given a winning lottery ticket.
An hour later, he dropped Troy off at school with a “Try to stay out of trouble.”
The teen slid out of the truck and had to hike up his too-loose jeans or lose them.
Tanner shook his head. Been a damn long time since he couldn’t walk for risk of mooning everyone around him.
Troy vanished inside the school, and Tanner sat there watching him go, feeling everything his own mom must have felt every single day—a terrorizing love and an equally terrorizing fear that he’d somehow screw up this parenting gig.
Finally he pulled out of the school and headed to the bakery. He needed his day’s fix of coffee, and possibly a lobotomy for his inexplicable desire to see Callie again.
Up until a week ago he could’ve gotten coffee in the hut, but Cole and Sam had gotten into a paintball fight and the machine had been the only casualty. There were other, closer places than the bakery to get coffee.
Eat Me Diner, for one.
The town’s bar and grill, the Love Shack, for another.
But Tanner took the extra block, parked, and strode into the bakery, unable to pretend he was doing anything other than hoping for another glimpse of the awkwardly sexy strawberry blonde who’d made him smile for two mornings running.
The tables were all filled, even the back corner one that he already thought of as “their” table. A woman was seated there, head down, eyes glued to her laptop.
She was in real pants today, skinny jeans tucked into black leather boots that revved his engines, and a long, soft sweater the exact color of her jade-green eyes. She was chewing on her lower lip, staring at her screen, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the world.
But thanks to the military Tanner was a master of reading the tiniest minute details, and he caught on to the fact that she was watching him out of the corner of her eye. Not so oblivious to him at all, a fact that was somehow both cute and hot at the same time.
As he watched, a guy walked up to her, gesturing to the empty chair at her table, clearly asking if he could sit.
Callie blinked up at him and shook her head.
The guy moved off.
Someone else immediately moved in, and she waved them off as well, a frown on her face.
Most definitely a lobotomy, he thought, and drawn to her like a magnet, he bought two coffees, four doughnuts, and moved in close. “Morning.”