“Chemistry sucks,” Troy said an hour later when he still hadn’t gotten halfway through. “Sucks hard.”
“Working sucks,” Tanner said. “Fishing sucks. School sucks. Let’s try this—what doesn’t suck?”
“Here? Nothing,” Troy said sullenly.
Tanner pushed the books aside. “Come on. I’ve got something we need to do.”
Tanner pushed open the door to his spare bedroom, the one he’d given over to the kid. It’d been pretty sparse when Troy had first arrived, just a futon. But Tanner had picked up a bed, a dresser, and a desk.
“Great,” Troy said, looking at the desk. “A place to do more work. In a white room. It’s like my own private padded cell.”
Tanner ignored the sarcasm. “You don’t like white? Then pick a color. We’ll paint this weekend.”
“Dark purple,” Troy said without hesitation.
Tanner swiveled his head and stared at him. “Dark purple?”
Tanner rubbed a hand over the top of his head and winced at the bump there from hitting it earlier. “Look, I get that you’re pissed off at having to be here, that it feels unfair and you want to strike out and all that, but you’re the one who has to live with the color. So I’m going to ask you again. Dark purple? You sure?”
Troy just stared at him sullenly.
“Okay,” Tanner muttered, and shook his head. “You’re sure.” He started to leave and then stopped. He remembered after his dad had left, how his mom had picked up two jobs to make ends meet, and he’d felt so helpless and furious all the time. “Listen,” he said. “It will get better here.”
More nothing and Tanner shook his head. “Fine. Life sucks. Go with that, it’s a great attitude.”
Troy moved past Tanner and stretched out on the bed. He closed his eyes and for a moment looked so painfully young and so painfully vulnerable.
“’Night,” Tanner said quietly and turned to go.
“Um,” Troy said.
Tanner turned back. “Yeah?”
Troy hesitated. “Thanks.”
It was possibly the first time Troy had ever said that word to him, and Tanner felt an ache from deep in his chest. The kind of ache that was either a heart attack in the making or he was having a bona fide, real dad moment. He wanted to press Troy for more but knew that wasn’t the right thing to do.
As for what was the right thing, he didn’t have a clue. So he nodded and left the kid there on his bed and hit his own, where he dreamed of a green-eyed, strawberry blonde who lit up at the sight of a doughnut and hadn’t a single clue that she was the hottest woman in the room.
The next morning he sat at the bakery for an hour but she never showed.
The pretty brunette from the other day was there, though. She came up to his table with a try-me smile. “Is this seat taken?” she asked.
“No,” he said, and rose. “And this one isn’t either.”
“But…” She stared at him as he started to walk away. “Don’t you want to finish your breakfast? We could make it a date.”
“Sorry,” he said genuinely. “But I already have one.”
Callie figured out the way to battle her doughnut demons. She stayed in bed. It wasn’t bad as far as offices went, and the dress code—PJs—really worked for her. She’d gotten up long enough for a teeth-brushing mission and to grab her laptop, and then she’d crawled back into bed and gone straight to work, telling herself that she didn’t need caffeine and sugar to get going.
Her humiliation did that just fine.
She worked like a fiend. No one could deny that she knew how to throw a hell of a good party. She just hoped her brides enjoyed it because odds were that the reception would be the highlight of their marriage.
An hour or two later she decided that this working from home thing was a decent gig. In fact, maybe she wouldn’t ever go into town again.
That’s when someone knocked on her door.
She went still, frozen like a deer in the headlights. Then she glanced at the clock. It was ten in the morning. Both Becca and Olivia were at work by now. She hadn’t ordered a pizza for breakfast—though she absolutely would have if anyplace in Lucky Harbor delivered pizzas for breakfast. Hey, maybe she could quit her job and do that.
In any case, she wasn’t expecting company.
The knock came again and she looked down at herself. A double-extra-large men’s sweatshirt that kept falling off her shoulder. Plaid PJ bottoms about a foot too long and washed so many times they were threadbare. Today’s footwear of choice—Shrek slippers.
Yeah. She was ready for a Victoria’s Secret catwalk.
She climbed off her bed and looked out the peephole. Dark, silky hair. Dark eyes. Navy sweatshirt. Sexy jeans. Damn it. What was he doing here?
“I can hear you breathing,” Tanner said.
She stopped breathing and went utterly still.
“And now I can hear you panicking.”
She let out the breath with a whoosh and backed away from the door, heart pounding. “Why are you here?” she asked the door.
“Because our table was already taken at the bakery.”
“What? That’s ridiculous. It’s not our table.”
“Felt like it,” he said.
She thunked her forehead on the door. “Why are you really here?” she whispered.