“I know he’s an asshole.”
She took another big bite of the maple bar and let the sugar soothe her. “For all you know,” she said, “I did something first that prompted him to leave me.”
“Babe, even if that was true, the words are simple. I don’t want to get married. That’s all he had to say, preferably before the wedding day. Instead, he pussied out and screwed you over good.”
“Why do guys say that when talking about weakness?” she asked.
“Yeah,” she said. “I mean, why isn’t it that instead of acting like a pussy, he acted like a man’s ego, because we all know there’s nothing more fragile than that.”
He grinned. “You’re right. I stand corrected.” His smile faded. “Is he the reason you left Lucky Harbor?”
“Maybe a little bit.” Humiliated, angry, disillusioned, she’d stayed in San Francisco after graduation. She’d been finished with love, finished with forever-afters, and most definitely finished with men in general. But finding a job after graduation wasn’t easy, and she’d fallen back on something she’d been good at—weddings.
And no, she hadn’t missed the irony.
“Was yesterday the first time you’ve seen him since your wedding day?” Tanner asked.
“You know, usually people avoid talking to me about this. I think they’re afraid I’m going to cry or something.”
“Hell no,” she said. “Not over him.”
He looked at her for a long moment. “Do you want to talk about it?”
“Definitely not,” she said.
“Gotta talk shit out,” he said. “Or it’ll kill you.”
“You don’t seem like a big talker,” she said.
“I pick my moments.”
“And this is one of them?” she asked.
He slid her a look. “If I said yes, what would you want to know?”
That thought was a little much for her to swallow, and she couldn’t imagine how he’d feel, so she kept it to herself. “I saw you with your son on the boat yesterday,” she said. “Things looked…tense.”
“We’re working on it,” he said. “I’ve got about fifteen years of resentment to battle my way through.”
“And his mom?”
“She’s decided that she needs a mom break,” he said. “I’m up at bat.”
Callie took in the easily spoken words, which didn’t match the pain in his eyes. “You’re going to do great,” she said quietly.
He met her gaze. “Yeah?”
“Yeah,” she said. “You always do the right thing. It’s who you are, it’s hard-wired into you.”
“And you got all that from our breakfasts?” he asked, holding her gaze. “Or from your grandma?”
She blew out a long breath and mentally debated whether to actually ’fess up. But she supposed it was time for the truth. “I had a huge crush on you in high school. I was basically your stalker and you didn’t even know it. I could write your bio.”
He arched a brow. “Let’s hear it.”
“My bio. The things you think you know about me.”
“Oh, well…” She wasn’t sure how they’d gotten on this road, but she couldn’t back out now. He was watching her with those eyes that somehow always drew far too much of her truth from her brain and out her mouth. “I know you got Elisa pregnant at seventeen.”
“Everyone knew that,” he said.
“I know you had a promising football career with a scholarship on the line, but you gave it all up so that you could support her and the baby.”
“Anyone would’ve done that.”
“Actually,” she said softly, “no, they wouldn’t have. You made that choice for her and Troy’s future, not for yourself. I know that Elisa ended up getting to go to the college you’d wanted to attend.”
He took her coffee cup and set it on the counter. “Don’t make me out to be any kind of martyr. That’s not me.”
“My point,” she said, “is that you do whatever needs to be done. Even if it’s not in your own best interests.”
“Yeah, I gave up a scholarship,” he said, “but I got something out of it. Troy. He’s not all that into me at the moment and that’s likely to get worse for a little while, but I don’t regret any of the decisions I made. Because in the end they led me to him. I’ve screwed this daddy gig up more than a few times, but I plan on getting it right this time.”
“How did you screw it up?”
He was quiet a moment, studying her. “I don’t regret the navy,” he finally said. “That’s where I grew up. But I was away for long periods of time, and then the same on the rigs.”
“But that’s how you made the money you needed to support them,” she said.
“True, but…” He shook his head and she thought that was it. He was done talking.
“I nearly died there,” he said quietly, shocking her. “And I’d have left my son without a dad and my mom without a son to take care of her.” He met her gaze. “I set out to be a better man than I was a kid, and in doing so, I’ve learned that there are more important things than money.”