He nipped lightly at her wet lower lip, flashed a grin, and then…
Tanner was halfway out of the building when Callie’s front door whipped open. He turned to find her standing there, hands on hips.
Sweatshirt slipping off one shoulder.
Lips plumped from their kiss.
“What the hell was that?” those lips asked.
His mind was still befuddled, enough that he shook his head. “What?”
“You kiss me and then just walk out of here like the hounds of hell are at your heels?”
Okay, so there’d been a little bit of that. But he’d gotten his hands on her, and her tongue in his mouth, and only one word had crossed his brain and locked into place.
That’s it, just that one syllable, going round and round in his head the entire time he was kissing her.
There’d been a few other things, of course. The blood roaring through his veins like a locomotive on a downhill track, heading south to pool behind his zipper. Which meant that him thinking at all was somewhat of a miracle.
She was waiting for an answer and he didn’t have one.
“Was there something in the coffee or doughnuts that made you feel ill?” she inquired politely.
“So it’s me?”
“No.” Yes. Jesus. He was unsettled as hell that he’d shared far more than he’d expected to. She was far too easy to be with.
He didn’t understand why.
Or like it.
“I have a meeting,” he reminded her.
“Right. At the principal’s office. But if you didn’t have a meeting…”
“But I do.”
“Humor me,” she said. “If you didn’t have to leave right now, what would have happened in there?” She jabbed a finger over her shoulder at her apartment as if there could be any question about what she meant. She then crossed her arms, waiting not so patiently on his answer, and he realized she wasn’t pushing him out of anger or even annoyance. She was unnerved.
“Anything you wanted,” he said quietly. “As much as you would have let me.”
She stared at him. Then she let out a low laugh and dropped her hands to her sides. She stared at her feet for a long beat and it hit him.
Anything she wanted would have been everything.
At his soft laugh, her head jerked up and her eyes narrowed. “Are you laughing at me?”
“At us.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “Listen, I’m going to back off, okay? Nothing’s going to happen unless you want it to.”
A grimace crossed her face.
“You want it to,” he said, liking that way too much.
She blew out a breath. “I’m not sure a nice guy would point that out.”
“I’m not all that nice,” he said.
She sighed again. “This is bad, Tanner.”
Yes. Yes, it was bad. Very, very bad. It wasn’t only a volatile situation but a dangerous one as well. More dangerous than being a SEAL. More dangerous than any rig job. Because this wasn’t a threat to his body, which had time and time again proven itself able to withstand much more than he’d thought possible.
No, this time the danger was to his heart and soul.
And he didn’t think either of them could take the hit.
“I’m not doing this,” she said, gesturing to him and then herself. “Not happening. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, you know?”
“Yes,” he said softly. “I know.”
But apparently she wasn’t sure because she kept talking. “I mean, I know what happens when you fall in love. You get stupid. Love’s not enough.”
“Callie, you’re preaching to the choir here.”
She still wasn’t done. “Did you know that forty percent of the women who shop and plan their wedding on my website don’t even have a groom? Forty percent, Tanner!”
“Yes,” she said, “and don’t get me started on the other sixty percent.” She shoved her fingers through her already crazy hair and shook her head. “Focus, Sharpe.”
He smiled. “You talk to yourself a lot.”
“Yes. Be scared. Be very, very scared. In fact, if you could be scared off, that would solve everything.”
“Consider it done,” he said.
“Good!” With that, she stormed back into her apartment and slammed the door.
The door next to hers opened and Olivia poked her head out. Above hers appeared Cole’s.
Both grinning, of course.
“So are you really scared off?” Cole asked.
“Yep,” he said. “I’m gone.”
Cole laughed softly. “Liar.”
“I hear there’s a girl,” Tanner’s mom said at her dinner table.
Both Troy and Tanner went still, eyes like deer in the headlights.
Tanner’s mom smiled. “I hear everything.”
Tanner turned his head and looked at his son.
Troy immediately lifted his hands in innocence and shook his head. “Hey, don’t look at me. I got dumped when you and Mom made me move here. It’s not me who has a girl.”
All eyes locked on Tanner speculatively.
He kept his face even. It was his weekly dinner with his mom. She looked forward to grilling him all week and now that he had Troy to accompany him, she had two targets. Troy had tried to put up his usual sullen front, but Tanner’s mom was hard to be sullen to. Plus it appeared the kid was starting to get into having his paternal grandma dote on him.