Or maybe it was the desserts.
Either way, Tanner hadn’t had to drag the teen here tonight. Troy had actually remembered first and had to remind Tanner to get going so that they’d be on time.
“There is no girl,” he told them both.
Beatriz studied her son. “I play bingo. I hear things.”
“You can’t believe everything you hear, Mom.”
“I hear it from Lucille. The Oracle of Lucky Harbor.”
Tanner laughed. “Ninety-nine percent of what she puts out there is B.S.”
“Which means it’s one percent spot on,” she said calmly. “You’re seeing her granddaughter Callie, a sweet, smart girl who nearly married the dentist. He’s a good dentist but he’s an idiot of a man. You’ll do right by her.” She looked smug. “How’s that for one percent spot on?”
Troy grinned, enjoying this. “Is there dessert?”
“But of course,” Beatriz said. “Soon as your father tells his mama about the woman.”
“Hurry, Dad,” Troy said. “Tell her.”
Tanner went brows up on the “Dad.” At least on the outside. On the inside his heart did an almost painful squeeze as pleasure flooded him so fast he got dizzy. When Troy had first come to Lucky Harbor, he’d refused to call him Dad, instead using Tanner’s given name. Which had annoyed the hell out of him, but he’d hidden that because as he knew more than anyone, teenagers could see a weakness from a mile away. But he knew damn well that Troy knew how badly Tanner had wanted to be called Dad. “Now?” he asked the kid wryly. “Really?”
“Dessert,” Troy explained.
Naturally. Forget the Hallmark moment, it was about dessert.
Beatriz was smiling at Tanner, her eyes sharp as tacks.
She didn’t miss a trick.
“Yes, it’s Callie,” Troy said. “They’ve had breakfasts together at the bakery. And one at her place.”
Tanner stared at him.
“What? It’s online. Don’t blame me,” Troy said. “Dessert?”
“You,” Beatriz said to him. “Yes, you can have dessert, warm from the oven.”
Troy flashed Tanner a smug look that turned into a grimace when Beatriz pulled him in and gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek.
Now Tanner sent Troy the smug look but after a moment took pity on his son. “Mom, he doesn’t like to be hugged and kissed.”
“No. This can’t be true,” Beatriz said, pretending to be aghast as she kissed Troy again and then again on his other cheek. “In our family, we like to kiss,” she said. “It’s the Brazilian blood.”
Troy tried to be stoic while Beatriz kept at him, but seeing as Beatriz was in a wheelchair and she had Troy bent into a pretzel, Tanner couldn’t help it. Eventually he started to laugh.
“There,” Beatriz said, satisfied, finally letting go of her grandson. “That’s much better. Why do you teenagers have to be all broody and sullen?”
“Because being a teenager sucks,” Troy said. “You have no idea.”
Tanner and Beatriz looked at each other and laughed.
Troy frowned. “You’re not supposed to laugh. That wasn’t funny. Why was that funny?”
“Baby,” Beatriz said, “you have no idea. When I was your age, I was working in the banana fields twelve hours a day. When your dad was your age, he worked two jobs to help keep a roof over our heads, and then when you came along he had to go into the military to feed all of us.”
Troy blinked. “I—I’m sorry.”
“Oh, no, baby,” she said. “It’s okay, you didn’t know. But now you do. Would you take Rio out for a walk around the block for your dear old grandma?”
Rio was Beatriz’s aging toy poodle, the one sitting in her lap like he owned it, and he resembled a balding chicken.
“Don’t move too fast now,” Beatriz said. “He’s got some troubles today. I think he ate a sock. Give him a moment to air out, you know what I’m saying?” She shoved Rio into Troy’s arms, slapped the leash against his chest, and smiled sweetly.
Rio reached up and licked Troy’s chin politely.
Troy looked down at the dog and then at Tanner.
Tanner kept his gaze on his mom, and a moment later the back door shut.
Beatriz grinned at him.
“Seriously,” Tanner said, “you should bottle that skill.”
“How to be so evil and yet disarmingly sweet.”
She laughed. “Oh, but you can’t teach that. It comes naturally. Get the dessert, would you?”
Tonight it was fried cinnamon doughnut holes from Leah’s bakery. His mom loved them, claiming they reminded her of bolinho de chuva from her childhood.
Tanner’s dad had met her on spring break and brought her to the States. He’d stuck around long enough to see Tanner’s fifth birthday party.
Ever since then it’d been just the two of them, as Beatriz hadn’t been big on men after being dumped with a kid. She’d been an overworked, exhausted single mother working at the school cafeteria before rheumatoid arthritis had knocked her flat, forcing an early retirement.
He’d done his best to take care of her. And yeah, her body might have betrayed her, but her mind was still like a whip. She could read an eye twitch from a mile away, especially when it came to her son.
“Tell me,” she said. “Tell me about the woman.”