“There’s nothing to tell.”
“Look at you, lying to your own mother. My phone’s been ringing off the hook. It’s all true, what Troy said.”
“You’re going to believe the word of a fifteen-year-old whose sole mission in life is to eat his weight daily?”
“He eats like you. He also thinks like you. You’ve got a smart one there,” she said fondly. “And don’t blame him. You’ve been seen at the bakery.”
Tanner sighed. “Forgot there for a moment that we live in Mayberry.”
She laughed. “Might as well be. I remember Callie as a girl. I cleaned her parents’ legal office at night for cash.”
“I didn’t know that,” Tanner said.
“No one did. I didn’t want charity, I wanted to work for what I earned. Her parents…” She shook her head. “They were good people, always made sure to give me a holiday and birthday bonus, but very self-involved. Scarcely noticed that they had a child.” She went on for a little bit about that time and what she knew and then she turned her eagle eye on Tanner. “Tell me what Callie is like now. I remember her as sweet. And smart. Very smart.”
“Still is,” Tanner said. “She’s running a site called TyingTheKnot.com, designing wedding websites and being a virtual wedding planner.”
Beatriz’s eyes lit up. “I heard this. A wedding site…”
He saw the stars in her eyes and laughed. “Don’t get any ideas, Mom.”
“Oh, I already have ideas. And they involve you not being on a dangerous job for once, killing yourself to make money for me, for Elisa, for Troy.”
“I’m not in a dangerous job now.”
“Hmm” was all she said.
“You’re still diving. When are you not going to need adrenaline rushes anymore? You’re too old for that.”
“I’m thirty-two, hardly old,” he said on a laugh. “And diving doesn’t bother my leg.”
“A man hits his prime at age seventeen.”
He was going to hope that wasn’t quite true. “I’ve always been careful.”
“No, you’ve always been hungry. You needed to support Elisa, even when she took advantage of you and lived in a way that was above her—and your—means. And then you felt the need to buy me this house…” She gestured to the two-bedroom townhouse he’d purchased for her after his second year on the rigs.
“You’d always wanted your own place,” he murmured.
“And I love it. I love you. I just want it to be your turn to be happy.” She smiled. “A wedding site.”
“What? It sounds so romantic.”
“It’s not,” Tanner said. “It’s a paycheck, that’s all.”
She made a small tsking sound in her throat. “If she feels that way, then the two of you are well suited.”
Tanner grinned at her.
“I don’t find it funny, my only son refusing to let himself love.”
He sighed, wrapped an arm around her shoulders, and pulled her in. “I love plenty. I love you, you meddling old woman.”
“Hmph,” she said, looking secretly pleased.
Tanner reached for another doughnut hole, freezing when he caught sight of his mom’s mail. The top piece was a bank statement, opened. He zeroed in on the bottom line and the balance there. “Jesus. Did you win the lottery when I wasn’t looking?”
“Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain,” she said. “And yes, I did win the lottery. The son lottery.”
He took his gaze off the statement and stared at her.
She stared back, a little smugly, he thought, and he narrowed his eyes. “You’re scaring me,” he said.
“Don’t be silly. I scare no one.”
“You scare everyone. The money, Mom. How did you get that much money?”
“Mine.” He looked at the balance again and shook his head. “What?”
“It’s the money you’ve given me over the years. At first I used some of it, I had to. But then I caught up. I told you this but you wouldn’t listen. Or stop giving me your hard-earned money. So I started saving it. Figured one day I could help you for a change.”
“Mom,” he said softly, staggered.
“I was waiting for a rainy day,” she said. “That might be a rainy day called Troy’s College Fund, I don’t know. Maybe it’s a rainy day called the Turks and Caicos. Whatever you want, baby.”
He took her hands and looked into her eyes. “I told you that money was for you and I meant it.”
“And I told you I didn’t need it. But you always were stubborn as a jackass. Got that from your daddy because God knows I’m not like that.”
“Yeah,” he said dryly. “God knows.”
“Listen.” She set her hands on her cheeks. “I know and everyone else knows that you give to whoever’s in need. You’ve always worked so hard. Then you started Lucky Harbor Charters with Sam and Cole and you still worked your buns off. You’ve always felt you had to be the hardest worker because you didn’t start out with as much as everyone else. You cover your own burdens. It’s what makes you special. But, baby, you can relax a little bit now. You have a cushion.”