“I babysit,” Troy said.
She slid him a look. “Yeah?”
“Understood,” Callie said. “You think you could put some time in and keep her on the straight and narrow?”
“I don’t change diapers.”
“She’s old but not that old,” Callie said. “Aren’t you too busy for this with school and your work here on the boat?”
“I’m never too busy to make more cash.”
“What do you need cash for?” she asked, curious.
He shrugged, but she could tell he was holding back.
“A girl?” she asked.
“Maybe. Maybe just a neighbor.”
Smartass. She liked that. And him. She was still ribbing him when his dad showed up with Cole and Sam. Each moved in a way that commanded a woman’s attention. That they were all smart and self-made had a lot to do with that, but there was no denying that they were each gorgeous in their own way. And yet Callie’s gaze latched onto Tanner and held.
Around them the morning was gray, the weather was bordering on stormy. Temps hovered in the forties.
And yet the guys were in board shorts. In deference to the windchill, they also had on sweatshirts. Tanner’s hood was up and he wore dark sunglasses and some dark stubble.
GQ does Sports Illustrated.
As Callie took in the sight of him, her heart kicked hard. Her gaze shifted over his body but stuttered to a halt when it came to his left leg and the scar revealed there from the hem of his board shorts to midshin.
From the rig fire.
The sight of it drove home just how lethal and scary his life had been and how close he’d come to not making it back, which would have left a big hole in a lot of lives, including her own.
Tanner had picked up the provisions for the cruise they were chartering later. He and the guys had walked down the dock to the boat together, but when Tanner saw Callie on the boat looking like she belonged there, laughing with his son, he forgot about Sam and Cole, forgot his job entirely. Just seeing Troy smile at all felt like a gift. Add Callie to the mix and it was a lot to take in.
They both seemed to catch sight of him at the same time and their amusement died. Callie’s gaze held…affection? A lingering desire? Hell, that might be his imagination, but he’d like to think she was remembering the last time she’d seen him, when she’d had her tongue in his mouth.
Or maybe that was just him thinking about it.
All the time.
Then her gaze drifted south. Way south. Past any good parts to his scarred-up leg, and Tanner didn’t miss the flash of horror and pity.
And damn if he didn’t wish he’d worn jeans.
Troy’s expression didn’t hold much but teenage pissiness. Not a surprise. All Tanner had to do was breathe and he irritated the kid.
He’d told himself that was the way of things. It was the rite of passage for a teenager to resent the hell out of his dad.
Tanner certainly had, sight unseen.
Sam and Cole greeted Callie warmly and Tanner met Troy’s gaze. “How’s it going? You get the floors belowdecks too?”
“Not yet,” Troy said.
“I distracted him,” Callie said, and smiled at Troy. “Sharp kid. He’s interested in helping me handle Lucille and her antics, if that’s okay with you.”
“That’s nice of you to help,” Cole said to Troy.
“That’s me,” Troy said with more than a hint of irony. “Nice. A real chip off the old block.”
Sam barked a quick laugh and reached out and snagged Troy with an arm around the neck, giving him a noogie. “Watch your mouth, kid. Your dad’s dunked me for less.”
“Dunked?” Troy asked.
Sam gestured to the water.
Troy looked over the edge of the boat at the dark, choppy water. “You’d get hypothermia today.”
“Nah,” Sam said. “He almost always rescues you in time.”
Troy looked at Tanner. “He’s kidding, right?”
“Nope,” Cole broke in with a straight face. “You know he was a SEAL, yeah? If he doesn’t get to you in time it’s because he didn’t want to.”
Troy gulped audibly.
Cole grinned at Tanner. “We’ll meet you at the hut.”
And with that, Cole and Sam left the dock.
Tanner looked at Callie. He would’ve liked to pull her in close and see if she’d melt against him like she had yesterday, but they had a young, impressionable audience watching them with avid curiosity.
And then there was the fact that Tanner had walked away from what he and Callie had started. Which made him an idiot. “I need to unload these provisions,” he said, and gestured to the bags in his hands.
“Don’t mind me,” she said. “I was just out for a walk. I’m headed back to do more work.”
Tanner was standing in the boat’s galley putting things away when he heard the voices.
“Just neighbors, huh?” Troy said.
“Yep,” Callie replied, emphasis on the “p” sound.
“You didn’t look at him like you were just neighbors,” Troy said. “And you stared at his leg.”
“I hadn’t seen his scar before,” Callie said.
“He got it in a fire on the oil rigs,” Troy told her. “He nearly died.”
There was no sullenness in the boy’s voice, Tanner noted. No negativity at all, in fact.