“I’m glad he’s not still working out there,” Callie said.
“I’m not sure he can,” Troy said. “You’ve seen him limp.”
Tanner winced but it was fact. He limped. He probably always would. Realizing he was straining to eavesdrop, he attempted to ignore them and unloaded the bags.
“His limp isn’t that noticeable,” Callie said. “And the Tanner I know wouldn’t let anything stop him from doing what he wanted to do—” She broke off at the sound of a text coming through. There was a beat of silence and then she snorted.
“What?” Troy asked.
“It’s my work, from a bride. She says: My shoes are at least a shade off from my dress—exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point. The wedding’s going to be ruined!” Callie sighed. “My poor, overwrought, overly emotional bride.”
“You’ve got brides texting you?” Troy asked.
“It’s my job to deal with them,” she said. “I don’t know why I do it.”
“Why do you?”
“Well,” she said thoughtfully. “We all do things we don’t necessarily want to do.”
“Yeah,” Troy said, sounding mopey. “Like mopping a boat. But you’re a grown-up. You get to do whatever you want.”
Callie laughed. “That’s so not true. There are consequences to everything, you must know that. And responsibilities, which only grow as you get older. We all end up doing things that we don’t always want to.”
“Like?” Troy asked.
“Like your dad didn’t necessarily want to be out there on the rigs.”
“Yeah, he did,” Troy said. “Just like he’d rather be working in South America for the winter on some big diving job instead of here with me.”
“I think you’re wrong,” Callie responded, her voice far more serious now. “He could’ve taken a job in South America but he’s here because he wants to be. He wants to be with you.”
Tanner strained to hear Troy’s response, but if the teen said anything more, he didn’t catch it. A few minutes later he made his way above deck and found Troy alone, back at work mopping.
Callie was halfway up the dock.
Tanner called out to her and, feeling Troy’s eyes on his back, headed her way. She’d stopped and was watching him.
Tanner rarely gave his leg much thought other than the fact that it ached like a sonofabitch, but in that moment he’d have paid big bucks to have a normal gait. “Hey,” he said.
“Hey yourself. Your son’s a great kid.”
“He’s got his moments.”
“So you’re okay with me hiring him to babysit Lucille?” she asked.
“If he wants, sure.”
“He said he does.” She tilted her head to the side. “You okay?”
The leg, she meant. “Fine. Are you going to brave the bakery for breakfast?”
She arched a brow.
“What?” he asked.
“Well, first of all, you’re not okay. You’re frowning. You’re frustrated, and your leg is bothering you.”
“What does that have to do with breakfast?” he asked, baffled.
“It doesn’t. But I asked if you were okay and you said fine. When you’re clearly not fine,” she pointed out, sounding perturbed.
He paused. “I know you’re speaking in English but—”
“Never mind.” With a head shake, she started to walk off.
He stared after her, wondering when the hell they’d taken a turn into Crazy-Ville. “Callie.”
“Gotta go.” Halfway down the dock, she turned to him, still walking. “I’m having breakfast with Olivia and Becca. And then I’m getting a new coffeemaker. I’m going to be making my own coffee from now on.”
Yeah, that didn’t sound like it boded well for him. “How about the doughnuts?”
“I’m just giving them up.”
“Cold turkey,” she said. “They say that’s how it’s best done.”
Something was off. They were off—which was his own doing. He opened his mouth to somehow try to fix things but she turned away again and walked off.
And he let her.
He walked back to the boat where Troy was leaning on the mop watching him, shaking his head.
“What?” Tanner asked.
“She’s into you.”
“Neighbors?” Troy asked, heavy on the dry.
“Yeah.” Tanner rubbed a hand over his face. “Sort of.”
Troy snorted. “Did you not see the way she looked at you? Jeez, even I know what that means.”
Tanner had to shake his head. “You usually avoid talking to me and suddenly you’re all chatty, and this is the conversation you want to have?”
Troy shrugged. “I like her.”
“I do too.”
“But you’re screwing it up.”
“No, I’m not,” Tanner said. Yes, you are…
Troy just looked at him. “You know a lot about a lot of stuff,” he finally said. Tanner didn’t have the time to enjoy the compliment before Troy went on. “But I don’t think you have much game.”
He actually sounded pretty disappointed about this, and Tanner found himself coming to his own defense, ridiculous as it was. “I have plenty of game.”