For surviving when Gil hadn’t.
“You okay?” Sam asked.
Was he? “I still expect to see him sitting here with us, every time.”
Neither Sam nor Cole had to ask who. Sam blew out a breath. “He is here; he’s always here.”
Cole lifted his glass. “I’ll drink to that.”
They all drank to that, and turned to a game of darts.
“What are we betting?” Cole asked before starting the game.
“Ten bucks,” Sam said.
Cole and Tanner both laughed.
“What?” Sam demanded.
“You’re so tight you squeak when you walk,” Cole said. “Does Becca know this? Does she realize she’s marrying a tightwad?”
“What’s wrong with ten bucks?” Sam asked with a scowl.
To be fair, the guy couldn’t help himself. He’d come from nothing, less than nothing. Tanner too, but at least he’d had his mom to share the reality of their rather grim situation.
Sam had patched things up with his dad now, but there’d been many, many years where his only home had been the one that Cole’s mom had made for him in a spare room of her house.
But Sam had been money smart. He’d turned a dime into a dollar and then a dollar into many, many more. He’d been in charge of their rig earnings, and he’d done incredibly well for them all. They’d gotten off the rigs and were able to buy their boat and start Lucky Harbor Charters, all thanks to Sam pinching every penny.
“Fifty bucks,” Cole said. “And the loser has to tell us why he hasn’t told us he’s seeing Callie.” Sam and Cole stared at Tanner.
Tanner felt himself scowl. “Why do you assume I’m going to lose?”
“’Cause you always do,” Sam said. “You suck at darts.”
“Notice he didn’t deny the Callie thing,” Cole said, eyes still on Tanner.
“I’m not seeing Callie,” Tanner said. Because you’re an idiot.
“Then what was the other morning?” Cole asked. “Coming out of her place?”
“None of your business.”
“Or…” Sam asked, brow arched.
And for some reason, Tanner felt himself lose his temper. Maybe it was knowing that tentative and rather precious beginning to whatever he and Callie had been doing was all past tense thanks to him fucking it up. “It was nothing,” he said. Snapped. “She’s a coffee companion. Just that, nothing more.”
Cole was giving him the slicing the finger across the throat gesture but Tanner was on a roll now, so no, he wasn’t going to cut it out. “Just because you’re getting married doesn’t mean love’s in the air, so knock it off with the Callie shit and butt the fuck out.”
“Excuse me,” someone said from behind him.
A female someone.
An unbearably familiar female someone.
He turned and faced—yep—Callie.
She was dressed in a pretty skirt and those boots he loved. She smiled without a hint of teeth and gestured that she needed to get through. Behind her were Olivia and Becca, both giving him the hairy eyeball.
Feeling like a first-class jerk, Tanner tried a smile. “Hey.” Shit. He was such an asshole. “You ladies want to join us?”
“No, thank you,” Callie said with utter politeness, even though the underlying tone in her voice suggested that he could fuck himself. Sideways. She started to push past him but he slid a hand to her elbow to pull her back around. She stared down at his fingers on her until he let go.
“Callie,” he said quietly, desperately wishing they didn’t have an audience. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you were there.”
“I got that,” she said.
“I was trying to explain that we’re just…”
“Nothing?” she asked.
He grimaced. A first-class asshole. “Callie—”
“Gotta go.” She flashed another quick, tight-lipped smile to Cole and Tanner and walked off.
Olivia and Becca each glared at him. Becca moved, snuggled into Sam, and kissed his jaw. “I’ll meet you back at home, ’kay?”
He tipped her face up and gave her a longer kiss, touched his forehead to hers, and nodded.
Wash and repeat for Cole and Olivia.
And then the women were gone.
A flash went off in Tanner’s face and he blinked Lucille into focus.
“Sorry,” she said, not looking sorry at all. “I just wanted to get a picture of the horse’s patoot.” Turning, she smiled very sweetly at Cole and Sam before once again glowering at Tanner. “You.” She didn’t even come up to the middle of his chest, but the way she was looking at him made him feel about two feet shorter than her. She put a bony finger in his face. “I thought you were a smart man. I thought wrong.”
When she was gone, the three of them fell into silence. “Nicely done,” Sam finally said to Tanner.
“You do realize you’re going to be decimated within the hour now, right?” Cole asked. “Whether on Instagram or Twitter or whatever.”
“I don’t give a shit,” Tanner said. He couldn’t think about anything other than the look on Callie’s face.
“I think you do give a shit,” Sam said. “You give a shit about what Callie thinks, and that’s the problem.”
Tanner turned to the dartboard. “Drop it.” Okay, yeah, he’d been too harsh, but other than that, he’d told the truth. Technically he’d done nothing wrong.