She took another bite, eyeballed the place, and then nearly did a spit-take across the room when she caught sight of the man at the front of the line. His back was to her, but there was no mistaking those broad shoulders.
Tanner had changed from his wetsuit and now wore dark, sexy guy jeans and a light windbreaker that said LUCKY HARBOR CHARTERS across his back. He was talking to Leah but he was also scanning the place as if by old military habit.
Don’t look at me, she thought. Don’t look—
He looked. In fact, those dark eyes lasered in and locked unerringly right on hers.
Her first reaction was a rush of heat. Odd, as she hadn’t had one of those in relation to a man in a while—but not completely surprising as Tanner was hotter than sin. An ice cube would’ve had a reaction to him.
Self-awareness hit her, and reality. She looked down at herself. Yep, still wearing capri yoga pants and fake Uggs. Perfect. She was dressed like she didn’t own a mirror. Even worse, she wore no makeup and her hair…well, mostly the long, strawberry blond waves had a serious mind of their own. The best that could be said this morning was that she’d piled them up on top of her head and they’d stayed. Thank God the messy topknot was in this year.
Not that this knowledge helped, because when a woman faced her first crush, that woman wanted to look hot—not like a hot mess.
“Is this chair taken?” Tanner asked.
Callie promptly swallowed wrong. Sugar went down the wrong pipe and closed off her air passage. When had he left the line and moved to her side? And damn it, why couldn’t she breathe? Hiding this fact, she desperately went for a cool, unaffected look—difficult to pull off while suffocating.
His dark eyes were warm and filled with amusement. “Yes?” he asked. “No chance in hell?”
That’s when she realized there was something worse than asphyxiation in public—he didn’t recognize her.
Damn. In a single heartbeat, she was reduced to that shy, quiet, socially inept girl she’d once been. Talk, she ordered herself. Say something. But when she opened her mouth, the only thing that came out was a squeak.
And a puff of powdered sugar.
“It’s okay,” he said, and started to turn away.
This surprised her. The cocky, wild-man teenager she’d once known would’ve sent her a lazy smile and talked her into whatever he needed.
But it’d been over ten years and she supposed people changed. She’d certainly changed. For one thing, she was no longer that quiet, studious dork with the foolishly romantic heart. Nope, now she was a suave, immaculately dressed professional…She kept her legs hidden and decided this could be a good thing. His not recognizing her meant that she could make a new first impression. She didn’t have to be a nerd. She could be whatever she wanted. Or more correctly, whatever she could manage to pull off. “Wait!” she called out to him. Maybe a little too loudly.
Or a lot too loudly.
Half the bakery startled and stared at her. And then in the next beat, everyone seemed to find their manners and scurried to look busy. Lowering her voice, Callie gestured to the free chair. “Sit,” she told Tanner. “It’s all yours.”
He kicked the chair out for himself and sprawled into it. Sipping his coffee, he eyed her over the steam rising out of his cup, all cool, easy, masculine grace.
She tried to look half as cool but she wasn’t. Not even close. And she had a problem. A twofold problem.
One, the table was tiny. Or maybe it was just that Tanner’s legs were long, but no matter how she shifted, she kept bumping into a warm, powerful thigh beneath the table.
And two, his eyes. They were the color of rich, dark, melted chocolate.
God, she loved dark, melted chocolate.
But he had no recollection of her. A definite blow to her already fragile, powder-sugar-coated self-esteem. She wished she didn’t care.
But it was the damn high school crush.
How did one get over a crush anyway? Surely the statute of limitations was up by now. After all, he’d devastated her and hadn’t even noticed.
To be fair, he’d had other things on his mind back then. She’d been a quiet, odd freshman, and he’d been a senior and the town’s football star. She’d loved him from afar until he’d graduated and left town. She knew his story was far more complicated than that but her poor, romantic heart had remained devastated by his absence for nearly two years. Then in her last year of high school, Eric had moved in across the street. He and Callie had become a thing. They’d stuck, and by their last year of college, she’d had their wedding completely planned out—and she did mean completely, from the exact color of the bridesmaids’ dresses, to the secluded beach where they’d say their vows, to the doves that would be released after they did…
Yeah, there was a reason she understood her client brides as well as she did. She’d once been a batshit-crazy bride too. But she’d honestly believed that Eric would be the perfect groom and the perfect husband. After all, he’d spent years making her happy.
Until the moment he’d stood her up at the altar.
“You okay?” Tanner asked.
“Sure.” Just lost in the past. But she was done with the past and took a bite to prove just how okay she really was. Bad move. Turns out it was hard to swallow correctly once you’ve already choked. She then promptly compounded her error by gulping down some hot coffee on top of the sore throat and lump of doughnut that wouldn’t go down and commenced nearly coughing up a lung.