“Yeah, well, you were an idiot.”
“Uh-huh,” Sam said.
“You saying I’m an idiot?” Tanner asked.
“No, I’m saying you’re a fucking idiot.” Sam pulled out his keys to let himself into their warehouse. “My dad here yet?”
“He just got here too,” Tanner said. “How is he?” Mark was fighting liver disease and hopefully doing a good job of it.
“Stubborn as hell,” Sam said.
“He’s sticking around,” Tanner said. “That’s something.”
“He’s got nothing better to do.”
They both stopped when a car pulled into the lot. It was Elisa and Troy.
“How’s the kid?” Sam asked.
“Stubborn as hell.”
Sam laughed again. “He’s sticking around,” he said, mirroring Tanner’s words. “That’s something.”
“He has to stick,” Tanner said. “He’s fifteen. And maybe he’s not bleeding me dry like Mark does to you, but he’s got a way of sucking the soul right out of a room.”
“Yeah,” Sam said. “It’s called being a teenager.”
As if proving the point, Troy slammed out of his mother’s car and started to walk right by Sam and Tanner.
Tanner stopped him. “Hey. Morning.”
“How was last night with your grandparents?”
Tanner remembered mornings with his mom when he’d been fifteen. But if he’d tried to ignore her with nothing more than an unintelligible caveman sound, she’d have smacked him right upside the head. “Problem?”
Elisa rolled down her window. “Did he tell you the good news?” she asked Tanner.
Feeling Troy shift to make his escape into the warehouse, Tanner took a handful of the back of the kid’s sweatshirt and leaned down a little to meet Elisa’s gaze. “We were just getting to it.”
Elisa smiled. “He’s thrilled.”
“Yes,” Tanner said with a side glance at Troy. “I can see that.”
“Have a good time,” she said, oblivious. “I’ll see you next week.”
And then she drove off.
Next week? Tanner and Sam exchanged WTF looks and then Tanner turned to Troy. “What’s going on?”
“She’s dumped me on you for another week.”
“Works for me,” Tanner said. But if he was getting Troy for another week, it meant Elisa had some sort of ulterior motive. “How did this come about?”
“Words,” Tanner said. “For the love of God, man, use your words. I’m out of practice with the emo shrugging shit.”
“Her boyfriend wants her to go to Catalina Island with him for a week,” Troy said.
That’ll do it.
Sam blew out a breath, looking ticked off into the direction where Elisa’s car had just vanished.
Tanner was ticked off too. Not because he’d have to spend time with the kid. He wanted that. He wanted that more than he wanted his next breath. What he didn’t want was Elisa making Troy feel like an unwanted piece of luggage. He looked at the kid standing there, hands shoved in his pockets, shoulders hunched.
Pissed off at the world.
Yeah. Tanner got that. Hell, he’d been there, done that. He’d been younger when his own dad had walked away and not looked back, but he’d never forgotten that feeling. “You didn’t get dumped on me,” he told Troy.
“You just saw me get dumped here.”
“It’s not being dumped if I want you here.” He looked at his watch.
Troy hunched deeper into his pockets. “I can walk to school.”
“I was looking to see how much time we had. Come on.” Tanner started off toward the dock.
Sam was already ahead of him and hopped on board, heading for the tie-downs.
When Tanner realized Troy wasn’t following, he glanced back. “You coming or not?”
Troy stood there on the docks, jaw locked, face tight. The anger of a full-grown man, the defiance of a teen who needed some guidelines. “For what?” he asked, attitude snapping in each word.
“Two options,” Tanner said. “Consider it a multiple choice. A, you can walk to school, or B, you can drive yourself.”
“Or C,” Sam added. “You can stand there and brood.”
Tanner nodded his approval. True enough.
“Don’t have my permit yet,” Troy said.
“Don’t need a permit for the boat,” Tanner told him.
The kid’s eyes went wide and he forgot to maintain his ’tude. “You’re going to let me drive the boat to school?”
“I’m going to teach you how to drive the boat. It’s not easy,” he warned when Troy forgot to hold on to his bad attitude and whooped. “In fact, it can be dangerous as hell. And it’s going to take a lot more than just this one lesson. It’s going to take dedication and hard work.” Tanner moved to the controls, gesturing Troy close.
When the kid leapt forward, Tanner pointed to all the gauges and levers. “Every single move you make behind the wheel needs to be well thought out and calculated because every move has an effect, one that can’t always be changed—at least not in a timely fashion. You get me?”
Troy looked at the control panel and then out to the horizon in front of them. “You’re telling me not to be hotheaded.”