She felt the doughnut being removed from her hand and then the coffee. Tanner had stood up and was at her side, patting her back as she coughed.
Yep, she was going to die right here, in yoga capris and fake Uggs.
“Hang on,” Tanner said, and strode to the front counter of the bakery.
From the dim recesses of her mind, she saw that he didn’t bother with the line, just spoke directly to Leah behind the counter, who quickly handed him a cup of water.
Then he was back, pushing it into Callie’s hands.
Nice and mortified, she took a sip of water, wiped her nose and streaming eyes with a napkin, and finally sat back. “I’m okay.”
Tanner eyed her for a long moment, as if making sure she wasn’t about to stroke out on him, before finally dropping back in his chair.
She opened her mouth but he shook his head. “Don’t try to talk,” he said. “Every time you do, you nearly die.”
He raised an eyebrow and pointed at her, and she obediently shut her mouth. And sighed. She wanted to ask him about his limp but he was right; she probably couldn’t manage talking without choking again.
Way to wow him with a new first impression.
A woman came into the bakery, eyed Tanner with interest and intent, and unbelievably he leaned in closer to Callie, as if they were in the midst of the most fascinating of conversations.
“You settling into town okay at your new place?” he asked.
“My new place?”
“I see you watching me from your window.”
Damn if she didn’t choke again.
Seriously? She lifted a hand when he started to rise out of his chair, chased down the crumbs stuck in her throat with some more water, and signaled she was okay. “Sorry, rough morning.”
“Let’s go back to the not-talking thing,” he said.
Yeah, she thought. Good idea.
A few minutes went by, during which Callie was incredibly aware of his leg still casually brushing hers. And also a new panic. Because now she realized she was trapped, forced to wait until he left first so that he wouldn’t catch sight of her wardrobe.
But he looked pretty damn comfortable and didn’t appear to be in a rush to go anywhere.
She drew out her coffee as long as she dared and eyed her second doughnut. She wanted it more than she wanted her next breath but she didn’t trust herself. And what did he mean, he’d seen her watching him? She didn’t watch him. At least not all the time. “I don’t watch you,” she said.
He slid her a look.
“I don’t. I can’t even see you from my window.” She waited a beat to be struck by lightning for the lie. “I watch the water,” she clarified. “It calms me.”
“Whatever you say.” He looked amused as he drank the last of his coffee. “So if I get up and go, are you going to choke again?”
Funny. “I think it’s safe now,” she said stiffly. “And anyway, I’m going to be good and give up doughnuts.” Forever.
Or until he left.
“Good luck with that,” he said, still amused, damn him. “But as you already know now, Leah’s stuff is addictive.” He cast his gaze around the room, watchful. He caught sight of the perky brunette hovering near the door. “Can I walk you out?” he asked.
Absolutely not. If he was afraid of the perky brunette, he was on his own. No way was Callie going to reveal her bottom half. With what she hoped was a polite, disinterested smile, she shook her head. She wasn’t moving again until he was gone, baby, gone.
Just then, the little toddler at the table behind her dropped his pacifier. It rolled beneath her boots.
He began to wail.
Pushing her chair back, Callie picked it up and handed it to the mom with a smile before realizing she’d moved out enough for her body to be seen. With a mental grimace, she quickly scooted close to her table again and stole a glance at Tanner.
He was smiling. “Cute,” he said.
She blew out a breath. “I was in a hurry.”
“No, I mean it,” he said. “Cute.”
Cute? Puppies and rainbows were cute. Once upon a time she’d spent far too much time dreaming about him finding her so irresistibly sexy that he’d press her up against the wall and kiss her senseless.
And he found her cute.
“Maybe you should steer clear of the dangerous powdered sugar doughnuts next time,” he said. “In case there’s no one around to rescue you.”
“I like to live dangerously,” she said, and because this was such a ridiculous statement, not to mention wildly untrue—she lived the opposite of dangerous and always had—she laughed a little.
He smiled at her, and it was such a great smile it rendered her stupid and unable to control her mouth. “You don’t remember me.”
“Sure I do,” he said, and pushed away from the table as he stood. His gaze met hers. “Seriously now. Be careful.”
And then he headed to the door.
Nope. He really didn’t remember her. Still, she watched him go.
Okay, so she watched his fantastic butt go. After all, she was mortified and maybe a little bit pissy to boot, but she wasn’t dead.
Tanner Riggs had been born an adrenaline junkie. It’d seen him through playing balls-out football to being a Navy SEAL to being the guy in charge of planting explosives on an oil rig, and there was little that he hadn’t seen or done.