Tanner had done a lot of crazy shit in his lifetime, often taking his life in his hands while he was at it: playing football without a healthy respect for the danger of the sport, going into the navy and then into Special Forces from there—talk about a not-guaranteed happy ending. And it hadn’t gotten any better on the rigs.
So yeah, he’d say he was pretty good at danger, at adrenaline rushes, at living in the moment—knowing the next moment might never come.
What he wasn’t so good at was doubt. He’d long ago learned to squelch that emotion deep and ignore it, pretending it didn’t exist.
And yet a lifetime of lessons of doing just that flew out of the window as he stood there drenched from the pounding rain in Callie’s doorway, never having felt less sure of himself.
He couldn’t even bank on her opening the door.
But then she did. Hair wild, not a lick of makeup, wearing…well, he wasn’t sure what that was. Either really, really big sweats or a potato sack.
And it didn’t matter.
She looked beautiful.
Her first expression was a flash of things. Relief. Happiness. A welcome heat.
But all that was quickly buried behind an expression of calm indifference.
He didn’t even try to reason with her. He stepped into her, forcing her back a step if she wanted to avoid a collision.
Which clearly she did. Whether it was because he was wetter than the ocean or because she was still mad at him remained to be seen.
He took the liberty of shutting and bolting the door and handed her a coffee.
“Drink,” he said firmly.
He waited until she’d taken a few sips, until her eyes cleared and focused, and then he braced for the real battle. “About last night,” he said.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said stiffly.
She set down her coffee and went hands on hips. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.” He took her hand and led her to the couch, deciding that her passiveness was more due to the fact that she’d not yet fully absorbed the caffeine than actual submissiveness.
He gave her a gentle shove, and she plopped backward onto the cushions and sputtered.
Before she could bounce up again, he sat at her side and faced her, planting a hand on the couch at either side of her hips.
Caging her in.
“You’re all wet and cold,” she complained.
“If that was what was bothering you, you’d not have let me in,” he said.
“I didn’t let you in, you just helped yourself.”
“You could’ve stopped me.”
She lifted a shoulder and turned her head away. “I don’t care for the caveman treatment.”
“And I don’t care for being shut out.”
“Shut out?” She shoved at his shoulders, but instead of moving, he caught her hands in his. “You can’t be shut out when you’re not in,” she said.
“Oh, I’m in,” he said, shifting closer so that he still wasn’t touching her, wasn’t getting her wet, but there was scarcely a breath separating them either. “I’m in and that’s the problem, isn’t it? You’re not happy about that.”
She didn’t have a response. At least not one she was willing to share.
“You said we were friends with benefits,” he reminded her.
“You’re getting my couch wet. And I said we were friends with benefits without the friends part.”
“You’re wrong,” he said. “We’ve become friends in spite of ourselves.”
“We…” She frowned as she gave that some thought.
“You saved me a seat at the bakery,” he said. “That was a friendly thing to do.”
“I was saving the seat for you so that I wouldn’t have to be friendly to anyone else,” she said.
“And I brought you coffee here so you wouldn’t have to go back after you had your meltdown over Dickhead,” he said. “Also a friendly gesture.”
“Hey,” she said. “I didn’t have a meltdown.”
He went brows up.
“Okay, it was a little bit of a meltdown.” She covered her face.
He pulled her hands from her face. “You’re there for Troy,” he said. “Like last night. And more than anything, I love that.”
“That’s not for you,” she said stiffly, still pissy. “That’s for me. And him.”
“It means a lot to him,” he said. “And me.”
Her gaze flew up to his and held, and then softened. “I’d do just about anything for him.”
Her eyes said she’d do anything for Tanner as well.
“He reminds me of you,” she murmured.
Grateful to see her warming up to him, he smiled. “Answer this,” he said quietly. “Why are you really here?”
“Because I live here. And the only reason you’re here is because you woke me up and made me let you in.”
“Smartass,” he said. “In Lucky Harbor.”
“You know why. For my grandma. I came to make sure she wasn’t losing it. She means a lot to me.”
“I get that,” he said. “But at least admit that it’s not all about her. Because we both know Lucille’s not losing it. She’s saner than the rest of us. She is, however, bored and nosy as hell. Separate issues. So other than the guise of making sure she’s okay, why are you here?”