This yearning went against everything she’d been telling herself for years. After all, she’d been down that road before and had purposely veered off, taken a different path.
But she could admit something now—she’d never really let herself love all the way. Not once. Seeing Becca and Olivia so open and loving with Sam and Cole, she knew she’d always held back, always kept a part of herself safe. Just in case.
But love wasn’t safe. You had to take the plunge and hope for the best.
Sam pulled back from Becca just far enough to curl an arm around her, keeping her close as possible as they greeted people. He was as big and bad and tough as they came, but he kept looking down at Becca with undeniable and unapologetic love, like she was his entire world.
It actually made Callie’s chest hurt. Cole and Olivia looked at each other like that too. And a part of Callie suspected that she looked at Tanner that way. And she thought maybe he looked at her the same. And even as she thought it, a little seed of warmth burst from deep inside her, soothing her ache of a moment before.
She could have that, she realized. In fact, it felt like she and Tanner were working their way up to exactly that. He was such a good man. He’d stepped up for his mom, for his son, for everyone in his life. It was what he did. For perhaps the first time in her life, she thought maybe she could really let herself believe. Believe in him.
Ironic, given that he’d been her first real crush.
And now he was her first real love.
Still at her side, Lucille sighed dreamily at Sam and Becca. “These two might be my favorite so far.”
Callie looked at her. “Your favorite so far?”
“Well, it used to be Chloe and Sawyer, but then Sawyer told me he was going to have my driver’s license taken away if I kept driving. Scratched him off the fave list pronto, I can tell you that. I mean, he’s hot, but I’m an excellent driver. My next favorite was Dr. Josh Scott because, well, if you met him you’d understand. But he insists on bugging me about my diet and high blood pressure, blah-blah. And then there was Ben.” Lucille smiled fondly. “Ben was the hardest match because trust me, Aubrey wasn’t the obvious choice for him. Nearly everyone in town disagreed with me. But from day one I knew it’d work between them. I’ve never met two people more suited for each other. But then Becca moved to town and I could see her with Sam. So yeah, they’re my current fave, but they won’t be my last.” She slid Callie a look. “That’ll be you, by the way. In case you’re not keeping up.”
Callie had a feeling that she wasn’t only not keeping up, she wasn’t even in the same time zone.
Lucille sighed. “I swear, I’m starting to think you were adopted. You,” she said slowly, pointing at Callie. “You’re going to be my absolute fave, my darling, and my last.”
Callie stared at her as a new fear gripped her deep inside. “Your last? Why, are you sick?”
“No, I’m not sick. I’m going to outlive all of you. I’m just going to retire.”
“From the art gallery?”
“Oh, hell no. What would I do with myself? No, I’m going to retire from matchmaking. After you get your happily-ever-after, of course.” She beamed. “With Tanner.”
Callie’s heart executed a little somersault right there in her chest as someone came up behind her, slid his arms around her waist, and pressed his mouth to her temple in a sweet kiss.
She did her best not to melt as Tanner’s low voice sounded in her ear. “Hey, you,” he said, and then lifted his head and smiled at Lucille. “You look like you’re up to no good.”
Lucille smiled innocently. “Mischief managed.” She sent Callie a wink and moved off.
Tanner pulled Callie in even closer to him and dropped his head to kiss her neck. “Miss you.”
“Hmm,” she said. “I can feel exactly how much you seem to miss me.” She nudged her backside into the part of him that missed her most.
He chuckled low in his throat. “I want you,” he said. “Hard for a man to hide that.”
She turned in the circle of his arms and felt her breath catch at just the sight of him. She smiled, cupped his face, and went up on tiptoe to press her lips to his.
He smiled against her.
And her heart sighed again. “I trust you,” she whispered without realizing she was speaking the words out loud.
He bent and pressed his lips to hers. “Good to know. What is it you trust me with?”
He laughed softly, a little wickedly, and kissed her once more. “You can tell me later. Better yet, you can show me later.”
Cole came and snagged Tanner for something boat-and-equipment related. Olivia started up things with a wedding scavenger hunt, and Callie ended up winning a set of penis shot glasses—a gag gift Olivia slipped into the mix.
She stared down at them and thought she’d need to make sure Becca won those at Callie’s own bachelorette party someday, and then laughed at herself. Second time she’d thought about her future wedding plans. Like before, it brought equal parts terror and…excitement. No, she didn’t want a big wedding with all the glitz and glam she’d planned once upon a time. In fact, when—if, she reminded herself sternly—if she got to plan her wedding again, she wanted it to be a very small affair.
Just her and Tanner. And Lucille and Troy, of course.
The thought made her knees a little weak.