“Not entirely, you nosy woman. I’m merely meeting him at the dock at five.”
“For a date.”
“A small date,” Callie corrected.
“To make a go of it?” Lucille repeated.
“I don’t know.” Callie hesitated. “I want to, but—”
“No but! That sentence should start and end with ‘I want to.’”
“He doesn’t think of me in that way,” Callie said.
“I’m serious, Callie,” Lucille said, and to prove it she even put down her cookie and leaned in, eyes solemn. “I’ve seen the way he looks at you.”
“Like I’m an amusement?”
“Like the sun rises and sets in your eyes.”
Callie blew out a breath. “He introduced me as Callie.”
“Well, honey, last I checked that was your name.”
Callie closed her eyes. She knew this sounded dumb. “Sam introduced Becca as his wife-to-be. Cole introduced Olivia as his girlfriend. Tanner then introduced me as just Callie.”
Lucille looked at her for a long beat. “Do you think you’re the only one who’s afraid of getting hurt? Do you think you’re the only one who’s uncertain about the future and letting someone in?”
“No,” Callie said. “Of course not, but Tanner—”
“—is just a man. A man who came back to Lucky Harbor to provide a steady family life for the people he loves. He doesn’t turn his back on anyone, ever, and I’ve seen how he looks at you. If he didn’t slap a label on your forehead, it’s simply because he didn’t know what that label was. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t feel anything for you. It just means that maybe he doesn’t know what you feel for him.”
Callie stared at her grandma. How many times had she told Tanner that their sleeping together “wouldn’t change a thing”?
She’d never once let on that she had growing feelings for him. Which meant her grandma was right, she had no one to blame but herself.
“Honey.” Lucille took Callie’s hands in hers. “What is it you want from him?”
“I don’t know.” A lie. She wanted him, all of him.
“I’m going to ask you again,” Lucille said gently. “What is it you really want from him? Nothing? A good time? Everything?”
“Everything,” Callie whispered.
Lucille smiled and squeezed Callie’s fingers. “Then tell him. Tell him tonight.”
Callie’s heart leapt and bounced against her ribs some. In a terrifying but good way. Was she ready for this?
Yes. God, yes. And this time when she looked at the clock, she rose. “Here goes nothing.”
“Or everything,” Lucille said.
“Don’t forget some lip gloss,” Lucille called after her. “And it wouldn’t hurt to tame the hair a little.”
“Just sayin’…And you’re going to put real clothes on, right?”
Callie glanced down at her yoga pants and sweatshirt. Shit. Yeah. She needed real clothes. Because tonight she was going to be her own client, and she would never let a client meet her future groom in sweats.
She stopped at home and put on her cutest pair of skinny jeans. She did have to lie flat on the bed to zip them up, but they looked good tucked into the boots Tanner liked.
She got to the docks at a quarter to five. Habit. Normally she prided herself on being early and prepared, but today she would have liked to have been the one being waited for.
The boat was moored but empty. The hut was closed. The warehouse, locked.
The guys weren’t still out on the water but they weren’t here either.
Telling herself not to look at her phone again, she sat to wait.
But Tanner never came. He just…didn’t show. And it was like standing at the altar all alone waiting for Eric all over again.
Waiting for someone to love her.
Tanner sat in the principal’s office next to his son, who was also sitting, holding an ice pack to his eye.
The principal was glaring at the both of them balefully. “I thought we agreed that this behavior couldn’t continue,” she said in that principal-to-errant-student tone that made Tanner feel fifteen all over again.
Troy said nothing.
Tanner had docked the boat half an hour ago and found messages waiting for him. One from the principal that merely said “Need to see you in my office ASAP.”
One from Elisa saying “Got a message from the principal, need you to handle it.”
Not surprisingly nothing from Troy, not one little peep.
Cole and Sam finished up with their clients as Tanner headed to the high school.
And here the three of them sat.
“I’m going to have to take more severe action this time,” the principal said.
Tanner ignored this and turned to Troy. “What happened?”
“He hit a fellow student and started a fight,” the principal said.
Tanner didn’t take his eyes off Troy. “I’m asking my son.”
Troy lifted his gaze to Tanner’s, his eyes registering surprise that his dad would listen to him over the principal.
Tanner gave him a small, reassuring nod. He wanted the truth, and he wanted to hear it from Troy.