“Don’t do it,” her friend Lance said. “The hall’s going to be hot and crowded. You’ll get an asthma attack.”
At this point, she was far more likely to expire of boredom, but she didn’t even try to reason with him. Or her sisters.
Or with their husbands, who’d undoubtedly refuse to help, on the argument that, if they did, they wouldn’t get sex from their wives ever again.
So Chloe called Sawyer’s friend Tanner Riggs, who was an ex-Navy SEAL, explosives expert, and as wild and crazy as she was.
He, more than anyone, would understand.
Or so she hoped.
“Yo,” Tanner said when he picked up her call. “How you doing, sweet thing?”
“You know how I’m usually about live, laugh, love, and dance? Well, today it’s more like raise, aim, fire, and shoot.”
Tanner laughed. “So you ready to pop yet or what?”
“What,” she said, and listened to him laugh softly. “I need a favor, T.”
“I need a ride to the Christmas party,” she said.
There was a long pause. “How about a favor that won’t get me murdered in my sleep by your husband?”
“Please, Tanner?” she asked softly, and when he swore softly at her plea, she knew she had him.
The roads were a mess, but Chloe relaxed in the backseat because Tanner wasn’t bothered by such technicalities as dangerous conditions. He parked at Town Hall and peered out his windshield. Snow was dumping out of the sky, the flakes as big and thick as dinner plates. He turned and looked at the woman riding shotgun—his fiancée, Callie—before turning to Chloe in the backseat.
Chloe set her jaw and tried to look resolute, but the truth was, now that she was here, she wasn’t feeling great. She’d had peanut butter toast before getting dressed, and it wasn’t sitting well in her stomach. And her back ached like crazy. Sawyer would know just by looking at her that she wasn’t up to par. He’d have rubbed the ache from her lower spine in five minutes flat.
But sometimes a girl couldn’t have what she wanted.
Still, she’d gotten into a dress, so she was going to enjoy herself if it killed her. Granted the weather was complete shit, but she’d done nothing but sit around the house for a week growing bigger and bigger, and more restless.
“It’s not too late to take you home,” Tanner said.
“I’m going,” she said. “I’m sorry if I sound childish, but I just really need to get out and see people.” People being anyone other than her well-meaning but overprotective sisters. They just wanted to be there for her, but if she heard one more horror story of childbirth, she was going to refuse to go into labor altogether.
God. Thinking about it, she suddenly couldn’t breathe, and it had nothing to do with her asthma. She wasn’t ready for this—
“Chloe—” Tanner’s eyes were unusually serious. “The storm is bad and getting worse. Sawyer’s going to kick my ass.”
At the mention of her husband’s name, her heart actually squeezed tight. She missed him so much. Over the week, she’d decided the mysterious presents had to somehow be from him, and she was having a hard time holding onto any mad.
All she wanted for Christmas was him.
In her arms…
But she’d been such a bitch when he’d left, leaving her wondering where his head was at. She had no idea how she’d ever gotten lucky enough to be loved by him. “Don’t be a puss now,” she said to Tanner, pulling up her hood. “I’m doing this.”
She stepped out into the eerily silent but crazy snow and tried to stretch the kink out of her aching back.
Tanner and Callie got out of the car as well, decked in their finery. And Tanner in a suit was fine indeed…
“Look,” he said gently, and playfully tugged on a strand of the long, wavy red hair she’d left down because her damn back had ached too much to stand in front of the mirror and fight it into an updo. “If at any time you change your mind, I’ll take you home. We could watch a movie—”
“You have a date tonight with Callie,” Chloe reminded him.
“I don’t mind,” Callie said. “A movie sounds lovely.”
They were just being kind to the crazy pregnant lady. Chloe shook her head and started up the walk.
Tanner took ahold one of arm and Callie the other, helping Chloe through the already six inches of snow on the ground. A good thing since she couldn’t see her damn feet.
They entered the hall to find the party was in full swing, the noise and heat hitting them in a hot blast. The place was decorated within an inch of its life. Silver balls, huge Christmas trees, boughs of holly, strings of white lights—it was gorgeous and blinding.
Tanner was still at her side, and he shifted closer to murmur in her ear, “Text me and I’ll have you out of here in three minutes.”
“No you won’t,” Sam said. Sam ran Lucky Harbor Charters with Tanner, and he turned from the floor-to-ceiling windows to look at them. “Jack just heard on his radio that they’re getting ready to close the roads.”
“Then let’s get merry,” Chloe said.
Her sisters were at a table with Ford and Jax, and all four jumped up at once when she approached them. “You should all be very afraid,” Chloe said, disgruntled. “I’m not going to be Two-Ton Tilly forever. Someday soon I’ll be able to kick ass again.”