I stood and let out a long, frustrated breath. “Tanner, as of thirty minutes ago, I was ready to give this a try. You and me. But I’m not sure I can take my heart being hurt again by someone else.”
“I wouldn’t hurt you, so why won’t you even give me a chance?”
My chin wobbled, and I turned away from him. I knew with all my heart that Tanner wouldn’t hurt me. It was me who would end up hurting him. There was something that made me unworthy of love, and Tanner would end up seeing it sooner or later. “You deserve someone better than me. Someone not…broken.”
“For fuck’s sake, you’re not broken, Timberlynn.”
Tears threatened to spill free as I turned to face him. My voice was barely a whisper. “I’m not sure if I gave you my body that I’d be able to survive walking away from you after that. I don’t want to ruin our friendship for a fuck.”
He jumped like I had slapped him. “Back to this again? A fuck? Is that what it would be, Timberlynn? Just a quick fuck, and then you think I’d walk away from you? Do you honestly think that’s all I want from you?”
“I heard from someone today in town you danced with nearly every girl in the Blue Moose last night before you left. You didn’t come home, so who did you sleep with last night when you couldn’t sleep with me?”
His mouth opened, and he looked taken aback. “What?”
I instantly regretted the words. But something inside me was angry. Maybe it had to do with Mary and Jase, and I was taking it out on Tanner. I couldn’t stop the words coming from my mouth. “You denying what happened last night will only make me think it’s the truth.”
He gave me a sarcastic smile and then rubbed the back of his neck in frustration. “You think because you pushed me away last night I went and found some random girl to hook-up with?”
“I don’t know what you did last night,” I stated.
He shot daggers at me as he answered. “I went to the Blue Moose. Danced with some old friends from high school, and a cousin of mine I hadn’t seen in a while. Yes, I drank some, and yes, I saw Lindsey there. But nothing happened between us. Nothing. I left with Chance and stayed at his place last night. We stayed up half the night in the loft of his barn, drinking beer and talking about our future as roping partners. He’s done with it and wants to stop roping.”
My eyes widened in surprise, and even though I was angry, my heart ached for him. “I’m sorry to hear that about you and Chance.”
He sighed in frustration. “Yeah, me too. But I wasn’t looking to fuck anything or anyone to get you out of my head. I like you. A lot. We’re only just starting to get to know each other, so why are you jumping to all of these conclusions? Why can’t you believe I’m not simply trying to get into your pants? You’re really starting to give me whiplash here.”
I sucked in a breath at his words. I knew what he said was true, but a part of me hated that he had thrown it in my face. “Isn’t that what most men like you do, Tanner? Simply try to get into a woman’s pants?”
Tanner stood before me with a disbelieving expression on his face. I had basically said he was a player. A guy who simply slept with women for sex. That he was only out to sleep with me, and I knew by the way he looked at me that it wasn’t true. I had let my anger at Jase and Mary take hold of me once more. And the worst part was, I had taken it all out on Tanner. I had said hurtful things to him, and I immediately wanted to take them back.
“Wow. Okay, so if that’s your opinion of me, I guess I’m wasting my time trying to tell you otherwise.”
I shook my head. “I…”
He cut me off and kept talking. “I do want to be with you, and yes, if my mother hadn’t knocked on your door, we might have made love. But I guess all you can see is that I simply wanted to fuck you.”
I swallowed hard at his words. Then he let out a laugh, but it was devoid of any humor. “Fine, is what you want to hear from me that I want to fuck you? Is this what you think I want? Hell, strip down and I’ll take you right here in my father’s office. That’s what guys like me do, right? No consideration for anything or anyone. Is that what you want to hear? Because if you honestly think I’d fuck you in my father’s office for the sake of having sex with you, then you really haven’t gotten to know me at all.”
My body trembled as I fought to keep a neutral expression on my face.
The look of defeat on his face nearly brought me to my knees.
My words drifted off as I saw his eyes glaze over, and I fought to keep from walking forward and wrapping my arms around him. I desperately wanted him to hold me while I took back every single word. So I did just that. I stared to walk toward him, but he put his hand up to stop me.
He shook his head and let out a long, slow breath. “We might not have known each other for very long, but I thought you knew me, Timber. Yes, I do want you. But I want more than a casual fuck. I wanted to get to know you. Spend time with you. Learn everything I could about you. What made you happy, what made you laugh, because I fucking love to hear you laugh. I wanted to make love to you as much as possible. Kiss you all over your face and body until you fell asleep next to me, then wake up and make love to you all over again. I wanted to give you something I’ve never given to anyone before…my heart.”
I nearly cried at how sad and defeated his voice sounded. My hand came up to my mouth to keep from letting out a sob when I realized he was talking in the past tense. Oh God, what had I done?
The tears slipped free before I could stop them, and when Tanner noticed them, he looked as if he might drop to his knees. He took a few steps toward me and then stopped. “Do you really think I only thought of you that way?” he whispered.
I swallowed hard and shook my head. “I don’t think so.”
“You don’t think so?” he asked, an edge of anger in his voice.
“No, I don’t know, Tanner. Everyone has always thought of me as dispensable—it’s the only thing I’ve ever known.”
He slowly shook his head and backed toward the door. “Well, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m not everyone. I don’t think of you that way, and I never will. I’m going to walk away, Timberlynn, because I’m not sure what in the hell is going on, but if I don’t leave, I may regret something I say.”
And then he turned and walked to the door. Before he opened it, he looked back at me. “There is one thing I will say to you, though.”
I held my breath as he stared at me. “I don’t think my own heart can take this…game…we’re playing.”
A sob slipped free. “I’m not playing a game. This was never a game to me.”
“Okay, then, when you figure out what you want, let me know. I’ll be waiting.”
The words died on my lips. I had no idea how to explain how I was feeling. What a selfish bitch I’d been. Earlier I was flirting with him in front of his entire family, then I lashed out and accused him of not being trustworthy.
“I didn’t mean what I said. I’m just…I’m so confu
sed, and you make me want things and feel things I’ve never felt before and I’m scared.”
“You don’t think I’m scared? Do you think giving your heart to a person is easy? I’ve never felt like this before in my life, Timberlynn. I’m willing to trust you with my heart…can you say the same about me?”
Before I had a chance to answer him, Dirk opened the office door. “Shit, sorry, I didn’t know anyone was in here.”
Tanner cleared his throat as I quickly wiped my tears away.
“Is everything okay?” Dirk asked, his eyes bouncing from Tanner to me.
Tanner didn’t say a word, he simply walked past Dirk and out the door. And in that moment, I knew what a breaking heart truly felt like.
“If that little prick said anything to hurt you, I’ll kill him.”
A laugh mingled with a sob as I shook my head. “No, he didn’t. But I’m pretty sure I just did one hell of a job pushing him away. Or, at the very least, confusing the hell out of him.”
“Is that what you wanted to do?” Dirk asked as he leaned against the doorjamb.
With a shake of my head, I closed my eyes and whispered, “No.”
“It’s not hard to notice the connection between the two of you,” Dirk stated.
I opened my eyes, wiped my damp cheeks, and took in a deep breath. No more crying for me. I was done and I needed to figure out how in the world I was going to fix this mess I had gotten myself into.
“Timberlynn.” Dirk’s voice was so kind and soft. “You don’t have to hide your scars, you know. Open up to him, and I promise he’ll help you heal them.”
My jaw muscles ached as I fought to keep myself from crying once again. Everyone in my life who mattered only had kind words to say about Tanner. So why had I let the gossiping fools get into my head. “What if I’ve totally messed up…”
Dirk raised a brow, causing me to instantly stop speaking. He smiled. “Doll, let me tell you something about the Shaw men. When they fall, they fall hard and they fall fast. And trust me when I say that the one who just walked out of here has fallen so freaking hard for you, that I think he might have gotten the breath knocked out of him. You didn’t mess anything up. He’ll come back around.”