“You don’t know that, Dirk. You don’t even know what happened.”
He walked over to me, gave me a once-over, and then grinned. “What I do know is that your past is keeping you from living your future.”
I lifted my chin and straightened my shoulders. “It is not. I’m moving on and I’m…I’m….”
“A future without someone to love is no future at all, Timberlynn. You and I both know that. Whatever happened can be fixed, at least I think it can. Tell me what happened.”
My cheeks puffed up as I exhaled. “The short of it?”
“My father neglected me, my boyfriend cheated on me, my best friend at the time betrayed me, my father missed my birthday, I have some serious effed-up trust issues. I keep leading Tanner on, only to get spooked and then push him away. I told him I couldn’t trust him, but that’s not true. I found out tonight that my ex and the bestie are getting married. I got angry, and I took it out on Tanner. Then I said some things that were hurtful, and I didn’t mean it, and I’m pretty sure he’s already sick of the whiplash I’ve put him through. Oh, and did I mention I had daddy issues?”
Dirk nodded. “Twice.”
“Okay, then, there ya go.” I tilted my head to look at him. “Did any of that make sense?”
“Weirdly enough, I think I’m up to speed. I’m going to ask you something and I want you to answer me honestly.”
“Okay,” I replied with a nod.
“Do you want to have a relationship with Tanner?”
“Yes, but I’m also scared.”
“Fair enough. Do you want to fix this mess you’ve made?”
“Okay. Seems like you Holden women like to make big messes.”
With a smile, I gave him a half shrug.
“Next big question. Do you trust me to help you?”
I chewed on my lower lip for a moment. “You’re not going to try and make him jealous by acting like we’re flirting or anything, are you?”
He pulled his head back and then motioned to his face. “Do I look like I want to have this face beaten to a pulp?”
There was no way I could stop the laugh that tumbled from my mouth. “No, you do not.”
Dirk held out his arm and motioned for us to leave the office. “Let’s go.”
After another moment or two of getting my nerves settled, I nodded and took his arm. We left Ty Senior’s office and headed down the hall.
“Do we have a plan?” I asked.
Dirk laughed. “We don’t have a plan. I have a plan.”
I closed my eyes and sighed. “Shit.”
“Where’s Timberlynn?” my mother asked as she looked past me and into the living room.
“I’m not sure if she’s in the mood to bake and decorate cookies,” I stated.
“She should be! She seemed over the moon after I showed her a small little ranch out toward the mountains,” Kaylee said as she focused on cutting out stockings with a cookie cutter.
“What?” I asked, my voice sounding angrier than I meant for it to. That caused Kaylee to glance up at me with a confused expression. She had probably figured that was why Timberlynn wanted to talk. To tell me this little bit of news.
“Is everything okay, Tanner?” Brock asked. He could clearly see I was still upset from my encounter with Timberlynn. I knew I had overreacted, but damnit all to hell if she hadn’t frustrated the fuck out of me.
I pushed that thought away. Timberlynn wasn’t just anyone. I needed to make things right. A part of me wanted to head back to my father’s office, but then I realized how long I had been gone, and neither Timberlynn nor Dirk had come into the kitchen.
Brock’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Hey, Tanner, are you okay?”
I nodded. “Yeah, everything’s fine.”
Even I could hear the lie in my voice. I glanced back over to Kaylee. “You showed Timberlynn a piece of property?”
“Is that the old Covey property? I heard it was for sale,” my father said.
Kaylee nodded, a confused expression on her face as she finally shifted her gaze from me and looked at my father. “Yes, that’s who the real estate agent said owned it. It’s two-hundred acres with the most adorable little ranch house. They’ve totally remodeled it. And the barn is amazing as well. Timberlynn can rescue a good number of horses if she wants.”
“Such an amazing thing she wants to do,” my mother said. “I was thrilled when she spoke to me about it this morning and asked if I would be willing to help her.”
I nodded in agreement, but I was having a hard time keeping my own emotions in check. Had Timberlynn decided on staying here? Shit. This was so freaking messed up. She had trust issues, I got that. But I hadn’t given her a single reason not to trust me.
“Look who I picked up along the way to all the cookie decorating fun.”
Dirk’s voice caused everyone to turn and look at him and Timberlynn, both standing at the entrance to the kitchen. I felt an instant rush of anger as I looked down to see Timberlynn’s arm locked around Dirk’s.
Fuck. I had acted like a total asshole, and Dirk walked right in after I left and saved her.
No. Timberlynn didn’t need saving. She had even said so herself. She glanced my way, and I couldn’t read her expression. Then she looked away, and my chest dropped.
When Dirk’s gaze met mine, he raised a brow. I was positive I was shooting daggers at him. He dropped Timberlynn’s arm, made his way over to me, and placed his hand on my shoulder, then motioned for me to step into the mud room. From where we were standing, I could see Timberlynn talking to my mother. “Don’t let her know I’m telling you this, but she broke down in tears after you left. Like legit sobs. Dude, I don’t do good when a woman is crying.”
I rubbed the back of my neck and cursed.
“She was saying something about how she ruined everything. Something about a text, her being angry, and, dude…”
Dirk leaned back and looked into the kitchen to make sure no one was listening. He turned back to me and lifted his brows in concern. “I don’t really know how to tell you this, but she almost said the L-word.”
“The L-word?” I asked, confused.
“Yeah. The L-word.”
I shook my head in confusion. “What’s the fucking L-word, asshole?”
Dirk stared at me with a disbelieving expression etched on his face. “Are you fucking serious right now, Shaw? The L-word. Love. Love, dude! She almost said she was falling in love with you.”
I should have been scared shitless. Instead, I smiled.
Dirk snarled his lip, then rolled his eyes. “Christ, don’t get all Ty and Brock on me. You need to be careful with this one.”
He looked back into the kitchen, and then leaned in and whispered, “She said something about being scared and having some pretty fucked-up trust issues.”
“She told you that?” I found myself whispering back to him.
“Yeah. It was crazy. One second she was a crying mess, then the next second she wiped all the tears away, stood up tall and straight, and said she needed to win you back. It was weird, dude. She started mumbling as she wrote on a piece a paper. All I heard were a few words here and there. Something about rope and matches.”
His words caught me totally off guard. “What…what does that mean?”
Dirk smiled. “She’s either plannin’ on tying you up, or setting something on fire. Who knows with women. Maybe she’s planning make-up sex.”