“I want to meet your father.”
I jerked my head back up and laughed. “Wait, I could have swore you just said you wanted to meet my father.”
“I did say that.”
“Have you lost your mind?”
“Well, for starters, we’re dating, and although it’s still early on, I think it’s important he meets me and knows my intentions for our relationship. Plus, I think he needs to know you have another reason for wanting to live in Montana.”
Anger pulsed through my body. “I don’t need to give him any reasons, Tanner. He doesn’t control my life anymore, and besides, I’ve already told him about you.”
He sighed. “That’s where you’re wrong, Timber. He does control it still. Have you forgotten about the house you tried to buy? He sends you a text at least once a week asking when you’re moving back to Atlanta. He’s not coming to terms with you moving to Montana.”
“He doesn’t get a say in it.”
Tanner raised a brow. “Do you really want to cut your father out of your life? You don’t want me to meet him? Have him be a part of our lives?”
I let out a defeated breath. “Tanner, he’s never wanted to be a part of my life before. Why should I worry about it now?”
Tanner walked up to me and stood between my legs. His expression was so serious. “What if the reason your dad kept you at a distance wasn’t because he didn’t love you or want you in his life. What if it was because he was scared?”
“Scared?” I asked, confused. “Scared of what?”
“Losing you like he did your mother. Have you ever thought about it like that, or had a therapist mentioned that to you?”
I looked down for a moment and thought about what he just said. Slowly, I shook my head. “No one has ever said that before, and honestly, I’ve never even thought of it.”
Tanner pulled me closer to him, and I draped my arms over his shoulders. “Think about it,” he said. “You told me that anytime someone he dated got close to you, your father broke up with them. Maybe it was because he didn’t want you to think it was a replacement for your mother?”
I let his words simmer in my brain.
“And his distance from you? Maybe in some weird sort of post-traumatic stress way he kept you at arm’s length thinking it would somehow keep you both safe?”
My eyes met his. “I…I hadn’t ever thought of it that way.”
“Timber, do you doubt your father loves you?”
I swallowed hard and pressed my lips together tightly. If I spoke right then, I knew I was going to cry. So I shrugged.
“He’s scared right now. The whole move with blocking you from buying the Covey place, maybe it was his way of showing you that he isn’t okay with losing you.”
“He hasn’t lost me,” I whispered.
Tanner raised a brow. “Maybe you both need to hear each other say that.”
My eyes stung as I tried to hold back my emotions. “I don’t honestly think I could take being hurt again by him, Tanner. All the moments in my life when my father promised to be there for me, and he never…he never really was.”
Tanner cupped my face in his hands and bent to look me straight in the eye. “Trust me on this? Please. Let me take you back to Atlanta to meet your dad. If you don’t want to go back, we could invite him here.”
“Yeah, he can stay with us.”
I smiled. “Is this a way to get me to fully move in with you and stop looking for my own property?”
“No, but if you think it would work, I’m down for it.”
Laughing, I pulled him closer to me and quickly kissed him before resting my forehead against his. “I don’t want to go back to Atlanta, and I don’t want you going either.”
“Okay?” I asked as I drew back to look at him. “You wouldn’t go if I asked you not to?”
The corner of his mouth rose into a sexy half smile. “No, baby, I would not go if you asked me not to. This relationship is based on trust and honesty. If you asked me not to go, I’d honor that. But I do think we should invite him here.”
I pulled in a deep breath and held it for a moment before I slowly let it out. With each second of breath leaving my body, I allowed everything that Tanner was saying to absorb into me. “I’ll call him tonight and invite him to visit.”
A wide smile erupted across his face.
I held up my hand. “Don’t get your hopes up, Tanner. He’s a busy man, and I don’t think I’ve ever known him to just drop everything and leave town, unless it was work related.”
He winked and then pulled me into him so that I was forced to wrap my legs around his body. “I have a feeling you’re wrong on this one.”
“Oh, really?” I said as I pressed my mouth to his. Tanner lifted me off the counter and started walking down the hall to our bedroom.
With a laugh, I drew back from his mouth and asked, “Where are you going?”
“To our room, to make love to you.”
My body ached instantly for him. “What about dinner?”
“Don’t you worry that pretty little head of yours. I can be fast when I need to be.”
I sat on the front porch and stared out at the lake. It was cold outside, but I was bundled up and warmed still from Tanner making love to me earlier.
My eyes closed, and I drifted back to his mouth moving slowly over me. His hands had explored my body like it was the first time he’d ever seen me naked. The words he’d whispered in my ear made my entire body shiver, and it wasn’t from the cold air.
“Hungry?” Tanner asked as he stood next to me on the porch.
I stood and smiled as I made my way over to him and back into the house. “Starving!”
Tanner had made lasagna, and boy howdy, did my man know how to cook.
“I’ll grab the salad,” I said.
“I made a lemon vinaigrette that’s in the fridge.”
Pausing, I looked in the refrigerator and shook my head. “What, you just whipped up a vinaigrette while I was on the porch?”
He laughed. “It wasn’t hard…remember, I had a good teacher when it comes to cooking.”
That I had no doubt believing.
“After dinner, I have a little surprise for you.”
I set the salad and dressing on the table and smiled up at him. “Really? Do I get any hints?”
“No, you have to wait and see.”
I pushed my lip out into a pout, and Tanner laughed. He placed the lasagna down on the table, and then started to cut us each a piece while I held out the plates. “Not even one hint?”
“No, not even one hint, and stop pouting. All it does is turn me on and make me want to push everything off the table and take you right here.”
My lip drew in, and I gently bit down on it as I tried to ignore the way my lower stomach pulled with desire at the mental picture Tanner had painted. “That would be a shame since you spent so much time making this delicious meal.”
He winked. “It’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make. We can always have frozen pizza.”
I laughed and shook my head as I used the tongs to put salad on each of our plates.
I took one bite of the lasagna and let out a long, soft moan. Tanner grinned. “I take it you like it?”
“Like it? Tanner, this is amazing!”
“It’s the homemade ragu. It’s a recipe my mother got from her friend Tina. She’s Italian and makes some of the best Italian food I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
“I love authentic Italian food, and I can honestly say I haven’t had a sauce this good ever before!” I replied before I shoved another forkful in my mouth.
“Word of warning, don’t ever tell Tina you’re eating jar from a sauce. She’ll drag you into the kitchen to cook up a pot of ragu on the spot, then send you home hours later with jars of it. Each time she converts a jar sauce lover to fresh ragu, she says she’s doing the Lord’s work.”