There was a brief glimpse of his smile growing wider and then he kissed the tip of my nose. “It’s good to finally meet you.”
Tuesday night was different. Not bad or anything, but most definitely different. The four of us sat on the deck, under the stars, and chatted about everything and nothing in particular. All of us were drinking, but not to get sloshed, and I was okay with that. Maybe it was the peaceful scenery. Maybe it was the people I was with. Either way, I didn’t feel like I needed more to have a good time or to relax.
Kyler was excited to start veterinary school, while Syd was eager to get done with grad school and she hadn’t even started it yet. Tanner and I were the odd people out, both of us on hold until the spring.
Not once did we argue.
Okay. That wasn’t entirely true. We bickered, but it wasn’t a knock-down, drag-out argument that ended with me threatening his ability to reproduce in the future. I wasn’t sure, even after starting over, we’d ever be able to not snap at one another.
We stayed up late, and I ended up pouring myself into bed, falling asleep without having to take a pill to get there, and on Wednesday morning, Kyler and Syd made breakfast before they headed off on their first hiking adventure.
I stayed behind, because, well, bears. And coyotes. And deer. And physical activity. Plus, I was pretty sure they’d be stopping every couple of minutes to make out, and I really didn’t need to see all of that.
Tanner strolled by where I sat on the barstool in front of the kitchen island. He tugged a curl and then leaned against the island, angling his body toward mine. “So, what are we going to get into today?”
“Why didn’t you go hiking with them?” I asked instead of answering. One just had to take a look at Tanner to know he was all about physical activity.
He shrugged one shoulder, causing the faded T-shirt he wore to stretch across his chest. “They didn’t want me to go along with them, so you’re stuck with me.”
I thought it was a little strange that they would’ve said that, but knowing Syd, she probably purposely disinvited him the moment she realized I wasn’t going with them, leaving him behind to babysit me. But after our little one-on-one in the bathroom yesterday, I wasn’t sure being stuck with Tanner was a bad thing. “I guess I am.”
“Yep. So why don’t you go upstairs, put that bathing suit on and we’ll spend the day being lazy and getting sunburnt.”
I started to make up an excuse, but considering he’d seen me in a towel that barely covered anything the night before, it seemed stupid to not want to go out there in a swimsuit. Still, I hesitated.
“Come on, Andy.” He caught my hand in his and drew me off the barstool. His other hand settled on my hip. “Spend time with me.”
Staring into eyes that reminded me of the summer sky before a storm, I found myself nodding. His grin was easy and contagious as he tugged me against his chest. My heart stuttered at the contact, and he seemed to have no idea how he affected me as he swept his arms around me. Hugging me tight, he lifted me clear off my feet and gave me a little shake.
I squeaked like a dog toy. “Tanner!”
“Sorry.” He didn’t sound remorseful at all. “I get a little excited sometimes.” He put me down and let go. “Hurry. I’ll be waiting for you outside.”
I did just that before I changed my mind. Dashing up the stairs, I changed into the bikini and then tugged a tube dress made out of terry cloth over it. I didn’t stop to check myself out or take time to really think about the fact that it felt like we’d paired off. Kyler and Syd and Tanner and me. Of course, the four of us went out a lot, but it never felt like we were coupling.
I giggled out loud as I ran a hand through my hair, brushing it back from my face. Back downstairs, I stopped in the kitchen and before I knew what I was doing, I was standing in front of the fridge, reaching for a bottle of Miller Lite. I figured one could help me relax, so I started to kneel to grab one.
I stopped and drew in a shallow breath. What was I doing?
Clutching the door handle, I pressed my lips together in dismay. Did I really need a drink to relax? No. I didn’t. I didn’t need one. I wanted one. Big difference there. Drawing in a deeper breath this time, I shut the door and took a step back. Turning around, I gasped.
Tanner stood next to the sliding glass door. I hadn’t even heard him come in and I had no idea how long he’d been standing there, but I knew he’d seen me.
He smiled at me, giving me no indication that he was judging me, but he probably was. I was judging myself. “You ready?”
Leaving the fridge, I went to him and smiled weakly when he opened the glass door. I stepped into the bright and warm sunlight, sort of feeling like a different person. Like I’d stripped away a layer that had been itchy and uncomfortable.
Tanner prowled past me, peeling the shirt over his head as he walked. Dear mama, those blue swim trunks, a shade or two lighter than his eyes, hung indecently low on his hips. How in the world did they stay on him? When he turned to me, I couldn’t stop staring at those V-shaped indentations at his hips. Good Lord, his body was downright distracting.
He winked at me and then turned, diving into the pool like a damn pro. My eyes narrowed as I sighed. Even that was graceful.
I approached the edge of the deck, on the other end of the pool where there were steps, careful not to slip and fall again like a total turd. Tanner swam to the other side of the pool. With his back to me, he called out, “Are you getting in?”