A moment passed. “No. You shouldn’t have,” I agreed, lowering my gaze to my half-drunk tea. “But…you were right about it. I’m a—”
“You’re not a mess,” he cut in.
If only he really knew how messy my head was sometimes. That attack last night? Just the tip of a Titanic-sized fuckedup iceberg.
“Seriously,” he continued. “That was a dickhead move. I shouldn’t have said that. So I’m sorry. Really, I am.” He paused. “I’ve been saying ‘I’m sorry’ a lot lately.”
“You have,” I murmured, setting the tea on the small, round table beside the lounge. “Tanner, I don’t…I don’t know what to say.”
He stretched out his legs, wiggling his toes. “I worry about you,” he said after a moment, surprising me. I’d vaguely recalled him saying something like that last night. “I didn’t mean to lose my cool with you. It’s just that you—”
“I drink,” I finished for him, flushing. “That doesn’t make me an alcoholic.”
Tanner didn’t respond for a long moment and then he raised his shoulders in a helpless shrug, and I knew my statement had fallen like a pile of bricks between us. A few may have landed on my head. I folded my arms around my waist, wishing I had something other than my word to back up what I’d just said, but I really didn’t.
What I did say, I hadn’t planned on. “I’m single because I haven’t dated anyone that made me want to put the effort into a relationship.”
His features tensed. “Andrea—”
“The guys I date aren’t really relationship-worthy,” I said, and I couldn’t shut up. Once I opened my mouth, the words kept coming. “There are guys that are. Like you and Kyler. The ones you want to latch onto and never let go. And there are guys who are good for going out with to the bar and maybe spending a couple of hours with. Hooking up. Nothing more. You bring them home, hoping they don’t puke all over the place.” I laughed hoarsely as he watched me. “That is, if you bring them home. So, none of them I’ve ever wanted to be in a relationship with. Hell, half of them I wouldn’t look twice at while sober.”
His brows knitted.
“Well, let me just clarify, that it’s not like an entire football team worth of guys I’ve been with. Nothing like that, but that’s not the point.” I shrugged. “I’m just the female version of them.”
“What?” Shock colored his tone.
“You know. I’m not really relationship-worthy. I’m the girl who drinks too much, does stupid shit, and is either really funny when drunk or really annoying.” My lips trembled even though my tone was light. “I am a mess. I know that.”
“No.” Tanner shook his head. “You are not that. You’re not a mess. You are relationship-worthy, Andrea.” He twisted toward me, expression taut. “Fuck. What I said last night—I’m sorry. I’m really sorry if it makes you think that.”
I waved my hand. It was dismissive, but that was the last thing I felt. Nothing about this was something I could throw away. “I know what I am, Tanner. I know what guys think when they see me at a bar. It’s the same thing I think when I see one of them. Good for a few things, nothing long-term.”
“Don’t say that.”
Meeting his gaze, I smiled weakly. “I’m not trying to wallow in self-pity or make you feel bad for me. I just know what you all—”
He moved incredibly fast. Standing, he reached down and cupped my cheeks, tilting my head back. I had a second to take a breath as shock held me immobile. He lowered his head to mine.
Tanner kissed me.
His mouth on mine was the last thing I expected. Shocked straight to the core, I didn’t move. Every muscle in my body locked up, and I wasn’t even sure if I breathed or not. He was kissing me again.
And dammit, he really knew how to kiss.
Tanner swept his lips over mine, once and then twice, the touch slight and soft as a whisper. In the back of my mind, I couldn’t remember being kissed so…so gently. Like he was asking permission for more with the touch of his mouth. All of the kisses I could ever recall were hard and wet and oftentimes messy, but this was soft and warm and so incredibly tender. A lot like the ones before, but this…this felt different.
He tilted his head to the side and the pressure of his mouth increased sweetly as he curved his hand around the nape of my neck. My brain clicked off, and the entire conversation faded away like smoke caught in a fierce wind, as did everything I’d been feeling up to that moment. All I could feel was his kiss.
And then he took it beyond the questioning tenderness.
He made this sound in the back of his throat when my lips parted to his, and that questioning kiss became something else, something deeper and more sensual. His tongue glided over mine, and he tasted of mint. I decided in that moment that was the best flavor in the world.
My heart pounded and my pulse skipped fast-forward, and his hand tightened along the back of my neck, his long fingers tangling in my still-damp curls. His mouth moved over mine in determination and when his tongue flicked over the roof of my mouth, there was no stopping the breathy moan.
Tanner shifted, stretching his long and lean body over mine as he guided me down against the lounge, pressing my back into the thick cushion with his weight. Oh dear. My hands fluttered to his shoulders. My heart moved into cardiac-episode territory. His chest was warm, seeping through the thin material of my dress. His other hand drifted over my hip and then squeezed, wringing a gasp from me.