“Interested in company?” She smirked.
I stared down at my pajamas, and then glanced once more at the tequila. “Absolutely.”
“I really thought you would’ve slammed the door in all of our faces,” a familiar voice said from behind me as I stood in the kitchen, pouring out four shots. I turned to see Tanner staring my way, tossing the coin he always seemed to have in his grip, and I leaped into his arms for a tight hug. “Hey, Liz,” he whispered, pulling me into a tighter grip.
Tanner was Steven’s best friend, and for a long time they’d had the kind of bromance that made me think my husband might leave me for a man. Tanner was a built guy with dark, dark eyes and blond hair. He worked at the auto shop he’d taken over after his dad became sick. He and Steven became best buddies when they were paired as roommates their freshman year of college. Even though Tanner stopped going to school after the first year in order to work for his dad, he and Steven stayed close.
Tanner gave me his friendly smirk and let me go. He lifted two of the shots I poured. He handed one to me, and we downed them together. Then he lifted the other two, and we downed those also. I smiled. “You know, all four of those were for me.”
“I know. Just saving your liver a little.” I watched as he reached into his pocket, pulling out a quarter. The same quarter he would always flip between his fingers nonstop. It was a weird habit that he’d been doing way before we even met.
“I see you still have that coin of yours.” I laughed.
“Never leave home without it,” he replied with a chuckle before placing it back into his pocket.
I studied his face, concern filling me up inside. He probably didn’t know it, but sometimes his eyes looked so sad. “How are you?”
His shoulders rose and fell. “It’s just nice to see your face again. It’s been a while, buddy. Plus, you kind of just vanished after…” His words faded off. Everyone’s words always faded off when they were about to mention Steven’s death. I thought that was a good thing.
“I’m back.” I nodded and poured us four more shots. “Emma and I are here to stay. We just needed a bit of air, that’s all.”
“You still driving that piece of shit car?” he asked.
“I definitely am.” I bit my bottom lip. “I hit a dog the other day.”
His mouth dropped open. “No!”
“Yup. The dog’s okay, but my crappy car hiccupped and ran into the thing.”
“I’ll check it out for you,” he offered.
I shrugged. “It’s okay. I can pretty much walk everywhere now that I’m in town. No big deal.”
“It will be a big deal when winter comes along.”
“Don’t worry, Tanner Michael Chase, it will be all right.”
A smirk found his lips. “You know I hate when you use my full name.”
I laughed. “That’s exactly why I do it.”
“Well, we should make a toast,” Tanner offered. Faye came crashing into the room and lifted one of the shots high.
“I’m all about toasts when tequila is involved.” She giggled. “Or vodka, whiskey, rum, rubbing alcohol…”
I laughed and the three of us held the shot glasses in the air. Tanner cleared his throat. “To old friends making new beginnings. We missed you and Emma, Liz, and we are so damn happy to have you back. May the next few months be easy on you, and may you remember that you’re never alone.”
With one swift movement, we downed the shots.
“So, random question. I want to change all the locks in the place just for a new start. Do you know anyone who can do that?”
“Definitely, Sam can.”
“You know the guy I fired so I could hire you? The socially awkward kid at the café? His dad has a shop that Sam works at part-time for that kind of stuff.”
“Seriously? You think he’ll help me out?”
“Of course. I’ll tell him he has to, or else I’ll fire him.” Faye winked. “He’s weird as all get out, but he’s good at his job, and quick.”
“Since when do you like quick guys?” I joked.
“Sometimes a girl just needs a dick, a beer, and reality television all within thirty minutes. Never underestimate the power of a quickie.” Faye poured herself another shot and danced away.
“Your best friend might be the first woman I’ve ever met who actually thinks like a man,” Tanner joked.
“Did you know that she and Matty are—”
“Fucking? Absolutely. After you left, she needed a girlfriend to complain to in person, and somehow she decided I looked like I had a vagina. She showed up at the auto shop every day with a story about Fatty Matty—which by the way, made me extremely uncomfortable.”
I giggled. “You mean you aren’t interested in her nicknames for her sexlationships?”
He leaned in. “Flakey Frankie? Is that a real thing?”
“Faye’s far from a liar.”
“Well, that’s unfortunate for poor Frankie.” I smiled, maybe because of the alcohol, maybe because Tanner reminded me of some of the best memories. He leaped onto the countertop and patted a spot beside him, which I accepted. “So, how’s Miss Emma doing?”
“Sassy as ever.” I sighed, thinking of my babe.
“Just like her mother.” He laughed.
I lightly shoved him in his shoulder. “I still think she received the loud sass from her father.”
“True, he was quite the handful. Remember when we went out for Halloween and Steven thought he could fight anyone because he was dressed as a ninja? He kept yelling at anyone and everyone he came across, but instead of being an awesome real life ninja, he ended up with a black eye and got us kicked out of three bars.” We both laughed together, remembering how much of a terrible drunk my husband had been.