I was damaged goods at best.
But when I was with him, at least I remembered to breathe.
“Mind if we switch partners?” A familiar voice interrupted me from falling into Tristan’s taste. I looked up to see Tanner smiling toward me with Faye in his arms.
I smiled, even though I kind of wanted to frown. “Of course.”
As Tanner took my hand, Tristan took Faye’s. I missed him even though he was only a few steps away from me.
“Don’t look so disappointed,” Tanner said, pulling me close to him. “I know I have two left feet, but I can still move my hips pretty well,” he joked.
“I happen to remember a certain holiday party where you won the award for the best worst dancer.”
He crinkled up his nose. “I still think that my shopping cart dance should’ve won the best dancer, but with your husband as the judge, I knew I would be screwed over.”
I laughed. “The shopping cart. How did that one go again?”
With two steps back, Tanner started pretending that he was pushing a shopping cart and placing items into said shopping cart. He then started to invisibly place his items on a check-out lane where he scanned his food and bagged it up. I couldn’t stop laughing. He smirked and moved back to me, falling into our much slower and easier dance routine.
“Perfect. You really should’ve won the best dancer that night.”
“Right?!” He bit his bottom lip. “I was screwed.”
“Don’t worry. I’m sure there are plenty of holiday parties in the future that you can reclaim your victory.”
He nodded in agreement and combed my hair behind my ear. “God. I missed you, Liz.”
“I missed you, too. Gosh, I’ve missed everyone. It just feels good to…feel again.”
“Yeah. Man, that has to be great. So this is the point where I clear my throat and take a leap of faith, asking you if you want to maybe get dinner with me at some point.”
“Dinner?” I asked, taken back by his question. “Like a date?” Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tristan dancing with Faye.
“Well, not like a date. But an actual date. Me and you. I know this probably seems weird and all but—”
“I’m kind of seeing someone, Tanner.”
His face dropped, confusion in his stare. “Seeing someone?” He stood straighter, uttering his fogged mind. “Are you seeing Sam? I know you two came together, but I didn’t think he was your type. I didn’t think—”
“It’s not Sam.”
“It’s not?” His stare moved across the room, landing on Tristan and Faye. When he looked back at me, the playfulness I’d seen moments before was gone. All color was drained from his face, where a new vibrant irritation now existed. “Tristan Cole?! You’re seeing Tristan Cole?!” he whisper-shouted. I cringed. I wasn’t exactly seeing Tristan. I truly had no clue how he even felt about me, but I knew I had these feelings for him—and I couldn’t ignore them much longer.
“You come back to town and you pick the absolute worst person to start dating.”
“He’s not as terrible as everyone thinks.”
“You’re right, he’s even worse.”
“Tanner.” I placed my hands against his chest. “I didn’t mean for this to happen, I didn’t mean to feel whatever it is I’m feeling for him, but you can’t help who you fall for.”
“Yes. You can. Tristan and Mr. Henson are not the kinds of people you want to be associated with.”
“What’s your problem with Mr. Henson’s shop anyway? Mr. Henson is one of the kindest men I’d ever met.”
He pinched the bridge of his nose. “You’re wrong, Liz. And I’m terrified that Tristan is going to hurt you.”
“He won’t.” He didn’t believe me. He somehow convinced himself that the idea of me and Tristan was a terrible thing. Just like the rest of the town. “Tanner, he won’t. Now, come on,” I said, pulling him closer to me, feeling how stiff his body was. “Just dance with your friend and stop worrying so much about me.”
“I’m worried about your heart, Liz. After Steven, you were destroyed. I don’t want your heart to get broken again.”
I lay my head against his chest, and he combed his fingers through my hair. “I’ll be okay. I promise.”
“And if you’re not?”
“Well, I guess I’ll just need you to hug me sometimes.”
“I don’t think we have properly met,” Faye said as we danced together. “So you’re the penis that’s been inside my best friend’s vagina.”
Well, that’s one way of putting it. “And you’re the highly inappropriate best friend.”
She smiled wide. “That’s me. So listen, this is the part where I tell you if you hurt Liz, I will kill you.”
I laughed. “She and I are just friends.”
“You’re kidding, right? Jesus. The two of you are two of the dumbest human beings on the planet. You honestly can’t tell that my best friend is falling for you?”
“Look at her!” Faye said, glancing at Elizabeth. “She can’t take her eyes off of us, because she’s terrified that you might make me laugh, or I might touch your balls, or the wind might blow your penis into my mouth!”
“Oh my freaking gosh, do I really have to spell it out for you? She’s jealous, Tristan!”