The trouble with mistlet.., p.21
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       The Trouble with Mistletoe, p.21

         Part #2 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  look batshit crazy and frustrated and hot as hell,” he said. “Never doubt it.”

  She felt a reluctant smile pull at her mouth. “Turn around.”

  “I’ve already seen it all.”

  “Only once, and it was dark.”

  He smiled. “I have good night vision.”

  “Do you want to eat?” she asked and he turned around. She pulled back on her good-ass jeans and picked up a white sweater that was a little tight and gave her some impressionable assets, if she said so herself. “And you usually do too,” she told him. “Look hot as hell.”

  He had his back to her, hands on his hips. He had a really great build, and if she was being honest he also had the best ass she’d ever seen, and she spent a few seconds taking in the sight. “Usually?” he asked.

  “Well . . .” She eyeballed her room, which looked like a survivor of a category five hurricane. “Sometimes you look hotter than hot,” she admitted. Like now, with those jeans stretched across his buns . . .

  He turned to face her, taking in her outfit in a way that told her he appreciated the white sweater very much. “When?” he asked.

  “I’m not telling you. It’ll go to your big head.”

  “Already did,” he said and looked down at himself.

  Her eyes followed suit, landing on his crotch, and at the obvious hard-on there, she snorted. “I meant your other big head, you pervert.”

  He grinned at her, charming her effortlessly, damn him. “Now you’re just throwing out the compliments left and right,” he said. “Let’s talk about the big part.”

  She laughed. “You know exactly how big you are . . . everywhere. You almost didn’t fit. And why are we even having this conversation?”

  “Because I like to talk about sex,” he said.

  “See, pervert.”

  “Well, you should know . . .” His smile dared her to remember exactly how it’d been between them last night.

  But here was the thing—she didn’t have to drum up the memories; they were burned in her brain. Combustible. They’d been—and were—combustible together.

  He smiled cockily at her and that was it. She pointed to the door. “Out!”

  “Okay, okay!” Laughing, he told Petunia he’d be back for her and left the room, his stomach growling, the sound reaching her across the room.

  “Have you really not eaten all day?” she asked.

  “It was a crazy-busy day.”

  Taking pity on him, she shoved her feet into boots with a three-inch heel so she could pretend to be tall and took a quick peek in the mirror.

  Her eyes were bright, her cheeks were flushed.

  All thanks to her mad dash, she told herself, and absolutely not the man waiting in her living room.

  As to why her heart was racing, she decided it was best not to speculate.

  “Mischief managed?” he asked hopefully when she came out, like maybe she was a live hand grenade.

  “Mischief managed,” she assured him, and hoped that was true.

  They walked. The night was chilly but clear. They headed into the Marina. With the streets lined with restaurants, bars, galleries, and shops, there were a lot of people out walking, threading their way into the eclectic mix of mom-and-pop places mixed in with high-end stores. In a single square city block, you could eat any kind of food from just about anywhere in the world, not to mention buy anything you wanted.

  They got pizza and she told him how a customer had walked into the shop earlier with his parrot on his shoulder. The bird had taken one look at Petunia and fallen in instant love. He’d flown to the edge of the bed Petunia had been snoozing on and begun to garble his love song to her but the cranky cat had smacked him in the face with her paw.

  The parrot had left brokenhearted.

  They talked about his day too. How Mason had stapled his own hand to the ceiling and then superglued the ensuing slice in his hand rather than go to the doctor.

  “Oh my God,” Willa said. “And you were okay with that?”

  “Cheaper than an ER trip,” he said and laughed at the horror on her face. “It’s actually what we do. A lot.” He showed her a couple of scars on his hands and arms that had been “treated” by superglue.

  She shook her head. “Boys are weird.”

  “I’ll give you that,” he said.

  She laughed and so did he. And the shadows in his eyes faded away a little bit and she felt about ten feet tall.

  After dinner, they walked some more. They stopped to watch through the window of a candy shop as a woman pulled her dough through a complicated machine, turning the red and white lines into candy canes.

  A crowd had gathered and Willa wound her way to the front, practically pressing her nose to the window in awe. Smiling, she stood there mesmerized when Keane pressed up close behind her, giving her a different kind of yearning altogether.

  “Hey, little girl, want some candy?” he whispered in her ear.

  “Ha-ha, but yes,” she said, not looking away from the window. “I really do.”

  She felt him smile against her jaw. “Wait here,” he said. “I’ll be right back.”

  Not ten seconds later, she felt him brush up behind her again and she laughed. “That was fast.”

  “Oh, sorry. I got jostled.”

  Not recognizing the male voice, Willa’s smile froze in her throat. She whipped around and faced a guy about her age. Same height, he wore glasses that kept slipping down his nose and an awkward smile.

  “Hi,” he said. “You should watch on the nights they make chocolate candy canes. Have you ever had one? They’re better than anything.”

  “Sounds delicious,” she said, but couldn’t help thinking I bet it’s not better than sex with Keane Winters . . .

  “They’re using chocolate tomorrow night,” he said. “I’ll be here.” He paused and looked at her with a hopefulness that made her want to give him the pupperoni treat in her pocket and pat him on the head. She’d just opened her mouth to let him down gently when she felt a presence at her back. A tall, built, warm, strong presence with testosterone and pheromones pouring off of him, and since her nipples went hard she didn’t have to turn this time.

  Keane settled in close, not saying anything, just being a silent, badass presence. Craning her neck, she found him giving the Chocolate Candy Cane Guy a death stare that would’ve made most people pee their pants.

  Chocolate Candy Cane Guy gave a little start, cleared his throat and looked at Willa again, an apology in his eyes. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t realize you were . . . on a date.”

  “No worries—” she started but he spun on a heel and vanished into the crowd. She turned to face Keane. “Seriously?”

  “What?” he asked innocently.

  “Oh no, you don’t get to ‘what’ me like that,” she said, saying the word what in an imitation of his own much lower timbre. “What the hell was that?”

  “Me getting you candy.” He held up the bag.

  “No, you just peed on me in public.”

  His mouth twitched.

  “You did!” she said, tossing up her hands. “You totally intimidated that poor guy and all he was doing was talking to me.”

  Keane looked after him. “You think I was intimidating?”

  “Enough to make him go crying for his mama.” She jabbed him in a rock-solid pec. “You can’t dominate me like that. I don’t like it at all.”

  He smiled, but it was a little bit like the Big Bad Wolf’s smile as his hands went to her hips. And right there, surrounded by a crowd of people, none of whom were paying them the slightest bit of attention, he hauled her into him.

  “I’m not done being mad,” she said.

  “I know. It’s okay.” His hands slid up her arms and cupped her jaw, warm and strong. “You just tell me when you’re done.” And then his eyes went dark and heated as he lowered his head. “I’ll wait . . .” And then he kissed her.

  The air around them crackled and in spite of the
cold night, the heat between them pulsed and ebbed. Willa felt the rumble of his rough groan as he palmed the back of her head to hold her to him. And just like that, everything around them faded away to nothing more than a dull murmur in the background. There was nothing past the feel of Keane’s strong arms around her, the steady beat of his heart thudding against the erratic pace of her own.

  Eyes closed, she felt herself melt into him, their bodies seeking each other as if they’d been together for years. It actually scared her and she clutched at him.

  In response, he slowed the kiss down, soothing her until they stilled entirely, mouths a breath apart but sharing air. The night breeze caressed her face along with his fingers and she opened her eyes.

  His face was shadowed but she wasn’t afraid anymore. Feeling almost like she was in a dream, she went back up on tiptoe and lifted her hands to the nape of his neck, the silky strands of his hair slipping through her fingers as she pulled his face back to hers. “When,” she murmured against his mouth.

  The last thing she saw before her eyes drifted shut again was his smile.

  She parted her lips for him eagerly, desperate for another taste, and felt a heat wash over as his hand fisted in her hair. Unable to get close enough, she paused, moaning at the feel of him hard against her.

  When he finally lifted his head, she was breathing like a woman who needed an orgasm.


  She did her best to look unaffected, but he laughed at her. Laughed. And then he took her hand and they walked back to her place.

  As they got off the elevator, Keane felt Willa squeeze his hand and look at him as she unlocked her door. “What?” he murmured.

  “You okay? You seemed a little off when you first came over, and it’s back now.”

  He was a stone wall when he wanted to be, or so he thought. But apparently not with her, because she put a hand on his chest. “Tell me what’s wrong?” she asked softly.

  It’d been a damn long time since someone had asked him that question and meant it. But he didn’t do this, he didn’t unload. Ever. She didn’t need the burden of his aunt’s illness, or the odd sense of limbo his life had become as he sat in his big Vallejo Street house night after night making up reasons not to sell it and move on, so he shook his head.

  Her hand slid up his chest, her palm once again settling on the nape of his neck, her fingers sinking into his hair.

  Clearly she also knew just how much he loved it when she touched him like that.

  “Keane, when you ask me if I’m okay, you expect honesty, right?”

  His brain was more than a little scrambled by her touch, which was arousing as all hell and took away his power of speech, but he did manage a nod.

  She nodded back, as if to say good boy, as her guileless eyes met his. And then she moved in for the kill.

  “So why would I expect anything less from you?” she asked softly. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

  “You first,” he said.

  “Me? What about me?”

  “You could tell me about this morning, when I walked in on you and your employees having what seemed like a pretty serious confrontation.”

  “Lyndie screwed up,” she said. “She then ’fessed up, the end.”

  “Not the end. What you did, letting her off the hook like that, it was really generous. Incredibly so. Anywhere else, anyone else, would have fired her, and you know it.”

  “Everyone deserves a second chance,” she said. “Now you.”

  Letting out a low laugh, he pressed his forehead to hers, stepping into her so that they were toe to toe, letting his hand come up to cup her face. Knowing her better now, knowing the incredible woman she was, she truly amazed him. She’d overcome a rough and dark past, and yet she was an incredible light.

  One that drew him in.

  Neither of them had been given much love, but she hadn’t been stymied by that. Instead she’d turned it around, giving it back wherever and however she could.

  And what had he done? He’d blocked himself off. Yes, he’d made a life for himself too, and a damn decent good living while he was at it, but he was still closed off. It was hard for him to open up but he wanted to try, friend zone or not. “Now me,” he repeated softly.

  She nodded. “Now you. Tell me what’s wrong, and what I can do to help.”

  “What’s wrong is that I need you,” he murmured, dropping his head to kiss the underside of her jaw. “What you can do to help is let me in.”

  She was ego-strokingly breathless from his touch. “You’re already in,” she panted.

  Was he? Testing that theory, he nudged her inside her apartment, kicked her front door shut, and gently pushed her up against it.

  She stared up at him as he lowered his head, not closing her eyes until the last second, but when his mouth covered hers, she moaned and wrapped her arms around him tight enough to hurt in the very best possible way.

  Chapter 21


  Willa lost herself in Keane’s words . . . “I need you,” in the feel of his hard, heated body up against hers, in the taste of him as he kissed her in the way only he could. He made her ache and yearn and burn. She’d told him that he was in, and she meant it.

  Like it or not, he was definitely in her heart. What she wasn’t sure was what it meant, to either of them. She’d said they weren’t going to do this again, and she’d said that out of self-preservation, but now with his hands on her, she couldn’t remember why exactly.

  “I’m not usually this easy,” she said out loud, hoping to make him laugh and relieve some of this tension, because she didn’t know about him but she felt strung tighter than a bow.

  “Willa.” He did indeed laugh, sexy low and gruff as he pressed his face into her hair. “Babe, you’re many, many things. But easy isn’t one of them.”

  When she tried to shove him away, he tightened his grip and lifted his head to meet her annoyed eyes with his laughing ones. Then his smile faded. They watched each other for a beat, his gaze suddenly heated and unwavering. “I know you said one night was all you wanted,” he said. “But I’m thinking two is better than one.”

  She nodded, happy to be on the same page. “Two is always better than one, right?”

  Letting out a very sexy, very male sound of agreement, he kissed her again, his hands both rough and arousing as they slid up to fist in her hair, holding her still for his kiss. With one tug he bared her throat, scraping his teeth along her skin, making her shudder and press even closer if that was possible. Then his hands skimmed beneath her shirt. She managed to get hers into the back of his jeans and—


  Breathless, they broke apart and turned in unison to find Petunia, head low, butt raised in the air and wriggling.

  “Watch out,” Keane said. “Attack mode initiated.”

  “Petunia,” Willa said softly and the cat lifted her head. Ice blue eyes were narrowed in disapproval.

  “I didn’t know that she’s a kiss blocker,” she said on a laugh.

  “In two more minutes she’d have been a cock block—”

  Still laughing, Willa put her fingers over Keane’s lips. “No swearing in front of the children.”

  He nipped at her fingers and heat slashed through her from her roots to her toes, setting fire to some special spots along the way. “So,” she whispered, staring at his mouth. “Where were we?”

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