Holiday wishes, p.8
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       Holiday Wishes, p.8
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         Part #4.5 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  Cabo was everything Napa hadn’t been. Warm, sunny . . . perfect, Lotti thought on a dreamy sigh. Sean had upgraded their accommodations to a villa with a private pool and its own access to the beach. He said he’d done it because he wanted to go skinny-dipping with her, but she knew there was another reason as well.

  He didn’t want anything to remind her of the honeymoon this trip had been planned for, showing another surprising side to Sean O’Riley. A sweet side.

  There were other ways in which he’d made sure that this trip didn’t remind her of anything in her past. Of course, most of those ways had occurred in bed. And on the kitchenette counter. And the patio lounger. And the shower . . .

  At the moment, she was on the lounger sunning while Sean was on the phone, checking in at home. She flopped over on her stomach and untied the back of her bikini so she wouldn’t get a tan line. The air was warm and salty and she could hear the waves, which lulled her into dozing off.

  She woke up as two big, slightly callused hands ran up and down her body and smiled. “Mmm, Thor,” she murmured. “Don’t stop.”

  A low, masculine growl had her smiling. “Don’t worry,” she murmured. “My boyfriend’s on the phone. We’ve got plenty of time.”

  She squeaked when she was lifted in the air and tossed over Sean’s shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried toward the pool.

  “Oh no,” she said, laughing. “I can’t get my hair wet before we go out to dinner.”

  He didn’t slow down.

  “Sean! I’m not kidding! You’re closing in on batshit crazy if you think I’ve time to fix this mop before those fancy reservations you made—”

  He was still moving and all she could see was the smooth, sinewy expanse of his tanned back and those low-riding board shorts emphasizing his great ass. “Stop!” She was laughing so hard she could scarcely talk. “Sean, wait! I take it back! You’re not closing in on batshit crazy . . .”

  He paused in his progress and slid a hand to her ass. “No?”

  “No,” she said. “I’d never imply that you’d do anything halfway.” She paused. “You’re completely batshit crazy.”

  His shoulders were shaking with laughter as he put her down on the top step inside the pool. The water was a perfect seventy-eight degrees so she felt no twinge of guilt when she smiled up at him sweetly, sexily, making a promise with her eyes, causing him to smile at her in return as she . . .

  Shoved him backward into the pool.

  It would’ve been the perfect move if he hadn’t been as fast as a cat, a big, bad mountain cat who snagged her around the ankle and took her in with him.

  She laughed at the shock of the water and was still laughing when he kissed her. It was one of those kisses that started off sweet but then escalated quickly. Her bikini top was floating away on the water before she could blink and Sean slid his tongue over a taut nipple, making goose bumps race along her skin.

  “Give me a chance,” he said against her lips.

  She pulled back to meet his gaze, having to blink a couple of times before the words he’d spoken could sink in. “What?”

  He cupped her face in the palm of his hand. His thumb stroked over her cheekbone as he studied her eyes. “I want you to give me a chance.”

  “A chance at what?”

  Shifting so that he could press his forehead to hers, he said one word. “You.”

  Her breath caught. “Sean,” she breathed.

  “Because you’ve got me,” he said. “All of me. I’m falling in love you, Lotti, heart and soul. I know it’s too soon for you. I know you’re scared. I know you’re not sure about me. I know it’s going to take time, but I’ve got that to give and more. I can wait. You’re worth it.”

  She couldn’t tear her gaze off him, this incredible, amazing man who’d had her heart from all those years ago. “We must both be crazy.”

  “Because . . . ?”

  “Because I’m falling for you too, Sean.” There were other words that needed to be said. A lot. They’d have to talk more, but she had that one thing of his that she had begun to crave. His heart. And for now that was enough.

  An Excerpt from About That Kiss

  Keep reading for a sneak peek at the next Heartbreaker Bay romance

  ABOUT THAT KISS

  When love drives you crazy . . .

  When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she needs a favor, and it’s a doozy. Something precious to her has been stolen and there’s only one person with the unique finder-and-fixer skills that can help—Joe. It means swallowing her pride and somehow trying to avoid the temptation to throttle him—or seduce him.

  the best thing to do . . .

  No, Joe didn’t call after the kiss. He’s the fun time guy, not the forever guy. And Kylie, after all she’s been through, deserves a good man who will stay. But everything about Kylie makes it damned hard to focus, and though his brain knows what he has to do, his heart isn’t getting the memo.

  is enjoy the ride

  As Kylie and Joe go on the scavenger hunt of their lives, they discover surprising things about each other. Now, the best way for them to get over “that kiss” might just be to replace it with a hundred more.

  Chapter 1

  #LifeIsLikeABoxOfChocolates

  Kylie Masters watched him walk into her shop like he owned it while simultaneously pretending not to notice him. A tricky balancing act that she’d gotten good at. Problem was, like it or not, her attention was caught and captured by the six-foot, leanly muscled, scowling guy now standing directly in front of her, hands shoved in his pockets, body language clearly set to Frustrated Male.

  She sighed, gave up the ridiculous pretense of being engrossed by her phone, and met his gaze. She was supposed to smile and ask how she could help him. That’s what they all did when it was their turn to work the front counter at Reclaimed Woods. They were to show potential clients their custom-made goods when what they really wanted was to be in the back workshop on their own, individual projects. Kylie’s specialty was dining room sets, which meant she wore a thick apron and goggles to protect herself and was perpetually covered in sawdust.

  And she did mean covered in sawdust. Wood flakes dusted her hair, stuck to her exposed arms, and if she’d been wearing any makeup today, they’d have been stuck to her face as well. In short, she was not looking how she wanted to be looking while facing this man again. Not even close. “Joe,” she said in careful greeting.

  He gave her a single head nod.

  Okay, so he wasn’t going to talk first. Fine. She’d be the grownup today. “What can I do for you?” she asked, fairly certain he wasn’t here to shop for furniture. He wasn’t exactly the domesticated type.

  Joe ran a hand through his hair so that the military short, dark silky strands stood straight up. He wore a black t-shirt stretched over broad shoulders, loose over tight abs, untucked over cargos that emphasized his mile-long legs. He was built like the soldier he’d been not too long ago, as if keeping fit was his job—which given what he did for a living, it absolutely was. He shoved his mirrored sunglasses to the top of his head, revealing ice blue eyes that could be hard as stone when working but she knew that they could also soften when he was amused, aroused, or having fun. He was none of those three things at the moment.

  “I need a birthday present for Molly,” he said.

  Molly was his sister, and from what Kylie knew of the Malone family, they were close. Everyone knew this and adored the both of them. Kylie herself adored Molly.

  She did not adore Joe.

  “Okay,” she said. “What do you want to go for her?”

  “She made me a list.” Joe pulled the list written in Molly’s neat scrawl from one of his many cargo pants pockets.

  Bday wishlist:

  —Puppies. (Yes, plural!)

  —Shoes. I lurve shoes. Must be as hot as Elle’s.

  —$$$.

  —Concert tickets to Beyoncé.
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  —A release from the crushing inevitability of death.

  —The gorgeous wooden inlay mirror made by Kylie.

  “It’s not her birthday for several weeks,” Joe said as Kylie read the list. “But she said the mirror’s hanging behind the counter and I didn’t want it to be sold before I could buy it.” His sharp blue eyes searched the wall behind her. “That one,” he said, pointing to an intricately wood lined mirror that Kylie had indeed made. “She says she fell in love with it. Not all that surprising since your work’s amazing.”

  Kylie did her best to keep this from making her glow with pleasure. She and Joe had known each other casually for the year that they’d both been working in this building. Until two nights ago, they’d never done anything but annoy each other. So that he thought of her as amazing was news to her. “I didn’t know you were even aware of my work.”

  Instead of answering, his gaze narrowed in on the price tag hanging off the mirror and he let out a low whistle.

  “I don’t get to set the prices here,” she said, irritating herself with her defensive tone. She had no idea why she let him drive her so crazy with little to no effort on his part, but she did her best to not examine the reasons for this.

  Ever.

  Joe had been special ops and still had most of his skills, skills he used on his job at an investigation and securities firm upstairs, where he was, for the lack of a better term, a professional finder and fixer. He was a calm and impenetrable badass on the job, and a calm, impenetrable smartass off of it. On the worst of days, he made her feel like a seesaw. On the best of days, he made her feel things she liked to shove deep, deep down, because going there with him would be like jumping out of a plane—thrilling, exciting . . . and then certain dismemberment and death.

  While she was thinking about this and other things she shouldn’t be thinking, Joe was eyeballing the opened box of chocolates on the counter, which a client had brought in earlier. A little card said: Help Yourself! and his gaze locked in on the last Bordeaux—her favorite. She’d been saving it as a reward if she made it all day without wanting to strangle anyone.

  Mission failed. “It’ll go right to your hips,” she warned.

  He met her gaze, his own amused. “You worried about my body, Kylie?”

  She used the excuse to look him over. Not exactly a hardship. He was lean, solid muscle. Rumors were that he’d done some MMA fighting right after his service and she believed it. He was perfect and they both knew it. “I didn’t want to mention it,” she said, “but I think you’re starting to get a spare tire.”

  “Is that right?” He cocked his head, eyes amused. “A spare tire, huh? Anything else?”

  “Welllllll . . . maybe a little junk in the trunk.”

  He out and out grinned at that, the cocky bastard. “Then maybe we should share the chocolate,” he said and offered the Bordeaux to her, bringing it up to her lips.

  Against her better judgment, she took a bite, resisting the urge to also sink her teeth into his fingers.

  With a soft laugh that told her he’d read her mind, he popped the other half into his own mouth and then licked some melted chocolate off his thumb with a suctioning sound that went straight to her nipples, which was super annoying.

  “So,” he said when he’d swallowed. “The mirror. I’ll take it.” Reaching into yet another mystery pockets, he pulled out a credit card. “Wrap it up.”

  “You can’t have it.”

  At this, he studied her for a surprised beat, like maybe he’d never been told no before in his life.

  And hell, looking like he did, he probably hadn’t been.

  “Okay,” he said. “I get it. It’s because I never called, right?”

  She pushed his hand—and the credit card in it—away. But not before she felt the heat and the easy strength of him, both of which only further annoyed her. “Wrong,” she said. “Not everything’s about you, Joe.”

  “True. This is clearly about us,” he said. “And that kiss.”

  Oh hell no. He didn’t just bring it up like that, like it was some throw away event. She pointed to the door. “Get out.”

  He just smiled. And didn’t get out.

  Damn it. She’d grounded herself from thinking about that kiss. That one, drunken, very stupid kiss that haunted her dreams and way too many awake moments as well. But it all flooded back to her now, releasing a bunch of stupid endorphins and everything. She inhaled a deep breath, locked her knees and her heart, and mentally tossed away the key. “What kiss?”

  He gave her a get real look.

  “Oh, that kiss.” She shrugged as nonchalantly as she reached for her water bottle. “I barely remember it.”

  “Funny,” he said in a voice of pure sin. “Cuz it rocked my world.”

  She choked on her water, coughing and sputtering. “The mirror’s still not for sale,” she finally managed to wheeze out, wiping her mouth.

  She’d rocked his world?

  His warm, amused gaze met hers, going smoky and dangerously charismatic. “I could change your mind.”

  “On the mirror or the kiss?” she asked before she could stop herself.

  “Either. Both.”

  She had no doubt. “The mirror’s already sold,” she said. “The new owner’s coming for it today.”

  The buyer just happened to be Spence Baldwin, who owned the building in which they stood. The Pacific Pier Building to be exact, one of the oldest in the Cow Hollow District of San Francisco. Since the building housed an eclectic mix of businesses on the first and second floors, residential apartments on the third and fourth floors, all built around a cobblestone courtyard with a fountain that had been there back in the days when there’d still been actual cows in Cow Hollow, the entire place went a lot like the song—everyone knew everyone’s name.

  In any case, Spence had bought the mirror for his girlfriend Colbie, not that Kylie was going to tell Joe that. For one thing, Spence and Joe were good friends and Spence might let Joe have the mirror.

  And though she didn’t know why, Kylie didn’t want Joe to have it. Okay, so she did know why. Things came easy to Joe. Good looking, exciting job . . . hell, life came easy to him.

  “I’ll commission a new one,” Joe said, still looking unconcerned. “You can make another just like it, right?”

  Yes, and normally a commissioned piece would be a thrill. Kylie wasn’t all that established yet and could certainly use the work. But instead of being excited, she felt . . . unsettled. Because if she agreed to the job, there’d be ongoing contact. Conversations.

  And here was the thing—she didn’t trust him. No, that wasn’t right. She didn’t trust herself with him. She’d rocked his world? Because he’d sent hers spinning and the truth was, it’d take no effort at all to once again end up glued to him at the lips. “I’m sorry, but maybe you can get Molly . . .” She eyed the list again. “Puppies.”

  And speaking of puppies, just then from the back room came a
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