Sweet little lies, p.17
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       Sweet Little Lies, p.17

         Part #1 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis

  Because it would make Pru happy. “You got a problem with SF Tours splashed across everyone’s backs in bold letters?”

  “Not in the least.” Jake paused. “I suppose you also want O’Riley’s on there somewhere.”

  “It’d be nice.”

  Jake stared at Finn for a beat before nodding. “Our next game’s tomorrow night,” he said and again he made to leave but didn’t. “About Pru and me. We didn’t work out for one simple reason.”

  “What’s that?”

  Jake looked behind him to make sure Pru wasn’t standing there, which normally would’ve made Finn smile but he wanted to know the answer to this question shockingly bad.

  “I made a mistake with her,” Jake said, and then grimaced. “Okay, more than one, but the only one you need to know is that she’s strong and resilient and smart, so much so that I believed she didn’t need anyone, and certainly not me. It must have showed since she called me out on it. She said we couldn’t be intimate anymore because I wasn’t in love with her and she didn’t love me either, at least not in that way. To my shame, I didn’t realize that I hurt her by so readily agreeing, by not giving much thought to how she felt about splitting.” He paused. “Pru doesn’t do casual. She can’t. Her heart’s too damn big.”

  “Are you trying to scare me off?”

  “Yes,” Jake said bluntly. “I hurt her,” he said again. “Don’t you do the same, don’t you even fucking think about it.”

  “Or the aforementioned death and dismemberment?” Finn asked, only half kidding.

  Jake didn’t even crack a smile.

  Monday morning Pru was waiting outside the county courthouse building, hoping she was in the right place at the right time. When she saw Sean heading for the steps, she pushed away from the wall with relief.

  He stopped in surprise at the sight of her. “Hey, Trouble,” he said. “What are you doing here?”

  “Helping you fix your mess.” She smiled at his confusion. “You here to get the liquor license all square, right?” she asked.

  He blew out a sigh, looking disgusted. “Finn told you I screwed up.”

  “No,” Pru said quietly. “He wouldn’t. I . . . overheard you arguing.”

  “Yeah.” Sean grimaced and scrubbed a hand down his face. “Sorry. I just hate disappointing him.”

  “If that’s the case, why do you give him such a hard time?”

  Sean shrugged. “It’s how we show affection.”

  Pru shook her head with a low laugh. “Boys are weird.”

  “Hey, at least we don’t kick and scratch and pull hair when we fight.”

  “If that’s how you think girls fight, you’re with the wrong girls.”

  He grinned. “You know, I like you, Pru. I like you for Finn. You’ve got his back. He’d say he doesn’t need that but he’s wrong. We all need that. He know you’re here?”

  “No, and he doesn’t have to know,” she said. “Especially since I’m going to save your ass.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “Follow me.” She led him inside the offices, bypassed the public sign-in area and waved through the glass partition to a guy at a desk.

  The guy was Kyle, Jake’s brother.

  Kyle gave her a chin nod and hit a button that had the door buzzing open to them.

  “Hey, cutie,” he said and took a look at Sean. “What’s up?”

  “I’ve got a friend who didn’t pay their liquor license bill in time,” she said. “What can you do for me?”

  “First, tell your friend he’s an idiot.”

  She looked into Sean’s tight face. “I think he’s aware,” she said with a small smile.

  “Second, have a seat. You’re going to owe me,” he told Pru. “Caramel chocolates from Ghirardelli. You know the ones.”

  “Consider it done,” she said and ten minutes later they were back on the front steps of the building.

  “You’re a lifesaver,” Sean marveled. “And a super hero.”

  “I’ll add both to my résumé. Maybe it’ll get me a raise.”

  Sean laughed and hugged her. “Dump my brother and marry me.”

  She laughed because they both knew he wasn’t the marrying type, at least not yet.

  There’d been a time where she would’ve said the same thing about herself, but she knew now that she was changing. A part of her did want to let love into her life again. Maybe even have a family someday.

  How terrifying was that?

  Finn made sure to get to the softball field well before the start of their game.

  He had no idea why he was looking forward to it, there were a million things he should be doing instead. But he lowered his sunglasses and scanned the area for Pru.

  “She’s not here yet,” Jake said, rolling up to his side.

  “Who?” Finn asked casually.

  But not casually enough because Jake snorted.

  Giving up on pride, Finn asked, “Is she coming?”

  “I’m not privy to her schedule.”


  Jake smiled. “Jealous of me, O’Riley?”

  “Do I need to be?”

  Jake’s smile spread.


  “Got the new jerseys,” Jake said. “You work fast.”

  Finn shrugged like no big deal. It’d only cost an arm and a leg and a huge favor to get them done in one day.

  “I like the SF Tours across the backs,” Jake said.


  “Could’ve done without the O’Rileys on the breast.”

  Finn smiled and didn’t respond. He was looking forward to seeing his name on Pru’s breast.

  “What’s going on with you two?” Jake wanted to know.

  “You ask her?”

  “Hell no. I like living.”

  This gave Finn some satisfaction—that she’d kept what was between them to herself. But then again, that could be because she didn’t think there was anything between them.

  “I meant what I said yesterday,” Jake said.

  “About the death and dismemberment?”

  “About you and her not becoming a thing.”

  That’s when Finn felt it, a low level of electro-current hummed through him. Turning, he leveled his eyes on Pru and watched as she found him from across the field and tripped over her own feet.

  He read her lips and smiled because she was swearing to herself as she picked up speed.

  “Sorry I’m late!” she exclaimed breathlessly, like maybe once she’d seen them talking, she’d run over as fast as she could. Hand to her chest, the other holding onto Thor’s leash, she divided a look between them. “So . . . what’s going on?”

  Finn opened his mouth but Jake beat him to the punch. “Game’s about to start. Head or tails for home advantage.”

  Pru slid him a long look and then leveled that same look on Finn, who tried his best to look innocent. And he was actually pretty sure he was innocent since he had no idea what was going on any more than she did.

  “Tails,” she finally said. “It’s always tails.”

  It was heads.

  And . . . they had their asses handed to them like last time. But Kasey got a two base hit, and Abby caught a fly ball, and Pru got two base hits.

  And once again, Finn had the time of his life.

  Afterward, they all made their way back to O’Riley’s. Sean immediately pulled him aside.

  “Your girlfriend’s wearing your name on her breast. Nicely done. You’re faster than I gave you credit for, Grandpa.”

  “The entire team is wearing our logo, not just Pru,” Finn said.



  “You didn’t deny the girlfriend thing,” Sean noted.

  Finn didn’t take the bait and Sean sighed. “Yeah, yeah, you’re still pissed off at me. Newsflash, I’m pissed off too.”

  “I didn’t do shit to you.”

  “I know,” Sean said. “I meant I was pissed off at me. For disappoi
nting you.”

  Finn stilled and then shook his head. “I know you didn’t mean to disappoint me.”

  “But I did. And not only that, I let you down. I let us down.” Sean paused. “Earlier today, I handled the liquor license problem with Pru’s help.”

  And then Sean told him the entire story of how Pru had been waiting for him and had smoothed the way with ease.

  While Finn was still processing that, marveling over the lengths that she’d gone to help without mentioning it or wanting any credit for it, Sean went on.

  “After that I went to pay the property taxes. I was there at their offices when they opened at ten.”

  “Wow,” Finn said. “I didn’t know you’ve even seen ten a.m.”

  Sean shoved his hands into his pocket and looked a little sheepish. “Yeah, I know. It was a first, and believe me it wasn’t pretty. And it was worse than having to go to the damn DMV office, too. Got there right on time and had to take a number. Sixty-nine.” He flashed a small smile. “I held up my ticket but no one else in the place was amused. The old lady who had number seventy flipped me the bird. She looked like this sweet little old granny and there she was, telling me I’m number one, can you believe it?”

  In spite of himself, Finn laughed. “It’s true. You are number one.”

  Sean’s smile faded. “I know.”

  Regret slashed through Finn. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

  “Yeah, you did,” Sean said. “And I deserve it. I’m a fuckup, right?”

  “Okay, I’m officially taking that back.”

  For a beat, Sean’s expression went unguarded and filled with relief, making Finn feel even worse. There were times, lots of them, when he wanted nothing more than to wrap his hands around Sean’s neck and squeeze.

  But more than that, he wanted to never be like his dad. Ever. “So . . . how much were the late fees and penalties on the tax bill?”

  Sean grimaced. “You remember Jacklyn?”

  “The stripper you dated for a whole weekend last year?” Finn asked.

  “Exotic dancer. And she doesn’t do that anymore.”

  Oh shit. “Sean, tell me she doesn’t now work at the property tax office.”

  Another grimace. “Well I could tell you that, but it’d be a lie.”

  Sean had done his charm-the-panties-off-the-girl and then pulled his also usual I’m-moving-to-Iceland. Or maybe it’d been it’s-not-you-it’s-me. Either way, he’d dumped her. The only reason Finn even remembered was because Jacklyn had then pulled the crazy card.

  She’d stalked Sean. It hadn’t been all that hard either, Sean had no sense of secret and always put himself out there, one hundred percent. It probably hadn’t taken any effort at all for her to find out about the pub.

  She’d come in and had climbed on top of one of the tables, stripping and crying at the same time, telling everyone what a scumbag Sean was.

  It’d been a spectacle of massive proportions.

  “What happened?” Finn asked. “She refused to let you pay up?”

  “Not exactly,” Sean said.

  “Then what exactly?”

  Sean looked . . . embarrassed? Impossible, he never got embarrassed. “She said I could renew on one condition,” he said. “If I got up on her counter and did a striptease like she’d done at my place of work.”

  “Well, you gotta hand it to her,” Finn said. “It’s ingenious.”

  “Diabolical, you mean,” Sean said.

  “Whatever, but your next sentence better be ‘so I totally got up on that counter and did a striptease for her.’”

  “Did I mention the place was full?” Sean asked. “And that there were old ladies in there? Old ladies, Finn. I took one look at them and things . . . shriveled.”

  “And?” Finn asked.

  “And . . . I didn’t want to take my clothes off with shrinkage going on!”

  Finn pressed the heels of his hands into his eye sockets, but it didn’t work. His brain was still leaking out. Slowly and painfully. “Fine, I’ll go down there and talk to her and straighten things out.”

  “Because that’s what you do,” Sean said. “You straighten things out. I fuck it all and you come along and clean it back up again, right?”


  “No. I’m done with that shit, Finn,” Sean said. “I’m done being the idiot baby brother who needs saving. For once, for fucking once, I want to do the right thing. I want to save you.” He shook his head. “No, I didn’t get up on the counter. But I apologized to her for being a dick. And then I paid the penalties and late fees, all from my personal account. Our property taxes are current and will stay that way, and it won’t happen again.”

  “Wow,” Finn said. “That’s great. And thanks.” He paused. “From your personal account, huh?”

  “Yeah and that hurt, man.” Sean rubbed his chest like he was physically pained. “It hurt bad.”

  Finn smiled. “Also good.”

  “Now about your girlfriend,” Sean said.

  Finn raised a brow. He knew Sean was fishing. He had baited the hook and was going to keep saying “girlfriend” until he got a rise out of Finn.

  Not going to happen.

  “I like her,” Sean said quietly.

  Again, not what Finn had expected. He’d do just about anything for Sean, and had. But he didn’t think he could walk away from Pru.

  Not even for his brother.

  Sean shook his head. “No, man, I mean I like her for you.”

  The scary part was that they’d finally agreed on something because Finn liked Pru for him too. So much so that at the end of the night—which was really three in the morning, he found himself outside her front door. Not wanting to scare her to death with the late hour, he texted her.

  You up?

  It took her less than a minute to respond.

  Is this a booty call?

  He stared down at the words and felt like the biggest kind of asshole on the planet. He was in the middle of texting back an apology when she texted him again.

  Cuz I want it to be . . .

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