Sweet little lies, p.22
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       Sweet Little Lies, p.22

         Part #1 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  “What’s that for?” she asked.


  When he’d left, she got a text from Elle that had her staring at her phone, mouth open.

  I don’t know how or why, but thanks for sending last night’s comic relief to poker night.

  She stared at the text, horrified. She still couldn’t believe she’d done that to Finn.

  And that’s not the only thing you’ve done to him . . .

  She’d let her emotions get the better of her. That was a mistake, but oh God, what a delicious, sexy, heart-stopping wonderful mistake.

  She responded back to Elle with a? on the off chance she was jumping to conclusions, and Elle was all too happy to explain in her next text:

  Biweekly poker night in the basement turned into a peep show when Finn showed up in the dumbwaiter half nekkid. Lucy, you’ve got some ’splainin’ to do.

  Her stomach hurt. Her plan to bring Finn a little fun, a little adventure while waiting on the fountain to bring him love, had seemed so simple. Fun and adventure, and maybe even a little walk on the wild side. She honestly hadn’t meant to do that in bed.

  Or on her kitchen table.

  Or in her shower . . .

  Oh, God. This whole thing was bad. Very, very bad. And yet it’d all been so heart-stopping good at the same time that she found herself just standing in place at odd moments, her brain glazed over as it ran through erotic, sensual memories like a slide show behind her eyelids. Finn bending her over the end of the bed, his mouth at her ear whispering hot little sexy nothings as he’d teased and cajoled her right out of her inhibitions, his body hard against her.

  In her . . .

  She blew out a shaky breath. Dangerous thoughts. Because it was her being selfish, and she wasn’t going to do that again.

  Absolutely not.

  Or, you know, as much as she could.

  Ugh. She slapped herself in the forehead. Go back to your plan, she ordered herself, not giving her inner smart-ass a chance to chime in. No more sexy times, no matter how deliciously demanding he was in bed. And this time, she meant it. One hundred percent. Or at the very least, seventy-five percent.

  Certainly no less than fifty percent . . .

  Luckily, work was crazy busy and helped keep her mind off all things Finn-related. The weather was warm, which meant that everyone and their mama wanted to get outside. They wanted to be on the water, see Alcatraz, Treasure Island, the Pier 39 sea lions . . .

  She was on her second tour of the day when a guy tried to propose to his girlfriend. Unfortunately for him, he apparently hadn’t checked out her Pinterest page where she’d pinned pictures of acceptable rings. The proposal went fine until she opened the little black box. It didn’t end well, especially since he’d done it in the first five minutes of the two-hour tour, and then had to endure the rest of the ride in frosty silence.

  On her last tour, Pru had a bunch of frat boys who kept making jokes, wanting to know if she’d be their captain below deck as well, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, if she’d ever played pirates with her passengers, because they wouldn’t mind pillaging and plundering. At that she’d pulled out the baseball bat she kept beneath her captain’s chair and asked if anyone needed their balls rearranged or if they wanted to sit down and shut up for the rest of the tour.

  They’d gone with sitting down and shutting up.

  She’d gotten a call from Jake the second the last of her passengers debarked.

  “You have problems with passengers, you let me kick their ass, you don’t need to do it,” he said. “You’re not alone out there, I’m always in your ear.”

  Literally. They were in constant communication when she was on the water via comms. “Maybe sometimes I want to do my own ass kicking,” she said.

  “My point is that you don’t have to.”

  “It’s a good stress reliever,” she said.

  “Uh huh. As good as sleeping with the guy you haven’t been honest with and then shoving him bare-ass naked into your dumbwaiter to avoid your ex, your boss, and your best friend?”

  The air left her lungs in one big whoosh. “Who told you?”

  “Eddie would snitch on his mama for food or cash, you know that.”

  “And how did Eddie know?” she demanded. “I didn’t tell anyone!”

  “Didn’t have to. Eddie was in the basement at a very intense poker game with a select few when the dumbwaiter opened and out stumbled your boy, pants in hand.”

  “Shirt!” she yelled. “He had his shirt in hand. He was wearing his pants!”

  “Just tell me you told him.”

  “I’m working on that.”

  “Dammit, Pru, it’s like you want to self-implode your own happiness. Promise me you won’t do anything that stupid again until you tell him.”

  She closed her eyes, knowing he was right. Hating that he was right.


  “—I hear you,” she said.

  “Promise me. I know you would never break a promise, so right here and now, promise me that—”

  “I promise,” she said. “I’ve always intended to tell him and I will. I get that it’s been two weeks but I’m working up to it, okay? I’m going to tell him soon as the time is right.”

  “Just don’t miss your window of opportunity, chica, that’s all I’m saying.”

  “I hear you.”

  They disconnected and Pru closed her eyes. Hard to pretend something hadn’t happened when everyone in the free world knew.

  She didn’t linger after work like she usually did. Instead she hightailed it out of there. Needing to clear her head, she and Thor walked. Well, she walked. Thor got tired about halfway and stopped. He planted his little butt on the sidewalk and steadfastly refused to walk another step.

  “You’re going to get fat,” she told him.

  Thor turned his head away from her.

  “Come on,” she cajoled. “I want to walk out the Aquatic Park Pier and watch the sky change colors as the sun sets.”

  Thor sneezed and she could have sworn she heard “bullshit” in the sound. And the sad thing was that her dog had more brain cells than she did because he was right.

  She was stalling going home. It was just that she’d come to count on Finn’s company so much. Too much. He made her smile. He made her ache. He made her want things, things she’d been afraid to want. He made her feel . . . way too much.

  Thor hadn’t budged so she scooped him up and carried him out to the end of the long, curved pier. She watched the water and thought maybe this wasn’t so bad. Yes, she’d made a mistake. She’d been with Finn a few times.

  So what.

  Other people, normal people, slept with people all the time and she didn’t see anyone else angsting over it. For all she knew Finn hadn’t given it a second thought, and in fact would laugh off her worries.

  But you’ve slept with him now, as in actually slept, snuggled in his arms all night long . . . And that was more intimate than anything else and it changed things for her. “Maybe I’m just being silly,” she said hopefully to Thor.

  Thor, lazy but utterly loyal, licked her chin.

  She hugged him close. “I always have you,” she murmured. “You’ll never leave me—”

  But he was squirming to get down so desperately she did just that. “What’s gotten into you?” She stopped when he bounced over to a fellow dog a few feet away.

  A small, dainty, perfectly groomed Shih Tzu. The dog stilled at Thor’s approach and allowed him to sniff her butt, and then returned the favor while Pru glanced apologetically at the dog’s owner.

  The woman was in her thirties, wearing running tights and a tiny little running bra, the brand of which Pru couldn’t even afford to look through their catalogue.

  “Baby,” the woman said. “What have I told you? You’re a purebred not a disgusting mutt.”

  “Hey, he’s not disgusting, he’s just—” But Pru broke off when Thor lifted his leg and peed on Baby.

the time Pru got to her building, Thor had fallen asleep in her arms, which were nearly dead. Seemed nothing stopped him from catching his beauty sleep, not snooty little dogs with snooty little owners, and certainly not the squealing of said snooty little dogs’ owners about the cost of dog grooming and how Pru had let her heathen ruin her “baby.”

  A low-lying fog rolled in to join dusk as she entered through the courtyard, staying close to the back wall, not wanting to be seen by anyone.

  The temps had dropped so she wasn’t surprised to see the wood fire pit lit. She was surprised to see Eddie manning the pit. He waved her over.

  Halfway there she realized the entire courtyard smelled like skunk. When she got to Eddie, she pulled the uneaten half of her sushi lunch pack from her bag and gave it to him.

  “Thanks, dudette.” Pocketing the sushi in his sweatshirt, he poked at the fire with a long stick.

  “It’s going out,” she said.

  “I know. I burned it hot on purpose, I had some stuff to get rid of.”

  “Stuff? Stuff related to the skunk smell?”

  He just smiled.

  A few minutes went by and Pru realized she was still standing there, now with a wide grin on her face. “I’m starving.”

  “Me too,” Willa said from right next to Pru.

  Pru blinked. “When did you get here?”

  “A while ago.” Willa looked into her face and grinned too. “You’re high as a kite.”

  “What? Of course I’m not,” Pru said.

  “It’s a contact high.” Willa looked at Eddie, who had the decency to look sheepish.

  “I had some dead seedlings I had to get rid of,” Eddie said. “It’s fastest to just burn them.”

  “You can’t just burn them out here!” Willa said. “Right, Pru?”

  But Pru was feeling distracted. “I need food,” she said. “Chips, cookies, cakes, and pies.”

  “And pizza,” Willa said. “And chips.”

  “I already said chips.”

  “Double the chips!” Willa yelled to the courtyard like she was placing an order with an invisible waitress.

  Pru laughed at her. “I’m not high as a kite. You are.”

  “No, you are.”

  “No,” Pru said, poking Willa in the arm. “You are.”

  “You both are.” This was from Archer, who’d appeared in front of them.

  “Whoa,” Willa said. “The police are here. Run!”

  Archer reached out and snagged her hand to keep her at his side. Frowning down at her, he then turned and eyeballed Pru.

  She did her best to look innocent even though she felt very guilty. Why, she had no idea.

  “Shit,” he said in disgust to Eddie. “You got them both stoned out of their minds. What the hell did I tell you an hour ago?”

  “You said you’d arrest me if I didn’t put out the fire. I’m working on it. It’s almost out, dude.”

  A muscle in Archer’s jaw bunched. Willa set her head on his shoulder and looked up at him with a dreamy smile. “Elle’s right,” she murmured, batting her lashes. “You do look really hot when you’re all worked up.”

  “I’m not worked up—” He broke off and slid her a speculative look. “Elle thinks I’m hot?”

  “When you’re worked up. When you’re not, she thinks you’re a stick in the mud.”

  Archer shook his head and pulled out his phone. “Elle, your girls need you in the courtyard. Now.” He slid both Pru and Willa a long look and added, “You’re going to want to feed them. Oh, and Elle? Remind me that we have something to discuss.”

  Willa smacked him. “You can’t tell her that I told you that she thinks you’re hot!” she hissed.

  Archer lifted a finger in her direction and listened to something Elle said. He let out a rare smile. “Yes, that was Willa.”

  Willa smacked her own forehead. “She’s gonna kill me.”

  Archer disconnected with Elle and pointed at them. “Don’t either of you move until she comes and gets you. You hear me?”

  “Hear you,” Pru said, eyes locked on the pub. The doors were open to the street and the courtyard. The place was full and spilling out sounds of music and laughter.

  Behind the bar, Sean and Finn were elbow to elbow, working hard. Finn was shaking a mixer and laughing at something a woman at the bar was saying to him.

  Elle appeared in a siren red sheath dress that screamed serious business. Her black heels echoed the statement. “What’s going on?” she demanded, hands on hips. “Archer pulled me out of a meeting with the building’s board—”

  “Was the owner there?” Willa asked. She looked at Pru. “None of us have ever met the owner. He’s exclusive.”

  “Elusive,” Elle corrected, narrowing her eyes on each of them, and then Eddie.

  Who unlike when he’d been dealing with Archer, actually sunk in on himself a little, seemingly sheepish. “I didn’t realize,” he said.

  “Oh for God’s sake.” Elle took a deep breath and looked a little less uptight. She took another and sighed. “I need pizza.”

  “Right?” Willa said, grinning.

  “Count me in.” This was Haley, who arrived from the elevator in her white doctor’s coat, looking quite official.

  “You’re still doctoring,” Willa said.

  “Nope,” Haley said, pulling off her lab coat. “The smoke and commotion drew me down here but I’m done for the day, thankfully. It was a busy one.”

  “Spence come in for glasses yet?” Elle asked.

  Haley bit her lower lip. “I saw him, yes.”

  “And?” Elle asked. “His eyesight is bad, right?”

  “I’m sorry, I can’t say,” Haley said. “Or HIPAA would drag me away in chains. He’ll have to tell you himself.”

  Elle stared into her eyes and then smiled. “Yeah, he got glasses.”

  “Damn,” Haley said. “I hate when you do that.”

  “She reads minds,” Willa told Pru.

  “Like magic?” Pru asked, awed.

  “Not magic,” Elle said. “You all just wear your every single thought on your sleeves.”

  “Oh, look at you, dear,” Mrs. Winslow said to Pru, coming up to her with a wide smile. “You look amazing.”

  “Uh . . .” Pru looked down at herself. She was still in her usual work uniform of a stretchy white button-down and navy trousers and boots. “Thanks?”

  “Must be all the sexual activity with Finn,” the older woman said. “Intercourse does wonders for your skin.”

  Looking shocked, Willa nearly swallowed her tongue. She turned to Elle, who shrugged.

  “You knew?” Willa asked.

  “When are you going to get it? I always know,” Elle said.

  Pru admired a woman who always had the answers. She really hoped Elle shared some of them because she could really use a few
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