Sweet little lies, p.24
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       Sweet Little Lies, p.24

         Part #1 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  she died. And given the pain stabbing through her with the force of a thousand needles, it wouldn’t be long now. Still, just in case, she moved faster.


  She wanted to say look, I’m about to throw up half a loaded pizza and possibly my intestines, and I like you, I like you enough that if you see me throw up that half a loaded pizza, I’ll have to kill myself.

  Which, actually, wouldn’t be necessary seeing as she was about to die anyway.

  “Pru, slow down.” He caught her hand.

  But the more she put off the now inevitable, the worse it would be. “Not feeling good,” she said, twisting free. “I’ve gotta go.”

  “What’s wrong?” His voice immediately changed from playful to serious. “What do you need?”

  What she needed was the privacy of her own bathroom. She opened her mouth to say so but the only thing that came out was a miserable moan.

  “Do you need a doctor?” he asked.

  Yes, she needed a doctor. For a lobotomy.

  With sweat slicking her skin, she ran directly for the elevator, praying that it would be on the ground floor and no one else would want to get on it with her.

  Of course it wasn’t on the ground floor.

  With another miserable moan she headed for the stairwell, taking them as fast as she could with her stomach sending fireballs to her brain and her legs weakened by the need to upchuck.

  And oh lucky her, Finn kept pace with her, right at her side.

  Which made her panic all the more because seriously, she was on a countdown at this point, T minus sixty seconds tops, and there would be no stopping or averting liftoff. “I’m fine!” she said weakly. “Please, just leave me alone!” She threw her hand out at him to push him away so she could have room in case she spontaneously imploded.

  A very real possibility.

  But the man who was more tuned into her body than she was had apparently not yet mastered mind reading. “I’m not leaving you alone like this,” he said.

  She pushed him again from a well of reserved strength born of sheer terror because she was about to become her own horror show and didn’t want witnesses. “You have to go!” she said, maybe yelled, as they finally got to the third floor.

  Mrs. Winslow stuck her head out her door and gave Pru a disapproving look. “You might be getting some but you’re not going to keep getting some if you talk to your man like that. Especially after shoving him into the dumbwaiter the other night.”

  Oh for God’s sake!

  How did everyone know about that?

  Not that she could ask.

  Hell, no. Instead, she stopped and pawed through her purse for her keys before dropping it to scratch and claw at the door like she was being kidnapped and tortured.

  Finn crouched down at her feet to pick up her purse and scoop the contests back in. He had a tampon in one hand and Willa’s book—Orgasms For One—in the other. He should’ve looked utterly ridiculous. Instead he looked utterly perfect.

  “Pru, can you tell me what’s wrong?”

  “I think she’s having a seizure,” Mrs. Winslow said helpfully. “Honey, you look a little bit constipated. I suggest a good fart. That always works for me.”

  Pru didn’t know how to tell her she was about to let loose but it wouldn’t be nearly as neat as a fart. By some miracle, she made it inside. She was sweating through her clothes by the time she stumbled along without even taking her keys out of the lock, racing to the bathroom, slamming the door behind her.

  She had barely hit her knees before she got sick.

  From what felt like a narrow, long tunnel, through the thick fog in her head and her own misery, she heard him.

  “Pru,” he said, his voice low with worry.

  From right.





  “I’m coming in,” he said and she couldn’t stop throwing up to tell him to run, to save himself.

  Chapter 25


  Pru felt one of Finn’s hands pull her hair back and hold it for her, the other encircling her, fingers spread wide on her stomach. He was kneeling behind her, his big body supporting hers.

  “I’ve got you,” he said.

  No one had ever said such a thing to her before and she would have loved to absorb that and maybe obsess over why it meant so much, but her stomach had other ideas. So she closed her eyes and pretended she was alone on a deserted island with her charged Kindle. And maybe Netflix. When she could catch her breath, she brought a shaky hand to her head, which was pounding like the devil himself was in there operating a jackhammer, whittling away at what was left of her brains.

  Finn kept her from sliding to the floor by wrapping both arms around her and bringing her gently back, propping her up against him.

  “I’m sorry,” she managed, horrified that she’d thrown up in front of the hottest man she’d ever had the privilege of sleeping with by accident.

  “Breathe, Pru. It’s going to be okay.”

  “Please just leave me here to die,” she croaked out when she could, pulling free. “Just walk out of this room and pretend it never happened. We’ll never speak of it again.”

  And then, giving up trying to be strong, she slid bonelessly to the bathroom floor. Her body was hot and she was slick with perspiration. Unable to garner the energy to hold herself up anymore, she pressed her hot cheek to the cool tile and closed her eyes.

  She heard water running and squeezed her eyes tight, but that only made her all the dizzier. A deliciously cool, wet washcloth was pressed to her forehead. She cracked an eye and found Finn. “Dammit, you never listen.”

  “I always listen,” he said. “I just don’t always agree.”

  His hand was rubbing her back in soothing circles and she thought she might never move again if he kept on doing that until the end of time. “Why won’t you go away?”

  When he didn’t say anything, she again opened an eye. He was still looking at her with concern but not like she was at death’s door. Except if she wasn’t dying, that meant she was going to have to live with this, with him seeing her flat on the floor looking like roadkill.

  “Do you think you can move?” he asked.

  “Negative.” She wasn’t moving. Ever. She heard him on his phone, telling someone he needed something liquid with electrolytes in it.

  “Not drinking anything either,” she warned him, her stomach turning over at the thought.

  He got up and left her, and she was grateful. When he came back in a moment later, she was back to worshipping the porcelain god, trying to catch her breath.

  “Any better?” he asked when she was done.

  She couldn’t speak. She couldn’t anything.

  He peeled her away from the seat and gathered her in his lap. He laid her head against his shoulder and wrapped his arms around her. “Take a few deep breaths. Slowly.”

  She tried but she was shaking so hard she thought maybe her teeth were going to rattle right out of her head. Finn wiped the sweat-matted hair from her face and then pressed the cool washcloth to the back of her neck.

  It was heaven.

  He cracked a bottle of lime-flavored water with electrolytes.

  “Where did you get that?” she asked.

  “Willa. She has it in her shop. Says she gives it to the nervous dogs after they throw up.”

  “You told Willa I was throwing up?”

  “She’s in the kitchen making you soup for tomorrow when you feel better. Elle’s bringing her a few ingredients she didn’t have.”

  Pru managed a moan. “I don’t want anyone to see me like this.”

  “You do realize that friends don’t actually care what you look like,” he said. “Take a sip, Pru.”

  She shook her head. She couldn’t possibly swallow anything.

  “Just a sip. Trust me, it’ll help.”

  She did trust him. But drinking anything was going to be a
disaster of major proportions.

  He was moving her, using his shoulder to hold her head forward. It was take a sip or drown.

  She took a sip.

  “Good girl,” he whispered and let her settle back against him. They sat there, silent, for what seemed like days. Her stomach slowly stopped doing backflips.

  “How do you feel?” he asked after a while.

  She had no idea.

  When she didn’t enlighten him, he took the washcloth from her neck, refolded it, and put it against her forehead.

  “Eddie,” she croaked. “He might be sick too—”

  “I’ve got him covered. Spence is with him but the old guy’s got a stomach of iron and doesn’t appear to be affected.

  She managed a nod, eyes still closed. She must have drifted off then because when she opened her eyes again the light was different in the bathroom, like some time had gone by.

  Finn was still on the floor with her, only he was shirtless now, wearing just his jeans.

  Oh yeah. She remembered now. She’d thrown up a bunch more times. She had her hands curled around his neck, clutching him like he was her only lifeline.

  And he was. She stared at his chest. She couldn’t stop herself. No matter how many times she saw his stomach, she wanted to lick it each time.

  Not that she wanted to stop there either.

  Nope, she wanted to lick upward to his neck and then trail back down. She wanted to drop to her knees and slowly ease his jeans over his hips and—

  “You okay?” he asked. “You just moaned.”

  Huh. Maybe she really was going to live. She dragged her back to his. His hair was tousled, his jaw beyond a five o’clock shadow, but he still looked hot.

  She hated him. “You should go,” she said knowing he either had to work or sleep.

  He shook his head and brushed his lips over her forehead at the hairline. “It’s been a couple of hours since you last got sick,” he said. “Sip some more water.”

  Her stomach was much calmer now, but her head was beating to its own drum. She could feel it pulsating.

  “You’re dehydrated,” he said. “You need the water to get rid of the fever and headache.”

  Too achy to argue, she nodded. She managed to take a few sips and then her body took over, demanding more.

  “Careful,” Finn warned, pulling it away when she started to gulp it. “Let’s see how that settles first.”


  “He’s right here, sleeping on my feet. You want him?”

  Yes. But she was in bad enough shape to hug him too tight and the last time she’d done that, he’d gotten scared and bit her. She’d stick with just Finn for now. She was pretty sure Finn only bit when naked. Or on really special occasions.

  She fell asleep on him again and woke up much later in her own bed. Willa was helping her change.

  “That man is gone over you,” Willa murmured, tucking Pru into bed.

  “It’s the damn fountain.” Pru had to hold her head on, keeping her eyes shut even when Willa had paused.

  “Fountain?” she asked.

  Maybe if Pru hadn’t been dying, she wouldn’t have answered. “I wished,” she said. “I wished for Finn to find love, but the fountain got it all wrong and gave me love instead. Stupid fountain. He’s the one who deserves it.”

  “Honey,” Willa said softly. “We all deserve love.”

  Pru wanted that to be true. God, how she wanted that . . .

  “And how do you know the fountain didn’t get it right?” Willa asked. “Maybe you’re his true love.”

  Pru drifted off on that terrifying thought.

  “You’re going to want to sip some of this.”

  It was Elle. She sat on the bed at Pru’s hip and offered a mug.

  “What is it?” Pru asked.

  “Only the best tea on the planet. Try it.”

  “I’m not thirsty—”

  “Try it,” Elle said again finally. “You’re nearly translucent, you need fluids.”

  So Pru sipped.

  “Now,” Ella said calmly. “What’s this I hear about the fountain and some wish going astray?”

  Pru choked on her sip.

  Elle rolled her eyes, leaned forward, and pounded Pru on the back.

  “Willa told you,” Pru said on a sigh.

  “Yeah. She’s cute but she can’t keep a secret. She doesn’t mean any harm, I promise. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Mostly she’s worried about you and thought I could beat some sense into you.”

  Pru blinked.

  “Metaphorically,” Elle said. “And plus she wanted to borrow some change so she could go make a wish, seeing how it worked out so good for you.”

  “The wish was for Finn!”

  “Uh huh.”

  “It was!”

  “Well then, I’d say you got a two-fer.”

  Chapter 26


  The next time Pru opened her eyes, the hallway light allowed her to see that someone was sprawled in the chair by her bed. That someone rose when she stirred and sat at her hip.

  “How you doing?” Finn asked.

  She blinked at the crack of dawn’s early light creeping in through the slats of her blinds, casting everything in a hazy gold glow. From outside the window came the early chatter of birds, obnoxiously loud and chipper. She moaned. “I’ve never figured out if they’re happy that it’s morning or objecting to its arrival.”

  Finn smiled. “I vote for objecting.”

  Her too. He’d changed, she couldn’t help but notice. Different jeans, a rumpled black T-shirt. Hair still tousled. Jaw still stubbled. Eyes heavy-lidded. He was without a doubt the sexiest thing she’d ever seen. Which told her one thing at least.

  She hadn’t died.

  He propped her up in her bed, tied her crazy-ass hair back and brought her toast. Cut diagonally. She just stared up at him. Was he a fevered dream? “Tell me the truth,” she murmured, her voice rough and haggard. “You’re a fevered mirage, right?”

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