Sweet little lies, p.25
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       Sweet Little Lies, p.25

         Part #1 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  He frowned and leaned over her, one hand planted on the mattress, the other going to her forehead. His frown deepened and he leaned in even closer so that she caught a whiff of him.

  He smelled like heaven on earth.

  She did not smell like heaven on earth, and worse, she felt like roadkill. Like roadkill that had been run over, back upped on, and run over again. Twice.

  But not Finn. She pressed in close and plastered her face to his throat at the same moment he pressed his mouth to her forehead.

  “You don’t feel fevered,” he muttered.

  “No, that’s what happens when things are a mirage. In fact, last night never even really happened.”

  Pulling back, he met her gaze. “So I suppose you remember nothing.”

  “Nothing,” she agreed quickly. “How could I? Nothing happened.”

  His lips twitched. “Nicely done.”

  “Thank you.”

  He smiled. And then dropped the bomb. “Tell me about the fountain.”

  “On second thought,” she said. “Maybe I actually died. I’m gone and buried . . .”

  “Try again.”

  She looked into his eyes, trying to decide if he knew the truth about her wish—in which case she might have to strangle Willa and Elle—or if he was just fishing. “Well,” she said lightly. “It was built back in the days when Cow Hollow was filled with cows. And—”

  “Not the fountain’s history, smartass,” he said. “I mean why you were muttering about it in your feverish haze.”

  Huh. So maybe Elle and Willa didn’t have to be strangled after all. “I was feverish and delusional,” she said. “You need to forget everything you heard. And saw,” she added.

  “You wished for love on the fountain?” he asked with a whisper of disbelief.

  “What does it matter, you don’t believe in the myth anyway, remember?”

  “That’s not an answer,” he said.

  “I don’t believe in the myth either,” she said, and he fell quiet, letting her get away with that.

  Instead of pushing, he nudged the toast her way. “Eat. And drink. You need to hydrate.”

  “You sound like a mom.”

  “Just don’t call me grandpa.” He got up to go, but she caught his hand.

  “Hey,” she said. “You went over and above last night. You didn’t have to do that.”

  “I know.”

  It was hard to hold his gaze. “Thanks for taking care of me.”

  He just looked at her for a long beat. “Anytime.”

  By the next day, Pru was completely over the food poisoning and back to work, which was a good thing for several reasons. One, Jake desperately needed her.

  And two, she needed to get over throwing up in front of Finn, and short of a memory scrub, working her ass off was the only way to do it. So she buried herself, banning thoughts of Finn, needing to build up her immunity to his sexy charisma.

  This worked for two days but then her efforts to lay low failed when he showed up at the warehouse.

  He was waiting for her between two tours, propping up a pillar in the holding area where passengers hung out before and after boarding the ships.

  “What are you doing here?” she asked, surprised.

  “Need a minute with you.” He took her hand and pulled her outside. He was in low-slung jeans and a dark green henley the exact color of his eyes. His hair had been finger combed at best and he hadn’t shaved, leaving a day’s worth of scruff on his square jaw that she knew personally would feel like sex on a stick against her skin.

  “You’ve been avoiding me,” he said.

  “No, I—”

  He put a finger on her lips, his body so close now that she could feel the heat of him, which made her body shift in closer.

  Bad body.

  “Careful,” he said quietly, dipping his head so that his mouth hovered near hers. “You’re about to fib, and once you do, things change.”

  She absorbed that a moment, and wrapping her fingers around his wrist, pulled his finger away from her mouth. “What things?”

  His eyes never left hers. “Feelings.”

  Any lingering amusement faded away because she knew what he was saying. He didn’t believe in lying. Or in half-truths. Or fibs . . . And if he thought she was the kind of woman who did, then his feelings about her would change.

  She’d known this going in, of course. What she hadn’t known was how strongly it would affect their relationship.

  Because he didn’t know one important fact.

  She’d been lying to him about something since the very beginning. She’d weaved the web, she’d built the brick wall, she’d created this nightmare of a problem and she had no idea what to do about it.

  “Okay, so I’ve been avoiding you a little,” she admitted, starting with the one thing she did know what to do about.

  “Why?”

  She stared at him. The truth shot out of her heart and landed on the tip of her tongue. She wanted to tell him. She wanted it out in the open in the worst way. Holding it in was giving her guilt gut aches. But they’d only known each other a few short weeks. She just needed a little bit more time. To charm him. To somehow get him to do what no one else ever had—fall hard enough for her to want to keep her.

  No matter that she’d made a huge mistake. She needed to work him into that, slowly. “I’m not good with this stuff,” she said quietly. Hello, understatement of the year.

  “Going to need you to be more specific.”

  “I’m not good with . . . the after thing.” And so much more . . .

  “The after thing,” he repeated. “You mean after food poisoning? Pru, who is good at that?”

  “No. I mean yes, and I don’t know. But I was talking about the after sleeping with someone thing.”

  He looked more than a little baffled, and also somewhat amused. “So having sex isn’t the problem, it’s that we’ve actually slept together,” he said.

  Knowing it sounded ridiculous, she nodded.

  She expected him to try and joke that away but he didn’t. Instead, he wrapped his big hand up in hers and gave her a crooked smile. “I guess that makes us the blind leading the blind then. I don’t do a lot of sleepovers, Pru.”

  “But you’ve been in a long relationship before,” she said. “With Mellie.”

  He paused. “Someone’s been telling tales.”

  “It’s true though, right?” she asked.

  “What is it that you’re asking me, Pru?”

  Okay, so he clearly didn’t want to discuss Mellie. Got it. Understood it. Hell, she had plenty of things she didn’t want to discuss either. “I’m trying to say that not only am I not good at sleepovers, I . . . haven’t really had any.” She bit her lip. Dammit. That made her sound pathetic. She tried again. “It’s more that you’re my one and only—” Nope, now she was just making it worse. “Okay, you know what? Never mind.” She started to walk off. “I’m going back to work.”

  He caught her and turned her to face him. “Wait a minute.”

  “Can’t,” she said. ‘I’ve gotten—”

  “Pru,” he said with terrifying tenderness as he bulldozed right over her with his dogged determination, cupping her face. “Are you saying you’ve never—”

  “No, of course I have.” She closed her eyes. “It’s just been awhile since Jake—and he wasn’t a one-night stand. Or even a two-night stand. He was a week-long stand—” She covered her mouth. “Oh my God,” she said around her fingers. “Please tell me to stop talking!”

  He gently pulled her hand from her mouth. “You and Jake were together only a week?”

  “Yes.”

  “And before that, you’d not been with anyone else?”

  “I had a boyfriend in high school,” she said defensively.

  “But . . .”

  “But he dumped me after my parents died,” she admitted. “I was a complete wreck, and—”

  “That shouldn’t have happened to you,” he said q
uietly, stroking her upper arms, his warm hands somehow reaching deep inside her and warming a spot she hadn’t even realized was chilled. “That shouldn’t have happened to anyone,” he said very gently. “So other than your high school asshole boyfriend and one week with Jake, there’s been no one else?”

  If she’d ever felt more vulnerable or exposed, she couldn’t remember it. It was horribly embarrassing, having her sexual history—or lack thereof—laid out, and with it came an avalanche of insecurities. She shook her head and stared at his throat instead of in his eyes, which was easier. Because he had a very sexy throat and—

  “Pru. Babe, look at me.”

  She reluctantly lifted her gaze to his.

  “I think I’m starting to understand more about what’s going on,” he said.

  Oh good. Maybe he could explain it to her. That would be supremely helpful.

  “What happened between us,” he said, “it never occurred to me that you thought it was a one-night stand.”

  She stared at him, confused. “No?”

  “Hell, no,” he said. “Not with our chemistry. I knew from the beginning that one night wasn’t going to be enough. Or two. Or ten. I thought you knew it too.”

  She swallowed hard. She did know it. That wasn’t the problem. No, the problem was that the time they’d already spent together . . . it had to be enough. It was all she would, could, allow herself. “I didn’t allow myself to think that far. Finn—”

  “Look, I know we’ve done things ass-backwards, but I want to fix that.” He smiled at her. “Go out with me tonight.”

  She stared at him. “Like . . . a date?”

  “Exactly like a date.”

  “But—”

  His mouth brushed along her jaw to her ear, his words whispered hot against her. “Say ‘yes, Finn.’”

  “Yes, Finn,” escaped her before she could stop herself. Damn. Her mouth really needed to meet her brain sometime. But the truth was, she needed this, needed him. She wanted this moment and she wanted to enjoy it. Selfish as it was, she was going to think about herself for once, just for tonight. Besides, thinking was overrated. “You make it hard to think,” she said.

  She felt him smile knowingly against her skin. “Pru, I’m going to be so good to you tonight that there’ll be no thinking required.

  It’s a good thing that thinking was overrated.

  He picked her up at six. She was nervous as hell, which was silly. It was Finn. And it was just a date.

  At a red light, he glanced over at her and flashed a grin. “You look pretty.”

  She was in a simple sundress and flats. Hair down. “You’ve seen this dress,” she said.

  His eyes heated. Clearly he was remembering that it was the dress he’d made her hold at her waist while he’d had his merry way with her. “I know,” he murmured. “I love that dress.”

  She blushed and he laughed softly.

  “Where are we going?” she asked, needing a subject change.

  “Nervous?”

  Yes. “No.”

  He slid her a knowing glance. “It’s a surprise.”

  That had her worried. But where they ended up made her smile wide and stare at him. “A Giants game?”

  “Yeah.” He parked at the stadium and pulled her from the car with a smacking kiss. “Okay with you?”

  Was he kidding? For a beat, her troubles fell away and she grinned at him. “Very okay.”

  He brought her hand to his mouth and smiled over their entwined fingers.

  She melted.

  He fed her whatever she wanted, which was hotdogs and beer, and they both yelled and cheered the game on to their heart’s content.

  They sat next to a couple of serious Giants fans who were wearing only shorts—although the girl also wore a bikini top—and their every inch of exposed skin painted Giants orange.

  The guy proposed between innings two and three, and it was nothing like the proposal on her ship. When these two hugged and kissed, there was love in every touch—although their carefully painted Giants logo smeared. The orange and white paint mixed into a pale color that actually resembled pink, making them look like a walking advertisement for Pepto-Bismol.

  At the bottom of the fourth, the KISS cam panned the crowd and everyone went wild. It stopped on an older couple, who sweetly pecked. Next it stopped on two men who flashed their wedding rings with wide grins before giving the audience a kiss.

  Everyone was still cheering when the KISS cam stopped on Pru and Finn. Pru turned to him, laughing, and he hauled her in and laid one on her that made her brain turn to mush and an entire inning went by before her brain reset itself and began processing again.

  It was possibly the most fun date she’d been on since . . .

  Ever.

  After the game, Finn walked Pru to her door. She was a little tipsy so he held her hand, smiling as he listened to her singing to some song in her head that only she could hear.

  She had a smudge of orange paint down her entire right side from the woman at the game. It’d drizzled for a few minutes in the eighth inning and her hair had rioted into a frizzy mass of waves.

  He wanted to sink his fingers into it, press her back against her door and kiss her senseless. Then he wanted to pick her up so that she’d wrap her long legs around him.

  He wanted her. Hard and fast. Slow and sweet. On the couch. In the shower. Her bed.

  Anywhere he could get her.

  And it wasn’t just physical either. He’d told her he didn’t think love was for him, but he’d been wrong. At least going off the way his heart rolled over and exposed its tender underbelly every time she so much as looked at him. He wanted to claim her, wanted to leave his mark on her. On the inside. On her heart and in her soul.

  But she wasn’t ready. She was way behind him in this and he knew that. What they had between them scared her, and more than a little. She needed time, and he could give her that. Would give her that.

  Even if it meant walking away from her tonight when she was smiling up at him, her eyes shining, her cheeks flushed, happy. Warm.

  Willing.

  “’Night,” he said softly. “Lock up tight.”

  “Wait.” She blinked once, slow as an owl. A tipsy owl. “You’re . . . leaving?”

  “Yes.”

  “But . . .” She stepped into him, running her hands up his chest. “Aren’t we going to . . .”

  He went brows up, forcing her to be specific.

  “I thought you’d come in and we’d . . . you know,” she whispered, her fingers dancing over his jaw.

  Catching her hand, he brought it to his mouth and brushed a kiss over her palm. “No,” he said gently. “Not tonight.”

  “But . . . when?”

  “When you’re ready to fill in ‘you know’ with the words,” he said.

  She stood there, mouth open a little, a furrow between her brows, looking bewildered, aroused, and more than a little off center.

 

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