The trouble with mistlet.., p.25
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       The Trouble with Mistletoe, p.25

         Part #2 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis

  “And now?” Elle asked.

  “And now . . . I’m realizing I’m the one who isn’t relationship material.” There. She said it. Admitted her biggest failing out loud.

  Her friends gasped in instant denial, but Willa knew she was right and her heart felt heavy with it. “I’m not sure what to do here,” she said softly. “I think I’m . . . broken.”

  “No,” Elle said adamantly and everyone else piped in with equally emphatic nos.

  “Please,” Willa said. “Let’s just move on to another topic, okay? How about those Niners, right?”

  “You can’t just ignore this,” Pru said. “At least go back to having great sex!”

  Haley nodded vehemently.

  Willa had to laugh. “Just tell him right out that all I want is sex?”

  “Great sex,” Pru corrected.

  “Agreed,” Elle said. “Men do it all the time so why not?”

  Willa looked at them. “So you honestly think I should just show him my boobs.”

  “Always works for me,” Pru said. “When Finn and I get in a fight, I flash him and he forgets what we’re fighting about. Boobs are magic.”

  Willa shook her head. “Nothing’s ever that easy.” At least not for her.

  “Hang mistletoe and lure him in,” Haley said. “Put it up in a convenient place, but not too convenient because you don’t want to have to kiss any toads by accident.”

  “Oh, and lose your bra,” Pru said. “He’ll be so preoccupied, he’ll never know what hit him. Guaranteed.”

  Haley was nodding. “So see, you have your plan. One, shave all the way up past the knee. Two, hang some mistletoe. Three, lose the bra. Four, call him over and let the good times begin. And then after the good times, when he doesn’t quite have all the blood back to his brain, tell him you’re okay with being just friends with benefits. It’s every guy’s dream come true. Just make sure to spell out what exactly the benefits are so he doesn’t think you mean a threesome or anal. Tell him preapproved benefits only.”

  Pru choked on her wine and Elle had to beat her over the back.

  Haley smiled. “I think it’s perfect. Honestly, he’ll never know what hit him. Wait!” She wore a small backpack as a purse and pulled it off to paw through it. “And these, take these!” She held up a set of spiked handcuffs.

  This time they all stared at her, agog. Well, except for Elle, who took them and looked them over. “Nice.”

  “They were a Christmas gag gift,” Haley said. “Office holiday party last night.”

  “From that pretty brunette temp receptionist?” Elle asked.

  Haley blushed. “I wish. No, which is why I’m willing to give them up to Willa for the cause.”

  “Thanks,” Willa said dryly. “Your sacrifice is duly noted, but not necessary. I do not need handcuffs.”

  “Oh, I don’t need handcuffs to enslave a man either,” Elle said, slipping them into her purse. “But it never hurts. The key?” she asked Haley. “Because it’s all fun and games until someone loses the key . . .”

  Haley handed over a small key.

  Pru snorted wine out her nose again, and it was mayhem after that but somehow, after another few glasses of wine, The Plan suddenly seemed totally and completely feasible.

  Friends with benefits . . .

  What could go wrong?

  Chapter 24


  The next day Keane ran from jobsite to jobsite putting out fires. By the time he got back to his office and dropped into his chair at his desk to catch up on paperwork, he was done in.

  Which was a good thing. Being this tired made it difficult to think about what had happened between him and Willa.

  Or more accurately, what wasn’t going to happen between him and Willa.

  Shit. Opening his laptop, he froze when something brushed against his legs.

  Pita was winding herself in and around his calves, rubbing herself all over his jeans and leaving a trail of hair as she did so.

  “You must be desperate if you’re willing to be friendly to me,” he said.

  At that, she leapt into his lap, turned in a circle, and then plopped with zero grace to lie all over him.

  “Okay,” he said, awkwardly patting her on the head. “We’re doing this then.”

  A rumbly purr filled the room and she began to knead with her paws. When one of her needle-sharp claws caught on his crotch, he yelped and jumped to his feet, unceremoniously dumping her to the floor.

  Paws spread wide, hunkered low to the floor, she looked up at him from slitted eyes.

  “Well then, watch the damn claws, Jesus.”

  She turned away, tail straight up in the air, quivering with temper. And he knew—she was so going to take a shit in his shoes tonight. “Dammit, wait.” He caught up with her and scooped her back up, sitting in the chair again, setting her next to him. “Stay,” he said.

  She shot him a look that spoke volumes on her opinion of being commanded to do anything, but she did indeed stay.

  He was knee-deep into the engineering notes on the Mission project when he got a text.


  Can you come over after work? Need your help with something.

  He stared at the words and felt an onslaught of emotions that he wasn’t equipped to deal with. Hunger. Desire. Aching desire. How was it possible that a month ago he’d thought his life was just fine, but now he had this person in it who added color and laughter, one he had an amazing connection with, such as he’d never felt before, and he couldn’t remember what he did without her?

  He couldn’t imagine what the woman who never asked for help could need, but it didn’t matter. He’d do anything she needed. He got up and looked at Pita. “Behave.”

  She gave him a look that was a firm “maybe but probably not.”

  Shaking his head, he moved to the door.

  “Whoa,” Sass called from her desk in the next room over. “Whatcha doing?”

  “Gotta go.”

  “There’s a stack of stuff here for you to go over and—”

  “Gotta go,” he repeated.

  She searched his gaze a moment. “So it’s like that, is it?” She shook her head. “You poor bastard.”

  He drove to the Pacific Pier Building, parked, and walked through the courtyard.

  Eddie was standing by the fountain, watching the water. Someone had given him a down parka with fur hood and he looked warm and happy.

  “Found my cheer,” he said to Keane.

  Keane noted the flask in the guy’s hand and smiled. “Good.”

  “You find yours? Cuz I got some mistletoe if you need.”

  “I’m good,” Keane said. “But thanks.”

  “Understood.” Eddie nodded. “There can be a lot of trouble with mistletoe . . .” He paused. “Or women.”

  Amen to that . . .

  Keane took the stairs to Willa’s door—which was ajar.

  “Come in,” she yelled from inside.

  Frowning that she’d left her door not only unlocked but open, he walked in. Willa was high on a ladder next to the biggest tree he’d ever seen stuffed inside an apartment this size. She was looking festive and gorgeous in a short black skirt, black knee-high boots, and a bright red hoodie sweater snug to her every curve.

  He looked his fill, loving the way the skirt clung to the sweet curves of her ass, enjoying the look at her legs. He loved them best wrapped around him but this was a good view too.

  “I made a special holiday drink and I needed a taster,” she said, backlit by the strings of lights across her faux mantel. When she turned to face him, he got the full impact of her front view. The strings on her hoodie sweater were weighted by tassels that bounced around right at breast height, drawing his gaze there. Four words were embroidered across her chest—Dear Santa, Define “Naughty.”

  And Keane realized something else he loved about the sweater—she was braless.

  “What’s going on?” he asked.

was hoping to bribe you into helping me hang some decorations.”

  He laughed. “You’re putting up more decorations?”

  “You know, I can sense the sarcasm there but I’m going to ignore it.” Twisting, she met his gaze. “I’ve got some mistletoe.”

  This took his brain down Dirty Alley and he had to clear his throat to speak. “Your tree is different than the one you had before.”

  “That one’s in my bedroom now.”

  “How did you get this one up here?”

  “Archer helped me stuff it into the dumbwaiter.” She smiled down at him. “Thanks for coming.”

  “Anytime,” he said and realized he absolutely meant it. No matter that what was best for him seemed to be some distance, he still wanted in her life. He’d take whatever he could.

  They stared at each other some more and then started to speak at the same time. He had absolutely zero idea of what he’d been about to say, but Willa looked like she had no idea either so there was a beat of awkward silence. Then they both started again.

  Shaking his head, he pointed at her. “You first,” he said at the exact second she said the same thing.

  She started to laugh and shifted her weight and he had no idea how it happened, but in the next beat she was in free fall. He managed to catch her but they both went down.

  He landed flat on his back with her over the top of him, an elbow in his sternum, a knee uncomfortably close to his nuts.

  “Oh! Oh my God,” she cried, all aflutter as she pushed upright—using his gut for leverage. “Are you okay?”

  He wasn’t sure, a feeling he was starting to get used to when it came to her. Wrapping his hand around her leg, he cautiously moved it from the danger zone. Hoping to avoid any other damage, he caught her wrists and rolled, pinning her beneath him.

  There. His body was safe, she was safe, and maybe, just maybe, he was going to manage to keep his heart safe as well.

  But then she let out a throaty little “mmm” and spread her legs to make room for him between them.

  “Oh,” she breathed and then wriggled a little bit, making his eyes cross with lust. With a low laugh, he dropped his forehead to her shoulder.

  She was killing him.



  She gave him a little push.

  Thinking she’d come to her senses he shifted off of her but before he could get up she pushed again so that he fell to his back.

  And then she claimed the top for herself. “Mmm,” she said again.

  Stunned, he put his hands on her hips, his fingers digging in a little bit in a desperate attempt to get reined in. “You did that on purpose?”

  “No. Well not totally anyway.” And then her mouth swooped down and covered his in a kiss meant to annihilate every single operating brain cell.

  And it did.

  When they broke apart for air, she was sprawled over the top of him, her pretty breasts smashed into his chest, her forearms flat to the floor on either side of his head, her legs straddling his hips so that not even a sheet of paper could have fit between them.

  With a groan, he thunked his head onto the floor.

  She slid her hands under the back of his head to protect it and he slid his gaze to hers. “Willa, what are we doing?”

  She stared at him for a beat, chewing on her lower lip. “I was hoping it was obvious.”

  “Nothing with you is ever obvious.”

  “How about this—does this help?” She wriggled right over his erection and he groaned.

  “You don’t seem opposed,” she murmured.

  Hell no, he wasn’t opposed. But there was something in her eyes behind the hunger and desire, something just out of his reach, something she wasn’t saying. But before he could try to figure it out, she kissed him again, deeper, wetter, her sweet tongue chasing his. And either he’d just given himself a concussion or she was that good because he got lost in her. Given the breathy little pants and how her hands fought his for purchase on each other’s bodies, he wasn’t alone. She was just as lost as he.

  They rolled several more times, jockeying for the driver’s seat, but finally he pinned her to the floor, his hands once again capturing hers, a thigh spreading her legs, making himself at home as all his confusion about his feelings for her vanished. They always did when they were together like this.

  He wanted to believe that she felt the same, that maybe that was what she hadn’t been able to say, and he told himself she’d get there.

  “Keane,” she whispered throatily, arching to him. “Please . . .”

  Yeah. He intended to please. He’d please her until she cried out his name in the way she did when she came. It took less than two seconds to discover that she was indeed not wearing a bra and that her sweater was soft and stretchy, so much so that one tug exposed her perfect breasts.

  Another discovery—he was incapable of logic when he had her panting and writhing beneath him like this. He had a sweet, hard nipple trapped between the roof of his mouth and his tongue, and a hand inside her panties—where he discovered with a heartfelt groan just how into him she was—when one of their phones went off with the Muppets version of “Jingle Bell Rock.”

  “Ignore it,” he murmured into her mouth, his fingers slowly caressing her hot folds.

  She moaned out some wordless agreement and tightened her grip on his hair, doing her best to make him bald before his next birthday, and he could care less. Her panties were cutting into the back of his hand so he gave a quick tug and accidentally ripped them right off her. He stilled. “I’ll buy you more,” he said in apology. “I—”

  “I liked it,” she whispered.

  Oh Christ, he was such a dead man. Rearing up, he kissed her hard and then slid down her body, pushing her skirt up as he went, groaning at what he’d exposed.

  On the coffee table near his head, her phone buzzed again. He glanced over at it automatically, not meaning to invade her privacy. But then he saw the first line of the incoming text.


  Did the no-bra thing work on Keane?

  “What is it?” Willa murmured.

  He pushed off of her and came up on his knees. “You tell me.”

  She accessed the text and grimaced. “Well, crap.” She sighed and sat up. “Okay, so I realized that I wanted to see you but not to talk, and—”

  “And instead of being the promised grown-up about it and just telling me you were horny, you went back to high school and told your friends?” he asked.

  “Worse,” she said with a guilty wince. “I took advice from them on what to do.”

  He stood and stared down at her.

  “I know!” she said. “I’m sorry! But they’re deceptively sweet
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