The trouble with mistlet.., p.28
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       The Trouble with Mistletoe, p.28

         Part #2 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis

  don’t have the right to ask but I’m going to need you to pretend for Rory that we’re fine—”

  Keane didn’t answer. Instead, moving with the speed and agility of a caged leopard, he pressed her up against her desk. Then he sank his hand into her hair, tilted her face up, and crushed his lips to hers.

  And damn. All the swirling, boiling emotions abruptly shifted, turning into something else altogether. With a moan, she threw herself against him, almost knocking him right off his feet.

  He simply readjusted his stance and yanked her harder up against him. Somehow that worked for her and she continued to mindlessly climb him like a tree, desperate to get him even closer, her hands splaying across his strong, wide back. Which was how she felt the tremor wrack his body. She felt other things too, like how he was pressed up between her legs, hard and insistent.

  There wasn’t air for words, not then and not when he cupped and squeezed her ass in his big, callused palms.

  So hot. So perfect. So—

  The door opened.

  “Oh, sorry,” Cara said as she stuck her head in. “I just wanted to tell you I’m subbing for Lyndie today and . . .” She broke off at the look Willa gave her. “Okay, so they sent me back here to find out if you guys are fighting,” she admitted. “Rory wants to know.”

  Shit. “No one’s fighting,” Willa said, trying to be casual. “We’re just . . . discussing cat care,” she said, trying not to sound breathless or look as if she’d just had the daylights kissed out of her. “For Petunia.”

  Cara nodded. “Kitty care,” she repeated. “Got it. I’ll tell Rory.”

  When she was gone, Willa turned to Keane. “So about pretending to be fine for Rory . . .”

  He hit the lock on the door with one hand and hauled her back into him with the other, covering her mouth with his. He grabbed the string on the blinds to the courtyard window and lowered them, all without letting her mouth free. It was quite the feat really. She might have suggested they turn the light off too because there was plenty of light filtering in through the shades, but she knew that request would be futile.

  Keane liked the visuals.

  She broke the kiss. “You need to stimulate her,” she managed. “That’s important in kitty care.”

  Keane arched a brow.

  She gave a head jerk to the door, signaling that they were probably being eavesdropped on.

  He looked at her for a long beat, his eyes dark and unreadable. “Kitty care,” he repeated and before she could blink, he’d lifted her up and plopped her ass onto her desk and then stepped between her legs. His mouth was at her ear now, his voice so soft as to be almost inaudible. “You want me to stimulate your pussy.”

  She choked out a laugh and tried to shove free, but he tightened his grip. “You know that’s not what I meant!” she whispered. “Rory’s fragile right now and we have to make her feel safe.”

  “She is safe,” he said in her ear. “And so are you.” And then he smiled again, a very naughty smile as he raised his voice a little, to a conversational pitch. “Okay, so talk me through this . . . stimulation.” He pressed his mouth to her ear again, using his bad-boy voice in a barely audible whisper. “Tell me slowly, and in great detail.”

  She shoved him again but he still didn’t budge.

  “I miss your body wrapped around mine,” he said softly, serious now. “I need you wrapped around me again.”

  Her heart softened. There was a problem with this, she knew it way in the back of her head, but God help her, she couldn’t articulate anything with his hands on her to save her life. Tightening her fingers in his shirt, she tugged.

  He fell into her and his big body shook with laughter as he set a warm palm on either side of her hips and lowered his face to hers.


  “I know the rules now. This doesn’t mean anything, it’s just a one-time turned three-time thing, etc., etc. . . .”

  She snorted and he smiled. “Hush now, Willa,” he murmured, setting a finger over her lips. “Not a sound.” His hands slid into the back of her jeans to cup and squeeze her ass. She started to moan and Keane bit her lower lip.

  Right. Not a sound.

  But the brutal strength in his embrace had her breathless as she twined her arms around his neck, pressing her breasts against his chest, because if they didn’t get skin to skin in the next few seconds, she was going to spontaneously combust.

  Somehow he managed to wrestle her boots off. And then popped open her jeans. When he slid a hand between her legs and stroked her over her panties, she had a moment’s panic.

  “What?” he asked when she froze.

  “You have to promise not to look. I’m not in cute undies. In fact . . .” She grimaced. This was going to be embarrassing. “I’m wearing my ugliest ones. They’re my willpower panties. I wear them so I won’t show them to anyone. In this case, you. You’re the anyone.”

  He stared at her and then tossed his head back and laughed. He looked so utterly sexy she lowered her guard, which was how he got her jeans halfway down.

  “I know I’m totally sending mixed signals,” she managed. “But it’s not like I stopped wanting you—”


  “But . . .”

  He groaned. “It’s always the but that gets you.”

  “But,” she continued, needing to get this out. “I’m . . . a little mixed up—”

  He slid her a wry look. “A little?”

  She tried to close her legs, not easy with a hundred and eighty pounds of muscle standing between them.

  “Shh,” he said again, somehow both gentle and badass at the same time. “I’ve got you, Willa. I get you. For now, this works. You always work for me, however I can have you.”

  And on that emotionally stunning statement, he dropped to his knees, tugged her jeans the rest of the way off, and looked. And he took his sweet-ass time about it too. He was grinning when he rose to his full height again. “I like them.”

  “You’re a sick man,” she managed.

  “There’s no doubt,” he agreed and kissed her some more, until she was back to squirming, in the very best way now.

  “Hurry,” she murmured breathlessly against his mouth and together they freed each other’s essentials.

  And good God, there was nothing like Keane’s essentials . . . She was very busy filling her hands with him when his stubbly cheek rasped across her bare nipples and she nearly came on the spot. His mouth was everywhere, wild, fast, and she kissed him back as best as she could while still trying to get him inside her.

  He laughed low in his throat but before she could kill him for that, he managed to drop to his knees again and get his mouth on her.

  A minute ago he’d been in a huge rush and she still was, but now he held her down and took his time driving her insane with his tongue, and when she lost it, when she began to come, he rose up and covered his mouth with hers, swallowing her cry as he protected them both and then thrust inside her.

  Their pace was frantic, desperate. Hungry. It didn’t matter how many times they were together like this, Keane never failed to steal the very air from her lungs. She felt herself come again, or still . . . she had no idea. With Keane it was always one endless and erotic beat in time.

  When she could finally see and hear again, she realized his face was snuggled into the curve of her neck, his breath puffing against her skin like a soft caress. One hand was drifting up and down her back, slowly, gently, helping her to calm, his other hand cupping her jaw, his thumb on her lips reminding her to be quiet.

  Oh, God. Had she been quiet? She couldn’t remember!

  He grinned and she bit his finger. Hard.

  Laughing softly, he straightened and then helped her off the desk. Her damn knees wobbled and he tightened his grip, pulling her into him, cuddling her into him.

  She felt his lips brush her temple, and his hand stroked the hair from her eyes. Then that hand took hers and brought it to his mouth. She could feel
the warmth of his breath on her skin and the gesture felt so . . . intimate, even more so than having him buried deep inside her. “That was . . .” She paused, searching for the right word.

  “Kitty care at its finest?”

  She tried not to laugh and failed. “Keane,” she said softly. “What the hell are we doing?”

  He slowly shook his head. He didn’t know either. “I just needed to see you,” he said simply.

  “And I needed to see you,” she said. “But what does it mean?”

  “That you needed me bad.”

  She choked on another laugh.

  “You don’t think so?” He turned and lifted up his shirt. He hadn’t refastened his jeans so they were sagging a little, enough to reveal the ten fingernail indentions, five on each perfect butt cheek.

  She slapped her hands over her eyes in tune to his soft laugh.

  Great. He was invigorated by sex and she . . . well, she’d lost another chunk of her heart. She straightened her clothes, swearing when she couldn’t find her panties. Being a sex fiend was getting expensive.

  Keane came close and buttoned up her top for her, his hands lingering to cup her face, gently tilting it up to his for a soft kiss. “Okay,” he said. “Tell me. Tell me what you want me to know. Do you still need space? Because I’m thinking eight to nine inches should do it.”

  She huffed out a soft laugh and rubbed her temples. “It’s just that when we do this”—she gestured vaguely at her desk—“it makes me feel things. More each time.”


  She tipped her head back and stared at the ceiling as she let out another low laugh. She felt his hands slide up and down her arms.

  “Willa, look at me.”

  She hesitated because she knew damn well she got lost in his eyes every time, but she did meet his gaze.

  “You get that you’re not alone in this, right? I’m right here in this with you, and just as unnerved by what’s going on.”

  She shook her head. “Are you? Because you seem so at ease with it. You move in and out of the intimacy without even blinking an eye, like it’s not hitting you.”

  He studied her for a long beat. “You think I don’t have emotions?”

  “I think you’re better at managing them than I am.”

  “You’ve got to have faith,” he said. “In me. In us.”

  “That’s hard for me.”

  “So are you ending this then?”

  “No.” Her stomach quivered at just the thought. “No,” she said again more firmly and actually clutched at him.

  “Okay,” he murmured, pulling her in, holding her tight. “Okay, I’m not going anywhere.”

  She was too choked up to do anything more than nod as she sought comfort in his embrace for a long moment before pulling back, making sure they were both decent.

  “I’m not going to pretend anything,” he warned her when she turned to the door. “Not even for Rory. Don’t ask me to.”

  She shook her head. “I won’t.”

  Her entire crew was hanging close by, clearly trying to eavesdrop. When they saw her, they all scattered wildly.

  Except for Elle, who studied Willa for a long beat and then Keane.

  Willa ignored her the best she could and gestured for Keane to make his escape. Instead, he came close to her and kissed her. Not a deep kiss but not a light one either. It was the kiss of a man staking his claim. When he lifted his head, the barest hint of a smile crossed his lips. “Still your ball and your court,” he said.

  And then he walked away from her without looking back.

  When Willa finally got home that night, she had a raging headache from the thoughts she’d managed to block all day. A raging headache and some deep gouges courtesy of an extremely pissed-off cat who’d been brought in for grooming after a run-in with a rose bush.

  The cat had been so wild that Willa had refused to let Rory or anyone else work on her, which meant she’d handled the situation alone.

  And had paid the price.

  Rory had wanted to treat Willa’s deep scratches but Willa had told her she was fine.

  But really, she was as far from fine as she could get.

  Feeling much more alone than she could remember feeling, she strode through her dark apartment without bothering with lights. Outside, rain was battering the building and inside, all she wanted was a PB&J sandwich—triple-deckered—and her bed. She was halfway through making the sandwich when she was driven crazy by her leaky kitchen faucet. “Shut up,” she told it.

  Drip. Drip. Drip.

  Dammit. She used to love being alone. When had she stopped loving it?

  Drip. Drip. Drip . . .

  “Fine. I’ll shut you up myself,” she muttered and crawled under the sink with a wrench. She gave the loose bolt a twist and then screeched in shock and surprise when icy water burst all over her.

  Sputtering indignantly, she sat on her kitchen floor and stared down at herself.

  She was a mess.

  Fitting, given her day. Refusing to cave to it and lose her collective shit, she was back at spreading peanut butter when she heard a knock at her door. Because it was past midnight and that kind of a night, she brought the knife with her to look out the peephole. Her good parts tingled and she told them to shut up too.

  Keane stood on her doorstep looking dark as the wet, cold night and just as dangerous.

  Chapter 27


  Keane hadn’t been able to fall asleep to save his life. Feeling oddly weighted down, he’d gotten up to run, figuring pushing himself to exhaustion should straighten his shit out.

  As he pounded the sidewalks, he ticked off the positives in his life. One, his great-aunt Sally was back in her rehab facility and doing well. She’d even left him a message for a change, telling him that an old friend had offered to take Pita off his hands. Two, his real estate agent was officially accepting bids for the Vallejo Street home over the next week.

  He was in a good place. Hell, he was in a great place, so he should be over the moon.

  He wasn’t. None of it felt right.

  Not giving up Pita. Not selling the Vallejo Street home. Not giving Willa space to figure her shit out, none of it worked for him on any level.

  He ran harder, until his muscles quivered with exhaustion. And that’s when he’d realized he’d ended up in front of Willa’s building.

  The simple truth was that he’d been drawn here like a moth to the flame. He loved her smile, loved her laugh, loved the way she made him do both of those things with shocking regularity. He loved the way she brought him out of himself, not letting him take himself too seriously. He loved . . . everything. Absolutely everything about her.

  She opened to his quiet knock and he drank in the sight of her; hair wild, eyes flashing bad temper, her shirt drenched and just sheer enough that she could have won any wet T-shirt contest the world over.

  She looked him over as well. “A water pipe spray you too?” she asked.

  “No, I’ve been running.”

  “On purpose?”

  He was surprised to hear himself laugh. “Can I come in?”

  “Sure,” she said so agreeably that he was suddenly suspicious.

  “So what do you know about plumbing?” she asked.

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