The trouble with mistlet.., p.29
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       The Trouble with Mistletoe, p.29

         Part #2 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis
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  “Everything.”

  “Then you’re my man,” she said. “I’ve got a leaky faucet you can fix.”

  He was so tired he could hardly hold himself up. “Now?”

  “I tried to fix it myself and nearly drowned.” She waved at herself with a knife that looked like it’d been dipped in peanut butter. “I had a shitty afternoon and evening, and all I wanted was a PB&J and some sleep, but the drip-drip-dripping is killing me . . .”

  Since she sounded far too close to tears for his liking, he wrapped his hand around her wrist to stop her from waving her knife around. “I’ve got it,” he said quietly and then took her knife because he might be a sucker when it came to her, but he wasn’t stupid.

  He shut and locked the door and moved past her into the kitchen. The makings of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich sat on the counter. There was water all over the floor and the cabinet beneath the sink was open. “You could have called me,” he said.

  “I know how to fix a damn leaky sink for myself.”

  He might have argued that she didn’t or they wouldn’t be having this conversation but he’d had a long day too, extremely long, and he wasn’t that far behind her in the bad-mood department. Eyes gritty with exhaustion, he grabbed the wrench and went to work.

  It took him two minutes. He set the wrench aside and still flat on his back, took a look at Willa.

  She was sitting on the counter licking peanut butter off her thumb with a suction sound that went straight to his favorite appendage. “Done,” he said, voice a little thick as he got to his feet and moved to stand in front of her.

  “So it’s not going to drip all night, forcing me to kill it?” she asked.

  “There’s no killing on your to-do list tonight.”

  She sighed deeply. “Thanks,” she said softly. “Really.”

  “You’re welcome. Really.” He stepped in closer so that her knees pressed against his thighs.

  She fisted her hands in his shirt and tried to tug him closer but he resisted.

  “I want my eight to nine inches,” she whispered.

  Somehow he managed to resist. “I need a shower, Willa.”

  She tugged harder. “Not for me you don’t.”

  “I ran over here, so yes I do.”

  She choked out a laugh. “And they call me stubborn and obstinate.” She stared at him and her smile faded as she slowly dragged her teeth over her bottom lip. “I can’t sleep,” she murmured.

  Her hair was in her eyes. Her mascara was smudged. Her shirt was still wet and she shivered as she pressed close, and again he had to hold her off. “Careful, I’m all sweaty.”

  “Don’t care.” She snuggled into his chest and when she tilted her face to his, it was the most natural thing in the world to kiss her. She tasted like peanut butter and heaven.

  “Why can’t you sleep?” he asked against her lips.

  “I was grooming a geriatric cat and got complacent but she taught me. She got my back and shoulder pretty good trying to claw her way out of town and it’s all burning like I’m on fire, which means I’ll have to sleep on my left side or my stomach and I’m a right-side sleeper.” She huffed out a sigh, then sucked in a sharp breath and flinched away from his hands as he tried to turn her away from him to get a look. “No, it’s fine—”

  Ignoring her protests, he put his hands on her hips and forced her to turn, and then began to peel her shirt gently upward.

  “Seriously, I—”

  He stopped short at the sight of the raw, red, angry gouges deep across her back and shoulder. “Willa, these have to be cleaned.”

  “I know, I will.” She tried to pull her shirt back down, but he held firm and then finally just pulled the thing over her head, tossing it across the room.

  “Keane!” she gasped, crossing her arms to cover herself, trying to turn to face him, but he held her in place while he surveyed the wounds.

  “First aid kit?”

  “Hall linen closet,” she said.

  He went to hunt down the supplies he needed and when he came back, she hadn’t stayed. Shock.

  He found her in her bathroom, holding a towel to her breasts, twisting, trying to see the gouges in the mirror.

  The curve of her bare back was smooth and delicate, and so damn sexy to him. He wanted to run his hands down her spine to her ass, bend her over and—

  The fantasy was cut short when she reached to touch one of the scratches and winced in pain.

  “Hold still,” he said and went to work.

  She didn’t speak while he cleaned the scratches. She didn’t breathe either it seemed, but by the end her muscles were quivering, giving away her pain. Leaning forward, he placed his lips at the base of her neck.

  A sigh shuddered out of her as she let her head fall forward, giving him better access, and he was a goner.

  “Keane . . .”

  “Tell me to go and I will,” he whispered against her beautiful skin and then it was him holding his breath, waiting on her response.

  Willa turned to face Keane, and caught the same hunger and desire on his face that she knew was all over hers. Going up on tiptoe, she gently brushed her mouth over his. “Don’t go.”

  With a rough groan rumbling from his chest, he carefully wrapped her up in his arms and took control of the kiss. And oh God, how he kissed her, like she was the sexiest woman on the planet. It was addicting.

  He was addicting.

  When they were both breathing like lunatics, he raised his head. Eyes dark on hers, he ran his fingers along her temple, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, letting his thumb brush her jaw, her lower lip.

  Melting into him she closed her eyes, but that only made it seem all the more intimate, the way their bodies had sought each other out, pressing close.

  Around them, her apartment was still dark beyond the kitchen, the rain drumming against the side of the building the only sound.

  Except for her accelerated breathing.

  Because she had no idea if she’d fooled him even a tiny bit but she could no longer fool herself. This wasn’t just sex.

  “Willa.”

  She dragged her eyes open, raising her eyes to meet his, hoping he couldn’t see the truth in her expression. Something dark and unreadable moved deep in his eyes but she didn’t want to go there. Instead she took his hand to lead him to her bedroom.

  But he stopped her. “Shower,” he said firmly and turned on the hot water.

  “But—”

  “Don’t worry, I give good shower.”

  He had them both stripped down to skin in a blink and nudged her into the hot, steamy water. Soaping up his hands and running them all over her body, he proved his statement.

  He was good in the shower.

  Twice.

  When she was sated and shaking from the aftermath, he propped her up against the tile wall and quickly and efficiency washed himself up. Just watching him, she got hot and bothered all over again.

  When he caught her staring at him like a voyeur, he smiled. “See something you like?”

  “You know I do.” She reached for him, but he turned off the water, dried her off first, and then finally allowed her to drag him off to her bed. She tried to push him down to the mattress but he took her with him so that they tumbled together in a tangle of limbs. Wordlessly he rolled her beneath him, his mouth on hers for a deep, bruising kiss.

  She wasn’t the only one feeling desperate tonight.

  He had her stripped of her towel in a blink and she pressed herself close to all those hard, hot muscles she hadn’t gotten enough of. Wasn’t sure she could get enough of.

  Slowing her down, Keane let his hands roam, heating every inch of her skin until she was begging for more. When he finally rose above her and thrust in deep, the world stopped.

  He made her look at him and that was new for her. Eyes open. Heart open.

  New and terrifying.

  And in that moment, she knew the truth. She’d fallen irrevocably, irreversib
ly in love with him.

  Closing her eyes against the onslaught of emotion, she tried to take it all in. His scent. The rough rumble of his sexy groan. The way his arms banded around her, one hand fisted in her hair, the other at her hip holding her, grounding her so that she could let go of everything but this. Because he had her.

  He always had her.

  Remember, she told herself desperately, remember how his body felt thrusting into hers, his muscles clenching, his skin hot under her hands. “Keane,” she whispered, his name falling from her lips without permission.

  He groaned, and knowing he was close she wrapped her legs around him and met his thrusts with an intensity of her own, forcing her eyes to meet his, reaching one hand to lay flat against his chest, needing to feel the beat of his heart.

  Afterward, she lay pressed against him, feeling her pulse pounding, thinking that had been the most real, most erotic experience of her life. “Thanks for tonight,” she whispered.

  His huff of laughter brushed her temple. “No, thank you.”

  “I meant for the plumbing rescue,” she said. “I didn’t want to need you to come in and wave your magic wand and fix my life.”

  “Babe, I didn’t wave my magic wand until after I fixed the plumbing.”

  She lifted her head and stared at him in disbelief. “Did you really just say that?”

  His mouth twitched. “Trying to avoid having a deep, meaningful conversation that probably won’t end well for me. Thought charm might help.”

  “That wasn’t charm, that was pure cheese.”

  He smiled. “But you laughed. I love your laugh, Willa.”

  She felt herself soften. “You’re changing the subject.”

  “Trying,” he said and rolled off the bed. Bending to his jeans, he began to pull on his clothes.

  “Are you leaving?”

  “Yes.”

  “Are you tiptoeing around my crazy and trying not to crowd me, or are you running away as fast as you can?”

  He gave a low laugh and grabbed his phone off her nightstand.

  He really was leaving. She got up and wrapped her arms around him from behind. “Keane.”

  Turning, he met her gaze. “I’ll never run from you.”

  This stole her breath and she just stared up at him.

  He stared back. Not exactly patient, but one hundred percent attentive and willing to hear whatever she said next.

  “I’m just in deeper than I meant to be,” she said softly.

  “And again, you’re not alone there.”

  Her heart squeezed. “I don’t know what any of this means, what to feel.”

  “I know.” He pressed his jaw against the side of hers. “I’m trusting you to figure it out and get back to me.”

  “Do you know?”

  “I’m getting there,” he said, as always brutally honest and unapologetic.

  A part of her was deeply grateful for that. But another part of her was terrified because she was pretty sure she knew too.

  It was just that her heart had two speeds: asleep or foot-to-the-metal. She’d been in relationships where she’d gone full throttle, feeling some of what she felt like when she was with Keane. Excited. Happy. Alive. Except that in each of those relationships, she’d been the only one all in. And then she’d stayed all in, past the warning signs. Past the recommendation of her friends. Past logic and common sense.

  And she’d been burned.

  Oh so burned.

  “Willa.” Keane’s voice was as heartbreakingly gentle as his hands, which came up to her arms. “Don’t rush yourself, not for anyone and especially not for me.” That said, he kissed her, a devastatingly perfect kiss.

  And then he was gone.

  Chapter 28

  #TheTribeHasSpoken

  Willa woke up on Christmas Eve morning with her toes frozen. So was the rest of her. She thought about how much nicer it’d have been to be wrapped around Keane’s big, warm body right about now.

  And not just to climb him like a tree, but because she didn’t like mornings. Because she thought that with him in bed with her, looking at her in that way he did that said she was the prettiest, smartest, funniest, sexiest thing he’d ever seen, she might learn to like waking up after all.

  It was just that he had a way of making her feel special. Like she mattered. Really mattered. When she was with him, she felt like a better version of herself. So why the hell did she need space again? The answer was simple.

  She didn’t.

  She blinked at the ceiling. Wow. She really was in love with him. And damn, if she’d only figured that out last night, he might still be here.

  With a sigh, she sat up in bed and checked her phone. Shockingly, there was nothing. No missed calls, no texts.

  Nothing.

  She set the phone in her lap as an odd emotion drummed through her, one she couldn’t put words to.

  Liar. She had words, several of them. She was feeling unnecessary because no one had needed her.

  She swiped her finger over the screen of her phone and let her thumb hover over Keane’s name. “Don’t do it,” she whispered to herself. “Don’t . . .”

  But then her finger swiped. “Whoops,” she said to the room.

  Keane answered her FaceTime call wearing sweatpants and nothing else, and her breath stuttered in her chest. His hair was wet and she could only imagine how delicious he smelled.

  He took in the shirt she was wearing and his eyes darkened.

  “You left your T-shirt here,” she said and then bit her lower lip. “I slept in it.”

  His smile went hot. “Commando?”

  “Yes,” she admitted. “You owe me a trip to Victoria’s Secret, by the way.”

  “I’ll buy you whatever you want, and also thinking of you without panties is making me hot.”

  “Everything makes you hot,” she said.

  “True story.” He cocked his head and studied her. “So whatcha doing up so early? Making a list, checking it twice? Tell me it’s full of your deepest, darkest sexual fantasies.”

  She choked on a laugh. “No!” Then she bit her lower lip, but the question escaped anyway. “Do you have a list of fantasies?”

  “Absolutely,” he said, no hesitation.

  She blinked. “About . . . me?”

  He just looked at her, eyes molten-lava hot, and she felt herself go damp. “Written down?”

  He tapped the side of his head. “All in here, babe.” He smiled. “Unless you want me to write them down. We could mix our lists up and take turns picking out one at a time, and—”

  “You want to act out our fantasies together?” she squeaked.

 
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