Sweet little lies, p.34
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       Sweet Little Lies, p.34

         Part #1 of Heartbreaker Bay series by Jill Shalvis

  anything including sexy smoldering glances, hot body parts, nothing.


  Especially not with Keane Winters, thank you very much. Which would make this easy because she didn’t board animals for the general public anyway. Yes, she sometimes boarded as special favors for clients, a service she called “fur-babysitting” because her capacity here was too small for official boarding. If she agreed to “babysit” overnight as a favor, she had to take her boarders home with her, so she was extremely selective.

  And handsome men who’d once been terribly mean boys who ditched painfully shy girls after she’d summoned up every ounce of her courage to ask them out to a dance did not fit her criteria. “I don’t board—” she started, only to be interrupted by an unholy howl from inside the cat carrier.

  It was automatic for her to reach for it, which Keane readily released with what looked to be comic-like relief.

  Turning her back on him, Willa carried the carrier to the counter, incredibly aware of Keane following her through her shop, of the way he moved with an unusually easy grace for such a big guy.

  The cat was continuously howling now so she quickly unzipped it, expecting the animal inside to be dying, given the level of unhappiness it had displayed.

  The ear-splitting noise immediately stopped and a huge Siamese cat blinked vivid blue eyes owlishly up at her. She had a pale, creamy coat with a darker facial mask that matched her black ears, legs, and paws.

  “Well, aren’t you beautiful,” Willa said and slipped her hands into the box.

  The cat immediately allowed herself to be lifted, pressing her face into Willa’s throat for a cuddle.

  “Aw,” Willa said softly, involuntarily. “It’s all right now, I’ve got you. You just hated that box, isn’t that right?”

  “What the ever-loving hell,” Keane said, hands on hips now as he glared at the cat. “Are you kidding me?”


  He scowled. “My great-aunt dropped her off with me last night. Sally’s sick and can’t care for the cat right now, so I’m up.”

  Okay, so that was a pretty nice thing he was doing but she refused to let that soften her any further.

  “The minute my aunt left,” Keane said, “this thing went gonzo.”

  Willa looked down at the cat, who gazed back at her, quiet, serene, positively angelic. “What did she do?”

  Keane snorted. “What didn’t she do would be the better question. She hid under my bed and tore up my mattress. Then she helped herself to everything on the counters, knocking stuff to the floor, destroying my laptop and tablet and phone all in one fell swoop. And then she . . .” He trailed off and appeared to chomp on his back teeth.

  “She . . .?” Willa prompted.

  “Took a dump in my favorite running shoes.”

  Willa did her best not to laugh out loud and say “good girl.”

  “She’s just upset to be away from home and probably missing your aunt. Cats are creatures of habit. They don’t like change.” She spoke to him without taking her gaze off the cat, not wanting to look into those eyes that didn’t recognize her because she might be tempted to pick one of the tiaras displayed on her counter and hit him over the head with it. “Will your aunt be taking her back soon?”

  “Tonight if there’s a God,” he said.

  “What’s her name?” she asked.

  “Petunia, but I’m going with Pita. Pain in the ass.”

  Willa stroked along the cat’s back and Petunia pressed into her hand for more. Then she began to purr, the sound low and rumbly, her eyes slitted with pleasure as Willa continued to pet her.

  Keane let out a breath as the purring filled the room. “Unbelievable. Tell me the truth, you’re wearing catnip as perfume, right?” he asked.

  She raised an eyebrow. “Is that the only reason you think she’d like me?”

  “When it comes to that antichrist?” he asked. “Yes.”

  Okay then. Willa opened her mouth to end this little game and tell him that she was too busy today to board anything, but she looked into Petunia’s deep-as-the-ocean blue eyes and felt her heart stir. Crap. “Fine,” she heard herself say. “If you can provide proof of rabies and FVRCP vaccinations, I’ll take her for today only.”

  “Thank you,” he said with such genuine feeling, she glanced up at him.

  A mistake.

  His dark eyes had warmed considerably. “Do you always wear X-rated headbands?” he asked, gesturing to her head.

  She’d completely forgotten she was wearing it. “It’s not what you think,” she informed him and resisted the urge to yank it off and throw it at him. “It’s reindeer antlers.”

  “Whatever you say.” He was smiling now, the rat fink bastard. At her expense, of course.

  “My name’s Keane,” he said. “Keane Winters.”

  He waited, clearly expecting her to tell him her name but she hesitated. If she told him and he suddenly recognized her, he’d also remember exactly how pathetic she’d once been. And if he didn’t recognize her then that meant she was even more forgettable than she’d thought and she would have to throw the penis headband at him after all.

  “And you are . . .?” he asked, rich voice filled with amusement at her pause.

  You know what? What the hell. “Willa Davis,” she said and watched him very carefully.

  But there was no change in his expression whatsoever. Forgettable then—and she grinded on her back teeth.

  “I appreciate you doing this for me,” he said.

  Uh huh. She had to consciously unclench her teeth to speak. “I’m not doing it for you. I’m doing it for Petunia,” she said, wanting to be crystal clear. “And you’ll need to be back to pick her up before closing.”

  Five extremely long minutes later he’d filled out the required form, provided the information she needed after a quick call to his aunt, and—with one last amused look at her reindeer antlers, aka penis-headband—walked out the door.

  Willa watched him go.

  “Are you looking at his ass?” Rory asked, coming to stand next to her, casually sipping her coffee as she handed over Willa’s.

  Yes, she was looking at his ass. To her eternal annoyance, it was a pretty great one too. How unfair was that? The least he could have done was get pudgy. “Absolutely not.”

  “Well then, you’re missing out,” Rory said.

  “He’s too old for you.”

  “He’s twenty-nine. What,” she said at Willa’s raised brow. “So I looked at his driver’s license and did the match, that’s not a crime. And anyway, you’re right, he’s old.”

  “Hey. I’m only a few years behind him you know.”

  “Yeah well, you’re old too,” Rory said and flashed a grin.

  The equivalent to a declaration of love.

  “And anyway,” the girl went on. “For the record, I was noticing his ass for you.”

  “I gave up men, remember? It’s who I am right now.”

  “Who you are right now is a woman imitating a chicken, but hey, if you want to let your past bad judgment calls rule your world and live like a nun, you’ll get no argument from me.”

  “Gee,” Willa said dryly. “Thanks.”

  “But I reserve the right to question your IQ. I hear you lose IQ points when you get old. Maybe you should start taking that Centrum Silver or something.”

  Willa threw the penis headband at her but she, being a youngster and all, ducked in time.

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