Home > The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(6)

The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(6)
Jill Shalvis

She’d stayed up late working on the tuxes her client wanted the poodles to wear. Yes, tuxes. Just because she was in on the joke that South Bark Mutt Stop made more money on tiaras and weddings and gimmicks than actual grooming or supplies didn’t mean she couldn’t take the wishes of her clients seriously.

And hey, who knew, maybe if she ever got pets of her own other than the fosters she sometimes took in, and if she had more money than she knew what to do with, she might want a wedding for her dogs too. Although she sincerely doubted it. In her world, love had always been fleeting and temporary—sort of the opposite of what all the pomp and circumstance of a wedding conveyed.

Still, game to believe in lasting love as a possibility, at least for others, Willa dropped the giant poodle faux tux front over her own head and looked in the mirror. “What do we think?”

“Very cute,” Pru said. “Now jump up and down and do whatever it is dogs do to make sure it holds up.”

Willa jumped up and down like she was a dog in a show, holding her hands out in front of her, wrists bent as she hopped around to get the full effect of the tux. The girls were all still laughing when someone knocked on her front door.

Once again it was ten minutes before nine and in mid–dance step Willa stilled, experiencing a rush of déjà vu. The look on everyone’s faces confirmed what she needed to know. Still, she slowly turned to the door hoping she was wrong.


Not wrong.

Keane Winters stood at the door, watching her.

“Perfect,” she said, her dignity in tatters. “How much do you think he saw?”

“Everything,” Elle said.

“You should get the door,” Pru said. “He looks every bit as hot as Rory said, but he also looks like he’s in a rush.”

“I’m not opening the door,” Willa hissed, yanking off the tux front. “Not until you guys go. Go out the back and hurry!”

No one hurried. In fact, no one so much as budged.

Keane knocked for a second time and when Willa turned to face him again, he went brows up, the picture of gorgeous impatience.

“Well, honestly,” Pru said. “Do men learn that look at birth or what?”

“Yes,” Elle said thoughtfully. “They do. Willa, honey, don’t you dare rush over there. You take your sweet-ass time and make sure to swipe that panic off your face and smile while you’re at it. Won’t do you any good to let him know he’s getting to you.”

“See,” Willa said to Haley and Pru. “At least one of you isn’t influenced by dark, knowing eyes and a darker smile and a pair of ohmigod-sexy guy jeans.”

“Okay, I didn’t say that,” Elle said. “But I’m not so much influenced as curious as hell. Get the door, Wills. Let’s see what he’s made of.”

“He just saw me dancing like a poodle,” she said.

“Exactly, and you didn’t scare him off. He’s got to be made of stern stuff.”

Willa sighed and headed to the door.

Again Keane held the pink bedazzled cat carrier, which should have made him look ridiculous. Instead it somehow upped his testosterone levels. His sharp eyes were on her but they turned warm in a way that melted her right through her center as she moved toward him. She stopped with the glass door between them, hands on hips, hoping she looked irritated even if that wasn’t quite what she was feeling.

His gaze lowered from her face to run over her body, which gave her another unwelcome rush of heat. Dammit. Now she was irritated and aroused—not a good combo.

His mouth quirked at the saying on her apron that read Dear Santa, I Can Explain.

Drawing a deep breath, she opened the door. “You’ve got Petunia again. I hope that means your great-aunt Sally isn’t still sick.”

He looked surprised that she’d remembered his aunt’s name, or that she’d care. “I don’t know,” he said a little gruffly. “She left me a message saying that I was in charge for the rest of the week but for two days now Pita’s been happily destroying my jobsite. I’m throwing myself on your mercy here. Can you help?”

Wow. He must be really desperate since he was actually asking and not assuming. But since Petunia was a sweetheart, she knew she’d do it.

“I’ll even tell you where I went to high school,” he said, adding a smile that was shockingly charming.

Wow. He hadn’t lost his touch when it came to turning it on. “Not necessary,” she said, painfully aware of their audience.

Keane’s attention was suddenly directed upward, just above her head. She followed his line of sight and found a sprig of mistletoe hanging from the overhead display of small, portable doggy pools. Mistletoe? What the hell? She glanced behind her and what do you know, suddenly Rory and Cara were a flurry of movement racing around looking very, very busy. “When did the mistletoe go up?” she asked them. “And why?”

“FOMO,” Cara said from behind the counter.

“Fear of missing out,” Rory translated. “She was hoping a hot guy would come in and the mistletoe would give her an excuse.”

Willa narrowed her eyes and her two soon-to-be-dead employees scattered again.

“Interesting,” Keane said, looking amused.

“I’m not kissing you.”

His mouth curved. “If you take Pita for the day, I’ll kiss you.”

“Not necessary,” she said, gratified no one could see her heart doing the two-step in her ears. “I’ll take Petunia for the day. No kiss required or wanted.”

Liar, liar . . .

Keane stepped inside. And because she didn’t step back far enough, they very nearly touched. His hair was a little damp, she couldn’t help but notice, like maybe he’d just showered. He smelled of sexy guy soap, a.k.a. amazing. He wore faded jeans with a rip along one thigh and another long-sleeved T-shirt with SF Builders on the pec, so her guess that he was in construction seemed correct.

He also was covered in cat hair.

From right behind him one of her regulars came in. Janie Sharp was in her thirties, had five kids under the age of ten, worked as a schoolteacher and was continuously late, harried, exhausted, and desperate.

Today, her three youngest were running around her in circles at full speed, screaming as they chased each other while Janie held a fishbowl high, trying to avoid spilling as she was continuously jostled. “I know,” she yelled to Willa. “I’m early. But I’ll have to kill myself if you don’t help me out this morning.”

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