Home > The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(7)

The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(7)
Jill Shalvis

This was a common refrain from Janie. “As long as you don’t leave your kids,” Willa said. Also a common refrain. At the odd sound from Keane, she glanced over at him. “She’s only kidding about killing herself,” she said. “But I’m not kidding about her kids.”

Janie nodded. “They’re devil spawn.”

“Names?” Keane asked.

Janie blinked at him as if just seeing him for the first time. Her eyes glazed over a little bit and she might’ve drooled. “Dustin, Tanner, and Lizzie,” she said faintly.

Keane snapped his fingers and the kids stopped running in circles around Janie. They stopped making noise. They stopped breathing.

Keane pointed at the first one. “Dustin or Tanner?”

“Tanner,” the little boy said and shoved his thumb in his mouth.

Keane looked at the other two and they both started talking at once. He held up a finger and pointed at the little girl.

“I’m an angel,” she said breathlessly. “My daddy says so.”

“Did you know that angels look out for the people they care about?” Keane asked her. “They’re in charge.”

The little girl got a sly look on her face. “So I getta be in charge of Tan and Dust?”

“You look out for them.” He turned his gaze on the two boys. “And in turn, you look out for her. Nothing should happen to her on your watch, ever. You get me?”

The two boys bobbed their heads up and down.

Janie stared down at her three quiet, respectful kids in utter shock. “It’s a Christmas miracle come early,” she whispered in awe and met Keane’s gaze. “Do you babysit?”

Keane just smiled and for a moment, it stunned the entire room. He had a hell of a smile. One that brought to mind hot, long, deep, drugging kisses.

And more.

So much more . . . “No,” Willa said and took Janie’s fishbowl. “You’re not giving your kids to a perfect stranger.”

“You got the perfect part right,” Janie murmured and shook it off. “Okay, so we’re going to Napa for an overnight. Can I leave you Fric and Frac?”

“Yes, and you know I’ll take very good care of them,” Willa promised and gave Janie a hug. “Get some rest.”

When Janie was gone, Keane went brows up. “Fish? You board fish?”

“Babysit,” she corrected, eyes narrowed. “Are you judging me?”

He shook his head. “I just brought you the cat from hell. I’m in no position to judge.”

She gave a rough laugh and his gaze locked on her mouth, which gave her another quick zap of awareness.

“Thanks,” he said. “For taking Pita today. It means a lot.”

From behind the counter came a low “aw” and then a “shh!” that had her sending her friends a “shut it” look.

Keane swiveled to look too but as soon as he did, Elle, Pru, and Haley suddenly had their heads bowed over their phones.

Rory came through carrying another case of feed and took in Willa and Keane’s close proximity. “Nice,” she said. “I’m happy to see you came to your senses and gave up the no-men decree.”

Willa narrowed her eyes.

“Oh, right,” Rory said, slapping her own forehead. “Keep that to yourself, Rory. Almost forgot.”

Keane slid Willa an amused look. “No-men decree?”

“Never you mind.” She set the fishbowl on the counter and reached for Petunia. “You know the deal, right?”

“You mean where I pay double for being an ass and you pretend not to like me?” He flashed a lethal smile. “Yeah, same terms.”

“I meant be here before closing.” She sighed. “And I’m not going to bill you double.”

His smile turned into a grin. “See? You do like me.”

And then he was gone.

Willa turned to her friends and employees, all of whom were watching him go.

“That’s a really great ass,” Pru said.

“I agree,” Haley said. “And I don’t even like men.”

Willa shrugged. “I didn’t notice. I don’t like him.”

Everyone burst out laughing.

“We’d correct you,” Elle said, still smiling, “but you’re too stubborn and obstinate to see reason on the best of days and I don’t think this is one of those . . .”

Yeah, yeah . . . She narrowed her eyes because they were still laughing, clearly believing she was totally fooling herself about not liking Keane.

And the worst part was, she knew it too.

Chapter 3

#BahHumbug

Keane Winters was used to crazy-busy and crazy-long days. Today in particular though, thanks to subcontractors not doing what they’d been contracted to do and the weather going to hell in the way of a crazy thunderstorm that intermittently knocked out electricity. And let’s not forget the time-and-money-consuming detour to replace his phone and laptop thanks to his aunt’s cat. At least she looked like a cat but Keane was pretty sure she was really the antichrist.

His phone buzzed and he dropped his tool belt to pull it from his pocket. One of his guys had sent him a link from the San Francisco Chronicle.

Keane Winters, one of this year’s San Francisco’s People to Watch, is a self-made real estate developer on the rise . . .

He supposed the self-made part was true. Currently in the middle of flipping three properties in the North Bay area, he’d been putting in so many hours that his core team was starting to lag. They all needed a break, but that wasn’t happening anytime soon.

Winters specializes in buying up dilapidated projects in prime areas and turning them into heart-stopping, must-have properties. He doesn’t find any use for sentimentality, ruthlessly selling each of them off as he completes them.

Also true. Financially, it didn’t pay to hold on to the projects. There’d been a time not that long ago when he’d had to sell each off immediately upon completion or end up bankrupt. And yeah, maybe he’d lucked into that first deal, but there’d been no luck involved since. He was a risk taker and he knew how to make it pay off. As a result, he’d gotten good at burying sentimentality, not just with the properties he developed, but in his personal life too.

And as far as that personal life went, he’d been walking by South Bark after getting his coffee every morning for months and it’d never once occurred to him to check out the shop. He hadn’t had a dog since Blue, who he’d lost the year before he’d left home, and he sure as hell wasn’t in a hurry to feel devastated from loss like that again anytime soon.

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