Home > The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(8)

The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(8)
Jill Shalvis

Or ever.

But then his great-aunt Sally had dropped off Pita and he’d met the sexy owner of South Bark. Keane had no idea why Willa seemed irritated by the mere sight of him, but he felt anything but irritated by the sight of her. He thought maybe it was her eyes, the brightest green eyes he’d ever seen, not to mention her temperament, which appeared to match her strawberry blonde hair—way more strawberry than blonde.

He walked through the top floor of his favorite of his three current projects, Vallejo Street. The other two—North Beach and Mission Street—were purely strategic business decisions and would go right on the market the minute he finished them.

Buy low, renovate smart, sell high. That’d been his MO, always.

But the Vallejo Street house . . . He’d picked up the 1940 Victorian for way too much money five years ago on the one and only whim he could remember ever having. But he’d taken one look at the neglected old house and had seen potential in the three-story, five thousand square feet, regardless of the fact that it’d been practically falling off its axis.

Since then, he’d had to get into other projects fast and hard to recoup the lost seed money, and had worked on Vallejo Street only as time allowed.

Which was why it had taken so long to get it finished, or very nearly finished anyway. For the past year, the bottom floor had been serving as his office. He’d been living there as well. All that would have to change when he got it on the market, something he needed to do, as selling it would give him the capital for new projects.

He walked to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows and looked out. The day’s light was almost gone. The city was coming to life with lights, backdropped by a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay beyond that.

“Dude.” This from Mason, his right-hand guy, who stood in the doorway. “We need to get the guys in here this week to help work on the loft since you and your little height phobia can’t—Are you listening to me?”

“Sure,” Keane said to the window. He could see the Pacific Pier Building and pictured Willa in her shop wearing one of her smartass aprons, running her world with matching smartass charm.

Someone snorted. Sass. His admin had come in too, and no one cut through bullshit faster than Sass.

“He’s not listening to me,” Mason complained.

“Not a single word,” Sass agreed.

Keane’s phone beeped his alarm. “Gotta go,” he said. “I’ve got ten minutes to pick up Pita before South Bark closes.”

“I could go get her for you,” Sass offered. “What?” she asked when Mason’s mouth fell open. “I offer to do nice stuff all the time.”

“You offer to do nice stuff never,” Mason said.

“All the time.”

“Yeah? Name one,” Mason challenged.

“Well, I wanted to smack you upside the back of your head all day,” she said. “And I resisted. See? I think that was exceptionally nice.”

Keane left while they were still arguing. It would take him less than five minutes to walk to South Bark but Pita wouldn’t appreciate the chilly walk back, so he drove. Parking was the usual joke, so that by the time he got a spot twenty minutes had gone by.

He walked through the courtyard, taking a moment to admire the gorgeous architecture of the old place, the corbeled brick and exposed iron trusses, the large picture windows, the cobblestone beneath his feet, and the huge fountain centerpiece where idiots the city over came to toss a coin and wish for love.

All of it had been decorated for the holidays with garlands of evergreen entwined with twinkling white lights in every doorway and window frame, not to mention a huge-ass Christmas tree near the street entrance.

But that wasn’t what stopped him. No, that honor went to the wedding prep going on. Or at least he assumed it was a wedding by the sheer volume of white flowers and lights, the ivory pillar candles set up in clusters paired with clove-dotted oranges and sprigs of holly running along the edge of half of a very crooked archway—

He stopped short as it fell over.


The woman who yelled this had strawberry blonde hair, emphasis on strawberry.

Willa squatted low over the fallen pieces of the archway trying to . . . God knew what.

“Shit. Shit, shit, shit,” she was muttering while shaking the hell out of the screw gun in her hand. “Why are you doing this to me?”

“It’s not the screw gun,” he said, coming up behind her. “It’s operator error.”

She jerked in response and, still squatting, lost her balance and fell to her butt. Craning her neck, she glared up at him. “What are you doing creeping up on me like that?”

He reached a hand down to her and pulled her to her feet. And then grinned because she was wearing another smartass apron that read OCD . . . Obsessive Christmas Disorder.

With a low laugh for the utter truth of that statement, he took the screw gun from her.

“It’s broken,” she said.

He inspected it and shook his head. “No, you’re just out of nails.” He crouched, reaching for more from the box near her feet to reload the screw gun.

Since she was still just staring at him, he turned his attention to what she’d been doing. “You realize that this archway is only going to be three feet high, right?”

“That’s perfect.”

“In what universe is that perfect?” he asked.

“In the dog universe. It’s a dog wedding.”

That had him freezing for a beat before he felt a smile split his face.

She blinked. “Huh.”

“What?” Did he have chocolate on his teeth from the candy bar he’d inhaled on the way over here, the only food he’d managed in the past four hours?

“You smiled,” she said, almost an accusation.

“You’ve seen me smile.”

“Not really, not since—” She cut herself off and took the gun from him. “Never mind. And thanks.”

“There’s really going to be a dog wedding? Here, in the courtyard?” he asked.

“In less than an hour unless I screw it all up. I’m the wedding planner.” She paused as if waiting for something, some reaction from him, but he managed to keep his expression even.

“You’re not going to laugh?” she asked. “Because you look like the kind of guy who would laugh at the idea of two dogs getting married.”

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