Home > The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(9)

The Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay #2)(9)
Jill Shalvis

“Listen,” he said completely honestly. “I’m the guy who needed a fur-sitter because he was terrorized by a ten-pound cat, so I’m not throwing stones here. Speaking of which, where is the little holy terror?”

“She’s in my shop safe and sound with plenty of food and water, napping in the warmest spot in the place—between Macaroni and Luna.”

He must have looked blank because she said, “The two other pets I’m babysitting today. Well technically Cara, one of my employees, is doing the babysitting at the moment.”

“I hope you aren’t attached to those other pets,” he said. “Because Pita will tear them up one side and down the other.”

Willa merely laughed and pulled her phone from one of her apron pockets, a few dog treats cascading out as well, hitting the cobblestone beneath their feet.

With an exclamation, she squatted down to scoop them up at the same time that Keane did, cracking the bottom of his chin on top of her head.

This time they both fell to their butts.

“Ow!” she said, holding her head. “And I’m so sorry, are you okay?”

He blinked past the stars in his vision. “Lived through worse,” he assured her, and reached out to gently rub the top of her head. Her hair was soft and silky and smelled amazing. “You?”

“Oh, my noggin’s hard as stone, just ask anyone who knows me,” she quipped.

Their gazes met and held and he realized that their legs were entangled and was struck by the close proximity and the unbidden and primal urge he had to pull her into his lap.

Clearly not on the same page, she picked up her phone and went back to thumbing through her pics. “Ha,” she exclaimed triumphantly. “Here.” She leaned in to show him her phone’s screen, her arm bumping into his. When he bent closer, her hair brushed against his jaw, a strand of it sticking stubbornly to his stubble.

“See?” she asked.

He blinked away the daze she’d put him in and realized she was showing him a pic of the front room in her store. And just as she’d said, there in front of a holly-strewn fake mantel lay a huge pit bull and a teeny-tiny teacup . . . piglet. Entwined.

Between them was a familiar-looking white ball of fluff with the black face of his nightmares. And that nightmare’s face was pressed trustingly to the pit bull’s. For a long beat Keane just stared at it. “Photoshop, right?” he finally asked. “Just to fuck with me?”

She laughed, and he found himself smiling at just the sound. But soon as he did, her amusement faded, almost as if she’d just reminded herself that she didn’t like him. Standing, she turned away. “Well, finally.”


“Archer and Spence are here.”

“The dogs?”

“No, two of my best friends.”

“I met your best friends,” he said. “They were the ones who watched our conversation this morning like we were a Netflix marathon, right?”

“I have a whole gang of BFFs,” she said. “Archer and Spence are on wedding security detail tonight.” The cell phone on her hip rang. She looked at the screen and swore.

“The antichrist committed murder, didn’t she,” he guessed.

“No, of course not! I’ve got a cake emergency.”

“Well I can’t compete with that. Go ahead,” he said. “I’ll build the dog archway.”

She hesitated. “It has to be perfect.”

Keane had built houses from the ground up and she was questioning his ability to put together an archway. For dogs. “Cake emergency,” he reminded her.

“Shit. Okay . . .” She looked at him very seriously. “Do you need any help?”

He stuck his tongue in his cheek. “I’m pretty sure I can handle it.”

Looking torn, she blew out a sigh. “Okay, if you’re sure. And . . . thanks.”

He merely waved Ms. Doubtful One off, though he wasn’t above watching her rush away. Yeah, his gaze locked on her sweet ass in those snug skinny jeans tucked into some seriously kickass boots. He was still watching, neck craned to catch the last of her as he turned back to his work and . . . nearly plowed into two guys standing there shoulder to shoulder staring at him. The two who Willa had pointed out as Archer and Spence.

Neither spoke.

“So . . . you guys here for the bride or the groom?” Keane asked.

No one blinked.

“It’s a joke,” Keane said. “Because the groom and the bride are dogs. See, it’s funny.”

Neither smiled.

“Tough crowd,” he muttered.

“We’re here for Willa,” one of them said. The bigger, more ’tude-ridden one, who looked like he’d seen the darker side of the world and maybe still lived there. The other guy was leaner but just as fit, his eyes assessing Keane with careful interest.

“Hey.” This was Willa herself, yelling from the other side of the courtyard’s fountain. “Play nice!” She pointed at her two friends. “Especially you two.”

Spence and Archer busted out sweet-looking smiles for her and added cheerful waves. Then the minute she turned away, they went back to deadpan staring at Keane.

“Okay, great talk,” he said. “I’m going to build this dog gazebo now. You can either stand there or give me a hand.”

The bigger guy spoke. “The last guy she went out with played games with her head.” His tone was quiet, his gaze direct and steady.

The other guy, clearly the more easygoing of the two, nodded. “They never did find the body, did they?”

The other guy slowly shook his head.

Okay then. “Good to know,” Keane said lightly but suddenly he was feeling anything but light. He didn’t like the thought of anyone screwing with Willa. Still fixated on that, he turned his back on her bodyguards and got to work. When he straightened to hoist the arch, suddenly there were four extra hands—both guys lending their strength to the cause.

Still not talking.

After that they were apparently a threesome and recruited as such to be the official setting-up-chairs committee. One hundred and fifty chairs to be exact.

For a dog wedding.

The three of them were hot and sweaty in no time even with the cold December air brushing over them.

“At least it’s easier than that time she made us help her do that South Beach wedding, remember, Arch?” the leaner guy asked, giving Keane his first clue on which was Archer and which was Spence.

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