Home > Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)(12)

Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)(12)
Jill Shalvis

He was surprised at the question. “Because I have a car and you don’t?”

“I have a car, it’s just being fixed,” she said. “And . . . I’m not going home yet. I’ve got some things I want to do in the tat shop.” Liar, liar, pants on fire. What she wanted was another heart-stopping kiss. And then there was the 90 percent of her that wanted to invite him home and jump him. Okay, make that 75 percent because she couldn’t remember if she’d shaved her legs that morning. Or what kind of undies she had on.

Caleb walked her and Lollipop to the courtyard and seemed to be planning on escorting her all the way to the Canvas Shop. “You don’t have to walk me to the door,” she said.

“I want to.” He looked at her and smiled. “Afraid you won’t be able to resist me?”

“No.” Yes . She went for nonchalant, but on the inside she was trying not to collapse from the look of desire that crossed his face as they got to the door. He slowly slid one arm around her waist and pulled her into him as he cradled her head with his other hand. He lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her with a tenderness she’d never before experienced.

When the kiss ended, she just stared at him. “Still don’t know what that is.”

He didn’t look concerned as he kissed her once more, not gently this time. She was panting when he pulled free and turned to go.

“Are you serious?” she asked his back. “You’re just going to leave it like that?”

He faced her. “Like what?”

Unbearably turned on. And she could see he was too, hard for a man to hide it. “You could come in,” she said, the words escaping her before she could stop them. “Everyone’s gone for the night.”

He walked back to her and her heart skipped a beat at the thought of what was going to happen now. And when he kissed her again, deeper this time, it was so good that she heard herself moan.

But then he pulled back again. “Not yet,” he said.

She gaped at him.

One of his thumbs stroked over her bottom lip. “You haven’t decided if you like me or not,” he said and then he dropped his hands from her, bent to kiss Lollipop on top of her snout, and walked off.

“And what does me liking you have to do with anything?” she asked and heard his low laugh as he vanished.

Damn. Her heart was still pounding, body aching for things she was absolutely not going to give in to. Ever. The ratfink bastard. “It was definitely insanity,” she whispered to Lollipop. “Temporary insanity.”

Chapter 10

#WhatAboutSadie

A week later, Sadie was sitting in the bridal shop on the ground floor of the Pacific Pier Building listening to her mom, her aunt Thea, and her older sister, Clara, go on and on—and on and on—about Clara’s upcoming wedding.

The shop was new and tastefully decorated. The owner of the shop, Addie, was actually a client of Sadie’s. She’d tattooed over some scars Addie had wanted to not have to look at anymore.

Sadie had recommended the shop to Clara, but now she felt a little sorry for Addie, who was stuck dealing with the chaos that was the Lane family women.

“Sadie, are you even listening?” her mom asked.

“Of course.” She totally wasn’t listening. She was eating from a big bag of salt and vinegar chips and daydreaming about the way Caleb had kissed her against the Canvas Shop’s door last week. No, wait, she’d kissed him. She’d kissed him and it’d been . . . She shook her head, still dizzy from the feel of his mouth on hers.

It’d been a-maz-ing.

Every time she thought about it, she got a hot flash. Either she was going through the change of life at twenty-eight, or she had it bad.

Neither option appealed.

So she stuffed another chip into her mouth and went back to daydreaming about how it’d felt to be hauled up against Caleb’s hard body, his hands gripping her like he didn’t want to let her go, and his mouth, God that mouth—

“Well then?”

Sadie jumped a little and glanced up at Clara, who was in her bridal gown looking . . . well, white. And perfect as always.

A seamstress and Addie, as well as Sadie’s mom and aunt, fluttered around the bride, all of it reflecting back at Sadie, the sole audience, through the six huge floor-to-ceiling mirrors in a half circle around the bride-to-be.

“Yes or no?” her mom asked Sadie.

“Um . . .” She’d zoned out thinking about Caleb and wondering why she’d been stupid enough to avoid being alone with him for a long week. To stall, she made a show of looking around. “Anyone have ranch dip? No? Maybe a margarita?”

Her mom sighed. “Will you be serious for once?”

“I am serious. I’m starving.”

“You keep eating those chips and we’ll have to order up a size when we order your bridesmaid dress.”

Addie sucked in a little breath of shock, but managed to say calmly, “We don’t size-shame here.”

“It’s okay,” Sadie told her. “I’m fairly un-shameable.” And that was true. For the most part, the things her well-meaning family said didn’t get to her. Except for once in a great while, in the deep, dark of the night when she lay in bed, replaying every stupid thing she’d ever done instead of sleeping, including stress-eating a big bag of chips so that her yoga pants—which had never seen an actual yoga class—became too tight.

With a sigh, she set aside the chips and carefully picked off a few crumbs and those too so as to not make a mess. The gesture made her miss Lollipop, who had turned out to be a great companion and a most excellent vacuum cleaner.

For the past seven days she and Caleb had been co-parenting the adorable three-legged dog by handing off custody each day, the time varying depending on whether or not she worked at the spa. It’d been shockingly easy. This morning Caleb had picked up Lollipop early, leaving Sadie without a buffer between her and her family at the moment.

Not ideal.

But she smiled at the memory of Caleb dropping to his knees to hug Lollipop hello, laughing softly at the sight of several lip gloss kiss prints that Sadie had inadvertently left all over the dog’s face. “Lucky dog,” he’d murmured and something had quivered deep inside Sadie as their eyes had met and held.

And she’d had to admit to herself that she wouldn’t have minded having her mouth on that square scruffy jaw.

Or on his lips . . .

“Helloooooo!” Clara went hands on hips, accidentally dislodging the seamstress off the platform. “Bride here! Can you or can you not can see nipplage through this dress?”

Sadie looked over her sister’s perfect store-bought C’s. “Yep, but if it helps, it’s pretty nice-looking nipplage.”

Her aunt Thea gasped as if personally affronted.

“Oh my God.” Clara slapped her hands over her breasts.

“No worries,” Addie said quickly. “We carry some strapless bras for just this very thing. We can sew it right into the dress.” She produced one quickly and Clara sucked in a breath at the price tag of one hundred bucks.

“It’s fine,” her mom said. “We don’t put a price on hiding our nipples.”

While the bride worked on getting herself into the bra, her mom looked around. “Now. What about Sadie?”

Sadie froze with a chip halfway to her mouth, realizing the question was the refrain of her entire life in three words.

What about Sadie?

Once upon a time this would have sent her spiraling. But she’d learned to accept herself.

Mostly.

Clara turned her attention from her reflection to Sadie. “Did you pick out which style of bridesmaid dress you like yet?”

“Whichever you want me to wear,” Sadie said.

“I want you to pick.”

Sadie glanced at the rack of bridesmaid dresses that they’d all already gone through. She loved Addie, she really did, but none of the dresses were her style. “Today’s about you. I’ll come back to do that another time.”

Clara shook her head. “We’ve shopped around for months. Why can’t you just pick one?”

“I don’t know,” Sadie said. “Why do bras cost a hundred bucks and dresses cost a gazillion dollars and yet men’s shirts come in a plastic pack of four for ten bucks? Just another of life’s little mysteries.”

“Do you have any new tattoos you’ll have to hide with your dress?” Aunt Thea asked.

Since the subject of Sadie’s tattoos had long been a bone of contention, everyone stilled.

“Well, I’m just saying,” Aunt Thea said. “They’re pretty permanent, you know.”

“And you have four kids,” Clara said in Sadie’s defense. “Those are pretty damn permanent too.”

“It’s okay,” Sadie said, not wanting this to turn into a fight. “I’ll wear whatever you guys want.”

Her mom sighed.

Sadie knew that sigh. It was the martyr sigh. The one that said Sadie was being difficult again. And since she wasn’t actually trying for difficult, she gave a peace offering. “Really. Whatever you guys want, I like them all.”

At this, her sister snorted. “No, you don’t. You hate big fancy weddings and all the craziness that goes with them.”

“And yet you made me a bridesmaid.”

“Hey, you should be thanking me for not making you maid of honor. Can you just pick the dress that you hate the least?”

Since Sadie wasn’t a fan of taffeta or satin, not to mention weddings in general, she wasn’t sure that was possible, but for Clara, she’d try. “Are you sure you don’t have a favorite yourself?”

Addie gently piped in here, clearly trying to be helpful. “Usually, a bridesmaid really wants to have a say in what she wears—”

“Oh, that’s just Sadie,” her mom said. “Don’t bother pushing her, she doesn’t care. You could tell her the world was coming to an end tomorrow and she wouldn’t care about that either.”

Sadie stuffed another chip in her mouth. She’d heard her mom say this before, many times. It wasn’t accurate, it wasn’t even close to accurate, but she could see how her mom had gotten there, since when it came to the Lane family, Sadie was the Which-Of-These-Things-Is-Not-Like-The-Others.

And she got it, she really did. She’d grown up in a very normal middle-America-type existence. A suburban home complete with white picket fence, two parents and a sister who’d happily played soccer, taken gymnastic lessons, and been a Girl Scout.

And then there was Sadie, the square peg that couldn’t fit into the round hole to save her own life. Growing up, she’d preferred being alone with a sketch pad and a pencil to sports, clubs, or birthday parties. She’d been quiet, and when spoken to by anyone she didn’t know, she’d come off as sullen and uninterested.

The uninterested part might have been true. But she had always felt so out of place in her own skin and hadn’t known how to express that. She’d used her art when she could, drawing in secret, refusing to allow anyone to see her work.

Complicating her existence was the fact that she also didn’t look like anyone in her family. Her parents and sister were tall and lanky lean. They ate like birds and exercised to within an inch of their regimented lives.

And that was great. For them.

But Sadie had never been lanky lean, not from day one, no matter how she ate or exercised. Nothing changed the fact that she was . . . well, curvy. And fighting it by restricting her food intake and exercising herself half to death for way too many years had only made her hate life.

Her parents had not known what to do with her. She’d been fourteen when they’d sneaked a peek into one of her sketch pads and found some drawings she’d done of a teenage girl wielding a knife, and they’d freaked out. Her mom had contacted a psychologist, Sadie’s school, and practically the National Guard.

This had put her on near lock-down with little to no privacy allowed. They might as well have cut off her hands because drawing had been her only outlet. Once that had become monitored, she’d started a new secret thing, one she could control. The only thing she could control.

Cutting.

And when that had been discovered two years later, her parents had institutionalized her. The nightmare had lasted only a few weeks, but to this day it’d been the worst, darkest time of her life.

She’d come a long way since then, but it’d been a learning curve. These days she didn’t care much about what people thought. And that alone was the reason she was still here. She didn’t live to make people happy, even if those people were her own family.

Needing a quick bout of happy at the moment, she pulled out her phone and brought up her pics, specifically the one from this morning when Caleb had come to pick up Lollipop. She’d run on her three legs right for him and taken a flying leap. The pic was live, showing Lollipop hitting Caleb’s chest and then his arms coming around the dog, but it was the smile on both man’s and dog’s face that caught her.

“What are you smiling at?” her mom asked, sitting next to her. “Who’s that?”

Sadie had played aloof so long she’d almost started to believe it about herself, but the truth was, there wasn’t anything aloof about how she felt about the dog. She was starting to come to terms with the fact that she felt a whole hell of a lot for the man too. Or at least certain parts of her did. “No one,” she said and slipped her phone away.

Her mom opened her mouth to press, but Addie interrupted and cemented a place in Sadie’s heart for it.

“How about this dress for you?” Addie asked. “It’d suit you.” She was holding up a long lacy bridesmaid dress that was actually pretty except for the fact that it was pink. But at least it was pale pink, almost a champagne color, and who didn’t like champagne . . . “This is the right color, yes?” she asked Clara.

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