“I especially like the cell-phone-ping thing,” Keane said.
She laughed a little. “I don’t actually know if that’s a thing. I saw it on Criminal Minds once and it stuck with me.”
“Nice.” His voice was warm and approving. “Now forward the text to the cops like you said.”
She grimaced. “I was actually just fibbing about that part. But I did promise Archer I’d let him take care of it personally if Ethan contacted me again. Archer used to be a cop and he hasn’t lost any of his skills.” She craned her neck and met Keane’s gaze. “I think he’s been really looking forward to this.”
“Good. Forward the text.”
Okay then. She forwarded the text to Archer. “Feel better?” she asked as her phone buzzed with Archer’s immediate response:
On it. Don’t worry.
“Yeah,” Keane said. “I feel better.”
They left the house, with Willa giving it a final look back as they walked out to his truck. It felt a little silly to fall for a house but that’s what she’d done.
Keane drove to the Embarcadero. It had a view that eclipsed any other place in the city, at least in Willa’s opinion. They walked along the water and stopped to take in the heart-stopping view of the bay.
“Thought we’d eat here,” Keane said of the Waterfront Restaurant behind them.
She hesitated. “When you said ‘let’s get some food,’ I thought we’d get a burger or a taco,” she said. “I don’t think I’m dressed for this.”
He let his gaze run over her, taking in her sweater and skinny jeans. She’d need to lose ten pounds before she could get anywhere even close to skinny.
“I like what you’re wearing,” he said. “You’re beautiful.”
This actually left her speechless.
“And anyway, I’m hungry for more than just a quickie.”
She stared at him. “Is that a double entendre?”
“Actually, it might have been a triple entendre.”
She laughed and looked at the restaurant front. She’d walked by the place enough times, always drooling over the great view and menu, but she’d never actually been inside.
Turned out, the food was fantastic.
And so was the company, dammit.
As they ate, they watched the moon hang above the water. A salty breeze brushed through the outside patio, mingling with the warm air coming out of the standing heaters beside every dining table.
It was unexpectedly . . . romantic. So much so that she had to keep reminding her hormones to take a chill pill, not that they listened. She was far too attracted to Keane for her own good. He was smart, funny, sexy . . . At some point she came up with the brilliant idea to concentrate on what she didn’t like. “Why aren’t there any holiday decorations up at your place?” she asked.
“Because you bought out all the decorations in the entire city.”
Okay, so she had to laugh at that. “Elle thinks my shop looks like Christmas and New Year had a baby who threw up on everything.”
He smiled and she thought bingo, something else she didn’t like about him—he didn’t appreciate her admittedly obsessive need to celebrate the holidays, supersize style.
“It could’ve been worse,” he said. “I didn’t see Santa himself represented anywhere in your shop.”
“He’s coming soon,” she admitted. “I’m doing a Santa Extravaganza. Customers bring their pets in to be primped and then can get into a photo booth with Santa.”
“Nice. Love your entrepreneurial spirit.” He smiled. “So do you go nuts for all the holidays or just Christmas?”
Because the question was genuine and there didn’t seem to be any sense of mocking in his dark gaze, she answered with more honesty than she’d intended. “Yes, all the holidays. It’s a holdover from when I was a kid and didn’t always get to celebrate them.”
His smile faded as he looked at her and she suddenly developed a fascination with her last sip of wine.
“Parents not into the holidays?” he asked.
She shrugged. “My dad got himself killed while hunting with his buddies when I was two. My mom was young when she had me, too young. She’s . . . not really cut out for parenting.”
An understatement. She’d gotten better over the years, enough to call and check in once in a while.
And ask for money.
Keane slid his hand to hers on the table and gently squeezed her fingers. “I’m glad you treat yourself to the holidays then. So does Father Time come on New Year’s?”
“No,” she said on a laugh and then admitted the rest. “But Cupid comes on Valentine’s Day.”
He stared at her and then burst out laughing, a sound she was all too quickly becoming addicted to. Damn. She quickly wracked her brain to come up with more things she didn’t like about him. Such as he seemed unwilling—not incapable, which would’ve been different, but unwilling—to get attached to Petunia. Also, he clearly didn’t fully appreciate her holiday decorating skills. And then there was the fact that he kissed like sex on a stick—No, wait. That was a pro not a con.
“How about you?” she asked. “What’s your take on holidays?”
“I don’t have a reason as good as you do for going one way or the other,” he said. “I was a late-in-life unhappy surprise to a couple of college professors who’d already raised two daughters. They were really into their work. Holidays got in the way of that work.”
Well that sounded lonely. And sad. “So you didn’t get to celebrate much either?” she asked, suddenly feeling . . . small. Back in school she’d judged him for being a jock, when maybe sports had been all he’d had.
And if that thought didn’t open up a whole big can of worms . . .
“No, not much celebration at the Winters’s house,” he said. “And you didn’t want my pity, Willa, so don’t you dare give me any. I didn’t know any different. It didn’t bother me.”
“But . . .” She swallowed the rest of that sentence because he was right. He’d treated her pride with respect and she needed to do the same. “Do you all keep in touch?”