Spence’s words evoked a picture in his mind of what it had been like for Willa, leaving the foster-care system at age eighteen without anyone to take care of her. “She’s got someone now,” Keane said, surprising himself.
Archer shot again and sank the last of his balls. “Big loser, my ass.” He pointed at Spencer. “You owe me fifty bucks. And also, if you keep opening your trap about Willa, she’s going to kick your ass.” He turned to Keane. “You mean what you just said? About Willa having someone now?”
Keane opened his mouth but nothing came out. Until this very moment he’d truly believed that a no-commitment policy was the best thing for him. No, wait. That wasn’t exactly true. He’d been doubting his policy for a while now. Since Willa had plowed her way into his life.
He just had no idea what to do with that realization.
Spence laughed quietly at the look on Keane’s face. “Give him a sec, man. I think he just shocked himself more than us.”
Truer words . . . “I’ve gotta go,” Keane said.
“Nice job,” Archer muttered to Spence. “You scared him off.”
“Nah, that guy can’t be scared off. He’s as bullheaded stubborn as you are. And hell, you still can’t even admit what you feel for Elle, so . . .”
Keane didn’t hear the rest of that thought because he walked out of the pub into the chilly night. He hit the stairwell and climbed to the fourth floor, not stopping until he was in front of Willa’s door.
With absolutely zero idea of what he thought he was doing.
She opened after his knock wearing a tiny pair of flannel plaid PJ shorts just barely peeking out from beneath a huge hoodie. “Hey,” she said and then frowned. “What’s wrong?”
Not wanting to get into his aunt being in the hospital or his epiphany about Willa herself, he shook his head. “Nothing. Is it still girls’ night? Are you guys having a pillow fight?”
“No,” she laughed. “Pru wasn’t feeling good. We cut it short before we even got to dinner.”
Keane had learned to tell her mood by her hair. The wilder the strands, the wilder her emotions, but tonight her hood was up, falling over her forehead with the words I Solemnly Swear That I Am Up to No Good across it. “Sorry you got stuck with Petunia,” he said.
“Oh, I didn’t mind.” She turned from him to look for the cat, or so he assumed, and saw the words Mischief Managed written across her sweet ass, making him realize the sweatshirt and shorts were a matched set. Nudging her aside, he let himself in.
Her place didn’t surprise him. He’d seen her shop and he’d had an idea that her home would somehow look the same, cutesy and colorful.
“Mischief managed?” he asked.
She blinked like he’d surprised her. “You know Harry Potter?”
“Well, not personally,” he said and smiled. “But I read the books.”
“You mean you saw the movies?”
“No, I mean I read the books.”
She didn’t look happy about this. Color him completely lost. “And that makes me . . .?”
She moaned and closed her eyes. “Bad for me. Oh so bad for me!”
Yeah, still lost. “Can I be bad for you over dinner?” he asked. “Because I’m starving.”
Her eyes flew open and she stared at him.
He had no idea what she was thinking. “Are you hungry?” he asked.
“I’m always hungry. But it’s getting late.”
“And . . .” She looked boggled. “Lots of reasons.”
“Okay . . . Well, it’s nearly Christmas. And Christmastime is usually for dear friends and family.”
He just looked at her, not buying any of that.
“Keane,” she said softly.
Was he going to tell her about his epiphany about wanting more from her? Hell no. One, he had no idea what that more was. And two, assuming he could figure that out, he then had to convince her to feel the same. No wonder he’d lain low on love. This shit was hard. “You told me family is where you make it,” he said. “You told me your friends are your family. You told me we’re friends. Was any of that a lie?”
“No, but . . .” She looked at him beseechingly. “I’m trying to resist you here, okay? I’m trying to tell myself we have nothing in common except this weird and extremely annoying chemistry that won’t go away, not even when we . . .”
He went brows up, really wanting to hear her finish that sentence.
“Okay, when I jumped your bones on the roof,” she finished, eyes narrowed, daring him to laugh. “But then you show up at my door, clearly exhausted and rumpled and looking . . . well, hungry, and it makes me want to do things.”
“Things like . . .?”
“Take my clothes off. Okay? You make me want to take my clothes off.”
He started to smile but she poked him again. “Don’t say it,” she warned. “Don’t you dare say that me stripping works for you.”
“But, Willa, it does work for me. You stripping will always work for me.”
This earned him an eyeroll. “Shock,” she said. “But friends don’t do that. They don’t, Keane,” she said when he opened his mouth. “And I was going to be okay with that. But then you went ahead and told me you’ve read Harry Potter.” She hesitated and considered him. “Which one?”
“All of them.”
She covered her face and moaned miserably. “All of them,” she muttered. “I’m a dead woman. You’ve just killed me dead.”
“I read a lot,” he said, trying to improve his odds. “Not just Harry Potter.”
“Making it worse . . .” She dropped her hands from her face. “Why are you here again?”
“To pick up Pita.”
“And to thank you for watching her.” He paused. “With a meal because I’m starving and I want to buy you dinner. You look like the very best thing I’ve seen all day long, Willa. Can I tell you that without a disagreement?”
She eyeballed him for a long beat. “Dinner where?”
He bit back his victory smile. “Your choice.”