So of course Rory let them in. “Watch out,” her soon-to-be-dead employee said to her best friends. “She’s not fully caffeinated and I think she’s also had a lot of sex.”
Willa choked again. She glared at everyone, but her best friends were in possession of more muffins and coffee, so she held out her hands. “Gimme.”
Pru handed everything over. “Sorry I had to bail on girls’ night, but I’m feeling much better.” She studied Willa’s face, head cocked. “Hmm. Keane’s good. He even got rid of the stress wrinkle between her eyes.”
“Wow,” Haley said, peering in close to see for herself. “You’re right. Sex works better than that ninety-buck wrinkle lotion we all bought that doesn’t work worth shit.”
Willa glanced at Elle, who was standing there quietly assessing the situation. “I’m going to need you to say something here, Elle. You know, be your usual voice of reason so I don’t murder anyone.”
“There’s no Netflix in prison,” Elle said.
“Okay, that’ll do it, thanks.”
Elle tipped her coffee to Willa’s in a toast of solidarity.
Willa drank her coffee and let out her biggest fear. “Am I being stupid? Letting another guy in? Is this a mistake?”
“Is he as good a guy as he seems?” Pru asked.
Willa thought about it. “He doesn’t like cats and yet he’s taking care of Petunia. He’s financially taking care of his sick aunt even though he barely knows her. He’s got an incredibly demanding career going but he always makes time for me. And . . .”
“What?” Elle pressed quietly when Willa broke off.
“He makes me feel good,” she said. “Special.” She felt a little ridiculous even saying it and her face heated.
But Elle smiled and it was the kind of smile that reached all the way to her eyes. Rare and beautiful. “Well then,” she said, squeezing Willa’s hands. “There’s your answer.”
“But I think I blew it,” Willa said. “He stayed over last night and I woke up and . . .”
“Panicked,” Elle said helpfully.
Willa blew out a sigh and held up her finger and thumb about an inch apart. “Maybe just a very little bit.”
Elle held up her own two hands, two feet apart. “Or a lot.” She looked at Willa. “I still don’t get why you can’t just enjoy a hot man and hot sex. You can always bail when and if it fizzles out.”
“But what if it doesn’t fizzle?” Willa asked. “What then?”
“You enjoy it,” Elle said gently.
Right. Why hadn’t she thought of that?
“What did you do?” Haley asked. “Kick him out?”
“Worse,” Elle said, looking amused.
Willa put her hands to her hot cheeks. “I ran out of my own place like the hounds of hell were on my heels.”
Haley bit her lower lip.
Pru didn’t have the same decorum. She didn’t bother to try to keep her laugh in; she let it out and in fact almost fell over she was laughing so hard.
Elle shook her head. “I tried to tell her—never leave a hot man alone in your bed.”
Well, technically he hadn’t been still in bed when she’d left but why had she left again? Willa honestly couldn’t remember her justifications for that, which left the only possible answer.
She was running scared and that just plain pissed her off about herself. Since when was she a scaredy-cat? She hopped off the counter, pointing at Pru. “You’re off today?”
“You’re officially an employee. Rory will tell you what to do. We’re having a big sale and she’ll need extra hands on deck. I’ll be back!”
“But why me?” Pru called after her.
“Because you laughed the hardest.”
“Well, shit,” Pru said.
It was still early when Keane got out of his truck, jogged up the stairs to the Vallejo Street house, and quietly shut the door behind him. Coast clear. All he had to do now was get up the stairs to his shower without being seen and—
“Whoa,” Sass said from behind him.
“Mas!” she yelled. “Come look at this.”
Keane turned to face her, eyes narrowed.
She smiled sweetly as she looked at her watch. “How nice of you to show up for work today. We’ve been calling you.”
“I’ve been busy.”
She ran her gaze down the length of him and came to a stop at his bare feet. “Where are your shoes? Under her bed?”
Actually, they were in the Dumpster, not that he was about to tell Sass that. He thrust out Petunia’s carrier. “Take this,” he said. “I’m going to shower. I’ll meet you in the office for the morning meeting in ten—”
Someone knocked on the door and grateful for the interruption, Keane hauled it open.
Willa stood there chewing on her lower lip, looking a little bit unsettled that he’d opened the door so quickly.
He didn’t know why he was so surprised. She’d been surprising him continuously from the moment she’d let him into her shop that first morning three weeks ago now and saved his ass by taking Pita.
“Hey,” she said quietly. “I—” She broke off and looked beyond him.
Keane turned and realized that Sass was watching avidly. Mason walked into the foyer as well, eyes on his phone as he spoke. “It’s about damn time, boss. You ignored my calls all morning—which is a huge infraction of the rules, as you like to remind us every other second—” He raised his head from his phone and eyed the situation. He winced, turned on his heel, and walked back out.
Not Sass. She stood there smiling wide. “Hi,” she said, reaching out a hand to Willa. “I’m Sass, Keane’s admin. And you’re Willa, or as we like to say around here, The Amazing Person Who Makes the Boss Smile. We love you, by the way.”
“Thanks,” Willa said. “I think.”
“I’ve seen you before,” Sass said. “At O’Riley’s Pub. You were up onstage doing karaoke with two of your friends, singing Wilson Phillips’s ‘Hold On’ like it was your job.”
Willa grimaced. “Oh boy.”
Sass smiled. “Yeah, you guys were a lot of fun. If you ever get Keane up there to sing, I’m going to need it recorded.”