Pru choked on her wine and Elle had to beat her over the back.
Haley smiled. “I think it’s perfect. Honestly, he’ll never know what hit him. Wait!” She wore a small backpack as a purse and pulled it off to paw through it. “And these, take these!” She held up a set of spiked handcuffs.
This time they all stared at her, agog. Well, except for Elle, who took them and looked them over. “Nice.”
“They were a Christmas gag gift,” Haley said. “Office holiday party last night.”
“From that pretty brunette temp receptionist?” Elle asked.
Haley blushed. “I wish. No, which is why I’m willing to give them up to Willa for the cause.”
“Thanks,” Willa said dryly. “Your sacrifice is duly noted, but not necessary. I do not need handcuffs.”
“Oh, I don’t need handcuffs to enslave a man either,” Elle said, slipping them into her purse. “But it never hurts. The key?” she asked Haley. “Because it’s all fun and games until someone loses the key . . .”
Haley handed over a small key.
Pru snorted wine out her nose again, and it was mayhem after that but somehow, after another few glasses of wine, The Plan suddenly seemed totally and completely feasible.
Friends with benefits . . .
What could go wrong?
The next day Keane ran from jobsite to jobsite putting out fires. By the time he got back to his office and dropped into his chair at his desk to catch up on paperwork, he was done in.
Which was a good thing. Being this tired made it difficult to think about what had happened between him and Willa.
Or more accurately, what wasn’t going to happen between him and Willa.
Shit. Opening his laptop, he froze when something brushed against his legs.
Pita was winding herself in and around his calves, rubbing herself all over his jeans and leaving a trail of hair as she did so.
“You must be desperate if you’re willing to be friendly to me,” he said.
At that, she leapt into his lap, turned in a circle, and then plopped with zero grace to lie all over him.
“Okay,” he said, awkwardly patting her on the head. “We’re doing this then.”
A rumbly purr filled the room and she began to knead with her paws. When one of her needle-sharp claws caught on his crotch, he yelped and jumped to his feet, unceremoniously dumping her to the floor.
Paws spread wide, hunkered low to the floor, she looked up at him from slitted eyes.
“Well then, watch the damn claws, Jesus.”
She turned away, tail straight up in the air, quivering with temper. And he knew—she was so going to take a shit in his shoes tonight. “Dammit, wait.” He caught up with her and scooped her back up, sitting in the chair again, setting her next to him. “Stay,” he said.
She shot him a look that spoke volumes on her opinion of being commanded to do anything, but she did indeed stay.
He was knee-deep into the engineering notes on the Mission project when he got a text.
Can you come over after work? Need your help with something.
He stared at the words and felt an onslaught of emotions that he wasn’t equipped to deal with. Hunger. Desire. Aching desire. How was it possible that a month ago he’d thought his life was just fine, but now he had this person in it who added color and laughter, one he had an amazing connection with, such as he’d never felt before, and he couldn’t remember what he did without her?
He couldn’t imagine what the woman who never asked for help could need, but it didn’t matter. He’d do anything she needed. He got up and looked at Pita. “Behave.”
She gave him a look that was a firm “maybe but probably not.”
Shaking his head, he moved to the door.
“Whoa,” Sass called from her desk in the next room over. “Whatcha doing?”
“There’s a stack of stuff here for you to go over and—”
“Gotta go,” he repeated.
She searched his gaze a moment. “So it’s like that, is it?” She shook her head. “You poor bastard.”
He drove to the Pacific Pier Building, parked, and walked through the courtyard.
Eddie was standing by the fountain, watching the water. Someone had given him a down parka with fur hood and he looked warm and happy.
“Found my cheer,” he said to Keane.
Keane noted the flask in the guy’s hand and smiled. “Good.”
“You find yours? Cuz I got some mistletoe if you need.”
“I’m good,” Keane said. “But thanks.”
“Understood.” Eddie nodded. “There can be a lot of trouble with mistletoe . . .” He paused. “Or women.”
Amen to that . . .
Keane took the stairs to Willa’s door—which was ajar.
“Come in,” she yelled from inside.
Frowning that she’d left her door not only unlocked but open, he walked in. Willa was high on a ladder next to the biggest tree he’d ever seen stuffed inside an apartment this size. She was looking festive and gorgeous in a short black skirt, black knee-high boots, and a bright red hoodie sweater snug to her every curve.
He looked his fill, loving the way the skirt clung to the sweet curves of her ass, enjoying the look at her legs. He loved them best wrapped around him but this was a good view too.
“I made a special holiday drink and I needed a taster,” she said, backlit by the strings of lights across her faux mantel. When she turned to face him, he got the full impact of her front view. The strings on her hoodie sweater were weighted by tassels that bounced around right at breast height, drawing his gaze there. Four words were embroidered across her chest—Dear Santa, Define “Naughty.”
And Keane realized something else he loved about the sweater—she was braless.
“What’s going on?” he asked.
“I was hoping to bribe you into helping me hang some decorations.”
He laughed. “You’re putting up more decorations?”
“You know, I can sense the sarcasm there but I’m going to ignore it.” Twisting, she met his gaze. “I’ve got some mistletoe.”
This took his brain down Dirty Alley and he had to clear his throat to speak. “Your tree is different than the one you had before.”