Looking surprisingly well slept, Rory stared at them suspiciously. “Willa told you about last night, didn’t she?”
Elle and Haley ’fessed up and fussed all over Rory. The girl pretended to hate every minute of it but no one was fooled; she soaked up every drop of love and warmth that came her way.
When the door in the front of the shop rang, Willa left her friends to continue spoiling Rory and, holding a towel-wrapped Monster tucked in the crook of her arm, headed out there.
And then nearly tripped over her own two feet at the sight of Keane, looking deadly sexy in a pair of dark jeans, an aviator jacket, and sunglasses.
He smiled at Monster. “Cute.”
Just looking at him made Willa ache so she very carefully didn’t look right at him. “You need me to watch Pita?” she asked.
When he didn’t say anything else she finally met his gaze. A huge mistake, in the same way looking directly into the sun was a huge mistake. It was painful. Even more painful was the apology she owed him. “Keane?”
“I’m sorry I had a little freak-out about your key.”
“Key?” came a low whisper from behind them. Pru. “Holy cow, what did we miss?”
When Willa turned to look, Pru was indeed there; she must’ve come in the back door. Now all three of her friends plus Rory were crowded in the doorway, eavesdropping like a bunch of little boys.
“Whoops,” Haley said, wincing when she caught Willa’s gaze. “Excuse us, we’re just . . .” Looking a little panicked, she turned to the others, eyes wide. “What are we just?”
“Um . . .” Pru said.
Elle shook her head in disgust at them. “Amateurs. We’re eavesdropping, and shamelessly. And it’d be helpful if one of you would actually repeat whatever happened last night so we know what’s going on.”
Willa stared at them. “Are you kidding me?”
“Honey, you know I don’t kid,” Elle said.
Rory was looking horrified. “Ohmigod. I think they’re fighting because of me. I ruined their night.”
Willa’s mad turned to guilt. “No, honey, that’s not it. It has nothing to do with you.”
“No, but it must,” Rory insisted. “Because everything was fine between you two—until I got stupid and needed you, needed you both because Andy would’ve hurt you, Willa, I know it, and . . .” Her voice cracked. “That would have been my fault.”
Elle wrapped an arm around Rory and hugged her close, but her eyes never left Willa and Keane. “Not your fault,” Elle said firmly. “Not last night, and not whatever’s happening here. In fact, these two silly kids are going to take their little discussion to Willa’s office and not come back out until everything’s fine and everyone’s smiling because it’s Christmas Eve Eve, dammit.”
“Will you?” Rory asked Willa, looking heartbreakingly unsure. “Will you two go work it out?”
She was asking because nothing in her life had ever worked out before. Willa knew this and felt the air leave her lungs in one big whoosh. No way was she going to let Rory give up on emotions. On love. No way would she be the one to make her lose faith. “Of course,” she said, knowing she could pretend with the best of them, and she’d make Keane do the same. Then she’d also make him promise to give her some space until her heart didn’t threaten to burst at the sight of him. With that plan in mind, she handed Monster off to Pru and gave Keane a nudge toward her tiny office.
But Keane, of course, couldn’t be nudged anywhere. He was big and strong and as hardheaded as . . . well, as her. He slid her a gaze that was partial amusement that she thought she could push him, and part challenge.
He wanted to be asked.
God save her from annoying, big, badass alphas. She blew out a breath and, very aware of Rory’s concerned gaze on her, smiled through her gritted teeth. “Will you please come into my office so we can”—she glanced at Rory, even sent her another smile—“work things out?”
“Would love to,” Keane said easily. He even took her hand and led the way.
She allowed it, but the moment they crossed the threshold over her office door, she shut it and opened her mouth. “Look, I know I don’t have the right to ask but I’m going to need you to pretend for Rory that we’re fine—”
Keane didn’t answer. Instead, moving with the speed and agility of a caged leopard, he pressed her up against her desk. Then he sank his hand into her hair, tilted her face up, and crushed his lips to hers.
And damn. All the swirling, boiling emotions abruptly shifted, turning into something else altogether. With a moan, she threw herself against him, almost knocking him right off his feet.
He simply readjusted his stance and yanked her harder up against him. Somehow that worked for her and she continued to mindlessly climb him like a tree, desperate to get him even closer, her hands splaying across his strong, wide back. Which was how she felt the tremor wrack his body. She felt other things too, like how he was pressed up between her legs, hard and insistent.
There wasn’t air for words, not then and not when he cupped and squeezed her ass in his big, callused palms.
So hot. So perfect. So—
The door opened.
“Oh, sorry,” Cara said as she stuck her head in. “I just wanted to tell you I’m subbing for Lyndie today and . . .” She broke off at the look Willa gave her. “Okay, so they sent me back here to find out if you guys are fighting,” she admitted. “Rory wants to know.”
Shit. “No one’s fighting,” Willa said, trying to be casual. “We’re just . . . discussing cat care,” she said, trying not to sound breathless or look as if she’d just had the daylights kissed out of her. “For Petunia.”
Cara nodded. “Kitty care,” she repeated. “Got it. I’ll tell Rory.”
When she was gone, Willa turned to Keane. “So about pretending to be fine for Rory . . .”
He hit the lock on the door with one hand and hauled her back into him with the other, covering her mouth with his. He grabbed the string on the blinds to the courtyard window and lowered them, all without letting her mouth free. It was quite the feat really. She might have suggested they turn the light off too because there was plenty of light filtering in through the shades, but she knew that request would be futile.