“You got the perfect part right,” Janie murmured and shook it off. “Okay, so we’re going to Napa for an overnight. Can I leave you Fric and Frac?”
“Yes, and you know I’ll take very good care of them,” Willa promised and gave Janie a hug. “Get some rest.”
When Janie was gone, Keane went brows up. “Fish? You board fish?”
“Babysit,” she corrected, eyes narrowed. “Are you judging me?”
He shook his head. “I just brought you the cat from hell. I’m in no position to judge.”
She gave a rough laugh and his gaze locked on her mouth, which gave her another quick zap of awareness.
“Thanks,” he said. “For taking Pita today. It means a lot.”
From behind the counter came a low “aw” and then a “shh!” that had her sending her friends a “shut it” look.
Keane swiveled to look too but as soon as he did, Elle, Pru, and Haley suddenly had their heads bowed over their phones.
Rory came through carrying another case of feed and took in Willa and Keane’s close proximity. “Nice,” she said. “I’m happy to see you came to your senses and gave up the no-men decree.”
Willa narrowed her eyes.
“Oh, right,” Rory said, slapping her own forehead. “Keep that to yourself, Rory. Almost forgot.”
Keane slid Willa an amused look. “No-men decree?”
“Never you mind.” She set the fishbowl on the counter and reached for Petunia. “You know the deal, right?”
“You mean where I pay double for being an ass and you pretend not to like me?” He flashed a lethal smile. “Yeah, same terms.”
“I meant be here before closing.” She sighed. “And I’m not going to bill you double.”
His smile turned into a grin. “See? You do like me.”
And then he was gone.
Willa turned to her friends and employees, all of whom were watching him go.
“That’s a really great ass,” Pru said.
“I agree,” Haley said. “And I don’t even like men.”
Willa shrugged. “I didn’t notice. I don’t like him.”
Everyone burst out laughing.
“We’d correct you,” Elle said, still smiling, “but you’re too stubborn and obstinate to see reason on the best of days and I don’t think this is one of those . . .”
Yeah, yeah . . . She narrowed her eyes because they were still laughing, clearly believing she was totally fooling herself about not liking Keane.
And the worst part was, she knew it too.
Keane Winters was used to crazy-busy and crazy-long days. Today in particular though, thanks to subcontractors not doing what they’d been contracted to do and the weather going to hell in the way of a crazy thunderstorm that intermittently knocked out electricity. And let’s not forget the time-and-money-consuming detour to replace his phone and laptop thanks to his aunt’s cat. At least she looked like a cat but Keane was pretty sure she was really the antichrist.
His phone buzzed and he dropped his tool belt to pull it from his pocket. One of his guys had sent him a link from the San Francisco Chronicle.
Keane Winters, one of this year’s San Francisco’s People to Watch, is a self-made real estate developer on the rise . . .
He supposed the self-made part was true. Currently in the middle of flipping three properties in the North Bay area, he’d been putting in so many hours that his core team was starting to lag. They all needed a break, but that wasn’t happening anytime soon.
Winters specializes in buying up dilapidated projects in prime areas and turning them into heart-stopping, must-have properties. He doesn’t find any use for sentimentality, ruthlessly selling each of them off as he completes them.
Also true. Financially, it didn’t pay to hold on to the projects. There’d been a time not that long ago when he’d had to sell each off immediately upon completion or end up bankrupt. And yeah, maybe he’d lucked into that first deal, but there’d been no luck involved since. He was a risk taker and he knew how to make it pay off. As a result, he’d gotten good at burying sentimentality, not just with the properties he developed, but in his personal life too.
And as far as that personal life went, he’d been walking by South Bark after getting his coffee every morning for months and it’d never once occurred to him to check out the shop. He hadn’t had a dog since Blue, who he’d lost the year before he’d left home, and he sure as hell wasn’t in a hurry to feel devastated from loss like that again anytime soon.
But then his great-aunt Sally had dropped off Pita and he’d met the sexy owner of South Bark. Keane had no idea why Willa seemed irritated by the mere sight of him, but he felt anything but irritated by the sight of her. He thought maybe it was her eyes, the brightest green eyes he’d ever seen, not to mention her temperament, which appeared to match her strawberry blonde hair—way more strawberry than blonde.
He walked through the top floor of his favorite of his three current projects, Vallejo Street. The other two—North Beach and Mission Street—were purely strategic business decisions and would go right on the market the minute he finished them.
Buy low, renovate smart, sell high. That’d been his MO, always.
But the Vallejo Street house . . . He’d picked up the 1940 Victorian for way too much money five years ago on the one and only whim he could remember ever having. But he’d taken one look at the neglected old house and had seen potential in the three-story, five thousand square feet, regardless of the fact that it’d been practically falling off its axis.
Since then, he’d had to get into other projects fast and hard to recoup the lost seed money, and had worked on Vallejo Street only as time allowed.
Which was why it had taken so long to get it finished, or very nearly finished anyway. For the past year, the bottom floor had been serving as his office. He’d been living there as well. All that would have to change when he got it on the market, something he needed to do, as selling it would give him the capital for new projects.
He walked to one of the floor-to-ceiling windows and looked out. The day’s light was almost gone. The city was coming to life with lights, backdropped by a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay beyond that.