Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)(4)

She paused, staring at his face. She saw no sign that he was teasing—very unusual for the charming, easygoing guy she knew him to be.

“I’m trusting you to not let me die,” he said as if he was discussing the weather.

“This isn’t funny.”

He met her gaze, his own more serious than she’d ever seen him. “If I don’t make it, promise me you’ll at least make up something really good for my funeral, okay? Like, I died heroically saving your sexy ass, and not because a sweet dog like this one hugged me.”

“Okay,” she said slowly, “I’m starting to think you’re really not joking.”

“I never joke about dying.”

Chapter 2


Caleb Parker sat on the ground getting wetter by the second as the woman stared at him, her thoughts hooded. Rain had soaked through her gray sweater with the strategic cutouts, one across the top of her breasts and two others baring her shoulders, giving peekaboo hints of skin. Her jeans were jet-black and formfitting, hugged to her curves and tucked into a pair of high-heeled boots that gave a man ideas. Sexy-as-hell ideas. Her hair was half up and half down, the drenched strands teasing her cheeks, jaw, and shoulders. She wore enough earrings and bracelets to set off a metal detector.

Her name was Sadie Lane and she was spirited and maybe also a little wild, but man. He never could take his eyes off of her.

Tonight though, he was distracted with the dog hugged up so close to his face that he was breathing in wet matted fur with each inhale. “My EpiPen’s in my car,” he said. “In the computer case on the passenger seat. Come on, you know you’ve been waiting for the opportunity to legally stab me.”

Sadie shifted a little closer, every bit as wary as the dog. “You’re making fun at a time like this?”

“What’s the alternative?”

She shook her head. “If this is some sort of stupid come-on or something—”

“If this was a come-on, you’d know it.”

She seemed massively unimpressed by this fact, her eyes deep and unreadable as always. And hey, maybe he’d only have an asthma attack. Maybe he wouldn’t go into complete anaphylactic shock, in which case he’d only need his inhaler—currently also residing in his computer case. Which reminded him, he wasn’t supposed to carry it in his case, it was supposed to be on his person. But it’d been years since he’d had any sort of serious asthma attack, even if the last one had landed him in the hospital practically on his deathbed. “I’m parked right out front,” he said.

“You need more than an EpiPen if you think I’m going to reach into your pants pocket.”

Rolling his eyes, he shifted the dog and pulled out the keys for her.

“If I do this, where am I supposed to jab you?”

“Upper thigh,” he said.

“Not your ass?”

“Definitely not my ass.”

She lifted her face to his. Raindrops were clinging to her long, dark lashes and glinting off the myriad of pretty little mismatched sparkling earrings she had running up the shell of her ear.

“Are you going to drop trou?” she asked.

He couldn’t tell if she was asking with horror or fascination, and he let out a low laugh. “Not unless you take me to dinner first.”

“Dream on, Suits.”

And there it was, the reminder that she saw him as a know-it-all, a buttoned-up suit—literally—which he supposed was completely unappealing to the tattoo artist with the dark eyes, dark hair, and dark life. And he got it. They were polar opposites, not well suited, no pun intended.

And to be honest, he wished it was anyone out here in this storm with him tonight rather than the cynical smartass who seemed to take personal pleasure in driving him nuts.

They had some friends in common, so they ran into each other occasionally, and every time it was the same—an odd instant wariness he couldn’t explain. There was also a healthy dose of irritation, at least on her end.

On his, it was mostly bafflement.

She stood there, hands on hips, probably waiting for him to stroke out. “You do realize that Lollipop’s rubbing up against you and you’re not sneezing or wheezing or anything, right?” she said.


“It’s the last thing I ate a very long time ago, and she seems as sweet as one,” she said, still watching him carefully. “It fits. Are you or are you not dying?”

“You’re hoping you get to use the EpiPen, aren’t you?”

“Little bit,” she said lightly, but her expression was still assessing, and actually, something else as well.

“You’re worried about me,” he said, surprised enough to smile. “Cute.”

“Don’t flatter yourself. I’m not worried, I just don’t need you keeling over. I’d have to call Emergency Services and I’m not a fan of hospitals.”

Well, they were in sync there. “I’m fine,” he said, a little shocked that it was true. Other than being drenched through and unable to feel his own frozen ass, he wasn’t exhibiting any of the allergic reactions he’d been told all his life by his mom and four sisters he’d get if he allowed a dog to get too close.

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