Home > Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)

Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)
Author: Jill Shalvis

Chapter 1

#Suits

Sadie Lane walked through the day spa, closing up for the night, alone as usual. Her coworkers had left, but even if they hadn’t, they’d just be milling around with their ridiculously expensive teas, complaining about how hard this job was.

They had no idea how ridiculous that was to her, but as the lowest person on the ladder, she’d managed to keep her opinions to herself. She was sure it’d only be a matter of time before her mouth overtook her good sense.

Moving around shutting down the computers and dimming the lights, she fantasized about going home and stripping out of her daytime yoga pants and replacing them with her nighttime yoga pants. Unfortunately, even after eight hours on her feet, that wasn’t in the cards for her.

Her phone buzzed an incoming call and a glance at the screen gave her an eye twitch. “Hey, Mom.”

“You always forget to call me back. I’ve been trying to discuss your sister’s wedding details with you for weeks now, and . . .”

Sadie listened with half her brain, the other half wandering off. Did she have time to grab an order of sliders and crispy fries from O’Riley’s, the pub across the courtyard, before heading to her other job? Lunch had been eons ago . . .

“Mercedes Alyssa Lane, are you even listening to me?” her mom asked.

Being full-named always got her back up. It wasn’t that she had anything against her name—okay, so she sort of did because who named a kid after the car where that kid had been conceived?—but more than anything, she had a whole lot against her mother’s tone. “Of course I’m listening.”

She wasn’t. She was thinking about dessert after the sliders. Maybe cookies, maybe a brownie. Maybe both.

“Honey,” her mom said, her voice going tentative. “You’re not feeling . . . sad again, are you?” She whispered sad as if was a bad word.

And to be fair, for most of Sadie’s teenage years it had been a bad word, along with angry , misunderstood , sullen , and unhappy . To say that she and her mom had a complicated relationship was pretty much the understatement of the year.

“Nope,” Sadie said. “I’m fine.” This was an automated response because she didn’t want to deal with the all you have to do to get over the blues is think positively speech again, well-meaning as it was. But her mom was winding up for the big finish, so Sadie braced herself because in three, two, one—

“Remember what Dr. Evans always told you. To get over the blues, all you have to do is think positively.”

Resisting the urge to smack her phone into her own forehead, Sadie drew a deep breath and sank into the cushy chair in her station, where her clients sat while she applied permanent makeup. This was her bread-and-butter job, seeing as the love-of-her-heart job—working as a tattoo artist in the Canvas Shop right next door—didn’t pay enough yet. And call it silly and frivolous, but she’d grown fond of eating.

The problem was, all the time on her feet working way too many hours a day left her exhausted. And maybe the teeniest bit cranky. But not, it should be noted, sad. At least not at the moment. “Mom, you know it’s not that easy, right?”

“To think positively? Of course it is. You just do it. Take your sister, for instance . . .”

Sadie closed her eyes and caught a few z ’s while her mom went on about Clara, whom Sadie loved and adored even if she was annoyingly perfect—

“Sadie? Yes or no?”

“Hmm?” She sat upright, opening her eyes. She’d missed a question, but pretending she knew what was going on at all times was her MO. If she couldn’t blow her family away with her brilliance, plan B was always to baffle them with her bullshit. “Sure,” she said. “Whatever you guys decide.”

“Well, that’s very . . . sweet of you,” her mom said, sounding surprised. “And very unlike you.”

Hoping she hadn’t just agreed to wear a frothy Little Bo-Peep bridesmaid dress, Sadie let her gaze shift to the window. Over a hundred years ago, the Pacific Pier Building had been built around a beautiful cobblestoned courtyard that each of the ground floor shops and businesses opened onto, making it convenient for people watching.

One of Sadie’s favorite pastimes.

Seeing as it was February in San Francisco, specifically the Cow Hollow District, a thick icy fog had descended over the dark evening with the promise of rain. She loved a good storm, the darker the better, and figured that love came from her own dark, stormy heart.

The lights had all come on, strung from potted tree to potted tree and along the wrought-iron benches around the water fountain. The area was usually a hub of activity. But tonight only the faint glow of the lights was visible behind the wall of fog, and there was no one in sight. Except . . . wait a minute. A form appeared out of the fog. A tall, leanly muscled form, his overcoat billowing out behind him like he was some sort of superhero.

Sadie called him Suits.

He had a real name, she knew. Caleb Parker. But she’d never said it out loud, preferring her nickname for him, since with the exception of the few times she’d run into him at a gym on the other side of Cow Hollow near the marina, she’d never seen him in anything but a suit. And though she herself wasn’t a suit kind of girl, she could admit there was something about watching him move in gorgeous clothes that had probably cost more than her entire year’s rent.

“Mercedes?” her mother said in her ear. “You still there?”

“Yep.” She searched her brain for the conversation she’d just missed. “Don’t worry, I’ll be on time for Clara’s wedding dress fitting appointment.”

“Did you get a date for the wedding yet?”

Sadie sighed.

“It’s a wedding,” her mom said firmly. “You’ll need a date. And anyway, you’re past due to find your Prince Charming. Way past due.”

“Mom, I don’t need a Prince Charming. Forest animals who clean, yes, but it’s a hard pass for me on Prince Charming.”

“Everyone needs romance,” her mom said. “My book club just read the Fifty Shades trilogy and—”

“Those books aren’t romance, they’re erotica.”

“Actually, they were very romantic. Christian Grey’s a bazillionaire who falls in love with a regular girl. It’s like a Cinderella story.”

Sadie sighed. “Fifty Shades of Grey is only romantic because the guy’s a billionaire. If he was living in a trailer, it’d be a Criminal Minds episode.”

Her mom sighed. “I just don’t know what you have against love.”

“I don’t have anything against it.” Sadie hoped her nose wasn’t growing at the lie. “I just don’t need it right now.” Or ever.”

“But you haven’t dated anyone since Wes, and that was three years ago. He was a good man.”

An attorney, Wes had been sure of himself. Sexy, with an edge. Sadie was long past being hurt over what had happened between them, but she still wasn’t feeling the need to let someone new in, mostly because she simply hadn’t been attracted to anyone.

What about Suits? a voice inside her head whispered as she made her way from one window to the next in order to keep him in her sights. It was misting now and his dark hair shimmered with droplets every time he passed beneath a lamppost. Like Wes had been, he too was sure of himself. Sexy, with an edge . . .

He was everything she no longer let herself want.

Suddenly, he abruptly stopped between the day spa and the Canvas Shop. Crouching low in the now pouring rain, he stared at something she couldn’t see. “I’ve gotta go, Mom. I’ll call you back.”

“You always say that, but you’re fibbing. You’re not supposed to fib to family.”

“Uh-huh,” Sadie said dryly. “Tooth fairy, Santa Claus, and the Easter bunny . . .” And at her mother’s gasp, she gently disconnected, squelching a wince because she’d most definitely pay for that later. Her mom had a lot of talents, and one of them was being able to hold a grudge for a hundred years.

Sadie had a few talents herself, such as not sleeping at night and enjoying chocolate just a little too much. And okay, so she also was talented at drinking tequila, preferably in the form of a frosty lime margarita.

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