Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)(11)

Not the dog’s, though her eyes had been pretty great.

But Sadie . . . Sadie and that wary, hooded, steely blue gaze that said don’t get too close .

It made him want to do just that.

It was confusing. They’d had interactions in the past, none of which had been anything like tonight. She was both what he’d expected and also . . . not at all what he’d expected. He’d seen a side of her that he’d never seen before, that fierce protectiveness over Lollipop, as well as her own vulnerability—which she’d done her best to cover up with a toughness and a sarcasm that he knew and expected.

The night had been one surprise after another. He’d forgotten to ask Sienne or Hannah why he hadn’t been allergic to the dog. He supposed it was possible he’d simply outgrown the allergy. The bigger question was . . . what was he going to do about this strange and bewildering and undeniable attraction he had for one Sadie Lane?

It was four a.m. when he gave up on the pretense of sleep. He checked his phone because yes, his world started early, but he was really just hoping for another pic from Sadie.


He wasn’t big on social media. He didn’t use Facebook or Twitter, but he had an Instagram account so he could keep up with his family and friends, and occasionally post, as he had last night. He searched for Sadie and found her account.

It was filled with her own sketches and pictures of the tattoos she created.

Her work stunned him. She was an incredible artist.

But there was nothing about her personally, and nothing more on Lollipop. He then got distracted by a text from his cousin Kel. They were the same age and had gone to school together through fifth grade. When Kel’s mom had been tragically killed, Kel and his sisters had been shipped off to relatives in Sunshine, Idaho. Kel was now a small-town sheriff and rancher who worked even more than Caleb did, if that was possible. They tended to keep in touch via short, usually obnoxiously rude texts.

Kel: I suppose you already banked seven figures on the day that’s barely begun.

Caleb: And I suppose you’ve already chased a few cows away from the single intersection in Sunshine.

Kel: Going for donuts next. My work’s never done . . .

Caleb: You’re going to go soft. Hope your women don’t mind.

Kel: I’ll show you soft next time we step into the ring.

Caleb was grinning when he switched to work, making his way through a long list of e-mails that had come in overnight. He employed entrepreneurs, investment bankers, financial advisers, research analysts, investors, business process developers, and more all over the world. After skimming through, checking in on various projects, he scanned through the day’s headlines for articles, interested mostly in his portfolio companies, competitors, and the industry in general.

Since he was by now wide-awake, he checked in on Naoki’s status and then hit the gym for a quick workout. He’d renovated the place, but hadn’t returned it to the dojo it’d once been because it wouldn’t be the same without Naoki’s presence. He had a few different sparring partners. Today it was Spence. They’d met a decade ago in the government think tank they’d both been recruited to right from college, and had gone on to be occasional business partners.

But today they were partners of a different sort. They each had thirty minutes, and they used every one of them in the ring pummeling the shit out of each other. They were both trained in martial arts and fairly evenly matched, but today Spence was taking a beating. When he hit the floor for the third time in a row, Caleb stood over him, hands on hips. “What’s wrong with you?”

Spence grimaced and remained flat on his back. “I don’t know.”

“I bet I do.” Caleb stepped back. “You and Colbie ran off and got hitched in the Bahamas and stayed there for two weeks. You’ve got honeymoon-itis. Translation, you’ve had your brains—and brawn—fucked out.”

Spence grinned up at him unabashedly. “Good deduction, Sherlock.”

Caleb shook his head and turned away. “You’re no good here. A twelve-year-old could take you today—”

That was the last word he uttered before Spence hooked a foot around his ankle and tugged. In the next breath, Caleb was eating the mat.

“You were saying?” Spence asked mildly, still flat on his back.

“Shit.” Caleb stared up at the ceiling and had to laugh. “We’ve both lost our minds.”

“Well we know where mine went. What’s your excuse and does it have anything to do with that cutie-pie tattoo artist?”

Ignoring the question, Caleb rose to his feet.

“It does,” Spence said smugly as he stood too. “Colbie said that Molly said that Elle said she saw you in the courtyard with Sadie last night in the rain looking pretty cozy.” He made a move to once again knock Caleb’s feet out from under him, but Caleb struck first and leveled Spence flat.

“Touchy.” Spence gasped and sucked air back into his lungs. “And also, I am right. I love being right.” He sat up, holding his hands out in front of him, signaling a peace treaty. “Look, it’s been a while since you’ve had a woman in your life, right? And I’m not talking about that hot start-up CEO in New York you hooked up with last month or the sexy pilot you boinked for like a week the month before that. I’m talking about someone you attempted to keep around and be with—out of bed as well as in it. And trust me, I know. It’s not easy.”

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