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

Ten minutes later she got another text.

When someone doesn’t text me back within five minutes, I assume they’re dead and will send out the proper authorities.

Sadie snorted, snapped a pic of a freshly bathed and fed and sleeping Lollipop, and texted it back to him. She then entered him into her contacts as Do Not Even Think About Falling For This Guy.

Not thirty minutes later she was scrolling through Instagram when she saw a pic that Ivy had liked. It’d been posted by one Caleb Parker. It was the one he’d taken of Lollipop in the courtyard earlier with the caption: Was mugged tonight by this vicious killer and fell for her hard. Not sure what I’ve gotten myself into . . .

Sadie found herself smiling and ordered herself to stop it. Because the truth was, she wasn’t sure what she’d gotten herself into either.

Chapter 3


Since he wasn’t dying, at least not tonight, Caleb made his dinner meeting at a restaurant in the financial district with his attorney, who also happened to be one of his four sisters. The restaurant had a view of the bay and great food, but his mind wasn’t on either.

Hannah looked at him in shock. “Why are you all wet?”

“Because it’s raining.”

“Smartass.” She handed him a stack of files and ate his nachos while he signed several new contracts for various partnership and new venture agreements.

“Could’ve done this in the office in the morning,” he said, pushing the files back to her.

“But then I couldn’t have eaten your nachos.”

“I pay you a fortune. You can buy your own nachos anytime.”

She shook her head. “My own nachos would come with calories. If I eat yours, the calories don’t count because they’re yours. You see?”

He stared at her. “Where did you get your law degree again? Online?”

“You know where. Stanford. Because you paid for it.” She scooped his last chip, stuck it in her mouth, and licked the cheese off her thumb. “Thanks for that, by the way. How’s Naoki?”

“Going to see him after this.”

“Long day,” she murmured.

“They all are. I’m fine,” he added when she started to open her mouth again.


“Hannah.” He put his hand over hers. “We dreamed of this, remember? Of not living week to week? And here we are.”

She let the worry drain from her eyes and smiled. “And here we are.”

Thirty minutes later, Caleb hit his last stop of the day. This one was personal, and something he did as often as he could. The steep streets were no joke in the Russian Hill neighborhood, not that he could get a spot on the street if he wanted one. He pulled into the small alley spot reserved for him next to a Victorian building, took a deep breath, and headed inside.

The woman at the reception counter smiled in welcome. “Mr. Parker, he’s waiting up for you.”

“Caleb,” he said, as he did every time. “How’s he doing?”

Her smile faded a little. “Depends on the day. You got today’s doctor’s report?”

“Yes.” And it hadn’t been good. “He’s comfortable?”

“Absolutely,” she said with conviction and he nodded with relief and headed down the hall.

The old mansion had been renovated several times in the past hundred years, most recently about five years ago, and turned into a very cushy top-notch retirement home.

One of the night nurses met him in the hallway. “Just brought him his tea,” she reported. “Thanks for having it sent special from the UK, since we couldn’t find it here for him.” She patted his arm. “Don’t worry, it came in anonymously. Your secret’s safe, Mr. Parker.”

“Caleb,” he said. “And how did you know I’d sent the tea?”

“Because I’ve seen you with him. You’d do anything for him.” She paused. “Including buying this facility and renovating it to higher specs for specific needs so you could ensure the best possible home in which to keep him safe.” She smiled. “He’s lucky to have you.”

Actually, she had that backward. Caleb had been lucky to have Naoki in his life. When the nurse continued on her way down the hallway, he entered the room.

The old man was sitting in the chair in front of the window, a throw blanket across his legs. He turned and eyed Caleb with suspicion. “Who are you?”

A pang pierced through Caleb, the same pang he got every single time at that question. Why, he had no idea. Naoki hadn’t remembered him at first sight in at least two years.

Caleb stepped into the room. He’d left his still-wet suit jacket and tie in the car. He unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it off.

The old man’s gaze dropped to Caleb’s torso, slowly taking in the tattoos. Naoki had many himself, a lot more than Caleb, but the living trees on the backs of their left shoulders were a near-identical match. So was the Japanese character just beneath them. Naoki, whose name literally meant tree , smiled at the sight of it, which cut through the barriers of dementia and age-battered memories.

Caleb returned the smile and shrugged back into his shirt, covering his own family emblem on the inside of his left bicep and the lettering down his right side that read Carpe Diem . He took one of the chairs at the small table near the bed and brought it to the window, then turned it around to straddle it as he eyed his old sensei.

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