Playing for Keeps (Heartbreaker Bay #7)(9)

She set her head on his shoulder and together they both stared out the large window at the San Francisco night. “You were never a burden, Caleb.”

He shook his head. “The doctor and hospital bills said otherwise, as did Mom’s bankruptcy.”

“You were a preemie with medical problems, and then an asthmatic little kid who wheezed for every breath and was beat up for it, and when I think about those days,” she said, fisting her hands, “I still want to murder people.”


“Well, I do,” she said fiercely, her hand entangling with his. “I know you work so hard because you want to give back to us. You think we sacrificed so much for you—”

“You did.”

“What we Parkers do for each other, we do out of love,” she said, voice still iron. “And don’t you dare taint it by suggesting you owe us.”


“No. And one more thing before I shut up. None of what happened when you were young, not you being sick and not us barely being able to afford your medical care, none of it was your fault.”

He squeezed her fingers and met her gaze. “It wasn’t any of yours either, and yet you all put your life on hold for me.” They’d done whatever they’d had to, including working as many jobs as it took to keep them all together.

Sienne opened her mouth, but he pointed at her. “You promised to shut up now.”

“I lied.”

“Knew it was too good to be true.”

She smiled. “I’ll change the subject to work, how’s that? Two things. You’re updated with today’s progress and tomorrow’s meetings.” She nodded to the iPad on his desk. “Check your files for all the reports.”

She was his director of operations. Not an easy job, and neither was working for him. But compared to some of the things they’d been through together, the job and his business were a walk in the park. “Thanks.”

“Just trying to earn my ridiculously high paycheck,” she said. “Don’t want to be a burden, or have you sacrificing resources for your sister.”

He slid her a glance. “Sarcasm?”

“No. Irony. I don’t want to ever hear again that you feel guilty thinking we sacrificed for you. Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“Nothing’s wrong.”

She studied him a beat. “I think you actually believe that.” She shook her head. “But I see a restlessness in you lately. You’re not happy.”

He turned back to the window, uncomfortable that she could read him so well. “I’m not un happy.”

Her voice softened. “You’re working too hard. You logged something like eighty hours last week. You need to pass some of that work down to the rest of us. Take some time for yourself.”

“I’ll think about it.”

“You always say that,” she said. “You need to stop thinking and do.”

“You need a life too.”

“I’ve got one,” she said with a secret little smile that told him things were going well with her husband, Niles. “It’s your turn.”

He thought of Sadie in the courtyard tonight, hair and clothes plastered to her with rain, her eyes holding all her secrets. She was as independent as they came, fiercely so, and didn’t need anyone. That was damn attractive to a man like himself. And then, as if he’d conjured her up, his phone buzzed with an incoming FaceTime call from her, making his heart leap. “I’ve got to take this.”

Sienne nodded and headed for the door. Turning his back on her, he answered and found Lollipop staring at him through the screen. She was dry and her eyes were bright, tongue lolling. She seemed much happier than she had earlier.

“She wanted to say goodnight,” came Sadie’s amused voice. “I told her that you were likely out on the town with a date, living the high life to match your suit, but she still wanted a goodnight kiss from Daddy.”

Caleb smiled. “Are you using our child to ask if I’m seeing someone?”

Sadie’s face appeared behind the dog’s. She too was dry, though she didn’t seem nearly as happy to see him as Lollipop. “I’m most definitely not asking,” she said.

He smiled.

“I’m not!” she exclaimed. “I don’t care if you’re seeing someone.”

His smile widened.

She pointed at him. “Knock it off. It’s absolutely none of my business who you’re with.”

“Because you don’t like me, right?”

“Oh good, you know. That makes it way less awkward.”

He laughed, but at the sound behind him, he had to shake his head. He should’ve known nosy-as-hell Sienne wouldn’t actually leave.

“Um, don’t look now,” Sadie said, eyes on something over his shoulder. “But there’s a woman behind you wearing an expression that says maybe you are on a date.”

“Ignore her,” he said.

“Don’t be rude.” Sienne pushed her way in closer to look at Sadie. “I’m Sienne Parker, Caleb’s sister. And you are . . . ?”

“Now who’s being rude?” Caleb murmured. “Sadie, my sister Sienne. Sienne, this is Sadie, who works in the Pacific Pier Building.”

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