He gave her a get real look.
“Oh, that kiss.” She shrugged nonchalantly as she reached for her water bottle. “I barely remember it.”
“Funny,” he said in a voice of pure sin. “Cuz it rocked my world.”
She choked on her water, coughing and sputtering. “The mirror’s still not for sale,” she finally managed to wheeze out, wiping her mouth.
I rocked his world?
His warm, amused gaze met hers, going smoky and dangerously charismatic. “I could change your mind.”
“On the mirror or the kiss?” she asked before she could stop herself.
She had no doubt. “The mirror’s already sold,” she said. “The new owner’s coming for it today.”
The buyer just happened to be Spence Baldwin, who owned the building in which they stood. The Pacific Pier Building, to be exact, one of the oldest in the Cow Hollow District of San Francisco. Since the building housed an eclectic mix of businesses on the first and second floors, and residential apartments on the third and fourth floors, all built around a cobblestone courtyard with a fountain that had been there back in the days when there’d still been actual cows in Cow Hollow, the entire place went a lot like the song—everyone knew everyone’s name.
In any case, Spence had bought the mirror for his girlfriend, Colbie, not that Kylie was going to tell Joe that. For one thing, Spence and Joe were good friends and Spence might let Joe have the mirror.
And though she didn’t know why, Kylie didn’t want Joe to have it. Okay, so she did know why. Things came easy to Joe. Good looking, exciting job . . . hell, life came easy to him.
“I’ll commission a new one,” Joe said, still looking unconcerned. “You can make another just like it, right?”
Yes, and normally a commissioned piece would be a thrill. Kylie wasn’t all that established yet and could certainly use the work. But instead of being excited, she felt . . . unsettled. Because if she agreed to the job, there’d be ongoing contact. Conversations.
And here was the thing—she didn’t trust him. No, that wasn’t right. She didn’t trust herself with him. I rocked his world? Because he’d sent hers spinning and the truth was, it’d take no effort at all to once again end up glued to him at the lips. “I’m sorry, but maybe you can get Molly . . .” she eyed the list again ” . . . puppies.”
And speaking of puppies, just then from the back room came a high-pitched bark. Vinnie was up from his nap. Next came the pitter-patter of paws scrambling. At the doorway between the shop and the showroom, he skidded to a stop and lifted a paw, poking at the empty air in front of his face.
Not too long ago, her undersized rescue pup had run face-first into a glass door. So now he went through this pantomime routine at every doorway he came to. And she did mean every doorway. Poor Vinnie had PTSD, and she was his emotional support human.
When Vinnie was thoroughly satisfied that there was no hidden glass to run into, he was off and galloping again, a dark brown blur skidding around the corner of the counter like a cat on linoleum. He was half French bulldog and half Muppet, and no one had ever told him that he was under a foot tall and twelve pounds soaking wet. He actually thought he was the big man on campus, and he smiled the whole way as he ran straight for Kylie, tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, drool dribbling in his wake.
Heart melting, Kylie started to bend to reach for him, but he flew right by her.
Joe had squatted low, hands held out for the dog, who never so much glanced over at Kylie as he took a flying leap into Joe’s waiting arms. Arms that she knew were warm and strong and gave great hugs, dammit.
Man and pup straightened, rubbing faces together for a moment while Kylie did her best not to melt. Like most French bulldogs’, Vinnie’s expression often read glum. She called it his RBF—resting bitch face. But he was actually the opposite of glum, and the mischievous, comical, amiable light in his eyes revealed that.
“Hey little man,” Joe murmured, flashing that killer smile of his at her pup, who was valiantly attempting to lick his face off. Joe laughed and the sound caused an answering tug from deep inside Kylie, which was maddening.
She had no idea what was up with her hormones lately, but luckily they weren’t in charge. Her brain was. And her brain wasn’t interested in Joe, excellent kisser or not. See, she had a long history with his kind—fast, wild, fun, and . . . dangerous. Not her own personal history, but her mother’s, and she refused to be the apple who fell too close to the tree.
“I’ll pay extra,” Joe said, still loving up on Vinnie to the dog’s utter delight. “To commission a new mirror.”
“It doesn’t work like that,” she said. “I’ve got jobs in front of you, jobs I have to finish on a schedule. A mirror I haven’t yet even started isn’t for sale.”
“Everything’s for sale,” Joe said.
And how well she knew it. Shaking her head, she reached beneath the front counter, pulled a miniature tennis ball from her bag, and waved it in front of Vinnie, who began to try to swim through the air to get to the ball.
“Cheater,” Joe chastened mildly, but obligingly set Vinnie down. The dog immediately snorted in excitement and raced to Kylie, quickly going through his entire repertoire of tricks without pause, sitting, offering a paw to shake, lying down, rolling over . . .
“Cute,” Joe said. “Does he fetch?”
“Of course.” But truthfully, fetch wasn’t Vinnie’s strong suit. Grunting, farting, or snoring—these were his strong suits. He also often went off the rails with no warning, zooming around a room in a frantic sprint until he started panting and then passed out. But he did not fetch, not that she’d admit it. “Vinnie, fetch,” she said hopefully and tossed the ball a few feet away.
The dog gave a bark of sheer joy and gamely took off, his short bowlegs churning up the distance. But as always, stopping was a problem and he overshot the ball. Overcorrecting to make the sharp turn, he careened right into a wall. He made a strong recovery though and went back for the ball.
Not that he returned it to Kylie. Nope. With the mini–tennis ball barely fitting in his mouth, Vinnie padded quickly into the back, presumably bringing his new treasure to his crate.
“Yeah, he’s great at fetch,” Joe said with a straight face.
“We’re still working on it,” she said just as a man came out from the back, joining them at the counter.
Gib was her boss, her friend, and her very longtime crush—though he knew only about the first two since dating her boss had never seemed like a smart idea—not that he’d ever asked her out or anything. He owned Reclaimed Woods and Kylie owed a lot to him. He’d hired her on here when she’d decided to follow in her grandpa’s footsteps and become a woodworker. Gib gave her a chance to make a name for herself. He was a good guy and everything she’d ever wanted in a man—kind, patient, sweet.
In other words, Joe’s polar opposite.
“Problem?” Gib asked.
“Just trying to make a purchase,” Joe said, nodding to the mirror.
Gib looked at Kylie. “Told you it was remarkable.”
It was pretty rare for Gib to hand out a compliment, and she felt her chest warm with surprise and pleasure. “Thanks.”
He nodded and squeezed her hand in his, momentarily rendering her incapacitated because . . . he was touching her. He never touched her. “But the mirror’s not available,” he said to Joe.