A Gentleman in the Street

By: Alisha Rai

Chapter One

Akira Mori was partial to a certain kind of man: the kind you fucked raw and dirty until your voice was hoarse and your skin slick with sweat. The location wasn’t important—up against a brick wall, in the back of a car, on a kitchen island…

Jacob Campbell is not that kind of man.

Bullshit. Every man could be that kind of man. Or at least that was what she wanted to believe, when she was currently eyeing a delightfully sweaty and half-naked Jacob.

The late-afternoon sun flirted with smooth, tan skin. Muscles flexed and danced as he raised an ax and brought it down in a rhythmic cadence. Wide shoulders tapered to a narrow waist. His abs were flat and ridged with muscle, his chest powerful and shiny with sweat. Worn jeans hung low on his hips, revealing a thin line of paler skin.

Had she ever seen him without a shirt? No, she didn’t think so. Thank God for small favors or she would have forgotten long ago their contentious relationship didn’t allow for tracing that tan line below his hipbones with her tongue.

If he came out to the sticks to bare it all like this regularly, she would happily sacrifice the two-thousand-dollar high heels currently sinking into the dirt to play voyeur.

In theory, at least. She shifted, conscious of the mud clinging to her precious babies.

He won’t thank you for your appreciation.

She pushed the thought aside. Tight-lipped disapproval would come soon enough. Akira leaned back against the tree behind her, the better to settle in for the show.

How did he get an ass like that sitting around writing books? She had a desk job too. Even with her predisposition to slimness and inability to sit still, she had to work out like a fiend not to succumb to office spread.

He brought the ax down with a loud thwack and left it there, leaning over to pick up a bottle of water from a nearby stump. He turned, and she was treated to a view of his profile. Too-long dark brown hair tangled around his face. His throat worked as he swallowed the water. He’d grown a beard since she’d last seen him. She hated stubble burn, but he looked so good with facial hair she could not imagine minding some scrapes on her inner thighs.

She must have made some sort of noise; his head lifted. There was too much distance between them, but she knew his hazel eyes would darken to the same color as the leaves on the trees the instant he caught sight of her.

It always took her a second to collect herself when he turned his stare on her, a brief instant to remember what role she needed to play. She assured herself time and again he would never spot that smidgen of vulnerability. No one could.

Better she laugh and taunt and outrageously flirt to the point of irritation. Better he think her an empty-headed, useless, sex-crazed twit than guess the mortifying truth: she’d wanted this man for over a dozen years.

He was the first to end their staring contest and move, capping the water bottle. She clenched her hands behind her as he walked toward her, letting the rough bark scrape her sensitive knuckles.

Get ready. Shields in place. Ice ran through her veins and steel grafted to her spine.

He stopped a foot away from her. It was rare for her to find a man taller than her, especially when she was wearing her high heels, but Jacob easily topped her. If she extended her arm, she’d be able to touch him, run her fingers over his deliciously muscular stomach.

She worked up her most blinding smile, the one that could stop traffic and launch a thousand ships, that could destroy a man or make him feel a thousand feet tall. “Hello, Brother Jacob.”

Chapter Two

Jacob stared at her for a long minute. She refused to fidget or quail. The bark of the tree was harsh and unrelenting. The action hidden from his sight, she dug her hands harder against it, welcoming the shot of pain.

When he finally spoke, his voice was low and gravelly, as if he hadn’t used it for a while. “I’ve told you not to call me that.”

“I apologize. Though it hurts when you rebuff my familial overtures. You are so difficult, Jacob.”

A muscle under his eye twitched. She couldn’t even utter his given name without paining him, but he would sound crazy and unreasonable if he snapped at her about that. And crazy was her role to play.

Without another word, he walked away. She checked herself from hurrying to keep up with his long strides, partially because Akira Mori hurried after no man, and partially because she was physically incapable of hurrying anywhere in her high heels and pencil skirt.

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