A Gentleman in the Street

By: Alisha Rai

Oops. Sorry, Kati. She hoped the kid had some cover story in place, if she was pulling one over on her guardian. “I’m sure she has a good reason for being there,” she said lamely.

Jacob drew out a cell phone and glanced at the display. “I’ll have to go down the road to catch a signal.” The coffee perked in the pot while Jacob’s scowl grew darker.

Privately, Akira thought seventeen was plenty old enough to be left alone at home, but it wasn’t like she’d had a healthy adolescence for any kind of frame of reference. At seventeen, she’d pretty much been on her own for years. “I didn’t hear any kind of raucous party going on, if it helps.”

“She’s not the type to throw a party.”

She’s not the type. She’s not like you, was what he meant. Men, so dumb. So consumed with classifying women into types to satisfy their own sense of comfort.

Suddenly, Akira hoped young Kati was engaging in all sorts of debauchery this weekend with her brother gone. Don’t be a type, girl.

“Maybe she was delayed,” she offered.

“Maybe.” A frown played over his face.

She sighed and reached into her purse for the lifeline she was rarely without. A quick peek at the display reassured her she had one weak bar for a signal. “Here. You can try mine. It gets reception everywhere.”

Jacob paused. “Oh. Okay. Thanks.” Their fingers brushed when he accepted the phone. An electric zing traveled up her arm.

He seemed oblivious, already moving a few steps away and punching in a number. He shot her a quick look over his shoulder, and she pretended great interest in the coffeepot.

His voice dropped two octaves. “Kati-cat.”

Kati-cat? Oh, poor child.

“Did something happen? Why are you still at the house?”

This super kind, caressing tone had definitely never been directed her way. Not that she was jealous of his sister. That would be weird, given all the non-sisterly feelings she harbored toward him.

The coffee maker sputtered, and she eyed it warily. She had a restaurant-quality espresso maker at home, but she employed people to operate it.

It’s a pot with liquid in it. She could manage this.

“Mm-hmm. So when is Kristen picking you up then?”

There were only three overhead cupboards, so she located the collection of chipped mugs quickly. She withdrew a sufficiently manly blue mug, and then eyed a fetching pink one with daisies on it.

Hell, he’d made enough for both of them.

“I don’t know, sweetheart. Maybe I should come home.”

Out of his sight with her head poked into the fridge, she rolled her eyes. Poor, poor child. She grabbed the gallon of milk and plunked it on the counter next to the mugs.

“Okay, okay. Ah. No. I don’t have a signal. It’s Akira’s phone.”

The burst of excited chatter on the other end of the line was loud enough for Akira to hear. She raised an eyebrow as he cast her a discomfited glance and moved into the other room, shutting the door.

Good thing the walls were so thin in these cheaply made cabins. She only had to tiptoe over and plaster herself against the door to eavesdrop, and his muffled words came through loud and clear. “Kati, calm down. No, I don’t know why she’s here. No. No.”

Silence. Then, “Well, why did you tell her where the cabin is?”

More quiet. A long-suffering sigh. “She’s smart. I’m sure that’s all she needed to figure it out.”

At least he acknowledged she was smart. She would ignore the sigh.

“Relax. You don’t need to worry about me. I can handle Akira.”

The hell he could. Akira sniffed. Men didn’t handle her.

There was no warning before the door opened. Startled, she pitched forward, steadied by a strong grip on her biceps. His eyes grew wide before he hastily righted her, his surprise morphing into discontent. “Of course she’s not here to cause trouble.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. She would happily cause trouble. However, there was a fine line she needed to walk right now between pissing him off so much he kicked her out and maintaining the arm’s-length distance that kept him safely away from her squishiest parts.

It would be easier to keep him at arm’s length if his hand hadn’t remained wrapped around her arm. Why had she not worn long sleeves?

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