A Gentleman in the Street

By: Alisha Rai

He spoke into the phone, but his gaze burned into Akira. “Have fun at Kristen’s, and I want you to contact me immediately if anything changes. I’ll go down the road and check my messages every couple of hours.” He hung up and glared at her. “Are you eavesdropping?”

“That’s kind of a dumb question,” she pointed out. “What else would I have been doing, checking for termites?”

Another gusty sigh left him. They were getting annoying.

He sidestepped her, heading back to the kitchenette.

“Um.” She glanced pointedly at her upper arm. “As much as I enjoy being dragged around, could you maybe lighten your grip a little?”

He looked down and pulled away as if she’d scalded him, backpedaling until he bumped against the counter. His cheeks flushed a dull red. “Sorry. I’m, uh. I didn’t realize.”

She massaged her arm. It tingled where he’d touched her.

“Here.” He handed her the phone. There was no brushing of fingers this time. “Thanks.”

“No problem.”

He hesitated before speaking, every word dragged out of him. “Do you…want some coffee?”

Ask him what you came to ask him and leave.

But she was the one who had pulled out two mugs. A pink mug no less. “Sure. Black.”

He poured the coffee and passed it over the counter. Akira grabbed the mug and took a bracing sip, her eye twitching at the hit of caffeine. Did Jacob ever sleep?

“Too strong for you?”

His tone was carefully neutral, but damned if she’d give him a single reason to feel superior. Trying to hide her grimace, she placed the mug on the counter. “Nope. I— Wait, is that skim milk? I didn’t realize. I love skim milk in my coffee.”

“Do you?”

“It’s my favorite.” She poured in a dollop of watery milk, until the liquid turned creamy brown. “Kati okay?” she asked when it was clear he wasn’t going to be forthcoming.

He gave a terse nod. “She had a change of plans. Going to another friends tonight, but she won’t be picked up until much later.”

Yeah, right, Akira thought cynically. “See? Told you there was a good reason.”

“She also said she didn’t tell you where this place was.”

“She didn’t. Don’t blame the kid for my superior deductive reasoning skills.”

“You said she told you.”

“She said you were on a writing retreat at your cabin. You’ve mentioned in interviews the general location of your cabin. It took about an hour to search the property records, and another hour to drive out here.” She tsked. “Really, you ought to be more careful. Bad enough you don’t write under a pen name. Any overzealous fan could find you.” Or an overzealous socialite turned businesswoman.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” He drank his coffee, and she did the same, though the milk hadn’t helped the taste of the drink much. The silence stretched between them.



He rolled his shoulders. “It’s been a while.”

Akira eyed him warily. They weren’t adept at small talk. Thrust with a cutting remark, parry with a cold comment, duck heavy silence. That was their MO.

What the hell. “Yeah. Six months, right?” Six months and eight days since her mother’s funeral. She vaguely remembered Jacob and his siblings attending, but she’d been out of it.

She and the Campbells had been the closest thing to family her mother had had left, but there’d been lots of friends and acquaintances to pack the church. Akira’s father hadn’t come, because Akira’d refused to allow entrance to the camera crew hovering around him 24/7. Even without the cameras, she didn’t think she would have permitted him to show up. The woman deserved to not have her first husband, a man she’d utterly despised, at her funeral.

Before that, Akira hadn’t seen Jacob in well over a year, since she had decided to stop inflicting her presence on her mother. So it had been a while.

“Sounds right.” He shifted. “It’s strange without Mei. I didn’t realize she was such a big part of my family’s life until she was gone.”

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