An Accidental Gentleman

BOOK: An Accidental Gentleman
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Cover Copy

 

Fast forward never took so long . . .

 

Kit Runyon isn’t looking for a man to keep—she’s happy with the occasional one-night stand and no strings. Making sure her family’s electronics repair shop is profitable enough to support three generations is her main focus. But when Brian Hendricks walks into the store, one look, one word, and she knows he’s not wired like any man she’s ever met before . . .

 

Brian’s attracted to Kit’s strength and no-nonsense attitude, but he’s tired of the one-and-done dating scene. He’s ready to settle down with the right woman, even if that means he’ll have to play things slow and stay out of her bed to show her there’s more to love than just mind-blowing sex. But at this rate he’s liable to short all the circuits . . .

 

 

Visit us at
www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

 

 

Books by M.Q. Barber

 

Neighborly Affection Series

Playing the Game

Crossing the Lines

Healing the Wounds

Becoming His Master

Finding Their Balance

 

Her Shirtless Gentleman

An Accidental Gentleman

 

Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation

 

 

 

An Accidental Gentleman

 

 

M.Q. Barber

 

LYRICAL PRESS

Kensington Publishing Corp.

www.kensingtonbooks.com

 

 

 

Copyright

 

Lyrical Press books are published by

Kensington Publishing Corp. 119 West 40th Street New York, NY 10018

 

Copyright © 2016 by M.Q. Barber

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the Publisher, excepting brief quotes used in reviews.

 

All Kensington titles, imprints, and distributed lines are available at special quantity discounts for bulk purchases for sales promotion, premiums, fund- raising, and educational or institutional use.

 

To the extent that the image or images on the cover of this book depict a person or persons, such person or persons are merely models, and are not intended to portray any character or characters featured in the book.

 

Special book excerpts or customized printings can also be created to fit specific needs. For details, write or phone the office of the Kensington Special Sales Manager:

Kensington Publishing Corp.

119 West 40th Street

New York, NY 10018

Attn. Special Sales Department. Phone: 1-800-221-2647.

 

Kensington and the K logo Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

LYRICAL PRESS Reg. U.S. Pat. & TM Off.

Lyrical Press and the L logo are trademarks of Kensington Publishing Corp.

 

First Electronic Edition: August 2016

eISBN-13: 978-1-60183-549-9

eISBN-10: 1-60183-549-3

 

First Print Edition: August 2016

ISBN-13: 978-1-60183-550-5

ISBN-10: 1-60183-550-7

 

Printed in the United States of America

 

 

Dedication

 

For Cat, who opened the door

 

Chapter 1

 

Brian drummed the steering wheel, half in time with the radio pumping out classic rock, half in annoyance at the truck ahead.

Racks of shiny diamond-tread toolboxes rode the bed rails above a pristine white body. Early June sun meant good things for the fields of patchy green blobs slipping past in neat rows. Near-sunset glare off the truck meant less-good conditions for his eyes. Shouldn’t have stayed late to finish the terrain analysis and forgotten his sunglasses at his desk. He flipped the visor down.

They cruised along at the speed limit, courtesy of the work truck’s driver. Dead-on, not even the nickel above everyone did. Good thing the delivery menus plastered on his fridge wouldn’t complain when he walked in late on a Thursday night.

Eight-inch-high black letters taunted him from the tailgate.
You break it, we’ll take it.

Towing company, maybe, but the back lacked a winch or a hoist or—

The tail-end bounced. The back tire uncoiled. Pop-thud-
smack
.

As thick rubber flapped and flew, he jerked the car hard right. “Motherf—”

Streaking past the driver’s side in chunks, the tire missed the windshield by inches. The burnt rubber stench invaded his coupe via the open window. Close enough to singe a cat’s whiskers, Christ.

The truck wobbled but recovered, coasting in a straight line without the knee-jerk flash of brake lights. Good man behind the wheel to keep a steady hand in a blowout.

Matching the driver’s gradual slowdown, he tamed his roaring pulse and coasted his coupe onto the gravel shoulder. No traffic in the rearview, but he snapped on the flashers for good measure. Light bounced off the truck’s tailgate deco.

Might as well help the guy get back on the road.

The pickup driver shoved open his door. Hefty dude with a beer gut descending in three, two—

A tanned beauty hopped out of the cab, raised her hand across her brows, and stared toward him.

Boner in the lunchroom. Christ Jesus, his jeans hadn’t shrunk so damn fast since seventh grade.

The sinking sun cast her in gold, a shining statue gorgeous and false as a heat mirage. No way had that woman emerged from a pickup that’d probably rolled off the assembly line the year she’d been born. He’d gotten hit by tire shrapnel, swerved into a roadside ditch, and lay hallucinating in a busted metal shell. Percentage-wise, the winning explanation.

Arm outstretched, she planted her hand above the wheel well. “Fucking great.”

If she meant her damn fine ass, he silently agreed. Or her long legs, stretching as she covered the twenty feet between them in a no-nonsense stride that nonetheless gave her hips an agreeable sway.

Slamming his eyes shut, he clenched the steering wheel and mumbled a string of names. Amundsen, Scott, Shackleton. Thank Christ, the icy tombs of polar explorers cooled his blood.

Voice low but feminine, the woman called out, “You all right? Tire didn’t clip you, did it?”

Opening his eyes, he faced the ribbed texture of a royal purple tank top disappearing into the worn edge of faded jean shorts clinging to her hips. Denim and cotton pulsed in the slow beats of her breath. The tire hadn’t stunned him, but she sure as hell had.

“Low blood sugar?” She bent sideways and touched his shoulder. Freckles sprinkled her cheeks and spotted her arms. A cheetah, fast and deadly, frowned at him. “Sit tight. I’ve got a granola bar in the cab.” Trotting away, she flashed her rounded ass and muscled calves as her tennis shoes spat gravel.

A phantom straight out of junior high shoved him in the shoulder blade.
Get the fuck over there before someone else asks her, fraidy-cat.

He fumbled for the door handle and launched himself into the traffic lane. “Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m fine.” He feinted left and shot right, smooth moves as irresistible to women as the A-okay sign he flashed. “See? All in working condition, except the frog in my throat. Those buggers’ll jump into the damnedest places.”

She eyed him askance and leaned into her truck. “So you’re a frogman?”

“Combat diver? No.” Might’ve gone that route, if he’d taken the spec ops weather tech track, but those choices lay twenty years in the dust. “Air Force data intelligence and analysis for a while. I’m in the private sector now.”

“Huh? I meant because of the frog. In your throat?” She flipped him a granola bar and tore one open herself. “He must’ve hopped outta the way of the tire.” Lips clamped, she threatened a grin. “Sorry for the fright.”

Her smile begged to be kissed free. The breeze caught the sharp points of her hair, an earthy-rich shade of red clay skittering along her forehead and ears. Lizard-brain urged him to slip his fingers through those flyaways, press her back against the truck, and hold her still while he tasted—

Plastic crackled in his grip. Coughing, he ripped the granola wrapper open. The last time he’d fallen so hard and fast, he’d landed in that god-awful mess senior year. “You have some serious road skills. Pick the wrong move, and that shredder would’ve knocked you sideways into a roll.”

“Not my first blowout.” Bar jammed between her teeth, she rolled up the lid on the aluminum toolbox running the length of the bed. Her quick rummage produced a folded tarp, a roped pair of chocks, a cross-socket lug wrench, a small plank, and a red jack shaped like a fire extinguisher. Between peeks down the deserted stretch of road, she piled the gear alongside the shredded back tire. Standing straight, she leveled her gaze at him and retrieved her granola. “Thanks for the overlap parking job and the flashers. Traffic-side changes are a bitch with no lookout.”

“No problem.” He stepped back as she went to circle him. They played backsy-forsy twice more before he snapped to attention and held his ground. “Howsabout I stay still and let you make all the moves?” Preferably before his dick saluted again.

“Fine by me.” She flashed a broad, beautiful smile with a thin gap between her front teeth. “Watch and learn.” Her arm brushed his chest as she squeezed by beside the truck. Crouched at the back, she reached under the bed.

Her boxy truck, its mirrors and dash free of fancy electronics, wore its age well. The side panel bore the same lettering style as the tailgate, bigger on top:
Runyon’s Repairs: Rapid, reliable and right the first time
. Be a surprise if she rode on shoddy tires. A sharp bit of nothing in the road must’ve jumped up and said hello.

The remains of the tread hung like so much rubber and metal confetti from the rim. Explosive failure. Scrapes decorated the wheel well. No gouges, twisted steel, or axle bits sticking out. With a spare on, the truck would be drivable.

“I’m no expert”—wouldn’t Rob kill to hear him admit that one—“but intel from my preliminary scouting report suggests something large and round ought to be here but isn’t.”

“That’s the best you got, huh? The Air Force pay you for that top-notch analysis?”

A metallic smack and a hollow thump sounded from under the truck. Her shorts hugged her ass as she wiggled back, dragging a full-size spare. A lime green strap escaped the edge of her tank top.

“You giving me a hand or standing around to gawk?” Her gaze dropped, a split-second blink at the lug wrench lying near his feet.

Creeper. Self-defense.

He rushed in, steadied the tire’s bouncy landing, and rolled it around the side. He pegged her for late twenties, wiry and strong but wary. Appreciating a stranded woman’s assets on a deserted roadside fell dead last on the list of brilliant dating strategies for a guy on the wrong side of thirty-five.

“Your truck here is a little before my time.” So old the dash might house a tape deck. “You need to analyze satellite data, I’m your guy. But I’ve got a friend who’s great with machinery.” Married, too, and not about to steal this self-assured woman away before he took his shot. “I could give him a call.”

“Relax, I’m hot shit with machines myself.” Shooing him off the tarp, she held out the chocks. “Think you can put the squeeze on a tire for me, Brainy?”

“Brainy?” He’d earned his merit badges in class clownery. She numbered first-and-only among those defining him by his intelligence. Tempting. The class clown label chafed when the twenty-year high school reunion loomed next summer with at least one likely attendee he’d rather not see again. He snagged the chocks dangling from her palm. “Yeah, I guess I am.”

Tarp spread, she waggled grease-smudged and muddy fingers. “I’m a hands girl.”

Show me.
Mouth firmly snapped shut, he scooted around the truck. He didn’t score on every at-bat, but his comedic charm meant he rarely suffered droughts. With this woman, the easy way cramped his chest. His nervous system second-guessed his movements and paralysis overtook his command center.

Her laughter followed him. “Don’t crack your teeth holding back that filthy remark, Brainy.”

BOOK: An Accidental Gentleman
6.08Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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