An Accidental Gentleman (Gentleman #2) - M.Q. Barber

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