one rule—never get involved with a mark. Well, had one rule. To be fair, though, Simon Ramsey is dark, dangerous, and has shoulders like a Greek statue. Besides, it’s not as though Jacob’s even really stealing from Simon… just his boss and his brotherinlaw. Simon didn’t buy that excuse either after he caught Jacob breaking into the company’s computer network. That would have been that—one messy breakup, one ticket to Bali booked—but it turns out that the stolen information is worth more Just another day at the office. than Jacob thought. With his life—and his ribs—threatened, For some people that means Jacob needs Simon to help spreadsheets, and for others him out. Or maybe he just it’s stitching endless hems. needs Simon. For Jacob Archer a day at the office is stealing proprietary information from a bioengineering firm for a paranoid software billionaire. He’s a liar and a thief, parlaying a glib tongue and a facile conscience into a lucrative career. He just has
enough he could reach out and touch it. So not much room for a breeze to work Jacob rolled back to his apartment at dawn. He was itself up. tired, sore, and sticky. Unfortunately, the Usually he’d have had a good time the night before background that was about to make it worth his while. to be run on Jacob Archer wasn’t going to show up the Not today. It had just been short of bank balance that work. Good, honest labour. could justify a nicer place. So for now, this was home God, his Dad would be sweet home. ashamed of him. That almost made it worthwhile. Luckily, he didn’t need Almost. much. Just a place to lay his head and a wifi signal to He trudged up the narrow piggyback off. flight of stairs to the one bedroom he was renting on He flopped out on the couch the third floor. It smelled of and balanced the laptop on his stomach. A yawn bleach and cleaning solution. OrJacob ducked escaped him, the pop of his his head and sniffed under jaw loud between his ears, his armsmaybe that was and he had to scrub the blur of water out of his eyes him. He stepped on the before he could navigate the back of his trainers to get them off and stripped down various security protocols and download his email. to his skin. It wasn’t much cooler. There was no air conditioning, and the one window opened onto a brick wall opposite that was close
Spam. Spam. That one guy that wouldn’t take a hint. Two from his sister, probably more complaints about his move. Crap. More
crap. There it was. Jacob whistled tunelessly to himself as he hit Grace Emory’s email. It opened up to reveal a job offer. The fact he was second choice didn’t even sting that much, although the favors he’d had to burn to get the first choice dragged in on a warrant from Alabama still did a bit. He fired off his acceptance quickly, and then unceremoniously handed his resignation in to his current employers. There was more to do. He had to look over the blueprints he’d got his hands on, and familiarise himself with the Trojan he’d had tailored for this job. Writing a computer program that advanced was out of his skill sethe was better with people than computersbut he made sure he knew how to use it.
Except the sweat had turned to salt on his skin, and every time he blinked it was getting harder and harder to open his eyes. And the laptop had gotten hot enough while he was working that it was starting to scorch his balls. Jacob closed the lid and reached down to set the computer on the floor. It was still whirring softly to itself as he closed his eyes. Sleep, so insistent a minute earlier, was suddenly elusive. He couldn’t muster enough energy to open his eyes though. So he stared at the back of his lids and waited for his brain to run down. How long had it been since he had to do this level of legwork on a job? Usually there was a admin who kept all her passwords on her phone, or a disgruntled engineer he could connect with on Facebook. Syntech was a vault, though.
The only way in was to brute force his way from the bottom. And heâ€™d taken to a life of crime because he thought it was easy money. With the amount he was getting paid, of course, he was still coming out ahead on the whole effort to profit equation. Maybe it would make Devon Porter feel better once this was all over though, if he knew the person that had robbed him blind had sweated to do it. That was the last thing he remembered thinking before he finally slipped into sleep. When he woke up five hours later he had a crick in his neck and his mouth tasted like old socks.
Chapter Two On stage a stunning performer in skintight tie dye, sparkling blue afro towering over the crowd, winked her way through a knowing version of ‘I Kissed a Girl’. Hot young men, skin glistening and glittering under the bluehued lights, jostled for space on the dance floor, whooping and clapping until they nearly drowned the performer out. Two pretty boys in body paint and not much else made out against the bar, smearing pink and green across each other. Simon took a drink of flat soda, tasting his temper in it, and turned the red vinyl stool back to the bar. ‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed,’ he said. ‘This is a gay bar, Dev.’ ‘Yeah?’ Dev drawled as he sucked on his craft beer. It was his only concession he was willing to make to the
fact he had cash now. ‘What gave it away.’ Simon didn’t dignify that with an answer. His temper was already on edge the music was too loud, the bodies were too close, and it made his nerves squirm under his skin and he didn’t need to fall into old habits with Dev. Although these days, it was Simon who was more likely to throw a punch than his old friend. Especially where drink was involved, which was why he was sticking to soda. ‘I don’t need set up,’ he said instead. ‘Your ego is bigger than her hair,’ Dev said, jerking his thumb at the stage. ‘What makes you think you’re the target?’ Simon raised his eyebrows and looked Dev up and down, from the heavyset shoulders that made him look like he slumped to the
long legs in jeans that were faded past fashion and into just old. With his cropped hair and scarred knuckles, he looked more exforces than Simon did. ‘If you’re on the turn, Dev, you’d be better off finding a bear bar.’ ‘Fuck off,’ Dev said, unconsciously sitting up a bit straighter. ‘I have money, I could get waxed. Anyhow, that’s not the point. You’re not the point. Callie thinks I need to start dating again.’
the details. ‘Maybe she’s right. Becca would have wanted you to move on.’ Tilting his beer to his mouth, Dev snorted. ‘Not according to her.’ He swallowed and wiped his mouth on the back of his sleeve. ‘Besides, you’d stab me.’
‘Probably.’ Behind him the drag queen threw the stage open for karaoke. Simon winced and wished for whiskey. ‘One night out It hadn’t exactly been a hot isn’t going to pacify Callie.’ night out, but it chilled more as the memory of ‘It will for a while,’ Dev said. Simon’s sister, Dev’s wife, He drained the rest of his bellied up to the bar. Not beer and signalled the the usual reaction to Becca bartender. entering a room, she’d been the life and soul, but she had been dead two years. Dev had been by her bedside; Simon had been somewhere in Afghanistan, top secret enough that even he wasn’t meant to know
Chapter Three If Jacob had been planning to pick someone up, he’d have gone to a gay bar. He was a thief not a gambler, he liked the odds to be in his favour. At The Hideout you had a better chance of getting good chicken wings than good dick.
been at, he’d not left much of a tip.
Of course, Jacob wasn’t planning on spending a lot of time with him. He popped a last fry in his mouth and washed it down with a mouthful of beer. There were pros and cons, but in the end…what the hell. Jacob wanted to stumble back to his apartment On the other hand, he wasn’t going to turn down a smelling like sex for once, instead of cleaning sure thing either. And the guy at the other end of the supplies. bar, dark haired and good looking (enough) in a navy It would be easy too, and tshirt and slacks, had been Jacob didn’t feel like working hard for anything eyeing him up for the last twenty minutes, ever since else this week. his friends left. The waitress had already Jacob licked grease off his brought the check. Jacob left a couple of bills to cover fingers and returned the favour with a lazy appraisal. it, including a tip, and stood up. He stretched lazily, The guy seemed like an enjoying the flex of tendons asshole. Him and his and the mild fuzz of the friends had pestered the booze in his brain, before young server during their meal, all hands and smut. sauntering over to the bar. From the dirty, teary look “Congratulations,” he said. she was giving him as she cleared the table they’d
The guy gave him a surprised look. “What?” “You’re celebrating right?” Jacob smiled easily as he stole the guy’s beer and looked him up and down. He hazarded a guess. “New job.” Well. Guess. He did do this for a living. A smug smile curled his target’s mouth. “Close. Promotion.” He absently smoothed his shirt down over his stomach before he gave Jacob an overcasual nod. “Harry.” “Ben,” Jacob lied smoothly. Not like ‘Jacob Archer’ was his real name either, but he had to keep Jacob around for a while. He couldn’t afford to shed him just to get rid of this asshole once he was done. “Well, I’m sure you deserved it.”
bottle like he could feel it on his cock. Sweat soaked the roots of his hair. He was already hooked. Jacob sprawled back against the bar, his elbows braced against the top, and let Harry reel himself in. It didn’t long for Harry to work up the nerve to ask, “You wanna go somewhere?” Jacob rolled his head to the side, it made his bones crackle, and pushed himself off the bar. “Sure,” he said. “Your place?” With the promise of getting laid on the cards, Harry didn’t even object when Jacob interrupted him paying the tab to snag a twenty out of his wallet. He passed it on to the waitress with a wink, and got the first smile of the evening from her.
He took a drink of the beer. “My car’s parked down Harry watched his mouth wrap around the lip of the here,” Harry said once they
got outside. He pointed down a narrow alley that cut through to the main street. “It’s not far.”
He swung a punch before Jacob could say anything. His fist connected with the point of Jacob’s chin and sent him spinning to the Jacob grinned and pushed ground. Jacob hit the Harry into the wall. He concrete hard. His head shoved his hands up under was spinning and from the the navy blue tshirt, his taste of blood in his mouth fingers splayed against the he’d bitten his tongue. warm skin of Harry’s stomach, and kissed him “He followed me out of the roughly. The stomach was bar,” Harry spluttered his nice, hard muscle clenched way through his excuses. under Jacob’s fingers, and “Just jumped me out here. the kiss was ok. It couldn’t be that cute waitress right?” “Harry? Harry. What the fuck.” His voice cracked as he tried to turn it into a joke. The angry interruption Unfortunately his friends made Harry go rigid, and didn’t think it was so funny. not in a fun one. He grabbed Jacob’s shoulders, his fingers clenched hard Jacob tried to scramble to enough to hurt, and shoved his feet but a boot to the him roughly backwards. gut put him back down again. Well, he supposed, at “Get the fuck off me!” he least he’d been right about yelled, one hand up to the guy being an asshole. swipe the kiss off his mouth. “What the hell do you think you’re doing.”
Chapter Four It took a couple of hours to rub the rough off Simon’s nerves, and for the sweaty dancers to look good instead of like a threat assessment. By that point Dev was six beers to maudlin and ready to leave. Since the his temper would be back by the time he got anyone home, Simon shrugged the temptation off. He hooked Dev’s arm over his shoulder and walked them both outside, sliding between the press of bodies with the ease of big blokes that can look nasty.
Callie I was the life and soul.’ It wouldn’t have been the first Simon crashed on Dev’s couch. Not today though, he needed to walk off the empty adrenaline hangover. He pushed Dev back into the car. ‘Not this time.’ Dev gave in, sprawling over the leather seats. ‘I’ll see you Monday.
Once the car was gone, Simon started walking. His long legs ate up the scuffed pavement, sweat itching down his spine as the heat got to him. It was a muggy ‘I can take a cab,’ Dev heat, that smelled of hot protested as Simon called tarmac and concrete not the car service. ‘I’m not fucking Jobs. I can still take dust and sand. He walked until he heard the music a cab.’ and shouting of Riverside drifting up over the banks, ‘Humour me.’ strung lights glittering against the darkness. Dev rolled his eyes, but Reversing course, he had waited to get poured into the town car. He stretched spent his allotment of tolerance for bodies around back out and thumped Simon’s ribs. ‘Come on. Tell tonight, he kept walking.
Eventually he’d get a cab and head home, but there was no rush. Three blind turns later, on a street of narrow, ageworn red brick buildings, he heard the familiar thud and scuffle of dirty work from an alley.
He stepped into the alley three men, he registered and adapted and grabbed the kicker by the back of his jacket, hooking his other foot around the man’s ankle. Already off balance, one foot raised for another kick, the man went down ‘Fucking queer fucker.’ A on his ass. He was big, all rough voice grunted out the fleshy muscle and angry, unimaginative expletives, hampink skin, and he punctuated by the might have been dangerous distinctive sound of a boot to someone not already on leather connecting with the ground. Just in case, fleshcovered bone. Another Simon drove his foot into voice laughed, the sound the man’s gut. All the red nasal and nervous. colour drained from the man’s face and he wheezed Two. At least two. He pulled wetly for air as Simon his wallet out of his jacket stepped over him. and stuck it into the back pocket of his jeans, striding The braver of the two towards the alley. remaining thugs looking out of place in his navy It would probably have been jeans and a collared tshirt good practice to yell and try threw a punch at Simon’s to scare the thugs off head. He swayed out of the without any violence. Simon way, grabbed the wrist on could vaguely remember his way past his ear, and a time when he’d have done popped the elbow out of that himself. Fuck it, some true. The man screamed people didn’t deserve to like a hurt dog, eyes avoid a broken nose. stunned and shocky, and
the last man scruffy and nondescript in his ratfaced meanness lunged at Simon. Something thin and metallic glinted in his hand. Simon used yuppie’s broken arm to swing him around, fouling ratface as they stumbled into each other. Shoving his friend roughly out of the way, rat face wove the knife in front of him as he went for Simon. A bit of skill. Enough to gash the back of Simon’s hand, opening a hot, wet line from knuckle to wrist. Simon flicked the blood from his knuckles. In an odd way, he liked the pain. It was a relief, for once, to have something to do with the triggered fight or flight reaction. Ratface jabbed twice. Simon blocked him, then drove the heel of his hand into the man’s face. His nose crumpled with a spurt of blood and a sound like breaking plastic.
Simon turned on his heel. The first man was back on his feet, sick clotting around his lips and his hands clenched into big, clumsy fists. ‘Gonna’ Before he could get out the rest of the sentence, the man they’d been whaling on staggered to his feet and broke an empty beer bottle against the back of his attacker’s head. Bloody glass scattered the ground, and the man went down like he’d been poleaxed. Blood gushed from the open wound on his scalp tight skin peeling back from his skull and the fight went out of his mates. They ran for it, yuppie huddled over his ruined arm, leaving their friend on the ground.
Simon wiped his knuckles on his shirt and glanced at the other man, giving him a quick once over. He had scruffy blond hair and the ‘Watch out!’ someone yelled. sort of angular lines that
made it look like God had spent a long time on his skeleton and didn’t want to hide it under skin. Good looking, but in the sort of way that wouldn’t grab attention if he wasn’t bloody and bruising. Nothing that merited the hot rush of lust tightening Simon’s balls and making his breath hot and eager in his throat so that was probably more down to the afterwash of the fight.
He stuck his hand out, long and elegant with big knuckles and a dirt under the neatly trimmed nails. Simon hesitated he didn’t shake hands, but he wanted to know what Jacob’s skin felt like. Warm probably running a bit hotter than usual and with the rub of new calluses across his fingertips and palm. Against Simon’s fingertips, his pulse was a feardriven stutter.
‘You ok?’ he managed to rasp, trying to swallow the heat in his throat.
Instead of letting go, Jacob tightened his fingers That got him a snort and a slightly. Pale eyes glanced scathing look out of pale down at their hands and eyes. ‘Brilliant,’ the man then up. The colour was snarked. ‘There’s nothing nondescript in the dim like a bracing beating to light, but Simon could see wind up the evening. I just’ the question in them. He stopped and scrubbed his hand over his face, ‘Look, I don’t particularly grimacing an apology out want to go through this between his fingers. ‘Sorry. with the cops,’ Jacob said. I’m being an asshole. You His adam’s apple bobbed as stopped it being a lot worse. he swallowed, raising his Thanks. Jacob.’ eyebrows. ‘So maybe we should just get out of here
Maybe it was the fight or the leftover lust from the bar but somehow it seemed like a good idea to say ‘yes’. It was obvious that Jacob didn’t want anything more from Simon than he could give. A thank you fuck, a onenight stand, and a mug of coffee in the morning.
A smile caught on the corners of Simon’s mouth, When Simon stripped his and then disappeared shirt off, Jacob expected the again. long, brutally efficient straps of muscle and arrow “Are you sure you’re making lean torso. The scattering of good decisions right now?” scars on his body hadn’t he asked. “After what been part of his mental happened…” picture, but he supposed Jacob finished dragging his they made sense. The man tshirt over his head and had taken out the thugs in tossed it in the direction of the alley with the sort of the couch. His stomach had deceptively easy precision that solid, nagging ache that you didn’t get unless that promised a bruise you got in a lot of fights. tomorrow. The one on Simon’s “You saved me from getting shoulder still gave him my ass kicked.” He reached pause. It looked an out and grabbed the explosion frozen in flesh, all waistband of Simon’s jeans. jagged lines and cross “I want to say thank you.” hatched surgical scars. “Fuck.” Jacob paused with his tshirt dragged over his head but still tangled around his elbows. Simon folded his shirt, his body held carefully with a sort of selfconscious stiffness. “I wish I’d seen that before I spent four flights whining about my bruises.”
Simon resisted the tug. Since he appeared to be six foot plus of bone and muscle, it wasn’t hard. “You don’t have to.” “Shut up and come here.” Whatever qualm that Simon was struggling with gave up
the ghost and this time he let Jacob drag him closer. He caught Jacob’s face between his hands, fingers tangled in his hair, and tilted it back to slant a rough, hungry kiss over his mouth. The kiss claimed Jacob’s mouth, a fierce demand. Jacob leaned into it, their tongues tangled and breath hot, as he unbuttoned Simon’s jeans and shoved them down.
it to wait until later.
The shrill sound of a phone woke Jacob at an unholy hour of the morning. He groaned and reached for it, confused by the dead weight of one side.
After a second his brain caught up with his body. Not his phone, and the owner was the weight pinning him down. It was a They didn’t get as far as the single bed, with a crappy bedroom. Instead they Ikea mattress that unrolled. tumbled onto the couch in a There wasn’t much room to tangle of legs and not not squash each other. kickedoffyet jeans. Hands slid over sweaty skin, teeth “What time is it?” Jacob left marks, and any ache peeled one eye open and that Jacob had in the closed it again as the light morning was going to be hit him. It took him a wellearned. second before he tried again. He rolled onto his His brain was insisting back and watched Simon there was something he climb over him and get off should remember, but the bed. It was a nice view. between the adrenaline from nearly getting beaten “Five am.”“Holy crap, why?” up, the lingering buzz, and the distraction of Simon’s “It’s morning.” mouth around him...he told
“I do not know who told you watched with appreciation that, but they weren’t your as Simon got dressed. If he friend.” wasn’t going to get laid this morning, he might as well Simon snorted, that there log the view for later. and gone again smile sliding over his face, and leaned “It’s Sunday.” over to drop a kiss on Jacob’s mouth. Despite the Simon pulled his shirt on. hour, Jacob felt a lazy He’d denied the arm hurt twitch of interest between the night before, but he was his legs. He hooked his cautious with it as he got hand around the nape of dressed. Simon’s neck and pulled him back down. “I’m a security consultant,” he said. “Sometimes the “You don’t have to leave hours aren’t forgiving.” yet,” he said. “It’s still a one night stand, long as you Even before he’d done it for leave before dawn.” a living, Jacob had been a really good liar. It was still a For a second he thought good thing that Simon had Simon was going to go along turned away to pick up his with it. He could feel the jeans as he said that, long, hard body sway because it felt like Jacob’s toward him, then the other true feelings were written man groaned and pushed on his face. himself up off the bed. Shit. Shit. “I have to go into work.” Simon. That’s what he’d Jacob sighed and let him needed to remember last go. He folded his arms night. ExMarine Simon, behind his head and the asshole who’d helped
make Syntech’s security protocols so irritatingly close to perfect.
Simon shoved his hand through his hair. The smile came back and hung around a bit longer this How the hell had he missed time. He looked like he that? didn’t smile enough. “I enjoyed meeting you, “You ok?” Simon asked. He Jacob,” he said. “I’m glad I looked curiously at Jacob. was the one who saved your “I’d stay if I could, but” ass.” “Hey, a one night stand I don’t have to share my toast with? Not complaining,” Jacob said. “Just admiring the view.”
“Me too,” Jacob said.
It was even the truth. That didn’t happen often. It was a good thing Jacob wasn’t going to be seeing this guy It was fine. He’d not again. He might get into bad expected to see the freaking habits. head of Syntech security playing white knight last night, and the guy was even better looking in person than he was in pictures. It didn’t matter. If his plans worked out he’d not cross paths with Simon again. Besides, it was a one night stand. Who remembered one of those once you’d reached the pavement outside?
That was a fair point. Simon walked over to the edge of the ring and bent over to grab his bottle of his water. He twisted the top off and took a gulp of lukewarm water. “I’m off my game.”
The impact with the mat knocked the breath out of Simon, and the familiar throb of old pain in. He lay on his back for a second and waited for his lungs to start working again. The ceiling was pretty dull from Dev laughed and stretched, with a wince for the ache in down here. his ribs. He’d got one good shot in, Simon had got a “I’m not sure it’s that reassuring that I can knock fair few. If they were going my head of security on his on points, he was winning. ass.” Dev said. He leaned “That’s not like you,” he over Simon and smirked. said. “Of course, you’ve “Good for my ego, but not been in a weird mood all reassuring.” week.” He offered a hand. Simon grabbed it and got hauled to “Have I?” his feet. He rolled his head from one side to the other to “Yeah, a good one,” Dev said. “Ever since I dragged stretch the muscles out. you out for the night. So “You sucker punched me,” what happened, you go back in after I left and pick he said. someone up? Dev grinned and wiped a hand over his face. “After all “Not exactly.” these years, you should be Dev paused in the middle of expecting that.” unwrapping his hands and
squinted at Simon over his short cropped hair. suspiciously. “So something “What’s he like?” did happen? Spill.” Simon leaned on the ropes. “It’s none of your business.” He snorted. “It was a one night stand, Dev. We “Who else are you going to fucked, we didn’t talk about tell?” our hobbies.” “I met a guy,” Simon said. He grunted and scrubbed a hand through his hair, it was sweaty under his fingers. That wasn’t exactly right. “I picked up a guy.” Dev scratched at an old scar in his eyebrow and frowned. “I’m not sure if I should high five you or lecture you on safe sex. Being a Dad does weird things to your brain.” “How about we skip both,” Simon said. “I don’t want to talk about my sex life with you.” “If that was true, you wouldn’t have brought it up.” Dev ducked through the ropes and hopped off the ring. He grabbed a towel from the rack and rubbed it
That was true. Although he could have also said that Jacob was funny, smart, resilient, and hot. That would have been true too. Dev shrugged. He probably didn’t remember what one night stands were like. It was possible that he’d never had a one night stand, since him and Becca had been together since they were teenagers. “You like him?” “We had sex.” “You going to see him again?” “One night stand,” Simon repeated. He ducked under the ropes and jumped
down. Dev chucked a towel in his direction and he grabbed it out of the air. The cotton was soft against his fingers. “I didn’t even get his name.” Sometimes Simon forgot that Dev was a lot smarter than he looked, smarter than anyone they’d grown up with had given him credit for except for Becca. His brotherinlaw twisted the towel into a rope and slung it around his neck.
They started towards the changing rooms. Their feet scuffed over the worn lino with every step. “I don’t know,” Simon said. The weight of the last few years of screw ups and screwed up relationships hung on his voice. “Maybe it’s better to just leave it as one good night, you know? Not try to make it something more than it is.”
At this hour the changing rooms were empty and the “So you’d like to see him floors had been bleached again.” recently enough it stung Simon’s eyes. The whole “He was pretty clear on it gym would have been empty being a one off thing.” except Dev paid for the owner to crack the doors for “So you’d like to see him him. He could have had a again.” private gym at work, or the house, but that sort of thing Simon gave Dev an irritated always made him look. “Don’t be a dick.” uncomfortable. Like he still heard the good people of “I’m not.” Dev paused, and Jasper sniffing that he was then let the smirk escape ‘getting above himself’ when again. “Or only a little. It’s he used his money for just...you seem to like this anything flash. guy. He makes you smile.”
“Maybe,” Dev said as he rattled his locker open. “Me and Becca always said that about going back to Charleston, doing the whole second honeymoon thing. Maybe the restaurant we loved had closed, or the hotel had gotten shabby. Like it would overwrite the good time we had originally. Except now I wish we’d gone, and we never will. Life’s short, Simon, so get the most out of it.”
never did. He might not know Jacob’s surname, but he did know where Jacob lived.
The idea hung there for a second, until Simon huffed out an irritated sigh and shoved it aside. He’d look like a stalker, like a desperate stalker. If someone did that to Simon, he’d be more likely to call the cops to move them on than agree to go out on a date with them. Piece said, Dev stripped off Still, the notion hung out in quickly, shoved his sweaty the back of his head as he clothes into a sports bag, showered and got dressed and headed for the showers. and went about his day, he Simon let him go, slowly could do it. If he wanted to. unlocking his own locker to get his gear out. He wanted to be angry at Dev for invoking Simon’s dead sister, his twin, in the cause of hooking up with some stranger. Except Becca would probably have approved. Simon absently rubbed his shoulder. It didn’t help. It
should have been airtight and he’d not done anything significantly shady yet. Two girls were standing on What other reason could there be, though, for the kerb outside Jacob’s building when he got back. Syntech’s security to turn They stood with their heads up on his door. pressed together as they angled for a selfie in front of “Jacob.” Simon paused as he took his sunglasses off, the long, low Firebird folded the legs, and tucked parked at the curb. Jacob paused on the sidewalk to them into the pocket of his let them finish. He shrugged jacket. “You look like you’ve his backpack off and swung seen a ghost.” it up onto the opposite shoulder. The strap caught That didn’t sound like the in the logo stitched onto the segue into an arrest. Jacob scratched his cheekbone pocket of his overalls. with his free hand. “The The door to the car swung phantom of hookups past,” open as the girls took their he joked. “Did you forget picture. They gave the long, your wallet?” suitclad man that unfolded Simon leaned his arms on himself from the car a the roof the Firebird. “No, startled look over their shoulder, giggled, and ran I... Do you want to go to dinner?” off down the street. Jacob genuinely considered “I...what?” following after them as he stared at Simon. It was some comfort that Simon looked almost as His first thought was that he’d been made. He wasn’t surprised by what he just said as Jacob felt. He sure how, his backstory
rubbed his thumb along the Jacob decided that if it ever sharply carved line of his came to trialor a pissed off jaw sheepishly. employerhe would blame the car. Or the fact the only “Dinner,” he repeated. “A thing in his fridge was cold date. Look, I know it’s a bit kung pao chicken. Well, creepy, but I didn’t have actually lukewarm pad thai your number so… If you chicken, since the onits want me to get lost, I will, lastlegs fridge had fallen off but I’d rather go for that last leg. something to eat.” Strings of fairy lights were OK. This still wasn’t ideal strung over the tables, the and Jacob possibly needed hundreds of tiny bulbs to work on his impulse reflected in the dark water control for the futurebut of the river, and the music the answer was obvious. He from one of the other just told Simon to get lost restaurants carried on the and got on with the job. It night air. Tourists jostled wasn’t as if a cleaner ever down on the walkway, while really crossed paths with the occasional determined the head of security. The jogger dodged around them. point of cleaners in these places was that they were It was a nice restaurant. never seen. The table was small enough they could play footie if they Simon gave a selfconscious wanted. This was an actual shrug of broad, elegantly date. tailored shoulders. “I mean, you have to eat right?” “I should tell you,” Jacob said. “I don’t really do commitment.” An hour later, sitting at a table on the Riverside, Simon took a drink of
water. “I suppose I should return the ring then.”
“What’s your surname?” “Archer.”
The dry humour behind the comment made Jacob snort out a laugh. He poked at the tilapia he ordered as he tried to decide if he could fit anymore into his stomach. “I’m just saying that this” He lifted his fork and gestured at the restaurant, where he knew you couldn’t just walk in and snag a table. “Is a lot of trouble to go to for a date with a guy who’ll probably panic and burn it all down in a week.” Simon sat back. He absently smoothed his shirt straight down over the flat line of his stomach. “I know,” he said. “Don’t ask me to explain it, but I’d rather you were a bad break up than a one night stand.” Jacob laughed. “OK,” he said. “I can probably manage that. So where do we start?”
OK, so it was a bad idea. What Simon didn’t know though, wouldn’t hurt Jacob. Or at least that was the idea.
Prequel short story to contemporary romance , Liar, Liar by TA Moore