The Voyeur Next Door(4)

By: Airicka Phoenix


This guy was not exaggerated.

No less than seven feet with a frame that was clearly stolen from some lumberjack catalogue, he stood blocking my escape. I mean, I could have maybe done some crazy ninja lunge over the counter, but that probably wasn’t going to happen. Instead, I stood there, slack-jawed, staring at the mountain man glowering back at me with a suspicion one would normally reserve for diamond thieves and those bitches who steal all the bikes at the gym just to sit and talk to each other.

He wore flannel, which only made my lumberjack theory all the more plausible. It was undone over a white t-shirt and form fitting jeans that hugged his lean legs the way I kind of wanted to. The hems fell over battered and really ugly boots that needed an incinerator to put them out of their misery and were frayed around the cuffs. His chest strained beneath the thin material with every breath and my gaze was drawn to the hard squares cut of his breast plates and along the wide lengths of his shoulders. The sleeves on the flannel were rolled up his toned forearms and barely concealed the raw muscles underneath.

Definitely a lumberjack.

Shit the man was hot. Screw Boston cream pastries. I’ll take two of him.

“Hello?”

Blinking, my eyes shot up to the head attached to that delicious body and my steamy fantasy bubble popped.

Thick, black hair covered his jaw and mouth in a beard. His hair was the same shade of ebony and hung uncut around his ears and over the collar of his flannel. From amongst all that hair, I could just make out piercing, intense gray eyes.

“Really?” I blurted in clear disappointment, my brain and mouth having lost communication at some point.

It was his turn to blink in surprise. He leaned over and snapped the faucet off with a smack of his palm.

“What?”

There was no helping it. My whole day was officially ruined and it was his fault.

Okay, I had no problem with men with facial hair. Sometimes, it was even hot. But not when it looked like he was going for a yearlong expedition through the Himalayan Mountains, or planned to live with bears out in the wilderness. There was a reason trimmers and razors were invented. And … Goddamn it! The dude was too hot for that shit.

“Are you lost?” he demanded when I could only stand there and silently judge him.

“I don’t know! Maybe you could loan me a compass!” I shot back. “Or a hatchet.” So I was just being crazy and I almost couldn’t blame him for his confounded scowl. I took a deep breath. “I’m Ali,” I said calmly and rationally. “I—”

“Gabriel?” Earl limped up the stairs, clutching tight to the banister until he was at the top. He looked better, I noted. The flush was gone from his face and he wasn’t panting. “I didn’t know you were here.”

Gabriel turned to the other man.

“Really?” I was amazed at how much that single question sounded like mine, full of indignant disapproval. “She’s not even half your age.”

I had not seen that coming.

“Whoa! Wait. What?”

I was ignored.

“Why do they keep getting younger?” he demanded of Earl. “You’re going to break a damn hip … again, and I’m going to have to listen while you explain to the doctor how you broke the fucking thing … again! You’re eighty years old, Grandpa!” Gabriel then rounded on me. “He’s eighty years old!”

“Dude!” I began, putting both hands up to ward off the craziness he was spewing. “I am not tapping that.” I winced and shot Earl a sheepish smile. “No offense.” I went back to glowering at Lumberjack. “So his hip is perfectly safe with me.”

Gabriel looked me over. Actually looked me over with a disbelief that was astounding. Did I have old man hooker stamped to my forehead, or something? Like seriously? I was insulted … and then he added salt to my injuries.

“I guess,” he mumbled. “Did he forget to return a book, or something? I didn’t know the library did house calls.”

How. The. Fuck. Did I go from being a hooker, to a librarian in the span of two seconds?

“Ali was kind enough to help me with my groceries,” Earl piped in before I could kick his lovely grandson in the family jewels.

Swooping down, I hefted up the pack of chicken still lying at my feet and shoved it into his gut with all the force in me. His grunt of pain was only mildly satisfying.

“I accept apologizes in written form only,” I growled through my teeth. “I like to file them under Fuckhead.”

With that, I stomped around him and started for the stairs.

“Ali, wait.” Earl hurried after me, and I only stopped for him. Otherwise, I was ready to make my grand exit, stage left. “Don’t mind Gabriel. His mother drank while she was pregnant.”