Authors: Joy Avery
When it comes to
love, all deals are off!
Blake Farrington knows
exactly who to call when he finds himself needing crisis management. Yes, this
task is outside Eunice Howard’s usual realm of responsibilities, but he’s
willing to make it worth her time. Plus, she’s ideal for the role. Who better
to play his pretend lover than the one woman who knows him almost better than
he knows himself?
The last thing Eunice
Howard expects when summoned to her boss’s office is a request to play the role
of his new love interest to appease his mother, restless to marry him off.
Foolishly agreeing, she ventures with him to Farrington Estates for the
Thanksgiving holiday. She thought she’d seen all sides of Blake Farrington, but
the man who emerges is a man she could easily love.
Their agreement blossoms
into a connection neither expected—nor are willing to admit. When the lines
between make-believe and reality blur, something phenomenal occurs.
A GENTLEMAN’S AGREEMENT
Copyright© 2015 by
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
No parts of this book
may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form
without permission, except for brief quotes used for the purpose of review or
promotion. Any trademarks, service marks, or product names are the property of
their respective owners, and are used only for reference.
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are
the product of the author’s imaginations or used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
First eBook Edition:
My thanks—first and
foremost—to God for blessing me with this gift of storytelling.
My endless gratitude to
my husband and daughter for your unwavering support and patience. I love you
both very much!
A huge thank you to
Lyla Dune, the best critique partner ever! And also a fabulous author. Check
out her Pleasure Island series. You will laugh ’til you cry.
To my friends and
family who’ve offered tons and tons of encouragement and support, I express my
greatest gratitude. Your support means the world to me.
Blake Farrington folded
his arms across his chest and tuned out the aggravating clamor behind him. The
view from his bedroom window could be summed up in one word: priceless. Glowing
lights surrounded the Hudson River and gave the skyline an angelic glow.
Staring out at the rippling water in the New York Harbor always relaxed him.
He’d lost himself in
the splendor until a pillow found its way to the back of his head. The force of
the blow caused him to stumble forward and into the floor to ceiling window. Regaining
his steadiness, he pivoted. “Woman, are you crazy?”
“I bet I have your
He glared at Sasha—his girlfriend
of the past year. “What is your problem?”
, he added, but only in his
She jabbed a manicured
finger in his direction. “
,” she said sharply. “You’re such a freaking
momma’s boy.” Her green eyes darkened as her anger swelled.
Blake slid his hands into
his black trousers, shook his head, chuckled, and walked away. This was not how
he’d anticipated winding down from his very long, very tiresome workday. He’d fantasized
his woman greeting him at the door wearing an extremely sexy and extremely revealing
negligee, sporting four-inch stilettos—yellow—and offering him a rum and coke.
Two hours ago the thought
of that happening made him laugh. Recalling it now yielded the same results.
What in the hell had he been thinking? Heck, he could barely get Sasha to pour
him a glass of water without expecting something in return.
“Can’t you tell your
parents you can’t make it this year?” Sasha said.
Her words drilled into
him like a dull syringe. “Sasha—” He caught himself and softened his tone. He
inhaled deeply. “It’s my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary party. Are you
asking me to miss it?”
She shot him an
course that’s what I’m asking
glance, but no words confirmed the
expression. A weaker man would have yielded to her request. But weak had never been
Blake pulled his hands
to his waist and rolled his eyes to the ceiling. “I won’t tell them I can’t
“We went last year,
Blake. Who the hell has an anniversary party
He ignored the
ridiculous question. “Yes, we did go last year, but the trip was cut short because
you got ‘
.’ He made air quotes that—judging by the
scowl—pissed her off even more. “Food poisoning that miraculously settled on
our flight back to New York. Imagine that.”
Sasha mocked, sarcasm dripping from her words.
He grunted and returned
to the window. “Look, you don’t have to go if—”
“Oh, I don’t intend to.
I’m spending this Thanksgiving with
family. And I thought you were,
too. At least that’s the lie you told up until a month ago, when you sprung it
on me that plans had changed.”
She had no idea how
relieved he was to hear her say she wouldn’t be accompanying him to Virginia.
Their last visit together had been a disaster. By the time they’d actually left
to return home, Sasha had managed to piss off almost every member of his
Groaning, he faced Sasha
again. “It wasn’t a lie. At the time—”
“I don’t want to hear
at the time
’ bullshit, Blake Farrington.”
Blake dipped his head,
massaging the back of his neck. “I’m tired of arguing about this. For the past
month it’s been the same argument.” He met her eyes again and folded his arms
across his chest. “You’re wasting your time and your breath.”
Sasha cocked her head
to one side. “So, I’m supposed to just show up at my parent’s house
after I’ve already told them you would be with me? Do you realize how stupid
I’m going to look?”
How are you going to look stupid, Sasha?”
“Because for the past
six months I’ve been assuring my parents that we would be there this year.
Especially since we spent last year with
family. Now,” she tossed
her hands in the air, “I’m going
. Arriving on American Airlines
instead of a private jet,” she mumbled, just loud enough for Blake to hear.
The muscles in his neck
tightened again. “Now I get it. You don’t care about us spending the holidays
with your family. You just want them to know you arrived in my private jet.”
“And what’s wrong with
“What’s wrong with that?”
He chuckled. “You’re serious right now, huh?”
“I’m high maintenance. I
make no apologies for that.”
And maintaining her was
getting really old. Not only was this entire conversation beginning to fluster
him, it couldn’t have come at a worst time. Piling right on top of the shitty
day he’d already had. “You know what...” he paused, “if you travel to your
parents’, that’s exactly how you will be traveling. On American Airlines and
alone.” He hadn’t meant his words to sound so callous. Or maybe he had. He
spent his days listening to whining athletes. All he’d wanted when he arrived
home was a little peace and quiet. That wasn’t happening.
Sasha sneered. “Alone? Really?
Or perhaps I’ll just find someone else to escort me.”
Blake opened his mouth
to speak but reconsidered. He released a humorless laugh, rolled his eyes and ambled
On his heels, Sasha
continued. “Oh, that’s funny to you?”
When he didn’t answer,
she dug her razor-sharp claws in even deeper.
“I’ll have you know
that I get hit on four, five times a day. So, don’t you for one minute think
that I couldn’t—”
He swung around to face
her. By the way she flinched, the move caught her by surprise. “Couldn’t what?”
His tone revealed his increasing irritation. A lot he could ignore, but
listening to her confess how easily he could be replaced—which she’d done quite
frequently lately—was not one of them.
quickly, dousing all signs of weakness. “Don’t raise your voice at me. I’m not
a damn child.”
“And I’m not a damn
punching bag.” The statement held double meaning, but he focused on one. He
pointed toward the window. “So let that stunt you pulled a few minutes ago be
the last time you ever put your hands on me.” Technically, she hadn’t laid a
finger on him, but she had placed all of them on the pillow that she’d used to
clock him in the back of the head.
Sasha studied him for a
moment, her demeanor softening. “Where is this relationship going, Blake?”
Fine crease lines moved
across his forehead. “Where did that come from?”
She closed her eyes. “Just
answer the question. Please.”
He had a good idea of
where this conversation was headed. Lately, it was where all of their
conversations eventually led.
. Ever since Sasha’s best friend
married a man she’d only dated roughly two weeks, Sasha had become crazed,
borderline obsessed with marriage. Jumping the broom was nowhere in his near
future, and he thought he’d made that perfectly clear the fifty previous times
she’d worked it into a conversation.
He danced around the
question. “I don’t know. I’m not a psychic.”
“Are you seeing someone
else? That girl at your office. Eunice,” she said as if the name tasted sour in
her mouth. “I see the way she looks at you.”
Here we go again
with the paranoia
. “Why do you ask me that every time we have an argument? Maybe
I should be asking you that question. You’re the one who’s always thinking I’m
cheating. Maybe you’re just trying to cast suspicion off of yourself.”
Sasha wrapped her arms
around her petite frame. “You’re so absurd at times.” She sighed softly. “I
don’t want to lose you, Blake. But lately, I feel like that’s exactly what’s
happening.” Her eyes filled with tears.
And the water works begin
In the year they’d dated, he’d learned her like a book. He could almost time to
the second when she would start to cry during an argument. Even though the
tears were for nothing more than show, he hated to see her cry. He hated to see
any woman cry. Apparently, she’d learned him, too.
He fell into routine,
moving toward her and wrapping her tightly in his arms. He dipped his head and
pushed his lips to her forehead. “Don’t cry. I’m not going anywhere. You know I
love…having you near me.”
Sasha tears stopped as
if on cue. She pushed him away with so much force he lost his balance and fell
backwards. Luckily, the bed broke his fall. “What now?” he asked in a less than
enthusiastic tone, despite already knowing the critical error he’d made. At
this point, playing dumb was his best strategy. It always seemed to work well
for so many of the athletes he represented when they were caught in the media crossfire.
Well, actually, his
unofficial public relations coordinator slash unofficial assistant slash all
around go to woman, Eunice, could also be credited for getting his clients out
of hot water. That woman was a damn charmer.
. A warm sensation
washed over him. But Sasha’s icy words cooled him off instantly.
having me near
The question was
rhetorical, but he nodded. He could have padded it by adding something along
the lines of “
I can’t imagine my life without you
,” but it would have
been obvious he hadn’t meant it.
Sasha shook her head. “I
don’t believe you. We have been dating for a year, and all you can say to me is
you love having me near you? Wouldn’t
I love you
have been more suitable?”
Blake rubbed the back
of his neck. “I—You know— I mean—”
Sasha sighed, her
expression growing sad. “I can count the number of times you’ve told me you
love me on one hand. And you know what’s sad about that? All of the times have
been during sex. Don’t you find that odd?”
Blake studied her a
moment before shaking his head. “No, I don’t. What better time to express love
than while we’re making love?”
that what we do?”
“We screw, Blake. We
don’t make love.”
Damn, she was really going
for blood. If her goal was to ruin his night, she was succeeding. Out of
nowhere, another laugh escaped.
“It’s not funny,
“You’re right, it’s not
funny. It’s freaking hilarious. You’re counting the number of times I express
my feelings? What is that all about? And as far as me only saying it during
sex… Hmmm, I’m sorry, but I can’t remember back that far.”
He’d actually thought Sasha
was joking when she’d come to him and said she’d decided they shouldn’t have
sex for a while. “
It’ll make our bond stronger
,” she’d said. Like a fool
he’d agreed, believing her decision wouldn’t last past a week. Two, at the
most. That’d been a month ago. Most twenty-eight-year-olds loved sex, or so he
believed. At thirty-six, he loved sex. Loved having sex. Loved being sexed. Sasha
had snatched the one thing he loved away.
“You used to make me so
happy,” Sasha continued.
He sat forward and
rested his elbows on his thighs. “
to make you happy?”
Sasha rolled her eyes
Blake pushed himself
from the bed and moved toward her. “You seemed pretty happy last month when you
drove away from the Mercedes dealership.” He waited for a response that never
came. “Last week, when I draped that diamond tennis bracelet around your wrist,
you seemed pretty blissful then.” Sasha glared at him with squinted eyes, but
still remained silent. “And last night, when those first-class tickets to St.
Thomas arrived, I would classify your reaction as a cheerful one.”
“Is that what you do
now, toss everything you’ve purchased me in my face? It’s all material shit,”
she forced through her clinched teeth.
“That’s the problem.
is the only thing that seems to make you happy.”
“That’s a lie, Blake. It’s
a lie and it’s unfair for you to say.”
Blake bit at his bottom
lip, then extended his arm toward the door. “When I walked through the front
door tonight after a fourteen hour day, the very first thing you asked me was
did I get your diamond earrings?” His arm fell to his side. “Not ‘
sweetie, you look tired
’ or ‘
let me rub your back while you relax
can I get you something to eat
’ or ‘
I’ll run you
a hot bath
Sasha eyed him sharply.
“Run your bath water? What am I, a slave now?”
“Am I one when I run
It took her a moment to
find her words. “You’re a man. You’re supposed to go above and beyond to make—and
She could say a lot of
things about him—most would actually be true: he wasn’t romantic enough, not
sensitive enough, not emotional enough, and her list could go on and on. One
thing she could never say, however, was that he wasn’t damn good to her.
“Does that sword not
cut both ways?” he asked.
Sasha’s eyes fell to
her feet. “You running my bath water is different.”
“How?” He tossed his
hands in the air. “You know what...don’t even bother to answer that. I’m sure
your response would only piss me off even more.”
“You know what, I don’t
need you and I don’t need your gifts,” she said, her tan complexion flushing
“I can’t tell.”
Sasha turned her back
to him. When her body jerked, he realized she was crying again. She’d never
attempted to hide her tears before. If anything, she worked hard to make them
visible. He briefly considered them to be genuine.
He stood behind her,
resting his hands on the curve of her hips. “I’m sorry,” he said in a tone
slightly higher than a whisper. He wasn’t sure why
was apologizing? One
thing he was sure of was that this relationship was wearing him down.