Excerpt for Do You Know? by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Do You Know?



Shorts by Suilan Lee







Published by Suilan Lee

Copyright © 2018, Suilan Lee

Cover art by Liang Woo







License Notes

Thank you for downloading this free e-book. Although this is a free book, it remains the copyrighted property of the author and may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed for any commercial or non-commercial use without permission from the author. Quotes used in reviews are the exception. No alteration of content is allowed. If you enjoyed this book, then encourage your friends to download their own free copy. Your support and respect for the property of this author is appreciated. This book is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, living or dead, or places, events or locales is purely coincidental. The characters are productions of the author’s imagination and used fictitiously.

Warning: This eBook contains scenes with adult language, and explicit sex scenes between adult males. It is intended for mature audiences only. If you are offended by such content, please remove this eBook from your files.







One

Saki stared at his older brother’s back, his heart ripping in two. He couldn’t remember the last time his brother had smiled at him. Shinji turned, a scowl gracing his features, and Saki gave an inward sigh.

His mere existence irritated his brother.

“Don’t cause trouble,” Shinji said. “Keep up your grades. Try to find an interesting activity to keep you occupied.”

“How long do I have to stay here?”

“Until you graduate,” Shinji snapped. “We’re lucky Alexander University accepted your grades from Tokyo. Otherwise, father will disown you.”

Saki frowned. His father didn’t care what he did. Otherwise, he would never allow his brother to treat him this way.

“If possible, find a place here,” Shinji said then, his eyes dark, it chilled Saki’s blood.

“What about my mother?” Saki asked in a whisper. “Can I call her?”

“No one is stopping you,” Shinji said. “Enjoy this life, Saki. It’s easy, free. Don’t try to reach higher. You won’t like what happens if you do.”

Saki watched Shinji turn and leave the two-bedroom apartment rented by Masashi Co. for his use. The front door slammed closed and Saki sank to his knees in the middle of the living room. Tears slid down his cheeks, his heart clenching so tight it felt like a heart attack.

His brother’s coldness broke him.

Shinji sat on the wood floor and allowed his gaze to take in the pristine apartment. As expected Masashi had afforded him the best though compared to his apartment in Tokyo, this one was cold. Glass coffee tables, leather white couches, white floor rugs, more glass in the kitchen area, and the dining area. It felt like a mausoleum. He shuddered. This apartment suited his brother more than it did him.

Wiping his cheeks with his sleeves, Saki stared at the ring on his right middle finger. The ring was the bane of his existence. It symbolized his identity as the first son of a third wife in the Masashi family. Shinji was the son of the second wife. Their father, Ken Masashi, had no children with his first wife.

Shinji hated Saki because Saki’s mother was alive. Ken had married Saki’s mother after Shinji’s mother died giving birth.

Ken Masashi had built a large software company expecting to leave it to his children when he retired. As a result, Shinji worked for Masashi Co., had since his graduation from Tokyo University three years ago. Saki had felt relief the moment Shinji joined Masashi Co. He’d thought it would save him from that responsibility. Then, last year after Ken’s second wife’s memorial ceremony, his father had suggested putting Saki in the board too, and Shinji’s demeanor toward Saki had changed.

Not that Shinji had ever liked Saki. His relationship with his older brother remained a cold mass that got harder than the icebergs on the Himalayas each year. He had no idea how to reach Shinji.

Now it had come to this, Saki sighed, exiled in the U.S. like an unwanted family secret.

Saki suspected Shinji wanted him far away from his father. The encouragement to find an interesting activity meant Shinji wanted him to find something else to do instead of working for Masashi Co.

Saki shook his head in exasperation. His brother was an idiot.

Saki got off the floor and kicked the nearest stool. Had Shinji sat down and talked to him, he’d have known Saki’s interests had nothing to do with selling video games and software apps.

Bastard, Saki kicked the glass stool again, only to have it crack.

Fine, if Shinji didn’t want him in Japan, then he’d live here, but on his own terms.

The first being that he didn’t want a frigid apartment, Saki stared at the cracked glass stool. He had enough coldness in his life as it was.

***

Robbie Sinclair drove up to the Westside Apartment building fighting exhaustion. He smelled of fish and onions. He’d been stuck doing the fillet at the restaurant. Six hours of handling raw fish had him smelling like the fish market. He needed a shower first, a cold beer, and then sleep.

Robbie parked his car as close to the front door as he could. Grabbing his duffel bag from the passenger seat, he got out of his car and gave a low appreciative whistle at the sight of the black Ferrari parked right next to him. It looked new.

Closing the door of his year old Mazda, he wondered when he’d afford the Ferrari. His student loans were killing him as it was. Higher education didn’t come cheap, especially in an elite college like Alexander University. He doubted the owner of the Ferrari understood the need to work double shifts.

It was common to see pricey sports cars like the Ferrari at the Westside Apartments. The property was on the high-end side. He could never afford it living alone in the three-bedroom apartment on the sixth flour. Robbie had gotten lucky when his best friend had let him move in so that that they split rent three ways, including his best friend’s brother.

Robbie entered the building and headed to the elevator. The doors were closing when a shout came to hold the doors. Fighting his need to escape company, Robbie stopped the doors closing, and had to step back when a brown carton came through the doors.

Robbie leaned on the wall and studied the package. It looked like a painting, but he couldn’t be sure. Looking over the tall carton, he frowned when he couldn’t see the owner of the package. A second later, the package was leaned on the wall and the owner appeared.

The eyes struck him first, rich brown. It took a minute to take in the rest. Slender face, kissable lips, and punk rock hair bleached dirty blond, skinny as hell and Asian. The guy looked about twenty or twenty-one, though Robbie could be wrong. Fucking handsome, it stunned him.

“Hi, thanks.”

“Yeah,” Robbie said, forcing his eyes away from the younger man, though not for long. “What number?”

He pointed to the six he’d punched when he got on the elevator.

“Oh, the same,” the handsome Asian said with a short nod.

The doors opened a second later, and Robbie watched cute guy grab the package again, and maneuver it out of the elevator. Before he could offer help, the younger man was gone down the hall, and he had to hurry out before the doors closed.

Robbie blew out air at his inability to engage. He followed the cute Asian down the hall and was surprised to see the young man stop outside his door. He started to slow down, and kicked himself when he realized the apartment across theirs was empty.

The cute Asian opened that door and entered without looking at him. Robbie reached his apartment just as the opposite door closed.

“Who is our new neighbor?” Robbie asked when he entered their apartment to find his best friend, Charles, lounging on the couch.

“Rich kid fresh from Japan,” Charles said. “He’s been there three weeks now.”

Three weeks, Robbie frowned. He hadn’t noticed.

“Is he at Alexa U?” Robbie asked, dropping his duffel bag in an armchair.

Charles took it upon himself to know his neighbors. His best friend was the nosy types. Charles was skating through his finance major, while making money on eBay selling collectibles. Charles’ brother, Todd, worked at a popular gay club downtown called Skylax. Robbie barely saw Todd except on the rare occasions Todd was home on a Monday, or he decided to go to Skylax.

“Fine Art major,” Charles said. “I couldn’t dig up much on him. His type is the kind you have to get information straight from the horse itself. I think the family has major clout. His files are too clean.”

“Great, another rich kid,” Robbie sighed.

Their last neighbor had kept them on their toes with major house parties going every night, even during CATS week. They had been saved when the police arrested a minor doing drugs one night, and the ruckus making rich kid was expelled from Alexa U.

“How long do you think he’ll last?” Robbie asked, going into the kitchen to get a cold beer.

“Who knows,” Charles said. “I don’t care as long as he lets me drive his Ferrari.”

“That’s his?” Robbie asked.

“Yep, sexy, isn’t it?”

Robbie uncapped his beer and came to drop on the couch beside Charles. The car was sexy, but the owner was even more so.

“He’s right up your alley, you know,” Charles commented, his gaze on the flat screen, Charles was watching recaps of a football game played the previous night.

“How do you know?”

“Todd said he spotted him at the VIP lounge at Skylax,” Charles said.

Robbie smiled. “It’s strange that your straight brother works at a gay club, you know.”

“He says he gets good tips,” Charles said with a chuckle.

“Is that what they call it these days,” Robbie said sipping his beer, ignoring the little flutter of excitement at the prospect of getting to know their new neighbor better.

Charles threw a cushion at him.

“Stop acting a hundred years old. You’re only twenty-five, you punk. You should try going to the club for a night of fun.”

“But I’m still trying to find the meaning of life,” Robbie said.

Charles laughed and threw another cushion at him.

Robbie grinned and caught the cushion midair. He had started college late. Compared to Charlie who was twenty-one, he felt ancient. It had taken five years to find cash to join college. He had worked three jobs after high school and managed to come up with the initial payment to enroll into Alexander University’s culinary school. This was his last year, and then he’d be on his own working in restaurants, making a name for himself.

Robbie leaned his head back and stared at the ceiling. Some days he couldn’t believe he had managed to get this far.

“Go shower,” Charlie said, miming a gag. “You stink like raw fish.”

Robbie chuckled and tipped the beer bottle to his lips. He got up with a groan and headed to his bedroom. He decided to forget their new distracting neighbor and hoped to God that there would be no loud parties to mess with his sleeping cycle.

***

Two

Two days later, Robbie carried his laundry back from the laundry room and paused at his apartment when he saw their neighbor’s door open. He hadn’t left it open when he went down the hall to the laundry room. Fighting curiosity, Robbie opened his apartment door, and put his laundry basket on the floor.

Robbie’s strayed to the open apartment across. The wooden floors shone, as though freshly buffed. There was a pair of black boots at the entrance, he wondered if their neighbor preferred to walk around barefoot.

Robbie jerked guiltily when the neighbor in question appeared dressed in jeans and a white t-shirt.

“Would you help me?”

Robbie cleared his throat fighting the urge to run and hide.

Caught snooping, great job, Sinclair.

“Hi,” he said hoping the handsome man hadn’t seen him peeking.

“Come on,” the younger man said disappearing behind the open door.

Robbie frowned and crossed the corridor to the open door. He removed his sandals leaving them next to the black boots. He stepped on the polished wood in the direction the younger man had gone.

A large framed painting leaned on the wall. His neighbor held one side, indicating for him to take the other side.

“Are we taking it out?” Robbie asked as he hurried to help.

“No.” A devastating smile flashed at him, he gripped the painting harder. “Do you see the hooks mounted above your head?”

Robbie looked up and sure enough, he saw the hooks.

“If you’d help me place the frame on those, I’ll appreciate it very much.”

Robbie nodded and together they lifted the painting and placed it on the strong nails. It took a few minutes to keep it steady and inline. When they got it right, Robbie stepped back to look at the colorful painting set against the white wall.

“It’s beautiful,” Robbie said in a whisper.

The graphic art was of a gypsy, her wide skirts blowing in the wind in the middle of a desert. The colors were warm, vibrant, and breathtaking. Robbie found he could stare at the picture all day.

“I always imagine her walking into the desert and finding a wild adventure.”

“She looks like she’s in one already,” Robbie said, staring at the blowing sands ahead of the gypsy woman.

A soft chuckle had him turning his head to look at the young man beside him. He blinked when a slender hand was thrust at him.

“Masashi Saki,” the introduction came. “Call me Saki.”

“Robbie Sinclair,” he said in answer, taking the strong slender hand in his. “Call me, Robbie.”

Saki smiled and gave him a short nod.

“It’s good to meet you, Robbie. Do you want juice?”

“Juice sounds good,” Robbie said, looking around the comfortable living room.

There was color in every corner. The walls boasted more pieces of graphic art: different scenes of nature, conceptual cities and animals. The couches were burgundy, with colorful throw pillows. There were mismatched carpets in every sitting space. He smiled at the packed bookshelf that took up the opposite wall. He loved the lived-in and comfortable feel of the apartment.

He turned to Saki at the open kitchen area when Saki asked, “Passion juice or white cranberry?”

“Passion,” he said, walking to the neat island table. He pulled up a seat and watched Saki bring him a glass of cool passion juice. “How do you like it here?”

Saki leaned on the kitchen sink counter and folded his arms against his chest.

“I’m getting used to it,” Saki said with a small shrug.

“You’re from Japan?” Robbie asked, sipping his passion juice. The taste had just the right amount of tang.

“Yes,” Saki smiled, “transferred from Tokyo University.”

“Oh wow, that’s great. I heard it’s hard to get into that school. Why did you move here?”

Saki frowned.

“Personal reasons,” he said, his brightness dimming. “I was lucky Alexander U would take my credits as they were.”

“Do you know people around here?” Robbie asked, wondering what type of personal reasons would make Saki move from Japan to Ithaca.

“People…” Saki said. “I do, but—,” Saki gave him a small smile. “I’m still the new kid.”

“I have two roommates,” Robbie said. “If you like you can come over anytime. We don’t mind company.”

Saki nodded.

They spent the next two hours talking about life at Alexander University, mostly, Saki asking questions and Robbie answering.

When Saki’s phone buzzed, Robbie sighed in disappointment when Saki said he needed to leave.

“Well, remember, knock on our door anytime,” Robbie urged as he got up to leave.

“Thank you,” Saki said, “for the invite and helping me with the painting.”

Robbie couldn’t say Saki’s smile didn’t affect him. Such a slight tug of Saki’s lips made him want to keep staring. With a wave, Robbie left Saki’s apartment and crossed to his own.

***

“Your brother is in New York.”

Saki hated the surge of hope that swept through him. Two months in Ithaca, and he was still holding out hope. Saki glanced at the tall man seated across him. Jonathan Giichi freshly graduated from Tokyo University’s Law School. Jonathan was at entry level at Sichina, a prestigious law firm in Tokyo.

Jonathan had interrupted his pleasant evening at the Skylax Club to deliver news from the family front.

Saki scowled.

“Shinji asked you to watch me, didn’t he?” Saki asked. “Make sure I don’t try to cause trouble for him.”

“Saki, think of me as your personal guide in this new life,” Jonathan said, his tone full of sympathy.

“It’s not your job to make me feel better,” Saki said hating Jonathan’s pity. “You wouldn’t be here if Shinji didn’t want something from me.”

Jonathan got to his feet.

“Your father is coming into town for a short visit. He wants to see you. Shinji sent me to tell you not to come.”

“Of course,” Saki whispered.

Saki got up too. Meeting Jonathan’s gaze, he smiled.

“I’m not a dog to train. Shinji is not my master.”

“Don’t annoy him,” Jonathan said, taking a step closer. “He knows your secret.”

“It’s not a secret,” Saki said, hating the fact that Shinji used his orientation as a blackmail tool. Threatening to tell his father as though that would scare him, Saki scoffed. “You should tell Shinji father knows all my truths. Perhaps Shinji is the one afraid of other people knowing about me. Tell Shinji who I fuck is not his concern.”

“Saki,” Jonathan grabbed his arm to stop him from leaving. “Don’t aggravate Shinji—

“He started it,” Saki said and jerked his arm out of Jonathan’s hold. “Don’t worry. I have no intention of being anywhere near Shinji until he comes looking for me.”

Saki walked down the short corridor to the stairs determined not to break down. His brother’s coldness hurt him even when Shinji was miles away. How did Shinji do it? How did Shinji turn so cold that nothing bothered him? Saki couldn’t find a way to lock Shinji out of his heart.

A touch on his left arm stopped him and he looked up into smiling hazel eyes.

“Hey neighbor,” Robbie said.

****

Robbie had allowed Charles to convince him into going to the Skylax club. He’d worked for two weeks straight without a break. Robbie sipped his beer and settled on a high stool at the bar, his gaze roaming the crowd on the dance floor. The DJ was great tonight, Todd was busy, barely had time to talk.

“Robbie,” Charlie bumped his left arm. “Isn’t that our neighbor?”

Robbie sat up in his stool, his gaze following Charlie’s nod. He hadn’t seen Saki in two weeks. Every time he came home, he’d paused at the door staring at their neighbor’s door. Seeing Saki now, Robbie couldn’t help the surge of excitement that swept through him.

Saki looked good. He always did, but tonight…Saki looked breathtaking in a simple white v-neck shirt, and fitting blue jeans. His hair pulled back in a ponytail. He was talking to a taller man in the VIP area upstairs. They looked in deep conversation.

Robbie frowned when the taller man stepped into Saki’s personal space.

“Whoa,” Charles said beside him. “What do you think is going down?”

Saki started to leave, but his companion grabbed Saki’s right arm, stopping him. Robbie started to get up. Saki extricated himself without further incident.

Robbie watched Saki come down the stairs. He looked upset. Getting off his stool, Robbie hurried to catch up with Saki.

“Hey neighbor,” he said, immediately kicking himself at the lame greeting.

Saki gave him a slight smile that didn’t reach his beautiful eyes.

“Robbie,” Saki said, his frown disappearing. “What are you doing here?”

“One of my roommates works here,” Robbie explained.

Saki nodded.

“It’s become a hangout joint, plus we get discounted drinks.”

Saki glanced at the bar area, distracted.

“Were you leaving?” Robbie asked, hoping not. He reached for Saki’s right wrist.

Saki looked back up the stairs and Robbie followed his gaze to the tall mysterious man at the top of the balcony.

“Wanna hangout?” Robbie asked, returning his gaze to Saki. “You can meet my roommates.”

Saki hesitated for a second, his gaze on the man upstairs, and then he turned back to Robbie and gave him a short nod.

Robbie didn’t waste time leading Saki to the bar.

“This is Charles,” Robbie introduced his best friend. “The guy working behind the counter is Todd. He’s busy—

Saki nodded at Todd and he came hurrying to them.

“Well, I guess not as busy as I thought,” Robbie chuckled. “What do you like?”

Saki ordered a shot of whiskey, and Charles gave Robbie a skeptical look. Their new neighbor was not having a good night.

Robbie sat next to Saki, curious about the fight upstairs. Todd brought Saki’s drink in record time and he frowned at his best friend’s brother.

Todd gave Saki a short nod, and hurried away.

“Are you getting along okay?” Robbie asked, shifting so that he sat facing Saki.

Saki tossed back his shot, closing his eyes as he swallowed. He placed the glass on the counter and flashed Robbie a grin.

“I needed that.” Saki sighed. “I’m doing fine. I haven’t seen you.”

“Work, classes,” Robbie said.

“What do you do?”

“Chef in training,” Robbie said. “I work at the Green Restaurant. You should come over sometime.”

“Didn’t think of you as a chef,” Saki said with a smile.

“Why not?”

“You don’t look it.”

“How do chefs look?”

“I don’t know, never thought about it. Although, chefs always know the type of restaurant they want to open. So, what kind?”

Robbie grinned.

“A cozy restaurant, not hampered by the rating,” Robbie said. “I don’t want the stress of keeping the stars.”

“The stars mean big business,” Saki said, “more success.”

“I don’t want culinary fame,” Robbie said. “I want a comfortable space, great décor, tables that can sit five or two or one, warm ambience, great food. I want a comfortable living doing something that makes me happy. I want to ‘want to go’ to my restaurant not hate it.”

Saki chuckled. “How long have you thought about that restaurant?”

“I’m sorry,” Robbie said, heat suffusing his cheeks. “Everyone in the house knows not to ask, I can go on for hours.”

“I don’t mind,” Saki said. “I think it’s great you know what you want.”

“Don’t you?” Robbie asked. “I heard you were doing Fine Arts.”

“I love drawing,” Saki said. “I have drawn since I was young because I had too much time on my hands.”

“So?” Robbie urged.

“I do take commissions but only when they inspire me. I have an agent, but he’s frustrated with me because I’m distracted. If the fates allowed it, I’d set up a studio.”

“Do it,” Robbie said. “I mean you have the means.”

Saki stared into his empty glass.

“It’s not so easy,” Saki said, his tone so sad, Robbie wondered if it had to do with the argument he’d seen earlier. “I haven’t found my place yet.”

Saki pushed his glass away and glanced at the dance floor when the music changed.

“Do you dance?” Saki asked.

“Uhm…it’s been a while.”

Saki got off his stool, took Robbie’s right hand and pulled him to his feet. Saki led him to the crowded dance floor. The music was fast, pulsing, thrilling. Saki led him to the middle of the dance floor where the energy was highest, most intense.

Robbie worried Saki would expect him to burst a move and he wasn’t coordinated enough…Saki stepped up close, giving him a small smile. Saki wrapped his arms around Robbie’s shoulders and Robbie’s hands rested on Saki’s hips, bringing them close. Robbie held his breath for a moment, afraid this was a dream. He wasn’t this lucky. Handsome men didn’t suddenly ask for a dance. Saki’s smile widened and he breathed out, relaxing a little. Saki’s dance was slow, more like a slow shuffle. Saki stepped even closer resting his chin on Robbie’s shoulder.

They held each other in the middle of the dance floor, a crowd dancing like mad around them. It was hot, the air a mixture of cologne and sweat. Robbie leaned slightly, burying his nose into Saki’s neck, a clean, minty scent filled his nostrils, and he closed his eyes. Saki’s scent was delicious. He wrapped his arms more tightly around Saki, swaying to the music in a slow dance.

***

Robbie Sinclair was warm. His heat enticing, Saki pressed closer into Robbie’s solid frame, wondering if Robbie’s heat would melt the ice inside him. The sharp, solid ice surrounding his soul, Saki closed his eyes and breathed in Robbie’s scent. Needing to feel anything but the cold inside, Saki trailed kisses along Robbie’s neck to his ear.

Robbie lifted his head and then…they kissed. Hesitant at first, a brush of lips…Saki opened his eyes and met a warm brown gaze, he wanted more…so he took it. Fitting his lips to Robbie’s, he licked Robbie’s lower lip, then swept his tongue into Robbie’s heat. Robbie’s arms tightened around him, and they stood in the middle of the dance floor kissing.

The kiss turned into urgency, a burning need. Saki broke away, took Robbie’s hand and once again led him off the dance floor.

They left the club, and Saki drove them back to the apartment building in record speed. None of them spoke when Saki unlocked the door to his apartment. They were in each other’s arms even before they closed the door.

***

Robbie’s heat filled him up, melted his heart like nothing else he’d found since moving here. Not the colorful paintings on the walls, or the bright carpets he’d placed on the cool hardwood floors, nor the plants he grew on his balcony. Robbie kissed him and it felt like the ice age would end, and he could live, even be happy.

So…he held on tight.

Saki turned the dirt for the cherry tomatoes growing in boxes on his kitchen balcony. Robbie slept in his bed.

They’d spent every night together for two weeks now.

Saki smiled, harvesting a bowl of cherry tomatoes. He put the small digging fork in a bucket under the platform he’d built for his little garden. Taking the cherry tomatoes inside to the kitchen sink, Saki washed them and popped one into his mouth. Tangy and sweet, the taste burst in his mouth. Mmm…fresh tomatoes were delicious.

He turned to take the clean cherry tomatoes to the island table and stopped when he saw Robbie emerge from his bedroom. His mouth watered and it had nothing to do with cherry tomatoes.

Robbie scratched his bare stomach and adjusted the faded dark pajama pants he wore. Dark hair stuck in every direction on his head, his eyes sleep-heavy, Saki loved seeing Robbie this way.

Robbie yawned and Saki placed the bowl he held on the table. Two weeks of seeing Robbie this way, and he was decidedly addicted. Saki couldn’t remember the last time he’d wanted someone this much.

It scared him. This need to touch Robbie, kiss him, make love…hot insanity-inducing love…on every surface possible in this apartment. Saki abandoned the cherry tomatoes on the table and walked around to meet Robbie.

He moaned with pleasure when Robbie pulled him into his arms and kissed him. Robbie wrapped his arms around him. Saki clung to Robbie’s shoulders, loving their heat.

“Morning,” Robbie said against his lips when they could both speak again.

“Morning, sleepyhead,” Saki teased. “Breakfast?”

“What’s the time?” Robbie asked, holding him tight and breathing in his scent.

“Do you have to go to work?” Saki asked.

“Class,” Robbie said.

“It’s almost nine in the morning,” Saki said, kissing Robbie’s bare shoulder.

“Great, we have an hour.” Robbie tipped his head back with a grin. “You sleep light. I thought I exhausted you last night. Why are you up so early?”

Saki smiled. “I wanted to see your face.”

“That’s cheesy, Saki,” Robbie said.

“What time is your class out?”

“Around twelve,” Robbie said. “Then I have to go to the Green for work.”

Saki sighed. “I shouldn’t hate your job, but I do. You’re so busy.”

“We’ll see each other later tonight.”

Saki nodded closing his eyes when Robbie swept his fingers through his hair.

“I want to cook for you,” Robbie said into his ear. “You haven’t given me a chance these past two weeks.”

“We don’t exactly talk when we’re together, Robbie.”

Saki smiled and met Robbie’s gaze. From the night at the club, they’d barely talked about anything. They didn’t meet outside this apartment. Robbie came to his apartment after work or after a late class and they fell into each other’s arms.

Robbie traced Saki’s lips with a thumb.

“Should we talk?” Robbie asked.

Saki held Robbie’s gaze for a moment, and then shook his head. He stepped back and took Robbie’s hand leading him to the kitchen. Talking wasn’t what he wanted. He liked their relationship.

Robbie took his mind off his problems. When they were inside this apartment, the world disappeared. Talking would bring them back, and Saki didn’t want to thrust Robbie into his world. It was cruel, and cold. Robbie’s warmth would disappear and he just couldn’t have that.

Robbie pushed him to sit at the island table. Saki reached for a cherry tomato, only to have the bowl moved away.

“These are mine now,” Robbie said with a wink.

Saki sat back in his seat and watched Robbie move around his kitchen.

Yes, he rather liked having Robbie in his apartment. The longer they could keep this…whatever this was…the better.

Robbie talked about his job at the restaurant through scrambled eggs, sautéed cherry tomatoes and whole bread toast.

“When are you graduating?” Saki asked.

“This June,” Robbie said. “We’re two months away.”

“Where will you go after?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Robbie said. “I like the chef at the Green. I’ve learned a lot from him. I want to work for him through the summer, then from there see what else comes along.”

Would they still be together at the end of the summer? Saki wondered. Would he still be here? If his father insisted on seeing him, Shinji would probably make him move again.

“Saki?”

He glanced up to find Robbie studying him.

“There’s a knock on the door,” Robbie said. “Are you expecting someone?”

Saki froze, his gaze going to the door.

The knock came again, and Saki wondered how he hadn’t heard it before. Robbie started to get up, but Saki stopped him.

“I’ve got it,” Saki said. “Finish your breakfast. You have class remember.”

Saki ignored Robbie’s frown and raced to the door. Looking through the peephole, he sighed when he saw Jonathan. Opening the door, he crossed his arms against his chest.

“What do you want?” Saki asked.

Jonathan looked around him into the apartment. “Aren’t you going to invite me in?”

“State your business, and leave,” Saki said, needing him gone before Robbie got curious.

“Jeez, I feel the love, Saki,” Jonathan scoffed. He reached into his black suit jacket and removed a black envelope with the Masashi Logo on the top. “From your father.”

Saki stared at the envelope, but he didn’t touch it.

“Your father is inviting you to a meeting in New York on Friday. This is a summons by the board, Saki. You can’t ignore it.”

“Does Shinji know?” Saki asked. He met Jonathan’s gaze. “Is he going to send his minions to spirit me away, like they did in Tokyo, if he finds out you gave me this envelope?”

Jonathan winced. “No, he doesn’t know and he won’t find out.”

“You should check yourself, Jonathan. Playing my brother against our father will get you in trouble fast,” Saki warned.

“Don’t worry about me,” Jonathan said with a small frown. “I think the problem here is that you don’t know what you want. Your brother freezes you out of the family and you take it without a fight. You don’t ask questions. You obey his orders without question. Are you stupid?”

Saki glared at Jonathan. “I don’t have to listen to this.”

“You’re right.” Jonathan shrugged. “Don’t listen, but you do have to take this envelope, and appear at the Masashi Offices in New York. Don’t disappoint your father. You know how that goes.”

Saki took the envelope and slammed the door closed. He stared at the black envelope, fighting the urge to tear it apart. In the end, his insane need to see his family stopped him.

“Who was that?” Robbie asked.

His voice pierced through the cold glacier that swept over Saki when his family invaded his life. Letting out a soft breath, Saki turned to face Robbie.

Robbie was wiping his hands with a dishtowel, his gaze full of concern.

“No one important, just mail,” Saki said, waving the envelope. He placed it on the table he used for his keys.

“Are you okay?” Robbie asked, as Saki walked back to the kitchen table.

“Yeah,” Saki said, glancing at the time on the microwave. “It’s almost ten o’clock. I can give you a ride to your class.”

Robbie’s gaze narrowed slightly, but he didn’t ask any more questions.

“If you don’t mind,” Robbie said.

Robbie’s car was in the shop. The battery had given up two days ago. Saki didn’t mind driving Robbie around, it gave them more time together.

***

“Wait, wait…” Saki said. “Don’t you dare, Robbie. You’re going to get paint all over.”

It was Thursday afternoon. Robbie had gotten a day off from work. He’d come straight to Saki’s apartment and found him painting a canvas in what should have been the study. The floor was covered with clear tarp, and Saki wore an old paint stained t-shirt and jeans, a Reds cap covering his bleach blonde hair.

Robbie held a bucket of green paint. He stirred the paint with his brush, getting the strands nice and soaked, and then he lifted the brush out with a wide grin.

“Don’t you dare, you menace,” Saki said, lifting his paint stained hands. “Robbie.”

Robbie waved his brush like a wand, sending a spray of green paint drops toward Saki who stood on the other side of the unfinished canvas on the floor.

“This is fun,” Robbie said. “What class is this again? I could use assignments like these.”

Saki wiped his hand down his face, making green streaks across his face. Robbie laughed.

“I like green on you.”

“You’re so dead.”

“Is that a challenge?” Robbie asked, waving his brush again, this time directing the drops to the canvas.

Saki picked up his bucket of brilliant blue paint. Before Robbie could run, Saki waved his brush and large blue paint drops flew in the air. He closed his eyes as a spray of them covered his face, and arms. He wiped his hand down his face wiping paint out of his mouth.

Saki laughed and he blinked. These past weeks, he’d barely heard Saki laugh. Soft chuckles, a soft cough of amusement, but he hadn’t heard Saki laugh aloud without restraint. Saki looked younger when he laughed.

“You look like you should be in that Braveheart movie,” Saki said. “I think I’d like seeing you in a skirt.”

“They are not skirts, love,” Robbie said dipping his brush into his paint. “They’re kilts. Should I turn you into a canvas? I can strip you and paint you all green. I’m hard just thinking about it.”

Saki held his hands out when Robbie advanced on him. He ran around the canvas between them.

“That is so not happening. How long do you think it would take to wash the paint off?”

“Long enough,” Robbie grinned. “It would definitely be pleasurable if you let me help.”

“How interesting that would be,” Saki said with a laugh, sidestepping the canvas again.

Robbie advanced on him until Saki was pressed against the wall. He put the bucket down on the floor, with the brush. Taking off Saki’s cap, he dropped it to the floor and sunk his fingers into Saki’s hair.

Robbie rested his weight on Saki, tilting Saki’s face so that he met brown eyes he was starting to love. He wondered if Saki felt the same. Saki’s gaze dropped to his lips and he leaned for a kiss helplessly. Their passion undid him each time. He kissed Saki now with unrestrained need. Saki moaned, his fingers digging into Robbie’s back, grabbing at Robbie’s t-shirt.

Robbie tagged Saki’s t-shirt off, his fingers already seeking the buttons on Saki’s jeans. They came together fast, the paint forgotten. Robbie turned Saki to face the wall, and sunk into Saki, loving the needy whimpers Saki made. He trailed kisses along Saki’s back, his neck, tracing his hands on every inch of Saki’s torso, his arms…Robbie closed his eyes when Saki arched back into him and came, spending himself against the wall. The feel of Saki coming, brought him to the brink, and he wrapped his arms around Saki as he came inside Saki.

They sank on to the tarp, breathing hard, Saki turning into him, his arms wrapped tight around Robbie. Their lips met in a passionate kiss, and Robbie figured he didn’t care if they never stopped and stayed here forever.

***

Friday morning came too fast. Saki sat on the couch staring at his father’s envelope on his coffee table. He nursed a coffee cup, wishing the sun would stop rising.

He closed his eyes when gentle fingers swept through his hair.

“Why are you up so early?” Robbie asked, perching on the couch arm. He leaned and pressed a kiss on Saki’s head.

“You should go back to sleep,” Saki said, placing his mug on the coffee table, he took Robbie’s hand, needing to steady his wavering heart.

Robbie got up and walked around to sit beside Saki. He pulled Saki to his side, and sat back with a sigh.

“The bed got cold,” Robbie said. “You disappeared on me.”

Saki rested his head on Robbie’s shoulder. “I can go back with you. You have classes later—

“Shh…” Robbie said. “I can’t sleep when you’re sitting in the dark worrying. Are you going to tell me what’s in the envelope?”

Saki curled into Robbie’s heat.

“Robbie.”

“We haven’t had time to talk,” Robbie said then. “I know you’ve wanted it that way, but…I—I care about you, Saki.”

Saki bunched Robbie’s t-shirt; afraid defining their relationship would allow the ugly parts of his life in to what they had. He started to sit up but Robbie held him fast.

“I’m a real good listener,” Robbie said. “If something’s wrong…Saki…I’ll listen.”

Saki stared at the envelope on the coffee table. He bit his lip hard, wanting to tell Robbie his problems with Shinji, needing to let it out, but—

He was afraid Robbie would get scared and leave him alone.

“You holding me like this is enough,” Saki said, losing confidence.

“Saki,” Robbie prompted.

“Just hold me, Robbie,” Saki said. “This makes it all better.”

Robbie sighed and pulled Saki on to his lap. They held each other until the sun fully rose.

***

Chapter 3

“Charles wants you to let him drive this car,” Robbie said at around nine o’clock when Saki drove him to class.

“And you?” Saki asked, smiling at him.

Robbie chuckled. “I’ve been dying to ask, but I’ve been too busy.”

“Should we go out this weekend?” Saki asked. “I don’t know many places, yet. You can take us some place nice for the weekend. You’re not working right?”

Robbie glanced at Saki. “Are you serious?”

Saki nodded.

“Our first weekend away,” Saki said excitement in every word.

Robbie loved the sound of that. Perhaps time away together would get Saki to open up to him. He wanted to know more about his new boyfriend. Wanted to know why Saki always seemed as though he was filling his days with moments.

“We’re here,” Saki said, stopping at the culinary arts building. “I asked Charles to pick you up. I have to go somewhere today. I’ll be back late.”

“Where?” Robbie asked wondering if it had something to do with the black envelope on the coffee table.

Saki gave him a smile.

“Somewhere annoying,” Saki said, leaning over to kiss his jaw. “I’ll see you later.”

Robbie nodded and got out of the black Ferrari. He watched Saki turn in the parking lot, lifting his hand in a wave when Saki honked and drove off.

Robbie went through his classes on auto mode, his thoughts on Saki. He’d met the perfect man. Saki Masashi was everything he’d ever wanted in a partner. Fun, uninhibited, passionate, they fit so perfectly, their heat so hot; he sometimes thought they’d explode into flames. Robbie touched his lips, his eyes closed, remembering the feel of Saki’s lips against his. His heart clenched tight. Saki was…perfect. Yet, there was so much he didn’t know about him. So much he wanted to know, and Saki was keeping it hidden behind the highest emotional wall he’d ever encountered.

Robbie sighed.

“What’s with the huge sigh? Missing Saki already?” Charles asked, on their way to the Green at twelve. “You’ll see him later tonight. Jeez, Robbie, you’ve turned into a sappy fool.”

“You’re just jealous because you’re hanging out in our apartment alone,” Robbie teased.

“Please don’t tell me you want to move in with Saki,” Charles said, looking at him in panic. “We can’t bring in someone new right now. I don’t feel like breaking in a new roommate so close to graduation.”

Robbie scoffed. “I don’t think you have to worry about that.”

He and Saki hadn’t talked beyond what’s for dinner, and the coming weekend trip. He didn’t even know why Saki had moved here from Japan. He knew absolutely nothing about Saki’s life, other than he loved art and growing cherry tomatoes on the balcony.

Charles parked in front of the Green Restaurant. The upscale restaurant was packed for the lunch hour. Robbie reached for his duffel bag, and paused when Charles whistled low.

“Isn’t that Saki?” Charles asked, pointing to two men walking out of the Green. “He looks impeccable. I never imagined him in a suit.”

Robbie froze. His heart beat sped at the sight of Saki in a neat dark suit that hugged his frame to perfection. He wore a navy blue shirt, with an open collar. His bleached hair was neat, instead of the usual mess. Robbie recognized the man with Saki. He was the same one at the Skylax club, the one Saki had argued with.

Was he Saki’s old lover? The thought paralyzed him.

“Aren’t you going to say hi?” Charles asked when Saki and that man headed to a black Mercedes parked right at the front. “Where is he going? Do you know?”

Robbie wished he knew. That man held Saki’s arm with too much familiarity. He watched with envy as the tall man opened the back passenger door for Saki, waiting for Saki to enter before he followed.

“Guess your boyfriend has a huge rich secret,” Charles said.

“Shut up,” Robbie said as the expensive car drove out of the parking lot.

Robbie got out of the car and slammed the passenger door closed. He stalked into the Green wishing he could rewind his day to just before he saw Saki. He wanted to reclaim the feeling of having Saki to himself. How could he have imagined a guy like Saki would want to keep him? Want to be with him in a serious relationship?

***

“You should have let me wait longer,” Saki complained. “He was about to come in. Why are you so impatient, Jonathan?”

“Your love life aside, your father is not the patient types. We need to make it before four o’clock. Your father wants to see you before the meeting.”

Saki sighed and sat back, his arms crossed against his chest.

“I hope you know what you’re doing,” Saki said, glancing at Jonathan. “Shinji won’t like this one bit.”

“Let me worry about Shinji,” Jonathan said settling into his seat. “Meet your father, Saki. I hope you figure out what you want soon, it will make everyone’s life easier.”

Saki stared out the windows and wondered where Robbie had gone to. He’d wanted to see him before he went to see his father. He’d wanted a kiss from Robbie…or even one of Robbie’s tight hugs…or just to see Robbie’s face. It would have been enough to stop the cold tide sweeping into his heart.

***

Jonathan took Saki to a restaurant instead of the Masashi Co building. Saki adjusted his suit jacket, as he followed Jonathan down a well lit corridor to a private dining room. Jonathan knocked once, and opened the door, stepping aside to let Saki in to the room. Saki stopped after one step when he saw his mother first. She was pacing by tall windows, her arms crossed against her chest. His father sat at the set dining table having a cup of tea.

“Saki,” Keiko Masashi said. She stopped her pacing and hurried around the dining table.

Saki was engulfed in a tight hug, barely noting that Jonathan had stepped out and closed the door behind.

Keiko cupped his jaw, studying his face as though she were doing an appraisal.

“Are you eating? He’s lost weight, Ken. Do you see what this country is doing to my poor child?” Keiko sighed and kissed Saki’s jaw. “Not to worry, we’re taking him back today.”

“Mom,” Saki managed to get a word in, grabbing her hands in a gentle hold. “Stop, I’m fine.”

“He says he’s fine,” Ken Masashi said, sipping his tea. “Stop fussing, and have a seat, Keiko. I’m getting dizzy watching you.”

“You get dizzy when I sneeze,” Keiko said with a scowl, though there was no anger behind it. She smiled at Saki and took his hand leading him to the dining table. “Are you hungry, Saki? Did you eat? Of course not, you were traveling. We should order for you. Are stir-fried udon noodles good here? I know how touchy you are with food, Saki. You should eat—

“Mom,” Saki said with a sigh, sinking into the chair she pulled out to his father’s right. “Please stop worrying about what I’m eating.”

“Don’t be annoyed with your mother,” Ken said then. “She’s been worried about you. Sit down Keiko, you’re suffocating the boy.”

Keiko chose the seat to Saki’s right, taking his hand under the table, lacing her fingers with his. It felt a little as though she was trying to infuse energy into him.

Saki glanced at Keiko and gave her a small smile, hoping to assure her with confidence he didn’t have.

“Are you comfortable?” Ken asked after a few minutes. “Do you have any problems?”

Saki met his father’s gaze.

“No problems,” he said.

“Your brother is at the Masashi Co. offices,” Ken stated.

Keiko’s fingers gripped his tighter. Saki sat still, staring at the dining table. He didn’t know what to say to make this easier. His father loved Shinji, jeez, he loved Shinji too.

“I know what Shinji has done to you,” Ken said, pushing his cup of tea away. “Pulling you out of school, and dragging you here without your consent, I knew all of it.”

Saki met his father’s gaze afraid to ask why Ken had done nothing to stop Shinji.

“Your big brother is upset with me,” Ken said. “You understand that, don’t you?”

Saki returned his gaze to the mat on the table.

“Shinji needs to vent out his anger,” Ken continued, his tone reflective. “You’re the one he can touch, so I let him move you around as he wished.”

“Why?” Saki asked refusing to look at his father.

“You think I don’t love you?” Ken asked, making him glance up. Ken chuckled then. “Your expression is enough answer. Saki, you are my son. You should never doubt me.”

Saki looked away wondering how he could have avoided thinking his father didn’t love him.

Ken leaned his elbows on the table.

“Look at me,” he said.

Saki met his father’s gaze, his heart in turmoil.

“You have to find a way to make peace with your brother,” Ken said. “You are both important to me. There is no one else to leave this company to, but you two.”

Saki shook his head, afraid.

“Don’t do this,” he said. “Dad—

Ken reached for a folder resting on the end of the table on his left side. He held it out to Saki. When Saki didn’t take the folder, Ken placed it on the mat and opened it for him.

Saki let go of his mother’s hand when he read the title on the documents in the folder.

“Call it an early birthday present,” Ken said.

Saki lifted the folder; his head hurt like a brick had knocked him upside down. Inside the folder were controlling stock certificates. His father had transferred thirty-five percent of these Masashi Co. shares to his name. He added that to his existing three percent and gaped. He and Shinji were almost the same. Shinji owned forty-five percent of the voting stock.

Saki felt sick to his stomach. “What game are you playing?”

Ken smiled.

“I want to see what to expect of the future. So far, I’m quite disappointed, Saki.”

Saki closed the file and pushed it toward his father.

“I don’t want this. I want to stay at Ithaca, keep drawing—

“Nothing is stopping you,” Ken replied. “I told you, Saki, find a balance with Shinji. If you can’t do that, you are both going to lose it all.”

Before Saki could respond, Keiko took his hand on the table, squeezing it tight to stop his arguments. Saki frowned, looking at his mother in confusion.

“I have given you the tools you need.” Ken pushed his chair back and got up. “Let’s see how you use them, Saki. The folder is yours, for your records. I made the changes last week. There’s nothing to change. We need to get going, Shinji is waiting.”

The drive to the Masashi building was fast. Saki walked behind his father, feeling as though he was about to fall into a rabbit hole.

Worry took root when they reached the top floors of the building. Saki could barely breathe when they walked into the conference room to a full house. It seemed his father had called the entire board in for this meeting. There were familiar faces, others foreign—

Saki gaped when he met his brother, Shinji’s, gaze. Those dark eyes so icy, Saki felt frozen to the ground a few feet away from the seat Jonathan indicated was his. He feared he might have remained frozen had his mother not taken his elbow and pushed him into motion.

He sat down, his blood pressure at high gear. He refused to meet Shinji’s gaze, and instead spent his time staring at the bottle of water placed before him. At one point, his father urged him to stand up for an introduction.

Saki worried his knees would give out when he stood, giving a short bow, he sank back into his chair, careful not to meet Shinji’s gaze.

When the meeting ended, he ran out of the conference room fast, racing to the bathroom. He gave up the contents of his stomach into the closest porcelain bowl he could find. When he was done, he knelt on the floor, his eyes wet with tears. He hated puking. It always made him feel so out of control.

Grabbing tissue, he wiped his mouth and flushed the toilet. It took a minute to get to his feet. He leaned on the stall wall for a minute, taking in deep breaths.

Shinji was waiting at the sinks when he got out of the toilet.

“So, you couldn’t listen to my advice,” Shinji said in greeting, his lips curled into a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. “I warned you.”

“I had nothing to do with father’s plans,” Saki said turning on the faucet in the sink furthest from Shinji. He leaned down to sip water and rinse out his mouth. He almost chocked on the water when Shinji grabbed his collar at the back, and dragged him to the wall. Saki managed to save his face from slamming into the wall, bracing his hands against the cool tiles when Shinji pushed him hard.

“I asked you to find your place,” Shinji warned. “I don’t want to compete with you, little brother. Leave what is mine to me.”

Saki sighed. “Aren’t you jumping to conclusions? Have you seen me racing to take over your position? Shinji—

“Why would father give you so many shares? Why increase your voting capacity instead of adding me? Huh? Why? Unless it’s to give you my position,” Shinji ranted.

Saki closed his eyes. It had always been like this, since they were young. Every time their father did something nice for Saki, Shinji would find him later, and bully him for having been chosen.

“Bringing your mother along too,” Shinji scoffed into his ear. “This doesn’t change much, you know. I will never let you into a board meeting.”

Saki slammed his palm against the wall, pushing back, rage making him strong enough to push off Shinji. He turned to face his older brother.

“Enough,” Saki said. “I’m tired of you. Tired of this game, I don’t want to hear another word from your cold heart, Shinji. What the fuck did I ever do to you?”

Shinji scoffed, adjusting his suit jacket. “You dared to be born.”

“I can’t change that,” Saki said. “Neither can you, unless you want to kill me. If so, do it now. I’ll give you one shot.”

Shinji’s gaze narrowed. “Do you think I won’t do it?”

“Do it,” Saki challenged, anger he’d long bottled inside him rising. “Do it, Shinji, end it now!”

Shinji stared at him in surprise. Saki took a step forward, invading Shinji’s space, his gaze holding Shinji’s cold dark one.

“What?” Saki asked. “Can’t follow through? I should warn you, my mother is my next of kin. Even if you killed me, my votes go to her, brother.”

When Shinji just stared at him, Saki sighed and gave a small chuckle.

“All this time,” he mused. “You’ve made me cower with a glare, only to have you deflate. It’s disappointing.”

Shinji grabbed the lapels on Saki’s jacket, lifting him up to his height.

“Don’t imagine this is over,” Shinji said then with a sneer. “I’ll talk to father—

“By all means, run to his side,” Saki cut in, holding his brother’s angry glare. “I’ve tried to change his mind about his decision, maybe you’ll succeed. Go give it a shot, Shinji. Show me your might as you did in Tokyo.”

Shinji shook him then let him go.

Saki rolled his shoulders, straightening his jacket with one tug.

“I’m going back to Ithaca,” Saki said. “I should thank you for that, Shinji, I like it there.”

“Don’t get too comfortable,” Shinji said.

“Oh I will,” Saki said taking a step closer to Shinji, Saki brushed imaginary lint from his brother’s neat jacket. “I doubt you’ll be able to pull me out of there like you did in Tokyo. Don’t worry about the company, Shinji. I have no intention of being close to you until you come looking for me.”

“That will never happen,” Shinji boasted.

“What a relief for both of us,” Saki said, leaving the bathroom without a backward glance.

Saki hurried down the corridor in a daze, only allowing himself to lean on the wall when he was by the elevators, alone. His breath came in gasps; his insides trembled with adrenaline and anxiety in equal measure. He hadn’t meant to come on so strong with Shinji, but the hold against the wall had pissed him off.

“Are you okay?” Jonathan asked, appearing out of nowhere. He touched Saki’s shoulder.

Saki scowled at him. “I need a stiff drink.”

“Where do you want—?

“Anywhere is fine,” Saki said, pushing off the wall.

***

Robbie couldn’t help waiting up for Saki. It was almost midnight. Saki hadn’t called him, or sent a message. His imagination was on overdrive. Each time he closed his eyes, the image of Saki and that tall man in a suit filled his head.

Robbie didn’t want to imagine Saki in another man’s arms, still, the images persisted. Every second passing by, his gaze on the clock on the wall unseeing, he felt like an unhappy spouse.

Shaking his head, Robbie got up from the couch and paced to the wide windows in Saki’s living room. It was funny. He had come home from work intending to go to his apartment, and ignore Saki for the night. Instead, the moment he got on their floor, he’d acted on instinct. Using the key Saki had given him, he’d entered Saki’s apartment and found himself in the shower before he could stop himself.

Robbie folded his arms against his chest, staring out into the night.

Where was Saki?

The door banged open, a soft chuckle and a grunt had him rushing to see who was at the door.

He stopped when he saw Saki and the tall man from the restaurant. Anger rose unhindered. Saki’s left arm was around the tall man’s shoulders; Saki looked drunk, the stranger held Saki securely.

“Jonathan, make sure you take me to Robbie,” Saki slurred out, his head down as Jonathan tried to remove his shoes at the door. “Don’t drive me to a hotel, like you do when I get drunk. Robbie is warm. I’m so cold; I’m surprised you haven’t frozen from carrying me. Do you feel it?”

“No Sir,” Jonathan said, finally getting his shoes off. “We’re at your apartment.”

“Good man,” Saki said with a happy smile. He looked up and Robbie’s anger melted. Saki looked tired. “Oh…there is Robbie. I told you he’d be here.”

“Are you going to stand there watching?” Jonathan asked, glaring at him.

Robbie hurried forward, taking Saki’s left arm over his shoulders. He wrapped a strong arm around Saki’s waist and led the way into the living room. They helped Saki to the couch.

“Can I leave him in your care?” Jonathan asked, moving away with a tired sigh. “It’s been a long day.”

Robbie nodded, a frown dancing on his forehead. He started to walk Jonathan out, but the man held up a hand.

“You’d better not leave him. He’s an adventurous drunk,” Jonathan said. “I’ll show myself out.”

“Who are you to him?” Robbie asked his curiosity too strong to ignore.

Jonathan flashed a smile at him and answered, “His lawyer.”

Robbie frowned, watching the man leave as fast as he’d shown up. His retreat felt a little like an escape.

“Lie down beside me,” Saki said, drawing his gaze.

Saki had settled on the couch, his head resting on a cushion.

“Come on,” Saki pleaded, holding out his right hand when Robbie hesitated. “I’ll hold you, Robbie. I missed you all day.”

“Where were you?” Robbie asked moving closer to the couch, though he didn’t make a move to lie down beside Saki.

Saki sighed, his hand dropping to his side.


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