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Every little detail had been well planned out. Hiko and Moromari had rendezvoused with Tationy and Kazuma on the houseboat and took care of Seiji. Tationy had told Osa that his father had to take care of business so he left him in the care of her and Hiko who had arrived late that evening. The boy seemed to accept it without much question, perhaps because it was coming from the trusting motherly type that Tationy was. Regardless, they headed to the nearest port. While Moromari got out of Garvator, by pretending to be Seiji Shima, Hiko and his family changed their clothes and headed on a ‘vacation’. It was better that they were nowhere near Bridgeport because the police would be swarming to investigate the deaths and disappearances of a large number of Kari and Shima.

“I am so sorry for the delay.” The woman behind the counter had spoken then slapped the monitor with her hand. “Our system has been flickering all day. I expect if this continues there may be delays and cancellations.”

Hiko did not even need to look at Tationy to know she had turned her head to look at him. “If that is the case will we be able to find lodging nearby?”

“Well most of the places are full this time of year, but certainly if that is the case we will assist in finding you a place to stay.”

Hiko looked down toward Osa who had swayed and bumped into him. He was nine years old and already restless and they had not even gotten their tickets yet. Tationy had wanted to keep the boy safe that was the only reason he did not suffer the same fate as his father. “Tationy, I will handle this, why don’t you and the children go and set down.”

He noticed she readily agreed as the three of them moved off to find seats, “You have a lovely family.” The woman handling their tickets responded.

“Thank you.”

“How long have the two of you been married?”

“We intend to wed around the holidays, provided we are not still here in Garvator.”

The woman glanced up at him and it took her a moment to realize that he had been joking. Once she did, she smiled and laughed softly as she spoke, “Garvator has some lovely spots, if you ever get the chance you should take them in.”

“I will keep that in mind.”

“Here are your tickets, Mr. Kari. Four one way first class tickets to Shimragata. Any baggage you have will be checked when you head to your terminal.”

“Thank you.” He responded taking the tickets before moving toward Tationy and the children.

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He handed the tickets to Tationy who quickly tucked them into one of the bags. “Where is my Ipad?” Hiko questioned as he looked through luggage.

“It is in the Gucci diaper bag.”

He glanced toward her briefly, “You could have just said diaper bag.”

“Not when it is Gucci you can’t. I paid over a thousand dollars of your hard-earned money on that bag. I did not pay for the diaper bag, I bought the name.”

Hiko grumbled, “I cannot believe we are having this conversation.”

“If a girl has a pair of Prada pumps she is not going to call them her heels. When you pay that kind of money, trust me, any woman is going to call it what it is, a Gucci diaper bag.” Tationy responded as Osa giggled, “Isn’t that right Osa?”

Osa nodded his head and Hiko sighed, “Seems I am outnumbered on this one.” He searched through the side-pocket of the diaper bag finding his Ipad as he took a seat. “I think I may have spoiled you.”

“You can spoil me more.” She stated.

Hiko did not respond to her words, it was unnecessary. He knew that she was well aware that as long as she stood at his side, he was going to spoil her. This banter was not for each other, but the people around them. It was part of the initial favor. Regardless of place or time, they would act as if they were a couple. They would sit close to one another, hold each other’s hands, kiss if necessary, simply for the sake of appearances. Even though it seemed normal and natural, there was a wall made of concrete dividing them. Hiko’s mind fixated on work, though every now and again he would glance at Tationy who was reading or allow his eyes to seek out both children who had fallen asleep rather quickly which told him they would probably both be awake for the flight. Provided they actually got to leave the airport.

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Tationy had closed her book and Hiko’s attention was drawn toward her as she yawned and rested her head to his shoulder. He did not allow his attention to be pulled away from what he was working on for too long because it was important for him to leave an internet fingerprint, just in case the police decided to look at him as a suspect in the carnage that was currently taking place in Bridgeport. His attention though still on his Ipad was drawn toward the voice of the little boy sitting not far away from them, “He is my age.”

“I know Taku.” Hiko glanced up when the man addressed the boy and realized he had a faraway look on his face. Something terrible had happened. He did not know the man or understand why he had that look upon his face, but it troubled him. It was a heaviness that was almost tangible. He suspected the man had lost someone he was close to, but even with the darkness that lingered around that man the boy had a small smile upon his lips. His eyes where dark and yet oddly bright. This was a child that would not suffer from whatever was defeating his father.

The two reminded him of himself and his own father, Tadayoshi. Hiko recalled that he was about that boy’s age, when he realized his father didn’t love him. That he would always be a disappointment no matter what he accomplished. He went from a happy child that loved his father dearly, to a boy filled with darkness and resent. He frowned inwardly looking back toward the Ipad, he hated the man he called father and Hiko hoped that no matter what type of man he was that he never made Kazuma or even Osa feel that way about him.

Hiko was comfortable. Tationy’s warmth next to him, her soft breathing, it was perfect. He knew that having it last was too good to be true, when a woman’s voice came over the intercom, “Flight 685 one-way to Shimragata has been cancelled due to weather, please come to counter seventeen with your tickets.”

“I will be right back.” Hiko voiced laying his Ipad in the seat as he reached for the bag that Tationy had tucked the tickets in.

“I guess we should have used the company jet,” Tationy said softly.

“Are you going to complain our whole vacation?” He asked searching through the bag for their tickets.

“Only on the bumpy parts.”

After finding the tickets he turned and faced her, sighing as he tapped her head lightly with the tickets, “Stop being a sourpuss.”

While he was waiting inline he would glance at his family now and again. Tationy was bundling the boys in their winter-wear while they waited for him to return. The sight of the three caused a brief smile. He could not say it to Tationy, but he felt pretty fortunate to have her in his life and he loved being a father. He dealt with the tickets and their accommodations. They would be staying just down the road at a motel. The benefits were that it was close to the airport and cheap, according to the attendant that dealt with the tickets. It brought Hiko little comfort and he even asked if there were any other places available, only to be told that everyplace except this one was all booked up. He thought about tossing his money around, but considered that as long as he was with Tationy and the children, it did not matter where they stayed.

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They had taken a shuttle-bus just down the road. Tationy made a sound of disapproval and Hiko sighed inwardly feeling that there was no way to please Tationy on this trip, regardless of the reasons for it. “I don’t think aunt Tationy likes it.”

“I don’t think so either, Osa.” Hiko got them a room on the first floor and told the manager he would be back for their luggage once he got his family settled in.

Osa was skipping as he held the hand of both Tationy and Hiko. He laughed, “This is an adventure, huh?”

“It is.” Hiko responded and then glanced toward Tationy briefly, “Smile mommy, this is an adventure.”

“Of course it is, forgive me.”

Hiko could tell she was less than enthused about the situation, regardless she put a smile on her face and a skip in her step that lasted as far as him opening the door to their room. He leaned in close so only she could hear him, “It will be alright.”

“If I see one cockroach, we are going back to the airport.”

He chuckled as he sat Kazuma down and departed the room to grab their luggage. The owner of the establishment had an old baby-swing that he let them barrow, which Hiko was grateful for because Kazuma loved to be rocked to sleep and it would be challenging without his favorite rocking chair. Hiko watched Tationy as she moved around the room and within an hour she had the room situated where it seemed almost livable.

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She sighed noticeably as she took a seat next to him on the small sofa. He gauged her a moment before speaking, “It seems pretty cozy for a motel room.”

“I suppose.”

“You have been stubbornly pessimistic today.”

“Sorry, just tired I guess.”

“Tationy, we have known each other for nearly six years. I can read you.”

“Can you?” She asked as her hand rested on his knee and he stiffened noticeably.

When he finally allowed his body to relax he asked, “What are you trying to tell me?”

“I’m tired.”

Her voice was emotionless, practically a whisper, and her eyes never met his, but her intent was clear. She needed to feel comfort and love. Hiko cautiously moved his hand from the back of the couch down along her shoulders and spine until it rested comfortably on her hip. He swallowed as he worked up his courage to ask, “Did you sleep with him?” He knew she would know he was speaking about Seiji Shima.

“No.”

“You had my permission, why didn’t you?”

“I cheated on you once, I won’t do it again.” She offered no apology, considering his actions after her transgression, there was not one needed or required. They were hardly even. What he did was far worse then what she did, though he knew her well enough to know she did not see it that way. She saw herself as her mother, a woman who cheated over and over again on her father. It was the one thing she never wanted and when they first started getting to know each other she was pretty vocal about not wanting to become her mother. That day he realized she had been with Sesiago, he could not see the guilt and pain she was in, but since Sesiago’s death, he could see it more clearly. To her, Hiko was both punishment and security.

Despite their serious conversion, he could hear the soft snoring of Osa and the giggling of Kazuma. “We will discuss progressing when we get home.” Even though they had agreed that she would share his bed and remain at his side, he wanted her to be certain and ready. He was okay with this moment, being close to her. They had issues that went far beyond any normal couple, things that would not be resolved overnight.

“You don’t want me?” She questioned and her eyes finally locked with his.

“We have not even shared the same room let alone the same bed. It is not about not wanting you. I do. I always have. I never stopped. We are broken and I don’t want us to rush things and make them worse. I am happy…” He halted his words when her eyes widened, “I am happy with you being at my side, right now I don’t need anymore then that.”

“I do.” She responded and before Hiko could say anything to her she was off the sofa and closing the bathroom door.

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He checked on the boys who were both fast asleep, went to the door and put the chain on, before moving toward the bathroom. He knocked lightly, “Tationy can we talk?” There was no response from her which caused him to worry as he knocked again and waited for some sign that she was alright. Again, nothing from her, so he knocked a third time only more frantically, “I am coming in.” He cautiously opened the door and stepped inside, leaving it open behind him. “Are you going to keep ignoring me?”

“What do you want me to say, Hiko?”

“I feel like I stepped into a land mine. Most of the time, you tremble when I touch you and now you are telling me you want to be intimate. What is going on with you? Is it the pills? Are you lonely? Are you so desperate to feel something you…”

“I hate you.” She said and he could hear the tears. “I hate the man you became. I wish I could have remained ignorant. More than anything, I hate myself for being so dumb. Hiko Kari never loved me.”

“That is not true.” He moved toward the bath taking a seat on the floor, with his back to the tub. “I messed up really badly.” He thought about the past, no matter how much he wished it would just fade away, he knew that was not a possibility. So as he sat there on the floor, he thought about it and talked. All he could do was hope she was listening.

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“I think about that day I met you, a lot. My day started out fairly normal, I was talking business with my father at his home. We were discussing how to handle the Shima Corporation takeover. I was twenty-two years old and looking to prove myself. Big moves equals bigger gains. He laid this file on the table on a man named Moromari Saitama, who had become the head of the Saitama family after replacing his grandfather Boré. My father told me that the Saitama serve what was once called the Dragon Lords of the Shima for well over a millennium and I remember wondering how it was that they could command a group of people for so long. He told me that they answer to the young lord of the Shima, Seiji and that if I wanted to take over the Shima Corporation, I would need to hit them where it would hurt the most, by persuading Moromari Saitama to back any move I made. I was more concerned about whether or not uncle Katsu would be an issue. I had pride in myself that I could obtain the Shima Corporation. I had to. It was the only thing that would garner me respect from my father.”

He paused a moment, trying to hide the emotion from his voice. “My father told me that uncle Katsu would not be an issue that he only had his hands in the Shima Corporation because he was forced out of the Kari Foundation ages ago. He never told me the specifics, he just said that some women are trouble for Kari men. I know now that he was referring to the Tylo.”

Hiko waited for any sign that she would comment on that, but she remained silent so he continued speaking, “We talked about Sesiago, eighteen years old and the controlling force in the Shima Corporation. He even had more shares, then Seiji who was seen as the ‘king’ of the Shima. My father felt that if I presented it properly to Sesiago, that he would hand over his controlling interest willingly to me, but that Seiji would be an issue. My father felt that Seiji and Yayoi would not give up their families company without a fight and that they were already unhappy with two Kari having controlling interest regardless of how it was obtained.”

“I was tired of listening to him. Truth was he wanted to take them down himself, but he had stepped back from the company. I was grateful when he told me that I could find Moromari at a restaurant called Perlato, because it gave me a reason to leave. As I walked out the door, with that file on Moromari in hand, he said my name.”

Imitating his father Tadayoshi he says, “Hiko. Do not disappoint me.”

“I never heard him say I love you. It was always, Do not disappoint me. Those words, more than any others said by him stung the deepest. It was just a sharp reminder that I was always a disappointment to him. When he retired a year earlier and I was given the CEO position, I was surprised. I never thought I would ever have it. I thought, foolishly that if I was the CEO he would respect me, but he didn’t. I wanted to prove how powerful I was, how I was the strength of the Kari, so he would not be disappointed in me anymore.”

He took a moment to collect himself. Her soft voice brought him comfort, “I wish I could say I did not understand that feeling, but you met my mother.”

Hiko laughed, “Yes I recall. She was ecstatic that you were involved with a rich man.”

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“She never changes, but you already know my drama…”

Her words lingered there and he knew she was trying to tell him to continue. “I went straight to Perlato. It was not even open yet, but I bribed the bouncer to let me in. The owner rushed quickly to answer my beckon-call. Being Kari does have its perks. I sipped my red wine and looked around the place. It wasn’t much to look at. My eyes settled on two waitresses dancing to some modern music that the kids of that time were listening to. The two of you were giggling and seemed to be having a good time. I figured you both for about eighteen. The darker skinned girl…”

“Tsubaki.”

“Right, Tsubaki, was tall and thin, with long legs and a model like physique. Truth be told, she was the type of girl I found appealing. I usually went out with models or porn stars. I did have a girlfriend for a while…”

“Luna.”

“Yes.”

“She told me you sold her.”

Hiko sighed, “I don’t trust women. I probably set her up to fail, but I just wanted to know if she could be trusted. So, I left her alone and she met someone and cheated on me. It was the first time I lost control to the point I was angry enough to kill someone. I wanted her to hurt, like she hurt me so I gave her to my men, told them to do what they wanted with her. As far as I was concerned, she was just a whore that got what she deserved. After they were done, I sold her in a private auction on Shimragata. She was bought by Jin Ishi.”

“Do you regret it?”

“Now, yes, but you cannot undo something so horrible. I don’t want you to think that auction is all we Kari are. We have plenty of legitimate businesses, but our other dealings make us a lot of money. Human trafficking is highly profitable. There were those among my family that pretended to be above it all, but there was no one among the Kari or the Shima that were not well aware of the auctions. To me, those that turn a blind eye are just as guilty as the ones that actively sell the flesh of people. Sesiago could have saved, hundreds of women or men, but he did not jump to do anything about it until you arrived. I do not want to stain his memory for you, but you need to understand that there is no innocence among the Kari or the Shima.”

She said nothing, perhaps she was contemplating his words or maybe she was angered by them. He did not wish to wager a guess so he continued to talk, “My attention was drawn away from Tsubaki and it landed on you. I started from your feet and worked my way up. You were ‘fleshy’…”

“That is just a nice way of saying fat.”

“No, you just were more shapely then Tsubaki. I appraised every curve and considered that there were probably a lot of men willing to buy a girl shaped like you. You had beautiful red hair, you were not over-the-top gorgeous. You were the girl next door, approachable, and normal.”

“Wow, not insulting at all.”

“Really, you are going to harp on my initial assessment of you?”

“Go on, continue.”

“Our eyes locked.”

“I recall.”

“I was so pissed at my father. I knew the moment I saw your eyes that you were trouble. I hoped I was mistaken that I did not see what I thought I saw. So I waved you over.”

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“You hurriedly made your way toward me and asked if I needed anything. I got such a good look at those eyes. I had heard the stories my entire life of the most prized trophy a Kari man could obtain. The tales went back to the king of the gods, Kazuma and his queen, Tearra, in the ancient mythology of Aslann. Tearra was unique within Aslann mythology because she was the only female among the gods and her tale was considered a tragic one. More importantly, her eyes of two different shades were said to have great power capable of seeing all possible outcomes to any given situation. When her eyes failed to see the manipulation by Kisho Nakamaru which ultimately turned all five gods into mortals, Tearra was called Botahmo, the cursed one. That name still stains those that carry the name Tylo to this very day.”

“A history lesson from Hiko Kari, I would never have guessed.”

“I paid attention to anything said by my father and that man is all about manipulation. He tricked me into coming to that restaurant. I was not looking for Moromari, he wanted me to find you so that the firstborns could be put at odds against one another to see which one would come out on top. The victor, would have the right to claim you as his trophy. The fact that I was sent there, told me that my father intended to go forward with the trial. You would be brought into our lives in one form or another and you would choose the king. Everything I worked for, could just as quickly be taken away if you picked a Kari other than me.”

He paused a moment, “I felt insignificant. I had only wanted to earn the respect of my father, obtain great power, and be the strongest of the Kari, and I came face-to-face with the one being in the world that could take everything away from me. You have no idea how valuable, you are. They say with a Tylo woman at a Kari man’s side that he can hold the world in the palm of his hand.”

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“If I recall right, you went to my boss after that and got me let go for that night.”

“You were pretty pissed off at me. Seriously, it took nothing at all to get your boss to let you have the night off. I waited outside for you and you stormed out and without any hesitation you moved toward me and caught me completely off-guard when you said..”

“Who the hell do you think you are?”

Hiko laughed as he sat on the floor of the bathroom and responded how he did back then, “I do not know what you mean.”

“You were such an asshole.” She responded, “I was so angry at you.”

“I recall. If I remember correctly you told me that you ought to slap that smug fucking look off my face and I told you that you could try.” He paused a moment, “You were such an odd duckling and it was so difficult to admit it to myself, but there was something that appealed to me. You hated that I threw my money around and got my way. When I asked you to get in my car though, you did without hesitation.”

“You were jerking me around though. I mean come on, how else is a guy going to get a girl like you to look at him. Oh my god, worst line ever.”

“Hey, that worst line ever caused you to stammer and stutter over your words.”

“I do not know what you mean.”

Hiko laughed, “Making fun of me are you?” There was a moment of silence as Hiko considered his words, “Can I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

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“Did you at least have fun at the amusement park?”

“I was disappointed in you. I mean I cannot really explain why I got in your car to begin with, but I don’t know, you just bought everyone. It was as though everything had a dollar price to you. You shut down the entire park for the day, just for us. Some girls might find that romantic, but I was disappointed. It felt like you did not want to be seen with me. I thought why does that matter, he is Hiko Kari, he would just use you anyway.”

Hiko remained silent as he listened to her talk.

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“I tried to have fun, just close my eyes and pretend that the park was filled with people and happiness, but it wasn’t. The rides were empty and I was in my uniform. You were plotting.”

Hiko frowned, “So you did notice.”

“I figured you were trying to decide how to get in my pants, but now that I look back on it. You were trying to figure out what you needed to do, to have me.”

“I’m sorry.”

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“Don’t be, I let you kiss me. I purposely wobbled because I knew you would catch me.”

Hiko took a breath in as the memory flashed in his mind. It was still as clear as it was the day it happened. His arms circled around her pulling her in close and he was not certain how much time passed as he stared into those odd eyes of hers, but eventually his lips found hers. He noticed how she tensed, but he pushed the questions regarding why aside as he deepened the kiss and inwardly smiled as her arms finally wrapped around him. The sky was dark, the rain was falling heavily and he could hear the proprietor of the amusement park trying to get his attention, but he never once allowed himself to be pulled from their shared embrace.

“Hiko, I am getting wet.” She whispered.

Admittedly, he took that to mean something entirely different as he backed them up toward a nearby photo booth. Awkwardly he pulled the curtain aside, his arms returning around her only long enough to continue backing them up. He broke the kiss to close the curtain, taking a seat, and pulling her into his lap.

Her soft breathing, brought him back to reality. He told himself not to, but he stood and began to remove his clothing. “I am going to join you. I just want to be close.” It was the exact thing he told himself that they should not do. They had issues, too many and hoping into bed with one another regardless of the reasons, would only have complicated things. She moved toward the front of the tub, avoided eye contact, as he slid himself into the bath. The water was still warm, which told him she was taking one of her scolding hot baths. He sighed, closing his eyes as he rested his back against the tub and the wall as his mind flashed back to the night he met her and that kiss.

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He remembered that once he got them situated in the photo booth that it was dark and then a quick flash happened and he had realized that in their exuberant embrace they had hit a button which started the booth taking photos. With her on his lap, his hands roamed along her backside as his lips sought out hers. He found this whole thing to be both unexpected and natural. She was not the first woman that dropped her panties for him, she would not be the last. What surprised him was the unexpected need that lingered within him as he waited for her lips to touch his again. Tationy’s arms were secure around his neck, his head tilted back, his hands holding her tightly, and those lips of hers lingering close enough to brush lightly over his, but never connecting long enough. He thought to himself if she was trying to turn him on, she was succeeding.

“Your teasing me.” He whispered against her mouth. He told himself that he was not attracted to her. She was just some girl that he knew his father was going to use. She was Tylo, valuable, property. He was going to make her his so that all other Kari knew it and then he was going to do what he did with all women, discard her to the person willing to pay the most money. Women only knew how to lie and cheat and he was not about to be hurt again. That is what he told himself.

He kept one hand at her back, but the other quickly moved around to her leg. Sliding slowly up the length of her thigh until he found the hem of her skirt. He noticed how she jumped slightly, but did not give her any opportunity to speak, “Kiss me.” She leaned in and tentatively met his lips with her own as a soft moan escaped her mouth. Hiko’s eyes closed enjoying that sound as he leaned himself back against the wall and her body moved with him. His hand found its way under her skirt gently stroking her inner thigh before he allowed a single digit to run along her little mound. She jumped noticeably which broke the kiss.

“Tationy let’s get these underwear off you.” He realized that it was the first time he said her name. “I want to be in you.”

“I can’t.”

His eyes opened and the frown that passed over his lips made it clear he was not happy with her. “You get me all worked up and hard and now you are telling me you can’t?”

“I am sorry. I’ve…never been with anyone before.”

He stared blankly at her as he tried to process the words she had spoken. “Wait, what? You’re a virgin?”

The blush that washed over her cheeks gave him the answer to his question. He thought to himself that this situation could not get any better. Not only was she a Tylo woman, she was a virgin. Any Kari man would give up his fortune for a Tylo woman and there were men willing to pay whatever amount they had to for a virgin, especially one her age. They were rare these days. Most young people within Aslann lost their virginity before the age of seventeen. Here, she was at least eighteen years of age and she was untouched. He realized what it was that she wanted. She did not care about money or stardom. This girl wanted to be loved. That was why she moaned for him so passionately.

He pulled his hands away from her, his head banged against the wall of the photo booth once. Not hard enough to hurt himself, but he wanted it to be clear to her that he was frustrated. “What are we going to do about this?” He asked reaching out for her hand and placing it on his crotch. He pushed his hips forward, which thrust his clothed covered penis into her hand. Hiko watched her face, the way she nervously averted her eyes. He wondered just how far this girl had gone before and realized when she quickly pulled her hand away, that this moment was probably it. Hiko chuckled, “I am teasing.”

“You are not mad?”

“Why would I be mad? You are probably one in a handful of women who have stayed strong and not given in just because everyone else does. It is pretty amazing. Any guy would be lucky to have you.”

“You don’t have to say things like that, I know it is not true.”

He stared at her wondering what that comment meant and figured that with a girl like her it was probably the best way of going about getting close to her, “How about we get out of here and go back to my place? We can watch a movie or something and you can tell me why you think that is not true.” Hiko could tell she was considering whether or not she wanted to do that. He would have understood had she told him no, after all they were not friends. They had just met that day and he was pretty underhanded to get her away from her work.

“Alright, but only because I would rather not go home.”

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He felt the water move which forced the memory violently aside as her knees rubbed lightly against his legs. She slid forward, her breath brushed against his face long before her fingers touched his cheek. Her touch was delicate and he could feel that vulnerability about her that he always found most attractive. He did not react to her proximity, forcing himself to remain still as he spoke, “Why were you with me?” He kept his voice as gentle as he could, “Four years you stayed at my side, why?”

“I wanted to spend my life with you. I wanted to be your wife. I foolishly thought you wanted that too.”

The soft cries of Kazuma ended their conversation prematurely as Tationy pulled herself quickly from the tub. For a moment Hiko remained still before splashing water on his face, he had plenty of time to think about her words and what he had truly wanted during that time with her, more importantly that heated kiss that took hold of him so unexpectedly back when they first met.

To Be Continued

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