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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.
*******, 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 **** and Asian. The guy looked about twenty or twenty-one, though Robbie could be ************** handsome, it stunned him.
“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.
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