Become a Book Nerd
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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?”
“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.”
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.
“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.
“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.
“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?”
“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.
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.
“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.
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