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“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?”
“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.
“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?”
“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 **** 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 ****** 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.
“I don’t wanna talk about it. Robbie, please, should I beg you?”
Robbie wished he had a defense mechanism to protect him from Saki’s gaze. That soulful gaze he could never say no to…Robbie bit back a soft curse, sitting down on the couch. He stretched out on the roomy couch and smiled when Saki snuggled to his side.
“You’re like a puppy,” Robbie said, wrapping his arms around Saki, rubbing his back when Saki let out a soft happy sigh. “All you ever want from me is to be petted and fed.”
“I love your scent,” Saki said against his neck.
Saki pressed his forehead into Robbie’s collarbone, his arms around Robbie.
“My brain hurts tonight,” Saki said, in a whisper. “I’ll tell you everything tomorrow, Robbie.”
Robbie held Saki tighter. “I’ll remind you.”
“Tomorrow,” Saki said his voice heavy with sleep.
Robbie leaned back when Saki’s breathing changed, indicating he was deep asleep. Saki looked peaceful and handsome in his sleep. His lashes long against his skin. Robbie traced his finger along the elegant line on Saki’s nose, to the tip. His index finger moving to touch soft lips slightly parted. He leaned forward and replaced his index finger with his lips, kissing Saki. When he drew back, Saki moved closer.
“Robbie,” Saki murmured in his sleep, the sound of his name sent warm thrills through Robbie.
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