Homecoming – Day 12-1

“Please, please, please, pick up…” I jump from one foot to the other, pray to every entity for the dialing tone to change into a click. When it comes my heart stops, soars high and hits the ground again when the recorded message tells me to talk after the peep.

“Hey, uhm, hi Sam. It’s me. Jazz.” I clench my eyes shut, why do I have to sound so stupid? “I wanted to apologize for not calling last night. My whole week has been crazy but yesterday, gosh, yesterday takes the crown. I had some kind of family emergency and I know it’s not an excuse for cancelling our conversation. Anyway, I really hope you give me a chance to apologize in person and not to your voicemail. So, uhm, let me know when it’s a good time for you and we can chat.”

My throat is so dry, I have troubles swallowing. Especially my pride.

“I – I miss talking to you.” It’s good that there’s no video to my audio, I don’t want appear weak but that’s what crying usually is. Showing weakness. A last deep breath and I keep talking, I’m almost done anyway.

“Yeah, so, gimme a sign when we can talk. Have a nice day. Bye.” I slam the button to end the call, just in time to burst out in tears. I fucked up. Again.

 

“Shouldn’t you be polishing something?” Miho asks when I trudge into the café. At least my eyes look more or less normal again, nothing I couldn’t blame a shitty night for.

“Shouldn’t you be making me a coffee? A big one? Like, really huge?” I ask back.

“Still hungover?” Her hands fly over the levers and buttons of the chrome monster but all I can see is the stream of black liquid filling an extra tall cup.

“Nope. Even worse.”

There’s no one else in the café at this time so I rest my head on the counter.

“Wanna talk about it?” She slides the cup over to me and I sit up properly. “And take some sugar for it, you are extra sour today.”

“My Dad showed up last night.” I stir my coffee, without putting in sugar though.

“And that’s bad?”

“You have no idea.” My spoon makes a soft noise when I place it down on the counter. “Not only did I find him elbow deep in my Mom’s blouse, no, he had the audacity to actually act as if I should be happy to see him!”

It only dawns on me that Miho has no clue about the very – let’s call it unique – relationship Dad and I have. I love him as a person, but he was and is a shitty Dad. Most kids are upset when their parents break up, I only ever prayed that it would be the last time every time it happened. I love Dad, I love Mom, but not together.

He was never violent or abusive, just completely focused on himself and his needs, his wishes. He still is.

“Yeah, finding your parents making out is always strange. I mean, they are people and they probably have sex and all, but I don’t want to know about that.” Miho shudders, probably just thinking about her own parents.

“It’s not only that, although that’s already bad enough. It’s just – you know, my Dad has always these visions of grandeur. Thinks he’s a master businessman. Comes up with a new great business idea every few months – after the last one failed. He comes back, crashes at Mom’s place, clears her bank account and runs off again to his next crazy idea.” I shouldn’t talk about him like that, but ever since I was a kid he never cared much for us, never helped Mom. Instead he comes to leech off her and otherwise stays god knows where.

“I couldn’t afford a prom dress because Dad needed money for his realtor license. Mom hasn’t been on vacation for as long as I can remember and we always, always lived on a very tight budget. But he keeps travelling all over the country, burning through his own money and once that’s gone through whatever Mom was able to save up to that point.”

The whole frustration of the last few years makes my throat tight, I take a sip of my coffee to buy some time and push the tears back.

“Wow. Sorry, I didn’t know it’s such a touchy topic for you.” Miho squeezes my arm lighty, I nod my head without looking at her.

“Sorry for venting that early in the morning. It’s just – the worst is that Mom still loves him, no matter how often he fucks up. He keeps leaving her alone and all she does is patiently waiting for him to come back.” That’s her idea of love. Wasting her life waiting for someone who would never stay.

“And when he’s back they are all lovey-dovey for a week before they start fighting all the time.”

Great role models.

“So it’s the ultimate on-off-relationship?” Miho sums up my explanation.

“More or less, yes. Dad’s latest stupid idea is a food truck and he took all of Mom’s savings to buy one. And since we’re having a festival here…”

“Food truck, festival – yes, I get it. How convenient for him that he can crash on your Mom’s couch, huh?”

“Anyway, this whole ordeal took me off guard and so – I forgot to call Sam last night. I apologized this morning, but so far…” I shrug, hang my head. This day is only a couple of hours old and it already sucks.

“Is Sam the unforgiving kind?” Miho busies herself with some cleaning. I glance at the clock, it’s almost time to leave.

“I certainly hope not. So far we got along just great, no major fights and all. Except for me storming off when it got too serious of course.”

“Which wasn’t the most clever thing but not really despicable. So no need to beat yourself up because of that.”

“Thanks. But the point is, I have no idea of Sam is the type to hold a grudge. We haven’t been in such a situation before and now I’m hopelessly lost. Should I call again? Send texts? Just wait for Sam to contact me again?”

She has no answer, of course not. She doesn’t know Sam at all.

“I know that sounds like some stupid bla bla, but I’m sure whatever you do, it will work out in the end. I mean, I never believed in rules saying you shouldn’t call within a certain time to keep the upper hand or stuff like that. If you guys are actually in love, some misunderstanding won’t be the end of it.” With an encouraging smile and nod she shoos me out of the café, but one questions still lingers, clings to my every breath and step. What if I am the only one truly in love?

 

Tomorrow is the party and I won’t have to come and clean the house, so I really have to make sure to get it spotless today. Jake greets me with a grunt, his morning must have been coffee-less so far. At least I had my first dose already or even the sight of his smug grin at my tired face had me in tears. But not today.

“So, you’re going to the festival later?”

This seemingly innocent questions ring all the alarms in my head.

“Not sure yet,” I deflect, focus on scrubbing the kitchen sink.

“It’s been ages since I last was at a fairground,” he muses. The coffee machine splutters, less intimidating than Miho’s machine from hell, but the coffee is hot and strong. Just how I like it.

“Must have been in college.”

I hum as a sign I heard him, not wanting to encourage him to continue this conversation, but not exactly planning to be rude. Not yet.

“You like the fireworks, don’t you?”

I shrub harder. How does he know that?

“They are okay, I guess.”

“I know a good spot to watch them.”

I straighten up, keep my eyes on the sink. “And?”

“Nothing ‘and’. Just saying, if you want to watch them from a good spot, I know one.”

When I look at him he’s already watching me, doesn’t even pretend not to. Very suspicious.

“Why? You wanna light up some firecracker next to me?”

“Why do you always think the worst of me? No, that’s not my plan. But you worked hard the last week and I thought – you know what, forget it. I never even said anything.” He grabs a mug and pours himself a coffee, stalks off as if I insulted him. Honestly, after all that time he still acts as if he’s the victim. But I am the one with the scars and the deeply rooted distrust!

I rush through Mom’s list of chores and the whole house, dusting, vacuuming, picking up things on the way. After battling the huge vacuum cleaner up the stairs I go through all the rooms. Elias’ bedroom is the first, after that down the hall until I reach the rooms of the boys. Whatever has gotten into Jake, I can’t just ignore his room so I knock, wait for an answer. There is none so I knock again, call out to him that it’s me and that I need to get inside. A few more seconds tick by so I carefully open the door, ready to slam it shut in case I see something I don’t want to see or get yelled at. But nothing.

He’s not there.

I quickly take care of his carpet and make his bed, pick up a dirty shirt and socks. Once out of the door I breathe easier again, take the clothes to the hamper before I continue cleaning the floors. Ben’s door opens easily, I push against it with my hip while vacuuming the doorstep and the area in front of the door on the hallway.

Someone taps me on the shoulder and I jump, scream, my heart leaps and beats furiously. With a clatter the vacuum cleaner drops on the floor, misses my foot only by a few millimeters.

“What the-!” It takes a few seconds for me to recognize Ben, in a T-shirt and shorts, hair disheveled and eyelids heavy with sleep.

“Goodness, what are you doing here?”

He motions towards the vacuum cleaner and I turn it off, the silence between us awkward now.

“I was sleeping until you came and woke me up.” He was never an early bird and his morning grumpiness reminds me of an adorable bear after hibernation. Like a teddy.

“Sorry, I thought you went back home last night.”

He scratches the back of his neck, hides his yawn behind his other hand.

“Nah, I figured Mads might need some more time to cool off. She’s got quite a temper.”

Oh, yeah. They are living together. Or better, they were. At least if Maddie was serious about breaking up.

“You know she really hates that nickname, do you? I mean, I remember her screaming at this one guy in her class to wouldn’t stop calling her that.”

“Actually she never told me that before.” He shrugs, a movement that threatens to ruin his shirt. God, those biceps are straining against the fabric and I wonder why he even wears a shirt. Not that I want to see him without it, but the one he’s wearing is just a tad too tight. The good way.

“Well, she must really like you to let you call her that until now.” I bent down to pick the vacuum cleaner up again. “Sorry for waking you up, I try to be more considerate now.”

“Don’t sweat it. Wasn’t on purpose anyway. Besides, it was time for me to get up, I have to work later.” He stretches a bit, still sleepy. I can’t drool over him now, not when he can still see me.

“Okay, I’m off. Cleaning somewhere else now.” If he notices that I’m practically fleeing he doesn’t comment on it.

I try once more to reach Sam but talking to the voicemail isn’t lifting my mood. After finishing the floors I follow Mom’s cleaning schedule which tells me laundry has to get done – including ironing shirts. So it’s back upstairs to get the laundry from the hampers, on my tiptoes to not disturb Ben again.

I know Jake’s not in his room, but I have picked his laundry up already so I make a beeline to the bathroom to get the towels. Bad idea.

I notice the moment I open the door – the air is humid and warm. Someone’s in the shower. In the huge shower with the glass enclosure, and although the panels are fogged I can clearly see who it is.

“You just wanna stand there gawking or do you need something?”

Jake turns to look at me and I fight the urge to drop my gaze, instead I tip my head backwards, stare at the ceiling.

“Uh, sorry, this – holy, this is embarrassing. I didn’t hear the shower and the door wasn’t locked and I just wanted to get the towels and-”

“Well, I hope you will leave at least one here for me. Otherwise go ahead, take what you need.”

Since the shower is turned off no new steam comes and the old steam starts to settle. Tiny droplets run down the glass panel, taking the cover of fog with them. Oh boy.

“What? Changed your mind? You can also join me if you want.”

No witty response comes to mind, not even an indignant refusal. My mouth opens and closes, like a fish, and no sound comes out.

“Or would you want to sneak a peek first? To make sure it’s worth your time?” He opens the glass door and that sets me into motion.

I squeak a high-pitched ‘no, thanks’, grab the towels off the rack and rush out, followed by his laughter.

In the hallway I pause, lean against the wall to catch my breath. My heart is racing, my complexion betrays me by broadcasting my feelings in scarlet all over my face. I am officially an idiot.

“Jayjay, you okay?”

For the second time in less than one hour Ben makes me jump. I’m afraid he can read from my expression what happened so I keep my eyes on my shoes, towels tightly pressed against my chest.

“I’m fine, just – tired. Don’t worry, I just need a quick break.”

“Okay, but if you need something else, just tell me, okay? No matter what.” He steps a bit closer, tries to peer into my face but I shake my head.

“No, I’m good. Really.” My shaky smile does nothing to reassure him, the crease between his eyebrows proof of his doubt.

“You want a glass of water?” One step closer and I’m trapped between him and the wall, the towels the only barricade. I just want to decline when the door to the bathroom opens.

“Oh, hey, Jake.” Ben looks up, his eyes going wide.

“Dude! You can’t run around butt naked here! We have a girl in the house. Cover up your junk.”

I want to die. Right now, and please quickly.

“I guess the girl you’re referring to wouldn’t mind a peek given that she took all the towels with her,” Jake points out. I can hear his footsteps coming closer but I’m mortified, can’t move my head to look at him – or better, to look away. The heat from his shower still surrounds his body, I can tell he’s close without looking.

“Did I interrupt you guys somehow?” Confusion sneaks into Ben’s voice, he takes a step back from me again.

“Yep,” Jake says the exact moment I shout: “No!”

I push all the towels into Ben’s arms, bolt from them before I see more than I want of Jake.

Still jittery I hide in the laundry room, fight tears and screams and the urge to kick something, someone. I really want to hear Sam’s voice now but can’t leave a message of me sobbing on the voicemail. Not very attractive after all. A few deep breaths, some nervous pacing and I can pull myself together enough to cram the part of the laundry I already have into the machine. Just when I open the bottle of detergent the door opens.

“Hey, you ok-”

With a shriek I spin around, spill half of the bottle over Ben’s shirt. That’s it, I have to leave the town now. Better leave the country altogether.

“Oh shit, I’m so sorry!” Frantically I wipe at his shirt with what turns out to be another shirt, dirty of course.

“It’s okay, calm down. Geez, I just wanted to check on you. Are okay? You look as if you’re that shy from melting down.”

My hand stops moving, I throw the shirt back into the laundry machine.

“Do I? Because I feel as if I’m already just some puddle.” A choked out laugh hides my first sob.

“What’s wrong?” The shirt still clings to him, the smell of the detergent pungent, tickling my nose.

“Life sucks right now, but I feel like I shouldn’t complain. I mean, you don’t exactly have it easy either, huh?” I sniffle, blame it on the detergent though.

“Huh? Oh, you’re talking about Mads. She’ll come around.” He shrugs, strangely unburdened while I’m still blaming myself for that scene last night. “And you know, never hold up travelers.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, if she wants to go I won’t stop her. I mean, if she just stays for my sake, that won’t be the same, will it?”

I mull his words over in my mind, wonder how he can be so nonchalant about this. I can’t just let go of Sam and we haven’t planned to get married. So how can he?

“Okay, that stuff starts to itch. You don’t mind, do you?” he asks and takes off his shirt. “You can put this in the machine, I don’t think you need any more detergent, though.”

What’s up with the guys today for them to casually walk around half or fully naked in front of me?

My 17 years old, thirsty teenage self would probably die of blood loss now, although I occasionally caught glances of Ben at the pool with only swim trunks on back then. But I never saw him up close. His abs, right in front of me, those biceps – I’m sure he wasn’t in that good shape in school anyway.

“Jazz?”

I realize I’m staring, but who would blame me? Well, besides Maddie maybe, but she’s not here.

“Yeah?” I blink, shake off that daze.

“Are you okay now?” How can he be that sweet and that hot at the same time? I shouldn’t even enjoy this view, not when I’m still trying to win Sam back. I’m a horrible, horrible person.

“Yeah, thanks. I just – I’m really, really tired. You know, my finals, the graduation, coming back here only to start working for your Dad…” I shrug, pray that he would cover up a bit and dread it at the same time.

“And your situation with your boyfriend,” Ben points out, ready to help.

“Yes, that’s part of it, too. But I don’t have to tell you about heartbreak, huh?”

He shrugs again, now better visible for me without his shirt. Dammit. I’m going to burn in hell.

“I try not to dwell in the past too much. Life changes all the time, I’m going with the flow if I can.”

Nice philosophy, just not for me. I’m fighting tooth and nail for what I consider mine. And I hate losing something I have worked for so hard.

“Must be nice,” I muse loudly. “Being able to let go of anger and pain. I hold grudges forever.”

“Like with Jake?”

That works better than a cold shower. I straighten up, slam the door of the washing machine shut with my foot.

“Okay, anything else you need from me?”

He realizes that whatever mood it was, it’s gone now.

“No, not really. I guess I should wash off that detergent. Gonna hop into the shower real quick. Can I get a towel or do I have to air-dry, too?”

My mind stutters to a halt at the image, I force it aside so I can stalk out of the laundry room towards the linen closet. Once he has a towel he winks at me and leaves. I need a coffee and a break, but since I can’t have neither I pick what comes closest: I call Miho.

 

“If you’re not dying right now keep it short, the place is packed,” is her greeting.

“I’m kind of dying, alright. Or I’m already dead and gone to hell. Feels like it at least.” I sniffle, a sound that gets Miho’s attention.

“What’s wrong?” I can hear her walking around, she tells someone she’ll be back soon – probably her part-timer.

“Everything! I messed up with Sam, can’t even apologize because I only ever get the mailbox. Jake keeps driving me nuts and Ben – ugh, everything is such a mess and I can’t stop crying.”

The sounds of the café in the background fill the line while Miho is silent. She clears her throat, hums briefly.

“Okay, how far are you with your work? Do you still have a lot to do?”

“Almost done. Just the laundry.” A hiccup cuts off my words. I have planned to dust some more, pick up some stuff here and there.

“Tell them to take care of the laundry on their own and get your ass over here. As soon as the fairground opens it will be dead in here anyway.”

“I can’t,” I meekly object. “It’s Mom’s job on the line, not mine.”

Mom. God, how I hope that she won’t fall for Dad’s tricks again. I’m still miffed that he had the guts to show his face here, food truck or not. He promised not to come back, not to pester Mom for money again. That liar. And now she will need even some more money, he will take whatever she has without a care what she will do afterwards. Just like last time. Just like every time so far.

“Sorry, it’s – I’m fine. Just needed to talk to someone. Vent a bit. I don’t want to keep you from your work. Will call you later again, okay?”

I take a few deep breaths, force the tremble in my voice down.

“You sure?” She sounds suspicious. I shouldn’t have called her, now she will worry and although it comforts me that she cares about me that much, I also feel guilty.

“Yeah, of course. Thanks for listening. Go back to your coffee machine.” I laugh to lighten the mood again, not sure if she buys it, hard to say without seeing her after all.

“Fine. How about you swing by when your work is done?”

“Only if you pour a good swig of booze into my coffee.”

“Deal. Send me a text when you leave there and I can make sure there’s a drink waiting here for you. How does Espresso Martini sound?”

Fancy for sure.

“Perfect. And again, sorry for disturbing you at work. See you later.”

After her goodbye I end the call. My eyes still sting but the tears have stopped. I only have to make it through one more day and I can go back to my old life – minus Sam.

My fingers type a short “I miss you” but I don’t send it. Won’t change anything after all.

Homecoming – Day 11-2

Back in the townhall I’m still fuming, inwardly cursing myself for enjoying that time with Jake and Kimmy before he decided to be an ass towards Miho.

Kimmy shuffles along next to me, I pay only half a mind to her. Jake’s presence is too much for me right now, every sound he makes, every move annoys me to no end.

Unfortunately I would be totally lost in these hallways so I can’t even just storm off without him. So I grit my teeth and follow him, answer to Kimmy’s question curtly, but I tell her it’s not her fault that I am so upset now. I can’t wait to get out of there and away from Jake.

Only that I can’t actually get away. He drove me there and he will be at the mayor’s home later. Just great.

Once we step through the door into the same small room we picked Kimmy up in she yelps and rushes forward, into the arms of a man I never saw before. He looks good, tall, broad shoulders, his hair just a tiny bit too long. Brown eyes look warmly at the child. She talks to him in a flurry of gestures and I can make out just enough to understand it’s her dad.

“Hello, sir, I’m Jacob Rosenfeldt.”

Caught up in the moment I keep translating although it’s not necessary, Kimmy’s father isn’t deaf after all.

“Ah, yes, the mayor told me about you. I’m Robert Pavel. Thank you for taking Kimmy out, I couldn’t make it sooner.” He has a nice voice and when his gaze sweeps over me I’m blushing lightly.

“I’m Jazz, I had the pleasure of talking to your daughter a bit today,” I introduce myself, hands still putting my words into signs.

Kimmy tells her father about our short outing, he repeatedly has to tell her to slow down to the point she turns to me with pleading eyes and I interpret for her. That’s why I’m here for anyway, I can keep doing it until the mayor relieves me of my duty. I should have asked if this is a paid favor, although I’m sure Mom will kick me out if I take any more money from Elias. After everything he has done for us, yada yada.

“Okay, Kimmy, say goodbye to your new friends, Mom is waiting for us already.”

She waves at us and I show Jake how to say ‘bye’ before I turn around and leave without another word. I can take a bus back.

Not going back is not an option. Too much is still not done and my list is longer than the walk to the bus stop. Halfway there Jake catches up with me. He has the audacity to ask why I’m running off like that and I would love to explain it to him in detail if it wasn’t for the fact that his father is my employer right now.

“Hey, I asked you a question! Why did you just run off?” His hand lands heavily on my shoulder, warm and far too real to ignore.

“I figured my service isn’t needed any longer so I want to get back to my actual work asap. Can’t let Maddie polish all those things, can I?”

His eyebrows shoot up, he blinks once, twice, just long enough for me to slip out of his grip.

“What the heck has gotten into you?”

“You!” No, wait, that sounds dirty. “I mean, that stupid stunt you pulled at the café.” He has no right to be angry now, I am the one pissed at him, not the other way around.

“What? That I paid for you? Are you one of those militant feminists? A walkure?”

My mouth opens and closes again, I bet I look like a fish out of water.

“There is – there is so much wrong with you and what you just said, I can’t even-” A frustrated squeal cuts off my short tirade and signals me it’s better to just leave now before I say something I actually regret. A deep breath and I manage to press out a ‘Nevermind, I make it back on my own’ and this time he doesn’t follow me.

 

Jake’s car is already in the driveway when I arrive, I march past it, ignore the sudden urge to kick it, knowing it would only hurt my foot.

The back door leads directly into the kitchen where I find Maddie and Ben busy with a list and the whole table covered with dishes, glasses and boxes filled with napkins and table clothes.

“There you are! You took so long, I thought you ditched me here!” Maddie is in my face the second I set a foot into the house.

“Well, looks like you found a good way to kill some time. What’s all this?”

“The caterer brought this over earlier. So they don’t have to carry it all in on the day of the party.” Ben grins and easily hoists up a huge box, sets it down next to a wall.

“Oh, good. Is this all clean or do we have to polish that, too?” I point to the plates and cutlery on the table, pray to every entity out there that the answer is in my favor.

“We? Who is we? If anyone cleans all this it’s you,” Maddie points out, much to my dismay. Like always Ben comes to my rescue.

“Don’t worry, it’s all clean and Sunday morning they will send some people here to get the preparations done.”

That’s a relief, but it’s short lived since Maddie pushes a rag into my hands and points towards the hallway.

“You still have to clean the windows and mirrors. I can’t take care of everything here on my own after all.”

Five minutes later and I’m convinced that she didn’t clean anything at all. I pick up where I left earlier, cleaning windows and mirrors all over the floor. One of my least favorite chores, I’m just saying.

“Bennie? Can you bring me the ladder, please?” I call into the general direction I believe him to be, stretch up as far as my arm can reach to get the upper edge of the mirror over the chimney sill. “Bennie?”

“Can you stop calling him that?”

It’s not Ben but Maddie, without the ladder of course.

“What? I call him Bennie ever since I was twelve. You want me to stop that now because…?”

I catch her expression in the reflection of the mirror, lips curled up in a snarl.

“Because he is MY fiance and I don’t like that familiarity.”

“Well, tough luck. As long as he doesn’t tell me to stop that, I won’t. He might be your fiance, but he’s also my friend.”

“Exactly, and that is all he will ever be to you.”

She looks as of she wants to spit on the floor to drive her point home, but luckily she doesn’t. I have just polished the wooden floors after all.

“I know. And I just asked my friend to bring me a ladder so I can finish my work here. If you are not going to get me one, you better tell him to do it. Because I’m so close to dropping this rag and leave you with all the cleaning. For real this time.” My patience is on its last leg, today already took more strength than I actually have.

“Your ladder, ma’am.”

Again it’s not Ben, but Jake. He acts as if nothing ever happened and sets the ladder down, winks at me.

“Ready to take orders, ma’am. What is my next task?”

“Just stay out of my way, that’s all,” I coolly dismiss him and roll my shoulder, my right arm is so heavy from all the cleaning and polishing already.

“Awww, are you still miffed? Next time you can pay, I promise.” He grins, completely at ease.

Maddie grunts, crosses her arms in front of her chest.

“Hey, where are you all?” Ben finds us in a tensed atmosphere, but oblivious to it – or deliberately ignoring – he stops next to Maddie, wraps an arm around her.

God, how I wish I could just disappear now so I don’t have to see her smug grin.

Well, it’s not exactly a hole in the floor but there is another exit opening up for me. My phone rings. I take it out of my pocket but my fingers are so cramped, I drop it. Cursing loudly I bend down to pick it up but Jake is faster, snatches it from me.

“Sam? Who is Sam?”

“Give me that!” My blood rushes once to my face and right back to my toes, the urgency in my voice not lost on Jake or the others.

“Ohhh, someone important? Hm, what do I get if I give you that?” Jake dangles my phone over my head, makes me jump for it.

“Jacob! Give it back!”

He keeps me away with one arm, the other still above us, holding my phone.

“Nope. First you have to say ‘pretty please’.”

“Dammit, Jake!” I struggle, the burning in my throat and behind my eyes not a good sign. Keep it together until you have the phone!

“Wrong. You can do that better.”

I hear Maddie’s snicker and Ben’s annoyed sigh, and in a desperate attempt I step on jake’s foot, hard. He cries out, his posture drops so I can grab my phone from his hand, just in time to see the display telling me that I missed a call.

“No…” My bottom lip trembles, I slump down on the floor, so tired of this day that isn’t even over yet.

“Geez, stop acting so dramatic. It’s only a call, you can call him back.” Maddie rolls her eyes, snuggles closer to Ben.

“Besides, can’t be that serious. I never heard you talking about that Sam before.”

“Because it’s none of your business,” I growl and wipe my nose with the back of my hand. Don’t cry now, don’t cry.

“Oh, come on. Aren’t we all friends here?” The way she says ‘friends’ could cut metal.

“Sam is kinda serious and so am I and that is all you need to know,” I snap back, trying not to actually yell. I can’t afford to rise to her bait, not after pissing Jake off already.

“And who is Sam? Does he have a last name? A job? Anything?”

“Why would you want to know? So you can stalk all the social media or what?”

Again that stupid smirk. “Maybe. I mean, we have to make sure that you don’t end up with some weirdo, don’t we? Or more that some nice guy doesn’t end up with you.”

“Mads, I think that’s enough,” Ben interrupts her interrogation/insults and comes over, offers me a hand to help me up on my feet again.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe that Ben is the younger brother. While he takes care of me Jake stands at the side, sulking.

“How about you try to call him back now? Don’t worry, we take care of the rest here.”

I stumble out of the room, stare at my phone. Should I really do it? What should I say? Is it even possible to fix what is broken between us? That’s exactly why I keep stalling and running away – too many questions, not enough answers. And the almost certain possibility that I won’t like the answers I could get.

“For someone who even got violent to get the phone back you don’t seem eager to make that call.”

Jake stands with his hands in his pockets, flashes me that grin that used to make Maddie’s knees weak before she rammed a pole far enough up her ass to also serve as hat rack.

“You,” I press out, my voice wavering while I still try to stay calm.

“Me?” he asks, pointedly looking around to make sure that yes, I’m talking to him.

“You braggadocious, banana-washing, weedcutting bighead! You think you are funny, snatching my phone like some third grader? That was a very important call for me and YOU kept me from it and NOW you have the audacity to judge my for not calling back?!”

“What’s wrong with you today? I tried to cheer you up since your mood is so damned sour and all you can do now is yell at me?” He snorts, eyes narrowing at me.

“I never asked you to ‘cheer me up’. I want you to stay away from me as far as possible!” My voice reaches a pitch that hurts my own ears but I’m not backing down now. “There’s a friggin’ heart emoji next to Sam’s name in my contact list! Even a blockhead like you should be able to figure out that it’s probably not my dentist calling!”

“You don’t need a dentist anyway, your teeth are perfect now!” he yells back , catching me off guard.

“What the heck is that supposed to mean? It doesn’t change the fact that you made me miss a call I was waiting almost a week for!” I’m not going to let him distract me with his random remarks, this is not a joke for me.

“Then go already and call him back! Dammit, this was the last time I tried to be nice to you.” He turns on his heel, storms back to his brother and future sister-in-law.

“Nice? NICE? You wouldn’t be able to be nice if – if – dammit!” The lack of a witty response has me yell in frustration and annoyance, in this state of mind I definitely can’t call Sam back. Constantly cursing under my breath I write a short text that I’m currently unable to talk but that I really, really want to have this conversation. Maybe later today?

Anxiety bubbles up in me while I stare at the screen, waiting for the little icon to tell me that Sam has at least read my message, albeit not answered.

A simple ‘OK’ has never given me so much joy before. I would love to call now, hear the familiar voice, but that would be the last straw today to simply break down. I can’t afford that, neither getting sloppy with work now nor not giving that conversation my whole, undivided attention. I better take some notes later so I won’t go unprepared into this battle for my relationship.

My resolve is strengthened and my emotions have calmed down enough so I can face the unholy trinity of temptation, annoyance and ignorance in the dining room again I pocket my phone and brace myself for whatever torture awaits me there. I’m sure that both Jake and Maddie won’t pass up the chance of making me run the gauntlet, but once I step back inside they are actually engaged in a lively – almost heated – discussion.

“That’s not your decision!” Maddie just shouts, chin jutted forwards, hands on her hips.

“Well, it’s not only your wedding after all.” Jake shrugs, looks at Ben for affirmation while he absentmindedly throws my rag from one hand into the other.

“You won’t get much cleaning done like that,” I point out, only to find myself under the glare of the squabblers and the much friendlier gaze of Ben. “What?”

“Nothing, we were just talking about you.” Maddie’s voice is icy, with a hint of accusation.

“Wow, that makes me feel better.” I roll my eyes, plop down on a chair. “Care to fill me in?”

“I was just thinking that maybe you want to come to our wedding if you are free that day,” Ben says and my jaw drops. I want that about as much as a root canal treatment without anesthesia.

One glance at Maddie tells me she feels the same about that.

“Benjamin!” I expect her to stomp her foot but she doesn’t, instead she throws her hands up. “Now that you said it we can’t just take it back.”

Don’t I have a say in this?

“Why should we? Jazz is a friend, why can’t we invite her?”

“You know why!” Maddie screeches, a very unpleasant sound even for my ears.

“Because it ruins your zen-like number of guests? How many are it so far? 120?” Jake mocks her, a loopsided grin on his face.

“If you keep talking to me in that tone you’re not invited either.”

The brothers share a short glance, a nod from Jake and a quick shake of his head from Ben replaces a whole conversation.

“Mads, this is also my wedding, you know? And I want my brother to be there, so could you please calm down a bit? Both of you?”

Poor Ben, trapped between them as voice of reason.

“You always take his side! I’m your fiancée, you should just agree with me.”

Watching this is better than some telenovela, at least as long as I’m not involved. I would love some popcorn now, but I dare not to breathe to draw no attention on my presence.

“Maddie, you got your way with everything else so. We booked the venue you wanted. There’s no limit for your dress. You will get your band and your menu, your cake and all the other things. So could you please let me at least invite the people I consider friends?”

And I’m back in the focus.

“But not her.” Maddie’s accusing finger trembles just a few inches away from my face.

“Attention: Bridezilla sighting in the dining room.” Even when he whispers, Jake can be heard clearly. Maddie’s head spins around, she glares at him, takes a step closer.

“What did you just call me?”

His hands raised in an appeasing manner Jake backs off, but Maddie doesn’t relent.

“I asked you a question! What did you call me?!”

“Nothing you actually want me to say again,” he points out, looks past her at Ben who hangs his head, shakes it lightly. A broken man.

Maddie is in full fury, spins back again to face her fiance. “Why do you let him talk to me like that? Why do you never defend me?!”

“Mads, I-” he tries to get a word in edgewise, to no avail.

“And stop calling me that! I hate that stupid nickname! And since you keep choosing other people above me, I guess you don’t even want to marry me!” The engagement ring hits the floor and bounces off with a dull sound, the carpet muffles the impact and I lose sight of the shiny metal and diamond while watching Maddie storm off.

 

“So she broke up with him? Over a fight whether or not you should get invited to the wedding?” The coffee Miho sets down in front of me holds a good swig of cream liquor.

“Yep. I officially ruined a marriage.” With my head on the counter I whimper into my sleeve. “This was not my plan for the day. Or, you know, at all.”

“But now the guy you crushed on during your school days is free again. Isn’t that a good thing?” On the other side of the counter Miho mimics my posture, rests her head on the polished surface.

“No, it’s not! Just because he’s free doesn’t mean that I have a chance and even if I had one, doesn’t mean I want it.”

How long might it take in a small town like ours before people start gossiping and point at me when I walk past? Not long enough.

“And how did Ben take it?”

“No idea. I guess he’s in shock.” He pretended that everything was fine, even told me that Maddie often overreacted and that she surely would reconsider. One or two days, a week at the longest. And then he went and made himself a sandwich, even asked me and Jake if we wanted one, too. That’s not what I tell Miho, though. Everyone has their own way of dealing with things after all.

“Didn’t you say they weren’t even engaged for long yet?” She straightens up again, stretches a bit.

“Does that matter? He wants to marry her, whether he put a ring on her finger a week or a year ago doesn’t change anything.”

I also perk up a bit when she slides a plate with cake over, pick at the creamy, chocolate-y ganache covering it with my fork.

“And Jake?” With her own fork she snatches a bite of my cake, grins when I scowl at her.

“Couldn’t stop smirking. No idea what his problem with Maddie is, but they don’t get along at all.” The bitterness of the chocolate and the sweet cream distract me for a second, I let the cake melt on my tongue, add some spiked coffee flavor. This is how my days should be, filled with cake and coffee instead of cleaning and drama.

“At least Maddie won’t bother you anymore,” Miho points out the bright side.

“Perfect timing, too. Tomorrow I have to scrub the toilets and bathrooms. And I don’t really want her commenting on that.”

Tomorrow is also the festival and a good chance to just enjoy some fun and games.

“By the way, do you know what job Jared has?”

I pick some more at the cake.

“No, just that he is working for some company. You haven’t really told me what happened today anyway.”

She perks up a bit, but still feigns some indifference.

“Well, obviously he’s working with or for the town hall on a regular basis.  Water supply or something like that, according to Kimmy. Her mother is his co-worker AND it seems she’s the one who was in the club with him last night.”

“Huh…” A smile tugs at her lips, she covers it with another forkful of cake. She really has to learn to talk to people and not jump to conclusions, but to honest, I consider it funny how easily she’s thrown out of the loop by Jared when she’s still pretending to be not really interested.

“Are you going to the fair tomorrow?” I ask Miho between two bites of chocolate heaven.

“Nah, probably not. Too many people and I’m not that into greasy food and cheap games.”

“Too bad, I just wanted to ask you to come with me and watch me lose at can knockdown and whack-a-mole.”

 

Slightly tipsy but in a much better mood I make my way home. It’s time to tell Mom how much I love her and how grateful I am for everything she did for me. And of course I can’t wait to call Sam. When I told Miho about it, only the basics and not the full story with me kicking Jake to get my phone back and chickening out afterwards, she talked some confidence into me. I got my notes, I got my goal clear in sight and I got a light buzz – the perfect combination to win my lover back.

With a spring in my step I dance up the stairs, unlock the door and make a beeline into the living room where the lights are still on and voices indicate that Mom is watching TV. As a peace offering I brought a slice of Miho’s incredible cake, I swing the paper bag and waltz into the room just to stare at one of the most disturbing scenes I ever saw.

Mom, with her wrist bandaged up, sitting in a chair, eyes closed, head hanging low, moans and sighs at the very enthusiastic massage she is getting. From my father.

One of his hands is unfortunately not on her shoulders, but busy in the front of her blouse.

“Dad?” My head spins. “Mom?”

They jump apart, Mom sheepishly fixes her clothes, Dad simply beams at me.

“Jazzy-bee! How’s my big girl doing?”

My father is here. My father, the man who only remembers that I exist when he needs something. My father, who somehow manages to string Mom along for decades now. The same man who called me a few months ago to tell me about his latest business idea. And now he’s asking me how I am. So I tell him exactly how I feel.

“I think I’m getting sick.”

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko Black and white pictures

Miho’s and Goto’s wedding was finally over and Jazz could breathe easier again. It had been a very touching ceremony, a wonderful party. It had made Jazz want to have a ceremony, too, but she hadn’t told Kuni about that yet. There was so much else that they had to take care of first.

Jazz had had the operation the day after the bachelorette party and so far there were no complications. She had a scar on her belly but it was tiny, only slightly rosy now and smooth. The first few days it had been dark red, ragged and uneven. The first time she had changed the bandage she had cried, not because of the scar itself but because of what this meant for her, for Kunihiko and her. For them.

Jazz shoved those thoughts aside and smoothed down her shirt to cover the scar. Today she had another follow up appointment at the clinic and afterwards some more work. With Miho and Goto in their honeymoon Jazz was the only senior partner at the agency left and she was dead set on keeping the business running smoothly. Kunihiko had told her to take it easy for now but she needed something to take her mind off the whole ‘I just lost an ovary’ disaster.

“Should I take you to the clinic?” His arms enveloped her from behind and Jazz snuggled against his chest with a tiny sigh.

“No, I’m fine. I can take a cab or the train. No need for you to be late for work.” She turned in his arms and hugged him tightly. Despite the brave face she was making she couldn’t hide how on edge she was every time she had to get another check up.

Kunihiko’s hand wandered over to her belly, gently rested there, his warmth seeping into her skin.

“I’d rather be there for you in a time like this. Being late isn’t a problem at all today.”

“I know. But believe me, it’s fine. It’s only a routine checkup. Last time they already told me that everything was looking really good. Don’t worry about me, I call you if anything is off.” She cupped his face and smiled. “You’re giving me so much strength, Kuni. Even if you’re not with me. That’s why I can be so at ease.”

Their kiss was soft and only lasted for a second, but it conveyed so much love, so much warmth.

“Okay, if you’re insisting. I’m off to work now. I love you.” Reluctantly he parted from her, his hand rested on her hip although he had already taken a step back.

“I love you, too. And now off with you, before Osanai calls and gives you a lecture again.” With a last kiss she practically pushed him out of the door, laughed when he peeked in again to sneak another kiss.

Once back in the office Jazz was diligently working, creating proposals and profiles, answering calls and emails. In her lunch break she sent Kunihiko a quick text, telling him the checkup had been well. Her doctor had told her they could start trying for a baby if they wanted to, but also reminded her not be impatient and not to get frustrated if it didn’t work right away. With only one ovary it was still possible to get pregnant, but not that likely. Still, the doctor advised they should simply try for now and take measures if it didn’t work after a year.

“It is important that you don’t stress yourself. That wouldn’t help at all. Relax and just let nature take its course. You are still young and healthy enough for it to just happen.”

Jazz had nodded and thanked her doctor, but couldn’t help the nagging unease. Work was meant to distract her and so far it was serving this purpose well.

They needed a solution to their latest loss of test drivers. Ever since Rose got serious with her puppy boyfriend and H was – somehow distracted, MJS was at the same point where it had been almost a year ago, when Miho and Jazz decided to get an intern. Maybe they had to change their approach and cancel the test driving all together.

The ringing of her phone dragged her from her thoughts, the florists had questions about an arrangement for a wedding.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey, Kuni?” Jazz handed him the veggies to cut for their dinner and he pecked her cheek as a thank you, humming to prompt her to go on with her question.

“I was thinking… how about we find someone for the bar? You know, lately you don’t have much time to actually stand behind the counter anyway, but I like the atmosphere of the bar. I like that your friends, and now also my friends, can gather there.”

His hands stopped cutting the carrots briefly before he went back to preparing their dinner.

“Actually it’s a good idea. I have thought about that already. I’d rather spend my time with you than cleaning the bar anyway.”

Jazz grinned. “Well, we have combined that already. Although we didn’t really ended up getting much cleaning done…”

Ever since Jazz had gotten the diagnosis she had shied away from intimacy, not comfortable in her own body anymore. Sure, she had offered him relief in different ways and he hadn’t pushed her into anything she didn’t want to do, but by conjuring these memories now she signaled that she was ready to at least think into that direction again. A smile appeared on his face.

“I remember… that was a very pleasant night in the bar. But I guess you were driving at something else.”

Jazz giggled but nodded. “I was thinking, how about we ask H if she wants to manage the bar? She might need a new job soon, as things are at the agency right now.”

“You don’t want to close the agency, do you?” The concern in his face was surprising her, Jazz had assumed that he wasn’t a big fan of MJS.

“No, just changing some things. I’m not sure if we should continue with the date scenarios, after all it caused so many problems in the past and it’s difficult to find suitable girls to take care of it.” She shrugged. “I still have to talk with Miho about it, but I guess we’re going to get respectable and all.”

With a mocked shudder she turned to him. “I guess Miho just got the shivers, too, and has no clue why.”

Kunihiko laughed, pleased that Jazz was joking again. For some days she had been withdrawn and gloomy, although she had tried to hide it behind a smile that never reached her eyes. She knew that she had been worrying him but she really felt so much better now and was grateful for his support.

“But the wedding planning will stay unchanged?” he asked further, grabbing some bell peppers, and Jazz nodded.

“No need to change anything if it’s working just fine, right?”

He hummed in agreement but Jazz frowned lightly.

“Say, is something the matter? You seem a bit distracted.”

“What makes you think that?” he asked back, looking like being caught.

“You’re washing those bell peppers for the third time now.”

He immediately turned the water off and grinned sheepishly. “You are a sharp one, I should have know that I can’t fool you for long.”

“Right-o. And now, Mister, spill it.” She took the peppers and started slicing them.

“Not sure if I really want to tell you when you’re handling a sharp knife,” he joked but Jazz only glared at him. “Okay, okay. I’m telling you already. So, I got a call today. My grandmother wants to meet me tomorrow for lunch.”

Her hands stopped. His grandmother – well, that was unexpected.

“But it’s a good sign, isn’t it? Does that mean she starts to accept our marriage?” There it was again, the faked smile.

“I really hope so. At least it didn’t sound as if she wanted to disinherit and cast me out of the family anymore.” He carefully took the knife out of her hand. “You okay?”

“Sure, yeah. I mean, it’s not my grandma. Actually my family is pretty happy for us. They were surprised and confused at first, but now they are happy.”

She chuckled briefly, remembering the awkward Skype-date she had set up with her parents and grandparents to introduce Kunihiko to them. Being caught as the interpreter in the middle she had done her best to convey the reaction of her family properly but she couldn’t deny that they had all been bewildered that the Japanese man she was married to was another Japanese man than the original one all of sudden. They had just learned about Jazz being divorced after all.

“We will have to visit them soon,” Kunihiko pointed out.

“I would love that. Whenever you have a few days off.” She kissed him, snatched the knife back and returned to cutting vegetables. “But for now, get back to cooking, I’m starving.”

Jazz had decided not to worry so much about people accepting their love anymore. There were more severe things to worry about in the world, they couldn’t get the blessing of everyone after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

After her second cup of coffee in the lobby of a fancy hotel Jazz grew impatient. Her client she was supposed to meet here was late without a notice and if she wouldn’t arrive in the next ten minutes, Jazz would leave her a note and go back to the office.

No call or text, no apology or explanation. Jazz had checked the mail with the time and place several times already and she was definitely in the right hotel, it was the correct day and she had already waited for half an hour. Not exactly a tolerating person when it came to tardiness in the first place her mood was close to hitting rock bottom when she looked up and saw something that made her blink several times, just to make sure it wasn’t an hallucination.

There was her husband, a pretty young woman hanging on his arm. Definitely not his grandmother. She was smiling at him but he seemed tense, glancing around uncomfortably. Jazz stomach sank and her heart started to race. This was bad. Why was Kunihiko with another woman in a hotel?

She quickly scribbled something down on a piece of paper and hurried to the front desk when other two were out of sight, asking the receptionist to hand the note to her client if she would ever show up. Jazz had to get out of there, needed fresh air and some answers.

It took all her willpower not to simply storm after them, or wait for Kunihiko in his office. There had to be a good explanation and she refused to jump to conclusions without giving him a chance to tell her about it.

That night Kuni came back home late. Very late. It was almost midnight, the dinner Jazz had thrown together absentmindedly earlier was long cold but she didn’t feel like eating anyway. She felt like drinking but she had stopped ever since she had learned about her medical condition, besides drinking alone had never been very appealing to her.

So she was sitting on the couch, trying to read but after she had stared at the same sentence for more than ten minutes now she admitted defeat and put the book away. Her heart leapt a bit when she heard the door. Kunihiko was back. He tried to sneak in as silently as possible, stared at her in bewilderment when he came into the living room to find her sitting there, no TV or music running, just staring at him.

“If that isn’t my lovely wife,” he cheerfully greeted her, but it couldn’t hide his tired expression. “You are still up.”

“I was waiting for you.” With pride she noticed how calm she sounded, not the nagging wife men seemed to hate.

“You shouldn’t have. I wanted to call and tell you I will be late today, but things were really crazy in the office.” He came over and leaned down to kiss her, frowning lightly when she turned her face away, only accepting a kiss on the cheek.

“Only in the office?” It was hard to keep the unease at bay, to not start screaming or crying just to get rid of this pressure inside of her.

“Actually, no. I told you about the lunch with my grandmother, right?” He sat down next to her and sighed, loosened his tie a bit and pulled the hairtie from his hair.

“Uh-huh…” Now was the time of truth and honestly, Jazz wasn’t sure if she really wanted to listen to what he would tell her next.

“I guess it’s safe to assume that she hasn’t accepted out marriage yet. She has set me up on a lunch date with the granddaughter of one of her friends. I know her since she was a child and it was so awkward. I’m a married man, I felt stupid sitting there with a girl that had barely finished college.” He dropped his head on the backrest and closed his eyes, missed the relieved smile on Jazz’s face.

“A childhood friend?”

“Not really. I mean, we met on some occasions, but I’m ten, maybe twelve years older than her. I don’t really remember. Anyway, she used to be a quiet child, but now she’s rather forceful. I have no idea what Grandmother has told her, but she seemed to assume that we will get married soon.” He sounded so tired and Jazz’s heart clenched when he turned to face her.

“Sorry, but I guess my family isn’t as happy about us as yours.”

She ran a hand through his hair, smoothed down the waves a bit and smiled. “No, I am sorry. It must be hard to go against your family like that. And sorry that you had to go on a date with some pretty 20something year old.”

“She isn’t even that pretty,” he waved her off but Jazz shook her head.

“No, she’s plenty pretty. It’s okay, I know that there are beautiful women out there. Doesn’t mean that I get insecure.”

A crease appeared over the bridge of his nose when he furrowed his brow.

“How do you know what she looks like?”

A dry chuckle accompanied her answer. “Well, I think you’re not the only one who got set up today. I was there, in the lobby. I saw you, arm in arm with a pretty girl.”

Kunihiko groaned. “Oh god… Jazz, I swear, there was nothing going on! She said she had sprained her ankle and begged me to steady her while walking. I figured it would get me out if there quicker if I just – you know, just let her lean on me a bit.”

“It’s okay, really. I trust you.” Relief made her giddy a bit, but there was enough of sass and sarcasm left in her to add: “Besides, you know I would probably kill you of you ever cheated on me. Or even better, I would sic Miho on you.”

His eyes widened. “I would never cheat on you. I love you, Jazz, you and no one else. And I will remind my grandmother that you and I are married after all, not just dating casually. There is no one who could take your place, not here in my home, nor in my bed and especially not in my heart.”

“I feel bad that you are having trouble with your family because of me,” she admitted, still smiling softly.

“It’s not your fault. Besides, you are my family. That’s all I need.”

That night they went to bed and only kissed good night again, but Jazz felt closer to him than in weeks.

“She did what?” H blinked in disbelief and Jazz shrugged.

“Set him up on a date. And it wasn’t only that, obviously they had planned it so that I had to catch him red-handed with that other girl.” She straightened some papers and handed them over to H.

“Wow, that’s really low.”

“You know what bothers me the most? Obviously his grandmother expected that I would – I don’t know, either quietly leave, broken hearted, or make a scene, cause a fight. She has probably thought I wouldn’t believe him if he tells me it was only a misunderstanding and that I would demand a divorce, convinced that he’s cheating on me.” She shook he head slightly. “But did she not expect us to actually talk? I mean, didn’t she think we would sit down and he would tell me about his strange day and I about mine? That weak plot she made up is so easily rumbled, all it takes is five minutes of honest conversation. She must think I’m stupid.”

And was what made Jazz angry. If his grandmother would have taken five minutes of her time to actually talk to Jazz she would have realized that Jazz was a smart woman. Yes, she had been easily fooled when it came to mattes of the heart before, but she had also learned a lesson each and every time.

“But is everything okay between you and Kuni again?”

“Huh? Oh yeah, of course. I know he loves me and he knows that I’m crazy about him. We are fine.” Jazz smiled at a visibly relieved H. “By the way, Kuni and I have been talking and – well, the bar is getting a bit too much work on top of our jobs and maintaining a happy marriage and all. And if we really end up having a child some day… long story short, could you imagine working in the bar? Part time at first, but if you like it and it works fine…” She let her sentence taper off, gauging H’s reaction.

“Me? Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I mean, when you’re not on date simulations you still have plenty of time, don’t you? And you could earn some more money.”

H beamed. “Sure! I mean, I’ve never worked in a bar but I have experience in the service industry. So yeah, I’d love to give it a try!”

With a satisfied nod Jazz leaned back in her chair. Another thing taken care of.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

It was strange. Never before in her life she had troubles initiating intimacy or sex, but as long as she didn’t have sex she couldn’t get pregnant on purpose. Not getting pregnant because her body wasn’t able to, was a completely different thing. So although the doctor had said it was fine, she was full of doubts. It was somehow easier to defend their marriage against dangers from the outside than to deal with her own fears and insecurities.

“I will be back in three days and then we take some time for us. Maybe spend the weekend somewhere else. How about an onsen?” Kunihiko just packed his last things into the suitcase, took the tie she handed him and put it to the rest of his clothes.

“I will miss you,” she said, a slight pout on her lips.

She had missed him for a while now, even when he was right there with her. The distance she had created between them was there on her own free will and he had accepted it, considered it a part of her recovery. And somehow she had already forgotten how it was to be close to him, physically close. Their love was strong like always, but the physical connection they shared in the beginning had been lost and that she regretted deeply.

“I will miss you more,” he replied and kissed her, softly at first but when he tried to deepen the kiss she pulled away. She had forgotten how to accept what she was craving for, too scared for the consequences if she stepped out of the safe zone she had created around herself.

“Don’t forget to pack your scarf. It’s going to be cold up there,” she reminded him and stepped back, right back into her safe zone. His smile wavered a bit but he nodded.

“Sure. Sapporo can be cold after all.”

Jazz felt bad for turning him down like that, but she couldn’t help it, torn between longing for him and hiding herself away. Grateful for the way he simply accepted her moods she embraced him again, this time without kissing.

When he closed the door behind him, leaving for a business trip, Jazz wondered why she just couldn’t let herself fall into the embrace of her husband anymore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She woke up in the middle of the night, the darkness in the bedroom so absolute that it made no difference if she opened her eyes or not. Lazily she turned around once, smiled when she realized she wasn’t alone in bed anymore. After two nights without him Jazz was glad that Kunihiko was back in their shared bed.

Still, it almost made her jump when she suddenly felt his hand on her cheek but she relaxed and inched closer, an awkward kiss in the dark, without being able to see each other, but they still managed to meet each other’s lips.

And just like that the distance she had so elaborately crafted vanished, took all her doubts with it, left her only with her love and desire for her husband. Kunihiko sleepily grunted when she pressed her body closer to his, wrapped his arms around her and rolled them around until he was on top of her.

Jazz got lost in their kiss, in his touch, eagerly wrapped her legs around him, felt his length hardening against her. When his hands slid under her comfortable and definitely not sexy pajama top she encouraged him by arching her back, pressing her body even closer. As soon as the top was out of the way she reveled in the feeling of his naked skin on hers, grateful for the fact that he was sleeping only in pajama pants. Which had to get off next. Still kissing him Jazz shoved her hands into his pajama pants, pushed them down over his ass, giving him a light squeeze. He chuckled briefly before his lips descended her neck, towards her chest, further down her stomach. She flinched when he kissed her scar but relaxed again when he started tugging off her pajama bottom and panties, waited for him to fully take off his pajama.

But she didn’t want him to linger down there, impatiently tugged at his hair until he came back up, kissed her again. It was strange, the darkness around them seemed to make this even more intimate, more meaningful.

A gasp escaped her lips when he pushed into her, made him still hesitantly until she grabbed his hip and pulled him closer. It had been some time since they had actual sex but suddenly she couldn’t remember why she had been so shy, so insecure. This was what she wanted after all, being close to him, as close as possible, until their hearts beat in the same rhythm again.

It wasn’t the ecstatic fireworks, but it didn’t lack passion and especially not love. Under the comfortable blanket of the darkness they found each other again, closed any distance that was between them, moved together to new highs.

Afterwards Jazz fell asleep again in his arms, snuggled close to him, and only opened her eyes again after the light of the morning drove the darkness away.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

They never talked about that night and Jazz half expected it to have been just a dream, but she could tell something had changed. They were back on track, the touches and kisses less careful, more casual again. And after a while they had sex just like they used to, whenever and wherever they felt like it. She didn’t even think about her condition, her body or the scar that much anymore. The lightness came back and made it easier to breathe, to laugh, to love.

The next few weeks were uneventful in a good way. Both Jazz and Kuni had a lot of work but at home they were closer than ever. While Jazz was planning their wedding ceremony Kunihiko did his best to come home before midnight every day and they spend each evening some time together, talking about their day and the plans for the near future. It was perfect.

It was perfect until Jazz got an unexpected visitor one day. She was sitting in her office, working on some proposals, when her door opened and a woman sauntered in, followed by Izumi who seemed out of breath – probably from chasing after the visitor.

Jazz needed a moment to remember when and where she had seen that face before. Oh yes, snuggled close to her husband in that hotel lobby.

“Sorry Mrs. Aikawa, she just ignored me,” Izumi apologized but Jazz waved him off, noticing the way the eyes of the other woman narrowed at how Izumi addressed her.

“It’s okay, Izumi. Please hold my calls for now.”

The other woman smiled sweetly at the receptionist before she took a seat in front of Jazz’s desk without asking.

“Coffee, please. Black.” With that she waved Izumi off who glanced at Jazz who shook her head. No coffee for that behavior. Jazz waited until Izumi closed the door behind him before she went back to work, ignoring the woman in front of her.

“Hey! I came here to talk to you!”

“One moment, please.” Without glancing up Jazz raised a finger and continued scribbling notes on a piece of paper, circled a word and put the pen down.

“What can I do for you?” She smiled politely but her heart raced. Putting up this act was also meant to give her control over this situation, but it only partly worked.

“You can listen to me!” The other woman pouted, very impressively so. She was really pretty, in her early 20s.

“Well, you are the one barging in here without an appointment, at least let me finish what I was working on first before you demand my attention.” Jazz took her glass of water and sipped, seemingly calm.

“So you really are a money grubbing bitch,” the woman said, obviously pleased with her observation.

“No, I’m someone who has to run a business and my time is precious. So get to the point or get out.” She wouldn’t back down, not in her own office.

“You know who I am?” That was straight to the point and Jazz shrugged.

“Barely. I don’t know your name or what you’re doing, just that you are loosely acquainted with my husband.” She relished in the way the other woman reacted to that word. Husband.

“My name is Yui. Aikawa.” A triumphant smile appeared on her rivals face – was she even a rival? Jazz wasn’t sure yet but she didn’t like the way Yui said her last name.

“I would say ‘pleased to meet you’ but we both know that would be a lie. So, Yui, why are you here today.” Not raising to the bait Jazz made a mental note to ask about that last name later. Someone else preferably.

“I thought I’d do both of us a favor and end this charade already. Kunihiko is mine and you should know it.” She raised her chin lightly, silently challenging Jazz.

“Funny, last time I checked I was married to him. So, care to tell me how exactly he’s yours?”

The smile on Yui’s face only widened. “I’m the reason he’s ‘working late’. He will leave you for me soon and then I will be his wife.”

Jazz’s first instinct was to yell. To tell Yui to shut the fuck up and get her ass out of Jazz’s office, but that wouldn’t answer any question. So she sucked a harsh breath and let it out in a chuckle again.

“Dream on, kiddo. As long as your name’s not Aikawa-Mihachi fusion you’re definitely not the reason he’s at work for that long each day. Just because you got the support of his grandmother doesn’t mean you have the man himself, you know?” She leaned back in her chair and kept smiling, but it was strained, the corners of her mouth twitching lightly.

“That’s what he wants you to think. We thought it would be better to have everything hashed out before presenting you with a fait accompli. We are planning our wedding, a real ceremony with our families, not some secret stunt like you pulled it. It should have occurred to you already back then when he didn’t want anyone to know that he might not be serious about you.” There was pity in Yui’s voice and that was something Jazz just couldn’t take.

She clenched her fists, trying to suppress her anger. Her patience was already thin on good days but this now was really putting it to a test.

“Listen, Missie, I have no idea what you’re thinking, but I don’t believe you, okay? And honestly, I get a bit tired of this farce, so would you-“

“I’m pregnant. With Kunihiko’s baby.” Yui reached into her purse and handed Jazz an envelope. “Open it.”

With trembling fingers Jazz pulled an ultrasound image out of the envelope. It was mostly black and white but there was a small human being recognizable. A wave of nausea washed over her.

“For how long?”

“Six weeks already. We are seeing each other for longer of course.”

Six weeks. Jazz quickly counted back in her head. The day she had seen both of them in the hotel? Or at least around that time.

“Get out.” She didn’t look at Yui, simply spat the words out, forced them through the anger that welled up again.

“I just thought I’d give you a fair warning. Maybe you are honorable enough to simply let him go instead of making it hard for him and his new family.” Yui got up and smirked. “Keep the picture. As souvenir. It will be all that you will be having left of him.”

“You say you’re sleeping with MY husband but I am the one lacking honor here?” Jazz grumbled after Yui was gone, struggling to keep her breathing even, willing her emotions aside. This wasn’t the time for a tantrum. It was the time to act.

Quickly she grabbed her phone and called the only one who could help her now.

“Takao? Sorry to disturb you, but I need some advice. Legal advice. Say, what can you tell me about divorces?”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

There had been a note with Yui’s phone number in the envelope, probably for when Jazz decided to cave in. Now she nervously called that number, still thinking about how to deal with all this. Takao had enlightened her in some points of divorce law and a quick internet research had answered some of her other questions so she was steeled for this encounter, not taken by surprise like the last time.

She knew exactly what she had to do and even if Jazz dreaded confrontations like that – with inevitable tears and screaming – she wouldn’t back down now. A clear cut, that’s what they needed now.

She pumped herself up mentally before she dialed the number.

“Yes?” Yui sounded very pleased so that Jazz gritted her teeth briefly, praying for countenance.

“I think we should talk.”

“Hm, yes, I think so, too. Are you still in your office?” There was a barely hidden triumph in Yui’s voice that riled Jazz up even further.

“No. And I don’t want you to come here again. I’d prefer somewhere else. Maybe a café or something.”

“A public place? For your safety or mine?” It was easy to see through Jazz’s suggestion but she didn’t care.

“How about that lobby? You know, the hotel where everything started?” Yui suggested, not without malice.

“Sure. In about an hour?” Jazz had to take back the reins or she wouldn’t survive that talk.

“I will be there.” With that Yui hung up, leaving Jazz with an unsettling feeling in her guts.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Of course Jazz was fashionably five minutes late when she walked into that lobby without hurry. Spotting Yui was easy, the younger woman was beaming with smug self-satisfaction, it was like a neon sign.

After a last deep breath Jazz walked right over, waved the waiter away who appeared immediately.

“No thanks, I won’t stay long.” She dropped her purse on the table and took her coat off.

“So, did you decide what to do?” Yui took a sip from her coffee cup and leaned back in her seat.

“I did. I had to make some calls but now I know what I have to do. The only thing. The right thing.”

Jazz reached into her purse and took out a stack of papers.

“I called Osanai – he said you have visited Kuni in the office a few times…”

“I did. Sorry, I don’t like the whole sneaking around behind the back of the wife thing, but Kunihiko was – not ready yet. To tell you.”

Nodding her head slowly Jazz forced herself to look at Yui. “And now he is?”

The younger woman had the decency to hesitate, avoiding eye contact. “Well, given the circumstances I figured I couldn’t wait any longer.”

“True. Given the circumstances… but you know what really bugs me? That he didn’t have the balls to tell me himself. That he had to send you, you of all people…” Even Jazz thought that her sigh was a bit exaggerated, but she couldn’t stop now.

“You know how he is, far too gentle and kind to do it on his own.” Yui’s eyes flitted over to the papers. “What’s that?”

“Divorce papers. I thought I better come prepared.” Takao had delivered quickly and Jazz was grateful for that.

“So you decided to actually let him go?”

This was it, the moment of truth.

“No. Actually those are my divorce papers from my first marriage. I just brought them so you could see a tiny detail. See those signatures down there? Where both spouses have to sign to legally end the marriage? That’s the point – we both would have to agree on that. And honestly? Neither I nor Kuni will do that.”

She exhaled deeply, now that she had said her piece she felt much better.

“But Kunihiko wants it! He’s going to have a family with me soon! With me, not with you!” Yui was already half out of her chair when Jazz raised a hand and motioned for her to sit down again.

“I won’t accept this until I hear it from Kuni directly. But of course we can ask him – and tell him that he’s going to be a father soon. Or have you told him that already?” With a smile Jazz waved towards the entrance where Kunihiko just arrived.

“I took the liberty to call him. After all this is about him, too.”

Yui paled when Kunihiko reached their table, frowning in confusion at the unexpected sight of those two women together.

“Jazz? What is going on here?”

She greeted him with a kiss before she quickly explained. “Yui here told me she was having an affair with you and that she’s pregnant now so you want to break up with me to be with her.” Jazz shot a sweet smile into Yui’s direction. “Did I sum that up okay?”

Kuni’s frown deepened. “Wait, what? That’s – Jazz, that’s not true! I never – I mean, you know I wouldn’t cheat on you!” He stared at Yui who tried to make herself smaller. “Why are you saying something like that?”

“Yes, Yui, why? I mean, slandering his name, calling him a cheater – that’s really low. Do you have an idea how much that could affect his business? Spreading lies and rumors like that?”

With a satisfied grin Jazz watched Yui squirm. She had always been a fan of honesty and right now she knew she had been right. Why should she rush off and do something stupid without at least listening to what Kunihiko had to say to these allegations? In what world did that work?

“Is that why you kept coming to my office?” By now Kunihiko seemed less confused, more angry. Between Jazz and Kuni Yui could barely get a word in edgewise.

“And what about that bullshit about you being pregnant from me? We never even kissed, let alone had sex! And then you run to my wife, trying to manipulate her? What kind of snake are you?” Now Kuni was in full swing and Jazz had to place a hand on his arm to remind him to stay calm. Other guests were already staring, not that Jazz minded. A public place also meant public humiliation, something Yui apparently hadn’t considered. At least not for herself.

“I just – I tried to – I thought…”

“No! You didn’t think at all, that’s the problem! That faked, set up date was one thing, but this? A full-fledged scheme to make us break up? That’s – god, that’s so incredibly stupid and low!”

“Kuni,” Jazz whispered, “take a deep breath. I know you’re angry-“

“Damn right, I am!” Jazz had never seen him that furious, not even during their worst fights, but she kept talking.

“– but I guess she gets it now.” With her gaze on Yui again Jazz’s tone got sharper. “And I guess she understands that meddling like a toddler in kindergarten won’t bring her closer to her goal. I don’t know how much of this little scheme actually comes from you or if that was someone else’s idea, but you better remember now: We won’t fall for that shit. Because we actually talk to each other. We know each other. And I trust him – unconditionally.”

As if to prove her point Kunihiko grabbed Jazz’s hand and squeezed it lightly. They had their fair share of jumping to conclusions and making mistakes, but in the end they were both willing to make it work, to fight for what they had. Jazz wouldn’t throw that away just because some girl came along with that kind of story.

“Oh, and I don’t know where you got that ultrasound image but you can have it back.”

Kunihiko blinked. “You even got an ultrasound image? Where the hell-?!”

“Internet.” Yui’s voice was only a whisper but Jazz had no sympathy with her. Not after Yui had pulled that stunt. Going along with that date Kunihiko’s grandmother had set up was one thing, but this? Yui had crossed a line that Jazz would never dare to even get close to. A girl needed at least a bit of class and pride after all.

“Next time – pay attention while researching. And now excuse me, my husband and I are leaving. I suggest you never show your face around us anymore. Never.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Jazz felt sick. Physically sick. Kunihiko ranted on and on, only interrupted by apologies and affirmations of his love for her.

“It’s okay, love, I’m just – can you take me home? All this was a bit much…”

“Yes, of course. I still can’t believe it… do you think my grandmother is behind all that? Or did Yui come up with that nonsense on her own?” Kunihiko flagged down a cab and helped her into it.

“I have no idea. Maybe you should talk to your grandmother again. God knows I’m not keen on that conversation.” She sighed and rested her head on his shoulder.

“I will. Sorry, I never thought something like this could happen. And Yui just showed up out of the blue in your office?”

She nodded with a sigh. “Not even three hours ago. I had to find out some things on my own before I could tell you. Sorry, I should have called you first thing after she left. I just –“ Another sigh and Jazz squirmed in her seat. “I had to ask Takao if there’s a way for anyone to MAKE us get a divorce. He said that was only possible if one of us was declared incompetent so the marriage could get declared invalid after all.”

She grabbed his hand and kissed the palm. “Nothing could make me give you up. Not after all we had to go through to get here.”

“But she even came with an ultrasound image… I mean, every other woman would have gotten suspicious at that point. But you still trusted me?”

She swallowed. Obviously it was another moment of truth. Jazz had planned it differently but now as good as any other time.

“I trust you. You said you would be honest with me and I believe you. Besides… that picture she showed me. She said she was six weeks pregnant but that embryo in the picture was at least 12 weeks, maybe even later. And I figured if she lied to me about that, the rest might be a lie, too.”

She could feel him tensing up, his attention now focused on her.

“How do you know that? About the picture?”

She pressed his hand that she was still holding against her belly, tears pricking in her eyes.

“I know how a fetus with six weeks should look like – because I have an ultrasound image of one…”

He stared at her, speechless, mouth agape.

“Holy – are you – really? You are pregnant?” His eyes were shining and he laughed happily when she nodded, biting her bottom lip to keep her own grin in check.

“You are pregnant! We’re having a baby? I can’t – that’s the best news I ever got!” He cheered so loudly that the driver turned around, congratulated them when he realized what the fuss was about.

“Since when do you know? Why haven’t you told me already?” Kunihiko wasn’t angry, just eager to know everything there was to know.

“I only found out two days ago myself. Actually I haven’t expected it to happen at all so I didn’t realize that all my symptoms lately were – well, symptoms.” Jazz laughed with him, unable to keep her emotions from bubbling over. “The doctor confirmed my suspicion yesterday. I haven’t told anyone yet because – actually I can’t really believe it myself.”

She reached into her purse to show him the blurry black and white ultrasound picture. “That’s our baby.”

Almost reverently he took the picture, eyes shining wet with unshed tears. “Wow…” he whispered. “It’s perfect.”

There was a lot to do now, preparations had to be made and decisions. But in that cab on their way home, nothing else mattered than their little, growing family.

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko One line, two lines

Jazz stared at the small test in her hand. She had been doing that for quite some time already, unable to bring herself to actually pee on that test stripe, afraid of the truth it would show her. What is she really was pregnant? There were a lot of symptoms hinting at it. She was constantly tired, gained weight, her period hadn’t shown for quite some time. But she was also taking the pill. Maybe she needed another one? She would have to see a doctor, that was for sure, but she’d rather know in advance than having the doctor tell her that she was pregnant.

With a sigh she read the instructions again. Did she have to pee in a cup and take the test like that? Or did she have to pee directly on it? And how should she do that without peeing on her hand? Who invented tests like that?! She knew she was just stalling and she also knew that she was a damned coward, so she took a deep breath, hovered over the toilet and just – let it flow. There. Done.

What followed were the longest 60 seconds of her life. One line meant she wasn’t pregnant, two that she was. And she had no idea what she was actually hoping for. A baby would change her life forever, there was no way back if she was pregnant. But she was sure that she had found the right man to start a family, Kunihiko would be a great father. They were married and she had always wanted children. Eventually. But right now? Well, she was over 30 already, there wasn’t much more time. She didn’t want to be an old mom, she wanted to crawl all over the playground with her kids, wanted to be active and running around with them.

She stared at the test in her hand again. How long could 60 seconds be? Her heart was pounding furiously, the nervous energy making her almost jump up. Instead she took another deep breath and put the test down at the edge of the sink and fixed her clothes. With all those conflicted emotions she didn’t know what to do, what to think. Anxiously she waited for her phone to chime and tell her that 60 seconds had passed.

She grabbed the test. The result was not what she had hoped for – or was it? She couldn’t even tell, she felt lightheaded and unsteady, like crying and laughing at the same time. She definitely needed a doctor’s appointment.

When Kunihiko came home Jazz was already calm again, smiled for her husband and kissed him deeply.

“I missed you,” she sighed at his surprise.

“I missed you, too. And I really like being greeted like this.” He smiled warmly at her, the love in his eyes bringing her to the brink of tears. Again.

Jazz pulled back and turned towards the kitchen. “Are you hungry? I cooked. I wanted to eat some of the food I know from back home, so I hope you feel adventurous.”

He chuckled and followed her into the kitchen were a pot was still simmering on the stove.

“Since I know you I’m much more adventurous anyway,” he said and curiously peeked into the pot. “What is it?”

“Soljanka. A soup, sweet and sour. Mostly a leftover food, you just throw in what’s in the fridge, some pickles, some tomatoes, et voilà – Soljanka. I hope you like it.” She handed him a bowl and a piece of bread before she took some for herself. They were eating in the kitchen, casually and in comfortable silence.

“It’s good,” he said after the first spoonful and Jazz smiled. It was a comfort food for her and she really needed this today. But it was something special that she could share her own comfort with the man she loved, especially since she couldn’t share her worries with him right now. Not before she had seen the doctor.

Jazz was stubborn. Stubborn and persistent. That was why she got an appointment three days later instead of having to wait for weeks. But it was so hard to hide it from Kunihiko. She had promised not to keep secrets from him, had demanded complete honesty and offered the same in return, and now she didn’t even mention this to him.

And Kunihiko acted strange. Maybe he knew that she was hiding something or he simply noticed that she was a bit off lately. He was pretty perceptive when it came to her, she had noticed this already. He seemed to be more at home the last couple of days. Sometimes they only met for breakfast or dinner, every now and then in the bar, but he was at home around 8 every night for some days in the row.

Jazz shifted in her chair in the waiting room and smiled at the thought of her husband. He would be a good father… patient and kind and full of love for his kid. Kids. Who knows? She put the magazine down that she had barely glanced at, too nervous and anxious to read at all. How could one single line on a test make such a difference? How could that test make such a difference? She still wondered what she would have done, thought, felt if it had been another result. Would she have been happy? Shocked? Disappointed? Would she have felt as numb as she did now? Confused and afraid of the future? So many thoughts, so many emotions were swirling around in her head and heart and for now she was glad that she didn’t have to decide anything right away, didn’t have to plan before she got certainty.

“Miss Mann?”

Jazz looked up and gave the doctor’s assistant a tight smile. “Yes.”

“Would please come with me?”


She closed the door. Leaned against it and exhaled. She felt as if she was suffocating, as if her collar was too tight, her chest constricted. Women must have felt like that when corsets where still high fashion. What should she do now?

She let her bag drop to the floor and kicked off her shoes, padded barefoot into the kitchen. A glass of wine… no. No wine for her anymore. For a while.

“Hey love, you’re here already?”

Jazz flinched at the sound of his voice but greeted him with a smile.

“Yeah, one of my clients cancelled for today. I just thought about making us dinner.”

Kunihiko hugged her and looked at her face, frowning slightly.

“What’s wrong? You seem – tired.”

She laughed briefly, not actually amused at all.

“I feel as if I’m constantly tired lately.” She sighed and leaned against him, trying to draw some energy from the contact. It helped at least to calm her down.

“Maybe we need a break. A weekend trip somewhere. No work, no stress. How does that sound?” He gently stroked her back and she inhaled his scent, the familiar, comforting scent she’d grown to love.

“Sounds like heaven,” she admitted. “But I just don’t have the time.”

He brought some space between them, looked at her, searching for something.

“You need a break. Some rest. There has been so much going on lately and all you ever do is working more. And more. That can’t be good for – you. Us. I love you, I just want you to take care of yourself.”

She could tell how serious he was so she didn’t argue any further.

“Okay. A trip, one weekend. But not the next weekend or the one after that. I’m booked solid for the next two weeks.” She smiled apologetically and placed a hand on his cheek. “Thank you. For taking care of me.”

There was so much she wanted to tell him and at the same time she felt so extremely guilty, she just couldn’t.

“Miho’s bachelorette party, huh?” He chuckled slightly and Jazz nodded.

“That, too. But also work. I’m not always partying,” she said with an exaggerated pout.

“I know, I know. Although I love to see you cheerful and relaxed, so I’m fine when you are celebrating whatever you like.” He peered into her face, searching her eyes. “Is there something you’d like to celebrate?”

“Mhm, as soon as Miho and Goto had their wedding I really want to celebrate ours. And our engagement, no matter how short that was.” She smiled genuinely now, for the first time since – well, since taking that test. Maybe even before that.

“Nothing else?” His hand caressed her cheek and she leaned into the touch. This moment felt so fragil, so precious, she didn’t want it to end. Funny how they went from mind blowing sex to being each other’s home. Not that the sex was any less spectacular now, but there was just so much more than that. And still she wasn’t completely honest with him.

“Nothing else. For now.”

He nodded and smiled slightly before he kissed her softly.

“How about we order some food and just cuddle a bit on the couch for now? I miss just being with you.”

Jazz looked at him, amazed how wonderful this man was.

“That’s a great idea, love. I miss you, too. Hey, how about sushi?” She twisted a bit in his embrace to open the drawer with the delivery leaflets.

“Sushi? Uhm… no, I don’t feel like sushi. How about… Italian?”

Jazz stared at him. “You don’t feel like sushi? Sushi handrolls are your absolute favorite food, why don’t you feel like it?”

“I had sushi yesterday.”

“Oh, okay. Italian sounds good, too. Carpaccio, proscutto… yeah, I could go with that.” It’s been some time since she had Italian food.

“Carpaccio – that’s the raw beef slices, right? Uh, how about French? Or Indian?” He almost looked a bit panicked and Jazz got suspicious now.

“Kuni, what is going on? Why can’t we just order already?”

“How about I order us something and surprise you with it?” he tried to distract her. “Any cravings?” He made a face as if he had said something incredibly stupid and now Jazz really was confused.

“No. Well, maybe something spicy. Lately my food is tasting bland, at least I have that impression.” She shrugged and stepped out of his arms.

“Do you want some coffee? Or wine?”

“No, don’t bother. I can take care of that. You go and sit down on the couch.” He grabbed a leaflet of an Indian place and browsed the menu.

“Okay, but I would like some coffee.” It wasn’t that late yet and she could really need something to perk her up.

“Wouldn’t you prefer some tea?”

Jazz shot him a glare. What was wrong with him that he was so picky about what she ate and drank?

“I bring you some coffee, okay,” he relented with a sigh.

Five minutes later Jazz sat on the couch, a cup of coffee in her hand, her feet resting in Kuni’s lap while he absentmindedly rubbed them.

“That feels like heaven,” she sighed and took a sip of her coffee. Kuni really made the best coffee. He was so sweet and thoughtful. But…

“Did you forget the sugar?” She peered into her cup, the bitterness of the coffee a bit too much.

“Oh, I just thought – well, sugar’s not really good for you, is it?”

Jazz pulled her feet back and sat up. “I swear, if you start telling me to watch my weight I WILL demand a divorce.”

“What? No! I love you, I love your body, I don’t care if you gain weight. I can’t wait for you to gain even more! The more the better!” he frantically explained.

Jazz put her cup down. “Kunihiko, you are acting strange. Care to tell my why?”

He frowned, gnawed at his bottom lip. Sighed.

“Okay. Okay, here’s the thing. I – I think I found something very – personal from you…” he began, obviously choosing his words carefully.

“Personal? And now you don’t know how to act naturally around me anymore?” She was amused by the thought he might have rummaged through her underwear drawer or something. Until the thought crossed her mind that he could have found a client report or two.

“I, ugh, it’s just that I don’t understand why you hide something like that,” he admitted, wiping the thought of client reports from her mind. If he seemed – what? Happy? – it couldn’t be that.

“A woman has to keep some secrets,” she said with a shrug.

“Sure, and you should have some small secrets, I don’t mind. But that?”

What did he find? Oh. OH!

“So it’s the – uhm the size of the ‘secret’ that bothers you?” She was blushing, actually blushing, but felt like laughing at least. Typical male.

“Yes. I mean, that’s not only about you after all. It affects me, too. Shouldn’t we – shouldn’t you at least tell me?” Oh. He looked hurt and Jazz immediately felt guilty. Again.

“Kuni, I love you, you know I do. I married you. I want to spend my whole life with you. But I’m also a grown woman, I have the right of some privacy. And privacy involves having sex toys. That doesn’t mean that you can’t satisfy me or that I don’t love our sex. It just means that I’m having some toys in case I need them.”

For a moment it was silent between them.

“What?” He shook his head slightly, as if to shake off his confusion.

“What do you mean, ‘what’? Isn’t this what it’s all about? You found my vibrator?” She had a bad feeling all of sudden.

“No. No, I’m not talking about a – a sex toy. I’m talking about the pregnancy test.” His frown deepened. “And I really think you should talk with me about that.”

Jazz drew a sharp breath. Exhaled again. “Okay. Okay, you are right, that is – well, personal enough. I didn’t mean for you to find it. But it doesn’t matter anyway, does it?” The sadness in her face was getting to him and he hugged her.

“Hey, it’s nothing bad. I mean, sure, we haven’t planned it and I thought you were taking the pill, but I’m happy. Genuinely, incredibly happy. I just thought – I don’t know, I thought you would tell me with a sweet gesture and I was really on edge the last few days. I didn’t know that you were worried about it.” He wiped the first tears away that welled up in her eyes. “Did you think I wouldn’t be happy? That I wouldn’t want a baby with you?”

She shook her head, so tired, so sad. So empty.

“I don’t know what you think you found, but I’m not pregnant. The test was negative.” Her voice was blank.

Kunihiko tensed for a second. “No… two lines, right? Two lines mean positive.”

“Kuni, there was only one line. I’m definitely NOT pregnant.”

“Oh…”

Neither of them said anything for a short while.

“You know, it’s possible that after some time, an hour or so, the second line appears but it’s still a negative test. It’s just – I don’t know, eventually every test has two lines. Important is the result after the time written on the box. And after 60 seconds there was just one line. I’m sorry…” She gave him a brave smile. “I didn’t know that you found it. I didn’t want you to get your hopes up just in case…” She shrugged.

“So, you never were pregnant? Or did you…?” He couldn’t even finish the thought. One second he was convinced they would become a family and the next one everything was just – gone.

“I never was pregnant. I would have told you the second the test was positive…” Jazz sighed, the disappointment in his face breaking her heart. “I’m so sorry.”

“No, no it’s – it’s fine. I jumped to conclusions… well, it was nice thinking you and I would, would become a real family, but – that doesn’t mean we can keep trying, right?” He cupped her face, confused when she started crying again. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Kuni – I… I was…” She sobbed, cried, clung to him. Reality was finally catching up with her and ripped down every little lie she had built up as defense so far, it made her dizzy.

“Jazz? Baby, talk to me. What is it?” He had never seen her like this, not even when Mino had disappeared. Not even when they had the worst of fights. Never.

“I’ve been – I have seen the doctor today. I – I… something isn’t right… they will… they will have to – to remove one of my – my ovaries…” She could hardly breathe, speak, think. All she could was feeling a loss of something she had never had and still taken for granted. She had always thought she would have a family one day. A baby. Maybe two. A husband, a house, but first and foremost children. And now she wasn’t even sure if that was possible. If she could have children.

“I’m so… I’m so sorry…” she muttered over and over. Now that she knew that he was thrilled by the thought of being a father the pain was even sharper, deeper. It wasn’t only about her, it was about them. About him. What if he left her? What if he would want someone who could give him that? What if?

“Shhh… it’s okay, love, it’s okay… as long as you are here I don’t care…” He rocked her in his arms like a crying child, waited until the tension subsided, the tremors running through her had calmed down.

When she could finally breathe again, still sobbing a bit, she wiped her face, not caring for the running makeup, and sat back a bit.

“I will have surgery the day after Miho’s party. I don’t want anyone to know, we had enough drama lately.”

He nodded, understanding what she meant. Especially Miho had been through a lot but the others had suffered, too. That was why everyone was looking forward to the bachelor/bachelorette party, just to let off some steam, take their minds off things.

“You’re not going to tell Miho, then?”

She shrugged. “No, not now at least. Maybe afterwards. You know that she’s not keen on babies anyway, I’m not sure if this is something I want to share with her until it’s done.”

Kunihiko pondered her words silently before he changed the topic slightly.

“Okay, I think I need more information about all that. If that’s okay with you,” he added and looked at her. Crying had helped clearing her mind and although the pain was still there, sitting prominently in the forefront of her mind and heart, she nodded.

“What exactly do you have and what will they do? What does that mean for you in the future?”

Jazz sighed. “I’m not a medic, I can only explain it in my own words. Obviously one of my ovaries, the left one, is twisted in a way that makes it necessary to remove it. That would explain some of the very heavy cramps I had in the last years. It’s called ovarian torsion and they will make a laparoscopy to remove it. It’s good that we found out about it now. There’s the risk of something called an ovarian infarct and that would be really painful and dangerous.” Her shoulders slumped a bit but she went on. “Once it’s removed the other ovary should be enough to keep the hormonal balance, but getting pregnant might be a problem.”

“A problem or impossible?” he asked, holding her hands, his thumbs rubbing over the back of her hands reassuringly.

“It’s not impossible, just – not that likely anymore. We might have to see a specialist.”

The doorbell rang, signaling the arrival of their food. Suddenly Jazz realized why Kuni had been so picky about their food earlier and a fresh round of tears welled up in her eyes. She loved him so much, wanted him to have everything that would make him happy. Children included.

Kuni came back with bags and boxes of foods but simply put them down on the table, ignoring them for now. Their conversation was more important after all.

“Okay, one last question, maybe the most important one. Do you want to have a baby?”

She nodded, her lips trembling. The 60 seconds before the test showed a negative result she has actually hoped for a second line. Yes, it would have change their lives forever, but she was sure it would have been in a good way.

“Good.” He smiled warmly. “In that case we are at least on the same page. I actually was a bit excited, maybe a bit too much. I – I ordered something, online.” His smile wavered a bit.

“What did you order?” Jazz snuggled close to him, needed the contact, the reassurance it gave her.

“It’s a bit embarrassing… but I ordered a onesie. ‘Daddy’s sweetheart’.”

She choked up a bit but smiled. “I bet it’s cute.”

“Yeah. I will return it, though.”

Jazz sat up a bit and looked at him. “No. Keep it. When it arrives, give it to me. I will give it back to you when we will actually need it.”

“So you want to keep trying? Or better, start trying?” The love in his gaze was too much for her now but she nodded despite her tears. “Good. Of course only after you have recovered and all. Until then – what was that about a vibrator earlier?”

Jazz chuckled, wiped her cheeks and grinned. “Hey, what about a girl being allowed some secrets?”

“Too late, you already told me. And now I really want to see it in action…” He winked at her, actually winked, and she laughed even more.

“First dinner. After that we can see what you can do with the information of me owning sex toys. But I bet there’s something you’d enjoy in my collection.” She felt much lighter now, after having told him everything. After sorting out her feelings.

And for now they could just enjoy being a newlywed couple. Everything else would be okay. She looked at him and was truly convinced of that. Everything would be just fine.

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko Meet the family

When Jazz came back home after a long day of visiting venues, trying cake and picking out the right napkins to the right tablecloths she was surprised to see the lights on in the living room and kitchen.

“Kuni? Are you home already?” She took off her shoes and padded towards the kitchen where she could hear him rummaging through the cabinets.

“Oh, hi.” He looked up from his search for the right pan and smiled sheepishly. “I wanted to be done before you come home.”

Jazz walked over to him and gave him a peck on the cheek.

“And with what did you want to be done before I came home?”

“Dinner. Something simple, but I thought I haven’t cooked for you for a while now. It’s only pasta, though.” He motioned towards the pot on the stove.

“Thanks, that’s great. I didn’t have time to eat much today.” She skipped towards the fridge and opened it. “Do you want a drink? Maybe some wine for dinner?”

“If I drink I will fall asleep right away. It was a hard day, week, month,” he said, slightly sour.

“Yeah, I get what you mean. We could use a break. Maybe a lazy weekend.” Jazz put the bottle of wine she held in hand back into the fridge.

“You don’t want any?” he asked and motioned towards the closed fridge.

“Nah, I’m also a bit tired lately. Might be good to take a break from drinking for a while.”

Kunihiko faked a shocked gasp and Jazz chuckled and swatted his arm lightly.

“Don’t act as if I’m always drinking!”

“You’re definitely drinking more than I do,” he teased her just for Jazz to grab his face, still laughing, and kissed him.

“That’s just because you’re rather a lightweight when it comes to alcohol.”

One kiss followed the other and they would have forgotten about their exhaustion and taken things further if it wasn’t for the pot and the water in it boiling over. She chuckled when she pulled back.

“I leave you to your cooking then. I go and change into something more – comfortable.” She winked at him and left for the bedroom, glad to get out of her dress and the rather constricting bra. Maybe she needed some new clothes. Maybe – and she shuddered at this thought – a bigger size. Kunihiko and his good cooking… she had definitely gained some weight. Well, he seemed not to notice or maybe he just didn’t care and Jazz felt better than she ever did in a relationship. As long as it were only a few pounds she was fine with it. She should work out a bit anyway.

Dressed in a tank top and shorts she came back into the kitchen and helped him getting their dinner ready.

“Oh, by the way, you got mail. Seems important. Manila envelopes and all. I put them on your desk.”

“Them? More than one?” He seemed surprised and Jazz shrugged.

“Three or four, and some other stuff. Sorry, I have just grabbed the mail and rushed up here.” She grinned sheepishly. “I really needed to pee.”

He chuckled and kissed her. “You are so sexy, you know that?”

It was strange, even this, domestic evenings, nights without the passionate and hot sex from the beginning, just lazing around on the couch, sharing meals, getting to know each other better with every passing day – this was so much more than Jazz had ever hoped for. Sometimes she was a bit scared of the extend of her own feelings, her own happiness, but then she remembered how hard she had fought for this, how hard THEY had fought for this. It wasn’t a gift, it was the result of persistence, communication and a lot of trust.

They talked some more, ate in a relaxed atmosphere and afterwards Jazz took care of the dishes as thanks for him preparing dinner. When she came out of the now clean kitchen she found him staring at some files in his hands.

Drying her hands with a towel she walked over to him.

“Why the serious face?” she asked, taking a seat next to him. “Business?”

“No,” he blankly said and handed her a file.

“This is… a marriage candidate? What-?!” She stared at the profile. Japanese woman, 28, good at housework. Loved to cook. Good education. The picture showed her in a kimono, very traditional.

“What is this crap?” She threw the file on the coffee table and grabbed another one. Almost the same, just the age and the name were different.

“You know, back then when I came to MJS… my family wanted me to find a bride. My parents are – rather conservative. Traditional. I guess they think they gave me enough time to find a wife on my own.” He sounded a bit shocked, but also sad. Of course. He hadn’t told his family about her, about their marriage because she asked him to keep it a secret for now.

“But this? I mean, look at those profiles… how many are there?” She quickly counted the files. “Five? And all of them are – so completely dull. Nondescript. Here, this doesn’t even say if she gives good blowjobs. Or blowjobs at all. All the important info is missing! Who should be able to make a decision based on this crap?”

It was one thing that his family meddled with his love life, Jazz had already understood that it wasn’t an uncommon thing in Japan. But her professional pride was another thing. This was exactly why they had founded MJS – because the dating world in Japan was really tricky. Like everywhere else.

Kunihiko only chuckled and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer until she straddled his lap and rested her head against his shoulder.

“You know, I often wonder how your profile would have looked like,” he mused, gently stroking her back.

“Well, there would have definitely been a whole paragraph about my fellatio skills,” she answered, slightly muffled against his shoulder.

“And that alone would have gotten my attention,” he played along before he got serious again. “No, really, what would you write in your own profile.”

“Hmm…” She thought about this, it had never occurred to her to create a profile for herself. “I would have asked Miho to make it, so it would have been full of praise of course.”

She chuckled, imagining Miho writing things like: ‘Great body, but damaged heart. Handle with care or I will hunt you down and rip your balls off.’

“Of course,” he agreed with a grin. The friendship between Miho and Jazz was definitely something special, and he was aware that he had crossed a line when he doubted it. It would take some time to fix things with Miho, but he really wanted to prove her that he was the right one for Jazz, that he would make her happy.

“So, what are we going to do about this?” Jazz wearily motioned towards the stack of matchmaking profiles.

“I’m going to meet all of them and ask them about their opinions about blowjobs. Just so their profile is complete. And then I tell them that I already found the perfect woman for me.”

She swatted his chest playfully. “Stop joking, I’m serious!”

He sighed and kissed her once more.

“I know you wanted a relaxed, lazy weekend, but I think we’d better go and visit my family. I will call them tomorrow. We can take the bullet train and be back in the evening.”

Jazz sighed. It was her fault that they were in this situation; only because she asked him to keep their marriage a secret for now. Now she had to fix things. Sooner or later she would have to meet his family anyway, although she had hoped for some better circumstances.

“Okay. I think I have time this weekend, no weddings so far.” She raised her head and cupped his face, kissed him softly. “I’m sorry for bringing you into this position.”

Kunihiko chuckled lightly and kissed her back, not that softly. “I actually like the position I’m currently in,” he almost purred into her ear, making her giggle.

“Yeah?”

His hand dropped to her ass, squeezing lightly. “Yeah…”


Three days later they boarded the train, Jazz with conflicted emotions. Kunihiko had already warned her that his family was rather traditional, conservative and strict. Not so much his parents but his grandparents and aunts and uncles. She was nervous. Last time she met her parents-in-law she found herself under scrutiny of Akane Kujoro and we all know how THAT ended. And back then she hadn’t even been working for a marriage matchmaking agency where the clients had to literally bare everything of them in order to create a profile.

She was nervous. She was beyond nervous to be honest. Although she had brought her laptop to work during the trip she couldn’t focus at all. Instead she fidgeted with her clothes, her hair, her hand until Kunihiko sighed and grabbed her hand, squeezed it lightly and smiled reassuringly.

“Relax, love. It’s okay, it’s not as if they could do anything. We ARE already married. You are just going to meet my family and I’m just informing them that they can stop looking for my future wife because I already have a wonderful wife.”

She smiled back, still nervous. If it only was that simple.

“Tell me again that you love me,” she demanded, almost pouting.

“I love you. Only you. You are the only woman I want to spend my life with, the only I can see myself with in the future.” He raised her hand to his lips and kissed her fingertips gently, one after the other. “And that is exactly what I am going to tell my family.”

Jazz took a shaky breath and nodded, slightly choked up. “Thank you…” She knew she would need some strength to face his family but she wanted to be a wife he could be proud of; a wife who would support him, fight for their love.

The trip seemed to take forever but they arrived before noon.

“We can have lunch somewhere but I assume that my family has prepared something,” he said, giving her the choice and effectively a short reprieve.

“We don’t want to keep them waiting,” she firmly answered, putting this off wouldn’t help after all. Better to get over with it before her anxiety spiked.

“Okay. Don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.” Kunihiko hailed a cab and Jazz wished it would drive anywhere but to the address he gave the driver. She was such a coward.

They were heading towards the house of his grandparents, a huge and traditional estate that took her breath away. Jazz knew that Kunihiko was quite wealthy but she had assumed that he had earned the money with his company, not that money ran in his family.

“Wow…” She couldn’t help but stare in awe and growing terror. Her own family was rather – well, average. Her parents had a small house, nothing fancy, and both worked hard for their money. She and her siblings – a brother and a younger sister – had been brought up in the knowledge that working was necessary and that there was nothing to be ashamed of in earning their own money. So Jazz had started working part-time jobs as soon as she had been old enough. It helped her pay for clothes and her hobbies and later to get her through college. She had been a babysitter, worked in retail and service, fully aware that her future career better offered a bit more glamour. She would have never guessed to end as an event planner in Japan but she loved that job. She loved working at MJS even more, being an associate, a founding member of the agency was something that filled her with pride.

She might not have the same background but definitely the same dedication to her job like Kunihiko. Jazz straightened up and took a deep breath. She was ready to face whatever would come, with Kunihiko at her side.

At least that was what she thought before stepping into the house, with the tatami mats and the paper doors it felt like stepping into another century. Or one of the historic dramas they showed on TV. Hadn’t Saeki just written some script about a forbidden love in the Edo era?

She quickly focused again, the surroundings making her nervous again.

Someone dressed in a kimono took Kunihiko’s jacket and threw Jazz a questioning glance but Kuni simply helped Jazz out of her jacket and handed it over. Was that a relative or some kind of staff? She didn’t dare to ask, simply followed her husband without a word. She didn’t want to embarrass him after all.

In front of some paper doors they stopped and Kunihiko turned towards her. Jazz could hear voices and her heart started to race again.

“It’s okay, just breathe. We will be fine, I promise.” His voice was only a whisper but it helped her to calm down. When she nodded Kunihiko opened the door and they stepped into a huge room, filled with several people, all clad in traditional Japanese clothes, sitting on the floor.

“Ah, Kunihiko, you finally arrived.” A stern looking, older woman beckoned them closer, or better, him. She frowned when she noticed Jazz.

“Who is that? You didn’t say you were bringing someone.”

Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and straightened up again.

“Sobo, thank you for having us. This is Jazz Mann. My wife.”

With a nervous smile Jazz bowed her head, just enough to show respect but not so much that she would make herself small. She was a smart and proud woman after all. And she was married to Kunihiko.

“Obaasan, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

Kunihiko’s grandmother didn’t even spare her a glance, instead she glared at Kunihiko.

“Your wife? What is that nonsense? We send you a choice of profiles for suitable young women. Why did you bring someone like her?”

Now that escalated quickly. Jazz bit her tongue, didn’t want to make a bad impression right from the start.

“Sobo, you wanted me to get married and I did. Even before you sent those profiles to be honest. But I preferred to choose my wife on my own. I wanted someone I actually love and here she is. She is smart, successful, independent and at the same time she supports me, helps me to see where I’m wrong without being presumptuous.”

Jazz blinked a few times. She knew he loved her, he told her often enough, but hearing him saying all these things about her in front of his family was something else. She felt the love well up inside of her, her smile grew and was genuine now. But only for a second.

“You already married this woman? Without introducing her first? Without asking for our permission?” His grandmother seemed disappointed, clearly disapproving of their marriage.

“I didn’t know I needed ‘permission’,” he replied, still respectful but standing his ground. His grandmother made a sound between a snort and a click of her tongue.

“It would have been only proper to introduce us first. Why did you hide her from us?” She shot Jazz a taxing gaze, finally acknowledging her presence. And all the others followed her gaze so that Jazz found herself the center of attention.

“Besides the obvious issues.”

That hurt, but Jazz kept her head up high and her eyes trained on his grandmother, still slightly smiling.

“And what would be the obvious issues, obaasan?” She sounded calmer than she felt, proud that her emotions didn’t show in her voice.

“You are not Japanese. We know nothing about you and your heritage. Your family. We can’t know if you are honorable.” There was no accusation or malice, she was just stating the truth.

“You could just ask me. I can tell you what you need to know.” Jazz’s offer caused a stir in the group but Kunihiko stayed calm so she figured she hadn’t just accidently offended everyone in the room.

“You could lie,” a woman, probably Kunihiko’s aunt, said.

“I could, but what would that do for me? I’m actually a stickler for honesty.” Jazz shrugged, but she knew that if they didn’t want to listen to her they wouldn’t.

“I think we should have a more private conversation. Miss Mann, would you excuse us, please?” Kunihiko’s grandmother pointed towards the door and Jazz shared a short glance with her husband who gave her a smile and a nod. She was guided away by the same person who greeted them first, still unsure of their status in this house. But since it didn’t matter much to her she was simply polite and thanked the woman who bowed her head briefly and left Jazz in a smaller room without much furniture. This wasn’t going well.

She hadn’t expected them to welcome her with open arms, but at least to be allowed to stay for the explanation. Not getting send out of the room like a child when the grown-ups talked. Jazz made up her mind and slipped out of the room, tried to find her way back to room with Kunihiko and his family. She followed the faint sounds of voices until she could hear them more or less clearly. These walls were really thin.

“… the matchmaker? No one marries the matchmaker! That’s just not –“

“Sobo, I am not discussing this! Marriage matchmaking is a respectable business; after all you hired a matchmaker for me, too. So what if I fall not for the potential bride they show me, but the one who is trying to set me up? She knows me, she knows me better than anyone else. And she still fell for me. I think that is the most important part of this whole story: we LOVE each other. She has proven that over and over and I am willing to prove it for the rest of my life.”

Her heart felt like bursting at those words. He really stood up to his grandmother, only for Jazz. Only for them.

“But she is a foreigner!” someone else said, a male voice.

“That doesn’t matter. She is a wonderful person, honest and kind. Respectable. She comes from a respectable family, has studied and worked hard to get where she is now. She and her friends have their own business and lately they have even expanded their service, now offering wedding planning as well. They are making people happy and Jazz is making ME happy. I don’t care about where she was born.”

Jazz held her breath, trying not to make a sound and give the fact away that she was eavesdropping.

“What if one day she decides she wants to back?” another voice asked.

“Then I will go with her.”

They had never talked about this and honestly, Jazz hadn’t even thought about going back home ever since they had cleared everything, ever since she had decided to really do this, to accept her feelings for him and not to hold anything back anymore.

“If you had introduced her before rushing into a marriage like a fool we could have at least find someone to do a background check on her,” his grandmother stated.

“And I would have asked you not to do that,” Kunihiko shot back. “I trust her. She has told me everything I need to know, even if it wasn’t flattering.”

“Son, you have to admit that it looks rather strange when you go to matchmaking agency only to marry the matchmaker in the end. Head over heels. We are simply worried she might have – ulterior motives.”

Was that his father? Jazz blood started to boil. She wasn’t some money grubbing gold digger, she had her own business! (And the divorce settlement from Ai, but that wasn’t the point here.)

Jazz cleared her throat loudly, announcing her presence.

“May I enter?” Her heart was pounding like crazy but she wouldn’t back down now. Not when all this was about her.

“It is rude to eavesdrop,” his grandmother said, rather miffed.

“It also rude to talk about people behind their backs,” Jazz firmly answered. Not backing down.

“I understand that you are concerned,” Jazz continued, “and I take it as a sign of your affection towards Kunihiko. But I don’t like what you are implying. Fact is that we have a prenup, and fact is also that it was ME who wanted that. I understand that he is a successful business man and that his name and property have to be protected.”

She looked at Kunihiko who seemed relieved to see her. Good, at least one person here.

“Actually Jazz didn’t want to marry me at first,” he suddenly said, earning some surprised and some disapproving glances. “I had to woo her and convince her to give me a chance. And when she said ‘yes’ I just jumped at the chance.”

That was a very sugarcoated version, but it wasn’t a lie after all. What if they learned of her divorce?

“Is there a reason for your hasty wedding?” his grandmother asked, glaring at Jazz.

“What do you mean, sobo?” Kunihiko tensed a bit and Jazz could feel her stomach churn.

“There are two likely explanations,” the older woman went on. “Green card or… Kunihiko, did you – get her with child?”

Jazz gasped. She paled before the blood rushed into her face. “Are you implying I tricked him into marrying me?”

Kunihiko grabbed her hand, surprised to feel it trembling in his.

“I think we are done here. If you are rude towards my wife I feel not obliged to stay any longer.”

“If you go now – Kunihiko, you know what might happen,” his grandmother almost threateningly said.

“If that is what you have to do, then do it.” Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and tugged at Jazz’s hand. She had trouble to hold her tears back. This wasn’t what she wanted for him, being threatened to get kicked out of the family because he married her.

She managed to pull herself together until they were outside, standing at the street trying to find another cab.

“I’m sorry,” they said at the same time, just for Jazz to lose it and burst out into tears.

“I’m so sorry, really! I didn’t – when I asked you to keep it a secret for now I didn’t think this would happen…”

“Hey…” Kunihiko hugged her tightly. “It’s okay, it’s not your fault. They would have been unhappy with my choice even if I had introduced you before. It’s not about me being married, they want me to marry who they see fit. But I want you, so tough luck for them.”

“Shit,” she muttered. “Kuni, I feel as if I should offer to set you free so your family can be happy – but I can’t. I know I’m selfish, but I don’t want to give up on you. Give up on US. On what we have.”

“Shhhh…” He cupped her face and kissed her softly. “I wouldn’t accept that anyway. You have said ‘yes’, now you’re stuck with me. You are my wife and you are the only one I want. It will be fine, don’t worry.”

“But they are your family!” Jazz sobbed, thinking about her own family back home. They might fight every now and then but they still loved each other. They wouldn’t turn their backs on her just because she married someone they didn’t approve of.

“You are my family now,” he corrected her and wiped some tears off her cheek. “Although it might be difficult now to get you into my family register so you can have my name.”

She shrugged. “It’s only a name, right? As long as I can be your wife I don’t care. It was just – it’s nice to have the same name. Not necessary, but nice.”

He chuckled. “I could still take your name, you know?”

That made her laugh. She had never even thought about it. “Wouldn’t they be furious if you did?”

“Do you really think that’s important right now?”

She shook her head before she rested it against his chest. “Let’s go home, okay?”

But before they could call for a cab the gate to his family’s estate opened.

“Kunihiko?” It was a middle aged man and Jazz practically jumped back a bit only to get pulled back by her husband. He didn’t want to let her go, not even to preserve appearance.

“Otousama,” he replied and Jazz’s eyes widened. His father.

“I am sorry for the way things escalated. You know your grandmother can be – rather stubborn. I am sorry if she has offended you and your wife.”

Jazz could see the similarities between the two men; if Kunihiko looked like that in 20 or 30 years Jazz wouldn’t complain.

“I know this is a bit sudden, but this is my choice,” Kunihiko firmly said, squeezing Jazz slightly.

“It is. And I am sure Miss Ma- Jazz is a wonderful woman. After all she is the one who captured your heart. It might need some time but I will do whatever I can to calm the waves. I only hope next time we meet will be under better circumstances.”

Jazz pushed against Kunihiko’s chest until he finally gave her free and she could face his father.

“I am grateful for your words and I also hope that we can meet again soon. At a more joyous occasion.” She looked at Kuni briefly and he nodded.

“We are going to have a ceremony in some time and want to invite you. And mom of course. And whoever is happy for us.” Kunihiko bowed his head slightly and his father exhaled loudly, apparently relieved.

“We will gladly come and celebrate with you. Jazz, take good care of my son. He can be a bit foolish sometimes, but he is a fine man.” Mr. Aikawa bowed back and Jazz nodded.

“Don’t worry, I will.”


On their trip back home they both were unusually silent. Jazz couldn’t focus, her mind was racing like the train they were sitting in. She stared out of the window, unable to actually see something. All she could think about was the expression on Kunihiko’s face when his grandmother insinuated that he had knocked Jazz up. And the small box in the bathroom, hidden behind the towels. The pregnancy test she had put off for much too long already.

MJS Client report rewind: Jazz x Alberto

“And give H my regards, too,” Jan just said and Jazz smiled. She was again very happy that she had found H in the first place.

“I will. And again, congratulations on your engagement. I know you will be very happy with each other.”

They said their goodbyes and Jazz hung up. This was a very good day so far. She quickly took her phone up again and dialed H’s number. According to the schedule she wasn’t on a date that day so Jazz didn’t hesitate to call her Of course she wouldn’t do that if there was a date simulation that day, she knew from firsthand experience that those days usually were completely occupied by preparations.

“Yes?” H’s voice sounded through the phone.

“It’s me, Jazz. I just had a very nice chat with your first client ever and I wanted to let you know that he has proposed to one of the ladies we have introduced to him. With that your first case is officially closed.” She smiled, it felt as if her little sister had just graduated from school or something.

“Oh wow, that’s great,” H happily replied. “He was a really nice first client. Good for him.”

“Yes, and he wants us to plan his wedding, too. And he has recommended us to butler friend who will contact us soon. I’m just giving you a heads-up because this might be another job on short notice. Butler schedules seem a bit difficult. Of course I will handle the profile and all before we spring this on you,” Jazz explained further. H was unusually quiet.

“H?” Jazz carefully asked. Was something wrong?

“Another butler, huh? No, it’s cool, it’s cool. I’ll handle that, no problem.” Jazz could tell her laughter was forced but didn’t want to pry. If there was a problem she hoped that H would simply tell her. Honesty was an important thing in this business, at least among the girls of MJS.

“Okay… oh, how about we celebrate your first closed case tonight? Drinks on me? We could also try some other place than Long Island, Kunihiko is on a business trip anyway,” Jazz suggested.

“Okie doki, sounds good. Lemme know what you have in mind and when, I’ll be there.” H sounded a bit more like her usual self and Jazz sighed slightly in relief.

“I will. See you later, then. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Now that was – strange. But Jazz only shrugged and returned her attention to the paperwork in front of her.

 

Several days later Izumi called Jazz in her office.

“Miss Mann, there was just a call from some butler. He asks if you have time this afternoon to see him.”

Jazz groaned inwardly. Not that she was completely swamped with work, it was more the very vague description of the caller.

“What butler, Izumi?”

“I haven’t gotten the name, something foreign sounding,” he mumbled and Jazz took a deep breath.

“Did he say whose butler he is?” There were only a handful of royal houses and she could already cross out some names of possible butlers calling her. It could be Yu, but he should be happily married by now and after all they had canceled his contract. And even Izumi should know Jan by now, they had met before after all.

“No, sorry. I gave him an appointment for 4 pm.”

Jazz made a quick note of that. “Okay. But before you send him up later, can you please ask for his name again and tell me? I like to know how to address my clients after all.” Izumi was a good kid and for someone who was only a part-timer he did a good job. But it was obvious that this wasn’t his dream job and he did make some mistakes every now and then.

But she was free around 4 so why shouldn’t she just wait and see what kind of butler would come? Much to Jazz’s enjoyment H dropped by and handed over another report. They chatted a bit when Izumi called again.

“Yes?”

“Miss Mann, your client is here.” He sounded nervous.

“You forgot to ask for his name again, am I right?” she asked, slightly annoyed.

“N-no, he did tell me, but it was so fast and I hardly understood him. He didn’t even speak Japanese…”

“Izumi, I thought you can speak English. What’s wrong?” She frowned. Until now he didn’t have much trouble with English speaking clients. Why now?

“I can, but his accent and… anyway, he’s on his way already.” With that Izumi apologized again and hung up. Jazz stared at H.

“Okay, we have a mysterious butler coming here right now. But that’s good, this way you can meet him and we can see if the chemistry is right.” Trying to see the bright side of things Jazz smiled at H who slumped down a bit.

“Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just – remember I told you about that friend of Jan I keep running into? He’s a butler, too… what if it’s him? He hates me! And I can’t stand him either! I mean he’s a complete jerk, very pretentious and judging! I couldn’t – never – ugh…” She was talking faster and faster and Jazz stared at her with wide eyes.

“He’s such a conceited dick, really, I mean, it’s kinda cute that he’s so protective and looking out for a friend, but then again, how dare he making assumptions about me based on two times we met for only some seconds?!” Now H was really agitated and Jazz had to calm her down again.

“H, relax. Don’t worry, just breathe. If it’s really your butler arch enemy, we can pass this case over to Miho and Rose. That’s the good thing about having partners.” She gave the younger woman an encouraging nod and got up when she heard the knock on her door.

H sat up straight, wringing her hands in her lap. This could be bad. This could be really, really bad…

“Come in,” Jazz said but when the door opened it wasn’t H whose heart sank. It was Jazz’s.

“Alberto…” she muttered and stared into the equally surprised face of the Altarian butler.

“Perdinci… Jazz? Is that you?”

She quickly shook off her shock and smiled weakly. “Uhm, yeah, in the flesh. Sorry, our receptionist got something mixed up, I wasn’t expecting to see you here. Oh, come in, take a seat.” She ushered the bewildered man inside and motioned towards the seat next to H.

“Oh, this is H… whose service won’t be needed here. Sorry, H, this is… I’m going to explain that later, okay?”

“Okie dokie,” H simply said, eying Alberto and Jazz carefully. There was something up but Jazz didn’t seem in trouble, so H took the cue and left.

There was a moment of awkward silence before Jazz remembered her duties as a good hostess and offered Alberto refreshments.

“The coffee isn’t as good as Altarian but – well, it’s okay. Or would you like some water? Tea?”

“Coffee is fine, thank you. So, you are a marriage matchmaker now?” He shifted in his seat a bit, trying to get comfortable in this strange situation.

“Actually I’m just switched jobs to wedding planner, I only got a few marriage matchmaking clients left. Mostly I wrap up the cases I still have from before I changed jobs here. And special exceptions. I guess you are a very special exception.” She chuckled, a bit desperate sounding.

“Jan – he said you found him the love of his life and I think Yu told me about your agency before, but he was rather vague.” Alberto’s sharp mind was showing again.

“I worked with both of them although Mr. Kujo and I canceled the contract eventually. But I am glad that he still considers our service recommendable.” She smiled at him, not trying to say too much. Instead she grabbed the phone.

“Izumi? Could you bring us some coffee? Thank you.”

Usually she wouldn’t order him around like this but this time he deserved it. Definitely. After sitting down behind her desk again she took a deep breath.

“Okay, how about we push through the awkwardness and get to the point. I bet you haven’t much time.”

He tilted his head in agreement, his bangs falling into his eyes a bit. Jazz remembered those eyes. Jazz remembered a lot.

“I would be grateful if we could get the most pressing matters out of the way,” he agreed. It was strange, she had seen him in this formal role but she had also seen him in a lot more private, intimate setting and having him acting all businesslike again was a bit sobering.

“Of course. Let me explain to you how we are working and if you are still interested to sign a contract afterwards we could have most of the remaining exchange via emails and calls. I know your schedule is rather tight.”

The way his eyes widened at her remark showed her that her choice of words was a bit off but she simply ignored it for now.

“Besides the usual profiling we offer a date simulation although I think we can skip that in your case. You would still have to sign a confidentiality agreement, probably a slightly modified one. If you want me to tell you more you will have to sign a preliminary NDA.” She slid the document over to him and nodded when he signed after giving it a read.

“Okay, thank you.” Before she could explain more Izumi knocked and entered with the coffee. Jazz waited until he was out again and got back to the topic.

“So, the date simulation includes a sexual encounter to complete your profile in these regards, but we could also use our – private encounter back then as a base and I write up my report without another date simulation. Whatever you prefer.” She could tell the exact moment when her words sank in, when he remembered their ‘encounter’ as she had called it.


Jazz was sitting at the bar of a very classy, fancy hotel and ordered her third glass of red wine. She knew she better stopped soon, but dammit, this day had been torture. All she wanted now was a nice buzz and a cab back home, where no one was waiting for her anyway. Ai had moved out some weeks ago and now – well, now Jazz might be losing her job. She took a swig from her wine.

“Miss Kujoro? Sorry, have you seen His Highness?”

The man who just talked to her – that butler, wasn’t he? – looked around the bar and Jazz shook her head.

“Nope… not since he crashed this stupid event that my bosses wanted to go flawlessly so much…” That much that they even made it Jazz’s most important mission for weeks.

‘You are European, you might know better what he wants. He’s a prince after all. It’s of utmost importance that he is satisfied in the end.’

And what happened? The prince ditched after an hour or so, leaving the officials and his entourage behind. Although none of them seemed very surprised. The butler was annoyed, but in an almost resigned way. Jazz’s bosses would be furious when they heard about this – this disaster.

“This might not be a real comfort, but believe me, he already sneaked out from much better events.” The butler took a seat next to Jazz who glared at him.

“Really? SOOOO much better events? Now, that’s no comfort for me,” she sarcastically said.

“That wasn’t what I wanted to say,” he hurried to make clear but she only scoffed.

“But it is what you said nonetheless.” She shrugged, not that it mattered. Her marriage had been a scam and her bosses treated her like – like she was exchangeable. Everyone did. Another swig of her wine.

“Miss Kujoro-“ the butler began once more but she cut him off.

“It’s Jazz.” She had to get rid of this name, had to get her maiden name back. She would do that, first thing tomorrow.

“Alberto.” He bowed his head slightly.

“Piacere.” She raised her glass slightly and Alberto raised his eyebrow in return. He had nice eyebrows. Nice eyes.

“Parla Alteriano? Benissimo,” he praised her.

“Parlo solo poco,” she admitted and chuckled. “That was about all.”

“It was very good. I’m impressed.” He motioned for the barkeeper and ordered a glass of wine.

“You drink? Shouldn’t you run around and try to find that little prince of yours?” she smugly asked and batted her lashes. The whole day he had been keeping a keen eye on the prince, she had noticed how adamant he was about going everywhere the prince went.

He huffed a short laugh. “I think I’m done for today. If he doesn’t want to be found he won’t be found. That’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way.” He raised his glass. “Salute.”

With a smile she clinked glasses with him.

“Or does it bother you to drink here with me?” Suddenly his confidence vanished and he frowned slightly, eyebrows drawn together. They hadn’t talked that much, mostly in a very professional, businesslike tone. They had been both working after all.

“Nah, it’s fine. But let me warn you, I’m not exactly good company right now. I’ve got – issues.” She emphasized the last word by opening her eyes wider.

“We all got issues, so don’t worry.” There was a hint of a smile on his lips when he tried the first sip of his wine only for him to practically scowl at the glass.

“This is awful,” he growled and for a moment she feared he would spit it out, but instead he turned towards her. “How can you even drink this?”

“It’s hard to get a good wine around here,” she confessed. “Usually I hardly even notice after the second glass anymore.”

“Miss, this is outrageous. This might sound bold, but may I invite you to a decent glass of wine? We brought some from Altaria and I would gladly share a bottle with you.” He got up from his seat and waited for her answer.

“Really? You are inviting me to a glass of wine? Into your room? I hope you’re not having ulterior motives.” She giggled lightly, not that she would mind that. She hadn’t had good sex in a while. Not ever since she had met Ai. Definitely too long already.

“I assure you, I only want to replace the foul taste of this – this so called wine with something more pleasant.”

“Ulterior motives, like I said.” She grinned cheekily at him, tongue darting out briefly to wet her lips. His eyes widened. His pupils, too.

And suddenly they couldn’t get out of that bar fast enough. He ushered her towards the elevators with his hand in the small of her back. They kissed when the elevators door slid close behind them, hiding them from prying eyes. There was no sweet, testing kiss at first, it was all hunger and lust, slight desperation from her side. If she was losing it all she could just as well get lost in this for now. Take her mind off things. Take her clothes off, too.

They barely made it into his room without tripping, both not wanting to part from each other for even a second. She pushed his uniform jacket from his shoulders the moment the door was closed behind them, frantically working on his vest with slightly clumsy fingers next.

“What about… that wine…?” he panted against her lips only to make her giggle again.

“I’m already tipsy… you don’t need… to make me drunk…”

“That was… not my intention… but…”

Once she managed to open his shirt he started on the buttons of her blouse.

“But?” she asked breathlessly.

“I’m glad… that you’re not… drunk yet… not completely…” He sucked in a harsh breath when her blouse fell to the floor, leaving her in a simple black bra.

“Not drunk, don’t worry… just tipsy enough to… get rid of those pesky inhibitions…”

He growled lowly in his throat when she snapped her bra open and let it join her blouse on the floor. His hands were on her hips before she could process it, his lips on hers again, kissing, sucking, tasting. He shoved her against the wall, trapping her there and she didn’t mind at all. She wanted it a bit rough, impatient. Fuck, she needed to feel his desire, after all the rejections lately she wanted to feel how much she affected him, this stranger. This man.

“Muaviti,” she breathed, trying to urge him on. It worked. Sucking a mark into the crook of her neck his hands found the zipper of her skirt and pulled it down. He hooked his fingers into the waistband of skirt and panties and pushed both down until gravity took care of the rest. She simply stepped out of the fabric and past him towards the bed, giving him a sultry look over her shoulder.

Impatiently he almost ripped his own pants off, toeing off shoes and socks.

“Stop right there,” he told her when she reached the bed, but before she could actually get on it. She just waited for him, with bated breath, her skin tingling in anticipation. She wasn’t good at obeying orders, not the submissive type, but hell, tonight she would do everything he told her to. She was in one of THAT moods obviously. He had treated her like a lady all day, the perfect butler.  Said: “Yes, Miss,” and “Of course, Miss,” but now she wanted him to fuck her like the dirty girl she was.

She could feel the heat of his skin when he stepped behind her, not touching her at all, just breathing down her neck – literally. It sent shivers down her spine and she wondered how in the world he could still hold back after the passionate and incredible arousing foreplay. When his fingertips slightly touched her neck, down her spine and actually to her buttcrack her breath hitched. Okay, maybe they should have talked about some things. But he didn’t linger, instead his hand now rested on her hip, the other one between her shoulder blades pushed her upper body towards the bed.

“Put your hands down,” he instructed and she did, braced herself on the bed and ignored the way her legs trembled. Anticipation and arousal mixed with her intoxication and when he suddenly stepped away, breaking every form of physical contact she almost whined. But when she looked over her shoulder and saw him ripping a condom package open she regained some of her patience. Obviously he was trying to prolong the waiting time; she wouldn’t have been able to wait much longer anyway.

“Get onto the bed with one knee,” he instructed and stepped behind her again, hands running up and down her legs. She knelt on the bed on her right knee, the other foot still on the floor. It was strange but he seemed to like it, groaned in appreciation of the display in front of him. She gasped when his fingertips suddenly danced over her folds, stroking and spreading her wetness.

“You like that? Getting ordered around?” he growled and she shook her head.

“Usually not… but you… you are pretty… commanding… for a butler…” She yelped when he suddenly slapped her ass once.

“And you are pretty submissive for such an independent woman,” he said in casual tone. Had he been watching her during the day? Giving orders to caterers and staff, taking care of the small catastrophes that inevitably occurred at important events like that day – she probably had looked as if she was in command. And used to it.

“Like I said… usually not…”

“So you’re making an exception for me?” There was some teasing, a promise in his voice that made her look over her shoulder again. Only to see him standing there, naked, with his rock hard cock covered in a condom, his dark eyes catching her gaze.

“Blame it on the bad wine, but yes, I’m making an exception for you. Now you better make sure it’s worth it…”

With a grin and a raised eyebrow he suddenly lined up and pushed into her, slowly, unhurried. Jazz groaned and clawed at the sheets under her hands, arched her back slightly.

“You won’t… regret it…” he promised hoarsely and Jazz was inclined to believe him. The position was strange but it was easier than actually standing, and the angle felt incredible. She dropped her head onto the mattress, eyes closed, focusing of the sensation of his cock inside of her, the push and pull, the rhythm he created, slow but deep strokes. His hands on her hips he controlled the whole situation and she didn’t mind at all.

They were both grunting and moaning, gasping and panting. The soundtrack of sex. She loved it, got completely lost in it. Giving up control was really nice every once in a while. Just feeling, not thinking. And then he changed the angle slightly, started to fuck her faster, harder, making her scream and sob at the intensity of the pleasure he caused her.

“That’s… how you… like it…?” he panted and she whimpered, trying to nod. It had been too long that she had been desired like this, that a man had simply taken her.

Suddenly he moved, shoved her further onto the bed, on her stomach. With her hips still raised he continued to fuck her, but now one of his hands snaked around her, between her thighs, searching for her clit and rubbing it. Jazz was glad that her face was already buried in the mattress, it muffled her screams and she could grip the sheets tightly. She needed something to anchor her to the ground while she was flying high. The pleasure coursed through her, stars exploded behind her eyes when she reached her climax, shuddered and trembled beneath him.

Alberto slowed down, waited for her to catch her breath before he pulled out and flopped down next to her, gently pushing away some strands of hair sticking to her forehead. She needed a moment before she leaned in and kissed him again.

“How – how do you want to go on?”

“Are you okay to go on?” he asked, still panting. She nodded. Not only okay, she wanted to continue.

“We could also do something else, less tiring for you…” he suggested but she only grinned and straddled him, kissed him deeply and grabbed his cock to sink down on him. He groaned, his hands gripping her thighs tightly.

“You want to be in charge now?” he almost moaned. She grinned cheekily.

“Baby, I’m always in charge, even when I let you think it’s otherwise.” She leaned back, her hands on his legs, her breasts on display for him while she rolled her hips. He pushed himself up, mirroring her position, his hands propped up behind his back. Jazz was almost grinding against him, kept his cock deep inside of her. He wrapped one arm around her, pulled her closer towards him. It was harder to move like this but it felt incredible. Her still swollen and sensitive clit dragged against his pubic bone so she started moving up and down on his cock, eventually slamming down on him so he could hit all her sweet spots.

Jazz was sweating, panting, her legs trembled from the strain, but she felt better than she had in ages, felt alive, soaring, like a goddess. Alberto had his head thrown back, eyes closed, his whole body taut and she knew he was close. So Jazz focused on her own pleasure. Usually it was difficult for her to come a second time, that short after the first climax, but this time it was surprisingly easy.

“Oh my… I… sooo close…” she whimpered and he started bucking his hips, thrusting upwards, pushing her over the edge again before he roared out his own release.

The plopped down on the bed, tired and spent, but incredibly relaxed. After a moment to detangle from each other and for him to get rid of the condom they simply laid there, breathing, enjoying the afterglow. When she cooled off a bit Jazz sat up and smiled tiredly.

“Thanks, that was – definitely necessary.”

“It was my pleasure – and yours, I hope.” He bowed his head slightly, making her chuckle.

“That it was.” With a sigh she got up and started picking up her clothes.

“You don’t want to stay?” He didn’t sound disappointed, just seeking confirmation.

“I have to work tomorrow morning. And so do you, I assume. But you really helped giving this rather annoying day a very satisfying ending.” While she got dressed her got up, kissed her again before he put on some clothes, too.

“It was the same for me.” He took some cigarettes out of the drawer of his bedside table and Jazz raised an eyebrow.

“Oh, sorry. Would you like one, too?” he offered her the box.

“No, thank you. I’m not smoking.” Instead she cupped his cheek and smiled at him. “Your job must be tough. You should try to find something else to help you relax after a hard day.”

He nodded slowly. “I’ll try. Thank you, Miss – Jazz.”

She chuckled lightly. “Thank you, Alberto. Ciao, alla prossima volta.” They both knew there wouldn’t be a next time but he smiled at her, took her hand and kissed her knuckles.

“Arrivederci, Jazz.”


He stared at her. “A pretended date? With sex?” he asked, just to make sure.

“Indeed. That is part of the profiling, although you can of course go without this part. It just helps up to find the perfect match for you.” She nodded and smiled slightly.

He cleared his throat, took hi coffee and a sip before he looked at her again with a serious expression.

“If you would write that report, what would you write?”

Her smile widened. “Don’t worry, it would be very good. Do you still smoke?”

He was startled by her sudden change of topic but nodded. Jazz made a note.

“And do you still like to use sex to get rid of the stress of your job?”

He kept his poise, a perfect butler after all. “It is a good way to decrease some pressure, yes.”

Another note, another smile. “In that case your report could be ready in a few days. You can read it and make comments, but ultimately I am the one to write it, so it will contain what I think about our one night stand back then. You still can schedule another date scenario afterwards if you’re not happy with the report, though.”

He looked at her intently before a small smile played on his lips. “I am sure you will write an honest and convincing report.”

“And I am sure that we can find a potential wife for you in no time. You are a wonderful man.” With that she handed him some forms and the contract.

“Once you fill that out and sign it we can start. We can take care of most things via phone and email. Don’t worry, our security is top notch. If you have questions you can call me any time.”

It should be awkward, they had met during a job, had a one night stand afterwards and now they met again on the job. But Jazz couldn’t feel it, the awkwardness that would be expected. It was nice seeing him again and thinking back to the night they had spent together left her with a nice tingling in the panties, but he wasn’t the one she wanted to take care of it.

It was funny, she had slept with a lot of men and now she only ever wanted one. Her husband. Her smile must have given her away because Alberto stared at her intently before his expression softened.

“You are doing better now, aren’t you?”

Jazz nodded. “I am fantastic. And we will find you someone who makes you feel that way, too.”

“You know, when Jan gave me your number I would never have guessed to see you here.”

“Yeah, I took my maiden name back some time after we met.” And soon she would change her name again. After Miho’s wedding, when they could make it official. She couldn’t wait.

“Well, it was a pleasant surprise after all. Send me the forms and the contracts and I will take care of everything else.”

They said their goodbyes and Jazz sat back down at her desk, but instead of dwelling on her memories she was looking forward to later that night. When she would have a simple dinner with her husband in their shared home. And just like that the tingling in her panties was joined by the butterflies in her tummy.


Perdinci – Oh my god

Piacere – It’s a pleasure.

Parla Alteriano? Benissimo.  – You speak Altarian? Very good!

Parlo solo poco. – I can speak only a little bit.

Ciao, alla prossima volta. – Bye. Until next time.

Arrivederci. – Goodbye.

MJS Wedding: Ishigami x Liana (with some past Jazz x Katsuragi smut)

Jazz checked the last details to make sure that everything was taken care of. The flowers, the caterer, the band. Check, check, check. The guests were already waiting and the priest had just arrived. Showtime.

She quickly made her way over to the groom’s room and knocked. Goto opened the door.

“It’s time,” she said with a smile and nodded towards the door. “Get into position already.” He smiled slightly and left.

“Ishigami-san? Are you ready?”

She approached the groom, waited for his unspoken approval to fix his tie and the boutonniere.

“Congratulation, Ishigami-san. Your bride is a wonderful woman and I’m sure you will be very happy together.”

“Thank you,” he earnestly replied.

“But you better get going now, I’m going to get Liana next. Only five more minutes and you will be wed.”

She waited until he took a deep breath and nodded firmly.

“I am ready.”

It was good that there was no awkwardness between them, they both knew that whatever had happened between them had been part of a business, although it had been fun after all. Well, the act itself had been fun, the way leading there not that much. Ishigami-san had been the most difficult client in Jazz’s career but now he was happy and would marry the woman Jazz had found for him. All’s well that ends well, right?

After making sure that the groom was on his way Jazz hurried over to the bride’s room. She knocked again and when the door was opened she slipped inside, handed the bridesmaid a bouquet, and shooed Kurosawa out who was busy taking pictures of the bride in the last moments before the wedding.

“Liana? Your groom is waiting,” Jazz finally announced and the bride beamed at her.

“It’s really happening, isn’t it?” Jazz was slightly touched by how nervous the bride seemed. She had gotten to know her as a reasonable, not overly emotional woman so seeing her like this gave Jazz the good feeling that she really had matched up the right people.

“It is. He is looking very handsome and you are stunningly beautiful. I really hope that you will always be looking forward to seeing each other like you are in this moment. Congratulations and all the luck in the world to the both of you.”

Liana swallowed once and suddenly chuckled, a bit teary-eyed.

“Don’t ruin my makeup now, I can’t cry before he has seen me at least.”

Jazz smiled and handed the bride a tissue. Liana took a deep breath, grabbed her bouquet and nodded.

“I am ready.”

Yes, they were really a good match.


The ceremony went on without a hitch. The guests ‘ahh’ed and ‘ohh’ed at the bride’s entrance, the groom was visibly moved by her appearance and the bride was glowing, smiling all the time. It was perfect.

Their vows were simple but heartfelt, assuring each other of eternal support and trust. Ishigami was a bit nervous when it came to sliding the wedding band on Liana’s finger but he managed and for a moment it looked as if he would kiss her finger, but he held back. Probably because of their audience. But he was looking very relieved when the priest announced them husband and wife and this time, there was a kiss. Chaste but sweet and both blushed lightly. Very cute.

This was definitely the most emotional Jazz had seen Ishigami and considering what she heard from Goto and Subaru, she wasn’t the only one surprised at how visible touched the usually stony-faced detective was. Liana did have a softening effect on him.

When the first glasses of champagne were passed around Jazz slowly relaxed. The most important part was over, they were actually married. Whatever could go wrong now would be unpleasant but couldn’t change the fact anymore that Liana and Ishigami-san were newlyweds.

Jazz quickly checked on the serving staff and the caterer but they told her everything was fine. Of course Jazz wouldn’t drink at a day like this, she was on a job after all. But she got a glass of ginger ale that at least looked a bit like champagne and watched the guests and the bridal couple. She also watched Miho and Goto who were standing together, chatting and drinking with as much of physical contact they could get away with in this setting. Jazz knew that Miho was practically shameless but also that Ishigami was Goto’s boss and she was proud that Miho seemed to hold back. At least for now. What would happen when she had some more drinks was unpredictable.

“They are next, huh?”

Jazz slightly flinched, she hadn’t expected for anyone to talk to her.

“They are. What about you?” She turned to face Subaru who simply shrugged.

“MJS couldn’t match me up with someone suitable after all,” he casually said and took a sip of champagne.

“You mean you didn’t really give anyone else a chance,” Jazz shot back and he shrugged.

“Maybe I’m not the kind of guy that can be set up with someone easily.”

“Maybe we wouldn’t want our clients to have to deal with you all their life,” she said with a sweet smile.

“You are one to talk,” he grumbled but Jazz laughed happily.

“I am. After all I already am married.” He raised both eyebrows, surprised at her announcement.

“I mean I was. I already was married,” she quickly corrected herself. Dammit! Being Kunihiko’s wife felt so natural and right that she sometimes forgot to keep it a secret for now.

“You were. Well, well, the fact that you aren’t anymore doesn’t surprise me. I bet he got fed up with your talking back to him all the time.” His smug grin made her roll her eyes.

“No. He simply got fed up with lying to me about not being gay.” She shot him a challenging glare but he seemed to understand that this wasn’t something to joke about.

“Oh. Well… by the way, the flowers are great.” Subaru motioned towards a flower arrangement, a wordless olive branch of peace.

“Thank you. Haruka Utsunomiya made them.” She could tell by his expression that he actually was impressed, at least for second.

“What? Did you sleep with him, too? Isn’t he a bit young for you?” A very short second indeed.

“With whom I sleep or not shouldn’t concern you, but no. He’s an old friend of Kunihiko.” Jazz looked back at Miho and Goto who looked happy and relaxed, something that had been rare lately, while they chatted with Ishigami and Liana.

“Thank you. For taking care of her,” Jazz quietly said. It wasn’t easy for her to say something nice to Subaru but she was really grateful that he had made sure that Miho was safe. He tilted his head slightly and accepted her thanks graciously.

“Couldn’t let him lose another one,” he muttered and downed his champagne.

“Hello, everyone! Welcome here today! Who would have thought that we would ever celebrate the wedding of Ishigami one day?” a cheerful voice suddenly boomed through the speakers.

“Oh god, who gave that fool a mic?” Subaru muttered and Jazz jumped into action, ready to give the sound guy a sign to cut Kurosawa off if necessary.

“But I hardly know anyone who deserves this as much as Ishigami-san. He is a very dedicated boss and seeing him happy like this since he met Liana gave me hope that I, too, will one day find the love of my life.”

That earned some giggles and “awww”s alike. For now Jazz simply let Kurosawa talk, it was rather cute after all.

“But I guess I’m talking for everyone here today when I wish the bridal couple all the luck and love in the world. And demand a repeat performance of the wedding kiss!”

The crowd cheered, the call for a kiss quickly wandering from mouth to mouth. “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!”

Jazz rolled her eyes and gave the soundman a sign to take the mic back.

Ishigami frowned slightly but when he looked at his bride – no, his wife – a small smile played on his lips. He leaned in a bit and placed a soft kiss on her forehead just for Liana to pull him down again when he pulled back, pressing her lips against his. The guests cheered loudly and Jazz laughed with them. It was cute to see Ishigami blush lightly and Liana grin happily.

She excused herself to Subaru and made another round through the venue, making sure that everything was alright. The cake should be next and after that, the first dance. Later dinner and the party. Her job would be done when bride and groom left for the honeymoon.

She was deep in thought when she thought she saw a familiar face. For a second she froze but then relaxed. No, that couldn’t be. One of the caterer’s staff demanded her attention and Jazz forgot what she had been thinking about.

The cake was a huge success. Of course there was no childish smearing of cake into each other’s faces with Ishigami but Jazz noticed the way his eyes lit up when he got a first taste of it. Obviously Liana had picked the right flavor.

It was strange, although there wasn’t the usual exuberant display of love at a wedding there was a very touching, deep, almost serene connection between bride and groom that made not only Jazz a bit jealous, but only for a moment. After all she was happy in love, too.

When it was time for the speeches Jazz looked for Goto. Hadn’t he been here a minute or five ago? With Miho? A strange sense of foreboding washed over her. Miho wouldn’t actually do that, would she? Drag him off at the wedding of his superior to make out somewhere? Maybe even more? Hell yeah, she would.

She needed help to track them down and she knew it. Jazz looked for Subaru, hoping he had seen them sneak out or at least would help her, maybe check the men’s restroom.

She found him chatting with a group of men and politely cleared her throat to get his attention. Subaru turned to face her and she just wanted to ask him to help her search for Miho and Goto when she noticed one of the men standing there with Subaru.

“Jazz?”

“Daichi?”

Suddenly Jazz had the attention of all of those men, the short blonde one, the one that looked slightly familiar, a dark haired one. And of course of Subaru and Daichi.

“’Daichi’?” the smaller one asked but Jazz didn’t even react.

“Uhm, sorry, I am… I can’t find Goto, his speech is next,” she stammered, slightly taken aback by this sudden reunion with an old flame. This was awkward.

“We can help you look for them,” Subaru offered but Jazz quickly shook her head.

“Knowing Miho it would be better if not ALL of us went, if you catch my drift.” She made a face and Subaru snorted a laugh.

“Yeah, I get it. Okay. I check the groom’s room and the men’s restroom.” Subaru nodded and Jazz smiled slightly at him. At least he was getting what she wanted from him without her having to actually ask. She would check the women’s restroom and the whole staff area. With a quick smile she apologized to the other men and shot Katsuragi an apologetic look before she rushed off, hoping she wouldn’t find Miho and Goto in a situation that would scar her for life. Again.

After Goto finally had held his speech – still a bit flushed and slightly disheveled – Jazz wanted to yell at Miho and laugh at the same time. She had to admit, it had been funny. At least a bit. And she liked seeing Miho happy and as long as no one else had noticed she didn’t care that her best friend had a quickie with her fiancé at the wedding of his superior.

Jazz sighed. She could use a drink but she was still on the clock. And somewhere in the crowd was a man that had broken her heart once.

Jazz was relieved when the band started playing the song for the first dance of the bridal couple. After a long discussion they had agreed on “The look of love” by Diana Krall. It was a very good song, slow and with wonderful lyrics.

Liana beamed at Ishigami when he led her to the dance floor; they just couldn’t take their eyes off each other. They swayed in each other’s arms, completely enthralled and in their own world.

“Jazz?” She knew who it was before she even raised her gaze.

“Daichi.” She simply acknowledged him with a small nod.

“Can we – talk?”

She took a deep breath.

“I am working, Daichi. I’m sure you know what that means.” She knew she was being childish but she couldn’t help it. He had hurt her back then, had cancelled their dates too often, had left whenever a call came. She had spent too many nights alone although he had promised her he would be there. All for his work.

“Then maybe when you’re finished?” There was hope in his voice but she wanted to shoot him down on the spot.

“No. When I’m finished here I will go home – to my husband.” She directly looked at him. “I wanted to talk after your trip to Moscow. I waited for you for almost eight hours. And when you finally came? What did you say?”

The guilt in his face wrenched her heart but she couldn’t back down now. “What did you say, Daichi?”

“Not now, I’m too tired to talk,” he repeated his words from back then.

“I have waited eight hours in a fucking coffee shop!” she hissed at him. “And instead of calling me and sending me home you kept sending me texts that you would be there soon. Eight fucking hours, Daichi.” With a last glare she turned back around to watch the last few seconds of the dance.

The guests clapped politely and so did Jazz, a strained smile on her face. The band started the next song and Jazz weaved through the forming couples that crowded the dance floor now that the bridal couple had their moment in the spotlight. She knew he was following her but she didn’t care, she was too angry. Still. She was still too angry and that angered her even more. She had thought she was over him, hell, she had thought she was over him when she met Ai some time later. Funny, but without Daichi treating her like a backup plan of sorts she would never have fallen for Ai. Now she could see that, of course, but back then she thought that Ai was really the perfect match for her. Just because he actually called when he promised. She had pretty low standards back then. Pathetic.

Jazz quickly gave some orders to the barkeepers and the waiting staff, rushed off towards the kitchen to check everything there and when she came back to the party 15 minutes later Daichi was nowhere to be seen. Good. She had no time for that now.

Dinner went well and afterwards there was more music, more drinking. The bride and groom left for their honeymoon but the guests stayed and celebrated on without them. Who needed a bridal couple at a wedding anyway?

But Jazz didn’t care, she was happy that the wedding has been a success. That Ishigami and Liana enjoyed this day and would remember it fondly their whole life.

And now was the time she actually considered getting a drink. But of course Subaru had to come between her and her hard earned champagne; he actually asked her for a dance. Reluctantly Jazz agreed, mostly because she loved to dance and Subaru actually looked as if he knew what he was doing.

“So, you and Katsuragi, huh?” he asked after the first few steps.

“Just. Stop. Okay? I really don’t want to talk about it.” It had been a long day, lots of little catastrophes she had to take care of without anyone noticing, plus meeting her former lover – that was just too much.

“Hey, I’m just curious. I mean, he’s my boss and I didn’t even know he was dating someone.” Subaru twirled her once and pulled her back close. He was really a good dancer.

“And that’s part of the problem,” she admitted, so tired of all this that she actually considered resting her forehead against his shoulder. But this was Subaru and she wouldn’t show any weakness in front of him.

“What do you mean?” She could hear the frown more than she could actually see it from her angle.

“Well, we were dating back then, but we – he wasn’t really committed. Only called when it crossed his mind. Always put work first. I know that his job – your job – is important and dangerous, that you have to be dedicated and ready to do whatever is necessary to protect your client. It’s a hard job and not everyone could do it. I understand that.” She exhaled and bit her lip briefly.

“But I am not the kind of woman who is happy on the backseat,” she muttered.

“No? I would have bet you enjoy a backseat every now and then,” Subaru quipped just for Jazz to slap his arm once.

“You know what I mean. I’m not a stopgap, I’m not only second best. And that’s exactly what he made me feel.”

“Huh. Wouldn’t have guessed he’s like that,” Subaru muttered and Jazz shrugged.

“Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be. If he meets the right one I’m sure he would make it work somehow.” But she could still be sad that she hadn’t been the one after all.

“Mind if I cut in?” Katsuragi suddenly ask, standing next to them.

“No,” Subaru answered the same moment Jazz said: “Yes.” There was a brief moment of confusion but in the end Katsuragi gave Subaru a stern look that weighed more than Jazz’s glare. He was Subaru’s boss after all.

“You are looking stunning,” he awkwardly said and took Jazz hand. She only tensed for a split second before she gave in and let him pull her closer, one hand in the small of her back.

“I know.” She couldn’t help being miffed, there was nothing he could say to make things right again.

“You never took my calls.”

“There was nothing left to say after all. I thought I’d save us both the time and the embarrassment.”  She couldn’t look at him. She still remembered how she had rushed out of that stupid coffee shop, how she had gone home and packed the few things he had left at her place and sent them back to him, adding a note with a list of her stuff and the instructions how to send them back to her. She didn’t even want to talk to him again.

“I tried to explain,” he defended his actions but Jazz only snorted once.

“You did, but that didn’t change anything. You stood me up too many times, you ditched me too many times. Just saying there was a problem at work doesn’t change that.”

They had never really fit together, it was mostly a physical attraction. Jazz had to admit, the spark was still there. He really was a hunk after all, tall and with broad shoulders. That had attracted Jazz back then. She had felt safe in his arms.

And now? Her body betrayed her, molded perfectly against his, remembered every touch.

“We have danced to this song before,” he suddenly muttered and Jazz felt like crying.

“I remember.” She really did.


Daichi had taken her out to dinner. It was some kind of celebration, Jazz had successfully finished a very important event and he wanted to spoil her a bit for it. And apologize because he had to cancel the last two or three dates they had planned. But this night they had dressed up a bit and he took her to a wonderful, very intimate restaurant. Champagne, dinner, dancing.

It was a perfect date, a perfect night. Jazz had just the right level of tipsiness to feel both bold and relaxed with him. They were dating for a couple of weeks already and the sex was – unf, it was just incredible. Although he was so strong, with these big hands, and Jazz was rather small he always treated her gently, carefully, until she ordered him to be rougher. Sometimes she was afraid they would break the bed.

But he held her as if she was made of glass when they danced.

They were already kissing and touching on the way back to her place, building the passion and desire, and Jazz just knew this was one of those nights when they wouldn’t even make it back to the bedroom. When the door was closed behind them Daichi pushed her against it, dress hiked up so he could grab her thigh and wrap it around his waist, pinning her against the wooden surface with his body.

“I missed you so much while I was in Singapore,” he muttered and Jazz was already fumbling with the buttons of his shirt. She loved his chest, loved to run her fingers over the firm planes of it, the bit of chest hair and old scars. So manly. So sexy.

“Missed you, too,” she breathed against his skin, moaning when he pushed his hips against hers, letting her feel his state of arousal.

“Dammit, Daichi! Stop talking, get naked already!”

They both knew they wouldn’t even manage to undress completely, just tugging and pushing at clothes until they were bare enough. Lips and fingertips greedily explored every bit of naked skin in reach, Jazz’s hands quickly opened his belt and pants. She pushed one hand under the waistband of his boxer briefs, curled her fingers around his cock, reveling in its hardness and girth. Good thing everything was proportional to his huge build.

When he impatiently pushed two fingers into her core she yelped and tightened her grip only for him to groan and buck his hips. With her free hand she managed to reach into the inside pocket of his jacket and grabbed the condom she knew he had there. He always had one when they met.

She ripped the foil open with her teeth and he only stopped circling her clit with his thumb for long enough so she could get the condom in place before he hoisted her up a bit – showing off his strength, knowing it turned her on like hell – and held her place with one hand under her ass, the other guiding his cock into her.

With a low hiss Jazz welcomed the slight burn, the stretch, urged him on to move with an impatient roll of her hips. Daichi needed a moment to shift, to find foothold before he could grab both her hips and slowly pull back just to slam back into her, making her cry out. Jazz clung to him, arms wrapped around his shoulders, face buried in the crook of his neck, biting down to muffle her moans.

It was rough, it was quick, it was loud and oh so satisfying. Her back hurt, her head spun, she had lost her shoes and was fairly certain that her dress was ripped, but she didn’t care. Jazz loved it when he was like this, demanding, taking, using his height and strength to keep her in place while he fucked her mercilessly. Later there would be cuddles and kisses, he would examine every mark, every little bruise he had caused on her body and kiss them all better, but now all she wanted was this. Raw desire.

He growled against her neck and sucked a mark into her skin and Jazz gasped, grabbed the hair at the back of his head and yanked him back, just enough so she could kiss him. She lightly bit down on his bottom lip and giggled when he hissed but her laughter turned into moans when he slammed into her harder, punishing her for her teasing.

“You’re… a little… minx…” he grunted between thrusts and Jazz only laughed, spurred him on to be even rougher. Her legs around his waist were already trembling, the tension in her body almost too much to take but she just wasn’t quite there yet. So she carefully slid one hand from his back between their bodies, making him groan when he realized what she was doing. It took only a bit of pressure, one, two circles of her fingertips around her clit to send her over the edge, to make her cry out and cling to him, shuddering in his arms. When she came down from her high he kissed her gently, still panting, and with a short start he hoisted her up, holding her whole weight now to carry her over to her bed. This time they undressed properly and he took his time, lots of kisses and touches and whispered words of affection while he made love to her now.

And in the end Jazz fell asleep in his arm, really hoping this could work out.

It didn’t. The next morning Jazz woke up to a note on the pillow next to her, simply saying: “Work emergency.”

Lust and physical attraction simply weren’t enough to build a relationship on it and Jazz had to accept that Daichi would always pick his work over her. She had to put an end to whatever they were having before she fell even further for him. And after that coffee shop disaster it was surprisingly easy.


“You are divorced.” Daichi’s words pulled her from her thoughts. “I asked Subaru about it.”

“I am.” There was no use in denying or hiding the truth.

“You said you were married,” he pointed out.

“Again, I am. I got divorced and now I’m married to someone else. Subaru doesn’t know everything about me.” Jazz started feeling uncomfortable in his arms, a place she used to love. She looked around, feeling a bit guilty that her mind had flashed back to this particular memory.

“I thought you had left the country by now.”

Was that it? The reason he had held back? Had he been hesitating because he knew she would leave eventually? They had never talked about it, but they had never talked much at all.

“As you can see I’m still here.”

“Working as a wedding planner?” He readjusted his grip on her hand a bit, his big hand enveloping hers.

“It’s not that far from event planning and actually I enjoy it very much.” Just not this moment.

“And you’re doing a great job. Ishigami was full of praise.”

It was so much harder not to cry when he was sweet like this. Jazz shouldn’t feel like this, she shouldn’t be sorry for this lost chance when she was happy with Kunihiko. She shouldn’t wonder how things could have been when her life now was so wonderful.

“Mind if I cut in?”

Daichi was a bit puzzled when Miho suddenly stood next to them.

“You want to dance with me?” The crease between his brows showed his confusion and Jazz had to laugh.

“No, I want to dance with her. If you excuse us,” Miho boldly said and grabbed Jazz’s hand, pulled her closer and started to dance.

“Lemme guess, you want to lead?” Jazz asked, somewhere between laughing and crying.

“Shut up, I have to focus here,” Miho snapped back, but Jazz knew that Miho came to rescue her.

“But don’t even think you can drag me off somewhere like Goto. You have to get me a drink first.” Jazz was really grateful for having friends, especially in situations like these. She rested her forehead against Miho’s shoulder and giggled.

“You sound as if you’re already drunk,” Miho grumbled. “So, you’re going to tell me the story about you and that hunk?”

“Later maybe. Now I just want to enjoy this dance.” She earned herself a slap on the ass from Miho but kept giggling.

“Huh. Now that’s quite a sight,” Subaru muttered and grabbed his phone, trying to take a picture of Miho and Jazz on the dance floor. Goto’s simply reached out and took the phone, shook his head and sighed.

“I think we’ve had quiet enough photos, don’t you?”

“Come on, don’t tell me this isn’t hot. Hey, you think they ever…?” Subaru raised an eyebrow and motioned towards the dancing women.

“No.” Goto’s face gave nothing away until the corners of his mouth twitched lightly. He didn’t have to think. He knew.


It was way after midnight when Jazz silently sneaked into the bedroom, tired but over all pretty satisfied with her work that day. She carefully slid under the covers only to feel an arm wrapping around her.

“Hey,” Kunihiko greeted her sleepily.

“Hey. Go back to sleep.” She snuggled closer and sighed in contentment. These were the arms she belonged in.

“How was the wedding?” He nuzzled her neck and a wave of love for him washed over her.

“Chaotic. Hectic. Beautiful. The bridal couple was very happy in the end and that’s all that matters.”

“Good… I knew you would make it a success…” He was already drifting off but Jazz wouldn’t want it any other way. He needed his sleep, after all he had a busy and tiring job, too. And she was more than ready to close her eyes, too.

“Good night. I love you.”

“Love you, too…” he mumbled and was asleep again.

Yes, this was where she belonged. This was home.

MJS In office drama and client report rewind: Jazz x Kanata Tachibana

Absent mindedly Jazz stirred in her drink, staring off into space. It was strange how close happiness and heartbreak could be, how small the distance, how easy to fall from one in the other. A few days ago she had been convinced that she would never do this again, never again sit in Long Island and sip one of Kunihiko’s cocktails.

“Jazz?”

On the other hand she had thought that Miho’s and Goto’s only problem was Subaru and how he tried to take over control of the wedding planning. But then this thing with the photos happened and all the scary stuff with this creepy stalker.

“Jazz!”

Sometimes she wondered if MJS was a bad idea after all. So much drama, for what? They only provided a service to their clients, although she had to admit that they had their fun while doing so. Was that so bad?

“Mrs. Aikawa!”

Jazz’s head shot up, she stared around the bar, checking if anyone had heard.

“Kunihiko,” she chided in mock anger after seeing they were alone. “Do you really want to give us away?” With a slight pout she stared at him but he only chuckled.

“Well, you didn’t react when I called you by your first name so I thought maybe you listen to your last name.” He leaned in and kissed her gently. “And would it be that bad if anyone found out?”

Jazz exhaled and cupped his face. “You know that’s not it. I just don’t want to steal Miho’s and Goto’s spotlight. Once they tied the knot we can tell everyone.”

They hadn’t talked about their own wedding yet, but Jazz didn’t want a huge ceremony. She felt a bit guilty, this was Kunihiko’s first – and hopefully last – wedding, but not hers. The first one had burst all limits, 500 guests and she had known only a handful. This time she wanted something smaller, more intimate. Something that was actually about her and Kunihiko, not only a huge display of wealth for business partners like the last one.

“It’s okay, I understand. But as soon as they are married…” He gave her a pointed look and Jazz nodded.

“Go and shout it from the rooftops afterwards,” she said with a laughter, smiling brightly at him. “I love you. I‘m proud to be your wife and I don’t want to hide it. But for now… I want it to be something between you and me.”

“And Miho,” he reminded her and she laughed again.

“And Miho, yes.”

Of course Miho knew. When Jazz and Kunihiko decided to elope – basically just fill out a marriage registration and make it official – they needed two witnesses after all. They wanted to ask Takao because as a lawyer he was more than qualified, being able to keep it a secret, and Jazz knew that Miho would rip her a new one if she really got married behind Miho’s back. There wasn’t even much thought about the choice of a witness after all. Jazz called Miho, asked if she had a moment later that day and said she would drop by the office after lunch.

Fortunately Jazz had already some experience with filling out a marriage registration, because she had been married before and even more since she saw a lot of them lately in her function as a wedding planner.

So after breakfast – and another round of sweet lovemaking – Jazz and Kunihiko got dressed nicely and headed out to ask Miho for her signature.

“You are doing what?!” Jazz wasn’t surprised that Miho reacted a bit – hotheaded.

“Mr. Aikawa, would you please leave the office for a moment,” she said with barely masked impatience and turned back towards Jazz who calmly waited for Kunihiko to leave them alone.

Once the door was closed behind him Miho sighed. “You just made up, isn’t this a bit rushed?”

Jazz shrugged. “We talked all night – well, not exactly TALKED all night, but there was also a lot of talking, even of the G-rated kind – and we figured that this was a good idea.”

“Yeah, but you also thought it was a good idea to marry someone you never even slept with,” Miho coolly reminded her.

Jazz made a face. “Yes, I did. At least I know he isn’t gay this time.”

Both looked at each other.

“Okay, I don’t expect you to be all giddy and excited, but I’m asking you for being part of this. Now that Selina’s god knows where you are all I have here. I don’t want your blessing, I just want my best friend in this with me, okay? I don’t want to have to sneak around behind your back.”

Ever since the whole thing with Kunihiko had started Jazz felt bad for having to keep secrets. At first only her growing crush on him, but having to keep quiet about being married? That was just too much.

“Are you really sure? If you only do this because he wants it-“ Miho began but Jazz cut her off.

“I am sure. It’s not only his wish, it’s ours. I have to admit, the fact that it’s really important to him made me change my point of view, but not my opinion. I want to marry him, but this time for the right reasons. And it’s not just about business, not like with Ai. He talked me into marrying him, using my crush on him for this. But Kuni? He’s okay with keeping it a secret for now, he just wants to marry me. And I want that, too.” Yes, it was happening faster than she had planned but after having fought for their love so much already she was sure that she and Kunihiko could make it. Hell, they even had so much support from others! Miho for example.

“Gimme that,” Miho grumbled and pulled the marriage registration closer, quickly filled out the witness column and signed.

“Congrats, you are Mrs. Stupid now.”

Jazz laughed happily and hugged Miho. “Thanks. And now get your stuff, we take this to the registry office and after that we get some champagne and lobster.”

When they came out if the office, arms linked and smiles on their faces, Kunihiko already knew that Miho had given in. He smiled at them, opened his arms for Jazz who skipped over to him.

“Doesn’t mean we are good again, Aikawa,” Miho grumbled and narrowed her eyes at him.

“Only fair. But thank you nonetheless.”

“If you ever hurt her again-“ Miho menacingly said and Jazz giggled.

“She was an assassin in a past life, just so you know.”

Kunihiko blinked once, twice. “Okay… well, I better treat you right then, huh?” He kissed the top of Jazz’s head softly and she hummed in agreement.

“Get a room, this is disgusting.” Although Miho frowned Jazz knew that she was actually happy for them. Kinda.

“You think Goto can join us for some champagne later? Maybe for dinner?” Kunihiko asked, making Jazz chuckle.

“What? You afraid to be alone with us?” she teasingly asked. Kunihiko shook his head and laughed briefly.

“No. Just of Miho.”


“Do you regret it?” Kunihiko whispered close to her ear, dragging Jazz from her daydream/memories.

“No. Not for a single second so far. Do you?” The only thing she regretted was the timing; she would have preferred to get married without the whole Miho/stalker thing lurking in the back of their minds.

“I just regret that we didn’t do it sooner.” He shrugged and kissed her softly, making her sigh in contentment. This was it, this was happiness. Marital bliss.

When the door opened and the usual gang came in they quickly separated and smiled at their guests. Only Takao gave them a tiny nod, acknowledging the secret they shared, the rest filed in and greeted Jazz as if she was the old friend and Kunihiko just the barkeeper.

After some chatter Jazz noticed a book on the counter.

“Kunihiko? What’s that?”

He looked towards the book and shrugged. “Some guest left it here. Can’t be that good if she doesn’t want it back after all.”

Saeki grabbed it and studied the cover. “Oh, it’s Kana’s new book. You are mistaken, Kuni, as far as I know it’s actually a bestseller.”

“Really? What is it about?” Jazz asked. Being an avid reader she was always looking for good books.

“It’s a forbidden love story, very naughty, at least as far as I heard. I haven’t read it myself yet.” Saeki handed her the book and she flipped it open on a random page, her eyes browsing the passage. She froze for a split second, blinked and read again.

“What? Is it that raunchy?” Saeki teased her, drawing the attention of the others.

“N-no… that’s not it…” She let the book sink, a helpless look on her face. What she really wanted to say was: “I think this is about me,” but since Ren, Yuta and Yamato had no idea about the services that MJS actually offered she couldn’t just say that. But it was true. The book was about a woman who worked as a marriage matchmaker and had a secret affair with a client. Her name was Jess Bann.

“This – this is… I think this is a job for Takao.”


Jess Bann, attractive, successful, confident, was the number one of marriage matchmakers for high-class clients. She was discreet, efficient and had an eye for the right match. People she brought together usually stayed together – in her career she had only one couple that broke up eventually, and there was no way to blame Jess for that.

But her own love life lay dormant, no relationship she ever had was happy or lasting. Maybe she wasn’t easy to love, too demanding, too fickle for any man to stay longer than some weeks, a couple of months at the most. For now she was fine with it, her job and her friends keeping her occupied and when the nights got too lonely Jess found someone to share her bed with, someone to take her mind off her loneliness.

Kaneda Aki was a successful advertising agent. After having spent several years with meaningless flirts and flings he wanted something real and followed the recommendation of a friend who sent him to Miss Bann, saying she would certainly find the perfect wife for him. For a considerable sum of money of course. But love didn’t come with a price tag and he had enough money, but not enough time to search for the right woman on his own.

It was only logical for them to work together. And it was completely stupid of him to actually fall for her.

Jazz put the book down, her hands trembling. How much of it was fiction and how much the way he had actually seen her? Did she really seem like that woman in the book? Her appearance, her job, parts of her personality, hell, even her name – the similarities were too many to be coincidental. After a quick research Takao had to admit that he couldn’t find out who that ‘Kana’ was, not even if it was a man or a woman. But Jazz already knew. After reading the book it was more than clear and she could actually remember the author that once was her client. He had married the woman she had introduced to him after two months and even sent a picture of their wedding. Why did he do this now? Why did he write this – this hurtful, embarrassing version of their liason? The woman in the book was cold, calculating, didn’t care much for her clients, only for their money. In the end she tosses the client away, mocks him even. He finds the love of his life on his own later, working in a café as a pastry chef. What irony that the woman Jazz had set the author up with had the same job.

She sighed.

“Stop torturing yourself with this crap,” Kuni gently said and took the book out of her hands, rady to go to bed.

“I can’t,” she admitted weakly. “It’s like scratching an itch, knowing you will only make it worse, but being unable to stop.” She closed her eyes, the words still fresh in her mind.

Pursuing whatever she wanted she breezed through life, guided by her whims and instincts. Her beauty opened her many doors, and for now she ignored the fact that one day her looks would have wilted, and all that would be left was her selfish heart that held no beauty.    

“He’s an author, it’s his job to form characters that can easily be put into a category,” Kunihiko reminded her.

“I know, it’s just – ugh, this is not how I want to be pictured. And please, promise me never to read this book. Please.” It wasn’t only that the description of the character that obviously based on her wasn’t flattering, although Jazz hadn’t read that passage yet she knew that there would be a sex scene in it, a probably rather detailed one considering the style so far. Now that they had made up she didn’t want Kunihiko to get all jealous and insecure again.

Kanata Tachibana. Jazz remembered him. He had been flirty and witty, friendly and over all a really pleasant client. Good looking. And he had told her that he was an author. Heck, she even had joked that he better not make their arrangement into a story!

She took the book back from Kunihiko and sighed.

“I just want to sleep now.”

He nodded, kissed her softly and turned off the lights.


“So, strawberry shortcake?” Jazz motioned towards the cake on front of him and Kanata laughed.

“It’s my favorite. I’m looking all over town for the perfect strawberry shortcake and this is the best so far.”

“So you are really persistent, huh? That’s a good quality – for a husband,” she teased and he chuckled again. “What else can you tell me about you?”

“I think I’m actually pretty boring. No drama, no fancy hobbies. I write a lot, that’s not only my job but my passion. I can get lost in my work and tend to forget about everything else – including eating, sleeping and cleaning. Especially when a deadline is coming up.”

She nodded. “I will note that in your report. Not every woman is willing to deal with that.”

Kanata sighed and nodded back. “Yes, I know. But I really love my work so it’s important for me that she has patience and understands what writing means to me.”

“What else should a woman have? Should she be sexy or shy? Caring or daring? Bubbly or calm?” Jazz took a bite of the shortcake. This was definitely good.

“I don’t know. She should have a passion. A dream. I don’t think I could love a cold woman.”

This answer surprised her a bit but she could understand what he was trying to say. Who wanted someone who hadn’t any fire, any passion after all?

After eating the cake and having some coffee Jazz accompanied him to his place. It was packed with books and she curiously browsed through his book shelves.

“You like to read?” he asked and offered her a smile that she returned immediately.

“I love it. Ever since I was a kid. I even tried to write myself, but I had to accept that I have no talent for that.” She chuckled and pulled a book out after waiting for his approving nod. It was in Japanese of course but she read the summary on the cover and put it back.

“Do I see a spark of passion there?” His voice was closer now, hands rested on her hips and pulled her against him. Jazz smiled smugly and let her hand rest on the front of his pants.

“Do I feel a spark of passion here?” she purred back.

With a small chuckle Kanata leaned in, brushed his lips against hers before kissing her again, deeper this time. Jazz wrapped her arms around him and let him walk her towards his couch where they sat down, exchanging kiss after kiss.

“Are you okay with a little challenge?” he asked, pressing kisses down her neck.

“You know my profile… everything within my boundaries is okay… even a little challenge.” She was curious what he was thinking off and a bit confused when he got up and fetched a book.

“Here. Read this to me.”

Jazz blinked. Read? What did he plan? But she shrugged, cleared her throat and opened the book at a random page.

The tension between them was almost unbearable, longing and reason battling a long drawn war, ever since they first met.” Jazz frowned a bit, there were some vocabularies she didn’t use often. And she jumped when she suddenly felt his hands creeping up her legs.

’I can’t do this any longer,’ Rui finally admitted. ‘I can’t keep pretending that she is the one I love when it really is you. It has always been you.’ He wanted to hold her, kiss her, to make her finally his after all these years.” Her breath hitched in her throat when his fingertips pressed against the fabric of her panties, when he curled his fingers under the waistband and pulled them off her without even bothering to take off her skirt first.

“Keep reading,” he prompted and Jazz took a deep breath and continued.

Tentatively, hesitantly he raised a slightly trembling hand, reached for her face, his fingertips grazing her soft skin until he cupped her cheek. She didn’t flinch, she didn’t pull back, instead she leaned into the touch with a soft sigh, breaking his remaining control, crumbled it between his palm and her cheek.”

Kanata was still crouching in front of her, kissing up her legs until his head was hidden under her skirt, his nose gently running over her mound.

Jazz closed her eyes briefly and took a slightly shuddering breath. “You – you said this was a challenge. What do I… what do I get if I win?”

He hummed lowly before his tongue darted out, gently nudging at her folds. “I keep on doing this for as long as you are reading.”

“And if I lose?”

He chuckled, his face still hidden from her view. “Then you won’t get to come at all – unless I think you earned it.”

This was too close on dob/sub-dynamics for her liking but then again, his tongue wasn’t close enough to her pussy so she simply shifted a bit, opened her legs some more so he could pull one over his shoulder and continued to read.

Their first kiss tasted like honey and wine, like coming home after a long journey, like finding the other half of your soul.” She gasped briefly when his tongue flicked her clit but kept reading.

She parted her lips to invite him in, met his tongue with her own – holy… – let him devour her…” It got harder to stay focused when he licked, kissed and sucked at her folds and her clit like a man starving, groaning while doing so. She was in an awkward position, slumped down somewhere between sitting and lying on the couch, hips close to the edge. She couldn’t rock or tilt her hips much, there was nothing to do but to take what he offered and that was slightly frustrating.

“Are you stopping?” he asked, slightly panting.

There was no trace of doubt in her mind anymore, she loved him and she wanted him, he was the only one who could – oh my god – who could make her feel like that…” Jazz’s legs were trembling now and Kanata pressed a hand on her lower belly to keep her in place. Her mouth was dry and her voice cracked every now and then.

So when his hand started roaming her body she didn’t resist, didn’t object, instead she let her own hands… let her own – oohhhh – own hands – fuck!”

He chuckled again and Jazz wanted to yell at him, wanted to laugh and scream at the same time. The pressure in her lower belly was almost too much to take already, but she still needed more.

“… let her own hands wander ooover his body…” She started to draw the vowels, almost moaned them, but kept reading. She was stubborn after all. Kanata chuckled bit kept up his ministrations.

“…took his shirt off without hesitation. His chest was –“ Jazz gasped and took a few shuddering breaths, “was firm… and warm… his heart – oh – his heartbeat racing under… under her palm… OH!”

Maybe Kanata took pity on her or his need for teasing her was sated – or he was simply so horny that he couldn’t wait much longer neither. He plunged two fingers into her core, making her cry out and curse lowly before she tried to read on, muttering another ‘holy’ before she found the line where she had left off.

She let her hand wander downwards, over his –“ Jazz gasped again, followed by a moan. “… over his stomach towards his happy trail… what – what kind of book is this?”

His only answer was another chuckle but he stopped licking and sucking until Jazz took another deep breath and continued.

“… towards his happy trail. Biting her bottom lip she watched him from under her lashes, placed her hand on the – oh my god, yes, don’t – don’t stop now… – her hand on the impressive – really? Oh! – impressive bulge in his pants…” Her words were a mixed with moans and gasps, barely understandable at all, rushed and slightly slurred and cut off completely when she finally came, that tension inside of her culminating into a breathtaking orgasm – literally. With eyes closed and her mouth open she let the pleasure wash over her, let Kanata prolong the sensation, wave after wave, with his skillful tongue and fingers. Only when she whimpered and tried to pull back he stopped, reappeared from under her skirt with a wide grin.

“A few pages further and it would have been like a live commentary,” he chuckled, making Jazz huff a short laugh.

“I need… a glass of water…” she almost croaked and sat up again, the wetness between her thighs slightly uncomfortable. She only noticed now that he had taken his glasses off, his hair was disheveled but he grinned as if he was the one who just had gotten off. After a sip of water she felt better but before she could finish the glass Kanata took it from her and set it on the coffee table.

“You think you can keep on reading while I fuck you?”


Jazz couldn’t stop staring at the report. It had been an interesting date scenario, and she had found a playful and teasing side to him that she hadn’t expected at the first glance. Finding a match for him had been pretty easy and Kanata had married not even half a year later. Tiff. Jazz remembered Tiff. With a sigh she got up from her desk and walked to their front desk.

“Izumi, if Kanata Tachibana calls – and he will call – tell him I’m not available. But he can have an appointment with me later this afternoon. Tell him groveling is a visual experience after all.”

Izumi frowned briefly but seeing Jazz’s very serious face he simply nodded. “Will do.”

Jazz knew he would call. After all Takao had sent Kanata a very stern letter, announcing that MJS was considering suing him for breach of contract and that Jazz personally considered filing a suit for libel.

After informing Takao about the similarities between the book and the actual events he had been shocked, flustered and very certain that they would win in court. Although there were slight differences, for example did Jess and Kaneda have sex in her office while she read him adult literature to turn him on, it was still too similar to be coincidental.

Throughout the book the Jess character got a bit more likeable but in the end she still broke Kaneda’s heart and they ended their business relationship just for Jess to take another lover.

Jazz had lunch at her desk and worked furiously, used her anger to fuel her zeal. When Izumi called and told her Kanata was there to see her she needed a moment to gather her thoughts, but her anger was still burning hot.

“Hello, Jazz.” He opened the door and peeked into the office just for Jazz to wave him in.

“It’s ‘Miss Mann’ to you, Tachibana-san.” She set the mood from the get go, making this a purely business related conversation, no room for feelings or nostalgia. He had betrayed her trust and that was something that Jazz simply couldn’t let slide. Plus he did ruin her reputation – there was no way this could stay under wraps. Not with the sales that book already had.

“Oh, well, Miss Mann, thank you for having me on such short notice.” He took a seat and Jazz simply stared at him until he squirmed.

She sighed. “You asked for this appointment, didn’t you? What can I do for you? Deliver some new ideas for your next book?”

He was visibly uncomfortable but that was the least he could be under these circumstances.

“I’m really sorry, but I didn’t plan for this to happen.” Bowing his head slightly Kanata waited for her say anything. She didn’t.

“It was an accident! My lector found the draft and basically forced me to write this story!”

“Don’t,” she hissed and clenched her fists. “Don’t you dare to put the blame on anyone else but yourself! And if a hundred editors and publishers and whatever were breathing down your neck, you had NO right to write this book! You have signed a damned NDA! Do you really think that changing the names a bit will be enough?”

Kanata sighed and hung his head. “I know. I know, I fucked up. I had the worst case of writers’ block and I just started drabbling a bit – and suddenly I had a whole book. It seemed a waste to just – delete it.”

“Are you kidding me?! This is much more than just ‘a book’,” Jazz imitated his tone. “This is my life, my business! You could have at least put some effort in changing the names!”

“Yeah, that was – unfortunate,” he admitted sheepishly.

“Un- UNFORTUNATE?! This is the lowest of low! You are an author, and as far as I know a pretty decent one! You should know better! People will connect the dots and figure out that ‘Jess Bann’ and Jazz Mann are the same person! Or they will think that at least.”

She sighed and rubbed her temples. Maybe she should change her name. Take Aikawa as her own last name.

“Imagine how my husband feels about this. Imagine how YOU would feel if I published the adventures of your wife with a slightly different name. I got her report here, that’s a very interesting read after all.” Of course this was a bluff. She would never do that to another woman, client or not. But Tiff had been on her date scenario with Kyobashi – and he was a proved recipe for some very dirty stuff. Jazz knew from personal experience.

Kanata paled a bit but Jazz immediately waved off. “Don’t worry, Tiff hasn’t done anything to deserve this. And neither did I.”

He nodded. “I know that I can’t undo this. The book is out and even if we stopped it now, too many copies have already been sold.”

“Oh, but I don’t want to stop the sale,” Jazz interjected.

“No?”

She shook her head, a small, vicious smile on her lips. “Of course not. Like you said, the damage is done. I want this book to be a bestseller because you will give me 50 percent of the profits.”

“50 percent?! That – that is a lot!” He seemed shocked but Jazz only shrugged.

“I could also go for a hundred if you prefer that. The words might be yours, but the story isn’t. It’s mine and you twisted it into something cheap and detestable.” She was back to hissing now and he exhaled deeply. “You gave me your trust, and I have honored that flawlessly – but you? You have committed an atrocious violation, a reprehensible, base and filthy crime against my true character that actually makes me feel dirty. And now I will have to live with this knowledge all my life and nothing I do can change that. Nothing ANYONE does can change that. So I could sue your sorry ass for everything you have, drag your face and name into every dirty little muckraking newspaper so you will never be able to go out again without being recognized –“ she paused for the dramatic effect, “or we settle that between us.”

Leaning back in her chair Jazz stared at him. “The only reason I’m even willing to negotiate is that you married a good woman and I wouldn’t want to destroy her life along with yours. I like her. She’s got spunk.”

“So 50 percent, okay. What else?” Kanata slumped down a bit, obviously giving up.

“I get all the rights that your publisher doesn’t hold already. I want to prevent that anyone can use this story, whether for movies or series or an audio book. Nothing like that.”

He nodded again.

“And you will never write anything that remotely resembles MJS or me or any of my partners in this business again.”

Another nod, this time firmer. Jazz exhaled.

“Good. At least that limits the damage a bit.” But it wouldn’t help her feeling better about the way her character had been portrayed in the book.

“One last question: Jess… I know she’s basically me, but do you really see me like that? Cold? Calculating? Heartless?”

Kanata shook his head softly.

“No. But I had to make her the antagonist in this. I couldn’t have him fall for her, could I? I –“ He hesitated but continued nonetheless. “I didn’t want my wife to think that I actually fell for you.”

“But you didn’t,” she stated, not asked.

“No. Don’t worry. But I can imagine it’s easy for your clients to fall for you.”

She let out a dry chuckle. “Not anymore. I’m a wedding planner now. My clients shouldn’t have eyes for anyone else than their future spouse.”

“It – it really hurt you how I wrote her character, didn’t it?” He frowned slightly, as if this thought hadn’t even crossed his mind so far.

“It did.” She clenched her teeth, the last thing she needed was his sympathy. She would gladly take his money, but not his pity.

“Hm… maybe I could – I don’t know, write a last book with Jess Bann. To show the softer side of her.” And when Jazz glared at him he added: “Purely fictional this time. Just to – redeem her. So the lasting impression wouldn’t be a negative one – and a wrong one.”

Jazz’s thoughts raced for a moment. Was that a good idea? She wanted less attention for this book, not more. But then again…

“You will let me read it before you publish it,” she demanded and he nodded. “Okay. I think that could appease me a bit. Well, that and 50 percent of the profits of that book, too.”

He let out a defeated sigh and weakly nodded again. “Where do I sign?”

“Head to Miho’s office,” Jazz told him coldly. “She’s going to want you to sign this one in blood.”


After everything was made official Jazz gathered her things and headed home.

“How did it go?” Kunihiko asked the moment she set a foot into their place.

“We’re going to get a nice sum of money,” she sighed and kicked off her shoes. “And a sequel to make Jess a better person.”

He wrapped his arms around her and Jazz inhaled his familiar and comforting scent. And frowned.

“Did you smoke again?”

He chuckled, she could feel the rumbling in his chest. “I did. Sorry.”

She simply waved it off and snuggled closer against his chest.

“I want to have your name.” She had pondered this for a while now and while there hadn’t been the time to get all the necessary paperwork before the wedding she now figured it would be a good idea. So far she had been clinging to her maiden name mostly because she felt it was an important part of her. But now?

“I want us to have the same name,” she quietly explained. He tightened his embrace.

“I have hoped you would say that eventually. I got everything ready for this. We can go and have your name changed tomorrow if you like.”

“And then we can be a real family?” she asked back, knowing how stupid that sounded. “A real married couple?”

“You and me. Mr. and Mrs. Aikawa.” He kissed her softly and Jazz nodded slowly, still wrapped up in his arms and his love.

“Sounds good. Sound really, really good.”

MJS Romance: Jazz x Kunihiko Fixing things

There was no denying the fact that Jazz needed her own clothes. No matter how long she stared into Miho’s closet, there wasn’t much that could fit her smaller frame. And no matter what Miho said, Jazz actually liked wearing panties, preferably her own. So she already knew she would have to go to Kunihiko’s place and get some clothes. Sooner or later she would have to get all her stuff anyway, but she didn’t want to sneak in like a thief in the night nor did she want to run into Kunihiko. And that was the problem.

He hadn’t called. He hadn’t texted or send a pigeon or anything. She had left and he had done nothing at all to contact her and that was hurt her the most. So she was afraid to face him because as long as she didn’t it wasn’t really true. Their relationship was in a strange limbo between intact and broken up and she was afraid to tip the scale into the wrong direction. It was Schroedinger’s relationship. Scratch the cat, every girl in the world would understand this parable.

But she knew she couldn’t avoid it much longer and so she called Osanai to ask him for Kunihiko’s schedule. It was an innocent question but when she knew that he was in a meeting she also knew that he wasn’t at home. Simple, clever, perfect. And obviously Kunihiko’s day was packed so Jazz had all the time in the world to gather some clothes and leave her key on the table. Not the classiest move but it would work.

But first she had some appointments and was really grateful that her emergency dress was still in the office. She couldn’t wear the same outfit three days in a row. It was late in the afternoon before Jazz had the time and the gathered courage to head towards Kunihiko’s apartment. Her heart pounded furiously and her hands were sweaty and trembling, but she managed to unlock the door like the countless times she did before. Only this time would be the last.

With a feeling as if she had swallowed a rock that now settled in her stomach Jazz walked into the familiar rooms, quickly grabbed the most important stuff. Documents, some memorabilia, and of course some clothes. She was glad that there were still boxes around from when she moved in with Kunihiko. She felt as if that was in another lifetime and it wasn’t even a month. Usually even Jazz managed to get a relationship going longer than that. With a glance at the boxes she realized that she would have to call a cab. Or someone with a car. But it was a workday and the only one coming to mind was Takao. She wouldn’t call Takao. He was a friend of Kuni and might tell him, it was too risky. No, she would quietly keep packing stuff and call a cab. Tokyo taxi drivers had seen worse than a crying woman with moving boxes.

She quickly sorted through her clothes, only took what she really needed now. Panties and bras, a few dresses and blouses, skirts and pants. Pajamas. Shoes. Everything stuffed into a box and a bag. She looked around the bedroom, considering bringing some of her jewelry but that didn’t seem that important now. Her gaze stopped at a picture that sat on Kunihiko’s nightstand. It was the black and white photo Jinpachi had taken, the lines and curves of her body from her hips down to her legs. Hesitantly she took the picture and following her whim she pushed it into her bag. Her picture, her body, her memories.

Jazz would have preferred to wipe out every trace of her in this place but she didn’t have the time for that. Still, she could take all the private things, everything that meant something to her. All the other stuff would follow as soon as she had figured out where she would stay.

She checked the clock and was surprised about how long she had taken so far. She better left soon, there was no use in pushing her luck. Jazz had just stacked two boxes on top of each other when she heard the key in the lock. She froze.

Now she really felt like an intruder, a thief, although she only came to get her own things. She wouldn’t take anything from him; she didn’t want anything from him. Only what belonged to her.

“Jazz? Jazz, are you still here?” He sounded breathless, hurried. Oh god. OH GOD! What should she do? Hide? Run? No, she wasn’t that childish and although she dreaded the encounter that was inevitable now, she was enough of an adult to simply get over with it and walk out with her head held high. No need for panic. Okay, maybe a little panic.

“I am here.” She stood up and smoothed down her dress, waiting for him to arrive in the bedroom.

“Thank god, you’re still here…” He was panting, his hair a bit disheveled. He must have been running. She snorted a dry laugh. Yeah, figure. He couldn’t wait to give her the finishing blow, could he?

His gaze fell on the boxes and the bag next to her and he straightened up, took a few steps towards her.

“What are you doing?”

Jazz couldn’t look at him. She knew his face, knew every expression and loved them all, but now she couldn’t watch him. Maybe she better just got over with it, like ripping off a bandage.

“I’m packing.” She was proud that her voice didn’t waver, that she sounded calm and matter-of-factly. Because inside she was a whirlwind of emotions, fear and pain and defiance swirling around in her head and her heart, making it hard for her to focus.

“You want to leave?” Kunihiko sounded as if he couldn’t belief it, as if that thought hadn’t even crossed his mind once. Maybe because he couldn’t imagine that she would take charge instead of waiting for him to send her stuff to her.

“I already left, did you forget? Or didn’t you even notice?” She couldn’t hold back the slightly bitter, sharp tone, that poison that was eating at her from the inside.

His shoulders slumped a bit and Jazz had to bite her lip to stop it from trembling.

“I – the office was like crazy today. All the projects that got cancelled – they all wanted to apologize and resume business relations. We were swamped with work.”

That was his answer? That was all?! Jazz took a deep breath, let it escape again through her nose. Tried to stay calm.

Kunihiko looked directly at her.

“Was that you?”

She chuckled dryly. “Sure. I went to all those companies and slept with everyone there so they would give you another chance.” The frown on his face was quickly replaced with a sad look.

“I deserve that, huh?”

Carefully he took a step closer and Jazz backed off, trying to keep the distance between them. She couldn’t be near him, here in this room where they had been so much closer, so many times. And now? Now she was here, watching their love wither before her own eyes. It was just too much to take. If he touched her now she feared that her heart would just shrivel, a tiny lump of tissue and muscle, no room for any kind of feelings left.

“What you deserve,” Jazz began, voice thick with her suppressed tears, “is someone who is good for you. But right now? I can’t find it in me to wish you that.” She knew she was petty, that this wouldn’t help her at all. But she was a stickler for honesty and she wouldn’t start lying now.

“I think I already have someone like that.”

Again he stepped closer and Jazz had nowhere left to run. Another step back and she would fall backwards on the bed. With every step he came closer her panic grew. If he touched her now she would just break. There wouldn’t even be enough left of her to ever put her together again. She would shrivel and wrinkle and when he turned his back on her she would simply cease to exist. Poof, just like that.

“Jazz… why did you even do that?” His violet eyes were trained on her, he was so close that she could feel his breath on her face. “After our argument… why did you even try to help me?”

She was trembling now, afraid of saying something stupid, really stupid when she opened her mouth.   She wanted to snap at him, tell him that she didn’t ‘try’ anything but actually managed to resolve the mess with his company, managed to put Akane Kujuro in her place, all in a day’s work, but she couldn’t.

“Because I love you…” she breathed, followed by a sob. It was so pathetic, she was so pathetic, how could she ever think she deserved love? If she had learned one thing in her life it was that she only picked the wrong men and now that she had thought she had found the right one, the wrong men interfered again, albeit only their shadows. She tried to calm her breathing and wiped her eyes. She could do this. She could be a freakin’ adult and get over with this.

“Because the thought of you losing everything because of me drove me crazy. Consider it my farewell gift.” Jazz almost choked on these words but now that they were out she felt better. Closure. Yes, maybe that had been the thing she needed. By avoiding this conversation she had robbed herself of the chance to make her peace with this.

Of course that was complete bullshit. Even if they managed to talk this through, to find some mature and calm way of doing this, a break up was a break up. It would hurt either way.

“I don’t want that.” Kunihiko’s voice sounded hoarse and the crease between his brows deepened further. “I am grateful that you did whatever you did, but I don’t want it to be a farewell gift. I don’t want you to go.”

His hands cupped her face and as predicted Jazz broke. The tiny cracks in her façade widened and deepened, giving way for her tears.

“The last few days… without you here – it just didn’t feel right. I know that there’s no apology that can fix this, and believe me, I never wanted to hurt you or make you feel bad about yourself. That is actually something I admire about you. That you don’t seem to have regrets.” He offered her a small smile and Jazz snorted a laugh.

“Ha! I have so many regrets. The guy that pilfered my savings? Marrying head over heels and finding out my husband’s gay? Only yesterday I-“ She choked, sobbed and needed to take a deep breath. “I – I did something horrible,” she finally admitted in a small voice, unable to look at him.

His hands tensed slightly before he exhaled audibly, but he didn’t pull back.

“It’s okay, whatever it is, you can tell me. We can get through this,” he assured her only to meet her accusing gaze.

“You think I slept with someone else,” she finally said, a bitter statement, not a question. He only winced for a split second but it was enough for Jazz to drop her head again.

“Okay, I get it. Will it always be like this? Will you always doubt me? Make me feel guilty?” She stepped back and plopped down on the bed into a sitting position. “I can’t change my past, you know? And honestly, I wouldn’t even if I could. I made mistakes but that is life. Everyone makes mistakes.” And she didn’t even consider most of them actual mistakes.

The bed dipped next to her when he sat down, too, not touching her yet but close enough that she could feel the usual pull, the need for physical contact in his presence. But she didn’t give in, not when she wasn’t sure where this would end.

“I’m sorry… you are right. Everyone makes mistakes and I just made another stupid one. I do trust you, really, it’s just – my biggest fear is losing you. Ever since I finally found you I’m afraid that something, maybe someone, will you take you away from me.”

Jazz sighed. “Jealousy is often a sight of insecurity,” she mused loudly. “The thing is, whenever you get jealous I feel guilty, although I know I didn’t do anything wrong. You can’t blame me for having a past.” She shrugged. “I don’t blame you for yours, either.”

He nodded slowly. “I know. I really do.” For a moment neither of them spoke, they just didn’t know what to say, afraid to break this fragile peace.

“Do you want to talk about it? The horrible thing you did?” he suddenly offered.

She sighed, wrung her hands in her lap. “I blackmailed Ai and Akane to take care of their mess by threatening to make some details of my marriage public. I betrayed his trust and – shit, I just sank down on her level.”

“I don’t think he’s mad at you,” Kunihiko slowly said.

“Yeah? How come?”

“He paid me a visit today. Apologized for his mother’s actions. Honestly, between him and Miho – it’s a miracle that I’m still alive,” he jokingly said, but Jazz didn’t laugh. “Anyway, I had a long talk with him and if it wasn’t for the call from the concierge, telling me you came here I would probably still sit with him and talk.”

She still stayed silent and he filled the silence with words.

“I don’t like him, not after everything he did to you, but I have to admit – I’m not better. I hurt you, too, and I’m not sure if you can forgive me. If I can forgive me.” He hesitated but continued talking. “You are right, I have been jealous. But not of the men who – who slept with you. After talking to your ex husband I realized that I’m most jealous that he got something from you that you now won’t give anyone else. You married him. Even without ever having slept with him… because you loved him so much. I think that’s what’s really bothering me. Not that you had sex with other, in this day and age that’s pretty normal, but that you have loved so much before.”

Again silence stretched between them, wrapped them in a blanket that was hard to shake off. But she managed.

“You are an idiot.” But there was no rage in her words, she was too tired for anger by now. “I never said I wouldn’t marry ever again, I just said I don’t want to get married right now. That I want to be sure this time. I always thought I would only get married once and if I was Catholic I think I would have gone for an annulment rather than a divorce, basically erasing this marriage from my record.” She laughed briefly. “Sounds strange, I know. But in the end it wouldn’t change the fact that I said ‘I do’ and believed in it. So can you understand that I’m scared of making the same mistake twice? Of being too eager, too blinded?”

He nodded slowly, weakly. In his mind he could understand, even approve of her caution, her strength of will. But his heart – well, his heart had a mind of its own.

Jazz took another deep breath. The hardest part was yet to come.

“So the question is simple. Do you think you can live with that? Knowing about my past, but not about the future? At least not the next months, maybe years? I don’t know when I will be ready to marry again, but I do know that I can’t imagine it to be anyone else than you.”

She bit her bottom lip, dragged it through her teeth, unable to look at him. If he said ‘no’… well, if he really said no she would pack her things and leave. So far she had no idea what to do afterwards, but she wouldn’t beg him to stay, to love her. She would quietly leave his life and move on with her own. Somehow.

She prayed he wouldn’t say no.

“I – I think there’s something wrong here,” he finally said and she closed her eyes, bracing herself for whatever he would say.

“I’m not the one making a decision. You have always been honest with me-“

Jazz flinched imperceptibly. She was honest whenever he asked her something, but she only answered his questions. She still held some things back sometimes.

“- and still I have made you feel bad about yourself, about your honesty. I know you said some things just so I wouldn’t say them and I understand. It would have hurt more and there would be no way to take them back.”

Jazz nodded. Some words couldn’t be taken back, they would always stay, lingering between them, piling up until they suffocated any feelings. That was why she chose her words carefully in a fight. Things said in anger or frustration were often crueler than intended, but once said they couldn’t be unheard.

Kunihiko kept on talking. “But I want you to know that I was wrong, that I feel deeply sorry for hurting you, for saying what I said and most of all, for making you think I would actually believe those words. I don’t. I never did. And even if, it shouldn’t matter. You are a strong and independent woman, brave and smart. I was a fool not to tell you about Kujuro-san and her actions against me and my company, I was a fool to think you wouldn’t do everything you can to help me. But I was also too proud to ask for your help.” He smiled wryly and Jazz inhaled sharply. Where was he heading?

“Pride shouldn’t be an issue between us. Jealousy shouldn’t be. I love you. I want to spend my life with you, with or without wedding, I don’t care. If you can forgive me I will never let you go again. And if you can’t – the please let me do whatever it takes so you can eventually. Let me earn your trust again, let me-“

She cut him off with a kiss, slid into his lap and wrapped her arms around him.

“Sometimes the only one that can make you feel better is the one who hurt you in first place,” she whispered against his lips. “And I really, really want you to make me feel better now. I’m fed up with feeling miserable.”

She didn’t need tell him twice. His arms wrapped around her, pulling her even closer against him he kissed her, the fear, the insecurity, the guilt – everything that had kept them apart melted away under their kisses, the urgency and longing that spurred them on. They didn’t even separate long enough to undress properly, their clothes ripped from them, discarded carelessly on the floor.

Without giving him much of a choice Jazz pushed Kunihiko down on the bed, pulled his pants and boxers just so far down that she could reveal his hard cock, her own panties just pushed to the side so she could sink down on him, her dress hiked up, his shirt half unbuttoned. There would be time for tender lovemaking later, now she needed to feel him, to reconnect in the most primal way she could think of. Her nails dragged down his half exposed chest, left red marks until she reached a button, ripped it off while yanking his shirt further off him. Her hands on his chest Jazz started moving, spurred on by his gaze, eyes dark and full of desire.

He had been right, not everything could be fixed with sex. But this? This worked. She hissed and groaned, head thrown back, eyes closed, focused on the physical sensations rather the emotions. There was still a lingering pain at the edges of her conscience and she knew it would take some time for it to fade, leaving only a slightly more sensitive spot behind. But she was willing to take the risk, praying that this time she wasn’t mistaken. He was worth it. Their love was worth it.

Kunihiko startled her by suddenly sitting up, hands cupping her face again, his thumbs wiping away tears she hadn’t realized shedding.

“I will never hurt you again,” he promised hoarsely, making her sob. An empty promise; he couldn’t possibly keep it, but his intention was true. So she wrapped her arms around him while he did the same, slowly rocked in his lap, bodies pressed tightly against each other, countless kisses filling the little space between them. He came first, encouraged by both sweet and dirty words from her lips. Only when Kunihiko stilled the movements of her hips she stopped, still embracing him. They panted and were sweaty, but she grinned widely at him.

“You are … incredible…” he chuckled, dropping a kiss on the tip of her nose. “I really don’t deserve you.”

“Don’t you ever forget that,” Jazz reminded him before she got off his lap with a sigh, heading for the bathroom to clean up. When she came back Kunihiko was lying on the bed, completely naked now and with a small smile on his lips.

“Hey you,” he greeted her and Jazz smiled back.

“Hey.” She crawled onto the bed, right into his open arms. There was still a lot for them to talk about, but when he started undressing her, without the rush from earlier, they both wordlessly decided to do the talking later. And after he had coaxed the second orgasm from her, growing hard in the process again, they had the tender lovemaking that soothed both their hearts until they could fall asleep, entangled in each other.


Breakfast the next day was spent in a relaxed, happy atmosphere.

“Have you called Miho and said you won’t come to work today?” he asked and handed her a bowl with fresh sliced fruit.

“I sent her a text last night so she doesn’t worry. It was a bit short but I guess she got what I tried to say, she sent me a ‘Show him who’s the boss’ back, followed by a couple of emojis and some lewd comments.” Jazz giggled and Kunihiko rolled his eyes, but smiled.

“She’s really-“

He started but Jazz raised an eyebrow.

“A bad influence?” she asked teasingly.

“A great friend,” he finished his sentence. Jazz hummed in agreement and took a sip of tea.

“You know you will have to beg to get back into her good graces, right?”

He sighed. “Yeah, figured so much. Maybe whiskey on the house for – hm, forever?”

Jazz chuckled. “That’s at least a good start. Just to ease your mind, she’s at least not the type who slaps you the ‘I told you so’ into your face. She gloats, and very much so, but only because she’s happy that everything worked out in the end.” She smiled fondly, thinking about Miho. “But I’m glad that I don’t have to stay at her place anymore. She’s got wandering hands when she’s half asleep, thinking I’m Goto…”

Kunihiko blinked a few times but didn’t say anything. They continued eating, thoughts wandering but only to happy places.

“So, are you sure?” he asked, for the umpteenth time that morning after putting his dish into the sink.

“I am,” she confirmed and smiled reassuringly. “I know I will get into real trouble, especially with Miho, but I think it’s the right thing to do.”

He grinned happily, violet eyes shining. “We are really going to do it?”

Jazz nodded and beamed back at him. “We are. Let’s elope.”

MJS Out of office drama: Jazz x Kunihiko Heartbreak

Jazz felt strange, this had been the first fight between her and Kunihiko but it had actually been looming for a while now, casting its shadow over their happiness. He had a problem with the fact that she had slept with quite a few men, before and after meeting him, but he had also said he could live with it. Obviously he couldn’t.

Jazz sighed. She stubbornly refused to feel guilty, she had warned him, had given him the chance to change his mind but he had assured her he was fine with her past. Only he wasn’t. The comments about the men she had been with, the jealousy he had shown, the insecurity wasn’t only a burden for him, but also for her.

Although it was way before her usual time to get up Jazz left the bed and tiptoed into the bathroom, got ready quickly and dressed for the day, having already decided to skip breakfast to get out of the apartment as fast and silently as possible so she wouldn’t wake Kunihiko up. She didn’t want to face him now.

Her caution was unnecessary, he had already left, maybe he hadn’t even slept on the couch at all, it was hard to tell. Now that she thought about it, they hadn’t shared breakfast or dinner for a while now, one of them always out or at work. They did meet up for lunch every other day, and they spent the nights in the same bed. Except for last night.

Burying herself in the bed sounded tempting but she had appointments that day and wouldn’t miss them just because she was having trouble in her personal life. She was a professional after all.

After a first stop in the office Jazz hurried towards Larme to meet Liana Starling, future Mrs. Ishigami, and pick a cake for her wedding. She spotted her through the huge window already, quickly checked the time and sighed in relief when she saw that she was still in time.

“Liana, good to see you. Being engaged suits you, you’re looking great,” Jazz complimented the bride to be.

“Thank you, we are very happy,” Liana said with a smile. “We met Miss Fujiwara the other day. Did you know that her fiancé works with mine?”

Jazz nodded.

“I’m aware of that, and so is Miss Fujiwara. It might have been a surprise for Goto, though.” After all he hadn’t read the reports.

“So, uhm, she said she… she wasn’t in charge of creating the profile of…” Liana began but Jazz interrupted her, still smiling.

“I’m sorry, but I won’t talk about that. Confidentiality, you understand. And I’m sure you wouldn’t like me talking with Ishigami-san about your date with Baba, would you? If you feel uncomfortable working with me now I can recommend you another good wedding planner, but I hope we can simply move on from that topic and create the perfect wedding for you and the man that loves you.”

Liana nodded slowly and then smiled. Her deep blue eyes sparkled and she leaned towards Jazz as if to tell her a secret.

“I can’t wait to try the custard pudding cake. If it’s any good I already know which one I’ll pick.”
Jazz smiled back and nodded.

“Well, then let’s start trying cakes.”

It was a bit weird to have Aki serve them cake, but Jazz got used to act as if she didn’t know her clients when she met them outside of work.

“Thank you,” she just said and smiled warmly when he sat down a plate with chocolate cake in front of them.

“You are very welcome,” Aki replied with his usual smile, making Jazz blink a few times.

“Oh, this is good. I love chocolate,” Liana exclaimed and took another bite of the layered chocolate cake with chocolate mousse filling and frosting.

Jazz took a forkful of cake and carefully ate it. It melted in her mouth and made her sigh in contentment.

“If I had to choose that would be my pick,” she admitted but knew that her opinion wasn’t important here. Still, it was a fantastic cake.

“It’s the first one, shouldn’t you at least try the others?” Aki asked, smile unwavering.

“Sometimes you know what you want the moment you see it, no other options needed,” Jazz replied airily, earning herself a chuckle.

But of course she still tried the other cakes.

“So, which one should it be?” she asked Liana after trying five different cakes.

“The lemon one was good, but not good enough. I liked the chocolate cake and actually the custard pudding one was really good. The rest was okay, but not what I want.”

Jazz jotted that down in her notebook, furrowed her brow briefly and motioned for Aki to come over.

“Say, would it be possible to combine two cakes? To have both the chocolate one and the pudding cake?”

Aki tilted his head for a moment.

“I have to ask our pastry chef, but I think it’s possible. We can send you an offer and then you can decide.”

Jazz nodded and thanked him, waited for Liana to finish her cake and got ready to leave. On a whim she ordered some cake to go and once she and her client parted ways she quickly called a number she knew by heart now.

“Yes?”

“Osanai? It’s Jazz Mann, I’m wondering if Mr. Aikawa already had lunch today.”

“Oh, Miss Mann. No, he hasn’t. He is very busy at the moment, too busy to even leave the office.”

Jazz made a decision.

“Do you think it’s possible for me to bring him lunch? So he won’t have to leave but still gets something to eat.”

“He is in a meeting right now but afterwards it should be possible. In half an hour maybe.”

She smiled. Jazz hated arguments, she preferred to actually have a harmonious relationship. So even if she thought herself to be in the right she still wanted to make up and act like an adult instead of sulking all day long.

“That would be perfect, but please don’t tell him about my visit. I want it to be a surprise.”

“Understood. I will announce you to the security, though, so you can come right up.”

“Thank you, Osanai. Till later then.”

With her smile even growing Jazz looked for the closest convenience store to get some kind of bento for Kunihiko. And something for Osanai.


Half an hour later she was standing in front of Kunihiko’s office, her heart pounding in a mixture of excitement and anxiety. She hoped that he had cooled off enough for them to talk about this like adults – and maybe even make up like adults. There was something about office sex that made her knees weak.

She waved towards Osanai and put a bento on his desk, raising her index finger to her lips to tell him not to give the surprise away by talking to her. After a quick knock against his office door she simply entered, figuring Osanai would have stopped her if Kunihiko was still in a meeting or on the phone.
He was neither, instead he stared at the computer screen, the crease between his brows deep and his whole expression dark. Maybe he was still upset about their fight but Jazz figured that there was more behind his bad mood lately. He must have been really busy.

“Lunch delivery,” she cheerfully announced just for him to stare at her as if she was a mirage.

“Jazz? Sorry, did we have an appointment?”

“I didn’t know that I need an appointment to see you now. Although that might explain why we haven’t had dinner once in the last two weeks,” she said, realizing that she still was rather miffed.

Okay, that start wasn’t the best but she could still make it.

“I brought you lunch. And cake,” she smiled and set both bags down on his desk. “I guess you haven’t eaten yet.”

Kunihiko sighed but turned away from his desk, ran his hands over his face and got up.

“You’re right. Lunch sounds good and I wanted to take a break anyway.”

His small smile relaxed Jazz, the tension didn’t vanish completely but at least decreased. Even more when he came closer and kissed her briefly.

“Thank you,” he muttered and for a moment everything was fine between them. They ate, sitting on a small couch, and talked a bit, not about their fight, though.

“What’s going on? You are working a lot lately,” Jazz wanted to know but he only flashed her a troubled smile.

“We are having some problems right now, some business partners are a bit – unreliable. But don’t worry, it will be fine.”

“If there’s anything I can do…” she offered but he shook his head.

“You can’t help me with that, but thanks.”

His tone indicated that the discussion was over but Jazz still was uneasy. Did he keep secrets from her? Well, she had to trust him, after all she always said that trust and honesty were the most important things in a relationship. So she changed the topic. Jazz put her bento down and turned a bit so she was pressed against his side.

“I might not be able to help with your work, but I certainly could do something else for you. Maybe take your mind off things?”

Her hand rested on his thigh and she could feel him tense under her touch.

“Is that really the only thing you can think of?” he curtly huffed and Jazz blinked but pulled her hand back.

“What? Now I‘m not even allowed to touch you anymore?”

“That’s not it. It’s just…” he sighed and scooted away from her a bit.

“Just what?” she asked. “Kunihiko, just what?”

“Not everything in life can be solved with sex, okay?” He scowled at her and for a moment she didn’t know what to say.

“Okay… first of all, I have NO IDEA what got your panties in a twist like that, but I’d say as long as it has nothing to do with me you better calm down before snapping at me like that. And secondly,” she had risen on her feet, the anger she had felt last night back in full force, “I’m not trying to solve anything. I thought you might enjoy a bit of attention, but obviously I was mistaken.”

“It’s not about ‘attention’ and you know that,” he growled.

“Then what is it about?” she challenged him to answer, but he kept silent.

“Is it still about jealousy? About the men I have been with before you?”

She forced herself to stay calm, to not yell at him. Osanai storming in wasn’t what she needed right now.

“No. But I have to admit that doesn’t help. I start wondering if there’s even one man-”

He stopped, obviously biting his tongue.

Jazz narrowed her eyes on him.

“One man what? One man I haven’t slept with?”

Her hands were trembling, she was so angry that she could barely keep her voice down. She knew it. She had  known that one day he would hold this against her. Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why did she ever think he would be really okay with this? With her?

“There is one. My ex-husband. But you already knew that. Aside from him? You better assume I slept with every man I ever met, that will save you some brooding,” she hissed and grabbed her purse and stormed out of the office, ignoring when he called her name.

She directly rushed into the lady’s room, hid in a stall and forced the tears down. Did they just break up? Was it over now? What the hell did just happen? Jazz was close to hyperventilating, she covered her mouth with her hands to prevent her sobs from escaping when she heard the restroom door and the chatter of two, maybe three female employees.

“Did you hear? Another project was cancelled.”

“Really? That’s the third one this week.”

“If that goes on like this they might fire some people.”

Definitely three different voices.

“I heard that Mr. Aikawa angered some influential bigshot somewhere.”

The first voice again.

“You mean that woman that came here the other day?”

Third voice.

“You don’t know her?”

Second voice again.

“No, do you?” the first one asked.

“Yes. She’s the mother of that CEO from that real estate company.”

Jazz’s heart stopped for a moment. That couldn’t be… Ai’s mother? Was it really Akane Kujuro? Wasn’t it enough for her to ruin Jazz’s life and take her apartment away? What did she want with Kunhiko? And why didn’t he tell her about that? Didn’t he trust her at all? Well, she would show him what she was able to do.


Not even 30 minutes later Jazz stormed into Ai’s apartment, knowing he was home.

“Jazz, what brings you here?” he asked innocently but Jazz was so angry that she didn’t even greet him, instead she rushed past him into the living room, opened a cabinet and grabbed a bottle of booze.

“You are a spineless coward, Ai Kujuro! Since when is your mother on this revenge trip?” She could hear Kou coming from the kitchen but she simply ignored him.

“What are you talking about?” Ai asked back.

“What I am talking about? I’m talking about your mother! I’m talking about the fact that you are suing me out of my apartment! That your company is responsible for several business deals falling through for Aikawa.com! I’m talking about your mother going all out because she’s still miffed about our divorce, something YOU were meant to tell her! Instead I had to, and in the worst possible way!”

She took a sip from the bottle and sputtered, the alcohol too strong for her to just gulp it down in her anger.

“Whoa, whoa, easy there. I am suing you?” Ai was standing in front of her now, brows furrowed.

“Not you, that damn company of yours! You didn’t know?”

He shook his head and briefly glanced over at Kou.

“No. I mean, I gave it to you in the first place.”

“Well,” Jazz said and put the bottle down, not attempting to take another sip, “maybe you should grow a pair and go to your mother to tell her that there is no need to punish me and everyone around me since divorcing me doesn’t hurt you at all. I mean, I know she doesn’t like me, but this is going too far.”

“Don’t you think you’re exaggerating?” Ai carefully asked just to get a very dirty look from Jazz.

“Oh please! She’s still angry that I didn’t want to quit my job to be a housewife and pop out two or three grandchildren!” she chuckled wryly. “Maybe I should tell her why I never got pregnant in the first place.”

Kou and Ai shared a look.

“Jazz… I’m sorry that this is happening to you but maybe you’re overreacting,” Ai slowly said.

“You think? Because I think I should be ripping your balls off, you won’t need them to make babies after all. And even that would be a pretty light punishment for the fact that you haven’t told your mother about our divorce like we said. If you would have just done that she wouldn’t have been so shocked when she ran into me and Kunihiko the other day and she wouldn’t have thought I was cheating on you. Pretty ironic, by the way.” Jazz was in full flow now. “I was fine with being your pretend wife as long as it was just about you and me, but now… shit, Ai, there are jobs at stake. I mean, forget the apartment, I can find something else, but this is really shitty. She’s punishing people who have nothing to do with the whole mess between you and me!”

“Ai,” Kou said urgently when he saw Jazz’s expression. “I think you owe her that much.”

It was strange, although  Kou wasn’t exactly a calm and shy person he rarely spoke up when Jazz was around, maybe he just didn’t like her, maybe he actually felt bad for putting her through the whole faked marriage while having an affair with her husband the whole time. Jazz didn’t know and didn’t care, she wasn’t that keen on spending time with them anyway. But now he took her side and she was grateful for it.

“I’m just not ready to tell her yet,” Ai sighed but Jazz glared at him.

“I’m sorry, Ai, I know it’s a very private thing, but I won’t allow her to destroy the company of Kunihiko just because she’s petty. If you don’t tell her I will. I have more than enough proof, she will believe me in the end. She has to.”

There was no way for Jazz to back down now. She would show Kunihiko that she was capable of cleaning up the mess that she created, although involuntarily and unintentional. But this was still on her somehow. Maybe if she had tried harder to get along with Ai’s mother. Maybe if she had be more careful after the divorce. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

And afterwards? Jazz sighed, it was already late and she was tired, emotionally drained now that the anger slowly subsided, only leaving the hurt behind. Did Kunihiko really call her a slut? Maybe not verbatim, but it was the gist of it, right?

“If you don’t tell her by tomorrow noon, I will. Sorry, I can’t let this slide any longer.”

Without giving Ai the chance to reply Jazz turned around and left.

Sleep. She just wanted to go to sleep now, maybe curl up in bed and cry a bit. But she didn’t have a bed. Back to Kunihiko’s apartment wasn’t an option, her own place was already cleared and she didn’t feel like explaining this whole mess to anyone. With a sigh Jazz headed towards a hotel she knew, glad that she had visited enough to know which one would be a good choice now.

After an unpleasant night, full of doubt and without much sleep Jazz trudged into her office, glad that she didn’t have early appointments. She was still waiting for a message from Ai and she really hoped that he would have the guts to face his mother and not cowardly let her deadline pass so Jazz would have to do this herself. Kunihiko hadn’t tried to contact her either and although it was some kind of relief, not having to deal with this on top of everything else, there was a sting she couldn’t deny. Was it really over now?

Well, she figured it had been only a matter of time until things went pear shaped, lucky in love wasn’t meant for her after all. She wouldn’t go back to do the reports, it just didn’t feel right anymore.

“Didn’t you wear that outfit yesterday?” Miho’s voice dragged her back to the present.

“Yeah, minus the wrinkles,” Jazz wryly answered.

Miho walked into the office and sat down in the chair in front of Jazz’s desk.

“What’s wrong?”

And Jazz told her.

And the more Jazz revealed, the darker Miho’s eyes seemed to get. There may or may not have been the crack of knuckles as she balled her fists so tightly all blood fled from beneath the skin.

“I wasn’t wrong about Aikawa,” she declared, her tone tight, taut – that calm before the storm type of restraint that warned destruction was imminent. “That stupid fucker loves you or he wouldn’t be so manic about our work – but that cow Kujuro? You know I was a ninja assassin in a past life right? I’ll take that bitch out, just say the word.”

Jazz laughed, the first genuine laughter since she had – well, since the dance off two days ago.

“It’s fine, Miho, I think I can get that sorted out. Somehow. Unfortunately not without outing Ai in the process and I really want to avoid that. It’s not on me to tell his mother but you bet I will without batting an eye if necessary.” She sighed and rested her head on the desk.

“Just waiting for high noon to draw my gun, though.”

“It’s fine?”

Miho shook her head and glared unmerciful death at victims not actually present.

“It’s not fine,” she snorted, and seemed to be looking for some other words that maybe shouldn’t be articulated, or published, anywhere, ever. “So, you’re bunking with me until this shit is sorted right?”

“Depends. What did you do on the couch? No, don’t tell me. I better not bring my blacklight, but yeah, if it’s okay with you I’d rather stay with you than going back to a hotel. It’s rather – it reminds me too much of all the occasions on which I frequented hotels.”

Jazz made a face and sighed again. She didn’t feel guilty, there was no shame, no handprints on her body and soul. Whatever she did so far happened with her consent and in most cases she enjoyed it, very much so. There was nothing she truly regretted and she wouldn’t start pretending it was otherwise. And still she felt responsible for the whole mess she was in now. If she hadn’t been so stupid to belief Kunihiko would be really fine with her experiences and number of lovers she wouldn’t be where she was right now.

“Remind me to start acting like a fuckin’ adult already, will you?”

“You’d have to keep track of those panties if you did that,” Miho chortled, but there was still murder in her gaze. “Heh, forget the couch, you can snuggle with me, I’mma kick Goto out for a while.”

Jazz knew her well enough to not expect her to sit on her hands – Miho was a meddler, through and through. Miho told herself that by virtue of Jazz telling her all this, it was permission, if not clear instruction, for her to butt in and say her piece – also Miho’s own honour had been challenged.

“I’m a bad influence am I?” she sniffed, hazel eyes glinting. “Ooooh Aikawa, you are so dead.”

“Can’t wait to get me into your bed again, can you? Poor Goto, you’re not even married yet and you are already making him sleep on the couch.” Jazz laughed lightly. “No, it’s okay. Couch is fine, but please, don’t make me listen to you going at it like bunnies.” She quickly checked her phone again. Still no sign from Ai. He only had two hours left before Jazz would take matters in her own hand. And she really wasn’t keen on that.

“Let me treat you to lunch as token of my gratitude, how about it?”

“Goto will live,” she smirked. “He doesn’t like glitter much so I’m informed. And you know he has his own apartment to sleep in right? It’ll be just you, me, and my wine cellar until this is done.”

She then shook her head.

“You know you don’t need to pay off your best friend to take care of your right?” she said, rolling her eyes. “But you know, boozy lunch works for me.”


Lunch was boozy.

But not so boozy that Miho wasn’t in full possession of her faculties… and her rage. She knew she couldn’t KILL Kuni, should she kind of wanted to – eh but that meant admitting she had been wrong about he and Jazz being perfect for one another.

Sure, her own pride was a liiiiiitle bit hurt, but on the other hand, being a bad influence could have been taken as a compliment – she should totally take that as a compliment. With this on her mind, and a vicious grin on her face, she slammed her palm against the door of Long Island, drawing all eyes to her instantly.

And she didn’t care, not one, little, bit.

In fact, it made her next utterance easier, because she didn’t have to call the patrons to attention, she already held it.

If it was possible to see rage radiated from someone – it was visible, wafting from her in shuddering waves of I will fucking shank you.

“I need to have a quiet word with Mr. Aikawa,” she said, loud enough to be heard by all, but with that palpable warning of imminent death for anyone who failed to follow. “So I would appreciate (see leave or die), if you could give us the room (see gtfo if you value your existence).”

Takao groaned lowly when he saw and heard Miho. He didn’t know her that well but he knew she had kind of a temper and Jazz had told him some stories that made him wonder if Miho would ever need his help as a lawyer in other issues than those concerning MJS.

Saeki raised his eyebrow in interest, he could never resist some drama and even less a woman who was so wonderfully capable of showing emotion. Angry sex was some of the best sex after all.

Yamato only grinned. “Hey Kuni, you’re in trouble, huh? What did you do to make her that mad?”

Kunihiko only shrugged and poured Miho a whiskey.

“Guys, you heard the lady. Maybe you should step out for a minute.” He knew there was no use in stalling, but he was a bit irritated that it was Miho and not Jazz who came to talk. Or to yell at him, at least that what it looked like right now.

Takao furrowed his brow. “Are you sure?”

Kunihiko hadn’t told anyone about his recent troubles yet, not those at work and nor those with Jazz. He simply nodded. Let them think whatever they wanted to think.

“But I wanted to watch this? Might give me some inspiration after all. Beautiful enraged woman storms into a bar and threatens the owner. I need to know how this will end.”

“You will know, but you don’t have to witness it. Get out for now,” Kunihiko said firmly, the stress of the past few days making him impatient.

Grumbling Saeki slid from his chair, followed by Yamato and a still concerned Takao.

Miho allowed the men to file past her before approaching the bar and sitting herself up on a stool.

She then dropped her credit card onto the bar top.

“Whiskey please,” she requested, trying to restrain herself, but lunch had been pretty boozy already.

Really, she was just asking out of a strange sense of courtesy.

“And, when you’re done pouring, you can skip the ‘this is none of my business’ part of the defence, because my bestfriend is breaking into a thousand pieces because you can’t let go of a past that has nothing to do with you, and bad influence on her or not, you can bet what manhood you pride yourself for having, I will protect, and defend her no matter what.”

That was as good an introduction as she could manage.

Kunihiko sighed and slid the glass over the counter.

“So she sends you here to do what? Threaten me?” He should have known that Jazz tells Miho. Hell, he had actually expected Miho to storm in much earlier.

“No,” she disagreed. “She didn’t send me, and I am not here to threaten you. This is an informative mission – I’m, R2D2 and this may be your only hope, because you are clearly missing some serious subtext that maybe you’ve not spent enough time with her to pick up on.”

Her eyes narrowed, looking beyond him and fixing upon a bottle of whiskey before her gaze slid back to him.

“Do you know, that I’ve never seen her happier, in all the time I’ve known the woman, than when you two finally hooked up?” she offered, her tone suddenly light, conversational. “All that crap with the moron husband just sort of lifted from her, and underneath it all was someone shiny and light. You did that, you know?”

Shiny and light. Happy. Yes, he knew what Miho was talking about, and he had fallen so hard for that bright smile, the way Jazz laughed, a bit dorky but with this sound that made his heart soar. And he really wanted her to be like that, always.

“That moron husband is one of the things bothering me actually,” he finally admitted. “That and every other man who ever – anyway. Some things are hard to explain and I don’t even expect her to understand me – or you.”

“You’ve got me all wrong, Aikawa,” Miho laughed, pointing at the bottle now seeing as he didn’t seem to be able to multi-task and hadn’t gotten her point. “I absolutely understand, because I wasn’t wrong about you two. I know you love her so much, the idea anyone ever touching her other than you, whether she loved them or not, boils your blood. You simply can’t stand the concept she was anyone else’s but yours.”

Okay, now her smile was a little creepy, until it seeped slowly toward cold again.

“Ai broke her so badly, made her so miserable, trapped her in a place where she thought not only would she never love again, but that love wasn’t for her, that she didn’t even deserve it,” she continued. “Do you have any idea the courage it took for her to admit to herself she loves you? Jesus Christ! You don’t marry someone you don’t love excluding all others and she did only to be betrayed so summarily she resigned herself to loneliness… forever… until you. And you’re worried about what? That she’ll cheat on you because our job entailed – past tense – sexually profiling people so we could find them happiness in their lives we hardly dared dream for ourselves?”

Kunihiko raised an eyebrow. Miho seemed ever agitated but not only because of Jazz. Well, there had to be story there but he now was too busy with his own problems. He grabbed the bottle of whiskey and refilled her glass.

“That woman came visiting me in my office the other day,” he suddenly said. “Showed me a list of names and dates. A long list. Some of the names I even knew. Told me that she had someone tailing Jazz because she had been sure that Jazz only wanted to marry for money. I nearly kicked her out when she said that.” A dry chuckle escaped his lips. Of course he knew that woman. She was from a very influential family after all.

“So the PI she had hired followed Jazz for over a year. Do you know how many names -?” He stopped and took a deep breath. “Aikawa.com has business relations to some of those names. And suddenly they dropped those relations. Projects we had been working on for months. A lot of money and a lot of time.”

He poured himself a glass. “I know it’s not her fault. But I can’t say it didn’t sting when I saw that. And suddenly more of my business partners called off projects. That’s just… I thought I could try to handle one thing first, and maybe afterwards have a long talk with her. About how many men she had really been with.” He knew he was pathetic, swearing his love to her and now? But he needed some time to think, not to feel for once.

“Of course I know how many names,” Miho nodded, a little more soberly now she had her whiskey. “You think mine would be any shorter?”

She let that sit for a second, the tilted her glass in Kuni’s direction.

“You know, you came to us too, right?” she pointed out. “Your name is on that list of however many men – men, I might add, who are now mostly happily married to women because of MJS and have nothing to do with us anymore?”

Rhetorical question of course.

“Still, she might tell you how many, but don’t you dare ask her that,” she said, and her eyes narrowed.

Eyes like Godzilla considering how much indigestion eating that cab might cause.

“You already called her a slut once, you know that right? Looked right at her and called her a filthy, dirty, whore who you couldn’t trust not to hump the leg of the next passing man despite any declarations she’s made to you. A… whore.”

His eyes widened. He did not do any of that sort! He would never!

“That is not what happened,” he stated firmly. Did Jazz say that? Think that? He knew that there were some things better left unsaid because once out in the open the words could never be taken back. So he usually stopped talking BEFORE he actually said something like that. “And I don’t like you talking like that about her.”

He could be cold, too. He could be angry to the brink of being destructive, but he didn’t want to. He chose not to be like that. And still…

“She was the one saying things like that and before I could even object she was already rushing out. Didn’t come home at all. She didn’t even tell me where she was.”

“That is how she thinks you see her,” Miho clarified firmly, utterly impervious to anything he might say about herself. “Whether you said it explicitly or not, my best friend, who loves you more than she values her own self esteem, believes that is how you view her – and because she loves you, that much, she will try to protect you by walking away if you let her.”

Miho scowled now, but this time it wasn’t angry. It had to be clear, if Kuni had any sense about him at all, that Miho’s love for her friend was what drove her, and in turn, she hurt also.

“Don’t let her do that,” she said, an imperative statement grammatically speaking, but her tone of voice actually made it sound more like a plea. “Because she might never pick herself up again… mhmm, and maybe, after you… she shouldn’t.”

Kunihiko thought of Jazz, of her smile, her warmth. How she made cookies when she was happy and how she wanted him to teach her Japanese cooking so she could do that for him. And then he thought about that list again. He knew that the woman who slept with all those men was the same he wanted in his life so badly, but he had troubles matching those images.

Did she really think he considered her a whore? Would actually asking her with how many men she had slept make it easier for him? Probably not. But wasn’t Jazz the one who always said honesty was the most important in a relationship?

What do to? What to feel, to say? Was there even a way to apologize?

“I won’t let her go,” he slowly said. “But I can’t just ignore what happened, can I?”

In a single gulp, Miho emptied her glass, snatched up her credit card and dumped a bunch of bills onto the bar instead, before hopping off the stool.

It seemed she was done with the roasting.

She waved over her shoulder as she headed for the door, but paused to look back at him – sober, completely sober.

“We may have enjoyed the sex, but never loved the men we had it with… until we stopped doing it for the ones we actually do. You, are the one among this many you’re so concerned about, the one she never knew until she did, and it stopped her in her tracks completely. If you can’t be happy with that?”

She inhaled, and then exhaled.

“Then shit, I guess I was really wrong about you after all.”

Then she turned out the door muttering, to herself, bitterly.

“I fuckin’ hate being wrong.”


After lunch Jazz anxiously stared at her phone. Shit, she would really have to go and talk to Akane. Great, another one convinced she was only a money grubbing whore. She took a deep breath and browsed through her contacts until she reached the entry ‘monster in law’. Her finger hovered over the call button and she nearly let her phone drop when it suddenly rang.

“Fuck it, Ai! You wanna give me a heart attack?” she yelled and took the call.. “You better say you’ve talked to your mother, you spineless jerk.”

“I love you, too, but now I’m too wiped out for pleasantries. And yes, I talked to her. Told her everything. She still wants to talk to you, though, so you better get your little ass over here.”

Jazz groaned inwardly. And outwardly.

“You know I’m not exactly keen on seeing her,” she sniffed and Ai laughed.

“So am I, but cling together, swing together,” he chuckled.

“Oh please, swinging with you is out of question,” she shot back.

“I know, I know. But don’t worry, I think she’s feeling bad for what she did,” Ai said nonchalantly.

“You think?” Jazz asked, clearly not convinced.

“Okay, let me rephrase this: She won’t take no for an answer and if you want to get over with this, you better come here. I’m here, too, and so is Kou. Although mother isn’t amused about it.” He chuckled wryly and Jazz sighed. Better get this done now before it took even longer to resolve this mess. God, she should have stayed in Europe after all.

Gathering the last shreds of strength Jazz agreed and left the office.

There was no solace in the fact that Akane seemed beyond pissed whenever she looked at Kou and Ai because she looked at Jazz with the same disgust. But Jazz wouldn’t back down now.

“Hello, Kujuro-san.”

“So you lied to me. All the time you lied to me.” Akane didn’t even take a second to greet Jazz but she hadn’t expected anything else.

“No, I didn’t. When Ai introduced me I didn’t know either. And believe me, it might be a shock that your son loves another man, but it’s even more shocking to find out that your husband does.” Jazz had enough. She was a victim of this lie after all, not the one who came up with it.

“Ladies, please calm down. We are all hurt here,” Ai started only to earn a glare from both his mother and ex wife.

“I think you are the only one here who shouldn’t talk right now. Kou, your mother and I, we are the ones who had to endure this after all.”

Ai raised his hands in mock surrender but Jazz ignored it.

“I know you don’t like me, Kujuro-san, and I actually don’t care. But when I said ‘I do’ I really meant it, although I was the only one back then. I told Ai over and over again to be honest with you. You are his mother, you deserve that much.”

Akane acknowledged Jazz words with a  brief nod, but her stern expression didn’t waver.

“And I don’t care if you want the apartment back, although I hope we can get that resolved without our lawyers.” Jazz wouldn’t need it any longer when she went back to Europe. And that she couldn’t stay in Tokyo any longer was crystal clear.

“What I can’t accept though is the fact that you use your connections to ruin a company for the mere reason of its owner being an associate of mine.” Her voice didn’t show any trace of compliance, she wouldn’t budge on this.

“He’s hardly only an ‘associate’,” Akane said with a scowl.

“He is what I say that he is, nothing else. I don’t care how much you despise me, but even you should know that ruining the lives of all those working there won’t change the fact that your SON lied to you, not me. So you better undo whatever you did or I swear I’m going to make it public. I wonder how YOUR company will take such a blow.” Jazz was bluffing, of course she was, but her pokerface was flawless.

“So you came here to threaten me?!” Akane was already half out of her seat when Jazz got up.

“I came here because you SUMMONED me here, if I wanted or not. And only because you don’t like what I have to say doesn’t make it a threat. I know some people at Shiki Publishing and I’m sure it will be easy to spread some pictures and maybe even emails showing that the CEO of Kujuro enterprises cheated on his lovely wife with his best friend. His best MALE friend.” She didn’t dare looking at Ai and Kou, feeling sorry for having to actually say this. “And THAT isn’t an empty threat either.” With her head held high Jazz stalked out of the room only to slump against a wall in the hallway. She needed a few deep breaths to calm down again but heard footsteps rushing towards her. It was Kou.

“Don’t worry, it’s okay.” He flashed her a sad smile. Poor Kou. At first he had to watch the man he loved marrying a woman and now said woman threatened to drag their relationship out into public.

“No, it’s not okay,” Jazz whispered. “I’m sorry, Kou, I really am. But I can’t let her do that. I just can’t.”

“I know. Don’t worry, we work that out. Ai said he would step down as CEO if she doesn’t relent.I don’t think she can risk that.”

Jazz nodded slowly. “I hope you can get over this crap,” she said and smiled back at him. “At least one of us should be happy in the end, right?”


That night Jazz slept poorly, in Miho’s bed that smelled like fresh sheets and someone else. All she could think about was that this wasn’t the place where she should be, where she wanted to be. And although she was grateful for Miho and her somewhat fierce friendship she couldn’t help but poke at the still fresh wound in her heart, wondering if Kunihiko even cared what Jazz did, where she was now. Or if he was glad that she was finally gone.