MJS Out of office drama : Jazz x Kunihiko

Hideki Ishigami. He was the scourge of her existence right now. It had been hard enough to actually make a profile for him and now Jazz was stuck, trying to find a potential match for the secretive, scary-looking detective. She sighed, having dismissed almost every profile she had checked so far. Sarah Jane? Autumn? Ayame? They were all lovely, but just not completely fitting.

Jazz stared at her computer screen, trying to work. It had been a week since she ran into Miho and Goto in the hotel after cancelling the contract with Yu. She still could see Miho’s face, the wide eyes, how she had paled a bit, but not because Jazz had caught her in the act or better, on the way to it. No, she had been completely focused on the man in front of her, hadn’t even noticed Jazz standing in the crowd. She had had only eyes for Goto. And when Miho went out with Jazz and Selina for drinks to celebrate her very sudden engagement she had been beaming the whole time. Very annoying.

But after all the shit Miho had given her Jazz suddenly understood why she had done it. They were both in the same position, with just one difference: Jazz had admitted her problem, at least in parts. Miho had tried to keep it a secret. And yet it had worked out for her but not for Jazz. So much for asking for help.

Jazz sighed and rubbed her temples. Thinking wasn’t easy when her mind and heart were fighting each other constantly. But she had made a decision and now she would have to go through with it. Back to work. This wasn’t exactly an easy case, but then again, which was? There were always things to keep in mind but so far Jazz and showed a real talent to match up the right clients to create happy couples.

Her gaze wandered to the postcard on her desk, showing the palace of Oriens. She knew the writing on it by heart, having read it countless time ever since it had arrived two days ago.

Thank you for your advice, it was the push I needed. I told her and she said she loved me, too. I am eternally grateful, without you I wouldn’t have found the courage. Sincerely, Yu Kujo

She was happy for him, it must have been hard to confess his feelings, but in the end his courage got rewarded. He deserved it.

Jazz glanced around her office before she opened another client profile on her screen. With a sigh she stared at the picture; those violet eyes and the dark curls. She had really messed that up. She chided herself for being weak like that, for not being able to let this go already. With a quick click that file was closed again and Jazz opened a female client profile.

For Ishigami it had to be someone smart, who could actually understand not only his thoughts but also his dedication for his job. Wasn’t there this one client? Smart, athletic, a bit of a sharp tongue? Jazz opened the profile. Hm… at the first glance she wouldn’t really think that worked, but somehow she had a good feeling with it.

Liana. She browsed through the notes and the answers to some of their psychological questions. Impatient when it came to foolery – Jazz remembered Ishigami complaining about the easy-going attitude of some coworkers – but not as tight-lipped as the detective she could be the right candidate. She was pretty and polite. Perfect.

Yes, she would send him that profile and maybe two others.

Jazz was just printing out Liana’s profile when her phone rang. Ai.

“Jazz, darling, I just thought that it would be only right to drag you out of your office and into a nice little bar tonight. Our divorce is finally through so let’s have a drink on that.”

Jazz rolled her eyes.

“Ai, I still have so much work to do, I can’t just-“ she tried to reason with him but if their marriage had taught her one thing then that Ai wasn’t exactly reasonable.

“Oh, come on! You can’t bury your cute little ass in work all the time. Kou wants to go out and you are coming with us. I’m paying.”

Kou. Oh god, Kou and Ai together were just unbearable. All sickly sweet couple blah. No, thanks.

“Ai, I’m happy for you and Kou, really, especially since he’s now the one to endure your moods, but honestly I don’t have time.” She browsed through another profile.

“If you don’t come I tell cousin Sato that you are available again. You remember him?”

That got her attention. During their wedding said cousin had made some very crude remarks about what he would have done if he had found Jazz first.

“You wouldn’t!” she practically yelled into the phone, her voice echoing in the otherwise empty office.

“You know I would. And you know you need to get out of your office every now and then. So turn off your computer, change into the emergency dress I know you’re having there and meet me and Kou in two hours. I’ll send you the address.” She could practically see his smug grin, the way his self-satisfaction made his features just a bit softer. Jerk!

“There’s better a cocktail waiting for me when I arrive,” Jazz grudgingly accepted and wondered – not for the first time – how she could have ever thought that Ai was straight. That guy deserved a fucking Oscar already. Deep down inside she enjoyed the bickering and the bitching, he was the only one who did that with her and the only one she could take her own moods out on like that. It was almost therapeutic after their sugar coated storybook marriage – even if that was only faked.

Two hours. She still had time to wrap things up here. She knew she couldn’t leave without tying up the loose ends, didn’t want to leave behind more work for Miho and Selina. With renewed energy she started searching for two other bridal candidates for Hideki Ishigami.

In her emergency dress – a burgundy red shift dress – she walked into the bar/restaurant where she was supposed to meet Ai. She was a bit early after coming by cab, something she usually wouldn’t do, but running to the train in heels wasn’t also something she usually wouldn’t do. Tripping and spraining her ankle was definitely not on her agenda that day.

When she came into the bar and looked around she couldn’t find Ai and Kou so she asked at the reception.

“Mr. Kujuro said he would arrive a bit later. Can I show you to your table already?” the polite receptionist offered and Jazz nodded. Hopefully there would be alcohol.

After a good sip of her cocktail – fruity, fresh, with a hint of rum and amaretto – she relaxed a bit. This might be a good opportunity to clear up some last issues concerning the divorce, although she already suspected that Ai and Kou would only flirt all evening and Jazz would simply get wasted. She just checked her phone for a message from Ai when the receptionist led another person towards her table – but it was neither Jazz’s ex-husband nor his new lover. It was still a familiar face and Jazz only hoped that the shock and confusion she felt didn’t show on her face.

“Mr. Aikawa… I didn’t expect to see you here.”

He seemed just as surprised as she was. “Miss Mann? Is there a problem with – with my date?”

Jazz got up, the receptionist smiled at them.

“I am sorry, but why did you bring him to my table?” This must have been some kind of mistake, right?

“Mr. Kujuro called and said that Mr. Aikawa would take his place. Is there a problem?”  The receptionist was smiling politely, without a care in the world. Didn’t she know what she was doing to Jazz? Now of all times?

Jazz was confused and so was Kunihiko, and this was the moment to make a decision.

“No, thank you. Will Mr. Kujuro come and join us or did he say anything else?” Jazz was suspicious now. Ai just loved to play with her.

“Oh, he wants you to know that he is sorry but he won’t be able to join you tonight. But he wants you to enjoy your time here and will gladly take care of the bill.” With a smile and a nod she left the table again. Jazz and Kunihiko stood in front of each other, unsure what to say and do. When she smiled weakly and moved to sit down again he quickly rushed forwards to help her with the chair. A gentleman, huh?

The awkward silence loomed over them, even after they sat down and the waiter brought a bottle of champagne.

“So, what did you say earlier? About a date?” She tried to keep her voice even, the smile in place.

“Oh, Miss Fujiwara had told me that I would meet a marriage candidate here.” Kunihiko rubbed the back of his neck, right under his ponytail. It was a very sweet gesture, especially since he blushed a bit. He was embarrassed.

“Did she now? Would you excuse me for a second, I have to make a quick call.” She raised a finger briefly to indicate it wouldn’t take long.

Voicemail. Of course. Coward.

“Ai,” she purred in a sweet voice, “I’m sitting here, waiting for you and Kou to show up. I guess I have to order something to help me pass the time. Lobster maybe. Or steak. Or both. Yeah, both sounds good.”

Her tone got harsher now. “And a nice old wine to help me wash that down. So if you talk to Miho, please tell her that I will keep that purse she lent me the other day. And she better apologizes to Mr. Aikawa. He wasn’t pleased that she put him into an awkward situation like this a second time. He left as soon as he saw me and honestly, if it wasn’t for the champagne I would be gone by now, too. So, I hope your hair falls out – more than it did already.” She ended the call and sighed.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Aikawa. I know this is strange and awkward and unpleasant, but it looks as if we got set up.” Now she sounded seriously upset.

He smiled wryly. “’Mr. Aikawa’, huh? What happened to ‘Kunihiko’?” His violet eyes searched her face.

“I thought – I thought you wouldn’t want that anymore. After the last time we met.” She was still a bit ashamed of what she had said, what she had done. She had left him in the dark. Completely enthralled in that crush she had on him she had tried to show him only her good sides. As if she had something like that.

“I would be lying if I said it was nothing. I was – shocked, but I figured you had your reasons. I would have loved to hear them, though.” Again that wry smile.

“Yeah… me, too…” Jazz muttered and grabbed her glass to down the champagne in one go. Kunihiko raised an eyebrow but Jazz simply reached over the table, took his glass and drank that, too. After that she felt a bit better.

“Sorry. I think I really owe you an explanation… it’s just – god, it’s so damn embarrassing.” The clatter of cutlery on plates and clinking of glasses filled the silence that loomed between them.

“I can’t do that on an empty stomach. How about we order something and just talk? You can ask me whatever you want to know – after I get some starters. I’m a bit moody when I’m hungry. Or tired. And right now I’m both so we better order soon.”

She refilled her glass, ignored his slight frown – yes, in Japan it was custom to pour each other’s drinks but Jazz needed more alcohol to get through this dinner and she needed it now – and motioned for a waiter to come over. She quickly ordered a few starters, told Kunihiko to get whatever he wanted and asked the waiter to come back for their main course order in a few minutes.

“I feel bad, having dinner here with you when your husband is paying.” It was meant as a joke, but she could hear the edge in his voice.

“Ex.” She took another sip, his questioning gaze prompted her to quickly swallow the bubbly liquid.

“My EX husband. The divorce is valid since Tuesday,” she explained.

Kunihiko smiled and took his glass – still empty, but Jazz quickly poured him some champagne – and raised it. “Well, that’s something we should drink to.”

They clinked glasses but this time Jazz only sipped a bit, she better slowed down for now. Kunihiko put his glass down, too, almost untouched.

Jazz sighed in relief when the waiter came and put a basket with bread down. Better than nothing.

“I’m so sorry, but I haven’t eaten all day, I have been busy like crazy. Do you mind…?” She motioned towards the bread and he smiled and pushed the basket a bit into her direction.

“Don’t worry, go ahead.”

Gratefully Jazz grabbed a piece of bread and spread some butter on it, took a bite and sighed again. Much better already. When the starters came she had finished that piece of bread and could focus on the food in front of her. It was a wild spread, a colorful selection of the menu.

After a few more bites Jazz relaxed a bit and when the waiter came to get their order for the main course she was already smiling. Once he was gone again Kunihiko cleared his throat lightly.

“So, are you in the shape to answer some of my questions now?”

Jazz put her cutlery down and took another sip of champagne. She nodded. Actually she was a bit nervous, not sure where this was heading now. At least he hadn’t really turned on his heel when he saw her how she made Ai – and indirectly also Miho – believe. But he had come to meet with a potential bride after all. The whole scenario was weird.

“I’m just wondering why you are so interested in me.” She couldn’t believe that he still wanted to talk to her, by now every sex induced illusion of affection should have died down.

“You know so much about me but I hardly know anything about you,” he simply answered.

“You didn’t even know I was married, so yes, you don’t know me at all.” It was hard and cruel, but true. Everything he thought to know was just the image she had showed him. Well, maybe not everything. Her cheerful and flirty personality had been real.

“Hence the questions. You are not married anymore, right?” He had also put his cutlery down and watched her intently.

“No, not anymore,” Jazz confirmed.

“And are you in any other relationship? Engaged? In love?”

Wow. Right to the point. She hesitated. “I’m not in a relationship now.” It was a cautious answer, not giving away too much just yet.

“Actually I haven’t been in a real relationship for some time now. Ai was – it was never real. It’s complicated.” Maybe it would be less complicated with some more champagne? She nervously sipped again.

“Do you still love him?”

Jazz nearly choked on her champagne and decided to stop drinking for now. “I – I will always feel something for him, but it’s not love. I just needed some time to realize that. We are – like siblings now. Yes, I think that describes it perfectly. We bicker and bitch, but we will always be there for each other.”

The gaze he watched her with was intense and searching. He wasn’t sure if he should believe her and she wasn’t sure how much she should tell him. Jazz sighed and started to explain in more detail.

“I had studied Japanese and worked for a company back home and they had sent me here after some time. I only was meant to stay for a year, but you know how life can be. A few weeks before I wanted to go back I met Ai and – well, he was funny and sweet and I had to confirm my mother’s conviction that I had no clue how to pick a man. So when I caught him in the act with his lover we had a long and constructive talk – after the ugly crying and throwing things of course – and somehow managed to find an agreement.” She sipped at her glass again.

“He cheated on you?” Kunihiko’s eyes went wide.

“Not exactly. He and his lover had been in a relationship even BEFORE I met him, so technically he cheated on Kou with me.” His confused expression made her shrug. “I know, I needed a moment to get that concept, too. But it’s the truth. Kou had been there first and I was the ‘other woman’. Or in our case, the only woman. And believe me, that was a position I never imagined myself in.” Her dry chuckle stuck in her throat when she realized what she had just said.

“The only woman? Wait, what does that mean?” With furrowed brow he waited for an answer.

Jazz closed her eyes briefly. Stupid champagne, stupid tipsiness, stupid, stupid crush.

“Uhm… Kou is a man. And so is Ai. They are obviously gay. Well, not obviously enough because I only realized when I came home one day and found my husband deep throating his supposedly best friend. I mean, I like my friends, too, but not THAT much.” She made a ‘what can I say?’ gesture, grabbed her glass again and braced herself for the inevitable laughter and teasing that would follow.

“You were married with a gay man and had no idea?”

She was sure that he was only holding back his laughter for now. “Yes, I know, I must have been pretty desperate,” she wryly answered. Nothing she hadn’t heard before after all.

“I would say you must have been pretty shocked when you found out. Weren’t there any signs?”

Wow. He was actually not reacting like a jerk. Jazz was impressed.

“To be honest, in retrospective there actually were some signs, but I had always troubles understanding Japanese men.” She rolled her eyes and still wondered herself how she could have NOT seen that.

“I mean, until then I had only met two kinds of Japanese men. Those who offered me money or material compensation for sex and those who wouldn’t even shake my hand after meeting me for several times. So I figured Ai was only shy when he said he wanted to wait until we were married, but at least he hadn’t tried to make me his secret affair after seeing me for the first time.”

It was so ridiculous but unfortunately it was the truth. Jazz had believed him, she had no reason to doubt Ai after all. He had been funny and considerate, they had kissed, even if it had lacked some passion. She had thought he was holding back, not that he had to bring himself to kiss her. So she had waited patiently until they were married and when he instantly fell asleep in their wedding night she figured he was only tired. When he still didn’t try anything in the next night she was sure he only didn’t want to rush her. There was an excuse for every night they hadn’t slept with each other and at some point she had guessed something, but she had never had an idea of the extent of the truth. The worst thing about it was that she actually had been in love with him. Maybe it wasn’t the one, deep and true love, but Jazz had loved him nonetheless and the betrayal did hurt.

Kunihiko nodded slowly. “Love is blind after all. You didn’t want to see it so it was easy for him to deceive you. But that doesn’t change the fact that he knew what he was doing to you. And you still consider him a friend?”

Jazz shrugged and took a deep breath. “In the end he still treated me better than most men before. And isn’t that sad?” More champagne kept the sadness in check.

“What do you mean?” Now Kunihiko was curious and Jazz was so tipsy already that she didn’t care anymore. She would have told him everything if the waiter wouldn’t have come and served their dinner. Jazz immediately tucked in. That gave her an excuse to gather her thoughts for now. How much should she tell him? Should she really take the risk?

Halfway through her incredibly delicious salmon she came to a decision. There was nothing to lose after all, not at this point anymore. She could as well be honest with him.

“I have the unbelievable ability to fall for the worst men. One of my former boyfriends stole money from me. Almost everything I had. Another one became my stalker after I broke up with him. One of the reasons for me to come to Japan after all.” She shrugged and drank some more. Her head started to feel fuzzy and her mouth just kept talking.

“So I always pick out the wrong guys and then I met you and you were so dark, tall and handsome, exactly my type, and funny and relaxed – and the sex, oh my god! That was so incredibly good! – I mean, there has to be something wrong with you, right? That’s just my luck. You know, finding the perfect guy and then it turns out he’s a marriage imposter or my secret stalker or actually gay.” She laughed wryly and drank more champagne, something Kunihiko watched with growing worries.

“The point is,” she was already slurring her words a bit, “I like you, so there has to be a catch. lt’s like a rule.” She nodded once as if to reaffirm her conclusion.

“You like me?” He couldn’t hide his smile and Jazz’s laughter bubbled out of her.

“That’s all you take from my rushed confession?” Well, it might be the most important part so it was fine.

“What else should I take from it? That’s all I need to know.” He reached over the table and took her hand but Jazz pulled her hand back.

“You – you know what my job includes. Maybe not you are the one with the catch, it’s probably me. I know how many sexual partners you had in your life and let me tell you, I had a lot more. Doesn’t that bother you? Tell me you won’t get suspicious or jealous when a stranger greets me, when other men you don’t know talk to me. We might run into former clients and you wouldn’t even know because as you know there’s the confidential agreement.”

That had been on her mind for so long already, she couldn’t just expect him to be fine with that. Men had called her a whore for knowing even less about her past. (It was interesting that she got called ‘slut or ‘whore’ more often by men she rejected than anyone else, especially if they had invited her for a drink or even dinner and she had turned them down afterwards. Weird.)

“Are you ashamed of that part of your life?” he asked, not judging, just curious.

“No.” Her answer was short but firm. There wasn’t anything she was ashamed of after all. She regretted some things, but who didn’t? And not when it came to her job. Everything had always been consensual and actually more pleasant than some of her encounters before.

“Then I don’t care. Everything you did before doesn’t matter. You can’t change the past.” He furrowed his brow. “Did you ever cheat in a relationship?”

The sudden change of topic confused her, the alcohol making her thoughts slow. “No. I actually am completely faithful when I am in a relationship. Except in my marriage with Ai at the end, when I already knew the truth. But I wouldn’t want to hurt my partner like that. I’m not a liar and I’m not a cheater.”

She ran her hands through her hair, her fingers getting caught in it so she had to pull a bit. There was a brief ache in her earlobe but she didn’t care much.

“So you say you would never cheat? Under no circumstances?” This seemed to be an important point for him but it also was for her. Honesty and faithfulness were the basis of a relationship for Jazz.

So she shook her head. “If – and that’s highly unlikely – if I should ever have the sudden urge to have sex with someone else while being in a relationship I would at least have the decency to call him and break up. I mean, that’s what phones are for, right?” She beamed at him, her logic impeccable in her drunken mind.

“That’s a joke, right?” He seemed taken aback until Jazz laughed.

“Of course it is! At least the part with the phone. You should see your face!” She giggled. “No, honestly, I’ve never felt the urge to cheat. Never.”

Kunihiko leaned back in his chair. “Then there’s no reason to get jealous. Even if you had sex with someone else before, as long as you are faithful in your relationship it’s fine.”

Now that made her laugh. “Ahhh… I wish my stalker ex could hear that,” she said, wiping an imaginary tear away.

With a raised eyebrow Kunihiko asked: “That bad?”

“Even worse. But its fine now, there’s half of the world lying between us now. I’m fine.” She continued to eat, feeling better now that she had told him the most important things. Now he could decide if it was worth it to take the risk. If she was worth it.

“You are more than fine,” he dryly answered, making her stop everything for a moment before she laughed again.

“Mr. Aikawa, are you flirting with me?” Teasingly she raised her glass again, drank the remaining champagne while watching him over the rim the whole time.

“Damn right, I am.” His hand covered hers again and this time she just let him. “And I told you to call me Kunihiko.”

“Kunihiiikoooo~” Jazz cooed with a huge grin, more than obviously tipsy by now.

“I think it’s time for you to go to bed.” He didn’t know if he should laugh or scoff at her. Getting drunk like that.

“Exactly what I was plannin’ to do…” she answered with a wink. “You gonna take me home?” Batting her eyelashes and biting her bottom lip she watching him blush lightly.

“I can at least give you a ride. You can’t take the train like this.” He sighed and motioned for the waiter just to remember that the bill was already taken care of.

“Come on, let’s get you home.” He got up from his chair only to notice her earring on the floor, so he bent down to pick it up and handed it over to her.

Jazz cheered loudly, drawing the attention of other guests towards their table.

“Yes! Yes, a thousand times yes!”

Guests started clapping, assuming he had just proposed to her. His confused expression made Jazz giggle, she grabbed his hand and pulled him close just to seal their “engagement” with a kiss.

Under the applause of the guests Kunihiko finally managed to get Jazz on her feet and out of the bar.

“You are really a handful,” he chuckled on their way to his car. Jazz grabbed his arm and snuggled close.

“I know. But you wanted to know more about me… are you regretting it already? Are you fed with me?” She looked at him with that adorable little pout, while she in fact was afraid of his answer.

Kunihiko laughed and pulled her closer, his arm around her shoulder.

“No, definitely not. Although I have the feeling that my life will be much less boring now.”

He opened the passenger’s door and helped her into the car before he got in and started the engine.

“Now, where to?” He looked at Jazz expectantly and she giggled.

“Is this a trick to find out where I’m living? You know that I never take clients home?”

His eyes narrowed just a bit.

“I would like you to stop thinking of me as a client.”

Jazz hesitated. She really wanted to ask but what if he said something she didn’t want to hear? The champagne won over her insecurity.

“What would you want me to think of you instead?”

Kunihiko glanced over at her, the light of the street lamps washing over them in the moving car.

“Miss Fujiwara told me that you want to change careers,” he casually said and suddenly Jazz understood why Kunihiko was so relaxed about her job. He knew she wasn’t doing the date simulations anymore.

“Miho is an old chatterbox,” she stated and grinned, for the first time not even annoyed by Miho’s meddling. There was still a lot they had to talk about but right now she was too tipsy, too excited to do that. She reached over and took his hand, happy when he squeezed back.

“Next time I would like to take you out on a real date,” he suddenly said and Jazz’s heart jumped in her chest.

“I think I would like that.” They spent the rest of the way in comfortable silence.

When they arrived at her place Kunihiko helped Jazz out of the car and she stumbled only a little bit, fumbling with her key, giggling until he took the key from her and opened her door. Definitely too much champagne.

“Coming in?” She motioned towards her hallway when he stayed outside, still hesitating.

“I really shouldn’t. You are drunk and better go to bed now.”

“Hmmm…” Jazz swayed just a little bit in her heels, placed a hand on his chest – god, how she had missed touching him – and looked up at him, the perfect mixture of innocence and temptation. “Maybe you should make sure I get to bed safely. You know that most accidents happen at home…”

He huffed a dry chuckle. “You’re not making this easy for me, you know that, right?”

Jazz leaned up a bit, leaving only a tiny gap between their lips.

“I want to make it as hard as possible – for you.” She pulled back a bit and smiled. “Come on, one coffee. And I mean the beverage, not the euphe-, euphi-“ She frowned a bit, this word just didn’t want to come out right. “-… the code for sex.”

“I think coffee is a good idea for you,” Kunihiko agreed but still didn’t move. Jazz let her hand drop until she could take his and pulled him inside.

“Gimme a second, I know I got coffee somewhere,” she said and let go of him once they reached the living room. “Take a seat, I’ll be right back.” With uncertain steps she made it into the kitchen, kicking her heels off on the way.

Kunihiko looked around her living room. It was spacious but somehow empty. Very clean and neat.

“Sugar or milk?” Jazz yelled from the kitchen, just interrupting the song the she hummed lowly to hear his response.

“Black is fine.”

“Gotcha!” Rummaging for two matching cups she accidentally knocked a can with tea over, spilling the loose tealeaves on the counter.

“Is everything okay?” The worried voice of Kunihiko made her laugh.

“I’m fine, don’t worry. Nothing serious!” She could hear his footsteps until he suddenly was behind her.

“I think it’s better if I carry the coffee into the living room.” His voice, low and with a hint of mirth, washed over her and she closed her eyes and grabbed the edge of the kitchen counter to steady herself. He shouldn’t be able to shake her like this, to make her want him like this. She should be stronger, resisting. But she wasn’t.


“Yes?” His hands found her waist.

“Dance with me.”

He chuckled. “There’s no music,” he pointed out, but it wasn’t a ‘no’.

“Easily fixed.” Jazz turned around and found herself trapped between Kunihiko and the counter. Her breath hitched in her throat for a moment and she had to look away or else she wouldn’t have been able to resist. Her fingers itched to feel his skin but even in her drunken state she wanted to respect his limits. She’d rather bend them than break them.

“Come with me,” she breathed and slowly walked him to the living room, his hands remaining on her waist the whole time. She grabbed the remote and turned the music one, quickly selecting the title. Nina Simone, ‘Feeling good’.

Kunihiko raised an eyebrow and titled his head slightly.

“You’re into jazz?”

“Sure. So could you…” She wrapped her arms around his neck, pressed herself against him, made him feel the warmth and the softness of her body. His only answer was a low growl, deep in his throat, a rumbling in his chest she could feel even through the layers of clothes that still separated them.

They moved slowly, swaying to the music, Jazz on her tiptoes, her temple resting against his shoulder. One of his hands slid down to the curve of her ass, the other arm wrapped around her back, pressing their bodies even closer together. She felt like in a dream, everything so unreal, floating, a haziness that had nothing to do with the bottle of champagne that she had almost emptied on her own. Yes, she was tipsy, but she was even drunker on this feeling, the excitement, the closeness. She wanted more.

So when she slowly tilted her head a bit, lips grazing his jaw, she held her breath, unsure how he would react. Would he stay strong and controlled, make sure they didn’t do anything stupid? Or would he give in, kiss her, touch her, throw caution to the wind and spent this night with her? Just like she wanted? Just like he wanted, too, judging from the growing hardness against her belly?

Kunihiko took a sharp breath, feeling her lips against his skin, and his self control wavered. Jazz could feel his jaws tensing and she sighed against him, half disappointed and half hoping.

“We-“ he began but she interrupted him.

“I know…”


“I know.” Pulling her head back slightly she tried to look at him, offering a small smile. It was okay.

No, it wasn’t. Not for him apparently. With an almost desperate sigh he pressed his lips on hers, making her moan lightly. Jazz clung to him, pressed her body impossibly closer to him. She wanted to feel him, taste him, undress him, taste even more of him, kiss him – everything at once and especially now.

He didn’t protest when her hands slid up and into his hair, pulling the tie out and messing up the curls. He didn’t protest when she started pushing his jacket off his shoulders. And she didn’t protest when he slid his hands down her thighs, prompting her to jump so he could carry her into the bedroom.

With her legs wrapped around him and her lips peppering his neck with kisses she distracted him but they managed to reach the bed without incidents. When he set her down Jazz swayed a bit, had to cling to him for support.

“You okay?” His voice was hoarse, low and incredible sexy.

“Perfect,” she reassured him with a dazzling smile before she pulled him close again, one hand against his chest and one using his tie to reel him in. More kisses, with growing hunger and urgency, while he slowly opened the zipper of her dress, eliciting moans and giggles from her. Jazz already had undone his tie and was clumsily working on the buttons of his shirt.

“This is… are you sure… this is a good idea?” Although still hesitating Kunihiko pulled her dress up and off her.

“This is… a fantastic idea…” Jazz confirmed, stripping him finally off his shirt before she plopped down on the bed, scooted into the middle and reached a hand out towards him. “Best idea I ever had.”

Kunihiko crawled on the bed, right into her arms, covered her with his body, hips flush with hers. Jazz pulled him in for another heated kiss, wrapped her legs around his waist so she could feel his hardness through his pants and her panties. She rolled her hips against him, urging him on to grind against her. Kunihiko moaned against her lips, making her giggle, a sound that turned into a moan of her own when he cupped one of her breasts and squeezed lightly. She could feel her nipples harden and strain against the fabric of her bra.

His kiss was dizzying, her head spun and she needed to breathe. She pushed lightly against his chest.


He hummed against her skin, his lips already traveling down her neck.

“Kunihiko!” There was more urgency in her voice now and he looked up. “I’m… dizzy…” she groaned. It wasn’t the nice kind of dizzy, the butterflies in the belly kind of dizzy, the dizziness that came from happiness and arousal. No. This was the champagne.

“Do you need a glass of water?” He was panting, his hair disheveled, his lips swollen from the kisses. He was incredibly sexy.

“That would… that would be great…” Jazz closed her eyes, screwed them up as tightly as she could, hoping to get the world to stop spinning. She could feel him leave, his weight lifting off her, his warmth fading, the dipping of the mattress. Jazz took some deep breaths and cursed herself for drinking at all.

Kunihiko came back not even a minute later, a bottle of water and a glass in his hands. When he noticed that she had fallen asleep he sighed and took of his pants, adjusted himself in his boxers and covered Jazz with a blanket before he joined her on the bed again, holding her close.

The next morning came much too soon and with too bright light. Jazz groaned and tried to bury her face in the pillow when she noticed that she wasn’t alone. A careful peek showed her a still sleeping Kunihiko.

Oh. She quickly checked her state of undress – still in bra and panties. Okay, that wasn’t too bad. Who was she kidding? This was awful!

She slipped out of bed, careful not to wake him, and hurried into her bathroom. After a quick shower and a very thorough teethbrushing to get rid of the taste and the fuzzy feeling in her mouth she sneaked back into the bedroom to get dressed.

“Good morning.” His voice startled her while she was just trying to close her bra. She turned around and smiled sheepishly.

“Did you just wake up from the sound of my dropping towel?” she teasingly asked him.

He chuckled. “No, it was more the sound of your nakedness. I think I will always wake up for that.”

She smiled but grabbed a dress and put it on quickly. “Sorry, I just wanted to go and get us something for breakfast.”

“I could think of something.” The way his eyes raked up and down her body made clear what he was thinking of.

“Hmm, that sounds tempting, but I’m actually hungry and that makes me a bit – cranky. So let me get us some breakfast and coffee first, okay? Sorry, I wasn’t expecting overnight guests. My fridge is empty.”

She leaned down and kissed him quickly. “Stay in bed, doze off for a bit. Or take a shower. I put a towel and a toothbrush out for you. I’m back in ten minutes.”

Before he could pull her back into bed she was already on the way out.

Kunihiko padded into the bathroom, taking a shower like she had suggested. When he stood in front of the mirror, a towel wrapped around his waist and the toothbrush in his hand, he suddenly realized why the bathroom seemed to be off. There were no bottles. No lotions, shampoo, no makeup or other products, nothing but some toothpaste on the sink and her toothbrush. He walked back into the hallway and he was still standing there when Jazz came back, coffee in her hands and breakfast in a bag.

“Now that’s a nice welcome. I could get used to this sight when I get home,” she teasingly said and eyed his naked chest. She only hesitated when she saw his serious expression.

“When did you want to tell me?” His voice only barely masked his anger.

“Tell you what exactly?” She knew what he meant but she wanted him to say it.

“You are leaving?” Kunihiko pointed towards the suitcase that stood in her hallway. Jazz made a face, she cursed herself for preparing everything in advance.

“Yes, I am. Quite obvious, isn’t it?” She walked past him towards the kitchen to set their breakfast down.

“When?” He seemed so vulnerable, only dressed in a towel in her hall, it was almost surreal.

“Around noon,” she admitted. There was no use in lying anyway.

“And it didn’t occur to you to tell me?”

Jazz sighed. That was why she had wanted to talk. But no, she had to get wasted and now he was angry and hurt.

“I am sorry, I didn’t plan to hide it from you. It just – there was no good opportunity last night.” She looked at him, open and honest.

“There was no good opportunity? What about: ‘Come in and stay here tonight, but you have to leave in the morning because I’m going to leave the country tomorrow?’!”

It was the first time she saw him angry. She was aware that he was capable of this emotion, but seeing him like this was strange. She had made him angry. Because the thought of her leaving Japan hurt him. Without thinking she rushed towards him and kissed him. He struggled a bit but when she pulled back and smiled at him he only frowned, but didn’t push her away.

“I’m visiting my family. My cousin is getting married and I will be her maid of honor. I will be back at the end of next week.”

It was funny to see his face fall for a second. He blushed slightly and scratched his neck awkwardly.


Jazz chuckled a bit.

“Sorry, I had planned everything a bit differently. I wanted to get my life back on track before I call you. Probably right after coming back.”  Her fingers played with his hair and she kissed him again, tasting the minty toothpaste.

“You are so clean…” she noticed. “Makes me want to get you dirty again. When is your first appointment today?”

“I still have some time,” he answered, getting bolder himself so he pulled her close.

“I still have to make it up to you for last night.”

Her hands dropped to the towel and she slowly untied it, pulled it off him so he was completely naked now. He was already getting hard but she stepped back a bit, quickly pulled of her dress and turned round, threw him a wink over her shoulder and went back towards the bedroom, hips swaying. She laughed silently when she heard him following her, almost tripping over his own feet.

He reached her before she could make it to the bed, his arms holding her back, wrapped around her waist so he could pull her back against his chest.

“So just to make that clear,” he breathed against her neck. “I’m not a client anymore.”

“No,” she confirmed, almost moaning the word.

“And you are not doing those – date simulations anymore, right?” He nibbled at the sensitive skin of her neck now.


“So that means we can negotiate about some of your rules?” His fingers dipped under the waistband of her panties, causing her to gasp for air when his fingertips tickled over the sensitive skin of her lower belly, just above her sex.

“We have already… broken some of the rules, remember? Back in the… shower? Or the… third round? That was definitely… against the rules…” she panted, pressing her ass against him, trapping his hard cock between their bodies. Kunihiko groaned, either because he did remember – and Jazz liked to remember that particular breach of rules – or because of the way she wriggled her hips a bit against him.

“Hm, yeah… I remember.” His voice was low and promising, and his hand had found the way between her thighs, lightly dancing over her sex without any pressure yet. “But I was thinking of something else.”

Jazz blinked a few times. “And what were you thinking of?”

“If you are leaving for a week I would like to give you a little reminder of me.” He nibbled at her skin again and Jazz suddenly understood.

“Hm, I might like that.” But before he could actually use more strength she added: “But keep in mind that I will be wearing a dress and I don’t want to explain my conservative grandma why I’m having a hickey. Especially since I will attend the wedding alone.”

Kunihiko sighed in disappointment. “But somewhere else? More hidden?”

Jazz turned around in his embrace and cupped his face in both her hands.

“God, yes, please. From the knee upwards to my neckline – just go for it.”

The dark lust that flashed in his eyes only fueled her desire more. Yes, she wanted him to mark her up, after all the time of being careful not to have any traces left on her body she really wanted something to remind her of him. After another scorching kiss and a surprisingly skillful disposal of her bra and panties Kunihiko slowly walked her to the bed, his hands and lips on her the whole time.

“I missed you,” he mumbled against the skin of her thigh once they were on the bed again, nipping and kissing his way up her body.

“I missed you, too,” she honestly answered. Jazz was missing him right now, all the confusion and the revelations so far had boiled up to something she couldn’t ignore any longer.

“I need you.” She didn’t mean only now but she could only hope that he understood. She was still too afraid to burst the bubble.

“I need you, too. Couldn’t stop thinking about you,” he confessed and kissed her again. With every kiss her heart clenched a bit, but she knew she was doing the right thing.

“Yeah? Because the sex was so good, huh?” she teased and bucked her hips a bit.

“No. Ever since I walked into your office for the first time.” A finger gently brushed over her forehead, smoothing out the creases when she frowned. “You had greeted me with this smile and it was as if the sun was coming out. I just couldn’t forget you.”

How should she respond to that? Without starting to cry? Jazz pulled him closer, kissed him almost frantically.

“Need you now, Kunihiko… please…”

He groaned and tried to bring some space between them, planned on looking for a condom, but Jazz gently pulled him back.

“It’s okay… I mean, we are both tested and I’m on the pill… we could – you know, if you want to…” It was strange, Jazz was able to verbalize her needs pretty easily when it came to sex, but this just felt really weird. Like her first time. She was shy. A feeling she hadn’t experienced in quite some time now but there were so many feelings that he had somehow managed to resurrect that she wasn’t even surprised anymore.

“Are you sure?” His furrowed brow and uncertain expression was one thing, but the way his cock twitched against her belly told her that she was on the right track with this.

“Completely. If there was any risk I wouldn’t even offer. It’s just – I want to be as close to you as possible.”

Kunihiko closed his eyes and exhaled deeply. “You are killing me here, you know that?” But when he opened his eyes there was so much love in his gaze that Jazz couldn’t even get a single word out. She simply nodded and he dropped a light kiss on her lips, settled between her legs and wiped some strands of hair from her face.

With another deep breath he positioned himself and started pushing into her, slowly, to let her feel every inch of him, taking her breath away and making her grab the sheets tightly. Once he was fully inside of her he rested his forehead against hers, grabbed her hand and laced their fingers together before he started to move.

Every thrust was aimed at her heart and every thrust found its aim. Jazz clung to him, legs wrapped around his waist, one arm around his neck she let him rock their bodies together. This wasn’t the passionate and ecstatic sex she usually had, not adventurous and experimental. It was making love, lots of kisses and touches, stuttering breath and a slow, slow burn.

Kunihiko reached his peak before Jazz could, but she didn’t even care. She still tried not to cry after all, the sweetness of that act made her wish it could have been their first time together. It was just perfect. So when he flooded her with his warmth it was strange and unfamiliar, but also deeply satisfying.

She excused herself and hurried to the bathroom before the mess between her legs could get uncomfortable and when she came back Kunihiko was sitting in the bed, just ending a phone call.

“Work?” she asked and slipped back into bed to him. “Do you have to go?”

“No, I just called my secretary and told him that I won’t come into office before noon. I thought I could take you to the airport.” He pulled her against his chest. “You – uhm, you didn’t come, did you?”

She chuckled at his tone, almost hesitantly and a bit apologizing.

“No. But that’s okay. I enjoyed it very much.” Jazz snuggled closer. “And I just admired the hickeys you left on my breasts. Very skillful I have to admit.”

He stroked her back and hummed in agreement. “It was my pleasure.”

“Sure was,” she teased him, earning a quick poke into her ribs with his index finger.

“You know, if you had told me earlier I could have accompanied you to that wedding.” His tone was serious and Jazz smiled.

“And then I would have to explain my family why the Japanese guy with me doesn’t look like on our wedding pictures,” she pointed out. “But since we are still having some time you could add some more reminders of you on my body.”

She straddled him and kissed him deeply, raked her nails over his chest to give him a reminder of her, too. This time she did reach her peak. Twice.

And when she finally arrived at the airport her legs were still wobbly, she was tired and a bit sore but felt better than in ages, knowing he would wait for her to come back.

MJS Out of Office… actually a surprising lack of drama!

Of course Miho had a perfectly serviceable office, but after the last couple of days and what had occurred before that… it wasn’t that she didn’t WANT to go into the office, and she certainly wasn’t avoiding Selina, not even Jazz – despite her text message – it was more maybe that Miho hadn’t really intended on having to change the business plan.

She was thrown, not that she would say it aloud, nor did the studious expression on her face betray it. Her planner was open at her right hand, her laptop open before her, mobile phone to the left and two empty cups of what might once have been skinny cappuccinos behind the screen – there were two test drives in her schedule at the end of the week.

“Fuck,” she muttered under her breath.

Selina was still out of commission, and it wasn’t like Miho could ask Jazz to cover the date scenarios because she was in love with Kuni, even if she couldn’t admit it to herself.

When her mobile phone beeped a text message, somewhat grumpily Miho picked it up, and in that moment her expression changed. Whatever it said made her smile and tap out a quick response before putting the phone back down, noting Jazz’s message there in her history.

“Yeah, this is going to hurt,” she exhaled – a sigh but not one of frustration this time.

Though her lips were pursed, and her eyes wandered to her left hand – she would have to tell both Jazz and Selina, and she fully expected to cop a serve.

“You’re nuts,” she told herself, shaking her head, but her expression was wry. “But… worth it.”

Nuts maybe, but in love just the same, and for a change, she’d been the weak one – which she didn’t really like.

“Need to get back to being a bitch,” she smirked, then looked over her shoulder for a waitress – she needed MORE coffee.

Another busy day was lying before Jazz when she hurried into the café to get a quick whatever with lots of caffeine and sugar to go on her way into the office. After that date with Yu she was thrown off the track, struggling to find her footing again. It shouldn’t be too hard, right? She had managed before. There were also good things happening, Riki Yanase had called her, told her that one of the profiles she had sent him had piqued his interest. Good. She had to get some matchmaking done, that kept her busy and seeing the happy couples almost didn’t hurt at all.

“A triple espresso to go, please,” she said to the barista with a smile before she glanced around the café, just to spot Miho sitting on a desk. Why wasn’t she in her office? Why hadn’t she been there at all for – Jazz wasn’t even sure. A day? Two? Well, now was the chance to find out. She took her cup and paid with a smile, thanked the barista and made her way over to Miho’s table.

Which is entirely – so coincidentally – when Miho had turned her head, just in time to see Jazz approaching.

“Ooo-kay,” she murmured, and may even have looked uncharacteristically nervous?

Anything is possible.

She tried, however, to pretend like the last proper conversation they’d had, had been an argument – though yanno, Miho was totally in the right – and smiled a blithe smile the moment she made eye contact.

“Morning,” she greeted.

Yep, that passed for casual.

Miho even shoved some of her crap aside on the table so Jazz had somewhere to put her coffee down – so thoughtful.

After having worked together for so long, and having known even longer, Jazz could tell that Miho wasn’t exactly thrilled to see her. It wasn’t that Jazz was completely over the moon either, but they were both adults and should be able to act as such. Especially since Jazz had been thinking a lot in the last few days.

“Morning. Are you coming to the office today? There’s mail for you,” she said and sat down, although there was a lot she wanted to ask that had nothing to do with mail or even work.

Well, maybe it was a bit work related, after all she had seen Miho with a client in a situation that wasn’t exactly professional. And Miho knew, at least if she had checked her phone ever since.

“There is a rumour circulating that I might manage to make it to my office before lunch,” Miho smirked – typical Miho bravado. “I need a secretary. Do you think Selina would go for that? I mean, for what we end up charging clients to cover your missing panties, surely that’d pay a secretarial wage.”

The waitress arrived, hearing the words ‘panties’ and ‘wage’, but she managed not to look too puzzled.

“Another skinny cap for me please,” Miho smiled at her, and the woman departed.

Distraction gone.

Jazz huffed in feigned indignation.

“Just so you know, last time I actually managed to get back WITH my panties on. But I think Selina will give you hell. Remember how she reacted when we joked and said we needed an intern?”

Selina had a lot to prove and running a successful business seemed her way of coping with some things. Not that Jazz was keen on failing, but in the end she could always go back home if everything went downhill.

Miho was certain there was no downhill, and shit, maybe… MAYBE… Selina would have to seriously consider that intern now, since there’d soon be two less people to complete test drives.



Because regardless of what was going on in Miho’s own life, she hadn’t stopped plotting Jazz’s happiness, whether Jazz was/would be happy about it or not. That really isn’t a contradiction.

The issue at that moment, however, the one they were busily dancing around most indelicately with obviously contrived idle banter, was not really about Jazz at all.

“Sorry I didn’t answer your text,” Miho apologised, and actually looked down at her planner, away from Jazz’s face.

Apologising was difficult for Miho, it REALLY was.

“FYI, I WAS on my way out – the elevator wasn’t my idea, and for a change of pace, all that happened in there was… an uncomfortable ride to the roof bar.”

But damn, Miho couldn’t hide the tweaking of her mouth. It wasn’t a tell that she was lying, just that the memory was, perhaps, not ALL uncomfortable.

Jazz tilted her head slightly.

“It’s fine. I guess you were – busy.”

She had to fight her own grin because she had a very good idea what had kept Miho busy. Or rather, who. The only thing she didn’t know was if Miho had simply broken a rule, or if she had scorched the land and salted it to make sure there would never again grow something on it – figuratively speaking.

“I have lost a client that day, by the way. He paid his bill up to now, but… well, it looks as if he had to sleep with someone else before he realized how much in love he was already. That was awkward.”

She chuckled dryly.

At this Miho seemed genuinely surprised.

“You? Lose a client? That’s rare,” she agreed with a slow nod. “He must really be in love with whoever she or he is to walk after all that money spent.”

Well that didn’t ring a friggin’ bell at all.

When the waitress returned, there was a brief reprieve, and Miho smiled and thanked her, before lifting the cup to her lips to lick up some of the chocolate dusted foam.

“And well… it’s funny you mention losing clients really…”

That sentence kind of trailed off a bit as she hazarded a sip of the hot liquid.

“Yeah, but as long as he’s happy now,” Jazz shrugged and a small smile played on her lips. It was all about making people happy after all.

And then she froze.

She stared at Miho, back at her hand that held the cup.

Back at Miho’s face.

“Holy shit…” she muttered and put her own cup down.

“Miho, that’s – what is that?” Jazz pointed at the glittery ring on Miho’s hand.

Miho’s cup lowered slowly to the table, and she too stared at her left hand.

She remembered the exact moment she’d stopped wearing her wedding and engagement ring after her husband’s death; it hurt, even now, sharp and tearing, and she grimaced. There was no regret in placing this new ring there of course, but it did remind her, constantly in fact, of something she had sort of wanted to forget.

The pain that is, not the lover she’d lost.

“Right, I DID lose a client, but I gained a ahh… fiancé,” she declared, pinching her lower lip between her teeth before looking at Jazz again. “Didn’t think I could just, text you back with a, ‘having a great time, getting married lol’,” she added.

For a second Jazz was speechless, a very rare occasion. She could only stare at Miho. But then a huge grin appeared on her face, the excitement bubbled over and Jazz squealed, actually squealed, loud enough to attract attention from other guests in the café.

“Oh my god! Miho, that is – I’m so happy for you!” She hugged Miho tightly, ignoring the struggle.

“Lemme see.” Without waiting for Miho to actually react Jazz grabbed her hand and studied the ring.

“God, it’s huge. And beautiful.” After a quick glance at Miho’s face she added: “And I don’t even want to hear that his other accessory is also huge and beautiful. But I want to hear everything else. It’s this cop, right? Are you-“

Jazz’s expression grew serious now. “Are you sure about this? I mean… you know. Are you okay?”

Clearly Jazz’s momentary speechlessness gave way to this verbal torrent, and it first squished the breath out of Miho, then tried to sweep her away with questions and all this bubbling excitement Miho herself hadn’t yet really come to feel.

Too much to sort out. Shit, parents to meet.

Still, she smiled, because suddenly there seemed to be no more tension between them.

“Jeez, you’d think I’d asked you to be bridesmaid or something,” she muttered, “which I’m not going to, since that implies you have a choice, which you don’t – nor does Selina not that she knows yet either… ahh… am I okay?”

She thought on this for a second, letting Jazz scrutinise the ring up close.

“Apparently it was his grandmother’s.”

Then glanced at her phone. Goto’s text had been one word.

And that had been enough to make her feel all warm and fuzzy and ‘omg so Notebook in love’, it almost made her sick, or maybe just the narrator.

“Yes to the big and beautiful other accessory whether you want to hear it or not, and yes to the cop part.”

There her smile turned wry.

“As for am I sure, am I okay…? I wouldn’t have said yes if I was unsure, that would just be cruel – truth is…”

… truth is, unlike yourself deluding ass I actually managed to admit to myself I loved him…cough… not that Miho would say that and ruin the moment.

“… the truth is we were already falling in love, every, appointment and the only thing really holding me back wasn’t office protocol but fear, fear of going through what I already know is hell. But you know, maybe I figured denying myself happiness is also hell.”

Yeah, that was a WAY more subtle message – good job Miho!

“It’s really beautiful… and his grandmother’s? Damn, that guy knows how to go for the kill, huh?” Reluctantly Jazz let go of Miho’s hand.

“Selina doesn’t know yet? Hm… better tell her soon. You know she doesn’t like to be left out. More importantly, haven’t you still some clients? You can’t do the reports anymore , that much is certain. We might have to reschedule some appointments but I will take care of that, no problem.”

She still grinned, completely happy for her friend.

“Ha! You know that Sel and I have been event planner, so no need for you to get a wedding planner. We will plan the perfect wedding for you, just you wait! And we have to go out and celebrate this! Oh, and we have to meet your fiancé. Sorry, he won’t get you before he has convinced us that he’s worth it. So much to do…”

For a second she remembered that there wasn’t much time for all this. In a week Jazz would leave – and she hadn’t told Miho yet.

“Jeez girl, slow down,” Miho laughed. “This isn’t a shotgun wedding, it’s not happening tomorrow, so there’ll be heaps of time for you to go nuts, not that I’m much for a big deal to be honest.”

The whole rescheduling of appointments bothered her of course.

“As for rescheduling, I can manage. In fact, I’ve already gotten a hold of Kyobashi to let him know we’ll probably be looking for a couple of extra test drivers; they’ll need to be skilled up, but that’s no biggy – he can do most of the ‘grunt work’ so to speak. The clients I have who have indicated they wished to participate in the date scenario, well, I’ll tell them myself it’s off the cards, and that I don’t need it to find them their happy match – if they want to argue then really, I think that says they were just looking to bend me over some furniture or something.”

She snorted.

“Everyone wants that of course, but not really the right mindset for a guy looking for a wife, right?”

Jazz frowned. “You know that wasn’t why we came up with the idea in the beginning. It was to make sure that our FEMALE clients get the best possible consulting and won’t have to go through meaningless dates and horrible sex like we did back then. And until Kyobashi can recommend us someone who can take your place in these test drives – not that I think ANYONE could take your place – I still can fill in. Although my schedule is a bit tight the next week…”

She bit her bottom lip. Should she tell Miho now?

“How about this? I take over your clients if they insist on the date scenario and you try to find a match for that café owner on my list. You know, the young guy that kept me up all night. He has rejected every single offer I have made him so far.”

That was a good deal, at least in Jazz’s eyes.

“I’m sorry, love, but if you think I’m going to let you sleep with any of my clients when you haven’t sorted your own shit out, you’ve another thing coming,” Miho snorted. “I don’t want you being that client you just lost, then really regretting it. I’ll deal with my clients, this is my doing, and if need be, I’ll refund them from my own pocket. If you want me to take over the final stage for café guy though, I can totally do that.”

She then narrowed her eyes on Jazz.

Lip biting, uh huh.

“So what gives?”

“Awww… you have this hot guy in your portfolio… oh well, let’s not argue about that now. We should go out for drinks to celebrate. Tell Selina already so we can have a small party tonight. Or tomorrow, I don’t care. As long as I get some cocktails soon I’m fine.”

Jazz simply ignored Miho’s last question.

“I have another appointment soon, I better go to the office now. Will you accompany me or rather come later?” She grabbed her cup and looked at Miho expectantly.

Stubborn versus stubborn.

“All my clients are hot, but really? Misdirection? Come on Jazz, think you’re the only one who can tell when her friends are saying everything?”

Miho closed her laptop over and placed her planner on top.

“You know I learned some interesting sadist techniques from this one client, and I’ll torture you to get answers if I have to,” she added with a wicked grin.

“You would torture me for fun, so don’t you think you can scare me.” Jazz shrugged and waited for Miho to gather her things together.

“But you are right, I have to get my stuff sorted out. That’s what I’m doing now actually. Get the apartment renovated. Get the divorce done. Ai wants me to come and tell his parents but I think he can manage that on his own.” Jazz huffed a dry laughter. As if he would really manage anything like that.

“I – I think I need some time off. Without clients and work and – you know. So next week I start some extended holidays but I will be there for any wedding talk you need.”

“You want time off but you also want to take on my clients?” Miho laughed. “You know all three of us are pretty messed up.”

Shaking her head, she slid all the things into her bag and pulled the strap to her shoulder.

“Have YOU told Selina?” she then asked, pausing to chug half her cappuccino before beginning to walk. “Me off date scenario duty and you out for, how long?”

Jazz laughed.

“Can’t help being greedy. A girl can get everything she wants after all, can’t she?” Well, maybe not everything.

“Sel knows. She doesn’t know how long exactly, but to be honest I don’t know either. She wasn’t really happy about it as you can imagine. And I think when she learns that you are out of business she will really need some alcohol. Or sex. Maybe both.”

After a short moment Jazz gathered all her courage.

“Can you do something for me? If – if he’s still your client, can you find someone nice for him? I know I messed that up and I know it’s not fair to drag you into this, but I can’t do that on my own. Or at all. I – I might be away for some time. Enough time to make good on your promise. Or your threat, whatever you want to call it.”

Hadn’t Miho said she would find someone for him within 3 months? Jazz only wanted him to be happy in the end. She couldn’t be any more selfish right now.

“It was a promise of course,” Miho replied, stopping on the pavement just outside the café. “Are you running? Is that hat this vacation is?”

Ya – Miho shifted back into tough love mode. Still, that promise-threat about finding Kuni a wife? She meant to do it, and in fact was already working on it.

Jazz shook her head.

“No, not running. More like – letting go. Making a clean cut and try to start again. You know how that works. I can’t drag around some of the stuff any longer. Might even sell the apartment, I don’t know yet.”

They reached the office building and Jazz was grateful, she didn’t know what else to tell Miho now.

“Go and tell Selina. She might be angry at first but she will be really happy for you. We both are.”

With a wave she went off into her office.


After telling Selina about her shiny new commitment, Miho flopped down into her comfy office chair and took out her phone. She didn’t call Goto, after all, he had his own work during the day which really didn’t allow him to take calls as freely as Miho’s job did. Instead she shot him another text, apologising for having to cancel the dinner date she’d agreed to less than an hour ago.

When her phone rang in her hand she was surprised, but smiled and answered.

“Maybe I should have called you after all,” she said in greeting, leaning back.

“You just caught me at a good time,” Goto told her, a smile in his voice. “Miss Mann took our news well then?”

“Better than I thought she would,” Miho admitted. “No drama at all except perhaps for her super level of excitement and the declaration that she and Selina will be planning an extravaganza of a ceremony.”

Goto chuckled, and it put warmth in Miho’s cheeks.

Jesus Miho, you’re not seventeen anymore.

But the sound of his laugh was so pleasant and genuine, she just couldn’t help it.

Got it bad.

“Is that what you want?” he asked – a genuine question not fearful of the answer.

“A huge fuss?” she sought in clarification, but didn’t wait for it. “Nah – though you know, this is your first marriage so, if you want to go all out I’m fine with that too. Just, no white for me.”

“You in white is hard to imagine,” he mused, and immediately Miho guffawed.

“Are you trying to suggest, Mr. Goto, that I’m somehow not pure enough to wear white?”

“Ah no, no of course not,” Goto rushed, in full and flustered retreat. “I just meant, you know that… you…”

“That I couldn’t possibly be pure, because what woman who makes a man moan like I’ve made you moan, could be?” she offered lightly, knowing full well where ever he was taking the call, he was blushing furiously.

On the other end Miho heard some shuffling, like he was switching the phone to his other ear.

“If I start thinking about that right now, I’ll be in trouble,” he admitted, and now Miho laughed.

“You have your own office right? I could always swing by and help get you out of trouble,” she offered – in no way innocently.

“You are trouble,” he asserted, and she could tell he was shaking his head. “And you can wear whatever colour you like.”

“I feel like we’re jumping the gun just a little with ceremony preparations, when I haven’t even met your folks,” she chuckled.

“We should do that, soon,” he stated, and now he just sounded happy. “But your text made it sound like work’s a bit up in the air for you right now?”

“Yeah, Jazz is going on ‘extended vacation’, but you know when she suggested she might sell her apartment, that makes it sound a whole lot more permanent,” Miho replied. “Which makes it difficult for me to get her and Mr. Aikawa together. I’m going to really have to get my plot on.”

“You sure that’s what she wants? What he wants?” he asked, and Miho was already nodding before he’d finished.

“Yes and yes, without a single doubt,” she affirmed. “She’s having trouble seeing beyond her baggage – familiar story I know, but if I can see the light, then I’m going to shine it the hell into her eyes until she opens them and sees it too.”

“Remind me not to get on your bad side,” he joked.

“It’s bound to happen at some time or other,” she acknowledged. “But you’re cute, so that’ll work in your favour.”

“Do you think, maybe, you could come up with a more masculine descriptor?” he sighed.

“Why? Are you insecure about your manhood?” she questioned, then grinned like an idiot. “Because you shouldn’t be – your manhood is…”

“Miho!” he interrupted, and she let it go.

“Okay okay. Anyway, I’m sorry for redacting my yes to dinner. I want to see you but by the time Jazz and Selina are done with me, it won’t be pretty.”

“Now that is something I can’t imagine,” he said affectionately. “But, if you need someone to hold back your hair, I’m your man.”

“Yeah, I guess you are,” she smiled, exhaling. “We should definitely catch up tomorrow.”

“Dinner at my place?” he offered. “I’ll even tidy up.”

“Ha ha, you know I know you’re shocking at that.”

“The effort should mean something, surely,” he responded.

“Yeah okay, we’ll see,” she snickered. “Seven-thirty?”

“Perfect,” he agreed.

“I’m going to wear white lingerie, just so you can see how well you think it works,” she added cheekily.

MJS – Open For Business!

A girls’ night was never as successful as that fateful evening, Selina, Jazz and Miho congregated atop the roof of Jazz’s building with several bottles of good wine. Who exactly came up with the idea of a marriage matchmaking agency was clouded by the amount they drank, but in the days following that, they all thought long and hard about the perks and pitfalls.

Mostly the perks.

There was no shortage of money to establish their new venture, and no shortage of knowledge to ensure nothing was left to chance. There were medical screenings to take care of, and for that Miho line up some on the side work for collarbone fetishist, Luke Foster, while Jazz signed lawyer Maruyama Takao – the latter took a little more convincing, but ultimately, the lure of a substantial discount on MJS Marriage Matchmaking Agency services in the future proved too much, even for his delicate sensibilities. Jani, on the other hand, had absolutely no difficulties in convincing Baba to jump on board; someone had to scout out the female clients of course and ensure they were of as marriageable material as the gents.

What more did they need?

The concept was quite simple. Clients seeking an easier way to marriage enlisted MJS’s services: signed some pretty impressive nondisclosure and confidentiality agreements to ensure the security of all involved, undertook some routine medical tests, answered some basic questions, agreed to have their finances probed and then… the road test.

MJS – 6 Feet: Part 1

FOREWORD: So we thought we were done with the MJS series, but I apparently haven’t gotten this out of my system.
‘Aftermath’ takes place several months after Miho and Goto are married and have moved into their own home. Those who don’t remember various revelations from their wedding fic, Jazz is visibly pregnant now, and her marriage to Kuni is public knowledge.


A knock at the door.

Knocks on the door are usually fairly innocuous.

And this one was punctuated by the excited barks of two puppy greyhounds named Kaga and Ishigami.

“Oh, come on you guys,” Miho complained, following the excited loping bounce of her dogs, “there is no need to bark at absolutely everything that approaches the house.”

Apparently, the puppies disagreed, and continued to bark as if a world full of murderers were congregated on the other side of the door.

“For fuck’s sake Kaga,” she huffed, dancing to dodge the poochies underfoot, “get out of the way!”

But the joviality in her voice, the laughter, drained away when she looked at the AV intercom Goto had insisted they install.

There stood an ominous entourage of Public Safety captains and lieutenants.

“Sit,” Miho barked, and in a scurry, both puppies scampered back and planted their bums on the floorboards.

The latch came free, then the deadbolt, before Miho pulled open the heavy, solid wood door to peer at the conspicuous gathering through the security door – and each of them wore a solemn expression no grate or barrier could protect her from.

“Captains,” she said, also focus on keeping her mind from jumping to catastrophic conclusions, “Lieutenants, to what do I owe the pleasure?”

“Mrs. Goto,” Ishigami nodded evenly, but she knew him well enough to interpret the way he fidgeted with his glasses as a bad sign. “Would it be too much trouble to come inside?”

Silently she gave a nod, but the puppies at her back began barking the moment she unlocked the security door, and growled at the sight of Kaga.

“Kaga that’s enough,” Miho snapped sharply, and Kaga – the man not the dog – blinked and straightened.

“Daaw, look how they’ve grown!” Kurosawa gushed, dropping to his knees the moment there was room, and both puppies tackled him happily.

“Kaga stop humping his knee,” Miho sighed, avoiding the human Kaga’s gaze, knowing it was growing increasingly irritated. “Ahh, this way gentlemen.”

No more was said between then and the lounge room; not even their footfalls against the floorboards made sound, and yet Miho could already hear every word they had come to say.

She had spent her career in matchmaking reading people, after all, and their strides, the way their eyes stared straight ahead and the tight set of their jaws spoke volumes in their silence. She had not known them to visit as a group before, Kaga and Shinonome hadn’t even set foot in the Goto residence alone, and the Master of the house’s conspicuous absence from the congregation was absolutely the reason they were there.

“I’ll put some coffee on,” Miho declared when the men all stood uncomfortably in the bright, airy space, the puppies frolicking between them.

“Don’t,” Kaga dropped, catching her wrist as she stepped toward the kitchen.

Foreseeing their purpose, Miho did not react as she might once have; there was no scathing warning, no brazen physical response, just the slight downward tilt of her head and the shift of her body toward the still unoccupied couch.

“Please, sit,” she offered, and all but Captain Ishigami found a place to sit.

He, crouched down in front of Miho and reached for her hands in an uncharacteristic physical gesture, cool, slender fingers wrapping lightly around hers.

“As you know, Lieutenant Goto has been undercover for several months,” he said slowly, clearly choosing his words carefully. “And while he has not been able to contact you, communication with Public Safety was consistent in line with mission operational parameters.”

“Was,” Miho repeated, plucking the crucial word from his sentence and lighting it up in the space between them.

Puppy-Kaga and Puppy-Ishigami’s sleek bodies leapt up onto the couch, and sensing the gathering storm about to lash their mother, they curled up either side of her.

“There was a critical incident last night,” Ishigami went on, his shoulder twitch suggesting he’d like to adjust his glasses again, but he maintained contact with her palms. “A gunfight erupted and…”

Puppy-Kaga interrupted with a whining yawn before turning his head to rest into Miho’s lap, and this was all Kurosawa could take, covering his mouth to stifle a sob.

“Is he dead?” Miho asked, so, so quiet though her voice did not tremble – that is the truth she’d known the moment she had opened to the door to find them all standing there.

Even Ishigami seemed to be struggling with the maintenance of his usually perfect, stoic façade, a frown driving a deep arrow between his brows.

“We recovered digital footage from the scene,” he expounded without directly answering her question, “and,” he added after taking a slow, deep breath, “found the burned remains of the gang he had infiltrated early this morning. We’ve confirmed Goto – Seiji – was among them.”

The closing flutter of Miho’s eyes saved her from the struggle in Ishigami’s expression, but threatened her with the horrific blanks her mind filled in, not that her imagination could possibly conjure up a nightmare greater than what had already been delivered.

“I see,” she whispered, a sound from somewhere deep within her throat. “Thank you,” she went on as she looked up and around at her husband’s closest colleagues, “thank you all for coming to tell me personally, I appreciate it, and I know Seiji would too.”

“What?” Kurosawa coughed, pausing in his own anguish to blink at her in surprise. “Thank you? That’s all?”

“Toru,” Soma hissed sharply.

“But!” he insisted, seeming both confused and a little outraged by Miho’s calm.

“It’s okay,” Miho smiled sadly. “I understand you were all very close to him.”

“You’re his wife,” Kurosawa wept, even as Shinonome took his arm and gave him a tug toward the door.

“Rest assured, Mrs. Goto, this won’t go unpunished,” Kaga assured her, his teeth clenched fiercely.

“I believe you, Captain,” Miho nodded, sliding Puppy-Kaga away and standing slowly, forcing Ishigami to his feet also. “Seiji has every trust in you both.”

There was no quibble over her misused verb tense, just the awkwardness of men of action trapped in a situation where heroism couldn’t be rushing in with guns blazing.

The only hero among them now, it seemed, was dead.

“Thank you again for coming,” Miho expressed gently, her glance past them to the corridor leading to the front door a clear signal they did not miss.

Reluctantly, however, Ishigami stepped back, disquieted by her lack of reaction in his own way.

“Is there someone we can call for you?” he offered, forced to follow her down the hall, Kaga and Soma in tow. “Miss Mann perhaps? Miss Genever?”

“No, thank you,” Miho replied politely, opening the door to reveal Kurosawa sitting on the porch with Shinonome hovering over him. “I know you’re all very busy, and your investigation is not over.”

Getting to his feet, it looked as if Kurosawa had something more to say, but he sucked it back into his chest and turned down the path.

“You’ll let me know when you’ve learned more?” she then enquired, and both Ishigami and Kaga nodded soberly.

“Straight away,” Kaga assured her, “and… if you should need anything, just call, any of us.”

At his atypical kindness, Miho smiled mildly.

“Of course, Captain. I will.”

Her nod was a clear dismissal, and yet the four remaining officers all felt reluctant now to leave, even though they’d dreaded the duty that had awaited them in their colleague’s home. But eventually they bid their solemn farewell, having been there no more than twenty minutes, and with a quiet click, Miho let the door close shut and placed her back against it.

The burn began in her eyes then flushed her cheeks with a fire no amount of tears could quell; but they were trapped in her chest, along with the last breath she’d taken as the door closed. Though she had known there was a possibility her husband might not come back from an operation, the reality of it being delivered to her by the men he trusted most, was somehow beyond her comprehension.

It didn’t make sense.

It couldn’t be real.

He would call and explain it was all some mix up.

When the dizziness became too much, her body forced her to inhale – lungs full of fire she released in a choking, guttural, sobbing gasp, that shattered the strength of her legs. Sliding down, a ragdoll curling against the floorboards, Miho was allowed only mere seconds before Ishigami and Kaga began poking her with their slender muzzles and licking at her cheeks.


Despite having declined Ishigami’s offer, Jazz simply let herself into the Goto residence with her keys, and hunted down where Miho was curled up in the shower recess.

The water was running cold over her best friend’s naked body, but she didn’t seem to notice her intense shaking, or the deep imprints her nails had made where she was clutching legs.

Wordlessly, Miho followed Jazz’s directions, allowing the other woman to dry her, before numbly stepping into her pyjamas.

“I don’t suppose you feel like eating,” Jazz sighed, folding the doona up to Miho’s chin.

“We were going to have duck,” Miho murmured, one hand on Ishigami’s head, the other on Kaga’s as they laid either side of her.

“We?” Jazz frowned, and Miho nodded slightly.

“Me and the kids,” she snorted, but it was a mirthless sound.

“The dogs get duck?” Jazz blinked, looking between the two most spoilt dogs ever.

Miho’s eyes closed and bit her lower lip, and in response the two sleek puppies nuzzled against her.

“Aww, Honey,” Jazz exhaled, her heart breaking and surely as if Kuni had died. “I know there is nothing I can say to make this okay,” she went on softly, stroking Miho’s hair gently, “so I’ll just be here, for whatever you need for as long as you need it.”

“You know, I told him I had a bad feeling about this mission,” Miho whispered, lifting her lids and rolling her eyes to the ceiling, “but I would never ask him not to go, because he’s never given me a reason to doubt his promises that he’ll always come home.”

Patiently, Jazz listened, while Ishigami began licking Miho’s fingertips.

“So,” Miho inhaled slowly, and then breathed out the rest of her sentence, “I don’t know why I’m being so pathetic… if he promised… he promised… so he will come back.”

And another piece of Jazz’s heart broke off.

If Ishigami and the others were sure enough about Goto’s fate they actually came to tell Miho about it in person, then Jazz had to think they were certain. Miho’s denial was not surprising, just one of many terrible steps on the road of grief she would have to travel – and not for the first time. Perhaps, Jazz wondered, Daisetsu’s faked death helped allow Miho to imagine this was all some elaborate ruse for some other purpose.

When Miho sat up, it was almost as if in clairvoyance, for the very next second both dogs’ ear pricked up and they leapt from the bed before galloping for the front door.

Then there was urgent knocking.

Jazz actually had to jump back a little as hope glimmered in Miho’s eyes and she threw back the blankets. Her bare feet slapped loudly against the floorboards as she ran, and she made no attempts to hold back her puppies before wrenching open the door.

MJS Romance: Miho and Goto’s Honeymoon

The sand was still warm from the day, and the glow from their sun-drenched bodies – Miho’s wrapped over Goto’s – kept them cozy even after the sun had disappeared behind the oceanic horizon. Their bodies relaxed after an active day, the world welcomed them into night to the rhythmic sound of nearby waves and the gentle appearance of bright sparks against the velvet sheet of the sky.

Exhaling a luxurious, contented sigh, Miho gazed upward at the twinkling expanse then stretched her hand out toward them.

“Can almost reach,” she murmured, fingers splayed.

“What do you need stars for?” Goto queried, kissing into her slightly salt-crunchy hair.

“True,” she grinned, turning her hand over.

Somehow, though the only real light came from the crescent moon slowly rising above, Miho’s engagement ring, her wedding ring nestled against it, still sparkled.

“I’m going to love you forever,” she told him, not for the first time.

“Forever is a pretty long time,” he pointed out. “You sure you’re not going to get sick of me?”

“I’m outraged you’d even ask,” Miho snorted, giving his chest a sharp slap.

Goto grimaced at the initial sting, but the heat that lingered in the shape of her palm was pleasant.

“I intend to be with you for this life, and the one after and the one after that, until the universe tears apart,” she added haughtily.

“I’ll look for you,” he smiled, stroking her hair. “Always.”

An easy silence settled over them, and Goto closed his eyes. He could have fallen asleep there until Miho began tracing around his bare nipple with her fingertip.

“Seiji, do you believe in fate?” she asked, her voice drifting upward, upward, into the dark unknown.

“I’m not sure,” he admitted, looking up at her as she rolled and draped herself over him. “I think a lot of people use it as an excuse for a lot of things, so they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions, but…”

“Hmm,” Miho hummed, pushing herself up to straddle him, teasing sinuous traces from his collarbones toward his belly button. “But?”

“But,” he continued, his body shuddering involuntarily beneath her touch and his hands slid up her thighs, “the belief in fate; you don’t think if a person believes something is fated, that could drive them to do all in their power to reach that goal?”

“Like you?” she said, swirling patterns across his abdominal muscles, marking their definition with feathery lines.

“Like me,” he confirmed warmly, giving her legs a squeeze. “Though you certainly gave me a hard time.”

“You know though, don’t you?” she breathed, her brow suddenly creased. “That from day one I was in love? Desperately afraid but so painfully wanting you to touch me? Hearing your first words and knowing I wanted them to be the last I ever heard?”

Staring up at her, even in the dim, Goto could still see faint flecks of that fear. Before he could attempt to allay it, however, Miho beat him to it.

“I don’t know about fate,” she declared, her tone now sober, serious, “but looking at you, being with you, I feel like… like I spent an eternity trekking barefoot across a desert, seeing wavering mirages of happiness that disappeared as I drew near, and then… you’re this great body of shimmering, clear water I’ve finally stumbled upon. You’re my destination, and I’m plunging into your depths…”’

“Shouldn’t I be doing the plunging?” he interrupted.

Miho blinked, and for his cheek he was rewarded with another blazing red print of her hand on his chest.

“Shut up, I’m being poetic here,” she growled, leaning forward with her hands either side of his head, glaring down at him. “Fate or no fate, being with you, being this happy, feels like something I’ve been striving for far longer than the real time we’ve been together.”

“I know,” he whispered, smoothing his palms up her bare sides until large hands pushed the hair from her face. “Having you is like… I’ve kept some promise to myself.”

“Make me another promise?” she breathed against his lips, her words brushing with delicious anticipation of more.

“Anything,” he responded huskily as she lowered her hips and brushed her body against his lightly.

“Don’t let me sleep until dawn,” she grinned, then nipped playfully at his bottom lip.

Hungrily Goto pulled her closer and stole away her breath, tangling one hand in her hair and feeling down her spine with the other until they were both dizzy.

“Haa, but not on the beach again,” he told her a little darkly when their lips parted. “I’m still finding sand in uncomfortable places.”

Snickering at the recollection of what they’d done yesterday, Miho rocked back and scrambled to her feet.

“I suppose it is your turn to choose,” she mused flippantly, taking his hand once he’d folded their beach towel over his shoulder.

“I didn’t realise we were taking turns,” he chuckled, lacing their fingers and beginning to walk. “You’re just a target of opportunity,” he explained. “And sometimes, even when I know it’s not appropriate, I can’t help but touch you.”

“So adorable,” she smirked, her favourite way to make him blush.

… okay, her SECOND favourite way to make him blush.


Arriving back at their waterfront bure, Goto stopped Miho from entering.

“Close your eyes,” he instructed, and Miho’s brows raised.

“Mhm,” she murmured, complying after a moment.

Her husband reached around her and opened the door, guiding her in by the shoulders until he could close them in seclusion.

“What are you up to, Lieutenant?” Miho wondered suspiciously, sensing his arms moving around her before she felt the touch of something soft against her face.

“How much do you trust me?” he asked, tying the blindfold around her head snuggly, then checking she couldn’t see.

“What the hell kind of question is that?” Miho scoffed, a little stiffly stepping forward as Goto urged her to.

“A necessary one,” he replied, his tone suddenly very serious, almost the tone he used when he was in work mode. “Stand still, and answer the question.”

“You know the an… the answer,” she replied, faltering a little when he disengaged from her completely for a few seconds, before tugging at the strings keeping her bikini top fastened. “I trust you with everything. My life, my body, my soul, my future.”

“Likewise,” he hissed into her ear, but only his breath touched her now as he pulled her top away. “Take three careful steps forward, lay down on the bed, and put your hands above your head.”

Swallowing, Miho shuffled along, before positioning herself in the centre of the bed, reaching behind her to grip one of the vertical slats in the bedhead. She imagined handcuffs – wouldn’t be the first time – but again she felt the cool, smooth texture of soft cloth being wound around her wrists before the ends were secured to the bed.

Goto stood, breathing slowly as he looked down at his handiwork, realising this would perhaps be as much torture for him as it would be for her.

“Hey,” Miho prompted after an extended period of silence. “You didn’t sneak out did you?”

“No talking,” he told her, the heavy, ominous weight of his ‘interrogation’ tone forming goosebumps on Miho’s exposed skin. “I’d gag you, but it’s important you’re able to say the safe word if you become uncomfortable with anything I do.”

“Safe word?” Miho coughed. “Seiji, have you been reading a beginner’s guide to bondage?”


“You totally have!” she exclaimed, beaming and wriggling about as she giggled. “God damnit I can’t see you blushing right now, and I know you’re blushing.”

“Maybe I will gag you,” he grumbled as he slid down his board shorts and kicked them aside. “Pick your safe word.”

“Hmm, Domo,” she declared, still chuckling.

“You have an unhealthy obsession with that thing,” Goto huffed.

“It’s okay, it’s balanced out with my healthy obsession with your thing,” she volleyed.

“No more,” he commanded, placing his hand over her mouth. “No more words unless it’s that word. No sound at all.”

He said it, but he knew it was going to be impossible for a vocaliser like Miho.

She nodded as he removed his hand and licked her lips. Exerting as little pressure as he could manage, Goto undid the knot of Miho’s sarong. Helpfully she lifted herself from the bed, allowing him to remove it, and then her bikini bottoms.

It wasn’t cold, the tropical night air dry and warm, yet the deep pink of Miho’s nipples called for Goto’s attention: tall and hard.

And he hadn’t even touched her yet.

“What are you breathing so hard for?” he asked, and Miho’s lips parted. “Ah! No sound,” he chided, moving silently around the room to collect the implement he required.

With a fake, sulky pout, Miho shifted impatiently, rubbing her legs together.

“Be still,” he told her, sitting slowly down beside her, causing the mattress to move beneath his mass.

The fluffy tip of the long white feather trembled above the right side of Miho’s collarbone, hovering in Goto’s light grip until he wriggled it ever so lightly from one side to the other.

As predicted, Miho broke the rules instantly, gasping at the ticklish decadence of such a soft sensation.

Goto was a courageous man, Miho knew this, but she found it hard to imagine what it must have taken for him to take the leap – albeit a small one – from relatively vanilla to dominance. She had to wonder if Subaru’s teasing had something to do with it.

Whatever the reason, the darkness beneath her blindfold, the barely-there touch of the feather as it fluttered lightly around her breast, exploded unprecedented anticipation. Her body flushed with heat as she imagined the intensity of Goto’s stare as he sketched lazy patterns down her torso.

“Spread your legs, wide,” he ordered curtly. “Bend them up.”

Inhaling shakily, Miho obeyed.

She felt suddenly very exposed, not unsafe, but quivering with uncertainty and excitement.

“I’m going to suck your clit into my mouth,” he told her, his voice suddenly deeper, a thrumming, reverberating echo of the waves outside.

The feather moved – behind her left knee, tantalisingly slow up the inside of her thigh toward the inner crease of her leg.

“I’m going to torture it with my tongue,” he continued, drawing an invisible line around the top of her leg, up to her belly button, and back to her left nipple. “Press, and rub and swirl and maybe even… bite.”

As he said bite, he turned the feather around, and quite sharply stabbed the shaft into her nipple.

The yelp Miho emitted, the way her body jumped, made Goto flinch and lift the offending weapon.

The book Kaga had given him as a ‘wedding present’ did indicate the submissive partner might very well respond alarmingly, but he hadn’t expected Miho’s reaction to be quite so energetic. Yet when her body relaxed again, she swallowed hard, and as she licked her lips once more they parted in a luscious grin.

Teeth bared because it hurt, but smiling because it hurt so good.

“That sounded awfully like noise, Miho,” Goto pointed out, placing the feather’s tip against the centre of her other nipple, this time pressing down slowly.

With great interest he watched her expression change the more pressure he placed on it. There was a strange conundrum in the clear pain it caused, yet her body tensed and writhed in such a way he knew was an expression of pleasure. So he persisted, pulling away only when her lips peeled back to reveal teeth clenched.

“I’m going to drag my fingernails down your body,” he told her, scratching the slightly sharp tip of the feather around her areola, hard enough to leave a red line in its wake. “I’m going to leave lasting marks,” he went on, scrawling thin etchings over her white breast, using her bikini tan-line to indicate where his efforts would be hidden by clothing.

The bedhead groaned as Miho pulled against her bindings, and Goto found himself frowning – not because he thought she was uncomfortable, but because he didn’t realise how much effort it would take to resist devouring her.

Leaving glowing scrollwork across her chest, he flipped the feather and dusted lightly over the fine abrasions. As he worked his way lower again, Miho’s breaths shortened even further, and Goto found his other hand sought out the hardening length of his cock without conscious thought.

“My fingers are going to work between your folds,” he explained, stroking himself slowly as he brushed the feather’s softness down her slit, and he heard Miho swallow back a moan just before it escaped her lips. “They’re going to slip through your desperate wetness, and lazily circle your burning entrance. And you want me to push inside you, your whole body is on fire, hopelessly begging for me to drive deeply and stretch you…”

A whimper punctuated the shuddering of Miho’s legs, a sound that required Goto to bite down on his own lustful sound. She was oozing in eagerness of his follow through, and even though Goto’s own flesh cried out for him to bury himself in her, he was determined to drag it out. He wanted to see if he could…

“All of my weight will crush the air from your lungs, leaving your dizzy,” he narrated, “but as you gasp for air my lips are going to steal away your breath, my tongue filling your mouth.”

“Sei…” she cried weakly.

“No,” he snapped like the crack of a whip, but he was so hard now, so hard it was becoming a painful.

When the point of the feather’s spine touched Miho’s hood, her body shuddered and her legs twitched toward closing.

“Don’t move,” he chastised, dragging a barely-there route around her clit, but not touching it, and the tension in Miho’s body visibly increased.

Despite his instructions she was emitting a continuous stream of agonizing breathy whines, and her chest heaved as he dragged the feather through the drench between her labia in slow motions.

“I’m going to poise at your entrance,” he growled, precum slicking his shaft as he worked it, the images in his mind surely as vivid as in hers. “And I’m going to stop there, just pressing with the head of my throbbing… rock-hard cock… before driving it into you, so deeply, fill you so completely, and thrust, again, and again, and again, until you can’t stand it anymore…”

As he finished his sentence he finally dragged the feather’s tip upward against her clit – and with an uncontrollable, chortling gasp, Miho’s legs reflexively closed, her knees knocking loudly together as she trapped Goto’s hand. Her entire torso lifted from the bed as she came, her mouth now open but her breath seemingly trapped as her body shook violently in rapture.

She had no control now. None.

He… he also found himself quivering at the sight of his beautiful wife cumming so intensely, and any thoughts of further torture fled. Releasing his grasp on the feather, Goto climbed onto the bed before Miho, and had to exert considerable strength in order to pry her ecstasy-locked legs apart.

“Enough talk,” he rasped, shuffling forward and lifting her as to rest against his thighs, before sliding his erection through the significant flood of her juices.

“No…” Miho attempted to articulate, barely a word at all. “No it’s…”

Faltering as he ground the pulsing tip of his desire against her enflamed bud, Miho let out another cry and seemed on the precipice of another orgasm.

“It’s too…” she sobbed.

“That’s not the word to stop this,” he pointed out, and then fulfilled his promise, leaning suddenly forward and thrusting into her with full force.

Her next exclamation was consumed by him, as he finally brought their lips together.

There was ravenous urgency to his movements, pounding so powerfully Miho’s legs clamped around him, clinging as she was tumbled over the edge for a second time. Goto had had to hold back and watch her, all the while imagining the raw pleasure being physically united with her brought – but now there was no restraint.

The spasmodic clench of her walls as he fucked her through the aftershocks of each climax, dragged him toward his own end. All that effort hardly touching her at all, wanting it so much, and seeing her react so incredibly, made each sensation now so acute, Goto wasn’t sure he could stop even if Miho did sing out the safe word.

The entire bed leapt with each furious penetration; Goto pounded Miho into the mattress with growing ferocity, gnawing along her shoulder until he bit down fiercely. Managing to snarl only half her name through his teeth, he rammed forth with what was left of his energy and filled her.

And again

And again.

And again.

Hot and deep.

Until he was completely drained.

“Miho,” he whispered breathlessly, remaining within her but rolling their bodies on their sides.

“Fuc…king hell,” she heaved, licking her lips that he then gently kissed.

Reaching up, he languidly unbound Miho’s wrists and pushed away her blindfold. Immediately she wrapped her arms over him and snuggled against his sweaty chest, her quick breaths cool against the salty moistness of his skin.

“That… you…” she murmured, still struggling to form coherent thought. “Who are you… and where were you before I… before I married that Goto guy?”

Filled with endorphins that left their bodies humming softly, Goto chuckled into Miho’s damp hair.

“I’ll take care of him,” Goto told her gruffly. “There’s no way I’m letting anyone take you from me.”

“How do you plan to top this?” she sighed out, all tension from her body gone.

“I have some ideas,” he responded with surprising flippancy, gently kissing her once more before leaning back and grabbing a hand towel from beside the bed. “I know you’re always going to be dirty,” he grinned, “but let’s get cleaned up for now.”

For a moment Miho grieved for the loss of Goto’s warm, but no sooner had she grabbed the towel and moved to gingerly wipe her still tingling nethers, Goto dragged her to the edge of the bed and scooped her up.

“How do you even have the energy to lift me right now?” she laughed, curling her arms around his neck. “And if you have that energy, why the hell aren’t you still banging me?”

“What makes you think I’m not just changing the scenery?” he smirked, worming his middle finger between her ass-cheeks.

“Seiji,” she grinned, biting down on his lower lip before continuing. “You did make me a promise.”

“That I did,” he agreed, carrying her into the bathroom.


When the sun began to creep out of the water, Miho lay drowsily in Goto’s arms on the bure balcony swathed in a light blanket. Gently Goto massaged a soothing moisturiser into the patterns he’d marked over her chest – all the strength he had left for.

“Mmm,” she mumbled quietly. “We’re going to need another shower.”

“We’re definitely napping first,” he told her sternly. “And if I have to crawl back inside for those silk scarves to keep you down, I’ll do it.”

“No need,” she yawned, nuzzling her face into his neck. “I’m already irrevocably tied to you.”

MJS – Goto x Miho THE Wedding

“You know,” Miho sniffed, standing in front of the full length mirror as Jazz tried to pin flowers in her hair, “I don’t know why I couldn’t have just eloped…ow!”

“Sorry,” Jazz smirked after sticking her with a bobby-pin a little too hard. “Sit your tall ass down.”

Grumbling way too much for her wedding day, Miho complied.

“And you know why,” Jazz continued, repositioning a rogue curl. “As mother and father of the bride, not to mention your BFF, it would kill me not to be able to celebrate this with you properly.”

“My revenge is going to be so sweet,” Miho promised, grinning that evil grin.

“Bah, quit acting like this isn’t the happiest day of your life,” Jazz scoffed, and Miho sighed. “Sorry, still can’t quite kick the old defence mechanism. I can’t help but think I’ll step out of here and all that’ll be waiting is…”

“The man who is crazy enough to love you,” Subaru finished, having snuck in behind them with Rose and H hot on his heels.

“Come on Subaru,” Rose growled. “You’re supposed to be keeping Goto calm.”

“Kurosawa has everything under control,” he declared.

“Be the first time,” Miho laughed.

“Okay, Issei is managing affairs and Kurosawa is already sobbing,” Subaru admitted, moving in beside Jazz and peering at Miho’s reflection. “But I couldn’t risk Jazz messing up your hair.”

“I’ll mess you up,” Jazz hissed, and Miho snickered.

“Okay, it’s worth it just for this sideshow,” she grinned. “Especially you in the pinstripes.”

Subaru glanced down at his grey pinstripe suit and shrugged.

“Yeah, but it looks good on me,” he pointed out.

“You’re right,” Miho volleyed. “Seiji looks better without it.”

“Seriously, no dragging him off to any dark corners under the reception is over,” Jazz warned.

“They don’t have to be dark,” Miho announced, and Rose and H chuckled.

Then another person peeked in.

“Oh my!” Haruka exclaimed, scuttling in and snatching up Miho’s hand. “You are a vision.”

“Thanks Mum,” Miho smiled, though it was still a bit weird calling someone that after so many years.

“I think I’m going to cry,” she whimpered, and Subaru put an arm around her shoulder.

“You’ll be in good company,” he told her.

Then Miho stood.

“Okay, time to get this show on the road before I forget all my lines.”

“How many are there?” H asked.

“Umm… I didn’t count,” Miho admitted. “Honestly, my memory is crap. Performing my vows in interpretive dance would have been easier.”

Your style of ‘interpretive dance’ isn’t suitable for anyone other than Goto,” Jazz reminded her, and they all laughed, even Haruka, though her cheeks had grown a little pink.

“Get out there Subaru,” Miho instructed. “Tell Goto I’m coming.”


“Oh for…” Miho nearly cursed, but held it in for Haruka’a sake. “Get out before I kick you out.”

“Oh my, my Seiji is in big trouble,” Haruka beamed, and Miho relaxed as the woman hugged and kissed her cheek.

“The best kind of trouble,” Miho whispered, then straightened, watching Haruka and Subaru leave before inhaling.

“Well ladies,” she exhaled. “Don’t trip and ruin this for me, or you’re both fired.”

Rose and H knew Miho well enough now to know she was kidding, but Jazz gave her a dig in the ribs anyway.

“Fiiiine,” Miho huffed. “I love you all and thank you for being here with me today.”

A group hug ensued, then, after frocks were straightened, Rose headed out, followed by H, then Jazz offered Miho her arm.

“If I do forget my lines,” Miho said, only now seeming jittery. “Do something embarrassing to buy me some time.”

“You won’t forget,” Jazz assured her, patting the back of her hand as they exited the room into the hall and turned to the garden doors. “And even if you do, just look into his eyes and say what’s in your heart.”

Miho grinned broadly.

“Just keep it clean,” Jazz added, and Miho’s grin only widened as attendants opened the garden doors to the bright sunshine.

“No promises.”


In the beautifully manicured garden, bathed in dappled light filtering through tall branches wreathed in green, Seiji and his groomsmen waited before the assembly of friends and family. There was no ‘his and hers’ side, just a mixture of people they held dear, and who knew them as a couple in varying ways.

As music indicated the true commencement of proceedings, Haruka sniffled into her handkerchief at her husband’s side, both dividing their gaze between their eldest son and the imminent arrival of the bridal procession. Ishigami, his hand discreetly in Liana’s, watched on with less stoicism than usual, the faint hint of a smile widening as his wife squeezed his hand.

“Never thought I’d see this happen,” Kyobashi muttered, and Baba nodded.

“Me either,” he agreed quietly, as Rose appeared at the far end of the aisle. “I wonder if he really knows what he’s getting into.”

With a confident, if subdued smile, Rose began her slow walk to the music, making a point to make eye contact with Goto who shifted his weight. Seeing the man a little on edge made her want to grin, but she fought it back on account of the occasion. Kyobashi next drew her attention, and she had to try really hard not to roll her eyes when he winked at her – she was saved, however, when she spied Inui.

He peered at her with an expression of embarrassed awe, the blush in his cheeks suggesting he might like to look away, but his growing smile and wide eyes an indication he simply couldn’t. That look made Rose forget, even if for the moment, what he did for a living, who he worked for, her stoush at the Tres Spades that had definitely ruffled feathers. That boy – not, that man – was worth hanging onto despite the questionable nature of his employment. Somehow, they’d make it work.

H followed, swishing along in her deep blue dress, that like Rose’s matched the groomsmen’s ties. She looked for her own date, Atsumu, and found him beaming at her cheerfully. She’d been a little bit unsure, ultimately, about whether to invite him, but the glimmer in his eyes as he looked at her made her feel more sure… until another familiar figure nearly caused her to stumble.

What the hell was Luke doing here?

It was a question she couldn’t ask right now, but his slightly creased brow and the way his lips slowly parted as he stared at her, made her feel less mad about his presence. By the time she reached Rose’s side at the front of the group of guests, she had focused back in on her task as a bridesmaid and looked back up the aisle as Miho and Jazz appeared.

“Did you breath yet?” Jazz whispered as they paused, but Miho didn’t answer.

Her eyes gazed forward, fixed, completely fixed upon charcoal grey that reached out across the space between them and coiled around her heart.

“You’re going to pass out in front of everyone if you don’t inhale soon,” Jazz prompted, and finally Miho breathed in.

From his place at the front, the moment Goto locked eyes with Miho he was awash with a deep and jarring despair. On the happiest day of his life to date, he beheld his future wife as if the distance between them was suddenly insurmountable; dread made him cold, from somewhere tackled by the echo of a painful realisation they could not be together.

Then Miho took a step toward him.

Warmth returned, shattering the dark foreboding that had settled around Goto, and Miho’s smile reassured him they would be moving forward into the future together.

This was the second time for Miho, and as she walked, happy and proud to have Jazz with her – not even thinking about her parents at all – she made a momentary comparison. Did this feel the same as when she’d married Daisetsu?


It felt now, despite how trouble she still was by her part in his death, that it had been destined. Ultimately, there was a distinct rightness to her being in that place, approaching the man she approached, with the intention she had. To be with him forever.

Sure as he was also about what he wanted, when Jazz took Miho’s bouquet and bride and groom joined hands, his hold on her was light, tentative, like he thought she might disappear in a puff of smoke.

“I’m sorry for breaking tradition,” he said suddenly, before the wedding officiator could open his mouth, and Miho felt the soft warmth of Goto’s lips on hers.

Both Jazz and Subaru shook their heads wryly, while there was a ripple of quiet laughter from other guests.

“Hey you two, save it for the honeymoon,” Subaru grumbled, and sheepishly, blushing profusely, Goto slid his hands back into Miho’s and stepped slightly back.

“Who cares about tradition anyway?” Miho grinned, entirely unabashed as usual.

Official words were spoken, though for the most part in Japan marriage did not required any particular ceremonial formalities. This allowed Miho and Goto to agonise over their own vows, and finally it was time for Miho to open her heart in front of her lover, and all the people who loved them.

Slowly she inhaled, looking down as she gathered her thoughts and her emotional courage.

“I loved once – so much – I thought it was the definition of happiness,” she began after a deep breath, after lifting her eyes to Goto’s once more. “And when it was taken from me, the world fell away so far I didn’t dare imagine loving again.”

Silence – even the birds in the garden seemed to have hushed.

They were sad words, and most people in attendance knew what she was talking about; Goto knew all too well.

“So I went in search of happiness for others,” she continued soberly, her eyes shining though she was determined not to cry, “because dreaming of it for myself, the idea of giving everything only to fall into the abyss of loss all over again, was far too great a risk.”

Now, the squeeze of Goto’s fingers around hers almost undid her, she almost had to bite her lip.

“And then, here is this guy,” she huffed out. “So honest and genuine, so dedicated to justice, to doing right by people… he made me realise something.”

For a few seconds she paused.

“I realised,” she resumed in the quiet, “I would brave that darkness, that agony, a thousand times… for just one kiss. I realised living without him would cause me far greater pain than any distress the future might hold, and that I would rather live one second with him, than all eternity without.”

In unison, Kurosawa let out a loud sob that broke the magic of the moment, and while Issei passed the blubbering grown man a tissue, Goto glared over his shoulder until Miho tugged on his hands.

“See? Our love is so beautiful it makes grown men cry,” she smirked, adlibbing a little while others dabbed their eyes here and there. “And I know that no matter what we face in the future it won’t break me, because we will work through it together, always. Let me be your wife.”

A brief silence ensued though Goto knew that was his cue. Again he was searching her eyes, a deep familiarity that extended well beyond the time they had spent together in this life.

“There is something in your eyes, that leaves no room for doubt,” he said finally, soberly. “I saw it the first time we met, and though I lack the words to… to truly describe it…”

Though he’d surely rehearsed his vows a hundred times, Goto found the words sticking in his throat now he was there in the very moment their happiness would be validated before friends and family.

“There is a timelessness to my love for you,” he continued finally, releasing one of her hands in order to tenderly cup her cheek, “an immeasurable amount stretching all the way back to the first spark of our existence, burning all the way to this moment. Burning beyond it. Forever.”

Miho’s lips trembled and her eyes stung – she was completely transfixed by him. Haruka was already weeping, Shinichi lightly, discreetly caressing her hand. Liana, sitting beside her own husband, inhaled a deep, sighing breath and dropped her head against Ishigami’s shoulder, causing his lips to twitch into a reserved but genuine smile.

And Kurosawa snorted inappropriately into his handkerchief, his eyes all puffy and red from crying.

“I promise to face every challenge with you, beside you, together, no matter what,” Goto declared, finally smiling, and that broke Miho’s composure. “Let me be your husband.”

“I love you so much,” Miho sniffed, stepping against him and kissing him fiercely.

Subaru sighed.

Jazz offered the officiator an apologetic look.

No one laughed this time though – they were either beaming at the power of the couple’s spoken sentiments and physical reflection of them, or moved to, or beyond the point of tears.

When they parted, Goto brushed Miho’s tears away, holding back his own with all his willpower.

“And I love you, so much,” he whispered, and the master of ceremonies inched closer to them again before they could resume snogging.

“I have been asked to omit what is traditionally included in western ceremonies about asking if anyone has objections to this union,” he announced. “Instead, anyone who does find themselves in disagreement, should take it up with Ms. Mann and Mr. Ichiyanagi.”

“And us,” Rose and H added staunchly.

“And us,” Issei and Kurosawa added with severe nods.

But not a single person dared.

“In that case,” the officiator stated, “please join me and congratulating Mrs. and Mrs. Goto.”

While everyone applauded and cheered, Goto and Miho found each other again, and remained that way, long after hands had become sore from clapping.

“Completely oblivious,” Subaru muttered.

“It’s so beautiful,” Kurosawa snivelled to Issei, who chuckled and put his arm around the other man’s shoulder.

“How long before they tear each other’s clothes off you think?” H asked Rose quietly.

“I give them about ten minutes,” Rose smirked, unable to help but glance out to where Inui was sitting, still clapping but staring at her, not the happy couple.

As Miho and Goto began back down the aisle, accepting personal well wishes as they went, H glanced across the heads of those seated to find Luke at the end of one row… now sitting next to Atsumu.

Oh jeez.

Luckily she wouldn’t have to deal with that for a little while longer, and at some point during official photographs, H would make a point of asking Miho why she invited Luke, when she’d known for a fact Atsumu was coming as her date.

Typical Miho – matchmaking even on her own wedding day.

“Creating drama more like,” H murmured to herself as she followed Jazz and Rose in Miho’s wake.


In the majestic Japanese garden, the bridal party posed for innumerable photographs in order to immortalise the occasion. Rose felt her fingers itching the whole time, wanting desperately to sketch each precious moment, rather than be standing still for Jinpachi to capture.

There was not a second that husband and wife were not physically connected in some way, and Rose thought that occasionally she caught sight flashes of fear in them that if they did, one or the other would disappear.

Rose understood this feeling now, truly understood it.

“What’s that look for?” Rose asked H, when the group photos were done and they were excused to join the rest of the reception by the pond.

“I invited Atsumu,” H replied, though Rose already knew that. “But… Luke is here.”

“Ooh,” Rose cringed. “You want to grab a drink before you handle that one?”

“Just one?” H sighed, then inhaled and squared her shoulders. “Nah, I got this.”


The ceremony part of the wedding had been a huge success, and H hadn’t tripped or fallen, or made a fool of herself on Miho’s big day. Now it was just the reception she had to get through, with Atsumu…and for some reason Luke. Who the hell had invited him? Why was he there? She had no idea, but one thing was for certain, she was going to try her best to avoid him. And that’s what she was doing, hiding, right in one corner of the garden, with her glass of champagne, making sure Atsumu was covering her from anyone’s view.

“You sure you’re ok?” Atsumu asked for the 100th time.

“Huh? Oh yeah of course I am!” she grinned widely.

“It’s just you’ve refused to move from this spot since we got here,” he chuckled.

“Sorry!” she replied, genuinely feeling bad.

“It’s ok, I don’t mind, but the bride and groom deserve some of your attention too,” he smiled.

He was way too kind; she was thankful that Jazz and Kuni had set her up with him and she obviously had some doubts, but bringing him to the wedding just proved how patient and kind he was. Maybe this time she wouldn’t lose interest.

“You’re right. Should we go say congrats?” she asked.

“Why don’t you go over and I’ll follow? Just need the bathroom,” he said, kissing her forehead briefly.

Too sweet.

“I erm…ok,” her eyes shifted round the space, analysing everyone within it.

If she found him, she could avoid him, if she didn’t then maybe he’d left. She spotted Miho and her new groom not too far away at the head table ready for the next activities to begin. Their first dance would be soon, so she had to act fast. Mentally, H planned a route in her head, gave the area one last glance for red hair before she rushed over.

Using her fancy footwork, she scooted and dodged over to the newly-wed couple, quite literally bumping into Miho.

“Oh sorry darlin’!” she said, quickly turning to apologise, but keeping low in the crowd.

“H, you ok?” Miho asked, looking further down to her than usual.

“Fine! Just fine, congrats you two! Such lovely vows!” she said, still half crouching.

“…Thanks, but are you sure you’re ok?” Goto asked.

“Oh just fine sir, honestly!” she laughed.

The couple looked at each other with a doubtful expressions, but smiled nonetheless; this was H, she was just plain weird, this was normal for her.

“Well, thank you H, thanks for being here,” Miho chuckled.

“Nah, thanks for inviting me! You two are so meant for each other, but make sure you look after her Mister Goto sir, because Miho’s pretty awesome!” H said, and that’s when she spotted the ginger hair not too far.

Uh oh. She had to get out and back to her safe corner before he saw her.

“Well, it was good seeing you to congratulate you both, and may I can steal Miho for a dance later sir but right now, I gotta go pee!” she said, zipping off again, leaving Miho and Goto a little confused.

“She’s…interesting,” Goto laughed.

“That’s H for you,” Miho smiled. “But you’re way more interesting right now,” she grinned, pulling him in for yet again another kiss.

Almost back at her corner, H keep ducking around people, apologising to those who she bumped into. She could see safety in sight, her spot wasn’t far, and yet…



“Yes?” she turned, still slightly crouched.

“Why are you crouching like that?” Luke asked.

“And I could ask what you’re doing here, but I’m not!”

What kind of come-back was that?

“Erm, the bride invited me,” he explained and H stood up.

“What? How do you know Miho?” she asked.

“You’d left your necklace in the car, I was just returning it to your offices and Miho thanked me by inviting me,” he explained.

Damn it Miho! If it wasn’t her wedding she was totally…well, she was in big trouble after this. Wait, he knew where she worked?

For a moment she occupied herself with guests twirling and swaying on the dancefloor, but then saw Atsumu looking for her. Oh no. No, he couldn’t see her talking to this guy, he’d wonder what was going on and she had to explain everything and…no too much effort for a possible new relationship. So, once the song ended and couples parted, new couples formed, she grabbed Luke by the collar and took him to a corner.

“How do you know where I work?” she asked.

“A butler has ways of finding things out…Master Jan explained,” he said blushing.


“So, why were you crouching?” he asked again.

“None of your business,” she said simply. “Look, just because Miho invited you doesn’t mean I want you to be here, ok? You’re a pain in the neck! And you were a right dick to me when we first met, so stay away from me alright?”

“I wish to apologise for that! I didn’t know your job then, I didn’t know you then.”

“You don’t know me now!”

She saw Atsumu getting closer, she wanted to go back to him, to someone who hadn’t seen her the way Luke had. “If you’ll excuse me”

“A dance?” he asked as she pushed past him.


“May I have one dance? To apologise? I know you can so…”

His cheeks blushed bright red.

“I have a date who’ll probably want to dance,” she replied.

“Oh, you came with someone, of course you did, my apologies, please, excuse me then,” he said in a rush, hiding his blushing face before he quickly left.

Relieved, H made her way over to Atsumu who promptly asked her to dance which she fully accepted.

Luke on the other hand, gave his congratulations to Miho and Goto before heading out of the venue. He knew he was in trouble, not from H, or his highness, or even his grandfather, no, more from the feeling in his chest seeing this woman he didn’t know all that well, dancing with another man. He’d fallen for her, and he’d fallen hard.


Rose watched H disappear into the crowd before she turned her attention back to the beautiful Japanese garden she was stood in. Everyone stood over by the pond and from the distance away from everyone, it was almost like she was an ‘onlooker’ intruding on such a joyous occasion.

She smiled.

It was nothing like that. Over by that pond were her friends and people she considered as close as family. It was a beautiful moment and she wished she had her sketchbook on her, but unfortunately it had been confiscated.

The happy couple glowed compared to everyone else. Even their faint smiles appeared like broad grins. Rose was a little surprised they actually hadn’t sneaked off yet. Good thing she didn’t make an actual bet with H, she would have lost.

It was such a happy day.

“It’s a really pretty venue, and um, you, you look really beautiful too.”

A shy and familiar voice sounded next to her.

Instantly she smiled in response.

“Thank you,” Rose whispered and leant into Ryosuke’s side. “Thank you for coming.”

She looked at him, his skin that cute shade of blush he always wore whenever she was affectionate with him. He looked good in a suit, more masculine and mature despite the colour of his face.

He looked straight ahead as he wrapped an arm around her shoulder and allowed her body to melt alongside his.

She let out a soft sigh.

Somehow, after watching Miho and Goto and all the shit they had gone through together, she realised they would be okay. His job didn’t make him the person he is, nor did Mr. Oh. Ryosuke Inui was still that soft hearted, sweet and gentle boy she’d grown to adore entirely. And the person she realised she couldn’t be without.

“Well, even if I didn’t want to come, I figured if I didn’t, you wouldn’t be the only one to come after me.”

He let out a little chuckle and his head turned towards Miho and Goto and even Jazz.

“I still can’t believe you did that, y’know came looking for me. You even went to the penthouse while Mr Ichinomiya was there!”

Ryosuke seemed to grimace at the mention of that name and Rose’s hackles went up too. He was not a man she wanted to have frequent encounters with.

“Do you still not get it?” Rose asked and Ryosuke turned so he was fully facing her with a questioning brow and a slight cock of his head. Like a puppy.

“I will go through the depths of hell – in this case that penthouse lounge. Thankfully Kisaki wasn’t there or I may have been arrested before I got to you, but that’s besides the point.”

Rose took a breath to get to the point she was trying to make.

“I love you and I want to be with you.”

The sound of everything around them dulled out the palpable tension. They had this conversation already but Ryosuke still seemed to doubt a little – understandably so, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.

Warmth surrounded her as Ryosuke encased her in his arms. His smell drifted into her nostrils and the strength of his arms kept her pressed to his.

“I love you too,” was all he said as he planted a kiss on the top of her head.

They stayed like that for a moment before Miho, probably annoyed that because she was centre of attention she couldn’t sneak off for private Goto affection, called Rose over.

Ryosuke took Rose’s hand and they walked together towards the happy couple.

They were going to be alright.


“And now, ladies and gentlemen,” Subaru said into the microphone, and the noise of the reception fell away, “our newly-weds will share their first dance as husband and wife.”

Placing her hand in Goto’s, Miho allowed him to lead her to the now otherwise empty dance floor. There, in the centre, with all eyes on them, he pulled her body gently against his.

“How you doing being the centre of attention?” Miho whispered, her lips curled into a teasing smirk.

“So long as I’m the centre of your attention,” he replied easily, sliding his hand along the soft satin of her gown to the small of her back, “I can put up with the other gawkers.”

“That’s my brave husband,” she grinned, as the gentle rhythm of Savage Garden’s ‘I Knew I Loved You’ began to play.

“I love the sound of that,” he told her frankly, leading and Miho followed.

“Well, it’s reality now whether you like it or not,” she chuckled.

Around them seemed somehow to grow dim, though the multitude of candles in the garden continued to burn brightly. The only thing that seemed to illuminate was them, was each other; the dark coiled around them created by their absolute focus, on each other; they were alone, moving to the sound of the other’s beating heart, and completely comfortable with that.

“Still feels like a dream,” Goto exhaled, spinning her gracefully.

“Right?” she responded. “If I wake up, I’m going to throw the biggest tantrum.”

“Nobody wants that,” he laughed, tightening his grip. “You know I really meant what I said in my vows,” he continued. “Ever since I first saw you, I’ve had this inexplicable feeling of loss.”

“Loss?” she repeated, her brow twitching into a frown.

“Like I’ve been living my life all this time incomplete, and only realised it when I met you – that missing piece.”

Miho blinked. His vows had been powerful enough, but this addition, the sheer absoluteness of his gaze, rocked her completely – all the way back to a moment in time very long ago she couldn’t quite remember, when they had said their goodbyes but promised one day to be happy.

“You’ve already ruined my makeup once,” she grumbled, her voice wavering as she pressed her cheek to his and closed her eyes.

“Still beautiful,” he smiled, ceasing his movements to distance her face a little, his thumbs brushing her cheeks. “And mine.”

“I’m not much for being considered a possession,” she told him quietly, but he could hear her perfectly, her voice the only thing echoing in the world, “but I’m going to let you get away with it, just for today.”

Again they kissed… and kissed… and kissed… until Jazz poked Miho in the ribs.

“Even for you, sex in the middle of a dancefloor would be over the top,” she said, and though Miho seemed unbothered by the remark, Goto’s face flushed. “And it’s my turn to dance.”

Naturally, Miho thought she meant Jazz wanted to dance with her, but it was to Goto she turned.

Still blushing, he smiled and nodded, but was definitely reluctant to let Miho go.

“Rude,” Miho huffed, then looked to her left to find Kuni standing there.

“Would you do me the honour?” he asked flashing his best smile and bowing a little.

“Well, since Jazz stole my husband, it only makes sense,” she shrugged, and allowed Kuni’s hand to rest on her hip.

For a really loooong thirty seconds they danced without speaking, until Miho broke the silence.

“I forgive you,” she declared, “if you care. I mean, if Jazz can, and marry you, then I don’t want there to be any enmity between us. But don’t think I’ll ever forget though; Jazz is my best friend; it’s my job to protect her.”

“Think maybe we could share that responsibility?” he enquired hopefully, and Miho let out a snort.

“Sure,” she conceded.

“I’m pretty certain Goto is getting told something similar,” Kuni laughed, relaxing a little. “Seriously, you girls are scary.”

“Best not to forget that,” Miho grinned.

Only a couple of feet away Goto was putting his hand on Jazz’s waist, clearly not as comfortable as he had been when holding Miho.

“So, you know that I am her best friend,” Jazz casually said when Goto started to dance with her, a bit wooden but at least he wasn’t stepping on her toes.

“I know.”

“And you know that I consider her my sister, right? That makes you my brother-in-law.” She let him twirl her once before he nodded.

“That is fine with me.”

“And since I’m practically the mother AND the father of the bride today, that also makes you my son-in-law. Twice.”

He hesitated, this was getting scary.

“Just to make this clear: I love her. She’s part of my family, and with marrying her, so are you. You are a good man, Seiji Goto. Now you better be good to her.”

With a smile she stepped aside when H came to ask for the next dance with Goto.

For some time the bride and groom were separated, as everyone wanted their chance to dance with them.

By the time main course was served, Miho was glad to return to the bridal table and lace her fingers back through Goto’s.

“It would be wrong of us to disappear before cake and speeches, right?” Miho asked rhetorically against Goto’s ear, and he turned his face.

“You dreading them that much?”

“Are you kidding?” she scoffed. “Jazz and Subaru have been at each other’s throats the whole planning process – I get the horrible feeling this is going to be a contest.”

“That might be amusing,” Goto smirked, his hand leaving hers to give her thigh a squeeze under the table.

“That depends how many embarrassing stories Subaru knows about you,” Miho pointed out. “And I can guarantee Jazz knows some real doozies about me.”

“You think they’d do that?” he frowned a little. “I mean, this should be about us, not, separately, but together. We’re not that embarrassing.”

“We could be,” Miho grinned wickedly.


“I could just…” she began to sink in her chair. “… just slide under the table here and…”

Goto caught her just as Jazz looked over at them.

“Don’t even joke about it,” he grumbled. “Believe me, all I want right now is you wrapped around me.”

“I heard that,” Issei muttered from behind them.

“Don’t start with me Issei,” Miho smirked. “I saw who you were cuddling up with.”

Goto raised an eyebrow, while Issei blushed – the same way Goto did when he was embarrassed.

“Who was he cuddling up with?” Goto questioned, eying his brother like the answer might be written on his face.

To that, Miho did not reply, but if the guy was going to flirt with the dessert maker in a busy space filled with family and friends, it wasn’t as if he was hiding his same sex attraction.

“Who?” Goto persisted, and Issei put his hand on his brother’s shoulder.

“I’ll tell you all about it when you get back from your honeymoon okay?” he offered with a smile and a nod to Miho, who grinned back.

“Oooh it’s a happinessalanche,” she squealed, squeezing Goto’s arm. “Ah, Christ you smell good.”

“Happinessalanche?” he repeated with a chuckle.

“Totally a thing,” Miho shrugged, and inhaled deeply against him.

“Stop sniffing the groom,” Jazz chastised, next to come up behind them.

“Weirdo,” Subaru added smugly, arriving at Jazz’s side.

He then clinked a spoon against his glass, drawing the attention of the guests to the small group of bridal couple and their closest friends.

“Dear guests, Mr. and Mrs. Goto – annoying wedding planner – we are here tonight not only to celebrate the love of two people who obviously can’t keep their hands off each other-“ he began only to get interrupted by some ‘awww’s and a ‘gross’, much to the amusement of most of the guests. “-we are also here test the bond between Miho and Paja- I mean Seiji.”

“Usually the best man holds an embarrassing and totally overblown speech on the groom and the bridesmaid holds a sickly sweet and emotional speech on the bride. Well, as some if you might already know, Miho isn’t a fan of sickly sweet and Goto isn’t a fan of – well, I’m not even sure if he’s a fan of anything other than Miho.” This time Jazz earned some laughter.

“So we decided to change things up a bit, fitting to this not really traditional wedding and definitely not traditional couple.” Subaru was looking at Miho intently before his gaze flitted to Goto.

“So instead of telling you how the couple met and how they fell in love – I’m sure we are all tired of that story already – and the nature of the groom’s job doesn’t allow us to say too much-“ Jazz was just saying when Subaru interjected: “Just as the bride’s job, too.”

“Yes, thank you, Subaru. So since confidentiality and honest speeches just don’t go well together, we thought we are going to tell you a tale. A tale of olden times.”

Just on cue Kuni joined them, a paper model of a sailing boat in hands.

“So, once upon a time in a far off land there was a feared pirate,” Jazz began and pulled a doll out of a bag she was holding. “As some of you might know, Miho was an assassin in a past life. But she was also a pirate in – well, in another past life. Pirate Miho was sailing the seven seas, following her whims and wishes, but she was more like a Robin Hood with a tricorne.” She held the small pirate doll over the ship that Kuni kept moving on imaginary waves.

“She was strong and beautiful, desired by many and feared by many other more. But she was also just and fair, her crew loyal not only because of her generosity, but because she genuinely cared. Of course she mostly showed it in a roundabout way, she was blunt and honest to the point of hurting sometimes.”

H and Rose chuckled at this, and Miho laughed out loud, squeezing Goto’s hand while he smiled at her, mostly enjoying seeing his wife happy and carefree like that.

“But most of all she was lonely, the life of a pirate princess not an easy one.”

The audience erupted in a collective ‘awwww’ before Subaru took over.

“At the same time there was a small island, one mostly unbeknown to men, inhabited by a single – let’s call it person. A creature of legend, wearing a pinstriped fishtail whenever it entered the sea.”

Subaru pulled a mermaid doll out of the bag and let it float in the air over his palm that represented the island.

“On the land he looked like a normal man…”

Subaru tugged at the merman’s tail, pushed it up to reveal a pair of pinstriped clad legs. Miho whispered something to Goto, probably something inappropriate judging by his reaction.

“… But in the water he was completely different, practically undercover.”

Even Ishigami’s lips curled into a tiny smile at that one.

“He was just as lonely as pirate Miho was, and after some disappointing encounters with humans he decided it was better that way. He was a siren, a creature that lured others in, but never let them come close.”

“Although pirate Miho was a human woman, made of flesh and bones – she was pretty much a siren herself.”

Jazz let the doll navigate closer to the siren island and someone hooted in the audience. Subaru nodded knowingly. Jazz shot him a glare and he cleared his throat.

“So what do we have so far? Two lonely souls, fated to a life in solitude? That would be too much of sad tale for such a happy occasion, so let’s bring the story along.”

He nodded towards Jazz who gave Kuni a signal.

“One day Miho was sailing in rough sea, and she went overboard. Of course her crew was trying to find her, save her, but alas! Miho stayed lost.”

She let the doll jump from the ship and Kuni whispered something to her before he stepped away, taking the boat with him.

“She held onto a barrel – formerly filled with whiskey – and floated helplessly around. Especially frustrated by the ‘helpless’ part.”

“Damn right!” Miho shouted and Goto chuckled, and pulled her back into his arms before she could stumble into the display in front of them.

“Yes, thank you for your affirmation of this part. Anyway, while she was floating around, angry that the whiskey was already gone, when she came close to the island of Goto.”

Jazz waved the small doll back and forth, getting closer to Subaru’s hand with each turn, something he noticed with a smug grin.

“Siren Goto was living a rather dull life, one boring day followed the other. But then he noticed something drifting in the sea, close to his home. There was a woman dancing on the waves or so it seemed, the first sign of something different and new. And after an eternity alone he couldn’t help but get excited. He jumped into the water and swam to the barrel, only to find the feistiest and prickliest creature he had ever seen.”

Another bout of laughter, some ‘hey’s and a ‘booo’ from Miho.

“Give her a drink, maybe that’ll shut her up!” Rose suggested only for H to grab a bottle and walk over to Miho.

The bride first first the bottle, then an unladylike swig, followed by a hearty ‘arrrr’.

“With her natural charm and her loveliness, however, she charmed him, and he sang her songs of love and devotion to make her stay.”

Now both dollies hovered over Subaru’s outstretched palm, forcing Jazz and Subaru to stand closely together.

“We could tell you now about how Miho’s pirate heart yearned for freedom, how much she longed to go back to her old life, with her crew and her ship – but let’s face it, that would be a lie. And although her crew did miss her dearly, they knew she was happy somewhere, no longer alone but with someone who loved her and who she loved in return.”

Jazz shrugged apologetically.

“Sorry, we can’t do this without a bit of sappy romance stuff after all.”

“And the moral of this story is, sometimes two people, different as they may seem, are just the perfect match.”

Subaru closed their story, nudged Jazz’s shoulder, and with a sigh she moved the doll when he moved his doll, making them kiss.

The bridal couple copied their dolly versions, although thanks to Miho’s effort their kiss wasn’t as innocent.

“Now let’s raise our glasses to a love that obviously was meant to be, in this life and in others before.”

Jazz took a glass of champagne from a tray that the servers were carrying around.

“To Miho and Seiji!” Subaru said, and everyone repeated the toast.

After a sip he whispered towards Jazz: “See? We are make a good team, you and me. If you weren’t that stubborn all the time we could have lots of fun. You know, the best man and the bridesmaid…”

Jazz chuckled dryly.

“I’m not stubborn, I just have standards. And now excuse me, I’m going to kiss my own husband now.”

With a nod she left him standing there, the Goto doll still in his hand.

“Yoink!” Miho chirped, plucking the Goto dollie from Subaru’s grip. “I’m going to keep him for when Seiji is on an op.”

“Size is about right,” Subaru snickered, and Goto narrowed his eyes at him. “What? You don’t want the Miho doll?”

“No thanks,” Goto volleyed. “That doll is the only thing of her I’m going to let you have.”

“Harsh,” Issei chuckled, joining them.

“Come on you guys, get your butts out there for the bouquet toss,” Miho encouraged.

“That’s for the girls,” Subaru sniffed, and Miho too his arm and shoved him into motion.

“Don’t gender stereotype,” she chided, then called attention to the other guests. “Okay folks, if you’re single and looking for marital bliss, here’s your chance this evening to get yourself a little luck – though I do have to say as a professional matchmaker, that the effectiveness of catching the bridal bouquet in landing you the perfect partner is not yet proven.”

Guests once again laughed, as the single female guests began to move to the centre of the dancing area, the men, and couples watching on with amusement. The only exception seemed to be Kurosawa, who had positioned himself in the middle of the large group of women.

“That guy,” Subaru said, shaking his head, but at his side, Issei felt like he’d really like to join them too.

When almost every single woman had gathered in the middle – even Rose and H had been dragged off with a group of other young women – Jazz was still standing at the side.

“Hey, Miss Wedding Planner, won’t you come and join us? You know the tradition, don’t you?” Kurosawa loudly shouted over the heads of the women around him, drawing the attention towards Jazz who just sighed and shook her head.

“Oh, come on! We are here, too!” H grumbled.

“I can’t,” Jazz cheerfully yelled back, eyes flitting once to Kuni who shrugged with a grin, then to Miho who mirrored that gesture.

“Why not? Don’t want to put pressure on your barkeeper?” someone else asked.

Was that Atsumu?

Again Jazz shared a glance with Kunihiko who put the glass down he was holding and came over to her.

“Now?” he whispered.

“As good as any other time.”

He reached into his pocket and handed her something. Jazz took a deep breath.

“So, there’s something we have to tell you…” Jazz announced and took Kuni’s hand, sliding a wedding band on this finger before he did the same for her.

There were some cheers and confused questions but before the crowd could actually scatter Jazz shook her head.

“Time for congratulations and questions is later, now there is a bouquet to catch!” she laughed, when Kunihiko pulled her close and kissed her.

“So it’s official now?”

He was still holding her in his arms, not caring about the people around them.

“I guess it is. The next party I’m planning is our reception, huh?”

“Jazz, are you married yet?” Miho called, looking over her shoulder. “Can I throw it now?”

“Yeah we’re done, go ahead,” Jazz grinned, giving Kuni a squeeze, whispering the last to him. “We’re so not done.”

“Okay, here we go!” Miho announced, loud and clear as she turned her back to the group. “One, two, three!”

It wasn’t like she needed to worry about hitting a ceiling or anything, being out in the garden, and perhaps that’s why her throw was somewhat unreserved. It was so enthusiastic in fact, that it sailed clean over the heads and reaching arms of the women – and Kurosawa – and landed in the reflexive clutch of Subaru’s hands.

Goto laughing was what Miho saw first before she, and everyone else, turned to stare at Subaru, as he looked at the lovely flowers in his hand, then over at Miho – who smirked – then at Issei to his left as if for an explanation or perhaps help.

What he got, however, was a wink and a grin.

“Well I guess there’s hope for everyone now,” Miho chortled, leaning back against Goto who wrapped his arms around her again.

“Did Issei just wink at Subaru?” he against against her ear.

“That’s the sexiest thing you can manage to whisper to your wife?” she grumbled, deflecting the question.

“The moment we’re alone,” he began again, quietly, a deep and penetrating rumble, “I’m going to peel that dress off you… with my teeth.”

“Better,” Miho sighed, nudging her hips back against him. “Let’s just go now, no one will notice.”

“There’s still the cake,” he groaned, both wanting her to grind on him and not, considering where they were and who was watching.

“Everyone!” Miho said loudly once more. “Who wants CAKE?!”

“You want the cake, now?” Jazz queried with a slight frown, since it was a bit early for that.

“No, I want to smear it all over Seiji’s chest and lick it off,” Miho stated, and Ishigami, who had been standing within earshot, nearly spat out his mouthful of champagne.

Liana, beside him, however, glanced at her husband, then rolled her eyes upward as if imagining that scenario.

“That may be a little… too much,” Ishigami admitted a little shyly.

“You’re terrible, you know that?” Jazz hissed at Miho, but she was shaking her head and couldn’t stop herself from grinning.

“Come ooon,” Miho whined. “I’ve been good right?”

“It’s your wedding! You’re supposed to be here and have a good time all night.”

“She will,” Goto assured Jazz, in a comment more bold than usual. “I promise.”

“Hey, you eloped for a reason,” Miho pointed out. “Instant honeymoon, and don’t tell me you didn’t instant honeymoon.”

“A ridiculous amount of times,” Jazz grinned, and Miho actually stomped like a petulant child. “Oh for fuck’s sake, have your cake and eat it,” Jazz conceded, but she was contemplating grabbing a handful of the carefully crafted wedding cake, and smushing it in Miho’s face.

The real reason she didn’t, is because she knew Miho would only exact revenge, and turn the wedding into a massive food fight.

So Jinpachi lined up once more to get some great photographs of Miho and Goto cutting their cake, that had two little weddingy Domo-kun figures on the top – Miho’s request of course. Goto took that opportunity to thank everyone for coming on behalf of himself and his wife, especially the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and the wedding planner, even though she’d had to fight with Subaru most of the way.

Miho then demanded everyone drink all their booze and party on into the night.

For a little while longer the happy couple circulated, but eventually slipped away. According to Miho’s wishes, however, the party did continue in their absence. Jazz and Kuni basked in their own now openly known marital status; Rose danced against Inui’s chest while he both blush and tried to glare at any man who got too close; Atsumu drew H out of her irritation and had her laughing thanks to his dorky ways, and while dark corners were usually Miho’s thing, it was Issei who found himself willingly cornered, the lips of Yuto Tsuruya weakening the hurt of his unrequited love for Subaru.


“Think anyone will notice we’re gone?” Miho queried in a giggle, as Goto led her by the hand down the flare-lit path to the bridal accomodation – a traditional Japanese building at the back of the property, secluded from the main area.

“Of course they will,” Goto chuckled, glancing back at her.

“Hmm, Lieutenant Goto, you look like you don’t care,” Miho grinned smugly. “Like the cat who got the cream.”

“In a few minutes we’ll find out if that’s true,” he responded, and Miho actually blinked a little in shock.

“I am rubbing off on you,” she laughed as he pulled her up behind him onto the veranda.

“Come here and rub a little more,” he instructed, opening the door to their suite and drawing her inside.

Blood Spatter: Part 6

WARNING: This part contains smut.

Eyes turned to focus on them as Kiril urged Miho away from the table to where there was enough room to dance. This fictitious crowd bowed their heads respectfully, curtsied, before Kiril twirled Miho around.

“There have been many balls such a this,” he told her, their faces close.

“How are you controlling all of this in such detail and yet still able to form sentences?” Miho blinked, still preoccupied by their surroundings to pay too much notice to Kiril’s touch,

“You think women are the only ones able to multi-task?” he huffed, squeezing her body a little tighter against him. “The blood of a true vampire is very potent… among other things.”

At this, Miho sputtered out a laugh and accidentally trod on his toes, and their slight stumble saw them slide directly through a passing couple.

“I’m sorry,” she chuckled stepping back into the rhythm of their graceful path around the glittering space. “But that…”

“I wonder what potent thing you are imagining, Sparrow,” he grinned, knowing full well the innuendo he’d made.

“What’s with the nickname?” she asked on a different tangent, but it had been something she’d thought about on and off.

“Sparrows are small and delicate,” he replied easily, spinning her with the dramatic flourish of intangible cloth.

“Delicate? Me?” she snorted, somewhat proving her point.

“And you have this furtive awareness, always looking for danger,” he added.

“Ah, can you blame me?” she laughed, gasping a little when he leaned her back draped over one arm.

“No, I cannot,” he conceded, staring down at her with suddenly greater focus.

From her eyes, to her lips, his gaze then travelled to the extension of her neck, and as she noted this, Miho’s muscles tensed.

“You look hungry,” she exhaled quietly, her fingers clenching tighter against his jacket. “Should I be sensing danger?”

“Do not doubt I want to taste what Alex stole,” Kiril admitted, the hand not holding her reclined touching lightly to the line of her jaw before trailing slowly downward. “His trespass was unforgiveable.”

“Because he attacked me without provocation and that was wrong, or because the alpha male in you thinks my hunter blood should only be for you?” she breathed, but her eyes had narrowed sharply.

Slowly, maintaining eye-contact, he brought her upright, so close the tips of their noses were touching.

“Yes,” he told her quietly, and Miho was so transfixed, so consumed by the lush gleam of his eyes, that it took her several seconds to notice the orchestral music had ceased, as had the movement of bodies around them.

“I should kick your ass for that response,” she told him flatly, but he saw the continuation of her statement twitching on her lips.

“But?” he prompted.

“But I’d rather you kissed me,” she admitted, but Kiril still did not look especially moved.

“Why then, do you not kiss me?” he offered, challenge smeared across the slight upward tweak of his mouth.

Glowering, Miho lifted herself a little onto her toes and leaned forward, pressing against him with her lower body whiles her lip drew closer to him; then she smugly pulled back, just before their lips made contact – she made a point of showing him he was not the only one capable of playing games.

At this is was not pleased.

“Frustrating, isn’t i…” Miho began, but the air was crushed from her as he tightened one arm, and with the other slid his hand into her hair and brought her face to his.


It’s a ravenous kiss so fierce I think I might disappear inside him completely, sparking a fire almost beyond my control.  Every inch of my skin is suddenly singing a heavenly choir of rapture – and it’s terrifying just how ready I feel to face the apocalypse, if only to prolong this a little more. As my fingers dig into the taut muscles of his upper arms I can feel just how much he wants me too; I’m doing more than flirting with danger now, but whatever spell he’s got me under I don’t think I can resist it for much longer.

Even at the nip of his teeth against my lower lip, I’m still so caught up in the desire to taste his skin I ignore the potential of him biting down just a little too hard. Oh God, my head is spinning because I can’t remember the last time I took a breath – and I don’t care.

My gasp echoes around the hall, now empty but for Kiril and I, my panting a stark contrast to his complete composure. But his eyes are devouring me so indecently I cannot bring myself to move my face any further than I absolutely need to ensure I don’t pass out.

“See?” I grin in dizzy triumph. “You’re not the only one who always gets what he wants.”

“Is that all you want?” he inquires, the seriousness of the question dropping the floor from under my feet.

What he wants is obvious, and I simply cannot deny I want it too – trying to convince myself otherwise is now futile.

“Aren’t my thoughts loud enough for you now?” I volley, brushing my fingertips beneath the collar of his shirt.

“You told me not to intrude, Sparrow,” he points out, teasingly pecking at my cheeks, “so you are just going to have to be explicit.”

“Oh, explicit is exactly what I’m thinking,” I reply breathily, chasing his lips until he allows me to warm them with my own once more. “Distract me from this insufferable waiting, Kiril.”

“Is that what I am? A distraction?” he frowns, but the way he’s tugging me against his body by the waist tells me right now it’s highly unlikely he cares about anything other than getting me naked.

“Distraaaaaact me,” I hiss against his throat, before kissing up under his chin.

His reaction startles me at first, giving me a shove away, but his sharp bark at the pair of attendants to clean up precedes the equally as sharp snatch of my hand and the swift jerk of my body toward the exit.


There is a faint sense of travel, but the distance between the castle and my hotel is little more than a blur, pouring like molten liquid into the moment Kiril and I burst into my suite. The push and pull of emotions I’ve experienced since meeting him is full throttle forward – pull his jacket away, pull his shirt buttons free, pull his bare chest against mine.

The air rushes loudly from my lungs as I’m slammed against the door, and my legs wrap naturally around his waist; his tongue, cool and moist against the inflame of my skin, slithers maddeningly down my throat, across my collarbone and across my chest until his lips suck my left nipple into his mouth.

“Gaaaah,” I hiss as his teeth pinch, and a thrill of fear shakes magnitude 10 down my spine. “Kiril… wait…”

“Rrrrwhaaat?” he growls, lifting his head with a face full of fierce. “Do not tell me to stop.”

“No… not that,” I pant, helplessly drowning in his eyes, raking my fingers through his hair as I struggle to find more words. “No biting.”

“Are you afraid, Sparrow?” he whispers against my cheek, though his unflinching gaze doesn’t break contact.

A denial is derailed before I can voice it, the promising strain of his desire pressing between my legs.

“Yes,” I admit, a word frighteningly loud as even the sound of our heavy breathing vanishes.

“Good,” he praises, his wolfish grin at first suggesting a twisted satisfaction in my alarm, but then I see in the sudden stillness that’s gripped our bodies, it’s my honesty that has garnered his approval. “Trust me.”

“Take me,” I shudder out, and throw the last of my caution to the whirlwind that envelopes us both.

Thought gives way to pure sensation: the tearing of fabric refusing to give; the swimming intoxication of breath held far too long; the slick of perspiration and persistence.

Trembling in desperate anticipation, I welcome the weight of his body, frantic to smooth my palms over the sculpture of his muscles, aching for him to touch more than just the surface.

Begging like I have never felt lust before.

Teased from toe-tip to top, to the very limit of my frustration, until he can see the wildness, the agonising fracture lines of my libido chasing every caress.

And begging like I have never felt lust before – or perhaps once – I had the taste of him in my mouth and the heaving delight of him within; even though it wasn’t him, even when it was no more than the craft of my imagination and a warm substitute.

Now there is no need, but need for him, and had I sense of anything other than that, my pride might protest. But he is every bit as hungry as I am.

Ravenous, he drags me up, a puppet sobbing feverishly for him to end my torment. My body curls, back arches as he reaches around to dance his fingers against the throb of my suffering, and I can’t hold out any longer.

It doesn’t sound like my voice, but somehow it’s the most natural utterance I’ve ever made – a choking moan without meaning to be a word, just the pure expression of my body’s inability to comprehend anything other than the pleasure of Kiril tipping me over the edge.

The way he pulls back on my hair, the gratification of his teeth grazing my shoulder, that he is unrelenting even as I convulse, is finally punctuated by the surprisingly slow ease of him inside me. This delicious pressure from within, slow, measured strokes, causes my muscles to contract so tightly I may never unwind.

Who cares?

I’m a tense ball of yearning wanting more, rocking myself against him forcefully until I’m rewarded by his voice mingling with mine in incoherent harmony.

“Sparrow,” he grates out through his teeth, my earlobe bearing the brunt of his next assault in a stinging bite that draws close to breaking his word, but doesn’t.

“Don’t stop,” I breathe giddily, grasping for enough air to fill my lungs but light-headed regardless as another storm breaks over me.

Thunder rumbling at my very centre.

Lightning searing every nerve ending.

There is no way to distinguish between sweat and tears of ecstasy, but neither he or I care.

In a slight moment of terrible respite, my back hits the bedsheets and I peer up at Kiril looming over me with an ardent restraint I both hate and admire.

“What?” I swallow heavily, unable to keep from squirming as he poises at my entrance but moves no more.

“I want to burn that face you are making, into my memory,” he declares, and it’s now, now that he’s hovering above looking down at me I see his teeth, his fangs, the touch of his tongue tapping one point.

My chest stops moving; I am mesmerized.

“No,” he whispers, leaning slowly forward to frame my face with large hands, lying against me with a tenderness I do not associate with monsters, “not that face,” he continues, brushing my lower lip with one thumb before burying himself inside me again.

With his head nuzzling into the crook of my neck, his hands slithering up my arms to grip my wrists and hold them firmly down, I know there is nothing I can do to fight him – if he’s going to kill me, I’ll die.

It’s not death that’s bubbling in my veins though, not death tingling through every fibre of my body, nor are the screams Kiril smothers with his tongue cries for help – it’s a star gone supernova consuming everything in its path.

And if he stops now without filling me to the brim?

Perhaps that is death.

That is the face,” he groans, and I open my eyes to see his – wild and shameless – trying to fix me in his focus as I watch him come undone.


Kiril’s voice drifts softly to where I lie comfortably beneath the bed covers. Blearily, I try to blink away the tattered remnants of sleep and listen in.

“… control freak,” Kiril sniffs, standing by the window with bright of morning cutting a black silhouette out of the day. “Give me more time.”

There he pauses. I cannot hear who he’s talking to, but he doesn’t seem irritated or in any way put out.

Typical Kiril.

Though I make no attempt to hide my interest in his conversation, sitting up, my interest moves from his lips to the bare of his chest. There are no marks on his skin where last night my fingernails broke the surface in my ardour.

Our ardour.

Slowly, my eyes widen, because beneath the sheets I’m a mess, and I’m a mess because…

“Oh shit,” I gasp, suddenly scrambling to free myself of the tangle.

“Just do it, Narumi,” Kiril huffs, turning to fix me in his gaze. “I have to go.”

The hand holding his phone drops to his side, and I become motionless.

A naked, vulnerable example of intimacy without protection.

“I’m ahh… I’m going to…” I mutter.

“You look like death,” he smirks, amused as he makes absolutely no effort to hide his appreciation of my figure.

“Kiril… we… I’m…”

“Yes, a frightful reminder of the things I would very much like to repeat,” he grins, approaching.

“You need to tell me right now,” I demand in a fluster, pointing at him almost in accusation. “Can you get me pregnant?”

Kiril blinks, but his surprise is feigned.

“We could try I suppose,” he offers, spreading his hands and approaching with clear intent.

“This isn’t funny, Kiril, can a vampire get a human pregnant? Because I don’t want some needle-teeth horror chewing its way out of my body.”

“Then it is lucky I do not sparkle in the sunlight then,” he smiles, but I shuffle back before he can touch me.

“I am not joking!” I cry in agitated frustration, only to find myself swiftly backed up against the wall.

“And I am not laughing,” he hisses against my lips, our noses point to point. “Do I seem a man who longs for the complication of a child?”

“Just tell me you can’t get me pregnant,” I sigh, shivering as his fingers brush my bare hip.

“You and I, cannot have children,” he assures me gently, but his grin is teasing.

“And other things? Oh god, where was my head when I just…” I rush on, thinking about all the diseases one might catch from unprotected sex.

“I am not sure where yours was, but mine,” he chuckles, smoothing hair over my ear as he breathes against my cheek, “was somewhere deep, and dark, warm and beautiful.”

“I bet you say that to all the vaginas,” I stammer out, my fingers tensing against his sides, hankering to dig in.

“Those conversations do not usually last very long,” he admits, kissing one cheek lightly then moving to the other, “but I would definitely like to resume the discussion I began with yours last night.”

“Now you’re just being vulgar,” I snort, but a smile tugs my lips upwards as he lightly kisses them again.

What I’m doing – other than the obvious – I don’t know. What I do know, is being touched by Kiril is unlike anything else, and it’s utterly stupid how much I want him to never stop.


After running the water cold with activities other than cleaning, Miho dressed and sat on her suite’s balcony in the mid-morning sun. She’d been staring at her phone for some time before inhaling deeply and calling a number she had not hesitated to dial in the past.

It rang only once before Sebastian answered, and the image of him crouched over it, glaring, waiting for it to ring flashed in Miho’s mind’s eye.

“Have you any idea how worried I’ve been?” were the first words he said, and Miho rubbed her brow where a frown instantly formed.

If his concern for her was indeed so fierce, why had he not told her about the vampire in their midst? Why had he been so cryptic about his warnings to stay away from Kiril when he had to have known she would push back when not provided with a valid reason.

“Would you have accepted the real reason if he’d told you?” she wondered silently, finally responding loud. “I’m pleased to hear from you too, Sebastian.”

“Really? You know, if that were true, you might have responded to the fifty message I’ve left for you already,” he snapped.

“I’ve been running all over Prague looking for my missing best friend,” she volleyed curtly, her mood quick to darken. “Imagine Selina went AWOL,” she continued, leaning forward in her seat, “because that is how I feel right now, how I’ve been feeling, so I’m sorry if I’ve gone deaf to all your warning-warning danger Will Robinson over Kiril Lambert.”

A short silence ensued, during which time Miho sucked in a deep breath and flopped back; she hadn’t meant to be quite so savage.

“Uh, I’m sorry,” she sighed, rolling her eyes across the city. “I’m really exhausted, and Jazz’s trail’s gone cold.”

Why she was especially tired, she did not say.

“I don’t mean to badger you, Miho,” he responded, his voice also tempered by apology, “but that family are just so dangerous. I don’t want you to get hurt anymore.”

“Then tell me everything at Pale is fine,” she replied, trying to muster up some positivity. “I hope you’ll manage to give Selina some of your time.”

“You know she loves the club,” Sebastian conceded, letting the matter of the Lamberts go – or the moment. “I actually think she was happier helping Mieke and I out than she would have been having boring old dinner with her boring old brother.”

It wasn’t the first time Selina Ross had visited and spent time at Pale, and though she was several years younger, Miho quite liked the girl. There was an infectious optimism about her that made being grumpy almost impossible, and patrons at the club found that incredibly magnetic.

Having her around was good for business.

“I doubt very much she travelled all that way to see the club,” Miho chuckled. “Boring old or not, kid sisters and big brothers have special relationships.”

As she spoke those last few words, Kiril stepped out onto the balcony behind her.

“Maybe,” Sebastian grunted, and there was another pause before he spoke again, during which time Kiril made it clear he wasn’t going to give Miho space to finish her call in privacy. “So, I meant Mieke and I can handle things here but, if there’s nothing…”

“I’m not coming home without her,” Miho stated flatly, staring up at Kiril whose lips began to part as if he meant to speak.

In warning, Miho sharply raised a finger and her stare became a glower. The last thing she needed was for Sebastian to recognise Kiril’s voice. Teasingly, he leaned closer.

“I know you love her,” Sebastian said somberly, “just, promise me you won’t destroy yourself in this search.”

“I’m a big gi…” Miho began, but Sebastian cut her off, his tone of voice absolutely serious.

Promise me,” he insisted, and hearing him, Kiril’s eyebrows twitched downward.

“You know I don’t like making promises,” Miho answered carefully, “especially ones I may not be able to keep, but… I promise I will keep my eyes open and my wits about me.”

A heavy exhale signalled Sebastian’s surrender.

“Okay, well, you know how to reach me if you need anything, so call me,” he added.

“I will,” Miho affirmed. “Say hi to Selina for me.”

“Will do.”

That ended the conversation, and Miho dropped her phone into her lap, chewing the inside of her cheek for a few seconds until Kiril’s shadow across her caused the bloom of a shiver.

“Mr. Ross seems very invested in your wellbeing,” he noted, and it might have sounded casual but for the slight scowl he was wearing.

“Friends usually are,” Miho shrugged, trying not to play into his looming broodiness.

“You and he…”

“Don’t finish that sentence, or question or thought,” she huffed, rocking to her feet and standing, but Kiril caught her wrist before she could slip back inside.

“Which question would that be?” he queried. “Whether you are in a relationship with him? Sleeping with him? I suppose that would go some way to explaining his hostility toward me.”

“Yes,” Miho replied ambiguously.

Kiril’s touch was warm – generally it was not, and it reminded her of the first time he’d heated his skin for her.

“That, and I imagine in large part because he doesn’t like the idea of a vampire making a meal out of his boss,” Miho added.

“Mmm, just his boss. Doubtful,” he asserted, walking his fingers up her other arm in a gesture Miho thought was absurdly cute – so much so she couldn’t help but laugh. “What?”

“And what if Sebastian and I are a thing?” she posed, teasingly, and Kiril’s expression became serious.

“One more reason to kill him,” he answered flatly, pulling her against him and trapping her in his arms with her back to his chest.

“Don’t you dare!” she hissed, struggling as he nudged her closer the balustrade and lowered one hand to the front of her pants.

“Or what, little Sparrow?” he smiled against the shell of her ear, his fingers burrowing into her underwear.

“Fuck you, Kiril,” Miho growled, squirming as he rubbed against her, but her declaration sounded less fierce as his name twisted into a moan.

“It is kind of you to be so explicit in your invitation,” he hummed against her throat, grinding against her even as she squinted at the street.

“Someone is going to see us,” she grumbled, fighting a losing battle with her self-restraint. “Damnit, why does this feel so good?”

“I have had a lot of practice,” he responded, delving into her with slow strokes – one, two, three fingers – until the volume of her encouragements grew conspicuous. “Sing louder, Sparrow,” he groaned into her hair. “Let all of Prague know how I make you feel.”

Clenching her teeth, Miho resisted that urge, trapping cries in her chest even as Kiril began to work free the buttons of her blouse.


Then his phone rang.


“Ignore it,” he snapped quickly, withdrawing from her so he could tend to his own pants, but this afforded Miho a moment of clarity.

“Kiril, answer it,” she panted. “What if it’s Arno?”

“Grrr,” Kiril snarled, standing straight and digging out the phone, barking into it the moment he answered. “What?”

With a hand on her chest, heart beating wildly beneath her palm, Miho stumbled into a seat. And her heart wasn’t the only thing pulsing – she was sure if there was any more friction, even if she just crossed her legs, she was going to lose it.

Instead, she tried to focus on what Kiril was saying. His expression had sobered, but his body was still tensed… everywhere.

“We made our agreement, and I will keep it if your information turns out to be accurate,” he said curtly shifting over to Miho, whose hand reached up to him without prompting. “We will head there now,” he continued, his lips pinching when Miho traced her fingers lightly around the front of his pants. “Mhm, ensure your people do not alert them.”

Grinding his teeth, he listened to his caller’s response while Miho palmed him, grinning up cheekily.

“Fine,” he grunted, then without bidding his caller farewell, he hung up and tossed his phone aside before grabbing Miho’s hand.

“Sparrow, you are asking for trouble,” he warned, dragging her back to her feet. “Here I have the location of our fugitives, but all I want is to tear your clothes off.”

“God, I can’t believe I want you to,” Miho shuddered, wrapping her arms around his neck. “But Jazz? They really found her?”

“According to Arno,” Kiril confirmed, his forehead lowered to hers. “But right now I do not want to leave this suite.”

“You deliver Jazz to me, and I’ll do whatever you ask,” Miho exhaled breathily, tapping her fingers against the swell in is pants for extra emphasis. “And I’ll even enjoy it.”

“Get your coat,” he dropped, before clicking his tongue and forcing himself to turn away from her.

In a flurry, Miho did as she was bid, the burning in her loins distracted by the prospect of finally seeing Jazz again. Kiril hadn’t said whether Arno described her physical state, but Miho assumed Kiril would extend the courtesy of preparing her for the worst if… if what they’d found was a corpse in a ditch somewhere.

In the cab she couldn’t keep still, fidgeting and twisting in her seat. Though Kiril sat beside her watching, her mind was elsewhere – what she would say to Jazz, how relieved she would feel, how to hold her tears back so she could yell at her for just up and disappearing.

“This waiting is unbearable,” she muttered, wringing her fingers until her knuckles cracked, until Kiril closed much larger hands around hers.

Immediately she sat up a little straighter, the touch of his flesh against hers like an aphrodisiac that made her thighs quiver.

“According to Arno’s people, both Konstantin and Jazz are located on the outskirts of Prague in a cute little cottage… playing house,” he explained, sounding exasperated.

“Playing house,” Miho repeated quietly to herself, gnawing on her lower lip before leaning back and looking up into Kiril’s face. “With a vampire? Is that even possible?

Immediately Miho could tell Kiril had heard her thoughts, but he said nothing.

Miho considered her feelings for Kiril more seriously now. If Jazz had run away to be with Konstantin…

“You were talking to Narumi earlier,” Miho stated out of the blue. “Is something going on?”

“Hmmm,” Kiril hummed thoughtfully. “Konrad is wondering where his favourite son has disappeared to, and doesn’t have his least favourite son to take it out on.”

“What does that mean?” Miho frowned. “Is he going to send an army to march on Prague and extract you?”

At this Kiril emitted a pithy laugh.

“For Konstantin, perhaps, but not for the like of me,” he expounded. “If his golden child does not return soon, he may indeed send agents in search of him. Better that he goes back of his own accord.”

“And is Narumi on your side, or your father’s?” Miho pressed, trying to distract herself with backstory.

This caused Kiril to chuckle.

“Konrad is a tyrant,” he asserted. “No one is truly on his side, at least not out of choice. Fear maybe.”

“Is he really that much of a monster?” Miho scowled, then continued. “So, if he found out I was a hunter?”

“That in and of itself is not enough to condemn you,” he explained, but lifted a hand to her cheek. “But treaties are tenuous things, Sparrow. It is best you tell no one about yourself, not even Jazz.”

This caused Miho to frown.

“Jazz and I don’t keep secrets from one another,” she declared, her lips quivering as Kiril’s thumb approached them.

“We both know that is not true,” he smiles slowly. “Or she would not have disappeared without your knowledge.”

“You’re assuming Konstantin didn’t force her,” she scowled, her stomach churning. “Kiril, if she is with him, if she has been with him all this time… could he… would he turn her?”

There was silence but for the rhythmic sound of the car.

“It is a possibility,” Kiril answered eventually watching her reaction closely.

“What will that mean?” she exhaled, leaning into his hand until her head slipped to his shoulder.

“Complications,” he replied, idly stroking Miho’s hair, “but nothing I cannot handle.”

“Complications how?” Miho persisted.

“My father has no love for the turned vampire,” Kiril explained, disdain thick in his voice. “In the hierarchy of influence, they are even less than humans; the turned are a bastardised form of pure vampire blood, stains he refuses to acknowledge as being of worth to his domain.”

Miho pondered this, but the brush of his fingers against her scalp made it difficult to think.

“If Konstantin has turned your friend,” Kiril continued. “If they fled together and Konrad finds out they are involved, he will kill her.”

“He’ll have to go through me,” Miho snarled, straightening, and Kiril pinched the back of her neck.

“He will kill you too, Sparrow,” he pointed out. “Especially you.”

“Narumi,” Miho scowled. “Whose side is she on?”

“Hmph,” Kiril snorted, his fingers slackening. “Narumi is in the unenviable position of being caught between her place in the aristocracy and Konrad’s law-keeper, and what she believes is right.”

“So if she finds out I’m a hunter?” Miho prompted.

“It would be a terrible shame if I had to kill her,” Kiril mused. “I actually like her.”

“You’d kill her?” Miho frowned, shifting her body a little sideways so she could look into his face. “For me?”

“Let us not dwell too much on hypotheticals,” he responded, leaving the question unanswered. “Soon we shall have the information we require to move forward, and prevent Konrad from becoming more of problem for anyone.”


Soon the city gave way the green countryside, and in the hills to the south of Stradonice, the car came to a stop at the entrance to a dirt road where a man stood waiting.

Fiercely biting into her lower lip, Miho approached him with Kiril at her side, watching and listening as the pair spoke in Czech. Impatiently she scraped her toe through the gravel, until the man turned to his own car.

“There is a cottage half a kilometre up this track,” Kiril reported, taking Miho’s hand and pulling her into motion. “According to our friend, Konstantin and Jazz are both inside.”

“How the hell did they find them out here?” she whispered, as much to herself as to him.

“I imagine Arno really wanted to avoid the consequences of not locating them,” Kiril answered, and continued. “When we reach the house, allow me to approach first.”

She didn’t question why. If they had gone to such lengths to disappear, then they may not be all that happy about being discovered. Still, Miho couldn’t imagine Jazz ever doing her harm, vampire or not.

At the sight of the cottage, Miho found herself barely able to breathe, and Kiril gave her hand a squeeze.

“Wait here,” he instructed, and after releasing her he pushed through the picket gate and began up the path to the front door.

“Wait here,” Miho sigh, resuming her lower lip attack until she couldn’t stand it anymore.

Kiril pulled back the tattered fly-screen door and knocked three times against the chipped paint of the wooden door beneath. He could sense Miho at his back, knew she wouldn’t listen, but focused his hearing on any sounds of movement.

Then he was gone, one blink and he had dashed away, leaving Miho blinking at the space where he’d stood. She could only think he’d hear something and rushed off to intercept it.

“Jazz!” she shouted, shouted with all the energy she had, and after stomping up onto the porch she turned the front door knob.

Beneath her palm it turned, and steeling herself, she moved into the dim interior of the cottage.

“Jazz?” she called again, this time a little more discretely, but her answer came not in the form of her best friend’s voice, but in a loud crash and the sound of splintering wood.

There was little time to wonder at how her reflex was to run toward the sound rather than away from it – before rational thought blossomed, Miho had sprinted through the unfamiliar house and burst out the back door.

“Do not run,” Kiril warned, pointing at where Konstantin was struggling from the hole in the side of the cottage he’d made with his body’s impact. “For the chosen son you are a real pain in the ass.”

“Jazz,” Miho dropped in a breathy whisper, and the blonde woman’s head snapped in her best friend’s direction.

“Miho?” she mouthed, barely a sound at all – just enough for Miho to hear, enough to break the dam that held back the tears.

But Jazz’s expression was a conflicted twist of joy and angst, and her eyes darted between the two brothers before returning to Miho.

“My life has nothing to do with you Kiril,” Konstantin growled, brushing off his shoulders.

“Do you have any idea…?” Miho wept.

“Konrad has tasked Narumi to find you…” Kiril volleyed.

“I didn’t want to hurt you…” Jazz murmured, taking a hesitant step toward her friend.

“No, Jazz!” Konstantin called out urgently. “If Konrad’s looking for us we need to get even further away.”

“Who do you think our father is exactly?” Kiril rumbled, stalking toward his brother again. “There is no place you can hide he will not find you.”

“I thought you were dead,” Miho sobbed, peering up from where she’d sunken to the ground, Jazz’s figure wavering through tears like a ghost. “Are you dead?”

“I’m…” Jazz began, but her sentence faltered.

As Kiril and Konstantin physically clashed once more, Jazz crouched down before Miho and lightly placed her hands on Miho’s knees.

“… it’s complicated now,” she finished, Miho’s raw pain cutting her deeply; but she knew she deserved it and more.

“Why couldn’t you tell me about this? About him?” Miho choked out, taking hold of Jazz’s hands tightly, wrapping warm fingers around cold.

So cold that her eyes widened.

“You… He…” she stammered, blinking furiously to clear her vision. “Did he force this on you?”

Miho stopped listening despite having asked a question. The answer had already formed in her mind – this vampire who had taken her best friend away, turned her into this thing against her will… she would kill him, and it was written all over her face as she rose.

“No, Miho!” Jazz exclaimed. “It isn’t like that.”

“Really?” Miho balked, swiping away Jazz’s attempt to place a gentle hand on her shoulder. “So he sat you down and asked you politely and you said, oh sure son of a vampire king who’ll kill us both for it, make me a vampire!”

“We… not exactly,” Jazz admitted, fixing her grip around one of Miho’s wrists and holding her back easily.

“I don’t care who he is!” Miho shrieked, fighting against Jazz tooth and nail, but both women were nearly bowled over when Kiril came tumbling toward them.

“You of all people should understand the desire for freedom, Kiril,” Konstantin glowered, his voice suddenly so much lower, his body inexplicably growing until his clothing strained and threatened to tear.

“Konstantin don’t!” Jazz shouted, as she jerked Miho back against her chest and folded both arms around her. “Just calm down, we need to, to talk to them!”

Kiril was picking himself up, his expensive clothing streaked with mud and grass, while Miho struggled, and he cut a glance to her and paused when Jazz lifted her head a little toward her friend’s neck.

“Miho, we need to talk,” Jazz said thickly, and the taller woman fell still, just a moment, before wriggling around in Jazz’s hold to hug her tightly. “Inside,” Jazz prompted, looking around Miho at the two brothers briefly, before sliding her hand into Miho’s and guiding her back toward the cottage.

Blood Spatter: Part 5




Eyes and bodies turn; villain and victim peer through the dim at a figure leaning casually against the wall on the other side of the alley several metres away. Everything about him screams nonchalance – the setting, the setup, the characters, none of it seems to concern him.

Languidly, he tips his chin up, revealing an unnatural light in the green depths of his eyes.Everyone is unsure, except him.
The moment is his, the alley, the city, the night – all his, and this confidence dares anyone to disagree.

I take this moment of distract to attempt an escape, not wishing to let the opportunity slip by, but the back of my neck is snatched the moment I put this thought into action.
The world is a sudden blur of colour and sound, and I do not blink: not once.

Kiril’s cashmere coat flutters dramatically as he slides between the men, the cape of a hero pounding out great splashes of blood with his fist, driving teeth into flesh and ripping through veins until three men have fallen and do not move.

I do not blink: not even now, Kiril standing before me, his ludicrously stoic face a smear, his lips parted and stained.

“Now’s the part where you release her and beg for your miserable existence,” Kiril drawls, before the tip of his tongue touches the sharp point of a far too long canine tooth.

“That’s… not going to hap…” the remaining ‘man’ says, but his voice dies as Kiril sounds out behind us, even though he’s still plainly right before us.

“Wrong answer,” he whispers in the man’s ear, causing him to flinch.

And flinch again, tumbling me on hands and knees at Kiril’s feet.

Looking up – he’s there.

Looking back – he’s…

My mouth drops open in silent horror as Kiril squeezes his fingers tightly where they’re protruding from my attacker’s chest, his heart still in Kiril’s grip until it drops to the ground with a sickening splat. A few seconds later, the last body joins the rest, and I am alone with this monster wearing Kiril’s face.

His unhurried approach, perhaps designed to calm my obvious anxiety, explodes an energetic flight response. I don’t think I’ve ever moved so fast in my entire life, scurrying along like death was snapping at my heels – maybe it was?

Before I can exit the alley, however, I skid to a sudden halt in the face of a brick wall that hadn’t been there a moment ago.I think.

Panting and on the verge of hysteria, I spin into Kiril’s arms, drawn nose to bloody nose.

“Now might be a good moment for you to just accept my suggestion, and sleep,” he exhaled, holding my gaze with the fierce caress of green flame against my face.

“Let me…” I begin, wanting to struggle and shriek, but finding my limbs heavy and resistant.“Come on, Miho,” he breathes, paradoxical tenderness in the eyes of a murderer.

“Just sleep, and everything will be alright, I promise.”

“You… promise?” I hiss, but he’s holding all my weight now. “Don’t… don’t…”


I don’t remember finishing my sentence. Nothing makes sense, while maybe it makes sense now more than it ever did. Kiril’s face is so close to mine, pressed up against the wall somewhere in London, blood on his tongue – my blood – but his name is Alex, and Narumi shouts at him from somewhere nearby.

Teeth and eyes and blood.

So much blood – because of Konstantin? Because I chased him?

In the black, it falls into place.It’s so typical for me, to wander – no, charge – into a situation so blindly I don’t see the vampire for the trees; but for some reason I’m not nearly as surprised by this revelation as I should be.

The coldest part now, is realising Kiril is a bloodsucker, then Konstantin probably is too.


“Jazz!” I exclaim, sitting bolt upright in room I recognize.In bed, in my suite, I’m dressed in my nightgown, and the outfit I was wearing is hung up on the outside of the carved, wooden wardrobe.

“She’s not here,” Kiril says, and my head snaps to the chair beside the bed where I hadn’t even noticed he was sitting.

“Why did I even wake up?” I wonder, and though Kiril’s head tilts the slightest bit, his expression remains sombre.

“I have no desire to kill you, Sparrow,” he declares, unmoving as I slip out the far side of the bed: not that I think a simple piece of furniture could stop him from zapping in behind me and crush my spine. “Or crush your spine,” he adds, simply watching me. “Honestly, I don’t wish you any harm.”

“Oh really?” I spit, far more vehemently than I intend.

“Antagonising a vampire is hardly a good idea.”

Then I think about all the times we’ve been together alone, how I’ve acted and spoken to him.

“You remember now, don’t you?” he prompts, somewhat of a rhetorical question. “How is your head?”

“I just watched you slaughter four guys: slaughter,” I reiterate, my hands moving to animate my statements in macabre fashion.

He has washed and changed his clothing, and though he is no longer covered in blood, I can still see it patterning his pale skin.“And you’re asking how my head is?” I continue, exasperated. “Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Does it seem like I am?” he asks, so bland now it’s hard to resist the urge to smack some emotion into him.Which brings back the memory of me slapping him in that expensive café.

“That’s right,” he nods. “If I wanted to hurt you, you’ve given me ample motive and opportunity.”

“Stop that!” I snap, swiping my arm through their air. “Stay out of my head; I knew you were in my head.”

In long, agitated strides, I pace across the room and back again, and finally Kiril rises.

“That’s not the only place,” he adds simply, and I spin and point viciously.

“Don’t you FUCKING DARE pull that shit!” I roar, apparently losing all sense of self preservation. “You’ve been dangling Konstantin in front of me like a carrot since I met you, playing some sick game – why? What the hell do you gain from messing with me like that?”

Because you remembered,” he answers flatly, his single step in my direction bursting my bravado and sending me scooting back. “The mind-splitting headaches, flashes of a past events, of faces and names; something you shouldn’t have recalled.”

“Alex,” I shudder out. “He attacked me for asking about Konstantin and he…”

Kiril’s brows lift.

“He licked me,” I swallow, “and then he was…

“Hmph,” Alex grunted, leaned closer to Miho’s throat, inhaling deeply before slithering his tongue over the slowly oozing wound he found there.

Though Miho drove her free hand up under his chin, Alex tossed her aside, and she cartwheeled.

“Now that’s a nifty secret,” he snarled, about to pounce once more, when the back exit of the club opened abruptly, and a woman appeared in the doorway.

“I see,” Kiril nodded slowly, knowingly, and took another step forward.

“Just, stay right there!” I command, but my voice is trembling.

And Kiril is no longer before me.

Instead, his arms wrap around me from behind.

“Get off!” I bellow, wriggling and writhing like a mad cat, but at the same time my skin is suddenly singing.

“Stop struggling, Miho, you’re not in danger here,” he hisses, his cool breath tickling my ear. “Damnit please, relax.”

My body freezes, and it’s only half because Kiril’s entreaty actually sounds genuine. I watched him spit out a chunk of a guy’s neck, punch another’s heart right out of his body – I should be petrified, and I am – but at the same time, the clench of his arms and the pressure of his body against mine, the press of his face over my shoulder and his lips so close to my skin fires shocks of wanton anticipation all through me.

“What did you do to me?” I rasp, feeling his arms loosen a little. “You’re a murderer, you just…”

“I didn’t do anything to you,” he growls, one hand sliding up my throat to rest lightly under my chin, “but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more.”

“Kiril, let me go,” I plead, but the sensation of his exhale against my neck makes me shiver, and weaken my legs.

“In case the guys in the alley weren’t enough of a wakeup call, you’re in over your head,” he rumbles, turning me to face him. “Konstantin and Jazz are one thing, but you are in danger if you pursue this, more than you know.”

“Apparently I don’t know anything anymore,” I blink tearily, but Kiril’s expression isn’t sympathetic, it’s… pained?

“If they discover what you are, even Narumi,” he says softly, one finger stroking along the line of my jaw, “they will kill you.”

“They? And you?”

“If I did, you’d be dead,” he points out, and I have to concede the point; he’s right, he’s had plenty of chances, and yet his touch now is so gentle.

Of its own accord, my head turns into his touch, but my stomach is a violent, churning squall of conflicting emotion.

“Please, Kiril,” I beg, reaching out with my eyes, “just let me go – if what you say is true – I need space, and I can’t think while you’re…”

“That’s just it,” he frowns, but it’s not by me he’s confused. “I don’t want to let you go. I want to feel your warmth, hold it closely, hold it safe.”

Thankfully, despite his words, he steps back, rubbing at the back of his neck, while I find the edge of the bed to sit down on before I fall down.

“Vampires is a lot to drop on a girl,” I murmur, watching him pace to the window and then back to the middle of the room. “And the chosen one too huh? Brilliant.”

“Hardly the chosen one,” he sniffs, a sharp sound I can see he immediately regrets. “And I cannot be one hundred percent sure, not yet, not without…”

His expression is now imploring, but he’s also holding himself back: me too. I both want him to tackle me against the mattress, but need to him to stay away.

“Without…?” I prompt, but I already know I’m not going to like the answer.

“Without tasting you,” he answers plainly, honestly, and though his posture could be called relaxed, I see his eyes flicker with desire.

I know he’s talking about my blood – that is what vampires are about after all – but I cannot help but blush and squeeze my thighs together a little more tightly.

“And what would that prove exactly?”

“Every person tastes a little different,” he answers, his hands unfolding as he provides some crucial exposition, “and the older I get, the more I can tell about a person: intricacies of their health, hints of the genetic heritage, and whether they are human or not.”

An exhale explodes from between my lips.

“So, the vampire is telling me I’m not human?” I balk.

“I suspect, strongly, you’re not entirely human,” he agrees, hazarding to slowly move toward the bed at the far end. “As you have recalled, you were attacked,” he continues, sitting down a good five feet away, “by one of Konstantin’s friends, I suppose you could call him, and Narumi stopped him from killing you.”

“The woman from the police station,” I mutter. “She’s a vampire too?”

Kiril confirms this with a nod.

“And it’s her job to clean up mistakes like Alex made,” he adds.

“I remember being somewhere after that alley,” I admit, “and her voice.”

“We don’t go about killing people,” he says. “We will make you forget anything that might be problematic for us.”

“But I remembered.”

My lip bears the brunt of my bubbling anxiety.

“Regular humans don’t just shrug off power like Narumi’s,” he nods slowly. “It’s not possible.”

“Did you? Have you ever messed with my head?” I ask, and Kiril doesn’t look ashamed.

“I forced you to sleep last night,” he admits. “But if I had changed any of your memories, you would likely have remembered by now.”

“So you,” I inhale, “you didn’t make me…”

“Make you what?” he prompts.

“Ugh, make me want you so stupidly!”

And the moment after I think that ridiculously loud thought, I realise he’s been hearing the inner workings of my mind since we met.

Oh yeah, he’s grinning.

“Believe me when I say it is taking all my self-control to keep my distance,” he declares, turning a little. “But I will wait until you trust me.”

“Would you trust you?” I ask, swallowing the lump in my throat.

“To protect something important to me? Absolutely,” he affirms without a second of hesitation. “And knowing you, you will need protection.”

“Knowing me, huh?” I chortle. “When did we meet again? How much could you possibly…”

“I know you’re relentlessly loyal,” he interrupts. “Sassy and sharp-witted, tenacious and principled despite your ‘madam of the club’ façade, and a tactile, passionate woman, who has been haunting me for far longer than you think.”

“The hell am I supposed to say to that?” I think, and again I see Kiril’s lips twitch. “If you want me to trust you, you can start by staying out of my head,” I scowl reproachfully.

“You’re all but broadcasting,” he defends, “when you’re thinking about me.”

Burning – oh yeah, my face is flaming.

“I could try to teach you to be more guarded,” he offers.

“But I’m not a vampire… am I?”

Kiril shakes his head and rises again, making his intention to approach me clear before he does- and I let him; I know I shouldn’t, but I let him.

“You,” he says, looking down at me, his shadow casting cold over my exposed skin, while the light at his back makes him glow divinely, “are something I should kill right now, before you can become a real danger, to me, to my kind.”

My lips part to respond, in fright, in my defence, but the feathery touch of his thumb against me, silences the words before they can emerge.

“Fully awakened hunters are immune to the mind manipulation of many preternaturals – vampires included – and can detect our true identities no matter how human we look.”

“I didn’t,” I admit, but his thumb presses more insistently.

“Because you’re not awakened,” he clarifies. “And if I have anything to do with it, you never will.”

Gently, slowly, his thumb opens my mouth, and without even thought, just base instinct that somehow overwhelms that of survival, my lips wrap around it. The moist warmth of my tongue touches him tentatively, and for a second before the horror of my actions hits me, I suckle provocatively against the very tip.

My backward flinch is jarring, my eyes wide, and I’m shaking my head like that can dispel the pheromone laced fog controlling my actions.

“I’m sorry, I…” I shudder out, my body crying out for me to taste him far more, but my mind shrieking grave warning. “I hate this, I hate feeling like, like someone else is controlling me actions!”

Calmly, Kiril watches, his fully clothed legs brushing lightly against the dangle of mine.

“You can’t seduce me like this,” I growl adamantly, and it’s Kiril’s turn to shake his head.

“I told you, what you feel for me is my doing.”

Frustrated, I stand and shove him away so I can begin pacing again.

“What am I supposed to do now, huh?” I eject, throwing up my hands. “Lions and tigers and bears, and I want to just rub myself all over one.”

Clearly, Kiril was struggling not to smirk.

“Stop that!” I tell him once more, slashing the air with my hand. “I came here to find Jazz, not to get all tangled up in your bullshit.”

“Then that is what we do,” he asserts. “ The men who attacked you were locals, which means just as you did in London, your search for Konstantin aroused interest.”

“Well it’s a little late to ask them what they know,” I point out.

“They were asking you for information,” he points out, “which suggests they didn’t know he was here. That doesn’t mean, however, that the Prague’s gentry is unaware.”

“Given they attacked me, is said gentry likely to part with any information they might have?” I frown, but Kiril sniffs with arrogant confidence.

“Arno will deal with me whether he likes it or not,” he states, “I just need to make a call or two.”


Miho took a long shower while Kiril made his phone calls. She didn’t know or care who he was talking to; the last thing she needed to do was add to the mountainous pile of unbelievable she’d be blindsided with. Some of it she just knew, even though she didn’t know how she knew – a voice deep within told her Kiril was not lying, not about vampires and not about herself being an unawakened hunter. Surprisingly, it was the inexplicable attraction she felt toward Kiril – despite everything – that vexed her the most. As the warm water caressed her body, she replayed all the times they had been in close proximity – and shuddered, her hand sliding between her legs to press against the aching of her clit.

“Not good,” she sighed, her head leaning against the glass wall as she rocked against her hand.

Even as she relished the burgeoning, pleasure, a part of her remained deeply concerned by the mental image she’d created of Kiril nuzzled in behind her, his hands on her, in her.

And she really hoped he couldn’t hear her thoughts from the other room.

“Feel better?” Kiril enquired, when Miho finally emerged from the bathroom, fully dressed and preened.

Praying he took the flush in her cheeks as heat from the shower, she nodded, but her attention was soon drawn to the wafting scent of coffee and a tray of various consumables.

“Your stomach was growling,” he smiled, tipping his chin in the direction of the table.

“It was not,” she huffed, but moved to pour herself a mug just the same.

“Oh? Then I suppose you were growling for another reason?” he posed, one eyebrow raised provokingly. “Hm, perhaps not growling, maybe moaning is a little more accurate.”

Miho blinked, then rallied.

“Well, if I was it certainly had nothing to do with you,” she sniffed, casually filling her mug and grabbing a slice of fruit. “So, what’s the plan?”

Better to stick to business.

“We’ll walk right into Arno’s court and politely ask for his assistance,” he replied, not looking the slightest bit daunted by his suggestion.

“Is that really the wisest idea, considering you just killed four locals?” Miho asked sceptically, surprised by how good her appetite was considering the traumatic events of the previous night.

With a shrug, Kiril rose from his seat, thrusting his hands into his pockets.

“Arno is old,” he admitted. “That’s Europe for you, but the old world doesn’t hold nearly as much sway as it used to.”

“Okaaay,” she agreed, taking a sip before continuing. “But this we business. Before, you were all ‘Oh I should kill you because you’re a hunter and you need to be protected’, and now you’re suggesting I march down the throat of a vampire court? That doesn’t seem all that smart.”

“So long as you behave like you’re under my thumb, everything will be fine,” he told her, and now looked mighty pleased with himself.

“I am not under your thumb,” Miho ruffled, glaring at him over the rim of her mug.

“And this defiance is something I admire in you,” he nodded, “you never cease to entertain, but unless you want me to leave you here, you’re going to have swallow your pride for a little while and play like a good little pet.”

Grinding her teeth, Miho considered being stubborn by refusing to go, but it seemed she was getting closer to finding Jazz, and did not want to just leave it to Kiril.

“Fine,” she grumped.

“Understand, Miho, a false step here could me we both end up as little more than unrecognisable fragments of flesh,” he explained frankly, though he didn’t appear fazed by this prospect. “I can hold my own, make no mistake, but at the centre of Arno’s kingdom, he definitely has the advantage.”

“Kingdom,” Miho repeated. “So what? Vampires follow a monarchical hierarchy?”

“In some countries, yes,” he affirmed. “In others, it’s a matter of who has the most power and who can cling to it.”

“Not big on democracy huh?” she sniffed, finishing off her coffee and placing her mug back on the tray.

“Well, the human world messes that up enough for everyone,” he expounded with mild amusement. “And no matter how much power within our own we hold, we cannot help but be in some way influenced by the machinations of human politics.”

“And in the UK?” she prompted, taking another piece of fruit before moving slowly around the table to the other side; another piece of furniture between them.

“Monarchy,” he affirmed, but his lips remained parted as if there was more.

“And? Come on, the time for secrets is over,” Miho urged, emphasising her statement with a pointed look.

“And, do you remember when I warned you not to pursue my father?” he replied, not having to say much more for her to cotton on.

“Seriously?” she coughed, shaking her head. “Your dad is the king of the UK?”

“I’ll spare you the indignity of calling me you Highness,” he smiled. “At least in private.”

“Oh for fuck’s sake,” she sighed shakily, casting her mind back to the business dinner and the whole thing with the man named Hardwick. “I feel like I’ve been walking around with my eyes closed.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. It’s normal not to see that which defies the well accepted status quo,” he philosophised, glancing at his watch before looking back up. “Shall we go?”

With two loud cracks, Miho tilted her head from one side to the other, then levelled her gaze at Kiril – eyes brimming with determination.

“I’m ready.”

Continuing to smile, perhaps a little too genuinely for Miho to actually believe it was genuine, Kiril watched her snatch up her bag and head for the door.

“You’re going to need this,” he told her softly, and before she could look away from the door, she felt the light pressure of her coat folding over her shoulders, Kiril’s hands smoothing down her arms a second later.

The gesture caused her to shiver, made parts of her clench so tightly she’d leaned back against him like it was the most natural thing in the world.

“Stop that,” she hissed, his thumbs stroking her upper arms, but she hadn’t straightened, nor reached for the knob… the door knob.

“This, whatever this is, is as difficult for me to resist as it is for you,” he whispered, then reached around her to open the door. “After you.”


Far from the pretentiousness of his usual limousine, Kiril has already called ahead to have a city taxi waiting for us out the front of the hotel. Like a gentleman he opens the door and sees me comfortably inside, before joining me in the back. I’m not stupid, I haven’t forgotten the things I’ve just learned or seen, but Kiril’s right – the attraction between us is unlike anything I’ve ever felt, and it demands I touch him, feel him and that I let him have the same of me. Fighting it is exhausting, even if my logical mind tells me I should not be putting myself in the path of a killer, a predator, all for the tingle of my nethers.

“It’s not just for that,” I tell myself sternly, as Jazz has always been my number one priority.

Denying how much I want Kiril to take me right there in the back of this cab, however, is becoming more and more difficult.

Our hands brush.

I blush like some ridiculous otome ‘heroine’ whose only exposure to grown men is her stern and uptight father. Trying so hard to rein in the raging fire in my face, I completely miss Kiril stating our location to the driver, but try to piece together our destination from what landmarks I’m familiar with.

“Relax, Sparrow,” Kiril instructs, leaning his shoulder against me a little, and it’s only when his hand touches mine again that I realise I’ve made tight fists. “You don’t want them to smell blood in the water.”

“If they do,” I hiss quietly, “it’ll be because you spilt it everywhere.”

“Do I win no points at all for saving your life?” he wonders aloud, and I think, I think, there is a hint of sadness behind a giant wall of irritability.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” I concede. “You’re bloody Batman, and you totally saved my ass from getting it handed to me.”

Surprisingly, he doesn’t press for more.

“Actually, you may just have given them a challenge,” he declares, and I turn my head to find his so very close to mine. “There is a part of you sleeping, yes,” he goes on, “but your instincts seem to be surfacing – the unnatural angle of one thug’s arm attested to that.”

“What’s an arm to a…” I grunt, but catch myself before saying the v-word. “It was a reflex.”

“Exactly,” he smirks. “Just remember to hold off on those when we are inside, and leave the talking to me.”

“With pleasure,” I agree, and look down when Kiril slides his fingers through mine – skin as cold as the grave. “Kiril,” I begin, slowly. “If Jazz isn’t dead, I mean, if Konstantin didn’t… if she’s been with him this whole time…”

My unspoken question terrifies me – as much as I want the answer, what it might mean could change everything.

“Let us make no assumptions,” he replies, a warmth of reassurance in that simple sentence that makes me forget the iciness of his flesh. “There is no going back for either of you, but this is hardly an end.”

Caught off guard by this tenderness, my mouth gapes, and I see Kiril’s eyes flit to my lips.

“Assuming he didn’t just kill her and flee the country,” I point out breathily, my heart a thundering rapid flush with adrenaline.

“Konstantin and I are worlds apart,” he reveals, his face inching slightly closer. “My brother is all heart.”

“And you?” I exhale, barely audible even as such close proximity. “What are you… all?”

For what seems like an eternity, all the sounds of the world beyond our bubble is hushed.

“Right now,” he answers, cool breath against the flush of my cheeks, “I am all self-restraint, Sparrow – and that is the only reason you are still clothed right now.”

There is a strange pressure behind my eyes as I try to break this spell I’m under, this quagmire that seems to hold me even stronger the more I struggle against it.

“I am not…”

“Liar,” he interjects, dipping his head forward, his forehead lightly pressed to mine, the tips of our noses touching, “and you cannot lie to me, or yourself.”

Taxi driver ex machina – the man clears his throat and I pull back to press myself against the window, while Kiril just chuckles.

“Do you always play so hard to get?” he queries lightly, running one hand through his hair. “That isn’t the impression of you I’d formed from watching you at Pale.”

“Are you saying you took me for a slut?” I scowl, but even I know this question is a defence mechanism.

“I am saying, it seems out of character for you to deny yourself something you want,” he ripostes effortlessly.

“What I want, is my best friend back,” I state clearly. “Nothing comes before that.”

“Not good with multi-tasking?” he laughs, giving my hand a squeeze, and it’s only then I realise he’s still holding it.

“Don’t make this any harder for me than it needs to be,” I grumble, but do not retrieve my captive fingers.

Kiril’s smile turns into grin.

“Hey, I believe that is my line.”

“Crude,” I snort, but the joke raises my spirits a little, unwinds a little of my tension – right up until the cab comes to a stop outside the Prague National Theatre.

I recognise its unmistakable architecture as Jazz and I have seen various shows there before, but I question why we’re here now. Kiril, meanwhile, exits and opens my door, offering me his hand.

“I figured he’d hang out in the Old Royal Palace,” I admit, as Kiril ushers me away from the closed main entrance of the impressive building, and around the corner to a far less obtrusive door.

“He has his own residences,” Kiril explains, glancing coolly about, nonchalance stamped on his countenance, “but here is where the king holds official proceedings and audiences.”

“So you booked an appointment with his secretary?” I ask, my stomach knotting as Kiril pounds an assertive fist against the tall wooden door beneath one of many stone archways.

“Something like that,” he grins, winking before adding one last reminder before the door opens. “Remember, Sparrow; here you are my subservient plaything – try not to think too loudly.”

“I’ll just focus on how absolutely you think I’m in love with you,” I volley quietly, before sobering up my expression at the appearance of a woman before us.

“Prince Kiril Lambert,” Kiril announces casually. “I am expected.”

The woman’s severe expression doesn’t alter, though she offers Kiril respectful bow from the waist. I’m sure some silence exchange takes place between them as she straightens, though she doesn’t so much as spare me a glance.

Trying not to allow my apprehension to show, I follow along behind Kiril as we’re led into the building, down a cool corridor and then to a brightly lit, plush room decorated in rich red and gold.

“If you would be so kind as to wait here,” we’re instructed, or more accurately Kiril is instructed – I may as well be invisible.

Questions bubble away behind my eyes, seeping through the cracks of my best intentions to seems focused on being Kiril’s ‘good little girl’, and I can tell because of the sharp look Kiril sends me.

“I will punish you,” he drops coldly, and I don’t have to feign how this threat – more like a promise – causes real fear to slither, to gather in my chest. “You are fortunate I deigned to bring you at all.”

“Of course,” I say quietly, lowering my head. “I apologise.”

Obviously dissatisfied with my nearly immediate transgression, he turns and pinches my chin.

“Do not embarrass me, Sparrow.”

It’s a performance, I’m okay with this, because in Kiril’s eyes I see none of the taunting arrogance I usually do when he’s teasing me.

“I would never,” I assure him, biting my lower lip, looking up at him from beneath my lashes.

Subservience is not my thing, but I’m no stranger to play-acting.

“See to it you don’t,” he sniffs, stepping away from me to the sound of a door opening at the other side of the room.

Though uninvited, Kiril strides confidently through into a much larger chamber, at the far end of which stands an ornate throne, upon which sits a lean man with a prominent hook nose, his thin hair silver at the temples.

In and of itself his physical appearance is unremarkable, but palpable waves of displeasure roll from the dais and crash into me; Kiril, however, remains as unaffected as ever.

“Thank you for granting me an audience as such short notice, King Arno, most honoured son of Josef Sovák,” Kiril greets in perfect Czech – not a word of which I understand.

Still, as he bows, I follow suit, lower and for longer than my ‘master’, and I so not seek eye contact.

Don’t want to make eye contact.

“If I did not know well enough of your family, Kiril Lambert,” Arno replies in English, though his accent is very thick, “I might consider some measure of truth in that statement. And you… despite your airs and graces, you are a wolf.”

I doubt very much his choice of language is for my benefit – perhaps more likely he wants to show Kiril he’s just as adept at English as with his native tongue – but this is merely conjecture.

“If only I could convince my father of as much,” Kiril smiled easily, while I want so much to cower.

Contemptuously, the Czech king grunts an undignified sound and points a thin finger directly at Kiril.

“Am I to believe you think me a fool?” he growls, grey eyes narrowing to nearly closed. “I should have you shipped back to your father in pieces for your brazenness, your audacity – to threaten me?”

What Kiril has threatened Arno with I am unaware, but can only think it has something to so with the phone calls he made before arriving. Whatever it is, everything about Kiril screams he is completely comfortable with his actions and in no way intimidated by Arno’s attempt to assert dominance in his own throne room.

“I’m making no threats,” Kiril disagrees, eyes forward still, even as doors on either side of the chamber open, and several figures enter, none of them looking all that pleased. “But I do have a grievance with you in need of recompense.”

You have a grievance?” Arno chuckles darkly. “I suppose that is why several accountants under my employ cried out suddenly in unison and proceeded to panic?”

“Yes, that would be why,” Kiril smiles thinly, reaching slowly out to curl his fingers around the back of my neck and give me a little nudge forward. “I sent this one to find my brother,” he continues, and though his voice is sure, growing more and more displeased, I exert what feels like the limit of my willpower not to tremble. “And in no less than forty-eight hours she is set upon by while strolling your streets, and threatened for the very information she came in search of; I will not ask your pardon for expressing my annoyance at such a gross breach of etiquette.”

Kiril’s fingers against my nape are tense, but his grip is not tight. As he speaks his thumb grazes my skin, lightness of his touch re-centres my thoughts on him.

“Do not talk to me of etiquette, Prince Kiril, when you entered my city and spilled blood on my streets before so much as a glance of acknowledgement for courtesy and tradition.”

“That is true,” Kiril nodded, slowly drawing him back against him. “But, had I done so, she would be dead, and you and I would be having a whole other… conversation.”

Those figures around us shift; none of them are stupid, so despite dancing a semantic game, everyone is well aware Kiril just rolled into the court of the Czech vampire king and started making threats.

Any second now they’re going to pounce us both, and I’m going to end up even worse than the vampires Kiril slaughtered; his arm slithers over my hip and rests there.

“Let me make this as easy for you as possible in order to save time, effort, and further bloodshed,” Kiril goes on, his free hand making slow sweeping motions as he speaks. “In recompense for the attack against my assistant, I want your network to find my brother and his partner, and report their whereabouts to me. Following that, the four of us will return quietly to the U.K. and bother you no more.”

Arno listens in silence, but he looks about ready to lurch from this throne and permanently end the conversation. Those around us don’t blink, don’t move, but I can feel their stares crushing my chest, stealing my breath.

“I want this over quickly, so I can get back to my own affairs,” Kiril adds. “My economic machinations are merely insurance that I get what I’ve come for – something which should cause you no great loss considering the hostility my little Sparrow met with at the mere mention of Konstantin’s name. I would sooner not interfere with the financial stability of the Czech Republic’s ruling house to get my way, but as you’re probably aware, I am very used to getting what I want.”

“All except your father’s approval,” Arno sneers, but his is the only expression that alters.

“Well, you’re at least half right there,” Kiril shrugs, but doesn’t clarify which part. “So all that remains is your cooperation, and we shall leave.”

If I stood in Arno’s position, I would no doubt like to tear Kiril’s head off, especially in front of his ‘subjects’ – if that’s what they’re called. He has to somehow save face, but it’s obvious from his hesitation whatever Kiril did with regards to his finances is no small matter. How, exactly, he’s managed to corner this man, a king and older than him by Kiril’s own admission, I don’t know.

“Do not think for a moment,” Arno says finally, rising and stepping slowly from the dais, “I will forget your audacity.”

“I would not expect you to,” Kiril acknowledges, his fingers beginning to drum lightly against my hip. “All things have a price. I am sure, however, should you require my considerable influence in the future, I could find my way to be of your assistance.”

At this, Arno chuckles, a sound that rattles around between his ribs for a little before spilling from his lips.

“You would be wise to not stray too far from the power of the old world,” he warns, coming to stand before us, no more than an arm’s reach away from me. “Your love affair with humans, these fragile things…”

His eyes linger on me.

“… may be your undoing,” he finishes.

“No doubt you’ll fully enjoy the celebration that follows,” Kiril grins. “I’ll leave arrangements to send you something suitable for such an occasion.”

“Keep your head down in Prague,” Arno commands coldly. “Leave details with Marika. If you are not out of the country within twenty-four hours of your brother’s location, I’ll kill you and take your little Sparrow for my plaything.”

“That sounds fair,” Kiril agrees, but his smile falters when Arno reaches out toward my cheek.

“You’d better hope…” he begins, but doesn’t finish before Kiril pulls me in behind him.

“But unless that eventuates,” he says frostily, eyes narrowed, eyes afire, “she belongs to one man, and he is most certainly not you.”

Amused, Arno tips his chin, satisfied at having apparently – finally – unsettled the intruder, but his eyes do not leave me. His gaze is nothing like Kiril’s, and in it I can read the desire to humiliate, to punish Kiril, through me.

Leaving floods me with the kind of relief that weakens my legs, and on the street with Arno’s court behind us, I lean against Kiril who has not let go of me since Arno’s approach.

“Did you really just bully a king by threatening to bankrupt him? In front of his people? In his throne room?” I sigh, my hands gripping his coat lapels.

“I never used that word specifically, but yes,” he answers, wearing none of the weariness I feel. “I do not want to linger here,” he continues, “as it is clear you cannot be trusted not to rush off in a frenzy screaming Konstantin’s name.”

Those last few words spoken, Kiril pauses to consider them – his brows twitching.

“Ensuring Arno had no choice but to help us locate my idiot brother was the fastest means to our desired end, so I can get you back to England,” he adds, smoothing his hands from my shoulders to my elbows.

Before even thinking, I’ve dropped my head against his chest and exhaled a long breath.

“Will this really work?”

“If Arno wants to avoid complete financial ruin and get me out of his hair as soon as possible, he will have his goons scouring the city and beyond,” he assures, gently sliding his fingers through my hair.

And it feels so good I could almost forget that with a twitch he could break me in half.

Feels too good.

“Well, thank you, for putting yourself on Arno’s bad-side for me,” I declare, but avoid his eyes as I step back out of his arms.

“I am unsure he has a good side to be honest,” he chuckles, and this forces a smile from beneath the tension I’d been holding since waking up.

“So what do we do now? Just, sit and wait?”

Almost unconsciously I take both cell phones from my pocket: the one with a local sim card and my regular one.

The latter has several missed calls and messages from Sebastian, one from Mieke – the former has none, and I cannot help but cringe a little.

“Something wrong?” Kiril queries, leaning a little closer again.

“I want you to be honest with me,” I begin, chewing the inside of my cheek a little because I’m not sure what it means if I get the answer I suspect I will. “Sebastian warned me to stay away from you, vehemently; does he know?”

“Mr. Ross and I are acquainted in the most basic sense of the concept,” Kiril responds, and it sounds like the words a politician might spout to avoid an uncomfortable truth.

“Okay, let me rephrase; I want you to be honest and clear,” I insist, narrowing my eyes at him, even as he moves to the curb to hail us a taxi. “Does he know you’re a vampire?”

“Yes,” he answers more in accordance with my guidelines. “He does.”

“No wonder he’s losing his shit,” I mutter, both sympathetic and irritated at the same time. “He knew there was a vampire in my club all this time and said… did nothing?”

“To be fair, Mr. Ross is in no position to reveal secrets,” Kiril says, and though the sentence itself literally attempts to exonerate Sebastian for his silence, the tone in which it is spoken conveys his disdain.

Turning this over in my mind, I just climb into the cab when Kiril holds the door open for me and we’re moving before I even know my destination.

“How?” I ask finally, shifting my whole body a little more sideways. “How does he know? Wait…”

It hits me.

“No way, Sebastian’s a…”

“No, he most certainly is not,” Kiril snaps back, glaring, and the sourness of his expression only deepens as I speak again.

“I suppose not,” I admit, reclining. “His hands are warm.”

And a split second later, Kiril has pulled off his dark leather glove and snatched up my hand.


“This is new,” I note, as he threads his fingers through mine. “And now I know you don’t have to be so cold.”

He knows I’m not just talking about the temperature of his skin, but he doesn’t react adversely. Meanwhile, I – not being completely oblivious – note this revelation as an act of jealousy?

“So if he’s not a vampire then…” I begin again, but then Kiril untangles our fingers and places his hand against my thigh – even through my jeans the sensation threatens to chase away logical thought.

“I do not wish to talk of Sebastian Ross,” he states flatly, sliding his palm upward a little until I catch his hand and prevent its progress.

“You can’t end a topic by feeling me up,” I point out, but I’m simultaneously imagining the downward curl of his thumb riding further up between my legs.

“I am not ending a topic,” he argues lightly, “but beginning a new one, one your tensing muscles, your body, tells me you are aching to have.”

My fingernails dig into the back of his hand a little, but he seems to enjoy it.

“What a chauvinistic conclusion,” I huff, looking out the window at the passing city.

“But not untrue,” he points out with a smirk.


Resisting Kiril’s presence, his allure, required constant vigilance and willpower on Miho’s part, especially when it became clear he didn’t mean for them to simply wait in her suite for the phone to ring. Instead, he further occupied her mind with an all access tour of the city.

Together they viewed a private art collection, ate lunch at the most exclusive restaurant in the city, shopped places Miho’s credit card would never have permitted, and after night had fallen ended up at Prague Castle well after visitors were no longer allowed on the premises.

“I’d ask if it’s okay to be here,” Miho whispered, following along one step behind Kiril, left by the hand, “but it doesn’t seem you care much for rules. Visitors aren’t even permitted in this area, let alone at this hour.”

“Do not fret,” he said at full conversational volume. “I happen to know the owner.”

“Oh, I suppose you’re on a first name basis with the president,” she scoffed, but a second later realised that wasn’t too far from the realm of possibility. “What are we doing here?”

“Dinner,” he answered, as they entered the second courtyard and continued their journey.

“Now you’re just showing off,” she muttered, passing by the soft rush of water in Kohl’s Fountain.

“Hardly,” he chuckled, quickening his steps until they had crossed into the third courtyard and were swallowed by the deep shadow of St. Vitus Cathedral.

Miho had seen it before during the day – magnificent – but now its sharp gothic features were swathed in a cold that made its tall spires feel like looming giants poised to crush them both.

“You have an over active imagination,” Kiril noted, obviously amused.

“Oh really? Mr. Vampire?” she snorted, speeding up to fall in flush beside him. “I don’t think my imagination can afford to be active enough right now.”

“I suppose it is better you focus on that than other things,” he agreed, and it was only then Miho realised she hadn’t thought about Jazz since the morning, nor had she felt nearly as tense about the chances of finding her unharmed.

“Huh,” she murmured, freeing her hand in order to loop her arm around his, even as he so casually opened the doors of the Old Palace with his other. “Was all this, today, distraction by design?”

“Oh, getting you to let your guard down is plenty motive enough for me,” Kiril responded, closing the doors beside them and leading them through the dim building until a soft glow ahead peeked through the gloom.

Emerging into Vladislav Hall, a place for State gatherings, coronations and formal Czech affairs, Miho found a wide ring of grand golden candelabras creating a halo of orange light around a single, small table dwarfed even more so by the empty space of the high vaulted ceiling.

Suddenly breathless, she became unaware of Kiril’s attention gaze as they approached, two figures – a man and a woman dressed as waiters – standing motionless at attention nearby.

With a chivalrous flourish, Kiril separated from Miho and pulled out a chair at the table, upon which already sat fine crystal and gleaming cutlery.

“Sparrow,” he prompted, and with a quick nod, Miho took her seat.

“Kings have been crowned in this chamber,” Miho exhaled in awe, “and you arrange a private dinner like it’s nothing.”

“I would not say nothing,” he smiled, and for once there was no hint at all of smugness. “But what trouble it might have cost was well worth it for the expression on your face.”

“How am I supposed to survive this?” she sighed under her breath, glancing to the left of the waitress offered her the wine bottle’s label before pouring the near black liquid into an immaculately etched goblet.

What followed was a magical, dream-like dinner where everything was simply perfect. To Miho it seemed Kiril was on his best behaviour, effortlessly recalling the original construction of the Old Royal Palace in the ninth century.

“Ninth century?” Miho blurted. “You’re that old?”

Slowly, Kiril nodded.

“But that’s over…” she began, crunching numbers in her head. “Over eleven hundred years!”

“One thousand, one hundred and seventy-three to be precise,” Kiril corrected: no biggie. “I had reached the peak of my vampiric development by that stage, and was hungry to explore the world.”

“I can’t even fathom that,” Miho sighed as she laid her spoon in her empty bowl, and rested her chin on her hand. “All the things you must have seen and heard, the change.”

Nodding, Kiril smiled a nothing smile.

“Good and bad I bet,” Miho added, studying his expression.

“My upbringing was not like yours for a great many reasons,” he expounded. “Reasons I will not bore you with now.”

“Because I have so much on my plate right now,” Miho smirked, spreading her hands, but as she did, Kiril rose from his seat.

With his movement, a much greater light flooded the entire hall, and suddenly the empty chamber was bursting with life. Gaping, craning her neck to peer at men and women dressed in the finery of former centuries, Miho exhaled a small noise to express her puzzlement.

“One of my powers is to create illusion,” he explained, stepping around the table to offer Miho his hand. “Which is surprisingly useful.”

“Surprisingly?” Miho breathed, touching her fingers to the palm of his hand, and she quickly found her body hauled upward.

“Not everyone agrees,” he smiled, making a sweeping motion with his hand down the length of her body, and an immaculate gown bloomed around her like an opening flower. “Cinderella.”

“Holy shit,” Miho grinned, reaching out to touch the luxurious fabric, but her fingers passed right through to what she was actually wearing.

“Not real,” Kiril affirmed, pulling her forward against him to the swell of a grand orchestra.

Blood Spatter: Part 1

It’s the shrill and frantic screaming of a phone that abruptly interrupts the dreamless dark of my sleep. Thundering jackhammers valiantly try to drown out the sound with blinding pain in my head.

“Fuck, shut the fuck up,” I growl, pawing around wildly for the location of my phone until I somehow coincidentally manage to hit the answer button. “What?”

“Miho?” comes an urgent male voice that makes me cringe for more than one reason.

“Jesus Sebastian, stop yelling,” I hiss, covering my eyes with my forearm though the room is already dark.

“Maybe if you answered your phone when I call you, I wouldn’t have to,” Sebastian argues, his tone a blend of relief, worry and scorn. “Where the hell are you?”

For a moment I ponder this answer – I should be more concerned that I have to think about it.

“Home,” I finally determine.

“Are you sick?” he pursues. “Mieke, Kara and I opened the club without you, but that’s never happened.”

“Oh shit,” I curse, sitting up far too suddenly for the likes of my migraine. “Mmph, um… I’m sorry, I’ll…”

“Are you sick?” he repeats more seriously.

“No, I… um…”

I… um… struggling to answer that question – why am I struggling to answer that question?

“Some guy nearly hit me with his car,” I respond finally, the memory hazy. “I hit my head when I stumbled.”

“I’d ask if you’re all right, but clearly you’re not; I’m coming over,” he states, leaving no room for argument.

“Fine, you can drive me to work,” I conclude, pushing back the duvet and wriggling into a sitting position.

“We can discuss if when I arrive,” he grumbles. “Don’t do anything crazy in the meantime.”

Pfft, like I ever do anything crazy.


There is nothing interesting about my getting ready for work routine, except that my headache wanes a little. Still, I’m sloshing some aspirin around in a glass when he buzzes my intercom.

For a few seconds I look at him on the LCD screen, admiring the strong line of his jaw, the faint hint of stubble and the fall of several dark strands of hair that constantly fall across his forehead.

I’d be lying if I didn’t think there might be a better – more fun – way to get rid of my headache’s remnants.

“Are you going to let me in?” I hear his voice through the speaker, and I break from my lascivious reverie.

“Sorry,” I apologise, though he can’t even hear me, and in what seems like a far too short time, he’s travelled up several floors and is knocking on my door.

“I’m angry with you,” are the first words from his mouth, and though he’s frowning, he’s looking me up and down with an analytical eye.

“Thanks, Dad,” I mock, turning to get my handbag, but Sebastian takes my wrist and slowly forces me to straighten.

“I’m not done checking you over yet,” he grumbles, and there’s a pout in his voice though his expression remains stern.

His hands begin on my cheeks, large hands I always feel could crush my head and yet are so incredibly gentle as they graze my skin.

“Sebastian,” I whisper in complaint – but the downward intonation of his name, and the tilt of my head against his palm, betrays my alternate agenda.

“Don’t you Sebastian me,” he huffs, sliding his hands deliberately down my throat as he leans closer to examine a contusion on my left cheek. “You’re never late, never sick, never out of touch, and with… well…”

His sentence trails off, but I know exactly where it was going.

“I was afraid,” he admits, and I actually think he’s being serious.

This guy, who I feel has never been afraid of anything in his life, his brow is now creased, and my reflection in his sometimes-animalistic brown eyes wavers with genuine unease.

“I was afraid something had happened to you too,” he adds, shifting his weight, and when I cannot help but form a slight smile, I think I see him faintly blushing.

“As if,” I snort, slapping his chest with the back of my hand before scooping up my handbag. “I was an assassin in a past life.”


It takes a little more convincing to get Sebastian to allow me out of my apartment, but eventually he drives me to the club – on the provision I let him drive me home after closing. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about this. Though he’s come home with me plenty of times, our relationship has never been more than a mutually agreeable meeting of flesh and pleasure. The depth of his disquiet is surprising, and I’m not sure how to take it.

“Where the hell have you been?” Mieke glares, the moment we enter Pale’s foyer.

“Easy tiger,” Sebastian grunts in Mieke’s direction, then heads off to do the rounds.

“Overslept,” I tell her sheepishly, and it’s not really a lie.

“Oh yeah? Well I didn’t – I got here three hours early because Seb’s losing his shit about you not answering your phone,” she huffs, but I can tell she’s not actually mad at me. “Kara’s already doing rounds in the basement.”

“Sorry, I’ll get to work, Boss,” I smirk.

“You might want to start with Mr. Lambert in the lounge,” she suggests, and I know she sees the way I’m suddenly more focused. “Thought that’d get your attention,” she sniffs. “And tonight, believe it or not, he’s alone.”

“That’s weird,” I agree. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him without a harem.”

“Right?” Mieke nods. “Go and take advantage.”

No harm in buttering up a VIP.

The man is an immaculate specimen, the kind who conveys so much with his mere presence alone. His suit is easily worth as much as the entire contents of my wardrobe, clearly custom tailored to emphasise his best physical features: and god damn, those features. They’re a sonnet of masculinity, a rousing canticle of sculpted muscle in perfect proportion.

Intimidation is not something I’m used to submitting to, but every time I’ve had cause to interact with Kiril Lambert – billionaire CEO of KeepsGuard Risk Management and Insurance – I’ve had to struggle against a tide of uncertainty and doubt.

He makes me feel small: I hate it, but affix my best smile as I approach, and bury the instinct to act meekly behind a fortified wall of self-confidence.

“With compliments of the house,” I smile, placing the tray down on Kiril’s table, before taking the uncorked bottle of very old and expensive whiskey in hand.

“It’s my understanding, you are the house,” Kiril points out blithely as he adjusts his silk tie slightly, but for a few seconds I find myself enchanted by the nonchalant motion of his hand. “So it’s you I have to thank. Join me.”

It wasn’t a question, it was a statement, but for some reason, I don’t feel offended by his assumption; I am no stranger to this type of attention in my club – without being arrogant – but in this instance, I shock myself by acting completely out of character.


I put it down to my headache and try to cover a grimace with graciousness.

“It’s my policy not to mix business and pleasure, Mr. Lambert,” I tell him casually, but slip into the booth opposite him nonetheless, “but since you’re Pale’s resident celebrity, I’ll make an exception.”

“Is that the only reason?” he enquires, eyes fixed on my fingertips, apparently fascinated by the way they dig into the wax sealing the amber liquid behind crystal and begin to peel it away.

“What would you like me to say?” I ask, pouring carefully into his glass before pushing it toward him.

I sense my quip is a dangerous one, but simply can’t help playing his game.

“That you’ve finally given in to your burning desire for me,” he replies: so blasé, it almost doesn’t sound like the words of a consummate playboy.

Here is a creature blessed – sublimely handsome, connected and wealthy – oh he never wants for companions.

Normally, I would scowl at such a line, but he drops it so effortlessly I actually laugh.

Then regret it.

Grimacing, I resist the urge to rub at my temples and straighten my back.

“Something wrong?” he queries, slowly coiling his fingers around the whisky tumbler.

It’s such a simple gesture and yet I find it so incredibly sexy I nearly forget my pain.

The unusual green of his gaze pierces through my attempts to appear unaffected, and though I have reassurances on my tongue, I find myself barely able to inhale, let alone form words.

“Ah, it’s just a headache,” I finally manage, and frown at how breathless I sound.

“Late night?”

At this I scoff.

“I run a club, I’m practically nocturnal,” I point out, but thinking about the night previous makes the pain increase threefold.

“A woman after my own heart,” he chuckles, “but that doesn’t explain your obvious discomfort.”

“I had a run in with… with a…” I begin, then cringe when it feels as if my brain is expanding, threatening to burst from my eye sockets.

“You look like you’re in need of a medicinal dram,” he declares, turning his glass slowly by the rim, casually observing my growing distress.

“Hm, if I did, it certainly wouldn’t be from the top shelf,” I murmur, trying to blink away the stars sparkling across my field of vision.

“Then please,” he beseeches, though the two words again sound more like an instruction, “allow me to make you feel a little better.”

Men like that don’t beg.


Used to being propositioned in my own club by drunken idiots, I totally take it in my stride – though I find my answer uncharacteristically more flirty than is routine.

“And how might you achieve that, Mr. Lambert?” I question, tweaking a crooked smile despite the continuation of heavy drums in my head.

Before his lips even part, his eyes flicker somehow more brightly, and again I find myself transfixed by the way emerald flames seem to dance within their depths.

“Kiril,” he corrects, “and I have myriad ways.”

His voice low – the brush of velvet across my skin, and that alone seems to dull the war raging between my ears.

“I’m not sure it’s appropriate for me to call one of London’s most successful CEOs by his first name,” I point out, not that I believe in elitism.

“This successful CEO is offering it to you,” he shrugs, it being his first name, not the lewd other it that suddenly invades my mind’s eye. “But for now…”

His fingertips are cool, smooth, as he turns my right wrist over onto his palm, and I flinch at the unexpected contact.

“Close your eyes,” he orders firmly, and before the thought can even register, I’m smothered in the darkness beneath my lids. “Just breathe,” he whispers, a breath I can almost feel against my cheek though I know he is still across the table.

A shudder ripples through me, tingling that begins at the stroke of his thumb against the pale underside of my wrist, and gathers momentum up my arm.

“And that’s just my thumb, Sparrow,” I hear him say, see his lips moving and the hungry blaze of his stare though my own eyes remain closed.

Sparrow? But did he even speak? I can’t tell, but I respond anyway.

“Oh really?” I sniff, wanting to smirk at the boldness of his allusion, but the deepening pressure of his thumb into my skin, the tendons, warns me not to.

“Shh,” he soothes, pressing against one point that for several seconds makes me feel dizzy.

Then the clattering discomfort of the marching band parading through my brain is silenced.

Everything falls silent.

The sweet jazz piano.

The quiet chatter of staff and other nearby patrons.

The clink of glassware.

Until a new rhythm emerges – faster and faster and faster, until the pounding of my heart is almost unbearable.

“How did you…” I exhale, finally opening my eyes.

Pain free, I meet him halfway, though the intensity of those penetrating meres threatens to cause my calm to crumble.

“Magic,” he smiles confidently, continuing to gently caress from my wrist, along the lifeline of my palm.

Swallowing the lump in my throat, I struggle to the surface, swimming valiantly out of a verdant ocean to break eye contact and reclaim my hand.

“What the hell is going on?” I wonder, for I can feel him crawling across my skin, sliding to places hidden beneath my clothes.

I have seen him in Pale a hundred times, and while I’ve acknowledged his inexplicable beauty, always pausing in my rounds to perve discretely, I now feel an almost overwhelming magnetism that sticks me to my seat.

But there is someone else observing us; I can feel Sebastian’s scorn as surely as if he was waggling his finger disapprovingly in my face.

“Looks like your boyfriend doesn’t like me touching his property,” Kiril snickers, taking my other hand when I look in Sebastian’s direction. “Not one to share I take it.”

“He’s not my boyfriend, but I should…” I begin, but he cuts me off.

“Stay,” he commands quickly, a word from his mouth before he even thinks it over; he surprises even himself, as much written in the sudden – though fleeting – change in his countenance.

Because that makes it so much better.

“Excuse me?” I snap, and whatever hold he’d had on me shatters. “Pardon me, Mr. Lambert, I should resume my duties. Please enjoy your drink.”

He lets me go, regaining his air of self-importance, but I hear him as I walk away – am sure I am supposed to.

“I think I would, very much.”

“Fraternising with customers now?” Sebastian almost accuses, the moment I am within earshot, and I feel myself souring further.

“Any issues?” I redirect, but Sebastian has me caught in a purposeful gaze.

“Miho,” he levels. “Kiril Lambert is not someone you want to get involved with.”

“Oh yes?” I sniff, undaunted by the seriousness of his expression. “Successful, influential, wealthy, and not shy about spending his money here,” I add.

I leave off how hot Kiril is – no sense in provoking Sebastian.

Working his jaw, Sebastian stares at me, attempting maybe to transmit his disdain via telepathy.

“It’s already not my night,” I sigh, finally heading for the stairs. “Please don’t make it worse.”

Surprisingly he doesn’t follow to my office, which is just as well.

Still, it means I’m alone as I flop down behind my desk, and beyond, Jazz’s empty work station screams out her conspicuous absence.

It just doesn’t feel right without her, and it’s not just about the physical space she should be taking up – she means so much more to me than that. Her absence is like a hole, carved right through my perception of everything; we’re sisters in all but blood, and the only family either of us have left.

“What did he do to you?” I hiss to the room, but further ponderance of Konstantin’s involvement in Jazz’s disappearance is brutally shoved away by the feeling of someone driving an ice-pick through my skull.

But that isn’t the only sensation.

Against the lacquered wood I ball my fists, leaning forward like it might make the pain less severe, but my mind is tugged in the direction of a solid collision.

The ground.

Wet under my body.

In the darkness, afraid, and barely clinging to consciousness.

Vaguely I hear a question and a name.


Groaning, I blink away the vision, and through clenched teeth I breathe moist patterns against the desktop. The images, the sensations, the emotions all feel so real.

Then it’s Kiril Lambert who floats into my mind; the gentle touch of refreshingly cool skin against the flush of mine lulls some of my present affliction. Desperately I want him to caress me again, and I realise it’s not just because of the way he so easily chased away my resurging migraine.

“And that’s just my thumb, Sparrow,” I hear him purr again, and though I hate the diminutive, I cannot deny the growing knot in my stomach and the tingling warmth in places I’d like to experience his other fingers.

Resisting the urge to allow my own hands to wander, I settle for some more aspirin and paracetamol, before heading back downstairs to work.


Adding to my pre-existing irritation, the sensitive throb of my nethers doesn’t fade as the night wears on, any more than my headache. Crossing the basement nightclub dance floor, nodding to Kara as I go, I’m afforded the occasional, incidental bump in the right spot and it sends a shudder of pleasure through my body – and though Sebastian and I have enjoyed each other’s company many times since he came to work at the club, it’s Kiril Lambert who flashes into my mind.

Avoiding him is suddenly not so easy when my feet seem to have a will of their own, but I stop in my tracks on the far side of the lounge, when I find he is now not alone.

“Of course he’s not,” I chide myself. “Come to the club and just sit there for hours alone? Him?”

No indeed. He’ surrounded by his typical entourage of slender beauties, who stroke down his lapel, touch his skin, murmur against it.

Perhaps he feels my gaze as it lingers too long, because he looks through his company at me; they don’t seem to notice he is no longer with them, as surely as if he’d gotten up and walked away.

“Feeling lonely, Sparrow?” he smirks, I see the question alight in those green pools that penetrate me so thoroughly.

And I don’t even think I mind, not that I’d ever admit it aloud.

”Ah, not lonely, something else?”

His smile grows wider with certainly as his gaze wanders down my body.

“Am I actually hearing him in my head?” I scoff at myself. “You have bigger issues to worry about than your libido.”

“Speaking of bigger things…” I hear him grin, as I turn away and force myself to shift toward the lounge bar.

Which is just as well considering the insolent flick of my hair causes a chandelier to drop and brain me: not literally, obviously, but that is certainly how it feels.

Clutching the edge of the bar, I lean against it heavily with my eyes tightly shut, and Morris the bartender is quick to show his concern – and he is not alone.

Faintly, I hear a woman yelp, then the touch of a hand against the small of my back.

“Still broken, Sparrow?” Kiril whispers into my ear, leaning a little over my shoulder.

“I think I’m going to be sick,” I gasp out, trembling and unable to open my eyes.

Though Morris puts a glass of water in front of me, I don’t notice, too busy shaking, too busy glaring into the face of someone I vaguely recognise and the way his teeth are bared threateningly.

“Where is she?” I hiss, losing my legs to slump back into Kiril’s arms, whimpering pathetically.

“What did you do?” Sebastian barks, and his voice rings in my ears as he rushes up to pull Kiril away by the shoulder.

Kiril’s response is to slap Sebastian’s hand away, but he neither confirms or denies his involvement in my debilitated state.

Had I not been just about ready to empty my stomach on any available pair of shoes, I might have wondered at the ferocity of their accusatory glares, that, and the origin of the prevailing notion in my mind – both a source of agony and truth.

“Alex knows where Jazz is!” I exclaim breathlessly, but the moment the sentence is from my mouth I want to curl into a ball. “Fuck me…”

“Another night, perhaps,” I vaguely hear Kiril murmur.

“Back up,” Sebastian commands savagely, and I feel his arms close in around me.

So warm, but there is something I suddenly miss about delightful prickle of cool skin, and from Sebastian’s embrace I blink away tears to fix my watery gaze upon Kiril once more.

“Where’s Alex?” I hiss, but my body is suddenly exhausted, and I collapse against Sebastian’s chest.

To this I get no answer, not that I could actually process it if I had.

All I want is for the evening to swallow me completely, to wrap me in darkness that steals away the terrible vortex of torment tear my brain to shreds.





With refined detachment, Kiril watched Sebastian easily sweep Miho into a princess carry, but he found himself captivated by the limp swing of her arm when the other man stepped away. Crushing a surprisingly tenacious desire to snatch Miho away like a jealous dog over a bone, he instead watched Pale’s head of security disappear with his prize, without stirring further.

He was by no means oblivious to Miho’s amateur – though by no means insignificant – investigation into the disappearance of her business partner; he was aware she’d ruffled many feathers by shouting out the name Konstantin in places she was sure she’d be heard.

Oh, she’d been heard.

Smirking, Kiril didn’t even bid farewell to his vacuous company, and left Pale without a fuss, pressing his phone lightly to his ear.

“Ah cousin dear,” he drawled, his free hand in his pocket as he strolled down the street. “I love what you’ve done with that problem from last night.”

There was a short silence, before a female voice responded.

“Are you following up?” she queried and didn’t sound especially impressed about it. “You?”

“Pure happenstance,” he shrugged, even though his cousin could obviously not see him. “I heard the girl nearly got herself killed by one of Konstantin’s fanboys.”

“What’s your angle, Kiril?” she asked suspiciously. “Why the interest?”

“We both know full well she’s hunting for Konstantin because he’s abducted her friend,” he responded – because abduction was no big deal. “What I don’t know, Narumi, is why you didn’t erase her desire to find him.”

“You don’t think her sudden disinterest in the location of her business partner and best friend would be a little suspicious?” Narumi volleyed, and Kiril could tell she was annoyed – just as she always became annoyed when he challenged her. “Especially to the likes of Sebastian Ross.”

“Oh yes, and he is very interested in her, a real knight in shining armour,” Kiril chuckled, stopping at an intersection to wait for traffic.

“Don’t provoke him, Kiril, I don’t need the headache,” Narumi sighed, and Kiril got the impression of her rubbing her temples. “For once it’s Konstantin causing a stir, and unless you want Konrad on the warpath, just stay out of this and let me handle it.”

The mention of Konrad caused Kiril’s top lip to peel back in a sneer.

“Where is Konstantin and his little friend?” he grated between his teeth, stepping – no, stalking – across the road.

“I haven’t located them yet,” Narumi admitted. “He’s doing a remarkable job of concealing himself.”

“Remarkable, isn’t that him just all over,” Kiril huffed, abruptly taking the hand of a passing woman.

She looked at him quizzically, before smiling and staring wordlessly: starry-eyed.

“If you find him before I do,” he continued into his phone, leading the woman along with him, “tell him I said hi.”

“Just stay out of this,” Narumi warned. “I mean i…”

But Kiril hung up and tucked his phone away, focusing on his present company.



In the darkness of my apartment, I’m alone again with Sebastian. Murmuring a mixture of concern and how much trouble I am, he helps me to the bedroom and sits me down on the end of the bed.

“I’ll get you some water,” he says in a low voice, his hand still resting on my shoulder. “Think you can get undressed by yourself?”

There is nothing untoward about his question, not even a hinting undercurrent of lust; he could take advantage, but he doesn’t – that’s the kind of man he is.

“It’s not so bad anymore,” I reply, slowly sliding the jacket from my shoulders.

No sudden moves just the same.

“I’d say you’re working too hard, but I know that’s in your nature, so, what’s going on?” he questions, and though it’s dim I can see him frowning. “In the year and a half I’ve known you, you’ve never had so much as a sniffle.”

“There is the whole best friend missing and nearly getting run over thing,” I point out a little snappishly, but it’s a measure of my low tolerance levels rather than any actual anger I have toward him. “I’m sorry, Sebastian, I don’t know – I just have this terrible feeling something horrible has happened Jazz, that I’m so close to finding her but she’s just beyond me reach.”

Blinking, I find my cheeks wet again, and Sebastian gently wipes his thumbs across my cheeks.

“Do you want me to stay?” he asks, and though he’s a seriously impressive looking man, this inquiry leaves his lips unsure, tentative.

If I was able to think more clearly, I would certainly challenge him; though we care for one another as friends, he made it clear very early on our relationship beyond that was just physical: a way for us to relieve some of the tension in our lives without romantic entanglements and all the obligations that come with. He has never stayed and never asked to, always leaving when we’re both satisfied.

Saying yes might lead to something I don’t need, but I know right now I don’t want to be alone.

My chin drops forward before lifting again, and the warmth of his palm cupping one cheek is a reassurance I’m grateful for.

“Okay,” he smiles simply, crouching a moment to unzip my boots and slide them away. “Hop into bed, I’ll get you that water and be right back.”

Sighing, I undress to my panties and slip t-shirt on – normally Sebastian wouldn’t get to see such a thing, the Miho ‘home-body’ in her unflattering night clothes, but it’s not something I worry about.

What I want is to be held, and stroked, and told everything will be okay – that I’ll wake up tomorrow and Jazz will be back, no harm done, and this blasted headache will be long gone.

Wordlessly upon his return, Sebastian strips down to his underwear and joins me beneath the duvet, leaving me no time to appreciate the stirring cut of his physique. Instead, I settle for the strong coil of his arms around me, and snuggle against his firm chest, inhaling slowly.

“Just close your eyes,” he whispers into my hair, but it’s not his voice I hear.

Kiril Lambert.

His are the fingers weaving softly through my hair, his breath against the side of my head, his ankles entwined with mine. Just as it had, sitting across from him in the booth with my wrist in his grip, the pain my skull abates, and I am left with a slowly growing ball on tension in my stomach.

“You okay?” Sebastian queries, leaning his head back.

My answer is to kiss him, a slow and searching notion, probing for interest.

The tense of his body and then the smooth of his hands down to the small of my back is his response, but he ends the dance of our tongues.

“I don’t think this is what you need right now,” he tells me, but his body is already telling me what he needs.

“I don’t want to think,” I hiss, my voice a little hoarse, and his response to the trail of my fingers to the band of his boxer briefs and beneath. “So get naked and fuck me.”

These words are the kind of vulgar imperative I might use in a moment of passion to provoke him, not the kind of thing once says while vulnerable; but I can’t help it, I suddenly need it.

Also surprised he hesitates, but not for long when I palm him firmly and bite into his lower lip, at which point Kiril takes hold of the hem of my t-shirt and tears it all the way to my throat.


It’s Kiril Lambert’s weight I feel pressing over me, and into me not long after, his shoulder-blades I’m digging my fingernails into and his hips my legs are wrapped around. Gentle at first, I feel he doesn’t want to hurt me but is definitely holding back – he needs encouragement, and my teeth sinking into the taut flesh of his shoulder and the arch of my body to deepen our contact provides this.

The night is a heavy blanket that hides us from each other’s sight, but through the fierce thrust and grab, and the heady thickness of panting breaths and desirous moans, I can clearly see the ravenous depths of Kiril’s gaze by which I am willingly consumed.