They had been on the road for two hours. Making a quick stop for bathroom breaks and snacks Kin stretched his body and yawned as he climbed behind the wheel. It was an eighteen hour flight and now to get to his parent’s house they had another four hours to drive. He had done all he could to get business in order before he left. Zen had told him under no circumstances was he to shut his phone off, just in case he was needed and Tadayoshi had very little to say about him and Tationy going away together. Kin had plenty of time to think about why that might be during their flight and the drive.
With everyone situated he pulled onto the road and began their trip again. If all went well they would not need to make another stop, but he was willing to wager that was unlikely. He could hear Osa’s small voice asking if they were there yet and Tationy responding with, ‘not even close’. “You are awfully negative,” He responded.
“I am tired. We were trapped on a plane for eighteen hours, we have been in this car for two. My back hurts, my legs are cramped, my butt is completely numb, not to mention I am sweating in places I should only be sweating in if I was…exercising on my back.”
“Why would you be exercising on your back? Are you doing sit-ups or something?” Osa questioned.
“Osa, she is not actually talking about that kind of exercising.”
“What is she talking about then?”
“Yeah, Kin, what am I talking about then?”
Kin stumbled to respond pausing a moment to consider his words, “I was mistaken that is exactly what she was talking about.” He noticed it the moment her posture changed, a small smile traveled over her lips; she was amused.
“I feel like you two are talking about sex.”
Tationy had laughed as Kin stammered completely taken off-guard by the outspoken and direct Osa, “We most certainly are not talking about such a thing. Sex is a private matter kept behind closed doors.” Even though he spoke the words he could see the telling smirk upon Tationy’s lips, with a sigh he added, “Let’s talk about something else.”
“Oh, I don’t know. I think this is quite an interesting conversation. I almost thought I was sitting with Tadayoshi for a moment there. When did you become so prudish about sex?”
“Well, since when is it a behind closed doors thing? You have been pretty blatant with your flirting.”
“Flirting is one thing, actually talking about sex is another. It is just, something Kari men only do in the privacy of their own bedrooms with the woman they love.”
“Never would have pegged you for a traditionalist.”
“Don’t let the good looks and charm fool you, I am not one dimensional. There is a lot about me you do not know.”
“So tell me then.”
The car was quiet only the rustling of the snack bag by Osa could be heard, “Perhaps later.”
“Are you and Uncle Kin going to have sex?”
This time it was Tationy stumbling over her words and Kin laughing, “Yeah, Tationy, are we?”
“Let’s talk about something else.” For a few minutes Tationy said nothing then suddenly turned her body enough to look in the backseat, “Who has been telling you about sex?”
“Well I would hear things on television or at school. I would ask my dad, but he would always tell me when I was older so I asked Grandpa Katsu and he told me.”
“Oh dear. What exactly did your Grandpa Katsu say?”
There was a long pause as he munched on his snacks, “Well…he said that my father did not think I was old enough to know, but Kari men learn about sex from their mothers and fathers as soon as they begin their trials. Is that true Uncle Kin?”
Kin considered his words, “The trials are not something we discuss around women Osa.”
“Wow, so I am just some woman now?”
Kin frowned, “That is not what I am saying. Mothers are brought in at certain points of the trials. Their role is only to prepare the boy and their involvement after that it is limited. The trials are a journey shared among the men of the Kari. It is tradition and the sanctity of it must be upheld by all Kari men. It is not something we can just talk about.”
“Tadayoshi said he intended to teach me everything needed to raise Kazuma as a fine Kari man; the values, language, and traditions. Doesn’t that include the trails?”
There had been a moment when Kin had been about to respond, but Osa spoke up first, “I am sorry I did not mean to make you fight.”
“No baby it is alright. How about later you and Uncle Kin talk about what Grandpa Katsu told you. Uncle Kin can clarify anything that you did not understand and you can ask any questions of him.” Under her breath she added, “Seeing I am just some woman.”
There were times that Kin found himself annoyed with Tationy. That did not change how he felt about her, but she was always down on herself, putting up walls, and forcing people to remain at a distance. More importantly than those things was how she sometimes reminded him of Hiko with her blatant disregard for the traditions of the Kari. His heart told him to respond, certain that it would turn into an argument his head kept telling him to keep his mouth shut so he did. Kin like most Kari men was not hotblooded.
Four additional hours of driving in utter silence. Kin told himself he must have really stuck his foot in his mouth. By the time they pulled into the drive of his parents cabin the tension was almost unbearable. “Just leave everything in the car, I will come back and get it,” Kin instructed as he climbed out and worked to get Kazuma out of his car-seat. Osa had walked around to take his ‘little brothers’ hand and the two began to move toward the house before Kin could even say, be careful on the ice.
Kin noticed Tationy was staring at the house as he joined at her side, “Not what you expected?” She refused to speak to him, not surprising. “Let’s not do this alright. I know you are pissed at me, but giving me the fucking silent treatment is going to make this whole week suck for everyone. Just stop alright.”
“If I was giving you the silent treatment, believe me you would know it.”
“Then, what was that nonsense the entire trip? You did not say a single word to me. How is that not … Look let’s just not do this,” Kin responded as he took her hand. It surprised him when she did not pull it away and the two of them began to move toward the house with the boys trying to make small-talk, “Looks like my dad tossed some salt down.”
“The ice on the lake is not quite frozen, I guess we won’t get to skate on it. Not unless the temperature drops more.”
“Mom, must have the oven on. The windows are open. She must be baking up a storm.”
“I am sure she is, like a good little woman.”
“You really like pissing me off don’t you?” Kin asked in a flat voice.
Truthfully he was thankful when the boys stopped walking and Osa asked, “Can we play outside for a bit?”
“Later, we need to be hospitable and say ‘hello’ to our host,” Tationy responded.
“After we get settled in, I will bring you boys out and we can make some igloos and snowmen, how does that sound?”
“Kazuma do you want to make snowmen with Uncle Kin later?”
“Yes,” Kazuma responded excitedly.
“There it is all settled. We ‘men’ will come outside and do some building and your mom can stay inside like a good little ‘woman’ and do some baking.”
“I fucking hate you,” Tationy responded.
“Good, I don’t like you very much right now either.”
“Are you two still fighting?” Osa questioned.
“We are not fighting baby, just discussing how much we do not like each other right now.”
“That sounds like the same thing.”
“It is, but your mother thinks if she sugarcoats shit, it will not be shit any longer.”
Osa sighed, “I like it when you two are not fighting, you actually seem like you are in love then.”
Kin felt the tension in Tationy’s hand, “We are both just tired. It was a long trip and people are bound to get on each other’s nerves being cooped up for so long. We will be back to normal in no time. Won’t we Tationy?”
“Of course. We are just tired.” Even though she spoke the words, Kin could tell she was not entirely certain. He just wanted this week to be nice and relaxing for all of them. He thought that time away from Aslann would be good for Tationy. Give her time to address the things that were weighing her down without Tadayoshi and her ghost hovering over her. Of course, he was not expecting the two of them to be arguing the entire trip.
When they entered the house they quickly removed jackets, wiping their feet off, as they stepped inside. Much to Kin’s surprise Tationy put a smile on her face and for the most part was pretending as though everything was fine, even though they both knew it was far from it. He noticed his brothers talking by the fireplace and he could hear his parents in the kitchen, Tationy leaned in close to him which took him by surprise. Her voice was a soft whisper, “Well at least I have something nice to look at.”
Kin pursed his lips as he lowered his voice and responded, “Stop thinking about doing my brothers.”
Even though they were speaking in hushed voices he noticed instantly that his brothers looked toward them, “I was actually not thinking about doing them. I was thinking about them doing me.”
Irritated Kin choked as he cleared his throat, “Baito is that your sports car outside?”
“Little dangerous driving something like that on these roads.”
“Hey, I spent the money on it, I am going to drive it.”
“I keep telling him he is going to have an accident, especially the way he drives, but you know him. Our little brother thinks he is invincible with no cares in the world,” His older brother Erobus responded.
Kin made note how Erobus kept his eyes focused on him when he spoke, but his little brother Baito was obviously looking at Tationy. The slight smirk of his lips made Kin grumble under his breath, “Baito, Erobus this is Tationy, Osa, and this little guy in my arms is Kazuma.”
“He looks just like Hiko,” Erobus spoke.
Not surprising that Baito had kept his attention on Tationy, “It is nice to meet you Tationy.”
“Osa was it?” Erobus questioned.
“You can come in and sit down, we don’t bite,” Erobus responded in a somewhat gentle voice.
Kin heard his mother respond as she and his father joined them, “Don’t believe them, they are just like their father. Biters every last one.”
Tationy laughed, much to Kin’s surprise. “Mom, I don’t think anyone wants to know that.”
“Tationy it is good to see you again.”
“Again…” Tationy had spoken, “I am sorry have we met before Mr. Kari?”
“Mr. Kari was my father, you can call me Kyo. We have not met officially. When you were working for the Kari Foundation, you escorted me to a meeting. I had gotten myself lost.”
“Oh, yes I remember. You ended up on the wrong floor.”
“Sure he did,” Kin’s mother Eri responded. “Forgive my husband, he has pulled that trick before. Getting lost, seriously at your age you think you would stop with your flirting.”
“At my age, you make it seem as though I am old and I will have you know, Eri, I really was lost. She was quite a dear helping me to my meeting.”
Eri had pursed her lips, “Mmmhmm. I am sure she was, you lecherous old Kari.”
Kin noticed that both his mother and father had heavy eye-bags which told him that neither of them had been sleeping much, “This lecherous old Kari as you call me has been dutiful in all of his husband required duties, have I not? Should I not be allowed to look every now and again so I have greater appreciation for what I have at home?”
“I do not know if that was a compliment toward me or an insult toward our guest. You Kari boys, always sticking a foot in your mouths when you should just shut up and kiss us.”
“My dear, when we are alone, I intend to do just that.”
Groaning Kin spoke, “Tationy, Osa, Kazuma this is my mom and my dad, Eri and Kyo.”
“It is very nice to meet you, thank you for allowing us to stay at your lovely home.”
Eri waved her hand dismissively, “There is no need to thank us. We have been asking Kin to come visit forever, but he has been too busy with work. I suppose I should not be disappointed in that, he is a well-respected and successful Kari man, but I do wish he would find time to visit more often.” It was obvious that his mother was about to say more as his phone started ringing, “Who apparently did not shut off his phone.”
Kin offered Kazuma to Tationy, glancing at his phone, “Sorry it is Zen, have to take this.” As Kin wandered off he noticed his mother giving his father a disapproving look. He knew his mother was not happy about his phone being on, but he was not some mail-room clerk at the Kari Foundation, he dealt with all legal matters and oversaw the Mergers and Acquisitions department. It should not have been unexpected that his phone was on and would be on the entire time they were on their vacation. He was simply too important to the company to be out of contact for an extended period of time. He did what he could to finish up the call quickly and when he returned his mother expressed her displeasure with a sigh, “Sorry.”
“Is this how your visit is going to be?”
“I am lucky I was able to get time off. I will try to limit the amount of time I am on the phone, but if a call comes in I have to deal with it.”
His father spoke up before his mother could respond, “As long as you are here that is all that matters, isn’t it dear?”
“Of course.” With a deep breath she added, “Alright you boys get out of my house. Get the stuff out of the car, get it upstairs, and then go find something to do with yourselves so you are not underfoot. Tationy and I have cooking to do and you men will just get in the way.”
“Wow, mom tell us how you really feel,” Baito said with a laugh as he moved toward the door grabbing his coat and Erobus followed closely behind.
Kin’s father had kissed his mother on the cheek and made his way toward the door, taking Kazuma from Tationy and offering his freehand to Osa. Kin stood there a moment looking at Tationy, “That means you to, Kin.” He had things he wanted to say to Tationy, but did not get an opportunity as his mother pushed him out of the house with the other men.
After the men had brought in the luggage, they found themselves in the backyard. It took only a minute or two for Erobus to get the fire going and while Baito and Osa worked on making snowmen, the elder Kari sat and talked. “So, what did you do?” Kin’s father asked bluntly.
“What makes you think I did something?”
“There was quite a bit of tension.”
“I thought we were hiding it.”
Kin sighed, pausing a moment as he considered his words. “I did not think before I spoke and I made it seem like Tationy was just some woman. It was not my intention, but she stopped talking to me after that and we have not gotten a moment to speak alone on the matter.”
“Your mother will speak with her.”
“I don’t need you and mom fixing my mess.”
“I never said you did, but you obviously stepped in it, so let your mother handle it. Tationy has had limited exposure to women within the Kari. From an outsider’s perspective we seem misogynistic. Those who have not spent time among the Kari cannot appreciate the foundations and traditions we have embraced through centuries. There is a reason that the Kari are the strongest within Aslann, of course we have our own weaknesses like any group of people, but we remain strong because of unyielding loyalty to blood and the values that have been instilled within us.”
“Considering what happened to Hiko, I doubt she sees it that way.”
He noticed how his father bowed his head, silently contemplating. Kyo while considered charming and outgoing was not a rash man so the quiet that overtook him was not all that surprising to Kin. “I do believe that Tadayoshi did what was best for the family, by removing the stain, but Hiko was just one problem among many. Tadayoshi should have stepped down. It is his actions that have put the Kari in its current state. He is as much to blame. I fear he might go the same way as my father and grandfather. Poisoning is a terrible way to die.”
The conversation was dark, not surprising considering. Kin had the pleasure of dealing with many of the darker aspects of the Kari as he handled legal matters. There were many that had voiced their concern over Tadayoshi regaining a position he had given up. “Uncle Tadayoshi intends to step down after things are situated.”
“He mentioned the last we spoke, though whether or not he gets the chance to is another matter entirely.”
Kin did not really want to discuss Tadayoshi, but he knew that he was going to come up so he quickly changed the topic by saying, “Kazuma, keep your hood up. If you get sick your mom is going to yell at me.” Kazuma turned to look at him, smiling as he continued to walk around.
Even though he sighed he had not realized he had a partial smile on his face until his father spoke, “You like being a father.”
He had to collect himself because his father’s question had surprised him. “I enjoy spending time with them.”
“What about Tationy?”
“I enjoy spending time with her as well.”
“You know that is not what I am asking you.”
“I don’t feel the pull from Tearra.”
There was a pause before Kyo responded, “I admit when I first encountered her at the Kari Foundation I was very hesitant to be around her. After we parted company I was thankful. Can you imagine, being thankful just because you did not feel Tearra’s pull? So many Kari men lust after Tearra to the point of losing themselves. I think in this, I am quite fortunate. I understand why Tadayoshi fears her so much.”
“My brother, has always been the most loyal to the traditions of the Kari. As you were taught, we Kari men purge emotion. Not to feel, not show weakness. Everything must be kept in balance and our lives compartmentalized. Order, routine, discipline; these are things we take great pride in. Lustful ways is shameful. Tadayoshi has only lost control of himself once. He told me that when he encountered Tearra on the subway he thought being close to her was enough for him, until one day they were so close he could feel her breath on his face and the warmth of her body. He said if the subway ride had gone any longer he would have lost himself and taken her. That is why he stopped riding with her. Tearra is important to Kazuma, but the Kari and its traditions are important to Tadayoshi. He will sacrifice one to keep balance with the other. It is why he is keeping his distance now. He understands that he suffers from the same weakness that allowed his son to become a monster. If he stays at her side, he will have to forsake everything he believes in and he is not a man willing to take such a risk.”
Kin frowned, “Isn’t loving her enough?”
“He does not love her, he loves Tearra and she will always be just some mortal to him. No matter how much he wishes it was not that way.”
“But he said he would not give up on her….”
Kin’s father interrupted him, “He won’t. I imagine that is why he placed her in your care. He is preparing for the future, for his death, for the reincarnation of Kazuma.”
“You think he intends…No, I am not becoming Kazuma.”
“If it is Kazuma’s will, you have no choice in the matter.”
Erobus had been quiet, finally deciding to speak up, “Uncle Tadayoshi is a pretty smart man. His reasoning is not flawed. Kin and Tationy are obviously fond of each other, if they grow to love each other as mortals, it will make the transition easier. Kazuma will simply reincarnate within your body and he will not have to learn to love her as a mortal. There will be no need for him to cast aside his pride. Though, I disagree with how he is going about it. He should simply tell her. She has enough conflict in her life at the moment with the loss of Hiko and raising two boys, without the burden of wondering where she stands with him.”
“Does she know how you feel?”
His father’s question caused Kin to noticeably sigh, “She overheard me talking to her father. I don’t want to pressure her. The announcement about Hiko’s death has not even happened yet, the last thing she needs is to be forced to think about a relationship and moving on. There is just too much going on right now and she has not really recovered from….things.”
Kyo stood moving toward his son. He rested his hand a moment on Kin’s shoulder as he spoke, “Your mother will talk with her. For now, let’s head inside and get these boys warmed up.”
As they entered the house, Eri hurried them along. “Upstairs all of you, get cleaned up. Then, my boys can all relax.” Kin took a spot next to Tationy and when she looked up at him, he could tell that the conversation she was having with his mother was deep. His eyes shifted away from her toward his parents, noticing the hard stare he was getting from his father so he bit his tongue and kept from speaking as his eyes settled on his mother, “I was just telling Tationy how happy I am that you both have come home, even if it is just for a little while. Please tell me when this business is settled with the Kari Foundation that you will be one of the people relocating to America. Your father and I miss seeing you Kin.”
“I don’t know at this point.” He realized much to late that he instinctively put his arm around Tationy and his mother tilted her head giving a soft knowing smile.
“I suppose I should be asking the woman of the house. Tationy, how about it; what do I have to do to convince you to move here to America?”
“Eri, as I mentioned Kin and I are not together. It would be presumptuous of me to make plans for both of us.”
“You young people are so foolish. Always rushing about doing this and that, but the moment a relationship with deep meaning is involved you run away as quickly as you can. Kyo please tell me we were not like that when we were young?”
“As I recall right, you said…Kyo you are marrying me and I did.”
“You make it sound like I told you what to do.”
“In all matters domestic, you are the boss. I would not be a very good Kari man, if I did not let you boss me around at home…especially in the bedroom.”
She swatted him playfully as Kin groaned, “You are terrible.”
“You love me.”
“Some days I wonder why.”
The soft laugh of Tationy caught Kin’s attention and he realized that she had leaned into him slightly. Her body was relaxed. He wondered what it was that his mother said to her to make all that tension disappear from her body. It was always there, she was always on pins and needles, but for the first time in a while he could feel her warmth without any trepidation. He failed to realize that with her being calm it relaxed him as well, a small smile traveling over his lips, as he leaned into her just a bit as she asked, “How did the two of you meet?”
“It was nothing overly exciting.” Eri responded, “I attended an all girls school and he attended an all boys school. We had shared dances and at one of the dances I looked across and there is this tall, goofy, looking guy staring back at me. He was completely clumsy, no skills on the dance floor, stuck his foot in his mouth the whole night, blatantly flirting, but there was a little something about him. Still have not figured out what it is, but there was something.”
“Kin if you learn nothing from this story, know that whatever that mysterious something is, let it remain mysterious.”
Laughing Kin responded, “Will do.”
“So was it love at first sight, happily ever after?”
“Oh by Kazuma, no. Kyo was Kari.” Eri laughed softly as if saying he was Kari explained it all in one word, “There were all of these rules, traditions, values, and it felt very oppressive dating him. We were off and on, mostly because I did not understand what it meant to him being Kari. Then, I got hurt, I was in car accident with some friends and when I woke up there he was. He told me I could not run away from him, so I just had to sit there and listen and he explained it; everything he is. By the time he was done talking I knew him, his heart, his soul. I could not imagine being with anyone else. So we went to my father and he asked for permission to marry me, of course my father kicked him out because he is Kari. We went to his father out of respect and he asked for his blessing which did not go over so well either.”
“They got into a big fight. Kyo is really mild-tempered and it was quite heated between them. Azu was calling me names and telling Kyo that he would never give his blessing or accept some Maiba dog into his family. It got physical and Kyo took some licks.” Kin noticed his father’s head was bowed. He had heard his mother tell the story before, but never while his father was standing there. The emotion on his face took Kin by surprise, “Afterward, Azu told Kyo to get into the house and accept that this was how it was and he told me to leave. What was I going to do? So I turned and began to walk away and before I knew it Kyo was at my side. Azu never accepted me, but Kyo did and that was all that mattered.”
“So Azu never saw your boys grow? Never spent time with them?”
“My father died a few years later,” Kyo responded.
“I am sorry.”
“Is it rude of me to ask, is that why you are here in America?”
“Our marriage was not entirely accepted among the Kari. Tadayoshi became head of the family and though he has been supportive and understanding, he cannot change the minds of those that are bitter and looking for a fight. Eri is an easy target being a woman among the Kari. I was not willing to allow them to hurt her over a wrong they feel I made. So, my lovely wife and I moved here and I work at home. Great thing about being a designer, I do not need to go into the office.”
“Worst thing about him being a designer is that he is always underfoot.” There was a noticeable pause in the conversation as Eri and Kyo looked at each other, “Baito and Erobus are heading out for a bit. Kyo and I would like to take the boys to do some Christmas shopping, which will leave the two of you…here, alone. If that is alright.”
Kin drew his attention toward Tationy. She seemed slightly apprehensive, which he understood because she had just met his parents, “Uh…sure, it will be okay.”
“Good, you two use your quite time wisely.” Eri responded and began to move away with Kyo before turning back and saying, “Oh and house rule if you are not married you cannot have sex in the house. So Kin, keep it in your pants.”
Tationy chuckled softly as Kin responded with, “Yes, Mom.”
While everyone departed, Kin dealt with a business call and Tationy disappeared to the bathroom. When he was finally finished he knocked lightly on the door asking if he could come in. At first no response came, but eventually she said alright. He took a seat on the floor, his eyes fixed on her. He did not look away or pretend he was looking at something else, no his focus was always solely on her. “Did you have a nice talk with my mom?”
“Yeah she is really nice.”
“Are you still mad at me?”
“No, just angry at myself more than anything.”
“Just feel really defeated.”
“Talk to me.”
With a sigh she spoke, “I wish Tadayoshi would just take me. Weird huh? After what Hiko did, one would think that would be the last thing I would want, but it just seems like it would be so much easier if he just took what he wanted. I don’t understand this break. How can you say you will not give up on someone and then you tell them that you think a year apart is a good idea? I am trying to wrap my brain around it and understand it, but it feels like I am missing something; like he wants me to give up on him and move on. It was easier with Hiko. He just did what he wanted, took what he wanted, even me. That is what I loved about him. He knew what he wanted and he was not afraid to go after it. Not afraid to take it. Not afraid to step on people. Sounds horrible doesn’t it? After he….” She took a breath, “After he raped me, I hated him and I loved him. I could not and still cannot resolve this conflict in my heart regarding him. I think….I wonder if I could have stopped Tadayoshi from killing him. I wonder if I let him die because I thought it would be easier for me if he was not around. It is not easier. I have a hole in my soul.”
Her words made him think about what his father said about Tadayoshi. There was no way Tadayoshi could take her without giving over to a side of himself that he wanted to keep repressed, “When Kari men are small they are taught not to show emotion that it is a weakness. Keep your feelings locked away or they may be used against you. Most Kari men are stern and hard. Never will a hint of emotion pass over their faces. Zen is a perfect example of what it means to be a true Kari man. I have never seen him smile, never laugh, never cry, not a single hint of what he is feeling. Uncle Tadayoshi is probably the only person that knows Zen well enough to know what emotion he is suppressing. The amount of discipline engraved in every muscle of mind and body, I wish I could give you insight into it. It is a process that breaks and rebuilds you.”
She was silently listening, he supposed with her being naked she had nowhere else to go so he continued talking, “When we go through the trials we are given insight into women and love. How our hearts are meant to be given only to someone so special that she moves us. We are taught that with her and only with her, can you give in to those emotions and she will accept them, accept that weakness, accept your heart. She is the only one you give that power to. My Uncle is fifty-two years old, he has known this way his whole life and has never given his heart to anyone because it belongs to Tearra. He has his own conflict. Holding back those emotions he has suppressed his entire life or give in to them and lose himself becoming a beast like Hiko; I wonder if he does not have the confidence in himself to make that leap. Maybe he and I are too different. If I was him, I would have already have taken you, but he has been languishing in a prison created by Kazuma’s existence his entire life. He can sacrifice his pride as a Kari man and give in or he can remain diligent in what he believes. What type of man do you think he is, Tationy?”
“Even as you ask me that question, we both already know the answer. The Kari means everything to him. Even if Tearra is in me, I am just some woman, some mortal. He will never see me, only Tearra. I am not a fool. I wonder though if I am incapable of seeing him as Kazuma. Maybe Tearra does not want to see him. So many lifetimes and never once….why? Why does she refuse to see him?”
“I don’t know.”
“I suppose it is too much to hope for that someone might know the answer to that question.” The pause gave Kin time to think about what he wanted to say and how he wanted to say it. Quickly though it was all pushed aside as she said, “Your mother wants me to convince you to move to America.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. When I was nine I went to Aslann to go through my trials. Never returned. Sort of made my home and life there. Baito and Erobus both returned after their trails, I guess I wanted something different.”
“Why, America is beautiful?”
“It is, but the Kari are in Aslann. I might as well not be Kari if I am hiding away from them in another country. Forgive me that came out wrong. That is not what my father and brothers are doing. They are here because they choose to be, I just wanted more than this life. I wanted to be in the thick of things and claim my spot within the company.”
“You did that and now you are the third most powerful man within the Kari Foundation.”
“Is third good enough for you?”
“Just keep an open mind that is all I ask.”
Kin tried to hide his surprise, “Really?”
“Yes, I will keep an open mind.”
He managed to pull his attention away from her to hide any emotion that might have adorned his face, “Are you feeling any better?”
“My head hurts a bit, but your mother tells me that sex cures that.”
Kin choked, “Yes that sounds like her.”
“What is with the no sex in the house rule?”
“Girls really liked Baito.”
Tationy laughed softly, “That is not surprising.”
Kin frowned, “Do you find him attractive?”
“Yes, but that does not mean I intend to sleep with him. Are you jealous?”
“Then I probably should not tell you I had like this complete orgy fantasy when I first saw the two of them.”
“Don’t worry you were in it to.”
He realized much to late she was teasing him, “I better have been the only one in it.” Burying his face to his knees he sighed trying to regain some control over his wayward emotions.
Her laugh was soft as she spoke, “You are a little cute when you are jealous.”
Slowly his attention found its way upon her again. His father had told him once that when a Kari man falls in love that reason no longer exist. All he can think about is the woman he loves and making her happy. It was not love at first sight, in fact the first time he saw her he considered her nothing special. It was her presence though that played tug-a-war with his control. Even though he was around her almost every day for four years, he forced himself to leash his emotions. He did not want to be one of those Kari men that loses himself in the face of Tearra. He dug deep facing her overwhelming aura head on. He knew it was why Zen and Tadayoshi had chosen him. His Maiba blood gave him an added boost of willpower which allowed him to combat her presence.
That willpower only protected him from Tearra, it did nothing against the vessel. At the Kari Foundation she was always nice to everyone. She worked really hard, more than anyone else and she managed to put up with Zen without quitting or getting fired. There was something special about her and it had nothing at all to do with Tearra. Every day he felt envious of Hiko and before he could even stop it from happening, she owned his heart. For a Kari man there is only one woman worthy of sharing his weakness with and for Kin, he was looking at her.
It felt like their moment was over much too quickly. It had not felt like hours of talking, but when his parents and the boys arrived back he realized that it had been. As he listened to Osa talk about what they saw and how much fun they had, he thought about Tationy sitting in the tub. She remained there, most likely even after the water was cold. He was not certain why and throughout dinner he thought about her. Even after the boys were settled in for the night he still found his eyes drifting toward her, which his father was quick to point out. “Go to her.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Don’t say anything.”
“Right, don’t say anything,” Kin repeated as he made his way outside where she was standing. He grabbed her hand realizing instantly how cold it was. Turning to face her he took both of her hands cupping them in his, hoping a little of his warmth would spread to her.
It was at moments like these that he wanted to kick himself. It would be so simple to say he loved her, but saying something like that with her would just make him a fool. His father was right, it was better to say nothing so instead he brought her hands toward his face and blew lightly to warm them up.
Her voice was a soft whisper, “Thank you.”
“You are welcome,” He replied as he relinquished her hands resting his on her hips. The look upon her face was unrecognizable to Kin, “Is something wrong?”
“It is nothing really, just Hiko never wanted to do things like this and meeting his family was out of the question. Feels a little like I missed out.” Their conversations as of late were far more serious and while he was thankful she was opening up to him, he was also worried about the effect it was having on her. “Kin…”
“If I asked you to move with us to America, would you?” Even though he forced the emotion to remain off of his face he could not hide the surprise and questioning within his eyes, “I understand if the Kari Foundation is important to you and you need to stay, I just….”
He did not allow her to finish her words. It was a combination of emotions that overtook him and he knew that if she finished them he would not be able to say no to her, so he did the only thing he was certain would make her stop talking. His hand held securely to the back of her neck as his lips greedily sought out hers. Her touch on the bare-skin of his neck sent an unexpected jolt through his body. That whispery bedroom voice caught him off-guard, “Ahh, Kin what are we doing?”
“You definitely should not talk like that.”
“Talk like what?”
“All seductive and sexy-like.”
“Kin, we can have sex outside right?”
His heart sounded like a loud boom in his head as he pulled back from her just enough to see her face clearly. She was serious. Not a hint of doubt or fear in her features. “Holy shit,” Kin cursed under his breath the disbelief clearly evident, “Are you sure? I mean are you sure you are ready? That you want to….with me?”
“Yes.” He pulled back from her, trying to shake the disbelieving fog from his mind. “If you don’t want to, I understand. I mean, I did sort of spring this on you. It is not as though it is a sudden thing, I have been thinking about it for a while.” Even though she said she had been thinking about it for a while he knew she was referring to sex itself and not about having it with him. The fact that he took so long to answer seemed to trouble Tationy, “Forget it, sorry. I just, nothing never mind.”
He stopped her from walking away as he grabbed her hand, “Come with me.”
She silently complied and walked with him, toward the back of the lot. He forced himself to let go of her hand to untie the flaps on a tent that the boys used to play in when they were kids, allowing her to step inside first and than him. He made quick work of sealing the place back up, lighting a small lantern in the corner and helping her out of her jacket. It was not warm, but if things progressed they would be too hot for their clothing before to long. He looked around noticing some blankets and pillows had been placed in the tent, which instantly made him think that his parents were probably using it. The thought forced him to shake his head and sigh that was the last image he needed in his head.
Her question quickly pushed those unwanted thoughts out of his mind, “Are you going to kiss me again?”
“Yes, definitely.” With two hands he cupped her face. He realized that he was trembling and she noticed as well, “Sorry, I am really nervous for some reason.”
“Don’t tell me Kin Kari is a virgin, you will just shatter my image of you.”
He laughed nervously, “No definitely not a virgin, but I sure do feel like it at the moment.”
“Is it because of what happened to me?”
“Only a little. I don’t want to hurt you. I also know that you and Tadayoshi…”
“Kin, he does not even want to touch me. It makes me feel really bad about myself. If you want someone, you should want to touch them right?”
“Do you want him? Please tell me the truth.”
“He and I are meant to be together. I am Tearra to his Kazuma. I don’t really get a choice in the matter. I kissed him, hoping he would force me to see him and this nightmare would come to an end. He couldn’t. Kin, please don’t tell me no.”
With a deep breath he leaned in and laid a tentative kiss upon her lips. He told himself it was alright like this. He would just kiss her for a bit and talk with her. Intimacy was more than just sex.
As the kiss deepened he told himself to relax and just take it slowly. That only lasted for a short amount of time, eventually maneuvering both of them into a more comfortable position or at least that was what he told himself as he hovered over her. Concern arose as she shivered, “You are cold, we should go inside.”
“I am fine here for a bit longer. You are going to warm me up, aren’t you?”
Kin chuckled nervously, “You say things like that and it really gets me worked up.”
“Isn’t that the point?”
“Do you really want this? With me? In a tent in the middle of winter?”
“Is this where the lecture starts?”
“That is not what I am doing.”
“Kin, is there something wrong with me?”
“No, not at all.”
“Then what is the problem? I want you to have sex with me…”
Sighing he responded, “Look, I have feelings for you. It started out as a crush on Hiko’s girl, but the more I got to know you when you worked at the Kari Foundation the more I wanted to be with you. Sex is mechanical to a Kari man. You close your eyes and think of your own arousal. It means nothing. I want to make love to you. For a Kari man that means being acutely aware of the woman in his life. Fulfilling her every desire, making certain she is never left wanting. I want to love you. Please, let me love you.”
“That almost sounds like begging.”
“You are the Queen of the Kari and I am just a humble man, pleading before the queen to take pity on him.”
A cleared throat from outside the tent interrupted the moment. He waited until the voice of his father spoke, “Kin, your mother said the two of you can take it inside if you keep your voices down. Hurry, before the two of you get frostbite.” There was disappointment. Even though he was certain his parents liked Tationy, the fact that they were interrupted was not lost on him. There was no way they were going to get back to this moment, he was certain. As much as he wanted to just devour her mouth and stay there he knew that his father was not going to allow that to happen. Though, why was the real question.
To Be Continued