The Village of Meratoia was far behind, but the lingering conflict was still swirling violently around them. Well, to more accurately put it; around Hiko. Tationy seemed unfazed as he watched her twirl enthusiastically. Blissful simplicity, an ability to live in the moment that is what she possessed.
“Something is wrong,” Her words pulled his attention. How quickly her expression could change from happiness to a pout, “Is my Hiko worried?”
“There is a lot of stuff going on,” He paused, “I feel like I am being pulled in many different directions. Not certain who I can trust or what dangers lurk down the next path.”
“It has been a long day, your thoughts might be less conflicted in the morning.”
“It is too early to sleep,” He stated.
“Maybe I am just trying to get my Hiko out of his clothing and into bed with me.”
He smirked, “Well getting me out of this shit I am wearing will not take much effort. I have been wanting to rip it off for hours now.”
“So, why don’t we get ourselves changed into something more comfortable and try to have a relaxing evening without stressful thoughts?” She suggested and Hiko agreed with a subtle nod. Tationy was clearly happy that he did as she smiled meekly while saying, “Well, I will be back in a moment then.”
Hiko quickly got out of his clothing and crashed out on one of the hotel sofas. They had checked in, got a decent sized room, and the staff fell all over themselves with obligatory condolences over the loss. It had exhausted him to mask his emotions. He could feel the tension in every muscle and the majority of his thoughts were settled upon all of the conflict that needed to be handled.
The one reprieve he was offered came in the form of Tationy. Had she not been at his side he most certainly would have lashed out, but any time that urge surfaced to break something or punch someone his thoughts shifted to the goofy girl that made him feel like he belonged somewhere.
“Hiko,” She whispered his name which startled him, “Are you sleeping?”
When he opened his eyes to respond to her question he realized he had taken far too long to answer. Reaching out quickly he grabbed her wrist, “Where are you going?”
She stammered, “I … I thought you were sleeping. Are you alright?”
He sighed, “Thinking about everything that is going on that I need to deal with and how I want to handle it all.”
“Like what? Maybe I can help.”
Considering it a moment he sighed, “What my father will do now that we have walked away. Everything with the house and work…”
Tationy interrupted him, “Lord Seiji Shima?”
“Ahh. I have been civil and bent over backwards to accommodate him and Shima Aerospace on those deals, but he keeps refusing. I am tired of fucking being nice.”
“Then don’t be,” She stated. “Lord Seiji Shima is well aware that he holds the power in these negotiations and as long as he does, he will simply keep saying no.”
“Did you get that when you encountered him?”
“I did not need to see his future to understand that man’s desires.”
Arching a brow he asked, “Is there something I should be concerned about?”
She teased, “Is my Hiko jealous?”
Groaning, he used his strength to pull her down atop him. “I am not the type of man that is going to play nice. Don’t try to make me jealous,” He stated and then quickly asked, “Do we understand each other?”
Her eyes were fixed on his, “Perfectly, which is all the more reason I might need to flirt with Lord Seiji Shima.”
Laughing he asked, “Do you want me to kill that piece of shit?”
“If he stands between my Hiko and what he wants, then he is the enemy. His survival is not my concern,” She stated. It was a frightening glimpse into the heart of the woman he cared for; ruthless as she was beautiful. After a moment she added, “He does not respect you. I do not think it will take much effort for me to distract him. My blood is of the Yamada, I can be tempting and sexy if the need arises.”
“Not in those yellow granny panties,” He teased.
He expected her to roll her eyes and pout because that was generally her reaction when he didn’t like something she wore. Instead, she leaned her face a bit closer, “Maybe I should take them off then.”
At first he failed miserably at responding. Her words had caught him off guard and his body had unexpectedly reacted. Several deep breaths later he was staring at her very perplexed expression. Awkwardly he tried to recover, “I…”
Hiko was unable to finish his words when she rested her head to his shoulder and snuggled into him. Her fingers teased along the bare skin of his neck. Instantly he felt at ease, his eyes closed, and the thoughts of his inability to say what he needed to were long gone.
Tationy’s voice eventually broke the silence, “I do not think this situation with your father is over. There is nothing we can do about that except conquer the obstacles he places in our path. In a perfect world, you should have agreed to his demands, but I don’t think he expected you to.”
He sighed, “Ahh, I got that feeling as well. Which means he is most likely already several steps ahead of us.”
“Not to turn this into a match of chess, but you have been in check for a long time. If my Hiko is the king of the board, he is already limited because he can only react by making a single move at a time.”
Hiko snorted, “Great. Just what I wanted to be doing; playing chess with a man that has never lost.”
“Your concern is warranted; I imagine your father can be a formidable adversary, but you still have your queen. Utilize me and checkmate will be yours.”
That was probably true, but Hiko did not want to be like every other man in Aslann. Coveting her eyes and using her as a weapon. She was so much more to him, “I really appreciate that Tationy, but ….”
She lifted her head which forced him to open his eyes, “Why do you refuse my assistance? Aren’t I your queen?”
“You are. That goes without saying.”
“Then why do you insist on standing against all of these enemies on your own?”
Foolishly, he wanted to protect her. Not because he thought her weak nor because she needed his help. His reason laid in the way his heart would beat wildly when she looked at him. If anything happened to her because of him, Hiko was certain that he would go on a rampage that would devour anything in his path. Most likely he would fall, but he was not going to allow anyone to hurt the woman that completed him.
“I just don’t want you to be in the line of fire,” He stated and then awkwardly tried to sit up. She accommodated him, pout and all. There was no way for her to know what that face did to him as he lifted her in his arms which awkwardly made her squeal, “Don’t drop me Hiko Kari.”
“I won’t if you stop wiggling,” He stated and then chuckled briefly. He felt like he had said those words to her before as he carried her to the bedroom and placed her upon the bed.
“Is this how it is? You think you can just tempt me into your arms, Hiko Kari and I will forget what we were discussing?”
“Ahh, something like that,” He stated as he climbed into bed.
With arms wrapped around her, Hiko held Tationy close. His eyes closing and a contented sigh escaping his mouth before he spoke, “My queen is beautiful and dangerous, but my enemies have a lot more years of experience on you; on me for that matter. Right now, the best thing you can do is just stand at my side and make sure I do not do anything stupid.”
“I think maybe my Hiko needs to be reckless. It will increase your unpredictability and make your enemies cautious.”
“Ahh, you think so?” He responded though did not expect her to answer, “My father and the Ishi, are in leagues of their own. At this point, all we can do is wait and react. I don’t like it…”
She cut him off, “It is not ideal, I agree.”
Hiko hmm’d a moment before continuing, “I don’t trust Seisago. He comes around now and again to hang out, but I am always suspicious of his motives. The Lord of the Shima is his brother, I would not put it past them to be working together to conspire against me.”
“I think that is certainly a possibility,” She stated.
With a sigh he tightened his hold upon her, “The Saza…”
“You never told me what they said to you.”
“I assumed you heard it,” He responded and then considered that she had gotten upset and most likely toned the conversation out. Continuing he stated, “They want freedom from the Lord of the Shima.”
“How do they expect you to accommodate them on this matter?”
“Financial security in exchange for doing the impossible.”
“They think they can go before Moko the Annihilator and get the Matsuo clan to protect you. Those assassins are loyal to no one. By this point, the Saza are probably already dead.”
“How bold of them,” She responded. “What will you do if they accomplish this task?”
Hiko snorted, “If those two punks can achieve the impossible, I will give them whatever the fuck they want.” Despite his words, he had little faith in their ability to sway Moko. The leader of the Matsuo was haunting and feared. Rumors circulated in abundance about the monster coined the annihilator by the elite of Aslann. People said that if he took a contract, nothing and no one would stop him from completing it.
“I do not recall ever hearing of the Matsuo taking an assignment to protect. It might well be a foolish endeavor, but their boldness reminds me of my Hiko. If they are alive, I am sure they are being just as reckless.”
“Ahh, you are probably right. Those two punks broke away from the Lord of the Shima. They have nothing to lose at this point.” He paused a moment as he kissed her forehead, “How about we get some sleep?”
She didn’t want to and even protested a bit, but then the realization must have dawned on her that he was exhausted. Snuggling into him she talked about random things while Hiko listened. Her closeness relaxed him, though he could tell she was still wide awake even as he tried to keep the exhaustion from overtaking him.
The new environment hardly changed the routine of the CEO of the Kari Foundation. Hiko woke at four in the morning, made a pot of coffee, worked out for a couple of hours, then showered and changed. He settled in with his cup and his phone, going through messages, and trying to keep his mind fixed on work.
Now and again Tationy would stir and his attention would be drawn toward her, but he never allowed his eyes to linger on her for too long. At least not until she set up, yawned and stretched while saying, “Good morning.” The unexpected view left little to the imagination, “You are staring at me Hiko Kari.” His eyes adverted which elicited a brief giggle, “I think my Hiko is starting to like these panties.”
“I was appreciating something else,” He responded.
“Is that so? If I recall right you never did answer me regarding taking them off. Do you want me to?”
She was no doubt teasing him. With a deep sigh he responded, “No.”
Hiko did not need to look at her to know she was pouting he could hear it in her tone, “Do you not like my body?”
“It’s not that,” He stated as he moved toward the end table and placed his mug down.
“What is it then?”
Hiko’s inability to answer her resulted in Tationy getting up and trying to move past him. He didn’t want her to be mad or walk away just because he was not very good at articulating his feelings so he quickly stopped her by positioning his body between her and the door. “I don’t know how to answer that,” He barely managed to say.
“Restraint has never been one of my strengths. I think….no I am certain that if I allowed myself to kiss or touch you that I would not be able to stop just there and I don’t know if….”
She cut him off, “Hiko, I am not asking for a soda.” There was obvious frustration in her tone, “Why does it seem as though you are saying I am not ready again?”
His mind flashed back to the conversation they had about her first kiss and how he told her it was like she was asking for a soda. It was a cruel way to put it, but he was being honest. Hiko felt that she was not able to appreciate intimate moments for their ability to connect two hearts. She saw them as just things people did; sometimes for no reason at all. That was not how it was for him.
“No, it is about me not being ready.” He hesitantly took a step forward resting his hands upon her hips, “Every day that passes I feel this connection between us grow stronger and my restraint becomes unbridled. This is not the way of the Kari to rush forward so recklessly in love, but here we are.”
Tationy placed her hand to his arm as she spoke softly, “There is no right or wrong way. What works for one couple will not work for the next; this is our journey. It is alright if you lose control…”
He cut her off, “Don’t say that.”
“I’m not afraid of my Hiko, but if it makes you feel better I will just have to keep my panties on,” She teased and then quickly became serious again, “If I die a virgin, I am never forgiving you though.”
Hiko tried not to laugh, but between chuckles he rested his forehead to hers, “Have I told you how amazing you are?”
“Not nearly enough to make me believe it,” She said.
“Well then let me fix that,” He stated as he reached up and brushed a strand of hair behind her ear, “My instincts told me that you were the one and they have never been wrong. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but I know that today I feel like a whole person just from having you standing at my side. I’m a very lucky man.”
She had blushed and looked to her feet. It was endearing the different sides of herself she showed to him lately, but just as quickly she composed herself. Resting her head to his chest they held each other as she whispered, “I think I am the lucky one.”