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Three months had come upon him quickly and with the acceleration came the cold and snow. Before he knew it, Hisae had come and gone, leaving him with lots of pictures, laughter and warmth. She had enjoyed her first American Holiday visit and already was planning to come back. He had gotten everything squared away with the leasing contracts for his business space and had established a clientele. Already, within four full months of being here he was doing well as expected. Soon he predicted it would be just as big as it was back home. He heard the door bell ring and sighed. Unlocking the door from his keypad, he let the visitor in. In she came and she swallowed thickly.
“Hiro…” It had been at least a month before he had had any interaction with her. In the amount of time he had allowed her back, he had really tried to understand her. Was she not a victim of his mother as well? When they had met, they both had been young and impressionable. Both eager to please their respective loved ones. While he still saw Iwase Eri when he looked at her and he hadn’t forgiven or forgotten what she had did to him, he was willing to put that aside. For now. Tonight, a much more important matter was at hand. The gala. He had made clear that if she touched even a hair on his head without his permission, she would be on the first flight back to Japan. She stayed in a separate apartment and was not too close to him.
“I don’t want to be late. Let’s go.” She swallowed and he walked past her.
“Hiro, your bow tie…”
“I will worry about it.” She tightened her fists and followed him out to the awaiting car. Inside the limo, he reached up and finished tying his bow tie, having rehearsed how to do so previous times before.
“Of course you would not need a mirror.” Kiko said with a soft smile. He didn’t respond and let his hands drop from his neck.
“You understand what you are to me tonight yes?” She tightened her lips.
“I’m just an arm piece. Something to make you look nice.”
“To the world we are to be married. I think by now you know that will not happen.” She lowered her head.
“I regret touching you Hiroto. I should not have done it. Now your heart towards me is cold and unyielding. I have ruined us.”
“Perhaps if I am feeling up to it we can reconcile.” She looked up at him, her teary eyes wide.
“You mean that?”
“Perhaps.” She nodded and smiled softly.
“Your heart however cold is tender.”
“Tender to those who deserve it.” Her smile waned a bit.
“I see.” The rest of the ride was silent. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, turning away from her. This was a crucial stepping stone for his American foundation. He hoped Kiko did not ruin it with her personal emotions. The sound of faint music and laughing sounded from outside. They were here.
“Mr. Iwase, we have arrived.”
“Thank you.” He sat up straight and waited until his door was opened. As soon as he stepped out of the car, blinding light flashed, stunning him. His driver came around and raised his voice at the photographer.
“Please allow Mr. Iwase to get to the building before you take any pictures!” He tightened his jaw and turned, holding out his hand. Kiko gripped it softly as she stepped out of the car. He gently slid his arm around her waist and drew her close as they began to walk. As they made it to the door, it was pulled open and they stepped inside. Lush red carpet, sparkling candeliers and pictures of old American money covered the walls.
“Mr. Iwase! Mrs. Iwase! Please turn this way.” He kept his expression calm though he wanted to correct him. Turning, they looked at the camera. Kiko formed a small smile on her face and wrapped her arm around his waist. The camera snapped rapidly. He placed his hand on her wrist and gently gripped. She kept that smile on her face but she loosened her hold on him. More flashes. He pulled her arm off of him and took a calm breath.
“Can we get some of you alone Mr. Iwase?” He nodded curtly.
“Yes you may.” He looked into the camera and waited until they said he could go. Sighing, he turned to see Kiko standing stiff as a board, hands pressed together against her thighs, such an elegant formal hand pose if it wasn’t so tense. He didn’t say a word. She came to stand beside him, not touching him and together, they went into the ballroom.
They sat next to some nice people and they began to engage them in polite conversation.
“How are you young man?”
“Hello. I am well. Thank you for asking.” He smiled a bit. A older woman smiled and sighed.
“You’re quite the handsome one aren’t you? What is your name?”
“My name is Hiroto Iwase.”
“You’re the newcomer!”
“Yes.” A man who sat next to the woman nodded.
“It is good to see you here. I’m sure the cameras were all over you huh?” He laughed a little.
“Yes they were. But it’s okay. This is a big event so I’m not surprised.” The man smiled and glanced at Kiko.
“How are you young lady?”
“I’m well. Thank you.” She answered with a polite smile.
“You look beautiful tonight. Truly you two make a show stopping couple.” He just gave a smile and reached for his glass. Once everyone had been seated, a man came to stand in the center with a glass.
“Hello esteemed guests! Thank you for attending the 30th Annual Aspiration Gala. I would like to introduce myself! I am James Kelley, the VP of Key and Greene. It is a pleasure to be hosting this event this year and on behalf of Key and Greene I welcome you new and old! We will be served dinner and spend the first half of our evening with some leisure and then the latter part will be to network, drink, eat and enjoy yourselves. We pride ourselves on providing young business owners with an opportunity, the right one. Without further ado, have a wonderful evening.” Glasses clinked and soon men and women dressed in black and white came to place their first course in front of them.
The evening was going well and by the time they had all stood, he had come in contact with several promising partnerships. Many of the women and men he conversed with had been in the business world for years and had enough experience to carry them easily. He wanted to learn and grow from them. He stood against the wall, a beautiful chandelier hanging overhead. With a flute of champagne in between his fingers, he sighed and took a sip. His eyes found Kiko who was aways from him, talking with a woman. She said something and they laughed. His eyes went to the woman she was talking to and lifted his glass to take a sip. She had lovely skin, a smooth brown. She was considerably shorter than Kiko but had a more womanly figure. He took another sip of his champagne and couldn’t help but admire her. She was beautiful. He wondered who she was and who she had come with. Where could her date be?
He took his eyes off of her and looked around at the other faces which seemed to blur together. In a sea of white, there were two distinct colors that he found curiously interesting. That of his tone and that of the woman. Like him, she was the only one in the room who was of a color. He smiled to himself. How few and far between those of their kind succeeded in this world. He took a breath and as he was about to place the glass back on a nearby tray, he caught another glimpse of the woman. She had turned towards him and was searching the crowd. He froze, his hand in mid motion. Those eyes. Lined with black eyeliner, they looked around him. That nose. Those lips. Covered with a classic shade of red. His heart began to beat faster against his will. She seemed to command his very blood and he was powerless to stop it.
“Sir?” He tore his eyes away and met a young woman who held out her tray.
“Are you finished?”
“Yes. Thank you.” He set the glass down and was glad when she walked away. His eyes found her again and they roamed her from head to toe. He felt his palms grow moist and slid them into his pockets. How was she here? The black dress she wore seemed to melt against her skin and it hugged her hips just right. She wore a daring yet tasteful plunge line and pressed the small black clutch against her stomach. He couldn’t seem to get enough, his vision hungry for the sight of her.
“Hiro?” He heard Kiko come up to him but didn’t look at her. Instead, he traced the delicate slender lines of her neck and the way the loose curls of her hair teased the skin.
“Who is that woman?” She followed the path of his eyesight. She tightened her lips.
“You’ve been looking at her this whole time.”
“Who is she?” He asked again, finally turning to look at her.
“Why do you want to know? You’re here with me. Not her.” He frowned deeply and his eyebrow twitched.
“You are in no place to be jealous.”
“She has a date.”
“Who is she.” She rolled her eyes and sighed.
“Her name is Ebere Marshall. She works for the man who is all over her right now.” He almost broke his neck trying to look only to find a tall man standing behind her with his hand gently pressed on her back. He leaned down in a dangerously flirtatious manner and whispered something to her. He lifted his glass and took a slow sip as he watched him. He couldn’t describe what it was about that man but he did not like him. He didn’t want his hands, lips or any other part of him anywhere near her.
“Any more and you’ll combust Hiroto.” He cleared his throat and glanced down at her.
“Why are you so interested in her?” It was a long story, one he was not going to get into right now. He finished the flute and gently placed it on a tray as it came around. As much as he wanted to go and remove that man’s hand himself, he refrained. He needed to calm down. Everything within him screamed for her. But, he had to keep composure. He hadn’t come here for anything other than to connect with future business partners. He’d have his chance soon. Very soon.
After everyone had had their fill of food and drink, they talked. Kiko sat next to him starting to irk him with her exasperated sighs.
“You’re free to leave if you have gotten tired.” He said, making eye contact with her. Her cheeks flushed pink.
“I wouldn’t want to leave you here by yourself.”
“Don’t be concerned about me. I’ll be fine.”
“The way you’ve been staring at that woman the whole evening I’m not so sure.”
“I think it’ll be best if you go. You should not want to stay if you are unhappy.”
“I don’t understand how one look at her has you so flustered.”
“It’s complicated.” Her blush grew red and she clutched her dress tightly in her fingers underneath the table.
“I don’t trust you alone with that woman.”
“I don’t need you to parent me.” He stood, pushing his chair back. As he placed it back in place he leaned down and gently pressed his lips against her ear.
“Go home.” He whispered and pressed a kiss against her temple before he walked away.
“You have a fresh face. May I ask who you might be?” He looked up to find the man who had damn near been breathing down Rae’s neck earlier standing back against the wall. He took a deep breath and finished washing his hands.
“It’s nice to meet you.”
“You didn’t tell me your name.” He turned to look at him straight in the eyes.
“Ah, the new kid so far from home.” He chuckled.
“I take it you’ve come to welcome me. Quite a funny way you’ve chosen to do so.”
“What do you mean?” He grabbed some paper towels and wiped his hands.
“You’ve chosen to isolate me in the bathroom. I must assure you sir I do not like men.” The man’s face grew red and his nostrils flared.
“I beg your pardon!” He looked at him with a rather bored expression on his face. That made the color spread into his neck. He was looking at him for just what he was. Insignificant.
“I saw you looking at my date. You’ve been drooling over her the entire evening. What kind of gentleman are you when you have such a beautiful woman as your date?”
“I did not know that it was a crime to admire beauty.” He replied in an uninterested tone, looking him over. “Is she your romantic partner?” It honestly did not matter if this man was or not. Sooner or later, she would be with him. He’d make sure of that.
“No. Not yet.”
“Quite possessive of her aren’t you?” The man glared at him.
“She is someone I am interested in.” He almost sneered but kept his mouth in check.
“Your date is very beautiful.”
“Ah, so you were looking at her just the same.” The man tightened his jaw.
“Regardless of that, I came in here to tell you that the woman I am with is off limits to you.” That’s what you think. He threw away the paper towels and turned to look into the mirror.
“My, all of this because I’ve looked at her? Do I intimidate you so soon?” The man balled up his fist.
“I don’t think we should have such animosity on the first night we’ve met. Do you?” He faced him and extended his hand.
“Let’s try again hm? I’m Hiroto. It’s nice to meet you..?” The man shook his hand much too firmly.
“Antonio. Antonio Rossi.”
“Pleasure Antonio.” He let go of his hand.
“I believe we should get back to our respective dates.”
The last few people chatted in the soon to be empty room. It was getting late and most of the guests had left. Kiko had decided to leave and for the first time since the evening started, he could think clearly. He had his back turned as he chatted politely with an older gentleman. A small burst of wind blew across the back of his neck and he turned. Rae.
“I’m going outside.” Rossi tried to keep her around him.
“Antonio, stop. I’m tired and my damn feet hurt. Talk to your people. I’ll be outside.”
“All right. I’ll try not to be too long Rae.”
“Mmhm.” She waved as she walked right past him into the hallway. He watched as Rossi turned to continue to talk to those around him. His chance had come. He calmly excused himself from the man and walked into the large hallway. The faint scent of perfume led him down the hall and to the left was a door. He opened the door. The cold hit him instantly and he inhaled sharply as he to stepped outside. Why had Rae decided to come out here by herself dressed like that? For a moment, the memory of her standing for the train in her uniform replayed in his head and he smiled. She hadn’t changed. He looked around in the dark, the moonlight streaming in through the glass windows. From here, you would see the stars and they twinkled as if to encourage him. As he went around the corner, he found her standing there, looking up at the same stars. She sighed and wrapped her arms around herself.
“Damn, why the hell did I not bring my coat?” She exclaimed in frustration. He couldn’t stop himself and replied with a grin on his face.
“You do look cold.”
A/N: It's hereeeeee!!!!!! What do you think? The next chapter should be up soon :) I wanted to post a picture of Rae's dress. <3 Y'all know I'm visual :) I thought it would be the perfect dress to kill Iwase wit lol. Any whoo, I hope you guys enjoy! <3 God bless and take care!
Here it is for you folks: