** A slight time skip has occured! It's been a few months after the last chapter! :)**
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
The voices of the associates and executives droned around her but the only one she had in her hindsight was the one sitting right across from her. He had his head down and his fingers held a pen as he wrote against the paper. She tightened her fist underneath the table.
“Ms. Marshall?” She turned her eyes on Mr. Rossi who was seated next to her.
“Is something wrong?” He asked in a hushed tone.
“No. Not at all.”
“You seem to be finding Mr. Iwase very interesting.”
“I see.” She cleared her throat.
“Excuse me gentlemen, if I could have your attention.” They all turned their attention to her.
“I propose we all take a short intermission. If it is all right with you all, we will conclude our meeting at 10:30 pm.” They agreed and visibly relaxed some of them. Getting up, she gathered her materials and pressed them to her chest. She ignored the eyes on her and looked at Mr. Rossi.
“I will be in the break room.”
“Go right ahead Ms. Marshall.” Without another glance in his direction, she walked out of the board room.
As she reached for a cup, she heard a soft knock on the door. Turning, she saw Hiroto standing there. Scowling, she sighed.
“You love following me huh?”
“You’re not the only reason I came in here.”
“Sure whatever.” She pursed her lips and filled the cup up with water.
“Yes now.” He stepped into the room.
“Did you receive my gift?”
“I received plenty of things from you over the past couple months.”
“What did you think?” She tightened her grip on her cup.
“I shouldn’t be surprised. You are a persistent man by nature. But nevertheless, I was irritated that you sent them.” He softly grinned.
“I thought you would be.” She looked up at him.
“You sent them knowing I’d have an attitude?”
“In all honesty, I just wanted to make you smile.” She scoffed.
“Nah you wanted to piss me off. Seems you still to this day love irritating me.” He bit his lip, the dimples in his cheeks deepening with the grin.
“Allow me…” He spoke up first. She pursed her lips and waited for him to speak again. He licked his lips and sighed.
“I have to be perfectly honest with you. I can’t stand right now is to be away from you.” She gripped her cup tightly.
“Please allow me moments… with you. Even if it is like this.” He continued, his gaze growing more and more intense by the second. GET. A. GRIP. She took a breath and looked into his eyes.
“No.” Taking a small sip from her cup she then tossed the water into the sink.
“You heard me the first time Hiroto.”
“You don’t get brownie points for sending me gifts sweetheart. That don’t get you time with me.” She turned around and walked up to him.
“You gotta earn that right buddy.” She said, poking him in the chest. He smiled to himself.
“You are right. My intention was not to win you with material possessions.”
“Hm. I can’t tell.” She took her finger away from his person and stood up straight.
“Well this was great and all but this little meeting is over. We gotta get back to the real thing.”
“Wait a minute.” His gaze drew her in and warmth flushed her cheeks. Danger. DANGER.
“What is it?” He smiled softly.
“You do realize that at some point, we are going to have to talk about everything.”
“There’s nothing to talk about. I said everything I had to that night at the gala.”
“Discussion over. Move.” A vein in her temple throbbed when he didn’t.
“There is so much yet we haven’t said. Keeping it inside is not healthy.” She rolled her eyes.
“Don’t make it harder than it has to be Rae.”
“Don’t make me seem like I’m the one with the problem! You’re the one making this difficult! No one asked you to send me anything. No one asked you to play detective and track me down. And no one asked you to even be here.” Before he was given a chance to reply, she left him standing there in the break room, the smell of coffee and refrigerated lunches giving her a headache.
It has been months since that gala. Winter had come and gone and by now tiny flower buds were trying to spring up from the earth. He had been here for almost a year now, in the United States. He had come to see the old year pass away and step into the new one. And he felt as though the heart of the woman he loved grew ever colder towards him. Even more so now that she had been regularly attending meetings with him and other executives. Rossi had taken a short leave sometimes, placing her in command in his absence. She couldn’t stand being in the same room with him for more than she had to. It hurt him. But, he pushed on. Someday, the pain in her heart would no longer be there and that was when he could breathe.
“Mr. Iwase?” He lifted his gaze to find her looking at him.
“Did you hear what I said?” He cleared his throat.
“If you would be so kind as to repeat it I’d appreciate it.” She nodded.
“I was speaking with everyone on how we can improve this new year. Do you have any suggestions?” He sat up straighter.
“Within our respective ventures?”
“If she asked you about our business you wouldn’t be able to give any suggestions Iwase. We are after all opponents.” Rossi spoke up behind her, a smug grin on his face. He set uninterested eyes on him.
“That’s completely irrelevant to the question asked Mr. Rossi. And respectfully, please address me as Mr. Iwase. Now, I do believe instead of looking at each other as opponents we should look at each other as members of the same community. We all are trying to succeed. Instead of pushing the next man out of the way, my suggestion is to work together to achieve the overall goal at hand.” A man who sat next to him sniggered.
“A typical response from the Oriental population. Listen newcomer, in America, we don’t do that here. We strive to be the best.” It grew hushed as everyone stared in shock. He turned to him, cool and collected.
“Pray tell John, how is that working out for you?” Some of the guys laughed under their breath. John grew red in the face.
“As I thought. Perhaps you should remain silent before you further make a fool out of yourself.”
“Gentlemen,” John grew beet red and his lips drew up tight. He however turned his eyes back on the lovely woman who eyed them with a stern look.
“If you want to act like children, go do that somewhere else. We are in a meeting.”
“Hm.” John grunted and looked away.
“My sincerest apologies.” He spoke softly, slightly bowing his head. She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose.
“I think we’re done for today. That’ll be all for now.” She got up and stacked her documents. Rossi stood and soon followed her out of the board room like a lovesick puppy.
“Way to shut him down Hiro.” A nice fellow by the name of Darius said with a small grin. He occasionally accompanied him for drinks after late nights at the office.
“He most definitely had it coming.” Darius snickered.
“He’s known to be the office prick. Always looking down on others who he feels isn’t “American” enough.”
“That was unacceptable how he humiliated you in front of everyone Hiro.” Another one of his drinking buddies spoke up, coming to stand next to Darius.
“He may have intended to humiliate me but in the end, only he was.” Darius slapped him on the back.
“Good job holding your own! Most of these guys are seasoned vets. You’re the underdog. I guess you were prepared to take some shots. Always happens to the best of us just starting out. Hopefully, it lessens.” He nodded with a small friendly smile.
“Will I see you tonight at the usual place?” Darius chuckled.
“You know it man.” As they all began to leave, he gathered his things. He would continue to hold it together around Rossi. He knew he did it to get on his nerves and assert himself around Rae. As he would learn, all that effort would be wasted.
“What is wrong with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Why are you purposely throwing shade at Mr. Iwase?” Rossi sat back in his chair, hands folded behind his head.
“Throwing shade?” She sucked her teeth.
“Don’t make me act unprofessional today Mr. Rossi.” He grinned. Oh, this was funny to him?
“Tell me why you insist on publicly humiliating him every time he comes to a meeting?”
“Are you defending him Ms. Marshall?” She snort and rolled her eyes.
“Who said anything about defending him?”
“I noticed you staring at him today. Quite intensely I might add.”
“Okay you are trippin. You act like he was the only man in the room.”
“It might as well have been that way.”
“Okay listen..first of all you are my boss. Not my man. I do not need you to monitor who I look at and how many times I do it. Second, whatever you got going on with him is your business. For the sake of Affinity, I implore you not to show face in front of competition. Keep it together.” That silenced him with the quickness. For once, he was quiet.
“I’m going to excuse myself.” She turned around and walked out of his office. She had about had it today. First she had to look at Hiroto all morning and then for Antonio to be tryna act like her damn daddy…
“Rae?” She looked at Shelley who had come down the hall.
“Hey. What’s up?”
“How did the meeting go?”
“Girl. Do not get me started. Rossi was throwing shade at Mr. Iwase and then him and some other executive got into a tiff and… it was too much.”
“He’s been doing that a lot lately. What is it with Iwase and him?” She knew what ‘it’ was all right. And it was irritating the mess out of her.
“You know how men are. They always gotta compete with each other. Get on my nerve.” Shelley sighed.
“Well speaking of Iwase…He’s standing by your cubicle.”
“He’s not looking at anything. I don’t even think he knows it’s your cubicle.”
“Gotta go.” She near flew into the office room and sure enough, there dude was standing right there. Take a breath. Don’t lose your chill.
“Can I help you?” She asked, coming up behind him. He turned to face her.
“Ebere to you.” He bit his lip.
“What do you want?” She asked next, irritation rising in her chest.
“Is this where you work?”
“I figured because of how fast you rushed over here.”
“I don’t really want you over here.”
“So..you gonna move?”
“Not entirely.” She eyed him with the quickness, the irritation growing into anger.
“Hiroto,” She said under her breath.
“Are you trying to piss me off?”
“You are working your way there. Now, I’m gon ask you again to move.”
“I will. Only on the condition that you let me take you to lunch.”
“I refuse to go anywhere with you.”
“Then here I stay.” She rolled her eyes and scoffed loudly, drawing eyes and ears. It had grown deafly quiet. They was listening for a single word.
“Come with me.” She grabbed his suit sleeve and near dragged him out into the hallway, past the elevators to a small enclave.
“Do you not understand that I want absolutely nothing to do with you?” She hissed softly, looking around for persons who might pass. He slid his hands into his pockets and stood there like some damn marble statue.
“Do you not understand how much I need you?” He replied back with a calm tone.
“You don’t get to do that. Walk out of my life for 10 years and then expect me to cater to your needs. I don’t give a damn about your needs Hiroto.” His jaw tightened but otherwise he didn’t speak.
“I put up with you because I have to. But outside of work, I don’t want to see you, hear you or even be near you.” She continued, her eyes starting to fill with hot angry tears.
“It breaks my heart to witness just how much I have hurt you.”
“Good. Let every piece shatter.” She spit out, the tears starting to fall.
“Rae…” She lifted shaky hands to her face.
“Damn it. I was not going to cry at work… in front of you…”
“Rae,” She heard voices and quickly looked for a restroom. Not here. Why did her tears have to come now?! Before she could say anything, she felt Hiroto grab her hand and pull her away from the small cluster of chairs. They stepped into the elevator and soon exited the building.
“Where the hell are you taking me?” She protested, yanking against him.
“To a place where you can be free to cry in the open and not fear those around you.”
“Look, right now I’m not trying to be anything but of help.”
“But I didn’t ask for your-” She shut her mouth as he gently moved her into the passenger seat of his car. He didn’t say a word as he got in and drove off.
His heart was pumping hard against his chest. He knew he had taken a huge risk by doing this. But, he knew how stubborn she was. He knew that she needed to release the pain she held in her heart. And whether or not she asked for his aid was out of his concern right now. He wanted to take care of her… He tightly gripped the stirring wheel and once he came to a red light glanced over at her. She had her hands gripped tightly together in her lap and she was looking out of the window. He swallowed thickly and opened his mouth to speak.
“Perhaps you should call your boss and let him know you’re gone.” She didn’t respond.
“Stop talking.” She said softly, her tone hard. He turned his eyes back on the road and began to drive again. As they drove, they came across water, its blue coloration rich and wide. He came into a parking lot and soon shut off his car. They sat in silence.
“Rae I want you to get out.”
“You need this.”
“Need what? You kidnapping me?”
“You know damn well it’s not kidnapping.”
“Last time I checked I didn’t consent to going with you so what the hell is it?” He sighed and got out. Opening her car door, he leaned over slightly into the car, his gaze on her.
“I don’t wanna see. I want you to tell me.”
“I brought you here because you need to start your healing process Ebere.”
“I’ve healed.” He gently lifted her chin which quivered underneath his fingers.
“No sweetheart. You haven’t even begun.” Tears welled back up in her eyes.
“I was fine. Before you… you came.”
“Be honest with yourself. Were you really?” She closed her eyes as tears continued to flow.
“Take my hand. Come on.” He said softly, extending his hand. She sniffed and tightened her jaw before slowly letting her fingers touch his. He tenderly grabbed her hand and lifted her out of the car. Together, they began to walk onto the pavement, the water down below crashing against some rocks. She had long ago let go of his hand and instead chose to wrap her arms around her waist.
“Do you want to get closer to the water?” He asked, looking at her.
“I don’t know.” She answered noncommittally. He would get her closer. They walked until they stood in the tan sand, the waves of the lake lapping at the shore. Leaning down, he slowly slid out of his socks and shoes and let the warm sand sink between his toes. He watched as she soon did the same and took a deep breath of the air.
“You never understood no.” She said after a while of silence.
“I understood quite well with you. And I never went against it.” He replied. She shifted her gaze away from him.
“I give you permission…” She sucked her teeth.
“Permission to do what?” When she brought her eyes back to his, she grew still.
“Permission to let out any frustration on me. If you must, hit me. Yell at me. I’ll stand here and take it.” She blinked, those beautiful brown eyes of hers growing watery.
“I can’t even begin to express how deeply regretful I am Rae…but… this is something I must let you do.” Before he knew it, she was pushing him.
“Let it out…” He said as she began to cry suddenly.
“I…I…can’t do this…” She weeped, gripping his suit jacket.
“Yes you can. Forget about me. Do you want to continue your life this way? Hm?” He gently wrapped his arms around her shaking form.
“To move on, you must release it. Not for me or for anyone else. Do it for you.” She lifted her eyes to his.
“Fine.” She pulled back from him and slapped him hard across the cheek. Pain shot through his jaw and crept down towards his neck.
“Since I saw you again… I have wanted to beat your ass.” He inhaled deeply and tightened his fists.
“I would let you.”
“If I could take all the pain you caused me and give it back to you I would.” She balled up his jacket.
“I was ready to give you my life…I would have waited for you. I would have done anything… to be with you Hiroto.” He tightened his jaw as she stood in front of him, trembling with the raw emotion of pain.
“No!” She pushed him and hit him again.
“Sorry is not good enough! You chose some dry clueless bitch over me and for what?! All because Mommy told you to?!”
“Shut up! I’m talking!” Hurt was making her dizzy… she swayed in it. It was then that he realized that she had kept over 10 years of emotion inside. All of it had to come out.
“You promised me you would never hurt me… but you cut me deeper than any blade. Out of all the men I have been with… you left the most painful scar. And it doesn’t make sense…. I never made love to you… but you got in my damn soul Hiroto… You rested there in my spirit. You were a part of me…” He was beyond words.
“I tried to compensate… over the years and it never worked. Person after person… body after body… but I never felt full. And here you come and…and…” She fell to her knees and silently shook, tears making the sand dark.
“Rae…” He came to his knees and gently held her.
“After all this time… I still can’t let go of you. How can you just come back in my life and completely ruin and brighten my world at the same time…” He couldn’t say a word and held tighter onto her. She pressed her face against his chest.
“I don’t know when I’ll be ready to let you in again…”
“I’ll wait. It doesn’t matter when.” She took a shaky breath and looked up at him.
“We were so in love. We deserved better than this. Why must we continue to hurt each other?” She asked, her tone broken.
“In our youth, we made decisions that were not wise.”
“Now, we’re older. We know better.”
“Do you feel better?” She sighed and closed her eyes.
“A little. I still have so many emotions.”
“We have been apart from each other ten years…” He leaned down and pressed his cheek against the top of her head.
“I missed you baby.” He whispered against her.
“I… I missed you… too.” She leaned up and slowly slid fingers into his hair. He closed his eyes and sighed.
“I haven’t done this in ten years… God… I missed it.” He couldn’t help but smile.
“Me too.” She took her fingers out of his hair and clasped them in her lap.
“I guess you want me to thank you.”
“No thanks necessary.”
“Good cause you wasn’t getting one.” She reached up and wiped the tears from her cheeks.
“I think I’m done. You can take me back now.”
She felt a way about it all. Crying, losing her cool and everything. But, if she were honest… it felt good to let it go. And he needed to see just how much damage he had done. Even though she wouldn’t say it… she was the slightest bit thankful he had brought her. By now, the tears had dried on her skin and she knew her makeup was a bust. When she got back to work, in through the side way it was for her until she could slip into a bathroom. As he made a right turn, her phone buzzed. Uh-oh. Antonio. With both of them gone, it wasn’t hard to tell they had been together. The last thing she wanted was for nosey co workers to start asking questions. Picking it up, to her surprise she didn’t see Antonio’s number. Instead, it was Amee. Scrunching her eyebrows together, she answered.
“What’s up? Why’re you callin this early? I’m at work.”
“I know…” Something about her tone was off.
“Amee, what’s wrong?”
“Can you meet me somewhere?”
“I’m at work I can’t just leave.”
“You’re out…” How did she-
“I just called the office and they said you stepped out…”
“Yeah but… only for lunch…”
“Ebbie, we need to talk… it’s important…” Again, her brows furled. Everything from her tone to the way her stomach felt in that moment said WRONG.
“O-Okay… um… where you wanna meet?”
“Let’s meet at Joe’s.”
“What’s this about Amee? You’re startin to scare me.” It was silent for a while before she answered.
“It’s just time you took your visor off.”
“I’ll talk to you when you get here.”
“S-sure.” Hanging up, she gripped the phone.
“Is everything alright?” She bit her lips as she put her phone back in her purse.
“Can you take me somewhere?” He nod before turning his eyes back on the road.
“Do you know a place called Joe’s?”
“I’ll show you the way. We’re not too far.”
“All right.” Visor… what did Amee mean by time to take the visor off? What was going on? By the feeling in her stomach, something was telling her the talk she was about to have with her sister was not going to be a good one. As she gave Hiroto the last set of directions, they pulled into the parking lot of Joe’s. She waited until he turned off the car to speak.
“I don’t know what’s getting ready to happen. But…”
“I’m coming with you. I’ve left you alone far too many times. This time, we’re going together.” She sighed and got out of the car. Here she went…
She looked so nervous. It was starting to make him grow a tiny bit anxious. He found himself sitting across from a woman who called herself Rae’s sister. And as if they had taken a time trip back into the past, Rae was currently squeezing his hand underneath the table. More than likely instinct. He observed the woman across from him the entire time and was careful not to speak unless absolutely necessary. They had only been there five minutes but Rae had yet to calm down.
“So, you’re Hiroto I take it?” She spoke, looking him from head to table length.
“It figures you two would be together… even now.”
“Amee…” This was the first time Rae had spoken since getting there.
“What is going on?”
“I had to do this. I couldn’t stand you not knowing any more.”
“Not knowing about what?”
“I’ll get to that in a minute. But first, let me finish with Mr. Japanese Freeze over here.”
“Nah, you don’t get to talk. If we weren’t in a public place, I would kick your ass. I don’t think you understand just how much you messed my sister up. She’s still in love with you… broken heart and all. Even I don’t want to forgive you and I never met you a day of my life till now. I got the biggest problem with you Mr. Hiroto Iwase. If you think Ebbie is going to just come flying back to you think again son. She’s not going to make it easy by far.” If things weren’t so serious, he’d have laughed. She was just like her sister. He could clearly see that the spunk she had ran in the family of women.
“I am well aware.”
“Hm.” Slowly, Rae was letting go of her death grip on his hand.
“Amee start talkin…” Her sister took a sip of her water and tightened her jaw.
“Ebbie… the… the family’s… they’ve been lying to you.”
“Lying to me? About what?” Amee looked down.
A/N: Hey y'allll!!!!! *hugs you* I've missed you all! It has been a while! Merry belated Holidays to you all! I hope that you all had a great one with your families! For those of you reading that have lost a loved one or didn't have a family/place to call your own, please know that my thoughts were with you and prayers as well and will continue to be!! So, what do you think of this new chapter? I think that it is time for everything to be laid out on the table for Rae. Her family has kept enough from her. What will "everything" be? My aim for this chapter was to create a sense of awkwardness between Hiroto and Rae. A sense of tugging back and forth. As always, Rossi is irritating and does not know his place. How much of a child is he to speak about him in front of others... and John? Oh yeah he is a major jerk! *deep sigh*Anywhoo, my intention for this story is to write through their lifespan so that's quite a bit to cover. Being so, I am not going to spend too much more time in this place. Please expect a few more "time skips". I will execute them in a way I hope that does not mess up the flow of the story! If they do, don't hesitate to let me know and I can re-work it :) Thank you for reading and see you next chapter! <3
Love, blessings and peace,