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“Um….I-I saw your interview on tv today… You left New York?” Her eyes met his.
“I did.” He watched as her cheeks grew red and felt his lips smile.
“When?” His heart beat faster and he felt his blood rush throughout his body. He cleared his throat and shifted from one foot to the other.
“About two months ago.” Her eyebrows arched.
“Two months?” He nodded.
“Why two months?”
“I wanted enough time to have an appropriate break without feeling the need to rush.”
“Where’d you go again?”
“Oh.” He took in a big breath.
“Are you headed home?” She wasn’t looking at him and something about that bothered him. She unconsciously worried her lips with bites and her skin shown with the perspiration of her workout.
“E-Ebere…” Her voice croaked softly in reply. He felt himself smile. She was so beautiful when she was flustered.
“Look at me.” She stayed still for a little while before slowly bringing her eyes up to his. Better. Much better.
“What?” Her voice was soft.
“How have you been?”
“I’ve been good. Real good.”
“I see. That’s great then.”
“Mm.” A silence fell between them and she turned to fill her bottle back up without another word.
“I guess I should be going hm?” She brought the bottle to her lips and took a long sip before answering,
“Okay then. Good night.” He smiled at her. Her blush deepened but she softly smiled in return.
“Night.” As he watched her walk away from him, he sighed heavily. He was glad he hadn’t appeared as nervous as he had felt. He lifted his towel to brush his damp hair and began to head to the door. What were the chances that they came to the same gym? On this night? His heart fluttered. He couldn’t help but feel like a new beginning was upon them. As he soon headed to his car, he smiled to himself. He couldn’t wait to see her again.
She drove home in the silence of the night. Soft low smooth jazz played on the radio and the window was cracked, letting cool air into the car. She couldn’t believe it. She’d seen him. She wasn’t expecting to see him for a little while yet. But oh what a surprise it was. She bit her lip as she drove on. All that stuttering and boo boo the foolery going on was not okay. Granted, it had been darn near four months since she had seen bruh so she supposed she could understand. Tightening the steering wheel, she deeply pursed her lips. She was gonna need to get herself together because she refused to keep stuttering every time she saw him. That was definitely not going to happen.
When she got home, the first person she dialed was Amee.
“Hey Ebbie. What’s up?”
“Guess who I just saw at the gym?” She was quiet.
“It better not have been Kwasame punk ass.”
“Girl nawl! Please don’t even… you gon give me a headache thinking about him.”
“Well… who?” She took a breath.
“Hiroto.” Her sister grew silent on the phone for a while before,
“You saw him tonight?”
“I know. I was not… expecting to see him.”
“So how are you feelin about it?”
“That’s the thing. I don’t know… I don’t know what to feel…”
“I’m sure you’re glad to see him again. It’s been a while since you two last saw each other.”
“Aww Ebbie you missed him.” She sucked her teeth.
“Amee don’t even. I can’t… not tonight. My emotions are all outta whack.”
“Yep sounds like what happen when you two get together. Y’all go coo coo for cocoa puffs.”
“No we do not!” Amee started cracking up.
“Ebbie, yes y’all do. It’s the cutest thing actually. Like y’all so down for each other but tryna act like y’all ain’t.” She pouted.
“Well nothin. Look, you told me yourself that you was gon give him a chance right?” Her pout grew.
“Okay then. So y’all need to get with the program. Cause we don’t know when ol boy goin back to Japan. You needs to get on that and handle that.”
“Girl… you… ooh..” She huffed. But she knew she was right. She didn’t know how much longer Hiroto would be in the States. And she wasn’t sure how his life would be once he got back to home base. Or how free he might be.
“Gon shower, grab some wine and pray about it. You know what to do missy ma’am.” Amee said with a smile in her voice. She sighed.
“Yeah. Thanks A.”
“No problem Eb. Let me know how it go.”
“Okay.” She put the phone on her bed and ran herself a warm bath. Her muscles were going to thank her.
The next day he found himself in the board room of Affinity staring at the clock.
“Man… where the hell is Rossi?” He dully stared at the clock again.
“I don’t know but he better hurry before I say we all call this meeting over.” It was going on fifteen minutes and Rossi had not shown up. He tightened his jaw. Rossi was not the type of man to be late. He felt his muscles stretch and bones pop as he stood. Getting old. If he didn’t get any coffee, he was afraid he would fall asleep in the meeting. His nights had been sleepless lately as his mind spun on rotation around a woman somewhere within this very building. All he could think about was her. Since seeing her at the gym, he had wished that he would be given a chance to see her again but to no avail. He was starting to suspect that she was avoiding him intentionally.
“Another ten minutes and I’m leaving.” One of the other business associates exclaimed, his face growing red with irritation.
“Yeah. Me too. Rossi’ll hear it from me big time.” He tried not to sigh. Coffee. He needed coffee.
“Hiro, where you goin?”
“Coffee.” He said as he opened the door.
After a short while, he stood outside of the board room, carefully sipping some warm brew. The roast smelled delightful and he smiled against the cup. It had been a while since he had last had some. Even though it wasn’t from a coffee shop, the office machines weren’t too bad in actuality. Some of them made quite adequate cups. At least Rossi invested in some quality coffee machines. Checking his watch, he tightened his lips against the brim of the cup. Rossi was almost thirty minutes late. Was he not going to show up?
“You know you’re going to hear it from these guys right?”
“Thanks to you, I’m officially the latest I’ve ever been in my career.”
“Don’t blame that on me.”
“Well…” Voices laughed as they grew closer.
“Into the gauntlet we go.” He lifted his eyes and grew still. Lowering his cup, he tightened his jaw.
She stopped suddenly and she felt the breath whoosh out of her. She stared ahead, bringing Rossi’s attention forward as well. She was too busy noticing the man in front of her to observe the deep frown that crossed his mouth.
“Back from hiatus so soon Iwase?”
“My first meeting back and you’re late.” He replied but his eyes never reached him. She felt her heart flutter.
“Well you certainly are more excited to see Ms. Marshall than me. I’m hurt.” That seemed to break whatever they had going on. She drew her eyes away and cleared her throat.
“All right, don’t start you two. I’ll go in first.” She briskly walked by him and entered the room. Behind the closed door, she took a shaky breath. Her knees were trembling. Her mind raced but she would address it later. Standing tall, she smiled at the many men who sat there, quite irritably.
“Hello gentlemen.” They sat up and eyed her as she made her way to the second seat near the front.
“Ms. Marshall!” One of them exclaimed. She smiled.
“Hello! How are you?”
“We’re fine! It’s a pleasure to have you back.” She smiled.
“It’s wonderful to be back. I’m ready to get to work.” One of the associates eyed the door.
“Where is Antonio? Did you come to tell us that the meeting was cancelled?”
“No, he’s right outside. He’ll be in shortly.”
“He is not normally this late.”
“Yeah. I was going to leave.” As she was about to reply, the door opened and both men walked in. She tried not to but she felt her eyes follow Hiroto as he came to sit down, right in front of her. Licking her lips, she clutched her hands underneath the table. He looked irritated, his face stern and cool. Glancing over at Antonio, she noticed his cheeks were much redder than before. He cleared his throat.
“Good afternoon gentlemen. Excuse my extenuating tardiness. I had another business matter to attend to. I didn’t expect it to take up as much time as it did.”
“I’m sure. Your favorite employee is back.” She felt her chest grow tight Dag. They wasn’t wastin no time. Lord. Antonio inhaled slowly.
“I’m glad you noticed Daniel.” Looking across the table, she found Hiroto looking at her. She clutched her fingers together.
“I’m sure you out of everyone has been most excited for her return.”
“What is it you are implying Daniel?” Oh Lord…
“I'm not implying anything. I’m just saying that you seem really chipper lately.”
“Okay gentlemen let’s not start.” She butt in. What was it with these men? They fought like cats and dogs over the most trivial things.
“Are you glad to be back?” Daniel asked as he turned to look at her.
“Are you glad to be back underneath your boss? Maybe your business might take longer than thirty minutes next time.” Rossi stood up.
“Daniel. Remove yourself from the room.”
“Don’t dismiss me like a school child Antonio.”
“You’re acting like a child. In a room full of professionals, we have no time for immaturity.” Daniel slowly got up from his chair.
“Says the guy who was thirty minutes late to a meeting of “professionals” because he was too caught up in his pretty assistant. Right.”
“Daniel,” To her surprise, Hiroto stood.
“Think about what you’re saying. I understand you’re irritable because of Rossi’s tardiness. We all are. But please for the sake of your relationship, think wisely.” Daniel scowled.
“Look I don’t mean to be rude but you aren’t in a place to talk to me like we’re friends rookie.” That seemed to make him grow stiff.
“Daniel that’s enough! Let’s calm down!” One of the other associates tried, slowly standing up.
“He hasn’t been in this game long enough to-”
“Mr. Logan!” Her voice, strong and firm cut through the tension. Everyone stared at her.
“You are out of line.”
“So she speaks…”
“You do nothing but bully those who are lower in rank and those you find insignificant. However, at Affinity, we do not associate with corrupt and selfish man children. If you would be so kind, please take your leave.” Logan paled.
“Spoken like a true CEO. You’ve surely spoiled her eh Antonio? That’s all right. I don’t have to be asked to leave. I was on my way out.” He gathered his materials and soon exited from the room. Things grew awkward in its silence before she cleared her throat.
“Mr. Rossi. If you may begin the meeting?” He stood up, his face grim.
The meeting had ended thirty minutes ago and she had retreated into the break room. She tapped her fingers on the counter, her gaze distant. What had occurred was infuriating her. Why would Logan just go off like that? She could understand how Rossi being late could irritate him but to darn near attack the three of them was totally inappropriate. Breathing through her nostrils with a short hot angry puff of air, she opened the fridge to get some cold milk to add to her coffee that was brewing. As she reached up to grab a cup from the cupboard, she heard the door to the break room open.
“Rae?” She turned to face Shelley, who looked worried.
“Before you ask, I don’t know. I have no idea.” She said with a irritated tone.
“Rossi look like he bout to pop a blood vessel. And don’t get me started on Mr. Iwase. He looks like marble. Just silent and all brooding.” Yeah, he would. That’s how he got. She sighed. Perhaps now was the perfect time to act like a friend. She bit her lip and took a deep breath. She couldn’t continue to avoid him. Clearly, God was placin them together like this for a reason and she couldn’t ignore it anymore.
“What about your coffee?”
“I’ll come back to it.”
He sat against the window, pressing his temple against the cool glass. His chest was still tight from the meeting that had ended a while ago. To be honest, he hadn’t cared about what Logan said about him. The things he said about Rae was what caused fire to burn. It simply was not to be tolerated.
“Hey.” He turned to see her standing in front of him, her arms gently clasped behind her back. He blinked and felt his cheeks grow warm.
“Hey yourself.” She licked her lips.
“Are you…are you okay?”
“I was going to ask you the same.” She pursed her lips.
“Frankly, I’m pissed. But… I’ll get over it.”
“It’s not right. They gang up on you because you’re the only woman in the room.”
“Yeah and I can hold my own.” He felt a smile come to his face and cleared his throat. She was still strong and stubborn.
“I know you can.”
“Well… um…” She stuttered and bit her lip.
“I’m fine. Thank you for wondering.”
“…You’re welcome…” She began to turn to walk away and stopped.
“Hiroto?” He watched her from behind, softly smiling.
“Yes beautiful?” She stood still, fists clutched.
“W-want some coffee?”
She watched as he slowly took a sip of the coffee and felt her throat grow drier than the Sahara. The way he held his cup reminded her of a summer in Nara with tea, yukata and the summer breeze. She grabbed her cup and took a gulp. When she looked up from the dark contents of her cup, she found his eyes looked at her from over the brim of his mug. He hadn’t pulled it away from his mouth and neither had she. Time seemed to slow and the ticking of the clock grew louder. She felt herself falling into his depths and forced herself to look away with. She placed the cup on the table and tightly gripped it.
“Why are you lookin at me like that?”
“Like what?” She sucked her teeth and pursed her lips.
“You know how. Don’t play.” The corner of his mouth curled up in a smirk.
“What do you mean by play?” She sucked her teeth loudly and rolled her eyes.
“Okay you playin for real.”
“Just how was I looking at you I wonder?” He mused as he took another sip of his coffee.
“I missed you?” He interrupted, putting the cup down. She tried to swallow but wasn’t no saliva to swallow.
“I did. Very much.” He continued with a small sigh. Her heart beat wildly in her chest.
“You certainly don’t miss a beat.” She somehow replied, rather shakily, before standing.
“I’ve never missed a beat when it came to you.” Jesus.
“Okay listen, you gotta chill Hiroto.”
“I am chill.”
“Mm.” Silence soon grew in the room again and in quiet, they both finished their coffee.
“So…how was your trip?” She asked as he got up to go place his cup in the small sink.
“It was great. I got a chance to heal from a lot of things. I thought I had conquered them but apparently not.”
“Them?” He leaned back against the counter top and turned around to look at her, hands in his pockets.
“My past. Everything I had buried had to come out.” She looked down at her cup.
“I know what you mean.”
“Mm.” She sighed and slowly pushed her chair back from the table.
“The last time we were around each other I was angry and hurt.” He hadn’t taken his eyes off of her yet.
“Understandable.” She slowly came to the sink and put her cup in.
“I wasn’t trying to do anything but be mad at you…”
“Are you not angry now?” His voice grew low and quiet.
“Not..not entirely…not like before…” She gathered her courage and looked up at him.
“I don’t want to continue to live being angry. So, I’ve decided that I am going to give you a chance…” His cheeks grew a soft pink and his hand that had been taken out of his pocket gripped the counter.
“I…I see.” She licked her lips.
“I mean… in our past…”
“Let it stay there. Let’s not bring it up.” He cut her off, his voice gentle. She tightened her fist and let it grow relaxed. To his surprise, she lifted her hand and softly pressed her palm against his cheek. He grew still.
“You were a victim too. Just like I was. But I had forgotten in my bitterness. Don’t you remember when it was us against the world?” He reached up and grasped her hand, a smile slowly coming to his face.
“I’ll always remember that.” She sighed heavily.
“I don’t know what’s gonna happen. But… I think… I want to try to forgive you.” The next time he spoke, it sounded like his voice was filled with tears.
“I’d…I’d really appreciate that Rae…” She slowly pulled her hand away from his cheek but gripped his fingers.
“Can we try to be friends again?” He nodded, tears starting to make his lashes wet.
“Mm.” She squeezed his hand before letting it go.
“Okay.” She stepped back from the sink.
“I’ll see you soon.” She smiled and began to head to the door.
“Thank you…” She felt her heart flutter and smiled.
“You’re welcome.” As she headed back to her desk, she couldn’t help thinking that the journey they were about to go on was going to be one heck of a ride. But she felt like she could finally do it. Call her crazy but she had faith in them. She felt like ‘they’ could do this.
A/N: Hey you guysss <3 <3 <3 I been writin a whole lot lately. Woosa. I missed writing these two together! First of all, Daniel Logan need several seats. Second, yassssssss. I'm excited for what is going to happen y'all. Let's gooo! <3 :D
Take care, till next time! God bless! <3
Be set free by the renewing of your mind!
Shine into the sky, bright and yellow! :D