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Chapter Six

Kiki kept her eyes shut and breathed evenly for a few minutes after Guillaume Esposito left her room. It had been a struggle to pretend she was sleeping when he was standing next to the bed, just a few feet away from her. He emanated sheer masculinity and raw power. He prowled over her like a jaguar guarding its kill, his presence enveloping her like a cool shroud. Her body reacted hungrily to his scent. The moment she smelled him, a yearning she had never before experienced struck her core. Suddenly, there was nothing else in the world she needed, not even her next gulp of air, but the weight of this man on her, crushing her into the mattress. She had never been so tempted...

To her relief and consternation, he was not there to seduce her, after all. She didn't quite know how to process this. On one hand, she was disappointed that she would not be experiencing more of his ardent kisses and exploratory hands, but on the other... the son of a bitch had slapped her and given her a shiner. She wasn't naive to think he's not the kind of guy who would abuse women that way. For God's sake, his family owned a nightclub where three women who worked there disappeared in the space of a year and her sister Nikki, along with her twin Nara, were among them. Where had her sisters gone? What happened to them?

It wasn't like her at all to get distracted. She wasn't even really attracted to white men, especially not lanky, pale British ones. But her intense attraction to Guillaume Esposito thrummed like a tuning fork inside her. Was it because she hadn't had sex in... what, close to a decade? Everything felt like a lifetime ago these days. She could barely remember a life when love, warmth, and acceptance were in abundance and freely given, even to those who didn't ask for it. She missed the short, but idyllic existence she led in that small town in Missouri. She really believed that for once, she had a chance to become someone else and not who she was raised to be. 

She laid awake, watching the waning moon, but sometime within the last few hours, she must have drifted off to sleep. When she opened her eyes again, heavy drapes covered the large windows. She was discombobulated for a few moments because it was dark in the bedroom, but the Tiffany wall clock told her it was seven-thirty. Seven-thirty in the morning, she hoped. She shuddered to think she had slept through an entire day. 

She struggled to lift her head from the pillow, feeling like her noggin was filled with gravel, but managed to sit up. Her legs hung loose from the side of the bed and it was only when she looked down that she realized how high up the mattress was. On the nightstand closest to her was a tray that held five twenty-five ounce bottles of Evian. 

She reached for one, but found she barely had the strength to lift it from the tray. When was the last time she ate? She was still a little groggy from last night, even though she only had two cocktails. Of course, she did receive one hell of a bitch-slap and had taken the sedative one of the maids had given her. She needed help in calming down. By the time she had reached the mansion, she was a weak, sobbing mess. 

She was vaguely aware of Guillaume Esposito plucking her out of the backseat of a bullet-proof Rolls Royce limo as though she were nothing more than a child. She didn't fight him, didn't flail about in his arms. What would have been the point? They were surrounded by his people and there was no way she could have outrun them. 

Besides, she had zero intentions of escaping. She had rested her head on Guillaume's shoulder-- to hell with him and his Savile Row suit--and slipped her arms around his neck, pretending to be insensate with shock and trauma. She took this opportunity to indulge in his scent. God, his smell alone was enough to make her body turn to rubber and compel her to grab his face and stick her tongue in his mouth.

She must have had some effect on him because as she was crying into his neck, her lips had brushed his earlobe and he froze for a moment, his arms tightening around her briefly. She thought she might have heard him groan, but wasn't sure. She had been tempted to do it again just to see if he would make the same sound, but didn't want to push her luck. Clearing his throat, he proceeded to carry her to the mansion with purposeful strides. 

She knew very little about the man. He could be a complete animal, for all she knew. He had struck her, after all. But there was a split second, right before the blow landed, that she thought she might have glimpsed a hint of guilt in his eyes. He didn't enjoy it. When she looked up again, she saw that his face was completely devoid of expression and his vivid blue eyes showed nothing. She might have imagined the hint of reluctance she saw in them and was merely ascribing these qualities to him because she couldn't stomach that she still desired him even though he hurt her. It was sick. 

She swallowed a mouthful of water, mindful of her injured lip, and relieved the dryness of her throat. As she sat there and drank more water, the events of the previous night returned to her like a kick in the head. 

She watched three men get executed last night. Kinji deserved it, the twisted fuck, but two others, who must have been new recruits because she had never seen them before, might have been... salvageable. It was unlikely they had girlfriends or wives because Saito preferred soldiers with no personal entanglements. That was what the late, great Ryuji Takeshi had imparted with him. 

It wasn't supposed to go down that way. She had specifically ordered Saito to stand down, the stubborn motherfucker. She had this, she told him. She had studied the women most likely to be spotted on the arm of Guillaume Esposito, Europe's "It" Boy. He was always getting invited to galas, premieres, film festivals, and gigantic charity balls that received massive press attention. Though he surrounded himself with fierce, very capable-looking Amazons with guns, the ladies he squired around whatever city he was in, tended to be petite and dark-haired. He was rumored to have been dating Natalie Portman for a while, but she supposedly broke up with him because he wasn't ready to settle down. Now she was a happily married woman with a family. 

Kiki looked nothing like the classy, stylish Natalie Portman. Five-three in height, Japanese-American, and mean as a rattlesnake, as Ryuji used to say, she nevertheless knew her assets. For a slender woman, she had decent curves-- pert, round tits and a tight, perky ass you could bounce a quarter off of. Her stems weren't bad, either. She had a fairly short torso, so she had legs for days. But her best feature, her brother always said, was her heart-shaped face. He used to say that she was as expressive as an anime character, with her wide brown eyes and big, pouty mouth. Some say it was a curse for a serious follower of the gokudo, but not to her. No one expected pain from sweetness and light. No one ever saw her coming. Like she repeatedly told Saito, she fucking had this. 

Walking was a challenge this morning, but just like everything else she had ever encountered since she was born, she would conquer it. Easing her feet onto the carpeted floor, she stood and took a moment to reorient herself. Her balance was good, but her knees were sore from kneeling on the cold concrete for so long. If she ever got her hands on Saito again, she would break his neck. 

She managed to creak her way to the bathroom, which was half as big as her apartment in Silverlake. It was all white marble and gold filigree, with a giant claw-footed, old-timey porcelain tub near the center that could accommodate three people. 

"White folk," she muttered to herself, shaking her head. She'd never understood the need to acquire the biggest, most expensive thing just to prove a person could. Her family had always had money, but she herself never developed the taste to live lavishly. She was a minimalist and her very spartan apartment was proof of that. She didn't even have a proper TV. 

In contrast, her half-sisters Nikki and Nara loved... things. When they first went missing, Kiki had visited their apartment in West Hollywood and stepped into a world of feather boas, wigs, glossy posters of classic movie stars, various types and colors of picture frames filled with photos, mountains of shoes, mismatched furniture, and enough clothes to stock a Goodwill. The twins had amassed all kinds of... stuff in their twenty-one years of living, most of them pink and glittery. 

She messed around with the light switches until she found one that flipped on a low-watt yellow bulb that didn't hurt her eyes. The sink closest to her had a large, gilded oval mirror above it. Avoiding looking into it, she turned on the faucet and washed her hands in the cold water. She splashed it on her face and hissed at the relief it offered the bruise on her cheek. She gingerly gargled to rinse out her mouth, wincing at the cut on her lip from Guillaume's slap. If she had the chance to punch the motherfucker right in the middle of his classically handsome face, it would go a long way to helping her feel better. 

Stop being a baby. You've seen worse. She had her eyes shut tight and her fingers gripped the front of the marble sink. After exhaling a lungful of air, she took a gander at herself in the mirror. 

The gauntness of her face surprised her. She had lost about ten pounds since she started this mission. Even in the yellow light, she could see that the bruise was turning purple. Damn, she was rode hard and wrung out to dry last night. The pink hair didn't help. With sagging half-circles under her eyes and her asymmetrical haircut in disarray, she looked like a reject from Jem and the Holograms. She was sure to seduce Guillaume now. A five-alarm dumpster fire, she had no tools to fix herself. 

Hey, maybe the cracked-out Barbie type turned him on, too. If there was anything she learned from years of disguising herself, it was that some people found the quirky and esoteric quite attractive sometimes. 

She dyed her hair pink to stand out from all the hot, little brunettes who worked at Starstruck. People expected crazy hairstyles from Japanese people, anyway. Most importantly, she needed to be remembered.

God, she'd kill for a toothbrush. Her tongue tasted like the smell of her trainers after a ten-mile run. She scrounged and found a new one still in its box along with a full tube of toothpaste in a medicine cabinet. Score. It was the little things, really. She was rinsing out her mouth when she heard the same beeps she had last night right before the door opened and Guillaume walked in. 

She gingerly patted her face with the towel and ducked behind the door. Her guest this morning was Mrs. Echevarria, the old Spanish housekeeper who helped her last night. With her was a tray of what looked and smelled like coffee, a carafe of orange juice, and breakfast food items. Bacon was one of them. Kiki's stomach made a grumbling noise. 

"Señorita, are you in here? I have brought you breakfast."

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