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Chapter Seven

The olive-skinned woman was not skinny, but not fat, either. Her dark brown hair which was pulled back into a thick bun was graying along the sides and her temples. She had a warm, open face with a prominent nose and crow's feet in the corners of her dark eyes. Kiki had a good feeling about her immediately. 

She wondered how much the older woman knew about whom she served--Big Shot Gangster Man. Did she know their guest was technically a kidnapee? But of course she did. She had to enter a code for the door to unlock, didn't she? How could she reconcile being an accomplice to unlawful confinement with the whole pleasant, helpful housekeeper thing?

Kiki told herself to stop it. She didn't need all this crap cluttering her head before she could even have her first sip of coffee. 

The older woman seemed to look at her face critically. "You look a lot better today. There's hardly any swelling at all. How are you feeling?"

Kiki, who had just raised her cup of coffee to her lips and was blowing across the hot surface, set the cup back down. Inside she was cringing because here she was, sitting meek and proper when she could have deflected that blow and returned it threefold. She hated this. "A little better. I've got a tiny bit of ringing in my ear, but that will go away, right? Do you think I can go outside today and get some fresh air?"

There were large French doors to the side that led to a patio overlooking the garden, but those too were locked via code and the glass was unbreakable. She had tested it herself. Especially the ones on the windows. She was a person who believed in having several contingency plans. As of yet, she had not found a means to escape without resorting to violence. The door locked automatically once closed and a code was needed to be entered on a panel before you could exit. 

The housekeeper looked uncomfortable, like a mother who was about to tell her child they couldn't afford to go to Disneyland, after all. Maybe next year? "I'll have to speak to Master Guillaume. I was told we are to take care of you, but he hasn't mentioned anything about allowing you outside."

Kiki puzzled over this, picking up her cup of coffee again. She would need to be able to roam around the house, so she could search the place. She would also need steady access to Guillaume if she were to become his main arm candy. "Is the Master available for a meeting this morning?" She stifled a smile as she made the inquiry. The housekeeper looked so serious. 

"I found him already prowling around in his office at six this morning. I was told by his valet that he is an early riser."

Kiki filed this tidbit away in her growing Guillaume Esposito database. "I'd love to see him, if he is not too busy today."

Mrs. Echevarria nodded and left her with her breakfast, promising to come back as soon as she had spoken with the Lord High and Mighty. 

Kiki noticed that she had also been provided with some clothes. There were a few shopping bags left behind by the housekeeper, two large ones from Nordstrom and Saks Fifth Avenue, and two smaller ones from Victoria's Secret. Stuffed into one of the bags of brand-new clothes was an almost magazine-sized electronic reader filled with books and several credits with which to purchase audiobooks. She let out a low whistle. Damn, the dude hooked her up. 

Upon further exploration of the room, she also discovered a flat-screen TV that was at least seven-foot wide mounted on the wall, hidden by drapes. She had thought it would be another window. She pulled at the cords and had been surprised to find the behemoth of a screen. 

Did they treat all their prisoners so well? Who the hell was staying here that it was all decked out for a queen, but had the security of a Colorado super-max? 

She had just finished showering and was stretched out along a window seat, attempting to read Pride and Prejudice, when there were two quick knocks on her door. She looked at the wall clock and saw that only an hour had passed since she talked to Mrs. E. 

When the knocks came again, she was off the window seat in a flash, dashing toward the drapes that covered the TV to hide under them. This gave her a good vantage point because the TV area was a blind spot from the doorway. Taking a deep breath, she slowly released it and said in a soft, but clear voice, "Yes, I'm in here."

The door opened with a pneumatic hiss and a moment later, a tall, broad-shouldered man in a dark blue suit that looked tailored to fit his body entered the room. He closed the door behind him and strode to the center. "Miss Chow? Where are you?"

Kiki, who had since slid out of her hiding place behind the drapes and was now watching him from behind the velvet sofa in front of the TV, trembled at the sound of his voice. It was deep and darkly decadent the way the best chocolate was. It made her toes curl inward, which was another thing she was embarrassed about. It seemed she had lost control of her bodily reactions to him. 

"Kiki?" he said. "It's all right. I won't hurt you."

She sidled onto the sofa, so it would seem like she'd been there all along. She rose from behind the back cushions and stretched her arms over her head in an exaggerated way, faking a yawn with it. "Are you here to let me go at last, Mr. Esposito, or are you here to assault me anew?"

He had turned around to face her and his hands were crossed in front of him, one hand cradling the other. "I'm not letting you go, Miss Chow. I told you, I'm keeping you locked up for your own good." One corner of his mouth quirked up in a half-smile. "As for the other... come over here to my side, so I can get a better look at you."

Kiki groaned inwardly as desire tugged low and deep on her abdomen. How the hell was she going to deal with a man whose very presence turned her brain into gelatin? She had to get a hold of herself. "You want to inspect the black eye you gave me?"

She meant for the comment to be sarcastic and yet her voice sounded husky when it came out and her tone was a little flirty. 

He was looming over her in seconds. Grabbing her bare shoulders, he hauled her up against him and brought her face inches from his. "Mrs. Echevarria said it hardly left a mark." 

He picked her up as if she were a rag doll, took her back to the sleeping area of the suite, and set her down on the bed. He then cupped her chin in one hand and tilted her head left and right for inspection. Seemingly satisfied, his grip on her eased, but he moved up his hand so he could press it to her cheek. 

"Very minimal swelling. It should be gone by tomorrow." He ran his thumb gently along the spot under your eye. "I want to apologize for my behavior last night."

She tried to conjure some outrage by replaying the scene of him slapping her across the face, but failed to do so. She was raised in a culture of violence and hierarchies. You don't disrespect the boss in front of others without getting popped in the mouth. You don't bark unless you can bite harder. That was the rule of law, for Gokudo and all criminal organizations. 

"Who's your favorite Spice Girl?" she asked as he traced the profile of her face with the pad of his thumb. "I'm guessing it's not Posh Spice."

He shook his head and slid his hand into the crown of her hair. "You fascinate me, Kiki Chow. How do you witness a massacre one night and be so settled into yourself the next day? I was half expecting to find you curled into a ball, sobbing your heart out and screaming to be let go, swearing not to go to the police. Mrs. Echevarria inferred you were maybe in shock last night and hadn't yet processed your current situation."

Kiki had a tendency to bite her lower lip and did that now, even though it pulled at the cut on her mouth a little. "Would that be more helpful? Should I get hysterical and bang on the door at all hours of the night, demanding to be released non-stop? That sounds exhausting."

"By all means, refrain from doing that," he drawled, taking a seat on the bed next to her. 

She knew he wasn't unaffected by their proximity. Earlier when he was standing over her, stroking her face, she had looked up at him and saw the intense desire in his blue eyes. Now they were sitting together, she could hear that his breath was not quite steady and wondered what he would do if she turned her head and kissed him. He hadn't kissed her on the mouth yet, not even during their intimate moment at the nightclub, and she'd been going crazy wanting to know what it would feel like. 

Jesus Christ, like she didn't have enough things to worry about, not the very least of which was finding out what happened to her sisters. 

No time for love, Doctor Jones. 

She felt like a nervous fifteen-year-old girl sitting alone with her boyfriend for the first time, which was ridiculous because the man she was with was allegedly the scion of one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world. 

"Kiki," he said softly. 

There was something in his voice that compelled her to look up. The raw need she saw in his eyes turned her bones to water. 

"Would you like to kiss me?"

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