Chapter Nine

The glare she gave him was nothing short of malevolent. "Go ahead. Give me your best shot. And stop calling me kitten."

He had to admire her. Almost everyone who knew him was afraid of him. But here she was, challenging him to what she might imagine as a slap-tickle fight. He grinned inwardly. If she could see it, maybe she wouldn't be as brave as she was now. "If I take you down, kitten, it wouldn't be with my fists, and you won't be getting up for a long time."

His words appeared to have some effect on her as her eyes flashed with an emotion he couldn't recognize before she ducked her head to sip her drink. "Do you understand me, kitten?"

"Don't call me that." She set her glass down on a coaster on the bedside table. "So... beating women is your kink, huh?"

He shrugged, aware that she was baiting him. "Depends on the woman."

She sidled up to one of the bedposts and wrapped her arm around it, peeking at him from the side closest to the mattress. "I'm really not into the Fifty Shades thing, if that's what you're thinking about. I'm pretty vanilla. My last boyfriend dumped me for my roommate because I was a dead fuck."

Her eyes widened as it dawned on her that she might have said too much. The reddening of her cheeks confirmed his suspicion. He chuckled. Surely one couldn't fake a reaction as innocent as that? "I doubt that very much, kitten. You have a mouth meant for kissing and a body made for sinning. Your previous lover obviously couldn't handle the treasure he had in his hands." 

Though it only took him half an instant to regain his bearings, he was not anticipating a projectile pillow to hit him across the face. It unsettled him more than it should have. Straightening his suit jacket, he cleared his throat and used the most imperious look he could muster with his eyes. "That was childish and disrespectful, minx. I won't stand for it. Shall I remind you who's in charge while you are a guest in my home?" 

Instead of dropping to her knees and begging for his forgiveness, the expression on her face said she thought he was nuts. She even scoffed--scoffed!-- at him. "Oh, come off it, Markwee of Sad. You're being a cheeseball and you know it. Was I supposed to melt and be gooey for you just because you said I have a rockin' body or whatever?" 

On the brink of laughter, he had a hard time keeping his face somber. He bit his lower lip for a moment to stifle it. He was kind of laying it a little bit too thick. Guillermo, the Italian Stallion. But God, this woman had fire in her. He knew he wouldn't survive the burn, but wanted so badly to embrace her to him and never let her go. The coldness he had felt all his life went right to the marrow of his bones. A couple of his mentors at the academy told him he must have ice water running through his veins. 

And now, here he was, just a few steps away from living, breathing fire. He had never desired a woman the way he did her. There had never been this visceral, gripping need. He ached as though a phantom hand had seized his insides and pulled. He could feel cold sweat beading along his temple and his mouth drying out. When he held out his hand to reach for her, it took all of his reserves to keep it from shaking. 

Though she was looking at him with bemusement, she only hesitated for a moment before slipping her hand into his. Will exhaled slowly. He didn't realize he had been holding his breath. To avoid her inquisitive gaze, he switched his attention to their joined hands. Hers was so tiny and delicate compared to his. He could probably break the bones of her fingers with one good squeeze. But why would he do that? Just to prove to himself that he could? He was a bloody sick bastard. 

He castigated himself for being a coward. He couldn't even look her in the eye, this woman that his body craved so desperately. What if it were just a case of mistaken identity? What if she was truly innocent and got caught up in the crossfire? He scoffed inwardly and called himself twenty kinds of fool. This was a classic trap: the honeypot. 

He tugged her closer to him and she came willingly, as though she too were caught up in the same spell that enraptured him. Now she was standing in front of him and the top of her head didn't even reach his shoulders. He was an entire foot taller than she was and this detail turned him on very much. She was like a tiny, delicate doll. 

He palmed one side of her face, his fingers sinking into the soft thickness of her ridiculous pink hair, and she leaned into him, her eyes drifting close. He caressed her cheekbone with his thumb, marveling at her elfin beauty and the doll-like intricacies of her features. He longed to cover her mouth with his own, but instead he contented himself with tracing the shape of her lips with the tip of his thumb. If he kissed her now, he would be lost for good. 

More than ever, he needed to keep his head. He had to remember that this woman was a killer. He'd seen the crime scene photos of what she and her crew did to fifteen people of the Kiriyama gang at a bar on Sunset last month. It was an all-out massacre, carried out by skillful killers, one or more of whom were extremely prodigious with a samurai sword. 

"I must go," he found himself saying with a measure of difficulty. 

As he was about to lift his hand from her face, she seized his wrist to keep him there, turning her head so she could press her warm lips against his palm. "Must you?" She opened her eyes and directly met his gaze. "What game are you playing with me, Gui?"

The sound of his name on her lips was as unexpected as a lightning bolt and zapped him out of the daze he was in. This woman was as clever as he was and possibly just as lethal. It was imperative that he retained his wits around her, or at the very least, some semblance of self. He couldn't afford to be some ravenous, slavering wolf, although all he wanted was to maul her and tear her apart. What he was feeling for her was dangerous and absolutely illogical. The best thing for the both of them is if he stayed far, far away from her while she was sequestered under his roof. Hell, it was best if he stayed away from her altogether, period. 

He removed his hand from her person and took strides to put some distance between them. It was only then that he could finally breathe. "No games, Kiki. You're a very attractive woman." He took a drop breath and exhaled slowly in an effort to subdue his rampaging emotions. "I am drawn to you."

Her face was flushed, rosier where he had touched her. She looked up at him, her posture stiff with her arms locked at her sides and her hands balled into fists. "Oookay," she said, her eyes bright and defiant. "So let's do this."

Even though he longed for nothing more than to topple her onto the bed and ravish every inch of her, Will surprised even himself when a chuckle came out of him. She was such a feisty, snappy lass. "Not just yet, kitten." He made a point of bringing up his arm so he could look at his watch. "I have a very important meeting to get to and haven't the time I need to fully slake my desires on your body. I would need hours upon hours, my dove, and time isn't something I can spare right now."

Her expression darkened, as though she were right then and there wishing him to perdition. After a moment of glaring at him, she turned away, picking up her dressing gown from the foot of the bed to put it on. It was only when she had the sash tied securely around her middle did she pivot in order to face him again. "Well, don't let me stop you, Mr. Big-Shot Gangster Man. I'm sure you have old people to visit whose kneecaps are just waiting to get broken because they don't have the money they owe you or something."

"That's ridiculous," he said, successfully suppressing a smile. "I have low-level goons who take care of such things for me."

She had her arms tightly folded across her chest and her face was resolute, but the hint of dimples that bracketed her lush mouth told him she was mildly amused. "Nevertheless, you must be very busy. Please, sir, take your leave. Do not worry about little ol' me."

Her sarcasm was thick enough to be sliced with a butter knife and yet Will couldn't get his feet to start walking toward the exit, so he could get on with his day. He was really enjoying himself, just bantering with her. "Alas, Miss Chow, you are correct. Duty calls. I'll try and see you tonight, shall I? We'll have dinner together."

"Might I dare to dream?" she said melodramatically, imitating some Masterpiece Theater version of his accent. 

"Mind your manners, lass." Unable to help himself, he gave her a light slap across the face. "I will not tolerate such insolence from you."

His actions brought him the desired effect. When she looked back at him, her whiskey-colored eyes were blazing with anger, but something else, too. Arousal. She was as turned on as he was. 

He seized her by the back of the head by grabbing a handful of her hair and tilted her face toward him. "Until later, my prickly rose." He sealed his mouth over hers in a long, ferocious kiss that involved teeth and tongue. When he released her, there was blood in his mouth, but he wasn't sure if it were his or hers. 

"You're lucky I like you or I would have gelded you already," she hissed malevolently, striking with her hand in an attempt to take his eye out. He blocked her in time and she screamed in fury. 

Will released her with a shove and headed for the door, though his blood still boiled and his cock could smash bricks. His instincts, as always, were right on the money. The woman he held in captivity was none other than Akiko Takeshi. 

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