She was perfect in every way. Poised, smart and beautiful. Her family made their fortune in real estate. Her father stood to inherit most of the wealth.
They crossed paths occasionally. A charity event here. A party or two there.
However, she didn't feature on Keigo's mind until recently, when her father made it clear that Keigo would be most welcome as a son-in-law over a game of golf.
Chisato Miki was also not shy about pursuing Keigo.
After several rain checks, Keigo finally went out for a drink with her out of courtesy. Disinterest didn't mean he had to be rude, after all.
"You probably know that my father would like us to be more than friends," Miki commented after the first glass of wine.
"I am aware," Keigo noted dryly.
"I will be a good partner," she offered.
"I have no doubt." He was not even surprised by the frankness. "But is that what you want?"
"Yes, otherwise even my father wouldn't be able to compel me."
Keigo saw the calculation in her eyes. "I'm flattered but I do not think that we would suit."
"Why not?" she asked, curiosity in her voice. "We have known each other for some time. My family's connections would surely be valuable to you."
"All very good points."
She thought she saw concern and nodded in understanding. "I am also very practical. As long as you are discreet, I do not expect fidelity."
Keigo had to admire her hardened grasp on reality.
He also had no other way to decline but directly. "It is best not to waste your time."
She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and murmured, "Hmm, that is for me to decide. Shall we have another glass?"
He sighed inwardly but didn't pursue it and gestured to the waiter.
"Wada, is that you?" a familiar voice called out.
They both turned their faces and found Ushida sauntering over to their table.
"Hello," Miki greeted him cordially.
"Are you here by yourself?" Keigo inquired.
"Just finished catching up with someone." Ushida grinned. "What are you both doing here?"
Keigo observed Miki's expression as Ushida sat at the table. A warning.
"Getting to know each other better," Miki said sweetly.
Now it was Ushida's turn to level an even gaze at her.
Very interesting. Keigo wondered if Ushida carried a torch for her.
The waiter came by then and orders were placed dutifully.
"I didn't get to ask," Ushida turned to Keigo. "Golf the weekend after with my father?"
Keigo has had enough golf to last him a lifetime after the latest round with Miki's father.
He answered politely, "I'll try to change my schedule. Let you know?"
"Great." Ushida looked pleased.
"This seems fun," Miki announced. "May I join?"
"Do you play?" Ushida asked.
She arched an eyebrow. "Of course."
"Do you play well?"
"Is that a challenge?"
"What's the fun without some competition?"
Perhaps it could be enjoyable after all, Keigo thought.
Miki placed a hand on his arm. "You can keep scores."
"That's easy," Keigo agreed amiably. "What's the prize since we are playing to win?"
It was an innocent question. He didn't expect Miki and Ushida to give each other deadly glares. It wasn't even thinly disguised.
He was amused and drawled, "The prize must be worth it."
"No point playing for low stakes." Ushida shrugged but his words were directed at Miki.
"Yes," she agreed and then smiled slowly. "Winner gets a dinner after with you. Alone."
Keigo found Miki's almond eyes staring at him directly.
He held it for a moment and glanced at Ushida.
Suddenly, it all became clear.
"My company must be spectacular," he remarked with mock surprise. "It'd be bad form to decline. Dinner on me for the winner."
Then Keigo made a quick mental note to avoid the damn game at all cost.
He almost groaned outwardly when he saw the two of them sizing each other up over their very expensive glasses of whatever it was they were drinking.
Keigo wished he had realized earlier that HE was the prize.
What a fucking, bloody mess.
Miki finished her glass and looked at her phone. "My driver is almost here. Thank you for the lovely evening."
"The pleasure is mine." Empty sentence with no meaning. Keigo called for the bill to signal that the evening was over.
They left for the lobby of the building together. The air was so tense that he wondered whimsically why their glasses at the bar hadn't broken.
After Miki departed, Keigo found himself alone with Ushida at the sidewalk, waiting for their respective cars.
Ushida chuckled. "You really didn't know. Wasn't I obvious enough for you?"
"I hadn't realized," Keigo admitted and for the second time that evening, he delivered the message directly. "Don't waste your time."
Ushida stared at him in shock. The he stepped closer and insisted, "We haven't even tried."
Keigo pushed Ushida away with a firm hand and said coolly, "I am not interested, Ushida."
"Come on, Wada," the other man was not dissuaded. "You've had your share of fun. And I've waited long enough."
"I am not interested in settling down." Keigo kept his patience in check. "With you or with anyone else."
He turned around to head to his car but felt his arm grabbed.
"You cannot be serious!" Ushida shouted.
Keigo gave him a hardened look but was careful not to be rude. After all, Ushida's father was a businessman he actually respected.
He warned, "Let go."
"Is it because the whore? You can't forget about him, can you?" Ushida snarled.
It took all the self-control Keigo had not to show a reaction. He questioned with an easy smile, "Care to explain?"
The nonchalance only infuriated the other man.
"It's him. That piece of street trash. You think I didn't you know you were fucking him-"
Ushida broke off suddenly and swallowed.
Keigo raised an eyebrow, felt his temperature dropping a few degrees. "What do you mean?"
"Nothing. J-just forget it."
Keigo asked in an icy voice, "Ushida, don't make me repeat myself."
Ushida blinked and then sputtered furiously, "Fine, I told the kid to leave you! Told him to disappear! At least he was smart! Says he knows he shouldn't stay with you. Anyway, good riddance. He's not for you, Keigo. He's just a prostitute who's-"
Keigo grabbed his collar and nearly smashed his face into the ground. He fought to rein himself in.
Otherwise he wasn't sure what he would do to Ushida.
He said disdainfully, "Get lost."
With Ushida still in shock, Keigo got into his car and left the bastard standing on the kerb.
"Home, sir?" his chauffeur, who had surely witnessed the entire debacle, asked wisely.
"Yes, thanks," Keigo managed and slumped in his seat.
A part of him was furious and stunned.
Another part of him, more importantly, was relieved.
Kaoru hadn't betrayed him after all. He had not abandoned Keigo.
Then a sense of dread and regret filled him. A sickening and terrible feeling in his chest.
He remembered his last words to Kaoru.
"You are a whore, like everyone else."
No, he was the one who had abandoned Kaoru.
It haunted him.
Kaoru's calm and quiet voice from that one last call.
Was Kaoru hurt? Did he cry afterwards?
Would he hate Keigo?
Why didn't he trust his own instinct, when he could tell that Kaoru sounded nothing like his usual self?
Thoughts which emphasized how foolish he was. How utterly, completely an idiot and a bastard he had been.
Keigo did try to get through the next few days but nothing he did seemed to erase the memories. He went out of his way to fill every single hour with work or social engagements.
All the while, all he could think was a pair of dark, alluring eyes which used to look at him softly, when Kaoru didn't think he would notice.
By the end of the fourth day and while listening to bunch of drunk business counterparts at a private club, Keigo excused himself and got up from the table.
He went outside and ignored the various come-hither glances.
He should have done this the moment he discovered that it was all a lie.
How did one right a wrong like this? Was he afraid that there was no way to do so?
How many errors could one be forgiven for?
Keigo put in a call to a private investigator he had on retainer.
"Wada here. I need you to look up someone for me."
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