Talin Sato carried three garbage bags out of his club. It was drizzling soft drops on skin. He jogged to the dumpster. Pushing the lid open, Talin swung the garbage bags on top of a growing pile. He hoped the garbage collectors would come early tomorrow. Otherwise, the garbage was going to take over his parking lot. Kicking the bin as he closed it, he pushed dark hair out of his eyes and reached into his pocket for a stick of nicotine gum.
Gods, what he wouldn't do for a cigarette.
He found a mangled stick of gum, the wrap worn from being in his pocket too long. Undoing the wrap, he threw it in the general direction of the bin and popped the gum into his mouth.
Looking up at the dark sky, he closed his eyes as cold raindrops fell on his face. The drops stinging at first, then refreshing, they felt cleansing. When he'd had enough of the cold rain on his face, he turned to head back to the club.
He'd only taken a few steps when he heard a painful cry.
Talin turned to the other end of the parking lot and scowled when he saw black motorcycles parked around a white car. There were three men struggling, one stood to the side watching them.
"Hey," he shouted and ran toward them. "What are you doing?"
"Fuck off, Sato," a familiar voice said.
Of all people, Talin cursed as he reached them.
The young man they were hassling was barely eighteen. Talin wondered how the punk got into this mess. Cursing his luck, Talin moved to stop the two men when they shoved the younger one onto the white car.
"Leave him alone," Talin said.
He tried to grab their arms but they shrugged his hold away, made him feel like they were swatting away a fly, it pissed him off.
"Stay out of this," Dimitri said his cold tone enough to chase off a lesser man.
When one of the men moved to punch the little guy again, Talin shoved him. His shove was hard enough to move him away from the younger man. Talin punched the second man, pushing him away from their victim.
The young man coughed and spat out blood as he leaned on the white car. Talin grabbed the young man's elbow, looking for severe damage. There was a large bruise on the poor kid's lip, but nothing too serious. Talin sighed and turned to Dimitri.
"I told you to keep this shit away from my club."
Talin warned Dimitri, shaking with anger.
Dimitri's companions had moved to stand next to their boss.
Talin refused to think about what he was doing.
Dimitri wasn't exactly a small man. The man was six foot two of solid muscle. One punch from Dimitri would send Talin flying to the ground. Talin swallowed when Dimitri folded his arms against his chest. His harsh features a stunning mix of handsome and deadly sin.
"We're just talking. You've misunderstood the situation."
"This young man is my customer. You're beating him up in my parking lot. I think I understand the situation quite well." Talin pointed a finger at Dimitri and his men. "Whatever you're into; I don't want it in my place of business."
"We're not inside the club," Dimitri said, in a quiet soothing tone.
Talin folded his arms against his chest.
"The parking lot belongs to the club too. If you have a problem with that, check with the town council. Now, you and your companions here should drive off."
Dimitri studied him, his pale blue eyes narrowed.
Talin could tell he was angry, it made him feel uneasy. He fought the urge to step back and instead held Dimitri's gaze, holding firm.
"Let's go," Dimitri said to his two men, then paused to warn Talin. "It's not good to meddle, Sato."
"Thank you for the sage advice, Sedlackov," Talin said with a slight smile that didn't quite reach his eyes.
Dimitri mounted his motorcycle. Talin held in his worry as he watched Dimitri and his men ride out of the parking lot.
Talin turned to find the young man wiping blood from his lower lip.
"What's your name?" Talin asked.
"What are you doing messing around with Dimitri? Do you want to die?"
Jon gave him a small smile.
"Maybe he was messing with me," Jon said a bit too smug.
"You're an idiot. Come on, I think I have a first aid kit."
"No, thanks," Jon said, removing his car keys from his pocket. "Thanks for the help, Mr. Sato. I'll head home now."
"Are you sure?" Talin asked with a frown.
"Quite," Jon said, turning to the white car.
He opened the driver's door and slid in.
Talin swept damp hair out of his eyes and shook his head when Jon drove off. Spitting out his gum, he headed back to the club.
"Where were you?" Lori, the club's manager, demanded when he walked in. "Why are you wet? Playing in the rain again, Talin?"
"I was breaking up a fight," Talin said grabbing the towel Lori threw at him from a clean pile beside her.
Lori sat at a table signing inventory forms. The stools were on the tables, and the staff had left for the night.
Taking a stool from one of the tables, he placed it at Lori's table and sat down. The towel she'd given him around his neck.
"What do you know about Dimitri?"
"Are you obsessed with that guy?" Lori glanced up. "You talk about him every time he shows up here. When are you going to have the courage to talk to him?"
"I found his men punching some poor kid in the back. I stopped them and chased them away."
Lori burst out laughing.
"You chased Dimitri away?"
"What, you don't believe me? You should have seen it. I was very cool thank you very much."
Lori dropped her pen on the table.
"You stood up to Dimitri Sedlackov, the hulk of a man with rippling muscles even in his eyes?"
"Lori, your expressions sometimes," he shook his head. "Muscles in his eyes…that sounds ridiculous."
Lori sat back in her seat.
"Don't mess around with Dimitri when he's pissed, Talin. I know you're all for standing up for people, but Dimitri—
"What about him?" Talin asked.
Lori shook her head and picked up her pen. She bit her lower lip as she concentrated on the forms she was filling.
Talin watched her for a minute.
He had hired Lori six months ago. She'd come in looking on the edge, with a fading bruise on her left eye. She wanted a job, so he let her waitress. She thanked him with tears in her eyes. Lori had left an abusive husband.
She had lived across town with her rich husband, close to her family and friends. When her husband started hitting her, no one had believed he was abusive. One night, she decided enough was enough, and left in the night while her husband slept. Her family wouldn't take her in, so she'd worked odd jobs around the city, living in motels.
Talin had figured she moved so much because her husband found her and beat on her. Sure enough, two weeks into the job, she'd shown up with a fresh bruise on her left eye.
Worried for her, Talin had taken her to the police, forced her to make a statement, then given her one of the self-contained rooms on the club's second floor. Her husband hadn't shown up after.
That was five months ago. Now, Lori looked healthy, assured. He liked working with her, so he had promoted her to club manager.
Talin tugged her bangs.
She looked up with a mock scowl. Her green eyes bright, the dark shadows long gone. Lori was healing.
"Since you've grown up in Colston, you must know a lot about Dimitri. Please tell me, Lori," he cajoled.
"Are you going to make coffee if I tell you?" she asked.
"I thought I was the boss. I'm the one who is supposed to ask you to make the coffee."
"Do you want to fill in these forms?"
Talin got up and headed in the direction of the coffeemaker at the bar area.
"I can't believe you're afraid of paperwork, boss."
"Yeah, yeah," Talin said, as he moved around the elegant counter to the sink. He filled a jug with water and took it to the coffeemaker. "Are you going to tell me or not?"
"There is not much to tell. You know that Dimitri and his younger brother, Lukas, own the Lakeside Marina. Their father owned it before them. Their family has been there for decades. Everyone respects them because they're part of the town, but there are rumors about Dimitri. People are saying that he worked with Caleb Barnes—
"The Caleb Barnes who was arrested last month for cocaine distribution?" Talin asked in shock.
That news had taken over the papers and the gossip mill for weeks. Caleb Barnes was Colston's ex-mayor. He was currently awaiting trial for murder and drug distribution.
"Yep, our corrupt ex-mayor," Lori confirmed.
"No way," Talin shook his head. "Dimitri is too hard, too raw to work with a guy like Barnes."
"People are rarely what they seem, Talin. Believe me," she said with a scoff. "It doesn't help that Dimitri keeps a crew at the marina that is worthy of being called a gang. Those men of his aren't friendly, you know."
Talin sighed because she was right. The two in the parking lot were big, burly, and tattooed. If they invested in intimidation, people would find it hard to approach them. Still, Lori was right. He couldn't stop thinking about Dimitri. The man had taken a liking to his club this past year.
"I wish Dimitri would stop coming here."
Lori glanced at him.
"Good luck with that. The Talon attracts Dimitri's type of crowd. I don't think you can stop him and his crew from coming."
Talin leaned on the sink counter, thoughtful.
This wasn't the first time he'd seen Dimitri in the middle of a fight at his club. Before Lori came to work for him, he'd had a different club manager. Ken Luther, a young guy who'd been a third year student at Colston University.
Talin hadn't known Dimitri and Ken were dating until a fight had started in the club. Ken had started punching Dimitri screaming threats of exposing him, and shouting curses. It had taken four men to break them apart, and carry Ken out of the Talon.
Talin had apologized to Dimitri for Ken's behavior and offered Dimitri free drinks for the night. He'd tried to ask Ken about the fight, but Ken refused to explain his behavior.
Ken quit his job that night.
Dimitri returned to the club the next day as though nothing had happened.
Talin frowned, thinking about Jon, the kid he'd saved.
What did Dimitri want with him?
"Talin," Lori's voice penetrated his thoughts. She was leaning on the counter watching him. "Are you thinking about Dimitri? I know you like him. You always make sure his orders are filled before he asks. You talk to everyone in the room, but him. Is there a reason you avoid him?"
Talin pushed off the counter and grabbed a mug from a tray near the sink. He handed it to Lori and watched her add sugar to her black coffee.
"I don't like him, and I'm not avoiding him. He's too rough for me. I'd never let him touch me with a stick," Talin said.
"Uh huh…your loss," Lori winked at him as she sipped her coffee with a happy sigh. "I'm a lowly human so I'd not mind Dimitri's muscles all over me. I get little thrills thinking about it; imagine all-that-strength."
She closed her eyes with a shiver and Talin chuckled at her antics.
Lori smiled and sipped her coffee again.
"It's too bad. Dimitri won't give me a second thought. He likes his lovers lean, gorgeous, and male." Lori narrowed her gaze on Talin. "Judging the amount of time Dimitri spends in here with his buddies, I think he fancies you. Can't you make an exception so I can live vicariously through you?"
Talin laughed at the idea of Dimitri wanting him.
"I think you're lost in Fantasy Island. Please come back to Colston, Lori. Dimitri doesn't fancy me."
"I've lived here for what…six months?" Lori looked around the club. "Why haven't I seen you date anyone, Talin?"
"How do you know I don't have a long line of lovers waiting at my door?"
"I'm your neighbor." Lori grinned. "I would have heard screams of ecstasy coming from your loft by now."
"Hey, this is not a cheap brothel. The walls are very well soundproofed."
"I'll give you that," she said with a wink. "Still, no one comes in here looking for you. I'd have known if you had a boyfriend. Why don't you date?"
Talin shrugged and switched off the coffee machine.
"I think it's time for you to head upstairs, and get some sleep. There is a delivery truck showing up at ten in the morning."
He glanced at his watch and saw that it was five in the morning.
"That's in five hours, gal."
Lori picked up her coffee and turned toward a service door right by the bar counter. The door opened to stairs that went to the second floor.
"Keep evading my questions," Lori said. "I'll get answers from you soon. Either that, or I'll get you a boyfriend."
"I can get my own boyfriends."
"We'll have to see," Lori said as the door closed behind her.
Talin looked around the quiet club. He'd long promised himself never to think of relationships. The Talon was his sole responsibility now. He didn't allow anything else close. Nothing else could fit in his heart. He went to lock the front doors and set the alarm. Another day would start in mere hours.
Lori might tease him for not doing the manual paperwork down here, but upstairs he kept up solid accounts on his computer. There were banking statements to reconcile, expenses to plan, creditors to pay…this was his life now.
Pushing thoughts of Dimitri Sedlackov out of his mind, Talin headed upstairs to his loft.
In his loft, Talin removed his boots at the door. He switched on the lights in his living room with a tired sigh. Rubbing his shoulders, he wondered whether to take a shower or soak in a tub of very hot water. He'd spent the whole night hauling crates of booze in the store to make room for incoming stock. The club was short-staffed of late. Maybe he should hire another guy. Stretching his arms above his head, a wide yawn escaped as he walked to his kitchen. He decided on a shower because it meant less work.
He froze at the kitchen door when he saw Dimitri squeezing fresh oranges at his kitchen table.
"You," Talin said in shock, his arms dropping to his sides. "How did you—
"You and your little girlfriend are quite oblivious when you're talking." Dimitri smiled at him. "You should pay attention to your surroundings."
Talin looked back into his living room. His gaze moving critically over the eclectic collection of couches he owned. The bookshelves along the walls, his computer in the corner with all the invoices piled on the desk. Everything seemed as he'd left it.
"Are you looking for someone?" Dimitri asked, his tone nonchalant. He kept working on the orange juice. "I came alone if that's what you're worried about."
"What are you doing here? How did you get into my loft?"
"I came to see you." Dimitri finished with the juice and dumped the orange peels into a trash bag. He reached into his pocket and held up a key. "I got this from your previous club manager. I never had any use for it until now. I came up the stairs on the side of the building."
"I should call the police. This is harassment—
"I just want to talk," Dimitri insisted taking the jug of orange juice. "I made you fresh orange juice since there is no food in your fridge. How can you survive on peanut butter? You should go grocery shopping. Ask that lady, Lori, to do it for you if you're too busy."
Talin frowned. "Are you having me watched?"
"No. I came to your club around ten o'clock. You were busy working in the store, and didn't stop until around two in the morning. Why don't you ever hire enough staff?"
Talin reached into his pocket and got his cell phone. Lori's stories about Dimitri's drugs and gangs filled his head. He didn't want to be another victim.
"I'm going to call the police."
"And tell them what?" Dimitri asked, getting a glass from the cupboard above the sink.
Dimitri poured himself juice and Talin watched him lean negligently on the counter. Dressed in a long-sleeve black t-shirt and black jeans, his midnight hair held back in a short ponytail, Dimitri looked too comfortable in Talin's kitchen.
"You should have some," Dimitri said, holding up the glass. "The juice is quite good. I got the oranges from my grandmother's trees. I brought you a whole bag of them."
"I'd like you to leave." Talin entered the kitchen, making sure to stand across the table away from Dimitri.
Dimitri didn't move. His pale blue eyes fixed on Talin.
Dimitri said in a soft tone, "I need to talk to you, Talin."
"We don't have anything to discuss," Talin said. "Are you going to tell me why you were terrorizing that kid in the parking lot?"
"I was protecting you," Dimitri said.
"Protecting me?" Talin scoffed. "Do you think I want a child beaten up for my protection? He was barely eighteen."
"Jon is distributing drugs in your club."
Talin shook his head. He would have known. He was careful about stuff like that. It could get his club shutdown fast. There was no way.
"You're making shit up, that's not true. From what I've heard, distributing drugs is your job, Dimitri. Are you sure you didn't give them to Jon?"
"I see you've heard the rumors." Dimitri noted. "Do you believe them?"
"You own a marina," Talin said. "I'm pretty sure Barnes paid you well to help him ship the drugs. In which case, if I was smart, I'd call the police and have them arrest you."
"Go ahead." Dimitri challenged his blue eyes hard.
"Don't think I won't do it," Talin warned holding up his phone.
"I know you're not bluffing," Dimitri said placing his empty glass on the counter. "If you feel I need to be arrested, then please go ahead and call the police, Talin."
Talin punched in nine-one-one, but his finger paused over the dial button. Visits from police were a nuisance. He frowned at the thought of the amount of trouble he'd have to handle. Talin placed the phone on the kitchen table with a sigh.
"You have five minutes," Talin said glaring at Dimitri. "Then I want you to leave that key you're holding on the table and get out of my loft."
Dimitri smiled a quick flash of perfect teeth. It softened his face, made his eyes friendlier.
"Want some juice? It's really good."
"You're so stubborn." Dimitri crossed his powerful arms against his chest.
Lori's comments about rippling muscles had him imagining what it would be like to have Dimitri's arms around him. He squelched those thoughts immediately and dragged his gaze away from Dimitri.
"What do you have to tell me?" he asked.
"I want to ask if you've heard anything from Ken Luther."
Of course, Dimitri would break into his house to ask about an ex-lover.
"Are you sure?"
"Quite," Talin said in irritation. "Ken left without an explanation. I was annoyed with him for a time because he left the club understaffed, but now I blame you."
"Me?" Dimitri asked his brow lifting in amusement. "Why?"
"If you two hadn't fought, I think Ken would have stayed."
Dimitri shook his head. "That's not fair, I didn't tell him to quit."
"But he did. I lost a good employee because of you. I don't want to know what personal reasons led to your epic lover's spat." Talin tapped his watch. "Five minutes are over."
"No they're not," Dimitri said.
"Yes, they are. I have a busy day starting in less than five hours. I don't have time to chitchat with you, Dimitri."
Dimitri sighed and pushed off the counter. Talin watched him take the glass he'd used to the sink and rinse it.
"Will you call me if you see Ken?" Dimitri asked when he placed the glass on the drying rack.
Talin frowned. "Do you miss him that much?"
Dimitri shrugged. "I have something to ask him."
"I doubt he'll call me, but fine."
Dimitri got a card from his pocket and placed it on the kitchen table.
Pale blue eyes met Talin's with a mischievous smile.
"You can call me for other reasons too."
"Why would I do that?"
"You never know," Dimitri said patting the bag of oranges on the table. "Maybe you'll want a fresh bag of oranges from me."
Talin pointed to his kitchen door. "Would you mind leaving?"
"Actually yes," Dimitri said as he walked around the table.
Talin froze and curbed the urge to step away when Dimitri invaded his personal space.
"You should get some rest. You look tired, Talin."
Talin met blue eyes and was surprised when his heartbeat soared. Dimitri's eyes seemed to see right inside him.
He looked away.
"Go home, Dimitri. I'm sure there's a twink waiting for you to seduce."
Dimitri laughed, the sound of it rumbling.
"Goodness you have such a low opinion of me. I have to change that at once. Sleep well, Talin."
Talin held still as Dimitri touched his jaw, a soft touch of fingers to his skin. Dimitri sighed and left his loft without another word.
Talin stared at the oranges in a black paper bag on the kitchen table and the fresh orange juice in his favorite glass jug. He got a glass from the cupboard and poured himself some juice. Staring at the half-full jug, he took a small tiny sip.
Talin couldn't help the scowl as he added more juice into his glass.
Freaking Dimitri Sedlackov made the best fresh orange juice on the planet.
Talin woke up at ten-thirty the next morning. One glance at the clock had him jumping out of bed and rushing to the shower. He took a quick one, toweled off in a hurry and dressed in the closest t-shirt and jeans he could find.
The morning hours were busy. He and Lori received deliveries from two trucks that came in following one another. After he'd helped Lori arrange their new stock in the club, he decided to head to the bank.
"Do you need anything?" Talin asked Lori as he wore a leather jacket he'd gotten from his office.
"Get me strawberry pop tarts," Lori said as she wiped the counter clean. "I'm starving."
Talin nodded, remembering he needed to shop for groceries too. He left Lori with a short wave and hurried out to the parking lot. His black Dodge Charger was parked right by the club entrance. He drove out of his parking lot fast happy the weather was warming up this morning.
He drove too fast and managed to reach the bank in ten minutes. Grabbing the black bag he used for deposits, he went into the quiet bank with a sigh. The best thing about this was having business priority. He hated waiting in lines. Still, there were two people waiting for service on his aisle. Reaching into his pocket, he searched for a stick of gum, and frowned when he came up empty.
Shit, he really needed to go to a supermarket.
One of the people waiting on the aisle moved up to the counter. Talin took a step forward, and happened to turn to his left. The next aisle had a long line, and one of the men was reading a newspaper. Talin's gaze fell on the picture on the back page and he frowned when he recognized the face smiling back at him. The accompanying headline made his blood run cold.
Here we go! So, a healing heart starts...show it some love if you like it. Consider a vote up! Thank you so much for reading! Love, Sui.
More Privileged Chapters
Download the app and become a privileged reader today! Come take a sneak peek at our author's stockpiled chapters!Download
Please switch to the pop-up to complete the payment.
Complete daily missions to get rewards.Learn more about the rules
This's an experimental test for reading assistance in case.
We highly recommend you to enjoy the beauty of the original words.