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11.76% A Healing Heart / Chapter 2: Part 2

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Chapter 2: Part 2

2

Dimitri tightened the last screw on the water pump he was fixing. Grabbing a cloth from the edge of the table, he wiped oil from the surface of the pump and nodded in satisfaction. Placing the screwdriver in his toolbox, he used the cloth to wipe his hands and was thinking of heading for a shower when his workshop door flew open.

Talin Sato stormed in looking like an avenging angel. Brown eyes bright with anger, that handsome face flushed, Talin looked on the edge.

Dimitri bit back the smile when Talin threw a newspaper at him.

"Did you do it?" Talin demanded, his slightly accented voice sounding sexy in anger.

Dimitri wasn't surprised when his jeans got too tight, he was hard, the urge to pull Talin into his arms and kiss him senseless overwhelming. Fighting his needs back, Dimitri dropped his gaze to the paper that had fallen at his feet.

He knew what Talin was asking. Bending down to pick the paper, he folded it nicely without glancing at the back page and placed the paper on the worktable.

"What are you asking me, Talin?" Dimitri asked looking at the man he'd spent months watching and wishing for.

Talin tended to have a one-track mind. He paid attention to his club, his customers, but not to potential boyfriends. Dimitri's friends had taken to making fun of him whenever Talin walked into the main club. While Dimitri spend time watching Talin, Talin never once looked his way, always too involved with wiping tables, talking up customers. It was frustrating.

"Did you kill the kid from last night?" Talin demanded.

Yep, that accusation hurt more than he'd imagined.

He turned away from Talin.

"Is that what brought you to my marina, Talin?"

"Did you do it?" Talin demanded, his words stabbing Dimitri deep inside.

He could take accusations from anyone else, but not Talin.

Throwing the cloth he held on the worktable, he turned to face Talin.

"Is that what you think of me?" Dimitri asked studying Talin.

Talin scowled.

"Your men were wrestling Jon in my parking lot. Seven hours later he turns up dead. What am I supposed to think?"

"I didn't kill him," Dimitri said meeting Talin's brown gaze. When Talin kept staring at him, he said again, "I did not kill Jon. Do you believe me?"

For a moment, Talin's brown gaze was suspicious. A tight knot of dread built in Dimitri's chest at the thought of Talin thinking him a murderer. Dimitri wished he hadn't gotten in this mess in the first place.

Talin's gaze softened.

"I believe you."

Dimitri felt the awful knot in his chest dissipate.

Talin rubbed his forehead with his left hand. He looked tired. There were dark circles under his eyes. Talin's silky black hair looked uncombed. It was held in a very loose braid. Dimitri wanted to tug those soft strands out of the messy hold and watch them fall around Talin's face.

"Did you sleep?" Dimitri asked, worried his early morning visit might have contributed to Talin's tired look.

Talin scowled at him.

"What do you care? Jeez, I'm sure the police will show up at the club asking questions. What am I supposed to tell them?"

"The truth," Dimitri said leaning on the worktable. He folded his arms against his chest to keep them from touching Talin.

"Are you insane?" Talin glared at him. "I can't tell them you were fighting with Jon in my parking lot. They'll jump to the same conclusions I did, Dimitri. Do you want to be arrested for murder?"

The concern in Talin's voice warmed him deep inside, Dimitri couldn't help but smile.

"Are you worried about me?"

"I'm not worried, I'm—," Talin broke off. "I don't know what I am. I just wanted to confirm that you didn't murder Jon on his way home."

Dimitri nodded.

"Do you know who he is? Did you read the full article?"

Talin frowned.

"No, all I saw was that he was found dead in his car a few miles away from his house. I didn't read the rest. I got in my car and drove here. I didn't realize I knew the way."

"Imagine my shock," Dimitri mused. "I'm hurt that a murder brought you here. I had hoped you'd come looking for me for other pleasant reasons."

Talin blinked. "Why would I come looking for you?"

Dimitri closed his eyes and touched his chest in mock shock.

"You wound me, Talin. Since you're here, would you like something to eat?"

"No." Talin looked around the workshop as though seeing it for the first time. "I have to go. I left Lori alone. What are you doing in here anyway? Shouldn't you be at the front office catering to customers or something?"

Dimitri didn't want Talin to leave yet, so he pushed off the worktable and took Talin's right hand. His fingers wrapped around Talin's wrist, holding tight, but without pressure.

"Hey, let go," Talin protested as Dimitri led him to a side door.

Outside, Dimitri was glad for the warm weather. The sun was shining in celebration today. He smiled, happy that Talin Sato had found his way to him.

This was momentous.

"I can't let you leave without eating. You look like you're going to fall on your face. Remember, I saw your kitchen. I'm pretty sure you haven't gone grocery shopping yet."

Talin muttered a few words under his breath, probably curses.

Dimitri ignored them and led the way up a short path to the main house behind his workshop. The great white washed house he called home was built by his grandfather for his grandmother. It had seen numerous changes through the years, some good, others bad, but Dimitri loved it all the same.

He used the kitchen entrance and was glad to find his brother's wife removing fresh cookies from the oven. The delicious scent of butterscotch filled the room. He knew Talin wouldn't be able to resist.

As if on cue, Talin stopped tugging his arm.

"Dimitri," Katerina said when she saw them. "You have brought a guest."

"This is Talin Sato," he said pushing Talin to sit at the large kitchen table. "Talin, this is my sister-in-law, Katerina. She's the best chef in the world."

"Nice to meet you, Katerina," Talin said. "I'm sorry for barging in like this. Dimitri sort of dragged me in here."

"Please call me, Kat. Dimitri is over excited," Katerina said with a welcoming smile. "I'm glad to meet you, all I ever hear about is Talin this, Talin that, good to finally put a face to the name."

Talin gaped and turned to Dimitri.

Dimitri cleared his throat with a scowl for Katerina and went to get the coffee. Katerina and her big mouth…he bit back a groan and got two coffee mugs.

"So, you hear a lot about me?" Talin asked Katerina who had brought him a butterscotch cookie to taste. Dimitri turned in time to see Talin bite the cookie, and give an appreciative moan. "Mmm…this is delicious, Kat."

Dimitri bit his lower lip as that moan did delicious things to him.

Katerina beamed and patted Talin's shoulder.

"I'll get you more."

"Tell me about these things you've heard about me," Talin said smiling at Katerina.

Dimitri looked away from them envy eating him up.

Why did Talin smile so invitingly with Katerina and only scowl with him?

"Dimitri, he worries for you," Katerina was saying. "Says you work 'til late in the night, sometimes to morning. Then you wake up early to handle more business matters. He says you need more staff at the Talon. I told him he worries too much, always wanting to fix everyone's problems."

Dimitri added sugar to Talin's coffee but skipped the milk. He took their mugs to the table and placed Talin's by the plate of cookies. Dimitri gave Katerina a warning glance and moved to take a seat across Talin.

Talin gave him a short speculative glance, and then reached for another cookie.

Katerina stood behind Talin and gave Dimitri thumbs up before she cleared her throat and removed her apron.

"I have to go check on my husband," she said.

When Dimitri frowned, Katerina continued.

"Lukas gets busy in the office and forgets to take breaks. He works close to home, yet I hardly see him. I'll go see how he's doing."

What a lame excuse.

Dimitri shook his head. Katerina was running to tell Lukas about Talin.

"Thank you for the cookies," Talin told her with a happy grin.

Katerina nodded and left the kitchen quickly, but not without giving Dimitri an encouraging smile.

"These are really good," Talin said biting into his cookie. "Mmm…cooking must run in the family. I drank your juice. It was very good too."

Dimitri smiled.

"Secret family recipe," he said watching Talin devour the butterscotch cookies.

"What did Kat mean by you talk about me all the time?" Talin asked then. "I asked you yesterday if you have me followed—

"I hang out at the Talon a lot," Dimitri cut in. "It's easy to notice things when you see someone so much. Since Ken left, you've been working short handed. I don't know why you haven't bothered to get new people."

"I haven't gotten around to it," Talin said with a frown. "Why are you looking for Ken? Do you miss him that much?"

"Miss him?" Dimitri leaned his elbows on the table. "This is not the first time you've said this. Why do you think Ken was my lover?"

"Weren't you two dating?" Talin asked his brown eyes narrowed. "Isn't that why you fought?"

Dimitri couldn't help laughing.

"Ken Luther and me, dating?" he asked. "Talin, what would make you think such a thing?"

"I—

Talin stared at him.

"I thought—

Dimitri shook his head.

"No way," he said. "Ken and I weren't dating, have never dated."

"Then why did you fight?" Talin demanded. "I thought I lost a good manager because of your relationship."

"Goodness, you do walk around with your eyes closed." Dimitri sat back. "Are you telling me you thought I was dating Ken?"

"Well, yeah," Talin said sipping his coffee. He too sat back in his seat. "You were at the club all the time. You talked to Ken more than once when he was working for me."

"I was at the club watching you," Dimitri said amazed by this piece of information. No wonder Talin hadn't given him the time of day, he was too busy steering off another man's date. "I'm interested in you, Talin."

"Me?" Talin put his coffee cup on the table. "But why?"

"I think you're sexy," Dimitri confessed.

Talin laughed. "You're delusional."

"Why?"

"Sexy?" Talin asked. "I wear stained t-shirts, and worn jeans. My hair is never combed, and I don't remember the last time I made an effort with it. You must not need very much for someone to appear sexy."

"It's part of your charm, Talin. I find everything about you sexy. From the fact that you helped a woman in an abusive relationship, to helping kids who drink too much by confiscating their car keys and getting them into cabs. You talk to everyone who comes into your club. People like you for your easygoing manner. Yet, you've never once stopped to chat with me, Talin. Why is that?"

"I—I didn't mean to avoid you."

"Yes, you did. You make sure my table's orders are filled. But, you give me a wide berth." Dimitri studied him for a moment. "Are you scared of me?"

Talin shrugged. "Maybe, your men aren't exactly friendly."

"They're good people," Dimitri said of the men who worked for the marina.

Each of them had their reasons for working in the marina. They were loyal. They also had orders to make sure Talin was safe, never to touch him. This is why they'd stepped aside when Talin intervened with Jon. But, he couldn't tell Talin that, it would probably get him another scowl.

Goodness, what did he have to do to get Talin smiling at him?

"Why were you fighting Jon yesterday?" Talin asked interrupting his thoughts.

"Do you really want to know the truth?" Dimitri asked.

"Yes."

"What do I get out of it?"

Talin rewarded him with a smile.

"Satisfaction that you've eased my mind."

"Come on," Dimitri reached for his coffee and took a small sip.

He studied Talin thinking he wanted to see Talin seated in this kitchen again.

"How about a deal," Dimitri said.

"What type of deal?"

"It's simple. I'll tell you anything you want about Jon and Ken. You agree to go on a date with me."

"What if I say no?"

"I'm kinda hoping you won't say no," Dimitri replied. "I've waited a long time to ask you out, Talin."

Talin sat still, those brown eyes studying Dimitri.

Dimitri wondered what Talin saw. He hoped Talin saw a man who sincerely wanted a chance. He didn't realize he was holding his breath until Talin spoke.

"Just one date?"

Dimitri nodded, although he planned on changing Talin's mind. He wanted more than one date.

"Sure, why not," Talin said.

Dimitri grinned.

"Great, I'll pick you up tomorrow at seven, dress casual."

"Now, about Jon," Talin prompted.

"What about Jon?"

"Dimitri."

Dimitri grinned, excited at the prospect of spending an evening with Talin.

"Jon is Caleb Barnes's nephew."

Talin frowned.

Dimitri pushed his coffee away.

"Jon helped his uncle with drug distribution. He's shown up at your club several times looking for Ken Luther."

"Why is he looking for Ken?" Talin asked. "You say Jon was selling drugs…do you mean Ken too?"

"Yes," Dimitri said with a dark scowl. "A year ago, I caught Ken selling drugs to high school kids who were going on a boat ride on our charter boats. I warned Ken to stay away from the marina, but one of my men recognized him. Told me he'd seen him working at the Talon. That's how we started coming over to your club. We wanted to check Ken out. At first, I wasn't sure he was selling but we caught him one night at the bathrooms. We flushed his stock, and warned him to stop. Ken didn't like it. Our encounters accelerated to that fight you saw."

"Oh gods," Talin pushed his coffee away too. "All this time, I thought—, why didn't you tell me?" Talin shook his head. "So, you're not working with Caleb Barnes?"

"I'm not. Barnes tried to approach my brother and me," Dimitri said. "But, we refused his business. Barnes wasn't happy. It's a tough job already to keep things clean because we have no control over what people are doing on their boats. Can you imagine adding on Barnes's racket?"

"The night before the police arrested Barnes, his men brought in a boat into our marina. It was late, so Lukas didn't pay attention. He thought he'd deal with it in the morning. The police came first. Lukas let them onto the docked boat, and the next thing we knew we were under suspicion. The police thought we knew what was going on. It didn't help that Barnes' men had stashed cocaine in the boat. We ended up at the police station. It took time before the cops cleared us. Local press saw me leaving the police station and that's how the rumors started."

"Unbelievable," Talin frowned. "The press should have asked you what you were doing at the station before they jumped to conclusions."

Talin's annoyance toward the press on his behalf warmed him.

"Does that clear your questions on Jon and Ken?"

Talin met his gaze.

"Almost, you should have told me about Ken. If he was selling drugs, who knows what else he was selling under the table."

Dimitri reached for a cookie from the plate between them and took a healthy bite. The sweet taste of butterscotch filled his mouth.

"You still haven't told me why you were hassling Jon last night."

"When I found out what Ken was doing, we decided to find out who was delivering the drugs to your club for him. I didn't discover who it was until Ken left. Jon appeared at the Talon two days after Ken quit. When Jon couldn't find Ken, he tried to recruit some of your waiters. We discouraged him."

"All those times I found your men harassing people in my club," Talin mused. "You could have told me what was going on."

"Yeah well," Dimitri shrugged. "It was safer for you not to know. I didn't want the rumor mongers to include you and your club."

"What happened last night?"

"Jon was on edge. He wasn't looking for a dealer, he was selling." Dimitri rubbed his fingers together to get rid of crumbs. He sipped his coffee with a speculative gaze. "I was going to ask Jon why he was back when you showed up."

"What was I supposed to do?" Talin asked. "You guys were assaulting a kid in my parking lot."

"Your defense wasn't wrong." Dimitri assured with a smile. "I love seeing you get all protective. It's a sight to see."

Talin stared at him then he burst out laughing.

Talin's laugh was infectious it had Dimitri smiling.

"Why are you laughing?" Dimitri asked when Talin wouldn't stop.

Talin wiped his eyes.

"I feel like an idiot. This whole time, I thought you and Ken dated. I figured kids his age were your type, not thirty year olds married to their business. That you were watching me the same way I was you…well, it's kinda pathetic."

"Why pathetic?" Dimitri asked.

"You know, I'm not sure. It just is." Talin glanced at his watch and sighed. "I've stayed too long. I should get going."

Talin pushed his chair back and got up stretching his arms above his head.

"You can't leave yet." Dimitri stood too. "Why so soon? The club doesn't open 'til later."

"It's almost three o'clock," Talin said. "I need to do grocery shopping, as you've pointed out to me. I promised to get Lori food; she must think I abandoned her. Wait…can I take some of these cookies for her?"

"Is she your girlfriend?" Dimitri asked half-afraid of Talin's answer.

The question was irrational. He was sure Talin was gay. But, he'd seen how Talin cared for Lori. It would be wrong to interfere in their relationship if they had one.

"No!" Talin said staring at him in surprise. "I mean, she's like a small sister to me."

Relief flooded Dimitri.

Happy, Dimitri went to the counter where Katerina had left the cookies on a tray covered with a white cloth. Dimitri found a container from the cupboard above, and put six cookies into a sealable plastic container.

Dimitri turned to find Talin standing in the middle of the kitchen looking around the warm room with longing. He took advantage of Talin's distracted mood to study him. Talin looked good in his blue faded jeans and t-shirt. The heavy black boots Talin wore added his height but not that much. He couldn't be anymore than five foot eight. Talin's Asian heritage gave him slanted eyes, like a cat, they added character to Talin's oval face.

Dimitri closed the distance between them, wanting to feel Talin's black silky hair. He'd dreamed of touching it so many times.

Talin gasped when he turned to find Dimitri so close.

The sound drew Dimitri's gaze to Talin's parted lips. Dimitri touched Talin's jaw, running his right thumb over Talin's clean-shaven jaw. He stepped closer, his gaze on Talin's lips. They looked soft; he wondered what they'd taste like. Talin took in a deep breath and Dimitri met tumultuous brown eyes.

He slid his fingers along Talin's jaw to the back of his neck. Talin tipped his head back and Dimitri lowered his head. Talin's eyes slid closed as Dimitri skimmed his lips over Talin's. The simple caress left them both breathless. Talin responded by stepping closer, his fingers bunching the front of Dimitri's black t-shirt. Dimitri dropped the sealed container of cookies on the floor and grabbed on to Talin, pulling him into his arms.

Dimitri kissed Talin again, this time a full kiss, one that had them both clinging to each other. Talin moaned; the sound of it had Dimitri hard and aching for more. He couldn't get enough of Talin's taste.

Butterscotch, coffee and Talin, addictive, Dimitri thought.

When they broke apart, Talin buried his face into Dimitri's shoulder, his breath coming faster.

Dimitri held Talin, his world shifting, the axis completely changing. He brought his right hand up to Talin's messy braid. His fingers made short work of it. The silky strands sifted through his fingers. He buried his face in Talin's hair taking in Talin's scent mixed in with vanilla, a heady scent that added to his raging hard-on. Dimitri took in a deep breath, holding Talin closer, afraid if he didn't memorize the feel of him, he wouldn't survive when Talin left.

The kitchen door opened breaking the spell and Talin tried to step back.

Dimitri held on to Talin, not letting him escape. He looked up to find Katerina and Lukas standing by the door, staring at them in surprise. Dimitri ignored them and instead pressed a soft kiss on Talin's jaw, before he bent down and picked up the container of cookies.

"This is for Lori," Dimitri said, pressing the container into Talin's right hand. "Remember our date tomorrow, Talin."

Talin nodded not meeting his gaze.

"I have to go now."

Dimitri let go of Talin reluctantly.

"Drive safe."

Talin looked at him with a small smile before he turned. Color flooded his face when he saw Katerina and Lukas.

"Talin, are you leaving us already?" Katerina asked, taking charge when Talin froze. "I was hoping you'd stay for a late lunch. I just managed to convince Lukas to come in."

"I have to get to the club," Talin said. "I asked Dimitri to give me some of your cookies. I hope you don't mind. They're very good—

"I'm glad," Katerina moved to hug him. "I hope we see you again, Talin."

Talin accepted her hug. When she stepped back, Lukas moved in next. Dimitri watched a surprised Talin get pulled into a tight hug by his younger brother.

When Lukas let go, Talin hurried out of the kitchen.

Dimitri smiled as the kitchen door slammed closed.

"That was my Talin," Dimitri told Lukas with a blinding grin.

"I'm not sure he's quite yours yet. I think you frightened him away," Lukas said.

Dimitri shrugged. "He'll come around."

"Why did he come?" Katerina asked urging her husband to the kitchen table.

Dimitri watched her take his and Talin's mug to the sink. He sat in Talin's chair while Lukas chose one across him.

"He found out about Jon," Dimitri said meeting Lukas's gaze. "Talin thought I'd killed him."

"Why would he think that?"

Dimitri scratched his jaw with a small sigh.

"He found Tomas, Sean and I talking to Jon in the parking lot at the Talon."

"Talking?" Kat scoffed bringing Lukas a cup of coffee. "Tomas and Sean aren't gentle when you want something, Dimitri."

Dimitri winced. "I wanted to know what Jon was doing back at the Talon."

"Is this connected to Ken Luther?" Lukas asked.

"Ken knows too much," Dimitri said. "I've done all I can to keep his name out of Barnes' investigation, but—

"With Jon dead, that's going to change," Lukas finished for him. "Does Talin know where Ken is?"

"No." Dimitri got up. "I'm glad for it. Talin doesn't need to get involved."

"Hiding the truth won't help Talin," Katerina said as she cracked eggs into a sizzling pan. "If you want Talin, you have to trust him."

"I have to get him to trust me first," Dimitri said.

"He won't thank you for this," Katerina said looking at him. "Maybe it's better if you don't pursue him."

Dimitri wished he could stop. He'd tried to stay away, but Talin was…an addiction. Everything about Talin made Dimitri want to get closer, want to touch, and want to kiss. He wanted to know what made Talin so closed off, so tightly held together. He wanted to know what it would take to break that barrier Talin had so high around him. He'd done his best to keep his distance, but that kiss…

"I can't walk away," Dimitri said.

"Dimitri, you—," Katerina said.

"Enough, Katerina," Lukas cut her off.

Dimitri gave her an apologetic look before he turned to Lukas.

"I'm going for a shower, and then I'll take the Anastasia out. We have a shipment coming in tonight. I have to make sure everything is ready."

Lukas nodded in understanding. Dimitri knew his brother would never argue with him about Talin. They'd been through too much. Dimitri left the kitchen to head upstairs to his bedroom. He'd call Talin later, make sure he was okay. Talin would probably start over thinking their kiss.

He smiled, touching his lips.

Gods, Katerina's concern was his too, but he couldn't stay away from Talin now. He wanted more.

***


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