Time passed quickly the next week.
Toshiro adjusted to a simple routine: waking up early in the morning to sit on the deck watching the sunrise over the lake. He made breakfast for Jason, who always woke up at around seven in the morning.
They ate breakfast together.
Jason helped with the dishes, and then disappeared into the workroom behind the house. Leaving Toshiro to fend for himself until lunchtime.
Toshiro didn't mind the time alone. He'd taken on the house chores. The mundane activities soothed him, took his thoughts away from the mess he'd created in the city.
Bouts of rage swept through him each time he thought about what Kaito's family had done to him. He couldn't go home to Japan, not after he'd handed over the Caribea stock certificates accompanied by a confession that guaranteed the end of Kaito's hold on legitimate business. Agent Baron had wanted to keep him in protective custody, but Toshiro refused. Kaito's reach in the police department went too high. Kaito's men would find him within hours if he chose Baron's protection. No, this place was the best choice.
Only for a while, he thought with a sigh.
Agent Baron's promise to get Kaito behind bars rang in his head. Toshiro scoffed and wiped the window with a white cotton cloth. Agent Baron was under the assumption that once Kaito was in custody, Toshiro would return to his old life.
Toshiro had stared at the FBI agent thinking him an idiot. In his world, there was no safety anymore. Kaito's men would hunt Toshiro down and kill him. If they failed, those who replaced them would keep up the manhunt. The only way out was death: his or the Takumi Family.
With that truth in mind, he knew that coming back to Penn Yan and Jason was a mistake.
A terrible mistake, he thought as he stared at his reflection in the window.
His gaze barely saw the neat lawn, or the tree line beyond. Instead, he saw a man who was living on borrowed time, reflected in the clean windows.
This place, staying with Jason, it was a selfish attempt to discover what a world without murder and deception looked like.
Toshiro begged the gods to allow him this one huge selfish mistake.
Just this once, he prayed, he wanted to feel happy, safe, and maybe love, even if he couldn't stay long.
It wouldn't do for Kaito to find Jason.
Toshiro finished cleaning the living room. The dark brown comfortable couches were neat, the cushions inviting. The coffee table carved out of a log was clean. He arranged the magazines he'd leafed through last night and the newspapers he couldn't stop reading. Agent Baron's investigation into Caribea had made the papers thrice in the past week. The Carrey family was glad to have their company back in their hands, but now everyone wanted to know how they'd lost control.
Toshiro hoped Agent Baron knew what he was doing. Otherwise, Kaito's men would end them before Agent Baron's investigation could succeed.
Picking up the vacuum cleaner, Toshiro took it to a closet in the hallway which he'd found filled with cleaning equipment and supplies.
Pushing his worries aside, he headed to the kitchen. He made a fresh pot of coffee and picked up the recipe book he'd found in a drawer earlier in the week. Leafing through it, he smiled when he found a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Placing the book on the counter, he washed his hands with a pleased smile.
Yesterday, he'd discovered Jason was partial to chocolate when he found a bag of Hershey's kisses in the workshop. He had no doubt Jason would love chocolate chip cookies.
Jason rubbed his thumb over the stones set into the gold ring. The diamond and sapphire stones were solid. Happy they wouldn't come off; he picked up a sharp graver and cut a nice straight line beside the stones. The stones remained intact. Jason picked up the square graver and started making a simple leaf motif on the top and sides of the gold ring.
The workshop door opened just as he was polishing the finished ring and the scent of fresh-baked cookies filled the room when Toshiro walked in.
"Hey," Toshiro greeted. "I thought you might be hungry."
"You're spoiling me," he said with a smile when Toshiro brought a tray with a flask, a mug and a plate of cookies to the table. "This week you've walked in here with all kinds of pastries. Is this a new hobby?"
Toshiro smiled, the sight of it sent Jason's heart on a wild dance. It seemed to be the constant state of his heart these days. Having Toshiro in the house was pleasure turned into a form of torture. The urge to kiss Toshiro senseless overwhelmed him every time he looked into those gorgeous honeyed eyes.
Not knowing if Toshiro felt the same way was driving him insane.
"I brought a flask of coffee to go with the cookies," Toshiro said tugging a stool close to the workbench. "What are you making today?"
Jason watched Toshiro pour coffee into the mug.
"An eternity ring," he answered taking the finished ring and handing it to Toshiro. "What do you think?"
"Beautiful!" Toshiro exclaimed as he studied the ring. "You amaze me, Jason. The things you do with metal."
Jason smiled and picked up a cookie, he took a bite and the taste of chocolate filled his mouth. He moaned in appreciation as he realized Toshiro had discovered his secret love affair with chocolate.
"These are good," he managed around a mouthful.
Flaky and gooey, he could eat a dozen in one sitting. He grinned at Toshiro making him laugh.
Toshiro touched the corner of Jason's mouth with a thumb.
"I think you love chocolate too much."
"How did you know?" Jason asked sipping coffee.
Toshiro placed the ring on the red velvet cloth on the table. He pushed his stool back and opened a drawer under the worktable.
"Found your stash," Toshiro said taking a bag of Hershey's kisses out.
Toshiro chuckled as he returned the bag and closed the drawer.
"How did you start making jewelry?" Toshiro asked, as he picked up a sterling silver eternity ring and studied the emerald stones.
"I used to help my mom make beaded jewelry when I was in high school. We sold the jewelry online to make extra money for bills. After high school, I decided to learn more about jewelry and ended up training under a jeweler in Newark. She sponsored me into the Jewelry Arts Institute. When I graduated, I tried working with a few shops in the city. It didn't work out, and I ended up back here in Penn Yan. That's when Sean and I decided to open Silverstone."
"Your shop is charming." Toshiro returned the ring to the red velvet. He touched the ten other rings on the fabric. "You're lucky, Jason."
Jason placed his coffee cup on the wooden worktable his gaze on Toshiro's pensive expression.
"Why do you always sound so sad, Toshi?"
"Yes, Toshi." Jason rubbed the frown on Toshiro's face. "Answer my question."
"I'm not sad," Toshiro said shifting on his seat.
"I think you're lying to me." Jason ran a caressing finger over Toshiro's jaw then dropped his hand to the table. "Whenever you're ready to trust me, I'll listen. You know that, right?"
Toshiro smiled at him.
Jason nodded and sipped his coffee.
"I'm done with working for now. I feel like I've neglected you this week, closing myself in this workshop. Want to go out on the lake?"
"Are you going to teach me how to fish?"
"Sure, we can have fish for dinner," Jason suggested, excited at the prospect of hours spent with Toshiro.
This past week, he'd worked at giving Toshiro space; letting him settle in and get comfortable. It was too obvious that something was bothering Toshiro. He wished Toshiro would trust him, but he knew that would take time. Toshiro smiled at him again and Jason decided he was done giving space.
"There are no fish in this lake," Toshiro complained two hours later.
Jason shifted his feet on the floor of the boat and sat back in his seat. He sipped his beer and studied Toshiro.
"Well, they won't show up with all the noise you're making," he said lazily.
"This would work better if we had a net, you know," Toshiro said, his voice tinged with irritation. "A huge net, cast out to catch fish, then we'd just drag it up."
"I thought you told me you didn't know how to fish?"
Toshiro blinked at him before he shrugged.
"I imagine a net would work better than a hook and worm. If I was a fish, I'd surely know I was being cheated."
"Fish don't have long term memory."
"How do you know that?"
"I just do."
"You're not a fish. How can you know?"
"I just do," Jason said lazily enjoying Toshiro's irritation.
"You could be wrong," Toshiro pointed out wanting to get the last word in.
Those light brown eyes stared at him with challenge. Jason wanted to reach out and smooth out the small frown lines creasing Toshiro's forehead. Instead of keeping up their silly argument, he chose another tactic.
"Do you always get this cranky when you're out fishing?"
Toshiro leaned back in his seat, and crossed his arms against his chest.
"I don't fish."
Well, that wasn't a yes or no. Did that mean that Toshiro had fished before? Toshiro's past intrigued him.
Jason wanted to know what had put that troubled look in Toshiro's eyes.
"What do you do for fun?"
"For fun?" Toshiro repeated as though it was a trick question.
"I like fishing for fun. I have a loft over the shop in town. Some days I close the shop early, so that I can watch football on the flat screen in my living room or Sean and I go play pool at the local pub."
Jason smiled at Toshiro.
"What do you like doing?"
Toshiro's gaze slid away from him and instead roamed their surroundings. They'd stopped the boat in the middle of the lake.
Jason liked the endless feeling he got sitting in this particular spot. Surrounded by trees, the water an endless sheet on all sides, it humbled a man to be so small in the vast beautiful setting.
Watching Toshiro take in the scene quickly became his most favorite thing to do just then.
Toshiro dropped his gaze to his lap and stared at a spot on his black jeans. When he spoke, painful nostalgia tinged his tone.
"I—uh—I used to have a bicycle when I was around eight. I would ride it to all kinds of places. I loved the feel of the wind on my face." Toshiro smiled ruefully. "I haven't ridden a bike since then."
Toshiro shrugged and shook his head.
"Lots of things changed, no time to run around acting like a carefree child."
Jason put his beer in the cooler on the floor of the boat and sat up in his seat.
"You can always ride again. I'm sure there are a couple of bikes in the garage."
Toshiro lifted his head to meet his gaze.
"Are you always this positive?"
"No." Jason took Toshiro's right hand in his. "I'm only this way around you."
"You don't say?"
"Can't help it, you have this tragic air about you. You make me want to dispel it."
Jason moved to the edge of his seat, so that he could close the distance between him and Toshiro. Their gazes held, Toshiro's full of uncertainty.
Jason grabbed on to Toshiro's open jacket and pulled him closer. He bent his head to take Toshiro's lips in a warm soft kiss. He lingered when Toshiro leaned into him. Tasting Toshiro's full bottom lip, his tongue tracing, teasing, he kissed Toshiro again, this time Toshiro responded, kissing him back.
Jason pulled back slightly, and met dazed light brown eyes. Relief flooded him when Toshiro didn't protest, or push him away. Instead, that honeyed gaze he was starting to love fell on his lips. He read longing on Toshiro's face, that knowledge heated his blood. It was good to know he wasn't the only one caught in this attraction.
"I've wanted to kiss you since that day in the hospital when you told me you weren't good for me."
Cupping Toshiro's face between his palms, he kissed him again.
"I wanted to kiss you and tell you I didn't care."
Toshiro closed his eyes.
"You should care, Jason."
"Because." Toshiro opened his eyes and tried to move away.
Jason wouldn't allow it, so he dropped his gaze.
"I wasn't kidding when I told you I wasn't good for you."
Jason kissed him again: a frenzied, needy kiss that had them both breathing hard. When he broke off, he pulled Toshiro into his arms. Putting them both in an awkward position on the boat, but he didn't care.
"Let's make a deal," he said against Toshiro's ear.
He closed his eyes when Toshiro's arms slowly moved around him and tightened.
"What kind of deal?" Toshiro asked, his voice muffled by Jason's windbreaker.
"For as long as you're here with me, you'll stop putting yourself down."
Jason rubbed Toshiro's back over his leather jacket.
"Whether you're good, or bad, it doesn't matter to me."
"What happens when I leave?"
"Don't think about leaving either."
"Are we planning an imaginary world here?"
"Maybe," Jason said wishfully. "I want to hold you like this for as long as I can. So, just say yes to what I say and go along with it. Deal?"
Eyes closed, his face buried in the curve of Jason's neck, Toshiro took in a deep breath, filling his lungs with Jason's enticing scent. His heart squeezed tight, so tight, it was painful.
"Toshi?" Jason prompted in his ear.
Toshiro opened his eyes and made a promise he was sure he shouldn't keep.
"Deal," he said.
Jason held him tighter. He melted against Jason's warmth letting it soothe his tattered soul. He was disappointed when Jason let him go.
Toshiro didn't understand how it was possible for a man to be so warm, so giving and comforting.
Their conversation lightened, Jason told him stories of growing up in Penn Yan. His face lighting up as he talked about his mother who now lived with her new husband.
"I thought I'd hate seeing her get married, but watching her with him makes me smile," Jason said. "They're so in love. I get jealous that she found someone to be with her as she ages."
Toshiro couldn't help but wonder about his own mother. Did she think about him? He'd heard rumors that she was tough and ruthless in business. Did she love his father?
"What about you, Toshi?" Jason asked him. "What were your parents like? Did you get to meet them before they died?"
Toshiro wiped a hand down his face.
"I—uh—I don't like talking about it."
"It's good to talk about your parents, Toshi," Jason insisted. "You'll keep their memory alive that way."
"I was too young to remember much," Toshiro said unable to keep out the bitterness. "I don't have a single memory. Can we please change this subject?"
"Toshiro," Jason started.
Toshiro grabbed his fishing rod and pulled it out of the water.
"Can we go back now? I'm getting cold out here."
Toshiro ignored Jason's concerned gaze, trying to push back the anger that swelled each time he thought about his family. He didn't want to talk or think about his parents. He wasn't worthy of being a Natake. That family was full of upstanding members of society, he'd seen the Natakes run projects to help the poor, and abused.
He, on the other hand, had spent most of his life reducing good people to the state of abused, or worse.
How could his father ever look at him and be proud? How could Jason if he were to find out the truth about him?
"I've said something to upset you," Jason said touching his left arm. "I'm sorry."
"Don't apologize," Toshiro said. "I'm—
He broke off and met Jason's concerned gaze.
"I'm not used to sharing. You have to give me time."
Jason smiled, the sight of it disarming him.
"I don't mind, Toshi. Since we didn't catch any fish, should we get back to the dock and find out what we'll have for dinner?"
"That sounds good," he agreed as Jason got his fishing rod back into the boat.
"Maybe we should bring fishing nets next time," Jason teased as he started the motor.
"No way, who would prepare and cook all that fish?"
"You," Jason said with a grin.
"Hells no," Toshi laughed. "I'd definitely leave it to you, mister."
That evening, Toshiro was in the common bathroom after a shower, his concentration centered on the healing wound on his right arm when Jason knocked on the door.
"Are you decent?"
"Yeah," Toshiro said as he taped a bandage over the healing bullet wound on his arm. He was looking forward to removing Agent Baron's stitches.
"How did you get that?" Jason asked in shock behind him.
Toshiro met Jason's gaze through the mirror.
"It's just a scratch."
"A scratch?" Jason closed the distance between them and took his right arm studying the bandage. "You didn't have this when you left Penn Yan."
"Remember your promise about no questions."
Jason cursed under his breath touching the bandage on Toshiro's arm.
"It's best for both of us if you don't ask," Toshiro said. "I'm fine, Jason."
"You're not fine." Jason let go of his arm. He let out another harsh sigh when he saw Toshiro's back. "Look at these, goodness if someone saw you they'd think you live in a war zone."
"I'm sorry the scars disgust you."
"Disgust me?" Jason straightened staring at him through the mirror with surprise. "Is that what you think?"
Toshiro placed a towel over his hair and rubbed vigorously to get the excess water off. He didn't like thinking about his life in the Takumi compound. With Kaito, the scars hadn't mattered; they'd been a mark of survival.
But with Jason—his hands froze in his hair when he felt Jason touch his naked shoulder.
Roughened fingertips traced a path along his shoulder blades, pausing to touch faded scars and bumps. Toshiro closed his eyes, biting his lower lip to keep from moaning. Jason's soft caresses sent riotous electric thrills through his body that turned to blazing flames when Jason kissed his left shoulder.
"What are you doing?" he asked opening his eyes to meet Jason's intense green gaze in the mirror.
"Showing you that your scars don't disgust me," Jason answered. "All I want to know is why they are so many. Who did this to you, Toshi?"
Toshiro dragged off the towel on his head and dropped it on the sink counter. There was nowhere to escape. He was trapped between the sink counter and Jason. All the blood rushed to his cock, when Jason continued his caresses, touching wounds he'd healed long ago.
"Tell me," Jason cajoled, pressing a kiss on the back of his neck.
Toshiro gritted his teeth against Jason's seductive voice.
"I had an adventurous childhood."
"Toshi," Jason said, no doubt ready to push for more information.
Toshiro turned to face him keenly aware of his erection tenting the towel around his hips. He took Jason's right hand and brought it to his cock.
"You don't need to seduce me, Jason. I'll sleep with you, let you take me and do what you want."
"Shh…." Jason pressed a finger over his lips.
Toshiro licked Jason's index finger wishing Jason would take the offer and not ask anymore.
Jason tugged off Toshiro's towel letting it drop to the tiled floor.
Need slammed through him as he watched Jason's hot gaze slide over him. That green gaze was different from what he'd had with Kaito. Jason's green gaze didn't make his skin crawl, or ignite fear. Instead, he burned. He wanted Jason to touch him and kiss him.
His breath exploded from his lungs when Jason cupped his erection. The feel of Jason's strong hand stroking him, thumb swept over his sensitive swollen head, drawing him close to a climax.
"If I took you right now, would that make you happy?" Jason asked him.
He met Jason's gaze and nodded.
Yes, anything that felt this good would make him happy.
He closed his eyes when Jason stroked him again, hard and fast, so good, he came without warning. A scorching wave of bliss swept through him from head to toe, he clung to Jason's arms and dropped his forehead on Jason's shoulder, spurting cum on his stomach and into Jason's hand. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment. He'd never lost control so easily, not since his twelfth year when Kaito had kissed him in the alley behind a bar. Jason wiped his hand on the towel on the sink counter and pulled him into his arms, uncaring the cum on Toshiro's stomach would ruin his t-shirt.
Jason held Toshiro with such care; confusing him because sex had never involved this kind of closeness for him.
Toshiro started to reach for Jason's belt to return the favor, but Jason stopped him.
"I can wait, Toshi," Jason said into his ear. "I'll wait until you get to know me better."
"I don't want to wait." Toshiro leaned back to look into Jason's eyes. "Don't make me wait, Jason. I want you. Don't you want me?"
"I do, you have no idea how much but you're not ready. When you and I get together, I don't want you to forget it, Toshi. I don't want it to be instant sex and that's it," Jason said, and then kissed Toshiro. "I want it to matter to both of us."
Once again, confusion ensued at the tender way Jason touched him. As though he were fragile and could break at any moment. His eyes slid closed when Jason's kisses trailed along his jaw, to his neck. When Jason just held him, it set his heart trembling and a new fear rose at the thought of losing this man and his gentle kisses.
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