Lana

Chapter 12

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My heart stopped in my chest, my mind racing. “You said you and Milena had broken up,” I said, my voice sounding accusatory.

He turned to look at me, his features anguished and severe. “We are. This has nothing to do with Milena. This has to do with you. You have the world at your feet. And you’re still so young. You can’t possibly know what you want, at your age. You need to go to college. You need to go experience life and see the world. You’re unbearably beautiful, and smart, and your family’s wealth means that the sky is the limit for you. You have an amazing life ahead of you, and I would never dream of being the thing that stood in your way. This can’t be anything more than what it was, Lana. It was an incredible night, you were incredible, but I won’t tie you to this rock. I’m not that selfish.”

His tone was kind, even tender, but all I heard was a rejection. In just a few short minutes, he had stomped all of my dreams of a happy life into dust.

I was a little numb that morning as I showered, dressed, and left his house. He hovered over me, studying me with worried eyes as I prepared to leave.

“Are you okay, Lana?” he asked, his voice concerned. But he didn’t touch me, not once. He didn’t correct his clear rejection, or take it back. And he never even came close to saying that he loved me, too.

I left his house with a broken heart.

I galvanized myself into professing myself to him one more time, going to his bar that afternoon. I would hate myself if I didn’t give it my best shot. I couldn’t just give up on the thing that I’d always wanted.

I never even got a chance to speak to him again. I was told by the bartender that he was in his office. I went to the employees only section of the bar without asking. No one paid me any mind. They were all used to me doing as I pleased, since I had dogged Akira’s every step for years now, going wherever I wanted whenever I pleased.

I nearly barged into his office before I heard the voices nearly shouting inside. The door was open just a crack, and I peeked inside. Milena was pressed against Akira, his hand in her hair. They were embracing, though they were talking, not kissing, as it at first appeared. It was still a clear embrace, though.

“Don’t lie to me. I saw that little piece of jailbait leaving your house this morning! I’ll kill her!” Milena was saying to him, her voice low and mean.

“Leave her alone, Milena. It isn’t what it looked like. Lana is just a family friend with an inconvenient infatuation. Just leave her alone, k?” His voice was earnest and pleading.

I backed away from the doorway, my hand flying to my chest. He’s still involved with Milena, I realized in horror. I had shamelessly seduced him, not taking no for an answer, but he hadn’t wanted me. He was clearly concerned that he might lose the one that he really cared about, going by the earnest note in his voice. If he did lose her, it would be my fault. He must hate me, I realized, so disgusted with myself that I wanted to be sick. I was just a family friend with an inconvenient infatuation, he’d said. I walked away on leaden feet, feeling sick down to my soul.

I flew off the island that night. I didn’t return for eight long, desolate years.

CHAPTER ELEVEN

The staff at the hospital recognized us both on sight. My family was well known on the island, and Akira was, well, Akira. He was a local legend. We got the local treatment, a nurse taking me back immediately and cleaning off my cuts in short order, Akira hovering at my back the entire time.

“She got you good,” the nurse said as she checked over the cuts very carefully. She was a local, a short, heavy-set woman with a friendly face and a long black braid running down her back. “But it’ll heal up in a few days. You don’t need stitches or nothin’.” She grinned suddenly. “Word is you won. Good job. Milena beat up my cousin a few months ago, and for no good reason. I hate that crazy bitch.” Word traveled fast on the island, apparently.

I couldn’t help it. I grinned back proudly. “I tried not to resort to fighting like a girl, but you gotta do what you gotta do.” Akira tugged on a lock of my hair. It was a reprimand, I knew.

The woman threw back her head and laughed. “That’s a good one.”

We were in and out of the hospital within a half an hour, thanks to the local treatment. “Just be sure to avoid any sitting water, and the ocean of course, until those cuts close up good,” the nurse instructed.

That killed my good mood. I had wanted so badly to go surfing again in the morning.

I was sullen as Akira pulled me by the hand out of the hospital and to his car.

“Can we go to your house?” I asked him as he pulled out of the parking lot. I was a little worried that he would drop me off at the resort.

He didn’t look at me as he grimaced. “Tutu and Mari will torture me for at least a month if we don’t swing back by the shops and show them that your arm got patched up fine.”

“And then can we can go to your house?” I asked.

He sent me a searching look. “Yeah,” he said.

I felt a wave of relief. I had been worried that, after the drama-filled night, he wouldn’t want to spend any more time with me.

I considered what to do the next day, since we couldn’t go in the ocean. I sighed heavily. “I guess I need to work all day tomorrow. Since I can’t surf, and I’m already hopelessly behind on my schedule. I’ll need to start really early, I suppose.”

He glanced at me, his eyes almost sad. “Please, don’t. Spend the day with me,” he said. It was a simple request, uttered in his gentlest tone, and nothing on earth could have made me refuse him.

“I never could say no to you,” I told him, revealing my vulnerability. It wasn’t as though I’d ever been able to hide it.

He gave me a wicked grin at that. “I’ll be taking advantage of that. You might regret telling me that.”

I sighed, my chest hurting a little. “Never. I’d be happy if you wanted anything from me, anything at all. It’s always been that way, Akira. You must know that there’s nothing I wouldn’t do just to make you smile.”

“Oh, Lana,” Akira said, stroking a hand over my hair, his eyes sorrowful. I wondered if he looked so sad because my heart was in my eyes, and in my voice, and he felt bad that he could never return those kinds of feelings, not for me.

We were silent for the last few minutes of the drive, both of us lost in our own thoughts.

He opened my door, holding out a hand to help me out. He had me pinned to the side of the car in a flash, his mouth on mine in a hard, passionate kiss. He didn’t pull back for long minutes. I pressed up against him, snaking my arms around his back to squeeze his butt. He jumped a little, but didn’t stop me, so I took full advantage, gripping him to me, and caressing that perfect butt at my leisure.

When he finally ended the kiss, I protested. He just kissed the top of my head, pulling me towards the bar.

“I’ve been dying to kiss you all afternoon,” he told me.

I was both floored and thrilled by his words.

Only the bar remained open, so Mari and Tutu had taken up residence there, since their own establishments were closed for the night.

Mari started humming the theme to Rocky loudly when we walked in the door. Tutu joined in, showing the room her impressive shadow boxing techniques in accompaniment. Their little show of support had me laughing until tears ran down my face. They had the entire room joining in, even eliciting a rare, loud, carefree laugh from Akira.

Tutu and Mari were in such rare form that we ended up sitting at the bar and talking with them for four hours, catching up and joking and just talking like we used to. It was like old times, and I had missed old times.

Akira sat in a barstool beside his female relatives, but when I went to take the seat beside him, he’d just pulled me tight against him. I stayed in his arms for the joy-filled evening, soaking him in as I leaned against him, his arms tight around me. When it became clear that we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon, he stood, tugging me into the chair, but resuming a similar hold on me from behind, but with him standing. He was affectionate and cuddly, stroking my hair, and bending down to kiss the top of my head often. His actions seemed to make Tutu and Mari giddy with excitement. They kept elbowing each other, huge smiles on their faces every time he kissed my head. He didn’t seem to care what they had assumed by the way he was acting, so I didn’t let it trouble me either. If he wanted to touch me, I wanted to be touched.

Tutu was well into her cups when she began to get truly outrageous. She pointed an accusatory finger at me.

“Are you on the pill?” she asked, her tone low and mean.

I nodded, laughing as she clutched at her heart, shuddering. “That will make you barren. It’s a fact. Get off those pills immediately. It might already be too late. Let me see your purse.”

Someone from the resort had delivered my red handbag, and I’d stashed it under the stool, but I shook my head.

The bag was at my feet, and she dove for it, bouncing back spryly when she had a good grip on it. I just laughed, wondering what she was doing. She dug through it, fishing out my packet of birth control pills almost immediately. My eyes widened. What was she up to now?

“Um, I need those, Tutu. What on earth are you doing?”

She shook her head stubbornly, pursed her lips, and took off for the bathroom, running like she was sixteen instead of sixty. I turned in Akira’s arms, giving him a baffled look. “Akira, that was my birth control. This is bad.”

He just shrugged, looking way too unconcerned about the whole thing. I got up with a sigh, intending to follow crazy Tutu.

Mari sent me a strange look, as though she thought I was crazy, and Akira pushed me back into the stool, wrapping those massive arms around me tightly. “You don’t want to be alone with Tutu in a small space when she’s in a mood like this, Lana. Trust me. The pills can be replaced.”

I sighed, supposing he was right.

Tutu returned shortly, rubbing her hands together and cackling as she stepped out of the bathroom, the pills obviously absent.

“Has she gotten even crazier?” I asked her children, my tone idle.

They both just made noises of noncommittal.

“You can thank me later, since I’m feeling generous,” was the first thing she said as she rejoined us.

I snorted loudly.

She rubbed her hands together. “Mari and I will plan the wedding. It will be outside, and the weather will be perfect.” Her tone implied that she had some control over that.

I turned and gave Akira a pointed look. “You want to set her straight? Don’t you think this is a bit much?” I asked him quietly.

He just shrugged, smirking. “Why bother? Let her have her fun.”

I thought it might be time to leave, since the place had officially turned into crazy town. I told Mari as much.

She just gave me an arch look. “And how crazy are you, pretty girl, that you didn’t know it’s been crazy town all along?”

That made me laugh, and lightened the mood, the conversation, too.

I was shocked when I checked the time and saw that it was nearly two a.m. “How late do you guys normally stay up? It is way past my bedtime.”

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