Trust. Nami worshipped the word. She went out of her way to make herself worthy of its use when people referred to her. Too often trust went hand in hand with being gullible. Yet again, she had proven herself the latter.
Look up gullible in the dictionary and her name would be listed next to her contact information, social security number, and bank account numbers complete with pass codes because she would have been stupid enough to give it to whoever asked.
She elbowed her way to the bar counter, ignoring the annoyed expressions of those around her. “Give me a tall glass of whatever will fuck me up the fastest and make sure it’s sweet.”
The bartender gave her a knowing look before turning away to fix her drink.
“That order could also describe a man,” the man standing next to her said in an Asian-accented voice.
Nami glanced at him. She didn’t rally see him, though. All she saw was man. One of the annoying, self-appointed rulers of the world in which she lived. He and the rest of his gender were the enemy. “So very not interested.” She turned to face the bartender to watch him mix her drink, but he’d disappeared into the back of the bar, so she settled on staring at the liquor bottles.
The bartender returned with an hourglass shaped plastic cup the length of her forearm that glowed under the bar’s black lights. He placed it before her. “Fifteen.”
The man who had spoken earlier reached for his pocket. “I would like –”
Nami slapped a twenty on the counter. “Keep the change.” She snatched up the drink and walked away.
The bar sported small booths in the darkest recesses of the establishment, probably meant for intimate interludes. Nami wanted to enjoy her pity party alone. She would drink the dayglow orange cocktail, of which she’d forgotten to ask the name, and hope it drowned out her stupidity.
Only morons fell for the line Nami had swallowed. Being in Vegas — the city of “what happens here stays here” — made it worse. Except she’d been too stupid to realize the guy she wanted to do it with didn’t want to do it with her.
No, what really made the situation worse was she and the guy who had snubbed her were attending a company seminar together. She wouldn’t be able to avoid him. She also wouldn’t be able to avoid the lectures her friend Geena, also at the seminar, would surely have for her. Geena had warned Nami not to be fooled, but Nami had plowed forward, heedless of the danger signs. She sighed into her drink. “Idiot,” she snapped.
“I do not think you know me well enough to call me that.”
Nami looked up at the man who had been trying to talk to her before. “Why are you bothering me? I said I’m not interested.”
“Once you finish that drink –” he gestured at the tall plastic cup — “I’m sure you will be.”
“You actually admit that you’re waiting until I’m drunk so you can take advantage?”
She cocked her head to the side as she regarded him.
“Points for honesty?”
“Sit.” She gestured across from her but he slid into the booth beside her. Inching away only made him move closer. “What’s your story?”
“Story?” He made a thinking noise. “I am lonely. You?”
“Fed up with men.”
“Ah, you wish to try a woman. Is that why you came to Las Vegas?”
She blinked at him, a little surprised he would interpret her words that way. “No. I mean, I still like men. I’m sick of men who look like you, thinking they can do whatever they want to any woman they want without any consequences.”
He looked down at himself.
“Oh, would you stop acting like you don’t know you’re hot?” And he was. With his Elfin features and long, black hair held in a ponytail, he looked like he belonged in a samurai movie with hordes of men ready to die at his command. Even the air of nobility around him lent itself to that image. She didn’t know if he was Japanese, though. Too many times she’d mistaken a Korean for a Japanese person, and they hadn’t appreciated it. He was about her height and had a lean build with a hint of muscle that filled out his dress shirt nicely.
All of his attributes put him firmly out of her league. She couldn’t even tempt the office man-ho into a Vegas quickie — or even a Vegas pity quickie. That was her gullible quotient for this trip. No way was she going to believe Mr. Asian-hot-stuff had to wait for someone like her to get drunk before he could get laid.
She didn’t consider herself a dog, but she was average. That was another word in the dictionary with her picture beside it. She was a five-four, one hundred and fifty pound definition of the average black American woman. Once a month, without fail, she went to her beautician to get her hair relaxed so she could wear it in a ponytail or a bun, never down. Her clothing choices consisted of functional and affordable rather than name brands and trendy. And when she dressed up, like putting on an off-the-shoulder, zip-up front, sizzling red mini dress to impress a guy who blew her off, it felt like wearing a Halloween costume, like she was pretending to be something other than average.
So no, she wasn’t buying whatever Mr. Hot-Asian was selling. “Why are you even talking to me? Shouldn’t you be at the high roller table with a bunch of bleached blondes hanging off both arms and a brunette tossed in just to make it seem like you’re not totally shallow?”
“Is it so hard to believe I might be interested in you?”
“Okay, look. I’ve already been punked once today. That’s enough. Go away.”
He nodded. “I see. You’re tired.”
“From being pumped.”
“Not pumped. Punked. Punked. Taken for a ride. Made a fool of.”
“Ah.” He regarded her. “Sex would make you feel better.”
“I seriously doubt that. Your charity is admirable but wasted on me. Go find someone else to play with.”
“I would prefer to play with you.” He brushed a strand of hair away from her forehead.
She smacked his hand away. “You’re not listening. I’m not interested. N-O means no, or whatever the hell it is in your language. No solicitation and no loitering. Give up and move on.”
“You don’t find me attractive? You said I am hot.”
“That just makes me even more suspicious that you’re talking to me instead of that redhead at the bar.”
He followed her gaze to the redhead, who stared at him without shame. The woman winked and moved her head in a beckoning motion.
“She is pretty –”
“Have fun. See ya.”
“– but not my type.” He looked back at her.
“Go. A. Way.”
His jovial attitude dropped. He bit out something that sounded like a curse. He’d mumbled it, but it had almost sounded like something she’d heard in an anime. With a muted growl, he shoved his drink away and left the booth.
She watched him go and couldn’t help the confusion that overcame her. What did he have to be so pissed about? She was the one who should be angry, not him.
“Whatever. That’s his problem,” she said with a dismissive gesture.
Even as she said it, she found herself leaving the booth and following him. Something was up with him. He’d sought her out for a reason. Maybe it was all an act to get her interested or maybe he was genuine. She didn’t usually have men react that way to her rejecting them. Hell, she never got a chance to reject them.
And what if he was genuine? She would have blown off free sex with a hot guy.
She caught up with him at the elevator. He still looked like a storm cloud looking for a city on which to dump torrential rains.
She asked, “What’s your deal?”
He looked back at her and his angry expression turned into one of confusion. “I must be mistaken about the customs of American women. I thought you said for me to leave you alone. Why then are you following me? Did I miss a cue and you truly wish to have sex with me after all?”
“No. I want to know why you’re so pissed off about me rejecting you. I shouldn’t even be a blip on your radar. So why the theatrics?”
“You should desire me beyond all reason.”
One of her eyebrows popped up and she blinked at him. “Never mind.”
Nothing wrong with him that a reality check and a swift kick in the ass wouldn’t cure. She turned away.
“Wait.” He grabbed her arm.
The elevator opened and he stepped back, pulling her into it with him.
“Let me go. Let go.” She readied herself to kick his ass if it came to that.
He released her but she couldn’t escape because the elevator doors had closed.
“I mean you no harm. I simply wish to explain my statement. I had hoped you would hear me out.”
After she put the width of the elevator between them, which wasn’t much room but it made her feel better, she said, “I’m listening.”
“I know you will not believe me without proof. My story is somewhat fantastical.”
“So give me proof.”
He looked around her at the elevator numbers. “It would be better to wait until we reach my room.”
“Nope.” She pushed the button for the next floor. “My mom didn’t raise any fools, recent actions to the contrary, and I would have to be a huge one to go back to your room for some fairytale proof that doesn’t exist. I may be trusting, but I’m not that trusting. I shouldn’t have even followed you.” She shook her head as she spoke.
The elevator dinged. She faced the doors but Mr. Ego yanked her back yet again. He tilted her head back over her shoulder and cupped one of her breasts as his lips touched hers.
A faint scent of fresh water tickled her senses. It made her relax back against him. She closed her eyes even as her mind said to pull away and get off the elevator.
Muffled giggles sounded in the background. A woman said, “We’ll take the next one.”
The elevator dinged as the doors closed. That signaled the end of the kiss.
He tweaked her nipple between two fingers. She opened her eyes and met his gaze.
He watched her with an expectant expression. “Well?”
He cursed under his breath then released her.
That brought her back to reality. “What? It was a great kiss, if that’s what you’re getting at.”
“You didn’t feel anything.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Okay.” She looked at the keypad. They were headed to one of the upper floors of the hotel. At least Mr. Hot-Asian had money. “That reminds me. What’s your name? I should at least know the name of the man who just stuck his tongue down my throat.”
“Yoshimitsu Kosuke,” he mumbled. “Excuse me. I mean, Kosuke Yoshimitsu. I always forget to reverse my names when introducing myself in English.”
“Which one is your first name?”
She stuck her hand out — an odd gesture considering they had gone well past the introductory stage of their relationship. “Nami Jones.”
Kosuke shook her hand. “In my language, your name means wave.”
“Yeah. Wave good bye. Story of my life.”
“Not the verb. The noun, as in tsunami.”
“Huh. Nice. I guess.” She looked him up and down. “So, besides your ego being way overinflated, what’s wrong with you?”
“I can see that. Why?”
“My powers no longer work.”
“Powers? What powers?” She hoped he meant mojo and had gotten his words mixed up.
“My powers of seduction.”
She shook her head at him. “You must be very depressed if you’re getting worried because I turned you down. That doesn’t mean you’ve lost your touch. It just means I’m having a horrible day. But that kiss sure did turn it around for me. Thanks.”
“No, you do not understand. The second I turned my attention to you, you should have instantly desired me above anything and everything else. No reason should have swayed you except wanting my touch.”
Wow. Maybe that air of nobility wasn’t just his aura. He talked like a man who was used to women falling at his feet. She would love to be one of them, but like she’d already told him, he’d caught her on a bad day.
But a bad day could be turned into a good night with some cheer-me-up sex. It would do them both good. Kosuke might feel better and, if his kiss was any indication, so would she.
The elevator dinged and then opened onto the presidential suite floor. The penthouse was just above them. Nami looked down the long hallway and only saw three doors. The rooms had to be huge. She couldn’t wait to see his.
Kosuke led the way.
Nami looked around at the miniature apartment and whistled under her breath. “Very nice.”
“I thought it would be filled with women by this time.”
“Sorry to disappoint you.”
Kosuke smiled sadly at her. “You are a welcome addition, Nami. I only wish you had the ability to multiply yourself.”
“You wouldn’t want a bunch of additional me’s hanging around, dropping the property values.”
“I would.” He walked over to her and ran the backs of his fingers over her cheek. “Something about you draws my eye and holds my attention. I can’t help but watch you… want you.”
“Want?” she asked in a shaky voice. “Exactly how depressed are you? Didn’t you notice all those women in the bar? They would have conga lined up here if you had winked at them.”
“Fluff with no substance.” He leaned into her.
As much as she wanted to kiss him again, she pulled back. “You said something about giving me proof once we reached your room.”
Kosuke stepped back with a nod. “Yes. Before anything else, I must explain a simple fact to you.”
Nami went to the couch and sat down. “Let’s hear it.”
Maybe he’d gotten cut off from the family fortune. Nah, that was too cliché and cartoony. Stuff like that didn’t happen. Even if it did happen, what were the odds she would meet up with him and he would fall for her?
He asked, “Are you familiar with anime?”
“Japanese animation, yeah. I watch a lot of it. Why?”
“Do you happen to watch hentai?”
“On the odd occasion, if I can find something that doesn’t have water play, scat, grotesquely huge breasts, or snuff. You’d be surprised how hard it is.”
“That is only because America doesn’t import all that is offered.”
She shrugged. “Why the interest in my viewing habits?”
He stuck his hands in his pockets. “Are you familiar with tentacle monsters?”
“Yeah. Those are my favorites to watch. Again, so long as there is no snuff.”
She started to ask again why he wanted to know about her hentai interests when a rustling noise heralded the appearance of five green tentacles from his back. Each long appendage, which kept getting longer as they moved toward her, resembled thick cables with veins and rounded tips.
Nami could only stare, not comprehending what she was seeing.
The tentacles moved toward her. It wasn’t until the first one touched her ankle that she snapped out of her stupor. She jumped to her feet and ran for the door. Even if this was Kosuke’s idea of a joke, she wasn’t sticking around to find out where he’d hidden the wires or the camera.
Some part of her knew it had to be real. That same part made her run faster.
A tentacle monster. She’d gone to a tentacle monster’s room. No anime she had ever seen indicated anything good would come of sticking around.
She grabbed the doorknob but didn’t get the chance to turn it. One of the tentacles trapped her ankles, bringing them together and pulling. She pitched forward. Another tentacle wrapped around her shoulders and kept her from banging her face into the door. Still another tentacle circled her waist, and the last two surrounded her wrists.
Thus bound, the tentacles hoisted her into the air. She was brought back to Kosuke, who still stood with his hands in his pockets.
He looked calm. “You aren’t screaming.”
“Should I be?” She twisted her body in hopes of freeing herself but had no luck.
“Most women do when confronted with a fictional creature intruding upon their concept of reality.” He brought her closer so they were face to face. “I am a tentacle monster like those you see in anime and these –” The tentacles holding her tightened a little, sliding over her skin. “– are my proof of that statement.”