CLAIMED

 BOOK TWO OF THE COURTSIDE KING DUOLOGY

- CHAPTER ONE - 

“Hae cho. Class dismissed.” Kai bowed to his students.

They smiled, returning the gesture, and ambled into the locker rooms to change back into their clothes.

Kai glanced at the time. 4:57 PM. Breck should be arriving any time.

As if in sync with his train of thought, said graduate came into view through the dojang’s front door. Still across the street, his hands were pocketed in his shorts, his long gait loose but not entirely relaxed. Was he excited? Nervous? It was hard to tell. Kai’s body thrummed at the notion of finding out. This session would be different, more intense by its very nature. Shibari expositions were far more elaborate than what he taught in class.

Stepping to the check-in counter, he returned his attention to the departing students, reciprocating their bows as they said goodbye and headed out. Kai peered through the door, expecting to see Breck closing in. Instead, he found no sign of him. He scanned the windows, but Breck was nowhere in sight.

Kai quirked a brow, wondering where he’d gone.

His assistants, Dindy and Jin, packed up to go a few minutes later. “See you tomorrow, Grandmaster Kai.” They gave a bow.

Kai responded in kind, then walked them to the door. “Thanks for your help.”

They cut a right and made their way toward student housing. Kai peered around. Still no Breck. Had he changed his mind and headed home?

Kai retrieved his phone from the reception counter. A notification lit up his screen. He thumbed open Messenger. A text from Breck. Kai frowned. Why would he message him instead of just coming inside?

Had he truly reconsidered and decided to cancel?

Disappointment threatened as Kai pulled up the text.

 

Hey, Kai. I’m here.

Meet you around back.

 

Kai exhaled, his worry quickly evaporating.

Jesus. He shouldn’t feel so relieved.

But more to the point, why was Breck waiting out back?

Locking up, he headed to the back of the training hall, exited into the vestibule, then pushed through the building’s rear-entry door. Breck sat on the curb beneath a tree, scrolling idly on his phone. Kai sighed at the sight of him. God, he looked good. A heather-gray t-shirt hugged his sculpted chest, while dark blue basketball shorts hung around his toned, athletic thighs. And that face. Those eyes. That mouth. In the late day sun, he looked as handsome as ever.

Breck met his gaze, then got to his feet and pocketed his cell. “Hey.”

Kai eyed him curiously, motioning over his shoulder. “It’s kinda hot out. You could’ve waited inside.”

“Yeah… I know.” Breck looked away. Gave a shrug.

Kai regarded him further. “So, then… why didn’t you?”

Breck shifted his weight, chewed his lip, inspected the grass. “I uh… didn’t want to slow down the flow of traffic heading out of your building. People like to… you know, stop and talk to me.” He donned a cocky smile. “I’m kind of a big deal around here.”

“Ah.” Kai grinned at him wryly, then swept an arm across his midsection and dramatically bowed. “Your highness. How forgetful of me.”

Not that he was sold by Breck’s explanation. Although, in fairness, it did make sense. Breck was an icon in this college town and definitely attracted attention. Kai gestured for him to enter. “The coast is officially clear.”

A smirk tugged at Breck’s lips. “Just looking out for you,” he murmured, heading inside.

Kai turned and led the way. “And I appreciate the effort.” Taking to the stairwell, he scaled the steps toward his place.

“So… do your assistants know?” Breck asked, following him up.

Kai slowed. Peered over his shoulder. “Do my assistants know what?”

Breck rubbed his head. Cleared his throat. “Um… that you’re gay.”

Kai frowned and turned back, reaching his apartment. And there it was. The real reason Breck had ducked-and-dodged. He hadn’t wanted his peers to see him. Especially not Jin and Dindy, in case they knew about Kai. They were students from George Mason too, after all. And word probably traveled fast regarding high-profile people.

Not loving the confirmation, but understanding it nevertheless, Kai exhaled and punched in his code. The keypad beeped and then the deadbolt released. “I don’t know. I’ve never told them directly, and they haven’t ever asked.” He pushed inside.

“Ah.” Breck entered behind him.

Kai could hear his unease. He turned and met Breck’s gaze. “Not that I’d care if they did. It’s not a secret.” He shrugged, turning back around. “One’s orientation is just another label. And I try really hard to avoid labels as best I can.”

“Why?” Breck followed him up the single step.

“They make it too easy to divide people. And it’s not like we’re just one thing, anyway. We’re multifaceted. Unique in countless ways. Yet, at the end of the day, we’re all still human, regardless of what label gets slapped on our backs.”

Breck appeared to think about that as Kai headed over to his music system. Docking his phone, he turned back. “Make yourself comfortable. I’m gonna go grab a quick shower.”

Breck nodded, but didn’t move from where he was standing.

Kai turned and headed for his bedroom, pausing along the way to slide open the panels to his meditation garden. The added light was nice in the evening. And who knew, maybe Breck would appreciate the view.

Continuing on, he mounted the steps at the far end of his loft, then parted more panels and ducked inside his room. Rounding his bed, he entered the bathroom, its size generous, with a soaking tub, wood-crafted walls, and warm slate floors. Above him, a skylight offered ample sun. He stepped to the shower, reached in, and cranked on the water. His dobok came off swiftly—first his belt, then his top and pants.

But as each piece dropped from his body, he couldn’t help wondering about Breck’s attire. Had he worn another jock? The memory of him in one last Friday had Kai’s body instantly hardening. Not that this was the first time he’d graced his brain with that visual. He still had Breck’s pictures in his phone, after all. Pictures he’d gazed at often—and admittedly, at length. Even after their usefulness in aiding with his Shibari class had long since passed. They’d been the focal point of several quiet nights when he’d lain in bed with a wandering mind. The only thing that’d interrupted the silence, the sound of fingers slowly stroking rigid flesh. That and the soft, choppy breaths pumping out of his lungs. 

Stepping under the spray, he got busy washing off. But as the suds glided down his abs, then skimmed over his dragon, another memory emerged. When Breck had walked in on him showing Scott his ink. He could only imagine what Breck had thought they’d been doing. Had the misunderstanding made Breck determine him the promiscuous type? He’d told Breck he wasn’t, but now he wondered if he’d actually believed him.

He should’ve just explained what they’d been doing in that stall. In truth, he almost had, but that fire in Breck’s eyes had been utterly derailing. Whether Breck wanted to admit it or not, he relished being the focus of Kai’s attention—and had unwittingly stalked into that restroom to bask in it some more.

Which, in hindsight, Kai realized had put him on edge. No one commanded his attention, and yet, Breck had been doing just that all fucking night. Something Kai had recognized, just hadn’t been willing to accept at the time.

Shutting things off, he climbed out and did a brisk towel dry. A swift brushing of teeth came next, and then a finger comb through his damp black locks. No ponytail tonight, he’d let his hair hang loose—a decision that had nothing to do with the fact that he’d sensed Breck liked it down. The way he’d stared at it the night of the art show as he’d sat in Kai’s car. Throwing vibes like he’d wanted to tunnel his fingers through it—then maybe grip a handful and give a feisty tug.

Kai rumbled softly, then cleared his throat. Nope. That memory had no bearing to him at all.

He pulled on some shorts and a snug white tee, then exited his bedroom and made his way back to Breck.

Where would he be waiting? Perched on a stool? Lounging on the couch?

To Kai’s surprise, he found Breck chilling out in his meditation garden, sitting atop Kai’s mat, looking peaceful and relaxed as he took in the view. Kai lifted a brow and walked over.

Breck glanced up at him. Smiled. “I like it in here.”

Kai’s chest warmed. He returned Breck’s smile. It said a lot about a person if they could appreciate the beauty of nature. Even if Breck only sensed it on a subconscious level. Kai sank down on his haunches and glided a finger through the brook. “Do you ever meditate?”

Breck coughed out a laugh, then shook his head. “Yeah, um, no.”

Kai chuckled and stood. “All right then.” He offered Breck his hand. “Come on. I’m gonna make us some food.”

Breck stilled and glanced over at the kitchen, then looked back at Kai. As if the notion of eating a meal together crossed some taboo line. “Oh, um…” He gripped Kai’s palm. “You don’t have to feed me.”

Kai smiled and tugged him up. “Yes, but I’d like to. Grab a stool.”

Breck didn’t argue. Just followed Kai over and parked his ass at the island.

Kai grabbed two placemats, some linen napkins, and a couple of plates, then opened a drawer and snagged two sets of metal chopsticks. Breck frowned, regarding the utensils warily. Kai’s lips twitched. He stepped to his island and fired up what looked like a built-in cooktop.

 Breck regarded it. “Nice griddle.”

“Thanks.” Kai chuckled. “It’s called a teppan.” He grabbed his kettle, filled it with water, then got it going on the stove. Flames licked along its underbelly.

Breck shifted on his stool. “You, ah, need any help?”

“Nope. But thanks for asking.” Kai opened the fridge and started pulling things out. Chopped-up vegetables. Precooked rice. Several bottles of sauce. A couple of eggs. Butter. And last but not least, the various proteins he’d purchased earlier that day. He looked at Breck. “You good with seafood?”

Breck smiled. “Absolutely.”

Kai nodded and emptied the rice onto one side of the teppan. On the other, he dumped his pre-chopped veggies.

Breck’s grin spread wider, his golden eyes glinting as he watched him. “Feels like I’m at a Japanese steakhouse. Got one of those poofy, white chef hats by chance?”

Kai smirked and grabbed a stainless-steel spatula. “Why? Into roleplay?”

Breck blinked, then coughed another laugh. “Uh…” He sat up straighter and rubbed his thighs. “Not exactly where I was going with that.”

Kai grabbed an egg. “But are you?”

Breck’s next laugh sounded strangled. “No idea. I’ve never tried it.”

“Hmm. I wouldn’t say that’s true. Didn’t you and I do a bit of roleplaying last time you were here?”

Breck stilled. Did his cheeks just flush? Clearing his throat, he fought back a smile. “Yeah, I guess we did.”

Kai slid him a grin and bounced his egg atop his spatula, then turned said spatula sideways and let its edge slice the egg in half. Its contents fell cleanly onto the cooktop.

Breck’s brows rose. “Damn. Check you out. I’m a little impressed.”

Kai smiled roguishly. “What a pity. I was going for a little turned on.”

“Ah,” Breck chuckled. “Well, see, now that will depend.”

Kai lifted a brow. “On?”

“How well you pull off the onion volcano.”

Kai laughed and cracked a second egg, scrambled and chopped both up, then scooted them off to the side. Salt and pepper on the veggies and rice. Then he grabbed out a grilling fork. “Prepare,” he murmured, “to be aroused.”

Breck grinned, looking entirely entertained. Kai’s heart thumped. God, that genuine smile. It was damn near devastating. He forced himself to focus and turned back to his work. Not that his awareness wasn’t still fixed on Breck. Because it was. And no doubt, it’d remain that way until Breck walked out the door.

Taking the onion slice he had waiting in the wings, Kai separated its rings with his fork and spatula, then stacked them atop each other, biggest to smallest. Breck watched his every move intently. Kai savored the weight of his steadfast stare. Grabbing some oil, he filled his onion volcano. It sizzled and popped. He dug out a lighter, then a bottle of vodka from a nearby cabinet. Pouring it atop the oil, he positioned the lighter. Met Breck’s gaze.

Breck’s lips curved, eyes flashing. “Do it.”

Kai grinned and flicked the flint, which ignited the vodka, which ignited the oil. Mini flames erupted, bursting out of the top.

Breck laughed with another of those heart-stopping smiles.

Jesus. The sound of his joy. The sight of his cheer.

Kai’s heart thumped faster, his whole body tightening.

Breck was far too gorgeous for his own good—not to mention Kai’s.

Tamping the urge to stalk around the island and tug him close, Kai forced himself to concentrate on the task at hand. “How’d I do?” he drawled, quartering the smoking onion. “Was I successful in turning you on?”

Breck shifted on his stool again, his grin turning boyish. “I may have been somewhat affected.”

Kai chuckled and slid the onion aside. This energy between them… It felt really good.

Twisting around, he turned off the heat to his kettle, then oiled up the remainder of the cooking surface. On to seafood. Two slabs of salmon and a pound of shrimp. Letting them cook, he jazzed up the rice and then tossed in the eggs, rice popping and dancing atop the surface as metal clanged.

Breck watched, looking wholly riveted, eyes tracking Kai’s hands and all the sizzling food. Which worked out nicely. Kai got to steal a few glances, the attractive man before him far more enticing than any meal.

His insides thrummed, enjoying Breck’s presence way too much. Just having him there in his home like this, as he cooked him food… It just felt right. He couldn’t explain it. Like this was the way it was supposed to be. A notion he was so not prepared to admit. Because while Breck had, admittedly, become more pleasurable to be around, he could still be arrogant. And immature. And still had drinking problems. All traits Kai wasn’t interested in. At all. Meaning, they could have their fun together, but that was it. Breck would never become a fixed part of his life. Despite how Kai might wish things could be between them, their worlds just didn’t align.

Exhaling quietly, he turned to his tea pot and filled its diffuser with leaves. Then he poured in the water, steam rising swiftly, and replaced the lid.

Breck regarded it, eyes curious. “What’s that?”

“Sencha.”

Breck lifted a brow, clearly not familiar.

Kai smiled. “Green tea.”

“Ah. Okay. Like matcha?”

“Kinda.” Kai nodded with a shrug. “Both are non-fermented. Although with sencha, you steep whole leaves, whereas with matcha, its leaves are ground up and mixed with water. Sencha’s lighter, more refreshing. I like it. If you’ve got good taste at all, you’ll like it, too.”

Breck’s lips twitched. He lifted his chin. “I’ve got good taste.”

Kai slid him an I’ve-yet-to-be-sold-on-that look and shifted his focus to soy-saucing the veggies. Their turn for some tossing. He flipped the seafood next, then drenched both slabs of salmon in teriyaki. One last douse of soy sauce to the shrimp and he was finally done.

“Hope you’re hungry,” he murmured, shutting off the cooktop.

Breck sat up straighter, all but licking his chops. “If I wasn’t before, I most definitely am now. It looks amazing and, oh my God, smells fucking incredible.”

Kai chuckled and pulled two teacups from a cabinet. “Just wait ‘til you taste it. I mean, I’m not one to brag, but…”

Breck laughed. “But yeah.”

Kai grinned and poured some tea into each mug, its rich amber hue catching the light of the evening sun. Then, using his spatula, he loaded up their plates from across the bar—just like they did in the restaurants. Would Breck notice his attempt to humor him? That megawatt smile on his face said he did.

“You’re a pro at this,” Breck concluded. “Lemme guess, you got a hibachi side-hustle on the weekends or something.”

Kai laughed and came around to join him. “That’s not a bad idea. Maybe, if you’d agree to be my busboy.”

Breck snorted. “Pshh. I’m the king of this town. You’re lucky I even allowed you to cook me this food.”

Kai smirked, settling onto his stool. “And the royal returns. I was wondering how long he’d be able to stay away.”

Breck’s haughty air faltered. “I was kidding.”

“So was I.”

Breck eyed him, as if debating whether or not he believed him.

Kai shifted on his seat and faced his food. Their bare knees brushed. Breck’s whole body stilled, and yet he didn’t move his leg away. Nor did Kai. That skin on skin felt way too good.

Breck met his gaze. Kai’s stomach clenched. God, those eyes. How they bespelled him, all but compelling him to reach for the guy.

Breck swallowed and looked away. Locked his attention on his plate. Then proceeded to gracelessly fumble with his stainless-steel chopsticks. A sight that, for some asinine reason, Kai found ridiculously adorable. A wave of warmth coursed through his body. Tamping a smile, he held his chopsticks where Breck could see them, taking care not to make it look like he was demonstrating proper grip. Breck had pride. Fearsome pride. As Kai well knew. The last thing he wanted was to ruin the mood.

Eventually, Breck got the gist. “I’m typically a fork guy,” he muttered, securing a bite.

You don’t say.

Kai slid him a grin. “Just so you know, few things about tonight are going to be ‘typical’.”

Breck stilled, his chopsticks halfway to his mouth, then quickly cleared his throat and refocused on bringing them home. He almost made it. Until the shrimp took a dive. Breck muttered a curse. Kai fought back another smile. This agile athlete’s awkwardness just kept hitting him in the feels. How something so clumsy, and nearly painful to watch, could be so endearing, he had no idea. And now he suddenly found himself struggling against the urge to reach over and feed Breck himself. Breck would be appalled, no doubt taking it as a slight, assuming that Kai was perceiving him as incompetent. If only he knew the truth—how much an interaction like that would turn Kai on.

An unbidden image slid to the forefront of his mind. Breck bound. Hands restrained. Famished, but helpless. Eyes imploring Kai to help. Which Kai did, giving him bites with just his fingers. Then feeding a different part of his body into Breck’s mouth…

Breck’s deep-throated moan yanked Kai back to now.

“Holy shit, Kai. This is so fucking good.”

Ah. He won the battle with that shrimp.

Kai shifted on his stool, his shorts suddenly snugger. “I’m glad you like it.” He took a bite and resumed his meal.

A few moments later though, Breck cursed again. Another crustacean had evaded his mouth.

Kai’s lips twitched as he chewed, observing him. Deciding to show mercy, he made a quick trip to the silverware drawer.

“Thanks,” Breck muttered as Kai handed him a fork. A small, sheepish smile tugged at the corners of his mouth.

“Of course. Wouldn’t want any distractions taking away from my labors.”

Breck nodded in full agreement, then just like that, was shoveling down bite after bite. Eventually though, he did slow down, as if determining he’d sufficiently made up for lost time. Wiping his mouth, he shifted his focus back to Kai. “So, your mom, you said she’s Japanese?”

“Yes. And Korean.”

Breck took a swig of tea. “How about your dad?”

“Brazilian.”

Breck’s brows popped. “For real? They say Brazilians are the most beautiful people in the world.”

Kai eyed him. “Do they now. And what do you say?”

Breck blinked. “Oh… Um… Well… They’re certainly not hard on the eyes.”

Kai grinned a little. “He and Mom met in California. But it didn’t work out, so… he headed back home before I was born.”

“Ah. So, that’s why you kept your mom’s name.”

“It is indeed.”

They took a few more bites, but Kai could sense Breck’s brain churning. As if he wasn’t done with the talking and was merely prioritizing the many questions he wanted answered most.

A heartbeat later, he was back to wiping his mouth. “So…your class on Friday went well?”

That was the question he wanted answered most?

Kai’s lips quirked. No, Breck was just easing into his investigation. The beginnings of a nonchalant dig for information. Which amused Kai but also made him curious. What exactly was Breck hunting for? And for that matter, why did his interest make Kai want to smile?

“Yes, it went perfectly. Without a hitch.” He took another bite.

Breck watched him expectantly. When Kai didn’t elaborate, he asked, “So… everyone liked your design?”

“They did. Very much, in fact.”

Breck nodded. “That’s good.” A weighted pause. “So… they got to play?”

And there it was. A solid direction to his inquiries. Kai swallowed his bite and met Breck’s gaze. “Yes. Rather extensively.”

Breck fiddled with his placemat. Nodded again. “And… how’d things go with your model?”

Kai reached for his tea, took a sip, and set it back down. Returned his gaze to Breck’s and nodded. “They went fine.” He suspected what Breck was after, what he wanted to hear, but decided to play it safe and chose to not assume.

Breck watched him, as if trying to read his expression.

Kai smiled and murmured, “Remi’s very obedient and always well behaved.”

Breck shuttered his expression, but couldn’t mask that look of concern. “Do you like him?”

Kai’s heart thumped. Breck wanted to know if he’d played with his model like he’d played with him.

Kai paused, waiting for the thrill of satisfaction. Instead, an eddy of warmth swirled deep inside. He didn’t want to leave Breck hanging anymore. He wanted to tell him the truth. “As a person,” he answered. “But nothing more.”

Breck’s shoulders eased. Kai regarded him, bemused, wondering in earnest why he seemed to care. Breck had plenty of playthings at his disposal, and—Damn. Kai suddenly didn’t want to think about that notion. At all. Which was absurd. It didn’t concern him who Breck fucked. Shouldn’t bother him in the slightest that his dick was probably out of his pants more than it was in.

Unease filled Kai’s gut. Next thing he knew, he was asking his own questions. “And how about your night? How was Georgetown with your friends?”

Breck made a face, one that didn’t look all that happy. “It was fine.”

Kai lifted a brow. “Just fine?”

“I mean… No, it was cool.” Breck rubbed his head and chuckled. “Just drank too much and paid the price.”

“You do that a lot, I’m noticing.”

Breck shot him a look, then gestured to himself. “Hello. Frat boy. Besides, I think I earned the right to celebrate. I’ve only just graduated college.”

Kai nodded. “I agree. That was a huge accomplishment. And most definitely deserves something special in honor of the occasion. But you drink yourself into oblivion nearly every day. So how exactly is that special?”

Breck scowled and looked away. “The point is… I was doing something I enjoy in celebration. Also known as partying.”

Kai shrugged. “Fair enough.” Not a philosophy he subscribed to, nor a perspective he found attractive. But again, Breck wasn’t a prospect... He took a bite. “So, was Scott there? With Tad?”

Breck seemed to ease. “Yeah. He was designated driver… I like that guy.” He smiled. “He’s good for Tad. I hope they stick.”

“Me, too.” And Kai meant it. He’d known Scott for years, but he’d never seen him as happy as he was now, with Tad. “What about Ned?” he ventured next. “Did he bring a date?”

Breck coughed out a laugh. “Hell, no. That would’ve defeated his whole agenda for the night.”

“Ah. He likes to play the field.”

“Yeah.” Breck grinned, shaking his head. A very clear fondness emanated from his eyes.

Kai regarded him. “You two are close.”

“Since the start of high school.”

Kai did the math. College VIP out on the town with his closest friend. Both handsome as hell, getting overly drunk—no doubt, with a throng of equally inebriated women. “You two must’ve had quite a time juggling all the ladies.”

Shameless fishing, but Breck had just done the same.

Breck shrugged a little. “It’s easier to keep a low profile with this group of friends.”

Kai chuckled, determined to sound indifferent, even though his insides felt anything but calm. “And that means what, you scored slightly less than you typically would? On graduation night? I find that hard to believe. Or maybe you fuck even more than you drink, so it’s not all that special.”

Breck stiffened. “Bite me. I didn’t get laid.”

Kai quirked a brow. “Not even a quickie in the bathroom or something?”

“Oh.” Breck laughed sardonically. “You mean, like what you did with Scott?”

Kai stilled, then threw on a poker face. “That wasn’t what you thought.”

“Right.” Breck’s following laugh sounded strained. “’Cause there’s just so many things two guys can do in a stall.”

“I told you, I was showing him something.”

“Uh huh.” Breck leveled him with a look. “Something down your pants. Man, you were zipping up your fly. Correct me if I’m wrong but, aside from underwear, there’s only one thing down there. Something you said was exceptionally large and”—he made finger quotes—“exotic.”

Kai laughed, remembering Breck’s reaction. Deliciously exasperated. And so adorably flustered. He’d wanted to eat him up. “While what you’re assuming it was is all those things, what I was referring to wasn’t that.”

Breck’s expression said ‘do I look like an idiot?’

Kai smiled, amused, and shook his head. “It’s a tattoo.”

Breck stilled. Then lifted his brows. “Wait. Are you serious?”

Kai grinned. “I offered to show you.” He reached for his waistband. “And that offer still stands.”

Breck shook his head, tamping a laugh, and averted his gaze.

Kai sighed dramatically. “Alas, your loss. It’s quite the masterpiece.”

“Uh huh,” Breck mumbled. “A sight to behold.” His cheeks looked flushed.

Kai wondered if he was envisioning a peek down his pants.

His body tightened as he envisioned that, too. He could all but feel Breck’s smoldering gaze sliding over his dick...

Tugging on his collar, he reached for his tea. “What else did you do this weekend?”

Breck took another bite, but then frowned. “Went to my parents’,” he muttered, chewing. “That was fun.”

“You don’t get along?”

“It’s not that. My dad’s just… relentless. Like some nightmarish manager that I can’t fucking fire.”

Kai frowned. “My condolences.”

“Thanks.” Breck exhaled. And for a moment, it looked like he was going to vent. At the very last second though, he seemed to stop himself. “Anyway, then I hung out with Ned at the fitness facility. Playing racquetball.” His tone sounded grim. “Which was damn near as torturous as my visit with Dad.”

Kai laughed. “Why? I thought you liked sports.”

“Let’s just say I wasn’t feeling so hot.”

Kai frowned. He’d gotten drunk on Saturday, too? “Your poor liver.”

Breck shot him a glare. “Really? You’re gonna ride my ass like my old fucking man?”

Kai held up his hands. “I didn’t mean to offend.”

Breck clenched his jaw, then closed his eyes and exhaled slowly. “Sorry. I’m being a dick. I’m just… God, so stressed out all the time.” He met Kai’s gaze and feigned a half-hearted smile. “My liver’s great. It’s not that big of a deal.”

Kai nodded and resumed his meal.

Silence lingered. But then he sensed it; Breck’s tension dissipating as his headspace cleared.

His gaze slid back and settled on Kai’s face, those eyes like pools of chocolate reflecting the evening sun. Seeping in and filling Kai’s chest. Inundating his soul. Which shouldn’t make sense. Breck shouldn’t affect him so completely. But in this moment, Kai couldn’t find a reason to care. He’d relish the sensation while it lasted, then let it go.

Breck cleared his throat. “So, that guy you moved to New York with… Why’d he bail?”

Kai slowed in his chewing. Not exactly a subject he wanted to discuss.

“I mean, it doesn’t add up,” Breck continued. “Didn’t he know?”

“Didn’t he know what?”

Breck grinned and held his gaze. “That hot as fuck Japanese-Brazilians don’t come along every day.”

Kai quirked a brow. Put down his chopsticks. Cast him a look. “Are you fetishizing me?”

Breck stilled, then tensed all over. “Shit. God, no,” he sputtered. “I—”

“I’m kidding,” Kai laughed. “And thank you kindly. That was quite the compliment.”

Another of those smiles tugged at the corner of Breck’s lips. Just like that, the air between them settled back to easy.

“In all seriousness, though... What happened?” Breck asked again. “Between you and your man. How come it didn’t work out?”

“Hmm.” Kai looked away. Did he want to explain? Not really. But Breck had been open about his life. It seemed only fair. Formulating his words carefully, he dragged a hand through his hair. “Let’s just say that… with Ryan… ambition became a double-edged sword.”

Breck frowned, clearly not understanding. And Kai really had no desire whatsoever to elaborate. All things considered, there was a very real chance that Breck would end up taking Ryan’s side. If that was the case, he supposed it was better to hear it now, instead of down the road.

“Ryan wanted to be a model,” he began, “so New York City was the place to be. He kept bugging me to go with him, and though I didn’t want to, I finally did. We got moved in. A tiny place in Manhattan. In the beginning, it was cool. I didn’t mind it. But then he started coming home later and later after modeling class. After-hours parties every night of the week. At first, he’d bring me, too… but then… not so much. He started making headway, getting noticed, landing gigs. I was so fucking proud of him… but then he stopped taking me to his public events. One night, I came home early from work… and found him in our bed with two of his model friends.”

Kai feigned a smile. “Ryan hadn’t loved me. I’d merely been his support system as he climbed his way to the top.” He chuckled darkly. “That and the total dumbass willing to shoulder all the rent. I’d been happy to do it, though. Ryan was paying for schooling. I’d thought we were a team, but looking back…” He shrugged. “Everything had always revolved around him. We hadn’t been building our future together, he’d been building his.”

Breck didn’t respond for a long, quiet moment.

Kai’s stomach clenched. He’d said too much. Should’ve kept his mouth shut and—

“That dude,” Breck stated, “is a fucking idiot.”

Kai eyed him, heart clenching in his chest. Breck didn’t seem to be sympathizing with Ryan at all. Was it possible he wasn’t like him?

Kai offered a smile. “Jūnin toiro. Ten persons, ten colors.” When Breck stared at him blankly, he laughed. “A Japanese expression. Means to each their own.”

“Oh… Yeah, I guess,” Breck muttered.

“Besides, at the end of the day, it taught me a lot.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one, that I’m better off without him.”

Breck liked that answer, going by the smile on his face. “I’d have to agree.” He took another bite—then abruptly moaned. “Goddamn. This salmon.” His eyebrows furrowed. “Fuckin’ melts in your mouth.”

Kai grinned and picked his chopsticks back up. “Next time, I’ll make you sushi.”

Breck slid him a look, something glinting in his eyes, as if maybe he liked the idea of there being a next time. “Sushi, huh? I’m detecting you’re big on seafood.”

“I am.”

“Well, FYI, I’m not a fan of uncooked fish.”

“Ever try it?”

“Nope. And I don’t ever plan to.”

Kai laughed. “I’ll start you off with something tame.”

Breck smiled. “As long as tame equates to the opposite of raw.”

The rest of their meal maintained the same easy energy—with Kai steadfastly resisting every urge to poke the bear. Because while Breck was entertaining as hell when flustered, he was far more attractive when he donned that smile. Besides, Kai had gotten another glimpse of him and was beginning to understand the reasons behind his short fuse. Breck was struggling under enormous pressure, his relationship with his dad only exacerbating his stress. The one person on this planet who shouldn’t be making his problems worse. And with that, Kai now found himself wanting to be Breck’s haven of peace.

Once they finished, Kai briskly cleaned up, then headed to the shelving unit and lit some incense. Sandalwood. Breck watched him with an air of anticipation, as if recalling how, at the start of their last session, Kai had begun things in the exact same way.

A prelude of sorts. And he’d be right.

Kai couldn’t stop the memories from surging back into his brain. Of Breck, bound and writhing. And then his beautiful release. He’d been so sublime. A gorgeous young male in his sexual prime. Blindfolded and panting, muscles taut, with his head cranked back. If only he knew what Kai had planned for him tonight. It’d make Friday’s little tryst look like a walk in the park.

Breck could handle it, though. Kai was confident.

And yet, there was only one way to find out if he’d enjoy it.

Meeting Breck’s gaze, Kai gestured toward the living room. “Time to begin.” He smiled wryly. “You ready for dessert?”