"You're good… so good…"

On her way back to Chester, Akemi mused, Come to think of it, I still don't really know just what sorts of changes were made. And now there's no one who can tell me that I can risk asking. Well, I guess I'll just have to be thankful for small favors for the time being, she added in an attempt to ward off the sadness that last thought brought with it. In any case, now I should be able at least to concentrate well enough to go over these documents, and get some other stuff done before tonight.

Back at her townhouse, Akemi scanned the various documents, finally deciding that it would be best to have an attorney look them over. Only problem was, she didn't know anyone in town yet. So she used a tried-and-true, highly scientific method of selecting a lawyer: she went through the ones in the phone book who mentioned contract law in their specialties, and called them one by one until she found one willing to see her that afternoon, on a matter of utmost urgency and strictest confidentiality, after mentioning that she would make it worthwhile. The orgasm she'd had that morning had done wonders for her self-confidence.

That done, she went down to the basement. The layout of the townhouse had won her over immediately when she first decided to move to New London: two stories plus basement, small but adequate backyard with fencing, and a view of the Sound from the second floor. She'd set up the top floor as her bedroom, the first floor for living and working, and the basement for working out. She stripped, put on her gi, and practiced the movements of Wing Chun for a half-hour. Then she went through the particular sequence of motions that turned her in Jadestorm for the second time that day, and practiced the same moves. It took barely half the time.

Changing back, she took off her gi, and got into the shower. Sybarite that she was, she would have much preferred to sit in her Jacuzzi. But it was a choice between that, and having something to eat before the appointment which was inconveniencing someone else. "Well," she said aloud, "if all goes well, I won't be doing it by myself next time."

An hour later, she was dressed (different outfit) and on the road again. A quick check of her dedicated server showed nothing that couldn't wait, so she let it be.

Akemi left the lawyer's office in Forrest Towers feeling quite satisfied. The documents were in the case and signed. A very fair deal indeed. Everything she needed to start her business with a bang and a decent return rate for Desmond.

She glanced at her watch, 6:00 pm. Climbing into her car she opened the case. A card was pinned to inside flap. It was black with simple white numbers. 555-3472; no name.

Akemi smiled. …No need.

She dialed the number.

"Good evening, Ms. Rhodes, hold one moment please," a female voice answered on the second ring.

Akemi stared at her phone in disbelief. Did the man have a phone number connected just for me? "No half-measures" is one thing. But this is downright ridiculous. Maybe that's why the thought of it appeals to me so much…

"Akemi, " Desmond's voice was warm and welcoming, "I am pleased to hear from you so quickly."

Look at me–I'm acting like a schoolgirl again. Complete and total regression. And he's probably enjoying the effect he's having on me. After all, I'm sure I'm not the first by a longshot to experience feelings like these at his hands…so to speak. It's time I took a little initiative.

"Well, I felt it would be unkind to impose on your generosity in personally involving yourself by making you wait," she replied. "I wouldn't want to start off our relationship on the wrong foot." She paused, then: "There is, however, an area in which I would like to impose upon you. You're a busy man, I realize, and obviously I have no idea what your schedule is like. But if you're at all free this evening, I'd like to deliver these papers to you personally. And then I'd like the benefit of your experience as a resident in finding out what sort of nightlife this town has to offer. I am only recently settled here, after all. In other words, may I have the pleasure of your company this evening?"

And I only hope that Shocker will stay quiet just one more night. They've laid low these past two months, ever since that night in Tokyo…

Akemi could hear the humor in his voice as he replied, "I am sorry Akemi, while I am indeed free this evening, you probably know more about the ah, nightlife then I do. I rarely go out. However, if you wish to have dinner, may I suggest here? I can send my car."

Akemi smiled. "Come into my parlor", eh? Well, we'll see who beards whom, in whose lair.

To Desmond she replied, "A quiet dinner for two? All right… but it's still a Friday night, and I want to do something to celebrate our…association." She let an added touch of innuendo enter her voice at this last. "I'll be waiting for your car at my place in, say, an hour? Or would you prefer a different time?"

So saying, she switched the car phone to speakerphone mode, and started driving back to her townhouse. Part of her mind was already contemplating what she would wear that evening, while another part decided where to go, and what to do. On the way, she pulled over at a newspaper rack and bought one of the local underground papers.

Once back home, she stripped and looked through the entertainment section of that day's paper. She already had a basic lay of the land, and once she knew where the adult districts were, she felt certain that her sense for such entertainment would lead to something satisfying.

When that was done, she showered again, and then assembled her outfit. She chose a red lace garter belt, seamed stockings of black silk, and a red silk thong, which she wore over her garter belt. This she topped off with a tight-fitting slipdress, also of red silk, cut low enough without getting ridiculous, and whose hem didn't quite reach mid thigh when standing. Then she checked her nails to make sure they were even with her fingertips–bedroom claws were nice, but there were some things they just weren't suited for, after all. Finally, just enough makeup to enhance, not obscure, her natural good looks, and she was satisfied. Just the right note of sophisticated sexiness, she thought.

The last thing she did before the car arrived for her was to put a copy of her Sapphire Blue CD-ROM in her bag.

Exactly one hour from her call, the front bell rang. In the front doorway stood Armond. He was wearing a grey suit and the sunglasses were gone from his eyes. He stood perfectly still, arms loose at his side. Even now he look ready to spring into deadly violence.

"May I see your purse?" were his only words when she opened the door.

Akemi regarded him through her eyelashes. A regular handyman, aren't you? There seems to be no limit to your tasks. I wonder what other services you provide your master, hmm?

Smiling, she opened her handbag, handing it to him. "Let me know if you find anything dangerous in there, will you?" she said as she sized him up again.

He quickly went through the purse, removing nail file, comb, lipstick, compact and pen. Handing her the purse, he tossed the offending articles into her apartment. Her gaze seemed to fall off him and his dark eyes never changed.

"No high heels. No sharp jewelry."

Akemi regarded him a moment longer, then turned back toward the stairs. "Come inside while I find something suitable," she called over her shoulder. "Oh, and watch your step. The floor's a lot messier than it was, for some reason."

Once back in her bedroom, she changed from her 8cm stilts into a pair of admittedly more practical 2cm pumps. Then, looking at herself in the mirror, she made one additional adjustment to her ensemble.

It was only a couple of minutes from the time she went up to the time she came back down. She walked right up to Armond. Lifting up her hand, Akemi said, "Here, I have something for you," and dropped a wad of shiny red fabric into his hands. At first glance it might have seemed like a silk handkerchief, elegantly trimmed in lace, slightly warm and damp to the touch. But a closer look revealed its true shape: that of the thong which Akemi had been wearing not more than thirty seconds before.

She turned and picked up her handbag, checking that the contracts and her CD-ROM were still inside. As she headed for the door, Akemi added, with just a touch of irony in her voice, "I trust that will convince you that I'm not hiding anything else under here. Shall we go?"

His dark eyes rested on her for a moment and then he placed the thong on her coffee table, "You should be more careful on whom you invite into your house, Ms. Rhodes. New London is far from a gentle city."

Not even a twitch, Akemi thought. Most people would have taken it. You're not off-guard for even an instant, are you?

Aloud, she said, "I'll consider myself duly forewarned, thank you."

In all other ways Armond was completely courteous. He opened the door to the dark Rolls and even handed her in. He drove with complete control of the car, and at an even pace. Desmond's house was in Chester, a large mansion with hints of a castle to it. Peeking out here and there from among the forest that took up the rest of his property. Armond stopped at the gate and got out.

I guess he really does take his privacy seriously. You'd never guess that we live in the same neighborhood, would you? I only hope he doesn't turn out to be Howard Hughes revisited.

Akemi noticed that there was a 30 foot clear space between the trees and the wall. The wall itself was smooth, made of jade and stood 30 feet.

I'm not even going to guess what that must be worth. Its mere existence makes me uncomfortable.

Another man stepped out of the guard tower. He moved with the same deadly grace as Armond. He held a small box in his hands. Armond spoke to him and then came to her side of the car. Opening the door, he held out his hand and helped her from the car.

The other man approached and Akemi recoiled from his eyes. Dead eyes. No emotion, she could have been a bug for all of him. A bug that needed killing. And he would kill her with as little thought as she had on stepping on a bug. He advanced on her and she took a step backwards. She could feel Armond's breath and his body against hers. The gate man stopped and ran the box over her body. Checking it he gave Armond the same look as he had given her and a slight nod. He spun and walked back to the gate house.

Is everyone around here some kind of robot? Either that, or it's been a long time since anyone's gotten any.

"Do not let Ty bother you," Armond spoke softly in her ear, "he views the whole world like that. He is a very good gate guard. Shall we go, Desmond is waiting."

"Desmond"? Not "Mr. Reach"? And to a virtual stranger? Akemi mentally cocked an eyebrow at this. Just what sort of relationship is there between master and manservant, anyway?

With that he helped her back in the car. As he settled behind the wheel, the gate opened and he drove through. The gate narrowly missed the back end of the car as it closed.

Akemi welcomed the additional length of the drive, as it gave her a chance to steady her breathing. I've been out of circulation longer than I thought, getting nervous over places like this.

But she knew the truth was, it wasn't the residence that was tying her insides in knots–but her impending meeting with its owner.

Armond parked in front of the door and helped her out. The front doors opened as they approached, Armond the same half step behind her as he heeled his boss.

A very slight man in butler's uniform bowed to her slightly and then ushered her in. His chin was sharp and his voice was a surprising deep southern drawl, "Welcome, Ms. Rhodes, may I take your bag?"

"Yes, thank you. All I ask is that Mr. Reach receive the contents intact."

"Of course, Ms. Rhodes." When he moved it was with the same leashed violence as Armond. "If you would please follow me."

Robots. It's got to be.

As he lead her into the house, Armond stepped back outside. The southerner lead her to double oak doors. He paused and then opened both of them, bowing her in. He then closed the doors behind her and stood a hand's touch away.

Desmond was not alone. He was wearing dark slacks and a black turtleneck, and was sitting on the edge of his desk, one leg swinging idly. In front of him a very pretty young woman in a pale summer dress, paced.

Wow, was Akemi's first thought on seeing the two of them. Have you already guessed which way I swing, Desmond? If so, it's very sweet of you. In any case, I admire your taste. I hope we'll all have a chance to get better acquainted.

"Something is wrong, Desmond, I can feel it," the woman spoke, her voice was tight and her hands kept clenching. "I haven't spoken to Jack in almost 3 weeks now. Buddy says everything is okay, and the reports are still coming in. But why won't he talk to me, why isn't Quest where he said it would be?"

Akemi's expression promptly changed from one of interest to one of concern. Well, well. This is incongruous, for someone who professes to be a recluse. I wonder who else he's holding audiences for.

Desmond stood and caught one of her hands. Tilting her head, he looked into her eyes. "I will find your young man for you, Mary." His voice was warm and calming. His eyes conveyed certainty.

Mary stiffened. "He's not my young…"

Desmond chuckled. "Mary, I know you. This worry is more then just a professor for one of her students."

Mary put her head on his chest and mumbled, "My damn oath, if anything has happened to Jack… I could have broken it, no one would have known."

"No one but you. You could no more break an oath then sprout wings. Go home, get some sleep, I will find him for you." He gave her a hug and kissed the top of her head.

The more she listened, the more involved Akemi became. Something's wrong here. I've got to see if there's anything I can do to help. Later, when I can concentrate sufficiently.

Mary nodded and pulled herself together. As she turned, Desmond spoke softly, "Mary I will find him for you, not because I have invested money in him."

Mary Pecton turned back to him and smiled, "Do you honestly think I would bring any of my students to you if I thought otherwise?"

Desmond nodded. Mary turned and her eyes fell on Akemi. Her eyes went over Akemi once and she clearing her throat she addressed Akemi, "Sorry for disturbing your evening."

Akemi noticed that she didn't apologize to Desmond. She watched as Mary walked out, a small frown settling on professor's face. Akemi looked back at Desmond.

He was watching her, his eyes slowly slid down her body, raising an eyebrow as they brushed over her hips.

Oh, my intuition about you wasn't wrong after all… I did it for a different reason, but leaving that thong behind was clearly the right choice. I may never wear panties again, either.

His gaze caressed, as if he were touching her. Akemi felt heat rush through her, her body responding. He leaned back on the desk and crossed his hands in front of him, drawing her own gaze to his long, strong fingers. And she could still feel the caress of his eyes. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine that his hands were touching her.

Her eyes fixed on those magic hands, Akemi closed the distance remaining between them. "For a moment there, I wasn't sure I shouldn't turn around and leave. You seem to have a situation on your hands, and I don't know if I can be of any help."

"Not unless you are any good at finding lost ships or marine biologists," he replied, a hint of amusement in his eyes as he watched her approach.

"You'll have to tell me all about it later. You never know."

She took a deep breath, then met his eyes with her own smoldering stare. "Besides, she's very attractive, and I'd have been quite happy if she'd stayed. But from the moment I saw you here, all I could think of was what has occupied 90% of my thoughts since this morning: you. And I can't remember the remaining 10%."

He laughed. "I don't think Mary would have appreciated it. But I will remember that in the future."

Akemi smiled. "If you know my parents as well as you seem to, then you must know about their sex lives. And that should tell you what you need to know about me. They raised me to know my own mind and body." And I thought I did, until this all happened to me a couple months back, she added to herself.

She held out her hands. "So stop being so aloof. I want you so badly that I can barely think straight. Fuck me, dammit! It's what we both want!" By this time, Akemi was practically aglow with lust. Her hands went around his neck, and she brought her mouth down hard on Desmond's.

He opened his mouth under her demand, his tongue lashing out to duel with hers. His hands stayed folded and he seemed relaxed. As Akemi came up for air, one of his hands moved. Upwards over her front, one finger making a slight detour, just a touch through her clothes, up her stomach, under one breast and then long its side. It ran lightly down her left arm to take her hand.

Akemi moaned and shivered in anticipation of more, her eyes closing as she threw her head back. With one powerful motion he gained his feet and moved her with practiced ease to his side, his arm slightly bent, her hand resting lightly on his.

"Jake, dinner and Montair, he loves the sea."

The butler bowed and opening the doors backed out of them closing them behind him. The sound of the doors closing caused her eyes to pop open. She stared at him as if rudely awakened from a sweet dream.

"And you," there was definite amusement in his eyes and slipping into his voice, "are going to have dinner first. My cook would be extremely upset if we did otherwise. Patience."

She grinned at these words, an expression which was more like that of a wolf baring its fangs than a smile. "You," she shot back, one hand cupping his crotch through his trousers, "are a tease. And I hate teases. You have just sealed your fate. I'll let you wonder about just how I'm going to punish you over this meal."

His smile deepened, but his eyes took on a serious cast. "For everything, Akemi, there is a time, a rhythm of its own. If you listen carefully you may hear your own. If you are really quiet and know how to listen, you might hear mine."

If Akemi had any opinion on this point, she declined to express it.

He led her towards the doors and across the hall to a great dinning room. The table was solid ash and could easily seat 26 people. Except it was set up for 25. Only one end held a chair. The other chairs were exactly alike. The one on the end was taller and more ornately worked with red cushions. A place setting was before it as well as one to the left.

"I haven't seen anything like this since I stopped going to those state dinners Mom and Dad have to attend," Akemi said as she sat down. "Is it just for decoration, or do you actually get to use it to capacity often enough to justify it?"

Unbeknownst to Desmond, however, the sight of the long, ornate table had started the wheels seriously turning in Akemi's head…

"Not in a while. As I indicated before, my cook was extremely excited about this evening. If he could tear himself away from the kitchen, he'd be in here kissing your feet."

"Well, if he's my type, I wouldn't mind that sort of dinner entertainment at all," she purred.

As she spoke a young man in his late teens, wearing servant dress, though he would look more natural wearing gang clothing, appeared. His movement was similar to Armond's, yet it was obvious that it was a conscious effort on his part.

Clearly he needs more lessons.

He held out a bottle of wine for Desmond's inspection. They went through the formality of testing it and then the young man poured. The young man kept shooting Akemi looks. Not ones she was used to. But small glances filled with venom.

What's eating you, hmm? she thought with amusement each time his eyes met hers. Don't tell me, let me guess: you think you should be sitting here instead of me. Well, if looks could kill, as they say, those daggers you've been staring would've cut me to ribbons by now. But I feel more pity for you than anything else.

After the boy had left the room, Akemi sipped from her glass, nodding appreciatively. Then she looked at Desmond over its rim, her eyes narrowing. "I don't think I've ever seen jealousy quite that intense, especially not when it was directed at me," she commented. "If I were a gambler, I'd lay odds that that's unrequited lust he's feeling for you, and thus he sees me as a rival for your affections. It's too bad, too, because I'm the last person in the world he'd have to be afraid of." She paused, swirling the wine in the glass, then continued, "Well, how close to the mark did I hit? Do I win the kewpie doll?"

Then her face lit up. "I know! We could invite him to join us. That should put his fears to rest. Wouldn't you say?" She looked at him sidelong as she made this last remark.

Desmond cocked his head and turned thoughtful, "Does everything for you revolve around sex? Surely there is more to you than that."

"What's life without sex?" Akemi retorted. "I don't know, and I don't want to know." Then a shadow crossed her face. "Recently, though, I came much closer to finding out than I want to. I've been sexually active at least half my life so far, and something happened that gave me good reason to think I'd lost that part of me." Then her expression brightened again. "That was before I met you today, though. So yes, tonight I'm celebrating, by going out of my way to be a slut. You needn't worry about work, though. I take my business almost as seriously as I do sex. In any case," she continued, "I don't think I think about sex much more than anyone else does. I'm simply more honest about it. I'm not about to waste my time and energy protecting someone else's superstitions."

There is more, Desmond, but that is something I can't risk telling you, or any living soul, about.

"And yes you are a bit off your mark. Tate does indeed love me, and he hates you because you are the first person in a very long time outside of my organization's hierarchy who has been allowed to be in a room alone with me. My people are very concerned for my welfare."

"I'll tear out the heart of anyone who even tries," Tate snarled from where he had entered the room with the first course. His eyes were alight with a fanatic glow and his lips were pulled back in a snarl. He looked like he would like to start with Akemi.

She looked back at him with a mixture of amusement and pity, as if to say, "Better men than you have tried."


The word was softly spoken but held more anger then Akemi had ever heard placed into words. Tate reacted as if Desmond had sacked him.

Akemi blinked. She said nothing but her eyes went wide.

"Ms. Rhodes is my guest and under my Complete protection. Apologize, and then I suggest you take the night off."

Tate bowed from the waist, looking slightly pale. "Forgive me, sir, forgive me, Lady." And then he backed from the room still bowed over.

Desmond turned. The anger Akemi expected to see burning in his eyes was gone.

"Please forgive me for this display Akemi. Tate is young and excitable."

Akemi's expression betrayed nothing, but inwardly she was even more amused. 'Young and excitable'? Only if that's another way of saying 'horny, jealous and frustrated'! You should stop stringing him along.

After a moment, she spoke again. "So where'd you find him, anyway? Nothing personal, but he looks like he'd be a lot more at home on the streets someplace."

"His", Desmond paused as if turning words over in his mind, "father brought him to me."

And who might his father be, that he could call in a favor like that? Akemi mused, suspecting strongly that Desmond didn't want to pursue that line of questioning.

He tilted his head and listened to the soft strains of music begin, "Dance?"

She stood up. "I'd love to."