This scene originally took place after Kai and Bank’s inspected the hotel for the first time with Michael and Will.
Walking into Sensou that evening, I immediately stopped and pinned myself to the wall next to the door, letting the group of people leaving squeeze through the walkway first. People in black karate uniforms, or whatever they were called, and some in just plain workout clothes carried their duffels out, laughing and chatting, not one of them sparing a look in my direction. Granted, that wasn’t unusual. I was good at not being seen.
When they left, I started again, making my way for the front desk.
“Yes, hello,” a man in a blue cap with a clipboard spoke to the desk clerk ahead of me. “I have a delivery for Kai Mori.”
The young woman reached for the clipboard. “He’s in a private lesson. May I sign for it?”
“Uhhh,” he mumbled, sounding uncertain. “It’s a large delivery. He usually wants to check the merchandise before I take off.”
Merchandise? I peered around the guy, trying to be discreet, to see his clipboard, but his hand kept moving, and I couldn’t make out what was on the invoice.
I cleared my throat. “I have something for him, too.” I gripped the handle of the steel case I held in my left land and grabbed the clipboard with my right. “I’ll take these back to him.”
“Hey, wait a minute,” the delivery guy burst out, pointing at me.
But I bolted down the hallway, turning my head and jerking to the chairs in the lobby. “Park it. I’ll be back.”
I didn’t wait around to see if he or the clerk would follow me as I charged down the dim corridor. The two main rooms, for large classes, sat on the other side of the lobby and featured several visible floors above with mezzanines to look down on the great rooms, as well as smaller rooms off to the sides on the second, third, and fourth levels. Most of which, I gathered from my research, were used for storage and extra office space.
Slowing my steps, I raised the clipboard and studied the paper on it.
Marchella Dining Set $29, 900
Villarosa Buffet Table $ 5, 700
Sanctuary King Bed $ 8, 400
What the hell? I scanned the sheet, my eyes falling on other pieces of furniture—side tables, chairs, dressers, appliances. The address at the top was for Sensou. Why was he having these things delivered here?
Using my spare thumb, I flipped the page. Another invoice, dated about six weeks ago, for the delivery of other furniture. Two more beds, a dozen chairs, a kitchen table, a desk, and some artwork. All delivered here as well.
But unless these things were hiding in a room upstairs, they weren’t here. What was he doing with all this furniture?
I dropped the clipboard to my side and started walking again, not sure why any of this mattered. It probably didn’t, but then again, any information people deemed to hide was valuable.
Who was the furniture for? Was he keeping a mistress? Maybe that’s why he didn’t invest a stitch of time or money into his house? He must sleep elsewhere.
I shook my head, a knot twisting in my stomach. I didn’t want to know. But I did, too.
I walked down the hallway, passing the office, the men’s and women’s locker rooms, and a couple of smaller classrooms without doors. Coming up on the third one, I could hear the sound of sticks slapping against each other in quick time.
“What are you doing?” I heard Kai snip.
Stopping and hanging back, I peered into the room, instantly spotting him, his body tight and rigid, as he circled his student. His glare looked pissy, and I felt more amused than I wanted to. He was so uptight.
Of course, so was I.
And then his “student” came into view, and the amusement left. Rika walked in a slow circle, matching his predatory stride but keeping the same safe distance from each other.
He was with her more than her fucking fiancé.
“Oji waza,” she answered him, but I had no idea what that meant. She held out her arms, the shanai in her right hand as she challenged him. “What did I do wrong now?”
“Counterattack and then initiate,” he commanded, wiping the sweat on his face with forearm. “Don’t stop. Let’s see it.”
He positioned his sword, and she did the same, the tips touching before he stomped his foot and let out a loud growl and advanced.
She snapped up her sword, stopping him before she whipped her nearly four-foot bamboo stick at him instead, taking large strides as she gripped the handle of the weapon with both hands.
Why weren’t they wearing their gear? Kendo had special robes, armor, and helmets to protect the fighters.
Too fast, she bolted to his side and smacked the stick to the back of his neck. I watched as he hunched forward, absorbing the hit, giving her just enough time to sweep his legs, push him backward, and send him crashing to the mat on his back.
“Ah!” he growled, squeezing his eyes shut as he landed.
Rika’s mouth fell open, and she dropped the sword, shooting her arms up into the air and smiling.
“Ugh,” Kai groaned as he rubbed the back of his head.
“Oh, yeah,” she boasted, dancing around and smiling. “Uh-huh. I told you we needed our gear on, but oh no. You said I’d learn better if I got hurt.” And then she darted out her head, putting her hands on her hips. “So did you learn?”
Snarling, Kai pushed himself to his feet and bent over, swinging his staff off the floor as she danced around, doing fist pumps.
“Don’t laugh,” he chided. “Humility, Rika, remember?”
Which made her laugh more, completely pleased with herself.
I watched as his face softened and he rolled his eyes, a small smile playing at the corners of his lips. He hooked an arm around her neck and kissed her forehead.
Not like a lover—more like a brother—but I still clenched my jaw and dug in my eyebrows at the sight. There was an intimacy there. A connection between them.
Did he love her?
Damon was right. They were all under her spell. I knew she wasn’t responsible for getting them all sent to prison, like we all thought last year, but when my brother couldn’t abide her presence, they chose her over him. I saw his side.
“Good job,” Kai said. “And don’t forget the screaming. It’s important for intimidation.”
He walked with her toward the doorway, and I straightened, backing up against the wall of the hallway.
Rika stepped out first, stopping when she saw me. She only paused a moment, though, before casting him a glance and continuing down the hall, pushing through the women’s locker room door.
Kai approached me, his eyes heavy on me. I handed him the case.
“The tools you requested,” I said. “And the rope is in your trunk. Lev, Ilia, and David will be here in the morning for training, and you have an instructor set up, correct?”
He took the clipboard out of my hands, shooting me a look like I shouldn’t have had it.
He started walking, looking at the invoice as he spoke to me. “And for you, as well.”
“No thanks,” I answered flatly. “I’m a self-starter.”
I could hear his quiet laugh as I walked behind him.
After the hotel this morning, he’d kept me busy all day, getting supplies to get onto the twelfth floor, going over the contracts with Gabriel, and hunting down old employees of the Pope for him to talk to. I didn’t even try, though. Did he really think I would make this any easier for him? He could send me back to Thunder Bay. By all means…
“I also set up an appointment tomorrow for a landscaper,” I continued, “and a few contractors to come out to your hovel to give an estimate on what it’s going to take to get the place ready for Vanessa.” I shoved my hands in my pocket, stealing looks at the taut muscles in his bare back that moved as he walked. “But really, it would be much easier if you just moved.”
The comment was snide, but it was true. It would be cutting it close as it was, getting the furniture moved in and the wedding planned, much less having to contend with renovations, too.
“Cancel the appointments,” he said without looking back.
“Fine.” You can deal with her when she gets here then.
Or maybe he wasn’t planning on his new wife living with him at all. How about that? Hm.
“I’ll text you the dimensions of her bedroom, and you buy the décor you want,” he instructed. “When I say so, you can start setting up her room. The rest of the house is off limits to you. Got it?”
“Her room?” I inquired, unable to hide the amusement from my voice. “Don’t you mean your room?”
He stopped at the front desk and set down the case, but I didn’t miss the arched brow he shot me before turning to the delivery guy.
“Let me know when you need anything else, sir,” the guy said, handing him keys.
Kai signed the invoice and swapped with him, handing him the clipboard while he took the keys.
Keys. So that’s what was happening. Kai wasn’t having furniture delivered here. He was having a truck of furniture delivered here. He didn’t even want a driver seeing where it was going.
Now I was intrigued.