The next morning Akemi phones Maile.
“Akemi! I’m so happy to hear from you! Where are you?”
“TEK Hotel. I arrived yesterday afternoon. So what is it that you need me to do to help you get ready for this wedding of yours?”
Maile sighs internally at the tone of his voice. Things would be so much easier if he and Yutaka could just get along!
“Well, the rehearsal is Saturday night at 7:00. I’ve heard through the grapevine that some of the guys are throwing Yutaka a bachelor party Friday night and I’m sure you’ll be invited. I would really appreciate it if you could bury the hatchet long enough to get through this weekend without any outward animosity, ‘Kemi.”
Akemi struggles to control his temper in the pause that follows.
“For you I will make every effort, little sister. I understand how important this is to you.”
“The next few days are going to be very busy for me, but I’d like to see you. Can we have lunch tomorrow? There is a sushi bar within walking distance of the hotel. Etsuko works there, and I’d be surprised if her fiancé, Ranger, wasn’t there, too. He eats lunch there nearly every day. Did I tell you that it’s going to be a double wedding?”
Akemi looks at the phone, startled. “Did you say ‘Ranger’? That doesn’t sound Japanese.”
“It’s not. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow. Is 11:30 OK? That way we’ll beat the noon rush.”
“OK, little sister. 11:30 tomorrow at the sushi bar.”
Akemi hangs up, puzzled. Etsuko and Maile have been friends since childhood and he is familiar with how hopelessly old-fashioned her parents are. He finds it very difficult to believe that they would accept her marriage to anyone not Japanese. Even his own parents, “progressive” as they are by comparison, would have plenty to say about a situation like that. Fortunately, the one thing Yutaka has going for him is that he is Hawaiian Japanese, just like his and Maile’s family.
For some reason, Piper’s fair English face pops into his mind unbidden. Far from dreading the hours that need to be filled before the bachelor party, Akemi finds himself looking forward to the empty days. He reaches back into his pocket and pulls out his phone again.
“Piper? Akemi. Do you have any recommendations for killing time here in TEKville? I seem to find myself with a couple of free days before my sister’s wedding.”
"I've got it, I've got it!"
Her face flushed with laughter and exertion, Piper runs back to Akemi with the Frisbee and impulsively throws her arms around his neck.
Akemi has been very careful not to let his lust goad him into frightening her away with premature advances, but he is unable to restrain himself at her sudden proximity. He gathers her into his arms for a heated kiss, allowing her to feel the full intensity of his arousal. Piper’s cool demeanor belies her lusty nature, and she returns his kiss with equal ardor.
After several moments, Akemi releases her and they stand, panting and flushed, searching each other’s eyes.
Just as he reaches for Piper again, they are brought back to earth by the appearance of a family strolling nearby, and he reluctantly reins in his desire.
“Damn. I’m sorry, Piper. I totally lost track of where we are. I didn’t mean . . .”
“Oh, button it, Akemi. I’ve wanted to do that since the first time I saw you. I’ve told you that I am no fair flower. Do you believe me now?”
Akemi’s eyes, still dark with desire, search hers intently. “I begin to, Piper. I begin to.” He clears his throat. “This is not the place to pursue our . . . conversation.” He smiles and asks, tentatively, “Will you come back to the hotel with me?”
He holds his breath as he awaits her response. Seconds stretch into eternity as she considers, head cocked to one side and eyes locked on his. No romantic entanglements, Piper? What do you call THIS, then? Are you seriously considering jumping into bed with this man that you only just met a few days ago? Not that sex necessarily has anything to do with romance, but I’m afraid . . . I’m afraid that if I do sleep with him, I’ll be lost. I’m already half in love with him.
“Piper?” Akemi’s voice reflects his inner anguish, as he fears that he has overstepped his bounds and has lost his chance with her. “I’m sorry. I just . . .”
“Don’t be silly. I would like nothing better than to go back to your room with you, Akemi. I’m just . . . I don’t want . . .” She trails off, not wanting to express her fears aloud, and especially not to this man. She smiles brightly in an effort to alleviate the awkwardness of the moment. “Perhaps . . . perhaps another time?”
Akemi is crestfallen, but makes a valiant attempt to cover it up. “Any time, Piper. I mean that. Any time.”
The intensity in his dark eyes nearly melts her resolve, but she swallows hard and remains steadfast. “Thank you,” she says, simply. “Thank you for indulging what must seem like a whim.”
Impulsively, Akemi asks “Will you be my date for my sister’s wedding, Piper? I want to enjoy your company as much as I can until I have to return to Hawaii.”
She smiles with relief at this change of subject. “Of course! I’d love to. Where is it, and what time?”
“I’m told that it will take place in the garden of a private home here in TEKville on Sunday. I’ll pick you up at 2:00. It’s outdoors, so dress accordingly. Oh, and my sister tells me that it's a black & white themed event. I’ll have duties during the ceremony but should be free for the rest of the event, and I’ll welcome the distraction.”
She smiles understandingly. “Speaking of distractions, why don’t we have that picnic lunch now? All that running after Frisbees has left me ravenous, and I can't wait to see what you've packed in that enormous cooler!”
Relieved that the moment of awkwardness has passed without clouding their day, Akemi and Piper return temporarily to the car he has rented for the day to retrieve their picnic supplies. Loaded down with food and drink and blankets, they look for a quiet spot to set up.
"I can't see how that little mat is going to work."
"Trust me! This is a trick I learned in my childhood. My mother used to pack up the whole family and take us to the beach using one of these."
"Why don't you join me and we'll open that cooler!"
"Oh, Akemi. This is just so perfect. Thank you so much for today!"
"Why don't you unpack the tableware while I grab us a bottle of wine?"
"I managed to find some LSL Zinfandel locally. I thought you might approve." He winks.
"You really know how to impress a girl, I'll give you that!" She laughs delightedly.
"To . . . . to a day in the park!"
Wine is poured and tasted appreciatively, then Akemi begins to reveal some of the feast he has packed.
"Oh, Akemi! Whoever would have thought to bring sushi on a picnic! It looks absolutely wonderful."
Later, after the food has all been consumed and the tableware packed back into its basket, Piper collapses back onto the blanket.
Groan. "I can't believe I ate all that! I am absolutely stuffed!"
"I have one more surprise for you, Piper."
"Surely you have room for one chocolate-covered macadamia nut! I brought them from Hawaii."
Instead of reaching for the box of candy, Piper grabs Akemi by the back of the neck and pulls him down to her for a very intense kiss.
"Akemi? What I said about waiting? I've changed my mind."
"Piper . . . are you sure?"
"Oh yes. I am very sure."
Uh oh . . . looks like it's time for us to leave these two alone . . .
To be continued . . .