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Fall Into You: Chapter 52

Shay

He kisses me again, then rolls onto his back and arranges me on top of his body the way he likes to, cupping my head in his big hand as I rest my head on his shoulder.

He inhales deeply, exhales in a gust, then begins to talk in a low, emotionless voice.

“In Japan, people who go missing are called jouhatsu. Literally translated, the word means evaporated. Like people all over the world, they vanish for different reasons, but many of the jouhatsu in Japan do so on purpose with the help of companies called yonige-ya.”

“What does that mean?”

“Night movers. They’re specialists in helping people disappear.”

Already fascinated, I wait quietly for him to continue as he absently strokes my hair.

“I was first introduced to the idea when I was in boarding school in London in my teens. I had a friend named Kiyoko there whose family was wealthy, like mine. But one of her uncles had a gambling problem and went into deep debt. He borrowed money from the yakuza to try to repay it but defaulted on the loan. And if you don’t make good on your debts to the yakuza, you don’t get to keep breathing.”

“I take it they’re organized crime like the Mafia?”

“Yes. So Kiyoko’s uncle hired a night mover to help him disappear. He was never heard from again. The only reason the family knew what happened to him is because he left his mother a note. But they never spoke of him after that. Like suicide, becoming jouhatsu is a taboo topic in their culture. When it happens, everyone acts like it didn’t. You vanish, and nobody ever mentions you again.”

I lie in his arms and think about that. To permanently vanish without a trace. To start over somewhere new where no one knows you, and your past can’t follow.

I can’t decide if it’s wonderful or depressing.

“During boarding school, Kiyoko and I became close friends. After we graduated, we went to Oxford together.”

“You went to Oxford?”

“Yes. Don’t sound so impressed.”

“Why not? It’s impressive.”

“University doesn’t teach you how to think. It only teaches you how to conform and take tests. I wish I’d skipped it altogether, but my father has a thing about higher education. He didn’t go to college, so he made sure his three sons did. Oxford is where I met Axel, by the way. I hated him at first. Thought he was a snobbish jock. Archery, boxing, cricket, fencing, he did it all. Turns out, he only went so hard in athletics to annoy his father, a member of the British peerage, who wanted him to have a law practice like he did. Once I found that out, we became best friends.”

He chuckles. “There’s nothing like shared fucked-up family dynamics to bring people closer. Anyway, After Oxford, Kiyoko moved to Vancouver, and I came back to LA. Axel decided he’d had enough of England, so he applied for US citizenship and moved to Virginia to attend the FBI Academy.”

Cole pauses. He exhales again. Then he says, “Kiyoko and I lost touch for a while. Until her daughter was murdered.”

My heartbeat ticks up. I whisper, “Oh no.”

“Yes. Which is bad enough. What makes it worse is that the killer was her own father.”

“Oh God. How awful. What happened?”

His voice drops, but it gains an edge of hatred. “Kiyoko was raped. She got pregnant. But she wanted to be a mother, and she knew the circumstances weren’t the child’s fault. So she decided to have the baby and never tell her how she was conceived. Fast forward two years, and Kiyoko’s rapist is released from prison.”

I’m aghast. “Two years? That’s all?”

“It’s more than most rapists get. Canada doesn’t have a minimum sentence for sexual assault crimes. So this sicko somehow discovers Kiyoko had his baby. And he decided that baby belonged to him. He tracked down Kiyoko’s home address.”

Cole is silent for a long time. I don’t dare speak. I can feel how much he’s struggling.

Finally, he says in a rough voice, “He assaulted her again. Raped her and beat her near to death. Then he took the baby.” He inhales a ragged breath. “I won’t tell you what he did to her, but her little body was found wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed into the trash bin in a men’s restroom at Stanley Park.”

I’m so horrified, I can’t breathe. I lie stiffly with my heart pounding and my mouth open, tears welling in my eyes.

Beneath my palm, Cole’s heart beats as hard as mine does.

“When I heard what happened, I flew up to see her. The condition she was in…no one should ever have to go through what Kiyoko went through. She almost didn’t recover. She healed physically, but mentally it was tougher. We grew very close. I moved there and stayed with her until she could function again. And in that time, I fell in love with her. And I decided the man who hurt her and took her baby away would never be able to hurt anyone else again.”

I’m outright crying now. I can’t stop it. Tears stream down my cheeks. I don’t bother trying to wipe them away because I know more will be coming.

“I found him. I killed him. I made sure it took a long time. And when it was all over and I told Kiyoko, she didn’t say a word. She just kissed my bruised hands and hugged me. We never spoke of it again. But that night, I vowed I’d do what I could to prevent any other woman going through what she went through. I vowed I’d use my money and power in service of something bigger than my own selfish needs. I’d use it to help the helpless. Women like Kiyoko and her daughter who the system failed.”

I sob and burst into fresh tears.

Cole hugs me hard and silently holds me while I cry on his shoulder.

After a while, when I’m more calm, he wipes my tears away with his fingertips and kisses me gently. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be! I’m sorry for you! Cole, what you and she went through together…I can’t even imagine.”

When he speaks again, he sounds exhausted. “The way we started, what I did…it wasn’t the basis for a good relationship. I wasn’t her knight in shining armor. I was this constant reminder of what she’d lost. I came back to LA to work in the firm, but we saw each other as often as we could. Weekends, holidays, whatever. But every once in a while, I’d catch her looking at me as if she hated the sight of me. Like I made her sick. She denied it, but I knew what she saw when she looked at my face. I was a tether to the ugliness in her past. I wasn’t good for her. I was only hurting her more. So I ended it.”

I think of him sitting alone in that booth the night we met at the hotel bar in Beverly Hills. I think of his grim expression, his air of misery, and hate myself for being so cavalier when I sat down.

“You look like a lot of women’s biggest regret,” I told him.

How could he ever forgive me?

I start to apologize, but he gently shushes me.

“You never have to say you’re sorry for anything, Shay. I know where your heart is. I know it’s all good. You’re the only person in the world I knew I could tell that story to who wouldn’t condemn me for what I did. So thank you for being my safe space. You’ve been giving me more grace than I deserve since the day we met.”

My heart aches. It hurts so much, it feels as if it’s going to burst and kill me.

“Where is Kiyoko now?”

“Still in Vancouver.”

“And Axel’s here.”

“He graduated from the academy and worked for the FBI for a while, but he’s not a guy who enjoys taking orders from others. So he called me up, and we decided to work together. We formed our own night moves outfit. With my money, and his training and contacts, we can get a lot done.”

“You said he was your personal shopper.”

He chuckles. “And if he knew that, he’d kill me.”

I’m trying to piece it all together in my head, but I’m missing details. “So these night moves you do. How do you find the people who need to disappear?”

“Mostly from women’s shelters. I have contacts who report to me. I can’t help everyone who’s abused, but the women with children are a priority. They get a new identity and a new place to live.”

“So you take care of their abusers. The way you did with Dylan.”

“Most of them. Sometimes, the women don’t want their abuser dead. If she prefers, I’ll let her watch me beat him to a pulp, then make him transfer all his money and real estate holdings into accounts we’ve already set up in her name. Usually that only happens if he’s wealthy.”

“But what if he retaliates? What if he decides not to let her go and finds her?”

His voice turns dark. “I make sure he understands that isn’t an option.”

I think about everything he’s told me, trying to imagine what he’s been through and what his life’s been like.

But I can’t imagine it.

The loneliness. The heartache. The danger…

Especially the danger.

Alarmed, I sit up and look at him. “You’ll get caught.”

“No, I won’t.”

“Yes, you will,” I insist, starting to panic. “If this is a regular thing you do, there’s no way you can’t!”

“The chief of police is a close family friend.”

I stare at him blankly until I understand what he’s saying. “You mean he knows?”

He nods. “His fifteen year old daughter was killed by her boyfriend. Used to like to get rough with her. Smack her around. One night he took it too far and snapped her neck. But because he was a minor with no priors and had a very good attorney, he didn’t serve time. Got probation and community service. Didn’t matter who her daddy was, the boy still walked.”

I gape at him, horrified all over again.

Gazing into my eyes, he murmurs, “There’s no justice in this world for good people. Only evil gets what it wants.”

“That’s incredibly depressing.”

“That’s why religion was created. Without an afterlife to hope for, most of us would give up and slit our wrists.”

I sigh. “I need another glass of wine.”

He studies me, his face somber. “Do you understand now why I said I don’t have relationships? Why I don’t let people get close?”

When I nod, he says, “If we do this, Shay, if we commit to each other, you have to promise me something.”

“What is it?”

“That if you ever start to hate me, you’ll walk away. Because I already know I won’t be able to walk away from you. I already know I’m not strong enough. This thing with us, this connection…it’s everything I ever wanted, and everything I know I don’t deserve. So I’m gonna hold onto it as if my life depends on it. I’m gonna hold on even if I should let go. You’ll have to be the one to end it, if it comes to that. Promise me you will.”

Tears well in my eyes again. I’m surprised I have any left. “I promise.”

He peers at me very intently, as if to make sure I’m telling the truth. Whatever he sees satisfies him, because he nods and holds out his arms.

I lie on his chest and snuggle closer to him, as close as I can get. “So what do we do about the no-relationship policy at the company?”

“We work around it.”

“Meaning?”

“Meaning we’re discreet. Very discreet. We continue on as we have been, except no more liaisons in the stairwell. We only see each other outside the office and preferably not in public.”

“So basically only at my apartment or your house.”

“I know it’s inconvenient, but if my father gets wind that we’re together, he’ll go ballistic. My brothers won’t care, except that it will make us all look bad, like we think the rules don’t apply to us. But the worst thing would be how you’d be treated by the other employees. Everyone would think you only got the job because we were sleeping together. It wouldn’t be pleasant for you.”

In his pause, I can tell he wants me to imagine all of it. Being snickered at, being ostracized, being hated by his father. Maybe even being fired by his father.

So much for making a good impression on the parents.

“You’re right. It wouldn’t be pleasant. Let’s avoid that.”

He hesitates. “If you don’t work for me, however, none of this applies.”

“If you’re asking me to quit, the answer’s no. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. And the best paying.”

“I had a feeling you’d say that.” He plays with my hair while he thinks. “What if I gave you enough money that you’d never have to work again?”

“And what if I sewed your lips shut while you sleep so you wouldn’t say anything so silly again?”

He allows me to simmer in annoyance until I’m calm, then I sigh. “I’ll reconsider in a year.”

“About taking the money?”

“No, about finding a new job.”

“Oh.” He’s quiet for a moment. “But you do realize I’m a billionaire—”

“Stop talking. Just stop. I’m not interested in your money.”

His silent laughter shakes his chest. “Okay, sweetheart. No more talking. We’ll just lie here instead.”

He strokes my hair and back. He holds me like I’m fragile, and he’s worried I might break, every once in a while giving me a squeeze and a kiss on the forehead. I’m spent emotionally and physically, stifling a yawn as I think about everything he’s told me and what the future will bring.

And I promise myself that no matter what happens, we’ll stick it out. We can make it, even though there are all sorts of obstacles. We’ll make it because we both want it to work.

It’s like I completely forgot how life loves to fuck me over.


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