Authors: Annie Gold
Asian Romance Billionaire
By Annie Gold
Copyright © 2015 by Annie Gold
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to actual events or
locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including emailing, photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.
"Kat! Get back here, dammit!"
Though my lungs were nearly bursting from the long sprint I'd been sustaining, I only pushed myself faster. The angry shouts fell behind me as I took a sharp turn into an open alley. My eyes teared up at what I'd seen, and I felt ready to vomit. Ritchie's eyes had been so cold, so merciless. The other man's expression had been the most pathetic I'd ever seen, and his words still tugged at me.
"Please, Ritchie. I swear to God I'll have the money! I just need one more day! One!"
The gunshot had made me jump violently, knocking over the cardboard box I'd been crouched behind. The image of pooling blood was all I saw in front of me, and it almost felt as if the rain puddles beneath my feet were slick with the red substance as I ran. Ritchie's face had been eerily calm, even as he'd turned to me after putting the man down like a dog.
"Oh, Kat. You weren't supposed to see all this nasty business, sweetie."
. As if shooting a man in cold blood was just an everyday occurrence. As if taking a life was signing a paper for a merger. For a moment fear turned my blood to ice, and then I did the only sensible thing I could think of. I bolted.
Traffic was light in this part of the city, especially at this time of day.
If I can just reach that street, I'll be in plain sight. He wouldn't dare do anything.
Or at least, that's what I hoped. My fingers clutched at my purse strap as my frantic steps slowed. And, just my luck, the street was completely empty at the moment.
I looked around frantically for another living soul, and could only see a little Pomeranian a few houses away behind a fence.
Great. Maybe I can release it on Ritchie. I'm sure his ankles would suffer for it.
I started jogging down the street, hoping that my boyfriend--
I mentally corrected myself, as there was no way in hell I'd ever let him near me again--had fallen far enough behind and had been confused enough by my route that he wouldn't be able to catch up.
Eventually I had to stop in front of a house, panting. There was a debilitating stitch in my side, and my mouth was desperate for some sort of moisture. I took a few moments to breathe, clutching at my ribcage where the stitch had settled.
"There she is!"
Panic shoved me forward as I heard loud, pounding footfalls behind me. Unfortunately, I'd taken just a fraction of a second too long, and a thick masculine arm closed around my waist, yanking me against a firm body. Ritchie had always dwarfed my small frame and I'd loved it, but now I found myself wishing for just a few more inches to combat his height.
"Where are you rushing to in such a hurry, baby?" His voice was heavy in my ear. "You never played hard to get before."
Bile crept up my throat from contact with him, and I felt his fingers play with the hem of my jeans. Oh hell...not here. Biting the inside of my cheek roughly, I snapped my mind from panic to defense and slammed the heel of one of my shoes into his foot as hard as I could on his instep. I felt his body arch away from mine as he swore loudly. Not stopping there, I rammed my elbow back into his abs with all my tiny strength, and I felt him double over. His grip loosened on me, and I didn't wait for a second opportunity.
My feet carried me halfway down the street before I nearly ran into one of the men I'd seen flanking Ritchie. He caught me, gripping my upper arms firmly. "Feisty little bitch, aren't you?" Somehow he saw my knee coming up for his groin and he moved to one side, throwing me to the sidewalk. Stars exploded in my vision as my head slammed against the concrete, and I couldn't move. I willed my limbs to pick me up and carry me away from this nightmare, but my traitorous body wouldn't listen to my brain's frantic screams.
"Finally--" But Ritchie's furious tone was cut off by the roar of a loud motor coming down the street. My vision was darkening slowly, and I didn't have the strength to turn my head, so I just prayed that whoever it was would stop and help.
Tires screeched in an answer to my prayers and I heard a deep masculine voice demanding to know what was going on. Ritchie's reply sounded like a typical gangster, and if I'd been in a position to do so, I would have rolled my eyes at him. "None of your business, buddy. Move on."
"On the contrary, I do think it is my business. Back away from her." His voice was pleasantly cadenced, as if he spent most of his life speaking softly to others.
Ritchie laughed. "And what are you gonna do, tough guy? You're smaller than any of us!"
May those be his last words,
I thought viciously as darkness obscured my vision. I clung to consciousness with desperate fingers, wanting to know who my rescuer was. Sluggishly I demanded that my arms move and prop me up, and by yet another miracle, they managed to obey me this time. I lifted my torso from the sidewalk just in time to see the goon that had put me down here go flying past me. He hit the ground a lot harder than I had, and I felt a slightly vicious sense of satisfaction.
Take that, you bastard.
Unfortunately propping myself up had taken the last of my strength, and my arms gave out. Just before my head cracked against the sidewalk again, however, a slender hand stopped my descent. I felt myself being lifted up, and my mind finally gave way to the blackness that had been grasping so eagerly for me.
I was comfortable where I was and didn't want to stir.
"Miss, can you hear me?"
Go away, I'm warm and fuzzy right now.
"Miss, please. If you can hear me, open your eyes."
Groaning, I finally complied. A pair of almond-shaped eyes hovered in my vision, showing concern. "Miss, can you hear me?"
My voice was thick in my throat. "Y-yeah."
The line of worry between his brows eased away as he smiled.
I was almost glad I'd been attacked, just because of my rescuer. He looked Asian, with gorgeously high cheekbones and thin lips. His nose was a little on the small side, giving his face a slightly effeminate look, but it worked well with the symmetry of his face. His bangs were long and hung on either side to frame his cheeks, and the rest of his dark hair was pulled into a half ponytail. From my position I couldn't see how long it was, but it went past his shoulders.
"I'm glad you are awake. I was worried you had a concussion."
I could listen to him talk for hours in that soft tone. There was something so pleasant about it. "I-I'm not sure if I do." My brain felt completely scrambled, though I didn't want to appear as a drooling moron in this guy's presence. "My head hurts."
To my surprise he chuckled at my comment. "Yes, I've heard that happens when your head is introduced to the sidewalk."
Ah... he had a sense of humor. I cracked a small smile. "Oh, is that what happened?" Glancing around a little, I took in my surroundings. A walnut dashboard was directly behind my rescuer, and as I felt around a little there was the smooth sensation of leather beneath me. I was in the passenger side of his car. I sobered a little, remembering how I'd ended up here. "Is he still...?"
His look darkened. "The men who attacked you turned tail and ran after I fought them off."
"Damn. They're going to find me again." I felt a rush of panic and tried to push myself up, but his gentle hands stopped me. "Please, you should not move right now. You are bleeding."
I was? Raising my hand to confirm, I brought it away from my forehead to find a fingertip dabbed with dark red gloss. Blood seemed to be following me everywhere today. "You don't understand, I have--"
"I will take you somewhere safe, miss. I just didn't want to whisk you away without your consent."
Courteous and hot. I definitely could have done worse. "We need to call the police."
"I have notified the authorities." He held up a small cell phone. "They will be awaiting us at my home."
"Your home...?" I repeated stupidly.
Nice going, genius. Why not just parrot everything?
He nodded in confirmation. "Yes. It's a very safe place. They wanted you to come to the station, but I didn't think it would be good for you to go in your current condition."
"Well, you're right." I noticed that he'd pulled a blanket up over me. Was there anything he hadn't thought of? My purse was even sitting neatly in my lap.
"Can you buckle yourself in?"
I was going to nod, but thought better of it as my head gave an ominous internal thud and started pounding. "Y-yeah. I think I can manage." Though my fingers were trembling with the effort and my head was telling me to stop moving, I managed to grasp the buckle and guide it to my other side, fastening it securely. As soon as he was satisfied I was situated, my rescuer closed my door and strode to his own side, climbing in with ease. The car purred as he put it in gear, and I took the opportunity to look around some more.
The interior of the car was very plush, and I could tell it was expensive, but beyond that I knew nothing. Cars were not my forte, although I could appreciate the comfort of the seat and enjoy the warmth emanating from it.
"My name is Akihiko," he introduced, glancing briefly at me as he turned a corner and into main traffic. "Akihiko Tanaka."
His eyes were trained out the windshield as he nodded. "I wish we could have met under better circumstances, Miss Saunders."
I winced as he turned another corner, my head still pounding. "Yeah. Guess I got lucky when you decided to drive up the road."
"It seemed fated to happen," he agreed. For a while we sat in silence, and I watched the streets go by until I recognized the classier side of the city. Homes were opulent and had huge grounds, an expensive luxury in the city.
Oh, lovely... rich, hot, and courteous. I'm doomed.
This guy was so far up and beyond my league I shouldn't even have been breathing the same
as him, and yet here I was in his car riding to his house.
Eventually we slowed to a stop outside an opulent mansion. Peaked roofs and sweeping corners gave it a slightly Asian feel, as did the raked rock garden out front. I stared in admiration as we pulled up to the gates, which slowly opened. An ambulance and a few police cars crowded around the front of the manor, lights flashing. Mr. Tanaka slowed to a stop at the least crowded spot just in front of a massive garage. The car fell silent, and he exited to help me gingerly out of my seat.
Though I didn't want to seem like the quintessential damsel in distress, my head refused to cooperate. I felt exhausted, and just wanted to lie down somewhere. So it was in spite of my pride that I leaned heavily on him, trying to walk gingerly. He said nothing about my slow pace, and only seemed to want to help, for which I was grateful. I didn't need it rubbed in my face that I was acting absolutely pathetic.
We were swarmed by the police on the way up to the main entrance. but Mr. Tanaka held up a hand. "Please, officers, why don't we all go inside and discuss things? I'd hate to have Miss Saunders stand out in the rain any longer than necessary."
I was hustled inside, and barely had time to admire my surroundings before Mr. Tanaka placed me gently down on a sofa that I'm sure was worth more that I could make in a year. Two of the officers sat across from me on a velvet loveseat, one of them pulling out a pad. "Miss Saunders, was it?"
I nodded in the affirmative before remembering I'd just had a huge bang on my head. Everything went fuzzy for a moment, and there was muffled roaring in my ears. A woman dressed in a blue paramedic uniform hurried in, opening a first aid kit and dabbing at my forehead with an antiseptic swab. The sting helped me focus a little.
"Why don't you tell us what happened, Miss Saunders?"
My voice was shaky, and of all things, I felt tears start to run down my face. "I... I was following my boyfriend, Ritchie, because I'd started to suspect he was cheating on me. He was keeping really odd hours, coming home late and stuff."
The officer removed his cap, nodding politely. "And how long have you two been together?"
I thought for a moment. "Well, I've known him since college, and we started dating after I graduated, which was just last year. So... officially together about a year and a half. But I knew him for about a year before that."
"And you never had any indication that he might be predisposed to violence?" His tone held some disbelief, as if I was supposed to pay attention to every little detail in Ritchie's life. Truth be told we'd never been the secret sharing type of couple, and now I regretted this. If' I'd known sooner what was going on, I would have run in the opposite direction as fast as possible.
Irritation took hold. "We were casual acquaintances at best in college. I was a student and he wasn't. We met at a party and hit it off. When he asked me if he could move into my apartment I didn't think much of it."
The officer's partner, a younger man, sat forward a little. "It's all right, Miss Saunders, we're just trying to get all our facts straight."
As we were talking the paramedic continued her attention to my forehead, pulling out gauze pads and wrapping. I felt a gentle hand touch mine, and I looked up to see Mr. Tanaka offering me a mug of steaming tea. I almost smiled at the cliché of him offering me a drink, but only took it quietly with a tiny nod of thanks. He sat down next to me as I watched someone, obviously a maid by her uniform, offer tea to everyone else in the room.
"Right. Sorry. Anyway, I followed him down an alley, but when he met up with two other guys, I stopped and hid behind a box because I didn't want them to see me."
"And what did these other two men look like?" The younger officer accepted a mug of tea, but his partner declined. The paramedic interrupted them. "Officers, I need to examine for a concussion."
"Of course, of course." The older officer waved one hand dismissively. I didn't like his condescending attitude, but catching Ritchie was more important. The paramedic felt gingerly around my skull, and I cringed a few times.
"Well, you've got a pretty good goose egg, but I don't think there was any lasting damage. Just a nasty cut and bump. Does anything else hurt?"
“Not really... I think I got a couple scrapes, but they just sting a little."
She checked me over as I finally answered the officer's question. "One was really tall and muscular with blonde hair. He had some sort of a tribal tattoo on the back of his neck, and the other was a short, stocky guy with dark brown hair. He had some kind of a scar on his hand."
"Which hand?" The younger officer questioned. I paused to think for a moment. "His left, I believe. Yeah, it was the left hand."
"Very well." The officer noted what I'd said. "So you saw your boyfriend--"
-boyfriend now," I corrected him.
His expression was pained, as if the trivial detail didn't matter to him in the slightest, but it mattered to me. "Excuse me, your now ex-boyfriend met up with these two men, and then what happened next? Did anyone else join the group? Perhaps a man of medium build, sandy blonde hair, and blue eyes?"
I blinked in surprise. "Um, yeah. How did you know?"
He shook his head. "Don't worry about that just now. Just tell me what happened next."
"The um...the third guy was dragging something behind him, and I couldn't get a good look at it at first, but then he moved into the light and I saw it was another guy..." I had to stop. My hands were shaking uncontrollably. Mr. Tanaka gently took the tea mug from my hands before I shattered it with my grip. I swallowed before continuing. "He was beat up so badly I couldn't recognize his face, but he was wearing a red shirt and faded jeans. He wasn't wearing any shoes." Tears started leaking from my eyes. "They um..." I sobbed, placing a hand over my mouth in grief.
"Take your time." Mr. Tanaka's voice was a gentle presence in the midst of my turmoil. He touched my hand softly, and I drew strength from him.
"They made him kneel, and Ritchie said something about the guy still owing him money, and the guy told Ritchie that he'd have the funds by tomorrow, but then Ritchie... I don't know how I ever missed him wearing it when he left the apartment, but he pulled out a gun and he..." Mr. Tanaka squeezed my hand. "He shot him. I knocked over a box because I was startled, and they all started to chase me. If it hadn't been for Mr. Tanaka here, I would probably have met the same end." For a moment our eyes met, and he gave me the briefest of smiles before turning to the officers.
"So, officers, do you think that this was gang-related?"
The older one spoke up. "As a matter of fact, yes. Miss Saunders here was somehow unwittingly dating a member of the Rioters. They've been terrorizing our streets for a long time. The sandy blonde-haired man is their ringleader, a man named Theon Groppoli."
A gang. I'd been dating a member of the most hated gang in my city, and somehow I'd been completely oblivious to it. Ritchie had never given me even the slightest clue. He never brought guns into the house, never hung out with anyone too shady, and even had gotten a day job to help me with rent. I cradled my head gently in my hands, feeling a bout of shame wash over me for my stupidity.