Off to the side, Ruby was on the phone, pacing back and forth.
Sighing, Hikaru dropped his bag and started to stretch out his muscles. Starting with his back, he twisted from side to side before rolling down to touch his toes and then back up again.
Ruby’s face was pinched when he looked back at her.
He rolled his shoulders. It felt amazing to loosen himself up like that, especially in the hot beams of sunlight.
“No-one is answering the phone,” her knuckles went white over her device as it swung from her ear to beside her thigh. “How are we meant to get our key if we can’t get in contact with the owner? Grrr.”
Hikaru was oddly not affected by all of the frustrations. Which made it easy for him to walk to the side of the squat building and follow the dark path to the back.
Ruby and Hokuto called out to him. Neither followed.
Further from the road, Hikaru could hear the ocean. Waves crashing. Sea gulls squawking. As he breathed in, salty air hit the back of his throat. The corners of his lips curled on their own. ‘The beach was really a good idea. But first we have to find a way to get to our rental house.’
“Hello?” He called out. Coming around the corner he came to a complete stop, his mouth hanging open.
All he could see was sparkling blue along the horizon.
‘I didn’t think we were that close.’ There it was, sky melding into sea, with a strip of gold only metres away from where he stood. All he had to do was walk through the neat garden and climb over the low stone wall at the back and his feet would be touching the sand.
He stepped forward.
The strangled sound of a person caught his attention. Looking to the side, he was greeted by a surprise.
The young woman was sunbathing.
She pulled out her earphones and stared at him with wide eyes.
Hikaru’s temperature went through the roof. Ears were burning. Blood filling certain areas more than others.
Her chest heaved as she inhaled deeply.
Then she screamed.
‘Shit.’ Knocked out of his trance, he spun around and raised his hands. “I’m so sorry. The office is closed.”
“Hikaru?” Ruby and Hokuto started down the path.
He turned to them, face stinging from the heat, and shook his head at them.
“Takashi?” The girl behind him asked.
He fought the urge to look over his shoulder. “The booking is under his name. I’m Mamiya, one of his guests. There are two others out front.”
There was a long pause.
“You can lower your hands. I’m not going to shoot you.” She snapped. “And turn around and apologise properly.”
Hikaru took a deep breath. Closing his eyes, he did as he was told. Bowing low he apologised. “Please forgive me. I did not mean to see you.”
“Hmmm. You can stop now.”
He hesitated. ‘I don’t want to open my eyes. I don’t want to straighten up and see her… oh shit.’ the image of her rounded breasts popped into his mind and his body reacted like he was a teenager again with endless amounts of hormones coursing through his body.
“Mamiya-san.” The woman snapped again. She sighed. “I’m wearing clothes.”
‘Can’t avoid it.’ Straightening up, he opened his eyes. What he found was a lot more modest. The woman was covered in a sweat shirt several sizes too large.
Now she bowed to him. “Hello and welcome. I am sorry no-one was in the office to meet you. My name is Shinjo Chiyo.”
“Um, nice to meet you.” Hikaru stared confused at the woman.
“I’ll go and open the office.” Without waiting for him to do anything or to give him further instructions, she slid open the back door and walked through it, sliding it closed again. A distinct clicking meant she was locking the door.
With the heat still high in his face he returned to the front.
“What happened?” Ruby asked.
Hikaru bent at the waist and picked up his bag, ignoring her. ‘Nope, not going to explain that horror anytime soon.’
The front door opened.
Hikaru spun around fast, his bag whipping out and coming back to slam into his side with a thud.
Ruby and the woman were embracing each other like long lost friends… ‘Actually… Shinjo… Takashi’s family name was Shinjo… Why am I an idiot?’
Over Ruby’s shoulder, she glared at him.
Oblivious of it all, Ruby dropped one arm, keeping the other around her friend as she spoke to the two men. “Chiyo-chan is Takashi’s cousin.”
“Sorry the office was closed. My dad was meant to be watching it, but I guess he disappeared.”
Hikaru, felt sorry for her father, Shinjo-san. This woman looked like she could kill with clean efficiency and order someone else to come and clean the mess.
“Anyway. Where’s Takashi? He’s meant to have the key to the house.” Chiyo directed this to Ruby.
Ruby shrugged. “He and Yuki should be here tomorrow.”
“Go figure.” She passed a key over to Ruby. “It’s the one on the end of the street.”
Ruby’s eyes lit up. “The one nearest the shrine? Yes. When’s the festival?”
Snorting, Chiyo slipped out of Ruby’s reach and shook her head. “Go to the house first and get settled in. Now isn’t the time to be asking questions. Especially in this heat.” Again, she bowed. “It is nice to meet you all. I hope you enjoy your stay.”
Hikaru felt ill. Comparing the two women was impossible. Ruby and Chiyo were completely different, yet he felt the same strange attraction to Chiyo as he did to Ruby. ‘Oh come on! This is ridiculous. I’ve felt nothing for years and now I have two women making me crazy?’ The image again popped into his mind and he had to look away, blushing.