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Rated: 13+ · Chapter · Action/Adventure · #2317616
In which Kai and Jet strike a deal
Pepper and Luca aren’t together.

At least, not in the romantic sense. But they both need to pay regular expenses and have healthy savings Just In Case, so they share a living space and split the rent. The house is small, but it does have two bedrooms, which suits them just fine.

Luca brings his nightly conquests—male and female—back to the apartment on a regular basis, so Pepper has developed a habit of either coming home later than he does or making sure her door is closed if she gets home first. Hearing Luca’s romantic encounters and seeing them are two very different things. She’d learned that the hard way.

What Pepper doesn’t expect to find when she gets home is Luca still awake and Kai sleeping on the couch in the front room. Luca is staring at his phone and doesn’t look up until Pepper closes the door.

“Kai didn’t want to go home,” He answers her silent question. “And I know as well as you do that Kai is allergic to alcohol so no, he isn’t drunk.”

“I didn’t say anything.” Pepper keeps her voice carefully neutral, her gaze running over the bruises that still cover Kai’s face, and the scab over his brow. She’s not exactly sure why seeing Kai look like that makes her insides clench, but they do, and it’s irritating.

“But you’re thinking a lot of things,” Luca corrects her. “And the answer to your second silent question is also ‘no’. Kai isn’t my type, any more than I’m his.”

“I know.” Rather than go deeper into that potentially awkward topic of conversation, Pepper gestures to Luca’s phone. “What are you looking at?”

“I think this will explain why your brother wanted to ‘talk’ to Kai the other night.” Luca hands the phone over. “Take a look.”

“Where did you get these?” Pepper’s forehead wrinkles as she scrolls through the images on Luca’s phone. Luca grins at her.

“Kai left his phone unlocked, and I was curious.”

Pepper highly doubts the first part of Luca’s reply, but doesn’t say so. The images are slightly out of focus, but the logo on them is unmistakable. “OmniVentures. That’s where Kai’s internship is.”

“Right,” Luca takes the phone back, scrolls through several more images, and then hands it back. “But interns don’t usually have access to information like this.”

Pepper swipes her fingers across the screen, bringing the image into sharper focus. It’s a hand drawn infographic of OmniVentures’ business timeline, complete with dates, names, numbers indicating the continuous rise of the company’s holdings and assets. The word “where” is written next to some of the numbers. Some of the names have the letters “SP” written next to them and others have question marks. “What does it mean?”

“The letters ‘SP’ stand for ‘silent partner’, but I have no idea what the question marks are for, or what ‘where’ is supposed to mean.” Luca says exactly what Pepper is thinking. “That’s Kai’s handwriting, and that information is sensitive enough to give your brother a perfect excuse to stomp Kai into the ground.”

“Nail hates Kai enough to do that whether Chalam ordered him to or not,” Pepper confirms, her eyes still on the infographic. “But why would Kai want this?”

“That’s my business,” Kai’s voice sounds from the couch and when Pepper looks up she sees him glaring at Luca. “You broke into my phone?”

“I asked you questions you wouldn’t answer,” Luca doesn’t look the least bit disturbed by the accusation. “You need a better password than your birthday.”

Kai sits all the way up and holds out his hand for Luca’s phone. “You’re going to delete that right?”

“I’ve only shown it to Pepper,” Luca sticks his phone in his pocket. “And who else would want to see it anyway?”

“Is that supposed to be a rhetorical question?”

“I don’t know,” Luca matches Kai’s neutral tone, but his eyes are genuinely curious. “You tell me.”

Kai’s jaw clenches. “Like I said, that’s my business.”

“Was your business,” Luca corrects him. “You can’t go after that shark on your own.”

“I did just fine until the other night,” But Kai’s hand moves unconsciously to his scabbing brow. “Mostly.”

Pepper’s eyebrows go up. “That’s certainly one way to describe it. Luca’s right, you shouldn’t go after OmniVentures on your own. Or even at all.”

“I have good reasons,” Kai snaps back. “Except Mali’s boyfriend got me ‘medical leave’ so I can’t find anything else until I’m allowed back in the corporate building.”

“Why do you have to go after Chalam in the first place?”

Kai's eyes turn into black holes of hate as he answers Pepper's question.

“Because Chalam killed my parents.”

When Jet had been adopted, Mali’s reaction had been different from Kai’s. She hadn’t been exactly sure how easy her older brother would be to find after he left, but she hadn’t let that stop her. It helped once she got her own IG and LINE accounts, especially since Jet either hadn’t changed his surname or reverted back to it once he reached adulthood. Mali had never asked. It was a toss up whether Jet or Mali was more surprised that she’d managed to track him down.

The first time they’d met in person was five years ago. Up until then it had been video chats and LINE and IG messages—mostly because Mali lived solely in Bangkok and Jet split his time between Thailand and Italy. Their in person meeting was the first time Jet had asked about Kai. Mali had been hesitant to do more than show him Kai’s social media, but the more they met, the more Jet persisted. It was once Mali had finally given Jet Kai’s phone number that Kai had started glaring at her and saving Jet’s number in his phone as “Asshole.”

Kai’s reaction hadn’t been entirely unexpected, but in Mali’s opinion, her younger brother had been holding a ridiculous grudge for far too long. It wasn’t as though Jet had wanted to leave the two of them. Certain circumstances had been beyond their control. Maybe now that Kai had been forced to stay away from OmniVentures for the time being, he would be more inclined to repair his relationship with Jet.

While they played the Waiting Game.

Playing the Waiting Game was fun when Mali was little, because it usually meant something good--waiting for Christmas or her birthday or the release of a film she’d been waiting ages to see. That version of the game was always fun, even if it did cost her one or two sleepless nights when she was a child. But this version--the one you played as an adult--was terrible.

Especially considering who the other Game Players were. Mali wasn’t sure if she could keep Kai under control at the best of times, and she was even less sure about the CEO of OmniVentures and his right hand man. The only person she knew she could rely on right now was Rome, and that was because he’d suggested playing the Waiting Game in the first place.

Chalam had intimidated her even before she knew what he was capable of. Every time his face appeared on a screen anywhere it sent a little shiver up her spine. But his company had been one of the few who were willing to take on interns, so she had gritted her teeth and accepted their offer.

If anyone else other than Rome had been assigned as her mentor, Mali would have been absolutely miserable. Rome was nothing like his uncle. He had treated her kindly and respectfully from day one, and even made his first invitation to dinner sound less like a date and more like an opportunity to get to know one another better. He’d let their relationship progress naturally, never pushing, letting Mali figure out on her own if she liked him and wanted to trust him as more than a mentor, or not.

Truthfully, there is only one employee at OmniVentures that Mali finds absolutely terrifying. Nail has been Chalam’s assistant for years, and his official title is Head of Security, but Mali knows as well as anyone else that the title is just another word for “enforcer”. Officially, Nail stands behind Chalam at press conferences and meetings and company events, his sharp eyes on the lookout for any potential threat. Unofficially, he is Chalam’s eyes and ears, seeking out not just external threats but internal ones as well, making problem employees disappear without a trace.

Or, as he’d done with Kai, stomping them into the ground to make sure that they behave.

Nail is waiting in the main lobby when Mali comes into work. That in itself is odd, because he usually hides up in the recesses of the CEO suite, appearing only when Chalam needs to enact a little discipline while staying within the confines of the law. The other odd thing is that he comes up to her as soon as she passes through security. Nail doesn’t talk to people, but today he seems to be very interested in her.

“Where’s your brother?” The words seem neutral enough, but there’s a glitter in Nail’s eyes as hard and sharp as his name. “He’s usually in before you, but no one’s seen him today.”

“He’s on leave, and you know very well why,” Mali makes herself walk past him, forcing him to follow behind. If Chalam is sending Nail to confront her, that can’t be good. Unless Nail is only on the ground floor to satisfy his own curiosity, or for his own amusement. He liked to irritate Rome by following Mali around. But today feels different--Nail doesn’t want to irritate. He wants to intimidate.

“Do I?” Nail isn’t the least bit put off by Mali’s accusation. If anything, the expression on his face could be called smug. “Whatever gave you that idea?”

“Talking to me politely won’t make me forgive you,” Mali snaps.

“And what makes you think I want or need your forgiveness?” Nail has caught the sarcasm in Mali’s voice, and his tone is still anything but polite. “I did what I was asked to do, just as every employee in this company does.”

Nail continues to follow her up the stairs and down the hall, staying just out of her reach, but making sure that she is aware of his presence. Goosebumps prickle on the back of Mali’s neck, but she forces herself to keep a steady pace. All she has to do is reach Rome’s office suite and slam the door in Nail’s face. It takes a little bit more of an effort than she likes to keep her voice steady.

“The CEO of OmniVentures attacks employees who don't behave the way he wants?”

“‘Attack’ is a really harsh word.”

“But appropriate, considering the bruises you put on my brother’s face.”

The door to Rome’s office suite is just in reach, but Nail picks up his pace, so that he is now standing in front of her, rather than behind.

“Your brother took something that didn’t belong to him, and he had to face the consequences.” He leans closer, his breath hot on her face. “Every employee of this company is liable for the consequences of their actions, and every employee will be rewarded or punished as needed.”

It takes every bit of Mali’s resolve not to flinch as she looks up into Nail’s face. Not for the first time, she wishes she could look him in the eye rather than tipping her head back. “Are you threatening me?”

“Do I have a reason to?” As far as Nail is aware this is a rhetorical question, so he doesn't wait for Mali to answer. “I hope you’ll keep your head down and do the work you’re paid to do. I know Rome would hate to see you punished more than anyone else.”

There is a definite chill tracing down Mali’s spine this time. Whether or not Nail knows what she is up to, the thing he wants most is to terrify her into an admission. It doesn’t matter that she is a woman. It doesn’t matter that she is both officially and unofficially under Rome’s protection. If he’s given the opportunity, Nail will give Mali the same number of bruises that he gave her younger brother, for the same reasons.

“Your office is three floors up.” It’s not Mali who speaks, but Rome. He’s standing in the doorway of his office, his posture deceptively casual, but his eyes shooting daggers in Nail’s direction.

“I had something to discuss with your…assistant.” The double meaning that Nail puts behind the word “assistant” makes Mali want to claw his eyes out, but she forces herself to stay still. “She needed to be reminded of her place.”

“Since Mali is my assistant, that’s my responsibility.” Rome still doesn’t move from the office doorway, but the look on his face makes Nail involuntarily step back. “She’s not the only one who needs to be reminded of their place.”

Mali takes the opportunity to skirt around Nail and into Rome’s office. It’s only when Nail tries to follow her that Rome steps forward, placing himself squarely in Nail’s way. For a moment, the two men are locked in a silent battle of wills, each daring the other to move or speak. Nail is the one who finally steps back.

“See that Mali heeds those reminders, Rome. I would hate for you to lose an assistant as…efficient as she is.”

“I have a reminder for you,” Rome lowers his voice, his tone becoming deadly. “You go near Mali again--even so much as passing her in the hallway--and you’ll understand fear in its most personal form.”

Nail’s expression turns mocking. “What is the esteemed nephew of the CEO going to do to me?”

“Stay away from Mali or I’ll teach you just how fragile the human body is.” Rome doesn’t wait for an answer. As much as he would like to go into specific detail on just how much and where Nail would experience bodily harm, this is not the time or the place for it. Instead, he turns on his heel and slams the door in the bastard’s face.

Since Kai had no regular classes during finals, Luca had let him spend the night. But there hadn’t been much else to do the following morning, since both Pepper and Luca were gone when he woke up, so Kai returned to his dorm. His plan had been to shower and figure out what to do for the rest of the day, since he didn’t feel too much like studying. Actually, if he was really honest with himself, the thing he really wanted to do was sulk over something he had no control over.

He didn’t get the luxury of either a shower or a sulk. Usually, when Zone is home, Iris is with him, but that’s not the case this time. Zone is on his laptop, and Jet is seated next to him. People couldn’t get into the dorm without a keycard, so that meant only one thing.

“You let him in?” Kai’s glare is directed at both Jet and Zone, who glares right back.

“This is also my dorm, and Jet is my friend, so of course I let him in.” Zone doesn’t look the least bit upset at Kai’s accusatory tone. “You didn’t sleep here last night.”

“I slept at Luca’s--don’t raise your eyebrows at me, I slept on the couch, thank you very much.”

Zone doesn't lower his eyebrows. “Pepper lives there too.”

“I said I slept on the couch.” Kai turns his attention to Jet. “I thought I made myself clear. I don’t want or need an older brother. I can take care of myself.”

Jet’s voice stops him before he can leave. “You really want to be able to do that?”

“What do you mean?”

“You asked if I could teach you Muay Thai.” Jet is smiling, and Kai glares at him.

“I had a concussion when I asked that.”

“We both know that’s not true. My car is downstairs, and I’d like you to get in it.”

“Thanks, but I have a final.”

“Not today, you don’t.” Zone points out, then throws his hands up as they turn to look at him. “What? It’s true. Besides, if you can have a conversation while I’m in the same room, then I can participate in it if I want to, even if it’s too keep Kai from throwing a fist in Jet’s face.”

Jet turns his attention back to his younger brother. “Prove to me you’re not s stupid little boy, I’ll walk out that door and not come back.”

“Why don’t you just get the hell out of my dorm now!” Kai lunges at his older brother, intending to shove him out the door. Jet sidesteps, and the next thing Kai knows Jet has immobilized him in some sort of weird headlock. “Ow! What the hell?!”

“If you can break free.” Now Jet’s voice sounds very amused. “I’ll leave your dorm.”

“Let me go, asshole!” No matter how much Kai struggles, he can’t move. “Zone! Are you filming this?”

“Nooo,” Zone’s tone is innocent, but he lifts his phone a little higher to get a better angle.

The grip around him loosens, and Kai drops to the floor in an undignified heap, gritting his teeth against the sensation of pins and needles that signals the return of regular circulation in his arms. Jet crouches next to him, a satisfied smirk playing across his face.

“So, do you want to learn Muay Thai or not?”

“Will I learn how to do what you did to me?” Kai knows the answer but asks the question anyway.

“If you want to. My car is downstairs,” Jet repeats. “Get in it.”

“You can’t tell me what to do.” Kai sounds like a sulky four year old and he knows it. But he gets to his feet.

Jet’s Lexus is one of the few luxury cars in the dorm parking lot. Kai can’t help but notice how it gleams under the late morning sun. He must get that thing waxed at least once a week. Jet clicks the unlock button on the car fob and waits for Kai to get in before starting the car. Both are fully aware that the last time they were in this car, they were conversing to keep Kai from passing out. That’s not the case this time. They drive in silence for a minute, each waiting for the other one to speak.

“If you don’t want a relationship with me, fine,” Jet’s voice is quiet, and he keeps his eyes on the road. “But that doesn’t mean I don’t want one with you.”

Kai’s conscience gives an unexpected twinge. “I know. What exactly do you want, Jet?”

It’s the same question he asked yesterday, but he asks it differently this time. Luca’s words are still playing on loop in his mind.

You wouldn’t be this upset if you didn’t actually want him back in your life.

“Give me a month.” Jet says. “You spend time with me as your brother for one month and if you still hate me by Christmas then I’ll leave you alone.”

Kai looks at him. “Why that particular deadline?”

“Do you have another one in mind?” Jet doesn’t sound accusatory, just curious.


“Fine,” Kai tries very hard to keep his voice neutral. “After Christmas, you’re leaving me alone.”

Jet doesn’t even bother to hide his smile. “Only if you really want me to.”

"11. Second Attempt

Read from beginning: "1. Ignored
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