AN: Hi! Couldn't resist starting a new story even though it's really bad timing. Well, I guess we all have to release stress in one way or other! Will probably update at most once a week, but will be more regular after 25th of June.

Unfortunately (or fortunately?) unlike my first two stories, this is no sweet high school romance (perhaps not the best description possible but you get the general idea!) but contains more adult themes. I'm no longer following the HYD plot and certain characters are likely to act out of character at times.

This chapter is dedicated to all those readers out there who have been asking me when I would be writing again!


She woke up screaming, sitting up in bed abruptly as a trembling hand reflexively clutched her blanket tightly to her chest. Shrouded in the darkness with the only sounds being splattering of the heavy raindrops against the closed window, her consciousness remained suspended in a nightmarish semi-wakeful state. Her heart pounded wildly and she sucked in several deep breaths as she tried to separate the workings of an overactive imagination from reality. She jumped when an anxious but somewhat tremulous voice came from the other side of the room.

"'Kushi, are you ok? Is it another nightmare?"

She quickly flipped on the light switch of her table lamp. As her eyes adjusted to the harsh white light that suddenly flooded her room, she held out her arms to the thin and pale boy who gazing at her with a scared look in his eyes as he sat up on his bed. In spite of his claims of being too old for cuddles having turned eleven on his last birthday, within moments he had accepted her invitation and was held securely in her warm embrace.

"Did I scare you?"

"No … … not really … … it was the rain wasn't it … …?" She did not reply but held him tightly as they both recalled the dreadful accident that had deprived them of their parents … …

It was another night that had been pouring with rain and their parents were out attending a party for some business function. On their way back, a car had skidded on the slippery highway and slammed into their parents' car. Their father who had been driving and the other driver died upon impact, whilst their mother remained in a coma for several months before finally slipping away without ever regaining consciousness. It had been a difficult time because she was only a teenager herself at fifteen and was not of age to legally act as Souta's guardian. He was only eight. They had no close surviving relatives and she did not want to impose on any of her parent's so-called friends who had also not appeared to be over enthusiastic about getting burdened with two orphaned children – not that she could blame them.

The eager and overly helpful social worker had found a foster home for Souta and announced the news to them cheerfully, promising to find one for herself as well. Naturally, it was much easier to find a home for an eight year old boy unencumbered by his fifteen year old sister. However, Souta had refused adamantly to be parted from her, clinging onto her leg fiercely with all his strength, a terrified look on his white face. In the end, she managed to work out an agreement with the relatives of one of her neighbours who operated a childcare centre. For all appearances, the couple would become the foster parents of both of them until she turned eighteen. However, they would effectively only be paid to take care of Souta because she would enrol in a public boarding school. It was fortunate that the money her parents had put aside had been more than sufficient to pay for this arrangement, as well as her mother's medical bills and the funeral. The remaining would have been sufficient to put them through university. However, she decided there and then to save the money for a rainy day and get a job after high school to make sure that at least Souta would complete his

education … …

A small snore jolted her form her memories and she looked down to see her little brother slumped heavily against her, deep in sleep. Releasing a small chuckle, she smoothed back his untidy hair with gentle fingers and laid him carefully on her bed. The boy was getting too heavy to be carried. She tucked him in carefully before slipping into his bed. Soon, her weariness and the sound of the falling rain lulled her back to sleep … …


"Where are you going?" The woman asked petulantly as he easily disentangled himself from their entwined limbs. With a chuckle, he dropped a swift peck on her damp forehead and said smoothly, "I'm going to clean up. I'll be back soon – don't wait up."

He could feel her eyes on his butt as he sauntered to the bathroom and closed the door behind him. The charming smile on the handsome face vanished as with practiced movements, he mechanically disposed of the use condom and stepped into the shower, letting the hot water and soap cleanse his body. After towelling dry, he pulled on his silk black boxers. Careful to avoid looking at his own reflection, he went to the sink, grabbed one set of the complimentary toothpaste and toothbrush and commenced a thorough brushing of his teeth.

When he ventured into the bedroom again, he was greeted (as he had expected) by the sound of deep rhythmic breathing. Their early "activities" had obviously worn her out. Emotionless eyes surveyed the woman's sleeping form huddled under the blankets, taking note of the dyed hair and almost imperceptible wrinkles at the corner of her eyes. Having ascertained that she was really deep in sleep, he turned to his discarded trousers and sifted through the pockets. He extracted a crumbled packet of cigarettes and a gold lighter and stepped out onto the veranda. Leaning against the sliding doors, he lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply, letting the smoke and the sound of pouring rain soothe his nerves.

A beeping sound from his handphone reminded him that it was time to leave. Pulling on his clothes with practiced ease, he grabbed the bundle of cash on the bedside table before leaving the hotel room and locking the door behind him. A humourless smile twisted his lips as he glanced at the thick bundle of crisp hundred dollar bills and stuffed it into his suit pocket. Obviously, another satisfied customer. After all, it was known to all in the business that Ray was one of the best at his job. He cursed mentally as his handphone rang before he reached his car.

"Ray speaking."

"Rui, are you free tomorrow at lunchtime?" Shizuka's brisk voice came over the phone.

"Don't you ever sleep? And does the lovely lady want to take me out to lunch? I'm always at your disposal," he said sarcastically.

"I'm on night shift today as you know it, and this is business, Rui." Her severe tone warned him to stop his antics. "There is a potential customer and I can assure you that any account that we have with her will be huge. Mac has faith that you can hook her." She mentioned an expected figure that made him raise an eyebrow. It took a lot to throw Hanazawa Rui off balance.

"You recommended me, of course."

"No, it was Mac's idea but I supported it. So are you free?"

"You're the one keeping track of my appointments."

"Okay, so 2pm at the private dinning room in Cassington Hotel, smart casual, and she wants to be called Tricia." She hung up. Ray (Rui) looked at his watch. It was already 4am, he only 10 hours to get home, catch some sleep, read up on this new client and get ready for the appointment … …