PAPER DOLL: Chapter 2 (ITW A/U)
Gift Image by Nadezhda Rakitina.
This was actually done back in December then Winter Comiket + ITW11 + a long checklist of to-dos by our publisher in Japan in prep of ITW vol. 2 and Father Figure novel release in May.
So now that we have a bit of downtime now that ITW11 preorders’ posted and the next deadline is a week away - we decided to pull this up and post it. Maybe after most deadline clears, Jo will provide an illo for this chapter. For now, this is just a random GP practice project. We are not too certain where it is going. Yet.
Thanks again to SIMWORDS for the inspiration. Check out her (cute and sexy!) blog and follow!
Chapter 1 is HERE
He woke before the alarm went off.
He had slept through the night, but it wasn’t restful. There was a curious ache at the base of his neck. He lay in bed, staring at the narrow beam of sunlight that came through the seams of the heavy curtains. For a while, he didn’t know what to do.
There was a distinctive sensation of being lost in a place where he didn’t belong. There was a nagging need for answers, but he didn’t know how to ask the questions. He lay there, still contemplating this, until he heard a gentle knock at his door. A glance at his cell phone on the nightstand beside him told him he was late for breakfast.
Katsuya flung the heavy duvet off him and trotted to the door. He turned the key that was in the lock and opened it. He was surprised to see Kenji in the doorway.
“Good morning,” Kenji said cheerfully. He wore a dark blue shirt that was tucked into a pair of dark slacks. His hair was a little damp –- almost dark brown with a hint of red. “Walter is overseeing the kitchen. He asked me to make sure you were awake and to bring you to the dining hall.”
Katsuya only nodded.
“I hope you slept well,” Kenji continued, following Katsuya back into the room. He went to the window immediately and drew open the heavy curtains. The room was suddenly awash in light.
“Could be better,” Katsuya said as he made his way toward the closet. He opened it and inspected his clothing that had been hung up the evening before. “Kenji…did you unpack my bags?”
“Yes,” Kenji said. “I hope you are not offended….”
“Well,” Katsuya said as he pulled a white dress shirt off the hanger and flung it on the bed. “I’m not used to people I don’t know handling my personal things.”
Before Kenji could blurt out an apology, Katsuya put his hand up.
“It’s fine. I’m not upset. But it may be a wasted effort for you. I don’t plan on being here long.”
“Exactly that,”Katsuya said. He picked up the slacks and shirt he had taken from the closet. “I really have no business here.”
Kenji appeared mystified, but he said nothing. He only nodded when Katsuya excused himself to use the adjacent bathroom to get ready.
“How long have you worked here, Kenji?” Katsuya asked. Those were the first words he’d said since they had left Katsuya’s room and they made their way down the stairs.
“A little over a year,” Kenji said. He didn’t look back. “Inherited the job from my father who spent a lifetime here. He’s too sick to continue to work and I suppose it’s only right that I take over.”
“This is all you know? This estate?”
Kenji looked over his shoulder. There was a smile on his face. “Yes and no,”he said. “Master’s been generous. I studied in England for eight years before coming back here. Sometimes after leaving home to roam the great earth, you realize you just want to be in a small world.”
Katsuya returned Kenji’s smile. He liked him much in the way he liked Walter’s apparent candor. There was a warmth in him that was different from the mansion, from its master.
“I do hope you will stay longer,” Kenji continued. They’d reached the ground floor. “Master has been looking forward to your company for quite some time.”
Katsuya wanted to ask Kenji what he meant by this, but he decided it could wait. They were near the dining hall and he was already late. Kenji opened the door for him and left. Walter was there, standing by the service cart. David was already drinking his coffee, his stare fixed straight ahead. Walter acknowledged him with a nod.
“Sorry,” Katsuya began. He took his seat at the table. Walter set a delicate white cup trimmed with gold on a saucer and poured coffee into it from a carafe.
“Did you sleep well?” David asked, putting down his cup and looking at him.
“Yes,” Katsuya said. He looked down at his coffee. The unsettled sensation he had gone to bed with was still there. He was still staring down when Walter set a plate of steak and eggs in front of him. The heavy scent of the food made him queasy.
“I only came because I understood my grandfather had sent for me,” Katsuya finally said as he looked up.
David lay the knife and fork down on his plate and waited.
“Am I to see him soon?”
“Is it important for you to meet someone you don’t know?”
Katsuya regarded David for a few moments. Instead of feeling anxious, he felt irritated, annoyed with the lack of answers and feeling stupid for chasing after something for a reason he didn’t know. “You’re right,” Katsuya said. He shoved back his chair and stood. “There is no point in my meeting a stranger.”
David’s eyes narrowed, his eyebrows furrowed. The corners of his mouth tightened. “You are still a guest in my house,” he said.
His voice was low but Katsuya could hear the stifled anger in it.
“Do not disrespect me. Sit down.”
Katsuya stood his ground. The irritation had bloomed into a flare of anger. He nearly pushed Walter away as a reflex, when the old man placed a hand gently on one shoulder.
“Please sit down, Master Asano.”
As quickly as his temper had risen, it dissipated. Katsuya allowed Walter’s firm hand to press him back down. David picked up his knife and fork and continued to eat his breakfast.
The rest of the meal went by quietly, without a word. Katsuya watched David eat and drink. Although he was beginning to feel hungry –- his last meal had been hours before he reached the estate and it had been half a greasy burger — he decided he would touch nothing. He would owe nothing to this stranger.
David wasn’t bothered by Katsuya’s untouched food. He appeared amused, as he wiped his mouth with the linen napkin. He discarded it on top of his plate. “You are determined to make me appear a bad host,” David said.
“You are a bad host,” Katsuya said. “You are detaining me here when I have absolutely no reason to stay.”
David laced his fingers together on the table. That was the first time Katsuya noticed a silver band on his left ring finger.
“You are polite, but you do have a temper,” David said. There was almost a smile on his face.
Katsuya grimaced. He refused to be baited.
“Come see me in my study in three hours,” David said as he stood. He brushed the wrinkles from his sleeves absently. “I’ll speak to you then.” He nodded curtly at Katsuya and left.
Katsuya watched him go and then he was alone with Walter. The old man walked over to clear David’s plate and cup, stacking them back onto the service cart.
“Would you like for me to warm your food again, Mas – Katsuya?”
Katsuya shook his head. He reached for the glass of water that was beside the coffee and drank it.
“You must be hungry,” Walter said. “If you intend to have a vigorous debate with Master later, you should eat something.”
Katsuya looked at the food that had long gone cold. For no particular reason except that Walter had asked him to, he ate.
Walter left Katsuya in the grand library and told him to leave it for David’s private wing when the clock chimed. The library was a waiting room for guests. No servants were allowed to go beyond that point unless they had been given specific permission to, Walter explained. He also took Katsuya’s cellphone from him. “There is no reception in this wing anyway,” he said, slipping it into his pocket. “I’ll see that the phone is returned to your room.”
Katsuya only nodded. After telling him to have a good day, Walter left. Katsuya realized he had forgotten to ask Walter if he should wait for David to fetch him or if he should venture into the private wing and look for him. He felt listless and dumb, as he watched the swinging pendelum of the brass clock on the wall. The clock hands turned a quarter way before he convinced himself he would need to seek out the master of the house himself.
He opened the French doors with the frosted glass panels. He was looking down a dimly lit hall. It ran long and ended somewhere in darkness. It was quiet. His heart skipped a beat as he took a step from the rich carpeting of the library onto the stone flooring.
He left the French doors open behind him as he walked forward. He wished he had cookie crumbs to leave on the unknown trail. The light thrown from the open doors cast a shadow that shrouded every step he took as he headed into the dark.
Katsuya stopped after he no longer saw his own shadow. He looked over his shoulder and saw that he had come into the darker end of the hall. He hesitated then, bargaining with himself, trying to decide if anything was worth the uneasiness that was roiling within him. He had nearly turned on his heel and started back toward the open French doors when a sound caught his attention. He listened. The sound was weak, a cat-like mew. He followed it, trying to understand what it was he heard. It became louder, resolving into a woman’s voice. He couldn’t distinguish the words, but he continued on. A servant who stayed on this wing, he guessed.
A sudden sharp sound, almost like a scream, pulled Katsuya into action. He sprinted toward the shrill echo as it came again and again — a woman in distress, unable to form the necessary words. He turned the corner, his eyes slowly adjusting to the dark and felt his way through the hall purely by sound. He came to a door left ajar where the scream came from. He pushed the door farther open and his eyes widened at what he saw.
David’s naked frame covered the shape of a delicate body beneath him, even as both moved together. David was driving into his partner hard, the ropes of muscle on his broad back straining with each stroke. The woman’s legs were hooked over David’s hips and that was all Katsuya could see of her. Another high pitched scream came then, assuring Katsuya that the woman wasn’t in trouble. A flare of heat burned Katsuya’s face when he realized what he had walked into.
He ran. He turned and ran as fast as he could. He knew his loud footsteps were probably noticed as they echoed in the hallway. He took a couple of wrong turns, but managed to find the correct hall. Seeing the French doors’ soft light spilling out pulled him toward them like some heavenly beacon.
He didn’t stop running until he was in his room. He was still in an odd frame of mind as he gathered his suitcase from the closet and began to pile his clothing and belongings into it without finess. He didn’t want to be here anymore.
As he was struggling to zip up the overstuffed suitcase, a voice behind him called his name, startling him. He spun around, wide eyed, his breathing still labored. Shinohara was staring at him, mystified.
“Are you all right?” he asked.
“I just want to leave,” Katsuya blurted out. “My car…where are my keys?”
Shinohara frowned. “You can’t just leave without Master’s permission,” he said. “Perhaps after lunch you can –- “
Katsuya shook his head. “I want to leave NOW,” he said, his voice rising. “I don’t need anyone’s permission! Give me my car keys!”
“I am not sure what happened to upset you,” Shinohara said, his voice level, almost cold. “But once you are on this property, you are to abide by the master’s rules. He is the only person who can give you permission to leave.”
Katsuya cursed. He pulled his suitcase off the bed and walked briskly out of the room. Shinohara only stared after him, saying and doing nothing, as Katsuya went down the stairs.
Katsuya told himself he’d walk out of the damn place. He couldn’t remember any houses he had passed that were near the estate, but there should be cars on the road he could flag down. He’d have to come back with the police to fetch his car — a price to be paid for his rash decision to come here and seek out a man he had been warned not to see.
He didn’t know how he managed to find his way to the front entrance, but he did. The familiar vast empty space now felt threatening with two unfamiliar persons standing by the door. They were tall and well built, their thick bodies straining against the dark suits they wore.
“Please return to your room,” the one with short cropped hair said.
Katsuya hesitated, but his eyes were still focused on the doors only a few feet away behind the men. He squared his shoulders and decided he would not be intimidated, although he was.
“Get out of my way,” he said, stepping forward, intending to try to shove the two men aside.
“We really don’t want to hurt you,” the other said. He had a square face that was made more squat by an unfixed broken nose.
“Who the hell are you to keep me here?” Katsuya demanded. He dropped his suitcase, letting it fall loudly at his feet.
The men laughed. “It’s regrettable that we are not allowed to play with you,” the one with the broken nose said. “You would have been an interesting toy.”
The words made no sense, but they infuriated Katsuya even more. He was shouting and cursing as the men seized him by the arms, one on each side, and dragged him along easily. Katsuya dug in his heels, refusing to go with them, but it was of little use. He felt like an unruly child being pulled along by his parents.
They didn’t take him back to his room. He was taken to a different part of the house, somewhere he had not been. His courage slowly drained from him as they pulled him along. He was becoming afraid. So much so that when they stopped at a plain wooden door, panic consumed him. He writhed in their grip as one reached into his pocket for a key.
“Save your strength,” one said to him. His voice was soft, almost as if he were pitying Katsuya then. The door opened with a whine and an instant cold and heavy metallic scent rushed out.
“Please…. I didn’t do anything…. Just let me go…,” Katsuya pleaded, saying anything that came to mind. “I came here by mistake…please.”
A light clicked on. A bare bulb hung from a single wire in the ceiling. The room was bare except for a metal frame bed without a mattress. There were large eyebolts driven into the walls at eye level and at least two on the floor. One had a length of chain tethered to a lower part of the wall, next to the bed frame. Katsuya’s struggle renewed as he was dragged forward. He could see an open metal collar on the end of the short length of chain.
“Why are you doing this…?”
The collar snapped closed around his neck and the men stepped back. They didn’t answer him and left without so much as another glance back at him. The door shut and Katsuya could hear the key turning in the lock.
Truly alone, he tested the strength of the chain that looped through the eyebolt. There were gouges in the eyelet, signs of struggle from whomever was imprisoned there last. The heavy metallic scent was rust. He could smell it from the chain and the collar. Nothing gave. Not the chain. Not the collar.
He sat, looking around the dimly lit room that reminded him of a very compact dungeon and pulled his knees up to his chest. The cold stone floor and lack of windows chilled the room. He started to shiver.
Oh God please help me….
That was his only thought, as he struggled not to let the surmounting terror inside him overtake him.