Temper: Deference (Book One of the Temper Saga) by Lila Mina

Genre: LGBT Romance.

Honda stood a few meters away, blocking Lana’s access to the reception hall doorway. That he was also a guest wasn’t a real surprise, but to think it would be like every week at practice had been a terrible mistake.

On the mats, she could handle it because plenty of other priorities called for her attention. But to her growing horror, seeing him outside the dojo was another story altogether. And what he wore didn’t help. At all.

He was dressed in a montuki, a formal kimono made of black silk, worn as tradition required with black hakama pants and a matching haori jacket on top. The outfit made him appear even taller and broader. Three white kamon–family crests–at the level of his shoulders testified to the formality of the event. A discussion with fellow members of their dojo held his attention. Salt-and-pepper hair neatly cut, his stern face, unlined and tanned, made his air of authority undeniable.

To her dismay, her treacherous body reacted to this vision of male perfection. Heat flared in her belly and painted her cheeks red. Memories of their fateful afternoon flooded her–not only its disastrous ending but also all the juicy and incredible aspects that led to it.

Adding salt to her reopened wounds, Honda had the loveliest Japanese lady at his side. Slightly older than Lana, somewhere over forty. Her extraordinary light blue kimono, patterned with golden cranes and pine tree designs below her waistline, was priceless; her attire also showed three kamon. This was an irotomesode–a type of kimono only worn by married women. Her poise spoke of high education and elite background. Inner grace and beauty shone through her graceful posture and delicate frame.

His wife. No doubt about it.

Rocked by a wave of self-consciousness, Lana felt ridiculous, gauche and stocky in contrast. The tag price on her dress didn’t matter; her expertise and degrees could never match a lifetime of polished skills ingrained from birth.

“What are you doing, stupid cow?” Lana muttered, staring blindly at her smartphone to give herself a semblance of countenance. “There’s no competition. You were never an item, it’s over! You walked out, remember? Get a grip!”

What were her options? Leave Frank and everyone else behind, claiming stomach cramps or something? Turn on her heels and hide in the restroom and then hope that her table was far from theirs? Or treat the problem like a hostile business confrontation, with the strength Honda had assumed she possessed… until she proved him wrong.

Fate decided for her. Right then, she glanced up only to meet Honda’s piercing glare.

With hindsight, she’d sometimes wonder what truly pushed her to jump and meet head-on his silent challenge to stay put. She could have played it cool and safe; she could have waited it out and let them walk inside. But far from making her cower, the dark tempest brewing in his stare ignited something inside her.

Defiance, desire or something else, unnamed and unseen – she would never be able to explain what compelled her to act that day. And maybe it had nothing to do with him, but with her. The first inkling of an invisible pull. The third piece falling into place.

And so, on that fateful day, Lana locked eyes with Honda. Chin high, she pasted a confident smile on her lips. Tapping into her inner strength and rebelling against any concept of respectful deference, she walked up to his group. After all, she had every right to join them. No way she’d let him dictate where she could go and what she could do.

To her smug satisfaction, his jaw tightened, and his eyes widened. Her smart dress was doing its job.

Lana turned to his companion, who stared right back; to her surprise, the woman seemed to appraise her. Face serene, her discerning eyes traveled up and down Lana’s body.

Such an open assessment made Lana blush, but she kept her composure, switching to a polite smile. ‘How much does she already know? How much is she figuring out? She can’t miss the pool of sweat at my feet!’

“Sensei, good evening. How nice to see you here tonight.”

“Martin san, good evening,” Honda replied in low tones. Not a growl but still different from his usual professional voice. He was as bothered as she felt. For a few heartbeats, nobody spoke. Awkwardness lay thick in the air. “May I introduce my wife, Yuki?” Honda added, as if an afterthought. “Yuki san, this is Lana Martin san, the mudansha at my dojo I told you about.”

Lana took her most respectful bow, not surprised by his use of honorific in relation to his wife given his conservative behavior. She thanked all local deities she didn’t have to shake hands. Sweaty and cold palms wouldn’t have sent the right message. They exchanged the ritual sentences of self-introduction.

Now that she was so close to Yuki, her classical beauty took her aback. They were of the same size, but their resemblance ended there. Jet-black hair piled up in a complex hairdo and held in place by silver pins framed her perfect ivory face. A steely strength emanated from her, and Lana would have bet she also practiced a martial art. A delicate perfume surrounded her.

Lana blinked at the sensual vibes assaulting her senses and she clamped down the need to lick her lips. Something shifted inside her. ‘Uh, what’s going on here, girl? Since when does this fire you up?’

“Martin san, it is a pleasure to meet you. My husband has told me all about you. He forgot to mention how beautiful you are, however,” Yuki said with an enigmatic smile.

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Book published March 2019

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