Empty-Handed Heart [Suncoast Society]

By: Tymber Dalton

“Mm-hmm. Yes, Sir. Still wish I had marks.”

He nuzzled her shoulder. She let out a squealing moan when he bit down, hard, before letting go and kissing it. “How about a couple of those?”

She giggled. “I guess I can deal with that.” She loved it when he got bitey, and those marks were always easy to keep hidden from Molly.

If it wasn’t for the fact that she couldn’t afford the apartment on her own, she’d ask Molly to move out, now that she was away from her parents’ house. But on her salary, she’d have to downsize into a much smaller apartment in a complex that wasn’t a fraction as nice. And, unfortunately, working a second job wasn’t possible. She’d tried it before she’d moved away from home, hoping to earn more than enough to leave, and the stress had triggered an asthma attack so bad it’d landed her in the ER.

And had led to another year’s worth of trying to fight her overprotective parents to let her move out of their house.

She hated feeling so damn vulnerable. She wanted to stand on her own, but with her family eager and willing to smother her at the slightest sign of a struggle, it was…difficult.

Aden was the first guy who’d never tried to use her for her family’s wealth, or got frustrated over their hovering. He was a sweet, self-aware sadist who took pleasure in helping her. Maybe it looked like small things to someone who didn’t know her, but they were big things in the difference they made in her self-esteem and sanity.

All the more reason she hoped to one day meet Ren. If for nothing else than to thank him for teaching Aden everything he had, and helping her in the process.

And, yeah, for the hot and sexy fantasies of watching the two of them together.

Chapter Four

Aden couldn’t deny the gut-twisting tension settling like a rock in his intestines. It was difficult to intimidate him, considering his childhood, what he did for a living, and his personal pastime, but he wouldn’t deny he felt fucking intimidated. Just a little. More because of his worry about how Etsu would handle her stress than about himself.

It didn’t help that Etsu told him they never liked anyone she took home to meet them, which was why she’d put off doing this. She was already convinced they’d hate him, but that part didn’t seem to faze her in the slightest.

That was something, he supposed.

Although he wasn’t sure what.

And he wasn’t sure if it was a good what or a bad what.

She was more concerned about how their reactions would impact him, if it’d make him change his mind about her, no matter how he’d already assured her it wouldn’t.

He thought about his countless hours of easy and pleasant conversations with Da, as he still called him.

I need to call him. He hadn’t talked to the man in several weeks, he was ashamed to realize.

That evening, Etsu had come to Aden’s house straight from work to shower and change, and they were riding together in his car. Her plan, because she wanted one less potential weapon against Aden. If he left, she would leave because she rode with him.

She hoped it might make them behave themselves and not run him off.

He wasn’t sure how solid that plan was, but it made her less anxious to think that way, meaning he’d go along with it.

Her parents lived in an older, high-end country-club subdivision in the University Park area not very far north of University Parkway. He knew she’d grown up with money, which had been one of the reasons she’d had difficulty breaking free of home. Her overprotective parents had thrown every excuse in the world at her to stay, including bribing her by offering to buy her a new car, or send her back to college and pay for it so she could get a four-year degree.

All three of her brothers were professionals—Hiroki was an attorney, Kazumi was an engineer, and Toshiro was a biochemist.

Etsu had only gone to two years of community college to study bookkeeping. She’d had no interest in a higher degree, had wanted to start working and earning her own way. Studying and taking tests were stressful on her, which triggered anxiety and panic attacks, which, in turn, triggered her asthma. No way in hell did she want to subjugate herself to that for four years.

Aden understood her rationale and respected her for it, that she was self-aware enough to know what she wanted and didn’t want in her life.

Still, it meant her family was bound and determined to try to take care of her, even when she didn’t want to be taken care of.

To prove herself to them that she wasn’t some fragile little trinket to be kept in a glassed-in china cabinet.

Some of her efforts had backfired epically. Yet, she persisted. Moving out had been a huge victory for her.

Aden could see her family’s side of things from the point of view of someone who longed to have that kind of love.

All he had was a birth certificate, custody papers from the state, and two very old sets of arrest records for his birth parents.

He had no idea if they were still in jail, or where they were, or if they were even alive or not.

He honestly didn’t care.

Not anymore.

“Thank you for driving, Sir.”

He patted her thigh, lacing fingers with her when she curled her hand around his. “Try not to call me Sir in front of them.”