Aya jumped in shock when she heard a familiar voice whisper into her ear, and whirling around, she found Wind standing behind her, an undecipherable look on his good-looking face.
"W-Wind," she stammered. "Hey." And when the import of his words sank in, she could only smile and say nothing.
The awkwardness of Aya's smile spoke volumes, and he murmured, "You don't want to talk about this?"
She shook her head. If she said a single word about the whole Minato and Cissy thing, it would just make things sound too final and real. She wasn't ready for that yet, and so when Wind suddenly started talking about the game she was working on, Aya eagerly lost herself in the conversation and gave updates on High School Love's progress.
Since flag ceremony was over, it only seemed natural for Aya and Wind to continue talking while walking back to class. While it was something Aya didn't think much of, with how her mind was now consumed by updates on her otome game's progress, Wind wasn't as dense and noticed right away the way other students were staring at them. In their school, a guy walking a girl to class basically meant the two of them were going out...
"Weird." Aya finally noticed the stares that were going their way.
"Isn't it?" Wind's voice was bland.
"Anyway, this is me..." She pointed to her classroom. "I'll try to drop by the lab later if I can."
Raven waited until Aya was in her seat before asking under her breath, "What was that about?"
"Game Club stuff," Aya answered blankly. "Why?"
"So you weren't making you-know-who jealous?"
"What?" Aya was stunned. "No!" But it was finally becoming clear to her, how the way she had been talking to Wind so animatedly could be misinterpreted, and her shock turned to horror. "Do you think..." Raven slowly nodded, and Aya was filled with dismay. Minato had seen her with Wind? What could he be thinking now? Did he think she was making him jealous or that she was trying to get back at him?
She waited for Minato to contact her, but he never did, and when classes finally ended for the day, she was miserable and even more confused. How could Minato change just like that? Had he really been toying with her all that time?
"Aya? Why are you just standing there?"
She looked up, startled. Apparently, her misery had made her absently head up to the library, and she forced a smile as she moved forward. "Um, hey, Ms. Grant."
"I was about to text you," Minato's mother said. "Can you do me a favor and keep an eye at the office while I head down to the faculty room? I need to speak with Mr. Landers."
"Oh, okay. Sure." She was hoping to ask Karin if she knew anything about why her son was giving her the cold shoulder, but that would have to wait, with Karin looking to be in a terrible hurry.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," Karin promised.
"I'll be happy to wait," Aya assured her. "I don't have much to do anyway." When Karin left, Aya made her way inside the office---
Oh my God!
She fell back against the door, stunned as she found herself staring up at Minato's gorgeous, brooding face.
Several moments passed before he spoke. "I know you have every right to hate me right now---"
Harsh regret haunted his jade-green eyes as he spoke, and it was all she needed to see.
"If you give me a chance to explain---"
Unable to wait any longer, she flung her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. "I missed you so much." She had only wanted to say the words, but somehow her emotions got out of control that she ended up choking the last word out with a sob.
Minato groaned. "Aya..."
And then he was pulling her into a tight hug, and she started crying in earnest, her tears wetting his shirt in seconds.
"I'm sorry, angel," Minato whispered. "I hated having to hurt you, but I needed to convince Cissy we're over."
"But we're not?" he heard her ask in a small voice, and the words had his arms tighten around him in a crushing embrace.
"We're never going to be over," he said harshly.
"T-Then why..." She felt him breathe deeply at the question. After a moment, Minato gently pulled back, and she had to swallow back a cry of protest.
"There's much we have to talk about, unfortunately."
When Minato took a seat on the couch, she hesitated then started to sit down herself, only to have him pull her down, and she ended up curled in his lap.
"I need you close," Minato said gruffly. "I'm still having a hard time you're with me again, and you didn't even..." He breathed hard. "I meant what I said earlier, you know. You have every right to be furious with me---"
She quickly shook her head, saying tremulously, "Just tell me why you did...those...things."
Self-loathing filled Minato at the way Aya's voice caught. If only he could swear to her right now he wouldn't hurt her again like that. If only. But he goddamn couldn't.
"Cissy saw us together and confronted me about it," Minato said abruptly.
Aya didn't know what to think. "A-And?"
"I told her I wanted to keep our relationship a secret because I wanted to protect you from being bullied."
"And she believed you..." It did sound plausible, after all.
"She did. But she also chose to blackmail me over it. If I didn't go out with her and break things up with you, she told me she wouldn't just show pictures of us together. She'd also tell everyone that she and I were dating first...and that you threw yourself at me to steal me away from him."
"What? That's so...I mean...is she out of her mind?" Did Cissy think they were in an episode of Gossip Girls or Pretty Little Liars? "Doesn't she know or care that blackmailing is a criminal offense? Or that she's being a little too melodramatic---"
"Aya." Minato was suddenly gripping her hand. "My family back in Japan can't know about you...or Karin."
Disconcerted by his sudden seriousness, she stammered, "Of c-course. I remember you telling me that---"
"Then do you also understand that, until I find enough dirt to turn the tables around on Cissy, I need to continue being with her?"
"The only reason I'm able to meet with you now is because I asked for Karin's help. Cissy thinks I'm stuck in Karin's office doing library work. If Cissy had the smallest suspicion that I'm using the library to secretly meet up with you..." His hold on her hand tightened. "I can't take that risk, Aya."
"What exactly are you saying?" she whispered unevenly, and her unease grew when he only continued looking at her. "Minato?"
Her chest tightened. "I don't understand. Are you really suggesting that we stop seeing each other---"
"I just need more time," Minato said urgently, "to figure out a way---"
"But how long is that going to take?" she interrupted shakily. "What if you never---"
Minato yanked her to his arms, but for once she refused to submit to him. She tried to struggle free, but his arms only tightened.
"I'll never let you go, Aya. I warned you about that, remember?"
She struck his chest with her fist. "You won't let me go, but you also want Cissy---"
"I don't give a fuck about her," he snapped, "and you know it."
"Do I---" She broke off when Minato suddenly grasped her hand and slammed it over his heart.
And when her eyes flew to his, he said roughly, "This is your proof. Do you feel how hard it's beating?"
"It only does that when I'm with you, and I need you," Minato said fiercely, "to believe that." Hard jade green eyes locked with hers. "I need you to trust me, Aya. Can you do that?"