Illusion

by Alexandra Y. Caluen

Yoshi Ito meets Lesley Hayes when he’s running digital scenery and lighting for a play. Lesley is the costume designer and wardrobe mistress; their paths don’t cross often. Every time they do, though, Lesley is puzzled. She doesn’t date men. So why is she so attracted to Yoshi? Yoshi’s desperate to share his secret, and after their second job together, he takes the plunge.

Excerpt:

Desperate for a little fresh air, even the not-technically-fresh air of downtown Los Angeles at night, Lesley stepped out of the theater’s backstage side door and almost crashed into Yoshi, the lighting guy.  He was standing just outside with a lit cigarette in his hand, and took a quick step back to avoid the collision. “Oh shit I’m sorry,” she said, looking hungrily at the cigarette.  “God I picked a bad week to stop smoking.”

“I’ve never had the police show up at a rehearsal before. It’s too bad about Mr. West.  Tanith’s pretty shaken up,” said Yoshi.  He slid his hand into one pocket of his suit jacket and pulled out a vintage-looking cloisonné cigarette case.  “Do you want one of mine?”  He flipped the lid open.

“You only have one left, are you sure?”

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“I’m quitting too,” he said, with a ghost of a smile. Lesley took the cigarette.  He put the case back in his pocket and then pulled out a beautiful matching lighter.

“Wow.  You’re kind of ceremonious with this.”  She held the cigarette steady while he lit it for her, then sucked the smoke into her lungs.  “Oh Jesus yes.  Thank you.”

“My mother died of lung cancer.  After that I decided that I would treat cigarettes like any other opponent.  The case, the lighter … they are my bow as I step onto the mat.”

Lesley regarded him for a moment, really looking at him for the first time ever.  Wow, he’s really beautiful, she thought clinically.  I never noticed.  “What style?” she asked abruptly, connecting what he’d said with the physicality she was conscious of now.

“Karate.”  He glanced over at her again, squinting a little as he drew on his cigarette.  Why did she ask, he thought, but mentally shrugged.  He was sufficiently shy that he was always grateful for someone willing to make conversation.

“How long ago?” Lesley asked now.

Somehow Yoshi knew she was referring to his mother. “Ten years.  I was twenty-four.”

“And you’re just now quitting?  Or have you tried a bunch of times?”

“Many, many times.”  There was self-deprecating amusement in his voice.

“Me too.  Let’s hope it sticks this time.  Hey, I know we’ve only got a couple of weeks left on this show, but if you want a quit buddy, I’m here for you.”

He pinched out his cigarette, got out the case one more time, and dropped the butt into it.  Lesley dropped hers, stepped on it, then picked it up and gave it to him.  “You didn’t finish it,” he said as he closed the case.

“That was enough.  If I’m going to quit, I should fucking quit, right?”

He ducked his head a little and she caught the flash of a smile.  “We should go in.  Tanith will be looking for us.”

“She’s probably been looking for us.” Lesley reached for the door, but Yoshi got to it first.  He held it open and she went inside.  “Thanks again.”

“You’re welcome.”  He watched her go down the hall, enjoying the sway of her crinolined skirt and the lush hourglass of her figure.  The light outside the building had done unexpected things for her creamy white skin and clear gray eyes.  It was the most ‘alone together’ they’d been since they’d first met, at the design meeting, five weeks before.  He had never before been the subject of her attention.  The effect of that was also unexpected.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

A long time ago and three thousand miles away, I wrote my first novel - a historical romance - during graduate school. Twenty years later I finally dusted it off and published it. Since then I have written and published eleven more novels and twenty-nine novellas. My day job is in a law office, I've been married for eighteen years, and I'm inspired by authors like KJ Charles, Laurie R. King, Dick Francis, and Jennifer Crusie.


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