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Bucket List To Love by C.P. Santi
Aya Contreras is thrilled to be studying in the land of sakura and sushi. Tokyo is a fascinating city to live in—vending machines, cosplayers, karaoke boxes, and bright, colorful conbinis on every corner. And the architectural design program she’s in is everything she dreamed it to be.
The only problem? Her tutor doesn’t seem to like her.
Well, she doesn’t like him very much either. Sure, Ryohei Mori is talented, and there’s no denying he’s hot. But he’s also a surly, bossy know-it-all who eats too many cookies.
Another annoying thing about him is he’s nosy. And when he stumbles upon the crazy bucket list Aya’s sisters forced on her, he teases her mercilessly about it.
But when their professor pairs them up for a design competition, things get . . . interesting.
Fueled by beer and a whole lot of cookies, can Aya and Ryo cross out some items on her bucket list without killing each other? Or will they realize there’s much more to each other than they’d originally thought?
The smell of freshly-brewed coffee slowly teased Aya out of her slumber. It smelled strong and full, just the way she liked it.
Now that’s weird, Aya thought. Who would be talking to her in Japanese so early in the morning? It was probably just a weird dream. After all, she was safe and sound in her own bed.
As she drifted into full consciousness, Aya began to notice several things—the faint roar of traffic on the street below, the soft fleece of the blanket covering her, the citrusy smell of the pillow, and the way the bed dipped as if someone had just sat down.
Aya quickly ran through those thoughts in her head again.
One. Aside from the fact that the dormitory building she lived in was set far back from the street, her room was six floors up. The nearby monorail was hardly ever heard, even if she had left her windows open.
Two. She didn’t own a fleece blanket. Sure, with the chilly spring nights, she’d thought of buying one, but in the two weeks she’d been in Tokyo, she was pretty content with the futon her dorm had provided.
Three. Citrus? Aya’s pillows usually took on the sweetly floral scent of her favorite shampoo (which, to her Dad’s bewilderment, she had brought a sizeable supply with her to Tokyo).
Four. The weight on the bed—unless this was a freaky paranormal manifestation, it could only mean one thing— someone else was in the room.
Oh, and she didn’t have a coffee maker either.
Jerking awake, she sat up and stared at the guy sitting beside her.
“Ne, do you want some coffee?” He asked. A minute later, in apparent frustration at her muteness, he ran a hand through his hair and tried again, “Uh . . . coffee? Do you want some?”
Aya finally opened her mouth. The fact that he had clearly enunciated each syllable hadn’t escaped her notice. “You . . . you can speak English.”
When he burst out laughing, Aya was convinced she was hallucinating. Because in the two weeks that she had known Ryohei Mori, not only had he spoken to her only in Japanese, he had also never smiled. Ever.
“You must really have been out of it last night, if you’re only noticing it now.” He smiled and sipped from a mug.
“Last night?” “Yeah, at the kangekai, remember?” Aya closed her eyes as she tried to remember.
Yeah, the party held last night at the lab. There had been speeches from Ieda-sensei, then everybody had raised their cups in a traditional kanpai. Aya remembered the mad dash for the food laid out. Not a novice at buffets, Aya had managed to eat some sushi (still ebi) and a couple of egg sandwiches, while chatting with everybody.
She remembered drinking more than usual. The timing of the party couldn’t have been more perfect. It was their sixth anniversary—hers and Adrian’s. Well, technically, it would have been, if they hadn’t broken up four months ago.
Aya opened her eyes and braced herself to ask, “Mori-san, I . . . I didn’t make a fool of myself last night, did I?”
“Call me Ryo.” He invited, thinking that they had gone way past formality by now. “Which do you want first, the good news or the bad?”
In a small voice, Aya said, “Bad news first?” “Okay. You owe me a rug.”
He smiled at the confused look on her face. “You puked all over my rug. It’s unsalvageable. You’re getting me a new one.”
Aya blinked. “O-okay. That’s it?”
“Well, you also owe me for carting you all the way from the lab. You’re not exactly a lightweight. I might add the chiropractor expenses to your tab.”
“What . . . what happened exactly?”
“Well, the guys were trying to get you drunk.” At her alarmed expression, he hastened to explain. “Don’t worry, it’s a normal rite of passage. They try to do that to all newbies. Well, except Amat-san, since he can’t drink. Suzuki-san opened the shochu he brought from Hokkaido and you drank tantakatan like there was no tomorrow.”
“Tantaka-what?” Aya held a hand up to her head. It felt heavy, like it was full of rocks.
“Tantakatan. It’s liquor made from shiso or basil. Really good stuff, but potent.” Ryo explained patiently, “You sort of passed out and Ieda-sensei told me to take care of you. Since most of the guys had passed out on the floor of the lab, I decided to take you back to my apartment.”
“Then, I didn’t do anything stupid?”
“Well, other than the pass you made at me, you’re good. The kiss was a bit sloppy, but . . .” At Aya’s horror-stricken eyes, Ryo started laughing. “I was kidding, you’re so gullible.” Aya frowned and hit him in the shoulder before she started laughing too.
She was more than pretty when she laughed, Ryo thought. Even in her sloppy state, she still looked beautiful.
The wide neckline of his shirt slipped over Aya’s slim shoulder and Ryo gulped. Standing, he rummaged through a drawer, and tossed a pile of clothes on the bed. “Those are my sister’s. She’s around your size, so they should fit.”
Eyes flaring in surprise, Aya looked down and was surprised to see that she was wearing a large shirt that was definitely not her own. She was still wearing her bra and undies, but not much else.
“You, uh . . . threw up last night, so I had to change you.” Ryo stood and looked away. Maybe it was a trick of the light, but Aya thought he was blushing. “I put your clothes in the washer, but they’re still pretty damp.” He cleared his throat. “You can use the bathroom if you like.”
Glancing at his watch, he swore. “Chikusho. You’d better hurry up, we’ve a lab meeting in thirty minutes.”
Aya grabbed the clothes and hurried to the bathroom. “I’ll be quick.” She promised.
Ryo had a glimpse of a pair of long, tanned, and perfectly formed legs before the bathroom door clicked shut.
He ran a hand over his face, then plopped down on the bed.
He was in big trouble.
About the Author
In another life, she is also an architect and academic.