Ryota Ostrel gazed at the tall and handsome man in front of him. He shoved his hands back in his pockets and looked at the man in front of him. A few minutes earlier he’d been standing by the one-way window in his office looking down in the ballroom and noticed when the guest walked in. Ryota was instantly drawn to the man’s handsome physique.
Standing next to Baker, he could tell the other man was a witch but wasn’t sure what kind. Not only could he feel a suspicious aura surrounding Baker that intrigued him, making him wonder what Baker was doing in their town and what was his relationship with Malcolm Grover, the town’s deputy mayor.
“So, Mr. Baker, what are you doing in Fort Creek?” Ryota sat down and Baker followed suit.
Ryota ignored Malcolm Grover, letting his annoyance show. Ryota and Grover were business partners as well as contracted lovers, and had a deal that the deputy mayor would never show up at the brothel unannounced. However, Grover knew how busy Ryota was, which was why they always scheduled their meetings.
Why bother getting upset now? I plan on breaking the pleasure contract off with him anyway.
“I’m looking for new investments,” Baker responded.
Ryota nodded. “Investments are always a good thing. And how did you hear about our little town?”
Baker smiled. “From my good buddy Malcolm, of course.”
Ryota smiled, casting a glance in Malcolm’s direction, who lowered his eyes as if he found something interesting on the table. In all the time he knew Malcolm, he’d never mentioned he had a friend named Baker. Other than Ruby, he didn’t think Malcolm had any other friends.
“Ah…so you two know each other?” Ryota asked speculatively.
Baker slung an arm around Grover, who flinched but played it off quickly by readjusting his posture. “We met at university.”
“Oh.” Ryota didn’t question the association any longer. His association with Grover had only started six years ago, the intimate part of their relationship came years later. “Tell me, what do you plan on investing in?”
“I’ve suddenly become interested in brothels.” Baker placed his elbow on the chair handle, rubbing lazily on his chiseled jaw, staring at him flirtatiously.
Ryota ignored the man’s flirtatious manner, waving a hand around. “As you can see, brothels are quite lucrative.”
Ten years ago, when he’d taken over Ruby’s, it was in a terrible state. It was a saloon that looked more like a shack with a few shakers—also known as painted ladies or prostitutes—who were working for pennies on their backs while the madam reaped all the benefits and mistreated the workers. As a high-level nine-tail-fox demon, Ryota had the money and power to make things happen, which included approving or disapproving new business in town.
“I can tell it’s quite lucrative,” Baker said. “Maybe I need to take lessons from you on how to turn a shack into a mansion.”
“I’m not certain you’d be able to grasp the syllabus, Mr. Baker.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Ry. I’ve been told I’m a fast learner.”
“Madam Ruby,” Ryota corrected. After taking over the brothel, he had made a lot of changes, except for the name of the place and the moniker Madam Ruby.
It was against the rules for demons of his stature to give dominion over others if they were to know his real name.
“Excuse me?” Baker confusedly looked at him.
“Please, call me Madam Ruby.”
Baker stared at him for a second. Ryota didn’t miss the slight smile that hung on the corner of his lips. “Very well, Madam Ruby. I’m sure there’s something you can teach me.”
Ryota moved his gaze up and down the man, looking at his finely tailored clothes and perfectly styled curly hair. He gave off an aura of a rich philanderer who didn’t care about how much money he spent or wasted. Ryota could only imagine how many hearts the man had broken with that sexy smile. However, he could tell there was something mysterious under those hazel eyes.
“Pick something else to invest in,” Ryota said. “Or better yet, a different town.”
Since setting foot in Fort Creek, Ryota had claimed the town as his and did not plan on sharing its wealth with others. Blame his possessiveness on being a demon.
“Why should I find another town?”
“Do I need to answer that question?” Ryota huffed.
Why is this man trying to irritate me? And we just met, how bothersome.
“No, I suppose you don’t,” Baker responded. “But I don’t see anything wrong with a town having two brothels. Or are you afraid of a little competition?”
Ryota chuckled. “If you stick around long enough, Mr. Baker, you’ll find out I’m not afraid of anything.”
With that, Ryota stood and cast an irritated glance at Grover, who was trying to disappear but failing terribly. Without so much as a by your leave, Ryota turned and walked away, not missing Baker’s provocative smile.
How irritating. You made me think you could be interesting.
Ryota tried putting their interaction out of his thoughts as he spoke with other customers. But his irritation grew the longer he stayed in the ballroom.