Hayato looked up when Max Wells suddenly spouted an inventive string of impressive curses, punctuated by the clicking clack of her fingers on the keyboard. She typed in a flurry of commands, staring at her computer screen with a fury that would terrify most people.
But not him. The first time he’d seen her, Max’s face had been set in those determined, aggressive lines, and he’d fallen for her. Hard. And never looked back.
So he just smiled and sat back on their new leather couch, only half-heartedly skimming the business law contract in his hands. They’d finally unpacked everything in their new condo that, while still strange—neither of them historically sharing their space well with others—was starting to feel like home.
“Really, Richards?” he heard Max say snarkily at her screen before she reached back to tighten the hold she had her wild, fiery, red hair in. She stretched her fingers then began to type heatedly. “You’re going to bed now? We’re so close to finding the treasure.”
The lawyer turned and looked at the clock on their wall.
No wonder his attention was wandering so much. He’d been up since 5:30am and needed to be up even earlier tomorrow. He yawned. “Max, you ready for bed?”
“Sure, sure.” She waved one hand at him behind her back, not even looking away from the screen, while the other still typed. “Be right up; just gotta finish one more thing.”
He rolled his eyes. He’d been hearing that phrase for the past two and a half weeks. He shook his head and started up the stairs. When Max got into something, she sunk her teeth in. And Plunder 4 was a hell of a meal.
He’d played the original game a bit when Peter first picked it up, but he wasn’t much for video games and hardly ever had time to invest in them.
Not that he would have pegged Max as a gamer either. She wasn’t. But B.D. Cooper, the game’s developer, had decided to publish a series of Plunder novels through Elysia. And, being admirably thorough, Max had picked up and played through the most recent incarnation in preparation and quickly become enthralled.
Plunder, with its expansive world and rich storylines filled with randy space pirates going on adventures and quests that ranged from the quirky to the epic, was perfect for Max, who couldn’t help but love a good story. But, of course, what had hooked her was the band of characters in the game, a diverse and unique group not often seen in traditional media. As much fun as Max was having playing intergalactic Robin Hood, her obsession was running through all the romance options in the game. She’d been raving and gushing over the honest and respectful representation of characters of color, LGBTQIA+ characters, and even and especially kinksters of all kinds.
It was, in fact, the reason B.D. had chosen Elysia, who was swiftly becoming the most literate and celebrated name in erotic kink literature written by and for real-life kinksters. Because, as she’d told Max, “Plunder just wouldn’t be Plunder if I had to tone anything down to appease some publisher.”
Max couldn’t have agreed more. And she was more than excited to help explore more of the relationship plot lines that the game just didn’t quite have time for.
And, while he was happy for her—after all, as an Asian kinkster in an interracial, open relationship with a woman still exploring her newly discovered kinky side, how could he hate the game or her desire to promote it—he sighed.
He missed her.
And he shouldn’t.
They were living together; how could he miss her?
After a lot of discussion, they’d finally decided to move in with each other in hopes that, despite both their busy schedules, they’d be able to spend more time together.
Funny, he thought while he undressed and climbed into their brand new, hardly broken in bed, we spent more time together when we were living apart.
And it wasn’t just sex or companionship that he missed. They were in an open relationship; he could easily spend time with Pip or Reena. He could spend time at Donovan’s. He could meet-up with friends, like Peter or Rand.
And he’d done that over the past few weeks. Only to stop when it felt too much like a replacement for what he really wanted.
Which didn’t feel fair or right. So he’d gone home and wondered when Max would find time for him.
He groaned and tossed about in the bed. Didn’t that sound pathetic?
Pulling the covers over himself, he wondered if this was simply what living with a person meant. After all, it wasn’t as if he had much experience in the area. Not since he and Peter shared a dorm room in college, which had been, of course, completely different. How was he supposed to know?
Of course, he’d heard people say that large commitments, like marriage or moving in with a partner, often led to complacency. Was that all this was? After all, they couldn’t exactly treat every night at home as if it were date night. It’s not as if they could stay in the honeymoon period of their relationship, where she’d teased him in lacy teddies and barely there negligees. Where he’d spent all night worshipping her body. He understood that there was always bound to be a certain amount of settling down as you settled in.
But, imagining Max in her worn-out college sleep shirt battling space pirates, he worried that it might be more.
Turning on his side to stare at the empty half of the large bed, he frowned and wondered if maybe Max wasn’t so much throwing herself into work as she was avoiding him. After all, it wasn’t as if her job required her to play the game. It was her choice to spend every night for weeks downstairs curled up in her computer chair rather than with him.
Closing his eyes, he let out a huff. After getting a taste of cohabitation, was Max regretting her choice?
Kat Valdez-Richards stabbed her chicken breast before slicing off a piece. “I swear to God, Max,” she warned, waving the bite-sized parmesan at her friend, “if you don’t stop playing that stupid game with Peter, I will never speak to you again.”
“It’s not stupid.” Max rolled her eyes. Plunder had one of the most well-developed and immersive plots she’d ever seen. She’d never have expected to find a story of that quality in a video game. “I wouldn’t have pitched so hard for the series, if I didn’t believe in the franchise.” She chewed a bit. “I was actually hoping that you might be interested in helping B.D. with her manuscript. She’s used to writing in script-format, but could use a little help with the prose.”
Kat turned her nose and scoffed. “I am not helping that woman. At the moment, I don’t really feel like helping you.”
Max slanted her friend an indulgent look. “You’re in a mood today.”
“Because for the past who-knows-how-long I’ve had to beg, badger, and practically tear Peter away from his computer to get laid.” She grumbled and chewed her chicken. “All he seems to care about now is Plunder.” She jutted out her jaw in a pout. “Used to be he was more concerned about…” She shook her head.
“Plundering you.” Max snickered.
“About everything,” Kat said. “He’s supposed to be looking for new office locations now that his business is expanding. We’re supposed to be researching new cars, since mine is on its last legs. And, yes, I’d like to have sex with my husband without feeling like I spend half-an-hour nagging beforehand.” She scowled at her friend. “It kinda spoils the mood, you know.” She shook her head. “What does Hayato think of all this? He can’t be happy about all your late night raids.”
Sir? Max shrugged. “He hasn’t said anything to me.” And, well, before they moved in with each other, they’d only seen each other a couple of nights a week anyway. Now at least they almost always ate dinner together and woke up together and headed out to work together. What did it matter that they didn’t necessarily go to sleep together? Did it really matter that they didn’t lie unconscious next to each other for the exact same amount of time?
If they did at all. Max frowned. Last night, she’d fallen asleep on the couch next to her desk only to wake up and play a bit more before she left for work.
“You should watch out.” Kat took a sip with a knowing look in her eye. “If you’re not careful, he’ll do something drastic like disable your computer or wipe your game history or something.”
Max gaped. “He wouldn’t dare.”
Kat gave a humorless laugh. “I’d have done it already, but Peter’s the one who would know how to do all that without damaging anything.” She shrugged. “But, if this keeps going, I’m just going to take a bat to the whole system.”
Max snorted. “Not getting any makes you mean, lady.”
Kat shrugged. “Okay, maybe not that, but something has to change. Maybe some kind of curfew or something.”
“Sure.” Kat gripped her glass and took small sips, thinking. “Some rule like ‘sex starts at midnight, with or without you. After that, I lock the bedroom door and we’re both on our own for the night.’ It’s not like we don’t have enough toys.”
“And what about Peter?” Max fought the urge to laugh. Kat’s husband might be a friend now, but a fickle part of her was giddy at the idea of him getting cock-blocked by a curfew.
Kat sniffed. “If he can’t make it up to bed in time, it’s not like we don’t also have enough pillows for him to be quite comfortable on the couch.”
Max couldn’t help but laugh at that.
Kat gave her a superior look. “You should be careful too, before Hayato lays down his own rules.”
Max rolled her eyes and took a sip of her own drink. “I don’t think I have to worry about that. Pretty sure I could wake him up at any time, ask him if he wanted to have sex, and the answer’s always going to be yes.” What red-blooded, heterosexual male would say no to that?
Kat laughed agreeably before changing topics. Max nodded and ate, trying not to think about the worry now spreading through her mind.
Yes, she was sure that he would say yes, if she asked him for sex. But he wasn’t exactly complaining, even though she couldn’t really remember the last time they’d had sex—not in the last week, certainly, but surely in the last month, right around the move, right?—much less losing his mind over it like Kat. Hell, he wasn’t even asking for it.
What did that mean?
Maybe sex didn’t matter as much now that they’d moved in together.
It was’t like they had to plan and pencil it in around early morning meetings or late night office hours like they did before the move.
They could have sex whenever they wanted now.
She’d just gotten a little distracted.
There’d be time to make up for it all after she finished the game.
She was sure of it.
Max waited for her game to load to her last save point. She’d failed her last mission twice now. She needed Peter—he was better with the healers than she was and she was getting her ass handed to her—but he hadn’t logged in yet. She looked at her clock. It was way past his and Kat’s usual dinner hour. Even if they’d gone out to dinner or if work had run a little long, he should have been online by now. Where was he?
She looked at her sad, sad loot level. If she wanted a third attempt at the mission, she’d have to get more coins first. Maybe double back and do a few smaller heists or find a settlement to trade with. With a sigh, she turned her ship around.
She was finishing up a trade deal with an allied settlement when she saw Peter log on.
She messaged him. Where the hell have you been?
There was a pause before he responded. I had to wait until Kat fell asleep.
Max raised an eyebrow. Why?
Max literally laughed out loud. She actually did it! Max couldn’t believe it. And you fell for it.
She could almost hear him grumble in his typed response. I didn’t really get a choice. Plunder is great, but I’m not about to give up sex over it.
Read Part Two Here