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A Holiday To Remember
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Julia Payne is a professional photographer who lost her fiancé in the
9-11 Attacks. She believes in making the best of every moment by seizing
every opportunity to experience the joys of life. Brooding Japanese
world renowned classical music conductor, Ikuya Yamane, plays Russian
roulette with his life on the anniversary of his wife’s death. He’s made
a personal vow to never let what happened in his past happen again.
He’s given each affair an expiration date. Julia only has two months and
he’s out of there! When Julia meets Ikuya Yamane after his benefit
concert and he offers her heart stopping uncomplicated sex if she
becomes his lover during the remaining New York Holiday concert season.
Harboring a secret crush she finds Ikuya an experience not to be missed.
When it ends Julia gets more than A Holiday to Remember.
 
A Holiday to Remember

CHAPTER ONE

Halloween…
 
Picking up the pistol, he spun the chamber once before pressing the barrel into his temple with his finger resting on the trigger.  He took a deep breath and closed his eyes.  The memories haunted him…
Ikuya Yamane, with his unshaven chiseled face etched with angles and shadows of grief, regrets and loneliness, sat on the comfortably soft brown leather chair.  The music room was his favorite room in the sprawling two story Tudor style stone home.  It had perfect acoustics because of its high vaulted wooden beam ceilings.  His wife only cared about the graceful buttresses and authentic stained glass windows built in 1928.  He never cared much for the historical aspect of the home or the antique furnishings, but the moment they stepped inside Mako had to have it.  It didn’t matter to her that it was in a great need of renovations.  She loved it, and he loved her.
His black eyes glazed from sleeplessness and his broad shoulders drooped as if the weight of the world stood on his shoulders alone. Ikuya had all the trappings that twenty years of being a successful international composer and conductor afforded him.  Still all the success and money in the world didn’t save his wife from the coma that took her from him and never gave her back. 
This was the second time he had walked through the doors since her death three years ago when he removed her from life support to honor the court’s wishes. It had been a battle with her parents to make them understand that he wouldn’t let Mako go.  So the legally forced him to turn off the machines after years of legal wrangling.  The day Mako died his relationship with her family died too.
Losing them was still disappointing because he’d never had a family of his own.  He had begun to think of her parents as his own, but he couldn’t forgive them for what they had done. 
Now he was alone again and everything around him once more was unbearably bleak.  To think, he is a man loved by millions yet here he sat in a house full of rich trappings alone.
He should have sold the house right after she died, but he couldn’t tolerate to part with the last place they made love.  This was the last place he heard her voice and infectious laughter; the last place his world began to fall apart.
Mako, forgive me.  It was his last thought before pulling the trigger.
CLICK!
His heart raced along with a muffled roaring in his ears.  Suddenly he felt queasy, winded and lightheaded.  With a shaky hand, Ikuya reached up to wipe the cold sheen of sweat from his forehead and smoothed his longish unruly hair behind his ear.  With his other hand he placed the gun on the antique mahogany and marble table beside the chair and poured another cup of rice wine.  Downing it in one gulp he slammed the glass back on the table in disgust. The universe must have decided this wasn’t a good day to die.
“Possibly next Halloween you will get the retribution you wanted so badly, Mako.”
 
 
CHAPTER TWO
 
“Miss Payne, we can never thank you enough for donating your time photographing this evening’s charity event. We were in a panic when our original photographer fell ill and canceled on us. When we asked for your help we never expected you to accept considering your assistant assured us you were booked until late easily next year.”
“Please, call me Julia, and it's my pleasure.”  Julia Payne smiled at the other woman before holding up her baby, a Nikon DSRL camera, getting a flattering shot off with one click and letting it fall back against her stomach from its leather strap hanging around her neck. “I can’t think of a better cause for donating my services than a benefit concert and banquet for MADD, Mothers against Drunk Driving.”
“Still, it is an honor that you would personally do the job.  You could have passed the job onto one of your assistant photographers’ and we would have still been grateful.  However you being here in person gave us the opportunity to add you to our advertisement roster. You wouldn’t believe the accepted RSVP's we received from supermodels after they found out you were the photographer.”
Julia chuckled and nodded.  “Well, I’m glad to hear my reputation precedes me, although I don’t understand why.  I take pictures of what I see and I love what I do so much it’s a shame to get paid for the work.  If I wasn’t making a living from what I do, I would do it for free.”
“Your love for photography shows in your work, Julia, and never say ‘free’ around someone like me, for I will take full advantage each time I have a charity function.”  The older woman patted at her platinum blond upswept hair, laughing along with her.
“Please, at the very least call,” Julia urged. “If I’m available or in town, I would love to be a part of a good cause.”
“Truly Julia, I personally want you to know how grateful I am that you are doing this. I hope that you will allow me to plan a dinner party in your honor.”
“That really isn’t necessary, Mrs. Crosby,” Julia said shaking her head.
“Matilda.” She supplied her first name. “Nonsense!”  She waved a hand, sparkling with frosted pink nail polish and a huge engagement ring with matching wedding band.  “I will have my girl call your girl.”
Julia didn’t have a “girl” to handle the personal “stuff” she could do herself. She was sure Matilda was talking about a Girl Friday, a worker that had no social life but to cater to her boss.
She hoped her regular assistant that helped her during normal business hours would suffice.  Julia smiled and nodded, knowing to argue the point that she didn't expect a dinner party for helping with a good cause would be considered an insult to the other woman's kind offer, so she graciously accepted.
“What did you think of Ikuya Yamane’s performance?  Was it the first time you experienced his music?”
“I have a few of his CD's, so I am familiar with his work.  However, after seeing him live this evening, I have been transformed into a hopelessly devoted fan.”  Julia laughed softly.  “The concert was… oh my God, I don’t know how to put into words the emotions I experienced while watching his performance.”
“He’s simply magnificent,” Mrs. Crosby injected.
“I completely agree,” Julia gushed.  “The way Conductor Yamane maintains control over each minute moment, filling me until I felt as if I was overflowing with… with--”
“Passion?”
“Oh, yes,” she agreed. The awe was evident in her voice. “I cried. He moves with such a flawless grace.  I can’t wait to develop the camera shots I have of him.  I pray that I managed to capture the masculine beauty of his face.” She paused.  Her eyebrows puckered as her mind wondered back to the deep sadness on his face during one of his sweeping ballads.  It was at that moment she cried for him. “I don't know.  I never expected him to be...”
“Expected him to what, dear?”
“Yes, I would be interested in hearing the answer to that question as well.”  A deep melodious voice spoke from behind causing both ladies to turn. “Good evening, ladies.”  Maestro Ikuya Yamane inclined his head and gave a bow from his waist with his eyes lowered.
The silvery white at his temples caught her eyes as it seemed to sparkle in the blue black color of the rest of his hair that was neatly smoothed back off his face.  The trimmed sideburns emphasized his remarkable high cheekbones and whiskey brown exotic eyes and thick dark lashes.
She imagined only a man comfortable in his masculinity would be able to appear in public with his hair in a single thick spiral curl down the center of his back, tied with a fancy thick black silk bow wearing a black tuxedo with tails, snow white ruffled shirt and white tie.  If she had a word to categorize his appearance, she would have to pull from the days of old and call him debonair, dashing and dangerous.
“Maestro Yamane, what a delight to have you as our most esteemed guest!  I was fearful that after such an exceptional performance, you would be too weary to grace the banquet with your presence.”  The older woman and hostess of the benefit banquet beamed at him and placed a gloved hand on his forearm. 
Julia thought her foolishly girlish giggle was well warranted.  Julia fought back the urge to do some gushing of her own. The man, this close up, was simply too gorgeous for words and he was also a little shorter than she had suspected.  He probably was only about five-eleven.
His creamy skin appeared flawless.  She would have thought it was stage makeup until her eyes fell on endearing beauty marks scattered here and there on his face.  Julia wondered how many other places on his body she could discover more moles.  She realized now that she was this close, it wasn’t just the performance that had women swooning over him.  The Maestro simply oozed sexiness.
“Performing has a reverse effect on me.  After an engagement, I have energy to spare.” He smiled. It was a wide grin that caused laugh lines to crinkle next to his eyes.  She found his mouth extremely kissable.  It was a relief to see that his bottom teeth were slightly crooked.  To her, the imperfection made him more approachable.
She had heard him speak English in several interviews and found his accent sounded European.  She surmised it was from his universal education.  After all, he had been performing since he was a child.  She had heard numerous stories about this man, mostly from her father. 
It took Julia a moment to realize he was speaking to her. “Pardon me?”  Her fingers were itching to lift the camera and snap more pictures of him. “I was a bit distracted.”
“Forgive my eavesdropping, but I was curious to hear what your thoughts are on my performance.  It is said that the camera is a mirror for the soul.”
“I saw extreme sadness,” she answered honestly as her dark eyes met his. I felt an inner torment hard to look at, yet too beautiful to look away from.  Tears welled up in her eyes.  “Watching you, Maestro Yamane, was painful and exhilarating at the same time.”  The tears fell.  “I don’t think I’ve ever been so overwhelmed and entertained at the same time.”
Thankfully, he had the strength to break whatever magic was looming about them for she was spilling her thoughts to him like an idiot.  Julia’s eyelashes fluttered willing the tears that threatened to continue, at bay.  She did not want to embarrass her present company or herself any further. 
Her eyes dropped to the crisp white handkerchief he held out to her.  She smiled a closed lip smile and accepted the handkerchief.
“You are being too kind.  I clearly have some reprimanding to do at the next rehearsal.”  He dazzled her with a smile and waved away her compliments with an artistic twirl of his beautiful hand.  His black gaze was so unblinking and intense it made her feel as if she was the only other person in the room.  They also seemed to be very cold, regardless of his open smile.
“I grew up around classical music.  If there was an error, I was too mesmerized by the movement of your hands to hear it.”  Julia said, refusing to look away this time.  “You are much too hard on yourself, Conductor Ikuya Yamane.”
“Arigatou.”  He inclined his head.  “Mrs.?”
“Maestro, there are some major contributors I would like to introduce you to, if you will come this way, please.”  The other woman piped in, raising a hand to wave at another woman across the room.
“Of course; if you can give me a moment please.” Ikuya smiled and bowed his head.  “Please.”  This time it sounded more forceful. 
When she continued to stand there waiting, he turned his dead stare on the older woman.  Julia’s breath caught in the back of her throat.  She cringed when he cocked a thick dark eyebrow at the older woman before saying a bit rudely or so Julia thought, “Mrs. Crosby, you may go.  I shall join you in a bit.”
“Huh?  Oh… oh, of course.  I will be right over here… waiting,” the older petite blond sputtered with her pale cheeks taking on a red hue.  Julia thought her open friendly smile appeared to have tightened at the corners of her ruby red lips, but the change had come and gone so quickly, she could have been mistaken.  
However, there was no mistaking her open curiosity as her inquisitive blue eyes darted from his face to hers once more before she turned on her heels and made her way across the room towards the ladies she waved at.
“I’m afraid I didn’t get your name,” Ikuya’s deep voice said.
“Miss Julia Payne,” she supplied.
“Please call me Ikuya.  I’ve been Maestro so long I rarely hear my name anymore.”  She heard the weariness in his voice that validated her perception of the sad lonely man she saw a few times with her camera.
“I will call you Ikuya, if you call me Julia.” She paused, looked at his proffered hand and then shook it.  His flesh met hers in a warn clasp.  She noticed he had beautiful hands with long, square tipped fingers.  The pronounced veins threaded along the back of his hands in a way she always associated with masculine strength and capability.  His nails were clean, neatly clipped and buffed.
Still holding her hand, he asked, “Have we met before?”  He cocked his head to the side in question.
“No, I don’t think so.” Julia shook her head.  Hastily, she withdrew her hand and folded them together in front of her in a tranquil poise to prevent them from shaking, but she could not stop looking at his handsome face.
“I could swear I’ve met you,” he reached out and to her surprise caressed the crook of his finger down her cheek. “You have very beautiful eyes.”
For one incredible moment, she couldn’t breathe, so intense was the power emanating between them.  With her heart beating rapidly and her stomach twisted into knots, Julia took a step back and his hand dropped back to his side. She managed to mumble, a “thank you,” even though her voice sounded terribly husky to her own ears.  She could only imagine what he must think about her, allowing him to touch her with such familiarity when she just met him.
However, there was some palpable sexual tension between them.  It was a wonderfully strange familiarity.  She wasn’t sure why he would feel the same way, but she figured her familiarity of him was because his face was on billboards all over New York since his arrival, advertising the benefit concert.
His slender but powerful shoulders dropped in a deep sigh.  She turned to see where his irritated glare was gaping. “Mrs. Crosby is heading this way with friends in tow.  I so do hate these affairs.”
Julia laughed softly turning to face the approaching chattering women.  Both were introduced and the sexually charged aura between them shifted to a professional social geniality.  She watched in quiet distraction while Ikuya turned on the charm for the swooning flock of female investors who took great pleasure in spending their mogul husbands’ income.  She took advantage of the lovely smiles on the women faces and returned to snapping photos.
After she took several shots and she excused herself.
“Excuse me, Miss Payne.  If I may, I would like to acquire a business card from you.  I would be interested in seeing the pictures you’ve taken of me; mayhap, to purchase a few of your snapshots to place on my website.”
Her eyes came to rest on his face. They stared at each other for what seemed to be an endless moment before looking away.  Julia was grateful he didn’t address her by her first name in front of the ladies.  She didn’t want the ladies of the charity board to get the idea that she wasn’t a professional because she took her photography work very seriously and would love to donate more of her time to other charitable events in the future.
“Ms. Payne takes the most extraordinary photos! You will not be disappointed,” one of the ladies beside him gushed.
Julia reached into the camera case hanging from her shoulder and removed a business card.  “I look forward to hearing from you.”
“Tomorrow?  May I call you?  Or will tomorrow be too soon for you to have them available to see?”  He asked.  Julia saw how his eyes had dropped to her lips.
Flustered, she managed to answer.  “I should have the proofs done by then.”  She licked her lips.  For a moment, Julia longed to be the woman that had the right to lean over and kiss him goodbye.  It took everything within her not to give in to the impulse and embarrass herself if he was to reject her in a public display of outrageousness.
Yet, there was something in the way he continued to stare at her that made her feel as if he wouldn’t have minded if she had kissed him.  Even so it was an intimate act that publicly in these circles just wasn’t done; especially by two strangers. She enjoyed being the talk of New York, but only if it was about her photographs.  She had no desire to be splattered across the tabloids as the Classical Conductor Ikuya Yamane’s latest mistress.
Anyone that picked up a music magazine knew about this man and they also knew that he refused to get serious with women, stating he had already had the love of his life and she was gone.  But what did it matter to Julia anyway?  She was completely career oriented and she had no desire for anything serious or long term.  However, she was up to taking him on as her next lover.
Julia’s lips spread into a secretive smile.  She added a little more twist in her hips as she walked away knowing he was watching her ass.  A shiver of sensuous awareness crept up her spine.
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