We're thrilled to have the lovely Sedonia Guillone visiting us here at Lust Bites today. Please make her feel welcome as she introduces us to her Men of Tokyo.
A bit about Sedonia:
Birthplace: Norwood, Massachusetts
Astrological signs: Taurus, Rooster in Chinese zodiac
Favourite films of all time: Seven Samurai, Yojimbo, Sanjuro
Favourite music: anything by Gackt
Foods: olives, pizza, Thai curry
And I’m a coffee freak. I think my blood type is “caffeinated”.
The work I’m most enthusiastic about at this time is my White Tigers series published at Total-E-Bound. I feel that with these stories I am finding my voice a bit more as a writer, as this series incorporates so many elements of my life in a strange and new synthesis. You wouldn’t think that a Jewish girl from New England would have anything in common with gay men in Japan, one of whom was a high ranking yakuza in a crime family. However, I will tell you that I grew up with a gay father in a house surrounded often by all these handsome guys he and my “stepfather” were friends with.
The kernels of the stories were planted in my psyche at a young age. However, unlike my household, the White Tiger is an intentional community in which the members are consciously working on their spiritual development and learn to place the welfare of their unique and deeply bonded friendships first. I am incredibly fortunate to have a community of friends in which such cooperation is our intention. Although we’re not even remotely like the White Tiger, the elements of sacrifice and friendship and deep acceptance are what I infuse into my characters and which fuel my love of these characters and stories.
I was initially inspired by Jade Lee’s Tigress (Dorchester Publishing) series of erotic historical romances set in turn-of-the century Shanghai in which she incorporates the incredibly erotic practices of the White Tigress with the development of a romance between the hero and heroine.
At the time however, I’d begun writing M/M and became absolutely enamored of the genre, wanting almost to write nothing else. That, along with my growing fascination with samurai culture, inspired by the magnificent films of Akira Kurosawa, presented me with a incredible source of story elements. Back in 2007, I wrote His Beautiful Samurai (Torquere Press), only my second M/M novel and first romantic suspense. Although it is set in contemporary Tokyo, there is an ill-fated romance between two samurai of the past that plays a part in the present mystery.
By then, I’d learned much more about the teachings of the White Tigress and was looking for a way to transpose this incredibly juicy venue into M/M. Hence, the White Tiger, a gay men’s hotel in Tokyo. As often happens with writers, ideas kick around in our minds and marinate, developing into a story the characters want us to tell. I’d had the idea in my mind of having two men go undercover in the White Tiger where they would undergo incredibly erotic experiences while solving the mystery. Of course! I had my two lovers from His Beautiful Samurai, Toshi Genjin (named for Toshiro Mifune, of course) and John Holmes (I swear I didn’t know then of the porn star by the same name, lol). This book became the sequel, Beautiful Samurai, White Tiger. However, once I wrote this story, I realized that the men of the White Tiger each had a romance and story of his own that needed to be told.
My boyfriend had given me a title to write a story for, as he’s done several times (Ace in the Hole, Loose Id and Enter the Hero (Red Sage Secrets, vol 25). Hence, Men of Phuket: Tongue-Thai’d had risen in my mind. The segue was perfect
and I was able to continue the story of Ryu, who appears briefly in Beautiful Samurai, White Tiger but who was deeply affected by the events in the novel. From there, I was like a racehorse let out of the gate. The romances of the White Tiger men have clamoured ever since to be told. I ended up going back in time a bit before the mystery that brings readers to the White Tiger and zoomed in on the men’s stories, i.e. how each of them came to be a part of the White Tiger, how the place got established, the development of the romances. The romance between Kiku (also named for Toshiro Mifune’s character in Seven Samurai) and Yuzo in Men of Tokyo: Sudden Surrender is the pivotal romance that sparks the events of Beautiful Samurai, White Tiger, yet the stories are structured so that the mystery can be read completely separately without needing the other White Tigers novels in order to understand what’s going on.
Blurb for Men of Tokyo: Sudden Surrender (current release)
In desperation for his life, Yuzo Kitano escapes the sadistic clutches of Taro Suzuki, one of Tokyo’s fiercest yakuza, and seeks refuge with Suzuki’s arch-rival, Kikuchiya Fujimara, owner of the White Tiger, a luxurious love-hotel for gay men which also serves as a spiritual community for its inhabitants. From early meetings with the handsome, charismatic leader who trains men in the sexual Tao, Yuzo senses deep inside he’s found someone he can trust and who will keep him safe. What he doesn’t expect is the absolute sensual bliss he finds with Kikuchiya’s skilled lovemaking and realizes he’s found what he’s really wanted his whole life. But does Kiku want him in return? At first, Kiku sees only Yuzo’s alluring beauty and desperate need for protection. But the headstrong impulsive Yuzo is also the first man Kiku has ever met whose touch is healing and calming for him, rather than a distressing channel for his psychic abilities, and the more he makes love to Yuzo, the more Kiku is in danger of losing his heart to another for the first time in his life. However, Kiku also knows that when Suzuki finds out where his slave has gone, there will be hell to pay. Kiku has already made one harrowing sacrifice to the yakuza in return for his freedom and might not survive a second…
Kiku rolled over with Quan Chan in his arms so that he lay atop the other man. Chan Chan, as Kiku affectionately called his friend and sometime lover of ten years, nearly matched Kiku in physical size, so there was no mistaking the power in the possessive grip of Chan Chan’s thighs as they pressed into Kiku’s hips.
Brushing a kiss over his friend’s full parted lips, Kiku braced himself for the painful images that always assailed him during lovemaking. Didn’t matter who the man was, or even if they were making love. The visions came, as they did now when Quan Chan’s hands started to knead Kiku’s back muscles. Chan Chan as a boy in Shanghai, running wild in the streets while his mother earned their keep in a whorehouse. Dirt-streaked, hungry, often beaten up for fun by bigger, older boys and left to bleed and cry. Chan Chan had known only this life until he miraculously stumbled upon the White Tiger Temple, the original place that his own White Tiger was loosely modelled on.
Kiku turned his head from Chan Chan, but more images were coming. His dear friend as a young, troubled man searching for shelter by learning to stroke and lick another man’s dragon properly. Something about that always tore at Kiku’s heart.
“Kiku, are you all right?” Chan Chan asked in Shanghainese, the language Kiku had grown up speaking with his Chinese mother. The whispered question made him realize the tension seeping into his body.
Kiku sighed. “Yes. Fine.” No need to make the other man feel badly about what neither of them could control. He stroked a thumb across Chan Chan’s high cheekbone, knowing that their time as lovers would probably be ending soon, the way it had with Ryu when the visions grew too intense and frequent to bear while they were in bed. Lowering his face to his friend’s, he kissed him again, stealing between his lips to taste the moistness there.
As Chan Chan always did, his mouth softened in surrender. His hands resumed their caress on Kiku’s back and Kiku registered the deepening of emotion in the other man. Chan Chan had always been taken with him, but had started to fall deeply in love with him in recent months. Though Kiku wanted to return the romantic feeling, as he’d wanted to with Ryu, the visions held him off as if with spikes.
Tension clenched in his back and shot down his arms and legs. Kuso! Kiku shifted his hips forward to make their dragons slide together. The sensation was pleasant but didn’t make blood surge through his organ as it usually did. He was softening again. The third time this week. That had never happened to him before, no matter how bad the images were. “I’m sorry,” he whispered to Quan Chan.
The other man’s arms stayed around him. “What is it, Kiku? Please, talk to me.” Chan Chan’s insecurity hovered around them now, like a cloud. “Did I do something?”
Kiku cupped his cheek. The poor man still carried within him the child who blamed himself for every misfortune that befell him even though he was absolutely guiltless. “It has nothing to do with you, my friend.”
Chan Chan stilled. “It’s the visions, isn’t it?” Of course, after ten years of friendship, he’d be more tuned into Kiku than Kiku had given him credit for.
“Oh no,” Chan Chan moaned. He knew about how this same thing had forced Kiku to stop being lovers with Ryu who still pined away for his friend while living in the bedroom next door. “Does this mean…?”
Kiku winced at the pain in his friend’s voice. He smoothed a hand over Chan Chan’s brow. “I don’t know.” He looked down into the other man’s sad eyes, visible in the hushed lighting of the room. “Would you still be my friend if it did?” He couldn’t bear the thought of losing Chan Chan over this. Quan Chan was the man who’d brought him to the path of the White Tiger on his past trips to Shanghai for the Suzuki family’s business. Quan Chan had first taught him the promise of spiritual well-being through the proper use of his yang force. Taro Suzuki had once accused Kiku of being a “collector of people,” but Kiku knew the truth. To let go of a true friend like this man would be a foolish, stupid act.
“Of course, Kiku. I would never—”
A knock on the soji screen to his room interrupted Quan Chan.
“Yes?” Something about the urgency in the knock made Kiku’s heartbeat rise slightly.
“Kiku-sensei, forgive me for disturbing you.”
It was Naoto, his right hand around this place. The White Tiger ran as well as it did because of this young man’s service and Naoto would never disturb his private time unless there was a damn good reason.
“It’s all right. Come in.” He sat up as the screen slid open, revealing Naoto’s brawny form.
Naoto bowed. “I’m sorry. Ryu thought I should get you immediately.”
Ryu also would never disturb him for something superficial.
A strange energy skittered up Kiku’s arms. Beside him, he felt Chan Chan sit up, taking care to keep the covers over their groins. Not that it mattered if Naoto saw them. Naoto had once been a lover too, while Kiku taught him the practices of the White Tiger. “What is it?”
“Yuzo is here.”
The name took a moment to register in his consciousness. “You mean Suzuki’s uke?” What the hell would Suzuki’s submissive be doing here without Suzuki?
Naoto nodded his head of long hair. “Hai. He ran away from Suzuki and came here, asking for you. He’s in bad shape.”
“I’ll bet he is.” Kiku threw back the covers and shot to his feet. Suzuki never left anyone better than he found him. Always worse. “I’ll come right away.” In the past few months, Suzuki had brought the young man with him when he came to use the White Tiger. Kiku hated having Suzuki in his place and generally banned yakuza, but use of the facilities had been part of their agreement. As he threw on a kimono and tied the belt, a memory came to mind of the last time he’d seen Yuzo here with Suzuki. He hadn’t missed the way Yuzo looked at him with longing. Nor had he missed the hatred simmering in Yuzo’s large eyes when Suzuki’s back was turned.
Naoto was waiting in the hallway for him. At the threshold, Kiku remembered Chan Chan and turned. The man had also risen from the bed and was tying the sash of his kimono, a sad expression on his face. Though Quan Chan was still learning Japanese, Kiku knew his friend spoke enough of the language to have understood the exchange with Naoto. Their gazes met.
“I’m sorry, my friend,” Kiku murmured.
A touch of light infused Chan Chan’s eyes. “Friend is all that matters,” he said softly.
Kiku followed Naoto’s lead down into the kitchen.
“He ran quite a distance,” Naoto said as they walked. “All the way from Suzuki’s flat. Barefoot, practically naked. Ryu heard someone pounding on the back door, and there he was.” He pushed open the door leading to the kitchen.
Kiku nodded his thanks and stepped in, already seeing a flash of shaggy hair. Proceeding into the kitchen with Naoto behind him, Kiku paused at the scene.
Yuzo sat in a chair by the large stainless steel centre table. The white button down shirt he wore was pushed back over one shoulder while Basho, the cook here at the White Tiger, was smearing cream over one side of Yuzo’s chest. Ryu knelt in front of Yuzo, his pink-dyed head bent over the task of wiping Yuzo’s bare feet gently with a wet cloth. A teapot and cup of tea already sat on the table beside Yuzo.
A flush of pride mingled with the foreboding Kiku already sensed. He’d trained his men well and they’d come a long way on the path of service and compassion from the basket cases each one had been in earlier years.
Ryu saw Kiku first. He looked up, hand freezing in mid-wipe of Yuzo’s left foot. “Kiku,” he said softly. He rose and stood aside, his eyes, Kiku grimly noted, stricken. No doubt, Yuzo’s plight brought back Ryu’s own nightmarish rape by Suzuki at the tender age of seventeen. Unlike Yuzo however, Ryu had been innocently asleep in his own bed, only to awaken with Suzuki and one of his goons hovering over him.
Although Ryu had set Yuzo’s foot back down, the young man in the chair kept his gaze down, as if not noticing what was happening.
“He’s really hurt,” Ryu went on, his voice tight. “That’s why we disturbed you. We wouldn’t have—“
“You absolutely did the right thing.” Kiku touched Ryu’s shoulder briefly before approaching the chair. When he did, Basho moved away also, revealing the reason for his use of cream on Yuzo’s chest.
Unprepared for the anger that spiked through him, Kiku clenched his fists at his sides and stared at Suzuki’s name tattooed there. The job was obviously freshly done, judging by the rawness of the skin around them as well as the darkness of the Nara ink, not quite blue-green as it would shortly turn.
“Suzuki held him down while his goon…” Ryu’s voice choked off.
“I understand.” Kiku’s own voice sounded tight to his ears. It was one thing to undergo the tattooing process by free choice as he and Ryu had done. Quite another to have it done as a branding, no matter how small the mark.
Only then did Kiku notice the slight trembling of Yuzo’s shoulders. The young man’s face remained tilted downwards, causing the shagginess of his hair to hide his eyes as if he were afraid or ashamed to make eye contact.
Kiku didn’t wonder about that. Even a man in Yuzo’s shattered state had to understand the risk he’d taken as well as the grave danger he put anyone into who gave him shelter.
No matter. Kiku’s soul-driven need to protect always won out, especially when it concerned a victim of Suzuki’s depravity. He knelt down and studied Yuzo’s hunched over form.
Suzuki’s pernicious yang force roiled in the air around Yuzo, like a noxious stink that permeated the young man’s skin and hair. No telling what the rotten energy had done to Yuzo’s heart and soul from prolonged intimate exposure. Ryu still had nightmares ten years after the rape. “You’re safe now, Yuzo,” Kiku said.
Yuzo’s ragged breathing made the bangs over his eyes ripple. His lips, full and pouty, were slightly parted, and his neatly manicured hands clutched his knees so tightly, his knuckles were white.
At first, Kiku thought the man was in such shock he wouldn’t answer, but then Yuzo lifted his gaze and looked directly at Kiku.
Large, liquid brown pools stared out from under thick heavy lashes. Kiku found himself staring back, disturbed at the sense of capture he experienced. He glanced away but felt drawn back, as if Yuzo’s silent will were stronger than any other force, and saw that the fear and horror in Yuzo’s eyes had already begun to ebb. “Thank you,” he whispered. Then, as if touched with a cattle prod, he sat up straighter, eyes wide. “I…I promise, Fuju, I won’t stay. I just needed to get away. Please believe me.”
Yes, he did understand. But there was something else in what Yuzo was saying, something that told Kiku that Yuzo had been planning to escape Suzuki and to take refuge here. No doubt a touch would tell him more.
Carefully, so as not to startle Yuzo, Kiku took gentle hold of Yuzo’s arms over the white shirt. Suzuki’s shirt, no doubt, judging from the way it draped so largely over Yuzo’s slim form. Yuzo’s triceps, though also slim, were hard and sinewy against Kiku’s fingertips. “We’ll talk about that later, Yuzo-san,” he said softly. “For now, you’ll stay here.”
Yuzo’s large eyes were staring down into his, unflinchingly and Kiku found himself studying every contour of the man’s face. The brush-like lashes, the shaggy way his hair framed his delicately-boned face, the poutiness of his full lips as well as the barest hint of moustache on his upper lip. Without that, his beauty would have been quite androgynous, very much like the boy-band type that was wildly popular these days. What wasn’t androgynous was Yuzo’s slender body of lightly chiselled muscle. That was all male.
Kiku caught himself staring and silently chided himself. To be objectifying the man at a moment like this. Only then did he realize the absence of images. He brushed his thumbs over Yuzo’s biceps, also hard and enticing as the rest of him. Nothing. Only Yuzo’s fear, mingled with relief and the continuing burn of Suzuki’s raw, angry qi.
How was this possible? Never mind that, he continued to chide himself. No doubt, once he got Yuzo into the shower, naked with him to cleanse him of Suzuki’s negative energy, the images would come. They always did.
You can visit Sedonia here.