It’s 1984, and Tanaka Katsu is paving his way in the Yakuza. His marriage to Yuki was a business deal, and one that he has paid for with his happiness.
Aphrodite can’t stand that he’s so miserable, and Hera, the goddess of marriage and monogamy, has a strong hold on Yuki, who will do whatever it takes to get what she believes is hers. Aphrodite won’t sit by and watch Katsu’s life slip away with no chance at love, so when he takes a trip to Vegas, she’ll introduce him to his match.
Kim never thought she’d be in the situation like the one that’s coming her way, but what the heart wants is a powerful thing, and one that’s impossible to walk away from.
“I gave What the Heart Wants by Staci Hart 5/5 Stars it was AMAZING, I absolutely loved it, Her writing style and her attention to details on each character is fantastic. If you read Deer in Headlight and Snake in the Grass this is a MUST READ!!!” – Michelle, Because Reading
“Love may not be easy to attain but in Dita’s world it’s worth fighting for as Katsu and Kim prove time and again. I loved seeing Dita and Perry in the 80’s! So much fun seeing how Gods live throughout the times. This may be a novella but it’s packed with love, romance and action as these two lovers fight to be together. I can’t get enough of these characters and their story. I wish it would never end honestly and I’m looking forward to the next book in the series!” – Amanda Clark, Globug and Hootie Need a Book
“I promise WHAT the HEART WANTS will keep you entranced and enamoured. The ending will leave you fully satisfied. I urge you to grab your copy now and dream away your evening or afternoon with these incredible characters. WHAT the HEART WANTS is a fascinating and fantabulous side dish in what is proving to be a brilliant and mesmerizing series. Staci’s next installment can’t come soon enough.” – Shelly Bunnell, Tsk, Tsk What to Read
Katsu took a last look at his closet, then glanced back at his suitcase. He would be in Vegas for a week, tailing a mark for the Yakuza. He didn’t know many details, only that he was to follow Nakano, who ran in the inner circles of the clan, and report back. When the task was given to him, he had a feeling it was a test. He was still considered new to the Tanaka clan, even though he’d been there for two years. At some point, he would earn his place, and the sooner, the better.
He zipped up his suitcase, carried it into the foyer, and set it next to the door.
Katsu scooped up his keys and wallet from the bowl, turning when he heard Yuki’s heels clicking on the hard wood floor. She flipped her long, glossy black hair over her shoulder as she sauntered over to him. Her hips swayed in her silk, cobalt jumpsuit, and her dove white skin was a shocking contrast.
“Leaving already?” She asked, playing coy.
He glanced at his Rolex, mostly for show. The last thing he wanted to do was have an extended conversation with his wife. “Yes, I am running late.”
She stopped very close to him, too close for his comfort. “You’ve been so busy,” she said as she slipped her hand inside his suit jacket.
He pulled her hand out and placed it by her side. “I have to leave, Yuki. I do not have time for your games.”
“You never have time for me. You’re never even here.”
His eyes narrowed as hers went big and soft, and her full, bottom lip pushed out. She was as beautiful as she was shrewd.
He let out a heavy breath. “I have to go, Yuki. Do you have enough money?”
Her face instantly morphed into a sneer. “You and Father always think you can buy me off. I’m not that easy, Katsu.”
“No one ever accused you of being easy, Yuki.”
Her lips pinched. “Take me with you.”
“I am going for work. For your father. This trip is not for pleasure.” He picked up his suitcase and turned for the door. “Call your father if you need anything. He knows how to find me.”
As he closed the door, he heard her screech in frustration, punctuated by the sound of her heel stomping on the hard wood.
Katsu took the elevator to the lobby and slipped into the back of a black Towncar. As they made their way to the airport, he wondered how he ended up where he was. Encounters with Yuki always left him picking apart his life, trying to make sense of what it had become.
His father, Ito Kazuki, had forged the opportunity for him in New York with the Tanaka clan. His older brother would succeed and become head of the Ito clan in Japan, and he was always destined to be second to that. By coming to New York and marrying Yuki, he had the chance not only to rise up in the ranks but to establish an ally in America for his family. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up, even if he had wanted to, and even though he had to give up his family name to become the Tanaka heir.
So, he came to America and married a stranger, apprehensive about what his relationship with her would be like. Everyone in the family knew about Yuki. Her reputation for making scenes and causing trouble was a topic of gossip across the clans, which led to whispers about Tanaka Hayate, her father, the clan boss. His skills as a leader were constantly undermined by his inability to keep his wife and daughter under control. Any conflict that arose was solved with a credit card and a bottomless bank account, and in effect, the two women ran amok. Tanaka’s solution was to send his wife to London as soon as Yuki was grown, and to banish Yuki from functions where her attendance was not mandatory. Tanaka did his best to keep her out of his business otherwise. If he hadn’t been such a successful boss, he would have lost power many years before.
Tanaka was second generation American, and Yuki was so Americanized that she had less respect for her father, or himself, than Katsu was entirely comfortable with. She didn’t know the meaning of the word no, and was never taught respect. The combination had turned her into a beautiful Medusa, fully equipped with the ability to turn any man to stone.
Katsu dreaded coming to America, knowing that he was to marry her, but when he saw her for the first time, all of that was forgotten. She was kind and gentle, and he was taken by her beauty. For a moment, hope sprang, and he wondered what all the fuss was about.
In the beginning, he thought that he could love her. He tried to love her. It didn’t take long before her facade fell away, revealing the spoiled, entitled child that she was. As soon as he saw it, all of his hope faded to gray. He tried to understand her, to find a way to build some kind of life with her, but every attempt was met with resistance. She always wanted more, and she would badger, manipulate, and fight to get what she thought she deserved. He was caught in Yuki’s trap, and every time he moved, she squeezed tighter.
To compensate for the lack of love, he had thrown himself into the clan. It was all that he had.
Katsu stepped out of the car and made his way into the airport, lost in thought. He boarded the plane and leaned back in the cushioned, first-class seat, thanking the stewardess who brought him a scotch. The city shrank away as the plane took off. The scotch in his glass tilted at a steep angle as they arched through the sky, and he wished again that he could change his lot. But it was his alone.
Dita sat back in her bed, flipping her feathered blond hair with a huff.
“This is so unfair.”
Perry rolled onto her side and propped her head on her hand, clad in fingerless mesh gloves. “Totally.” She wrapped a strand of hair around her finger. “Yuki blows.”
“Does she really think that’s the way to keep a guy? By being a total bitch?” Dita shook her head.
“I can’t blame her for trying. Have you seen his bod?”
“All those tattoos. Gimme.” Perry’s lips bent into a dirty smile.
“It sucks that he’s so lonely.”
Perry slapped Dita on her acid-washed thigh. “Aww, you like him.”
“I’d totally get horizontal.”
“Why don’t you?”
Dita shrugged. “I’d rather find him a match. I don’t know if he’d go for just a fling.”
“I’m sure you could convince him.”
“I could, but it’s out of his nature.”
Perry giggled. “The goddess of matrimony would be so pissed. You know Hera hates it when you mess with married men.”
“And you know how much I love to piss Hera off.”
“It’s like your favorite pastime. Make Zeus fuck around. Watch Hera go bananas. Rinse. Repeat.”
“It really is fun to watch her when she goes crazy, isn’t it?”
“It never gets old.” Perry rolled off the bed and fluffed her black pettiskirt. “I need a snack.”
“You always need a snack,” Dita said as she crossed the room to the elevator.
The goddesses walked into the kitchen, where Hera sat reading Good Housekeeping. She raised a blond eyebrow at them as they walked in.
Perry, at least, tried to play nice. “Hello, Hera. How are you?”
Hera popped off a short “Fine,” and dropped her eyes back to her magazine, flipping the page with a snap.
Dita rolled her eyes as she pulled a bottle of nectar out of the fridge. She poured some into a glass and closed her eyes. When she opened them, the scent of roses hung in the air, and a can of Tab sat in front of her. She picked it up and turned to lean against the counter, popping the metal ring. Tiny bubbles tickled her nose as she took a sip.
Perry pulled a plate of ambrosia out of the fridge and cut a slice off in the awkward silence. “So, Hera, we were just watching Katsu and Yuki. What’s her story?”
“I’m not quite sure what you mean, Persephone.” Hera’s eyes narrowed, her red lips pressing into a flat line.
“Um, well, I just mean…she’s just…”
“I think what Perry means to say is that Yuki’s a brat,” Dita said. “The fact that she thinks her methods are going to work only means that you’ve had a hand in her mess.”
“If by ‘hand in her mess’ you mean that I’ve been helping her, then yes, I have.” She propped her elbow on the bar, and her shoulder pads accentuated the steep angle of her shoulders. “Katsu is her husband. He is bound to her, and she’ll have him, wholly. That’s all she wants.”
“She wants to own him, and wants him to submit. There’s no way he’s going to go for that, and if you think so, you’re just as demented as she is.”
“He will bend, and she will make him. She just needs a little guidance.”
Dita snorted. “I’m so sure.”
“I’m actually quite sure, Aphrodite.”
“Like your ‘guidance’ is ever helpful.”
Hera stood and pushed her stool back. She clipped over to Dita with her face drawn. “Don’t underestimate me.”
Dita straightened up and set her drink down before folding her arms across her chest. “Seriously? Their marriage is a joke. Katsu deserves real love.”
“Love is nothing without commitment.”
“That’s bullshit, Hera. I wish you would figure that out. You’d be a lot happier.”
Hera’s eyes flashed, glowing green. “What do you know of my happiness?”
“You know exactly what I mean.”
“You don’t believe that I can make Kastu love Yuki? Because I can. Yuki is my pet, and I can see every move that she should make to win him over once and for all. He’s just a man. Men can be controlled.”
“Let me know how that’s working out for you.” Dita pushed past her, their shoulders connecting.
Hera grabbed Dita by the arm and dug her nails in.
Dita looked down at Hera’s hand, eyes sparking hot blue light as her lip curled. “Back off, Hera.”
They stood locked together as the wind whipped around them, the air between them crackling with tension.
Perry stood with her mouth hanging open stupidly, frozen as she watched. She shook herself and snapped her fingers, and the slice of ambrosia in front of her turned into a massive ice cream sundae. Her eyes were huge as she snatched the bowl up and hurried across the room.
“So, that was fun. We’ll see you later, Hera.” Perry touched Dita’s arm. “Come on, Dita.”
Hera dropped her hand, but the sneer never left her face. Dita gave her a last look before turning for the elevator. She pushed B1 and scowled at the metal doors in silence.
“What’s her damage? I cannot believe that bitch put her hands on me,” Dita said as they stepped off the elevator and made for the couch.
“In all fairness, you totally called her out,” Perry said around a mouth full of ice cream.
Dita eyed her bowl. “Glad you didn’t forget anything.”
“What? I have priorities. Sue me.”
Dita sank into the couch, pouting. “She is so delusional.”
“Duh. Hera does not live in reality.”
“She actually thinks that love and commitment are mutually exclusive. Like, I’m actually baffled.”
“Well, what can you do about it? There’s no changing Hera.”
Dita perked up. “You’re right about that, but that doesn’t mean I can’t give Katsu something to live for.”
“What are you gonna do?” Perry asked as she shoveled a monstrous heap of ice cream into her mouth.
“I’m going to find Katsu a match.”
Kim stood backstage, waiting for her act to go on. She, and about twenty other girls, stood with their feather hats waving as they chattered. The beads on their costumes twinkled under the lights while they waited for their number.
A stage hand stood nearby, and she could feel his eyes on her. She’d been trying to ignore him, but his ogling was starting to make her uncomfortable.
“Hey,” he whispered.
She didn’t move.
“Hey, baby, I’m talkin’ to you.”
She turned her head, feeling the tall balance of her feathered hat as she glanced over at him with an eyebrow up. “Yeah, I know.”
He wound a rope around a peg and stepped toward her. “Now, now, no need to harsh. How about after the show we go get a drink? I’d like to show you a thing or two.”
“I bet you would,” she said with her eyes on the stage.
He laid a meaty hand on her bare back. “Come on, don’t be like that, baby.”
She didn’t pull away, but her whole body went stiff as her gloved hands balled into fists. “Get your hands off me.”
His hand moved to cup her ass. “Aww, now, don’t act like you don’t want it.”
She looked at him squarely and brought her heel down hard on his foot. He screamed just as the music changed, and she smiled, twiddling her fingers at him as she followed the girls out onto the stage.
Katsu sat in the back of the club sipping his drink. Nakano sat near the stage with a few friends, drunk and laughing. Katsu sighed and recrossed his legs as the music changed and a line of showgirls trotted onto the stage, smiling and sparkling. His spirits lifted, marginally.
As they performed, he couldn’t keep his eyes off of one dancer in particular, even though they all looked so much alike in costume. His gaze followed the curve of her hip, the line of her bust, and up her long neck to her pouty, rosebud lips. Her eyes were bright, lined with dark kohl. She was breathtaking.
She seemed to notice him, too. Her eyes would catch his and hold them before snapping forward again as she kicked and shimmied. When their number ended, all the light seemed to follow her as she left the stage.
The show rolled on, dull in comparison. Nakano and his posse flashed cash and made a spectacle, and Katsu watched quietly. When they stood to leave, Nakano slung his arm over the shoulder of a giggling girl, and the group left the club in a loud pack. Katsu tossed a fifty on the table and followed them out.
He walked out of the club, waiting in the shadows as he scanned the lot, catching sight of them climbing into a car at the far end of the parking lot. His eyes didn’t leave them as he stepped out onto the sidewalk.
Kim rummaged blindly through her bag for her keys, staring into the cavernous hole for some hint of their shape, and when she slammed into the man standing in her path, she almost fell flat out. Her purse hit the ground, and the contents spilled out onto the sidewalk.
“Shit,” she said under her breath as she bent down, snatching a tube of lipstick as it rolled away.
“My apologies, Miss. I did not see you.” A man crouched eye level with her, and when she glanced up, she momentarily forgot where she was. It was the man who she had seen sitting in the back of the club … the one she couldn’t stop staring at through the show. His deep, velvety brown eyes looked into hers, and his full lips inched into a smile, his teeth sparkling behind them. She felt herself smile back.
“It, uh … it wasn’t your fault. I wasn’t paying attention.” She dropped her eyes back to the chaos of her bag and began scooping up the contents again, dumping them into her purse unceremoniously.
“Neither was I. May I help you?” His accent was thick, and she wondered where exactly he was from.
“I’ve got it, thanks,” she said as she dropped her checkbook into her purse, then picked her keys up off the sidewalk. “I was just looking for these.” She jangled the keys before closing them in her hand.
The two stood and observed each other for a long moment before they both spoke at once.
“I should really go,” she said.
“I must be going,” he said.
She tucked her blond hair behind her ear, not wanting to leave and not understanding why. There was nothing left to say, though, so she shook her head and smiled. “Well, then … see you around,” she said, and turned away.
“Wait, what is your name?”
Her heart skipped as she faced him again, her cheeks a little hot. “Kim Riggs.”
“I am Tanaka Katsu,” he said, and bowed slightly.
She grinned and stuck out her hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Katsu.”
He laughed as he took her hand, and she felt his touch all the way to her feet. When he let her go, she missed the sensation almost immediately.
“Tanaka is my surname, and in Japan that is how I am addressed. Although, I like the way my name sounded from your lips. Please, call me Katsu.”
She wondered if he meant to say mouth, or if he had used the word ‘lips’ intentionally, a word that felt like a promise. Her stomach fluttered, and she hesitated, not wanting to leave. She couldn’t fight the urge to stay there, even though she couldn’t think of a response. They watched each other, and her mind filled with questions about him, who he was, why he was there, if he was single. Her gaze dropped to his left hand, and her heart sank when she saw his wedding band. Her smile fell.
“Oh, um, well … it was nice to meet you, Katsu. I really should be going.”
Katsu saw when she noticed his ring, and he sucked in a breath. He wanted to stop her from leaving, wanted to explain, though he wasn’t sure why. He just knew he didn’t want her to walk away. But he had a duty to his wife, and Kim seemed to have the same feelings on the matter. So, he let her go.
“It was a pleasure to meet you, Kim.”
Her smile was sad as she lifted her palm to wave goodbye, and he felt his own sad smile pass his lips. He watched her leave, not breaking his eyes away until she was out of sight. Katsu took a heavy breath and walked to his car, wondering where Nakano may have gone, even though he no longer cared.