Hello readers. I'm excited to feature Blood Stained Tea by Amy Tasukada on my blog today. I love this book and I'm sure you'll love it too, if you enjoy thrillers. Read the full chapter one here.
Rain drummed against Nao’s umbrella like bullets. No, the 9mm needed to be forgotten. The weapon was nothing more than a memento he kept for when the midnight sojourns down Kyoto’s Philosopher’s Path no longer calmed his thoughts.
He clutched the handle of his umbrella and let out a steady breath, dispelling the bloodied memories. Pouring tea for the customers that wandered into his shop had become his only responsibility. He couldn’t feed the viciousness within.
Lightning flashed, illuminating Nao’s tree-lined path along the narrow stone canal. Each step he took kicked rain onto his yukata robe, deepening the color from indigo to black. Blood used to stain his suits the same way and would kiss his skin like a welcomed lover. His muscles tensed with the conjured image. He gulped, trying to push down the memories.
Ahead, a footbridge stretched across the canal, and a cluster of cherry trees grew along the muddy slope. Their roots peeled up the moss-covered stones like a scab, and a cluster of fallen branches caused a wake in the river. The debris clumped together in a murky shadow that made Nao’s finger twitch. The large pooling was too much to have been caused by fallen debris in an early summer storm. Someone must’ve dumped something there, but it was Kyoto, and he couldn’t fathom anyone littering in the old capital.
The residents respected the city as much as he did. Since he left his violent past, Kyoto possessed Nao’s heart and left no room for anything else. Even traveling close to the city’s borders, a familiar tightening enclosed his throat. He didn’t have any reason to leave the city anyway. The Aoi Festival always brought a smile to his face, and that was only a few weeks away. In July there was the monthlong Gion celebration. He’d be too exhausted from work to think of the spilt blood. If nothing else, the walk down the Philosopher’s Path would always drive away the memories ricocheting inside his skull.
As he stepped onto the footbridge, the debris in the canal became a solid mass about the size of a sack of tea leaves plucked from the field. He squinted, trying to make out the object by the dim streetlights, but it remained unrecognizable until a bolt of lightning streaked the sky.
It was no collection of branches, but a human body slumped against the tree roots.
“Are you all right?” Nao yelled over the cracking thunder.
No answer came.
Nao dropped his umbrella and crossed the footbridge in a single stride. The rain trickled down his back, plastering his hair to his neck. As he groped for a cherry-tree branch to steady himself on the embankment, his clog sank into the mud, which slathered between his toes. He pulled one foot up, but the shoe stuck, and he tipped forward. The cold river stung his face, and he spat out the water that had flooded his mouth.
Nao crawled to the body and came face-to-face with the unconscious young man. He had to be a few years younger than Nao. Lightning flashed, exposing the man’s bushy eyebrows and sloping nose. An eye was swollen shut, and blood dripped from his open mouth. Nao grabbed the arm of the man, who hissed in pain. Blood poured out from underneath his cut sleeve. Nao swallowed. He hadn’t seen such flowing blood since that night. The cut was sliced clean and couldn’t have been from the stranger’s fall in the canal.
Nao pulled at the sleeve and held it against the wound.
“Can you get up?”
Nao received no reply, but he waited, hoping the minute or two of pressure would close the cut. The warm fluid flowed out between Nao’s fingers.
“Your arm’s in rough shape. I’ll take you to a hospital.”
“No. No hospital,” the injured man said, and then he muttered something in Korean, but the Korean sounded like the cawing of crows to Nao.
“Someone there should be able to speak Korean. You need to get your arm looked at. Come on!”
Nao reached for the man’s uninjured arm, but the stranger pushed him away with such force Nao fell back into the mud. He curled his fingers into a fist, and mud oozed out. No matter how much the stranger struggled, Nao wouldn’t leave him.
The rain drowned out the man’s continued mumbling. He was probably telling Nao why he couldn’t go to the hospital. Expired visa or lack of insurance, Nao didn’t need to know.
With an uneven step toward the stranger, Nao realized his right shoe had stayed in the muck. His bare foot slid through the sludge, and he grimaced. Lightning flashed, and the stranger’s mouth no longer moved. Nao’s eyes widened. He couldn’t let another person die in front of him.
No reply or movement from the stranger.
Nao clenched his teeth. He grabbed the injured arm, pressing his thumb into the cut. The man hissed in pain and then spat out more Korean. Nao backed away. He had deepened the injury, but the cruelty woke the guy up, so it was worth it.
“We need to get out of the rain before we both get sick.”
Nao tugged the good arm over his shoulder. The man moaned as Nao hoisted him up. The stranger was considerably taller, built larger in all aspects, and he weighed down on Nao’s shoulder. Yet the drive to do something right for once carried him on.
The stranger dragged his feet, consuming all of Nao’s strength with his one-shoe climb. Hot breath tickled his ear, but Nao focused on the uncomfortable weight and not the closeness of the other man. How long had it been since he’d let someone get so close? Nao managed, but by the end, he felt more like a mud-drenched beast than a human.
Once back on the path, Nao stood paralyzed. He glanced to the right. The train station was closer that way, but that part of the path he had already walked. He shifted the man on his shoulder, pushing him so his mumbling wouldn’t linger in his ear.
He glanced down the uncompleted path. It made no sense to finish it. His disgust was with himself more than with the stranger’s blood that seeped onto his yukata sleeve and mixed with the rain down his arm.
Yet before he fully realized what he was doing, Nao’s feet were carrying him along with the stranger to complete the path.
A bloody past haunts him. A devastating present calls him back…
Nao hides from his violent past in the Japanese mob by opening a teahouse in Japan's cultural center, Kyoto. His past comes flooding back when he discovers a gravely injured man with a tattooed chest, a bloody knife, and a Korean business card.
Saehyun would've died if not for Nao's help. He knows nothing of his savior's connection with the local mafia, but Saehyun has his own secrets. He commands the Korean mafia, the mortal enemy of Nao’s former syndicate.
As Nao and Saehyun grow closer, so does the strength of the Korean mob. A shocking murder pulls Nao back into a past he'd all but abandoned. War is looming, and Nao must choose between protecting Saehyun or avenging the honor of his old mafia family..
The Yakuza Path: Blood Stained Teais the first book in a series of Japanese mafia thrillers. If you like complex characters, blood-soaked violence, and twists you won't see coming, then you'll love Amy Tasukada's gritty crime masterpiece.
Buy Blood Stained Tea to dive deep into the Asian mafia tale today!
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