Leashed anger followed the lord of the castle as he walked without haste through the halls of his home, almost suffocating the servants who coward at his feet upon his passing. They knew why he was upset—or at least part of the story. News traveled swiftly. Servants talked. Gossiped. One of their own had dared attack Lord Sesshomaru's mate, and the miko was their new reigning lady despite the fact that the public ceremony had yet to take place. Amaya, the maid who'd tried to murder the new Lady of the West, had many friends in the castle, other serving women, and all feared they would soon be taken and questioned for their affiliation with the accused.

All trembled. It was well-known that the miko was not well-liked. Many could not accept her place by Lord Sesshomaru's side, though many were wise enough not to say so anywhere near their lord's impressive hearing. But servants talked. When the questioning began, many would spill their guts in hopes of saving their own lives from the wrath walking steadily towards the dungeons. Servants would turn against each other. Lies and half-truths would be told. Now that one of their own had gone a step further than malicious talk against the miko and Lord Sesshomaru's state of mind, all were afraid of the consequences. All regretted opening their mouths against two very powerful beings.

Lord Sesshomaru's wrath would soon be upon them all and not even the gods themselves could save them.

The castle reeked of fear. The beast within Sesshomaru, already agitated after the failed assassination attempt towards Kagome, was riled further, for fear amounted to one thing—prey. He wanted blood, flesh torn apart, muscles and innards exposed. He wanted pain and screams. From the one who dared try to take the most important person from him, his Kagome, his mate.

Sesshomaru kept his volatile feelings contained. Though strong, he easily remained in control. Bloodlust was strong in him, but he was no weak demon to fall into madness. Ever. No matter the reason or cause. But he would unleash his wrath upon his newest prisoner. Extracting information first, then death. The only way the maid would not suffer over much was if she gave him the information he desired. If she held her tongue, she would feel pain the likes of which she'd never conceived of. But death would be swift. It was dishonorable to torture his query for no other reason because he could. However, he would use such means for a higher purpose, such as learning the names of those who also opposed his choice in mate.

Sesshomaru finally approached the door leading downwards towards the dungeon. Guards were posted fulltime and they nodded their heads to him before opened the door. He didn't break stride as he walked past them without a word exchanged. Another set of guards greeted him. Then he was making his lone passaged down the spiraling stairs, deep underground. At the bottom were more guards. Behind them, a barrier that protected the door leading into a large cavern of cells.

Once an individual was locked within, there was no escape. Only he and the guards were allowed passage through the barrier unharmed.

Sesshomaru kept walking, passed his barrier and another guard opened the door for him leading into the chamber with more than two dozen cells. All were empty save for one. The two guards accompanied him, keeping a respectable distance behind him. The air was cold and damp. The walls were made of stone, the cell doors crafted from medal but reinforced by magic to hold a demon.

They walked passed a few empty cells before coming upon the only one with an inhabitant. At first glance through the bars, nothing looked out of the ordinary. Nothing was in the cell save for the bare essentials. The room was not built for comfort but to degrade those misfortunate enough to be captured and trapped. No bed, no blankets. Nothing was on the floor but for a bucket for the captive to use to relieve herself. The walls were bare save for manacles on the back wall.

The manacles were also magic infused. By either word of command or the opening of the door, the chains around the prisoner's wrists would react without delay. Though the prisoner could be given 'freedom' inside her cell, once activated, the manacles would fling her to the back wall and pin her in place, arms over her head. Helpless. But the maid had not been given free rein in her cell and was already pinned to the wall, to which she hung almost lifelessly.

Sesshomaru's eyes narrowed upon the unmoving form. Her chin was on her chest, which did not rise and fall with even the most subtle movements of breathing. He could not tell if the woman was unconscious or not. She'd been captured and dragged down here by his guards perhaps half an hour ago, awaiting his arrival to question her, and Sesshomaru had been too angry to delay. He wanted answers—now. So after a few words to his mate, he'd come, intending to personally interrogate the wench in the cell before him.

"Open the gate," instructed Sesshomaru.

"Yes, my lord." The guard moved around him. Instead of using a key, the man placed his palm on the door and the magic keeping it locked subsided.

Sesshomaru could have easily done the same thing, but he was lord, and such menial tasks were meant for his underlings. At least, when they were in his presence. Had he ventured down here on his own, he would have done it himself and not thought anything of it, but he had to keep up appearances, which at times was aggravating.

Grasping the bars, the guard opened the cell for him. Sesshomaru's steps took him before the comatose woman, and being this close it was obvious she was not breathing. Without commanding his guard to do the simple task for him, he grasped the maid's hair and tugged her head backwards. Her eyes were half open, glazed over with a milky color, dulling her once brown eyes. Her skin was already pale as death, her veins more noticeable.

She was dead and he knew not how. The why was obvious—to keep her from sharing secrets.

Releasing her, Sesshomaru walked passed his guard and out of the chamber. "Have a healer examine the cause of death," he instructed as he made his way out of the dungeons.

As before when he'd made his way to the dungeons, his mood was dark, and he could not only see but scent the servants' unease as he passed by them.

They should fear me, he thought, because he knew many harbored ill feelings towards his chosen mate, and like today, another might be foolish enough to strike. No, he was the foolish one to think an attack would not occur while in such a vulnerable position as taking his mate to bed. He'd been lax, believing while in his own domain, everyone would tremble and not dare to strike. However, that was not wholly true, as he did have guards posted around his miko—

But the assailant was dead, and he wanted answers. More questions arouse as he walked through his halls. Who had murdered the maid, not that he was saddened by her death, merely annoyed at the timing. Had she killed herself? If not, than how had the perpetrator gotten passed his guards or the multiple barriers in his dungeon? Were his own guards against him? A rogue? If that was the case, then Kagome was in danger. Another wave of anger washed over him. He was glancing in shadows, looking over his shoulder at every turn, mistrusting everyone. In his own damn home!

He was the Western Lord, the ruler of this castle, these lands, and the very people who walked his castle's halls. And Kagome was his mate, the Western Lady. Everyone here would soon learn the error of their ways to oppose his mate. Sesshomaru admitted to himself that a show of strength from her might be called for in the future—perhaps soon.

Kagome was a powerful priestess, and it might be time his people saw a little demonstration of her power, but that was a worry for another time. Right now he needed to see her, to hold her in his arms. But even as he approached his living quarters, he stilled when another thought intruded. They'd tried to be intimate and were interrupted. Would Kagome deny him…certain liberties for fear they would be attacked?

In minutes he ordered a pair of guards to stand before his outer door, while instructing another to stand guard outside the window, which just happened to be situated mere feet from the bed he had left Kagome in. He refused to fall into mistrust, believing everyone would betray him. Though it chafed to think his own mate was fearful of her safety while in his presence, he hoped the added precaution would help calm her. Though he admitted to himself that his guards, being within earshot outside, would be an added reason for Kagome to deny him intimacies. His mate was shy, extremely so. While at times it was endearing, other times it made him want to sigh.

Mating was a natural process, and so long as one was not vulgar about where it happened, then everything else was irrelevant. It mattered not at all to him if his whole castle was aware he was pleasing his mate. In fact, it was his duty, one he took immense pleasure in. The thought made him smile—if slightly. Oh no, she would not be denying him. At least not because she worried about another attack or embarrassment at having guards in earshot.

But thoughts of ecstasy had to be set aside, for now. Kagome was most likely distraught, wondering what was happening after he'd asked her to remain in the relative safety of his—their—room. She'd chafed at being left out of the interrogation that did not happen, but he recalled the last time she'd stopped him from attempting to torture information out of one of her assailants. She was far to kind, but he wouldn't change a thing about her.

If this was love than it was sickeningly sweet.

"Sesshomaru! You're back," Kagome greeted him as soon as he stepped into the receiving room to his bed chamber.

Taking note of her apparel, she'd gotten dressed. A pity. However, she won't be clothed for long if he had anything to say about the matter.

She approached him when he stepped further into the room, shutting them inside. The worry in her gaze could not be mistaken.

"How did… Did you learn anything?" she asked in a whisper, the truth in her eyes. Kagome was aware of his methods at gaining information. Though he did not see disapproval in her gaze, Sesshomaru knew she did not agree with his tactic concerning hostages. It wasn't worth fighting over. No. What he wanted, needed above all else was to feel his mate's flesh against his own.

Snagging his arm around her waist, ignoring her question, he swooped down and captured her lips with his own. A muffled noise pressed against his mouth, and he took the opportunity to sweep his tongue inside her moist cavern. Stroking his tongue against hers, he tried to coax her into following his heated dance.

"Sessh… Wai… We really… really need to…"

"Hush, Kagome," he admonished huskily.

His attentions moved to her neck, nipping at the pulse that beat strongly there, eliciting a soft moan from the woman in his arms.

Her hands moved to the bend of his elbows and pressed. Her human strength could not match his own, but he allowed her to take a quick step back, and another, before keeping her tethered with a gentle hand around her wrist.

"Sesshomaru," she admonished with a becoming flush to her pale cheeks. "You're distracting me. I can't think when you're kissing me!"

With a confident smirk, Sesshomaru moved his hand to interlock their fingers, pressing their palms together. "Perhaps that is my aim."

She shook her head adamantly, though a small smile curled her lips, before it was gone. A serious look crossed her face.

"We should talk about what happened…"

There was no withholding his sigh at her persistence when all he desired was to thrust inside her welcoming sheath.

"Think not of that vermin. She's already been taken care of. Right now…" He toke a step forward and ran the pads of his fingers down the column of Kagome's neck, feeling her shiver in response to his touch. "I desire you." He leaned over her. "Unclothed," he breathed in her ear. "Straining beneath me." He nipped the lobe of her ear. She flinched. A fine tremor went down her spine when he placed his free hand on the small of her back, encouraging her to press up against him.

"Can you feel me, Kagome?" he breathed. He thrust once against her stomach, showing her the proof of his desire. "Feel how fast my heart races for you." He unlaced their fingers to place her palm over his chest, showing her the validity to his claim.

He heard her swallow thickly. Her lips parted, dark eyes dilating when he leaned back to stare down at her.

"But… that woman…" she whispered.

He lifted her hand to nip her finger in reprimand, before soothing the sting with a swirl of his tongue. Her breath caught. He could scent her growing arousal, and knowing she wanted him sent Sesshomaru into a frenzy of need. He captured her in his arms. He couldn't wait. Instead of marching towards his—their—room, he bent over the lounge sofa in the center of the room, before placing her upon the plush cushions. He followed her down, pinning her in place. His hair shrouded them when he bent to consume her thoughts with another scorching kiss.

Kagome received his advance with more acceptance this time, and perhaps a little too much enthusiasm, for she nicked her tongue on his sharp canine. She jerked back with a muffled gasp. He didn't give her more than a moment's reprieve. The taste of her blood was something he would never tire of. He soothed the sting with a stroke of his tongue. Not nearly enough, a mere tease of a taste, but enough to where he felt his eyes bleed crimson.

She shifted beneath him. The knee he'd captured between his own lifted, her thigh a gentle rub against his stones. He leaned back with a snarl of a gasp, teeth bared. Then her palm was touching his cheek, calming the beast within that threatened to rip his legendary control asunder.

Their eyes met.


He murmured her name in return, leaning down for another kiss…

"I sense someone at the door," was her shy whisper against his lips.

"It is the guards. There's nothing to fear." His assurance did nothing to calm the agitation he felt in her tense body.

She turned her face away, her hands clenching his biceps. "The…bedchamber then…" she gasped when he turned his attention to her neck.

Sesshomaru had known she'd be too perceptive about the added protection. Her maidenly shyness was endearing, if a bit maddening when all he wanted to do was ravage her.

"There are guards posted beyond the window therein as well," he informed her, knowing she'd sense their presence should he acknowledge her request to relocate to their bed. So instead of moving, he found her breast, squeezing and fondling the plump globe. Her back arched into his touch even as her hands attempted to push him away.

"Sesshomaru, stop! They'll know!" was her horrified whisper.

Capturing her wrists in one hand, he held them over her head, while moving her haori aside with his nose. "It matters not." His fangs grazed her collarbone gently, eliciting a shiver of awareness from the woman beneath him.

"Don't you think you're being…overly cautious?" she hedged.

He nipped her nipple through her clothing in reprimand. The sound she made was strangled as she jerked in his hold; however, she did not shed from him but pressed her breasts against him in blatant encouragement he knew she could not help. Her desire for him was so great, it flared his own to a higher degree. Control was becoming harder to keep in mind, especially when her scent teased his senses.

"Your safety will be placed above all things," he told her seriously.

Kagome placed a hand on his chest. She didn't try to push in away as he at first assumed she might. Instead, she stroked him. The sudden urge to shed his outer garments, to feel her touch upon his flesh overwhelmed him.

"Sesshomaru," she murmured. She paused, seemingly picking her words with great care. "I am no defenseless woman. I can protect myself, too."

Instead of getting angry at the gentle reprimand to believe in her abilities to fight, Sesshomaru placed a chaste kiss upon her lips.

"No matter how strong you are," he told her, "I will always be there as an added aid of protection."

Understanding flashed in her eyes, and instead of fighting him, she anchored herself up on her elbows, and he met her lips with a tender kiss that soon turned heated. Clinging to one another, the need between them built. Her hands on his chest frustrated him, so moving back on his knees, Sesshomaru yanked at his clothes, removing them with more haste than grace. They settled on the floor wherever he'd tossed them, but before he could settled over her again, her hands were upon him.

His next exhalation was rough, his eyes watching her as she touched him. Her fingertips teased his abs, making them bunch. They went lower, and lower, but stopped just above his straining erection. He grit his lengthened fangs.

"You tease. Touch me," he implored, stifling the reflex to grab her hand and wrap it around his girth.

She met his gaze when she pulled the ties to his hakama. Reaching inside the loosened garment, she gripped him. Sweat tinted his flesh from pent up lust. His hips thrust shallowly into her pumping hand. The small squeeze to the head on every upward stroke sent a tingling sensation to his lower spine, and a new tightness to his balls.

An arm encircled the back of his neck, drawing him over her. Her hot breath bathed his ear when she spoke. "You want me."

It wasn't a question, but he answered regardless.

"Yes." While her voice was a sultry purr, his own was rough and deep.

"Take me. Here. Now."

Either she had completely forgotten about the guards' presence outside the door or Kagome threw caution to the wind. Either way, Sesshomaru didn't need to be told twice. She kept a firm grasp around his cock while he removed her outer and inner haori. Too impatient to unwrap the bindings keeping her breasts bound, Sesshomaru easily parted the fabric with a clawed finger.

She gasped when her breasts bounced free, lifting her free hand to hover over them.

"You ripped it! Sesshomaru—"

"I'll buy you a new one," he interrupted, brushing her hand aside to palm one of her lush globes.

"That's not the point!"

"You'll forgive me," he murmured, bending down to take her neglected peak into his mouth, suckling on her flesh.

Kagome uttered his name without reprimand then, releasing his cock to encircle his neck with both arms. Though his erection pained him for the loss of her sweet touch, he sank atop her. One arm went underneath her back, his palm pressed between her shoulder blades, keeping her breasts elevated as he teased her with his tongue.

Out of nowhere she whispered, "I love you."

Her declaration nearly unmanned him as emotions swelled within his chest, threatening to burst free. He had to kiss her, and he did, sweet and slow. Breaths mingling, chests pressed together, and legs intertwined.

"And I you," he told her honestly.


Holding his weight off of her on one forearm, he tugged the ties to her hakama. "Remove the garment, Kagome."

At his soft command, Kagome blinked up at him owlishly before blushing scarlet.

"Don't be shy. Not with me," he reassured her, placing soothing kisses along her jawline.

He saw her throat flex as she swallowed before he felt her shift beneath his weight. Hands at her hips, she wiggled her hakama down her thighs. When they were as low as she could manage in their position, he took over, lowering them further down her legs with his free hand. She bent her legs without his prompting, allowing him to get the garment free of her feet, before tossing it aside.

Hand free, he slide his palm up her leg, from her ankle, to her knee, along her outer thigh, and cupped her ass cheek, squeezing the muscular flesh. Her toned body pleased him beyond measure. Hard, yet so soft. More than a female. A warrior. His equal. His mate.

"You are so beautiful," he told her, kissing along the side of her neck.

Her hands were in his hair, moving restlessly. Then along his shoulders, his chest, before she cupped his cheek in one small palm, and the back of his skull in the other, prompting him to meet her for a kiss she obviously yearned for.

"I'm afraid…"

The unexpectedness of her comment threw Sesshomaru for a loop enough to lean back far enough to stare down at her. The look she must have read in his features prompted her to continue.

"I'm extremely happy… Sesshomaru, you've made me feel things I've only ever yearned for but thought was forever out of my grasp." She stroked his cheek tenderly, her eyes filled with such emotion, it caused his heart to burn all the more fiercely.

"Do not be afraid, little mate." He curled around her protectively, his ardor momentarily kept at bay with the strong urge to comfort the precious woman in his arms. "You will never be far from my reach."

"That's…not what I mean," she murmured hesitantly, and the arms she wrapped around his back held him with a sort of desperation he'd never seen from the strong woman he was lucky to call his own.

When he tried to look down at her once more, her arms tightened around him. Though his strength far surpassed her own, he felt the soul mate link between him, felt her strong desire to hold and be held, so instead, he burrowed his arm beneath her shoulder blades, and cupped the back of her head. Turning his head so his nose was against her temple, he waited for her to continue, knowing she had more to say.

Kagome was silent a few seconds longer, but he waited her out.

"I'm afraid because I'm happy. What if…"

"Voice your fears," he prompted against her ear softly, encouragingly.

His erection had gone down somewhat in the face of his new need to comfort and console. Protective instincts rose within him, banishing impatient impulses to get inside his female.

"I just fear something will happen to take it away, and how devastated I would feel at its loss. I love you so much, Sesshomaru. It's frightening," Kagome confessed with a hitch to her voice at the end.

Sesshomaru floundered in his response. "This Sesshomaru admits to his lack of knowledge in this particular area of the heart; however, is that not love, miko?"

She nodded her head once. "Yes, but—"

"No buts," he admonished, deciding it was time to shift her back to the present instead of dwelling on a fear that could not be dispelled with mere words, only time. He thrust his half-erect cock against her belly, his bare chest rubbing against her breasts. "I am here," he murmured in her ear, before nipping at the shell.

"For now," he continued, "let that be enough."

"It's more than enough," she told him before he took her mouth in a consuming kiss.

She responded to him readily, as if silently agreeing with him that they should turn their minds away from the subject. Not to avoid an issue or belittle her fears, but to show in the most primal way that they were alive and together. Free to just be together as one.

"Love me," she implored shakily.

"I am loving you." And he was. Every caress, every breath he took, the very beating of his heart was for her and her alone.

Sesshomaru ignore the fabric that inched its way down his thighs, to pool at his knees. His hakama and boots were they only thing he yet wore, but his cock was free, his bare chest pillowed upon lush breasts, so he didn't care to take the rest of his garments off. Just the thought of being inside Kagome reignited his passion to a roaring flame, stiffening his shaft to a painful degree.

His fingers found her. Careful of his claws, he pet her folds, finding her— "You're wet." So wet. Her liquid heat bathed his fingers as he sought that small bundle of nerves, found it, and witnessed the writhing pleasure he was able to wring from her at just a small touch.

Glazed eyes stared up at him helplessly. That face she made was beautifully erotic. And yet it also made him want to cherish her more.

"Burn for me," he murmured, not realizing he said a word until his ears registered the command.

"I do," was her breathy response. "It aches, Sesshomaru. I need you inside me."

He leaned down and tongued her erect nipple, teasing her further towards madness.

"You feel empty without this Sesshomaru deep inside you?"

"Now who's the one teasing?!"

Kagome tilted her hips, lifting her rump off the sofa by flexing her abdominal muscles to rub her core against his pelvic frantically. His hand trapped between their hips, he gave Kagome's little nub a gentle pinch, heard her sharp cry not a second later, and a powerful jolt shook her already trembling body.

'You must learn patience, my love." His words were a seductive purr.

He was in control of both of their passion. He reveled in it. Until he realized it all could be taken from him and gifted upon his little priestess with but a few uttered words that all but fried his brain.

"Let me ride you."

Did she mean what he thought she—

"You wish to be on top?" Baffled, held still by the shock of that idea, Sesshomaru stared down at Kagome without moving.

He saw her falter, but gamely she answered. With a nod she whispered, "Yes."

When he remained still, thinking about such a thing, Kagome gripped his cock in a firm grip, wrangling a stiff groan from his tightly clenched teeth.

"I want to feel you fill me up inside, stare into your eyes every time I lift up and take you back in, over and over again." She stroked him, her free hand grabbing his balls in a bold move and squeezing gently, adding to his pleasure. "Please, Sesshomaru. Give me this."

Did she know what she asked of him? An alpha male giving up the dominate position during a rut to his female? She was the one who was supposed to submit during such a carnal time, and yet she asked him to take her place on the bottom? He'd never before consented to such a thing, never had a partner make such a request of him. And yet, the mental image of watching Kagome take control, impaling herself while he watched would not leave his mind.

Where her sudden boldness came from, he did not know. Whatever the reason, he needed what she begged for. Yes, begged. While he'd be the one physically on the bottom, he'd still be the dominant partner. She wanted this, and he wanted to please her in all things.

"Yes," he hissed.

Suddenly impatient, he moved, easily manipulating her limbs as he shifted position. However, instead of falling to his back on the couch, he turned, sitting up on the cushions, with his feet planted firmly on the floor. He positioned Kagome with her knees on either side of his hips, keeping her spread wide for his imminent invasion. Her ass was cupped in his palms, and like this, their eyes were on level. Such an intimate position… It flared his desire.

Through with playing around, Sesshomaru reached down to take himself in hand and guide his cockhead to her weeping entrance, but her small hand beat him there.

"Allow me."

His eyes flashed to deep brown. He said not a word as Kagome angled his erection, felt her lower herself, until her essence bathed the head. He had to look. Glancing down, he watched Kagome slowly impale herself on his shaft. He was large and she was impossibly small. Surely she could not take all of him, and yet she continued to slide down, down, down, until she consumed him.

She moaned, and Sesshomaru couldn't stop his echoing groan.

"So tight," he hissed.

"So deep," she crooned.

Though it literally pained him to allow it, Sesshomaru forced his hips to remain still and let Kagome do the moving. Up and down, up and down, up and— She swiveled her hips. He groaned. Her hips slammed down on his shaft, causing his sound of pleasure to intensify in volume. Her hands were cupping his face, brown eyes prompting him to stare deep within their depths, and she spoke with a breathy hitch to her voice.

"I love those sounds you make," she confessed. Her thumb traced his cheek. "That look on your face… I need you to need me."

Her new found courage to speak thusly to him did nothing to return his control. With a sharp upwards thrust, he jabbed inside her, hitting the end of her sharply. Kagome's back arched with a surprised cry.

"Feel my need filling you," he rasped.

Together now, they moved. Sesshomaru allowed Kagome to set the pace, though he took the liberty to surprise her with sharp jabs here and there, pleased to see her lose concentration every time and hear her high pitched cries. Her body shivered every time he jabbed upwards out of rhythm, as if she was incapable of adjusting to the pleasure, forced to ride the rising tide.

Her small hands went to his shoulders for support. Sesshomaru watched her, unable to look away from the woman who used his body in search for her own pleasure. Kagome's black mass of hair was free and hung around her face, her head tilted down, making it impossible for him to watch the pleasure flash across her face. Instead, he watched her lithe body; the bounce of her breasts, the flexing of her abdominals, and the rise and fall of her hips as she lifted herself up with her knees, only to drop back down on his cock.

His gaze was fixated on their joined bodies, watching his length disappear inside her, only to reappear glistening with her juices. It was so carnal, a groan slithered from his lips. His head fell back. Suddenly, lips were at his neck, sucking at his flesh gently, and teeth nipping. Arms encircled his neck as she collapsed on his chest. As she moved, keeping up her languid pace, her breasts rubbed against his chest. He could feel her erect nipples moving against him, her flat stomach against his own.

She was hot, perspiring, but so was he.

Her blunt teeth sent an electric current through him. Needing more of that, Sesshomaru cupped the back of Kagome's head, encouraging her to linger.

"Kagome," he grated out long minutes later. "You must move with more haste."

His cock ached, balls filled to bursting with his seed he desperately wished to give her, but not before he'd given her the ultimate pleasure.

"Can't," she gasped.

Confused, Sesshomaru gripped her hips firmly. Even as he yanked her down, he thrust upwards, a rough jab that hit the end of her. Her high-pitched cry of pleasure rang in his ears.

"Sesshomaru! You mustn't!"

Confusion warred with ecstasy. Cupping her cheek, he forced her hooded gaze to meet his own.

"What's the matter, Kagome?"

She shook her head sharply. "I'm so close."

Sesshomaru frowned. "That is good."

"No!" she denied loudly. "I don't want it to ever end." She clung to him with desperation. Sesshomaru could feel her body trembling, on the verge of orgasm, felt her need to tip over the edge and into blissful oblivion. "The feel of you inside me… It's incredible."

Her words heated his blood. Determination hardened his resolve to force her over the edge. Though he was still on bottom, he was in no way submissive as he held onto her hips and thrust upwards. Slow yet powerful strokes, deep and hard he took her. Kagome was anything but silent in her pleasure of his taking.

"Sesshomaru! I can't—So close!"

He needed to see her face.

Roughly, he grabbed the back of her hair and forced her face away where it had been hidden against his neck. Her cheeks were flushed, bangs damp from her own sweat. She was beautiful.

"Come for me, little mate," he demanded silkily. "Let me see…"

A few more thrusts inside her heated and wet sheath, he felt ecstasy take her when she began to spasm around his aching length. Her mouth fell open on a cry, while her eyes closed tightly shut. He pumped through her quivering flesh, prolonging her pleasure for as long as possible, but he wasn't going to last much longer either. And then it happened. A second climax, more powerful than the last one. Her inner walls sucked at his cock as if demanding him to give up his seed. He didn't try to resist.

With a guttural groan, Sesshomaru buried his face against Kagome's chest as he wrapped his arms around her back, holding onto her for dear life as his world shattered around him.

Something was afoot, Hiro was sure of it.

He'd sensed it for some time, a violent energy brewing inside his paramour. He'd send for her, in need of her sweet scent bathed on his skin, feel her moist heat encased around his throbbing length, and hear feminine cries of ecstasy next to his ear. Lately, he'd send for her in vain. One excuse after another kept her from him. At first, Hiro was the gentleman, ever understanding. Until the times she would answer his call for carnal pleasure. Though few and far between in these times of much needed stress relief, Lady Kiyomi's attitude had shifted.

She was more aggressive, bleeding him with nails and fangs. At first, it had been extremely stimulating, thinking his partner needed him so desperately. However, it soon became apparent that his lover was trying to hurt him, to dominate him. She'd become savage in her lust.

Hiro could not understands his lover's change in attitude during their trysts. He'd been so consumed with work that he'd thought less and less of turning to her for much needed relief by losing himself in bliss. He'd found his eyes wondering to other more available and hopefully less violent females. It wasn't until the unexpected summons from Lady Kiyomi to meet up for a lover's tryst after the attack on the new Lady of the West that solidified the feeling he'd been having that something was not quite right.

She'd been angrier when he agreed to see her. He could sense her volatile emotions brimming just beneath the surface of her skin. He'd had enough. Unsure as to what the problem was, Hiro merely suspected she now had needs he could not fulfil.

His intent was to respectfully break things off with her, but despite his intentions, her aggressive behavior had calmed enough to get him out of his clothes. Aroused and in need, relieved that she was soft and complaint as before, Hiro took her. Flat on her back while he was on elbows and knees, deep inside her heat, Hiro gazed into her eyes and nearly halted his thrusting hips at the hatred within.

At first, he thought he'd done something wrong. Intending to pull out and apologize, heels hooked against his lower back, forcing him deep inside once more. It felt amazing. But that look remained. It was then he realized she was not really looking at him, her mind far away though her body was with him, responding to him. It was disconcerting to say the least.

Afterwards, he wasn't sure he'd actually given her release. He'd certainly had to struggle for his own. They'd left with hardly a word spared. Feeling like a cad for using her when he intended to break things off between them, he never got the chance because she was gone, leaving him to finish dressing.

Something was afoot.

Dressing quickly, Hiro followed Lady Kiyomi. He felt compelled to walk the shadows in her wake, his mind strangely clear of all thoughts. How long he travelled, he was not sure, but it did not feel like much time had passed.

He stopped at the sound of voices, seeing no one but sensing more than a few just ahead.

"What happened?"

Hiro recognized that voice. It was Lady Kiyomi's.

"Everything went according to plan, mila—"

A loud slap silenced the unknown male's voice.

"You dare suggest I have failed?" Lady Kiyomi asked in a deathly low voice.

"Of course not, milady," the male assured respectfully, and Hiro noted without fear as well.

He had to get closer. He had to see what was transpiring. Hiro had the distinct impression that important answers were about to reveal themselves. Being as quite as possible, he edged closer. He took care not to step on any of the forest leaves or rustle any bushes.

"Your plan to postpone the public mating ceremony was flawless," the faceless male continued with unfeeling praise. "However… It would seem that Lord Sesshomaru refuses to allow that to happen."

A stick broke beneath his foot at this revelation. Eyes bulging wide, heart kicking up in speed, Hiro began to sweat. Elation at the thought of being the one to catch the very ones trying to murder the new Lady of the West warred with terror at the thought of getting caught eavesdropping. Whoever the lady was talking to, it was obviously a man willing to do whatever it took to stop the mating ceremony—even kill. Worse, though he heard no other voices, he could sense more clustered around Lady Kiyomi. They didn't even try to mask their presence as he was.

He was a scholar, not a warrior. There was no way things would end in his favor should he get caught. And yet, he had to move closer until he saw the face of the one who spoke with his paramour. Hiro needed more than just the lady's name to accuse her of being a traitor. He needed an accomplice. He was no more than a paid servant. If he went accusing a lady—even a lowborn one—things would get ugly rather quickly. So even though he wished nothing more than to turn tail and run to Lord Sesshomaru with news of a traitor, he stepped forward, intending on learning the identity of the one whom she spoke with.

Suddenly, a presence loomed behind him. As soon as he was aware of that fact, before fear could set in, a hand wrapped around his mouth from behind. Unceremoniously, Hiro was yanked against a tall, strong body. Fearing for his life, instead of trying to fight his way to freedom, like a hare who'd caught sight of the wolf, he froze. Flight was just beneath his feet, but his heart was frozen, refusing to allow him to make an attempt to flee.

The male learned down to whisper in his ear.

"Shh. Say. Nothing."

Those words were barely discernable even for his acute hearing. Remarkable considering their close proximity. Unable to voice his understanding, Hiro nodded. Perhaps this was not an enemy but someone else. The thought brought little reassurance.

Sensory knowledge flooded his brain. A man's firm chest was pressed against his back, hips locked against hips, and legs pressed together. In a gesture that was perhaps too intimate considering they were both males, his head was forced back at an almost painful angle. With his throat so vulnerably exposed, his was ready to finally fight—or try to—when he caught sight of the one who held him.

He recognized this face seemingly crafted of granite and framed by golden tresses, but it was those ruby hued eyes which stared back at him that confirmed it.

The Southern Lord. What was he doing here of all places?

Once more a decent into the bowls of the damned. Sesshomaru stood in the same jail cell the deceased maid who'd attempted to take his soul mate from him had been held. He was not alone. Another woman stood shackled to the far wall. Her expensive kimono stained in places. Even that becoming face which most likely had never known a speck of grim was now filthy, makeup fading, dirt smudging her cheek.

Lavender eyes stared back at him. Though the attractive face was smooth as marble, there was a hint of emotion hiding in those striking eyes: contempt. Such disrespect, even veiled, did not go unnoticed.

"What is the meaning of this, Lord Sesshomaru? Do the four great lords have so very little to do they would stoop to accosting hapless ladies?" she asked in a disdainful ton one could only ever find in the aristocracy.

"You know why you are here."

A lady-like sneer graced her lips. "All lies."

"You deny being caught with several assassins plotting against my mate?" he inquired in a bored tone, though his emotions seethed just beneath the surface at the thought of his Kagome being injured. Or worse.

"Of course!" Lady Kiyomi insisted. "Those men were trespassing on my mate's property. I stumbled upon them in one of my many walks I take at my leisure. If help hadn't come just in time…" A delicate shiver shook her frame. "I don't know what might have happened," she finished in a fearful whisper.

"I have heard otherwise."

"You can't believe the filthy lies from men like assassins or your manservant. Their word is nothing compared to mine."

"And what of the Southern Lord?" Sesshomaru asked smoothly. If she wished to throw linage in his face as a means of defense, than he too could play that game. Yes, she was of the aristocracy, but not very high in status, especially nowhere near in status as one of the four great lords of the lands.

"He…" Lady Kiyomi stutter before falling silent. Frustration added lines to an otherwise smooth face. Teeth obviously gritted with eyes glaring at him as if he were at fault, she spoke. "I'm sure the Southern Lord is mistaken."

"Treasonous words."

"He's not my lord."

"But I am."

"Then act like it!" she shouted.

Those words echoed around them. Seconds later as the silence thickened, Sesshomaru watched the woman's eyes widen ever so slightly at her own daring. Heart picking up pace beneath her breast, breathing escalating, Sesshomaru sensed panic setting within her.

"Your meaning?" he prompted, outwardly unconcerned by her outburst. She was silent. Undaunted, he continued. "I found it fascinating why a woman of you social standing would be found with the very men who had tried to murder the priestess Kagome, my mate."

Lady Kiyomi stared mutely back at him. More like glared, her hatred slowly being brought forth upon her face.

Sesshomaru was far from frustrated at her silence. The answer was very obvious once he stopped to think about it, which he had before he came down in his dungeons to interrogate one of his new prisoners. Instead of first obtaining answers from the men she'd been caught consorting with, Sesshomaru started at the most likely source: Lady Kiyomi.

His low voice filled the silent cell.

"It must have been devastating when my great and terrible father jilted you for another." Lavender eyes shot to his face, wide-eyed. "An insult made worse now that the past repeats itself with their children when this Sesshomaru chose another over your daughter."

"Like father like son," she spat.

Sesshomaru was silent a moment, staring at her before his next words added salt to an already festering wound. "Ever thought why the females of your family continue to be jilted by the males of mine?" Lavender eyes turned sharp as she tried to stare him down in a pitiful play for dominance.

"Because you all are dogs undeserving the title of honorable male."

He ignored her statement.

"Your bloodline is unworthy."

Eyes wide in shock, she muttered, "You dare think a human is more worthy than—"

Something snapped. He witnessed it happen just before she yelled at him, cursing obscenities upon his head, fouling his mate's name, while flailing against her restraints in a futile attempt to get at him. Most likely wanting to claw his eyes out as she so descriptively threatened to do. However, her shackles kept her pinned. Her restraints seemed to madden her further, making her even more crazed.

"Release me and show me just how much of a man you really are!" she challenged. "Unless you are afraid of a female."

The insult did nothing to affect him despite her efforts to make him lose control.


That one word caused the enraged female to scream her fury at the top of her lungs. A banshee could not have been louder. He waited for her to quiet down, allowing her to slowly realize her continual ravings did nothing to help her case.

"An example must be made," he began once she quietened. "You will be executed before the court and the people for treason against my house. No matter station, high or low born, an attack against the West will not be tolerated and be dealt with swiftly."

Having nothing more to say, Sesshomaru tuned on his heel to leave.

"You think she's safe," cried the woman behind him, causing him to pause to hear her dire words. "Your choice in mate is a joke! A human priestess? Do you really think I will be the last threat to the filthy rat? Sooner or later, she'll be dead. Dead, you hear me?! Dead!"

He glanced at her over his shoulders.

"Your execution is three days hence."

He left her there with the sound of her own screams as company.

Three days came by so swiftly when dread made one wish for time to move sluggishly. Instead, the opposite affect happened. It was appalling, the spectacle that was soon to take place before countless spectators: the execution of another. Such a dark occurrence overshadowed the previous day that should have given Kagome much joy: her official mating ceremony to the demon who'd captured her heart. Sesshomaru had told her when Lady Kiyomi was captured and that she was convicted of treason for being the one to attempt countless assassination attempts on Kagome's life. They'd discussed what was to happen next, or rather, she listened while Sesshomaru outlined his plans for the next three days.

Kagome had tried to rebel, totally against his ideas. How could she possibly have their mating ceremony a mere day before Lady Kiyomi was scheduled for execution?!

"What is the meaning of this, Sesshomaru?!" she recalled demanding him, needing answers, to understand his thinking.

"Calm down, Kagome. All will be explained." He'd then tried to coax her into his arms in an obvious bid to help calm her. She wasn't having any of it, denying his attempts to sooth her. She wanted answers!

Sesshomaru had given in to an unaccustomed show of emotion by sighing softly at her insistence to know what he was thinking at once without further delay.

"She needs to be made an example of to lower the odds of any future attempts on your life." He'd described that it was the best course of action to act as if all was well and continue on with their mating ceremony. They had to show a unified front that allowed everyone around them to see that no matter what was thrown at them, they would concur the threat and portray the fact that victory was never in doubt without changing their schedule for such 'minor' issues.

Sesshomaru intended to portray Lady Kiyomi's treason as a futile effort almost below his notice. And he needed Kagome to be his official mate in the eyes of the court and his people. It sent a clear message having her first official duty as Lady of the West to stand beside him as the traitor's head was removed and her body burned like the garbage it was.

Kagome understood Sesshomaru's actions were powerful statements that were derived to keep her safe, and seeing how hard he tried in that endeavor made her love him all the more despite the bloodshed and violence. Sesshomaru was a high demon lord. To accept him was to accept the occasional violence. More importantly, he was protecting her in every way he could.

Sesshomaru had given her another compelling argument that had her swift acceptance. Should he let Lady Kiyomi live, the demoness might go after any future children they would have, possibly encouraging others to take up arms against them if they showed even an ounce of weakness. Kagome's protective instincts kicked in, not only for her future children but for the man beside her.

Still not totally happy with what was happening, Kagome knew it was out of her hands. Kiyomi had been in the wrong and Kagome refused to let this situation get between her and her future happiness with Sesshomaru. Though Sesshomaru had recanted and said she didn't have to be there for the execution if it was too much for her, Kagome knew he was right. It would look better politically that she stand with Sesshomaru as a united front with all eyes on them.

So it was with a heavy heart that Kagome did what was expected of her. She'd made her choice and that was Sesshomaru. She had no regrets in that regard.

Kagome watched silently like the rest of the crowd as Sesshomaru voiced Lady Kiyomi's crimes and judged her guilty. Being the lord, he was not only judge and jury but executioner. Lifting his deadly sword, Kagome refused to look away or flinch when he severed the demoness' head from her shoulders, knowing without having to look around that many eyes were on her, waiting for her reaction. Like the lady she was trying so hard to become for the demon she loved, she did not disappoint and held a regal pose, her expression empty.


He shouldn't be here. Surely he was intruding, far from welcome. He wouldn't blame the girl even a little if she told him to leave. He had it coming. Who was he to think he could be her confidant after his past deplorable behavior towards one who deserved no such ridicule, especially for the reasons he'd given her. Once he'd been filled with self-righteousness. Now there was little more than feeling contrite over the woman he'd so wronged.

But that look she gave him when her dark head lifted to regard him with sad eyes compelled him to stay, to try—what?

"Ah, Lord Yoshinori." The Western Lady quickly blinked her eyes that were overly moist. Salt was in the air around her, the threat of tears. "What—ah, what can I do for you?" She tried to offer him a smile, but it didn't quite make it to her lips. It was a sad sight even for him, for she was such a lively creature, full of warmth. She was a woman meant to smile and do so often.

Suddenly feeling horribly out of his depth, Yoshinori nevertheless took her attempt at civility as a good sign that his presence wasn't unwelcome. He stifled the urge to shift from foot to foot. How she made him feel like an untried youth was not very pleasant. Still, he remained.

"Are you well, milady?"

Kagome lifted a hand to her cheek and glanced away. "I must look affright."

"You look lovely," he contradicted, surprised to find that he meant it.

"You're very kind," came her soft reply. He was unsure if she believed him or not and merely pacified him.

"They were not empty words."

Now she looked up at him. Seated on a bench in the West's vast library, he wondered if she'd chosen this place to hide from prying eyes without retreating into her bedchamber she shared with her mate.

"I believed them." Her reply was nothing more than a breath of air.

Growing bolder, waiting for any hint that she wanted him to leave, he spoke. "You shed tears." He could have bit his tongue at how awkward that statement sounded, but it was far too late to retract the words, as they were already said, settling between them, impossible to ignore.

"Forgive me," he tried anyway, now the one desiring to leave from an uncomfortable situation of his own making. "I do not mean to pry. If you'll excuse—"

"Everything is so difficult…" she murmured, silencing him effortlessly.

"Miko…" What was he to say? he floundered inwardly.

Brown, human eyes stared up at him, searching. For what he did not know.

"Lord Yoshinori… Do you… mind over so much if we… talked?"

Before he could answer yay or nay, she scooted to one end of the bench in silent entreaty, making the choice for him. No, he allowed her to. He felt compelled to stay and— He wasn't sure really, other than the fact that forlorn expression had to go. It had no business being on her face, sheltered in those eyes. As soon as he sat, he realized just how small that bench actually was. His knee pressed against hers, their thighs a hairs breath away, while his shoulder pressed against hers.

He was far too huge, too muscular to be sitting on this bench with her. Should he move away? He was definitely too close to another male's mate. It was too late anyway. His scent was already upon her. He could have sighed at his lack of foresight. This priestess made him act so far out of the norm, Yoshinori wondered if he'd ever return to his confident self.

"Thank you. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable," she began, interrupting his train of thought. "But I need someone to talk to and I think you might be the one to help me."

She was asking for his help?

Cautiously, he said, "If it is within my ability to aid you, I will, milady."

"Kagome," she corrected. This time when she offered him a smile, it was more real not matter how small. "Please, call me Kagome."

"Lady Kagome," he conceded to a point. He was attempting to show her that he respected her. Did she notice his efforts? "What is it that would weigh so heavily upon your mind to cause such disquiet?"

Without any further encouragement, she spoke. "I want to make it clear that I completely understand that it had to be done and why but… Understanding doesn't stop these feelings of unhappiness."

Yoshinori had no idea what the onna was referring to. She spoke but instead of having answers, more questions arose.

"You will have to speak more plainly." Yoshinori eyed her with confusion.

"The execution…" She shook her head "It's not the blood and death that so much bothers me but how messed up the world really is. I knew that being with Sesshomaru wouldn't be easy, but I can't help but feel unhappy sometimes." She shook her head as if so many ideals had shattered. "Being in love is harder than I'd ever realized."

Yoshinori was surprised. Her words were surprisingly child-like in her bafflement that the world could hold such disappointments. Kagome sounded almost naïve in her assessment. She came off as so strong and capable that she seemed older than her human years would suggest.

It was then that he realized what he wanted to offer her. It was the very thing she was asking of him, which was to comfort her. The enormity of this revelation revealed just how much the miko had changed him. It wasn't that he wanted to make her his—even if that were possible. It was the fact that she'd made such an impact upon his life by opening his eyes to the demon he used to be that he wished to be of some importance in hers. Perhaps this was his opportunity.

It was strange comforting a human priestess, another lord's mate, but he tried.

"Miko, you are probably already very much aware that the world is far from fair, yes?" She nodded her understanding, which encouraged him to continue. "Life will attack you from every side until you fall to your knees, and you will fall. Many times." A sad truth even for one such as he, though he would never admit to it. "Love has the same lessons. It is trial and error and with great, continual effort to keep it together, because love alone is not enough."

"Lord Yoshinori…"

"Listen, miko," he compelled her because he saw just how bothered and upset she truly was. "Hear me. Every choice has its good and bad points. You knew this when you spoke before the court during your mating ceremony. Don't let another's actions influence what you have with Lord Sesshomaru. A love like that is something to hold on to."

Unable to help himself, he leaned over and tipped up her chin to make sure she met his gaze. It was not a sexual move on his part, merely a means to make sure she was listening and absorbing everything he was telling her. His breath would not be wasted.

"It's something to be envied," he murmured. "Do you believe you've made the wrong choice?"

"No! Never!" was her fevered reply.

Now it was his turn to offer her a small smile as he moved to stroke the back of her head consolingly.

"There lies your answer."

This time when she smiled, relief shown in the brown depths of her eyes. "Thank you. I know I must have sounded pretty common." Unladylike, she meant, he knew.

He disregarded her embarrassment over her emotional state. "Think nothing of it. Now, go to your mate." He gazed at her knowingly. "No doubt he is aware of your unrest. Now might be a good time to put the old dog out of his misery."

With a laugh, Kagome threw her arms around him, shocking him. Her embrace was unexpected. Awkwardly, he cleared his throat and patted her thigh before realizing how inappropriate it was and stopped.

His voice was gruff when he cautioned, "My scent upon you will most likely rile Lord Sesshomaru, Lady Kagome." Perhaps that was not at all wise…

Instead of looking contrite when she finally released him, the miko stood before him with an impish grin. She winked wickedly at him. "I'm counting on it." With a twirl of silk, she hurried off with a farewell wave over her shoulder.

Grinning and shaking his head, he watched her walk away.

I finally realize what you've done to me, little human, he thought fondly. He murmured the answer out loud though there was no one to hear him. "You've changed me."

One year later…

Sesshomaru walked into his bedchamber he shared with his mate, being silent so as not to wake up the inhabitants lounging on the settee in the sitting room. He stopped a foot away from it to stare down at the upturned face of the woman he loved. Dark circles still shadowed beneath her closed lids, speaking volumes of the sleeplessness she'd experienced the past two weeks.

He wished she'd slept more, allowed some of the servant maids to assist, but his woman would have nothing of it. His strong, capable mate. And in her arms rested the small bundle she kept close to her heart, the very cause of her lack of sleep. Sleeping atop his mother, his son breathed heavily, making a small whimper every so often as if he dreamt.

Hajime—for new beginning. Far from a warrior's name, but after seeing the love in Kagome's eyes as she held their son for the first time and whispering that name, he understood her meaning even before she glanced up at him, catching him watching her. He'd shown his acceptance of his firstborn's name by stroking her damp hair from her face and repeating the name with a small nod.

Hajime. A pup born from the impossible union of a demon and human priestess. Another impossibility was the fact that Hajime was everything Bokusenou predicted: a full-blooded demon. And yet more than even that, for Sesshomaru sensed purity within his son. His child was the first of his kind and one day he would rule in Sesshomaru's stead.

Sesshomaru lowered himself to his knees beside the settee. He placed his large hand gently atop his son, and leaned forward to first kiss the tiny infant's head before turning to lightly kiss Kagome's parted lips. Both slept on, oblivious to his presence. Sesshomaru was glad. Both needed their rest. He contented himself by watching his family rest. There was no better way to pass the time.