A/N- This is the eagerly awaited sequel to The Possession. If you have not read The Possession, I highly recommend that you do that first because 1) It is a really really good story ::points to chibi fans:: their opinion, not mine. And 2) If you don't read The Possession first I guarantee you will be utterly confused reading this story.

Disclaimer: I don't own Seto Kaiba or YuGiOh. But Ari and all OC's are mine.

Lingering Shadows

Chapter 1

The warm glow of morning's first light stirred her from her peaceful slumber. A sleepy smile stole across her face and she opened her pale blue eyes to greet the new day. It was going to be a great day and for once she did not linger in the comfort of her bed.

Stretching to her full height of 5'5", Ari Nieche sighed contentedly and glanced around her small apartment bedroom before padding down the hall to the bathroom. The modest accommodations were oddly comforting, especially after having lived within the monstrous confines of the Kaiba mansion for a few weeks. There was something oppressive and lonely about the mansion when Seto was not there to dispel the shadows with his irrefutable strength.

After having her in his clutches for such an extended period of time, the handsome young CEO of Kaiba Corp had been extremely reluctant to let her go. Okay, so reluctant is an understatement. The man had been down right obstinate. Not that she had any true desire to leave his close company either, but necessity demanded it. A woman just could not think straight when those piercing blue eyes were watching her every move. One touch of those impassioned lips and she was putty. Keeping him at arms length demanded a few miles of separation for the sake of her tender heart and the trouble growing within her mind.

Ari stared down into the sink as cold water filled the ceramic basin. It's not that I don't love him. Heaven knows I love him more than life itself. But, he still scares me sometimes. He's so possessive that I feel I have become just another one of his obsessions placed up on that pedestal with Kaiba Corp and his dueling technology.

Shaking her head, she stooped over the sink and splashed icy water across her face until all signs of weariness were washed away. Drying her face and hands, she paused to inspect the scars crisscrossing over her palms. They had faded to some degree but would forever mar her flesh where the glass had sunk deep enough. She delicately traced a finger across the darkest and longest scar that had a reflective match across the four fingers of the same hand.

That's the one, she mused. The visible mark of her love for a man she once hated. It had been a month now since that terrifying day but Ari still could not shake the memories, the screams of a dying man.

Seto hated it when she dwelled on it. He always seemed to be able to tell where her thoughts were turning by the pained expression that would seep into her pale eyes. The man knew her too well and for that she needed to be away from him that she might be able to sort through her own thoughts without him frowning down at her. It may have been easy for him to reconcile to the situation but then, he wasn't the one who killed Matzu Omaka.

Ari shuddered. Killed. There was no other way to describe what she had done. It was his face she saw in the darkness of the night, his hands she felt roving over her body when Seto touched her, and his screams that haunted her in her dreams. How could she ever tell Seto that a dead man had taken possession of her life?

This is not the time, Ari Nieche! Today is your big day! Today you run the preliminary tests on your holographic enhancement program and test the durability of the fiber-optic prototype you and Kaska created together.

She smiled and turned away from the bathroom to dress. My big day, father. Maybe things didn't turn out the way you had planned but they turned out for the best. Today I will get to see our dream become a reality.

Most employees of Kaiba Corp adhered to a strict dress code but having the CEO in love with you afforded some leniency. Not that Kaiba had ever demanded her to be anything other than her plain simple self. Lately, Ari had dispensed with any attempt at a business-oriented style. It just didn't fit her anymore. Jeans and a button up sweater had become her trade mark since the weather started to cool, and it never made Seto look at her any differently.

Pausing at her dresser, Ari ran a brush through her thick golden-brown hair before pulling it up into a streaming pony-tail. She usually wore it down for his amusement of course, but today was a day she didn't want the hassle.

Aside from her brush, a tiny box was all else that graced her dresser top. It was made of dark ebony with white lotus flower carvings overlaid in mother-of-pearl. A gift he had given her to keep safe another treasure of hers while she slept. Opening the box, Ari pulled out the gorgeous diamond solitaire pendant and secured it around her throat. The ever-cool diamond settled into her familiar warmth and she suddenly felt as if she could topple the world with her new found confidence.

Today is my day, she reminded herself. A sharp rap on her door delivered a subtle blow to that confidence as she realized the day had begun.

"He's early," she murmured as she walked down the short hallway to open the door.

"Morning, Ms Ari."

"Morning, Sojo. I was just about to get—."

The bright-eyed bodyguard held up a small Styrofoam box and a to-go cup. "Breakfast, Ms Ari?" he asked with an amused smile dancing across his usually dark expression. He could be a most formidable man when he chose to, but was far more relaxed and personable when around her.

Ari chuckled. "Am I that predictable? Seto must not want me to meet any delays today."

"Forgive me, Ms Ari, but I am not sure Mr. Kaiba is as familiar with your morning routine as I am. I believe ginger-peach green tea is your preference," he handed her the cup, "and since today is your big day I thought you might like a true breakfast as opposed to a simple pastry."

Ari accepted the box and peaked inside to find that he had stopped at a local diner and ordered a full breakfast to-go for her. Had it been anyone else other than her personal bodyguard and driver, she would have been deeply alarmed.

"Honestly, Sojo, I don't think he pays you enough," she smiled as she set the things aside and shrugged on her coat.

He merely maintained his amicable smile, not caring to tell her that attending to her was one of the more pleasurable aspects of his employment at Kaiba Corp. Ari Nieche was not a woman who permitted power to get to her head. Down to earth and gentle beyond measure, she could be described best as a simple, delicate creature with uncommon fire dormant but powerful. Her spirit drew people to her and it was no surprise that the woman proved to be such a fine match for the formidable and oftentimes ruthless Seto Kaiba.

Sojo had always respected his boss for his fierce determination and zero tolerance for insubordination. For someone so young, Seto Kaiba was an alpha wolf of the corporate world and those who lasted the longest in his employ were in constant awe of the man. Sojo had been with him for almost five years now and had never met another since that he could respect quite as much.

When Ari Nieche appeared on the scene, a whole new dimension took shape within the CEO. It was no secret, his affection for the woman. It seemed to light a fire within him that burned more intensely and at times made him even more intimidating. At the same time the girl was capable of reaching his human side, something only his younger brother seemed able to do before.

If anything happened to Kaiba's blue-eyed treasure, Sojo's head would surely be on the block as it was his full time duty to see that nothing did.

"I'm ready," she announced and pulled her apartment door shut behind her, managing to balance her box breakfast and cup of hot tea perfectly throughout the feat.

Sojo led her down to the car, his observant green eyes taking in the surroundings warily. He opened the passenger door for her and she slid in.

"Nervous?" he asked once they were off driving to Kaiba Corp headquarters.

"A little," she said over a small mouthful. "I've been over the calculations a million times so I am certain there are no flaws in the program. It's the prototype I'm leery of."

"Hasn't Kaiba Corp's technicians been over it several times in preliminary testing?"

"They specialize in hardware, not fiber-optics. It's a whole different science. If the cable isn't durable enough, it could shatter and short-circuit the hardware. There's also the possibility that the information/laser transfer might be faster and stronger than we anticipated."

"And if it is?"

Ari shook her head. "I don't even want to think about the possibility."

Sojo glanced sideways at her thoughtfully. "Is that all that is worrying you, Ms Ari?"

She frowned at the cup in her slender hands, feeling heat more acutely along the length of a certain scar. "It's going to be a good day isn't it, Sojo?" she asked softly.

He reflected her frown. It was disquieting to see her cheerful mood falter. Silently he hoped a certain CEO would be able to effect a quick change to that.

"I believe it will, Ms Ari," he assured her with confidence.

"You're worried about disappointing him, aren't you?"

Ari looked up from her desk into a pair of blue-violet eyes that demanded honesty.

"Yes," she admitted, "but don't tell him that, okay?"

Mokuba smiled. "You can't disappoint him, Ari. It's just not possible for you."

She returned his smile timidly. "I wish I could believe you but this is something he has been waiting for, for a very long time."

"So are you," the thirteen year old boy pointed out and she blushed slightly. "In any case, I think everything will go just fine. You're a brilliant programmer and if there are any glitches, I know you'll make short work of them."

With that he fairly leaped into her arms and hugged her fiercely. "Don't worry about Seto. He's forgiving of the ones he loves."

Ari buried her face in his thick black hair and sighed. Maybe he's right. I'm just worrying too much. I've been over-stressed and not sleeping well doesn't help.

"Am I interrupting something," a deep voice resonated across the room to send sensational shivers tip-toeing up her spine.

Mokuba laughed and pulled out of her embrace to face his brother. "I was just wishing Ari luck. She's a little nervous about the preliminary test today."

Seto Kaiba arched a perfect brow over his steel blue eyes. "Nervous?"

Just a few months ago that look would have sent her running for cover, she reflected as she met his steady stare. The ice people were used to seeing gave way to tender affection and she understood why she was so afraid of disappointing him. She loved him so much it hurt. Those perfect youthful features set in stone crowned with a thick mop of cinnamon brown hair that danced across his imperious blue eyes had spelled disaster for her and it had been only a matter of time before her heart embraced the calamity. She needed him more than breath.

"I'm certain everything will work out," he said and won a smile from her. Kaiba stared at her for a moment before turning to his little brother.


"Right. I've got an algebra session in ten minutes," the boy grinned. "I'll be done before you run the test, Ari. I promise."

She watched him bounce out the door with her own reflective grin. Mokuba never failed to cheer her when she needed it most. A soft click startled her and she realized Kaiba had closed the door after the boy and they were now alone. It had been a while since she had allowed that to happen, careful to never let him find her in a room by herself. It wasn't something she could explain fully even in her own mind because a part of her demanded his presence. But another part of her, a part that had no right to exist, was afraid.

"You've been avoiding me," he stated and she winced slightly in anticipation of where this conversation was going to go.

"I've been busy," she said as she stood from the desk and emphasized the point by collecting some papers and walking them to her filing cabinet. It wasn't necessary to put the blueprints away but she needed an excuse to not meet his gaze. He had a way of disarming her with a mere glance and now was not the time to have her confidence undermined.

"Sojo said you haven't been sleeping."

"So I've been a little stressed. You're one to talk," she shot back over her shoulder.

He was silent for a moment and she could feel the heat of his gaze on her back. "Have you lost weight again?" he asked.

She slammed the cabinet drawer shut and turned on him. "Are you ever going to let that go? I starved myself once and that was ages ago, for crying out loud!"

His stare never wavered. "Twice," he reminded her. "You have a way of destroying yourself, Ari, whether you mean to or not." His calm even tone washed like cold water over her temper.

"I'm just a little stressed," she sighed. "That's all, I swear."

"Then after today I suggest you take some time off."

Her pale eyes narrowed suspiciously. "That's not really a suggestion, is it."

"No," he admitted and his blue eyes sparkled with amusement and something more.

Ari couldn't help the smile that fought its way to her lips. "Well, I suppose I could start organizing that box I have stashed in the corner of my closet. I doubt anything having to do with electronics is hidden in there."

"You're happy there, are you?" he asked suddenly thoughtful.

With a shrug she stepped past him and fussed over the papers still on her desk. This was another road she didn't want to go down again. "It's home. I like the peace and quiet."

Kaiba frowned at her back. It's plenty quiet at the mansion. And at least when you're there I don't have to wonder where you are or what you're doing. That had been the argument of the century. The last thing he wanted was for her to return to her apartment after all that had happened with Matzu Omaka and Omaka Enterprises. But on her side of the argument, she pointed out that all the reasons he had for keeping her there were now gone. Joko Omaka was in prison, his son Matzu dead and the men who had originally attacked her and Mokuba had also been apprehended.

But I have other reasons. The first thing I want to see in the mornings is your face. The halls are inhumanly silent without your laughter and ever since you moved back to your place, you won't even let me hold you. She was standing right before him and he felt like she was slipping away. But being the man he was, he had plans to remedy that…for good.

Why is he so silent? She turned to see and realized her mistake as his hands instantly captured her. A sickening shudder tore through her and the warmth in his eyes chilled.

I touch her and she shudders? A part of him wanted to shove her away, this deceitful creature that claimed to love him, but his hands gripped her all the more firmly.

"If Mokuba wished you luck, I should as well," he told her gravely.

The look in his eyes pained her. Her reaction to his touch had been involuntary, her body clinging to the memory of another hateful man who had scarred her. My body may say otherwise but I still love you! She wanted to cry out to him, to ease the insult she knew he felt.

"Please do," she whispered.

He meant to hurt her, even as her reaction had hurt him, but he couldn't. His heart wouldn't let him. So he kissed her honestly, tenderly to lend her the confidence that seemed overflowing within him and to remind her that he was as much hers as she was his.

This is my Seto, she consoled herself, accepting the kiss with relish. If ever there was a difference between the dreams and the reality, it was in his kiss. Matzu might haunt her in every man's touch but the kiss of the man she loved and loved her back could not be duplicated nor overshadowed by anything.

"Thank you," she murmured when he pulled away to inspect her expression. Calm had settled over her and she seemed more like her usual self.

"I'm worried about you, Ari," he admitted as he tilted her face up with one strong finger. "You've been so distant."

"I've had a lot on my mind," she said, for it was the truth. But even now she could not tell him she still dwelled on the nightmare of her own creation. She was afraid of what he might do.

After searching her gaze for a moment, he reluctantly let her go and a foreign sense of relief flooded through her. When his kiss did not embrace her soul, the nameless fear did. It was his face she should see in her dreams, not a dead man's. Seto's touch should warm her not scare her. Matzu haunted her in death more than he ever had in life.

I will take Kaiba's most precious possession beyond redemption, he had told her that fateful day.

Ari shuddered again. I'm losing my mind to this obsession.