Hello!

To all my readers, I apologize profusely for not updating sooner. I had to steer this giant ship of a story in a totally direction and I finally hit smooth waters. I know it's been a ridiculous amount of time since I last updated.

For those who weren't aware, I changed chapter 12 so you might want to go back and re-read it. Because it's been so long *dodges vegetable projectiles* you might have to re-read the entire story. I wish I could give you ice cream for your troubles.

Thank you for waiting and I hope you enjoy this installment.

Echo Hunter

CHAPTER 13: To Leap Or Not To Leap

The first two days were full of introductions to different healers, both youkai and human. It was amazing to see so many beings of different species come together for a single purpose – to heal. Even with those few human healers who had a chip on their shoulder, the conference and meetings went fairly smooth.

The afternoon of the fourth day had some down time listed in the itinerary. It was then that Sesshoumaru told Kagome he had a little surprise for her. After being instructed to dress casually, Kagome waited for Sesshoumaru to finish up the last of his business for the day before he met up with her. She didn't have to wait long.

"Are you ready, Kagome?"

The young miko had been so engrossed in the healer's journal she'd been given earlier that she was actually startled when Sesshoumaru called her name.

"Sesshoumaru, you scared me." She clutched the paper to her chest and did her best to regulate her breathing. She missed his smirk.

"And you," he gently scolded, "need to pay better attention to your surroundings-" He paused to look at the M&M that had bounced off his person and landed by his feet.

Kagome had the nerve to look surprised. "Huh, I can't believe that actually hit you."

His back was already to her and he was walking away. "Such disrespect, woman."

"Wait," she called out as she scrambled to her feet. Even though Sesshoumaru didn't slay people anymore, it didn't mean he was any less dangerous. Should he ever walk in front of her, the simple action of his hair swaying, hypnotized her to the point that everything else disappeared from her notice. Kagome blinked away the distraction, pulled another M&M out of her snack bag and readied the projectile, only to be pulled back against solid warmth. Her fingers that held the small red chocolate candy were between sharp teeth. Sesshoumaru's tongue snatched the candy from between her fingers and his lips closed around them.

That sweet tangy scent he smelled whenever he gave her no chance to avoid physical contact with him wafted throughout the room and Sesshoumaru savored it like the delicacy that it was. He heard Kagome's heart speed up and his own echoed it. Nervousness slithered through the thick heady scent of her arousal and calmed him somewhat.

"Hey, you're not supposed to eat chocolate."

He needed to calm down. Having to be around all these people and the filthy scents of the city made his head throb on a good day. Sesshoumaru buried his sensitive nose into the crook of Kagome's shoulder and took several deep breaths. He growled at her to let her know he heard her.

"Did you change your mind?"

What was the woman talking about? The pain behind his eyes slowly eased as her natural scent wrapped around him. "About what?"

She sounded breathless and hated it but she couldn't help her reactions to Sesshoumaru's sneak attacks on her personal space. She didn't want to. It felt too nice.

"You were going to show me something."

"Hn." He inhaled her scent a little more before grumbling into her neck. "Maybe we should stay in for the rest of the night and further your training."

Kagome knew what his "training" entailed and her hackles went up. "Oh no you're not. You made me think we were going to do something outdoors. Please?" She turned in his arms and rubbed her cheek against his. "We've been inside all day. I need some fresh air. We both do." She pulled back and gave her best puppy-eyed look to him. Her bottom lip jutted in a pout and she did her best to look put out. Kagome was surprised to hear Sesshoumaru's quiet sigh.

Nervousness filled her scent and Sesshoumaru didn't like it one bit. "Nevermind." The miko wiggled her way out of his grasp and was rather surprised that she was able to. Before she could get very far, those powerful arms had her in their grip once more and she sagged in their protection.

"Where do you think you're going, miko?"

Anywhere but here, she wanted to say but opted instead for, "to lie down. I may as well rest in our down time and finish some of those journals I picked up today."

Sesshoumaru's nose was back at her neck, softly stroking the skin with it. "I'm afraid you won't have time, miko. We have plans this evening."

"But-"

He knew she was tired and she really did want to get fresh air. He did too. He cut her off. "You will need to dress in casual clothes, good walking shoes and bring a warm jacket. It will be chilly where we go." The electric scent of her excitement filled the air and Sesshoumaru drank it all in. Business was always strenuous but being around so much tension with demonic and holy auras all day took its toll on him. At times he wanted to just make his whip appear and silence everyone permanently.

"When will we go?"

"As soon as we change."

No amount of demon strength could have held her back. Kagome raced into the room and grabbed her clothes before ducking into the bathroom to change. Two minutes and she was back in the parlor, ready to go. Sesshoumaru shook his head at the sight of her. She was trying so hard not to jump with excitement. Her reiki bounced around enough for her. It filled the room with a pleasant feeling.

He grabbed her hand and led her to the balcony of their suite. Shutting the door behind them, he squatted down and turned to look at her over her shoulder. "Shall we?"

Kagome could barely hang on to her excitement as she settled herself on his back. Sesshoumaru stood to his full height and his deadly claws gently wrapped around the bottom of her thighs to secure her. Without a word, he leapt from their balcony to the next rooftop. Kagome gasped at the feeling of falling and tightened her grip on his shoulders. Her breathing sped up from excitement and soon the city was a blur. The buildings were further and further apart the more east they traveled and finally the structures of man gave way to the structure of Mother Nature. Once they cleared the city, it was dark enough that Sesshoumaru felt comfortable running on the road. Even with car headlights shining ahead of them, the road curved enough through the mountains and forest that with Sesshoumaru's speed, they would look like a reflection of light on a rock. Or at least that was the excuse she came up with.

The demon lord slowed to a stop and took a couple of deep breaths. He did not move his head but Kagome saw the slightest flare of a nostril and soon they were taking off in another direction. The road disappeared and soon it was just them and nature. Sesshoumaru slowed down from mach three to a mere mach one because of how close the trees were to each other and with all the low-hanging branches he might lose his passenger if he wasn't careful. It was a forest, like Japan during the Sengoku Jidai, but it felt entirely different. After ten minutes of running, Sesshoumaru stopped in a clearing and let her slide down from her perch on his back.

Kagome took a step to the side so she could see what had Sesshoumaru's attention but a firm hand stopped her and pushed her behind him again. His youki didn't feel agitated or on edge so Kagome didn't worry. When his hand sought hers out, she slid her fingers into and he held her behind him.

Enough memories of fighting demons in the past kept Kagome's mouth shut and just as she was tiring of waiting in the darkness for a sign, the crunching of branches came from the direction of Sesshoumaru's gaze. Kagome's face was pressed against Sesshoumaru's beautiful hair and she felt a mid-level youki signature approach. Her body guard didn't move a muscle, not even to tense so she reminded herself to be patient.

"We were not expecting you until tomorrow, Lord Sesshoumaru." The male demon who greeted them sounded friendly enough. She wanted to see what he looked like.

"I apologize for the inconvenience. We did not wish to remain in the city tonight."

"We?" The question in the demon's voice piqued Kagome's curiosity. She tugged at the hand holding her back and Sesshoumaru pulled her out to his side.

"Teman, this is Kagome. Kagome, meet Teman, one of the guardians of this forest."

Kagome inched out from behind Sesshoumaru's arm and saw the demon. He had the body and face of a human but instead of hair, he had tan and black colored feathers that hung down his back with orange-gold eyes that glowed in the night.

Kagome's breath caught. "Are you an eagle?"

Teman's eyes widened and shot to Sesshoumaru's. When Sesshoumaru lifted a brow in amusement, Teman smiled and nodded. "I am."

Kagome lips spread into a full smile and she bowed deeply to the demon across from them. "Meeting you is an honor. I have never met an eagle demon before-"

"No, the honor is mine." Teman made a fist and held it over his heart. "I wondered who it was the forest sang for this night."

"It did?" The look of disbelief on Kagome's face did nothing to dim the worship in the demon's eyes.

He couldn't take his glowing eyes off her and it unnerved her a bit. "There are stories of your kind – I never thought I would have the honor of meeting one such as you."

"One such as me?"

"The legends-"

Sesshoumaru noticed Kagome shiver a bit and cleared his throat to catch the young demon's attention. "Would you invite us to your grandfather's fire? My companion cannot withstand the cool mountain air."

Teman's eyes widened again but this time in shock of his neglect. "Forgive me, Lord Sesshoumaru, Kagome. Please, follow me."

Kagome didn't even notice the chill until Sesshoumaru said something. Out of nowhere his moko-moko appeared and was reverently placed over her shoulders as he held her hand, guiding her through the darkness behind the eagle demon.

Teman filled the night with great tales of his ancestors and their story of how the stars and constellations came to be. By the time he finished, they were at the outskirts of a good-sized village. The homes looked like something out of the past but slightly warped with newer and more present-day extensions built on and around the existing buildings. In the center of the village was a large cooking fire with benches scattered around the fire clearing.

"Please follow me. My grandfather will be pleased to entertain you this evening." Teman led them to a building far away from the fire. "Grandfather," the younger demon called out. "Lord Sesshoumaru has arrived." No response came from the house. Teman excused himself and searched the house, only to find it empty. A dark-skinned woman came around from around the side and smiled at the strangers.

"Lea, have you seen my grandfather?"

The woman nodded. "He should be back any second now."

Without warning, a loud screech ripped through the sky and echoed through the trees. Another one followed and Kagome looked up to find the source of the sound after calming her heart. She saw nothing for a while and then heard the distinct sound of wings flapping. Gusts of wind blew her hair every which way and she sought protection in Sesshoumaru. She snuggled into his side and his arm wrapped itself around her shoulder, pulling her in tighter. The gusts grew stronger and dust flew up, surrounding everyone. Then with one final flap of its wings, the air cleared and a giant bald eagle stood in their midst, wings spread wide. He was almost as tall as the evergreen trees he soared above and his wingspan was twice his height. Two large red eyes looked down at them and then in a swirl of power, the eagle was gone. In its spot stood a man about Sesshoumaru's height. Dark, tanned and weathered skin, covered the tall, solid frame. Long, white hair fell down his back, nearly reaching his knees with brown and white feathers woven into it.

"Sesshoumaru."

His voice sounded as a grandfather's voice should, she thought. Worn with time and wisdom, his gravelly voice asked who she was.

"This is the miko, Kagome. She was the last guardian of the Jewel of Four souls."

The demon's brow lifted in surprise. He took a discreet sniff and smiled. "This sounds like an interesting tale." He nodded his head at Teman and turned back to Kagome with an outstretched hand. "Come child. Warm yourself by my fire. It has been a long time since I have met one of your kind."

"A human?" she asked, rather surprised.

"No, my child. A daughter of Mother Earth."

They were treated to a wonderful meal of smoked trout and moose over forest greens. Kagome laughed at the stories she was told and the old eagle demon smiled when he heard their tale of travels to the past and wells and their present friendship.

"Sesshoumaru, I can sense a strong bond between you and your woman."

Sesshoumaru looked over to where some of the village children were teaching Kagome a game. He sighed in contentment and looked back to his father's old friend. "She is not mine yet but I hope to change that soon. I would request to borrow your waterfall tonight."

"The waterfall?" It was a sacred place for the eagle demons and Sesshoumaru knew that.

"You are aware of the special children my hospitals were built for?" He didn't take his eyes off of Kagome. She was laughing at the antics of the children and her aura was bright with happiness.

"I am."

Sesshoumaru didn't know why he was offering so much information about his personal life but Kepekai was as much of an uncle as he would ever have. "Kagome believes that in bonding our souls, we will be able to heal the children by acting as surrogates. Their energy will mimic ours and will find balance."

"And you have not objected being tied to someone such as her?" It was a plausible question and Sesshoumaru was not offended.

"I fear it is she who will object. I have not been…forthcoming as to why I had no problem with the bond."

Kepekai was silent for a while, watching the interactions between his clan and the miko in their midst. To many demons, a miko would be their enemy, but to his people, she was a cherished creature, someone that Mother Earth birthed to teach love and acceptance to all. The eagle demon saw the way she constantly looked back at Sesshoumaru, trying to include him in the memories she was making and he saw how brightly they shone together when they first arrived. Their auras called to one another, stretched to touch even now at merely one hundred feet apart. His wise eyes crinkled at the edges.

"You have no reason to fear, my son. These old eyes have seen many things in this one's life time but this bond you share, it stretches through time." He looked at the dog demon and Sesshoumaru felt like Kepekai was looking straight into his soul. "Go tonight. Leave now and the stars and moon will shine bright for you."

"My gratitude, Kepekai."

"Our pleasure, pup. Stay there tonight. The sunrise will bless your new life together. We will see you after daybreak to end our fast."

"Tomorrow morning, then."

The aged eagle nodded his head and walked over to Kagome. Sesshoumaru watched as she smiled at the old man and blushed when he kissed her forehead and blessed her in the firelight. He then lifted her hand in Sesshoumaru's direction and whispered something else to her. Kagome's eyes lit up as she walked toward Sesshoumaru and he could not calm his racing heart.

"You have something to show me?"

"I do." Sesshoumaru wrapped his hands around her waist and lifted her into the air. They only flew as far as the next clearing before Sesshoumaru brought them down to the ground. He let go of Kagome and backed up, telling her with his eyes to stay where he put her. Kagome's brow quirked up, no doubt wondering what he was up to.

He knew that he wanted this woman as his mate, he had already accepted the fact that she would be but there was still one last test she needed to pass. He needed her to pass in order for it to be a true mating. Sesshoumaru watched Kagome to gauge her reactions. The last time she had seen him in this form, he tried killing her and his brother. Even though that was over five-hundred years ago for him, it had been less than a decade for her. Did she trust him in his natural state? Could she?

The winds howled around him as his youki swelled and his power crackled throughout the forest. Kagome's eyes widened when she realized what he was doing. His face elongated, his eyes bled red. Long silver locks of hair flew high, being sucked upward by the vortex of his power. The light around him grew brighter and flashed before she heard a loud crack of his power. Debris floated around him for a second before slamming back to the earth.

And there, before her very eyes, stood what used to be the epitome of her nightmares but now was the very makeup of her dreams.

Her voice was soft. Breathless. "Sesshoumaru."

SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK

Sesshoumaru watched for her reactions when the power surge around him faded. Her eyes were wide but he wasn't sure if it was in fear or in surprise. Even the way she whispered his name gave him no clues. He smelled the tears that rimmed her eyes and that told him what he needed to know.

The great Lord of the West closed his eyes and could not control the whimper that left his throat. She was still afraid of him. He heard her walk away and Sesshoumaru hung his head in defeat. He plopped his great body down, determined to die there now that Kagome had run in fear. He had no reason to continue living since it was she he lived for. She feared for her life. She ran.

At least she didn't scream. He didn't think his soul could have survived it.

To his great surprise, he felt something caress the fur of his cheek.

"What's the matter?"

She hadn't left? Sesshoumaru quickly cracked an eye open and there she was with worry in her eyes. His head perked up in relief and excitement and he quickly buried his nose in her chest, thirsty, starving for her scent to tell him how she felt.

Excitement, happiness, contentment – all rolled up into one beautiful miko package. He heard her giggle.

"Hey! Stop breathing so hard! You're tickling – hey!" He moved his snout all over her body, wherever he could without pushing her over, though he was tempted. After he was certain that he had deciphered all her scents, Sesshoumaru rest his big head on his paws.

"Can I pet you?"

Can I pet you? Can you pet me for the rest of our lives? Sesshoumaru let out a soft woof and wagged his tail to let her know he whole-heartedly wished she would. She carefully walked up to his head and felt the soft fur of one of his ears.

"It's so unfair." She sounded sad. Sesshoumaru opened one giant eye and let out a puff of air. "Even your fur is softer than my hair. It's just not fair." She moved her arms up and down one ear and felt the rumble in his body. Her vision turned blurry every time that rumble came out and she realized that Sesshoumaru's low growls were vibrating the earth beneath them!

He moved his head to open his throat so she could reach easier. How was she so good at this? Sesshoumaru moved his head, telling her where he wanted to be scratched and the miko complied every time. She grew braver and climbed up his shoulder and sat where his neck met his shoulders. He was so large that her legs didn't even hang down his sides. Then when she felt he had been scratched enough there, she turned around and scratched down his spine, crawling on all fours until she reached the base of his spine where his tail protruded.

"You don't have fleas, do you? Giant youkai fleas-"

Sesshoumaru snarled playfully and Kagome laughed while scratched him harder. "I'm just kidding," she said between breaths. "I'm just kidding." She scratched at the base of his tail again and his growls grew louder and louder. He gave a low bark and Kagome turned to look at his head. "What?"

Sesshoumaru yapped again and Kagome stopped scratching, trying to figure out what he was trying to tell her. The giant dog leaned back and forth until he was standing on all fours. He turned his head to look at her and barked again.

"Whoa, are we going somewhere? Hold on, hold on." Kagome quickly climbed to his shoulders and sat right between the two shoulder blades with fur gripped tightly between her fists. "Okay, I'm ready-aaahh!"

The giant white dog leapt into the air and as soon as Kagome dared to open her eyes, she gasped in awe of view. The moon was full and shining brightly over the dense forest. A few mountain peaks jutted from the green landscape, some covered in snow. They soared past a mountain and Sesshoumaru sank down to the river but stayed a little ways above it. He leapt into the air again and once they were flying above the trees, Kagome let go of her reigns of fur and lifted her hands into the air.

She couldn't help herself and let out a long, "woohoo!" into the open skies. "I'm flying!"

Sesshoumaru smiled to himself and finally saw what he was looking for. With a couple more pumps of his legs, he climbed the last few hundred feet and looked for a good place to land. There was a clearing large enough for him to land and so he did. With his feet firmly planted on the ground, Sesshoumaru lay himself down so Kagome could slide off. She was breathless when she did, her eyes were full of joy and she couldn't wipe the grin off her face.

He sat back up, lifted his nose to the sky and let out a long, low bay. After he finished, his ears perked up and Kagome tilted her head to hear what her companion heard. There, in the far distance, she could hear wolves howling their response. Sesshoumaru howled again and his ears perked up. More wolves howled from the other side and some coming from far behind them.

"Sesshoumaru, listen to them all!" She couldn't help her response then. Kagome closed her eyes and lifted her hands into the air. She spun herself in circles and Sesshoumaru saw her for the angel she was. The last time Sesshoumaru had seen her so free-spirited and open was during the shard-hunting days. He could not hold himself back. Within the blink of an eye, he returned to his humanoid form and walked up behind the miko and wrapped his arms around her waist.

Her giggling subsided and Kagome turned herself until she was facing her captor. His golden eyes glowed in the darkness and there was so much there for her to see that her breath caught. She didn't release it until Sesshoumaru brushed her cheek with his knuckles and her lips with his thumb. And then she couldn't breathe.

Warm lips ghosted over hers, lightly pressing and then more fervently. He pulled back to look into her eyes and the wonderment that glowed in them. Her breathing was heavy and felt like her reiki was about to explode. Kagome did the only thing she could think of. She launched herself at him and wrapped her arms around his neck, sealing her lips to his once more.

With a slide of his tongue against her lips, she gasped and he invaded. They battled and Kagome fisted that gorgeous hair of his and pulled him toward her harder. A dam broke and they couldn't get enough of each other. Sesshoumaru gathered all his willpower and forced himself to pull away, kissing her once, twice, and then once more.

His eyes burned into hers and then fell to her lips. He wanted to kiss her again but he knew that he would put off what he wanted to say. Her cheeks were tinted pink and her eyes couldn't meet his. Neither could the smile leave her eyes.

"Walk with me?" His voice was low and raw. Sesshoumaru held his hand out for her to take and when she slid her fingers into his, he lifted it up and pressed a gentle kiss on her knuckles. Her blush darkened and he led her to the river, following its path. The further they walked, the louder the river grew until the view opened up and Kagome realized where they were. He wrapped an arm around her waist and jumped to the rock that jutted out where the river split into two before it plunged down to continue hundreds of feet below. He shifted her to stand in front of him and Sesshoumaru wrapped one arm around her shoulders and the other around her waist.

"Sesshoumaru, it's so beautiful here."

There was no response from him. He was too busy kissing her shoulder and then her neck. Her hands squeezed themselves around his arms that caged her against him.

"Not as beautiful as you. Never as beautiful as you."

Sesshoumaru was many things but a poet he was not. Ever remembering his brother's words, he took a deep breath and calmed himself. Ever the strategist, Sesshoumaru thought of how he could best convince the woman in his arms to remain there for the rest of their lives.

"I could give you this. I would give the world to you and everything in it if that was your wish."

Kagome tensed and carefully measured her next words. "And why would you want to do that?"

He pulled in a deep breath full of her scent. "Because without you, there is no beauty in the world. Without you, the world holds no meaning for me."

"Sesshoumaru?" Kagome turned in his arms and stared straight into his golden eyes.

"Everything I have done since the well closed with you on the other side, has been in preparation for this moment. You have been in the forefront of my mind all these years and through every venture, every loss and gain. All for you. Always for you."

Her eyes watered when she realized what was happening. Tears slipped down her cheek but he would not let go of her hands.

"Kagome. I have waited over five centuries to ask you something." He knelt down on one knee and kept her hands in his. "I have never lowered myself before anyone for any reason but I kneel before you tonight, humbled by your spirit and touched by your heart. Kagome Higurashi, do me the honor of becoming my mate."

Sesshoumaru slid the two rings that contained her powers off her hands and felt a pulse of incredible power before his miko exploded with a radiance that rivaled the sun. Her aura burned so bright that it lit the valley below like sunlight. Her power was enormous and the daiyoukai was filled with pride when he felt his youki mixed in with it. He replaced the twin rings with the one he had special made for her onto her left ring finger and felt her power slide into him with incredible force. "The band is made of my fang so I will always be there to protect you and a part of me will always be at your side. This pearl came from a demon oyster and is another form of protection should you need it."

"What about my powers?"

"My youki will temper your reiki. Do not be afraid."

He looked into Kagome's watery eyes and waited for her response. Every second she didn't speak, his heart constricted a little more.

Kagome pulled one hand free to wipe her cheeks and returned it to Sesshoumaru's warmer ones. "I will become your mate under one condition."

"Anything." There was no hesitation in his response. His eyes held so much hope and love for her that Kagome could hardly bear to keep her gaze locked with his.

"Promise that you will never kneel to me again."

He stood quickly and caught her in his arms and claimed her mouth. His kisses were hungry and hard, her words finally putting an end to his centuries of torment. He was elated. He couldn't get enough of her. Sesshoumaru wanted to devour her and hide her away for the rest of his life. Different parts of him tightened when he heard her moan and knew that they needed to slow down. He didn't want to claim her in the middle of the forest.

Who was he kidding?

He did want to claim her in the middle of a forest. But not this one. He wanted to take her in his forest back home. He forced himself to move away from her luscious mouth and kissed his way down the side of her throat and took a couple of calming breaths at the back of her neck.

His voice was gravel. "You will never want for anything." He could hear her heavy breathing and grinned. "You will be happy with me."

Kagome pulled away from him and placed her hands on either side of his face. She heard the promise in her voice and didn't know if it was for her or for him that he gave that small reassurance. Her soft smile and watery eyes said it all. "You have already given me everything I could ever want. You gave me a place to belong," she kissed his left eye. "You gave me a family," she kissed his other eye, "and you gave me you." She gave him a chaste kiss on his lips. "I would be honored to be this Sesshoumaru's mate."

Sesshoumaru gathered his miko in his arms and showed her with his kisses just how happy he was. They sat together on the rock that split the river, looking out over the valley under the gentle glow of the full moon and didn't move from that spot until the sun rose over the horizon and blessed them as the eagle demon had said.

SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK

The next morning, Kagome slid off Sesshoumaru's fur-covered back in the clearing of Kepekai's village. He transformed back to his humanoid form and slid a hand over her waist. Kepekai grinned when he came out of his home and patted Sesshoumaru on the back.

"Congratulations, my boy. You have chosen a good woman who will bring you much happiness in your life. Your father visited me last night in a vision. He is pleased with you."

"Hn." His hand squeezed Kagome close to him. "My thanks, Kepekai, for allowing us to roam and enjoy your beautiful land."

"Do not thank me," he said. Then, grabbing Kagome's hand, Kepekai pressed it against his forehead and held it there. "It is I who should thank you for bringing such a blessing upon our land."

Kagome blushed and thanked him for his kind words.

"We must return to our conference. If you are ever in need, send word."

"Many thanks."

Within a half hour, they were back in their room showering and getting ready for the rest of the meetings they were to endure today.

Sesshoumaru took the time to warn Kagome of certain protocols now that she was promised to him. "Canines are extremely possessive and as such you must remain at my side at all times while we are around others. Other males are not allowed to touch you and you may not accept anything from them. I will receive gifts and such on your behalf."

Kagome wanted to joke around to lighten the mood but she knew Sesshoumaru wouldn't appreciate it. "I will remember."

She pulled her hair up into a ponytail and as she secured her hair, two large hands slid around her stomach and pulled her back against a hard chest. Sesshoumaru buried his nose in her neck and pulled in her scent and placed kisses up and down her neck and shoulder.

"Hey," she giggled. "You're messing my hair up."

There was a growl at her throat and then a nip at the skin there. Sesshoumaru nearly purred at the scent that rolled off her.

"I have spent many a night dreaming of holding you like this and kissing you…" he bent her head the other way and placed kisses down the side of her neck, "like this."

"We have to go, we're going to miss breakfast." Kagome tried to pull away but Sesshoumaru held her firm and growled at her. "Bad puppy, put me down." The demon lord growled again and held her tighter. His little session was interrupted by the phone.

Kagome reached for it and answered. "Hello? Yes, we're on our way down. Thank you." She ended the call and put it back on the cradle. "See? Come on, I'm hungry."

"We'll cancel all the meetings today and order room service."

Kagome twisted herself in his arms, allowing Sesshoumaru to see the bright blush on her cheeks. "You wish. I'm hungry." A growl from Kagome's stomach convinced Sesshoumaru that it would be better for them to go downstairs after all.

SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK ~ SK

Kagome did remember all that Sesshoumaru had told her that morning and was proud of herself. The workshops went well and now they were at the closing banquet for the conference. After the meal had been consumed, it was time for mixing and mingling and somehow Kagome had been separated from Sesshoumaru. It was an opportunity that one demon had been waiting for all evening and he took advantage of it. He saw how close she stayed to her companion and even seeing the ring on her finger did not deter him.

He had introduced himself as Marcus and was the head of some research department somewhere in this country. She merely nodded her head and went about looking for Sesshoumaru's telltale silver locks when a hand locked around her wrist. The youki was all wrong and Kagome tensed up.

"You're a pretty little thing."

"Hn." She actually sounded like Sesshoumaru now and wanted to snort at the revelation.

"Why don't you spend the evening with me and I can show you a good time. Not like that stiff who's been dragging you around all day. A woman like you needs special attention." His other hand slid to her waist and pulled her to him.

She had been warned about American demons but couldn't believe what was happening. "I am in a mating contract," she told him, her voice tight with anger. With as much strength as she could muster, Kagome ripped his hand away from her and backed up.

"Details, details. If you were my fiancée, I wouldn't leave you alone long enough to be snatched up by someone else…"

Sesshoumaru felt a familiar reiki swell in the room but for all the wrong reasons. What was normally warm and inviting was frozen and biting and as it grew in strength, so did the scent of fear. His colleagues had paused in their conversation and looked toward the source of the terrifying power. A wide circle appeared near the refreshment table and Sesshoumaru's hackles rose when he heard Kagome's voice.

"I am engaged to a demon. Touch me again and I will consider it an offense of Demon Law."

"So you do speak English. I just assumed you didn't."

"You assume a lot of things. Get your hands off me."

The demon male chuckled and Sesshoumaru watched as those surrounding the commotion – demon and holy alike – back away as fast as they could. His red-rimmed eyes clearly saw Kagome and the offender and he let out a low growl that had heads turning in his direction. The offending demon reached a hand out to pull Kagome close and Sesshoumaru felt a great deal of his youki leave him. In the blink of an eye, the demon was thrown against the wall and held there with no physical effort from his miko. A sense of pride filled his chest, but not nearly as much as hatred and the desire to decimate the one that had touched what was only his to touch.

"Help! That crazy priestess attacked me! Someone help!" His screams silenced the DJ's music and youkai guards surrounded him and the miko.

Sesshoumaru rushed to Kagome's side and put a hand on her shoulder. That bastard's scent was all over her and Sesshoumaru wished they were in Japan where the laws were more devastating. But they weren't. They were in the United States where almost everyone was sue-happy.

"I'm going to rip away everything you own. International law applies here-" the young demon foolishly yelled to his captive audience.

Sesshoumaru's threatening growls silenced the young demon. "This whole room witnessed the miko tell you she was engaged to a demon twice and you still ignored International Demon Laws."

The daiyoukai pulled in three deep breaths before attempting to placate the priestess in his care. "Release him, Kagome. Youkai enforcement will deal with him."

Kagome spoke loud enough for everyone to hear. "He touched me." The miko's powers flared and danced wildly around the room. All inhabitants were too frightened to move, lest they attract the miko's ire and strange purification on themselves. Others, most too young to have endured such mighty powers compared to the elders in their midst, stood in awe of the conflicting powers held within the tiny human woman.

"Sesshoumaru-" Tanaka called out to him. The elder demon had also made the trip to discuss schematics with other designers and it was a good thing he did too. "Sesshoumaru, calm her. She is causing distress to the others here."

"Weaklings," he muttered before moving to stand before Kagome. He looked into her eyes and pushed his youki toward her, mixing it in with hers and attempting to snap her out of her power-induced trance. "Calm yourself, Kagome. Let him down. You are hurting the others in the room." Sesshoumaru growled low and Kagome felt it vibrate through her. He placed his hand on her cheek and his amber eyes burned with unspoken emotion. "You are safe."

That comforting sensation mixed with his rising youki and his words calmed the miko down enough to release the offender from the wall. Two guards came and collected the male and took him away while the director of the conference apologized for the scene and congratulated Sesshoumaru for being engaged all in one breath.

When Kagome had calmed down enough to realize what had happened, her face lit up with embarrassment and the shock of so much angry power rolling through her brought tears to her eyes. She stiffened even as Sesshoumaru took her hand into the crook of his arm. Sesshoumaru gave Tanaka a look before escorting Kagome back up to their room.

She managed to maintain her composure until the lock of their room door clicked into place. Kagome turned and burrowed herself into Sesshoumaru's chest and sobbed all over his dress shirt. One hand slid around her waist and pulled her close and the other weaved through her hair and held her head against his chest where she could feel the calm and steady thumping of his heart.

After what seemed like a good amount of time, Sesshoumaru kissed the crown of her ebony locks and asked, "why do you cry, Kagome?"

Her scent changed from a zinging anger to fear in a heartbeat and Kagome clutched his clothes tighter to herself. "I'm so sorry, Sesshoumaru."

His voice was gentle as he ran his claws through her hair, more of a comfort for him than her. "For what?"

"I was so angry!" Her voice was taught with emotion. "I don't know what came over me. I wanted to purify him for touching me. I wanted to blast him all over the room and make an example of him. I don't have feelings like that. I don't even know where that came from."

He stiffened at her words and when he caught the last part of her rant, Sesshoumaru did something Kagome rarely heard. Her body shook with rumbles and it wasn't until Kagome heard those barks of laughter grow in volume that she realized what had happened.

Sesshoumaru was laughing at her.

His laugh was husky and his eyes glowed with mirth, and when those amber orbs made contact with hers, Kagome melted at the sight. It was a good thing his arms were around her because the sound of his laughter sent tingles through her body in a way she never knew a laugh could. Her stomach clenched with a burning she was becoming familiar with as of late, the burn of arousal.

She sniffled. "It's not funny."

Sesshoumaru was still laughing when he looked down at her and seeing how she tried to cover her embarrassment and arousal with irritation at him for laughing made him laugh harder.

"It is from where I'm sitting." And it really was. She was such a small, fragile thing and she had pinned a demon to the wall of the ballroom with their combined energy alone. And then she cried because of a few violent thoughts? He would never be bored with her, he knew that from five hundred years ago and it was still true to this day.

"What if I had actually hurt him?"

Serious again, Sesshoumaru lifted her chin until she looked in his eyes. "You would be in your right. I would have killed him had you not taken action first."

"I totally bluffed. I don't know anything about international law but I was hoping that he was young and stupid enough that he didn't know them either."

"You were correct about the International Demon Law. I helped to write those laws."

Kagome looked up at him and rolled her watery eyes. "Of course. I don't know how I didn't think of that one." And it was true. He had been around for centuries and with Inuyasha's input, Sesshoumaru and some of the other demon lords around the world had come together to start the negotiations for peace.

"This was so much easier in the Sengoku Jidai." Kagome sighed and left off what she was going to say.

"Indeed. I would have killed the fool for touching you."

Her eyes widened and a wry smile touched her lips. "I was going to say I could have purified him but who am I to deny you the pleasure?"

"Who indeed. Come." Sesshoumaru slid his hand down to hers and led her to the sofa in the parlor. It was habit now, when they were alone or at home that she was to be in some sort of contact with him. The inuyoukai was so tall that even on his lap, he was still a good head taller than her. He made her feel so tiny when he held her close. But there was nowhere else or no one else that she would feel such comfort from.

And now he was all hers.