Disclaimer: I do not own Vampire Knight, Yuki, Zero, Kaname, or any of its other characters. If I did, Yuki wouldn't be torn between Zero and Kaname, and Zero would be her definite choice, and there'd be another way to save Zero's life. The only person I own is Kuroma Yaseiri, so please don't steal him.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: As always, I do not read online manga and therefore do not know what happens in the more current volumes. The fifth volume is now available for purchase here in the United States, however, I have not yet read it because I did not want it to ruin the vision I had for this story, the final installment of my Vampire Knight series. Because of this, this story will continue to be written purely on my knowledge of the first four volumes.

One more quick author's note and then onto the story. To all those who have been following this series from the very beginning, you have my deepest apologies for such a long wait and I thank you all for being so patient with me. I'd also like to extend a special thanks to YenGirl for her beautiful reviews and her encouraging words. These past two months have been exceedingly difficult for me between work, school and an emotional relationship, but somehow I managed to complete this story. And so, today, on my twentieth birthday, this story is my gift to all since I'll be getting more than I want. Enjoy.

This is the fifth of my one-shot series, How The Rose Blooms. Inspired by real-life events, sappy love songs and the brainchild of the hopeless romantic in me.

How The Rose Blooms: Alive At Last

Lips met in a slow burning, smoldering kiss. Breaths mingled together, becoming one. Noses rubbed affectionately. Soft, satiny hair swept over a pale cheek. Chests crushed against one another; solid, hard muscle against soft, pliable flesh. Arms encircled a slender waist, constricting tightly with a loving, possessive squeeze. A pleased sigh. Necks craned for better access. Teeth grazing lightly over the long expanse of a creamy throat. A startled gasp. A low chuckle.

Cloth whispered against skin as buttons were undone and the fabric fell aside. Hands firmly gripped a narrow waist. Hips grinded together, rocking against one another in a slow, sensual rhythm. Moans and pants filled the still night air in harmony. Thighs quivered involuntarily. An earlobe was caught gently between white teeth. A hiss passed between a clenched jaw.

Eyes met in wordless understanding. A mouth pressed tenderly against a collarbone, trailing over a muscular chest with warm, butterfly kisses. A tongue delved into a bellybutton. A head was thrown back against the untamed grass, a strangled groan erupting from parted lips. Fingers brushed against the waistline of jeans, slipping under the heavy fabric, traveling lower and lower, searching…

"Yuki…! Stop…!"

Strong fingers curled around my wrist like a vice, hindering my hand. Blinking in confusion, I stared down at my boyfriend, wondering what boundary I crossed.

Zero was panting underneath me, his bare, alabaster chest heaving up and down as he breathed in raggedly. Silvery, starlight hair was strewn around his head like a halo on the blanket of grass that he was currently digging the base of his skull into. His lavender-gray, moonstone eyes flickered in and out of focus, closing and opening. A slight trembling rippled over his body and his fingers were gripping my hip and wrist with an almost bruising force.

"What's the matter? What'd I do wrong?" I asked worriedly, pouting a little. His hand was still clutching at my wrist and I could feel the fine trembling through the connection of his skin on mine.

Zero struggled to force his words out though his panting and labored breathing. "It's not… what you're… doing wrong…" he explained breathlessly, his lust-darkened, twilight eyes locking with mine. "It's what you're… doing right."

The argent-haired vampire shook his head back and forth over the grass, closing his eyes in bewildered reverence. "You're way too good at this."

Blushing, I smiled shyly at him. "Well, I've had a lot of practice…" I murmured embarrassedly, averting my eyes from his. Instead, I focused on the platinum dragon pendant lying on his bare chest.

My boyfriend laughed weakly, a tired, strained sound. "Can't argue with that…" Zero panted, then closed his eyes as his fair eyebrows scrunched together. A shudder passed through his body and he groaned desperately. With Herculean effort, he slipped my hand out from under the fabric of his jeans.

Freeing my wrist, he tucked his fingers under my chin and lifted my eyes to his. The hunger and raw desire had faded from his lilac-and-pearl irises, but the love and fierce protection remained.

"However," he began feebly, cupping the side of my cheek with his palm and stroking his thumb over my skin, "you're making me want more than I'm willing to take from you, you little seductress."

Sighing in defeat, my shoulders slumped and my body slackened in surrender so that when Zero rolled over, he knocked me from his hips as easily if I was a rag doll. Untangling our legs, the former human embraced me as we lay on our sides, facing each other.

For the time being, I let the subject drop, momentarily content to simply rest in my fair vampire's arms, absentmindedly twining the thin silver chain of his necklace around my fingers. I'd grant him plenty of time to unwind before returning to the issue at hand. Or at least, as much time as I was willing to wait. After all, it was a common subject of argument that hadn't yet been resolved. By now, he should know that it'd be coming sooner or later.

Two years had passed since Zero and I first started dating and we had just graduated from our senior year of high school. Of course, both of us would be remaining at Cross Academy with the Chairman for the months of June, July and August as we always did. However, we were determined to enjoy every last bit of this summer together before we started college in the fall.

Through much trial and error and an enormous stroke of luck, Zero and I had managed to be accepted into the same college. I was aiming for a degree in ethics, while Zero was preparing for a math degree.

After several stressful months of careful consideration, I decided that teaching ethics and morals was something I could do well. After all, living with the Headmaster and all his beliefs of vampires and humans coexisting had crafted me into an expert on the subject. Once I earned my degree, the current ethics teacher for the Night Class – who had been planning on retiring within the course of a few years anyways – would step aside for me when I graduated. Never would I have considered becoming a teacher before, but unlike anything else the incompetent school counselors suggested, I could actually see myself doing this and enjoying it.

Zero, on the other hand, planned on earning a math degree only to for the purpose of having something to fall back on if absolutely necessary. He, too, had a spot reserved specifically for him at Cross Academy's teaching staff. However, unlike me, this job did not require a retiring teacher and it was completely different from his degree. In four years, a new elective would be available to the Night Class, a class designed specifically for Zero – a Weaponry and Arms class.

When I asked him why he didn't consider becoming a math teacher, he'd stared at me as if I had three heads.

"Can you see me doing something as normal as lecturing and grading papers for a living?" he'd asked with humorous disbelief.

And thus, the Weaponry and Arms elective had been devised. Now, Zero would be able to profess in his favorite talent: fighting. And, he also volunteered to act as a fill in for the Equestrian teacher for whenever she was absent, so it was quite possible he'd be teaching horseback-riding lessons as well.

Connections. Gotta love 'em. Finally, after all these years of living with the eccentric, hair-brained Chairman, it was starting to pay off.

Kaname was also remaining at Cross Academy, but mainly for the purpose of managing the new, incoming vampire pupils. In his own way, he was on equal footing with the Headmaster. All those who misbehaved in the Night Class would be sent directly to his office and would have to answer to him. Not that it was much of a change from the status he held during his own school days, but this made it all the more official and intimidating.

Though it had taken a very long time, Kaname had finally accepted Zero's and my relationship. And what a relief that was, too. Since acknowledging that my love for my silver-haired partner wasn't going to fade anytime soon, the pureblood had skirted away from any action that would make Zero's blood boil… namely maintaining any kind of physical contact with me.

In the end, that was the key. Kaname and I could maintain a friendship status without me feeling awkward around him and Kaname didn't lose me completely, even if I wasn't in his life as a romantic interest. Even Zero and Kaname themselves had become a bit more hospitable towards each other. While I wouldn't exactly call the two friendly, they certainly weren't clawing at each other's throats as they had been in earlier years.

The thought made me smile. Finally, there was a truce between the silver-haired hunter and the brunette pureblood. A most welcome turn of events for me since I no longer had to concern myself with who was planning on murdering whom.

With that out of the way, I could now focus my energy on obtaining what I really wanted. Though Zero and I had been dating for two years, my partner had flatly refused to walk the final step of the physical aspect of our relationship. For the first year and a half, I'd been fine with it. I was more than happy to satisfy my more carnal needs with other means of pleasure and by re-exploring those boundaries we broke two Septembers ago. Not to mention, at the time, losing my virginity was a daunting prospect for me.

But now, I was more than ready. At eighteen years old, I wanted to experience the ultimate act of love with Zero. However, while the dusky-eyed vampire spoiled me to no end, under no circumstance would he surrender to my desire to become one with him. Highly unusual behavior for a nineteen-year-old boy, right? More over, my boyfriend wouldn't tell me why or what were his motivations for refusing me.

Wearily, I sighed as I rested my cheek against the heated skin of Zero's chest.

"What's wrong?" Zero asked suddenly, alerted by the sound. Lightly stroking my arm, the former hunter trailed his fingertips up over my shoulder to softly capture my chin and tilted my head up to him so he could see my eyes.

I shrugged and dislodged his hand from my chin. Like a kitten, I nuzzled against his fingers until he caressed my face and pet my hair with a smile. Closing my eyes to further enjoy my boyfriend's fingers in my hair, I answered him quietly, "I was just thinking."

"About what?" he inquired with mild curiosity, pressing his lips to the top of my head and breathing in my scent as he played with my hair.

I deliberated for half a second, well aware that I was about to ruin the moment, then hesitantly said, "You… and your policy."

There was silence for a moment. Though I wasn't watching his face, I sensed Zero's full lips drawing into a thoughtful frown and his pale, silvery eyebrows lowering over his lavender-gray eyes. I could almost hear the gears in his head working as he examined my words. Then the arm around me stiffened and the hand in my hair froze.


Now that he understood what I was hinting at, he sighed in weary exasperation, his posture slowly relaxing.

"We're not discussing this subject, Yuki," Zero murmured, his hand threading once again through my hair, allowing the bronze locks to slide between his fingers like melted chocolate.

"Well why not?" I demanded and hoisted myself up on my elbow, gazing down into my boyfriend's dusky eyes.

The starlight-haired vampire held my gaze evenly with his exotic eyes, his pale skin milky in the moonlight. When it became apparent that he wasn't going to respond, I dropped my defiant expression for a gentler one.

"Will we ever?" I asked wistfully, brushing his silky, wintry bangs out of his face.

Zero sighed again and closed his eyes. Still he didn't answer.

"If you won't give me an answer about that, can you at least tell me why you're so dead-set against it?" I pleaded longing, studying his still face for any creases between the eyebrows or slight frowns. Anything that signaled that his resolve was weakening.

Nothing. His face remained smooth and impassive.

Opening his eyes, Zero unleashed the full power of his moonstone irises on me, effectively stunning me. Sighing for the third time, the argent-haired vampire towed me back down to him and held me against his warm chest. I cuddled against him, resigning myself to the fact that he wasn't going to answer any of my questions.

Then, I heard Zero's low, husky voice say, "I know what you're thinking, Yuki. You think that I don't want to be with you in that way, that I don't desire you. But that's not true. I do want you, Yuki, and some times you make it so incredibly difficult for me to refuse you."

"So then why do you always do it?" I demanded exasperatedly as I stared up at him, though I was thrilled that we were finally broaching the topic.

Zero's eyes clouded over, his face hardening with ancient fury, guilt and self-hatred that I was all-too familiar with. Whenever he thought back to his bleak days as a former-human vampire – the days before Kuroma Yaseiri saved him – and the measures he and I ventured into in hopes of securing his sanity, this was the expression that always darkened his handsome face.

Even before the words could leave his mouth, I suddenly knew what Zero would say…

"Because I don't want to steal anything else away from you," the former hunter said dismally. "Wasn't drinking your blood enough? I deprived you of something so vital that keeps you breathing. I won't rob you of your virtue, too."

"It's not robbery if I willingly surrender it," I reminded him softly. However, I edited out what I really wanted to say, which was that I was so ready to sacrifice my virginity to him that I'd gift wrap it, address it to Zero and plop it in his lap like a Christmas present.

"Listen, Zero," I urged intently now that he was finally opening up to this topic. "I wouldn't – or would even want to – lose my virginity to anyone but you. Meaning that I've saved it for you and only you. I want to be bound to you in that way, Zero. Please."

The silver-haired vampire sighed. "We'll see," he grunted noncommittally, and after a brief pause, he smirked. "Besides, at any rate, if I do succumb to your wishes, it certainly isn't going to happen in such an inappropriate places as this." He motioned around us at the rose garden we were laying in.

"What's wrong with this?" I inquired with genuine curiosity as I glanced at the rows of rose buses that seemed to tower over us from our reclining position on the earth. "Making love under the stars, isolated from civilization, surrounded on all sides by roses…. It's kinda romantic."

Zero smiled faintly, his lavender-cloud eyes soft as he gazed at me and ruffled my hair fondly. "Don't push your luck," he suggested in a murmur, sounding only slightly disgruntled. "Let me consider your first request before you start making demands about where I take you."

I blushed a little at that.

"After all, beggars can't be choosers," the starlight-haired vampire added as an afterthought.

Petulantly, I grumbled under my breath at the overused but oh-so-true statement. My partner sat up then and I 'hmphed' grumpily at the loss of warmth, leaning on my arms as I craned my neck back to watch him. Swiftly, Zero buttoned up his shirt, smoothing out the white fabric, checking for grass stains and adjusting the long chain around his throat before he stood up.

Glancing down at me, Zero extended a hand and said, "C'mon. If I don't bring you home soon, the Chairman is going to get panicky. Whether he raised me or not, you're still his precious daughter and I'm still your boyfriend. He's gonna be concerned on some level."

"Yeah, well, if he knew I was the one trying to seduce you instead of the other way around, he'd be concerned about you instead of me," I groused peevishly, accepting the nightwalker's hand and allowed him to help me to my feet.

Zero laughed at my comment, lavender-gray eyes suddenly shining with humor. "Maybe," he agreed, chuckling.

Without another word, the moonlight-haired vampire laced his long, slender fingers with mine and guided me carefully through the constricted, brick walkways between the ranks of the multi-hued roses. We walked in comfortable silence through the twisting path and my free hand lightly brushed over the delicate, velvety rose petals.

Finally, we passed under the white archway that marked the entrance of the gardens, carefully avoiding the thorns of the rose vines that had twisted around the painted wood. Tethered to the wrought-iron fence surrounding the gardens were our horses. Zero and I had been out riding before we decided to visit the rose gardens and then became… preoccupied.

White Lily – Zero's mount, obviously – turned her snowy head upon our approach and snorted at me, pawing the grass with her pale hooves. I balked at her obvious distaste for me. But the moment her favorite silvery-haired vampire touched the side of her strong, snowflake neck, she settled down. Whispering soothingly into one conical ear, Zero stroked her pure white fur and mane, calming her until she had completely forgotten about me and focused on him instead.

Smiling at my boyfriend's apparent talent with animals, I darted past the ashen mare over to my own chestnut colt, Cedar. He was still relatively young, only three years of age, and therefore, not overwhelmingly huge in size, perfect for my height and tiny stature.

As Zero combed his tapered fingers through Lily's snowdrop mane, reining her under control, Cedar affectionately nudged my cheek with his downy nose. Giggling I caressed his long face and traced the unusual, upside-down crescent moon shaped mark on his forehead. Untying his reins from the fence, I tossed them over his head and stepped up into the saddle, adjusting myself properly.

Once Zero had mounted White Lily, I lightly pressed my heel into the left side of Cedar's flanks, directing him to turn. The pale vampire urge Lily into a slow walk towards me and a breathtaking smile spread his lips.

"Race you to the stables," he challenged, his voice filled with excitement.

Despite the fact that I knew who would win this competition, there was no way I could deny that expression of utmost excitement.

"You're on!" I exclaimed, and without waiting for a response, I kicked Cedar in a fast canter. The chestnut sprang into action, bolting across the fields like a bullet shot from a gun and nickered excitedly.

From behind us there was a shout of wild laughter; deep, rich and completely unhindered. The sound made my heart soar. Finally, Zero's pain had faded, stripping him of his cold, stoic personality. Finally, the Zero that had existed before Shizuka Hio's attack – the Zero that I never knew – had returned from his eight year absence. True, he still remained firm with the screeching Day Class girls and was still harsh towards some of his less favored Night Class students, but he didn't send as many girls screaming away from him in fear as he used to.

It was then that Zero caught up to me, riding with such fluidity and grace that it took my breath away. He was flawless, almost as if he was born to ride horses. The starlight-haired vampire could direct the mare with the slightest touch or a whispered command. With an almost anticipatory ease, he matched her movements and centered his weight perfectly. Silvery strands of hair whipped around his alabaster face as he bent low over White Lily's neck, lilac-and-pearl eyes focus.

For the majority of the run, Zero maintained an identical speed with, White Lily matching Cedar's strides easily. The snowy mare wasn't the most fleet-foot horse in Cross Academy but with an excellent handler like my partner, she could've won a race against the fastest thoroughbred.

The moment the stables came into sight, we spurred out horses into a gallop. However, Zero and Lily outdistanced Cedar and I in seconds, even in the face of our best attempts to beat them. When the two fair-haired creatures were twenty feet ahead of us and it became clear that there was no way we'd be able to catch up with them, I slowed my horse down to a tamed trot. There was no point in wearing him out all for naught. Watching Zero and Lily run until they were little more than a white dot in the distance, I marveled at the partnership between them and wondered how my boyfriend had become so gifted with animals.

By the time Cedar and I reached the sables, White Lily was already in her stall, unsaddled, with the argent-haired vampire brushing a curry comb over her hide. As we entered the barn, Zero glanced up and smirked.

"'Bout time," he called in amusement. "I was about to send a search party for you. I thought you got lost along the way."

"Oh, stuff it," I griped playfully, dismounting and leading the chestnut over to his stall.

The former hunter chuckled faintly before returning to his task when White Lily chewed impatiently on a lock of moon-colored hair. Quietly, I removed Cedar's bridle and saddle and hung them up neatly.

Before I could turn around, lithe arms wrapped around my waist, drawing me against a warm chest. Lips touched the skin slightly below my ear and an involuntarily shiver passed through me. Zero's musky, metallic scent washed over me, mingling together with the earthy smell of horses. Smiling, I tilted my head backwards and his lips found mine. His arms tightened around me as his tongue slid past my lips, causing heat to gather in the pit of my stomach.

When we parted, winded, I gasped, "For someone who doesn't want to give into my pleas, this is a bad place to be starting something you're not gonna finish." A blush stained my cheeks as heated memories of this stable popped into mind.

"Not my fault. I can't help it," he grumbled, kissing down the side of my neck and carefully biting me, mindful of his fangs. Gasping, I shuddered and squeezed my eyes shut. Sometimes that vampire was such a damned tease! Whenever he bit me, with or without fangs, it never failed to cause all feeling to rush from my body and turn my limbs into listless Jell-O. Worst of all, he knew what it did to me, so I'm sure he purposely bit me just to watch my reaction.

"Then whose fault is it, then?" I panted weakly; his hot breath on the back of my neck was driving me wild.

"Yours," the vampire growled, nipping at my throat, "for being so completely and irresistibly gorgeous."

I blushed, instantly turning back into that innocent sixteen-year-old girl who'd had her first sexual experience in this very barn two year ago. No matter how many times he said it, I always blushed with embarrassment every time Zero called me beautiful.

"Blame whoever my parents were. Not me," I mumbled as my boyfriend buried his nose in my hair. "I have no control over it."

Zero laughed but then released me from his grasp, much to my disappointment. The pale nightwalker stood off to the side as I finished hanging up Cedar's gear and carefully locked his stall door.

As I walked back to my awaiting partner, he held out his hand to me. Locking my fingers with his, I allowed him to tug me into a light jog over the expanse of the pasture. The fields flew by as Zero and I ran, hand-in-hand over the thick, emerald grass. Like a gentleman, he followed the pace of my smaller strides rather than sprinting at his full potential and towing me behind like a carriage.

Before long, we had reached the arched breezeways that connected the school paths to one another and slowed our jog to a leisurely stroll. Speaking quietly amongst ourselves, we discussed the day's events. Zero opened the entrance door for me and reclaimed my hand once we were both safely inside. Continuing our conversation in a whisper, we weaved through familiar hallways until we reached the Headmaster's private living area.

We had just barely passed the bathroom door when it was flung open and the Chairman burst out, alerted by the sound of our voices. Clad in his sleepwear, the Headmaster's flaxen hair was tied at the base of his neck in a low ponytail and his topaz irises blinked owlishly at us from behind his glasses. Tense, golden-brown eyes roamed over me, almost as if checking for any out-of-place marks or an unusual degree of disheveled-ness. Discovering none of these things, my adoptive father visibly relaxed, slumping against the frame of the bathroom door.

"Oh, Yuki, Kiryu. You're finally back," the Chairman sighed, relief plainly noticeable in his voice.

"Sorry we're late, Chai – Father," I apologized. "We lost track of time."

He sighed, obviously torn between waving it aside or acting firm and fatherly. Somehow, he managed to do both.

"I'll overlook it this one time. But really, Kiryu, do make an effort to bring Yuki home at a more reasonable hour. I mean, it's…" He stumbled around for a moment, searching for a clock since he obviously had no idea what the time was. Failing to locate one, he seized Zero's left wrist and yanked his sleeve back to squint down at the tiny hands on the simple black wristwatch. "Two in the morning! I'm far too old to be waiting up until this ungodly hour, but I was worried that you two hadn't returned yet."

Zero's moonstone irises found me, one silvery eyebrow raising in an I-told-you-so expression. With some difficulty, I resisted the temptation to stick my tongue out at him.

"I'm sorry, Chairman. I'll do my best to bring Yuki home earlier next time," the pearly-haired vampire promised.

Nodding, the Headmaster relaxed completely, almost to the point of collapsing to the ground. "Oh, of course, Kiryu. I trust you. You're a responsible young man."

Too responsible, I grumbled in my head.

My foster father paused them, eyeing us with his tawny eyes. "Still, I never thought I'd see the day when you two would become a couple," he commented, his bright eyes sparkling with something that was suspiciously similar to the beginning of tears. "How long have you two been dating now?"

"Two years," we said simultaneously. Zero and I glanced at each other. Blushing, I quickly looked away as the pale-eyed hunter smirked. Yet another thing I loved about Zero. He kept track of time and remembered important dates.

There was no mistaking it now. The Headmaster's eyes were brimming with tears. "Ahh, how time flies! The joys of young love and the promise of forever!" he gushed dramatically, rivers of tears streaming down his cheeks from behind his glasses. "Before I know it, you two will be married, bouncing your own little bundle of joy on your knee and I'll be a granddaddy!"

The smile on Zero's face had morphed into an icy glare and the Chairman immediately broke off his fatherly – or in this case, motherly – rambling at the sight of the venomous glower. I, too, would've added my own appalled expression were it not for the fact that I was completely mortified. Currently, I was hiding my blushing face under my hair. Adoptive father or not, it was entirely humiliating to hear the Headmaster say those kinds of things in front of my boyfriend.

The pale vampire's glare hadn't receded yet, and sensing danger, the Chairman waved us away. "Go on, you two. You both should be in bed."

And with that, he clicked off the bathroom light and shuffled down the hall in his slippers, blubbering slightly as he went.

Shaking his head in disgust and muttering under his breath, Zero once against took my hand and guided me down the hall. The Headmaster's words seemed to bounce between us, creating an awkward silence.

"Well. That was… embarrassing," I mumbled, cheeks still aflame.

"Extremely," Zero agreed with a curt nod, the faintest hint of pink tinting his ivory cheeks.

That took me by surprise as I marveled at the color flushing my partner's otherwise colorless skin. Was Zero blushing?

Before I had time to fathom it, the hand in mine tugged me to a stop and I realized we were standing outside of my old room. Enveloping me in his arms, the silver-haired vampire crushed me to his chest and gently lifted my chin so that he could kiss me. Sighing into the kiss, I melted into his embrace and wrapped my arms around his neck, standing on my tip-toes to gain a better angle. Zero tilted his head, his mouth moving gently against mine as he hugged me tighter.

When the lack of air made itself known, we reluctantly separated, both of us a little short of breath.

Touching his forehead to mine, Zero murmured, "Good night, Yuki." He pressed a kiss to my brow.

I brushed my lips against his full one and whispered back against the soft flesh. "Good night, Zero," and kissed him briefly.

Untangling our arms from each other, I fumbled behind me for the doorknob and somehow managed to open it. Stepping inside, I turned around to face my vampire boyfriend and propped my shoulder against the side of the door.

"Don't forget about what I told you tonight, Zero," I instructed firmly. "About your policy? Give what I said some thought, okay?"

Zero pursed his lips. "We'll see," he murmured, then leaned in for one last kiss. "Night."

Then with a pale, ghost-like blur, he was gone, striding down the hall to his bedroom. I watched him go with a smile on my face before slipping back inside my room.

Closing the door, I shed my day clothes, slipped into my pajamas and crawled under the sheets of my bed. I was asleep almost as soon as my head it the pillow, dreaming of me and Zero and all the possibilities that the Chairman's words had brought to light.

Yellow. That was the first thing that registered in my mind as I gradually awoke from my dream-laced slumber. The inside of my eyelids were a clear, soft yellow. That could only mean on of two things: Either the sun was particularly bright this morning or it was very late in the day.

Cracking my eyes open, I winced at the bright sunlight pouring though my lace covered windows like a spotlight. Fighting the urge to grimace, I twisted my head to the right and thrust out my arm. Blindly, my fingers groped over the surface of my bedside table until they touched the smooth plastic of my clock radio. Slanting it towards me, I unwillingly lifted my head and blearily gazed at the red digits.

My second option had been correct. It was ten in the morning.

Groaning, I closed my eyes again and rolled over… and frowned when something crackled softly under my head. Bewildered, I lifted myself up onto my forearms and squinted down at left corner of my pillow. A comprehending smile slowly stretched across my face.

The crackling noise that had alerted me was a – now slightly crumpled – piece of paper, on which a note was scrawled. Attached to the bottom of the note was a sprig of lavender, its warm, spicy scent reaching my nose.

Shoving my messy, bed-head hair out of my face, I gingerly lifted the note from the pillow and forced my sleepy eyes to focus on the words:

Yuki… There's something important I have to do so I'll be gone for the day. The Chairman is – regrettably – coming with me since he knows the town better than I do. I'll be back later tonight. Stay out of trouble. Be thinking of you every second that I'm gone. – Zero.

Lovingly, I traced my fingertips over the penned words, examining Zero's untidy handwriting. I was very tempted to throw myself back down, yank the covers over my head and go right back to sleep. An entire day without Zero? How on Earth was I supposed to pass the time?

Gently prying the tiny, purple bundle of lavender from the crinkled paper and inhaling its sweet, tangy aroma, I considered the dilemma. Thinking back to two years ago, I wracked my brain for what I used to do to occupy myself before Zero became the center of my universe.

Then it hit me and I smiled, praising myself for the idea. Tenderly laying the lavender aside, I rummaged through my nightstand drawer and fished out my hot pink cell phone. Flipping it open, I scrolled though the list of names before hitting the one I wanted and pressing the call button.

The phone rang two times before she picked up. "Hello?"

"Hey, Yori! It's Yuki," I greeted cheerfully, unable to keep the smile off my face as I rolled onto my stomach, bending my legs up over my body and locking them together at the ankles.

"Oh, hi, Yuki!" Yori said in her quiet voice, sounding pleasantly surprised and welcoming. "Wow, I feel like we haven't talked in ages… probably since school let out. I should've called sooner, but as foolish as it sounds, I just became so absorbed with Aki that I suppose I forgot about the world outside of him…."

Laughing lightly, I thought back to the end of senior year. Aki was a good-looking, auburn-haired boy from the Day Class that had fallen head-over-heels for Yori. At first, I was positive that no boy would ever have the amount of determination and patience necessary to woe Yori and win her fragile trust, but Aki proved me wrong. The boy had verified his worth to both me and Yori after he made it perfectly clear that he was completely serious about the petite blonde girl. If Yori asked it of him, he probably would've travel to the Underworld and back. And so she accepted his affections and two months later, she was just as crazy about Aki as he was for her.

"Don't worry about it, Yori," I consoled my obviously chagrined best friend. "Anyone with a boyfriend tends to forget that there are more things that exist in the universe besides him. Hell, I still do that on occasion, and you'd think I'd be over that phase by now!"

Yori giggled softly, reassured. "I suppose so. So what's the latest news with you? Anything new I should know about?" she inquired politely, dutifully. It was so like Yori. She never allowed a conversation to be focused on her for too long.

"Nah, not really. Just staying up late, riding around the school, tormenting the Chairman whenever the opportunity presents itself. The usual," I honestly informed her, lightly kicking my feet back and forth. "You?"

"Bored out of my mind," she responded with a woebegone sigh. "The only time I ever leave the house is when Aki stops by, but with him working all summer, it's so rare that I even get to see him. You're so lucky, Yuki. You get to spend all summer with Zero." She paused for a moment, then asked, "How are you two doing anyways?"

"Wonderful," I told her with a grin, and then, sensing the perfect opportunity to cut in with my reason for calling, I added, "In fact, Zero's gone for the day so he's finally freed up some time for me to do other things. I was thinking that maybe I could re-explore the world that doesn't revolve around him. So you wanna hang out today? We haven't had girl time in a while since the boyfriends entered the picture."

"Absolutely," Yori consented without a moment's hesitation. "My parents have the car for the day so I'm stuck here. Why don't you come over to my house?"

"No problem," I agreed enthusiastically. "Be there in an hour?"

"Sounds good to me. See you soon, Yuki."

"Bye!" I said cheerfully before hanging up the phone.

Once off the line with Yori, I kicked the covers off me and crawled out of bed. Before I did anything else, I filled an empty glass with water and plopped the sprig of lavender into it. Carefully, I placed it on my windowsill for light. After a moment of gazing contently at the delicate, soft purple blossoms, I rummaged through my closet for a decent set of clothes and hurried onto the bathroom. Showering as quickly as I could force myself to, I threw my clothes on and ran a comb though my hair. Then I rushed back to my room, snatching up my purse and keys.

On my way out the door, I paused when my eyes fell on the necklace Zero presented to me for Christmas two years ago. I was always careful whenever I wore it, afraid that some calamity would occur and the fragile black lace would be torn. Therefore, I only wore it on special occasions when I knew it wasn't at risk and I never wore it during the school years when I had to beat back the Day Class girls.

Determining that it would be in no imminent danger on a girl's day out with Yori, I tenderly removed the choker from my jewelry box and carefully attached it to my throat. Lightly, I touched the carved red rose resting in between my collarbones and smiled.

Them, I slung the strap of my purse over my shoulder and dashed though the halls out to the circular driveway. Sliding into my sleek, red convertible – a gift from Kaname when I turned eighteen – I revved the ignition and drove out of the Academy grounds.

Top down, the wind rushed over me, tangling in my hair like fingers as I drove down the winding roads to Yori's house. Sunlight filtered though the emerald green leaves above my head in an enchanting, natural canopy. As I zipped along the street, I couldn't help but wonder what Zero was doing.

He'd never really found a store worth visiting in the town, always complaining that it held nothing of interest to him. Even to this day he grumbled and scowled whenever the compulsion to shop struck me. I still had to drag him with me and the silver-haired vampire still treated it as if he was bound for the gallows.

So my question now was, what was so important that Zero voluntarily made a trip into town? And why didn't he take me along? Why the Chairman instead of me?

I pondered these questions all the way to Yori's house, searching got the solution… or at the very least an idea. But by the time I parked alongside the curb of the Wakabe's quaint, pale yellow Colonial thirty minutes later, I remained without an answer. I was drawing a complete blank.

Filing my curiosities about Zero's mysterious outing with the Headmaster to the back of my mind, I cut the engine and stepped out of the car. Almost as soon as the convertible's door slammed shut, the screen door opened and the petite, blond form of Sayori Wakabe emerged.

Grinning ecstatically, I raced up the driveway and nearly knocked the poor girl over when I threw my arms around her in an enormous hug, exclaiming, "Yori!"

She laughed lightly, returning the hug softly. "As lively as ever, I see," Yori commented quietly, polite humor in her voice.

"Wouldn't be me if I wasn't," I quipped, chipper as I released my best friend with a smile.

Yori smiled warmly at me, her topaz eyes dancing merrily, her blond hair gleaming like burnished gold in the sunlight. Even after all this time, she had never deviated from her usual short bob, preferring to keep her soft waves at a continuous length. Even I had changed my hair a little, allowing it to grow past my shoulders, but Yori remained untouched.

"It's good to see you, Yuki," the blonde girl said quietly, her lovely smiled still in place as she led me up the steps to her house.

"So what's on the schedule today?" I inquired curiously.

"Oh, I have a few things lined up for our girl's day out," she eluded mysteriously. At the same time, we giggled and linked arms with each other.

Drumming my now cherry-red nails on the steering wheel, I pulled into the driveway of Cross Academy and killed the engine. Almost seven at night, the sky was an exquisite golden-orange as the sun drifted closer and closer to the horizon.

Stepping elegantly from my convertible, I smoothed the back of my new dress, feeling every inch like a diva or a superstar or even a model. Yori and I had spent the day in the town by her neighborhood, shopping and being pampered at a day spa. I'd never been to a spa before, but I found that I quite enjoyed it; facials, manicures, pedicures, the whole bit.

When we had returned from shopping, I had immediately changed out of my old clothes to don my new ones. I was now wearing a cream-colored, tube-top dress that ended just above my knees. White lace trimmed the hemline and the top of the dress. Red and black fabric flowers lined the edges of the lace and wrapped around my waist, tapering to a narrow point at the front. Snowy, strappy heels adorned with rhinestones held my feet and my wrists jangled with silver bangles. Zero's necklace remained clasped around my throat, completing the outfit.

And speaking of Zero…

Digging my phone out from my purse, I flipped it open. No missed calls, no voice mail, no text messages, nothing. I frowned at it.

It was unusual to go through an entire day without hearing from Zero. Usually, he called or texted me every now and then to check up on me during those rare, few days when we weren't together. But that hadn't been the case today. Aside from the note I'd woken up to this morning, I'd had no contact with my boyfriend at all today. I wasn't suspicious at all of the lack of communication. If anything, I was anxious about Zero's well-being and curious as ever about his mystery excursion.

Shrugging, I headed up to my room, tossing my purse onto my bed and depositing my old clothes onto the floor unceremoniously. The heavenly scent of lavender filled my room and the walls, floor and furniture were gilded with the sun's golden light. Crossing the tiny space of my room, I stood before a window and gazed out over the expanse of Cross Academy's property.

Suddenly, I was overcome by an unexplainable, but powerful impulse to walk the grounds. Like the wind, just as quickly as I entered, I hurried out the door into the hallways and burst outside into the warm, sweet summer air in record time. I had barely taken two steps when a familiar voice called out to me, effectively freezing me in mid-stride.

"Hey, Yuki!"

Glancing over my shoulder, I caught sight of two Night Class students walking toward me. One was tiny with licorice-colored hair and the other was taller with white-blonde locks; Kuroma Yaseiri, wearing a wide smile on his feminine face, and Takuma Ichijo, who waved to me.

Grinning, I waved back at them and called out, "Hey, guys!" before approaching them.

As I'd predicted, Kuroma and Ichijo had become fast friends. The two were virtually inseparable, superglued to each other since the day the tiny pureblood had arrived at the school. As it turned out, they had a startling number of interests in common. In addition, Kuroma had become an instant star among the Day Class girls. His pretty boy appearance, his jet black hair and his exotic opal eyes had captured the girls' affections the moment they laid eyes in him. While not quite as popular or as sought after as Hanabusa Aido, Kuroma had become a new favorite to many of the Day Class residents.

Stopping in front of the two vampires, I smiled up at Kaname's best friend and Zero's savior. "What're you two doing here? Aren't you supposed to be on vacation?"

"Oh, we are," Ichijo confirmed, smiling pleasantly. "However, Kaname requires my assistance with certain matters and Kuroma happened to be over for the night, so I simply brought him with me rather than sending him home so soon."

"That, and I was hoping to drop in and say hello to you and Zero," Kuroma inserted amiably with an innocent smile. Then, his pale eyes widened slightly in realization. "Oh! That reminds me! Zero asked me to come find you."

My ears perked up at the sound of my boyfriend's name. "Zero did? He's back?" I inquired, feeling relief surge through me.

The pureblood nodded, his feathery black locks drifting over his ghostly eyes before he brushed it away. "Yeah, we met him just a few minutes ago. Why? Was he away?" he questioned inquisitively, cocking his head in a confused manner.

"Yeah, he's been out since this morning," I answered, once again wondering why. "He didn't tell me when he'd be back since he never called me."

"Ahh, yes, he requested me to explain that to you, should we happened to cross," Kuroma said, nodding understandingly. "He said that his phone battery died early this morning and the Chairman hadn't brought his cell, so he couldn't contact you. He also told me to tell you that he's very sorry about that and that if I should find you, he'd like me to bring you to him…."

Kuroma trailed off to peer questioningly up at his blonde friend. Smiling, Ichijo said, "By all means, go ahead. I'll go meet Kaname in his room and you can join me when you're all finished. Go on." He motioned at us in a shooing manner. "Don't keep Kiryu waiting."

"We won't be long," the tiny vampire promised and without another word, took my hand in his porcelain one and dragged me away from the school. For a guy that was barely taller than me, he certainly was much stronger than he appeared. After a while, Kuroma released my hand and I followed him in pensive silence.

Where were we going? Why hadn't Zero come for me himself? Why didn't he tell me about this trip before hand? What could be have possibly done in town? They were all unanswered questions.

It was then that I emerged from my reverie and momentarily disoriented by the strange surroundings, I realized with a start that we weren't heading for the Sun Dorm as I'd originally expected.

"Where are we going?" I asked, glancing around curiously. Pieces of the scenery began to arrange themselves in my head, slowly forming a broken picture. I recognized this particular section of the Academy but I was still missing some vital chunks of the puzzle, and therefore, the overall memory…

"To the old Moon Dorm," Kuroma answered promptly, just as we rounded a bend and the massive, crumbling structure materialized into view, completing the puzzle with an almost audible 'snap'. Now the half-forgotten segments of the trees and landscape around us were once again familiar and welcome to me.

However, I frowned slightly in bewilderment. "What's he doing here?" I inquired as we crossed over the miniature, picturesque bridge.

The ebony-haired pureblood shrugged his feminine shoulders, his pale, beautiful face a mask of perplexed interest. "Not sure," he admitted truthfully, sounding as inquisitive as I was. "All he asked was that I escort you here."

When we finally stood before the ancient building, Kuroma held the door open for me, then guided me through twisting hallways like a midnight-haired, ivory-skinned pixie. Suddenly, without warning, he braked in front of a plain looking door and I nearly crashed into him. Whipping around so that he was facing me, the little pureblood stood practically nose-to-nose with me, his milky opal eyes level with mine.

Placing his elegant, slender hands on my shoulders, Kuroma murmured almost urgently, "This is where I leave you, Yuki. Once you're through this door, turn left and follow the hallway until you come across a pair of glass doors on your right. Go through those doors."

Removing his hands from my shoulders, he bowed low to me and said, "Goodnight, Yuki. I wish you luck."

With a mischievous smirk on his Cupid's bow lips and a strange, knowing glint in his swirling, pastel rainbow-colored irises, Kuroma spun on his heel and sauntered away. Suspiciously, I glared at the back of his spiky, black-haired head, realization sinking in.

He's in on it, I thought, my hand resting on the knob. Shrugging, I twisted the knob and passed through. Then, following Kuroma's instructions, I turned left and proceeded down the darkened hallway, using my hand on the wall to steer me through the impenetrable darkness. After what seemed like several hours, I finally reached the twin glass doors. Peeking through the glass, I attempted to distinguish any recognizable shapes amongst the murky darkness but could see nothing. It was almost as if the glass was tinted.

Taking a deep breath, I slowly opened the door and stepped inside. The second my foot touched the ground opposite the door, rows of candles and stings of lights flickered to life.

My breath caught in my throat.

The door had led me outside rather than inside to another room and I found myself standing at the edge of an immense, magnificent courtyard. Cobblestone paths snaked through gardens filled with countless flower species, colorful bushes and weeping willows, their branches and leaves dripping around their trunks like a natural curtain. Hummingbirds zipped to and from brilliant scarlet hibiscus blossoms and trumpet vines. Tiny tea-light candles illuminated the carefully laid paths and white strings of lights were draped over bushes and hanging from the tree branches. The sky overhead was gold and pink from the setting sun and as if on cue, soft, melodic notes drifted through the lukewarm night air, sweet and lovely.

"What the…?" I breathed, my voice trailing off in wonder.

"Like it?" a deep, husky voice asked.

My eyes instantly snapped to the center of the garden where the much-love, rough voice had projected from. Smooth and sleek as a panther, Zero slid out from behind an oak tree, grinning so widely that his fangs gleamed.

"Zero…" I whispered, awed. Unsure of myself, I took a hesitant step toward him and stopped. "Did… did you do all of this?"

"Yup," he said proudly, stepping more directly into the light and I could barely contain my gasp. Zero always looked sexy, regardless what he wore, which was usually his school shirt and pants. But this was beyond words.

The silver-haired vampire was dressed in a crimson silk shirt, its long sleeves rolled up to his elbows. The first three inches of the V-neckline were button-less, allowing it to drift open to reveal his smooth, muscled chest. Halfway down the center of his chest, the buttons returned. However, only the first was clasped and the others were left untouched, allowing teasing glimpses of the pale stomach underneath whenever the loose fabric shifted. Zero's long legs were sheathed in black pants that clung tight to his thighs. Multiple rips and tears were slashed into the fabric, exposing creamy patches of skin.

A silver studded belt looped around his wait and thin chains hung from the belt loops. Around his left wrist was a band of black leather and a ring designed to represent bat wings adorned his middle finger. The platinum dragon necklace lay quietly against his bared chest and his ever-present earrings gleamed.

"What… what is this?" I stammered as he approached me.

"The reason why I was gone all day," the moonlight-haired god replied, stopping before me, smiling heartbreakingly. I could only stare open-mouthed at him, completely dazzled by all of it.

"You did all of this… for me?" I whispered, staring wide-eyed up into Zero's twilight irises.

"Of course. And now…" He bowed gracefully to me, his starlight bangs brushing over his forehead but his dusky eyes remained riveted to mine. "May I have the honor of this dance?"

Giggling, I accepted his proffered hand and curtseyed in return. "Why certainly," I said formally, unable to keep the enormous, silly grin from my face.

Beaming like I had never seen him do so before, Zero captured my waist with his free hand as I placed mine on his shoulder. Then, as if we had meandered straight out of a fairytale into the real world, we were dancing. Our bodies spun and twirled gracefully over the narrow paths of the courtyard, our feet following the leisurely beat of the song. I laughed freely, exhilarated as Zero led me expertly, his movements liquid and natural as he steered me to the center of the courtyard.

"Where on Earth did you learn to waltz?" I asked incredulously, my heeled feet synchronizing with the music and unconsciously melding into the familiar steps. "Last time I checked, you don't dance, since every ball the school has ever had, you always stood in the corner of the room, insisting that you'd trip over your own feet. What gives?"

The vampire's nose wrinkled with disgust and I couldn't help the burst of laughter that escaped me, the sound higher and sweeter due to my elated joy,

"It's kind of embarrassing," he admitted, a sheepish grin tugging at his lips and the faintest hint of a pink blush coloring his ivory cheeks.

"Lemme hear it or I'll step on your foot," I threatened, trying to make my voice sound dark and intimidating. Judging by Zero's skeptic, amused expression, it didn't work very well. However, he decided to humor me.

"I had to seek out Kuroma's and Ichijo's help," Zero confessed with a woeful sigh. "I figured that if I was going to have to sacrifice my dignity and subject myself to dance lessons, that I wasn't going to be ridiculed for it for the rest of my life."

Giggling, I inquired teasingly, "Who was the girl? Ichijo or Kuroma?"

My partner made a face and grumbled, "Kuroma. He's closest to your height and looks enough like a girl anyways. Ichijo took on the impossible task of teaching me to waltz."

Grinned up at him, I tried to imagine my moonlight-haired boyfriend dancing with little, feminine Kuroma while Ichijo patiently drilled him through the steps. I very nearly burst out laughing.

To distract myself, I pointed out, "Well, obviously it wasn't impossible 'cause you're dancing flawlessly."

"Yeah, after much hardship and hours of suffering through Kain's sniggering and remarks," Zero growled embarrassedly, scowling faintly.

"Kain was there, too?" I asked, confused.

Zero's frown deepened. "Unfortunately. He happened to stumble upon us one day while we were practicing and decided that I made for good entertainment and stuck around. After that, he always managed to show up whenever I had another lesson. The only thing that spared him from me beating him within an inch of his life was the fact that he hadn't breathed a word of my secret to any of the other vampires." The lavender-and-silver-eyed vampire paused for a moment to twirl me under his arm and when he spun me back to him, he added, "And for being a rather important factor as to why you and me are together in the first place."

I nodded, recalling that particular fiasco. Had it not been for Akatsuki, I wouldn't have been able to convince Zero that I wasn't leading him on and secretly seeing Kaname behind his back.

After that we fell into peaceful silence, dancing around the courtyard to the music.

Abruptly bowing his head, Zero grazed his full lips against the shell of my ear and whispered quietly into it, "Did I mention that you're absolutely gorgeous tonight?"

Blushing, I gazed into the fair-haired nightwalker's exotic eyes and murmured, "You just did."

Smirking, my boyfriend languidly brushed his lips over my ear and cheek before withdrawing. "That dress is lovely on you," he complimented, spinning me away from him so he could admire it more fully. "Is that new?"

"Mhm," I said when I returned to him, planting a hand on his shoulder once more. "Yori and I went shopping today." I eyed his outfit and then commented, "And what about you? I've never seen this ensemble before. You usually don't wear much in the way of color."

Zero shrugged casually, glancing briefly down at himself. "Ehh, it was something I'd had buried in the very back of my closest. I've never worn it before tonight," he intoned indifferently.

"Well it looks good on you," I informed him dutifully, admiring him with appreciative eyes. "I find it hard to believe that I'm not dancing with a god."

The argent-haired vampire snorted in disbelief but made no further comments. We danced in silence throughout the remainder of the song, merely gazing into each other's eyes, smiling and allowing out feet to guide us.

When the last melodic notes of the song drifted off, melting away, by unspoken consent, both Zero and I broke apart, our feet stilling. Twining his long fingers with mine, the pale hunter and I strolled down the slender paths of the courtyard. I allowed Zero to lead me to the opposite side of the garden and he tugged me down to sit next to him on a polished wood bench. Wrapping an arm around me, my vampire boyfriend drew me against his heated chest and I gratefully cuddled against him. My eyes drifted closed, listening as the next song began to play and focusing on the feel of Zero's hand drifting up and down my side, satisfied to remain where we were.

"Hey, Yuki?" Zero murmured softly, his breath brushing my cheek.

"Hmm…?" I breathed, both hearing and feeling his breathing and heartbeat through his chest.

"Can I ask you something?" he inquired.

"Of course. You can ask me anything," I responded instantly, my eyes still closed. "You know that."

The silver-haired vampire was quiet for a moment, hesitating. Then, finally, he spoke, "I was thinking about that day three years ago… when that woman snuck into the school, disguised as a Night Class student. I'm always haunted by that memory… the memory of seeing you sitting so passively in her grasp while her fangs were bared at your throat…"

There was a slight movement and I opened my eyes to see him shaking his head, wisps of frosty, diamond hair whispering over his face. Zero's expression was one of confusion, awe and horror, an expression so very alike to the one he was wearing that night…

The door flew open with a crash and both Shizuka and I froze, turning our heads faintly to see Zero standing thunderstruck in the doorway, moonstone eyes wide. Then, in a matter of seconds, those twilight irises hardened and his lips twisted into an enraged sneer, his fair eyebrows drawn dangerously low over his eyes.

Faster than my eyes could follow, the silver-haired hunter's hand plunged into his jacket pocket and whipped out his gun, both hands wrapped firmly around the Bloody Rose and aimed steadily at the pureblood.

"Shizuka!" Zero roared, fangs bared and his face livid. "Let Yuki go!"

Without stopping to consider my actions, I jumped to my feet, one hand snapping to my thigh and unhooking the Artemis Rod. Slashing it through the air, it clanked open to its full length and I took a defensive stance in front of the white-haired vampire, ignoring the way Zero's dusky eyes widened.

"Stay back!" I ordered as firmly as I could. "Please, Zero."

"Move it, Yuki!" my partner snapped, his face tormented with anguish, bewilderment and betrayal. "Why would you - ?"

"She's the only one who can save you, Zero!" I yelled, cutting him off….

"To this day, I still don't understand it," my beloved vampire whispered. "Why would you sacrifice yourself to save me? Why would you protect her?"

"You already know, Zero," I reminded him, scooting away slightly so that I could look him in the eye. "I did it to save you."

"But why," he pressed insistently. "I know you wanted to save me, but I can't understand why you would forfeit your life for mine, why you'd go to such extremes."

"Because I loved you, Zero," I whispered simply. "I may not've realized what the emotion was that drove me at the time, but I know what it is now. I wouldn't have been able to live without you anymore than you could without me. I loved you even back then, Zero, and it's only gotten stronger over the years. Imagine what I'd do for you now."

Zero shuddered, but I couldn't tell if he was faking it or if it was real.

"I don't wanna think about it," the pearly-haired vampire murmured, then paused and said, "I don't deserve you."

"Sure you do, hun," I disagreed, but he cut off any further comments with another shake of his head.

"No, I don't," he insisted resolutely, his tone finalizing it.

I sighed, but didn't push the matter. When he took that tone, there was no arguing with him. But… while we were on the subject, I had a question of my own…

"I'm punishing him for becoming attached to you," Shizuka purred in my ear, a stream of Zero's blood dripping from the side of her mouth. My eyes widened at her words and I was afraid to glance up at Zero's frozen figure, holding me captive. I was terrified to see the anguished expression on his stationary face from having the woman who destroyed his human life drink from him again.

Fingers whispered against the side of my partner's bleeding neck, the snowy-haired pureblood moved around to face me. Her long hand rested lightly on the side of my cheek and her rose-pink eyes bored into mine.

"Yuki, you call me cruel, but you're being cruel yourself," Shizuka whispered mockingly. "Your choices make Zero suffer. Even I can see that…"

"Speaking of Shizuka, what did she mean when she said that my decisions were hurting you?" I inquired softly. "Is that true?"

Zero sighed. "It was true up until two years ago," he confessed and I felt a pang in my heart. "It killed me to be so near to you, but always have you out of my reach. It always hurt when you were torn between me and Kaname, whenever I was feeding from you, stealing your blood and when I thought I was going to lose you to Shizuka, that you would be doomed to the same fate as me."

Then, the silver-haired vampire smiled suddenly. "Of course, all of that pain ended the day you told me you loved me, not Kaname. After all these years, I'm finally with the girl I've loved for so long."

At these words, my breath hitched in my throat and I stared at him in amazement. Not once in the two years we'd been dating had Zero told me that he loved me. Granted, he didn't need to. I knew he loved me completely and entirely without him ever actually admitting to it. But all the same, hearing it now knocked the breath right out my lungs.

"Zero…" I breathed, unsure of quite what to say.

"Hold that thought for a minute," he interrupted. "I have something I want to give you."

Leaning over the side of the bench, Zero groped around on the ground. His slender fingers then closed around something I couldn't see and when he straightened up, he was holding a bouquet of flowers.

A radiant smile stretched my lips and I gently lifted the fragile blossoms from his long fingers. An array of different colors greeted my eyes; pale purple lilacs; snowy white lilies; blood-red roses; pink carnations; sapphire blue forget-me-nots; and bright yellow sunflowers. There was no plastic wrap surrounding them. Only a coral pink ribbon tied tightly around the stems held the flowers in their carefully constructed arrangement.

Oddly enough, the ribbon was what caught my attention the most because dangling from one of the loose ends of the silky fabric, was a tiny, glimmering ring.

Gasping at the sheer beauty of the little circlet, I quickly untied the ring and lifted it to my face to examine it more closely, placing the flowers beside me on the bench. The band was a thin, elegant weave of gold and platinum, twisting around each other like a rope. In the center rested a stunning diamond about the size of my pinkie nail. It was cut into the shape of a heart and its multi-faceted surface sparkled and glittered brilliantly whichever way I turned it, always managing to capture the dim light of the courtyard. Framing the diamond were two small, cushion-cut moonstones.

Awed and completely speechless, I stared up into Zero's eyes, his irises a perfect replica of the twin stones.

"I figured you'd appreciate the moonstones since you always seem so captivated with my eyes," he commented simply, shrugging.

"Zero, it's gorgeous," I breathed, turning it over in my fingers, mesmerized by its beauty.

"I'm glad you like it."

"I love it," I corrected, then giggled. "It's so lovely that I'm almost afraid to wear it."

I was just about to slide it onto my ring finger when Zero's hand closed around my wrist gently, effectively stopping me in mid-motion.


Confused, I glanced at him as he lifted the ring from my fingers. Intense, twilight eyes fixated firmly on me, an expression of determination crossing Zero's handsome face.

"There's something I have to do before you put it on," Zero whispered, standing.

And he got down on one knee.

"Oh my god!" I exclaimed, hands flying to cover my mouth as my eyes widened to the size of saucers. My heart was pounding wildly in my chest and my blood rushed in my ears. Time seemed to freeze and slow down, causing everything to feel surreal. The courtyard faded and the sorrowful love song in the background was muted to my ears. Now, the only thing I could see was Zero – my moonlight-haired, vampire boyfriend – kneeling before me, his face a mask of a thousand different emotions, holding out a tiny piece of jewelry that I now realized was an engagement ring.

"Yuki…" Zero began, his voice rough and husky with emotion, "I know it's still rather early in our relationship for this, but I feel that this is something I need to do. I asked Chairman Cross permission for your hand and he gave me his consent… with quiet a bit of vigor, I might add.

"Hear me out, Yuki. We've been though so much together in the years we've known each other and it didn't take me long to become enamored by you. I could almost say that I fell in love with you the first night we met, the night you cleaned the blood from me – a boy who was a complete stranger to you – after Shizuka's attack. You are the reason I'm alive today, Yuki, and I am forever indebted to you for my life. It belongs to you, as does my body, heart and soul."

Tears of joy were now streaming down my face as I stared at Zero in rapture, his moonstone eyes ever-serious and unmoving.

"I swear to you, Yuki, to be forever faithful to you. I swear to protect you with my life. I swear to love you until my dying day. There is no one else who will ever hold my heart as you do. If you refuse me here tonight, then that will be then end of it for me. I will never love another. It will always be you. And so, Yuki Cross…" Zero closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, the lilac-and-pearl irises were fiery with love and firm with determined steel. Then, he opened his mouth and murmured, "Will you marry me?"

As I sat there, staring down at Zero, two brief visions came to me. One was of me dressed in white, walking down an aisle to where Zero stood in a black tux, smiling down at me from an altar. The other was of a baby boy and girl; the boy was a brunette with lavender-gray eyes and the girl had silver hair and cinnamon colored eyes.

There were no more questions.

I knew what my answer was.

"Yes," I whispered, smiling broadly as tears splashed down my face. "Yes, I'll marry you."

The smile that split Zero's face was like no other. In one fluid motion, he slipped the ring onto my finger and stood up, pulling me with him. Without missing a beat, he swept me into his arms, lifting me into the air and his lips descended on mine, kissing me through my joyous, teary laughter.

So lost in my happiness that I was, that I hardly noticed my starlight-haired vampire walking. Swiftly and gracefully, he crossed the courtyard to a sliding glass door and somehow managed to open it with his foot without breaking away from me.

I was in a complete haze, blissfully unaware of my surroundings until I felt the soft, but unmoving surface of a bed underneath me. Drawing away from Zero, I glanced around the room we were in for a brief second.

It was an old, unused bedroom that had recently been renovated. Three of the four walls were made entirely of glass, exposing the dusky sky, flowers and lights of the courtyard. Soft, semi-transparent crimson curtains hung around the open windows. White candles of varying sizes were scattered across the bedroom, standing on the floor, resting in candleholders or lounging on cherry wood dressers. Vases filled with roses were provided as decorations, many of which were clustered on the nightstands on either side of the four-poster, canopy bed with red-velvet curtains. With a start, I realized that the comforter I was lying on was covered with rose petals.

Heart beating in my throat, I tore my eyes away from the bedroom and glanced up at Zero. If I thought my heart was hyperactive before, then I was in danger of heart failure now. The moonstone-eyes vampire was over me, arms on either side of my body to hold himself up. His wintry hair was dripping into his lavender-gray eyes, now darkened with lust. His alabaster skin glowed silvery-gold in the flickering candlelight, the neckline of his scarlet shirt falling open to reveal the long expanse of his pale chest. The platinum, spiral dragon necklace hung down from his throat, tickling my collarbone and clanking against the carved ruby of my black lace choker.

With an unspoken agreement, Zero and I rolled onto our sides, our mouths meeting with vigorous passion. As he dragged me closer to him, my fingers tangled in his silvery hair, his arms wrapped tightly around me. Our eyes flickered opened and closes as we kissed, alternating between focusing on the sensation of our lips meeting or staring into the eyes of the one we loved. Fueled by love and fervor, our kisses were a quick meeting and parting of the lips, disrupted with tiny nips here and there.

My hands raked through Zero's starlight hair, trailing down over the expanse of his throat, shoulders, chest and stomach until they encountered the hem of his shirt. Then, with trembling fingers, I tucked my hands under the silky red fabric and raised it up as far as I could. Realizing what I wanted, the moonstone-eyed vampire sat up, bringing me with him. In attempted, but failed grace, I lifted his shirt over his head and tossed it somewhere on the floor.

I only had a brief moment to admire Zero – his creamy, porcelain skin of his unclothed chest reflecting the candles' orange-yellow glow; the slender, but chiseled muscles of his stomach and toned abs; his mussed, silvery-pearl hair and lilac-gray eyes – before I was distracted by his hands on my back, just below my bare shoulder blades. Those slender fingertips touched the lace rimmed edge of my tube-top dress before catching the zipper and leisurely unzipping it.

The fabric slackened around my back, the front of the dress dipping dangerously low and my heart thumped with nervous excitement. Then, without breaking contact from my eyes, Zero placed his hands on my shoulders, his palms warm against my skin. Gradually, the wintry-haired vampire traced his hands down my chest to the top of my dress. So softly that he was barely touching my skin, Zero slid the cloth of my dress down. Purposely, he angled his hands so that his palms grazed over my breasts – drawing a shudder from me – and across my stomach as he pushed down the fabric.

The cream-colored material pooled in a pale heap around my hips, unable to move any further. That is, until my fiancé pushed me down into a lying position. Grasping the smooth fabric, Zero extracted it down further, past my hips, over my butt and across my legs and discarded the dress. Now, all that remained was my bra and underwear, and a heartstoppingly-handsome, godlike, shirtless vampire looming over me.

Before I could process this information fully, the pale, former hunter descended on me, capturing my mouth once more and rolling us over so that I was on top. However, I only had claim on his full lips for a few minutes before he retreated. My whimper of complaint was cut off when he immediately occupied himself by peppering the length of my neck in soft kisses.

Gasping, I wove my fingers in his hair, lightly holding his head to me as he kissed and nicked and sucked on my throat. A tiny moan of satisfaction escaped me as I struggled for breath, my body alive and tingling.

But Zero didn't stop there. His mouth traveled lower, brushing over my collarbone and touching my chest before the argent-haired vampire finally unhooked my strapless bra. As the padded fabric surrendered to gravity's inescapable tug, his warm lips found the center of my breast. My surprised gasp quickly turned unto a moan as he sucked gently on my nipple, laving his tongue over it and biting me carefully.

Trembling now as the former hunter lavished attention on my body, I dug the fingers of my left hand in his spun-silver hair and slowly reached down with the right. With shaky fingers, I brushed against the feverish skin of his navel and the waistline of his pants before locating the long, hard ridge straining against the restrictive material. Fumbling nervously with the button of his pants, it took me several tries to feed the round metal through the button hole and unzip the fly. Summoning my courage, I forced my trembling hand to sneak under the fabric of his boxers and I clasped my fingers around his heated, hard length.

The second my hand wrapped around him, Zero inhaled a deep, shuddering breath, his actions faltering on my breasts. This wasn't the first time I'd touched the silver-haired vampire in such an intimate way. However, it never failed to send a thrill through me when he sighed and quivered at my touch. It made me feel powerful and feminine, like a goddess of love and pleasure.

Eager to coax more of those arousing sounds out of my fiancé, I stroked his length, firmly pumping him and feeling him grow larger and harder in my hand. With practiced ease, I stimulated him in the way I knew he liked best, switching the strength of my grip and the pace of my hand; first slow and languid with a firm grip, then lightning fast, my fingers barely holding his erection.

Against the skin of my chest, Zero's breathing was rapid and ragged. Between sucks, licks and bites to my nipples and kisses to my breasts, the starlight-haired hunter gasped and sighed and moaned softly. Intentionally, I firmly but carefully ground the heel of my palm over the soft head of his arousal, and Zero uttered a low, pleasured cry, his dusky lavender-gray eyes squeezing shut.

I smirked with almost impish glee. I loved doing that to him. Allowing him a short breather, I pumped him a few more times before repeating the action and was rewarded with the same response.

But before I could do it again, Zero backed away from my now slightly bruised nipples to reluctantly remove my hand from him. Sighing remorsefully, I was positive that he was concluding this before we progressed any further.

However, the pale vampire surprised me by gently forcing me back against the bed.

"Don't move," he instructed when I tried to sit up.

Obediently, I reclined against the pillows, studying him inquisitively as Zero reached over to one of the nightstand and plucked a fragrant rose from the vase. Scarlet rose in hand, the starlight-haired nightwalker returned to me, his moonstone eyes misty. I was so lost in the dusky depths of my fiancé's irises that I actually jumped in surprise when something supple and velvety caressed the side of my cheek.

Tilting my head to the side slightly, I caught sight of blood-red petals before they vanished from my peripheral vision. Then, butterfly-soft touch returned, kissing along the length of my brow. Peering curiously up into Zero's face, I detected the barest hint of a smile on his full lips, indistinguishable to anyone but me – the corners of his mouth were faintly uplifted, impossible to perceive if one didn't know where to look.

"Stay still, please," Zero requested, his voice little more than a whisper.

I did my best to comply with his wishes, but this proved more difficult than I could ever imagine as he sketched the soft petals lethargically over the skin of my face. He traced the shape of my nose, dusted the petals over my eyelids and dragged them across my lips. The gentle, flowery touches made me gasp and aroused me in a way I never knew possible. My breath caught as the rose glided down my throat and drew a line straight between the valley of my breasts. Gasping, I jerked slightly as Zero grazed the rose over my puckered, sensitive nipples. Biting my lip, I fisted my hands in the sheets, fighting the urge to arch my back to feel more of those delicate petals against me.

After tormenting my breasts for some time, the hunter finally proceeded to trail the rose down the center of my stomach, causing my muscles to contract involuntarily at the light caress. The silky flower tickled my sides prior to traveling along the hem of my panties, increasing the hot, moist burn of excitement between my thighs.

Abruptly, silver-haired vampire stood to cross to the foot of the bed. Quietly, he knelt on the very edge of the mattress, his knees wedged between my feet. Setting aside the rose, Zero laid his hands on my hips, his slender fingers hooking under the waistband of my underwear. Lifting his head, he caught my gaze with his lilac-and-pearl ones, causing my breath to hitch in my throat. Sputtering furiously, my heart thumped wildly against my breastbone as comprehension dawned on me

Ever so slowly, my pale, handsome fiancé began to draw down my panties. Rather than watching as my skin was gradually exposed to him, Zero's twilight eyes remained locked with mine, awaiting any sign that he was going too far and should stop. However, it never came nor would it ever since I had no intention of hindering him. And so, with a trembling frame, I lifted my hips off the bed to aid him. As if in slow motion, Zero slid the underwear around my butt, across my thighs, down my legs and finally, over my feet. Then, at long last, I was laid bare before him.

It was the first time I had ever been naked before a man, even Zero. However, I wasn't allowed the time to be self-conscious about it, because the rose was back, gliding over the pads of my feet and toes.

Rather than gawking at my nakedness like most teenage boys, Zero drank it in little-by-little, via the rose. His eyes leisurely savored every patch of my skin that blossom caressed, refusing to dart up to other areas. Intently, his moonstone eyes followed the rose as he stroked it up the length of my right leg, then double back to administer the same treatment to my other leg.

By the time he reached the apex of my thighs, my body was tingling in anticipation. However, to my great disappointment and frustration, Zero paused yet again, the scarlet rose a mere inch away from where I needed him the most. Before I could beg desperately him to continue, the starlight-haired vampire plucked a single petal from the crimson blossom.

Discarding the remainder of the flower onto the floor, Zero pressed the petal to the skin just below the navel. With first two fingers securing it in place, he softly dragged it across me. I gasped as the velvety touch caressed my most intimate part, shuddering as it slid between my legs, the heat of Zero's fingers radiating though the petal. My vampire fiancé traced the rose petal over me, up and down several times. All the while, his twilight eyes were intent on my face, watching me quiver, gasp and jerk.

Without warning, the rose petal unexpectedly fell away, joining its brethren on the bed and its absence was replaced with my silver-haired vampire's fingers. I stiffened the second his fingers touched me, biting my bottom lip and waiting with baited breath. A shuddering sigh escaped me as Zero caressed my slick skin, his fingers infinitely careful as he gently stroked me, teasing me.

Panting for breath and aching with almost painful need, I reached for him. I grabbed him by the bicep and tugged, indicating that I wanted him to be level with me. Silently, he obliged, scooting over my body without halting his ministrations between my thighs.

Once his glorious, ivory face was parallel with mine, I seized a handful of his moonlight hair and yanked him down to me, assaulting his full lips with a rough, famished kiss. Zero chuckled faintly at my eagerness, fondling me more firmly. Moaning in pleasure, I pushed my hips against his hand as my body responded, growing slick.

Freeing one hand from his silvery hair, I skimmed my fingertips feather-light down his smooth chest and stomach until I encountered his unbuttoned pants. I paused, knowing I'd only have a few seconds before he stopped me. So, speedily, I tugged on the sides of his pants, wrenching them and his boxers lower over his slim, pale hips. Halfway down his hips, I realized with a start that the former hunter wasn't stopping me. So I continued onward until Zero's black dress pants and boxers were hanging around his firm butt, thereby freeing his erection from the constrictive confines of his clothes.

Nevertheless, I had to struggle to concentrate as his fingers teasingly rubbed my nether regions, arousing me to no end. As the dull, throbbing ache continued to worsen, I became frustrated with the starlight-haired vampire as he relentlessly tormented me. Practically whimpering with aggravation and extreme arousal, the only thing I craved was to feel his fingers inside of me. But I knew I could never say the words to convey this to Zero. I was too shy. Sure, I could think them, sure, but I couldn't force my lips and vocal chords to form the vowels and constants.

So I experimented with a different approach.

Taking the wintry-haired vampire into my hand, I stroked him firmly, capturing his attention as he groaned softly. Then, I bucked my hips against his hand and moaned "Zero… please…"

Finally taking the hint, my fair nightwalker shifted us onto our sides. In one swift motion, Zero hitched my leg over his narrow waist and slipped a tapered finger inside of me. A moan of relief tore from me. The former hunter slowly pumped his finger within me, allowing me to enjoy the mild sensation for a minute or two before adding a second one, intensifying the pleasure. Gasping, I threw my unoccupied arm around Zero's neck, closing my eyes as I voiced my satisfaction. I crushed my body as close to him as I could possibly could without him being inside of me, loving the way his naked chest felt against mine

The moonlight-haired vampire sprinkled my face and neck with kisses and nips as we pleasured each other. Against the skin of my throat, his breathing was fast and short, breathy moans mingling with his panting. I caressed Zero in time with the thrusts of his fingers, closing my eyes and envisioning him inside of me. A delicious surge of heat curled between my legs at the thought.

The pleasure intensified as my fiancé added a third finger to me, stretching me even further. It didn't hurt as I had anticipated and Zero was being extremely gentle. His fingers delved deep inside of me, brushing faintly against that one spot that drove me wild, but he retained a slow pace. No matter how firmly I stroked him, how quickly I pumped him or how often I rubbed my hand over the head of his arousal to convey my hint, the silver-haired vampire refused to speed up. Those elegant fingers continued at their gradual speed, twisting inside of me, stretching me, almost as if… almost as if was preparing me….

Suddenly, my eyes widened and my fingers fluttered weakly against him as realization clicked. With me frozen underneath him, Zero seized the opportunity to shove his pants down to his knees with his free hand. Then, he shimmied out of them completely and kicking them to the ground, all without interrupting his loving touch on me.

My heart quite literally stopped beating for two seconds before it tripped over itself and thumped twice as hard to recover the lost time. Completely awed, my hand unintentionally stilled around Zero as I ogled at his perfection.

Pale, marble skin, masterfully chiseled into slim, defined muscles, all slender with cat-like grace and sinew. Without even realizing it, my eyes followed the path of his muscular torso, admiring the golden-silver glow that his skin seemed to radiate from the candlelight, his flesh accented with highlights and shadows. My gaze traveled to his slim hips and down the length of his long, lithe legs, usually shrouded by his school clothes. Finally, my eyes made their way up to the ivory length of hard flesh in my hand and I blushed and quickly looked away. It wasn't like I hadn't seen him before but now that he was completely naked, it seemed overwhelming.

Slowly removing his fingers from me, Zero stared me directly in the eye and murmured, "The rest is up to you, Yuki. I've considered this long before your request last night and have resolved to honor your desire. However, I refuse to go any further unless you are positive that this is what you want, that you won't regret our actions tonight in the morning. Just say the word – only if you're a hundred percent certain – and I'll surrender to you."

Smiling, I lightly kissed my beautiful, silver-haired vampire and murmured, "I'm positive. This isn't something I have to think about and I definitely won't regret it."

Wrapping my arms encouragingly around his neck, I touched my forehead to his, his satiny, pearly bangs sweeping against my skin. For a long while, I stared into his dusky, lavender-gray eyes, counting the silver specks and amethyst shards in his irises. Then, I lowered my mouth to his full lips and kissed him tenderly, sweetly, and Zero responded to the kiss gently, his mouth melding softly with mine. When we broke away, an unknown surge of courage and confidence filled me, I smiled and whispered against his lips, "Make love to me, Zero."

Matching my smile, the moonlight-haired vampire kissed me again, his lithe fingers brushing the side of my face, flicking the hair from my face. Flipping over onto his back, Zero held me firmly so that I was on top of him. When he released my mouth, he settled back against the mattress, gazing at me. Nervously, I stared down at him, awkward and uncertain on what to do. I could feel his length pressing against the inside of my thigh, hard and hot, and I was more than a little uncomfortable in this position. The idea of being the one in control for our first time didn't sit well with me.

Sensing my discomfort, Zero sat up and cradled me in his lap, his arms warm and comforting around me. I blushed because the starlight-haired vampire's demanding, heated length was now trapped between our stomachs.

Distracting me with his light strokes along the side of my face, Zero whispered, "Relax. You'll be fine. I swear I won't hurt you."

I nodded faintly. "I know. I trust you."

Planting a kiss on my forehead, the former hunter tugged at my arms so that they were wrapped around his shoulders. Next, Zero placed his hands on my waist and gradually, lifted hips up. As he positioned me over him, I held my breath, the burning head of his erection seeking my entrance. Aided by Zero's hands on my hips, I slowly impaled myself on him, feeling him fill me inch by inch. My jaw fell slack and I gasped as pleasure shot through me. A sharp intake of breath, followed up by a rush of air in a pleased sigh told me my moonstone-eyed vampire was just as lost as I was. When he was buried inside of me to the hilt, pressing against that magick spot inside me, we both froze.

Zero had prepared me well. True to his word, there was no pain, only pleasure. Marveling at the sensation of having him sheathed fully within me, I tightened my arms around him and kissed him fiercely, a kiss he returned with vigor and passion.

"I love you," I whispered, slightly short of breath when we parted.

"I love you, too," Zero breathed intensely, his voice incredibly rough.

And then he moved.

I gasped at the shift, awed at the sensation of him thrusting slowly inside of me, lovingly touching my insides. Clutching at him tightly, I sighed and moaned as the dull, but continuous stream of pleasure branched out through me with each of Zero's gentle strokes.

"Does it hurt?" the silver-haired vampire whispered, his voice hoarse, erotic and uneven.

"No," I gasped, synchronizing with the steps of our dance and moved with him as he directed me, increasing the depth of his thrusts.

"Good," he breathed seductively and found my lips, his soft, damp starlight locks brushing against my cheeks.

Our lips didn't stay connected long. As our speed escalated, and the pleasure along with it, I was soon struggling for breath. The sheer bliss was dizzying, and I panted and moaned breathlessly, lightheaded from the euphoric experience. No longer requiring Zero's assistance, I drove myself greedily down onto him on my own accord, craving more. Zero had buried his head in the crook of my neck, his breath hot and ragged against my throat. The most erotic moans and groans were escaping his lips, stoking the fires of my desire and sending jolts of electricity through my stomach straight down to my core. I couldn't get enough of him, enough of this pleasure, enough of this love.

"Zero… please…" I begged, my fingers digging into his back as I rocked against him. "More…"

"As my lady wishes," he responded and faster than I could follow with my eyes, he had me sprawled out on my back and was bracing himself over me without ever halting our dance or leaving my body.

From this new angle, Zero's strokes were long and deeper than ever before, causing both of us to gasp and shudder. But the gradual, tentative pace quickly ended and the moonlight-haired hunter pistoned in and out of me quickly, striking that special spot buried deep within my core.

At this point, I was overwhelmed with ecstasy as extreme, overpowering shocks of pleasure seized me my body. I was so lost in this primitive instinct that I no longer could formulate any words or coherent thoughts. The only sounds gurgling from my throat were sharp, blissful cries, punctuated by frantic gasps for air. Feeling as if I was floating on a cloud, I was so lost in the sensation and completely lightheaded because I couldn't get enough oxygen to my body. Unable to control my own body through the haze of pleasure, I could only cling to Zero for dear life as he plunged into me, our sweat coated bodies meeting again and again.

Deep within my core, I felt the familiar sensation of heat coiling snugly, winding tighter and tighter like a cobra about to strike. My cries increased in volume as I drew closer to the edge and my fair-haired vampire sped up, thrusting into me with more force. In hopes of driving me over the edge, Zero slid one hand under my right leg and hitched it over his shoulder, driving deeper into me

I never realized I had that much of a voice, but the improved angle allowed Zero to strike that spot every time he plunged into me. All I could do was scream my pleasure to the heavens. My nails raked down the pale skin of his back, no doubt leaving marks behind, as the end grew nearer.

The pressure built as my fiancé pounded me into the mattress, grunting above me as his mussed silver hair slapped against his face. Finally, the coil of pressure and pleasure in the pit of my stomach snapped. With a quivering, high cry, my back arched and my body clamped around Zero as intense, mind-numbed pleasure paralyzed me. The tsunami waves of euphoria crashed over me one after the other, causing my body to spasm and tremble violently.

Zero thrust into me a few more times, allowing me to ride out my orgasm to the fullest extent as it slowly faded and I drifted back down to earth from my high. His own voice was becoming rougher and more desperate, and he quickly pulled out of me. With three quick strokes of his hand, he, too, followed me over the brink and he groaned quietly as he spilled his essence into his hand.

When he was spent, my argent-haired vampire sighed contently and pitched forward exhaustedly. Closing his dusky, lavender-gray eyes, Zero rested his head against my stomach, his pearly tresses cast out over my bare skin. For a while, neither of us moved. We lay there panting, trying to catch our breaths and steady our heart rates.

After what seemed like hours, Zero was the first to move. Gingerly, he sat up and wiped his hand on the sheet, cleaning the thick, milky fluid from his palm. Then, he very slowly crawled over to me and laid down beside me, gathering me into his arms.

"How was that?" he asked wearily, tenderly kissing my forehead.

Sluggishly, I searched for the right word in my foggy brain. However, the word I was searching for didn't exist, so I settled for the less impactful, accurate and understatement of the next several decades, "Incredible."

My vampire fiancé smiled and nuzzled up to me, pressing his naked body to mine to keep me warm. I buried my nose against his neck, inhaling his musky, metallic aroma and the scent of sweat and the evidence of our activities.

"Hey, Zero? Did Kuroma and Ichijo know about this little scheme of yours?" I asked suddenly, blushing at the notion of the two vampires being aware of his plan.

"Yeah, and the Chairman did to… well, not all of it," he admitted with a sheepish chuckle. "The Chairman knew I was going to propose to you and Kuroma and Ichijo… well, they knew everything. They're the ones who helped me decorate the courtyard and they came with me to pick up the ring. The Chairman didn't want to wait to see it, so he tagged along today and helped pick out the lights and such. But Ichijo and Kuroma were my moral support, you could say. I was nervous as hell and it was their job to calm me down today before I proposed…" Zero chuckled embarrassedly, the continued, "Also, that who story that Ichijo fed you about Kaname needing his help was complete bull. It was an excuse the three of us devised for why the two of them were there and how we were gonna get you over here without spoiling the surprise or making you really suspicious."

Heat flared in my cheeks and Zero's quiet laugh told me that my face was bright red. Suddenly, the Chairman's emotional outburst last night and the wicked glint in Kuroma's swirling, pale opal eyes made a lot more sense. Groaning with humiliation, I hid my face against my silver-haired vampire's chest, his slender frame shaking around me as he laughed.

Then, smirking mischievously, I lifted my head and asked, "So did you practice proposing on Kuroma as well?"

Glaring playfully at me, Zero nipped lightly at the tip of my nose with his fangs. "I have my limits," he growled, craning his head over my neck to gently kiss my neck. "If you must know, I practiced in the mirror. But even though I hold Kuroma in the highest respect as far as vampires go, I didn't want anyone but you to hear my proposal."

Smiling shyly at him, I kissed my fiancé tenderly and returned my head to his shoulder. Sore, exhausted, lethargic but blissfully joyous and satisfied, I closed my eyes sleepily, more than content to fall asleep in my love's arms. However, just as sleep was about to claim me, I heard Zero whisper my name.


Lazily, I opened my eyes and peered into the breath-taking, lilac-silver, moonstone eyes of my partner.

"Mmm?" was all I could muster.

"After eight long years, I finally feel like I'm alive," Zero murmured and with a smile, he picked up my hand and lightly kissed my engagement ring. "And it's all because of you. Thank you."

I returned the smile and whispered, "And thank you."

A slender silver eyebrow arched over one dusk-colored eye. "For what?" the beautiful vampire inquired, puzzle.

"For guaranteeing me a future with you," I answered softly, smiling sweetly and shyly up at him.

A slightly surprised expression colored Zero's alabaster face. Then, his moonstone eyes melted, his face softened tenderly and a faint, breathtaking smile upturned his full lips. Leaning forward, my vampire fiancé kissed me softly. When we broke apart, we simultaneously smiled and murmured, "I love you."

Sitting up, Zero tugged on the twisted, golden ties that held the curtains together, yanking them loose. With a swish of fabric, the thick, rose-colored curtains swung closed around us, isolating us from the rest of the world. Then, seizing a warm, fluffy blanket from the foot of the bed, my silver-haired vampire shook the flower petals from it and draped it over our naked bodies. Once we were settled down under the soft blanket, Zero wrapped me in his arms and held me close to him. Enveloped by Zero's strong, comforting arms, his scent and his warmth, my already heavy eyelids drifted shut, and shortly after, I fell asleep.

And so, that was how I began my first night of forever; lying naked on a bed of rose petals, wrapped safely and securely in the arms of the man I would never leave and would love for all eternity.

As always, if anyone discovers any mistakes that I missed, please notify me and I'll fix them as soon as possible.

Once again, I must apologize for the time it took to release this story. Combined with everything that's been happening in my life along with my desire to make this as best it could possibly be, it was a very long and difficult process and I do hope it didn't disappoint anyone.

As for side notes, I only really have two for this story regarding the music that was playing in the courtyard. The songs Long Time Coming by Oliver James and Looking Through Your Eyes by LeeAnn Rimes inspired the dance; Far Away by Nickelback was playing when Zero was proposing to Yuki.

And now, regrettably, I reach my more solemn news. As much as I love to write fanfictions, it's time I took a break from them. For the past three years, I've been working on a novel, which unfortunately, I've set aside because I got so absorbed with writing fanfictions. But I've ignored it for too long and being the slow writer that I am, I simply cannot work on two pieces at once because I don't have the time to dedicate the amount of attention I give my stories to two works simultaneously. I have not, however, abandoned my idea for a prequel to the How the Rose Blooms series. It's just on delay for now. Currently, I do intend to work on it, but nowhere in the near future. I've ignored my characters for far too long and now it's time I returned to them and my original vampire love, Phoenix (although Zero was a good distraction for quite some time). I will continue to read Vampire Knight and it's fanfictions, but I'm afraid I won't be writing any myself from any category on for some time. I'm very sorry.

Once again, I'd like to thank all of those who have read my stories, who have reviewed and especially to all those who have followed this series of one-shots from start to finish. I never thought I'd be so well-received by so many people. Thank you, everyone! Your comments inspire me and fill me with confidence 3

Until next time…

- Desdemona