So excited to bring you this update. I sincerely hope you enjoy it...

Disclaimer: This story is free.

The building they drove to was gothic in it's design. Ruka recognized it because she'd seen pictures of the structure and had been told to stay as far away as possible.

But tonight she said nothing as Kain steered the sedan into the underground garage of the vampire hunter base. In fact, neither of them had spoken a word since they'd left Seiren standing alone in the clearing outside Kaname's mansion. The silence hadn't necessarily been uncomfortable, but the atmosphere seemed to fall on her shoulders like a heavy weight.

When Kain parked the car, turned off the ignition, and got out, his face was totally unrevealing.

She didn't wait for him to open her door, but he stepped around to give her a hand. When she was standing outside, he shut the car door behind her. Barefoot, still carrying her single shoe, Ruka felt him rest a hand at her lower back.

Looking down at her bare feet, his lips quirked. "I don't suppose you'd let me carry you."

"It's fine. I can walk." She would love to be lifted into his arms.

He sighed, but the half-smile was still there. "I assumed as much."

With a quiet confidence, Kain lead her towards the underground entrance. Two intimidating guards, equipped head to toe in various weaponry, stood at the door. They seemed to ignore Kain as he approached the entrance, but Ruka hesitated. She couldn't help it. Everything she'd been taught said that she should feel fear when faced with a hunter, and Kain was just going to waltz her right past them.

When she began dragging her feet, pressing herself back against Kain's guiding hand, he slowed down to accommodate her. Wrapping his arm around her waist, he squeezed her hip reassuringly. "It's alright." He said, gently nudging her in the direction of the door, "You're safe here. I promise."

Ruka didn't know how she did it, but she managed to keep her feet moving. The guards ignored them as they passed, neither of them lifting a brow as Kain lead her through the sliding door.

Inside, it reminded her of a police station. There was a reception area, holding cells, various offices with desks and chairs. The place was empty, but it had just recently been filled with people. They'd left they're work half done, snacks half eaten. Their scent still lingered in the air.

Her mind felt numb as he took her to a back stairway. A few flights lead to the bottom floor. Once they were in the basement, she followed him down a narrow hallway, and when he opened a door for her, she went into the room.

Flipping the light switch, he stepped inside, shutting the door softly behind them. The first thing she noticed was that the room smelled richly of him. A door lead to a small bathroom in the corner. One wall comprised a small kitchen - a sink lined with drying dishes, and a yellow refrigerator.

It was obvious that he had been living there for quite some time, however it looked nothing like any place he had lived in before. It was a mess. The single bed was undone, the covers slanted and touching the floor on one side. There was a round dining table in the middle of the room. It was completely covered with paper: maps and photos and various hand-written notes. Posted on the wall was a series of blueprints, and after a brief glance she realized that they illustrated an outline of each floor of Kaname's mansion.

Kain was standing next to a dresser. He'd retrieved the pages he'd stolen from Kaname's office and was setting them in an open drawer.

Still standing just inside the door, Ruka watched him with a feeling of uncertainty. Seeing him here, in this messy room, among these things, made her wonder if she really knew him at all.

"I know you have questions." he said as he removed his watch. "Ask them later."

And then she knew for certain that she'd been in shock, because the questions began pouring through her mind the second he mentioned them.

Exactly how many secrets did he have? She was dying to know what he had taken from Kaname's office. Was it something incriminating? A secret formula? Evidence?

She looked at the man standing across from her as if he were a stranger. Where before, his secretive nature had seemed charming, even bashful, she now saw that it was his way of life. Just what kinds of things had he done for Kaname that she'd never been told about?

And as long as she was asking herself questions - Why did he leave her for three whole god-forsaken months?

He was strolling towards her, his hands in his pockets, his shoulders relaxed.

Despite her fear that this might be unknown territory, despite the nagging sense that she had stepped into some kind of trap, Ruka couldn't help but feel a sharp tug of sexual awareness as his eyes met hers. She watched him as if he were an approaching storm, her breath becoming shallow as he drew nearer.

Yet even as she wanted to run into his arms, even as she fantasized about kissing those tender and well-sculpted lips, her mind continued to race. Why had he decided to return to her tonight? What had been his purpose in all of this?

His expression was somber, but his brown eyes were caring as he withdrew the stiletto from her grasp. After setting it next to the door, he stood before her. She found herself lost in his coffee brown eyes. There was so much there but so little said. Her eyes fell to his loose collar, and the smooth skin revealed at the base of his neck was enough to make her hands itch.

He moved first, gently brushing her cheek with a knuckle before sliding his hand behind her neck. As if sensing her tension, he massaged her lightly. Muscles and tendons seemed to melt under his persuasion. It took everything in her not to let out a moan. Leaning in, he pressed his lips to her forehead, and that single chaste kiss was enough to make her knees go weak.

"Akatsuki..." she whispered, her heart pounding.

"Hmmm." He hummed in response, and she felt the vibration of the low tone run through her. His lips brushed her cheek.

Feeling her heart twist painfully, Ruka turned her head to avoid his next kiss. She didn't know what he'd done, or what he was even capable of, but she knew for certain that she didn't deserve any of this.

He must have sensed her withdrawal, because he brought a hand to her upper arm, pulling her closer. "Don't think." he whispered, "Just let me hold you."

His hand began sliding along her back. The jacket he'd loosely draped over her shoulders slipped and fell to the floor. Her dress was provocative, nearly backless, and every inch of her exposed skin felt cool, except where he touched it.

Ruka wanted to bury her face in his chest. She wanted to hold onto him and never let go. But the way he placed a careful kiss on the spot just below her ear, was enough to make her feel like her heart was being slowly torn apart.

"I can't do this." She forced herself to speak through the tight knot in her throat. "If you knew what I...that I..." Tears pressed at her eyes. She couldn't finish.

The warm hand on her back froze, and he lifted his head to study her face. Feeling about as worthy as a spec of dirt, Ruka stared at the floor. His hands fell to his sides.

"You sure you want to have this conversation?" He asked, and it sounded like a warning.

Thinking he couldn't possibly have the slightest clue of what she was about to tell him, Ruka nodded. "Yes."

"Right now." He pressed, waiting for a confirmation.

In an attempt to prepare herself, Ruka took in a shaky breath. "Putting it off will only make it that much harder."

He sighed, dragging himself away from her as if he thought this was the worst idea ever, then he walked towards the bed. Blinking through unshed tears, Ruka watched as he picked up a manilla folder from the nightstand.

Casually, as if it was nothing important, he began pulling out sheets one by one and tossing them on the table. They were heavier than normal paper, glossy looking, and seemed to easily fall face up on top of all of his other scrambled notes. His face remained stark as he completed the task.

Not understanding his actions, Ruka took a step towards him, leaning over the table to take a look.

When she saw what they were, her hand shot to cover her mouth.

Lying on the table, in perfect clarity, were various photographs. Some were in black and white. A few were in color. Most were a little fuzzy since they had been taken from outside a window - but they all had one thing in common.

They were all pictures of her and Kaname, his pale wrist pressed against her mouth.

How odd that the first thing she noticed was that she had always kept her eyes open while feeding, red though they might have been.

Throwing the now empty folder on the floor, Kain leaned against the back wall, ankles crossed, arms folded. His eyes were closed but his brows were drawn together, as if he was in a state of severe concentration.

Feeling like she had just been caught naked in headlights, Ruka looked from him then back to the photographs. In a haunting dream, she recalled the events that had lead to each moment. One from outside Kaname's office, where she had gone to discuss the attendees of an exclusive meeting, only to be confronted with his demand that she drink.

Another displayed a view through her bedroom window. She had been dressing for an evening dinner. He had knocked on the door, but hadn't waited for the invitation, shaming her with his order that she feed.

Then inside Kaname's sitting room. He had sent a servant to request her. She had dragged her feet, her stomach sinking as she'd knocked on the door, but she had obeyed.

"It's not the same as it looks." She said lamely, even though it was true. None of the pictures could display the strong aversion she'd felt, even as she was compelled to swallow. None of them could show that each time she'd done it, she'd died a little inside.

"I suppose you're going to tell me you were coerced?" he said, although his dry tone indicated that he didn't believe it.

"No." She replied sadly, never lifting her eyes from the table.

"Did he threaten you? Starve you until you couldn't resist?" The questions were loaded, she could tell, but his voice remained level.

"No. Not exactly."

Apparently finished, he grew silent again. Glancing up from the photos, Ruka noticed that his head was turned. His eyes were focused on some invisible spot on the opposite wall.

He looked elegant, reserved. With his head turned to the side, she could see the distinguished outline of his profile, the masculine cut of his jaw. The suit fit him perfectly, the white shirt falling loosely over his flat stomach, the black belt cinched over narrow hips.

Even though he appeared relaxed, there was a rigidness to his form. As always, his emotions were guarded behind a wall of brutal self-control.

If he had known all along, why had he held her so gently? Why had he kissed her forehead? Why had he even come back for her at all?

Her heart aching, Ruka's eyes fell back to the table. She didn't know why she'd continued to follow Kaname's orders after the first time. Perhaps she'd never truly gotten over the desire to gain Kaname's approval. Or maybe she'd hoped that if she did as he asked, he would be able to return everything that she'd lost. It was stupid really, when she would have gladly given it all up just to keep Akatsuki in her life.

"Is he really dead?" she asked now, hardly believing it herself.

"Jesus, Ruka." Kain said her name like a curse, as if the very question repulsed him. "No. He's not dead."

"He looked dead." Ruka mumbled, almost to herself, remembering the sickly pale color of Kaname's cheeks as he lay motionless on the marble floor.

Kain's voice was tight with leashed frustration. "We gave him enough to put him out, maybe even for a few days, but unfortunately, it wasn't nearly strong enough to kill the bastard."

Surprised, she blurted, "Then what was the point?"

There was a moment of hesitation before he responded, "It was a warning."

Not missing the edge in his tone, Ruka thought it may be better if she dropped the subject, but she couldn't keep from asking, "A warning for what?"

His eyes narrowed, even though it seemed he'd expected her to ask. "Despite how strong you think he is, Kaname isn't all powerful. He can't control every vampire, let alone every pureblood." His voice became flat, devoid of emotion. "So when they go around creating hundreds of level E's, he does what we did with the council's lab. He covers their tracks."

"But the peace treaty..." She started.

He cut her off. "The peace treaty is just a means to keep the hunters off his back."

Despite the calmness with which he'd said those last words, Ruka had trouble believing it. She'd seen how fierce Kaname could be when the lives of humans were threatened.

"So he just lets the other purebloods do whatever they want?" she asked. "He doesn't try to do anything about it?"

Kain let out a chuckle, although there was no humor in it. "Oh no, if they gain enough power to threaten his dominance, he takes them out."

Ruka sucked in a breath. "He kills them?"

"Well, not at first." Now that it was out in the open, he seemed to have no problem divulging the details. "It starts with their followers. They begin to disappear one by one. And when no one else is alive to discover the evidence, he goes in for the kill."

Shocked, not only at the sheer atrocity of Kaname's actions, but by the fact that this had all been going on without anyone knowing, Ruka had trouble accepting it. Sure, purebloods would sometimes disappear, but they were always going in and out of one of their hundred year sleeps. Surely people would begin to notice that some of them weren't waking up.

"How many?" She asked, though she wasn't sure she wanted to know.

Kain lifted a brow. "What are we counting? Nobles? Humans? Those he killed himself or those he dictates to his assassins?"

Humans? Dear God. "Purebloods."


And with that one word the number of purebloods in the world was cut by nearly a third. The thought made her dizzy.

"How do you know all of this?" Ruka found herself asking, even though she feared she already knew the answer.

His voice dropped to a low rumble. "I've been working for him."

His body was still, his breathing nearly silent, but his eyes seemed to become darker. Secrets hid behind their coffee brown depths. Ruka's heart sped slightly as she began seeing the man she loved in a different light. He was still the same boy she had grown up with, but somehow his presence had altered.

For the first time, she looked at Akatsuki and found him dangerous.

"What did he have you do?" Her voice was so soft, she'd practically just mouthed the words.

He didn't answer immediately. For several seconds, he just watched her with an unnerving composure, until finally he closed his eyes. His head lowered slightly, as if he had resigned himself to a choice.

"Mostly just cover ups." He let out a sigh, but his eyes never opened. "For vampires who consider themselves to be supreme beings, it's amazing how much of a mess they make when they kill each other."

He'd settled for a lie by omission. His guarded tone gave him away, but Ruka didn't push further. For whatever reason, he didn't want her to know. It didn't matter anyways, she realized. It wouldn't change how she felt about him. For now, she would trust in his judgment.

She began hesitantly. "I want to explain..." She stopped, searching for the right words, then gave up. "...what happened."

"I don't want to hear it."


"I said," He paused for emphasis, enunciating the words. "I don't want to hear it."

Ready to argue, Ruka opened her mouth, but stopped once she noticed the way he was watching her. He remained lethally still, tension underlying the edges of his frame. The mahogany of his eyes was slowly transforming to red.

Good lord, she wasn't sure if she'd ever seen him this angry.

But even while a part of her feared what would happen if she continued, she just couldn't just leave it like this. "You disappeared. I didn't even know if you were alive, much less where you were. I thought you'd left me forever. I was devastated." When he didn't reply, she added. "There was so much of that god-awful drug in my system that to this day, the tablets don't work."

"And he just happened to be around when you needed a fix." His tone was too flat to be considered sarcastic.

Gritting her teeth, Ruka ground out, "No. He found me trying to starve myself so he forced me to drink."

"And did you enjoy yourself?"

She sucked in a breath at his softly spoken question. "No, Akatsuki. It was frightening."

"So that must explain why you proceeded to drink from him over and over again."

"It wasn't like you're thinking. It wasn't even anything close to how it was with us." Fraught with emotion, Ruka desperately wished there was a way to explain how it had happened. "After the first time, he would order me to drink and I just...I just didn't argue."

His shoulders visibly tensed, his dark gaze becoming even more severe. "He orders you to engage in an act more intimate than sex and you 'just didn't argue.'"

God, she was making a mess of this. "Please understand. At the time, it felt like I had no other choice. Would it have been any better if it had been someone else? The only other person to offer was your cousin. If I had accepted it from him, would that really have made any difference?"

One of his hands had clenched into a tight fist, and she could tell he wanted to throw her words back in her face. But he regained control quickly.

Taking a deep breath, he released the tension in his hand to rub the space between his eyes. "I think I've heard enough."

Despite herself, Ruka felt her frustration begin to rise. Okay, so she knew she wasn't completely innocent, but she couldn't help but feel that his complete lack of understanding was just a little unwarranted. "You're the one who left me, Akatsuki. You were gone for three months! I assumed that you no longer cared. What else was I supposed to think when you just walked out on me like that?"

If anything, that only seemed to anger him further. "Forgive me if I didn't want to stay and watch you throw yourself at his feet."

Gasping at his audacity, Ruka snapped. "Alright. Yes! I threw myself at his feet. You have me there. I literally got on my knees, on the floor, and begged him for your life." Her pride ruined, she couldn't help but raise her voice. "In fact, I did it twice!"

He was quiet for a minute and she thought that maybe she'd been able to get through to him. But when he spoke again, his voice still had that same quiet intensity. "You know what I did when tablets didn't work?"

Ruka assumed it was a rhetorical question and so she didn't answer. Lord, she was sure she didn't want to know.

But when his gaze continued to burn into hers, she shook her head.

He took his time strolling to the tiny kitchen, then he opened the refrigerator, perusing the contents. One by one, he took out three bags and tossed them on the table. They were red and air tight. One had cut open as he tossed it carelessly, spraying thick red droplets all over a black and white photo of her and Kaname. The scent of blood filled the room.

"Blood packs. They've got so many level E's on their hands that the hunters have these in abundance." Kain said. The only indication that he was at all upset was the slamming of the refrigerator door. "Although, they sometimes ran out. You know what I did then?"

He was still withholding the full force of his anger, but she could tell it was close to the surface. It tore her apart to have made him this upset, but what could she possibly say? In a way, his anger was justified. He had every right.

Feeling increasingly uncomfortable, Ruka could only shake her head mutely.

There was a glass on the counter, he picked it up, strolling towards her. "One of the hunters would slit their wrist into a glass. Can you imagine?"

Even though he'd seemed to calm down for a second, Ruka went tense as he approached.

Then the storm hit it's peak.

"A fucking glass!" He held it in a fist as he slammed it on the table, the resounding crash nearly causing her to jump out of her skin.

Ruka didn't move. She could hardly even breathe. The crushing outburst echoed into silence. Something that had been rattling on the table, slowed and died to a stop. The glass between them became an elephant in the room.

She'd known Akatsuki could get angry, or rather, she'd known of him getting angry, but it had never been directed at her. Never once had he even raised his voice.

His gaze held hers with unleashed ferocity.

"Never assume that I don't care." He ground out, gripping the glass so hard his knuckles had turned white. "Three months, three years, a fucking century... I don't give a shit how long it is. Never assume that I don't care about you."

Ruka's throat clenched with emotion. She found herself wanting to say something but she didn't know what. There was nothing she could say, really. No words would undo the damage. It wouldn't be enough.

Oh why had she given up on him so quickly? At the time, it had seemed like she had waited for him for an eternity, but looking back on it now, she realized that the three or four weeks she'd spent mourning the loss of his presence had been nothing in the great scheme of things. He'd always stayed by her side, always supported her. Through all the years that she'd known him, he'd never gone back on a promise. To her, he'd always been loyal.

What on earth had she been thinking?

After a long and dreadful silence, the sound of his voice startled her. "Did you anything else with him?" But he spoke again before she could respond. "Christ, don't answer that."

It had obviously pained him to ask, and from the strain in his voice, she could tell he had been imagining the worst. She didn't even want to think about how long that question had plagued him.

Gesturing to the photographs, she told him, "No. It never went beyond this."

She'd hoped that would at least ease his mind a little, but it didn't seem to. He was leaning against the table. The muscles of his forearms were pulled taut with strain. He had closed his eyes, but he remained stiff, as if he was barely able to keep himself from lashing out again.

The volume of his voice was so low it was nearly a whisper. "Tell me he didn't hurt you."

Right then, she wanted to take everything she'd said to him back - all of the things about him leaving her, how she'd thought she had no choice, how she'd felt devastated. Now it was too late. He was already blaming himself.

"Oh Akatsuki," She said his name sadly, wishing she could offer some comfort, but his bearing was too formidable. She didn't dare approach him. "He didn't hurt me at all," she said, "not in the way you're thinking."

She realized her mistake too late.

His fist tightened around the glass, and a muscle ticked at the side of his jaw. "It was a simple question, Ruka." he bit out, opening his eyes to give her a hard look. "Did he hurt you? Yes or no."

"No, he just..." She caught herself and stopped.

"He just what?"

"He just..." She wasn't sure how to explain it. "He showed me his head," Waving a hand in a dismissive gesture, she added, "It was nothing really."

He wasn't buying it. She could tell. Hiding her emotions from him had always been impossible, and he knew she was trying to downplay what had happened. Slipping anything past Akatsuki was a futile effort.

He didn't repeat the question. He didn't have to. The glass was still being strangled by his fist. His shoulders didn't relax. With a patience that slowly became more and more suffocating, he just watched her. Waiting.

Holding a piece of her dress in her hands, Ruka twisted the fabric nervously. "The first time I...well, I wasn't exactly awake when it started. I was seeing things, awful things. People dieing, people screaming in pain, people..." Her voice cut off, the memories coming back in waves. It was too horrible to speak of, and even though she was sure she'd deserved it at the time, there was no use in dwelling on it now.

Jumping ahead, she tried to get through the rest of it quickly. "I thought I was dreaming, and when I realized what was actually happening, I tried pulling away, but he wouldn't let me. So I-"

"Wouldn't let you." he repeated, and she could have sworn she heard his teeth grinding.

Oh dear, how was she supposed to put this diplomatically? "Well, he ummm...held me in such a way that I couldn't remove myself." she explained before quickly moving on, "He said it was my punishment."

The glass shattered under the pressure of his grasp. And when the sound didn't startle her, she realized she had been somewhat expecting it.

But nothing could have prepared her for the heady aroma of his blood. The cut on his finger was small, but it bled profusely, falling over a broken edge of the glass in heavy drops. A slow stream slithered to the table. As if he hadn't realized he'd done it, Kain glanced down and let out a nearly silent curse.

But Ruka barely heard it. Her throat was dry. Her breathing had become ragged. She knew her eyes were turning red, but she couldn't stop it. For what had seemed like an eternity, she'd longed for his blood. The hunger ran deep. It wasn't just about a taste. She wanted all of the intimacy that came with it.

She couldn't seem to drag her eyes away from the broken glass, but she heard him speak softly.

"How long has it been?" he asked.

"Four days." she whispered.

It was too long. They both knew it.

A moment of silence passed before his voice cut through her hunger. "This punishment." He said the word as if it tasted like acid. "Was it what you wanted?"

The question caught her off guard. Tearing her eyes from the glass, Ruka thought she must have heard him incorrectly. "Excuse me?"

He ignored her shocked expression. "He treats you like shit. You know this. So why did you crawl back to him?"

"I don't think-"

"That's right, Ruka. You don't think." he cut her off harshly. She winced, but he didn't let that stop him. "You don't think about how much you're hurting yourself, how much you're hurting the people who worry about you."

His words cut her deeply. God, did he hate her that much? Forcing down the biting pain in her chest, Ruka started, "Akatsuki I..."

But he didn't let her finish, "Admit it. You love being punished. You love it when he hurts you, when he ignores you and throws you away."

Stricken silent, she could only stare up at him blankly, too shocked to even shed tears.

The severity of his harsh gaze didn't ease in the slightest. "Your parents raised you to believe that you're worthless, that you'll never be good enough. So when somebody loves you without you having to earn it, then it means there's something wrong. Doesn't it?"

Numbly, Ruka found herself slowly shaking her head, more to ward off the venom of his tone than to answer him.

When he took a step towards her, she nearly flinched, but he only grabbed one of the photographs. As if he thought she was blind, he held it a mere inches from her face. It was the image of her and Kaname in the sitting room. She remembered feeling horror when she'd been in that room, but none of it was displayed in the picture of her face.

His voice became thick with barely controlled rage. "When he ignores you and throws you away. When he hurts you." His hand tightened, causing the blood on his finger to smear over the image. "When he treats you like this, it confirms everything your parents taught you, and then you think the world makes a whole lot more sense. Isn't that right?"

Hot tears began to press at her eyes, her throat constricting until it felt almost impossible to breath. Oh why was he doing this? She wanted him to stop. God, he was tearing her apart.

But his sharp gaze was merciless, and if anything, his voice became even more urgent, more demanding. "So even after everything that happened between us, you still ran to him the second you had the fucking chance. Just so he could hurt you again and make everything right."

"No, Ruka." He immediately stopped her when she opened her mouth to argue. "I won't listen to any bullshit excuses. I want you to look at me and admit it. This punishment. You wanted it. You craved it, didn't you?"

This time, he was baiting her, and despite the daggers that pierced through her chest with his every word, she felt like she was being reeled in. His eyes were fueled with determination. They burned into her soul like a hot blade.

Oh how she wanted to be able to tell him he was wrong.

With an overbearing stillness, he stood over her, but the tone of his voice became just a little bit softer. "Admit it, Ruka. "

For reasons she couldn't understand, her palms began to sweat. She found herself gripping the fabric of her skirt so hard she was losing sensation in her fingers. The walls of the tiny room began to cave in.

Nearly shaking, she somehow managed to find her voice. "Yes, everything you's..." Her voice broke, and she felt herself caving. "Oh god, it's all true."

His eyes widened slightly, and she wondered if maybe he had expected a different answer. Whether he'd taken what she'd said as good or bad, she couldn't tell. With a ruthlessness she hadn't known he possessed, he had ripped the truth from her. She wasn't sure if she'd willingly given him her soul or if he'd simply taken it, but the result was the same. It was now his to do with as he pleased.

He broke through her anguish with a harsh command. "This ends here." he announced, his voice leaving no room for argument.

Not knowing what to expect, Ruka gave a slight jerk when his hand suddenly lit with a ball of flame. The fire vanished as quickly as it had appeared. The photograph had become nothing but ash in his palm.

In a daze, Ruka stared at the ashes as he let them flutter in small specs to the floor. They became lost in the carpet, mixing in with the synthetic fiber until they all but disappeared.

"I can put this behind us, but I'm not going to stand by and let you use him as some twisted means to hurt yourself." he told her, the conviction in his voice unmistakable.

Shame filled her. There was nothing left of her pride. Too humiliated to even look at him, she watched one shiny black shoe take a step closer.

When he spoke next, it was with a stern whisper in her ear. "This will never happen again. I won't allow it."

She wanted to look into his eyes, to tell him that she wanted nothing more than to stay at his side, but his voice was doing the strangest things to her.

First, there was a rush of relief. If he meant to protect her from herself then he didn't intend to leave her. That alone was enough to make her feel like she could breathe again.

Second, her insides began to stir in a way that was not entirely unpleasant. That demanding edge to his voice - was it possible that she was actually finding it...erotic?

Putting his hands in his pockets, he began to leisurely pace around her, taking small steps as if he had all the time in the world. Her senses heightened apprehensively. Butterflies began fluttering in her stomach.

"I don't care how much you think you want to see him." he was saying as he moved behind her, "I don't care if I have to tie you up and drag you to another part of the world. And don't think that tonight was the extent of it. If it takes killing the degenerate bastard, I'll do it."

Surprised by the boldness of his tone, she strained her neck to look over her shoulder. The fire in his eyes was enough to convince her. If there was a way for anyone to kill a pureblood, she was sure Akatsuki would be the one to find it.

This new side of him was fascinating in a way that she found oddly arousing. Arrested by the hardened lines of his features, Ruka wanted to continue gazing up at him. But his hand grasped her chin firmly, and with a sharp twist he turned her head, forcing her to face forward.

Her back went stiff, nervousness causing her breath to come in shallow pants, but he only spoke to her softly, his breath brushing over her ear. "Now, I am never going to hurt you." he whispered, his voice sending chills down her spine. "There won't be any punishments. With me, you will never go ignored."

The hand on her chin gentled suddenly and he stroked a line over her jaw. "I'm sorry if that's not what you wanted." He said, and she felt him move closer, the heat of his body inches from her back. "But I will never become that for you."

His other hand wrapped around her upper arm in a light hold, his thumb brushing back and forth over her skin. And for a moment, he seemed to savor the feel of her skin beneath his hand, unaware that her body was humming with anticipation.

"I don't want you to change." she whispered, desperately trying to keep her knees from buckling underneath her.

"No?" And she thought she heard a smile in his voice, if one could hear such a thing.

Still grasping the cloth of her skirt in her hands, Ruka shook her head, wishing she could at least stop her palms from sweating.

Her body was so high strung that when his lips pressed against the slope of her shoulder, she gave a small flinch. But it was only a long, chaste kiss. And when his mouth trailed upwards, pressing gently over the side of her throat, she couldn't help but suck in a breath. In a comforting gesture, he gave her arm a small squeeze.

"Good." He whispered, his lips brushing over her skin. "That's good."

She thought he might bite her then. She even anticipated the feel of his fangs digging into her skin. Her thoughts lingered on the possibility - the luscious waves of release, the strong sense of belonging. But he seemed to have his own goal in mind, and his mouth continued to trail upwards until he had reached that sensitive spot by her ear. The softness of his lips as he kissed her there was enough to make her heart ache.

The room still buzzed with tension. His harshly spoken words were still fresh in her mind. He had taken her apart, completely disassembled her into a thousand broken pieces. Reeling from the change in the air, she found herself stunned by what he was doing now. Kind words. Soothing caresses. They contrasted so sharply with his earlier demeanor that she felt like she was standing in the dark, unable to see her next step, let alone his next move.

Just so, her heart sped when his fingers began gliding over her spine, his touch so light that it caused her hair to stand on end. God, he was barely even touching her and already she was melting.

But after all that had happened, he still wanted her? She couldn't understand why.

"Akatsuki..." She tried turning her head to look at him, but he still had one hand on her chin.

And then she lost everything she had been about to say, because one of his fingers began trailing over her lips - the very same finger that he'd cut on the broken glass. The tiny injury had healed but the skin around it was still red and wet.

Suddenly, her senses became overwhelmed by the intoxicating scent of his blood. Her entire body froze to ice. With nothing but a gentle persuasion, he held her captive, and it took her a moment to realize that he'd left her no room to escape. One small movement, and her control would snap.

He knew it too, she realized. He knew that he was teasing her pitilessly, because even though she didn't move, he slipped his index finger between her slightly parted lips. She could already catch the feint taste of his blood, and her eyes began to water. Turning his hand sideways, he pressed the pad of his finger against the tip of her fang, hard enough to draw blood. A single drop fell on her tongue, and a strange, helpless sound escaped from her lips.

His voice was so hoarse it was nearly unrecognizable. "Suck on it." And when she did as he asked, he let out a long groan, his forehead falling to her shoulder. "Ah, fuck."

Her eyes nearly rolled into the back of her head as she stroked her tongue over his skin, greedily licking for every last drop. He took a deep, shaky breath - a sigh that he couldn't quite seem to control. One arm snuck around her waist and he held on, his forearm taut against her belly, tension seeping through the layers of their clothing.

Seconds passed, her mind flooding with the silky sweet taste of his blood, and he seemed to take a moment of consideration before easing her back slowly, until her shoulders were flat against the wall of his chest. His arousal pressed against her hip, shockingly hard. Unyielding. A flush of desire pooled between her legs in response.

"You have no idea how stunning you are in this dress." His voice floated over her, and something inside her softened at the sincerity of his compliment. Releasing another long sigh, he continued, "And now all I can think about is getting you out of it."

Disappointed that there was nothing left, Ruka released his finger from her lips. "There's a the waist." she said, having to pause between words to catch her breath.

But he didn't seem to hear her, he was too busy toying with the thin strap on her shoulder, his finger still damp from her tongue. A light tug and it slipped off the edge of her shoulder, then all it took was little nudge from his knuckle and it loosely slid down her arm.

This wasn't a dress that she could have worn a bra with. The silk clung to the tip of her breast, a last feeble attempt to cover her where she was most sensitive. But it was no match for the gentle coaxing of his fingers, and with a smooth caress, it succumbed to the pressure, falling to expose one rosy peak.

The arm around her waist pulled tighter, and the beat of his heart drummed against her back. Carefully, he cupped her with his palm, his thumb sweeping back and forth over her until her nipple tightened into a hard bead.

"You are so beautiful, Ruka." he whispered, and she latched onto the husky sound of his voice as he stroked her, rolling the peak between his thumb and index finger. "Seeing you like make me forget myself."

He gave her nipple a gentle squeeze, but even as she felt a sharp tug of desire pull at her abdomen, a knot of emotion formed in her throat. As always, he was being too good to her. She didn't deserve it. She didn't deserve him.

"Akatsuki, why..." The ache in her heart was almost too much to bear. "After everything, how can you still want to be with me like this."

"Shhhh, no more thinking." he shushed her, his hand sliding to her other shoulder. The second strap didn't stand a chance, and much like the first, it caved easily, falling down her arm in a quick surrender.

"I'll always want you." he said, pausing to admire her. "Don't question it."

He covered her with both hands and for a stretch of time, she was struck speechless, her skin absorbing the heat of his touch as he stroked and massaged.

It took her several minutes before she could remember herself, "I want you too but...ahhh" Her words dissolved into a sharp cry as he pinched both of her nipples. Hard.

"That is all I want to hear." He said, his voice surprisingly rough. "There will be no more questions. No buts."


He pinched her again. Harder this time, and Ruka was shocked to feel a flood of arousal wash over her. Her knees began to go weak, and she reached a hand behind her to hold onto his belt, barely managing to steady herself.

His breath was hot in her ear, his voice teasing. "Now, you can moan all you like." One hand slid down her stomach, drawing a path of fire over the thin silk layer of her gown. "You can cry. You can beg me for more." When his hand arrived at the aching center between her legs, he pressed her through her dress. His voice deepened. "And when you come, you can say my name. I want you to scream it."

Dear god, she was close to screaming right now. With her back pressed against his body like this, she could feel every hard ridge of him. His muscled forearm pressed against her stomach, his confident strength binding her to him, even after she'd already become subdued.

It wasn't fair. Who had decided that she should be the only one on the receiving end? As much as she enjoyed learning every nuance of his personality, she wasn't sure that she should have to tolerate such blatantly presumptuous behavior. Letting her body go slack, she bit her lip against the pressure of his fingers between her thighs and pretended to readjust her grip on his belt, slowly sneaking her hand just a little bit further.

She had just managed to feel his impressive size through his clothing before he hissed in a breath and snatched her hand away.

"There'll be none of that." he nearly grunted, dropping her hand to fumble with the zipper at her waist. "This comes off first."

Since he was standing behind her, the effect of her pout was lost on him, but she couldn't help but notice that his movements were no longer as smooth and in control as they had been just seconds before. His breathing became heavier. The zipper came undone in two rough jerks. Then he was pushing down the scrunched fabric at her waist, until it slipped off her hips and fell to the floor.

He let out a surprised curse. "Oh hell, what is this?"

Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. "It's called a thong." she informed him.

"I know what it is but...damn." When his voice trailed off, she turned her head to find him rubbing a hand over his mouth, his eyes glued to the garment in question.

"If I wore something else, you would see underwear lines through the dress." she explained defensively.

She felt awkward with him standing behind her, and she found herself becoming increasingly aware of every inch of skin exposed by the thin string. She tried turning around completely, but he was quick to catch her.

"No. Stay like this." He said curtly, holding her shoulders so he could continue to gaze down at her from behind.

It was unnerving, not being able to see him. The slip of a string did nothing to hide her nudity. In fact, it's design only resulted in flaunting her curves. With nothing blocking his view, she could feel his eyes on her. Where would he touch her next? It was all she could think about. Her senses heightened in anticipation. Her muscles began to tense. The hair on the back of her neck stood on end.

Attuned to every sound behind her, his breathing, his heartbeat, the rustle of his shirt as he moved, she shouldn't have been startled when his finger skimmed along the string, but even that light touch made her breath catch.

"I was going to take this off." he said, tracing all the way down and then up again. "Now I'm not sure I want to."

He had to have noticed her choppy breaths, her speeding heart, but it didn't seem to phase him in the slightest. As if he could spend the entire evening doing nothing but this, he continued his leisurely perusal, exploring every exposed curve, until she felt her thighs begin quiver. Hooking a finger under the string at her hip, he pulled slightly and let it snap back.

She startled noticeably, and her cheeks burned when he let out a chuckle.

"Sorry," He apologized insincerely, "I couldn't resist."

She tried to appear convincingly affronted, but it was a pathetic attempt. Maybe if desire hadn't been coursing through every inch of her body, she might have been able to scold him for toying with her. As it was, she could hardly keep herself from collapsing.

Unaffected by her embarrassment, his hand moved to her inner thigh, pressing slightly. She knew he wanted her to spread her legs, but she refused. What did he think she was? His puppet?

She steeled her resolve, even when she felt his other hand traveling to her breast, even when his index finger began to draw slow circles around the distended tip. But when he took her earlobe between his teeth, biting her gently, her control began to slip at an alarming rate.

"Spread your legs, Ruka." He whispered, and his husky tone was incredibly persuasive. "Let me touch you."

Her thighs began to tremble. The muscles in her stomach clenched. Lord, she wanted him to touch her there. She didn't think she'd ever wanted anything more.

Unable to hold out any longer, she let him coax her into taking one small step, making enough room for him to freely explore. She had hoped she would receive instant gratification, but of course, he wasn't in the slightest hurry.

All she could hear was the relentless pounding of her own heartbeat as his hand trailed upwards at an agonizingly slow pace. Despite her acquiescence to his earlier request, the battle inside her continued, and she didn't know if she wanted to persevere or break down and beg. For the time being, she was making every effort to keep her lips sealed, mentally urging him to move to that spot that was now soaked and throbbing in agony.

Finally, with a touch that was almost painfully gentle, he pulled the slip of fabric between her legs aside, and slowly slid one finger inside her.

She did moan then. Holding it back would have been impossible, and she found that she suddenly didn't care to try.

"Christ, you're wet." he rasped, and the shaking in his voice confirmed that she wasn't the only one hanging on by a thread.

In slow, excruciating strokes, his finger moved in and out, mimicking the act of making love. Unable to help herself, she clenched him with her inner walls and was rewarded with his soft groan. God, she didn't know if she could take this much longer. She silently prayed for him to move faster, for him to move his finger just a little bit higher. Her clitoris was there, left alone and aching for his attention. He knew where it was, damn it. He was doing this to her on purpose. She wasn't going to beg. She wasn't!

A pitiful, whimpering sound started to emerge with each of her breaths. The hand on her breast moved to her cheek, and he gently urged her to face him. Knowing that turning around would cause his finger to dislodge from inside her, effectively ending all of this delicious torture, it was suddenly the last thing she wanted to do.

"Come on, Ruka." he spoke softly, his voice deep and enticing. "Turn around so I can kiss you."

As much as she longed to feel his lips against hers, Ruka could barely move. Her entire body was shaking. The death grip she had on his belt was the only thing holding her up.

He must have understood her dilemma, because he let out a sigh. As his finger slowly withdrew from inside her, she tried clenching it again, tried to hold it inside her for as long as she could. But he wouldn't be dissuaded, and when his hand left her completely, she had to bite back a moan of despair.

With a hand on her hip he guided her around, until she stood at eye level with the first few undone buttons of his shirt. Off balance, still dizzy from the swift loss of his touch, Ruka blinked a few times in an attempt to regain her focus. His lips brushed her cheek first, then lightly trailed to the corner of her mouth. Sliding a hand behind her neck, he angled her head to the side.

When his lips pressed to hers they were soft and supple. Her knees gave out, but he supported her with a strong arm around her waist. His kiss was thorough, but always languid and slow. When she parted her lips to brush her tongue against his, he groaned deeply, his hold tightening around her like a vise.

Grabbing fistfuls of his shirt, she held onto him for dear life, moaning at the erotic feel of his coarse clothing rubbing against her naked skin. His hard length was pressed between them, and as if unable to stop himself, he rocked his hips against her abdomen.

Distantly, she noticed that they were moving. With clumsy steps, he was leading her backwards. Then suddenly, he dragged his mouth away from hers.

Disoriented by the sudden loss of his support, she swayed on her feet. "Akatsuki, what are you..."

A crashing sound cut her off, and she only had a split second to see that he had swept everything off the table before he was grabbing her hips and lifting her up. Setting her on the cold surface, he pressed feverish kisses down her neck.

"Oh god, Akatsuki..." she heard herself mumbling mindlessly, her body thrumming from what they'd been doing, for what they were about to do. "You're driving me..."

Her voice broke into a sob as he captured a nipple between his lips. Her hands buried into his bright hair. He pulled her deeper into his mouth, sucking and stroking her with his tongue. She let out one helpless cry after another, pressing him to her as hard as she could.

And she snapped, so far gone she no longer knew what she was begging for, "Please, Akatsuki...please..."

With a groan, he dragged himself away from her breast, grasping the thong to practically rip it off of her legs. As he straightened, his hands moved to undo the clasp of his belt. She fumbled to help him, but her clumsy attempts were only slowing his progress. Giving up, she moved to his shirt, trying to undo the buttons with shaking hands.

But she'd only managed to unbutton a few before he was leaning over her. With one hand cradling the back of her head he laid her on the table, his arousal hot and heavy against her inner thigh.

Oh god, she wanted him so badly there were tears leaking from the corners of her eyes. Pushing her hands under his shirt, she grasped the muscles of his shoulders.

"Now, Akatsuki..." she pleaded, her nails digging into his skin. "Please. Don't make me wait."

But he remained still, threading his fingers through her hair to hold her captive. His eyes met hers, their normal mahogany color now burning crimson with desire.

He held her gaze, his voice as rough as gravel. "Biting. Blood. This..." he ground out, nudging her sensitive flesh with the hard ridge of his erection. "Only with me."

She clutched his waist between her thighs, desperately trying to pull him inside her. "Yes. Yes. Oh god, you're driving me insane."

As his head lowered to her throat, his breathing became heavy and ragged. She felt the light scraping of his fangs.

"I am not sharing you." he growled, his fingers digging into her thigh, nearly hard enough to bruise. "You belong only to me."

Ruka distantly heard herself moaning in anguish. He began to push inside her, just barely giving her an inch. She'd thought his self-control was infallible, that he could hold that position for hours, but soon he was fighting to keep still, his muscles trembling under her palms.

His voice was so soft it was almost a whisper. "I need to hear you say it."

The weakness revealed in his words struck her like a blow, and her heart twisted painfully. "Oh Akatsuki," She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, holding him close. "I'm yours. Only yours."

She felt the sharpness of his bite first. Then, in one solid stroke, he thrust inside her. The forcefulness with which he claimed her should have been intimidating, but she needed it. Shocked by his size, his heat - shocked by him - Ruka found herself in a near state of paralysis.

For several seconds, he just held her like that. His fangs clamped down on her neck possessively as her body slowly stretched to accommodate him.. He was sucking her blood in long draws, and with each pull, his chest vibrated against her in a low groan. It should have hurt, but nothing had ever felt so good.

Then he began moving.

She'd thought she'd known pleasure. She'd thought she'd known love. But it all paled in comparison to this. His pace was steady, his strokes hard and demanding. Each slow thrust drew a moan from her lips, and too quickly, she felt the building pressure begin to rise.

Just when she thought she was done for, he paused abruptly. Her ears began to roar, her mind screaming in distress at the thought of more slow torture.

"Akatsuki," she sobbed. God, she was so close it was almost painful. "I can't...I need..."

She hadn't realized that he was no longer drinking until she heard his gruff voice.

"I know." he said, sliding a hand under her knee to lift her leg higher. "I've got you."

When he drove inside her again, the new angle brought him deeper, and they both moaned in gratification.

It didn't take her long after that. He'd managed to reach that spot that sent a searing pulse of heat straight through her center. One more sure stroke, and she went soaring, her insides clamping around him in hot spasms, his name tearing from her throat in a moan of sheer ecstasy.

His lips came down on hers, devouring her cries as his pace became more insistent. She heard him suck in a breath, felt his body go tense, and his mouth broke away as if he had no choice.

"Ah, Ruka..." he groaned, between heaving breaths. "You feel too good."

Defeated, he pulled her tightly against his chest, burying his face in her hair as he came in a drawn out release.

Drained to the point of exhaustion, Kain let her take his weight. He remained in that position until his heart slowed, her skin cooling against his.

She was in his arms. That was all that mattered.

But when he lifted himself up to give her room, he noticed that her breathing was choppy. The tendons in her neck were strained. Her fangs were lengthened. Her eyes were an alluring deep red.

"Oh hell," he said as he let out a breath. "Ruka, I'm sorry."

He'd gotten carried away, completely swept up in the intensity of his emotions. So much so that he'd forgotten how long it had been for her.

Realizing that his hand was still in her hair, holding her against the table, he released her. He stood up to rip off his shirt, then gathered her in his arms.

She wrapped her arms around him, pressing her face into the space between his neck and shoulder. Her weight was feather light as he carried her towards the bed.

When she spoke she sounded as if she was in pain. "I have to..." Her fingers dug into his back. "...can I?"

"Of course." Surprised at her hesitation, his voice came out soothing, his heart giving a sharp tug at her pleas. "You don't have to ask."

Her thirst must have been incredibly intense, because she bit him instantly. He hadn't even made it to the bed yet. Stunned by the quick pricks of her fangs, he nearly lost his footing.

Anger spiked through him. He couldn't help it. That pureblood monster must have relished keeping her in a state of near desperation. He should have killed him when he'd had the chance.

She gave a small shiver, and as he sat on the edge of the bed, he grabbed the blanket to cover her naked skin. Holding her close to his heart, he felt a sense of contentment. This was where she belonged.

Finally, after years of agony, he could let himself relax. There were still a few more steps, but he'd overcome the biggest hurdle.

Sighing as she took long draws of sustenance, he reflected on how much he'd gone through to get to this point. From the moment they'd met the pureblood in that small playroom of Aidou's mansion, Kain had felt her being pulled from his grasp. It had escalated so quickly. One minute she had been his alone, and the next, another had torn her away.

It hadn't been a conscious decision, following her into Kaname's dominion. It had simply seemed the only solution to a man with little else left. But as Kaname's orders and dictations had become more demanding, he'd felt himself sinking deeper, until he'd been completely dragged under, completing even the most appalling of tasks.

Had there been a point? Had it even been worth it? It certainly hadn't felt like it that night he'd stood outside the door, listening to Kaname drain her, his heart breaking in two. It hadn't seemed worth it when he'd been walking through that laboratory, destroying everything in his path - medical instruments, files and records. Bodies, both dead and alive...

With a swift intake of air, Ruka's head snapped away from his neck. She was shaking profusely, her rose eyes wide in horror.

Oh hell, what had he been thinking about?

She went limp in his arms, sobs wracking her body. "Oh god, Akatsuki, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry."

Disgusted with himself, Kain's stomach sank. He pulled her tightly against him, leaning over her slightly. "Shhhhh," He tried consoling her, desperately wishing he could erase his dark past. "Damn it, I didn't mean for you to see any of that."

But his whispered words had no effect, and she continued to apologize in agony, her tears dampening his forearm. With a feeling of helplessness, Kain tried rocking her against him.

"Shhhh, sweetheart, you don't have to apologize for anything." He made his voice low and soothing. "I would move the earth for you. This was nothing."

Lying back on the bed, he pulled her with him, never releasing his hold even as she trembled. "It's not your fault." he continued, "It's not something you could have changed even if you'd tried."

He'd had years to accept it, but she'd just been swamped by all of his painful experiences in the span of less than ten minutes. It shouldn't have surprised him that she would react like this. With the darkness of his memories, anybody would have been affected.

Still, he didn't stop stroking his hand down her back. He didn't stop whispering words of consolation in her ear.

And when her sobs turned into hiccups, he closed his eyes.

"I'll always love you, Ruka." he whispered, "That's just how it is."

ok ok, I know hardly any questions were answered in this chapter, but hell, sometimes I just have to sit back and write a nice juicy lemon.

Seriously though, I spent hours upon hours working on this chapter. It was so important to me that I even denied my boyfriend sex for a 2 weeks just so I could stay in the mood...

And that is not a joke.

So, no matter what you thought of it, I'd love it if you'd drop me a line. A few words or an essay, whatever you're in the mood for. I'm dying to hear your thoughts.

And now, where is that boyfriend of mine...