Author Notes: I know, I know, I should be writing SysComp but I needed a break. For some reason I've been itching to write another Inuyasha fic so this is what came about. My fics usually start out with dialogue or situation that I really want to write, and the fic kind of builds from there. This particular fic grew from a the line Miroku says to Kagome pretty late on (hint: has to do with jingle bells). So this story was a gratuitous writing for me to just be able to fit that one line into a story. But as all things with writing, sometimes characters steer you in a different direction. So, as I was half way to getting to that line Miroku was to deliver, I realized there was a surprising resemblance to Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. Watch out, I'm getting pretentious over here. Okay, not a direct relation, but the more I thought about it the more fun it seemed. So I decided to do an Inuyasha modern adaptation of our favorite Austen novel. It won't be super faithful to the book nor will every character role be filled. Some characters also swap genders and how they're related to each other, but here goes nothing. I'm hoping to crank this piece out within the holiday season (as it is holiday themed), and it won't be a long epic story (I have two of those in the works and I don't need another one). Anyways, enjoy part one of Ego & Bias (yeah that's a hail back to the original Austen title) and tell me what you think.
Disclaimer: The Inuyasha world and all characters depicted are a creation of mangaka, Takahashi Rumiko.
Kagome glanced down at her footwear and wondered if she had made the best decision. The silver platform high heels looked amazing in the store and the full length mirror in her bedroom, but now in the confines of the car she was having doubts. These sparkly monsters were a good inch and a half taller than anything she'd ever ventured before. God, she should have broken them in around her apartment before taking these out on their first mile.
The door to the passenger side opened and her cousin, Miroku, peered in. "Let's get this show on the road."
He offered his hand out to her, but Kagome could only look on enviously at his shoes. He was wearing a dark suit, a white colored shirt with no tie, grey v-neck sweat shirt and a sensible pair of black shoes that he probably wore to every event. How was it remotely fair that she needed a different dress for every new event while he probably wore that exact outfit to work that day?
Granted, the little black dress with silver embroidery along the skirt hem and top had called her name from the store window. She really couldn't blame society for her need for multiple event dresses. So, a third of her paycheck had gone to the overpriced store for the dress and heels. The sales associate had been overly persuasive and somehow convinced Kagome that she could rock the silver heels without a single misstep. Without the gushing sales associate by her side, Kagome's confidence in keeping her balance was waning.
"Second thoughts?" He propped his arm on the door and watched her as she continue to glare at her shoes. "Cold feet?"
"Har har." She grabbed her clutch and tugged her coat a little closer around her shoulders. "I'm regretting these shoes."
"What's wrong with them?" He offered his hand again, and this time she took it.
"They're just shy of being stilts, so I feel a little too high up." On her feet, she looped her arms through his for more support. "I'm going to be doing a whole lot of sitting at this party."
He grinned and patted her arm. "I think you're underestimating your balance."
"And I think you're overestimating it." She was thankful that despite it being a week away from Christmas, there was no snow or ice on the ground. The last thing she needed was a wintery obstacle course between the car and the house. Three cheers for small victories.
Approaching the front door, they could already hear the commotion of the sea of people inside. Miroku let out a low whistle at seeing the size of the house. "This place is huge." He took each step up the front steps of the modern house carefully while keeping his cousin's balance. The house was grandiose and obviously belonged to a wealthy man. "How do you know this Kouga guy again?"
"He's a high rolling client." She answered distracted as she kept watch of each step.
"At a book store?" Miroku sounded incredulous.
Finally reaching the door, Kagome took in a relieved breath. "Antique book store." She corrected. "He wanted us to track down a couple first editions."
"He's a collector?" He went to ring the doorbell, but thought better of it and reached for the doorknob. There really was no point with all the noise. "What's he do for a living?"
Kagome shrugged and made her way inside the house. "I think he was an initial investor in one of the social networking sites." Once inside, the warmth of the house and crowd seeped into her. She was grateful when Miroku offered to take her coat. "I think Kouga has more money than God and isn't exactly sure what to spend it on. So he decided he needed a few of Hemingway's first editions."
"So he spends a fortune on dusty old books then?" He knew exactly how to push her buttons.
She shot him a pointed glare. "Rare books are a sound investment."
Miroku laughed and gathered her coat and his. "I guess they lie to you a lot less than the titans on Wall Street." He motioned to the drinks bar. "I'll figure out where they're keeping the coats. I'll meet you back at the drinks."
Kagome frowned. "You're leaving me alone? I don't know anyone here."
"You know the owner." He pointed out before he left her and disappeared into the crowd.
She grumbled as she was left to her devices. Glancing around the crowd, she wondered how so many attractive people could find themselves in the same house. Kagome didn't have self esteem problems, but she was feeling homely in this particular crowd. She was now grateful for the shoes that added inches to her height. If not, she would have been dwarfed and stepped on. Feeling ridiculous standing alone by the entrance, she decided grabbing a drink was the best bet. At least with a drink she could loosen up and keep her hands busy.
Making her way to the bar set up in the living room, Kagome took in the enormity of the house. Even with the amount of people, the party wasn't cramped. The house was enormous with large expansive windows and modern edges. Kagome suspected that a renowned architect probably had a hand in designing the place, but she really didn't know any better. The music wasn't aggressively loud and the decoration was tastefully holiday themed. She had worried it would be a cheesy holiday party, but it seemed more like the who's who of the town. There were a few faces she recognized from glossy magazines and some she'd seen on the news as major players in the city and the country. She felt ridiculously out of place. Sure she had a few connections in the rare books community, but that didn't exactly make her a mover or a shaker.
Getting whiskey on the rocks for Miroku and a vodka tonic for herself, she surveyed the room to see if he was back. Not seeing her cousin, she stood awkwardly with her drinks. Great, now she looked like a friendless alcoholic. Seeing that the other guests were also wanting their drinks, she side stepped and got out of the way.
She desperately willed for Miroku to show up, but he was taking his sweet time. No doubt he came across a pretty girl and was trying to get her number. Resolving that her cousin was going to take longer than she hoped, she tried to look busy. In any other party she might have attempted striking up a conversation, but Kagome worried that she didn't have anything in common with the guests here. So when her attention landed on an impressive bookcase in the corner, she saw it as her salvation.
Books were her friends and she always had a lot in common with them. She groaned at her own internal musings. She was just two felines shy of becoming the crazy cat lady. Miroku already teased about her single life with her cat Buyo.
Coming up the bookcase, which fortunately didn't have a group of people nearby, Kagome immediately recognized the copy of The Sun Also Rises resting behind a protective glass case. It had taken her months to track down this particular copy, and it had only been just last week when Kouga had come by to pick it up from the store. She hadn't expected him to put it on display in the living room though. She was also surprised to see that the book was displayed with the cover closed. Although any first edition of the novel was rare and valuable, the uniqueness of this copy laid in the cover page inside.
Browsing the rest of the bookcase she came across all the classic writers: Faulkner, Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Voltaire, and so on. Much like the party guests, the collection was a who's who of literature. But there was only one other book behind a display, and that was the first edition of The Old Man and the Sea. Why he was fascinated by Hemingway was beyond her. Kouga never gave a clear answer, but she figured it must be personal.
As her eyes traced the art deco cover art on the copy of The Sun Also Rises, Kagome was jostled from behind. She was too distracted to right herself, and her shoes had her toppling forward and straight into the display case glass. She shut her eyes and braced herself with the two drinks still in hand. The shoes were definitely a bad idea.
Instead of crashing into the bookcase and straight through the glass, her body was tugged back. A strong arm was wrapped around her torso and had pulled her away from the bookcase and caused her to fall against a firm body. She let out a very unladylike grunt as the arm pressed in and upward on her diaphragm.
Opening her eyes, she was relieved to find that she hadn't caused an attention grabbing commotion. The last thing she needed was to be the klutz that bled all over the copy of Hemingway she could never hope to afford. She was also pleasantly surprised to find neither drink had spilled.
Nudging the arm around her torso she let out a sigh of relief at the rescue. "Thanks Miro-" She turned her head and froze when she didn't see her cousin.
Instead, she was met with one of the most handsome men she'd ever laid eyes on -which was saying a lot for this crowd. He was tall, even with her skyscraping shoes on. She was sure that without her heels, he would have been a head taller than her. She was convinced she could spend hours looking at his golden eyes and not get bored. And his hair. Well, that just wasn't something you saw every day. Kagome wasn't sure if it was premature graying or the man naturally had white hair, but it suited him a little too well. Gray and white seemed like the wrong word for his long locks tied at the nape of his neck. No, not gray nor white. His hair was like spun silver.
The man furrowed his brows at her and finally spoke. "Watch where you're standing, wench."
And the magic was gone. Any spell she was under by this man's looks was squashed by his harsh tone and words. Tugging herself out of his grasp, she narrowed her eyes at him. Why was it that the cute ones were always gay or assholes?
"Watching where you're walking, assbutt." She snapped back. It wasn't her proudest comeback, but at least she had something.
"Assbutt?" He repeated her insult incredulously.
Ignoring any comments he might give of her lackluster word choice, she turned on her foot to look back at the bookcase. She dealt with enough jerks at work to not want to deal with another one at a Christmas party. Drawing her attention to the other objects on the shelves, she tried ignoring the man.
"I don't even get a 'thank you?'" He questioned and stepped up next to her to look at the shelves with her.
Giving him a side-eyed glare, her voice was icy. "For what?"
"Saving you from falling over." He said as if it were obvious.
"Well, how about you apologize for knocking me over in the first place?" She bit back.
He seemed to consider her comment and nodded. He reached over and grabbed Miroku's whiskey out of her hands and took a sip. "I'll settle for this instead."
Kagome frowned. What was up with this guy? "It's an open bar." She argued.
"Yeah, and you don't need to hoard the liquor. It's not going anywhere." He said while keeping his eyes on the random knickknacks on the various shelves.
"Maybe I'm trying to roofie my date and you're drinking my only supply of rohypnol." She said evenly.
He stole a glance at her and looked back at the bookcase. "That's an overly elaborate lie to get back a free drink." He seemed to be unfazed by her overly vivid imagination. Instead, he motioned to the bookcase. "You're actually falling for this?"
She questioned his phrasing. "Falling for what?"
"Kouga's wall of seduction." He clarified.
Turning her attention back to the books, memorabilia, and photos, she saw them as perfectly harmless. There was really nothing overtly sexual about anything. "I don't follow."
The man pointed at the three pictures that took up residence in the open spots on the shelves next to the books. "Think about it. Why these pictures? Kouga, on top of Mount Everest. Kouga, shaking hands with Nobel Peace Prize winner, Mohammed Yunus. Kouga, posing with orphans in Africa as part of UNICEF."
In Kagome's mind, this guy had a bad case of envy with Kouga's life. But she decided to keep quiet with her theory. "They're proud moments in his life."
"How about the random collectables." He pointed to a small glass case with an old baseball inside. "You know what this is?"
"His first homerun ball from little league?" She really didn't know why she was playing along and talking to him.
"It's the 1923 World Series baseball signed by the entire Yankees roster." He pointed to a framed front page of a newspaper. "Original printing of Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address."
"He has varying interests." Kagome said distractedly as she paid close attention to the newspaper, but not to the baseball. Any old piece of paper was fascinating in her book, and this was a piece of history.
"Every stereotypical intellectually stimulating classic title." He took another sip of his pilfered drink, and then indicated the last items on the shelf. "And two Hemingway first editions."
Kagome was getting the feeling that this guy wasn't going to leave her alone until he said his piece, so she sighed and humored him. "What's your point?"
"He's just trying to impress girls to get into their pants." He said bluntly.
She raised a brow at the hypothesis. "That's a bit cynical."
"Hey, I know the guy. Trust me, this is all for a girl." He assured. "From what I've heard, it's some chick who deals with old books."
"Oh?" Kagome answered innocently enough, no need to tell him that she fit the description.
"I told him it's not worth it. He wants to fulfill a sexy librarian fantasy, and probably picked the closest acceptable option. She's probably just some prude nerdy chic who's a little prettier than the average librarian." He chuckled at his own conclusion. "Why else does someone shell out that much money for two old books?"
Her fuse was shortening with each passing second, but she somehow kept it in check. "They're first edition Hemingways. Not signed copies of Twilight." She tried reasoning, giving him a chance to redeem himself.
"So? You can buy the e-book version, and the story is exactly the same. I get it if he likes Hemingway, just read the guy's work." He, unknowingly was digging himself into a grave. "You don't need to fork over the equivalent of a down payment on a house for an old copy."
She gritted her teeth and tried to keep her tone civil. "There's a sense of history in these books you won't get from reading it off of a Kindle."
"History? It's not like Hemingway actually wrote this thing out by hand. It's not his journal." The man kept on digging. "Hemingway probably never laid eyes on these copies, let alone touched them."
"Actually," Kagome started. "That's a signed copy of The Sun Also Rises. Not just a signed copy, but the one Hemingway gifted to his good friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald. So not only is it an important piece of literature, but it's also a testament of a friendship that two of the greatest American authors had."
She didn't stop her rant there. "Also, books are one of the few antiques you can still use without breaking it. You feel like you're participating in a part of history when you read from an already read copy. You read these stories that stood the test of time and wonder what the previous reader thought. Did they gasp at the twists? Did they cry when the main character's love died? Did they love to hate the villain?"
Kagome squared her shoulders, turned her attention back to the books, and took a languid sip from her glass. Without sparing him a glance, she finished her soliloquy. "And that, you can't get from an e-book."
"Oh shit." The man sounded guilty as realization hit him. "You're-"
He was suddenly interrupted by a new voice. "Inuyasha?" Both the silver-haired man and Kagome turned to see Miroku taking the final steps to join them.
"Miroku?" The man, now identified as Inuyasha, was just as surprised to see his friend. "The Hell are you doing here?"
"I came with her." He went up to her and raised a brow. "How do you know Inuyasha?"
She narrowed her eyes. "You know this jerk?"
Miroku sighed and looked over to his friend. "What did you say this time Inuyasha?"
"Forget it." Kagome cut in before he had a chance to answer. She shoved her other drink into Inuyasha's free hand and turned to Miroku. "Come on Miroku. Ask me to dance."
Tossing a sympathetic glance to his friend, he nodded to his cousin. "You know I can't turn away a beautiful woman."
Kagome grabbed Miroku's hand and practically dragged him to the other room where she had caught glimpses of people dancing. She needed to get away from the insensitive jerk who obviously looked down on her profession and industry.
Once she reached the dance area, she swung around to place her left hand on Miroku's upper arm and her right hand in his left. He couldn't help chuckling at her aggressive movements, which were obviously stemming from her encounter with Inuyasha.
"I'm surprised you made it all this way without tripping." He took the lead and swayed with the streaming Christmas music. "See, you underestimated your balance."
She frowned. "Don't tell me you know that pejorative asshat."
Miroku smirked at his cousin's attempt at an expletive. She was never one to blink twice at someone cursing, but she seemed to lack the art of doing it herself. "I've told you about Inuyasha before."
"I'd think I'd remember a name like that." She grumbled.
"He's one of my best friends." He clarified with smile still in place. "If you would take me up on that drink every once in awhile, you'd have met him by now."
"Well, thank God I decided not go to the bar with you." Her mood was lightening, but not by much.
"He's not that bad." Miroku tried defending his friend. "He's more bark than bite."
"Well, it doesn't really matter because I'm never seeing him again." She said as she caught sight of the host of the party, Kouga, move his way through the room. "Oh great, exactly what I need right now. Kouga's coming this way."
Miroku twirled her around to see what the guy looked like. "Pony tail? Blue eyes?"
"Yup." She tried hiding her face with her hair.
Seeing his cousin trying to hide, he maneuvered them so she was as out of sight as he could keep her. "Why are you avoiding him? Wasn't he the one who invited you to the party?"
"Not like I really had a choice." She slowly moved them to the edge of the room toward the kitchen.
"Are we on the run?" Miroku questioned as she took his hand and guided them away from the dancing couples in the opposite direction of Kouga.
She weaved them through the kitchen crowd and out toward the dining room. This house was turning out to be a bit of a maze as they passed through the different rooms. Getting into the enclosed heated sunroom, Kaoru ducked behind the wall by the door. The sunroom wasn't as crowded, but there were still people flowing in and out from the two rooms that fed into it.
"This is kinda fun." Miroku grinned as he also ducked behind the wall. "So why did we come to this party if you're avoiding him?"
Kagome groaned and leaned her head against the wall. "I was going to just say hi on the way out."
"Why even bother coming?" He questioned as he motioned to the patio furniture that was being freed up as a group moved on.
Securing the seats, Kagome let out a sigh of relief. Even though it had been less than an hour since she'd been on her feet, her shoes were starting to scream at her. "How many people do you think buy expensive rare books? I can't insult the guy. He could bad mouth me to his friends." She leaned back in the two-seater and glanced at Miroku who took the single seat. "Kouga's nice enough, but he comes on a little strong."
"Does he hassle you?" He asked, a protective tone entering his voice.
She rolled her eyes at him. Since Miroku didn't have any siblings, he adopted Kagome as his little sister. As four years her senior, he had warded off more than his fair share of interested male candidates from his little cousin.
"Nothing I can't handle." She assured. "He just keeps asking me out. I turn him down, but he's persistent."
"Maybe you need to lay down the law." He egged her on.
"Again, I have a reputation to keep up. Look at this party. These are the kind of people who can afford to collect books." She reasoned. "Anyways, he said he would finally give up if I came to his Christmas party."
"You should have come up with an excuse." Miroku argued.
"My boss talked me into it." Kagome gripped. "I think he has the ulterior motive for me to get more clients at this thing or something."
"So you're here in the capacity of a book dealer?" He questioned.
"Well, that, and I wanted to take this dress and shoes on a test run." She indicated her outfit.
Miroku looked her over and nodded. "What's the verdict?"
"You'll be seeing a repeat performance from this dress at New Year's, but these shoes are going to go back and die in their box." She glared at the offending footwear and flipped up one to look at the sole. "They're not really scuffed up yet. Maybe I can return them."
"Are you trying to cheat the system?" He laughed. "They're hot. Keep them."
Kagome furrowed her brows and shook her head. "I literally toppled over like a stack of Jenga. They're a safety hazard."
"You fell?" He bit back a laugh.
Thinking back on the memory, she grumbled. "More like your friend pushed me, but still doesn't change the fact that these make me unsteady on my feet."
"Inuyasha pushed you?" He sounded surprised. "He's a little rough around the edges, but he's not malicious."
"Whatever. I don't want to talk about him." She shook the memory off and sat up to address him. "So how many numbers did you get when you went to drop off our coats?"
Miroku mocked a gasp. "I don't know if I like what you're insinuating."
"How many numbers?" She was quick to ask.
Sighing in defeat, he let a smirk tug at the corner of his lips. "Two."
"You're losing your touch."She shook her head in faked disappointment.
"How many numbers did you get?" He asked in retaliation.
"I'm not out to make more notches in my bed post." She shrugged. "Also, I was invited here by a guy. I can't go around trying to get another date."
"So you changed your mind about Kouga?"
Kagome scrunched her nose. "I can't handle his attention."
He chuckled and commented in an exaggerated voice. "Woe is you. An insanely rich, smart, good looking bachelor with piercing baby blue eyes is chasing after you."
She raised a brow at his description. "I'm not interested, but I'm getting the feeling you are."
Miroku, not easily fazed by such comments, continued. "And he's also interested in rare books? I think you've met Mr. Right and you just haven't realized it."
"I guess I'm just not used to the attention." Kagome sighed and sat back in her seat.
Nodding, he swept his eyes through the crowd and landed on a woman who came into the sunroom. She was tall and slim with long dark hair tied up in a flirty ponytail. Her eyes were sharp and registering the crowd quickly.
"I'd like to jingle her bells." Miroku nudged her cousin and nodded toward the woman who caught his attention.
Kagome glared at him. "Seriously?"
"Hey, you're the one who wanted me to come with you." He grinned at his cousin. "You have to deal with the consequences now."
Rolling her eyes, she turned her attention to the crowd. "Which one? The blonde with the huge... assets in the pink tube dress? Or is it the redhead with the short black skirt?"
Shaking his head at her suggestions, he clarified. "Brunette, pony tail, black blazer, shiny dress."
She wondered about the shiny dress, but her eyes eventually landed on the woman with the black jacket and gold sequined dress. Kagome was surprised by the woman in question. Her hemline wasn't ridiculously short and her body wasn't an exaggerated caricature of curves. From past experiences, Miroku had a tendency to go for the bimbo, but this seemed to be a new corner. However, his lewd comment about jingling her bells wasn't new.
"I think she might be out of your league." She pointed out jokingly. Kagome wasn't blind and knew her cousin was gorgeous and a smooth talker. He had a tendency to bed hop, so going after a serious female candidate was unusual. Kagome knew just by looking at the woman that Miroku's usual charms would fall flat.
"That hurts Kagome." He said as he fixed his collar. "I'm going in though."
She rolled her eyes at Miroku and waved him away. "Go forth and conquer. I'll be here when she turns you down."
He shot her a look before standing. "Don't jinx me."
Kagome watched on as he sauntered away with more confidence than she could ever hope to muster. She really wondered if they were related sometimes.
Taking her cousin's absence as an opportunity to check her email, Kagome dug through her clutch for her phone. She had been itching to check her mail since Miroku picked her up that night, but had kept her urge in check. He sometimes teased her that she was overly attached to her phone, and that the device was the personal relationship she had. It wasn't her fault that she was constantly waiting for important emails from her connections. The rare book industry was more cut throat than people thought. Most people believed she sat behind a desk and went online looking through eBay listings, but in reality it was more of a treasure hunt. There were also certain titles and copies that every collector had on their list of must-haves, and so the competition was brutal. Kagome considered herself a book broker, and so negotiating was part of her daily life. So when a book she needed became available for purchase, she needed to swoop in before the other book dealers did. The early bird gets the worm after all.
Tonight, she was expecting a reply back from one of her connections in Japan. There was a particular copy of The Tale of Genji she was on the hunt for, and her latest lead seemed very promising. Scrolling through her emails, she frowned at not seeing the response from the Japanese book dealer. This was going to nag at her for the rest of the night. However, her mood lightened at seeing an email back from a Chicago book store she'd been hounding for weeks. It wasn't The Tale of Genji, but it was a book she had been spending years searching for.
"Yes!" She exclaimed, almost under her breath. But it seemed that during her engrossment with her email she hadn't noticed someone taking the seat next to her.
"Good news?" A male voice asked her.
Kagome quickly typed a reply back to Chicago before she had a chance to be distracted. She wasn't about to lose this book just because of a party. After hitting send, she grinned, "You have no idea." When she finally looked up, her smile disappeared and her face fell. "Oh, it's you."
Inuyasha, the intruder to her moment of elation, raised a brow at her reaction. "Nice to see you too."
Tucking her cell phone away into her clutch, she gripped the arm rest to tug herself up. "Well, bye."
When she was on her feet and about to step away, he reached out and pulled her back by her arm. Toppling backward with a grunt, the only thing cushioning her fall against the hard patio furniture was his other arm extended behind her. For a moment she wondered if he would end up with a bruise with her body crashing down on it, but pushed the thought aside. It was his own fault anyways.
Shooting him a glare she sat forward so that she wasn't lying back on his arm. "You could have just said 'hey, I need to talk to you.'" She rubbed her sore back. "No need to resort to violence."
He doubted the term violence was accurate, but let it slide. "I sat right next to you after making an ass of myself. If that's not an indication I want to talk, I don't know what is."
"What? You didn't say enough before?" She accused. "You don't like my dress? My hair looks ridiculous? I don't belong here?"
"Whoa, I wasn't going to say any of that." He attempted charm and flashed a smile. "I'm a fan of your dress and hair. All very nice."
Her expression remained deadpan as she waited expectantly for him to say anything else. He looked her over awkwardly and finally gave a lame response. "So how do you know Miroku?"
"He's my date." She answered vaguely. Sure, they were related but he didn't need to know that. She needed any excuse to get rid of this guy.
Inuyasha seemed skeptical and glanced toward the crowd. "You let your date hit on other girls?"
"He knows where to come back to." She was making herself sound out to be a girlfriend that was okay with being cheated on, but at least she wasn't lying. Miroku was her date for the night. Also, whenever he moved on from a girl Miroku tended to get into a mood. Sure, he did a lot of the dumping but he always needed to be cheered up. It was on more than one occasion when he showed up at her door with a six-pack of beer and pizza. She always wondered why he never went to his friends, but if Inuyasha was any indication she understood.
"Either you're confident or a fool." He commented.
Kagome crossed her arms in front o her chest and set her best glare on him. "You know that you're an asshole, right?"
He went to protest, but was interrupted by an intruder. "Is this guy bothering you?"
Kagome looked up hoping to see her cousin sweep in to her rescue, but instead it was the host of the party and the guy she was trying to duck. "Kouga. Hey, I've been looking for you." She plastered on her best enthusiastic face. "Great party."
"You enjoying yourself?" Kouga sat on the arm rest and handed her a drink. Kagome took it, but didn't take a sip. She really wasn't sure how much she could trust him but wanted to be polite.
"Yeah." She nodded. "You have a beautiful house."
Kouga grinned at the compliment and then directed his attention to the other man. "You actually showed up."
Inuyasha rolled his eyes. "You invited me."
"I didn't think you'd come though." Kouga motioned between the two. "You know each other?"
Kagome adamantly shook her head. "Absolutely not."
"Way to make a feel a guy welcome." Inuyasha frowned and shot her a look. "I know Miroku, so by relation..."
Kouga interjected. "Who's Miroku?"
"Her date." Inuyasha answered before Kagome had a chance to.
She could feel herself falling deeper into a pit of awkwardness. She had led Inuyasha to believe that Miroku was her date to leave her alone, but she didn't want everyone to think so. Kouga thinking she had a boyfriend was convenient and was probably the best solution for him to lose interest, but he knew people from her work. Eventually, someone was going to realize that Miroku was her first cousin and people would either get the idea that she was lying to everyone or that she was dating her first cousin. Both prospects were disturbing and not exactly helping her cause.
"You brought a date?" Kouga sounded disappointed and disbelieving.
"He's not my boyfriend though." She corrected. Mentally she groaned. Great, she was sounding like she was interested in Kouga. What she needed was a rescue, and quickly.
Looking through the crowd to catch sight of her cousin, she felt a sense of relief when his eyes met hers. She shot him a smile and played with her left earring. His eyes widened a bit, and then he nodded. Fearing that she would eventually be cornered by Kouga, Kagome had been adamant in developing a distress code earlier in the car. So Kagome had stowed her usually fidgety self and had not played with her hair or earrings the entire night. Right earring meant that she needed help. Left earring meant she needed to leave before she did something awful or was swept into a situation she couldn't handle.
Miroku was surprisingly quick in covering the distance. Kagome was never more grateful than now that he had a brotherly protective streak in him. Miroku, however, was not brash and barreling in without a plan. He was nothing if not clever.
"You guys keeping my girl company?" He asked when he finally reached them.
Kagome mentally praised him for his word choice. At least he was keeping up the appearances that he was her date. But was that the best decision?
"When did you two meet?" Kouga skipped over any pleasantries and went right for the interrogation.
Miroku exchanged a knowing glance with Kagome before answering. "I can't remember a time when I didn't know her." He knew exactly what situation he had stepped into and how to act.
"She's never mentioned you." Superficially, Kouga's tone was polite but everyone present knew that he was being snide.
"Why would she mention me at work?" Miroku smiled confidently and extended his hand out for Kagome to take. "Let's get going."
Inuyasha, who had acted only as spectator up to this point chimed in. "Didn't you just get here?"
Kagome was all too eager to take her cousin's arm to stand up and gave a pleasant smile to the two men. "There's a family thing tonight and I promised my mom I would at least stop by." She was surprised by how easily the lie flowed out of her.
There was a look that crossed Inuyasha's features that Kagome couldn't read. She didn't know the man very well, but she got the feeling that he was judging her nine ways to Sunday. She reasoned that his opinion didn't really matter to her either way.
She smiled politely back at Kouga, "Thanks for inviting me. I had a great time." She leaned forward and kissed him on the cheek, and immediately after regretted her decision but kept her smile in place. "Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas." Kouga responded in kind and nodded curtly at Miroku. "It was nice meeting you."
They exchanged their pleasantries while Kagome glanced over momentarily at Inuyasha. He was watching her like a hawk. She raised a brow at him, and he responded by narrowing his eyes. It was no skin off her nose. So far, this guy was proving to be a jerk. She could do without a friend like that, despite the fact that Miroku seemed to call him a close friend.
Miroku steered her away after telling Inuyasha that he'd see him tomorrow -which solidified this supposed friendship she had in her mind between the two.
"So what was the emergency?" Miroku whispered conspiratorially. "Was it Inuyasha or Kouga?"
"More my fault than theirs." She sighed as they made their way toward where he had stashed their coats. "I led Inuyasha to think that you're my boyfriend so he wouldn't bug me, and then he tells Kouga when he showed up. I needed to get out of there before they found out you were my cousin."
"Did you drag me into an incestuous scandal?" He feigned disappointment and shook his head. "Well, at least you're hot."
She gave an exaggerated eye roll. "Because that's the important part of this situation." Then she looked at him expectantly. "How'd it go with the girl? Any luck?"
Miroku frowned. "She was a tough one to crack. Eventually she gave me her name and number so I would stop bothering her." He showed her his palm with the name 'Mirei' and a number neatly written. "I'm getting the feeling they're both fake."
Kagome laughed at her cousin's misfortune. "I told you she was out of your league."
"Want to do me the favor of calling the number tomorrow?" Coming to a closed door, Miroku led them in. Once inside, Kagome saw rows and rows of rolling racks with coats of all shapes and sizes neatly hanging.
"Why me?" She asked as Miroku disappeared into the sea of coats to retrieve theirs.
"So I don't sound like an idiot." He said from somewhere in the abyss of outerwear.
"Oh, but if I sound like an idiot that's perfectly fine." She called out in his general direction.
There was some rustling and finally her cousin broke through all the material with two coats in hand. "I came to this party as a favor. You could at least help a guy out."
"You got three phone numbers at this party. I think you got the better end of this deal." Taking her coat she frowned as she tugged it on. "I don't know how me calling is going to alleviate your humiliation of getting a fake number. Also, it can't be your first time."
"Yeah, but you'd phrase it in a way that would lessen the blow." He said with a grin, but faltered at seeing the look on her face. "Right?"
She considered his offer a long moment and finally nodded. "Fine. Just text me the name and number later. I'll call her and tell you how it goes."
"I knew I could count on you." He offered his arm again and grinned as she took it. "So are we going to visit your mom now?"
Kagome chuckled and shook her head. "That was a blatant lie. The family function is next week, you know, on Christmas Eve."
Miroku winced. "I can already hear grandpa's lecture about settling down with a nice girl."
"He's not that bad." She weaved through the party with him toward the front door. "You didn't have to live with him until leaving for college. I used to get the daily sermon that I would die if even thought about sex or drugs. So you can survive a family get-together a couple times a year."
He sighed in defeat. Kagome really did get the brunt of the old man's unsolicited advice. One, for being the only granddaughter and the other for being the favorite. His grandfather never said as much, but Miroku had his suspicions. His main evidence was the amount of ice cream his grandfather scooped for Kagome compared to the amount he or Kagome's brother, Souta, received.
"Where are we off to now?" He asked as they finished covering the majority of the party and broke out into the chilly night air. "Want to go grab a drink? I know you didn't finish yours earlier."
She considered his offer for a moment and then shook her head. Glancing over at him she flashed a smile and motioned toward the direction of his car. "Let's go get waffles."
"Waffles?" He was, as usual, surprised by his cousin's spontaneity.
"I skipped lunch to wear this dress." She said as she leaned down and tugged off her shoes. The pavement beneath her feet was bitingly cold but it was a nice relief from the steep angle of the heels.
"Why waffles though?" He didn't bother talking her back into her shoes, because he knew that there was neither hell nor high water that could talk her into doing something she already set her mind to.
"Why not?" She shrugged. "I need comfort food. Thanks to your friend, I think I lost Kouga as a customer."
"How?" He opened the car door for her as he asked.
"Because he couldn't keep his trap shut." She sighed and leaned back in the car seat. "Now Kouga thinks I'm dating you."
"You were selling books by leading a guy on?" Miroku chuckled and shook his head. "You could have just told the truth."
"Which makes me seem like I'm available." She grumbled.
Going around the car and getting in he glanced over at her. "But you are available."
"Kouga doesn't need to know that."
He was getting confused by her explanation and asked for clarification. "So are you interested in Kouga or not?"
"Not." She answered succinctly. "I just wanted to keep him as a client."
"And he'd only do that if he thought you were available." He concluded for her.
"That's what I suspected before tonight, and your buddy confirmed it."
"Inuyasha?" He wondered if that's how his friend got on Kagome's bad side.
"He informed me about the 'wall of seduction.'" She glanced out the window as he started up the engine. "But maybe he helped me dodge a bullet."
Something happened tonight at the party and Miroku suspected that Inuyasha had a severe case of foot in mouth disease. He'd try to get the details from Kagome over waffles -as good food always loosened her tongue. And tomorrow, he'd grill Inuyasha while they watched the football game on TV.