Chapter 33: A Qualifying Heat
“I think I’d like you to exercise your instincts. We could do a test run.” Kagome held her breath, waiting to see how Sesshomaru would react and fighting the blush that was rising on her cheeks. Instead of kissing her, of holding her close and doing any of the deliciously naughty things that she had imagined, he stood gracefully. Without saying anything, he set her on her feet, steadied her, and moved away. Mokomoko remained wrapped around her, keeping her warm, but Kagome watched in growing confusion and embarrassment as he picked up her bag from where she had dropped it.
His back to her, he collected her neatly folded kimono and tucked it into the bag. The embarrassment that had flushed her face was swiftly turning to mortification. She had been stupid – absolutely stupid. Asking him to make out with her in an open field. They were in the middle of a plague. A war was looming. And I just refused to mate him. He must think I am crazy. Or a slut. A crazy slut, she thought with growing mortification.
Self-recrimination overwhelmed her and she squeezed her eyes shut. Her emotions had been on a roller coaster for days, and then this little rejection – a tiny rebuff – had her rethinking every decision all over again. She was angry with herself for saying anything. Disappointed that he wasn’t more eager to take advantage. Angry with him for just moving on – preparing to leave as though nothing had happened when he could have said something, anything. Don’t let me just stand her ! I-
“Kagome.” He breathed her name against her face and her eyes opened of their own accord to find him standing only a few inches away. She was forced to tilt her head far back to meet his gaze. The act was painful as she dreaded seeing condescension – or worse, blankness – in his expression. What she found made her speechless. His jaw was iron; locked hard as though he feared what he would say or do with his mouth if he allowed it free reign. His eyes – sweet mother of pearl, his eyes – were red. Not the blood-soaked fury that she had seen there before in the midst of battle, but instead a ruby that burned her, that asked – demanded – that she accept his heat and burn with him. “Cease your foolish thoughts.”
She opened her mouth to argue, to tell him she wasn’t foolish, to take back what she had said, maybe even to beg him to touch her, but he swallowed whatever words she would have spoken. His lips were narrow but unbelievably soft and Kagome could not help but lean into him. His tongue entered her mouth, not sneaking between her lips as he had done before, but thrusting, boldly. He swept the recesses of her mouth and circled her tongue with his – urging her to participate but not giving her the opportunity. He controlled the force and tempo of the kiss just as he controlled their position. Mokomoko pressed her against him and one arm snaked around her back. The ridges of his armor were uncomfortable, but also exciting. The pressure felt good, felt agonizing on her lower belly and thighs. She wanted to move against him, wanted to gain a better angle to redirect that pressure right where she needed it most, but his tight hold would not allow it.
Kagome was almost oblivious to the cold air swirling around her legs as she moaned into his mouth. She shifted and clenched ineffectually at his sleeves, but he responded only with a low growl and a none too gentle nip at her lower lip. For a moment, she thought he broke the skin, and then his tongue was on her mouth again, hot and sure and tasting of cloves and copper. The hand at her back squeezed her shoulder before pulling lower in a hard, smoothing motion that soothed her muscles and sent a shiver down her spine at the same time. Claws pricked through the thin cotton of her shirt to drum across the skin of her ribs. The tickling, teasing sensation caused her breasts to tighten and feel suddenly heavier.
She tried to use her tongue. She tried to give back as good as she got but he would not allow it. He growled again and nipped at that muscle, making her gasp and pull back or risk being bitten. Instead of following, he pulled her lower lip into his mouth, sucking not quite hard enough to hurt, but enough to find a direct connection between the soft flesh of her mouth and the bundle of nerves between her legs. Kagome moaned again, giving in to his dominance and letting her head fall back, trusting him to keep her safe. She felt boneless and overwhelmed. He was everywhere. Around her, inside her mouth, pressing against her and almost crushing her with the force of his interest.
She didn’t have room to breathe. She didn’t have room for anything – not worry, shame, anger, or embarrassment – only him. There was only the feel of his claws on her skin, his breath in her mouth, the bruising pressure of his lips on hers. When he finally lifted his head she felt dazed, drugged, incapable of thought except for the wild observation that he had somehow moved them into the forest and the painful loss of his heat on her mouth.
Sesshomaru had known his control was hanging by a thread. She offered herself to him – offered him a small taste of what he already considered his and had been denying himself out of courtesy to her. She had been gone from his side for too long; and before that, taken from him against her will. Then she listened to his desire, his need, the dark call of his instincts to take her, make her his, make her submit, to pleasure her, and she agreed.
Only so far. No further.
It was torture. He was sure, or would have been if he did not know without any room for doubt that she was incapable of deception or guile – at least where he was concerned – that she did not know what she was asking of him. Her suggestion, to fulfill some of his needs, but not all, was a dark thrill to his lust. Something that could easily push him over the razor thin edge of reason. He would take everything she would offer, but he could not allow himself any more than that.
He had taken a moment to collect himself. Sesshomaru breathed deeply, slowly, while he collected her things and tried to think clearly. He needed to temper the expectations of his beast, of himself, because he knew he could not take her. She wanted intimacy, she would submit, but he could not spend himself in her body and mark her as his mate. It was what he wanted. More than anything in his long life, at that moment he wanted to strip her and enter her, to hear her scream his name in a pleasure that bordered on pain and taste her blood in his mouth. Smell her excitement, her submission and her power. He wanted to bend his woman to his flesh and his will. But he could not go that far.
He kissed her. It was intended to distract her from thoughts of anxiety while he moved them to a more private location, but instead he found himself nearly overcome by an inferno of lust. She tasted sweet. Sugared citrus. Fresh flowers. Faint mint. He plundered her, diving into her mouth to capture every drop of her essence and he became so engaged in the feel of it he almost forgot to hold on to her as his cloud formed beneath their feet.
And then her flesh was under his hand. The sleek muscles of her back and the delicate skin over her ribs. His claws sank through her clothing like Bakusaiga through silk and he barely held himself back from hurting her. Her tongue reached out to his and he reacted before he could stop himself. He bit her, accepting nothing less than her complete surrender and easily gaining it. Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he had been too rough, too youkai, but he could not stop himself. His saliva would help seal the wound, and it had not been overly deep, but the taste of her blood mixed in the back of his mouth with the scent of her capitulation and he growled in triumph.
They landed near a dense copse of young trees and he carried her into the shelter. He dropped her bag and pulled her lower lip into his mouth. She was soft, pliant, and it called to his instincts. He barely restrained himself biting her again, harder. From sliding his mouth to the pulse in her neck and clamping his jaws around the beat of her heart. She was his, she would know it, but he could not treat her as a youkai. He had to soften his instincts, dull the edge of his desire before he injured her or drove her away.
He released her mouth and pulled back. The sight of her was nearly enough to break the tenuous hold he maintained on rational thought. Heavy-lidded and dark with desire, the blue of her eyes was glazed and nearly swallowed by the black pupils. Her mouth. Sesshomaru had to close his eyes for a moment and force the Kagome-scented air out of his lungs to think clearly. When he opened them again, it was in time to see the tip of her tongue dart out to trace the obvious puncture mark on her lower lip. It was not bleeding, inuyoukai healing properties had seen to that, but the flesh around it had swollen in response and glistened wetly. He was not certain if he could still taste her coppery sweet blood in his mouth, or if it had been seared into his memory. He tore his gaze away to prevent him from taking her mouth again. Her cheeks were flushed dark pink – the color trailing down her neck and creating an arrow for his eyes that drew to a point between her collarbones and led to her heaving chest.
Cinnamon. She was eager for him. Satsuma oranges. His actions, perhaps even his roughness, excited her. Heavy, hot gardenias. Magnolias. Cherry wood. The lingering faint trace of carnations.
She trusted him. He recognized it in her scent and that cooled the fires that were threatening to overwhelm his judgment. He was overreacting. She had done nothing wrong. The human pup that had touched her had done so without her consent; he had not hurt or shamed her. He would never touch her again. There is no cause to punish my intended, only reprimand. There is no reason to rush to complete the courting ritual, only to allow us both to seek pleasure. Why does my behavior not obey my thought?
With sudden, stark understanding the daiyoukai knew that he was wrong. Entirely, utterly wrong. Not only did Kagome not deserve his treatment, but he was displaying his dominance for the wrong reason. When he had found her, falling into the ocean after her escape from the North. When she had lain in his arms, shivering and staving off fear and self-disgust as he warmed her. When they had returned to the castle only to be required to leave again quickly and he was forced to hand her safety over to another. At those times he had wanted to reassert his claim over her, to secure her willing obedience and soothe the beast inside himself with the knowledge that she belonged to him. That she knew she belonged to him – and that she would never again be held by another. He had denied himself so thoroughly that until she returned and innocently offered herself, Sesshomaru had not been cognizant of the strength of his need.
He had been frightened when he lost her.
Sesshomaru ran his hands down her back to grasp her hips and pressed a light kiss to her forehead. Kagome had been, was still, deeply affected by her captivity. He understood her reaction and was committed to soothing her fears and giving her strength of her own – and all of his she would accept – to banish those fears permanently. However, he was not prepared to deal with the turmoil it had stirred in him. She had been taken from him. Easily. Quietly. She had been taken and could have been lost to him forever. Sesshomaru had to be truthful with himself: the thought that it could happen again, with a far blacker outcome, was enough to send him into a snarling, senseless fury of hurt and terror. She deserves more.
The daiyoukai was not accustomed to dealing with emotions at all, much less deep, wild feelings within himself. He would have to find a way, however. He could not use Kagome, would not abuse her to soothe his irrational needs. She deserved more. He had to either overcome this new weakness, this fear, or find a way to manage it.
“Sesshomaru?” Her voice was thick and had a burr caused by his rough treatment. She did not smell of fear or hurt, but he knew he could have caused either or both – had been moments away from damaging her. He forced himself to pull back far enough to meet her eyes.
“I apologize,” he said simply.
She blinked, most of the haze of passion fading, and opened and closed her mouth several times before finally working out, “What?”
He ground his teeth together, reluctant to repeat himself but refusing to allow cowardice to dictate his actions. “This One apologizes for causing you pain.”
“You didn’t…” She scowled, “now don’t start that ‘This One’ crap again. You don’t get to be all distant and lordly with me after all of – of – of this.” She gestured vaguely with her chin between the two of them and her cheeks burned brighter.
“I intended only to show respect and my sincerity.” Sesshomaru would have smiled at her sudden umbrage – only Kagome could berate him while her hands were still fisted from passion in his sleeves – but he needed her to understand that he had been wrong. He. Sesshomaru. The Killing Perfection. The Saidai Mao had abused her trust, acted dishonorably, and required her forgiveness. It was galling. There was no other that could have made him admit as much. No other for whom he felt so deeply that he would act that way.
“You respect me?” Her mouth hung open in a perfect, red circle. Had it been anyone else, he would have been baffled by their ability to focus on the completely inconsequential and wrong words. “I…Sesshomaru…” She blinked, a long, slow sweep of dark lashes against pale skin. When blue eyes met his again, the warmth in her gaze astounded him. “Thank you.” Tears began to gather and the faint scent of salt and camphor was nearly drown out by light carnations. “That is just – you’re so…I mean…Sesshomaru!”
She threw her arms around his neck, heedless of his armor. Only youkai reflexes allowed him to shift her to the side before she lanced herself on his shoulder spike. Sesshomaru could not stop the furrow of confusion that drew his brows together. Heavy, molten lust still pooled in his belly and hardened his member. The taste of her mouth and her blood lingered on his tongue. A twinge of disgrace still pulled on his honor. All of that, and this woman. His woman – his miko – was crying into his neck and smelling of deep happiness.
“You are,” he paused, unsure of how to explain his confusion without upsetting her again. “You are most changeable, Kagome.”
“Me?” She laughed. The sound was light and eased the knot of tension in his chest. “A girl has a right to change her mood, Sesshomaru. But what is your excuse? You run hot and cold and here I am, just waiting for you to kiss me.” Her eyes sparkled with mirth and unshed tears. With her hands still clasped behind his neck, she tugged, pulling one foot off the ground to hook her thigh over his hip. The thoroughly confused, thoroughly aroused youkai was extremely conscious of his hands gripping her thighs and the thin material that separated his skin from hers. His interest, banked by the concern that he had hurt her, rose again.
He tugged her closer, helping her to grind her core against a ridge in his armor and drawing a gasp of surprise from her lips and a burst of salty, sweet cinnamon from between her legs. Her mouth drew closer to his, and his need to lay his honor in her hands was swiftly being overcome by desire. He had offered his apology; whether she accepted it or not, understood it or not, agreed with it or not, that was out of his control. He took only one more moment to attempt to keep himself in check and to convince her of his sincerity, “You must say something, if I go too far.” She did not answer, but pressed her lips to his, and Sesshomaru did not spend any more considerations on how a small human woman – young and guileless and ignorant of her power – had so completely destroyed his control.
Kagome wanted to grin. She wanted to throw back her head and laugh. More than anything, she wanted to kiss him. Sesshomaru. He desired her. He worried about hurting her. He respected her. It wasn’t love. She hadn’t thought it would be – hadn’t expected Sesshomaru of all people to declare his love for her. She would have been shocked – suspicious even – if he had. Nothing could change the nature of the taciturn, cool daiyoukai so quickly. Certainly not her.
However. She smiled again and then nearly moaned as he helped her get closer – grinding her hips against him. Respect was perhaps the highest feeling that Sesshomaru had ever admitted for anyone. He would never be able to love someone he did not respect, she was sure. And she felt the same way about him. She respected him – his loyalty, his honor, his dedication to his role as a leader. She worried for his safety. She desired him. Holy hell. If Kagome desired him any more she would probably spontaneously combust.
“You must say something, if I go too far.” His command had a tiny plea buried inside it, but still Kagome heard it and melted a little more. He thought he would lose his control with her. He thought she was capable of making him lose his control. The power went straight to her head and made her nearly dizzy. Between that and the blood that had left her brain to pool somewhere much lower, Kagome wasn’t capable of rational thought.
She pressed her lips to his and sighed into his mouth, “I could love you.” As soon as the words were spoken, she forgot them. He shifted his weight and the seam of his armor pressed against a slightly different place. She moaned. His tongue slid across her lips, tugging slightly at the abused skin where he had bitten her. A twinge of soreness was drowned in a surge of need as his lips found her jaw, then her neck. He placed hot kisses on her throat and licked at the place where her pulse fluttered wildly. The pressure – faintly rasping – of his tongue was followed by a suction that forced her to close her eyes and moan. It felt so good. Jolts of electricity sparked across her skin in random directions, all centered on his connection to her. Reflexively, she squeezed her legs and arms, pulling him tighter.
The movement nearly stabbed her with his armor. She frowned, the uncomfortable press of his spike against her shoulder distracting her from the heavenly sensation of his hot palms sliding under her ass. She let go of his sleeve and wormed her fingers under the edges of his shoulder piece She found the ties, but her fingers fell dumb and useless when he nipped at her flesh. Sharp teeth grazed her skin and sent liquid heat roiling through her to crash against his plate covered body. “Take it off,” she breathed.
He didn’t respond immediately, and she worried that he didn’t understand, so she tugged at the confounding straps that held his armor together. “Mmmm, Sesshomaru,” she mumbled. He lifted her higher, gripping her ass and kneading the muscles there until she was ready to melt in his hands. His mouth left her neck – she was certain she would have a massive hickey but she could not find it in her to care as he left a burning path of kisses across her collarbone and into the vee of her cleavage. “Take it off,” she managed to gasp out.
The upper swell of her left breast was pulled against his teeth as he sucked gently and then drew circles on her flesh with his tongue. “Untie the pauldron,” he murmured against her skin. When she did not immediately obey, he nipped at her and swept his talented, teasing muscle under the edge of her tank top and bra to ghost against her nipple. She was aching. Everywhere. Every inch of her was throbing with need. It centered in pulsing, hot ripples on her hard nipple and the empty spot between her legs that was weeping for his touch. “There is only one loose end. Pull.” He emphasized his command by nosing aside her shirt and finding the hardened bud of her breast through the thin cotton lace of her bra. His mouth latched on and he sucked.
Kagome saw stars.
Every fiber in her being was focused at that moment on a single square inch of her body. The intense, wet heat of him surrounded her and started a fusion reaction that she did not think anything could stop. His tongue lapped at the underside of her nipple, swirling against the tight skin and then pushing it up against the textured roof of his mouth and allowing it to drag against the edge of his teeth as he released her. The scrape of deadly weapons against her skin was erotic, dangerous, and thrilling.
“Sess-homaruuu,” she moaned.
He flicked his tongue across her one more time before whispering against her skin, “Take it off, Kagome.” As if Ritalin had been injected directly into her fingers, she was suddenly, resolutely, focused on her task. One thin strap of leather hung loose from the knot that held his armor together and she grasped on and pulled. There was a shift and a faint clank, and then he had pulled it away and her upper stomach was seared with direct contact to his chest. Pressure increased on her back as he pushed against her, nosing her loose flannel shirt aside to expose the hardened peaks of her breasts in a thin pink tank top and thinner bra. He nipped at her through her clothes, and she cried out, reflexively tightening her legs and pressing even closer to him. “This as well, before I tear it from you.”
She understood he wanted her shirts gone, but she could only manage to struggle out of her plaid over shirt, leaving it trapped between the tree behind her and her back before he lost patience. She nearly sobbed in relief when he took over. His teeth caught the neckline of her tank top and with a jerk of his head the garment was no more. Flutters of pale pink cotton danced in the air around them like tiny clouds, but Kagome had only a moment to be distracted as Sesshomaru’s claws found the thin ribbon between the cups of her bra and severed it. His face pressed against the exposed skin and he breathed deeply. Kagome dove her fingers into his hair and prepared to guide him back to her nipple – she was eager to benefit from his talented mouth again.
A sound, caught between a growl and a snarl, vibrated his chest and straight into her. “Kagome,” he said quietly. She paid him no attention – she couldn’t, not while the noise he was making sent quivers of pleasure crashing through her. Her body tightened and trembled. She felt like she was on the precipice of a great discovery; an excited voice in the recesses of her mind whispered, Orgasm! Here it comes! The the tone of his growling changed and she was left wanting, needing, waiting – like a spring had been compressed inside her but not released. “Ka-go-me,” he repeated more sternly.
“No,” she pleaded, desperate. Her eyes fluttered open, she hadn’t realized that she had closed them, and met his own red stare. There was a slight twist to his mouth, unnoticeable on anyone else, it screamed to Kagome: frustration. “What?” she finally managed.
“I am going to remove your clothes,” he stated flatly. His expression was completely controlled, but his hands tightened on her ass and his claws pricked through her leggings. She nodded, breathless. Now, please! “I am going to hold you here, and taste you until you are incapable of experiencing more pleasure.” Yes! Yes! What are you waiting for! She let out a breathy gasp of acceptance. One hand slid up and around to grasp the waistband of her leggings and the thin strip of her underwear across her hip. Effortlessly, he lifted her higher, still pinned against the tree. She held onto his hair to keep her balance as he pulled one of her legs over his shoulder, making it obvious how he intended to taste her. The precarious position and realization that cunnilingus was about to become an experience, not just an idea, send a breeze of cool reality through her head. Did I shave at home? Not that anybody here shaves, but he might – oh sweet hell – is he going to want this all the time? What if he doesn’t? What if he doesn’t like it and I’m not as good as-
The rip of material drew her out of a downward spiral of hysteria. She focused on him again, and had only a moment to burn the image of his pale skin, red eyes, and swollen lips mere inches from her triangle of dark hair. “When the pleasure becomes too great, and you fall unconscious, I will catch you.” When I what? Sesshomaru leaned closer, pressing his nose against the crease between her inner thigh and her outer labia, and took a deep breath.
“Sesshomaru-” she began, but her hesitant question died in her throat when his low rumble started again. This time the vibrations traveled directly from his mouth to her core. Kagome tilted back her head and opened her mouth on a silent cry. Her breath made a cloud in the air above her, but she felt warm. Hot. She was burning up and when his wet, strong tongue stroked her slit the coil of tension in her belly compressed painfully. “Sess- Sess-” she gasped. He parted her folds with his nose and a growl of intense hunger. His mouth followed, the pressure on her skin dueled with his purr – she could think of it as nothing else – and the two combined to trip the spring of her release.