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Once in a Blue Moon by Sage McMae

Chapter 1

It starts— as every disaster does —with an impromptu visit from his mother.

“Do you know what next year is?” she asks as she bursts into his office unannounced.

Kagura, his assistant, rushes in behind her, appearing rather out of breath. No doubt his mother and her have been arguing for the better part of the last hour while he finished up his conference call with their northern branch.

“Thank you, Kagura,” Sesshomaru dismisses his assistant.

After today, he owes her another pay raise. HR calls it an incremental bump. Sesshomaru calls it hazard pay. Not many people can keep up with his mother, let alone wrangle her under control. Kagura is a godsend, even if her tactics tend to be abrasive. Her cold, calculating nature keeps his office free of distractions.

Except when his mother stops in.

“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Sesshomaru inquires calmly.

Arisu folds herself into the seat across from him. She looks every bit the ruler she was when she was in her prime. There is a regal air to her that the centuries have not diminished. Sesshomaru understands why his father chose her as his mate.

“How much longer are you going to wait to choose a mate and produce an heir?”

Likewise, he understands why Touga took Izayoi as his wife. If Kagura is abrasive, his mother is downright cut-throat.

“Mother, we have discussed this,” Sesshomaru reminds her sternly. This is not a conversation he wishes to have at work.

“The blue moon is coming,” she continues, ignoring his tone. “Taking a mate under such circumstances is auspicious. This could be your chance, my darling.”

“I will not be coerced into taking a mate— not by the council, not by father, and certainly not by you.”

“Sesshomaru, you’re in your prime. Your position on the council and here at Taisho Corp is precarious. You need to choose a partner to secure power,” his mother insists.

“Since when has taking a mate solidified anything?” he questions.

“Since always. Our traditions are one of the only things we have left in this new world. I know you understand that.” She pauses, shaking her head. “Sometimes you are too much like your father.”

“Do not compare me to him,” Sesshomaru grumbles, shuffling the paperwork on his desk.

His mother’s eyes soften. “Darling, you can’t stay mad at him forever.”

“He made his decision,” Sesshomaru returns.

“Our relationship may have failed but that doesn’t mean your father loves you any less,” Arisu tells him.

“If he is so concerned about tradition, perhaps he should evaluate his own choices. Mates do not abandon each other,” Sesshomaru points out.

His mother rises from her seat. Leaning across the desk, she cups his chin in her hand. “If you’re not careful, darling, your anger will consume you. It will wrap itself around your heart and strangle out all that is good and light. You need to forgive him.”

“I do not need to do anything,” Sesshomaru replies.

Arisu sighs. “Think about what I said. Our years are long and solitude is a lonely cage.”

Once she leaves, Sesshomaru puts the conversation from his mind. 

Their quarterly earnings are down and he is analyzing all facets of the business to determine why. His nose is buried in the profit and loss statement the Finance Director delivered earlier, when there is a knock on his door.

“Sir?” Kagura calls.

“What is it now?”

“Director Okami for you,” she announces.

“Let him in,” Sesshomaru relents with a sigh. 

At this rate, he will not get anything done. He will need to take home the reports to review at home.

“Sess!”

He glares at the black-haired man strutting confidently into his office.

“Kouga,” Sesshomaru growls. “You will address me properly or not at all.”

"Chill, jeez," the wolf demon drops into the open seat opposite him. "You know if you scowl like that, after a century or so, your face sets and then you stay like that forever. It's true. Look it up."

Sesshomaru’s mood darkens. Some of their kind have adapted to the modern age more easily than others. 

Personally, he prefers the old ways. He misses the days when a disagreement could be settled with swords instead of an iron-clad legal contract. Things were simpler back then. 

And less noisy. 

“Do you have an objective or are you merely here to waste my time?”

Kouga rolls his eyes. “I need you to sign off on my new hire,” he says, producing a job requisition form. He slides the piece of paper across the desk.

“A liaison?” Sesshomaru scoffs, handing the sheet back. “What do you require a liaison for?”

The wolf demon turns serious. “You’re kidding, right? Demon-human relations are at an all-time low. Unrest and negative sentiments are impacting our bottom line. If you don’t get some positive exposure soon, Taisho Corp is going to suffer.”

Sesshomaru scans their earnings report then turns his attention to their P&L file. His scowl deepens.

“What do you envision this position doing?” he inquires.

“She’ll coordinate, manage, and coordinate our strategic objectives with the Executive Leadership team. The organization needs to be aligned with our messaging and our goals. She can handle that. By working cross-functionally, she’ll be able to make sure everyone is on the same page so we are putting our best foot forward with the public,” Kouga explains.

“She?”

“Yeah, I already have a candidate in mind,” the wolf confirms.

Sesshomaru has never particularly cared for Kouga but he cannot deny that the wolf demon has a knack for handling the company’s image. He does not trust Kouga with his daughter but Sesshomaru does trust him with Taisho Corp. The wolf is, if nothing else, an opportunist. He will not bite the hand that feeds. 

“Fine,” Sesshomaru agrees, begrudgingly taking the form to add his signature, “but I get to interview your selection.”’

Kouga smirks. “You’re gonna love her.”

“I doubt it.”

Two days later, he eats his words when Kouga escorts Kagome Higurashi into his office.

The young woman is just out of college, fresh-faced, and beaming with a warm smile. She is like the first rays of sunshine after a thunderstorm. Her daffodil-colored dress and bright demeanor make her glow. There is a hint of pink on her cheeks as she meets his eyes. Her heartbeat is steady, though slightly elevated. She is quite possibly the most gorgeous creature he has ever seen. 

“Good afternoon, Mr. Taisho,” she says, reaching across the desk to shake his hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to discuss the position with me.”

Sesshomaru cannot stop staring at her. 

And her scent.

It reminds him of running through an open field. The floral notes are crisp, natural with a hint of citrus and sage. She smells like home. 

Belatedly, he realizes she is waiting for him to speak.

“I appreciate you coming in for the interview,” he replies. “Mr. Okami mentioned he knows you personally. I hope that will not impact your work here.”

“Actually,” she says with a small laugh— it is a musical sound that makes his skin heat beneath his suit, “it was one of the reasons I initially refused to apply.”

“Excuse me?”

Her smile falters. Her hand shakes as she tucks a strand of black hair behind her ear. She’s nervous.

“Koug— erm, Mr. Okami has been pursuing me for months. He’s relentless. When he told me about the opening here, I just assumed it was another ploy to get me to agree to go out with him,” she admits. The color on her cheeks darkens.

Sesshomaru makes a mental note to have a word— several in fact —with Kouga. He will not tolerate any of his directors harassing women. He will not tolerate any of his employees harassing anyone. Ever

“I can assure you that, if you choose to come work for us, Mr. Okami will not bother you,” Sesshomaru promises. He does not tell her that he will make it his personal mission to ensure Kouga leaves her alone. 

She visibly relaxes. “Oh, well then, that’s a relief. I’d much rather focus on press announcements and fundraising endeavors than hiding from my superior.” Her eyes go wide as she realizes what she has said. “Not that I’m afraid of pushing back, it’s just he’d be my supervisor and—.”

“I understand.”

“Oh, okay, good,” she says with a relieved sigh.

“Why do you want to work for Taisho Corp, Ms. Higurashi?”

“My brother is a kitsune,” she answers. “There aren’t many demon-run companies in Tokyo and your equality initiative is the first of its kind. I don’t want a job. I want a career where I can make a difference. If I can work anywhere, I want to work at a place that treats me the same way they would my brother.”

Her response catches him off-guard. Sesshomaru has never heard of a mortal family adopting a full-blooded demon. He imagines it is as uncommon as a full-blooded demon adopting an orphan child.  

“That is admirable,” he tells her.

“Thank you.”

“As I am sure Mr. Okami reviewed with you, the standard hours were posted with the job description but there may be additional times we require you to work depending on the campaigns we are running and any functions we are hosting,” Sesshomaru informs her.

“Of course. I will make sure to be available,” Ms. Higurashi promises.

“You will be expected to spend long hours working with demons, hanyous, and humans. Will that present an issue?”

“No, sir.” 

His inner beast purrs at her use of the word. 

“Excellent. Then we will see you tomorrow morning at nine sharp,” he says. “Any questions?”

“Just one— can I have my hand back?”

Sesshomaru blinks.

Then, as if burned, he drops her hand. Her face does not fall but he sees something shift in her blue eyes.

“Thank you again, Mr. Taisho. I look forward to working with you.”

As he watches her leave,— and the way her hips sway as she walks —Sesshomaru realizes he is in trouble.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

He manages to make it a month before approaching her under the guise of checking in. 

Sesshomaru finds her, not at her desk, but in one of the smaller conference rooms. She is standing over the center of the table, sheets of paper lining every available centimeter. Her hair is twisted into a bun at the base of her head and held in place with a pencil. He notices that her shoe is tapping on the floor and she is chewing on her lower lip as she scans the documents in front of her.

“Ms. Higurashi?”

Immediately, she straightens up. “Oh, Mr. Taisho. Good morning,” she greets him with a sheepish smile.

“Most people ease into their first assignment,” he remarks, studying the array of printouts.

“I’d rather not waste time,” Ms. Higurashi replies. “Besides, I think I found a great opportunity to enhance demon-human relations.”

“Indeed.”

She has the details for every cultural festival, shrine event, and local happening laid out in chronological order. Each sheet of paper is marked with a different colored highlighter— green, pink, yellow, and orange. She is quite thorough. He is impressed.

“I should have given you a larger desk,” Sesshomaru comments.

“That won’t be necessary,” Ms. Higurashi says, a tint of red decorating her cheeks. “I’m very happy with my workspace.”

“It does not afford you the room you require to work efficiently” Sesshomaru points out.

“That’s why we have conference rooms, right?” she prompts with a grin.

“Of course,” he agrees.

Speaking with her is effortless. Despite his terrible lack of manners upon their first meeting, she does not appear wary of him. Ms. Higurashi is not intimidated by him the way the majority of his staff is. She treats him with respect and honesty. Her behavior is as refreshing as her scent.

In this enclosed space, it is all he can smell. He closes his eyes, savoring the quiet moment while basking in her presence.

Sesshomaru rarely experiences peace at work and home...well, raising a six-year-old is, by definition, chaotic. Even with his staff, it's doffing to balance fatherhood and his obligation to Taisho Corp.

There are days when he feels as though he is at war with himself— his duty to his family and his responsibilities as a parent. They are two sides of the same coin, yet both vie for his attention.

Ms. Higurashi’s voice causes him to realize he is still standing across from her. “Is there something I can assist you with, sir?”

“I wanted to check-in and see how you were adjusting but it seems you have found your way around the office,” Sesshomaru says, indicating her pile of print outs.

She smiles. “Yes, thank you. Everyone here has been very accommodating.”

“I am glad to hear it.”

When he does not move, Ms. Higurashi asks, “Would you like to see what I plan to pitch to the board?”

“Yes.” The word is barely out of his mouth before he is joining her on the opposite side of the table.

Her scent spikes with excitement as her lips turn upward in a smile. “We fear what we don’t understand, right? So I want to get everyone on even ground, have them band together for a common goal,” she explains, sliding two sheets across the surface of the table.

“A charity festival?”

“Exactly!” she beams. “Each non-profit organization can set up a booth in our multi-purpose room. As attendees filter in, they can visit any number of stands to find out more about the foundation and its values. As an incentive to visit them all, we give them these bingo cards. If they get a stamp from each stand, they will be entered into a raffle for our grand prize.”

“Which is?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Ms. Higurashi admits. “I’m still determining logistics.”

He scans the local charities she has lined up. All of them promote unity between mortals, hanyous, and demons. The organizations vary in size and services they provide such as financial aid, free-clinics, and youth after-school programs. It is a good start, but he is concerned about how this relates to their overall goal.

“How does this help Taisho Corp’s image?”

"No major corporation has ever taken a stance on demon-human integration before," Ms. Higurashi tells him. "By being the first, not only in Japan but the world, you're demonstrating one of your basic core values: integrity. You are supporting your local community while making a stand on a global level. It's a powerful message."

“I agree.”

“The media will be watching you closely but if we are successful, you will have solidified your place in the market as a demon-run business. It will set the stage for Taisho Corp as the business prepares to enter the new millennium.”

Sesshomaru grins. This woman is truly remarkable. Her passion for her work is admirable. The way she talks about her plan is mesmerizing. In less than five minutes, she has him convinced— no small feat considering it took his father two decades to persuade him to work here.

“What do you need from me?” he inquires.

There is a flash of navy in her cerulean eyes. She licks her lips and it takes all of his will power not to stare at her delicate mouth. “Approval to use the multi-purpose space.”

“Done.”

“Support from the marketing department to get the word out.”

“I will discuss it with Ms. Kuwashima this afternoon,” he promises. “Anything else?”

“Uh, a grand prize?” she reminds him sheepishly.

“How about a date with my son?”

Sesshomaru stiffens. He turns away from Ms. Higurashi to glare at his mother who is standing in the conference room doorway. Kagura is behind her, looking frazzled but apologetic.

“Sir, I told her that you were in a meeting but—.”

“That’s all Kagura; you’re dismissed,” Arisu says, cutting her off with a wave of her hand.

“Mother, my staff is not here for your amusement,” Sesshomaru mutters annoyed.

“No, they are employed to keep our family’s business running smoothly,” she responds, sweeping into the room in her white fur coat. He watches her metallic eyes settle upon Ms. Higurashi. “And who is this?”

Instinctively, he shifts between the two women, effectively blocking Ms. Higurashi from his mother.

“It’s an honor to meet you, Mrs. Taisho,” Ms. Higurashi says, reaching around him to extend her hand across the table. “I’m Kagome Higurashi, the liaison coordinator here.”

“Liaison? So you work under the wolf?” Arisu asks.

“Mr. Okami is my supervisor, yes,” Ms. Higurashi confirms, not thrown by his mother’s rudeness.

Her smile never falters but Sesshomaru can smell the unease creeping into her floral scent. His mother’s scrutiny is nearly as famous as her forwardness— or infamous, as it were.

“You’re pretty,” Arisu comments.

“Thank you, Mrs.—.”

“For a human,” his mother finishes flatly.

He sees Ms. Higurashi’s throat bob as she swallows nervously. Her hands ball into fists at her sides and her blue eyes turn steely-gray.

“While I appreciate the compliment, I have to disagree,” she says.

His mother’s false grin falls away. “Excuse me?”

“With all due respect, I don’t believe that being human makes me any less or any more than you. I’m still an individual, capable of my own decisions and in charge of my own life. I think it should be my choices that define me, not my designation,” Ms. Higurashi explains calmly.

Sesshomaru watches her hands relax as she speaks. She handles her retort with the grace of an experienced politician— dignified but firm. He is entranced.

“That’s why I’m here,” she continues. “I want to help Taisho Corp achieve greatness as the premier in demon-run business, regardless of prejudice. If you wish to speak to me or anyone else here, I suggest you do so with respect. I expect everyone here to conduct themselves civilly. If we can’t be courteous to each other, we have no hope of proving that demons, hanyous, and humans can seamlessly coexist.”

The conference room is silent. Even with his heightened hearing, the only thing Sesshomaru can hear is the hammering of his pulse. He does not breathe. He does not move. He merely watches the two women locked in their tense stand-off.

Sesshomaru spots Kagura hovering a few paces behind his mother. To her left are Kouga and several other members of the PR department. They are all staring at Ms. Higurashi in fascination.

No one has ever stood up to the Chairman’s mate. When she speaks, everyone listens as if commanded by Touga himself. That’s the power of pack— a power she still wields.

Slowly, his mother smiles. “You’re perfect,” she purrs. “We must join me for lunch one day soon. Have your assistant send me your availability.”

Ms. Higurashi begins to respond that she does not have an assistant but Arisu is turning to face her son.

“Walk me out, darling?” she poses it as a question but there is no misunderstanding. She means it as a request.

“I apologize,” he tells Ms. Higurashi. “Please speak with Kagura about scheduling time to meet later. I would like to continue our discussion.”

“Yes, sir,” she nods dutifully. 

The crowd outside disperses as he joins his mother. 

Sesshomaru does not miss the triumphant glint in her gold eyes. His mother will never let this go. She is the proverbial dog with a bone. Now that she has met Ms. Higurashi, it is evident she will do everything in her power to ensure they mate. 

Accepting assistance from his mother is not something Sesshomaru has made a habit of. 

After his father married Izayoi, Sesshomaru became the alpha in their home. He provided and cared for his mother. That was the way Sesshomaru was raised to behave. He did not require his mother’s help. He was the head of the house— the decision-maker.

Choices such as what to eat, how to secure property, and how to maintain their good name were easy. Selecting trivial things like a vehicle, suits, and an interior designer was not a concern. He often allowed Arisu to decide. It made her happy and kept him from hearing about why his choice was the wrong one.

Sesshomaru is no longer concerned about his mother telling him he has chosen poorly. He knows she approves of Ms. Higurashi. The problem with having her blessing is that Arisu will take it as an invitation to remain involved.

Which is something he cannot allow.

Ms. Higurashi handled his mother beautifully. Sesshomaru has no doubt she can stand toe-to-toe with the demoness. What he worries about is his mother pressuring her into a match she does not want. She may be attracted to him but attraction does not equate to commitment. His father is proof of that.

She deserves to be courted. She deserves to have a choice. A good mate— a good partner would provide her the chance to say no. Sesshomaru knows if his mother is involved, such an opportunity will not be given. 

He needs to keep his mother away from Ms. Higurashi. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He manages to do just that.

Sesshomaru intercepts every meeting invite, cancels every lunch reservation, and manages to bribe his mother’s driver to get a flat tire when his mother decides to visit the office. He keeps Arisu away from Ms. Higurashi just as he planned.

At least until the charity fair.

The event has been the product of three months of diligence, determination, and devotion from his staff, though no one is more worthy of praise than Ms. Higurashi.

Her compressive approach to planning the charity fair is outstanding. She has every detail outlined and every task assigned. He considers offering her a position in Strategic Development. Taisho Corp could benefit from her management abilities.

Sesshomaru could too.

In the last week alone, he has forgotten to send his dry-cleaning out, missed picking up Rin from her kyudo lesson, and he is certain that he did not condition his hair this morning. His mind is a mess. Between working on improving their numbers and keeping his mother from approaching Ms. Higurashi, Sesshomaru has had several missteps.

Maybe he should have Kagura send out a memo about the office dress code. Getting rid of Ms. Higurashi’s skirts would definitely improve his focus.

Sesshomaru has not had the chance to get her alone but he has seen her. Each time those lean legs stroll past his office, he loses his train of thought. When he hears her melodic laugh, his heart stutters.

He wants to blame his mother for putting this ridiculous idea in his head but Sesshomaru knows better. Arisu has been harassing him about taking a mate for centuries. Until he met Ms. Higurashi, Sesshomaru never considered it. 

Now, it is all he can think of.

Sesshomaru wants to congratulate her on a job well done and tell her how exceptional her work ethic is. She ought to know how invaluable she is to the company— and to him.

Each time Sesshomaru attempts to speak to her, he is interrupted. First, by Kouga, who smugly reminds Sesshomaru that he was right. Then he has to run interference to prevent his mother from intercepting Ms. Higurashi on her way to greet a vendor. And, finally, his father makes an appearance.

Touga Taisho rarely comes into the corporate office but he has yet to miss a party. The charity festival is the largest event they’ve ever thrown and the first one that is open to the public.

“Father,” Sesshomaru greets him.

“Sesshomaru, I knew I was placing the company in good hands,” Touga says, placing his hand on his son’s shoulder. “This is ingenious. Do you see all the press? Spyder Industries can’t compete with this!”

His father looks positively gleeful. Sesshomaru had not thought about their competition— at least not recently. His mind has been rather preoccupied but hearing his father mention Onigumo Naraku’s organization reminds him of the guest list. Suddenly, his mother is not the only threat in the room.

“Excuse me.” He steps away from his father, glancing over the heads of thousands of attendees for the blue-eyed, black-haired beauty responsible.

Ms. Higurashi is at the Blue Thunder stand, speaking with Manten, their founder, when a man with long dark-hair places his hand on her arm.

Sesshomaru growls.

In the handful of times he has met Naraku, Sesshomaru has never considered the hanyou a threat. Today, the half-breed crosses the line between business adversary to personal nemesis.

He makes his way across the crowded chamber to Ms. Higurashi’s side.

“Naraku.”

Purple eyes gleam up at him as the spider smirks. “Ah, Mr. Taisho, I suspected I’d run into you today. I was just congratulating your young associate on an excellent campaign.”

Sesshomaru glances at Ms. Higurashi. She is shifting closer to him, pitting as much distance between herself and the half-breed as possible. He resists the urge to growl again.

“I tried to offer her a better role at Spyder Industries but she declined,” Naraku continues. “It’s nice to see such loyalty at Taisho Corp, what with your parents and all.”

Nothing about his tone makes Sesshomaru believe that Naraku finds it nice. He recognizes a bait when he hears it. Sesshomaru refuses to take it.

He places his hand on Ms. Higurashi’s lower back. “I am grateful my employees uphold our corporate values,” Sesshomaru returns smoothly. “Now, if you will excuse us, Ms. Higurashi and I must be getting back to our vendors. Please enjoy the event.”

Naraku glares at him then storms off into the crowd.

Sesshomaru hears Ms. Higurashi release a long breath. “I thought he’d never leave.”

“I apologize I was unable to find you sooner. Naraku is...”

“A pompous ass?”

He blinks, stunned to hear such profanity from her lovely mouth. Then she is laughing and forgets to be shocked, too enraptured by the sound.

“Yes,” Sesshomaru agrees. “Yes, he is.”

Ms. Higurashi smiles up at him, glowing with that light that is all her. Sesshomaru briefly wonders if anyone else notices it or if it is only his own attraction that causes him to perceive her this way.

“I must congratulate you on the festival’s success,” Sesshomaru informs her.

Her cheeks go pink. “Oh, well,” she begins, absently tucking her hair behind her ear, “it’s just started. Plenty of time for things to go wrong.”

“I doubt that but if they do, I trust you have a contingency plan,” he says with a knowing look.

“Several, in fact,” Ms. Higurashi confirms.

“Mr. Okami was correct.”

“About what?” she asks.

“I had reservations about hiring a personal friend of his but you are perfect,” Sesshomaru shares.

The color on her cheeks intensifies. “Thank you, sir.”

“I hope—.”

“Sesshomaru, who is this?” his father interrupts.

Ms. Higurashi’s eyes go wide and suddenly she is back to being the corporate liaison. “Mr. Taisho, it is an honor. I’m Kagome Higurashi,” she introduces herself and offers him her hand.

His father takes her hand. Instead of shaking it, which would be the appropriate reaction, Touga raises her knuckles to his lips and plants a kiss there.

Sesshomaru’s nostrils flare in anger.

“Son, you didn’t tell me you were keeping such a gorgeous creature hidden behind a desk.”

Ms. Higurashi goes red from her hairline all the way down beneath her blouse.

“I can see why your mother has been angling to have lunch with her,” Touga continues. “She is exquisite.”

She has a name,” Sesshomaru snarls, snatching Ms. Higurashi’s hand out of his father’s grip.

Touga’s eyes twinkle with amusement. “Of course. Forgive me. I just haven’t ever seen my son so interested in anyone before. I must admit, it took me by surprise.”

“Your son is an excellent leader,” Ms. Humigurashi replies. “Without his support, this festival wouldn’t be half as successful as it is.”

“I don’t doubt it,” Touga returns, grinning at her. His gaze flickers to Sesshomaru for a second before he speaks again. “I’m having a little soirée at my home this evening. Sesshomaru, why don’t you bring Ms. Higurashi around? It would be a great opportunity for her to mingle with the other executives.”

“Father, I’m sure Ms. Higurashi already has plans.”

“Nope, I’m free,” she answers with a hopeful smile.

“Excellent. Then I’ll see you both later. Congratulations again,” Touga says with a wave.

Once he is out of earshot, Sesshomaru turns to Ms. Higurashi. “Please do not feel obligated to attend. My father—.”

“Is charming,” she finishes for him. “I can see where you get it from.”

Sesshomaru studies her expression— the tilt of her head, the dilation of her pupils, and the way her lips are parted. She is flirting with him.

All thoughts of convincing her not to attend come to a screeching halt. His inner beast argues that if she goes with him, he can watch over her, protect her, keep her close. It is the best way to avoid his mother plotting another attempt at interference, though he doubts he can prevent that for long.

“I will pick you up out front,” Sesshomaru decides.

“Great!” she beams. Then, as if remembering herself, she clears her throat. “Well, I better get back to work.”

She is gone in a sea of people before he can reply.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

The event goes later than planned. Due to the impressive turn-out, Ms. Higurashi’s team agrees to allow the festival to run for an additional hour, giving those who are waiting outside an opportunity to meet with vendors and enter for a chance to win a luxury Toyota.

Sesshomaru did not agree to date the winner. There is only one person here who he cares to court.

And he is waiting for her.

When the lights finally go off in the multi-purpose room, he sees her lithe form walk out. She waves goodbye to her clean-up crew and then turns to him.

“Hi,” Ms. Higurashi says.

“Good evening.”

Sesshomaru opens the car door for her. A-Un is already in the driver’s seat, prepared to deliver them to the party.

Ms. Higurashi notices them immediately. “Hello, I’m Kagome Higurashi. Thank you for driving us this evening.”

They bow their head. “Good evening, Ms. Higurashi. It is our pleasure. We are A-Un.”

“It’s nice to meet you,” she replies as Sesshomaru slides into the seat next to her.

“If you’re tired, I can have A-Un take you home,” he offers.

“Oh, no, I’m fine,” Ms. Higurashi assures him. “I don’t think I could sleep right now anyway. I’m riding the high from the festival. Did you see how happy everyone was? We should do this every year!”

She tells him about every moment of her day from the early morning set-up to breaking down the last vendor booth. Her hands move as she talks, adding to the energy of her story.

Sesshomaru watches Ms. Higurashi, content to listen to the sound of her voice and breathe in the happy floral notes of her scent.

He does not notice they have pulled up to the entrance until A-Un clears their throat. “Sir, we have arrived.”

“Thank you,” Sesshomaru returns. He offers her his hand. “Shall we, Ms. Higurashi?”

“Kagome.”

“Excuse me?”

“I think we’re acquainted well enough for you to use my name,” she proposes.

Sesshomaru nods. “Very well. Shall we, Kagome?”

She places his hand in his and Sesshomaru swears he feels a shock go through him. Kagome blinks, startled. She feels it too. For a moment, they stare at each other, neither willing to be the one to bring up the strange occurrence.

They may be there for a minute or for an hour. Sesshomaru loses track of time as he gazes into her eyes.

Then the front door bursts open and someone is yelling for him to get a move on. Sesshomaru blinks. The rest of the world comes back into focus. He realizes it is Kouga.

“Sess, what are you— oh, Kags! You made it! Touga thought you might be too exhausted to come.”

Kagome smiles sheepishly at Sesshomaru before clearing her throat and answering her friend. “Nope, I’m good.”

“Then get in here!” He gestures for them to join him inside.

Sesshomaru holds onto Kagome’s hand as they enter.

“Guess who’s here?” Kouga prompts, ushering them through the foyer to a large sitting room on the left.

It has been cleared of furniture to make way for the caterers and all of Touga’s guests. Sesshomaru’s ire towards Kouga increases as he sees who else his father has invited.

His half-brother, Inuyasha, is in attendance, along with his intended, a cold, shrewd woman named Kikyo. Izayoi is speaking with them, happily chatting about plans for their upcoming mating.

Sesshomaru wonders if that is why his mother has been relentless in pressuring him to claim a mate of his own. She is not worried about solidifying her son’s power; she is worried about losing her own. It has been centuries and Arisu is still competing with Izayoi. If he was not so aggravated with her, Sesshomaru would recommend she stop.

Kouga loops his arm around Kagome's shoulders. “You know Miroku and Sango,” he says, leading her away from Sesshomaru.

If Kouga feels the heat of the dog demon’s wrath, he ignores it.

Sesshomaru starts to follow her when Inuyasha steps in front of him. “What the hell are you doing?” he questions haughtily.

“I am the eldest son and heir to Taisho Corp. What are you doing here?” Sesshomaru challenges.

“Not here, you bastard. I mean with Kagome.”

“Are you two acquainted?” Sesshomaru inquires, his hands clenching at his sides.

First Kouga, then Naraku, and now his half-brother. How many suitors must he chase away?

“She and Kikyo went to university together,” Inuyasha answers. “You better not hurt her.”

“Why would you assume I would hurt her?”

“Well, whatcha doing with her? You’ve never brought a girl to the house before,” Inuyasha points out.

Our father—,” it is difficult for Sesshomaru to say that word right now, “—invited her. She works with me at Taisho Corp.”

“So? That witch works there too and I’ve never seen you bring her here.”

“Do not speak about Kagura that way,” Sesshomaru warns.

“Listen, Kagome’s a good person so if you plan on doing anything to her— don’t,” Inuyasha warns, crossing his arms in front of his chest as he glares at Sesshomaru. “She doesn’t deserve that.” 

“Even if I did solicit your opinion— which I did not —I must agree.”

Inuyasha gawks. “Huh?” 

“She deserves respect and support, which I have given her,” Sesshomaru states. “As for anything beyond that...do not concern yourself. You have your own mate to attend to.” 

His half-brother’s surprise melts into rage. “Why you—.”

His threat is cut off by a chipper greeting. “Hey, Inuyasha! How’s it going?” 

“Kagome,” the hanyou growls, reaching for her hand. 

Sesshomaru blocks his attempt. 

Inuyasha glowers at him. 

Kagome glances between the two. “Am I missing something?” 

“No, my brother was merely congratulating us on a successful event,” Sesshomaru tells her. 

“Oh, okay. Hey,” she turns Sesshomaru, “did you know your dad filled out one of the bingo cards?”

“I assume he did not read the fine print. Taisho Corp employees and stakeholders are not eligible to claim the prize.” 

She laughs. “Well, I’m not going to be the one to tell him.” 

Inuyasha is still standing there, watching their exchange with a skeptical frown. Sesshomaru keeps himself angled in front of Kagome, prepared to halt any advances the half-breed makes. His reflexes are sharper than his younger brother’s. Inuyasha knows this. 

After a moment, he moves away. 

Kagome does not appear to notice. She's chatting with Ms. Kuwashima. The two seem to be getting along quite well. Their conversation flows effortlessly. 

Sesshomaru is content to stand beside Kagome, warding off any other foolish attempts to dissuade him from chaperoning her. 

From across the room, he spots his mother who raises her glass in a mock toast to him. He looks elsewhere. 

He greets several business partners and shakes hands with the Taisho Corp stakeholders. They are all as pleased as he is with the event’s turnout. Sesshomaru makes small talk with each of them despite how exhausting it is. 

His father has invited every member of the council. Nearly everyone from high demon society is in attendance. It is not unusual, given his father’s status but the number of guests makes Sesshomaru uneasy. If Kagome was not standing right next to him—

He glances at the empty place to his right. 

Ms. Kuwashima is standing several paces away with her back to him. She is discussing her weekend plans with Mr. Tsujitani and Kouga, unaware of his gaze. Sesshomaru glances around but there is no sign of Kagome. 

Panic causes his irises to leak with crimson. He does not appreciate the idea of her wandering around the house alone. The numerous demons in attendance do not bother him. His concern lies solely with one. 

When he cannot locate his mother in the crowd, he approaches Inuyasha. 

“Where is she?” he demands. 

“Who?” 

“Kagome,” Sesshomaru growls. 

“She’s fine,” Kikyo assures him. “She just stepped out to use the washroom.” 

“Have you seen Arisu?” he inquires. 

Kikyo regards him with curiosity. “No. I think she left about the same time as Kagome.” 

Sesshomaru does not spare them another glance. He maneuvers through the crowd to the hallway. 

He finds his mother descending the staircase with Kagome at her side. They are laughing about something, each holding a glass of burgundy liquid. 

Sesshomaru is uninterested in what they are discussing. His only care is ensuring her safety. 

“Hello, darling,” his mother purrs. Her tone does little to soothe his apprehension. 

“Mother,” he acknowledges stiffly. 

“I’ll see you for lunch next week, Ms. Higurashi,” Arisu says, grinning at him victoriously. 

He watches her saunter off, vowing to keep Kagome too busy to make the appointment. His mother is not sinking her claws into this woman. He forbids it.

“Your parents are so nice,” Kagome comments. “I wasn’t so sure about your mother after what she said at the office but I guess first impressions aren’t always accurate.”

“Your opinion has changed?” 

“She took me on a tour of the house and showed me some of your pup pictures. She even gave me some of your famous punch, something about a secret family recipe for good luck,” Kagome tells him, taking a sip of her drink.

His eyes narrow as he gets a whiff of the concoction. “Where did you get that?”

She stares up at him, confused. “I just told you; your mother. She said—.”

“How much did you have?” he asks.

Kagome holds out her glass. It is nearly empty.

Sesshomaru removes the glass from her hand and hands it to a passing waiter to discard. “We’re leaving.”

“What? Why?”

“Because that was not punch you drank. It was wine— demon-made wine.”

She presses her fingertips to her lips in disbelief. “But...but your mother knows I’m human. She—.”

“Will be dealt with,” Sesshomaru promises, “but for now I need to get you home.”

Kagome nods in agreement.

He wraps his arm around her, guiding her away from the fray and to the front door. No one stops them.

Sesshomaru figures his mother has informed the staff not to interfere. He suspected she would try something. Taking such drastic measures— ones that endanger Kagome —are unforgivable.

He will confront her later. For now, his main objective is to get Kagome home safe.

The effects of the wine are fast-acting. Without youki powers to burn through the intoxicating agents, she falls victim to it almost instantly. They are barely out of the door when her steps become uneven and she leans into him for support.

“I’m so stupid,” Kagome says mournfully. “The first thing they tell you about parties is to not accept a drink from someone you don’t know.”

Sesshomaru signals A-Un to open the car and scoops her up. “I have you,” he assures her as she continues to babble about her mistake. “I will get you home safely.”

She tries to nod as her eyes fall closed.

A-Un does not ask questions— one of the many reasons Sesshomaru keeps them in his employ. They pause to stare at Kagome. Their greenish-yellow eyes are filled with concern. They wait until he has managed to crawl into the car, still holding Kagome, before closing the door.

Sesshomaru reaches for a bottle of water. “Kagome, you need to drink this,” he informs her, placing the container in her hand.

Her eyes remain closed. She mumbles something incoherent and bats the bottle away. Sesshomaru sighs.

He is too late. She’s already slipping into unconsciousness.

There is nothing fatal about drinking the wine. The worst outcome will be a terrible hangover. Yet, Sesshomaru feels guilty.

He brought her to his father’s home, assuming it would be safe. He was wrong. Sesshomaru underestimated his mother’s penchant for manipulation and Kagome is paying the price.

“Please take us to Ms. Higurashi’s residence,” he instructs A-Un.

They meet his gaze in the rearview mirror. “Sir, I do not have Ms. Higurashi’s address.”

Sesshomaru seethes. Well played mother, he thinks as his frustration mounts.

“Perhaps it would be best to bring her home,” A-Un suggests. “If she lives alone, surely it would be better for her to have supervision, in case she needs anything.”

His driver makes a fair point. In the morning, Kagome is sure to feel ill. Sesshomaru will be restless until he knows she is fully recovered.

“Very well,” he agrees. “Please take us home.”

He does not know how he will explain this to his butler, Jaken, but that is not his only problem. His more pressing concern is how to explain Kagome to Rin.

And vice versa.

As the car meanders down the highway, Sesshomaru cradles Kagome’s limp form. Her head rests against his shoulder. He can hear her steady heartbeat, slower in sleep. Sesshomaru focuses on the sound. 

He needs to remain calm if he is to get through this evening. His anger threatens to overpower him. There is no place for that right now. He will deal with his mother tomorrow. Tonight is for Kagome. 

When they arrive, he waits for A-Un to open the car door.

“Sir, we can take her,” his driver offers.

“I have her,” he says and thanks them for their assistance.

Carefully, Sesshomaru adjusts his hold on Kagome and exits the vehicle. A-Un helps him turn off the security alarm before they proceed into the house.

The lights are off, except for a nightlight in the hallway leading from Rin’s bedroom to his. It is quiet. Sesshomaru is thankful that his daughter is fast asleep. He needs time to devise a strategy.

A-Un returns outside to pull the car into the garage, leaving Sesshomaru to take Kagome to the guest room. He has just set her on top of the mattress when there is a horrified gasp from the door.

He glares over his shoulder at his butler. “Jaken.”

“Master Sesshomaru?”

“This is Kagome Higurashi. She will be staying here this evening,” he explains

Jaken stands off to the side, watching him warily. "Master Sesshomaru, wouldn't you rather I call for a cab?"

“Why?”

“It is unwise to have the woman here. If the wrong person were to see you with her it may cause rumors to surface,” his butler informs him. 

It is no secret how Jaken feels about humans and hanyous. Sesshomaru almost fired him after adopting Rin. Jaken’s attitude was unacceptable but over the years, his comments died away. He learned to accept Rin. Sesshomaru was patient then because he needed support raising the child. This situation is different. He will not be as lenient. 

“You would have me leave a compromised female unattended?” Sesshomaru challenges, further aggravated by Jaken’s behavior. 

“No, Master Sesshomaru, of course not. I was merely suggesting—.”

“Papa! Papa, come quick!”

At the sound of his daughter’s voice, he whirls around. He forgets all about Jaken and his prejudice. It is far too late for a young child to be awake. Thanks to his insensitive butler’s worries, his daughter is awake. 

“Rin? What is it? What is wrong?”

Her eyes are wide as she hops excitedly from foot to foot in the doorway. “It’s the sleeping princess from my storybook.” 

“What?” he asks, uncertain of her meaning. 

In response, she grabs his hand and pulls him down the corridor to the guest room. Sesshomaru’s breath catches in his throat. He can immediately see why his six-year-old believes Kagome is a princess.

Moonlight streams in from the windows, adding a luminous glow to her pale skin that makes the faint blush on her cheeks more apparent. Her hair fans out across the pillow, a stark contrast of black on white. She has not moved an inch since he laid her down, emphasizing the idea that she is the slumbering princess Rin claims her to be.

“She’s beautiful,” his daughter whispers in awe.

“She is,” Sesshomaru agrees.

“Can we keep her?” Rin asks, tugging on his hand.

“She is not a pet, Rin. She is a person,” he reminds her.

“But if she’s here, it’s because she needs a prince to wake her up!”

Sesshomaru stares at his daughter. He understands that to her, that is an acceptable resolution. She is a child who operates under the naive notion that good triumphs over evil and fairytales are real life. He does not wish to shatter the illusion.

At least, not yet.

“Will you do it, Papa? Then you two can get married and she can live with us like a proper family.”

He is unprepared for this. Growing up without a mother has not impacted Rin, though she has asked him about his lack of a mate. Sesshomaru disregarded her queries, believing they were a passing curiosity. It seems he was mistaken.

"Rin, real life is not always like the storybooks," he says gently.

“But how did she get in?” You always shield the house before you leave. It had to be magic, right?” his daughter asks, moving past him to lean over Kagome.

Sesshomaru struggles to unravel her logic. Rin understands the difference between his demon abilities and magic but it is late and he can tell she desperately wants to believe Kagome is special.

“Rin, she—.”

He abruptly stops speaking. His daughter is holding onto Kagome’s arm and the contact changes the glow from blue to pink. Sesshomaru stares at the phenomenon. Rin is wearing her trademark toothy-grin,— she lost a tooth last week —thinking she has proven her theory.

His daughter is smug when she says, “See? I told you she was a princess.”

“She is not a princess,” Sesshomaru corrects, passing his hand over Kagome’s body. He feels the tell-tale spark of reiki against his youki. “She’s a priestess.”

“Wow, really?” Rin peers at Kagome with intense interest. “Aren’t they super rare, Papa?”

He nods, unable to tear his gaze away from the woman who is becoming more alluring every second he spends in her presence. Sesshomaru wonders if any of her friends know who— what —she truly is.

The revelation makes him breathe a bit easier. Her reiki, while not as effective as youki, will burn through the wine. Her drowsiness is due to her body’s attempt to cleanse itself of the drink. She will be fine.

“Now you have to let her stay,” Rin tells him stubbornly. She fixes him with a tenacious stare.

He snorts. His daughter has witnessed him working far too often. She has clearly been paying attention to his negotiation tactics. Her tone is resolute and he expects if he says no, she will throw a tantrum.

Sesshomaru is very careful how he words his response. “Rin, Ms. Higurashi cannot stay here. She has her own home to return to.”

Her gaze flickers from him to the priestess then back to him. “Do you know Ms. Higurashi, Papa?”

“I do. She works at Taisho Corp with me.”

Rin mulls this information over for a moment before asking, “Is she replacing Ms. Ogami?”

“No, Kagura is still my assistant,” Sesshomaru answers.

“Then why did you bring Ms. Higurashi here?” Rin questions.

“She was ill. I did not want her to be alone,” he answers honestly.

Rin’s eyes go wide. “Doesn’t she have a family to look after her the way you watch over me?”

Sesshomaru does not know how to reply. He never asked Kagome about her family.

His daughter takes his silence as confirmation. She wraps her tiny hands around Kagome’s and squeezes it. “You could adopt her like you did me,” Rin suggests.

He chuckles. “Ms. Higurashi is too old for that.”

Rin pouts.

“Come. You should be in bed,” he tells her, gesturing for her to follow him out of the room.

“But I wanna stay here,” Rin whines.

“Ms. Higurashi needs rest to get better,” Sesshomaru reminds her. “We need to leave her alone.”

“Oh, alright,” Rin relents reluctantly.

She drops Kagome's hand and follows him to her room. Sesshomaru tucks her in. Only once he is sure she is asleep, does he go to his chambers to do the same.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 

 

The smell of porridge and green tea wafts into his room. Sesshomaru blinks against the morning light. Raising a hand in front of his face, he blocks out the rays long enough to get his bearings.

Laughter comes from the kitchen, followed by the murmur of hushed voices and the delicious scent of a freshly made breakfast. Tossing his sheets aside, he leaves his bed to hunt down the source of the scent.

When Sesshomaru rounds the corner of the hallway, he finds Rin seated at the counter with A-Un and Jaken. Across from them, Kagome is busy chopping walnuts.

His daughter and staff each have a heaping bowl of porridge seated in front of them. The priestess drops a few nuts into each one. Smiling, she turns to the spice rack and grabs the honey. She returns to the group. Tapping the side of the bottle, Kagome adds a few dollops to their bowls.

“Bon appetit,” she says in a horrendous French accent that makes Rin giggle.

A-Un bows their head respectfully while Jaken stares at his meal as if he expects it to be poisoned.

“Papa!” Rin greets him with a wide smile. “Kagome is making us breakfast.”

The priestess pivots around, blush dusting her cheeks as she takes him in. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” he returns, inclining his head politely. “I was unaware you could cook.”

She shrugs. “Just a few simple things. My mom taught me.”

“I don’t have a mother,” Rin states with the same nonchalant air as if she is remarking on the weather.

A-Un freezes, Jaken glances at Sesshomaru nervously, but Kagome takes the child’s comment in stride. Setting down the honey, she reaches across the counter to take Rin’s hand in her own.

“Not all families have a mother and a father, Rin. When I was your age, it was me, my brother, my mother, and my grandfather.”

“What happened to your papa?”

“He died,” Kagome tells her softly.

“Our condolences,” he says, shooting a warning look at Rin. Sesshomaru understands he has spoiled his child but he also knows she has better manners than this.

“It’s alright,” Kagome responds. “Just because I grew up without a father doesn’t mean I didn’t have a great family. Families come in all shapes and sizes. You may not a mother, Rin, but you know what you do have?”

His daughter shakes her head, watching Kagome closely.

“You have your Papa, A-Un, and Master Jaken. No one else has a family quite like yours. You’re a lucky little girl.”

Rin beams. “You’re right because my Papa is the best Papa.”

Kagome laughs. “Of course he is.”

His daughter resumes eating her breakfast and he catches Kagome’s eye.

“Would you like some?” she offers, holding up an empty bowl.

“Just tea for now; thank you,” Sesshomaru answers.

Kagome pours two cups of green tea and hands him one.

He glances at the courtyard, debating how much time he has before Rin launches into her next round of questioning.

“Ms. Higurashi, thank you for the meal. Please allow me to take care of the dishes,” A-Un says, collecting their and Jaken’s— now empty —bowls.

Sesshomaru nods to his driver. A-Un was always perceptive.

He nudges Kagome’s arm and inclines his head toward the courtyard. “Would you like a tour?”

“Sure.”

Sesshomaru leads her outside, strolling along the stone path through the trees and past the koi pond until they are no longer within view of the kitchen.

“How are you feeling?” he inquires.

“Much better, though I still feel foolish,” she admits.

“Don’t,” Sesshomaru insists. “My mother has been working toward her agenda for a few months now. I should have suspected something like this. I could have prevented it.”

Kagome’s brow creases. “What agenda?”

He hesitates. Telling her the truth will either make her feel awkward or obligated. Sesshomaru has no interest in either. If he is to pursue a relationship with this woman, it will be one based on consent.

“You did not mention you were a priestess,” Sesshomaru mentions.

Her blue eyes grow large but then she smirks. “Don’t change the subject.”

“I was merely making mg an observation.”

“Right,” she drawls sarcastically, crossing her arms over her chest, “just like Inuyasha was congratulating you last night?”

He does not respond.

She scoffs and shakes her head. “You’re a terrible liar by the way.”

“Noted.”

Dropping her arms, Kagome sighs. “I didn’t want to be treated differently because of my status. What I told you that day in the interview was true. I want to be treated fairly based on my merit, not because I was born with spiritual powers.”

His admiration for her grows.

Sesshomaru rarely praises any of his employees but he finds himself doing just that. “I think your merit exceeds your spiritual abilities. Your work performance has raised the bar considerably.”

“Thank you.”

“I should be the one thanking you. I have never taken the time to cook for my staff before,” he shares.

“Porridge isn’t difficult. If you’re interested, I could teach you.”

He is interested.

Sesshomaru is interested in teaching her the many ways he can make her moan, make her scream his name, make her his. Witnessing her tenderness with Rin and watching her care for his staff has increased his desire.

She wants equality. He can give that to her. Sesshomaru would have her as his mate— his partner at the office and in their home.

“I didn’t realize you had a daughter,” Kagome says.

He inhales her scent, working to discern if this fact bothers her. There is no change to the light floral notes.

“I tend to keep my personal life private,” Sesshomaru admits.

"I understand," Kagome replies. "I don't tell many people about my abilities. People assume because I'm a priestess that I want to work at a shrine or a sacred site. All I want to do is be normal. That's why I keep my powers masked."

“You are not normal,” he points out. “No normal person could have done what you did with the charity festival. No normal person would stand up to my mother. No normal person would—.”

“—entrap her boss into spending the night?” Kagome speaks over him. Amusement laces her tone but then she’s serious once more. ”I’m sorry about that, by the way. I never meant to intrude on your privacy.”

“I do not mind,” he confesses, holding her gaze. “I am glad you are here.” 

Kagome’s cheeks redden.

“Papa, stop hogging Kagome! I want to play with her too!” 

Sesshomaru scowls. “I apologize. She is not normally like this.” 

“Don’t worry; I can handle it,” Kagome says with a wink. “Rin, would you like me to do your hair?” 

“Yeah!” his daughter cheers enthusiastically. 

Without hesitation, she grabs Kagome’s hand and leads her back inside. 

The priestess is patient while Rin goes on to Kagome her bedroom, including all of her toys and books. She compliments and nods when appropriate, while sneaking glances at him over her shoulder. Sesshomaru remains close the entire time. He is prepared to step in if required, but the need never arises. Kagome handles Rin with the same grace as she does her position at Taisho Corp. 

Once his daughter has finished showing off, Kagome convinces her to return to the courtyard. Rin seats with her back to the priestess. Kagome sits cross-legged behind her and combs her hair until it is knot-free. Considering how active Rin is, it is no easy task. 

He takes his place by the cherry blossom tree in the corner, close enough to watch but far enough away to allow them their time to bond. 

It's a surreal experience. Rin has never embraced Kagura or his mother with this much fervor. Sesshomaru wonders if that is because Kagura and Asuri are demons but upon reflection, he decides it is simply because Kagome is Kagome. He has not come across a single person— demon or otherwise —who did not appreciate her. 

She is like the initial rays of dawn in the morning, freshly fallen snow, and the first flower blossom of spring all wrapped up in one. It is no wonder Rin likes her. 

He does. Immensely. 

“There,” Kagome announces proudly. “Now you’re the princess.” 

Sesshomaru blinks. His daughter’s hair is braided into a crown around the top of her head. Kagome has inserted some of the cherry blossoms into the inter-woven strands. 

Rin runs over to the koi pond to see her reflection. Her smile widens. 

“Do Papa’s hair next, Kagome!” 

The priestess glances at him, silently asking if that is alright. 

Sesshomaru nods. 

He shifts around so he is sideways to the tree and she positions herself behind him. 

The first drag of the comb through his hair feels heavenly. Sesshomaru closes his eyes, enjoying the sensation. Her strokes are languid and soothing. He finds himself leaning back just to feel more of her touch. When her fingers graze the tips of his ears, Sesshomaru nearly moans. 

This close, her scent weaves around him like a security blanket. It clouds his focus and he loses track of time. 

When she calls Rin over to take a look, Sesshomaru jolts slightly. 

“Papa, you look like a prince,” Rin tells him. 

He does not bother to peer at his reflection. His appearance is not important. 

What is important is finding a way to keep Kagome Higurashi in his life. 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Monday morning arrives quickly. Sesshomaru has spent the better part of the evening pacing, trying to determine how to propose a relationship with Kagome without pressuring her. He is no closer to a solution. Perhaps if he could get her scent out of his house, he would be able to think clearer. 

Sesshomaru decides to invite her off-campus so they can speak openly but getting her alone proves to be challenging. Ms. Higurashi is close with Kouga, his half-brother, Sango Kuwashima from Marketing, and Miroku Tsujitani from Internal Affairs.

The five have taken to spending their lunch breaks together, huddled around a table in the campus cafeteria. He suspects this is partially due to the events of Saturday night. They seem to be guarding her, always walking with her around the office and escorting her to the bus depot. They leave no opening for him to talk to her.

When she is not surrounded by her friends, Ms. Higurashi is hard at work planning next year’s festival. Each time Sesshomaru walks by, she is either on the phone or speaking with another member of the staff. Despite her earlier protests, she has requisitioned the conference room. The walls are lined with detailed vendor maps, the latest banner designs from marketing, and the day’s agenda.

It has been a few days since she woke up in his home. Sesshomaru feels each hour pass like a tangible thing. The time is sand slipping between his fingers. He knows it is escaping him but he can do nothing to stop it.

“Why don’t you try talking to her?”

He glances up to find Kagura leaning in his doorway.

“She can’t say yes if you never give her the chance.”

Sesshomaru shuffles the papers on his desk, deflecting. “I am uncertain what you mean.”

With a sigh, Kagura steps inside and shuts the door. “Ms. Higurashi,” she says with a roll of her eyes. “Go talk to her.”

“Workplace romances are not appropriate,” he replies.

Kagura scoffs. “As if that’s ever stopped anyone here.”

“Excuse me?”

"Don't play dumb. Half of your staff are sleeping together. You know. I know it. Every demon here knows it." She taps her nose with one perfectly manicured finger. "Heightened sense of smell, remember?"

“I am aware.”

“Good,” she gloats, crossing her arms over her chest. “Then you know that we can all smell how interested you are in her and how much she likes you.”

He stands, slamming his fists on his desk. “Watch your tongue.”

His wrath does not affect her. She has worked for him long enough to have seen it before.

“Listen, boss, either you go out there and invite her to dinner or someone else will. She’s made quite a name for herself. Now, people here respect you— hell, most are terrified of you —but if you don’t act soon, she’s going to get tired of waiting,” Kagura tells him with a pointed look.

Sesshomaru glares at his assistant for a full minute before he sighs and sinks into his chair. He voices his greatest fear— the one he has not spoken to anyone, not even to himself.

“I do not wish to be my father.”

Kagura’s crimson eyes go wide and her arms drop to her sides. “What?”

“Are you familiar with how Izayoi and my father met? She was his assistant,” he reveals.

“Sesshomaru.”

Kagura rarely calls him by his name. She can be rough but she is not foolish. If Kagura is slipping up at work, it means she is serious.

"You're not your father," Kagura insists. "Touga is a good man, but you— you're a great man. You employ more than sixty percent of the country's demon workforce. Your diversity initiative made the headlines and once Ms. Higurashi's event launches, you'll be featured again. You have done more for our kind and for this city than any Taisho who has come before you."

“And I would jeopardize all of that for a woman?” he returns.

“No,” Kagura snaps, stomping up to his desk, “you would risk your heart for a chance at happiness.”

“You sound like my mother,” Sesshomaru remarks.

“Good. Maybe now you’ll listen to me,” she huffs exasperatedly.

“What about Rin?”

“What about her?” Kagura asks.

He values his privacy. The company takes up his time but everything else that he has is dedicated to Rin. Kagura knows about his daughter and has met Rin a handful of times. Other than Arisu, she is the only female Sesshomaru has ever allowed into his home. 

Until this weekend. 

“How do I explain a relationship with Ms. Higurashi to my six-year-old?” 

“By doing just that,” Kagura states simply. “You’ve always been honest with Rin before. Why would this be any different? Besides, I thought they hit it off?” 

“You’re right,” he says.

“You know what I think? I think you’re making up excuses because you know this is it— that she’s the one and it scares the hell out of you.”

“You forget who I am. I fear nothing,” Sesshomaru snarls.

“That’s not true. You’re scared to be vulnerable— as vulnerable as you were after your father left. You’re worried that if you let this girl into your life, you’re going to open yourself up to that pain again. And you know what? You’re right. Love hurts. A lot. But let me ask you this, would you ever give up Rin?”

She pauses until he shakes his head.

“Of course you wouldn’t, because you know you’d rather have her in your life than not. Who’s to say it won’t be the same for Ms. Higurashi?”

Sesshomaru glowers at Kagura. He does not appreciate her tone or her incredibly accurate observations. Her frankness angers him but only because she is correct.

He is afraid.

Afraid of being abandoned. Afraid of not being worthy. Afraid of spending an eternity alone.

“You know,” Kagura begins, feigning interest in her nails, “she’s walked past your office several times today. I think she’s just as nervous as you are. She’s probably wondering why you haven’t spoken to her. She might even be worried that you regret it. Friendly tip, women don’t like to be kept waiting. It makes us second guess things— like whether or not we’re patient enough to wait around for an answer.”

Sesshomaru is out of his seat and brushing past his assistant before she finishes her sentence.

He finds Kagome in the conference room. She is wearing a white blouse and a charcoal pencil skirt that enhances the curves of her body. The outfit is stunning on her, though Sesshomaru is convinced she could wear a burlap sack and he would still find her attractive. 

As he enters the room, she glances up. “Mr. Taisho, can I help you with—.”

“Dinner.”

Her brow furrows. “I’m sorry?”

“Would you join me for dinner this evening?”

She blinks, clearly startled by his request. “Is this for work?” 

He shakes his head. “No.” 

She bites her lower lip then smiles at him hopefully. “So personal then?’

“Yes. I would like to take you to Ise Sueyoshi.”

Her face falls at the restaurant’s name. “Oh.” 

“What is wrong?”

“It’s just…. I was looking forward to seeing Rin again.” 

His chest bursts with warmth for this woman— this brilliant, determined, amazing woman who has captured his heart. Kagome is the type of mate that only comes around once in a blue moon. 

“In that case, would you be agreeable to take-out?” he suggests. 

She grins. “Really?” 

He nods. 

“I can’t think of anything better.”

Better— it turns out —is eight months later, when they celebrate the month’s second full moon by becoming mates. 

And the best is nine months after that when they let Rin hold her new baby brother. She calls him 'little prince.'

 

INUYASHA © Rumiko Takahashi/Shogakukan • Yomiuri TV • Sunrise 2000
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