She is Mine: Chapter 17

I'm fortunate to have you, girl.
I want you to know; I really adore you.
All my people who know what's going on;
Look at your mate, help me sing my song.

-Usher, you've got it bad

It's hard to keep a cold shoulder cold when the man beside it is so hot. Hot enough to melt the ice right off your resolve, making puddles of your heart with just one of his caressing sweeps over your body. And then it's the real touch that collapses the ice barrier, shatters your revenge.

Leaves you vulnerable.

Kagome had tried to resist. She'd been successful for a while, too, and Shiyla was helpful to interpret her. It allowed her to keep her eyes off of Kouga, making revenge almost easy to execute.


What a relief when he gave up and headed back into the mated section, but even with distance, Kagome struggled to withhold her cold shoulder. Even from afar, Kouga's stares worked at her, chiseling away at the wall she put between them.

Then those young wolf men came along. They were friendly enough, thanking her for the healing remedies. Had it really been yesterday when she'd stumbled in the dark forest for herbs and berries while the women mocked her? Twenty-four hours between saving Rosella and gaining their respect? And so it touched her that these men had come to appreciate her too.

A sensual undertone stroked the edges of the conversation, though. Wolves were playful, she reminded herself. The flirting was cute, but it was nothing to her.

Though it was definitely something to Kouga.

She didn't need an ear for the wolf tongue to know Kouga was furious with the men. Fists bulging at his sides and words thrown across the room like flying knifes. The air changed too, tight as a thread squeezing a finger. Most the wolves became statues during that moment, though a jittery female fled the room with children in tow.

Shiyla had nudged Kagome, mischief in her eyes.

"Uh-oh," she whispered into Kagome's ear. "You've made the prince awfully mad."

"I did nothing," Kagome protested, her heated cheeks hidden behind hair.

"That's open for dispute."

"I thought you were on my side!" Kagome hissed.

Shiyla lifted her shoulders, sharp teeth in a grin just as the male turned back to Kagome. While his friends backed away, the male said parting words though his eyes watched Kouga. He made no move to distance himself from Kagome.

Kouga's growls stretched over the den like a bird of paradise's claw, swooping down and snatching the room by the throat. Wolves scurried for cover while the unlucky male darted off in shaky laughter. Kagome found her ice shield disturbed.

Kouga raged… because of her. And it felt good.

She called in denials for reinforcements… he doesn't truly want you, he just wants to control you… but when she looked onto that enflamed glare, the way his eyes trailed over every single man with warnings of shredded fur if any tried to get close to her… all the denials shrunk up.

The heart was winning now, beating too fast and too much, her lips twitching to smile. Even from afar she felt engulfed in Kouga's protection, his care.

Then he careened towards her, unrefined heat, energy, man.

Let the thaw begin, she had told herself, her ice barriers already thin.

She'd wrestled with sense all through dinner, ignored his flaming stares as much as she could, even slapping his touch away. Still, once he sat beside her, she lost the war.

Kagome blamed her weak heart. It'd always been too flexible.

He isn't sweet. It's all a lie.

But each time he asked what was wrong between them, with eyes in an honest stare; could she really believe he'd be that deceptive? Or did he honestly not think what he said was wrong?

But after some jerk and tug, the truth uncovered itself.

She was the wrong one.

After clutching the dread of another dangerous Inuyasha, plus drowning her dreams of Kouga actually wanting her without taking her freedom, relief had washed over her. She set the fear free and the drowned dreams emerged from the waters with new life.

Kouga hadn't almost bit her to hurt her. He almost bit her to mate her.

That was a different story.

Still, Kouga hadn't explained the conversation Rosella had overheard. Kagome waited for that as they sat on the den's open platform. The two hadn't spoken yet and Kouga had his eyes on the moon. Not wanting to interrupt him, Kagome waited.

Night caped the mountainside, a near half slice of moon high within the blue. Animal whispers, distant and sleepy, mumbled from places below and deep within the mountains. The approaching winter wind peppered its kisses over her gooseflesh speckled arms. Even beside her, Kouga's heat wasn't close enough.

As her jaw jerked under the freeze, she dared to break his concentration.

"Couldn't we talk inside?" she asked. The chill hadn't reached her voice yet, though a cloud of vapor left her lips.

He only had sights for the sky, didn't hear her. Wolves had a thing for the moon, didn't they? It must've been why he stared so hard at it, longing in his gaze.

She'd begun to repeat herself but Kouga's profile gave her pause. The strong lines of his form were tight, muscles clenched under padded shoulders. She wasn't nearly done staring when the cold fully locked in. At the first slam of teeth against teeth, Kouga's head whipped towards her; the tension in his body gone.

Kouga captured her chilled body in his arms, placing her between his legs. Too shocked to react, she let him draw her deep into his chest. Kouga's body overlapped hers, arms and legs bound together.

His heat swallowed her, even cozier than her blankets at home. Kouga lent his heat and she became one with it. Not too warm or stuffy, just perfect. Natural.

Kouga caressed her arms then moved down to her sides. A ball of desire coiled in her belly, forcing out a gasp. She covered it with a cough.

"Are you comfortable?" Kouga asked.

Kagome suppressed the sigh that'd expose just how comfortable she was, instead rocking her head back against his chest in a nod.

"Forgive me," Kouga said. "I did not realize you were so cold."

Once she trusted herself not to betray her thoughts –Cold who? You've got me so hot… –she answered him.

"I'm the one who needs to apologize. I jumped to conclusions about the things that happened after our morning… trip. It was stupid of me not to think of your 'attack' as really a mating instinct. I was just so used to the threat that he posed when he lost control of his demon. I didn't think—"

"That I could be any different?"

Kagome sighed, shifting in his lap so her head leaned against his shoulder. Kouga watched her intently, waiting.

"I'm not sure," she admitted.

"Well, I am different," he said. "Full demon, pure blooded."

Kagome rolled her eyes.

"It's not like being half human makes his blood tainted."

"Of course not," Kouga said. "Being a dog makes his blood tainted. Just a want-to-be wolf, that Inuyasha."

Kagome expected that name to crack her chest open and flood in the feelings. Her mouth popped open and something creaked out. A chuckle. She blinked, not expecting that. How could she laugh about this? With brows set, she faced Kouga to give him a serious look. But he was smirking, and her lips twitched to mirror his smile.

"That's what gave you away," Kouga said, bringing a finger to the edge of her mouth. "That quick little grin of yours."

"No idea what you're talking about," Kagome said, pulling hair over her shoulder. Kouga pushed the black curtain away with one hand to bring her face back in view.

"Yes, you do." His eyes were challenging, parted lips playful. "I mean that idiot Uru's attentions... You knew what it did to me, and it made you smile."

"Oh, please." Kagome tried to look away but he caught her face with his palm and she'd twisted her torso towards him without even realizing.

"I suppose you'd like to know what I said," Kouga said.

"Not at all." Yes, tell me everything.

"I warned him about getting close to my woman. The silly boy, willing to risk his life to put a blush on your cheeks."

"He wasn't flirting, Kouga. He was thanking me. Making me blush was likely the last thing on his mind. I didn't even know that happened."

His eyes narrowed.

"So he didn't impress you, then?"

"Not at all."

Kagome tried to speak casually, though her heart bumped against her ribcage at his jealous questioning.

"All I know is that you were on his mind," Kouga's moved his hand from her face, arresting her waist. "And you don't belong there."

The possessive note in his voice and eyes, it was throwing her off scale, melting into her skin. She became aware of everything. The texture of his form, every ridge of muscle and bone pressed against her. Kagome's eyes fluttered close, opening again as she felt his face closing in on her.

"You like how I want you, don't you?" he asked in a low voice.

God, he was teasing. That energy rolled off his body, the same that'd turned all the women's heads his way in the cave.

"You're arrogant," she said.

"I'm right," he answered.

Kagome covered his mouth with her hand, hushing him properly. She felt his lips tug into a grin from under her palm, muffled words coming out, and she pressed harder. Fully turned in his lap, she was straddling his legs. Wind cut across her back but she barely felt it with the blood pumping through her.

"You never told me about your conversation with Burku," she said.

There, that'd bring down a notch of heat. Even she was reluctant to stop straddling him. Kouga made a muffled sound from under her hand and she removed it.

"Okay, spill."

"I asked Burku for… advice." He rubbed the back of his head, chuckling. "Now I can't reveal all my secrets, but believe me when I say that I don't want to control you. Quite the opposite. I merely want to entice you. Draw you in on your own free will."

At those words, Kouga lowered himself flat to the earth, dragging Kagome down with him.

"A little lure never hurt…" she said just as Kouga wrapped a hand around the nape of her neck. He didn't push, just let the weight of his hand rest there.

"We're in sync, then."

Kagome swallowed. His gaze was narrowed on her face, drawing from her eyes to her lips. She appraised the smooth jaw line, the eyes glowing under the moon.

Despite the nerves rocking through her, she kept her eyes steady on his face. He was playing a game and she was already in the court. Since he first touched her that morning, she was ready to relight the spark.

And since she'd abandoned him in the hot spring, it was her job to make up for it.

Kagome moved in first. Her eyes slid closed to prepare for the sensation of Kouga's lips against hers. The hunger for his mouth made her muscles springy. They were so close now, inches becoming centimeters, want almost reality…

"Wait a moment," Kouga said. His breath fanned her lips.

"No," she said, eyelids fluttering.

"Kagome…" his insistence made her groan. She decided to close that small distance anyways, but it was too late. Kouga drew his torso from the ground, raising her with.

Despite his warm touch, she felt the chill filter in.

"What is it?" she asked.

"I have something to say."

"I thought wolves weren't much for talk…" Kagome said.

"Well, it's important."

Kagome waited, bottom lip drawn between her teeth. She just wanted to feel the now of his mouth and body and not think of things. They'd cleared the air, why fill it with words? Perhaps she missed something and she'd done something else wrong…

"I can't demand you to stay, so I must know," he started. "But I must know if you leave…you'll miss me while you're away?"

Kagome's shoulders relaxed. So that was it? Well, this was easy to her. Still, he looked at her with big eyes, concern filled. She wanted to rub the worried curl out of his eyebrow, concern for him flushing her. She wanted this man. Not for his body, but for his person. All these years of blindness… it was time to set the record straight.

Touching his cheek, she answered him.

"How could I not miss you?" she asked. "Despite my insanity today, you didn't chew my head off. You were patient until we uncovered the problem. You really are a leader." Words were sliding off her tongue, coming out in an overflow before she could stop it. Perhaps it was too soon and too much, but these were things she'd felt. How could she cover it up after all the rest of the things she'd tried to hide today?

"And no matter where I'm at, I won't forget how you've treated me. How good you've made me feel. And I could never regret any bit of it. Heck, I—"

Kouga brought his mouth over hers. Kagome responded slowly, then hotly, her words swallowed in moans. Kouga pulled their lips apart in the midst of it though, smiling.

"That's what I wished to hear."

Kagome wrapped her arms around his neck.

"I wasn't done with you," she said.

Kagome's eyes narrowed.

"Then finish."

Kagome moved to meet his mouth again. Their lips barely brushed before he pulled back.

"You said finish," Kagome said, frustrated.

Mischief sparkled in his eyes.

"Just trying to lure you," he said.

Men. Why did they play these games? And they said women were confusing.

"I am fully lured. Believe me," Kagome said. She shifted her body firmer in his lap. Kouga's eyes darkened in response.

"I believe it."

He kissed her fully then, thoroughly, leaving no part of her lips untouched for long, his hands caressing her hips. Heat sparked in Kagome's belly. She moaned in his mouth and Kouga growled in response, hands moving from the hips to grasp the front of her shirt, tugging her closer. As his fingers bunched into the front of the blouse, a tearing sound ripped through Kagome's ears. She broke the kiss, opening her eyes.

The tops of her breasts were exposed under the ripped shirt. Kouga's eyes opened too, staring.

"I suppose I pulled too hard," he said after a pause.

"I liked this shirt," Kagome said, pouty.

"We'll have others made."

"That's not the point, silly."

Kouga's eyes were intent on her cleavage, his breathing heavy. She wanted to giggle at how intent he looked but the humor left her when he clasped her breasts in his hands, finger pads pressing her nipples from over her shirt. She melted under his hands, nails digging into the earth.

"I never got to see these," he said, casually playing with her breasts, the rough pads of his thumbs caressing her nipples.

Kagome let out some garbled mush, unable to make sense of anything with his hands touching her like that.

Kouga stopped his play to kiss her, and she could feel his smile stamped against her mouth. He greeted her with quick, constant pecks as she tried to get a word between them.

"Did you" –kiss– "want to?"

That made him stop, opening his eyes to look. His eyes glazed over after a while and he shook his head.

"I can wait," he said, though his voice was strained. "Until we're in a proper setting."

With that, he brought their mouths back together. Kagome deepened their kisses until they became slow and full. Their harsh breaths were clouds of vapor in the early winter night, but there was nothing but heat there.

Heat on heat on cold.

When they finally pulled away, gasping for breath, Kouga just stared at her face. His readied want for her wasn't a secret; Kagome felt it pressed against her thigh, saw it in the blue flames of his eyes. But something shifted in his jaw like a rein on a horse, as if he were leashing his desire. His hold on her softened. He really had learned to control himself.

"You should probably go inside," he ground out, already drawing them up. As they got to their feet, Kagome joined the top of her torn shirt with her arms. The top was layered enough that with her arms crossed, one wouldn't notice the tear.

"Are you coming with?" Kagome asked.

Kouga looked over her shoulder at the moon, then back at her.

"I'm going to stay out here," he said.

Alright, no need to be that in control… she wanted to say, but held back. Kouga must have read her thoughts as he stepped forward. Undoing her arms from her chest, he met their hands in a clasp.

"I'll lie under the moon tonight and let my thoughts go wild with you. That way I can pretend that I've had my full taste." Leaning down, he brought his lips to her throat. "And, no unexpected mating bites."

Kagome quivered as he kissed the mark his teeth had left, bringing his face up to meet hers.

"I'll be in the bed, then. Taking all the covers to myself."

Kouga chuckled.

"Good. They're my furs. So you'll be taking all of me however you'd like."

She began to shove him playfully but he interrupted her with another kiss. Her palms remained on the swell of his chest and she met his greeting until it became a goodbye.

Kouga helped her arrange her shirt back in place. He looked in her eyes long and hard before letting her go.

"Sleep well."

"I will," Kagome said. She gave him a small smile, and he met it with his own.

Kagome left him at the edge of the cliff, staring hard at the moon. She stopped before entering the cave, where Ginta and Hakkaku waited for her, looking sheepish and red-faced. Staring back at Kouga, his hands behind back and form long and graceful, she wondered if he'd stand there all night.

Waking with a start at the howl, a thought waited on Kagome's pillow.

I don't want to miss him.

She counted the days she'd been here, the days she had left. Three. Sango, Miroku and the others would surely be done with the clean and recoup by then. And silly as her friends were, surely they would make good use of that time for Kagome's sake.

Sango had spoken to her briefly before dropping her off at Kouga's den. The friend had hesitated before climbing on Kirara's back. Kagome hadn't been speaking much, still thick in the throat from crying over Inuyasha's leaving.

"It is a new day," Sango had said, her eyes drifting to the cave. "Paths change, but there's always another to walk along."

Kagome knew Inuyasha wasn't the only road. Heck, he wasn't even a complete road. He always avoided discussing where they'd end up once defeating Naraku. He said it was too soon to think about, that they'd have to kill the demon first before making plans. Besides, who knew if he would survive it all?

Should that have been her first warning? Not just his avoidance on the topic but the way he insisted he might not live? The overconfident half demon he was, invincible with his father's fang under his hands?

He didn't think he'd live because he had already chosen death. Kagome shrugged from her cot, still curled in furs.

"The living can hardly compete with the dead. The future has nothing on the past. And I am the future…"

The future. It's where she truly belonged and where she'd return. That was her new path. To reunite with her family and carve a life for herself in her own time. Unlike Inuyasha, she was no drifter. She wouldn't pine through eras on a lost love, especially a dead one. And definitely not one that chose to die in order to be with another.

It just didn't make sense. She couldn't be so weak, and so she refused.

But Kouga.

Dear, darn Kouga. While he'd been helping her forget love, he was causing new buds of hope to sprout in her chest.

That's what truly woke her up that morning. Not the wolf howls, but the thought swimming through her subconscious. That maybe Sango was right.

Kouga was a new path, and one she knew wouldn't collapse under her feet.

Stable and sure, willing to wait no matter how slow of a pace she walked. But waiting wasn't the problem. Since she began to realize her feelings for him, things have been going too fast, her heart racing towards him as if to make up for lost time.

But that's the issue here. Time. Not just a couple years of it, but centuries.

Kagome couldn't stay in the feudal era. Sure, the lifestyle was something she'd gotten used to. Cleaner air, simpler goals, the less frenzied days. But she had a family waiting back at home. Staying wouldn't even allow her a goodbye.

Mom, with her smiling face and endless trays of tea and food. She'd stuck by her daughter through all the running around and she deserved to have her child back. Kagome couldn't deprive her of that after she'd already lost so much.

Souta, the little brat brother she adored. Always looking up to big sister. Grandpa with his bogus healing remedies, but good intentions. Buyo the silly cat, greeting her with a gentle rub on the ankle and a happy meow no matter how long she was gone. Then there were her friends Ayumi, Eri, Yuka.

Despite never being around, she was always a part of their circle, filled in on all she missed as if she'd merely stepped out of the room for a while. She had a life waiting back at the shrine, a lot of lives waiting at the land outside of the bone-eater's well, waiting for Kagome to step back into the room.

Leaving the bed, Kagome pushed aside the stone that led to the hot springs. Steam greeted her and she stepped in. She stripped and entered the nearest spring.

She thought of her situation as she basked in the water.

Kaede had told Kagome months ago what would happen once she dispelled the jewel from this earth. Destiny brought Kagome to the well that day and it would also send her home too, jewel or not. Modern-day Japan was her true home, after all. But without the jewel, there wasn't a means to travel anymore. When she returned to her time, she would return forever.

Kagome lowered her face into the water, letting it engulf her completely.

This was why she had to savor her time with Kouga. None of this missing him sadness, especially when she wasn't even gone yet. Despite what was blooming between her and Kouga, the petals would furl back in on themselves when she left.

Kagome wasn't a fool, though. The seed was planted, and what they shared wouldn't just die with the distance. Still, she could put it to sleep. It would go dormant, like a winter rose. She'd have to tell Kouga all this one day, she knew.

When he questioned her about missing him, he couldn't know she would miss him forever. Despite what he might've thought, once she was gone even he couldn't reach her.

Not willing to brood on it more, she lifted from the water. Dripping wet, she remained under the blowing steam until she was dry enough not to trail puddles after her, entering Kouga's room again. She peeked in shyly, half worried he would be inside, half worried that he wasn't.

The room was still empty, and she dried off with a cloth before gathering up clothes. In the process of getting dressed, she looked over at the heavy stone at the door. No way would she be able to move that alone.

She thought of calling to Kouga. Should I do it now? She wondered, just fitting on some undergarments. If I do, he will see me like this, and maybe…

She remembered the feel of Kouga's hands on her body. The way he explored her in that slow, dizzying way. He touched her gently at first, as if afraid she wasn't real, then his hands got greedy, matching the speed of his mouth. Kagome blinked as she realized what she was doing. She had started touching her chest, absently running hands over her bare belly.

That's quite enough, Kagome!

What in the world was she becoming? In the past, letting her mind drift to Inuyasha, it never lead to things like this. Nearly…touching herself! It was always a bitter sweet ordeal, mixed with longing and sadness; Kouga didn't come with all those insecurities. She felt no bitterness, no hesitation. He talked about luring her in, and never controlling her.

It had to be true, for being with him felt so freeing.

He wanted her, no doubt about it. It must've been why her body opened up under his hands, always wanted him. She felt safe enough to explore her feelings, both in heart and body.

Clearing her throat as thoughts took another turn south, she ordered herself back to the present. Pulling on clothes, she fitted on a dress skirt the same moss color as her schoolgirl skirt, matching it with a long sleeved blouse. The woman who made it definitely had Kagome's style in mind.

Ginta and Hakuku's voices echoed down the hall just as she finished up.

No need to call for Kouga after all.

Kagome looked down at herself, shrugging.

Oh well. I'm already dressed anyways.

"How much longer?"

Kouga glanced over his shoulder without breaking speed, mountains passing in gray blurs. The run he'd set kept the men and wolves at his heels constantly, for even without the sacred jewel shards Kouga was the swiftest. Sorting through the cluster of darting bodies, he got a look at Hiro. The kid stumbled fifty paces back, wild hair flaring around his huffing face. Hiro stared at Kouga with wide eyes, and it was obvious who'd asked the question.

Stone stretched on for another mile but just beyond that a grassy plain. The field lay right beside it. The same place where Kagome and him had shared each other's company a morning ago. Why did it feel so long ago? Ah, maybe because he hadn't slept all night. Too busy working his teeth, thinking about time and how intent it was on slipping through his fingers.

"We're two miles from where our brothers wait," Kouga said, hoisting his head toward the men and wolves sprinting around him.

They answered in yells and barks. All except Hiro. The steady clump of paws and feet smacking rock had one lesser rhythm; the boy was slowing down. Kouga swerved on his path, jogging to the back of the group. Hiro staggered from behind, his arms flailing at his side like limp fishtails.

"What's the matter?" Kouga shouted over the sharp wind whipping his tail and hair everywhere.

"I can't…" Hiro gasped. "Go so fast."

"You're a wolf. Act like one."

Kouga appraised Hiro. Sharp limbs on a long form. Not even a kid, really. In human years he was just a few years younger than Kouga. Still, he was untrained.

"You've been doing too much watch duty. Apparently that ball and hole game has done nothing for your endurance," Kouga smirked, still running backwards. The kid stumbled along, still in pants with his arms hanging to his sides.

Kouga's men were running at a slower pace and Kouga demanded they keep going.

No one needed to slow for this kid. What was he, an infant? Undertrained or not, today would be his training.

Kouga slapped one of the boy's limp fishtail for arms.

"Use your elbows, Hiro. That'll carry you alone. Be the nature. Ride the wind."

Sucking in a breath, Hiro raised his arms. They jutted out at his sides like paddles through a river while his legs sank behind him. Kouga launched a kick at the boy's hamstring. He staggered at the force, but picked them up.

"Good. Use your feet and brazen blood. There aren't slowpokes in my pack."

"I agree, Boss!" A voice said just at his ear.

Kouga whirled around. Uru was sprinting backwards, his hand raised in a salute. He bumped into a brown wolf who snapped his teeth at him.

"Whoops," Uru said, watching his feet from a swell of a blackened eye. Kouga smirked. He'd given Uru that friendly warning just this morning. With the man's actions last night, he had begged for it.

Using a finger, Kouga motioned for Uru to face forward. He smiled, two teeth missing from his mouth, and obeyed. He had asked for that too.

What a bunch I'm bringing to meet these Northern Brothers, Kouga thought. True, the other men he'd brought along were in good form. Burku, Kurbi and Roon, plus a few brown wolves. It might've been good to leave the Hiro boy at the den, though. Uru was hardly in shape, either, after Kouga had gotten his fists on him. He supposed if Ginta and Hakkaku were there, it'd complete the goofy set of wolves.

But he had them stay behind and watch over Kagome. He didn't plan to stay long, but a prince never left his princess without bodies to guard her. Ginta and Hakkaku weren't the swiftest, but they were loyal to Kagome and that was enough.

As stone transformed to grass beneath his feet, Kouga pulled ahead of his group. From the front he aimed an elbow to the right, his pack veering with the change in direction. Tearing through the fields, Kouga saw where they waited. A light succession of wolves standing under the plum trees, their faces in shadow.

Kouga lightened his steps and fell into a jog. His men did the same, Hiro wheezing with relief from behind the group. As Kouga's pack approached, the northern wolves detached from the trees, hiking to meet them halfway.

The brothers joined in the center of the field. Kouga scanned their faces and form. Well-built men, no gaunt cheeks, so apparently healthy. When he'd heard their distant howls this morning, calling to meet with Kouga, he hadn't been sure why. The northern men weren't speaking though, but looking at Kouga as if he were their leader.

"Northern brothers," Kouga said. He looked to the man in front of the Northerners. A crimson haired wolf who he'd only seen once or twice. "Have you run the day's journey to admire my face?"

That loosened the group up a little, a few smiles appearing on their faces.

"No, Brother," the crimson haired man said. He dug a knee into the ground to bow. The wolves behind followed their leader's action.

"Winter is at our ankles. From this wind I can see it's stirring your lands too but in the north it comes even faster. It is why we've made this journey before winter keeps us stowed in our caves."

"And why was this journey necessary?"

"We've come to thank you for avenging our brothers, Kouga."

Kouga reached out a hand. The leader took it, rising to his feet.

"Your thanks are welcome," he said. "But why come all this way to say this?" Kouga had already been at their home. They had thanked him then.

"You had not stayed long when you came to us a few nights ago. A personal visit to your land was needed."

Kouga nodded. He was anxious to get back to his den after being away for so long. He'd only stayed for the wedding ceremony then sped off after a few hours rest. That still hadn't stopped the northern wolves from formally coming to thank him, and Kouga appreciated it.

He smiled at their leader, shaking his hand.

"I must also thank you for my sister," the northern leader said.

Kouga cocked an eyebrow and the leader's lips twitched as he stepped to the side. In the center of the northern wolves stood a man and a woman. The man he recognized immediately. Shinji, his long black hair spilling past his ears like dark water. He stood at a woman's side, his form half covering her, protective. Shinji's eyes were warm embers like a satisfied, newly mated wolf.

The woman kept her head down for the longest, smoothing hands down her gray furred waists and shoulders. Her crimson hair had lost the childish ponytails, though the purple iris still sat in her hair. The northern leader stepped forward again and the resemblance between him and his sister was striking. Of course; this was Iki, grandson of the elder and now leader of his tribe.

As enlightenment hit Kouga's eyes, Iki moved over to let Shinji and his bride approach. They stopped a few paces before Kouga. Shinji bowed to his former leader, eyes to the grass. His woman bowed too, but unlike her mate, she looked straight at him.

"Hello again," Ayame said, jade eyes dancing from her face.

Author's Note:

Hi everyone,

Just want to thank my amazing beta-reading team kittykritik and AnnaliseIsmeneRomano for making this chapter as clean as possible. I've been able to manage time and will aim to update consistently (bi and tri-weekly) with weekends as the target. So yes. Believe me I'm not stopping! So I hope you liked the chapter, and stay tuned for the things that are to come…