For Monomyth for the Annual Dokuga Holiday Exchange 2021.
Prompt: "Character A and Character B save Christmas."
Merry Christmas Monomyth!
"I have no expertise in this matter."
"All the more reason for you to be in charge of it."
Sesshoumaru downed the rest of his sake, then let out an exasperated sigh. "Mother, I do not see how—"
"My dear son, this event will be the first of an annual tradition, and you will be involved."
"Considering my company is paying for the endeavour, I would say I am already involved enough."
Ruby lips curved up into a sultry smirk. "I will wager that you will not remain on the sidelines for this one, dear son."
"Provide a single reason as to why that is."
"Rin is looking forward to it."
Sesshoumaru scowled, his body instantly tensing. "I did not think you were the type to resort to blackmail."
Her smirk gave way to laughter. "I will use whichever means necessary." She waved down their server, requesting a dessert menu.
"I have another meeting in the morning. I do not have time to—"
Perfectly manicured claws waved him off. "Dessert is the whole reason we are here in the first place. Kagura has not stopped raving about them."
"I do not enjoy sweets."
Golden eyes narrowed as she accepted the menus from their server. "I had thought you had grown a little in the last few centuries, but it seems you have regressed to the petulant child who refused to eat anything not caught by his own hands."
Sesshoumaru resisted the urge to loosen his tie, something akin to shame creeping up his neck.
"Just try one, and if it does not instantly change your mind, you are excused from having to participate in this particular event."
He raised an eyebrow, skeptical at the ease at which his mother was giving in but nodded in acceptance. He had not come across a dessert he had enjoyed yet, and he wasn't about to start now.
It wasn't long before two small plates were placed in front of him, and Sesshoumaru was pained to admit that the esthetic alone was enough to sway him.
The coffee jelly was served in a martini glass, a layer of decadent cream on top before being garnished with a fresh strawberry. The jelly was fragrant, the scent making his mouth water before he'd even taken a bite.
But it was nothing compared to the Raindrop Cake. Pickled cherry blossoms lined the bottom of the transparent dome, contrasted beautifully against the accompanying decorative leaves. The server poured some black sugar syrup over the top, managing not to pop the bubble-like treat.
Sesshoumaru looked up at his mother, the female daiyoukai resting her chin delicately on her hands as she took in his reaction.
"I shall wait to say, 'I told you so' until you have tasted them."
He swallowed his pride and forced himself to taste both of them, his eyes widening in shock.
"I am glad I still have ways to ruffle your fur."
This time he managed a scowl. "You do not need to rub it in."
"I fear I must! Especially considering you have eaten both in their entirety."
Sesshoumaru blinked and stared down at the plates, both scraped bare of even the barest crumbs. He set his spoon down before he did something as uncouth as lick it clean.
"You have made your point, mother. We will hire the chef to cater the event."
"Wonderful! Let us inform them now." She spoke to their server, a smug look on her face.
A wolf demon soon stopped by their table, his dark uniform pristine as he shook their hands.
"A pleasure to serve you today. Did you enjoy your meal?"
"Indeed. We wish to employ your services for an upcoming event." Sesshoumaru motioned to the empty plates. "Your desserts were—"
The chef smirked, flashing a fang as he flipped his long ponytail over his shoulder. "As much as I'd love to hear everything you have to say, I gotta admit, I didn't make the desserts."
Sesshoumaru's eyebrows disappeared under his bangs, and he turned to his mother, preparing himself for the punchline of the joke he was not privy to, but she shared the same expression.
"You order these from somewhere else?"
The chef bowed slightly. "Sorry, it is written on the menu. We don't order them in or anything; we've got a pastry chef that's in charge of all of our post-dinner treats."
It wasn't unheard of—many restaurants had staff who specialized in specific parts of the menu—but this was the first time Sesshoumaru had come across a chef so willing to refuse to accept the praise on behalf of their employees.
"I assume they are in tonight? May we meet them?" his mother asked, intrigue written clearly on her face.
"Sure thing!" The chef grinned, then headed back to the kitchen, muttering under his breath. "Maybe she'll start believing her stuff is as good as I say it is if she hears it from someone else."
Sesshoumaru's curiosity spiked. "Will a pastry chef be adequate for this event?"
His mother hummed in response. "I am sure she'll be fine. The clientele is looking forward to festive sweets above everything else."
It wasn't long before a woman approached their table, wiping the backs of her hands on the stained apron around her waist. She smelled of jasmine and anxiety, but her chin was held high.
Sesshoumaru instantly approved.
"Good evening. Chef mentioned you wished to speak to me?"
Adjusting the fur around her shoulders, his mother leaned forward, the sultry smile back in place.
"We wish to compliment you on your desserts."
The woman bowed, her dark hair pulled back into a severe bun at the base of her neck.
"I'm glad you enjoyed them."
His mother chuckled. "Well, to be honest, I did not get to enjoy them. My son consumed them both before I had a chance to."
She turned her attention to him, and Sesshoumaru's mouth went dry.
Blue eyes were common enough within the youkai community—vibrant colours were usually a sign of pureblood heritage—but the depths of the sapphire orbs staring back at him at that moment had his breath stilling in his lungs.
And then she was talking, and he was forced to actively focus on what she was saying.
"Was there anything in particular that stood out?"
Swallowing thickly, Sesshoumaru found his voice and leaned back in the booth. "I do not have an affinity for sweets, but you have managed to sway my opinion on the matter."
The woman looked shocked at his critique, a slight blush staining her cheeks.
"Do you cater private functions?"
Her eyes widened even further, and she looked between the two inuyoukai. "Ummm… No. I mean—not yet, I've only been here a few months and—"
"We have a holiday event coming up and are looking to hire someone who specializes in desserts."
"But I'm only—"
"Notoriety means nothing to us, dear," his mother cut in. "The fact that my son ate not one but two of your dishes is proof enough of your abilities."
Her mouth snapped shut, and she nodded mutely as his mother filled her in on the event and the specifics of what her job would entail. It seemed to strike a chord with the young chef as she started excitedly listing off the various dishes she would create.
The anticipation youthened her features, and Sesshoumaru found himself wondering what she looked like with her hair down. The image of half-lidded eyes and loose waves flashed through his mind, and he shifted in his seat, his pants suddenly tight around his thighs.
"This is the address, dear," she said, handing over one of his business cards. "The hotel has a fully stocked kitchen that you will be using, but please let my son know of any specific ingredients or supplies you require."
"It shouldn't be anything expensive. You can save a lot of money if you shop at—"
"Cost is not an issue. Supply me the list, and I will ensure you have the best of what you require."
The woman opened her mouth to argue, then seemed to think better of it and simply nodded. "Will you be at the event? Do you have any requests?"
The question was innocent enough—the woman seemed to be the accommodating sort—but given Sesshoumaru's already wandering thoughts, he cursed himself as his instincts suddenly went on alert, looking for any hidden meaning behind her words.
His mother appeared to have the same idea.
"Why, of course he will be! His company is the main sponsor, after all."
The woman was taken aback at his mother's eagerness, and if Sesshoumaru had any less honour, he would've kicked her under the table.
"Do not concern yourself with my tastes. It is the clientele that you should focus on."
"I know, but—"
"I am sure Sesshoumaru will be happy to taste your samples once you've decided on the menu."
Sesshoumaru's leg twitched.
The woman nodded, then promised to be in touch before the week was out. After thanking them both again, she turned to return to the kitchen. Sesshoumaru's hand shot out, stopping her from turning away completely.
She flushed with embarrassment. "Higurashi. Kagome Higurashi."
"It's all wrong."
Kagome froze in the middle of rolling out a layer of fondant. "I'm sorry?"
The bulbous little green thing that had proclaimed himself as Taisho's assistant was prodding her trays, his wooden cane clacking against the floor.
"These childish creations are not worthy of our host."
He turned on her, glaring as he raised his chin in the air. "I don't know why an amateur was hired for this job. Your name is nothing in comparison to those with more prestige and experience."
Kagome's mouth dropped open. Most of Taisho's employees had been accommodating, some had even been excited about her ideas, but this annoying little amphibian had been poking holes in her plans since day one.
She was ready to use his head as a football.
"Taisho specifically said—"
"It is on his behalf that I speak!"
Her hands stilled once more, the ugly hand of insecurity wrapping around her neck. Why would Taisho have changed the menu now? There were less than 24 hours before the event began and she'd almost finished prepping everything—was almost on her way out the door.
Glancing towards the large trays of brightly coloured desserts, Kagome tried to keep her voice level. "If something needs to be changed, then he should be here himself to request it. I don't have enough time to—"
"You dare to challenge the word of your employer? It is only due to his sympathy and mother that you are here in the first place. This is not the kind of product the company is known for. It is meant to be lavish and impress."
"But—" Her retort was once again cut off as his cane came within an inch of her face.
"If you do not fix it, you will be let go. And we will make it known how difficult you were to work with."
To a new chef trying to make her name in the world, it was the kiss of death.
Kagome nodded slowly and the frog smirked before exiting the way he'd come, muttering about how he would be praised under his breath.
She looked around at all her hard work—everything she'd specifically planned out for the clients—and her eyes burned with tears. She'd had so much fun coming up with the menu, and Taisho had seemed to be okay with it during their initial meetings.
Apparently she was horrible at reading people.
Quickly wiping off her hands, she pulled out her phone, her shoulders slumped as she tapped the first slot in her speed dial. He answered on the first ring.
"What makes you think something is wrong?"
"Because you never call me during prep time."
Kagome sniffed, then covered her eyes. "He doesn't like any of it."
"Taisho. That stupid assistant just came in and told me I have to change everything. He basically called me a peasant."
Kouga made an indignant snort. "And since when do you listen to things that look like gum on the bottom of your shoe?"
She normally would've laughed along with him, but the weight of the task ahead—and everything she was going to have to change—was heavy on her shoulders.
"Since he threatened to blacklist me if I didn't do as I was told."
"What?! Fuck what I said before, he doesn't look like gum yet, but he's gonna after I get through with him!"
Managing a watery smile, Kagome allowed her mind to wander, conjuring up the image of her best friend pounding the pompous little toad into the concrete for a moment before sighing.
"Kouga, what am I going to do? Everything is ready to go, but now I have to start from scratch. I'm going to be here all night."
"Have you talked to Taisho directly?"
The thought of confronting the inuyoukai sent shivers down Kagome's spine, and not all of them were from fear.
"Why not? He probably has no idea how much prep is required for an event like this and just assumes you can change things at the drop of a hat. Go give him a piece of your mind!"
"Things like that never work out the way you want them to."
"Says you. I've had quite a few fantasies about doing the same thing, and they all end in my favour."
Kagome snorted. "Then you go do it. Feel free to tell him how much you enjoy the look of his ass in slacks too."
Kouga let out a wistful sigh. "If only, Kags. Taisho's nice to look at—really nice to look at—but I prefer the 'easily flustered and possibly in denial' ones. And don't act like you've never imagined mussing up that perfect suit of his."
"I refuse to answer that on the grounds that you'll pry all the details out of me, and I have a lot of work to do."
"Spoilsport. Guess I'll just have to spend the rest of my night hoping he's got a brother." Kouga was cocky at the best of times, but he loved being able to turn men into goo with a few poignant phrases.
Especially when they were just as cocky as him to begin with.
"Seriously though, just go talk to him. Tell him the menu is final and he'll just have to deal with it."
"Even if I never cater anything this big again?"
Her friend groaned. "There will be other events, Kags. Do not spend all night there prepping an entirely different menu."
"If you say so."
Kagome sighed, pulling her braid loose and running her fingers through the dark waves. She'd redo it once she started baking again. She needed to do some rough sketches first. If she got started now, she could get most of it done before the decorators showed up.
"Thanks for the pep talk, Kouga. I'll call you later, okay?"
"You know I'm always here for you. At least with this job done, I'll get to stare at your lovely face in my restaurant again."
Real laughter bubbled out of her mouth, and she quickly said goodbye, thanking him again. Then she grabbed her tablet and began planning.
She'd show Taisho that Kagome Higurashi was a force to be reckoned with.
"You are still here?"
Kagome shrieked, jumping a foot in the air before spinning around, managing to keep the bowl in her hands from falling to the ground.
"You startled me!"
A slim eyebrow raised before he looked around the kitchen and Kagome flushed. It was currently a disaster—there were ingredients and random bowls all over the counters. She kept trying to mix things while planning out the complimentary flavours simultaneously, and her rushed multitasking hadn't allowed for much organization.
"I had thought you were more efficient than this."
Her mouth dropped open before her eyes slowly narrowed at him. "I was almost done, but then it wasn't what you wanted, so now I'm having to redo everything." Setting the bowl down, she wiped her hands on her apron then went to pull another tray out of the oven.
"Don't worry; it'll still get done in time," she ground out, teeth gnashing together.
She assumed that would be enough to placate him, and she continued to move between her mixing bowls and the oven, but when she turned to grab her tablet once more, he was still standing in the doorway, confusion pinching his features.
"What?" she snapped, her body already taught with fatigue.
"Why are you changing the menu? There was nothing wrong with it."
Kagome's steps faltered, the edges of her mouth pulling down. Taisho placed his briefcase on the floor, then strode into the kitchen, looking over her current workstation.
"This level of care is unnecessary. I thought we agreed on the more festive options."
"We did! And it was ready hours ago, but then your assistant came in and said—"
His eyes narrowed, and Kagome couldn't help but wonder if he'd been a warrior at some point in his life. His expression was fierce and deadly, a sharp contrast to the crisp suit he was wearing.
"Jaken is the cause of your workload?"
"Well—" She looked around, biting her lip. "Yeah. He said you'd changed your mind and wanted something fancier, so I've been trying to—" The air turned cold as dark youki filtered around their feet.
Kagome instantly reacted, reiki shooting from her fingers against the weight of his oppressive aura. He jerked in response, the crimson in his eyes receding as he gave her a startled look.
"You are a miko."
Nodding once, she braced herself, expecting more than just getting fired. Spiritual power ran in her family—her mother ran a local shrine—but it wasn't something she advertised. Things between humans and youkai were tenuous at best, and she didn't want to give them any reason not to hire her.
"Look, my powers have nothing to do with my ability to do my job." She grabbed a bowl, continuing to whisk a glaze so it didn't solidify. "I'll get everything done; I just need to—"
"It's a little late for that. You should've told me when I showed you the first draft that you didn't like it. It's not going to be as good as it could've been if I'd had more time." Her eyes narrowed. "And I'm billing you for all the extra ingredients. You're the one who—"
"Any extra expenses will be deducted out of Jaken's pay," he growled. "He has overstepped and will be reprimanded accordingly."
Blue eyes blinked in confusion, her hand stilling in her task. He seemed to be blaming his assistant a lot. It was almost as if—
"You didn't change your mind?"
A single shake of his had strands of silver hair falling over his shoulders. "I would not expect you to make so many changes at this late hour."
A wave of fatigue washed over her, making her sway. The bowl was lifted from her hands as Taisho forced her to sit down on the stool.
"When was the last time you ate something?"
"I-I—" Kagome looked around the kitchen, struggling to remember. "Before I started the new prep. I think. I get into a zone when I'm baking and lose track of things."
Taisho watched her for a moment before walking briskly out the main doors. The sight of his briefcase on the floor stopped any outburst about his sudden departure.
Taking in a deep breath, she pulled her hair from its braid, letting the dark waves cascade around her shoulders and lessening the strain around her temples. The stress of having to come up with an entirely new menu was gone, but she still had to finish the original one.
Checking her watch, she winced. It was almost midnight, and the event started at noon. She wasn't sure if she'd even be able to complete her original plans on time.
Maybe she could salvage some of the ingredients she'd been in the middle of using.
The tapping of shoes across the tiled floor signalled Taisho's return, and she looked up, her lips pulling back into a gentle smile.
He placed a bowl of ramen down in front of her, fragrant steam rising from the noodles.
Even if she'd wanted to say no, her stomach took that moment to grumble loudly, and she flushed, thanking him softly before digging into the meal.
Kagome managed three large bites before she felt his eyes on her again. Forcing herself to swallow, she looked up, her body stilling at the intensity of his gaze.
The butterflies in her stomach had nothing to do with the food.
Clearing her throat, she motioned to the mess currently occupying the main prep table.
"Once I clean that up, I can get back to the original menu. I might have to change a few things with all the time I wasted, but—"
"I will clean. You will eat."
Kagome was glad she'd managed to swallow because she would've spat it out at his command. Or at least choked on it.
Taisho removed his suit jacket, hanging it beside her coat before unbuttoning his cuffs. "You have been working nonstop since this afternoon. You may dictate your instructions, but you will rest. And eat."
She watched in wonder as he rolled up his sleeves, revealing magenta stripes around his wrists, then pulled his long silver hair into a ponytail at the base of his neck. The hairstyle somehow made him less intimidating, and Kagome couldn't help but wonder what else he did with his hair on his days off.
Digging into her ramen once more, she let the delectable soup warm her from the inside, the flavours mixing together in delicious harmony on her tongue. After a few bites, her hand stilled and she looked up at Taisho, the meaning of his words suddenly registering in her brain.
How did he know how long I've been working?
He was going to murder his assistant.
And he would enjoy doing it.
Suppressing a growl, Sesshoumaru busied himself with clearing off the multiple counters Higurashi had been using. He'd made a point of checking in on her from time to time—mostly without her knowledge and under the guise of inspecting her work—but he'd stopped lying to himself as to the real reason after the third time he'd done it.
She fascinated him.
He was so used to the daily routine of his corporate life that he'd forgotten some people actually enjoyed their jobs. The hue of her eyes sparkled with every roll of her dough and skim of her spatula, and Sesshoumaru had been helpless under its pull.
He'd assumed the kitchen to be empty—that she'd finished for the night and had already left. Instead, he'd been greeted with ashen skin, a pinched expression, and the pungent smell of champagne mixed with sugar.
And no spark left in her eyes.
He'd wanted to rip someone's throat out.
Placing her used cooking utensils into the industrial dishwasher, he started to wipe down the counters, clearing them of the caramelized sugar and hardened chocolate. He wasn't sure which items would still be needed but erred on the side of caution and washed everything.
He paused to steal a glance at Higurashi, not letting his gaze linger for more than a moment. A testament to his control. Things had been manageable—tolerable—until he'd returned with her food. The raven locks she kept in severe hairstyles had been released, and it took all Sesshoumaru's resolve not to bury his face in them as he set her bowl down.
The fantasies that had been plaguing him since their first meeting were nothing compared to the real thing.
The buns and braids had been deceptive, the tips reaching well past her shoulder blades. And instead of the usual pin-straight strands, soft waves hung around her face, bouncing over her shoulders every time she moved.
Sesshoumaru jerked, realizing he hadn't stopped himself from staring.
She'd finished her food and was now gifting him with another smile. Blood began to flow south, and he dug his claws into his palms, trying to distract himself from other places he wanted her to smile at him from.
Namely his bed.
"You are welcome. What is the next thing you require?"
She shook her head, sliding off the stool as she adjusted her apron. "I think I can handle it from here. I'm sure if I—"
"Are you confident you will finish in time for the event?"
Uncertainty crept into her eyes as she looked at the various trays. "No," she answered honestly.
"Then I will continue to assist you."
"Though indirectly, the blame for your current predicament lies with me. Tell me what you require."
Her expression turned grateful, and then it was all business; she quickly assessed what could be salvaged and what needed to be remade. He was a fast learner, and they soon fell into an efficient routine with him doing most of the mixing while she focused on the finishing touches.
It wasn't long before the crisis appeared to have been averted—though even if it hadn't, Sesshoumaru would have called it a night, as Higurashi's feet had begun to drag once more.
"Will this suffice for tomorrow?" He checked his watch and sighed. "Today?"
She counted the trays of completed confections and nodded. "I think we covered everything. There's that last batch of cookies that doesn't have any icing, but by the time the stores open, it'll be too late."
"I can always—"
Higurashi held up a hand, cutting him off. "You've done enough, really."
She was smiling at him again, and Sesshomaru felt the edges of his mouth twitch in response. Higurashi was utterly dishevelled. Her apron was stained, hair barely contained in a messy bun, with multiple curls having escaped around her ears.
Sesshoumaru had never seen a more lovely sight.
Then she was pulling out her phone and typing in numbers. "Where's the best place for a cab to pick me up? I've got enough time to run home and grab a quick shower before—"
"I will have a room made up for you. The hotel is far from full tonight."
"That's sweet but not necessary. It's a bit of a drive, but I don't mind. Plus, I need to grab a few things from my place anyway."
"Provide a list of the items and your address, and I will have them sent up to your room."
She gaped at him. "But why? You don't even know me!"
Sesshoumaru reached out, the urge too great to resist this time, and wrapped one of her dark waves around his fingers. "Perhaps it is because I wish to know you better."
If possible, her mouth opened even further, then snapped shut as a delightful blush darkened her cheeks. He thumbed the lock of hair, prospects brightening when she didn't immediately pull away.
Something shifted in her eyes, and she bit her lip. "Are you going to ask to join me?"
He froze, his heart speeding up as he stared down at her. "Are you asking me to?"
"I may not say no if you did."
Blood roared between his ears, the question on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed it, exhaustion written clearly on her face.
"Tempting. Exceedingly so, but it is late, and you require actual rest."
Her lips pursed into a pout, but she nodded, wiping her hands off on her apron before she flashed him a seductive smile. "Will you ask me again when the event is over? Or when we're both not covered in frosting, at least?"
The heated promise in her eyes proved to be too much, and he grabbed the front of her apron, snaking an arm around her waist as his lips claimed hers.
She tasted of spiced honey, and Sesshoumaru found himself quickly addicted—especially when slender hands grabbed the collar of his shirt and pulled him closer.
As heads slanted and tongues tangled, Sesshoumaru felt his fatigue melt away, every nerve screaming out, begging for more of the alluring creature in his arms. He happily obliged, burying one hand in her hair as the other pulled her hips flush with his own.
The hotel was still open—anyone could walk in on them—but the thoughts of a scandal were lost on him. All he could smell was her. All he could feel was her.
All he wanted was more.
A soft moan signalled she felt the same, and his grip on her hair tightened, forcing her head back as he plundered her mouth. Higurashi arched against him, and Sesshoumaru tried to remember why he'd initially denied her request.
Sirens blared outside, startling them both, and they jumped apart. Realizing that the interruption wasn't anywhere nearby, they both looked at each other, Higurashi laughing as Sesshoumaru ran a hand through his bangs.
"This is not the time or place for this."
She giggled again but nodded her head. "You started it."
Sesshoumaru attempted to scowl at her but soon found his lips quirking upwards.
She wasn't a miko; she was a witch.
Or a siren.
Higurashi attempted to fix the lapels of his collar, smiling softly to herself. "In the slight chance I forget this conversation happened and try to chalk it up to sleep-deprived delirium, kiss me again, okay? It'll definitely jog my memory."
He snagged one of her hands and brushed a kiss across her fingers. "As you wish."
The resulting smile and blush almost broke his resolve, but Sesshoumaru managed to pull away—out of her reach and out of the spell she'd cast on him.
"Gather your things. I will speak to the front desk."
"Are you sure—"
This time he did scowl at her, and her mouth snapped shut, mirth dancing in her eyes as she put her hands up in defeat. Smirking, Sesshoumaru grabbed his jacket and briefcase and exited the kitchen.
He would kick someone out of their room himself if it meant Higurashi was able to sleep for a few hours.
Sometime during her rush to get ready, Kagome had a brainstorm, suddenly knowing exactly what to do with the leftover cookies.
She hurried through the rest of her routine, blushing as she ran her fingers through her abnormally loose hair. Pulling her hair back was a requirement when it came to baking, so it had become a habit during her downtime as well. But the memory of Taisho—Sesshoumaru—dropping her off at her hotel room gave her the courage to leave her hair in its natural state.
Even after he'd offered to help, Kagome hadn't been confident that everything would be finished in time. As it was, she'd managed to grab almost four hours of sleep before the phone next to her bed had rung with her scheduled wake-up call.
All in all, she was pretty proud of herself. Her first significant catering gig and she'd not only made most of the desserts herself, but she'd also created a few new recipes on the fly that would come in handy for her next event.
She'd also made out with her boss.
Was he actually her boss, though? He'd hired her, sure, but it was one contract, and by the end of the day, he wouldn't be her boss anymore.
Kouga was going to have a field day, regardless.
Casting one last look in the mirror and proclaiming herself presentable in her crimson blouse and black pencil skirt—while ignoring how her mind wondered if a certain inuyoukai would like it—she grabbed her overnight bag and headed down to the lobby.
She threw on her apron before grabbing the cart of fully stocked treats, it only taking her three trips to get everything into the banquet hall. A selection of tables had been set up, and Kagome quickly arranged the first round of desserts, making sure they were easily accessible.
There was a large Christmas tree in one corner, its lights already twinkling, a swarm of brightly coloured gifts surrounding its base. Kagome's lips twitched at the thought of them being opened, small hands ripping open the paper, then became a full-blown smile as she finished arranging the cookie-decorating station on the final table.
Small plates of icing, sprinkles, gummies, and bits of chocolate sat on one side of the table, sugar cookies in various holiday-related shapes on the other. There hadn't been enough to complete another full set of cookies, but it would go a long way with the clientele.
When Sesshoumaru—she was not blushing every time she thought of him—had first revealed that she'd be catering for a group of young children, Kagome had offered to do the job for free. Especially when she'd learned they were from struggling families. The stoic youkai had tried to play it off as a publicity stunt, but the way he'd been invested in the process from the start had given him away.
Her heart had skipped more than once during that meeting.
She finished unloading the carts and was about to start wheeling them back to the kitchen when she heard a squeal of excitement from the main doors. Startled, she almost dropped the tray she was holding, only for a clawed hand to grab the other side.
"Are you always this jumpy in the morning?"
She flashed Sesshoumaru a smile, mischief dancing in her eyes. "Only when I've been kept up late by attractive men."
Her words had the desired effect, his golden eyes darkening as he leaned in, his hands covering hers on the edges of the tray.
"I can assure you, if I had been the cause of your late night, you would not be standing right now."
Kagome's breath hitched in her throat, her voice barely above a whisper as she licked her lips. "Promise?"
Any answer he had planned was interrupted by a petite brunette barreling into him, pulling at his dark vest.
"Can I open my present now?"
The heat in his eyes was replaced with such tenderness that Kagome's chest felt tight.
"No, Rin. You must wait for the others."
The girl pouted, then peeked up at Kagome. "Can I at least have one of her treats? They're so much prettier than the pictures you showed me!"
Kagome swore she saw Sesshoumaru blush, and she covered her mouth to stifle her laughter.
"You may have one. But do not tell your mother."
Rin clapped with glee, then went to inspect all the tables, finally deciding on a lemon tart. Humming in delight after her first bite, she flittered around the room, barely able to contain her joy.
A soft tug on her hair had Kagome turning around, Sesshoumaru rolling a dark strand around his finger.
"You kept it down."
"You asked me to."
The intensity of his stare had the back of her ears turning red, and she stepped back, mindful of their present company. Running her fingers through her hair—and ignoring the way his eyes followed her hand—she motioned to the treat-filled tables.
"Not too bad, considering last night's disaster, hey?"
Sesshoumaru nodded. "The children will be pleased. Their families as well."
"I'm glad. And look, I'm sorry for yelling at you. You approved all my plans initially, so when your assistant said you'd changed your mind—"
"I assure you, it will not happen again."
She smiled at the venom in his voice, then returned to her trays. "I should get these back to the kitchen before everyone shows up."
Grabbing the trolly, she wheeled it towards the door, then turned back. "Thank you again. For helping. I wouldn't have been able to—"
"You have thanked me enough."
Blushing again, she bit her lip. "I know, but these kids are looking forward to it and if you hadn't—"
"Oi! You done in here yet? Your mom's wondering when she can start lettin' the guests in."
Kagome turned around and barely managed to stop her mouth from falling open. A shorter, gruffer version of Sesshoumaru had walked into the banquet hall, pulling at the collar of his burgundy dress shirt as the silver dog ears on the top of his head twitched in agitation.
Sesshoumaru's jaw clenched, and Kagome got the feeling this person—undoubtedly related to him—had interrupted on purpose. All thoughts of telling him off flew out of her mind, however, when Rin came running up to them both and flung herself into the younger man's arms.
"Heya runt. You behavin' yourself?"
"Uh huh! Sesshoumaru let me have a treat!"
Kagome bit the inside of her cheek as Sesshoumaru narrowed his eyes at the traitorous child.
"You swore to secrecy."
"You said I couldn't tell Mama."
Sesshoumaru's lips pursed at Rin's discovery of such an apparent loophole, and Kagome couldn't contain her laughter.
The other man started as if suddenly realizing she was there, then picked up Rin, his eyes never leaving Kagome.
"I thought this was a business thing. Why're you allowed to bring your girlfriend?"
Kagome turned as red as her blouse.
"I-I'm not—we're not—"
"She is the caterer."
Rin tugged on her brother's hair. "Be nice!" She then leaned in and whispered loudly enough for them all to hear. "Her desserts are really tasty."
He gave Kagome a considering look, then turned to Sesshoumaru. "Kagura's gonna be pissed you're givin' Rin sugar. Again."
A faint blush touched Sesshoumaru's cheekbones but quickly disappeared. "You may remind our dear stepmother that the whole point of this event is to provide children with festive treats."
"Keh, it's your funeral."
Kagome grabbed one of the extra cookies off her tray and held it out to him. "You're probably just jealous that Rin got one instead of you."
The man instantly bristled, his blush a lot darker than Sesshoumaru's. He stuttered as he tried to respond, but Rin just grabbed the cookie and shoved it in his mouth, effectively silencing him. Biting off a chunk, the man opened his mouth to blast the small girl, but his eyes widened, and he looked down at the cookie instead, chewing slowly.
"Damn. No wonder you hired her."
Rin giggled. "I told you!"
Sesshoumaru smirked before checking his watch. "Inuyasha, inform Mother that guests may enter in fifteen minutes."
Inuyasha nodded, then snuck another bite of the cookie as he turned around, carrying Rin with him as he left the hall.
Blue eyes danced with glee as she looked at Sesshoumaru. "Is he always that obvious?"
"Unfortunately. It is a trait he picked up from our father."
"But not your mother?" She winced, waving her hands in front of her. "Sorry, I'm not trying to pry, it's just that you're a full youkai and he's clearly a hanyou, but you look so much alike and—"
Sesshoumaru held up a hand. "It is fine. The scandal of my father's affair is public knowledge."
He shrugged a single shoulder.
"How does Rin fit in?"
"Are you normally this nosy?"
Kagome would've been embarrassed, but his expression was filled with amusement as opposed to anger, and she found the courage to give him an enticing smile.
"Only with people I'm really interested in."
A pale eyebrow rose before he placed a hand on the trolly behind her, boxing her in. "Is that so?"
"Uh huh. And I'm really interested in you, so I'm going to be fishing for info for a while."
Golden eyes darkened before they slid to her lips, and Kagome felt her breath catch.
"Stop looking at me like that."
His lips curved up into a smirk, his eyes not leaving her mouth. "Why?"
"You know why."
"Do I? Perhaps you should enlighten me."
Swallowing thickly, she kept her hands behind her back, not trusting herself to touch him. "I would, but I've only got twelve minutes before people start showing up and I still need to set up the rest of the tables."
He let out a resigned sigh, then stepped back. "You seem to be as skilled as Rin when it comes to getting out of trouble."
"I'll take that as a compliment."
Sesshoumaru chuckled. "It was meant to be one." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a business card. "To answer your earlier question, Rin is the adopted daughter of my mother's current mate. They have been together long enough for Rin to consider myself and Inuyasha her brothers."
Kagome's gaze flickered towards the main doors. "You two seem to care about her a lot."
"Indeed. But do not tell her that, as she will find a way of using it against us."
She snorted. "Like she doesn't do that already."
Chuckling again, Sesshoumaru handed over the card, Kagome's brow furrowing in confusion.
"What's this for? Your mother already gave me your card when we first met." As soon as her fingers closed around the card, Sesshoumaru did the same to her hand and pulled her close, stealing a kiss.
Kagome resisted for all of a millisecond, then melted against him, his tongue quickly slipping into her mouth. Every time she tasted him was like the first time, and she hummed in delight. It ended much too quickly, and she pouted, still holding the card between them.
"Indeed she did, but this one has my personal phone number on it."
She blinked, then turned the card over, her feet tingling with excitement at the sight of the handwritten digits on the back.
"Be sure to call me when you have finished your duties." He grabbed a lock of hair, letting it curl around his finger before bringing it to his lips.
Resisting the urge to kiss him again, she tucked the card into the pocket of her skirt. "I'll definitely be doing that."
Sesshoumaru gave her a curt nod, then rechecked his watch. "Nine minutes now."
The anticipation for the event was second only to the anticipation of seeing him outside of the work environment, and Kagome almost skipped back to the kitchen.
Maybe she'd buy his assistant a Christmas present.