I was definitely excited to be going down to Hashire Creek. It had been so long since I'd gone anywhere for that matter. Sure I liked staying with Zen in the mansion, but sometimes, I do wish I could go somewhere and do... oh, I don't know, shop for clothes or even go out for groceries like I've seen couples do... okay, female counterparts in couples do.

And it would definitely be nice to see Keith and April again! I wonder how they are doing... and... Wait... What about Keith's little sister and her friend... won't they recognize Zen? Zen could get into some serious trouble if they figure out who he is... I don't want anything to happen to Zen...

"Hey there my dear Beauty..." Zen's arms wrapped around my abdomen and his chin rested on my shoulder, "You look beautiful..."

I had put on a flowing white peasant shirt with black leather pants and black knee high boots adorned my feet. My long violet hair was tied with a black ribbon at the base of my neck, allowing some strands to fall free and frame my face. I turned around in Zen's embrace and observed his apparel as well: black sneakers, black slacks, and a black wife beater with a silky transparent white button up over it. His black locks fell all around his face, and he had somehow managed to put it into a messy, yet unbelievably sexy, style. Uhg, I had the urge to just stay home and lock us in his room for the day...

"You don't look so bad yourself." I murmured and leaned up to initiate a kiss.

Zen chuckled as he broke the kiss to lean our foreheads together, "Are you ready to go now?"

I nodded and then I remembered my previous issues, "Zen, won't those two girls recognize you? They were from Hashire Creek... and one of them was my friend's sister..."

The raven hummed for a moment, seeming to search for an answer when he clucked his tongue, "I can make myself scarce whenever I'm near them..."

"Then what do I tell the town? I went to search for the terrifying beast that lives in the mansion and I'm sure the whole town knows who you are now that I think about it..."

"Then they are about to find out just who it is that I am... I'm not letting you go alone..."

Xxx

I have to say, the forest doesn't look as dark and scary as it used to... When I first went searching for Zen the forest held such a dark, scary, and mysterious aura... but now, it seemed so friendly... so calm and peaceful... as if that fearsome look was a secret fa├žade that it was keeping up as a defense... But strolling down the path with Zen's hand in my hand was such a pleasant experience.

As we went down, I caught glimpses of different spots where I had first seen Zen, or where I set up camps on my way up... it had me chuckling softly at how I had gotten so scared that I slept in the trees.

"What's so funny?" Zen is looking down at me with a small smile.

I smile as well and move closer to Zen, "I'm just remembering when I first came into this forest..." I pointed towards a tree, "Remember I had climbed that tree one night?"

"Ahh... haha, yes, I do remember... look at how far we've come since then..."

The rest of the walk was reminiscing the time before we truly knew each other. As the trees began to thin out, I prepared to walk back towards civilization. The walk to Hashire Creek was slow and only increased my anxiety. I was still worried about what would happen... What would happen if they were just waiting for Zen to show his face...?

Zen could tell that I was definitely nervous, and he did the only thing that he possibly could do... he wrapped an arm around my waist and leaned my body into his as we walked. Out of the protection of the trees, I had to pull my trench coat closer around my body and rely on Zen's body warmth. Zen... my personal stress reliever...

We finally arrived at the bridge and I stopped moving. The town was bustling with activity. People were running around doing errands or shopping... kids were playing... stray dogs and cats wandered around, looking for scraps, vendors were crying out with enthusiasm their merchandise and sales...

"Wow... it hasn't changed in the least..." I mumbled quietly.

Zen's grip on my waist tightened slightly in an attempt to get my attention; it worked and I turned my head up to look at him, "Where are your friends?"

I could tell that Zen was uncomfortable being in the presence of so many people and I greatly appreciated the fact that he had decided to put up with his discomfort in an effort to allow me to be happy. For that, I leaned up to give him a chase kiss on the lips. He was quick to reciprocate the kiss and when I pulled back, he smiled at my big grin.

I began to walk forward towards April's little clothing shop with Zen in tow. As we walked, we made sure to keep our heads down slightly, in an unsuspicious way, to keep people from recognizing us. When I came upon April's shop, I smiled brightly at the familiar area... and there he was, hanging dresses... and there was Keith, sweeping up the small store. With a deep breath, I stepped towards them, Zen remained where he stood, and I called out softly, "April, Keith!"

Both heads swiveled in my direction and two big and bright smiles greeted me. April, looking ever so beautiful in a white flowing gown with his blonde locks flowing freely around him, approached me first, "Soren, we thought we'd never see you again!" he whispered.

Keith was next to engulf me in a hug, "Hey, I was so worried about you! How are you doing?"

I chuckled softly, "I'm doing unbelievably great... Life has never been so nurturing for me..."

April's grin dropped in an instant, "What happened out there? When you went to find the beast that attacked Keith's sister and her friend?"

My grin dissipated quickly, I didn't expect for us to dive right into that conversation... I bit my lip, "What did you guys think?" I asked nervously.

Keith motioned for us to go deeper into the shop and I nodded. I turned to face Zen and he nodded, indicating that he was going to go elsewhere. With Zen walking back into town, I followed Keith and April into the deep depths of their clothing shop. The two sat down at a small table and motioned for me to sit upon an empty stool.

The moment I say down, Keith began to explain, "About three weeks after you left, the little girl that had disappeared with my sister came back to town. She was spewing so much information about a mansion and a man who held her captive and then a woman, who fit your description, coming to her rescue by taking her place... Her mother and father were quick to split town and then... well, April and I were waiting to hear any news about you... when so much time passed, I admit we sort of lost hope... My sister told me what the beast had looked like and how he acted... But, I want to hear from you..."

Okay, I wasn't going to lie to them... but I debated what to tell them. Would they understand the relationship between Zen and me? Mine as well take the chance right? What's the most they will do, hate me? I took a deep breath and started to spin my tale, beginning from the start of my trek and continuing on with exquisite detail to fill them up to date. I told them about everything... I put emphasis on Zen; on the great person he is... trying to show them that he wasn't a beast at all.

April and Keith listened to my anecdote, and when I was done, both had big smiles on their faces. I am pretty sure I looked like someone held out a human heart and told me to make it beat again... because April spoke up quietly to me, "Obviously this... Zen... is treating you well... and if you trust him so much, then we obviously won't hold anything against him or you... You looked so worried and scared... He was just protecting himself, right?"

I let out a heavy sigh and smiled, nodding my head animatedly, "Yes... Yes that is exactly it..."

Keith smirked, "Yeah, if he was willing to come down here, knowing full well that he'd be in complete danger if these townspeople recognized him, just for you to come see us again, I think that is pretty... well... Let's just say I wouldn't be so willing."

I felt my heart flutter and I laughed lightly. We spoke for a long time, I'm sure of that because Zen had invited himself into the conversation with a worried expression on his face, "You were taking so long... I thought something happened..."

With Zen now in the conversation, introductions were made and the conversation turned onto the topic of me and Zen's relationship. Zen readily answered every question thrown his way with a fond smile, and when April and Keith seemed content with the information they received, we all stood up and prepared to say goodbye.

"At least we know you'll come down every so often to see us..." April hugged me.

"And you have a great home to stay in now." Keith smiled.

"Yeah," I looked up to Zen, who wrapped his arm around my waist, "It's nice to have a place to call home..."

Zen dropped a kiss to my forehead before looking back up to Keith, "I greatly apologize for my past actions, but I am glad I was able to meet you and clear up any... conflictions... between us... I would have hated to have Soren's friends against our relationship..."

Keith laughed, "How could we when you are taking such good care of him? I was upset at first, but I never had the full story... so... Thank you Zen... for letting my sister come back to me... and for watching out for Soren... Keep taking good care of him."

"I definitely will... Farewell for now..."

Zen led me out of the shop and when we stepped outside, I looked up to the sky to see fluffy white flakes falling down around us. The sky had darkened considerably, but it was still slightly grey from the snow falling to the earth. I smiled as the flakes drifted down lazily, "It's snowing..."

"Indeed it is..." Zen hugged me close, "And that means we should begin our walk back... it is going to get really cold and I think we should get back to the mansion as soon as possible... We'll come back to town again soon..."

I fully agreed with Zen and began to walk with him back to our home. When we were within the safety of the woods, Zen stopped me from walking further. He stated that he wanted to try something and I nodded in approval. With wide eyes I watched as Zen slowly transformed into his beast form, the long and lanky wolf like creature looked as big as it did when I first saw it, yet, less menacing... and I knew it was because I knew that the beast was truly Zen...

I was curious as to what he was doing... and I let out a startled cry when a lean arm wrapped around me and lifted me from the ground. Zen held me close to his chest and began to move at a quick pace using his muscular legs and free arm to catapult him up the mountain path. I snuggled closer to the thick and soft black fur, relaxing as Zen carried me up the hill and closer to home.

When we made it up to the mansion door, Zen set me down slowly. He was quick to change back into a human before letting us into the warm house. Together, we prepared for the evening, dressing in warm and comfortable clothes, and cuddling on the sofa near the fireplace where a hearty fire was roaring. Zen offered some pastries to me that he had bought during my reunion with Keith and April and I happily ate them with Zen. After eating, we cuddled once again before I emitted a powerful yawn.

Zen carried me up to his room where we crawled into his bed and prepared for bed. Before he could fall asleep, I leaned up to initiate a kiss. Zen was happy to reciprocate and when we finally pulled back, Zen smiled, "Was that a good night kiss?"

I smiled softly as well, "That was also a thank you kiss... Thank you Zen... for taking me into town..."

"It was no problem at all Soren... I was glad to go down with you... It made you happy and that is all that matters to me..." He kissed me softly, "Now let's get some rest, okay?"

I nodded and laid my head on his chest, throwing an arm around him. I felt his hand resting on my hip and when Zen's breathing slowed down and became deeper, I knew he fell asleep. I took some time to simply stare up at the man I had grown to love and I couldn't help the smile that erupted on my face... Zen was so perfect for me... I... I love his so much... he makes me so happy... and I'm glad that fate brought us together...