Oh my dear Kami-Sama, I hope you guys aren't ready to kill me for taking so damn long to update! I am so terribly sorry! I was seriously having some bad writer's block... and... well, I'm going to try my best to finish this because Beauty and the Beast is literally half way done. It is my goal to complete this and by the gods I will! ~imagined battle pose of confidence~

Ahem... on with the chapter.

XXX

Visits to Hashire Creek began to happen more frequently ever since Zen realized how much I loved being around the bustle of townspeople and especially seeing April and Keith. He took me almost three times a week, shopping or picking up food for dinner... But it wasn't only going to Hashire Creek; Zen began to take me farther around the areas. We went for plenty of walks through the woods or even to the secluded oasis that I had found the night I escaped from Taison Village... the very first place that Zen had seen me. We were outside more often instead of locked up in the mansion, and soon enough, we were outside in the blistering cold of winter as December came down around us... powdered snow falling every so often that we traveled around outside together... During the silent walks, Zen would often ask me to sing for him... he was asking to hear my voice more often: sitting by the fire in the living room, before falling asleep, during our walks... and I couldn't be any happier to lend him my voice to listen... if it left him happy, then by all means I'll sing till I'm blue in the face... it made us both happy... It was blissful... it was dreamy... it was romantic... it almost didn't feel real, but I felt the freezing flakes of snow and the intense heat of Zen's body all around me... I saw his serene expression as he listened to me singing anything that came to mind... I was in heaven... and I loved it...

Xxx

The bright light coming from Zen's balcony is what woke me up on Christmas Eve. It dawned on me that that light was way too intense to be coming from the sun alone. Rubbing my eyes, I sat up and glanced out the glass door, my excitement reaching its peak when I saw the snow layered on the stone veranda. The blankets fell away from my body as I got up to make my way over to the glass door.

The moment I opened the door, a cool blast of winter air hit me, causing my body to shiver against the cold. I ignored the biting wind and took a tentative step outside. Without shoes on, the snow was frigid against my bare skin, but I chose to ignore the discomfort once more. The snow had been fleeting for the past weeks, only falling for little intervals between time and days, nothing heavy enough to turn the world into a winter wonderland... until now. We would definitely be having a beautiful white Christmas this year...

I was standing outside for no more than a few minutes when I felt Zen's presence. What caught me off-guard was when he wrapped his arms around me... and they were cloaked in black fur. I jumped slightly when his head dropped onto my shoulder and his cold wet nose pressed against my cheek.

"Holy crap Zen, warn me when you're in this form!" I lifted a hand so that I could scratch between his ears, "For such a big animal, you are one sneaky bastard..."

I don't know exactly why and I refrained from asking him, but I noticed that Zen was using the Beast's power more often nowadays. He would occasionally leave the mansion to run through the woods or walk around the property... and there were nights where he scared the living shit out of me by slinking around the mansion at night in that furry body...

Zen let out a whine before pulling my body completely against his. The warmth that radiated from his beast form was enough to warm me up to the point of sweating. The warmth was comfortingly welcomed though. I found myself running my fingers through Zen's black pelt, enjoying the softness of the fur. Zen continued to nuzzle my cheek and neck with his nose and I felt an occasional lick to my shoulder too, the wet trails causing the wind to feel chillier against my skin. We stood like that for a while before I decided that I was hungry and wanted to go back in. I hadn't had enough time enjoying the beauty of the snow falling and piling up on the blankets already spread along every surface the eye could see outside with Zen cuddling so close to me, but I think Zen was getting annoyed with my loud rumbling stomach... hence his quiet grumbling.

Zen followed me back inside without changing form and I finally couldn't hold back my curiosity any longer. Closing the door, I turned to face him completely, "I'd ask why you were suddenly so fond of using that form but I doubt I'd understand your response..."

The beast's body began to tremble and soon enough, the clumps of fur fell away and Zen's limbs and features began to shift back into that of a man's. Zen slouched forward slightly and I swayed forward to catch him. Once he seemed to have the strength to stand on his own, Zen pecked my lips and draped an arm over my shoulders.

I walked him over to the bed and Zen huffed slightly before saying, "Remember when you got kidnapped by those men on the day you ran away from me?" I stiffened at the memory and Zen was quick to rub my back in an attempt to sooth me despite his weakened state, "Well, I had assumed my beast's form for three days straight and it had weakened me significantly. I'm trying to strengthen myself once more. The beast's form takes a lot of energy to maintain and I want to be able to extend my time in that form... Grow stronger... for your safety as well... I want to be able to protect you to the best of my abilities... Especially because we are leaving the safety of the mansion so often..."

I nodded my head... He wanted to get stronger after that incident, that's understandable...

Zen was still feeling slightly weak so I sat with him for a few more minutes before I decided to get ready for the day. By the time I got out of the shower fully dressed, I could hear Zen bustling around in the kitchen. The many scents of breakfast had my stomach growling louder than a starving bear's and I was quick to run down the spiral staircase and towards the dining room, the silky white long sleeved dress I had put on billowing behind me along with my long purple locks.

On my way to the dining room, I stopped to observe the pine tree that Zen had cut down to put up in the mansion. There were very little decorations to qualify it to be a Christmas tree, but that didn't matter to me... it was the thought that counts, and I sure was flattered when I woke up one day to Zen begging me to come down to 'Decorate the Pine Tree' for Christmas... I couldn't help but laugh as I remembered how childish Zen had become... It made me happy to know that I helped that happiness arise...

Just as I had expected as I finally entered the dining room, the table was piled with food and Zen just so conveniently walked into the room holding two cups, one full of coffee for him and the other full of tea for me... Ahh... our usual breakfast... I sat down across from Zen and we shared a wonderful breakfast. In the middle of our meal, I asked, "So, how many times are you going to shift from your human form to your beast's form?"

"Well, strengthening my body also includes sharpening my senses as well. I'll be shifting every morning and as many times as I can. I'll walk around the house in my beast's form and... Well maybe we could come up with some ideas on how to sharpen my senses somehow..." Zen took a sip from his coffee cup.

I pondered the thought for a moment before I suddenly spoke up without even realizing it, "Hide and seek."

Zen raised an eyebrow, "You want to play a child's game... now?"

"No..." I paused, "Well, yeah... I mean, not now... But, we could use hide and seek to practice your sense of smell."

"..."

Apparently I have to elucidate my idea, "In order for you to strengthen your sense of smell, you have to use it, don't you?" he nodded and I continued, "So... I'll hide and you have to find me by using your nose. "

"I'll be able to hear your heartbeat. It won't be as effective as you want it to be."

"Then I'll put earplugs in your ears."

Zen nodded, "Alright... we can try that. What about my sense of hearing though?"

"... We could... blindfold you... have you rely on hearing to find things... or evade them... almost like fighting with your eyes closed."

The raven smiled brightly, "Very clever my dear Beauty..."

I blushed, "Thanks. So... when do you want to try this?"

"Honestly... I've tired myself out already... I just want to spend some time with you and maybe go for a walk around the grounds with you or through the woods..."

A smile broke out on my face at the thought, "Let's go now... When we come back in we can cuddle by the fireplace and count down the time till midnight..."

"Oh," Zen drawled, "And do you have plans for when midnight does come?"

"... I do have a gift for you..." I muttered.

Zen smirked, his eyes growing bright, "What kind of gift?"

It took me a moment, but when I finally understood what he was insinuating, I took a syrup glazed strawberry from one of my pancakes and flung it at him, "You pervert!" I laughed.

Zen caught the strawberry and laughed at my reaction, "Oh come now Soren... You can't deny that sex on Christmas morning would definitely be the best gift of all time."

I stood up to walk around the table. When I was standing right next to Zen, I took his hand, the one that was smeared with syrup from catching the strawberry I threw, and sensually licked away the syrup with slow, tantalizing licks. When I finished, Zen had a slightly spaced out look, which caused me to smile, "It would be a pretty great gift, wouldn't it?" I pulled him into a standing position, "Now come on, I wanna go outside..." I glanced down, and my smile evolved into a full on smirk, "Maybe the cold air will kill that semi-hard on you have."

The spaced out look disappeared to be replaced by a frown, "You cock-tease."

There was no reason for me to change out of my dress or grab a coat to walk out in the snowy wonderland outside when Zen insisted to walk in his beast's form. As intimidating as it was before, I think he looks like... a big cuddly guard dog... my big cuddly guard dog... I said just as much and Zen whuffed before shoving me into a big snow bank. I squealed from the cold seeping through my thin cotton dress and scowled playfully at Zen. I was quick to make a snowball and pelt it right at his head.

The snowball barely missed him and an idea popped up in my head. I made two more snowballs and pelted them at Zen. He dodged my first one but the second one hit the side of his head. The beast let out a startled yelp and when he finished wiping the snow from his face, he fixed me with a shallow glare.

"Don't give me that look, you started it!" I frowned and crossed my arms, "Zen your reflexes are terrible..."

Zen let out a small growl and I walked over to nudge his head gently, "We can practice this later... Don't be mad..."

I pouted at Zen, hoping that I didn't hurt his pride or anything... I started shivering suddenly and I remembered that I was shoved into the snow bank first... Damn, my dress is soaked. Zen was able to pick up on this little fact and he immediately picked me up in his arms, literally sweeping me off my feet. His limber arms pulled me flush against his chest, his satiny fur rubbing against my face and flowing through my gripping fingers. I wrapped my arms around his neck in order to press my face against his shoulder, letting his warmth engulf me.

When Zen started walking in the direction of the mansion, I stopped him, "No... I wanna stay out here for a little longer..."

Zen paused and I almost thought he was going to continue walking towards the mansion, but he whipped around and then started walking through the woods. I snuggled into Zen's fur and relied on his warmth to keep my shivering at bay. I enjoyed the walk and I enjoyed Zen's silent company... but after a while, I noticed that Zen was starting to shiver... and I didn't think it was because of the cold. I waited for a moment to see if he would start going towards the mansion, but he continued on deeper. He didn't stop...

"Zen, are you okay?" I asked quietly. A nod was what I received... the liar... I smiled and raised a hand to rest on the side of his head, "Zen, let's go inside... you need a break..." when he looked as if he would refuse, I sighed, "I'll not be lugging your furry ass back to the mansion when you collapse from exhaustion. Let's go in."

By the time we stepped into the mansion and closed the door, we were both covered in snow that was rapidly melting and freezing us both to the bone. I basically had to drag Zen up the stairs and to his master bathroom after he changed back into a human. Inside of the bathroom, I stripped off Zen's drenched clothing and had him sit on the closed toilet seat while I took off my dress. When I looked back at Zen, he was smirking.

"What?" I smiled as I turned the shower on and began to mess with the knobs.

Zen's arms looped around my waist and he pressed up close to me, his sudden weight causing me to lean forward against the wall by the shower, "You're beautiful... you know that?" he whispered into my ear.

I chuckled embarrassedly, "And you're heavy..."

There was no room to joke as Zen began to kiss and suck at my neck. He held my hands against the wall as he lavished my shoulders and neck with searing kisses, all the while rocking his hips into me. I let out a soft moan and tilted my neck so that he could freely feast on it. By this point, Zen had me flush against the wall, moaning softly as his hands trailed all over my body. The raven's cool fingers gripped my chin and Zen manipulated my face towards him so that he could engage me in a breath-taking kiss. I groaned as he pushed up hard against me, his erection grinding into my back. I shivered at the feel of us so close together, and I wanted more. Twisting my body around, I wrapped my arms around Zen's neck and propelled myself off from the floor, my legs wrapping around Zen's waist as he held me close.

Zen slowly entered the shower and I gasped at the intense heat that surrounded us and the pounding water against my skin... it only served to arouse me more. Zen pushed my back against the shower wall, blocking me from the jet sprays of steaming water, and kissed me hard. My fingers tangled into his soaked hair and yanked. The growl he released went straight to my groin and I groaned loudly, my head falling back against the wall behind me. Zen attacked my neck and moved lower toward my chest where he took one of my nipples into his mouth, nipping it harshly. I cried out and unconsciously leaned into the abuse. Zen repeated the same treatment to my other nipple and soon, I was trembling in his grip.

I was surprised with how my body was responding to Zen's touches and stimulation. I had never felt this much desire coursing through me before and it was exhilarating. All I wanted was to feel more of Zen against me, all around me, inside me... My eyes widened at that sudden thought, my sense returning to my limp body enough for me to question myself... 'Do I want Zen...? Do I want to give myself up to Zen...?'

"Soren...?" Zen's quiet murmur had my attention completely focused on him. My eyes picked up every detail: The pale skin, the water that trailed down every crease and crevice of the rippling muscles holding me up, the raven tresses that clung desperately to his face and neck and shoulders, the way his perfect lips parted to let out pants of breath, how the dilated pupils of his eyes only left a rim of bright gold for my violet gaze to catch... true beauty... "We don't have to..." and he only knows how to continue to hypnotize me... capture me... make me want him more than anything in the world... make me... love him? "Soren..." His tender hands, his gentle voice, his fierce loyalty, his deep devotion, his undeniable dedication to me... his patience... his concern... his love... my love... "I'll wait if you want me to... just tell me now... What do you want?"

"Take me, Zen, take me..." I moaned quietly, "I want you... only you..."

I really do love you...


Ahaha, you guys probably want to kill me for cutting you off from the smexy smut, right? I promise to make it up to you