The black dragon grumbled for the hundredth time. Ye Hua sighed, looking up from the paper spread out on a wooden board before him and glanced at the wall separating his room from Bai Qian’s. It had been over two hours since he had said goodnight to her at the door of her room. Does she miss me tonight as much as my dragon and I miss her?
He had wanted to ask her to sleep in his room but had not because Mo Yuan had been the one to show them to their rooms. Ye Hua didn’t know if Bai Qian wanted his family to know about their usual sleeping arrangement and he hadn’t wanted to embarrass her by asking about it in front of his brother. He would be sure to ask her tomorrow. As safe as Kunlun Mountain was, Ye Hua still longed for the complete privacy they had enjoyed while living in the peach tree forest together.
His dragon grumbled again, this time adding a soft growl encouraging Ye Hua to go check on Bai Qian. They could sense her presence nearby but it wasn’t the same as seeing her safe and sound. Ye Hua was tempted but he did not want to risk waking her if she were already asleep. He didn’t know how well she had slept the night before and her day had been a long and emotional one. She must be feeling drained and exhausted.
“Not tonight,” he murmured to his dragon when the beast grumbled once again. “We’ll see Qian Qian and Hu Mei tomorrow.”
Trying his best to ignore the noticeably empty place next to him where Bai Qian always slept, Ye Hua turned his attention back to the paper in front of him. He was working on a sketch to help him perfect the details for a painting he was planning, something he only bothered to do for the most important images he painted.
He had sketched the small lake located near Zhe Yan’s cabin in the foreground and now he was working on the peach trees in the background, adding some subtle shading to give the forest more depth. His mother’s reminder that the animal spirit inside a person is a reflection of that person’s soul had triggered the idea in his imagination. The painting would be of Bai Qian and Hu Mei so it was important he get all the details planned correctly before attempting to paint them.
As Ye Hua became more caught up in the image taking shape with every skilled stroke of his charcoal pencil, the black dragon finally settled after one last unhappy growl.
Scarcely daring to breathe, Bai Qian peeked her head out the doorway and studied the shadowed corridor. The small flames flickering on the wall sconces were the only signs of movement she could see. Her muzzle twitched as she sniffed the air; she didn’t detect the scent of any recent passersby. There were no abrupt changes in the soft air currents brushing against her fur and whiskers. Her ears swiveled back and forth as she listened closely, pausing for a moment when she heard the muffled scuff of a boot against stone. Is somebody walking this way? No. The nearby footsteps sounded like they were headed in a different direction.
The coast is clear. Now is my chance. No more waiting.
Reminded of the way she used to sneak out of the Fox Den, Bai Qian slipped out of her room on silent paws, using one of her tails and a pulse of magic to quietly close the door behind her. Keeping her tails low, she moved along the rough wall in a crouched position as quickly as she could. Her heart was racing with nervous anticipation; she would be back in Ye Hua’s arms soon. Bai Qian’s fox was jumping with excitement as she always did whenever she was thinking about Ye Hua and the black dragon.
I’m almost there.
The subtle fragrance of jasmine suddenly wafted around Bai Qian; she froze, listening intently once again. Now, she heard footsteps coming her way.
And a deep voice that was very similar to Ye Hua’s and yet not his. “There’s no need for you to sleep in a guest chamber. Stay with me tonight, Meixiu.”
It’s Mo Yuan and his betrothed! Mo Yuan’s bedchamber was at the end of the corridor. She and Ye Hua had passed it just a few hours earlier. If Mo Yuan was headed to bed, he was going to spot her if she didn’t move.
Panicking, Bai Qian took a step backwards. She didn’t make it more than a step before Mo Yuan, with a beautiful woman holding his arm, rounded the corner. They stopped when they noticed the white nine-tailed fox crouched in the passageway with nowhere to hide. Meixiu had a sharp, piercing gaze but it was an amused one as she studied Bai Qian. Meixiu smiled softly, a faint blush coloring her cheeks. Surprise was apparent on Mo Yuan’s face before he grinned.
Bai Qian groaned to herself, disappointed frustration washing over her. She was so close to her destination and to carrying out her plan to explore intimate things with Ye Hua. I’m busted.
Neither Mo Yuan nor Meixiu said anything for a minute and Bai Qain remained where she was, debating what she should do now that she had been caught. Should she slink back to her chamber in defeat and just ask Ye Hua about sharing a room in the morning? No. I want to sleep in his bed tonight.
“Go on, Bai Qian,” Mo Yuan murmured, startling her as he broke the extended awkward silence. “I won’t tell if you don’t,” he added, gesturing to Meixiu to indicate he meant Bai Qian not revealing she had caught him and Meixiu sharing a room.
Nodding awkwardly, Bai Qian hurried on her way, keeping her gaze glued to the floor to avoid making any further eye contact.
Mo Yuan cleared his throat. “Uh…you passed Ye Hua’s chamber, Bai Qian.”
She halted, noticing Mo Yuan was correct. She had trotted right by Ye Hua’s door in her haste. Groaning once again, she scrambled backwards, stumbling over two of her tails as she scurried over to Ye Hua’s door. Cursing silently, she then tripped over her own paw at the last second and knocked her shoulder against the wood. Why am I so clumsy all of the sudden?! More embarrassed than ever, she pushed her way into Ye Hua’s room desperately.
Ye Hua looked up, surprised by the sound. The black dragon rumbled happily; his fox was out there. Ye Hua grinned, the sketch he had been working on along with the board disappearing from his lap. He had been so caught up in sketching the perfect expression for Bai Qian’s face, he hadn’t sensed when she left her bedchamber.
Maybe Qian Qian is having as much trouble sleeping alone as I am. The thought pleased Ye Hua and he hurried out of bed, a wave of magic removing the charcoal dust from his fingers, to invite her inside, grateful to have her company. Before he could reach the door, it swung open and a little fox came tumbling through the doorway in a chaotic flurry of white fluff and tails. A wave of fox magic slammed the door closed behind her.
He paused. Hu Mei? No, it had to be Bai Qian. Her ears were down and her tails were wrapped around her paws, the tips of two of them twitching with agitation. She seemed to be upset about something.
“Qian Qian,” Ye Hua murmured as he lifted her up into his arms, cradling her against his chest. A silky tail wrapped around his wrist while she buried her muzzle into the crook of his arm. The black dragon crooned a comforting growl. Bai Qian sighed and snuggled closer to Ye Hua. He frowned in concern.
“Are you okay?”
Bai Qian unwrapped her tail and lept out of his arms and onto the bed as he drew close to it. Her face was pink with embarrassment when she shifted, her legs now tucked beneath her.
“Your brother and his betrothed saw me,” she answered, burying her face in her hands.
Ye Hua frowned, confused. He joined her on the bed, resting his back against his pillow as he stretched out his legs. “They saw you?” Did she not want others to see her fox form? Why was she worried about it?
She dropped her hands and looked up at him, her face still tinged pink. “They saw me sneaking to your room.”
He hid a smile, relieved it wasn’t something more serious bothering her. “It doesn’t matter, Qian Qian.”
“But,” she protested, “I’m not really supposed to be in here with you. It’s not… not proper since we aren’t married.”
“Mo Yuan doesn’t care about that,” Ye Hua answered, seeking to reassure her. “And I doubt Meixiu does.” He covered one of her hands with his, soothing her skin with caresses of his thumb. “Besides, you probably caught them going to Mo Yuan’s room together and they’re not married yet either.”
“That’s true.” Bai Qian sighed and then flopped down next to him. Ye Hua moved over so she could share his pillow. She rested her head against his shoulder. The scent of peach blossoms and female fox swirled around him, teasing his senses. It had a more potent effect than usual. Desire began to flicker to life within him and he squirmed uncomfortably, inching his way over to place a little space between his body and hers. His self control would only take him so far.
Then, Bai Qian sat up again and turned to face him. Ye Hua fought off the urge to pull her back down to his side, worried his hands would start to wander if he touched her. What is wrong with me tonight?
“I was so careful,” Bai Qian said, interrupting his thoughts. “The only footsteps I heard were going in the opposite direction. I don’t understand how I didn’t hear your brother sooner. By the time I did, it was too late.”
Ye Hua was grateful for the distraction and jumped at the opportunity to explain. “The acoustics in the temple are misleading. Mo Yuan designed them that way. It gives him and his disciples an advantage if they’re ever attacked.” He paused. “If it makes you feel any better, Qian Qian, you likely surprised Mo Yuan as much as he surprised you. He’s not used to having a guest who can evade his detection when shifted into animal form.”
Bai Qian nodded but didn’t say anything. She looked around the room instead. When she spotted his tunic and pants thrown haphazardly in the corner, she used her magic to hang the tunic on a clothes hook and folded the pants neatly. When she turned back to him, Bai Qian seemed suddenly reluctant to meet his eyes. She was acting differently tonight. Why does Qian Qian seem nervous?
She moved closer to him though she did not lie back down. Ye Hua fidgeted when another wave of her scent washed over him. Both he and the black dragon were feeling restless with need. Why was her scent so much more enticing to him tonight? He just had to keep himself under control until she shifted into a fox to go to sleep as she always did. Then he wouldn’t be so tempted to touch her.
Ye Hua tensed when she placed her hand on his bare chest, the warmth of her fingers stirring him up even more. He was very aware now that he was only wearing a pair of thin silk pants and nothing else. Soon, it would be impossible to hide the effect she had on him.
“It’s getting late,” Ye Hua said to her, his voice low and urgent. “We should get some sleep. Are you going to shift?”
Bai Qian pulled her hand away. Heavens help him, Ye Hua wanted to snatch it back and place it somewhere lower than his chest… much lower. He couldn’t help but imagine how her fingers would feel wrapped around his… His wayward thoughts snapped back to reality when she spoke.
“Do you want me to shift?” she asked with a slight frown he didn’t know how to interpret. Was she unhappy with him?
“Um,” Ye Hua answered. That was a loaded question to ask, him feeling pent up the way he was. In her innocence, Bai Qian had no idea the implications of asking such a thing. And he had no idea how to answer. A large part of him wanted to tell her no, absolutely not. He loved the feel of her human body lying next to his. But the rational part of him that knew how tenuous his control was at that moment wanted to tell her it was for the best. “Well, I … um.”
Her frown deepened. “It’s not a difficult question. Either you do or you don’t.”
“Well, you see… it’s complicated to… ” He trailed off.
Bai Qian sighed. “I’m not shifting.”
“You’re not?” he asked, surprised by her declaration. She seemed disappointed with him about something. He wasn’t sure what but he didn’t dare ask.
“I’m not,” she whispered. She placed her hand back on his chest, her gentle touch a little more hesitant this time around. “I want to know what happens after a kiss, Ye Hua.”
After a kiss? What…? Ye Hua froze, his mind racing off in a million different directions that all led him to the same conclusion… lovemaking. Does she mean that? Surely not. How could she? He must be missing something. His mind had been wandering to inappropriate places since Bai Qian had joined him. It was influencing his thoughts.
“I’m not sure what you mean,” he responded diplomatically, thinking this was the safest route to take.
Her frown returned. This time there was no doubt she was disappointed with him. When she went to pull her hand away once more, Ye Hua placed his own on top of it to keep it against his skin, willing himself to focus solely on what was troubling her and not the intoxicating heat her fingers ignited inside him.
“Tell me, Qian Qian.”
She hesitated before sighing. “The reason men and women aren’t supposed to share a room before marriage is because of what happens after a kiss, right?”
Ye Hua nodded, his heart rate picking up. She was talking about lovemaking!
“We’ve kissed many times but I want to know what happens next. Every time I think I might find out, you always stop and pull away. Why?”
Ye Hua caressed her face with the fingers of his free hand. “Because I don’t want to scare you.”
“You could never scare me, Ye Hua.”
He pulled his hand away reluctantly. “I did in the beginning. I could sense your terror my first day in the forest when you were hiding close to the path.”
Bai Qian’s eyes widened. “That’s how you knew I was there that day, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Ye Hua answered, watching every little emotion that crossed her beautiful face. “And I believe I’m the reason you went searching for a weapon in the village. Am I right? You found the dagger to defend yourself against me?”
“Yes,” she said before moving even closer to him.
“The memory of you running from me and my dragon hurts. I never want to scare you like that again, Qian Qian,” he whispered.
She leaned over to press a kiss against his cheek before gifting him with a shy, trusting smile that made him feel like he was the greatest person in her world. It was a heady feeling; desire flared hot in him once again only this time he did nothing to fight it.
“I didn’t know you then, Ye Hua. You don’t scare me now. Not even when you’re at your growliest.”
“You’ve never seen me at my growliest, Qian Qian,” he murmured hoarsely.
Bai Qian shivered at his words, her eyes lifting to meet his. “Show me.”
“You’re sure?” Ye Hua didn’t want her to ever regret anything that happened between them; he had to be certain she was ready.
“Yes. I want to share everything with you. No more holding back, Ye Hua.”
He growled low in his chest and Bai Qian shivered again. Ye Hua breathed in deeply when her scent filled the air. This time he knew why it was so enticing. The sweet fragrance of her arousal was beginning to trickle through it, calling to him and his dragon as it always did. Only this time he would not stop himself from responding to it, not when his enchanting fox held nothing but love and affection in her eyes as she bravely asked him to teach her everything. He couldn’t deny her anything even if he had wanted to.
Which he didn’t… he had waited so long to make her his in all ways.
Ye Hua lifted her by the hips and settled her onto his lap, her legs straddling his thighs. Her mouth kissed his shyly and Ye Hua’s lips captured hers, taking control. He nibbled at her lips for a moment, teasing her, before his fingers tangled in her long hair when he deepened the kiss with a sweep of his tongue. She opened for him, her tongue meeting his in an erotic dance that foretold what was to come.
He pulled his mouth away from hers, smiling when she groaned at the loss. “I want to see you,” he whispered, tugging the sash of her silk robe to untie it. It opened for him and his eyes swept down the thin light green fabric of her nightgown. His gaze lingered on the vivid points of her nipples pressing against the silk before slowly wandering down to the juncture of her thighs. He could feel the heat of her mound where it pressed against his legs though it remained hidden from his view.
It astonished Ye Hua that fate had judged him worthy enough to spend his life with such an amazing woman. Bai Qian was a wondrous person, beautiful on the outside and loving and courageous on the inside.
His eyes moved back to meet her gaze which had grown soft with need as he studied her. His fingers shook where they played with the thin strap on her shoulder.
“Go on,” she encouraged him, grasping his wrist with her fingers.
Remembering he hadn’t put up a privacy barrier, Ye Hua pulled his hand away to do so. But then he stopped.
Ye Hua didn’t want to worry about keeping a barrier in place. Not this first time. He needed to take them somewhere he could focus all his energy and attention on Bai Qian; somewhere he could concentrate solely on teaching her all the pleasures he could give her. Somewhere he could forget about everything other than forging a physical bond between them that was just as unbreakable as the emotional one binding them together already.
He knew the perfect place, a place where ancient trees would protect and hide them while they made love.
“Why did you stop?” Bai Qian asked.
“This first time needs to be somewhere special, Qian Qian,” he answered, voice low. “Not here. Close your eyes.”
She did and Ye Hua held her close to his chest while his magic wrapped around them. They disappeared from Kunlun Mountain.
⇛ Next part: Ch 41: After a Kiss
⇚ Previous part: Ch 39: Kunlun Mountain