The kitsune Daisuke has met someone new, someone very different from all of the casual lovers in his past. He fears opening up and giving his heart to anyone but Inari, the great kami he serves. Though Kaoru isn’t inexperienced, he seems too pure and innocent for Daisuke to pull into his complicated life. But that decision is made for him when someone else entangles Kaoru in the supernatural world. Happiness is there for the taking, if only Daisuke will reach for it and trust those who care for him. The fates matched this couple long ago, but it's up to them to work everything out in the end.
Kaoru knew he was beaming, but he didn’t care who saw. “Thank you, Daisuke. I love it.” He cradled the small wooden carving of a sakura in full bloom as if it were made it glass instead of wood.
“I’m glad. I wasn’t sure if it was the kind of woodcarving you were talking about last night.” As he smiled, Daisuke looked almost shy.
Kaoru rewrapped the carving in tissue paper and slipped it into the inside pocket of his jacket. “It’s perfect. Exactly like the ones my mother collected.”
They sat on a bench close to the university gates, watching the chaos around them. “Do you see your parents often?”
“No, not since their divorce. My mother has remarried three times, and my father moved to Hawaii years ago. I lived with my father’s mother, and she raised me more than they ever did.”
Daisuke frowned. “I’m sorry. I hope the present doesn’t make you sad. You spoke of her fondly, as if you miss her.”
“I do. We email each other, but she’s not very maternal. She likes her hobbies,” he shrugged, “and men.”
Kaoru didn’t like the dreary tone hanging over them, so he reached out and took Daisuke’s hand, rising and pulling him up. “Come on. There’s a haunted house.”
Daisuke laughed and followed along, interlocking their fingers. “Yeah, you can hear the screams from here.”
Grinning, Kaoru said, “Those are girls, and there are still lots of kids around. It’ll be fun.”
Catching up and yanking Kaoru closer, Daisuke put his lips to Kaoru’s ear. “You sure you aren’t just looking for an excuse to get your hands on me in the dark?”
Kaoru turned to look into his eyes. “That’s a plus, but I really do like scary stuff.”
Daisuke smiled. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
As they stood in line, Kaoru focused on the feel of his hand cradled in Daisuke’s. He reprimanded himself for being disappointed the day before. Eric would never have come with him to a fair, yet this man who probably had much more important things to do had come with him gladly.
“Where did you go to school?” Kaoru asked.
Daisuke hesitated before answering. “I went abroad for my education. I attended college in England. Oxford.”
“Wow. Was it hard to get in?”
“No. Not really. I worked hard for many years before applying.”
The line moved quickly, and they were ushered in. Darkness engulfed them, and Kaoru was surprised there wasn’t more light to guide them. He heard a hissing sound, like a snake, and then Daisuke pulled him forward.
“This way,” Daisuke whispered.
Kaoru followed, tension building as he waited for the first scare. A hand brushed his waist, and he jumped closer to Daisuke. White-masked figures surrounded them, coming out of nowhere, and Kaoru pushed Daisuke along, laughing and screaming as the actors tried to trap them and block their path. Kaoru heard the hissing again, and he saw a glowing white snake slither by.
Screaming with more enthusiasm, he leaned into Daisuke. “There’s a real snake on the floor!” he whispered. “It’s glowing.”
In the low candlelight of the next section, Kaoru saw Daisuke scanning the floor, his expression serious. But then he turned and drew Kaoru close, kissing him softly. “I’ll protect you.”
“I’m sure you will.” Kaoru wanted to draw him into a dark corner and kiss him some more, but he let Daisuke lead the way.
This isn’t high school. Get it together. The next section had them attacked by tentacles, and he lost hold of Daisuke’s hand. Kaoru waded through the rubber and papier-mâché and finally freed himself. He couldn’t find Daisuke, but his little friend from earlier appeared.
The white, glowing snake moved toward him, its motions hypnotic. Kaoru had always liked snakes, but the creature was so large he felt nervous there all alone. Surely it had a keeper watching it. Had they let it roam around when children were in here?
Kaoru felt someone grab him from behind, and he recognized Daisuke’s scent, lemon soap and vanilla. Daisuke pulled him backwards, and soon they were attacked by costumed actors again, many in dragon and demon masks. When they emerged outside, Daisuke seemed tense.
“Did you like it?” Kaoru asked. “Wasn’t as scary as I’d expected.”
Daisuke smiled, but it looked forced. “Yes.” He pulled at the hem of his shirt. “Don’t like snakes though.”
Kaoru nodded. “I thought that a little weird. It running free and all.”
“Yes. Definitely odd.” Daisuke cast his gaze around and then pointed. “How about the ferris wheel? Perfect for a date.” He seemed to relax as they walked forward, maneuvering through the crowd.
Feeling relieved, Kaoru agreed. “Yes. Perfect.”
Daisuke took his hand again, and once they were high above everyone else, Kaoru got his wish of more kisses from Daisuke.