Chapter one ~ Proposition
Kinomoto Sakura was not one of those girls who were easily irritated, but man did that guy have the ability to annoy her! It was rather surprising that steam wasn't billowing from her ears as she stomped towards the elevator.
She could not believe that he had the nerve to ask her out. Ask her out in front of the whole office, just to irritate her. Just so he could embarrass her. Damn him!
She pressed the down button and stood waiting, tapping her foot anxiously.
'Like he didn't know that I would say no!' she thought. Her grip tightened on her coat as she thought about him. Thought about the guy that was the only bad thing in her life. She had a great, well-paying job that she enjoyed, part-owned a lovely home with her best friend and had a loving, affectionate cat… But he was the fly in the ointment.
The amber-eyed man named Syaoran Li.
Her fists clenched of their own accord, her long red fingernails piercing the palms of her hands rather painfully. He loved to embarrass her, tease her and generally make a fool of her in any way. It had been like that ever since she had first met him, when he had tripped her up for no reason as she left. Of course she had had to get him back for that, then he had to get revenge, etc. It just spiralled out of control from there.
"Miss Kinomoto!" A breathless voice called, and she heard running footsteps. She looked up to see her boss, Mr. Ueda, running towards her, looking immensely relieved at something.
"Miss Kinomoto," he said breathlessly upon reaching her, "I thought I had missed you there!"
Mr. Ueda was a kind man, around 5' 8", with blonde hair and a permanently smiling face. Sakura liked him a lot, and thought herself fortunate that she got on well with her boss.
"Is anything wrong, Mr Ueda?" she asked, her brow furrowed at her boss' odd behaviour.
"No, No! It's just that I have been monitoring your progress, and you are doing exceedingly well. So well, in fact, that I think you should be promoted!"
His news came as rather a shock to Sakura, who had not been expecting anything like this.
"W-wow! I… Don't know what to say!" she gasped.
"Well, Miss Kinomoto, between you and me, it's a heck of a lot more money," he winked conspirationally.
"What does this new job entail?" Sakura asked, careful to keep her head and ask appropriate questions.
"It will make you 'Deputy Head of the marketing and advertising department'. It means that you will help devise television advertisements, assist with promotion of products, etc."
"So, I suppose that will mean working with the Head of the department, won't it?" Sakura asked calmly, resisting the urge to jump up and down and do a victory dance. Advertising was what she was really interested in, and this new position would give her the chance to work in that.
"Yes," Mr Ueda answered.
"Who is that?" Sakura asked.
"Mr…" he screwed up his eyes in thought, "Li Syaoran, I think."
Sakura gasped, her emerald eyes widening. Trust him to wreck her big opportunity!
"Are you quite alright, Miss Kinomoto?" Mr Ueda asked concernedly.
"Yes. Yes, I'm fine. I will need some time to think about this," she said quickly, her mind already weighing the pros and cons.
"Of course. I understand- this will, after all, mean that you will have to leave your current co-workers and friends," the blonde man nodded wisely.
Little did he know that it wasn't leaving her current co-workers that she was worried about, but who would become her new co-worker!
"I'll give you the papers in the morning, Miss Kinomoto. Goodnight," Mr Ueda said, before she told him 'goodnight', also and he walked back up the corridor he had come down.
She stood for a few more moments, her mind working frantically. On the one hand, the new job would pay more, give her a title and let her work in the field that she was really interested in. But, on the other hand, if she took up her boss' offer then it would mean working with Syaoran Li. Although that was only one con compared to three pros, it was enough to make her have to seriously consider.
Finally an elevator came to her floor, the familiar bleep jolting her from her silent contemplation. She looked up to see… Dammit!
"Miss Kinomoto, are you getting in this elevator or not?" Syaoran Li asked, a smirk evident on his face.
'That's exactly what I was wondering,' Sakura thought as she glared at him and boarded the elevator, checking to see if Syaoran had already pushed the button for the ground floor.
They descended in silence for some time, Sakura checking her watch. She was going to be late home again. Tomoyo would wonder if there was something wrong.
'Six floors down, seven to go,' Sakura thought to herself. Just seven more floors…
'Are we just not going to talk about what happened earlier?' Syaoran wondered. Now, that sounded odd. He and Kinomoto never talked, at least, their conversation never got beyond insults.
It was strange that they weren't picking anyone up on their way down. Sakura supposed that they were the last employees left in the building. Not that that was anything new- she was often the last one out due to the hectic nature of her job. Unfortunately, it often required her to do a lot of paperwork.
The elevator shuddered to a halt, and Sakura looked up and smiled.
"I guess this is the ground floor!" she said cheerfully to nobody in particular, and stepped forward to leave. However, she realised that something was wrong when the doors didn't open, and the usual female voice didn't say: "Ground floor," like it always did. Something was wrong.
She turned sharply around.
"Why didn't the doors open, Li?" she asked of her chestnut-haired companion while shooting him a suspicious look, as if accusing him of doing something to the elevator.
"My guess is that we have become stuck somewhere between two floors."
"That's great, Li," Sakura said sarcastically, "now tell me what we should do about it!"
"There's nothing that we can do about it," he replied, those amber eyes regarding her critically.
"What do you mean?" Sakura asked, her grip tightening on the red coat slung over her arm, emerald eyes widening fearfully.
"When I say that we can't do anything about it, I mean that we can't do anything about it," Syaoran snapped irritably.
"But s-surely we could-"
"No! No, Kinomoto," he said, but his voice was softer then before, "we will just have to press the emergency button and explain the problem. Then whoever is o the other end will come and fix it."
Sakura nodded. That made sense. She clasped her hands tightly together to hide the fact that they were shaking, and let her eyes flick to anything except the chestnut-haired man in the opposite corner.
Syaoran became increasingly worried at Sakura's panicky behaviour. Sure, it was normal to be frightened when trapped in an elevator, but there was something altogether different about Sakura's actions… The fear was raw, emotional, making her gasp, making her hands shake, making those eyes widen… She was on edge.
"Kinomoto- are you… Okay?"
"Of course I'm not okay!" she snapped.
"I'm trapped in an elevator with a man who is possibly the most irritating, obnoxious slug I have ever met!"
She was attempting to sound confident, but her voice was wobbling, and her breathing rate increased even more.
He was now beginning to panic even more, and with good reason.
"You're not okay, are you?" he asked, and without waiting for an answer, said quickly:
"You're claustrophobic, aren't you? Listen, sit down and put your head between your legs!"
But it was too late- Sakura slumped in a dead faint, saved from hitting her head on the floor only by Syaoran's quick dive to catch her.
'Damn it!' he cursed silently as he glanced around the elevator for anything that would assist him. Should he call an ambulance?
'No time for that now,' he thought. Laying Sakura's limp body carefully upon the floor of elevator, he pressed the button, his heart hammering. Would anybody even still be there to receive his plea for help? The security guards, maybe?
"Hello? I'm trapped in an elevator with a girl and she has fainted- we need help as soon as possible…"