Author's Notes: This was supposed to be the first chapter of a story--Sweet Masquerade--but there wasn't enough "substance" for that so it became a definite one-shot instead. =)

Standard Disclaimers Apply


Service Fees

Annoyed and frustrated—those were the two dominant feelings raging in his bloodstream. Pinching the bridge of his nose to relieve the tension and ache between his eyes, he gave a grunt and watched as his chauffeur tampered with the engine: tugging here, twisting there. He was almost sure his chauffeur was clueless as to what he was doing.

At this rate, he won't be able to attend the conference in time. Anyone within a mile radius—if there were any—would be able to feel the dark aura he was emanating; even the clouds above him seemed obscure and almost threatening.

Why the hell did they take the road less taken and which also had no wire reception, much less habitation of a single living soul?

He was beginning to seriously doubt his chauffeur's intentions for taking this path, but then again, it was his idiot brother's suggestion. If he hadn't known better, he would have thought there was some type of conspiracy going on—that his own family wanted to overthrow his reign. That or his brother was an idiot and the chauffeur was no better. The latter two seemed much more probable.

Failing to soothe him with gentle caresses, the wind tousled his crimson hair and picked up speed. He cursed under his breath and looked towards the abandoned road, glaring at the vague street signs ahead until a blob of colour slowly entered his vision.

Perceptive violet eyes focused on the little blob that was growing each second, forming a distinctive shape reminiscent of a car. A glimmer of hope bubbled in his chest before bursting at the sight of it's appearance.

It was…bright; insanely bright that it put the sun to shame. Its atrocity and blinding power was without equal: neon pink.

This must be a hallucination.

He blinked once and he blinked twice; three times before realizing it was not his overactive imagination. Not even the significant 'taxi' sign could deter away from its horrific appearance. His eyes twitched as the offending contraption got closer.

If it were any other situation, he would not even think, nor dared to consider such option but there was no choice. Either lose some dignity and maintain his punctuality or lose his punctuality to maintain his dignity.

Time was money but appearance was pride. What was a business man to do?

Throwing his dignity to the four winds, he raised his hand, flagged down the car and was horrified—it was even worst up close! The car was painted to look like a giant frog; a pink neon frog to be precise.

Who in the name of insanity, dared to drive such monstrosity?

Maybe he should have thought things through before he flagged it down.

Maybe he could turn away, pretend he didn't see a thing and hope that the car would just zoom on pass.

Alas, good things never happen to good people—the injustice of the world!

Yes, he's a good person, though some may disagree with that notion.

He's never harmed anyone physically…intentionally that was. Well.....maybe there was that one time he broke his accountant's finger for trying to embezzle his company's profits; or the other time when he nearly crippled a potential business partner who was apparently drunk and mistaken him for a woman…alright, so he harmed quite a few during his years. In his defense, they all deserved every bit of pain he inflicted.

But he's still a good person, right?

He wasn't necessarily bad—so what if his family and business associates refer to him as a tyrant? He wasn't evil per se. In fact, he preferred to call his tyrannical behaviour as 'an effective method of gentle persuasion that guarantees absolute cooperation which may or may not result in physical or mental harm'.

So technically, he's still a good person. His thoughts continued to convince himself of that fact until the taxi stopped before him.

'Ha! Even the heavens agree that I'm a good person—albeit in the form of a taxi impersonating a pink neon frog.'

The thing stopped before him with a little screech and to be honest, he was a little surprised it didn't croak. With a moment's hesitation, he breathed in deeply and opened the door.

The chauffeur gasped in horror when he looked up, but immediately shut his mouth before any words left him. That look which promised Hell strangled him until he bowed his head in complete submission.

Hopefully the heavens weren't too cruel and no one else saw him enter. He could always threaten his chauffeur, who was gaping at him through the window, later.

"Meiji Theater, please," it wouldn't hurt to be polite, even if the driver was a few fries short of a happy meal.

The driver nodded with a cheery voice, "Hai."

From the backseat, he scrutinized the driver, wondering just how young he could be. The fraying baseball cap perfectly masked his face; strands of short dark hair peeked through the edges.

Slightly relieved of stress, he took out his Black Berry to modify his schedule to make up for lost time. With one last glance at his watch, he looked up and spoke in an even tone despite the urgency. "Mister, could you please drive faster?"

For a split second, the driver bristled before nodding in affirmation.

He sighed as he sat back against the seat; the Black Berry processing data as quickly as his fingers typed. As the car made a jerky right turn, a yowling sound echoed through the radio and made him wince internally.

The yowling morphed into a high pitch scream accompanied by echoes of more howling. He had to bite back the urge to throw something at the radio. Whoever allowed that voice to go on air must truly either be deaf or hated the world.

But either way, it couldn't be worst than this driver's driving skills.

"Hey Mister, would you please drive a little carefully and for the love of humanity, turn the radio off," he hissed with a slightly piercing voice.

Through the rear view mirror, the driver glared—it was cold and frightening. He almost shivered.

It wasn't a simple 'screw you' type of glare either. It was more of a 'this-is-my-car-and-I'm-the-driver-so-shut-up-and-be-a-good-little-passenger-or-I'll-kick-you-out-and-run-you-over' glare.

Was there really a need to glare at him like that? He wasn't really yelling. His voice just raised a little that's all. He wasn't necessarily rude. He even said the magic word: please.

Fifteen seconds of silent glaring seemed like a lifetime before the driver lowered his gaze and turned off the radio with unneeded malice. He was beginning to wonder if the driver just checked out of the loony bin and if he'd be able to make it in time and in one piece to the conference.

Before his thoughts took a much darker turn, he noticed that the car passed the right street.

"Mister, you're going the wrong way." This time there was no polite pretense; there was only the dissatisfaction of a customer.

Screech!

The car halted to a stop so quickly he nearly lurch forward, almost falling out of his seat.

"Look here, Madam," the driver bit out, "I know where I'm going!"

He was speechless. The driver clearly must be blind or simply agitating him!

"I am not a woman," he hissed angrily.

The driver growled, hastily tore off the hat and turned around with electrifying blue eyes.

"But I am!"

Long ebony black hair cascaded down her shoulders, framing her heart shaped face. If he had seen her face clearly and she spoke more, he would have never mistaken her as a man. She was definitely 100% a woman.

Before his mind registered the fact fully, he questioned, "What's a woman doing, driving a taxi?"

She huffed indignantly, "You got a problem with that, Red?"

He blinked as he steadily recovered from the shock. Obviously, she was ignorant of his identity. Well, she was amusing to say the least. Glancing at his watch surreptitiously, he thought for a moment as his violet eyes glinted gold.

He leaned forward with a smirk playing on his lips. "Well, that explains it." Her brows rose in question at his sudden change in demeanor—he was much too composed. "The terrible driving, that is."

She glared—that same glare she gave him the first time through the rear view mirror. Only this time there was a definite promise of repeat.

"I could easily drive you to the middle of nowhere and do such unspeakable things to you that you'll beg for mercy," she threatened.

"Is that a guarantee?" He look quite intrigued, much to her chagrin.

"And I can assure you that it will be a messy affair."

A daring grin lit his face as he replied, "Sounds kinky."

"Don't twist my words!" she exclaimed as a deep blush crept up her face in realization to what his mind was processing. "And I'll have you know that my driving skills are excellent."

"Oh?" his voice was nonchalant, goading her to take the bait. "After that jerky turn at that intersection, I highly doubt that."

Her eyes twitched and she felt throwing something—anything—at him.

"I would have arrived at Meiji Theater ages ago if my chauffeur was behind the wheel. Such a pity," he sighed, feigning discontent.

Baring her fangs, she swiftly turned around and grabbed the steering wheel. "I'll make you eat your words," was all she said as the car started to move again.

Success!

He sat back and enjoyed the ride, relishing in the tense silence as he observed the woman driver. From her posture to her precise and confident handling of the wheel, it looked as if she'd been driving on a race track for years.

Her blue eyes seemed to sparkle brightly; the corner of her lips lifting in a triumphant smile.

In record time, the car stopped right in front of the Meiji Theater. She turned her body around fully and gave a cocky grin, her eyes lit with challenge.

At that moment, he swore his little tyrannical heart yielded to her charms.

"So…" she began, expecting him to bow down to her greatness.

A mischievous smirk marked his lips as he gathered his things, opened the door and stepped out.

"Well, would you look at that, I have 5 minutes to spare," he declared in mock surprise.

"And…" she huffed, her patience wearing thin.

He chuckled lightly, "Thanks for the ride."

With a salute, he turned and walked away towards the building.

She stared at him, mouth wide open in shock. Irritated, she pulled down the window and shouted, "You better be careful when crossing the street at night!"

He laughed a little louder and waved to her lazily without looking back.

"Jerk!" she muttered before driving away, ignoring that niggling feeling in her mind.

She stopped at a red light and had a feeling that she forgot something. The light flashed green and she shrugged her shoulders, driving away to rid that foreboding feeling.

Halfway down the street she realized what it was that was bothering her.

"That Jerk didn't pay his fare!" She pounded the steering wheel to vent out her frustration and muttered, "He's just as bad as Sano."

She contemplated in driving back and seeking out the red hair man for his cab fares. Before any conclusion could be made, an unfamiliar ring resounded in her ears from the back of the car. Quickly rummaging through the backseat, she came across a small red device—a Black Berry. She turned it over and there in black lettering a name was inscribed: Himura Kenshin.

The Black Berry continued to ring before she cautiously answered, hoping that it was that arrogant red head.

"For a moment there, I thought you weren't going to answer," spoke the voice on the other line.

Yes. It was definitely him.

"You insufferable jerk of a felon, you owe me cab fares!"

"I know."

She slitted her eyes in suspicion, there was something strange about his voice—something utterly wicked.

"In order for me to pay the fare, I need your name."

She was silent for a moment, skeptic about his reasoning. But there was no harm in giving out her name, right?

"Kamiya Kaoru."

There was a rustling of papers as she waited for him to continue.

"Friday, 7:00 PM at the Meiji Theater, I'll see you there Kaoru-san; please dress nicely. And leave that pink frog behind."

Click.

He hung up before her mind could grasp his intentions.

"Eh? What the hell just happened?"

Well, whatever it was, she's going to drive her pink frog just to spite him.

- f i n -


I'm in a wonderful mood today because of the erratic weather; snow has returned! Yes, it's snowing in April. (The Heavens have answered my prayers) XD

Please Review!