Chapter One: The Beginning
"Hmm… I was wondering when you guys would call again."
"Definitely. So, what can I do for you this time?"
"We decided to organize a party."
"Hmm, what deal have you sealed now?"
"I believe you ought to mind you own business."
"Okay, okay. Sorry! So, what do you want from me?"
"The usual. You and your girls, of course."
"Of course. How many this time?"
"Twenty? Are we painting the town red tonight?"
"Do you think you can do this? Or—"
"You know I can. How much time do I have?"
"We expect you to be here on Saturday evening."
"Perfect. See you then. Bye!"
Nineteen year old Haruno Sakura clicked her tongue in impatience as her green eyes moved, one more time, from the essay she was writing to the clock hanging on the wall. A small, exasperated groan escaped her lips as she realized that only five minutes had passed since the last time she checked. Placing her pen aside, not having the smallest intention of continuing anymore, she gave a small sigh and, pushing her chair back, stood up. She took a second to stretch with her arms above her head, her muscles uncoiling with the action, before wandering into the kitchen.
Her apartment was small, having only one bedroom, a small kitchen, and a living room, but it was comfortable, and it was cozy—she needed nothing more.
She poured herself a glass of cold water, but she had barely managed to take a sip of the refreshing liquid, when her phone rang, causing her to roll her eyes. There was only one person who could possibly be calling her, and although she had been waiting for her phone-call, there was no denying the fact that she was hardly in the mood to hear about gossip.
Setting the glass on the counter, she made her way back to the table where she had left her silver phone, picking up.
"Sakura!" the woman on the other line squealed in a way only she knew how—a way that made Sakura pull the phone away from her ear.
"Yes, Ino," she replied calmly, a small smile present on her features.
"What's up? What are you doing?" she asked.
Sakura sighed and took a seat on the small couch, before answering. "Writing, what else?"
"Aww, Sakura! I swear, that's what you do every time I call!" she complained.
"Well, Ino, this is college," she replied simply.
"I know, but it's taking too much of your time!"
"Time that I want to dedicate—"
"Alright, fine," she snapped, stopping her before she could go any further.
Sakura laughed lightly. Her friend must be tired of hearing the same speech over and over again, but it was her who should learn not to bring up the subject every time they talked.
"I wanted to speak to you about something," she continued in what Sakura knew to be as much of a serious tone as Ino could muster.
"About what?" she asked, mildly curious.
"Remember what we talked about a few days ago? Well, this is your chance to enter the business. They want to organize a party, and apparently, they need twenty girls."
"Twenty?" she asked, skeptical, her brows furrowing. "Why so many?"
She had visited their mansion once, when Ino had something to discuss with them, and she had been dragged along. The men had seemed nice enough; there was not a single part of them that resembled what she had seen in movies, but then again, appearances could be deceiving. She could care less about that, though. Their house—the biggest and finest piece of architecture she had ever seen—had helped her make her decision. They had money to spare—money that she desperately needed—and she would do what she needed to do in order to get them.
She might not have the same luck her friend had, since it was unlikely that she would find herself a boyfriend among them (which was something she did not even want, in the first place), but she would live decently with their help.
Up until this point, she had worked in small, insignificant places, as an insignificant waitress or bartender, and of course, she had been paid insignificant amounts of money. And she would have continued in that fashion, because Sakura was a good girl, and she did not want to stoop so low in order to earn more money, but things didn't go as well as she had hoped, and she had no other option now.
Long story short, her friend had offered to help her, and her conscience had forced her to accept. In time, she had become used to the idea, and had come to the conclusion that, as Ino had once told her, they would pay her for something she would enjoy, as well.
"Well, from what I understood, some of their 'business partners' will be there, as well," she explained. Sakura had a feeling she had come up with that theory by herself, but she chose to remain silent. "Anyway, as always, they asked me to get them some girls, and I instantly thought of you. Do you want to come?"
Sakura sighed softly. "Ino… I have to come. There is no other way."
"Come on, girl, cheer up! You'll see that you'll catch one of those guys' interest! And when that happens, your life will be arranged forever!" she exclaimed.
Sakura laughed. "I really wish I could think like you sometimes, Ino."
"It's called being optimistic," she said. "And honestly, with your body, it's impossible for my words not to come true. So, you're coming, right?"
"Great! Now I have to find another seventeen girls! Tenten, Temari and I will be at your house tomorrow afternoon to help you get ready. Don't worry about the outfit—I get to pick that. See ya!"
And with those parting words, she ended the call, leaving Sakura with no other option than to comply.
But, of course. She knew perfectly well that she would have never left her with the responsibility of choosing her clothes otherwise.
Sakura sighed contently as rivulets of scalding water cascaded down her body, relaxing her tense muscles and washing away her worries. That was the reason why she loved taking long, hot showers so much—they helped her immensely. They helped her when she was tired, they helped her when she was buried in a pile of problems that she could not escape, and they helped her now, when she was about to take the hardest step of her life.
The decision had been made, but there was a part of her that still screamed in protest at her upcoming actions, that told her that she was about to make the biggest mistake of her life. She didn't need to be reminded. She knew she was. But it was something that needed to be done.
Shaking her head to push those thoughts out of her mind, she reached for her shampoo, knowing that she had already spent too much time in the shower, and that Ino would start yelling if she wasn't ready by the time she got there.
She quickly washed her hair and her body, but remained a few more minutes under the hot spray of water, before getting out of the shower cabin. She dried her body, wrapped a pink, fluffy towel around her, and exited the bathroom. Once in her bedroom, she pulled on a set of black, lacy underwear that Ino had bought her a few days prior, claiming that not only would it make her look sexier, but it would also give her a plus of confidence. Sakura could not stop her from having her way tonight. But perhaps more importantly, she was willing to try anything that could possibly make her feel better about herself after what she was about to do.
The doorbell rang, and she rushed to the front door, though not before throwing on an oversized shirt to cover her body.
"Sak!" a blonde blob squealed as she threw herself at her, enveloping her into a tight hug.
Sakura laughed at her best friend's antics, wrapping an arm around her in return.
"I am so sorry to ruin the moment, but we only have three hours to get ready!" another blonde chirped, clapping her hands together to get their attention.
"Oh my God, that's true!" Ino gasped, immediately pulling back. She pushed past her friend and entered the apartment, setting all the bags she had brought on the floor. "We have so many things to do!" she exclaimed, and promptly began to unpack—colorful dress after colorful dress, boxes of shoes and tangles of jewelry.
The girls simply laughed, rudely ignoring her rants as they greeted each other.
"How did it go?" a raven haired man asked as he took a sip of his drink. His long hair was partially tied in a low ponytail at the base of his neck, while bangs framed his face, making his coal black eyes stand out.
"Fine," another man, sitting across from him, answered. One could tell by their appearance that they were related. Their features were similar, only that the latter's hair was shorter, spiky in the back, with bangs falling in his eyes. "You already know we've sealed the deal."
"Yes," he agreed. "Actually, that is exactly what I wanted to talk to you about."
He turned his gaze towards the other men gathered around the table, but when he opened his mouth to speak, a loud blond cut him off.
"We're hosting a party tonight!" he yelled, as though he were miles away, when in fact, he was sitting right next to them.
"Dobe, be quiet," the man with short, raven hair snapped, glaring viciously in his direction.
"You be quiet, teme! I'm talking now!" he shouted. "Anyway, we called some of the other guys and, of course, some girls!"
"Itachi," another man, with long, brown hair and lavender eyes, called. "Can you explain? The idiot still can't talk."
Everybody ignored the indignant cry that followed.
"We have organized a party, if you wish to call it so, because—well, I suppose you have all already realized how important this deal is to us," he said. "We have invited a couple of 'associates', and the girls."
"Twenty!" the blond yelled, ensuring a collective roll of eyes.
"You know," the brown-haired man started as he turned in his seat to face him, "I find it hard to understand why you sound so excited about this particular aspect. You won't get to touch any of them and you know that perfectly well."
His speech earned laughs, smirks, and even a cheer from the group.
"Isn't it obvious?" he asked, quite dramatically. "I'm happy for you guys!" A devious smirk stretched on his lips soon after. "Besides, I wouldn't need to touch them, anyway," he said. "Hinata-chan's a handful!"
"Watch it!" the other man growled.
A hard smack and a loud sound of protest signaled the official end of their meeting.
Sakura took a moment to inhale deeply before she opened her eyes as she stood in front of the full-length mirror in her bedroom, knowing perfectly well that, no matter what clothes, colors, make-up or hairstyle her friend, Ino, had chosen, the person she would be seeing would resemble nothing of her true self.
True enough, save for the bright pink hair, she could barely recognize the person staring back at her.
She was wearing the shortest black dress, with halter straps covered in small, silver rhinestones, and her back slightly exposed. Her green eyes were darkened by heavy make-up, a perfectly executed smoky eye, and her lips were a light, icy pink. Her pale complexion was flawless, and a blush dusted her cheeks. Long, pink hair cascaded down her back and shoulders in loose curls.
"Sak, stop staring and come put these on!" the blonde urged, pointing at a box lying on the bed. She wore an equally short dress, only hers was strapless, and tighter, hugging her every curve. Black rhinestones, larger than her silver ones, complemented the leopard-printed satin, while high-heeled, open-toed pumps completed the outfit.
Sakura gave a quiet sigh at her apparent urgency, but complied and moved to the bed, taking a seat on the soft, purple mattress. She pulled the box in her lap, and her eyes nearly bulged out of her head when she pulled the lid off and saw its contents.
"Are you kidding me?" The words left her mouth without her permission. "My feet will be killing me after a mere five minutes spent in these!" she exclaimed, looking up at her friend with wide eyes as she held up a six-inch, black, strappy sandal. They were gorgeous, she had to admit, but unfortunately, that also meant they were uncomfortable.
"No, they won't," the blonde laughed. "Stop whining and put them on. These, baby girl, are my present to you. And I assure you, they will give you confidence like nothing else!"
Sakura rolled her eyes, but did as she was told without any other form of protest, before standing up and heading back in front of the mirror. It was true—the shoes complemented her outfit, and made her lean legs look as though they went on for miles. Ino, however, didn't need to hear that.
"You look like a Barbie!" she squealed. She would have jumped up and down in her excitement, had she not been wearing her own pair of high-heels. "They are going to fight for you!"
"I'll have to agree with you on that!" Temari proclaimed as she appeared in the doorway with Tenten. They both wore short dresses. Temari's was black, short and strapless, with a portion of leopard-printed material at the bottom, and paired with matching, high-heeled, open-toe pumps, while Tenten's was simpler—bright orange, with stripes of black, see-through material running around her body, below her breasts and above the bottom hem; the outfit was completed with a pair of simple, black pumps.
"Would you stop saying that?" Sakura groaned. "You aren't helping me at all! You're just being annoying!"
The girls simply laughed, knowing perfectly well that the pinkette loved them, regardless of their flaws.
"Oh, I have to get downstairs!" Ino exclaimed after she had taken a fleeting glance at the digital clock lying on the nightstand. "The cars must be here." Grabbing her bag from the bed, she stormed out of the bedroom.
"We'll be there in a minute!" Temari yelled after her, craning her neck to see her small wave before the front door slammed shut. "Well?" she asked as she turned her gaze back to the two remaining girls, grinning. "Ready?"
"You know we are!" Tenten clapped her hands in excitement, and promptly exited the bedroom. "Let's party!" she yelled, making her friends laugh.
They were out on the door in less than a minute, and after Sakura locked up, they made their way downstairs.
Six big, shiny, luxurious automobiles were parked on the side of the road in front of the apartment building, forming a straight line. The majority were black, or dark blue, but the deep red and dark silver were not missing.
"Come on, girls, move faster!" Ino shouted as she ushered a group of girls inside one of the vehicles. "I apologize for waking you all up so early, but the road there is long, and we have a party to attend to!"
At the mention of the word 'party', there were several squeals, followed by light laugher.
"Oh, my girls!" she exclaimed as soon as she caught sight of Tenten, Temari and Sakura making their way towards her, their arms linked. "You look so hot!" she told them in a stage-whisper, before randomly choosing one of their hands and starting to drag them along. "Come on, now, I've saved the best car for us!"
The sun was threatening to lower below the horizon when the convoy arrived at its destination. Sakura, though, could have sworn the hours spent on the journey had been the longest of her life.
With each mile, her anxiety grew, and now that the only thing separating her from the unknown world she was about to enter was a large gate, she was becoming more and more insecure by the second. Questions plagued her mind. Should she do this? Was there really no other choice? Had she overlooked an alternative? Could she do this? …Would it kill her on the inside?
Her friends noticed her conflicted mood, but chose to pretend otherwise. They kept silent, understanding what she was feeling—after all, they all went through the very same thing at the beginning.
However, the moment they passed the large set of gates, and Sakura was still immersed in her thoughts, they knew they could not allow her to remain there.
"Sakura," Ino called, turning to look at her from where she sat in the passenger's seat. The pinkette unglued her eyes from the window upon hearing her, confusion written on her features. "I know that this is hard for you. We all do. But you've come so far, you can't give up now."
Sakura shook her head, smiling—albeit somewhat sadly. "I wasn't planning on doing that."
"You have to cheer up, and learn to enjoy the party!" the blonde encouraged, grinning. "There's still plenty of time 'till the night truly starts. Besides," she paused as a mischievous smirk pulled at the corners of her lips, "I'm going to hook you up with one of the most important guys in this organization."
Sakura laughed, shaking her head in amusement. "Well," she began, grinning, "As long as he's hot, I'm perfectly fine with it!"
For a moment, the girls seemed surprised by her sudden change in attitude. But then her words registered in their minds, and they burst into laughter.
Just then, the car came to a stop, and the driver reached out to turn the key in the ignition, cutting off the engine.
"Here we are."
"They're here," Itachi announced as he walked out onto the terrace, leaning against the railing. His dark eyes followed the row of cars that had recently entered their territory with unconcealed interest.
"Been waiting for them, have you?" his younger brother teased as she took his place beside him, a drink in his hand.
"Look who's talking," he shot back, smirking.
Sasuke chose not to answer, but allowed a small smirk to spread on his face, as well, as he watched the women climbing out of the large automobiles. He could recognize almost all of them, seeing as they had attended their parties before—all, besides one.
The doors to a black Range Rover opened. His eyes were immediately drawn to the familiar figure of a certain blonde-haired woman, who sported a large grin as she yelled something to the other girls still in the car. His smirk widened at the sight of her bubbly attitude—she was a handful, and quite honestly, he had trouble understanding how a lazy man like Shikamaru managed to stand her. Tenten and Temari followed, both laughing over something the blonde had said.
And then she came out. Long, pink hair, vibrant green eyes, slender figure, perfect curves, and long, slim legs. A short, black dress that clung to her petite body like second skin, and a pair of the sexiest high-heeled shoes he had ever seen.
"Who is that?" he asked his brother, intrigued.
"The new girl," he responded, rather vaguely. "Sakura, if I remember correctly."
Sasuke's smirk grew wider.
Her name fitted her, without a doubt.