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If masculinity could be defined into one being, Sakura was certain it would be Uchiha Madara. It emanated off of him in the set of his broad shoulders, the confident lift of his chin, the curve of his smirk, the subtle arch of his brow. Intelligence sharpened his eyes, his midnight irises only complimenting the three-piece suit he had chosen to wear for the evening.

She wanted to rip it off, wrap her fingers around the ironed tie and pull his face to hers, let lips linger an inch apart as the breath mixed between them. She could still feel the press of his fingers against her ribs, her back, her thighs from the last time she had been with him. It had been two days ago – two days too many – and she wanted to feel him again, wanted to continue the secret game they had been playing for two seasons.

"Please tell me you're not sleeping with him."

Sakura nearly spilled her drink at her best friend's sudden appearance. She hadn't realized she had been watching Madara so intently that memories of skin sliding over skin had completely taken over her awareness to that point that she was nearly drooling. She wasn't normally this distracted, but her studies had kept her awake most of the previous night and the only reason she hadn't passed out hours ago was because Sasuke had dragged her to his parents' work party, where the only people she knew had the surname 'Uchiha'.

With quick recovery, Sakura sipped from her cocktail glass and side glanced at Sasuke as she prayed he hadn't seen her ogling his uncle. "Who?"


She hadn't even consciously realized Sasuke's cousin was standing next to his uncle as they engaged in conversation with a pair of richly dressed females until Sasuke spoke his name; but his answer was such a relief to her pounding heart that she ignored the tone of impatience in his voice. With an amused smile, she shook her head. "No, I'm not sleeping with Shisui."

She briefly eyed the male in question as he laughed, drawing the sultry gazes of the two females before Sakura shrugged innocently. "He's just nice to look at. You're all nice to look at," she admitted as her gaze returned to the proud male next to her. "You would be too if you fixed that attitude."

Sasuke frowned at her. "You're blunt today. How much did you sleep last night?"

"Two hours, give or take," she shrugged.

"Then why are you even here?"

"For the same reason I'm always here, Sasuke." The slight arch of his brow was the only indication of his curiosity. "For you to have someone to escape to should your father try to pull you into his bureaucratic bullshit."

At the mention of Fugaku, Sasuke glanced down the large, extravagant ballroom to where his father was entertaining a handful of people, all of whom appeared to be enjoying themselves as they listened to the Uchiha Head speak. Sasuke sighed. "He's on his second drink already. By his third, I will definitely need to hide. I don't know why I even have to come to these parties. My mom knows I hate them."

Sakura hid her sigh behind her glass as she chose to finish her drink rather than shoot a biting remark towards her best friend. She felt for Sasuke – she knew he hated having the family business shoved down his throat – but at the same time, she sometimes wished her best friend would suck it up. At least he had family; family that cared about his well-being and future. Sakura herself had bounced around to so many foster families growing up that the only person who she even kept in contact from high school was Sasuke himself and the first friend she had met in the city, Ino.

In all honesty, she suspected Sasuke just didn't recognize how fortunate he was to have been given the chance to grow up with such a close family. His lack of appreciation made her want to smack him over the back of the head, but it was so common for his parents to host aunts and uncles and cousins that she knew he was just unable to even fathom the concept of never having any.

And Sakura supposed she couldn't truly complain anymore. After having saved Sasuke from failing every science class in high school, Mikoto had become somewhat of a parental figure for her. The same couldn't be said for Fugaku, but she did respect the older male, even if he did tend to push his beliefs and desires onto his children a bit aggressively. For her, just having Mikoto to turn to was enough.

"If you want tips on hiding, I suggest you talk to Itachi."

The pair turned towards Shisui just in time to witness him throw back the rest of his drink in one, big gulp. As soon as it was gone, he stared at it longingly. "He ditched me with Madara an hour ago and the bastard still hasn't come back."

At Madara's name, Sakura glanced back to where she saw him last. He was still in the same spot, but where two women had stood before, only one stood now and Sakura watched, unable to look away, as the woman delicately placed her hand on his chest to lean in and whisper intimately in his ear. Her talented tongue forced a sly smile to settle on Madara's lips as he raised his hand to gently rest it upon her mid-back. The action eerily reminded Sakura of the way he would touch her when they were alone and she suddenly found it hard to breathe. She didn't remember her dress feeling this tight.

Was she nothing more than just another woman he had claimed under his sheets? She wasn't sure and the sudden unknown made her feel uneasy as she wondered if all along he had been entertaining others on the nights she had stayed home to study. They had never defined their relationship, but in her inexperience, she had assumed they would remain exclusive, even if they were nothing more than simple stress relief for one another. How could she be so naïve?

Unable to watch any longer, Sakura looked away and quickly finished her drink in the same manner Shisui had. He and Sasuke were still discussing possible places Itachi could have disappeared to when she turned to the older of the two with a forced smile. "I need another drink, and it looks like you need another drink. You wanna go get another drink?"

Shisui cocked an amused brow at her, his conversation with Sasuke already forgotten, before he gestured towards the bar. "Lead the way."


For the umpteenth time, Madara slid his gaze seemingly lazily around the large dining room and like every other time, he did not find what he was looking for. Frustration welled in his chest, but his expression remained passive as he listened to his newest, prospective business associate describe in detail how a partnership between the two would be most advantageous. Madara already knew that the family corporation would prosper should they agree to take over the man's failing business, but he found himself unable to concentrate on cementing the plan; because while everyone within the room appeared to be enjoying a well-prepared meal, there was one guest that seemed absent.

He knew she was here. Even if he hadn't seen her name on the guest list, he knew she would be in attendance; she always attended their family functions purely for the sake of keeping his youngest nephew company.

So why the hell was it so hard for him to locate the only female with pink hair?

Suppressing a sigh, Madara glanced around for Sasuke. He found his nephew sitting with his back to him a few tables away, but surprisingly Sakura was not at his side. Instead sat a blonde male the same age as him – Madara recognized him as the son of one of their partners – while the seat to his other side sat vacant. Without a doubt, he knew it was Sakura's setting and he felt his confusion grow as he recognized that while they were halfway through dinner, her plate still remained unused from the appetizer course.

Returning his gaze to the animated male next to him, Madara picked up his wine glass and took a generous sip of the white wine they had paired with their meal as he mentally prepared himself for what he was about to do. Never had he ever walked away from a business discussion – at least never for a woman.

"Excuse me, Saito-san. There is something I must see to. We can continue this conversation during the work week."

The younger male looked surprised at being interrupted, but he nodded nonetheless. "Of course, Uchiha-sama. Should I have my office call yours on Monday?"

"That would be acceptable," he nodded.

Without waiting for another reply, Madara stood and silently exited the dining room. He returned to the large ballroom and scanned the sparse groups still making quiet conversation, careful not to disrupt them as he searched for Sakura. He was nearly tempted to ask Sasuke where the petite female had disappeared to, but just as he passed the empty bar, someone spoke: "If you're looking for the girl, she went that way."

Madara followed the voice to one of the bartenders behind the bar. He had been working on cleaning glasses with the lull dinner had created, but he stopped to point toward the front doors with the hand holding his dish towel. He didn't ask any questions, nor did his expression hold any judgements. Madara got the impression this was not the first event he had worked where he had witnessed a male chasing down a female, but neither said anything further as he followed the given directions.

It appeared the bartender had been accurate for the moment Madara rounded the corner to the entrance hall, he found Sakura standing at the base of the small staircase that descended down to the grand, front door. She hadn't noticed him as she scrolled through her phone, and he couldn't help but take a moment to admire how she seemed to fit into the building's magnificent décor like a princess out of a fairytale.

Her white dress was stunning; her small bust and trim waist accentuated by the simple lace that hugged her curves before flaring out at her hips and falling to her calves in a waterfall of white silk. Her heels added a few inches to her height and drew attention to her toned legs, but his obsession had always been with the fullness of her lips and the soft curve of her neck. He had learned its most sensitive places in recent months – what areas were ticklish, which ones made her gasp, the ones that made her moan.

"Sakura," he called. His voice was no louder than a murmur, but in the silence of the entrance hall, it grasped her attention.

Her soft curls fell over her shoulder as she picked up her head to look at him, her vibrant green eyes slowly observing him as he descended the stairs to approach her. The simple action made memories fill his mind's eye of her hips straddling his as she sighed out his name, her skin flushed with arousal and exertion as she rode them both to completion.


Whatever lust had been building within him, slowed and dulled before it flickered out of life. She had always been the more expressive between the two and with just one easy roll of his name, he knew she was in no mood to be pushed nor teased.

"You were not at dinner."

"I'm not hungry," she returned flatly. Her gaze returned to her phone with her answer, its LED screen reflecting within her eyes and brightening her deep green irises.

He felt another pull of attraction towards her as his gaze swept over her intricately styled hair and elegant makeup. It was subtle, but he had woken plenty of mornings to find Sakura freshly showered and utterly bare to know she had spent a great deal of time to make herself appear flawless.

"You look beautiful."

She darkened the screen of her phone before she turned to him with a smile on her face that didn't quite reach her eyes. "Is that what you tell the other women before taking them to bed?"

"I beg your pardon?"

He observed Sakura closely, his expression conveying his confusion as he tried to understand where her underlying anger was stemming from. It had only been two sunsets since she had been tangled within his sheets with him as they rested after she had found him in his den – found him and proceeded to utterly destroy his determination to complete his work. They had parted on friendly terms as they always did with her promising him another night of stress relief in enough detail to make him hard at the mere whisper of things she'd like to do with her tongue.

However, that usual banter and calculated teasing was absent from her now as she stared at him, her emerald eyes as hard as the stones they resembled and her expression unforgiving. "I'm asking if you are sleeping with other people. I saw you with that woman and while I know we never set parameters for our relationship – or whatever this is – I do think it would be courteous for you to tell me if you are seeing others while I'm occupying your bed."

Madara stood unmoving, unable to process the words she had spoken so smoothly, so coldly. It was as if this was a completely different girl standing before him, the sarcastic and playful woman he had come to adore gone and replaced by someone colder and crueler – someone more like him. He would never admit that her words cut into him, digging deeper and growing more painful with each passing syllable rolled off her tongue. She always did have a way with words – he had just never understood the extent of her abilities until now.

"No, I am not sleeping with her," he finally said, his voice matching hers in both lack of emotion and detachment. "She is the wife of a successful businessman and should she find me amiable, she may recommend me to her husband. It is nothing more than business."

"Ah," Sakura murmured, though her tone gave away her dissatisfaction with his explanation. "Well I suppose that is one thing I hate about you then."

"The fact I am a business man?"

"The fact that you use your appearance to further your career when you have absolutely no need to," she retorted sharply. "You're smart. You don't need to stoop that low."

Her hostility turned him defensive and if wasn't for the fact that she had turned her gaze elsewhere, he knew she would be glaring at him. "Are you implying you are jealous?"

She scoffed and rolled her eyes before she cut her gaze back to him, her eyes pinning him in place like a knife thrown at the wall. "I'm implying that I guess I don't really know anything about you; and that we should probably end whatever this game is that we're playing."

Her words hurt more than he expected. His chest tightened and an uncomfortable weight settled in the pit of his stomach, but he refused to outwardly show how much her rejection affected him. Instead he straightened his back and shoulders as he traced her expression, searching for any emotion other than the cold indifference she was displaying. He found none.

"Very well. If that is what you wish." Her dismissal still stung, but as much as he claimed to be and acted like an asshole, he found himself struggling to walk away. "Would you like a ride home?"

Her phone chimed at the end of his question and she quickly checked the message before she returned her gaze to him. "I have one. Thanks."

However, she didn't immediately move to leave. He saw her hesitate and for a fraction of a second, her expression seemed to shift, becoming something softer and warmer around the edges; but then she turned away from him and made her way towards the door, only pausing to accept her winter jacket from the doorman before she disappeared out into the night.

If it were any other woman, Madara would have already turned away and returned to the family's business dinner, but it was that expression, that brief change in her gaze, that fleeting moment that gave him the hope that perhaps this 'break-up' was affecting her, that made him take a step in her direction.

"Let her go."

He turned sharply, his eyes narrowed and his expression nearly murderous as he faced his unknown voyeur. Itachi, however, remained unfazed as he met his uncle's gaze, his own expression nonchalant and apathetic, as if the scene he had just witnessed was something he had viewed time and time over.

"How much did you hear?" Madara nearly snarled.

The younger male merely shrugged. "It does not matter. I have known about you and Sakura for months now."

His expression remained unchanged as he continued to glare at his nephew. "How?"

"When I arrived to find her car in your driveway more than once," he answered smoothly. "Anyone watching could see it; but everyone else is too consumed with their own lives to take notice of the affairs of others."

"And you noticed?" Madara retorted.

"I noticed enough to know her studies are getting harder. She has had a long week. She needs time to rest and relieve her stress," Itachi murmured.

He didn't wait for a reply before he meandered out of the entrance hall and back towards the dining room. Madara's gaze tracked his movements, but they returned to the doors the moment his nephew was out of sight. It wasn't until the doors opened again to let in a businessman that he realized he had been hoping Sakura would walk back through the doors.

Disappointment filled him, but he turned away as he slowly stalked back towards the bar, his hands deep in his pockets. He had never felt the desire to chase after someone, but his own self-respect kept him from going after her. He refused to pine after someone who did not want him.

x x

Madara sipped his whiskey, its burn a welcome heat as he did his best to ignore, well, everyone really. Inwardly he cursed Mikoto for threatening him into attending the birthday party for the one girl he cared for more than he cared to admit and yet couldn't have, but it was without animosity. He knew he would have come anyway and that knowledge coaxed him into tipping his glass back again.

Around him, the party was in full swing with a myriad of guests enjoying the platters laid out for their own enjoyment as they floated around, drinking, socializing and saying their well-wishes for the birthday girl. Madara tried to keep his eyes from her, but every now and then he found his gaze coming to rest upon Sakura. The mere sight of her filled him with a mix of emotions, but he refused to acknowledge that he was jealous of the way Shisui brushed her waist as he leaned in to whisper happy birthday or the way Sasuke led her by the arm to the bar for another refill of her drink. Honestly, what the hell was she thinking wearing that red dress? Was she trying to make it impossible for him to ignore her?

It had only been three months since Madara had last shared her body with her, last kissed her, last touched her, but it felt an eternity longer. They had hardly spoken since their separation, with the exception of pleasantries exchanged in the presence of his family members, but he still yearned for her, to hear her sigh his name or bite a retort in his direction. He hadn't realized how much he had enjoyed her company until she was no longer there, but his pride kept his lips sealed from requesting a new start with her. She had walked away from him and her words were still burned into his memory.

Madara raised his glass to his lips again only to frown upon finding the contents empty. He hadn't realized how self-indulgent he had been, and he silently slipped over to the open bar to refill his glass. He would not make it through the night without another.

"This must be torture for you."

Madara slid his gaze to the male next to him and fought his glare as he waited for the bartender to return. "I have no idea what you speak of."

Itachi arched a delicate brow, his miniscule shift in expression his only indication that showed he didn't believe a word his uncle spoke. "Have you tried speaking to her?"

"My stress has nothing to do with Haruno Sakura."

"And yet you knew exactly who I was referring to," Itachi countered.

The older male's lips thinned in displeasure, but he said nothing as he impatiently tapped his fingers on the bar as he eyed the bartender that had accepted his drink order. How long did it take to refill a glass with whiskey?

"You should talk to her. She will listen."

Madara remained silent a moment before he opened his mouth to retort to his nephew, a biting remark ready on his tongue, but Itachi was already walking away and his comeback quickly faded as the bartender returned with his drink. With his glare still in place, he picked it up and left without a glance in his direction as he retreated to the kitchen, the one place he knew Mikoto would chase everyone out of.

He could still hear the noise from the party, but whatever Mikoto had simmering on the stove helped drown out the sound and he couldn't help himself from wondering to the counter to pick at the food laid out. The effects of the whiskey were already warming him from his lack of lunch and he knew it wouldn't sit well with the hostess if he became intoxicated within the first few hours of the party she had been planning for over a week.

A sudden warm scent caught his nose and Madara followed the smell to another counter where a plate of steaming buns sat, ready to be served. He was about to help himself when he heard a sudden commotion from the doorway and he turned in time to witness Sakura catch herself of the doorframe, her occupied hand lifting her half-fill glass into the air to keep her drink from spilling as a soft curse slipped from her glossed lips.

It was obvious she was impaired, but it didn't distract from her beauty, and he watched as she stilled, her eyes widening as she realized she was not alone.

Silence stretched between them as Sakura slowly relaxed her tense stance and Madara said nothing, his brow arching curiously. Even if he had been sober, he wouldn't have been able to prevent his gaze from sweeping over the high neckline of her dress and down her covered bust to her rounded hips. It would have been easier for him to ignore her if she wasn't so damn gorgeous.

She bit her bottom lip nervously, an action his gaze observed intently before she opened her mouth, "Uhh…hi."

He tried to convince himself it was the whiskey that warmed him and not the smoothness of her voice. "Happy birthday, Sakura."

Her nervousness seemed to fade at his warm bidding and she smiled softly, the simple action causing his body to react in ways he refused to acknowledge. "Thank you," she said sincerely. She studied him for a moment, her eyes tracing the lines of his tailored suit as an expression he couldn't quite name flickered across her face. But then it was gone as she shrugged. "Though, actually, my birthday isn't until next week."

Madara arched his brow in interest. To be honest, he and Sakura had never really spoken in terms of personal matters and he had been unaware that her birthday didn't fall on this particular day. Curiosity tugged on him – he wanted to know its specific day – but his voice failed him. He was never particularly well-versed in asking personal questions.

However, Sakura continued, already beginning to feel uncomfortable with the silence, "Mikoto wanted to have the party on my actual birthday, but next week is pretty busy for me and I doubt that I'll actually have time for anyone and I know Mikoto really wanted to throw a party, and who can really say no to her, right?"

Silence stretched in the wake of her small ramble and he watched in amusement as she fidgeted with her hair and smoothed down her dress with the hand not occupied with her glass. He could tell she didn't know if she should try and continue their one-sided conversation or back out of the room, and he found the small pinch of uncertainty between her brows most adorable. He wanted to reach out to her, but stopped himself only because he knew she wouldn't want him to.

This time their silence was broken by Mikoto entering the room. She glanced between the two. "Why is everyone in here? There's a party out there."

Sakura smiled tightly and pointed towards the doorway. "I was just…going."

Then she vanished in a swirl of red silk, leaving Madara alone with the hostess.

The moment Mikoto was certain Sakura was out of ear range, she turned to him, a hand on her hip and an expression that showed she meant business. "Alright, what's going on?"

Madara leveled her with a detached stare. "What?"

"Ever since the work Christmas party both you and Sakura have been acting off. And don't you dare tell me it's nothing."

He sighed out his nose before he sipped generously from his glass. "It is nothing I can discuss with you," he finally answered.

Mikoto was obviously displeased with his reply, but she relaxed her stance as she eyed him. "Can you at least tell me if she is all right?"

"No," he said honestly. Because the answer was he didn't know if she was all right. He had thought she was – she had been so collected and proficient in ending their little pastime – but the longer he thought about that unnamable expression on her face, the more certain he became of what it was: sadness. But over what he wasn't certain.

"I pray that I am wrong about what is going on, but if I'm not, you had better fix it, Madara. I don't think I have to tell you what I will do to you if you hurt that girl."

He wanted to retort that it was she who had hurt him, but he left her threat hanging in the air as he tossed back his whiskey and exited the kitchen. Why couldn't he just let her go?

x x

The sound of aluminum hitting the floor echoed through the apartment as Sakura tossed her empty energy drink at the garbage can and missed. She didn't make a move to pick it up or even look up as she continued to read and make sense of the medical terminologies with her textbook, her mind already swimming from lack of sleep and the countless medical information she needed to review for her final test in three days.

In all honesty, all she wanted was the lay down and sleep for the next week, but she knew she couldn't, which was why she had stocked her fridge full of energy drinks, her pantry of coffee, and given her best girl friend, Ino, a key to her apartment to ensure she was still eating between chapters; because if she failed this test, it meant her medical career would be set back by an entire year and she refused to accept failure.

Turning the page, Sakura continued her chapter of the liver and its incredibly thorough and detailed explanation of its function within the human body. Her eyes burned from the strain of reading for so long and she paused in her studying to rub the blurriness from her vision just as she heard the deadbolt in her front door slid out of place.

"I have food for the needy!" Ino called.

"Oh thank God," Sakura muttered as she stood to greet her friend.

Ino handed her a plastic bag with a huge burrito inside before she kicked off her shoes and made her way towards Sakura's bedroom. "I would have been here sooner, but traffic is horrible right now. Hope you don't mind if I steal your Wi-fi for a little bit."

From the kitchen, Sakura heard her blonde friend rummage through her closet, but her mouth was far too full of food to ask her why she was searching through her clothes if she wanted internet access. She was just swallowing her third massive bite when she heard a sharp knock at the door.

Confused, she waited for Ino to come out of her room and tell her she was meeting some friends, but the blonde continued with whatever she was doing in Sakura's room, leaving her to answer the door by herself.

Sliding the deadbolt back out of place, Sakura pulled the door open only to be greeted by a single, red rose. Her brows drew together in surprise and she looked up at the wielder only to have her eyes widen. "Madara?" she asked incredulously.

He pushed the flower into her hands before he brushed past her into her small apartment. He was dressed elegantly as usual in his crisp suit, but she felt nervousness and unease pulse through her as he stopped in the small entrance hall, his dark eyes wondering about her humble dwelling. He had never been inside her apartment nor even been outside it and she briefly wondered how he even knew where she lived. But those questions came to a screeching halt as his observant gaze turned to her.

She suddenly felt self-conscious in her university sweater and old, workout shorts. She was sleep-deprived and her hair was dirty and messy, and pulled away from her face in a bun, leaving her unable to hide the dark circles under her eyes. As to what he was doing here, she didn't know and she chewed her lip nervously as she finally closed the door.

"My favorite color is red," he began. "But not red-red, more like crimson red. And I love tomatoes, but I hate it when they are mashed up into ketchup or tomato sauce."

Sakura stared at him, her expression openly confused. She didn't know what the hell he was doing or why he had come here to tell her these things, but she quickly opened her mouth to interrupt him, "Madara, I-."

"I am not finished yet," he said not unkindly. Immediately she closed her mouth again as he continued, "I was born in Kyoto where my mother died giving birth to me; my father later committed suicide when I was twelve. And for the most part, women annoy me, but I have greatly missed your company; and though I thoroughly enjoy being an asshole, I do not want to be one to you."

The emotions were absent from his expression, but Sakura could feel what he was trying to convey in his words. The implication of his confession weighed on her heavily and she felt her chest tighten not in pain like she had become accustom to, but something else entirely.

However, before she could find her words, she heard her closet door close loudly before Ino stepped out of her bedroom. "Well, if she doesn't take you back after that, you know you fucked up," she said bluntly before she continued on into the living room.

In front of her, Madara visibly stiffened, his eyes widening by only a fraction as he turned to catch Ino's retreating form before he turned back to her. She opened her mouth but it was a moment before her words followed: "I was trying to tell you I'm not here alone."

Madara said nothing and she realized a moment too late he was waiting for her to say something more. However, when she missed her cue, he nodded stiffly. "I see. Well, I must be going then."

He slipped past her easily and was out the door before her tired body could spring into action. She caught the door before it closed and called after his retreating form, but he did not stop nor slow down: "Madara, wait!"

Only after he rounded the corner and did not return for some minutes did Sakura finally let her door close. She leaned against the wood heavily as she raised the rose in her hand to her eye level to study. It was simple, but it was the most perfectly shaped rose she had ever seen with its petals in full bloom and its leaves a healthy green. Her chest began to ache, but she dropped her gaze from the flower as Ino rounded the corner.

The blonde crossed her arms as she leaned against the wall, an expectant look on her face: "If you don't want him, I'll take him."

"Ino…" Sakura warned lightly.

Her best friend cocked her head. "Well are you going to go after him or what?"

"I can't," Sakura sighed. "Not right now. I have a test to study for."

x x

"Is that everything, sir?"

Madara swiped his suit jacket from his hanger and pulled it on in one fluid motion as he gazed around his bedroom, his mind checking off his list of items he needed to remember to pack for his business trip. He would be across the country for the next week and he wanted to ensure he did not inconvenience himself by forgetting something.

"I believe so," he said.

His driver nodded and silently dismissed himself by backing out of his bedroom, leaving Madara to his own devices. He soon followed, dousing the lights with a flick of the light switch, before he followed the hallway to the rest of his well-sized home.

It was well into the afternoon, but with his long evening of travels still to be had, he stopped off at the kitchen to pour himself a large traveler's mug with coffee. There were some documents he wanted to review during his flight and he wouldn't allow weariness or exhaustion to distract him from completing his work.

After washing out his coffee pot, Madara left it to dry in the draining board before he collected his keys and mug. He checked his pockets for his phone and pulled the device out as he checked his email one last time to ensure his flight was on schedule before he started towards the door.

However, before he could exit the kitchen, he found his path blocked and he looked up sharply only to still when he recognized the pastel pink locks and those bright green eyes.

He silenced the whisper of her name before it could escape his lips as he observed her. It had been three days since he had visited her in her home only to learn that some of his best kept secrets had been shared not only with her, but her best friend as well. She looked no better than she had then with dark circles under her eyes that were nearly purple and mussed hair that looked as if it hadn't been brushed in days. Without asking he knew she was under a great deal of stress, but he refused to give into her this time.

"I have a flight to catch."

Sakura wetted her bottom lip, but she gave no indication that she heard him. "I don't like the color pink," she blurted. "I think it's almost as ugly as yellow. And I always eat around the tomato chunks in my spaghetti."

Madara merely stared at her. He knew he needed to leave to arrive for his flight in time and as much as he wanted to walk away from her after having tried to make amends, he found his feet unwilling to obey his commands.

"I never knew my parents," she continued. "I was bounced around to more foster homes than I can count, but that doesn't matter right now. I haven't slept more than fifteen hours in the last five days because I just passed my final medical exam and I am graduating next week."

His eyes widened and any thoughts of leaving vanished as he suddenly understood why she had been unable to search him down before now. He had thought that he had truly misread her the night of her birthday party when she hadn't bothered to call or come speak to him, but relief flooded his system like a shock of ice water and all the annoyance and frustration that had been simmering in his chest for days now slowly cooled and faded.

However, Sakura hadn't yet finished. "There are parts of you that I don't like. You're an asshole, and you're rude to other people just for the sake of being rude; you use any means necessary to get what you want even if it means hurting those around you and most of the time I wish you would just shut up." He opened his mouth to make a sharp retort, but she cut him off before he could even draw a breath, "But I'm pretty sure I'm also in love with you, and I want to see you again but I don't know if I can handle you openly flirting and teasing other women, so if you're going to keep doing that, please tell me now."

With her speech finally ended, Sakura met his gaze unwaveringly, her face an open book of all her desires, all of her hopes, and all of her fears. He felt a rush at being shown so much of her soul at one time that he found himself unable to find the words that would appropriately express everything he wanted to convey to her, but he had never truly been a man of many words when it came to dealing with emotions.

However, his lack of a response turned her expression uncertain, and before he could give her his answer, his driver entered the doorway behind her. "Sir, we should leave if we are to catch your flight on time."

His gaze never wavered from Sakura and so he didn't miss the hurt and disappointment that suddenly colored her expression. He immediately set to rectify it. "Call my office and inform them that I will be late to my meeting with the Board tomorrow."

Confusion cast upon both their faces, but Madara merely dismissed his driver before he turned his full attention to the exhausted woman in front of him. She bit her lip nervously but her emerald eyes held his gaze unwavering as he slowly approached her, stopping only briefly to deposit his phone and coffee onto the kitchen table. "You are the only woman that matters."

A soft, delicate smile stretched across her face and she opened her mouth, but her words were left unsaid as he cupped her jaw and forcefully tilted her face up to meet his. Without waiting for permission, he swept his tongue between her lips, fiercely dominating her as his hand left her face to tangle into her mess of hair. Her own hands slid over the muscles of his chest and stomach as she matched his kiss with teeth and tongue.

Her hands tugged on his jacket, silently telling him she wanted it gone, and he released her long enough to shrug out of the material before his hands fell to her hips to steer hers backwards until her body was trapped between him and the wall. He didn't give her the chance to breathe as he continued to taste her like a starved man, or the chance to take control as he grasped her wrists and pinned them above her head with one hand. He ground his desire against her, causing a throaty moan escaped her as he released her mouth to trail hot kisses across her jaw and down her throat to her pulse point where she was most sensitive. Her reaction was immediate as she rocked her hips into his and unsuccessfully attempted to pull her wrists from his grasp.

"No fair," she gasped. "You don't get to tease me."

He nipped at her skin lightly. "And why don't I?"

"Because it's my birthday," she panted.

Immediately Madara stilled, his mind temporarily clearing as he registered her words. He pulled back far enough to meet her lust-filled gaze and a new wave of arousal coursed through him at finding her so needy, so wanton after his brief touches. He was never normally one to give in so easily, but he supposed this was a special occasion and he dropped his grasp on her wrists to grip the back of her thighs.

In one easy motion, he hoisted her over his hips, her legs automatically coming to wrap around his narrow waist before he carried her to the back of the house to his bedroom, her clothed center rubbing against his hard manhood. He wanted nothing more than to grind himself against her, but he resisted the temptation as he dropped her on the mattress, not hard enough to hurt her, but with enough force to make her bounce, causing her to laugh airily.

Immediately Madara set to kicking off his shoes as he began pulling at the buttons of his shirt. Sakura tracked his movements, but she didn't sit idly for long and she pushed herself onto her knees before she crawled towards him, coming to a stop at the foot of the bed. She reached for his belt and quickly unfastened the buckle before she opened the button and pushed the material off his hips, leaving him in his briefs. He stepped out of them, but didn't remove his shirt even after he had freed the last button as he waited for Sakura.

He was always in control, he got off on dominating the strong-willed female below him, but he let her touch freely, let her explore the ridges of his abdomen as she peered up at him and wet her lips. His member throbbed painfully.

Cupping her jaw, Madara bent down to kiss her again, his mouth moving more languidly this time as her nails bit crescent-shaped marks into his hips. Her tongue twisted with his as they fought lazily for dominance. He wanted nothing more than to push her back against the bed, rip her clothes off, and sheathe himself inside her, but he refrained. It was her birthday, after all, and he would let her play first – if only for a few minutes.

Sakura pulled away first, her mouth leaving his to leave a trail of wet kisses between his open shirt, and down his chest and stomach until she reached the waistband of his briefs. Without waiting for permission, she jerked the material off and took his length in her hand, causing his breath to hitch as he hissed his pleasure through clenched teeth. She pumped him a few times before she ducked her head, her tongue tracing a path down his shaft once before she parted her lips and took him into her mouth.

An audible groan sounded in his chest as she bobbed her head slowly, taking the time to find her rhythm. His fingers twisted into her hair, but he forced himself not to buck his hips to pick up the pace. This was her playtime.

Still, being passive was difficult for him, even more so since it had been so long since the last time he'd had sexual contact with her, with anyone. He could have relieved his desires with another in the time they had been apart – nearly had one drunken night – but had found himself uninterested unless it was her. He was glad he had resisted, but Madara didn't think he was going to last much longer, especially if she kept doing that with her tongue.

"Sakura," he hissed.

She peered up at him through her lashes and the sight was enough to nearly make him climax right then. With waning self-control, Madara pulled her away from him, causing her to pout, but before she could complain, he sealed his mouth to hers as he pushed her back against the mattress and climbed on top of her. He could still taste himself on her lips, but his focus shifted as his hands found cloth and his aching member brushed against her jeans.

Well, that just wouldn't do.

Pulling away, Madara made quick work of slipping her sweatshirt and tank top off over her head before he turned his attention to yanking her jeans down her legs. He took a moment to admire the perfect curve of her breasts as he slipped his shirt off, but then his fingers were unclasping her bra before he threw it across the room forgotten.

Below him, Sakura laughed, "So impatient."

"Have I not warned you before about getting smart with me?"

She looked ready to retort, but the words died on her lips as Madara stroked her through her panties. A guttural cry escaped between her lips as she bucked her hips into his waiting hand, causing him to chuckle lightly. The material was already soaked through, but he refrained from teasing her further as he slipped them from her legs, leaving her finally bare and exposed to him.

"Oh god," she whimpered as he touched her again.

The desperation in her voice urged him on and he slipped his fingers inside her before he pumped the digits slowly. She arched below him and he groaned softly as he felt her inner walls clench around him; he couldn't wait to be inside her. She was hot and wet and so ready for him.

"Please just fuck me," she begged.

He didn't need any further encouragement. Slipping his fingers out of her, Madara settled himself between her thighs as he bent his head down to crush his lips against hers. She whimpered at the loss, but it was quickly replaced with a muffled moan as he aligned himself with her entrance and filled her with one, slow thrust.

Madara felt his muscles seize. She was unbelievably tight, wrapped around him like a velvety fist but he didn't give her long to adjust before he separated his hips from hers and thrust in again. Below him, Sakura clung to him, her nails leaving marks in his shoulders as he sheathed himself inside her, her core pulsing and contracting around him.

It had been too long since he had been with her and he wanted to enjoy every curve of her body, every sigh off her lips, but he also knew he wouldn't last long. Without breaking his rhythm, Madara snaked a hand between their bodies to where they were joined and rubbed the swollen pearl above her entrance.

Her climax hit her like an explosion and she came with a loud cry of his name as she constricted around him, her body demanding his own release, and he quickly followed as he shuddered and groaned against the side of her neck as he pulsed inside her. He stilled above her, their bodies still locked around one another, frozen in the moment.

Eventually he pushed himself off her and collapsed against the bed, their heavy breaths the only sound within the room. As he regained his breath, he reached out for her, his arms slipping under her head as he rolled on his side to face her. Her eyes were closed, but she was smiling sleepily and he leaned forward to place a soft kiss to her sweaty forehead. She hummed in response before she curled into him, her arm wrapping around his waist, and before he could fall asleep, Madara reached for the sheets and threw them over their slowly cooling bodies.

He was just beginning to relax again when a jolt of panic raced through him and he snapped his eyes open. "We did not use protection."

When Sakura remained silent, he glanced down at the small female in his arms to see she was already asleep and resting peacefully. The urgency in him immediately faded, but he was unable to follow her into slumber just yet as he held her against him and listened to the sound of her heart beating in time with his.

He wasn't entirely sure when it had happened, but somehow Haruno Sakura had melted the ice around his heart and branded her name across it.