breaking the spell

He stepped through the security gate before Itachi and allowed his mother to envelope him in another of her familiar and suffocating hugs.

"Sasuke!" Mikoto Uchiha smoothed her baby boy's unruly raven locks. "You look underfed, sweetheart. Have you been eating right?"

A wave of uncharacteristic panic hit him. Ever since his conversation with Ino the week before the variety show, Sasuke had been obsessing over it. Could he really become the man Haruno Sakura deserved?

Charm, his older brother once told him, was an Uchiha's greatest weapon. For all their intelligence, charisma was the sole reason people bent so easily to their wills.

Sasuke spent years observing the way Itachi charmed people with a few well-placed smiles, the smooth words rolling off his tongue, and the polite attitude he kept with every one.

The only place Sasuke seemed to be able to imitate Itachi's charm perfectly was the darkened night clubs he frequented in Konoha and San Francisco with his friends.

"It's stress from exams," Sasuke reassured his mother. "Don't worry about it."

Mikoto pursed her lips. "If you say so, sweetheart. By the way, your father wants you to meet someone tomorrow night so don't make dinner plans, okay? I know you're excited to see Karin and Suigetsu, but please hold off your plans."

Itachi gave him a look of pity and mouthed "I'm sorry" over their mother's head. Sasuke sighed.

How could he forget? The clock was ticking and his father wanted him married to a decent girl of his approval by the time he graduated.

"Alright, Mom."

you're everything

I ever wanted but

I know you're out of

reach. before we met,

I used to believe

nothing was out of

reach for me.

Sakura was grateful for the oversized sunglasses shielding her sensitive eyes from the California sun. Her mother, Serena Haruno, the CEO of a big distribution company partnered with Apple, Inc., ushered her into the town car before beginning the obligatory onslaught of questions every mother poses to her child after a lengthy separation.

People often compared Sakura to her mother, saying how they looked so much alike. Personally, Sakura thought she looked more like her father, aside from the blond hair and green eyes.

Growing up, Sakura wished she could have spent more time with her mother but she understood from a very early age why her mother spent most of her time in San Francisco where her company was based. Sakura cherished every holiday and break because it meant time spent with her parents like every other normal family.

"Sakura, I know how much you hate guest dinners..."

If there was one thing Sakura loved her mother for more than anything in the world was her mutual dislike for Kenji Haruno's guest dinners. Serena preferred the social aspects and interesting attendees of company and state functions but hated the overly personal dinners her husband graced his most important contacts with.

Sakura groaned. "Who is it and when?"

"Tomorrow evening. Some person named Uchiha and his family."

At the mention of 'Uchiha,' Sakura stiffened.

"Do I have to be there?"

Serena gave her a dark look. "If I have to suffer, so do you. I promise I'll buy you a violin and pay for summer lessons if you sit through this one dinner."

At the mention of the violin, Sakura narrowed her eyes. "You drive a hard bargain, Mom, but I can't stop being suspicious. What is this dinner all about?"

Pausing, Serena debated on telling her the truth but realized it was better to be safe than sorry.

"It's a matchmaking dinner."

Sakura almost screamed.

humble me with

rejection and soothe me

with inspiration. you

deserve nothing less

than the best in the world,

my beautiful siren.

Sasuke stepped out of his father's BMW and surveyed the building before him. The pricy condominium tower in Pacifica Heights told him this girl, whoever she was, met his father's expectations regarding social standing and wealth at least.

This is ridiculous. The Uchiha family was rooted in America now—what was the point of holding onto traditions concerning marriage and inheritance from their native Japan? The idea of "beneficial marriages" was laughable in modern America.

He mentally prepared himself for every situation. If she was a slut, then any thinly disguised indecent proposal she tossed his way might be worth considering for the night. He would excuse himself to the restroom and text Suigetsu and Karin to meet him at whatever club she decided on in case she proved to be too much for him to handle.

A voice, one that sounded eerily like the girl who haunted his thoughts constantly in Japan, sighed in the back of his mind and gently scolded Sasuke for being superficial.

If she was clingy, Sasuke would still take her out to the club and text Suigetsu and Karin but he would lose her in the crowd. Some other unfortunate soul would catch her attention and he'd be forgotten.

Haruno Sakura's voice chastised him for being rude.

If she was a prude, it would be easy to get rid of her. He'd invite her to hang out after dinner and she would turn him down. End of story.

If Sakura was here, she would giggle at him for being hopeful for the last situation.

They rode the elevator to the penthouse. The elevator opened up to a small lobby and his father rang the doorbell.

A woman with long, wavy blond hair and Sakura's green eyes opened the door and welcomed them inside. Sasuke shook his head—how could he miss one girl so much that he's seeing her eyes in complete strangers and hearing her voice in his head?

The owner of the condo heard them in the entry way and greeted them the moment they were shown into the living room. Sasuke knew he had seen him before somewhere, but he couldn't quite place the older man's face.

"Fugaku! So glad you and your family could join us!" The man spoke in a light Japanese-accented English. "This is my wife Serena. My daughter stepped out to grab something for me at the store."

Fugaku rumbled some standard reply before Mikoto elbowed him in the ribs.

"My wife, Mikoto," the Uchiha head put an arm around her. "And my two sons, Itachi and Sasuke."

Their host shook their hands and gave a slight bow. "My name is Kenji. Pleasure to meet both of you."

From the way his gaze lingered on Sasuke, it was obvious this daughter of his was intended for him. When he didn't say anything, Itachi said, "Thank you for inviting us. You have a lovely home."

The front door opened. "Mom! I got the capuccino cups you wanted. They were out of low sugar cranberry juice so I just got the regular stuff."

Sasuke couldn't believe his ears and forced himself to stay together as Sakura Haruno rounded the corner from the entry way to the living room."

The woman hadn't noticed the arrival of their guests, continuing to rattle off her shopping list and handing items to her mother before realizing they weren't alone. Her gaze slipped past Sasuke, not even acknowledging his presence.

"Oh," Sakura rubbed the back of her neck sheepishly. "I didn't realize it was already time for dinner. My apologies for running late."

Delighted by the girl, Mikoto beamed at her. "You're just on time sweetheart! We just arrived and were getting all those introductions out of the way. I'm Mikoto Uchiha and this is my husband Fugaku and my sons Itachi and Sasuke. Pleasure to make your acquaintance."

She gave them her infamous guarded smile. "Sakura. The pleasure is all mine. Can I interest you in a drink while my mother sets the table?"

Sasuke tried to catch her attention, but she continued to ignore him, playing the perfect host to his socialite mother, who wore a pleased smile the entire evening, imagining how perfect this woman was for her youngest son.

this world is yours to

command, the silent

manipulation of my

heart to your

desires. take a bow

with me and smile

for the world. we

remain untouched

as the universe bows

at our feet.

The food was delicious, Serena Haruno's French roots shining through each dish. As the dessert and coffee were served, conversation turned towards the children.

"So, Itachi just graduated from Tokyo University." Serena stirred her coffee. "Where do you go to school, Sasuke?"

Sakura was looking down at her plate, engrossed slicing her cake into perfectly sized squares.

"I go to Konoha State University."

Kenji looked surprised and gave his daughter a pointed glance she ignored. Serena, on the other hand, didn't appear too perturbed by the revelation.

"What are you studying, Sasuke? Konoha is a good school but it's a little rural."

He wished Sakura would just look at him already.

"Mechanical engineering."

"Ah." The woman took a sip of her coffee. "That explains why you would choose KSU over Tokyo or some other city university. They're the best as far as engineering goes."

Sensing her son's discomfort, Mikoto asked the same question of Sakura. She swallowed her cake before silkily replying, "Chemical engineering at KSU."

"You're classmates?" Itachi said. "What a coincidence."

Sakura stabbed another perfect square of cake. "Don't you know, Itachi-san?" The woman said in Japanese. "There is no such thing as coincidence—only hitsuzen."

A chill ran up Sasuke's spine as her eyes met his for the first time that night.

"Hitsuzen, huh?"


Just as he thought, his mother not-so-slyly suggested that Sasuke take Sakura out to tour San Francisco at night since she never really explored the city before.

He expected Sakura to fit into his prude model but she surprised him by accepting his invitation.

Walking around Fishermen's Wharf boardwalk, Sakura said very little to him, passively taking in the scenery.

Sasuke tried not to look at her, still waging a war in his mind about serious relationships versus freedom.

He didn't know why it was so difficult to choose. With a serious girlfriend, all he'd have to do is pop the question and his inheritance was guaranteed. But Sasuke hated the restrictions and obligations that came with having a serious girlfriend—he was his own person thankyouverymuch and in no need of coddling.

Moreover, the one girl he constantly envisioned having a future with played hard-to-get as easy as breathing.

"Sakura, stop."

She halted in her tracks, green eyes luminous under the lamps.

"I really like you," Sasuke confessed.

The woman shrugged. "That's nice. I like you too."

Easy as breathing.

"I'm falling in love with you."

Her green eyes widened and she breathed out his name.

"Go out with me?"

Sakura opened her mouth to say something but she shut it and narrowed her eyes. "Does this have anything to do with your inheritance?"

He winced. That was a frequent topic of their text conversations—his impeding marriage to a convenient slut to further the family company.


"I see."

She continued to walk but he stopped her.

"Sakura Haruno, will you be my girlfriend?" Sasuke asked again, trying a different angle.

Smirking, she twisted her wrist out of his hold. "No."

He didn't know why, since the past year had been filled with nothing but her rejection of his flirtatious attention, but this time it hurt.

"Why not?"

She drew in a sharp breath. "Ino warned me about you," Sakura finally responded. "You have a reputation—the infamous American player of KSU. You break more hearts than you realize with your careless attention."

Suddenly, the last three years seemed like a giant mistake instead of the thrill ride he initially viewed it as.

"I mean, look at you." Sakura gestured from head to toe. "You're gorgeous, charismatic, and intelligent. Women can't help but be drawn to you."

"Even you?"

She gave him a sardonic smile. "Especially me. You're the kind of boy who ignores good girls like me. You're entirely too much for me and you will break my heart at the end of it all."

The absolute conviction in her voice forced Sasuke to view things through her eye.

"Who says I'll break your heart?" He whispered. "Who says this has to end?"

"We wouldn't last," she responded with an overwhelming amount of confidence. "I can't give you the things you're used to receiving from girls. I won't give into you."

"It's not all about sex."

"But you didn't deny that it would be."

"Sakura," he said with exasperation. "What are you really trying to say?"

She pursed her lips. "We're not right for each other."

"You decided that. I think we're perfect for each other."

"You only say that because you want your inheritance."

Their argument was going nowhere. Sasuke stepped forward and grabbed her by the shoulders, stealing a kiss.


The Latin word whispered on her lips made Sakura pause. She took a step back, confused, desperate for some breathing room from the man who literally stole her breath away a moment before.

She knew exactly what Sasuke was trying to say. Dare to begin something new. Dare to attempt the impossible, the improbable, the unthinkable. Dare to change—hopefully for the better.

Dare to dream of a future with Uchiha Sasuke.


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