“So, you think Sunwoo-ssi…”
Jin-hyuk, who was driving, looked at him through the rearview mirror. It was a bold assumption that Sang-cheol would be involved in her affairs in some way.
“It must be Lee Sunwoo.”
“Do you think Sunwoo-ssi is Sang-cheol’s illegitimate child?”
However, it was not uncommon for people in political and business circles to have lovers or one or two illegitimate children. Even in his house, there was Hee-won.
“Isn’t that too much? An illegitimate child could be a blemish on one’s career, but is it enough to lock up a daughter on an island?”
“I don’t know. I couldn’t even imagine locking someone up on an island in the first place.”
On the surface, she was the daughter of Kang Bok-ryeong, but since she was not sent to school and was often locked up in a shaman’s house, there was a lot of evidence of abuse accumulated over time.
Anyway, she was a stroke of luck that brought him joy in many ways from the start. Now, it was not just an issue of owning an island, but he could potentially shake Sang-cheol’s entire world.
This was not just a simple weapon. It was a nuclear bomb. Just looking at the facts, it was something to celebrate, but it left a bad taste in his mouth.
The problem was with him.
“Ah, d*mn it.”
He irritably ran his fingers through his hair.
His father was already grinding his teeth at the mere mention of Sang-cheol. The day he found out about this, he might even cut off one of Sunwoo’s fingers and send it to Sang-cheol. Now, his father could be more dangerous to her than Sang-cheol.
“Boss, you should tell Sunwoo-ssi about this.”
“Why should I?”
“It’s about her.”
“She’s better off not knowing.”
“Secretary Seo, you keep quiet too. If Sunwoo-ssi were to go looking for Sang-cheol, it would be a disaster. Besides, nothing is certain yet.”
He didn’t feel guilty at all. He didn’t even know if he had a conscience in the first place.
“It seems too cruel to Sunwoo-ssi.”
“I don’t see how it’s cruel. I took her out of the island, bought her an apartment in the middle of Seoul, provided living expenses and a helper. Plus psychological counseling. I’ve only invested, I haven’t made any profit yet.”
“The light is green. Keep your eyes on the road and drive.”
Taeju mumbled, leaning his head back against the headrest. It was becoming a headache.
“You know that Sunwoo-ssi relies on you a lot, don’t you?”
He didn’t respond.
It was an obvious statement. He had left her alone, and sure enough, the woman with nowhere else to lean on was relying on him very quickly.
If he wanted to use her and get as much out of her as possible, it was best not to lay a finger on her. It’s only natural that there would be nothing good about getting emotionally or physically involved.
So, the problem was the increasingly vicious urges after meeting her.
There were still too many unopened boxes in the apartment.
Thanks to Jin-hyuk’s insistence on splurging when he had the all-purpose card, the apartment was filled with the latest appliances and furniture, making it difficult to walk around without bumping into something.
It was a relief that he had given up on the three-seater water buffalo leather sofa that Jin-hyuk had coveted because there was no place to put it. After opening and organizing a few boxes, she decided to give up for a while when kitchen utensils she didn’t know where to use popped out.
Sunwoo took out a box from the gap and sat on the bed. It was a set of colored pencils she had bought at a corner selling imported cosmetics when she was tired of shopping at a department store.
When she opened the red can lid, a faint smell of burnt sawdust wafted out. She took out a sketchbook, drew a shape with a pencil, and then drew a base picture in yellow.
The colored pencils she used to use broke and powdered, but the smoothly continuing line was stunningly clear. The art store employee explained that the colored pencils were mixed with oil.
At the sudden sound of a bell, Sunwoo abruptly looked up and approached the entrance.
“Who is it?”
As soon as she heard his voice, her heart fluttered faintly. When she opened the entrance, he had come just in front of it.
When she approached him, he pressed a button on the square box on the wall. The screen showed the corridor outside the entrance.
“You can check who’s outside by pressing this button, so don’t open the door to strangers. This is the record button.”
He explained this casually, as if swatting a fly, after coming over for the first time in a week.
“I thought you had left me to the nanny and forgotten about me.”
Three times a week, a part-time college student came to teach her everything she needed to adapt to society.
She unknowingly spoke in a brusque manner, and her neck flushed. He chuckled as if he could see right through her.
“Why would I do that? Have you eaten?”
“Yes, I have.”
He slightly lifted her chin with his fingers. She tilted her head back to look up at him.
“You’re lying, aren’t you? You haven’t eaten.”
In truth, she hadn’t realized how much time had passed. It was broad daylight when she took out the colored pencils, but the view outside the window had turned pitch black.
“Let’s go out. It’s quite chilly outside so put on a cardigan.”
He was still standing by the entrance, waiting for her to come out.
“I don’t really have an appetite.”
She grumbled, not knowing where he was planning to go at this hour, but she took out a cardigan and followed Taeju.
She didn’t know there was a place like this nearby, but there was a restaurant right across the street. It seemed quite famous. Despite mealtime being over, there were many cars in the parking lot.
As they entered, a waiter came out and guided them to a table.
She took the menu offered by the waiter but closed it immediately, taken aback by the English descriptions. There seemed to be Korean translations, but the explanations were verbose and incomprehensible.
“I’ll have the steak rare, and medium well for her. We’ll go with your wine recommendation.”
“Are you ordering wine?”
That delicious drink from before? She asked, her eyes sparkling.
“You’re going to become a drinker at this rate. Just have one glass.”
A moment later, the steak arrived with the wine, and he took her plate, cut a piece into bite-sized portions, and returned it. Sunwoo took a sip of the wine first. It was sweet and fragrant. Wine was one of the best things about being outside the island.
“Eat all of that too.”
“There’s too much.”
The unfamiliar meat was burdensome even after just one or two bites.
“You’re not in good shape, aren’t you?”
That was true, but it wasn’t because she was lazy or disliked exercise. It was because she had been in a place where she couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. He knew that very well yet still made such comments.
“Still, I’m good at climbing mountains. When I ran away in Umyeon Island, no one could catch me. There was even a time when I hid for three days.”
He responded with a languid laugh. His gentle smile seemed innocent, but the atmosphere radiating from him made her tense.
She wasn’t sure if he was mocking her. She blinked and began to cut the steak into small pieces with her fork. Even with her head bowed, she could feel him watching her.
Despite the number of people around, she felt as if she was trapped in an enclosed space, and the thought of him suddenly standing up and approaching her sent chills down her spine.
“Stop staring at me.”
“We’re sitting here eating, and you’re telling me not to look?”
Being with Dan Taeju was uncomfortable. Yet, she found herself thinking about him throughout the week he was absent. She thought it was dangerously unsettling. She could feel the steak she swallowed forcefully traveling down her esophagus. She pounded her chest, which felt tight.
“You’re going to choke. Chew your food well.”
He poured more wine into her glass.
After finishing the meal and leaving the restaurant, they walked back the way they had come towards the house rental.
“Where did you park the car?”
The signal started flashing when they were almost across the crosswalk. A man running from the other side brushed past her. He pulled her shoulder tightly towards him.
“The car is safely in the garage at home.”
“It’s a 10-minute walk. Didn’t Secretary Seo tell you?”
The fact that he kept his arm around her shoulder was becoming frighteningly conscious. He had warned her that once he entered her apartment, things wouldn’t end until she put a stop to them.
Thump, thump, thump. Her heart started pounding heavily. Sunwoo walked stiffly, like a robot. They took the elevator together and arrived at the front door, all while she was still undecided about how to react if he tried to enter her home.
She turned towards him just before entering her password.
“Why did you come here today?”
“To feed our Sunwoo-ssi.”
“Food… is that all?”
“Why? Should there be another reason?”
As soon as she spat out the words, she felt a rush of heat from her face to her neck. She shouldn’t have said that. It was as if she had spoken out loud about what she had been thinking.
“Why is your face so red? What were you imagining?”
“I wasn’t thinking about anything. I was just asking.”
Her hand kept slipping as she typed in the password. She entered the wrong one twice before finally getting inside. As she hurriedly closed the door, she caught a brief glimpse of him standing outside.
She closed the front door with an unnaturally strong force.
As her pounding heart started to calm down a bit, Sunwoo approached the window and looked down. Down there, a tiny Dan Taeju was crossing the crosswalk again and walking away. She put her fist on her chest, which was starting to flutter again as if she had motion sickness, and pressed down hard.
It felt as if a storm had just swept through.