She stammered. Taegyeom pressed his lips to Leeseo’s, his light breath scattering in her ear.
He continued to bite and nibble at her earlobe, then showered her with kisses. He kissed her earlobe, her temple, her cheekbone, and then the nape of her neck. Her shoulders twitched with tickling.
Continuing the affectionate shallow penetration, a cold sensation touched her collarbone. His fingertips were like tickling and scratching the nape of her neck.
Having finally put the necklace around her, Taegyeom quietly kissed her neck. Leeseo raised her hand to gently touch the pendant of the necklace he gave her.
He hugged her from behind, crushing her. She closed her eyes again, listening to the irregular pounding of his heart.
The unidentifiable beat lulled her to sleep like a lullaby.
The weather was stifling, and Jinwoo scrunched up his nose at the unpleasant sensation of sweat beading on his back. The towering buildings reflected the hot summer sunlight like a mirror.
He fanned himself with a hand fan, then raised his sunglasses perched on his nose with his middle finger. His secretary, Han Miso, thought he looked unusually mean when he covered his eyes with sunglasses, but Jinwoo himself didn’t mind at all.
There’s not much you can do if someone who looks deceitful actually looks deceitful.
After a quick glance at his wristwatch, he opened the visible cafe door and walked in. Since Taegyeom would appear like a ghost precisely on time, there was no need for Jinwoo to stand sweating under the hot sun.
Enjoying the cool air from the air conditioner, Jinwoo walked to the counter and ordered two iced Americanos. Soon, the coffee arrived, and as he sucked the first sip through a straw, the l*quid in the transparent cup quickly diminished by half.
Drinking the cool l*quid in one gulp, Jinwoo breathed a satisfied sigh. The mediocre scent of coffee in his mouth was unsatisfactory, but the brand’s consistency in flavor, whether in the U.S. or Seoul, was the charm of this coffee brand.
With the straw between his lips, Jinwoo noticed a sedan gliding silently on the road through the glass and quickly went outside. The shiny black sedan, glistening like pebbles, came to a silent stop in front of Jinwoo.
“Ugh, it’s hot. How about going to eat some cold noodles?”
Climbing into the car, Jinwoo stuck the coffee he’d brought for Taegyeom into the cup holder and adjusted the air conditioner to blow directly at him. Taegyeom started the car without any particular response.
Jinwoo, sipping the remaining coffee, glanced briefly at Kwon Taegyeom, who turned the steering wheel without a word of greeting. His sharp, straight eyes might look sensitive at first glance, but in reality, it’s a look that doesn’t matter if he’s asking for cold noodles or soup.
With a dry, unenthusiastic laugh, Jinwoo entered the name of a cold noodle restaurant into the navigation and pressed the search button. He’s been visiting famous cold noodle restaurants in Seoul lately like he’s collecting stamps, and his secretary, Han Miso, who tries to control his diet, has disparaged Jinwoo’s taste for homemade cold noodles as childish.
But his tastes have grown up and matured, and today he’s going to Pyongyang Naengmyeon restaurant that Han Miso liked. Jinwoo tapped the name of the restaurant in the search list of the navigation system and set it as a destination as he casually said:
“I thought you were going to Singapore next week?”
Taegyeom replied briefly, nonchalantly checking the navigation with the new destination.
He had back-to-back business trips scheduled for next week, to Busan for an economic forum and to Singapore for the launch of a new sales subsidiary, the latter of which was scheduled to showcase a lineup of new products to local trading partners, an event that would attract a lot of attention from local and foreign media.
“How did you put up with not being able to use your handsome son, you old man?”
Jinwoo crossed his arms and sarcastically twisted the corner of his mouth. He could sense Chairman Kwon’s dark intentions: to make Taegyeom look good in front of the media somehow, to raise the market value for the GK Group family. Taegyeom, who couldn’t possibly be unaware of such a heinous scheme, didn’t react, just focused on driving.
Since Taegyeom’s last public appearance at an international conference in the United States, the local media has been full of favorable articles about him. It’s no secret that Kwon Kyungrok, who is obsessed with image management, had something to do with it.
Although forcing popularity could lead to negative public opinion, media outlets were busy showcasing the newly emerging young blood in the business world. In the media ecosystem, it was common to welcome the fall of a bird that had risen higher. In that sense, Taegyeom is a tasty b*by bird that has just come out of the egg.
Forming an organic and cooperative relationship with each of Korea’s media outlets, with their various interests, was the most important thing to do at this point. Taegyeom’s task of smoothly presenting his well-groomed face to various media was essential.
Jinwoo mentally organized his schedule with some of the media representatives he was scheduled to meet with over the next week. Suddenly, something occurred to him, and he straightened up from his slouching posture.
“Oh, I caught Mr. Hwang this time.”
“Great,” came the unenthusiastic response. Although Jinwoo didn’t expect a tremendous reaction, the indifferent answer was somewhat disappointing.
When Jinwoo obtained the photo of Hwang Incheol and Shin Joo-ah exiting the hotel room a few hours later, he was so happy that he threw an uppercut in the air and jumped around the room with no dignity. His reaction contrasted significantly with his demeanor. One could only imagine the numerous failures and frustrations he experienced in obtaining that photo.
Following the navigation’s guidance and entering the first lane, Jinwoo glanced at Taegyeom through the side mirror. Leaning back deeply in his seat, he muttered.
“But Hyun Gyucheol side doesn’t seem to have any progress. He rarely opens up. Am I such an unapproachable type?”
Taegyeom turned and scanned Jinwoo’s tanned face, then shifted his gaze forward again and replied dryly.
“You don’t look very trustworthy.”
Lips purseud, Jinwoo reached out and turned the air conditioner down to low. His sweat dried and he quickly cooled. It was better to be careful, because if he tried to match Taegyeom’s temperature, he’d catch a summer cold that even dogs couldn’t catch.
Jinwoo crossed his arms and habitually rubbed his firmly muscled triceps.
“Chairman Kwon seems genuinely fearsome. I already have some promises with him, and I’m afraid of his retaliation if I betray him. So, my words are just seen as the bluffing of an amateur con artist, at least in his eyes.”
He pulled down the passenger-side sun visor and looked at himself in the mirror, struggling to find anything that resembled a con artist in his ruddy face. Miso said it was the overly squinty eyes, but to him, he looked suitably tough and serious.
“I’ve worked under Chairman Kwon for quite a while, so I know better than anyone how far the power of authority can reach and how easily it can make a commoner like myself miserable.”
“So, Chairman Kwon must have taken notice of you. He probably judged that you’re worth using, willing to endure a certain level of risk.”
“At this point, it might be good to consider other options. That person, even if he doesn’t interact with his daughter, seem to value each of them terribly. It’s better to try anything we can.”
Jinwoo returned the sun visor to its place, subtly gauging Taegyeom’s reaction. His handsome, expressionless face remained unmoved as he stared straight ahead.
A moment of silence settled in the car. Taegyeom’s car came to a slow stop at the intersection upon a red signal.
Taegyeom reached inside his suit top for a cigarette. He fumbled with it over his tightly pulled shirt, then frowned slightly and nodded toward the glove compartment.
“Get me a cigarette from there.”
“Cigarette? What’s up? You’re the type who never smokes inside a car, trying to maintain a neat image.”
Jinwoo squinted, looking observantly toward the driver’s side. At the same time, he reached into his br*ast pocket and pulled out a silver cigarette case.
Even under the sharp gaze as he attempted to read him, Taegyeom remained indifferent, casually tapping his fingers on the steering wheel and nonchalantly saying.
This guy is a master at facial expressions.
“’Not really’. Do you think I don’t know you?”
Jinwoo, with a wry smile, raised the corner of his mouth, diverted his gaze, and popped open the cigarette case.
Ah… this is awkward.
In the midst of their banter, Taegyeom’s hand reached over, swiftly grabbing the last cigarette as if fishing it out. Placing the cigarette between his thick, pretty colored lips, Taegyeom tilted his head and lit the cigarette.
Rolling down the driver’s window, Jinwoo watched him take a deep drag.
The smell of resentment and frustration, which cannot be concealed from a person leading a life supported by hatred, lingered in the air. No matter how beautifully and enchantingly they built up the outer shell.
The day Jinwoo first met Kwon Taegyeom was a memory he couldn’t erase from his life.