Her room was just like her, he thought looking at the ceiling. The walls were painted in a soft cream color and several pictures were hanging, pictures he knew she had personally taken, like those of New Caledonia. The furniture was light brown, the little lamp on her bedside table was radiating a soft golden light and although some of her clothes were scattered around on the chairs, the room was tidy and neat.
Her bed wasn’t large enough for both of them, but she was in his arms and the feeling was just perfect.
She was resting her head against his shoulder, her hand tracing invisible signs on his shirt, while Yi Jeong was just holding her against him, lightly stroking her arms, up and down.
The regular sound of the rain outside was almost a lullaby but he silently enjoyed the thunders because Ga Eul would shiver every time, looking at him for comfort.
“Are you disappointed?” He asked, slightly bending his head to look at her.
She shook her head, and raised her gaze. Even in the semi darkness her eyes were shining like stars and Yi Jeong wondered how had he managed to resist for so long before capitulate.
“Maybe it’s better this way. Things were going too fast, weren’t they?”
The look on his face perfectly expressed how he was feeling and she chuckled, while her fingers slowly ascended from his chest to his neck, light as a feather. He closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling and a strange sound escaped his throat, making Ga Eul look at him with amusement.
“Sunbae, are you purring?”
“I’m not!” He protested, outraged. “I’m not a cat!”
“You sure seemed one just before.”
He snorted, but couldn’t resist kissing her forehead, making her settle on his shoulder again. “Let me preserve some dignity, woman.”
Ga Eul chuckled again and she resumed her teasing on his chest. “You just have to pray that Woo Bin sunbae never finds out that you…”
She felt the blood rushing to her cheeks and it was Yi Jeong turn to chuckle. “You can’t even say that. Where did all your boldness go, my little country bumpkin?”
“Hey, it’s the first time I ever did something like this! I’m entitled to some awkwardness.”
He kissed her again, holding her tighter in his arms. He never felt so in peace in his entire life.
“I really hope it was the first time. And it’s not that I forgot to bring them… they are in the car.”
“Oh? I thought most guys kept them in their wallets.”
“I never did. I may be a Casanova, but I have manners. And besides you never have to keep them near your body. The heat damages them.”
“Thank you.” She raised her hand, miming a stop. Her cheeks were on flame. “But I don’t need such information.”
He just chuckled again.
“Sunbae, what do we do now?” She asked after some minutes. She didn’t want to but hiding was useless, especially now.
“I thought we were past the “sunbae” stage.” He was looking at the ceiling again, and although his hands were still stroking her, Ga Eul could feel he was tense now.
“I suppose it’s just a habit… you’ve always been Yi Jeong sunbae for me. Should I call you oppa then?” She teased him and she was rewarded with a small smile, while he returned his gaze on her.
“My name is all right thank you. But I guess you will always be Ga Eul yang for me too… it’s just the way I think of you.”
His hand went to her chin, raising her face towards his own, as Yi Jeong bent down to kiss her. Just a light touch at first, it quickly deepened into a searing kiss that lead him to roll on the bed, just above her. Her question had awakened his fears again and he needed to feel her, to make sure this wasn’t just a dream.
She was still clothed because after discovering they could not do anything, she had worn her night gown, too shy to stay in just her underwear and he had had no choice but to put one of her father’s singlet on.
Not that it did really matter, he found himself thinking. He was happy just holding her, she could have worn a wetsuit for all he cared.
Or maybe not, he considered, feeling her skin under his fingers again. No, definitely not.
She moaned when he lowered to kiss her neck again and gasped as his hands hungrily grasped the end of her night gown to pull it up.
“Sunbae…” she tried but closed her eyes as his lips reached her collarbone. “Sunbae please…”
“You know, it’s not raining so heavily now.” He huskily said “I could go to the car and…”
“You’re still locked in, remember?” She couldn’t help moaning again, as his hand brushed her thigh, but she knew she had to stop him. They had to talk, right? She couldn’t give in now…
“You just have to tell me where the key is. I’ll do the rest.”
With much regret, she cupped his face, forcing him to look at her. The firm glance in her eyes told him he had not a chance in winning that particular battle and he sighed, leaning his forehead to hers.
“You’re a cruel woman, Ga Eul yang.”
He rolled off her and settled the pillow against the wall to stay seated, pulling her in his embrace again.
“Is it really true?” She asked, uncertain. “What you told me in the kitchen. Your feelings.”
He sighed, holding her tighter and he rested his head against hers.
“You must be a witch, you know? I don’t know what kind of spell you put on me, but I can’t seem to be able to break it, no matter how hard I try.”
She didn’t say anything, knowing he needed some time to collect his ideas and after a while Yi Jeong started again.
“I wanted to hurt you. I really did. You were like a white angel to me, pure and innocent and I couldn’t stand it. I felt dirty when you were with me, and so angry I wanted to break everything in sight. I think I hated you with all my heart, because you were forcing me to face my failures. And when you showed up at my door asking me for a date, I thought that was the perfect chance to break you.”
Ga Eul stiffened in his arms, but as one of his hands started a light caress on her hair she slowly relaxed. That was the past she thought. Now it was the present and he was with her.
“I wanted to rip your wings off. I wanted to see you surrender to me, to admit I was a lost cause and forget about me. And at the same time I wanted to humiliate you, to possess every single part of you, to keep you with me, trapped at my side forever. I wanted to completely break you and mark you as mine. What a paradox.”
“Do you still want that?” She asked in a whisper.
“I don’t know.” His answer was hesitant, but his arms stiffened around her, like he was trying to prevent her from moving away. “This feelings… I don’t know how to face them. I never felt like this. Like I told you, I can’t stay with you, but I can’t stay without you either. Sometimes I think I want you because I know I can’t have you. I know you are forever out of my reach, forever denied to one of my kind. Your heart, your smile, your soul, your future, are all forbidden to me.”
“That’s strange, because I used to think you were the one out of my league.” Ga Eul slightly shook her head, feeling her heart breaking piece by piece. She knew where this was leading and she didn’t want all to end like that. “But look where we are now. And you didn’t force me this time. I’m the one who locked you in, I’m the one who kissed you. I’m not out of your reach, I never was.”
“And what will happen when my fiancee will come into the picture?” The blunt question that was in both of their minds since the beginning finally came out.
“I don’t know.” She answered, her voice slightly shaking. “But I’m not ready to just give up without a fight, not now that I know you feel for me as I feel for you.”
“This is our difference, I guess. This is why I can’t afford to fall for you. If I do, I’ll be doomed for the rest of my life.”
He found the strength to look down at her, and saw her eyes gleaming with tears. A lump came to his throat but he knew he had to continue.
“I made a promise to myself when my brother left: never grow attached to anybody again. I know it won’t last. It can’t last, not in my world.”
She disentangled from his embrace and sat in front of him, wiping the tears away. “You can’t run all your life, sunbae. I won’t allow you to become what your father is now.”
She had that steel look in her eyes again, but it just made him feel more frustrated.
“Do you think I want to? Do you think I could ever wish for such a life? I despise him for what he’s become!”
“Then just don’t. Allow me to help you. Allow me by your side, to fight together day by day.”
“The end will come sooner than you expect. And we will both be destroyed in the process.” He averted his gaze, fighting the tears away.
“You can’t know that, nobody can. And I won’t lose you on the base of what could happen in the future, when we have a present to live.”
A thick moment of silence followed her words, while the rain was still pouring outside. Please trust me, she was chanting in her mind, please believe in us, don’t give in now.
“I guess you’re a strong believer of that saying that goes like: it’s better to love and lose, then to have never loved.” He finally sighed, slipping again in the bed. “I should just find that key and go away now. This will prove to be a big mistake, Ga Eul yang.”
She suppressed a huge sigh of relief and stopped to look at him, tracing his every feature with her eyes.
Then Ga Eul slipped back in the bed beside him, forcing his head on her shoulder and embracing him tightly. She couldn’t believe in her own boldness, but she knew being shy as she always had been wouldn’t work with Yi Jeong. She had to be strong for him and she intended to.
“That key is well hidden and I won’t return it to you.” She told him, her voice sweet and tender. “I won’t return you either, So Yi Jeong. You lost the chance to say you don’t love me back then, and I offer no second chances.”
She kissed his forehead and lightly brushed his hair, while he reluctantly encircled her with his arm, relaxing in her embrace.
“Chu Ga Eul, you really are a witch.” He murmured, closing his eyes.
“Just trust me then. Trust my powers.” She replied, tightening her grasp on him.
And as Yi Jeong was drifting into sleep, he thought that he had never felt more safe and at peace than now, in that small bed and in the arms of his country bumpkin.
A small tear escaped his eyes and he knew he had lost that ferocious war. Now that he was with her, he didn’t want to let her go. He couldn’t.
His worst fears had finally become reality… he had fallen in love again.