It was a week already. Ga Eul couldn’t believe it. For the first time in six years, each day wasn’t an endless repetition and she found herself actually smiling from time to time. That was dangerous, nobody had to see any changes. Nobody had to suspect. The most painful thing was lying to her sister, but Ga Eul knew she had no choice: she couldn’t risk something to leak out, she couldn’t risk anybody listening to her when she talked to her sister by phone. Most of all, she didn’t want to raise Kyoung Mi’s hope, when it still wasn’t sure they could be saved. Her sister already suffered enough because of her.
And still her nights with Yi Jeong really filled her with an emotion forgotten so long ago she felt it was forever disappeared from her heart. Each night they would talk for hours, or she would sleep in his arms, feeling safe and protected. It was like they had gone back to their summer memories when they would spend entire days just quietly talking and holding hands without so much as a kiss between them. The difference was that now Yi Jeong kept repeating her over and over how much he loved her. He was never tired to say it. It was like a lullaby, something so warm and sweet she was feeling wrapped up by his words like warm blankets on her skin. Each hour, each minute, Ga Eul just wanted to be hold by him and although she was grateful he never tried to get anything physical from her, apart from sweet kisses on her forehead, she had to fight the need to kiss him herself and tell him she never stopped loving him too. But she couldn’t. Six years had changed her. If she was a commoner before, someone who would have never been allowed to be publicly linked with him, now she was a prostitute. She was cast out of society, a shame for anybody associated with her. She couldn’t bring Yi Jeong in the mud she lived in. She was dirty, foul, there was no way she could revert back to her innocent self. It was too late.
She was trying not to think about it though. She had to concentrate on living her life like everyday without letting anybody understand something was changing. Her life, Kyoung Mi’s life and not only theirs, depended on how good an actress she was.
Ga Eul was preparing to go out that morning, longing for the sun outside. During the day she was allowed to go strolling, given that her bodyguards always escorted her. She couldn’t go into any shop, she couldn’t speak to anybody or make any phone calls, but she could walk and the simple fresh air of the park was enough for her. She just wanted to leave Seventh Heaven for a bit and she had to keep doing it every morning like she always did. She couldn’t change her habits or Su Pyo would have suspected something was weird.
She was completely lost in her thought when the door opened without so much as a knock and one of her bodyguards came in.
It was strange, but she never knew what those two men’s names were. She never asked and they never told her. To them she was just the Butterfly Queen, the girl they had to protect and guard to avoid any stupid gesture. To her, they were her jailors, nameless men for whom she wasn’t even a human being but just a duty. They never showed any kind of pity towards her and she often wondered if they had a wife somewhere or even a daughter. Probably not, for what she could see they weren’t able to grow attached to
anything, except for money.
“The boss wants to see you. Come.”
Ga Eul paled but she didn’t answer, just walking out her room and thinking as quickly as she could.
Was it about Kyoung Mi? Could it be possible something happened to her sister? She was fine when they talked on the phone the day before. And Yi Jeong? What if he found out about him? Was he in danger because of her?
She tried to keep her coolness when she entered Su Pyo’s studio and she just stayed in the middle of the room, until her owner raised his gaze from his table, smiling to her.
“Sit down Ga Eul.” He told her, with his honeyed voice. He didn’t seem angry, but that wasn’t unusual. Even when he was furious, Su Pyo always had that smile on his face. And to think there was a time she thought this man was good looking. Now it was only a devil masked in human form to her.
Su Pyo stared at her for some moments, then intertwined his fingers on the table, his expression slightly curious. “I summoned you to ask you some questions sweetheart. I hope you’ll be able to give me the answers I’m seeking.”
If he knew Yi Jeong was planning to free her from Seventh Heaven, she was dead or worse and her sister as well. And yet, what could she do? Yi Jeong was buying her night after night and he had every intention of keeping on until he figured out what to do. She was stuck and forced to walk on a line so thin it could have broken anytime. Struggling to keep her voice neutral and not let anything show through her face, she looked back at him. “What is it?”
“Your customer. The one who keeps buying you night after night since a week now.”
She fidgeted on the chair, mentally apologizing to Kyoung Mi and thinking about anything she could say to lessen the already done damage.
“He doesn’t even try to conceal the fact it’s always the same person buying you and I’m actually curious. Who is he, Ga Eul? You sure know his name, by now.”
And Ga Eul’s heart stopped trying to break free of her chest. Su Pyo didn’t know anything. He didn’t know about her past relationship with Yi Jeong and he didn’t know about his plans either. She feigned indifference and answered, her voice as flat as possible. “I guess he’s buying me in anonimity just for the sake of his family name, but he never tried to conceal who he is. I thought you already knew or I would have told you myself. My customer is F4’s So Yi Jeong.”
Su Pyo leaned back against his chair, his eyes narrowing. “No less. Your knight in shining armor, together with Song Woo Bin.”
Looking as natural as possible, she bitterly smiled. “It’s not like that. He may have rescued me out of kindness that night, but that changed when he lifted my mask. He was pissed off when the boys came to bring me back because he wanted to take me home with him. He’s not used to anybody opposing him.”
“So, that’s why he bought you?”
Ga Eul nodded, biting her lower lip. “He wanted to satisfy his curiosity. I guess he’s not sated yet.”
“Make sure he’s not for a while longer then.” Su Pyo grinned. “He’s buying you for a very high price, it’s good for business. Keep his curiosity up. Does he ever talk to you?”
“He’s usually all over me as soon as I enter the bedroom. The only time he talks to me is when we’re having sex. And he’s pretty cruel.”
Su Pyo smiled, looking at her ironically. “Oh? What does he says to our little Butterfly Queen?”
Ga Eul blushed and averted her gaze, clenching her fists on her skirt. “He reminds me what I am. Over and over. The first time he bought me, he told me to remember he’s just another customer and not some sort of Richard Gere, ready to save me. When he’s tired of me, he’ll just stop buying me and I’ll never see him again.”
“Seems like he knows what he wants.” Su Pyo arched an eyebrow, slightly amused. “Keep him entertained sweetheart. He’s a gold mine. Make sure you dig as much as you can.”
Her lips pressed into a white line, Ga Eul nodded and when he finally dismissed her, she walked out forcing herself not to let out a single sound.
It had worked. She repeated what Yi Jeong instructed her to tell Su Pyo if he ever asked about him, and Su Pyo believed her.
She was safe. For a while longer.
“My father agreed to help.” Woo Bin announced at the lounge with a big smile. Jae Kyung clapped her hands and jumped up her chair along with Jan Di, and Yi Jeong closed his eyes, thanking heavens. “You’re lucky that he loves you like a son, bro. After a week of persistence, he finally gave in when I mentioned him your story.”
“Remember me to pay him a visit. I will thank him properly.” Yi Jeong gratefully replied. “Yesterday Gong Su Pyo finally asked Ga Eul yang about me and it went smoothly. I have his ‘blessing’ to keep buying her as long as I pay her so good.”
“Good.” Woo Bin sat down grinning. “Now that we have my father on our side, it will be easier to take Miss Chu away. Just leave us some days to work out the details and I’ll tell you about the plan.”
“Do you already have some ideas?” Jae Kyung asked.
Yes he did, but truth to be told, he wasn’t willing to share them. He was sure his friends would have never approved of him and he didn’t want to scare them, it was a side of him they never knew. Woo Bin had decided a long time ago, when he had really started to deal with the family business that he would have never involved his friends, much less told them about what he was doing. He wasn’t proud of being the son of the Korean Mafia King but as the years had gone by, he had learnt to deal with that, with the perpetual shame he was feeling. There was no way of getting out of it, there was no escape when you were involved with mafia affairs. Save for death.
And yet, little by little he had started to feel it. His people, his town. His kingdom. The respect and fear that came with that. The sense of ownership of Seoul and Korea too.
He wasn’t helping Yi Jeong just because he was like a brother to him, he also wanted to deal a hard blow to the Gong family. They had defied him. They had dared to come to his town with their filthy business. They had to learn they couldn’t mess with him and his father and expect to come out clean and unharmed. And after what he heard about the Chu sisters, he felt like he had a personal interest in making sure Gong Su Pyo could never hurt any innocent girl again.
“All in due time.” He finally answered, with a wolvish grin. “Your monkeyish curiosity will have to wait.”
Jae Kyung pouted and that was when Woo Bin made his first mistake that day. He stared at her. She was beautiful, there was no denying that. Her bright eyes were the vessel of her spirited mind, those full lips were a continous temptation, that short hair always called his hands, to bury themselves in it.
Unfortunately for him, Jae Kyung noticed that stare and her pout slowly faded into a very serious expression. Jan Di and Yi Jeong caught their breath when the Ha heiress reached out for the Mafia Prince, slipping her arm under his.
“Come on, let’s go to lunch. My treat! See you later Jan Di. Good day Yi Jeong!”
The moment after, they were gone before Woo Bin could even utter a single word.
“Well.” Jan Di sat down again grinning. “It’s about time.”
“What do you mean?” Yi Jeong asked, still watching the door where a very startled Woo Bin had just been dragged through.
“Don’t tell me you never noticed it. Our Prince Song is clearly in love with her. And apparently Unni is tired of waiting for him to finally tell her.”
Yi Jeong looked at her, surprised. “Don’t tell me that…”
“Oh yes.” Jan Di smiled, nodding. “She loves him too.”
It was the most awkward lunch in Woo Bin’s life, but also the most enjoyable. Jae Kyung barely stopped talking or laughing, dragging him from one topic to another without so much as a coherent link between each other, starting from fashion and going through music, hair styles, cooking, languages and lots of other things. At the end she requested an ice cream and a stroll in the park before letting him go and he obliged, secretely happy even if bleeding inside, at the thought of spending more time with her.
She was happily walking in the sun, closing her eyes to enjoy the rays while licking her chocolate ice cream with a blissful face and Woo Bin was beside her, drinking in her sight like she was a pool of water in the desert.
“Do you like what you see?” She asked turning around, her eyes shining in the sun. Bathed in light, she looked like an angel and just for once Woo Bin couldn’t think of anything funny to say.
“You know,” she continued, seeing that he wasn’t going to answer her, “I was thinking a lot lately. I just realised I came to Seoul almost six years ago and I never left. It’s a record for me. I never stayed in the same place for more than three, four months.”
Finding his voice again, Woo Bin smiled. “It means you have finally found a place to call home. I’m sure you missed it very much.”
“That’s true. When I was a child, I hated being forced to move so often, but as I was growing up it became a sort of second nature for me to the point that I felt suffocated if I stayed in the same place for too long.”
She licked the ice cream again with deep satisfaction. “After I called off the wedding with Jun Pyo I thought I would have moved again, but I never really left. I’m happy I never did.”
“Do you like Seoul that much?” He managed to ask, mesmerized by her lips which now showed a light brown colour, due to the chocolate ice cream.
She nodded absent mindedly, tasting the ice cream again. “Seoul is a good enough city… but of course I stayed because of Jan Di, I had to see that Jun Pyo’s mother couldn’t torment her too much. Now that she’s his official fiancee, I could as well leave and resume my nomad life.”
“Do you want to?” There, maybe that was the reason of her sudden desire for a lunch together. She was going to tell him she was leaving. Woo Bin’s heart leaped in pain and he had to use all his self control to keep a neutral face. It was only right of course. She had her life and she had every right to live it to the fullest. She was made to travel around the world, to always smile and to find a man who could laugh with her. And that man could not be a Darkness Prince, someone bound to the underworld and stuck with it forever.
“I hoped you could give me a good enough reason not to.”
Jae Kyung wasn’t smiling anymore and so wasn’t he. The sun suddenly chilled around Woo Bin and he asked himself how an innocent lunch could turn out like that. Apparently the day he dreaded had come at last. He was preparing for that moment since years, although he wished it would never happen.
“What do you mean?” He asked, clenching his jaw.
“Don’t play dumb with me. You know what I mean.” She licked the ice cream again, as if looking for the strenght to keep talking. “How many more arranged dinners and dates do I have to endure before you finally tell me you like me?”
Woo Bin’s heart skipped a beat but his face stayed expressionless. “I think you’re misunderstanding something, Monkey.”
“I told you to stop that, Woo Bin. You are the reason I stayed this much, stupid man! I’m waiting for you to confess since years already!”
“You’re a friend, Monkey. Someone who’s hanging out with us since six years. Nothing more than that.”
Jae Kyung started laughing, her hands clenching the ice cream wafer. “Yeah right. That’s why the women around you drastically decreased in numbers lately, that’s why you punched the last guy I had a date with, that’s why you helped me uncover some dirty business of the last three men my parents wanted to set me up with and that’s why we talk to each other on the phone almost every day!”
“I don’t see anything weird in any of this.” Woo Bin defended himself. “I care for you, so I help you when I can, like I do with my friends too.”
“It’s much more than that.” She slowly walked to him, like a lioness after her prey. “I see the way you look at me. I feel your eyes all over me, everytime we’re together. They are burning. I’m tired of waiting, Prince Song.”
He shook his head, trembling inside. That woman had the power to shake his self control to the farthest limit. Those eyes, those lips of her, her whole body was chanting for him and her voice was like a siren call he was barely able to ignore.
And then the lioness jumped. Jae Kyung handed him her ice cream and Woo Bin made his second mistake: he took it.
With a clearly surprised Woo Bin lowering his eyes to the wafer, Jae Kyung slipped her hands behind his neck, pulling his face down to hers and kissing him. Woo Bin’s eyes shot open at her assault but her hands refrained him to pull back, while she kept kissing him. Her eyes naturally closed as she departed her lips to better taste him, softly kissing that man she was dreaming about since years already. She couldn’t believe she had waited so much to do that, Jae Kyung thought, finally pulling back.
“I hope you understood now.” She told the stunned Woo Bin, a fierce look in her eyes. “I like you. A lot. I know you like me too. I feel it. And if you’re not going to admit it, then I’ll be forced to just take what I want, like I did now. Think about it, my Prince.”
She took the ice cream back and licked it once again. “Do you want a taste of it? It’s delicious.”
Laughing at his lost face, she walked away waving her hands. “I’ll call you later!”
She was gone and he was still in the same place, his mind in utter panic. He licked his lips unconsciously and the strong flavour of chocolate flooded his mouth.
Woo Bin closed his eyes and shook his head, still feeling those soft lips on his own and slowly walked away, a pair of shiny eyes in his mind, laughing at him. He knew why they were laughing of course and he couldn’t blame them.
He was completely, utterly screwed.