MC was beyond nervous. Jumin insisted on bringing her to a business dinner with several of his partners. She’d never been to such a fancy party. Originally, she had refused countless times. It was Jaehee who convinced her in the end. MC silently thanked Jaehee for attending again. She’d already thanked Jaehee countless times but once more for good measure. MC had been officially invited to join C&R in the advertising and creating relations position. Her role in the RFA had taught her a great deal and she found she had a knack for business as well. Jumin utilized her a few times before the Chairman took notice and the formal job offer came from him. As the newest face with C&R, it would benefit her to know their biggest partners. Which was why it was so important she attend the dinner.
There was another slight worry. Jumin himself. During the preparations of the first RFA party, she and Jumin had gotten closer quite quickly. Most of the RFA believed there was a romance between them. But truthfully, that hadn’t happened. It almost did. Well, it was hard to explain. After the party, Jumin and MC agreed to begin a relationship. MC could see that Jumin had doubts and fears but was being overwhelmed by everything at once so both felt it would be best to start slowly. MC knew she loved Jumin already but she wasn’t sure if his feelings for her had stemmed from almost losing Elizabeth and his father wanting him to marry a gold-digger. After the first RFA party, they made plans to meet privately and discuss things. It made MC laugh a little when she saw Jumin write the date in his appointment book, like she was a business meeting. But before they had the chance to talk, MC’s talent came through. A particularly nitpick client showed up at C&R. MC had been there, treating Jaehee to lunch (and wanting to sneak a peek at Jumin). MC happened to run into the client and for whatever reason, she made an impression on him. Normally he was notoriously hard to deal with and insisted on C&R bending over backwards to keep him. But after talking with MC, Jumin was able to get the contract signed without much headache. Jumin always had the gift of being able to read people and understand their usefulness and he was gifted with business sense. Seeing MC soothe the client so easily, Jumin set up another meeting with someone they’d been trying to partner with but had no luck yet. Once more, MC came through.
After that, MC became a sort of freelance secret weapon for C&R. They’d use her when they needed. Because she found herself working for C&R, though, Jumin and her had more or less paused their budding relationship. With his father’s reputation and bad habit of employing his flings, Jumin didn’t want anyone to think the same of MC. She had to admit, everything had happened quickly and if she and Jumin were in an open relationship, it would have been incredibly suspicious. So they had a mostly professional relationship. Or they tried. But MC still loved Jumin and there had been a few times they nearly let their feelings control them. They held gazes a split second too long sometimes. There was an almost-kiss or two. When they walked together and their hands would brush by, it felt like an electric surge traveled up MC’s body. She was certain Jumin still knew how she felt. But he stopped opening up to her as much and slowly, they drifted, except for those scattered moments where something almost happened.
Everyone in the RFA teased them. Everyone but Jaehee. MC needed someone to confide in and Jaehee had been it. MC asked Jaehee to come between her and Jumin. Jumin wanted to treat their friendship as a business relationship for the time and MC struggled. So Jaehee would walk between them and text MC when she was alone with Jumin. It helped and Jumin never said anything about it.
MC ran a finger down the dress Jumin had bought for her for the dinner. She was in his penthouse (Jaehee and Jumin were waiting in the living room) to dress for the event. Jumin had everything she could possibly need. Makeup spilled over the bathroom counter, enough to make her question whether he had a woman living there. He, of course, did not but had only prepared meticulously as was his way. The dress he’d chosen was a darker green shade with a silvery sheen. MC was confident that she’d never have been able to afford such a dress ever in her life. How had Jumin known her favorite color was green? And she noted the platinum and white gold jewelry pieces to compliment it. She’d never told him how she disliked the yellow gold. Had it been a guess? No, it couldn’t have been. Gold and green were a popular combination. No one would have thought to have green and platinum. And yet, Jumin had chosen as if he had known her preferences. MC took off her clothes to change into the dress, shivering. It felt strange to be in Jumin’s apartment, half-naked. She was happy to have a job with him and Jaehee but she wished they had taken the chance to have a romance. Instead of this half-hearted friendship where it felt like she was the only one desperately in love.
MC pulled the dress over her, feeling the smooth satin-like fabric drape over her. She briefly adjusted her hair, making sure there was no static. The necklace, earrings, and rings came next. But the dress needed to be zipped and MC couldn’t reach it. She stepped to the large door to call for Jaehee when there were two quick knocks and the door began to open before she could answer. Jumin stepped inside, shutting the door silently behind him.
“Are you ready? We should be leaving soon,” Jumin said, his eyes quickly darting over her body, taking her appearance in.
MC felt herself turn beet red. She was still unzipped! And Jumin was there, in the bedroom, alone with her. The door was locked and she was fairly certain it was soundproof. What if she just kissed him? What then? But no, she couldn’t. “Al-Almost ready. I just… Um, is Jaehee out there? I need her help?”
Jumin gave his characteristic tilt of his head. It was how he often tried to find the meaning behind actions or words. Or when he found something cute. Like MC. He smiled internally and gracefully moved behind her before she could object. He slowly zipped up her dress, watching the back of her ears redden in her blush. He taunted both himself and MC with ghosting his fingers up her back. He never touched her but came close enough that both could feel the heat from the other. Her back was smooth and flawless, as he’d expected. She was a beautiful woman, one he’d be happy to claim as his own. But things had to be done in the proper order and Jumin had controlled his urges. But tonight, he had planned to put an end to that ambiguous nature between them. His father would make the announcement to welcome MC and everyone would know his father had brought her to the company. Then, Jumin would make MC his. He reluctantly pulled his eyes from memorizing her back when the zipper ended. He again quickly moved in front of MC. She looked like a doll. One he both wanted to cherish and to ravish. He met her eyes and he thought his feelings would be obvious to her. How he made his eyes tell her how much he loved her, even if his lips couldn’t yet. Against his better judgment, he put a hand on her cheek. His touch was light but she still jumped. His head tilted slightly to the side again. She was cute. Cute enough to give even Elizabeth a run for her money. “You look beautiful. That color suits you.”
The rumble of Jumin’s voice always made MC’s knees weak. His voice was deep but soft but reverberated and echoed in her ears until it nearly drove her insane. With him standing so close to her, she couldn’t breathe. She was trapped by his eyes. Her cheek was on fire and she wanted to cry and hug him and throw off her dress all at once. How could one man have this effect on her? She couldn’t move away nor move closer with his eyes watching her. He didn’t seem to need to blink but she did. Her eyes fluttered shut and the spell was broken. Jumin’s hand was gone and he was already leaving the room. What? What had just happened? Why did it end? MC distantly heard Jumin saying something to Jaehee but she was still reeling from their encounter.
MC finished her makeup and left the room, still in a daze. Jaehee caught on, thankfully, and moved to MC’s side. Jumin had to chuckle to himself. Soon, his waiting would be worth it. The drive to the venue was spent in silence. MC kept close to Jaehee and thus further from Jumin. She had ridden with Driver Kim before in one of Jumin’s limousines but every time, MC felt she didn’t really belong there. They pulled up at one of the largest skyscrapers in the city. The entire top floor would be the banquet hall for this event. There were many tables with spotless tablecloths and linens. A champagne tower made the air around it feel fizzy and ethereal. The flatware had never been used before and gleamed under the lights. A live band was playing relatively softly and a few of the married couples were dancing. Mostly, it was businessmen in impeccable tuxedos standing in small groups and talking. Jumin spotted his father relatively quickly and was about to duck out of his view but he was caught too soon. He was forced to leave Jaehee and MC right away. The women mingled a bit and MC relaxed a little. Though it was fancy and over-the-top, the people involved were business partners. MC could deal with them. A toast was called, and Chairman Han gave a speech. MC’s joining was quickly forgotten as Chairman Han introduced his newest woman, someone younger than MC who looked like she’d already seen countless plastic surgeons to give her the most unrealistic proportions imaginable. Jumin slipped away and rejoined his assistant. MC could see that Jumin was struggling with his father and the three of them spoke in a relaxed manner. Nothing important was said but it helped MC feel more at ease around Jumin again. He officially welcomed her to the company and she happily smiled.
Jaehee excused herself and Jumin began walking, leading MC away from the crowd. She was talking and laughing with him as normal and didn’t even realize he was taking them out of the hall. There was a waiting room down the hall a bit, away from everyone. By the time Jumin was opening the door, MC had noticed that they were alone.
“Shouldn’t we go back to the dinner?”
“Just a moment, MC. There’s something I’d like to address in private.” Jumin opened the door and ushered her inside, closing the door behind them. MC faced Jumin and already, she was turning pink in her blush again. It made Jumin smile. But for one of the first times, he let it show on his face. He was no longer restricted to just communicating with his eyes. “My father has announced that you are joining our company. I would rather he not have brought in another woman in the process but it has its benefits. From this point onward, your position in the company was due to my father and not a relationship to him. Nor to me. Now, MC, we are free to be together.”
“Jumin?” MC asked, her voice dry, barely above a whisper. Could this really be happening?
“Yes, my love?” Jumin put a hand on her waist, stepping closer to who he knew was his. “We are in love, are we not? This waiting has been torturous but now, we need not hold back. There is no need to go slowly any longer. I know how I feel. There will be no more discussions on this.” Jumin leaned down, and they finally shared their first kiss.
MC was too shocked at first but she felt his heat and reacted. They kissed slowly at first but MC felt the pressure on her waist as Jumin grabbed her a bit tighter. Her hand was pinned between their chests and her fingers curled around his lapel. It was hard to tell who parted their lips first but MC was the first to lift her tongue and shyly lick Jumin’s lips. The kiss intensified and Jumin’s other hand snaked around her back. MC lifted a shaking hand to touch his hair and when she felt his tongue push into her mouth, she grabbed his hair more passionately. She squeaked rather than moaned as their bodies instinctively moved closer, pressing against each other. She tried to murmur Jumin’s name but ended up nipping his tongue.
It was too intoxicating to finally be kissing the woman he’d been dreaming about for months. Jumin would always choose to prepare, to be thorough and account for everything before moving forward but she was reciprocating and his self-control was barely contained. His hand caressed her backside, grabbing a handful of flesh and dress. He took a single step forward and she moved back, nearly being pushed against the wall. She wasn’t moving away, just moving with him. Then they heard the couple whispering and laughing outside the door.
“Where’s the bathroom? I can’t wait to celebrate with you!”
The voice was outside and moving past their room but it brought them to a stop. MC looked up at Jumin, her face completely flushed. Jumin’s hands almost immediately went to more appropriate positions. “Best not to get carried away,” he said, pushing his shoulders back to fix his jacket.
MC reached and tightened Jumin’s tie for him, smiling. “We have time in the future. But I’m glad you still feel that way for me. I’m so happy, Jumin. I wanted to tell you I love you for so long now. I love you, Jumin. And I’ll always be with you!” She lifted onto her tiptoes and planted a soft kiss on his lips. He smiled and they returned to the party. Not arm-in-arm but obviously closer than when they’d left.
They were speaking quietly in the back of the room, Jumin’s full attention on MC when Jumin felt a tap on his shoulder. “Ah. Mr. Park. It is good to see you.” Jumin slipped effortlessly into his business mode and MC was left to herself for the first time. She had seen waiters bringing drinks around so she decided to seek out a glass of champagne.
With so many people, it was easy to get turned around. And soon, MC found herself in a more secluded corner. No drinks to be found. She was going to leave when she spotted a huddle of three men. She didn’t recognize them and wasn’t about to eavesdrop except that she heard Jumin’s name.That made her stop and listen in. The things she heard shocked her, nearly made her legs give out on the spot. The men were plotting together. Jumin and C&R in general was standing in their way to greater success. Getting rid of Jumin would clear the path (Chairman Han would be easy to deal with once Jumin was gone). They had poisoned Jumin’s food already and one was dressed as a waiter to serve Jumin. The poison was carefully measured and distributed in his food. Slow-acting and tasteless, Jumin wouldn’t know until it was too late. One questioned the other whether it would be enough. They had to kill him, not just make him sick. None of them seemed certain if the poison would work so there was a backup plan. A car accident. It would kill Jumin, Driver Kim, and anyone else in the car with them. Including Jaehee and MC.
She backed away, white as a ghost. She ran as fast as she could away from those men. She had to get to Jumin. He caught her as she dashed through the crowd, raising a few concerns as to why a woman was running like her life depended on it. Jumin saw how upset she was and wrapped his arms around her protectively. He led her across the floor, away from everyone (including those discussing their horrible plot). Once they were away from most, but still in view, Jumin checked on MC. He asked her what was wrong and his eyes raced over her skin to check for any cuts or injuries. She felt tears in her eyes and very nearly told Jumin everything. But she saw men all around her. She hadn’t gotten a good look on the ones who were talking but they likely weren’t working alone. If she were to be overheard, it could mean something much worse for Jumin. She’d have to find a way to stop them on her own.
“Just… Just a little overwhelmed. That’s all.” She could see that Jumin didn’t believe her. But she forced a smile and excused herself.
MC tried to hurry to the kitchen. She could replace the food there. Somehow stop their plot but they wouldn’t need to know. They had said that the car accident would be that night if Jumin didn’t eat the dinner for whatever reason. Just in case he decided to have a taste-tester. So they only needed to see him eating and it would save him for another day, and give MC the chance to explain. But when she found the kitchen, the plates were already being served. Jaehee caught up to her and brought her to their table. MC was panicking now. How could she stop Jumin from eating? Knock the food to the floor? No, they’d resort to their second plan then. Anything she were to do to interrupt his meal would trigger the “accident”. The plates were placed in front of each of them and MC watched helplessly as Jumin picked up a fork.
Clink-clink-clink! Another toast was called. Attention turned to the front of the room. Their entire table and the waitstaff were focused on the speech-giver. MC had no choice. She took Jumin’s plate and switched it with hers. She looked at the plate, imagining she could see the death contained within. She heard nothing of the speech.
Everyone applauded and turned back to their meals. Everyone at the table promptly began eating, except MC. She felt ill with that evil plate before her. Jumin noticed, though, and he paused.
“MC? Are you not hungry? Do you not feel well? Should we leave?” he asked, his eyes focused only on her. He was so sweet to her. How had she ever doubted that he cared?
She started to nod when the waiter appeared behind Jumin. He was subtle but he was watching Jumin. Watching Jumin not eat. No. No. Jumin had to keep eating. But he was worried about her…
MC blinked the tears away from her eyes and shakily brought some of the poisoned food to her mouth. She didn’t want to die. She didn’t want to die and not love Jumin anymore. But no choice. She had to. Otherwise he would die. And they said they didn’t know if the poison would be lethal, right? That’s why they had other measures in place. “I’m fine, Jumin. Just thirsty.” She took a sip of her champagne. Jumin smiled and returned to his meal. She saw the waiter hovering around their table. She was forced to eat though she only ate the smallest amount she could manage. Once it was polite to do so, she excused herself and made herself vomit in the bathroom.
The dinner ended and everyone was leaving. MC would be fine, right? They saw Jumin eat his meal so they wouldn’t cause an accident. She had barely eaten anything and had thrown up what she did eat. She wouldn’t have to die. It would be fine. Driver Kim dropped Jaehee off first and returned Jumin and MC to the penthouse. MC was still scared and shaky but she had almost convinced herself that she would be fine. She didn’t feel sick, aside from just being upset. Once alone with Jumin, MC revealed the entire plot she'd overheard. She told him all she could of the three men she saw. The only thing she left out was that she had eaten his poisoned meal herself. She knew that would upset him and he would insist on rushing to the hospital. But telling Jumin, she was already feeling better. She’d saved him and she had obviously prevented her own death. She was proud of herself.
Jumin had planned on a romantic night alone with her but after the excitement of the evening, it was better to just let her rest. Jumin insisted she stay with him that night, though he was going to give her a separate bed. But MC wanted to sleep in the same bed with Jumin. And he wanted to just hold her in his arms the rest of his life. So they snuggled into bed, under the covers. Jumin wrapped his arms around her and watched her fall asleep.
He awoke in the same position. Arms around MC, she sleeping silently beside him. “Cold morning,” he murmured in her ear, shifting to wake her up. They were still under the covers but it felt colder than it had last night. MC was stubbornly remaining asleep. “Time to wake up, my love. We can’t spend all day in bed,” he chuckled. She didn’t move, didn’t stir. “MC?” Jumin leaned over and saw the color from her cheeks was gone. He shook her shoulder.
No movement. He brought his fingers to her lips and nose. No breath.
No life. He grabbed her body and refused to let go. He pushed the silent alarm to alert security. But he wouldn’t release MC. Even as they came and alerted paramedics. She was his. They finally could be together. The paramedics somehow pried her from his grasp and took her away. She was already dead but they still tried to revive her.
All he had wanted was to be with her for the rest of his life. Instead, they had only been together for the rest of hers.