The clear distinct clacking of heels bounced down the deserted halls of the esteemed concert hall, the only source of noise in the quiet space.
The ceremony wasn’t due to start for at least twenty more minutes, my watch confirming the time as the lack of staff let my concerns run wild. Fancy wooden doors hurriedly opened and closed at random as I opted to be my own guide, knowing the consequences should I fail to make a good impression on my first day.
The BigHit Entertainment Center was built especially for such an occasion, the company becoming a fierce powerhouse in the music industry almost overnight. At least it seemed that way to anyone not acquainted with such matters.
In reality, executives had been planning this for years, putting together an elite trainee program for the best entertainers this world had to offer. Auditions were cutthroat and intense, only seven of the most talented up and coming artists getting the invitation to train under the company’s exclusive handpicked team.
This year they chose seven women for the debut idol program. Talented musicians, singers, rappers, and dancers from all walks of life converged together, myself being the seventh member to receive an invitation.
Ten minutes remained as my stomach started to riot, nervously doing little flips as I steadily found myself becoming increasingly lost in the marbled halls. Muffled cheers emanated from a previous direction, my attention homing in on a cherry red door as I all but sprinted through it in a panic.
The action was completely irresponsible for someone who wanted to become a famous idol, knowing I needed to maintain an image no matter where I was.
“Excuse me I am very sorry, I seem to be lost.” My voice sounded clear and confident as I managed to accidentally collide into someone else, hoping my apology sounded suitable at least.
I took the opportunity to smooth out the front of my ruffled white lace dress, eyes darting around the fabric to ensure nothing was smeared onto it. “Maybe you should watch where you are going then.”
The accusing voice of my assailant halted my actions. A fiery temper threatening to break through my proper façade. ‘Well maybe you shouldn’t be standing in the…”
My gaze finally landed on the man in front of me, all train of thought swiftly flying out from whence it came.
He was insanely good looking, the sheer embodiment of the term “tall, dark, and handsome” the phrase not even beginning to scratch the surface.
Straight soft chestnut hair barely brushed over his ears and eyes, guarding his expression as it stayed perfectly styled. A long sleeved, white button up shirt left nothing to the imagination as it was left unbuttoned, practically hanging off his broad shoulders to reveal his toned torso.
His pants (leather by the way) were stretched down his thighs and slim legs almost looking like someone had painted them on before falling into a pair of dark dress shoes.
He definitely caught me staring, following my eyes with his deep earthy brown irises with a casual kind of confidence. I could feel the blush spreading across my features, the low buzzing light of the room betraying me as I tried to focus on anything else.
“Maybe I shouldn’t be what?”
His question deepened the blush, reminding me of the awkward pause in my own retort.
“…be standing in the doorway.” The whisper seemed to leave my lips on its own, cautiously observing the mystery man close the short distance left between us.
Faint cheering erupted once more, my thoughts attempting to reset themselves in a hurry. “Are you part of the maintenance staff or something? Could you show me to the auditorium?” It was highly unlikely I would see him again in a building as huge as this, quickly assuming he would have to be part of the staff if he was even allowed in to begin with.
He scoffed lowly, placing his forearm on the wall behind me, ultimately trapping me underneath his amused gaze. Red tinted plush lips parted as he wetted them, warm breath teasing down my hair and neck.
“Why would someone like you be looking for our auditorium?”
Someone like me huh. I mentally tried to block out his mocking tone unashamed to be called here for my own talents, “I am one of the idol trainees.”
The mere mention of the program piqued his curiosity, a genuine sing song laugh livening up the otherwise dull space. A feather light touch skimmed over my cheek, his warm steady hand moving to rest underneath my chin.
My chest heaved up and down despite any efforts to stay calm. The sensation of his touch like grabbing an exposed wire, electricity running wild over my skin.
Our bodies were not quite touching as a gap intentionally sat between us, my weak mind almost wishing he would close it.
“What did you say your name was again?” My prayers were answered, a toned torso lightly pressing against me to get some kind of reaction.
Even knowing his intentions it still worked, my eyes closing if only for a moment to breathe in the scent that washed over us.
He smelled fresh, clean even. Like wrapping yourself in a blanket that just ran through the washer and still retained some of the heat from the dryer. It was mixed with something indescribably sweet, comparable to standing in the lobby of your favorite bakery drooling over the newly made desserts.
My lungs hurt from breathing so deeply, absolutely sure this is what my version of heaven would smell like if it existed. I subconsciously ran my tongue over my bottom lip, the comparison to food proving to be my downfall.
He merely observed me as I wondered what was running through his mind. My own breathless voice finally making its way out, “My name is Lee Haerin”.
“Haerin…” My name sounded dangerously good coming from his mouth, voice like crushed velvet, promising lips hovering ever closer to my ear. “Stay here with me instead.” The offer was extremely alluring, every irrational thought screaming at me to do so.
“Ah thank you for the help!” Why was I thanking him?
Nonsense garbled my thoughts as I slid out from underneath his warm grasp. A light smirk never leaving his features. “I will find it myself.”
Whether he heard it or not I didn’t care, the sign on the door reading “dressing room” rustling as the hallway became my therapist. “What the hell just happened?”
Heart racing, cheeks tinged with a hot flush, a passerby finally gave me the directions to the illusive auditorium. I had seconds left to spare, the other girls regarding me with a mix of indifference and annoyance as I took my place next to them in the front row.
The place was massive, rows of movie theater style seats stretching into a vast expanse in a half circle around the commanding stage. Everything was cloaked in a rich red from the flowing drawn curtains to the comfortable fold out seats down below.
We all buzzed with excitement watching the familiar superstar take her place center stage, custom jeweled microphone in hand. “Good afternoon ladies, I will be your director for the duration of your training.”
I suppressed the urge to fangirl, immediately recognizing her as the illustrious Kim Hyuna from various TV shows and conferences.
She was the definition of prodigy itself, debuting at only thirteen years old and graduating top of her class from the number one elite school of preforming arts. Grabbing countless awards and achievements for singing, choreography, production, and style.
BigHit would have been crazy to pick anyone else for this position, despite the fact that she was still only nineteen. Three years younger than me and she has accomplished more than most people will in a lifetime. I wasn’t jealous at all.
“Let’s get right to it shall we?” Wavy burgundy locks brushed over her slim waistline only seeming to highlight her extravagant long sleeved black mesh top with barely anything underneath it. A matching dark skirt had loose buckles and an outlandish pink pattern hanging from the sides, stylish designer boots stealing the same shade of pink.
She made the stage her own, pacing back and forth like a deadly predator. “We have chosen seven individuals for this specific program, your talents, styles, and types all taken into consideration. Your mentors have been assigned to you based on all these details.”
This was finally it. The facet that made this experience so incredibly special was the assignment of a famous idol mentor. They would oversee your practices, give you pointers on anything you needed, mold you into the perfect version of yourself, set right on the fast track to debuting.
“Please welcome BTS to the stage!”
No way. They have done test runs and versions of our curriculum before, but mostly with C or B list artists who volunteered in their spare time. BTS was the current idol group to beat, destroying music charts not only in South Korea, but the entire world.
Anyone who was anybody wanted to be them, the opportunity to so much as meet them completely out of the question. All seven men took the stage wearing matching custom tailored black suits and ties, filing out into a straight line.
It was almost surreal, each and every one of them attractive, sharp, gorgeous… oh no. No no no.
“When I call your name please join your mentor on stage!” Hyuna’s incredibly high pitched voice rang out, my stomach practically falling straight out of my body.
There he was, last in the perfectly arranged line. Mused brunette strands of hair smoothing down with a sweep of his hands, light honeyed brown skin showing underneath the few open buttons at the top of his shirt. Sleek suit jacket teasing over the now tighter looking leather pants in the blinding lights of the stage.
Four names were called already.
A delicate looking woman with a rounded face stood next to Kim Namjoon, strands of light brown hair cascading methodically from a perfectly centered bun. Sheer black lace dress, tights, and heels combo.
Kim Seokjin was greeting a strikingly feminine trainee, long shiny black hair with a regal air about her. Together they looked straight out of a fairy tale, beige chiffon dress making her look like a full blown princess.
Min Yoongi and his trainee looked completely and utterly bored of being here already. She was drop dead gorgeous, curves for days. Platinum waist length blonde hair, ice blue eyes, and a skin tight white dress clung to her hour glass figure. They were beautiful and terrifying, all wrapped up into one angsty package.
Jung Hoseok was already swapping dance moves with his apprentice, the woman’s wavy auburn hair rolling from side to side as she ditched her heels giggling.
I was so screwed.
Another name was called as I begged, pleaded to be placed with anyone but him, willing to bargain anything away.
Park Jimin casually flirted with a short mousy brown haired girl, complimenting her jade green floor length gown. A long seductive opening ran up the side of the fabric and dipped down in the front, ultimately showing off her legs and cleavage in one fell swoop.
Kim Taehyung was my last hope, quickly being snatched away by a blonde feminine dream in a golden sequined gown.
My back had completely sunken down, resting on the cushioned seat of the chair as I hoped the ground would simply open and swallow me whole.
“Lee Haerin your mentor will be Jeon Jungkook.”
An air of reluctance followed in my wake, plans to be nothing but courteous and professional seemingly useless against his perfect winning smirk.
“I hope we will work well together.” A deep bow only seemed to delight him, teeth sinking into his bottom lip to suppress the urge to laugh.
“Be sure to never wind up lost and miss practice. If you would like, I can have someone from the maintenance staff show you around later.”
Some part of me sincerely hoped he would have forgotten the fact that I thought he was the maintenance man earlier. Of course he remembered.
I spoke through my teeth, a fake acknowledging smile desperately trying to stay convincing, “Thank you I will keep that in mind.” What a jerk.
He completely turned away, back lightly shaking in a rolling laughter, trying to maintain some composure.
“Do you two know each other?” Seokjin regarded our weird exchange, worried brown orbs peeking out under a forest of messily styled blonde waves. His trainee followed dutifully behind him, eyes focused on the ground, keeping a steady distance as if he was some feudal lord.
“You could say that.”
After practically bolting offstage, I knew today could only get worse from here. Miss Hyuna’s directions already fresh in my mind. “As soon as you are done with the pleasantries move across the hall to the rehearsal area. Practice starts immediately.”
The designated room was fairly simple, white washed walls with deep blue trim and accents splashed around in the form of artwork and furniture. Seven stations were already up and running, three on the left wall, three on the right, and one area against the back.
They were mirror images of each other with brand new silver microphones on platinum stands becoming the centerpiece of each arrangement.
It looked straight out of a tech nerd’s wet dream. Sound mixers, computers, synthesizers, keyboards, high quality speakers, and engraved headphones neatly had an expensive looking place in every location.
My mind busied itself with mulling over my assignment, the director giving each one of us a specific piece to learn for our evaluation.
You have got to be kidding me.
I traced over the lyrics, listening to the allotted song over and over again wondering if there was some sort of mistake. Other girls nervously brought up the same thoughts to their mentors, the men gently assuring them they would do a good job.
Every single song given was written, produced, and sang by the Bangtan boys themselves.
I would have to memorize a piece intended to be harmonized by seven men, all ranging in different vocal tones, somehow giving it my own style and flair. All the while having to rehearse, sing, and dance out the number to the owner of the song, Jeon Jungkook himself.
Some of the other girls were already wrapping up their day, tension rising as I felt completely left behind. I knew what had to be done, swallowing my pride for the greater good.
“Excuse me Jeon Jungkook-ssi could you possibly…” Wait what the hell?
Most of the stations were already emptying, the impossibly brash and good looking mentor nowhere to be found.
As if my day wasn’t already bad enough he finally surfaced, back making contact with a genuine looking blue leather sofa.
Dark lashes fluttered lightly as his eyes remained closed, sweeping soft locks clinging to a pair of pale pink Beats headphones. His muscular arms crossed behind his head, the serene image almost too beautiful to interrupt.
“Jungkook-ssi?” No response.
Faint strumming of an acoustic number caressed the air around us, a song I wasn’t familiar with.
My eye remained in a constant state of annoyed twitching, surely going to develop into some sort of condition before this training was completed.
I slid the device off in a fit of displeasure, a strong assured grip finding its way around my wrist.
“What?” His question was venomous and loaded, not enjoying my interruption in the slightest.
“Are you even listening to me practice?” One unnecessary eye roll later and I was no closer to accomplishing my task than before.
“Your singing is terrible. You’ll never make it as an idol.”
I recoiled from his grip as if it actually burned, his scalding words branding their way into my thoughts. The scene reset to how it was before, custom headphones in place, cold disinterested eyes decidedly pulling closed.
Despite the gnawing pang of insecurity now worming its way into my heart, I wasn’t one to give up so easily. The area was all but clear now, no other trainees to stand in the way of my plots.
The dice was rolled, a calculated gamble set to take place.
“Park Jimin-ssi do you have a minute?”
If Jungkook wanted to play games and ignore me, fine. He wasn’t the only world famous mentor in the building.
Sultry raven hair danced around his picture perfect looks like black ink running down a tilted piece of parchment. Striking green eyes crinkled at the ends in an unending smile, but not naturally so as rings of bronze betrayed the concept of the realistic looking contact lenses.
“Lee Haerin was it? How can I help you?”
Hook, line, and sinker.
“Gross everyone stop being so formal, first names only please.” We caught the attention of another dashingly handsome teacher, pearlescent smile already plastered on an almost perfectly symmetrical face.
Seeing how painfully kind and endearing Jimin and Taehyung were only reminded me of how unlucky my pairing truly was.
“Could you possibly listen to my piece? I seem to be having trouble and my mentor doesn’t exactly like me very much…” Humor filled their eyes as they regarded Jungkook, the comment seemingly natural with no intended surprise behind it.
“Of course.” The answer came from an unexpected source, Namjoon easily making the call for the remainder of the agreeing group.
“The stage has already been set up, use that! We’ll all listen.” Harmless fleeting butterflies tackled around my stomach, a mix of anticipation and nerves coming alive from Hoseok’s comment.
It wasn’t nearly as large or brilliant as the stage in the auditorium, having smooth pine floors settling a few feet up from the standard floor.
Just the mere thought of preforming on any stage was always nerve-wracking in its own way, much to the same extent that a public speaker never truly got used to public speaking.
Silvery metal caught the lights of the room, the microphone gleaming as my smaller hands wrapped around it, almost as if it was made just for me.
Taehyung extremely unstealthily curled his body over the top of the squeaky leather couch, effortlessly landing on Jungkook in one swift motion. The younger groaned as the headphones were removed, regarding Taehyung with the same fierceness displayed earlier.
“Hyung what do you want?” He spoke as if he didn’t already know, Taehyung letting his fingers trace over the pesky buttons on Jungkook’s shirt.
“You looked so cute, I couldn’t help myself.” Jungkook unwillingly accepted Taehyung’s affections, Adonis like bodies pressed together, plush lips drawing closer as he…
Namjoon cleared his throat audibly as I felt the blush rush quickly over my cheeks. “Start whenever you are ready.”
Taehyung did in fact roll onto Jungkook and gain his attention, the two men staring in my direction wearing different levels of interest, platonically sitting side by side.
The rest was purely a day dream, my mind rapidly trying to recover from my own passionate speculations. Get a grip.
Somber slow notes from a prerecorded piano ghosted through the speakers, an emotional melody only to be accompanied by my quiet actions.
The Truth Untold admittedly was a wise song choice, conveyed and fueled by my own pessimistic attitude and personality.
Gloom and tragedy, heartbreak and lost hope. The piece embodied all of these messages, a tale depicting the loneliness faced by putting on a mask to hide ones true self.
It was fate to remain in the public eye as just that, an idol that meets unrealistic goals and standards, forced to watch true love from afar.
I had meant to only sing through the first couple of verses, getting carried away as the entire song came to fruition, silence sullying the space. Was it that bad? Did they not like it?
There was that self-doubt again, my mind immediately using the stillness as a launching pad for the ridiculous thoughts.
Yoongi stood closest to the stage, jet black poker straight hair clashing with skin the color of moonlight reflecting off the ocean. His hands rested in the pockets of dark suit pants, calculating mocha eyes regarding me as the silence broke, “Wow.”
Namjoon’s arm slung around his shoulders, the men unable to form any coherent thoughts.
Jimin and Hoseok let out little sniffles, unhurriedly wiping at glistening specks falling from the corner of their eyes. They were… crying?
A windshield wiper laugh drew us all in, Seokjin and Taehyung frantically clapping, urging everyone to do the same.
A flash of leather and expensive clothing flew out the door before anyone had time to protest, Jungkook already slamming it shut as I barely caught a glimpse of him leaving.
“Don’t mind him Haerin, Jungkook is just…” Jimin seemed to have trouble explaining, Namjoon finishing the thought, “He is just like that. Don’t let it bother you, okay?”
After receiving all the praise this world had to offer I found myself back in the acquainted hallway, windows darkened by the crimson setting sun.
A familiar silhouette outlined a brilliantly lit doorway, a bizarre urge to investigate drawing me closer.
“Jungkook are you okay?” Why did I even care? Some strange part of me wanted to reach out to him, gain his approval. A stupid thought really.
His back stiffened at the sound of my voice, the quiet distinct sniffling coming to an abrupt halt.
Damp, reddened eyes startled me, his standoffish demeanor exceptionally more intimidating up close. The realization was mind blowing. My singing had brought him to tears as well.
“Go away.” He wasn’t asking or waiting, a gust of air forcing my eyes closed as the third door of the day slammed shut with a loud bang.
Or maybe he simply hated it just that much.
The weeks that followed were quite simply hell on earth.
Dealing with Jungkook was like being force fed spoonfuls of ill tasting cough syrup, doomed to never go down smoothly.
He was always physically present in the building, but completely mentally checked out when it came to avidly avoiding practice. Other stations buzzed with idle chatter throughout the day, Jungkook more often than not found joking with his friends or lazing about listening to music.
I knew better than to try and seek him out. Knowing I could lead a stubborn horse to water, but couldn’t make him drink it.
Other mentors offered their help, a nice reprieve from the mentally draining solitary confinement from time to time. As bad as my situation was, it only got worse from there.
Hordes of scantily dressed staff members followed Jungkook everywhere he went. At all hours of the day like clockwork. Strange kinds of generosities fell from their mouths offering food, drinks, compliments, and anything the false Grecian god desired.
Jungkook was a scorching unclouded sun compared to the tiny celestial bodies falling into his gravitational pull.
Even now he was encased in a semi small circle of gaggling reporters, the women bombarding him with ridiculousness.
“Jungkook did you eat breakfast today?”
“Can you dance for us?”
“Tell us the brand of shampoo you use!”
I almost felt bad for him.
“Come on… we are all friends here right? You can tell us.” Shrill familiar high pitched voice, questionably low cut crimson blouse matched with a purposefully too short bleached mini skirt.
Our director was relentless when she set her sights on something she wanted. A new choreography number, designer props for a music video, and lately… Jungkook.
Her bright pink manicured fingers slowly trailed down his shoulder, lingering far too long to be anything but flirty. Endlessly giggling, bending over just far enough to bunch up the red fabric, giving a view straight down it. Really subtle.
I quickly learned that Hyuna shamelessly flirted with any man that looked in her direction, always the center of attention. The guys humored her, having sexy quips or acknowledgements to her flirting, but not Jungkook.
More often than not he straight up ignored her, passively aggressively going about his day as if she did not exist.
It had to drive her mad. Used to getting anything money and good looks could buy at a moment’s notice.
She probably only pursued him in a power hungry, spoiled rich kid kind of way. Not actually having feelings, but merely wanting it because she couldn’t have it.
Rich chocolate globes came into view as I was lost in thought, the realization making my gaze jump to anything else hurriedly. A light blush all but confirmed I had been staring, Jungkook making no attempt to look away as I had.
Instead he beckoned me over, a mischievous toothy grin materializing, supplementing the ‘I’m-about-to-ruin-your-life’ glint flashing in his eyes.
The reporters continued what they were calling an interview, my presence failing to make their radar.
“Being a mentor must be so difficult.”
“You are so generous.”
“Anyone would be lucky to train under you.”
“How selfless!” “Brave!” “Heartwarming!” If they only knew.
Jungkook had the look still plastered on his face, arm snaking protectively around my waist as he drew me closer still. “Actually I do have an announcement of my own to make.”
The mysterious singer almost never responded to these sort of things, silence befalling the space as they hung on his every word.
“Haerin isn’t just my trainee. She is also my fiancé.”
Incoherent screeching replaced deafening silence, women from all corners of the earth banshee yelling in anger. I should have known something like this would happen, blatantly seeing all the red flags of his oncoming scheme and still managing to get dragged in.
If the vultures hadn’t noticed me before, they certainly did now.
“Haerin!” “Haerin!” Recording devices filled my vision, the initial shock of his announcement swiftly harboring into a mortified anger.
“Can you comment on the engagement?”
“Can you confirm these new allegations?”
“Is Jungkook really interested in someone like you?”
I didn’t miss the director’s snide comment, insinuating I somehow wasn’t good enough.
If it was a story they were looking for, I had a hell of a good one. “You see the truth is…”
A firm grip tugged at my waist, my hands instinctively pulling up to rest against Jungkook’s chest to keep from crashing into him. “Always so eager…”
My pulse raced from his staged comment, his embrace hiding whispering lips carefully placed within hearing range. “If you play along I will teach you in earnest.”
I didn’t want to admit it, but Jungkook would be the perfect mentor pairing for me.
We were both 22 years old, having similar vocal ranges, dance styles, and work ethic when it came to preforming. I would be an unstoppable force in the industry, invaluable knowledge and contacts skyrocketing my career.
This agreement showed all sorts of promise, brand deals, custom written songs, and kick ass advertising… that is, if he actually decided to keep his word.
Jealousy seethed from the women, metastasizing into an almost visible swirling toxic fog as they impatiently waited. “Yes as I was saying the truth is…”
Jungkook had me cornered and he knew it. His pleasant features never faltering to stay in character at my absurd explanation. “It was love at first sight. Right darling?”
He winked in approval, appreciatively pulling me behind him as the feeding frenzy began, my nauseating comment sealing my own fate.
My fingers curled around the sleeve of his finely woven charcoal suit jacket, timidly peering around to see when it was safe to come back out.
He kept checking back, glancing between my hands and face, presumably wondering if I knew that I was touching him. But this was solely for insurance purposes.
While Jungkook had a reputation for being scary, I knew our director was ten thousand times scarier. And my new found fiancée was the perfect shield.
Gucci, Prada, Burberry, Coach, Louis Vuitton, and other brands I didn’t recognize practically smashed into a ball and flew out our studio door with intended force. Hyuna stood amidst an almost comical dust cloud, huffing as she just bowled a perfect designer bimbo strike.
“Absolutely not! Haerin is to be removed from the program immediately!”
My heart sank, the thought coming much too late that I could have just ruined my chances altogether.
Jungkook simply shrugged, my hands lifting with his moving arm and shoulder. “There is nothing in the rules against it. I don’t see what the problem is.”
Whispers jumped from ear to ear, the guys anxious, the other trainees wondering if I actually deserved to be there.
“You don’t see a problem? Your influence as a top idol is the only reason she is even here!”
The girlish whispers continued. “So that’s how she did it.” “No wonder they accepted her.”
I was on the verge of tears, fully ready to fight my own battle to keep my spot in the program as Jungkook held me back. “Oh please, you know better than anyone that the idols had no say in this. The CEO chose candidates based on skill, talent, and merit. Haerin was no exception.”
I wasn’t the only one surprised by Jungkook’s defensive statement, the accusing looks and rumors stopping dead in their tracks.
Hyuna noted the distrustful looks aimed at her instead, practically turning red with rage as she fought a losing battle. “I will not be made a fool of Jungkook. The higher ups will be hearing about this!”
No one had time to respond or even think, strappy pink heels clicking up a storm out the door and down the hall in no time flat.
“I’ll bet you $5.”
“Okay fine $10.”
Namjoon giggled quietly with Hoseok, pressing their ears against the now closed studio door.
“What are they doing?”
Jimin shook his head whispering back as they motioned for everyone to be quiet. “Taking bets on how long it’ll take Hyuna to piss off the CEO and get thrown out.” It took less than five minutes.
I was already beckoned to my station, Jungkook remaining calm, cool, and collected despite the fact I was still a nervous wreck. “Let’s get started then.”
It looked like he was going to keep his promise after all.
Jungkook more than kept his promise, going above and beyond any expectations I thought previously.
The man was relentless, setting up an ungodly difficult training program that would make any ordinary rookie run home crying.
Warm ups started at 6am with no exceptions, followed by any number of lessons Jungkook saw fit for the day. Almost all sessions lasted more than twelve hours with the elusive outside world resurfacing around 8pm.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner were mapped out to the last calorie, professional chefs meticulously crafting meals at breakneck paces every day. The food was horrifying, the hours exhausting, and the training physically draining.
That didn’t even begin to cover my mental health.
Reporters changed feeding grounds to ensure they would be both at my house and the studio, quickly learning my schedule with little effort. I had to maintain the image of Jungkook’s perfectly well-mannered and contented fiancé, instructed to never leave his side or speak to anyone outside our studio group.
Since our engagement went public Jungkook seemed to be getting exactly what he wanted from the asinine deal. The staff finally started to lay off, coming to terms with the fact he was off the market and uninterested.
Reporters pegged me as an easier target, full well knowing the music mogul wouldn’t give them the time of day regarding the matter. Whenever we were together (which was almost all the time) everyone left us alone, the pressure dissipating for a few fleeting moments.
Jungkook was standing at Namjoon’s station, long legs bending as they talked, fingers tracing over little dark lines of intricate sheet music. They were laughing, smiling brightly about one thing or another as they bantered back and forth out of earshot.
It wasn’t unusual these days to see Jungkook looking more at ease, even happy if that was possible. It was like he had a completely different side to him that no one ever saw outside of his close circle of friends.
“Rin Rin you are zoning out again.” A voice deeper than the ocean was already pressed behind my ear, sturdy arms weaving around my front to keep me from bolting out of his grip.
“Jesus Tae! I told you to stop sneaking up on me!”
A dark mischievous laugh met my flustered blush, the two of us sharing a long wooden bench towards the center of the room, a big lacquered oak table matching in front of us.
“Have you told him yet?” He followed my previous line of sight back to Jungkook, grip easing to leave one arm resting at my waist instead.
“Told him what?” His giggling started back into overdrive at my confusion. “That you love him.”
I should have guessed that Tae was here to tease me when he used my overly cutesy nickname, always naively falling for their tricks. “What kind of question is that? Honestly.”
Going straight to avoid and deny, the tried and true defense mechanism usually keeping me out of trouble.
Little scraping noises filled the air as a blue grey piece of pottery slid to the empty space before me. “Who’s in love?”
The little bowl was filled with reddish purple strawberries, Jimin sharing them before I could protest.
Don’t do it. My glare was aimed at Tae, the man noting and ignoring it. “Rin and Jungkook.”
My hands clamped over his mouth making a loud “SHHH” noise, hoping no one else would overhear.
His laughing merely continued, letting me try to stop him knowing full well I couldn’t do so. “Stop announcing that ‘I’m in love’.”
My mouth watered, attention snapping to perfectly cut white triangles neatly joining the strawberries. “Hopefully with me.”
Jin joined the unwanted party, homemade chicken salad sandwiches making their way around the table.
Namjoon rolled his eyes, suit as grey as thick prowling clouds in a thunderstorm cascading into Jin’s lap. “As if.”
Yoongi and Hoseok slid into empty spots, both regarding our powwow with interest. “Of course she loves him. They are getting married after all.” Yoongi’s observation reminded us all at once, my stupid brain all but forgetting the important detail.
Now it just seemed awkward that I would try to deny it, curious looks probing for holes in my story.
“Stop teasing Rin! I would be nervous too if I was in love with Jungkook.” Hoseok huffed, cramming an entire sandwich into his mouth.
“Wait you aren’t in love with him?” Jimin teased my savior instead, the rest of the group carrying on in laughter.
Namjoon’s assuring hand patted the top of my head while Jin and Taehyung left a hovering grip around either side of my waist, positioned on either side of me happily eating.
I was halfway to joining them, fluffy bread springing into place around my fingers as it rose to meet my lips. A frigid winter storm was already freezing me in place, Jungkook’s pointedly icy stare daring me to take a bite of the taboo meal.
Stylishly cut sleeves crossed at his chest, the defensive position somehow accentuating an unobtrusive dark suit jacket, even from this far away. Shit.
I scrambled out of the three way hold, furiously apologizing as I let another important rule slip my mind today.
Silence sullied the station. Jungkook refused to speak or acknowledge any form of inquires as to why he was so distraught.
It plagued me all through practice.
“Was it the impromptu lunch?”
“The unwarranted break from lessons?”
“Did he over hear what the guys had said?”
“Have you told him yet? That you love him?” Just thinking about a scenario in which Jungkook overheard them made me characteristically blush, unsure as to why it was such a big deal.
We didn’t actually like each other and that was that.
My mentor left a while ago, too long to simply be running a quick errand or fetching anything relevant. The door made no noise as I shut it, popping out into the hallway to see if maybe he left early.
A loud yelp filled the echoed space, my own as it turns out, responding to the quick presence of another binding grip.
Jungkook wasted no time, boldly pressing hands to my waistline, unruly strands of hair tickling down my neck. Perfectly angled jaw line nuzzled into my shoulder, unblocked by the thin mesh straps of my ornate chiffon dress.
The question had been burning in my mind all day, practically tumbling out of my mouth before I had time to think of the consequences. “What’s wrong?”
Jungkook might be a class A jerk, but even I knew something had been off with him today, curiosity always getting the better of me.
Lips parted at the base of my neck, highlights of straight teeth and overly warm breathing pulling goose bumps across my arms as he spoke. “You’ve been flirting with everyone else today. You could at least do the same with me.”
Jungkook wasn’t mad about the lunch, seconds of missed lesson, or stupid conversation. He was jealous.
My loud sigh met him in response, still pondering if it was a joke or grand scheme waiting to draw me in. The punchline never came, Jungkook deadly serious as his relaxing pout continued.
Despite my better judgement I always caved, knowing that I would never be able to turn him down.
He was the same amount of warm all over, chest rising and falling to match my breathing as I returned the embrace timidly, tentatively. Almost expecting him to leave or protest.
“That’s more like it.” Instead he approved, my touch growing braver by the second as I smoothed lines slowly down the back of the woven jacket. It felt as though hours were passing, the serene quietness complementing his sweet enlightening scent.
“Don’t let them flirt with you anymore.” It was a stern warning, calculating brown eyes pulling back to meet mine, hands making no attempt at leaving.
“We aren’t flirting. You know I can’t control what they say.” I truly never considered it as flirting until he brought it up, more than a little annoyed it was even a topic we were visiting.
“Then you don’t flirt with them.” Seriously what was his problem?
“I can do whatever I want. We aren’t actually together you know.”
There it was again, the typical fiery controlling Jungkook I knew so well resurfacing from my defiant comment.
“What if the press caught you flirting with another guy? It will make me look bad.” Oh so this was all about his image and reputation, not actually that he was jealous to begin with.
Our glaring match began, hands encircled around the others waist, neither one of us going to be the first to let go.
“There you guys are. I have been looking everywhere!” Jimin bounded over, raven hair tousling, arms trying to hide the fact he was out of breath.
“We are kind of busy right now.” Jungkook’s tone only made the precarious position I was in look more scandalous than it really was.
Jimin completely ignored him. Either completely oblivious to the situation or simply not caring altogether. “We finally have a chance for all of us to go out drinking tonight. Are you in?”
“Not interested.” Jungkook shot him down so fast my head spun, the opportunity swiftly landing into my lap.
“Rin what about you? You’ll come right?” Jungkook’s look said it all, a flashing neon sign that read ‘don’t even think about it’ coming through in a familiar annoyed glare.
Which is exactly why I whole heartedly responded, “of course. I wouldn't dream of missing it.”
Florescent green bottles littered the table top, every inch of space devoured by the semi clear reflective glass. Round metallic plates hid among the debris, piled high with charred chicken skewers and multiple equally delicious looking side dishes.
A short bubbly waitress kept bringing trays, loaded with more food than we could ever finish, giggling politely as she regarded Taehyung in passing. She was definitely flirting, insisting it was on the house as plates covered all the empty tables in our vicinity.
Cushions resided beneath us, swaying across the hardwood floors to dip under the low resting wooden table, barely hiding our knees and feet.
“Rin Rin how is… is Jungkook being nice to you?” Jimin staggered in place beside me, eye lids fluttering as he managed to sling an arm around my shoulder, slurring his question.
It sparked some clearly deep seeded controversy inside of me, an answer coming in the form of a drawn out drunken story. “The other day I bought this beige dress, you know!”
Nods rattled in different directions, no one seeming to notice I didn’t outright answer Jimin.
“Wow I love beige. I really do.” Namjoon’s face mirrored the others, flushed pink from too much alcohol, eyes unable to stay focused for too long in one spot. He was moving to lay across Jin’s lap, practically face planting as his chest fell over the older man’s crossed slim legs.
“Hey Hoseok what’s the capital of China?” Jin was already laughing at his own joke, the punchline leaving his lips before the other could respond. “Beige-ing!” Jin’s hands smoothed across the dull worn surface of the table, push and pull laughter hiccupping out as he failed to notice it wasn’t Namjoon’s back he was rubbing.
“Anyway I bought the dress and Jungkook he… Do you know what he said?”
Hoseok raised his head from the table, little red circle tinted into his forehead, auburn waves going every which way. “Oh man that is… Wow I can’t believe it.” He was too far gone to notice I hadn’t told them the conclusion yet, immediately placing his head back against the table.
“It was mean right? Jungkook never compliments me either.” Jimin huffed, both arms strung around my neck as we swung ever so slightly, doing our best to stay upright.
“I am right here you know.” Jungkook took the seat directly across from me at the table, fingers drumming against the surface, annoyance threatening to spill over. He was stone cold sober, two opened bottles of soju remaining completely full and untouched among the chaos spread before him.
Everyone ignored this fact.
“Yeah so he said… he told me... it looked like the sacs you buy potatoes in!” Gasps flittered out while Taehyung tried to make me feel better, using a poor choice of words to do so. “Potatoes are delicious! I would have them with every meal if I could!”
Drunk me assumed the comment meant I did look like a potato, dread quickly emanating across my face.
Yoongi had remained relatively quiet, drinking maybe one or two bottles, but certainly not enough to be plastered like the rest of us. He sat on the other side of me, making him the closest and most readily available target who had yet to weigh in on the situation.
“Yoongi-ah!” I was already climbing into his lap, arms snaking over his broad shoulders as the action was enough to swirl the room around me. He had no choice but to reciprocate, cautiously gentle hands balancing my weight to keep us both from tumbling backwards.
“You don’t think I look like a potato do you? I’m cute, right?” My eyes finally focused on his, sobering espresso tinted irises searching the very depths of my soul in that one single moment.
Pale pink lips opened and closed as if to say something, retracting it to try again. An equally pale veined hand rose, sweeping stray strands of hair behind my ear as he regarded me with a pleasant smile. “I think you’re cute Rin. Really cute.”
Wow. I mostly assumed the tough, emotionally distant rapper wasn’t too fond of me, not having much interaction with him before tonight. It was an interesting revelation, my heart unable to stay silent.
Legs feeling as though they were light as air, lifting up… Wait I was rising. A vice grip clamped around my shoulders, hoisting me easily off the man’s lap.
A familiar voice angrily barked beside me, one that could only belong to Jungkook as we funneled out through the door. “That’s it, we are leaving!”
A sleek jet black sports car was already parked out front, a well maintained sheen glinting off the sides and metal rims in the limited darkness.
“Get in.” Jungkook made no attempt to hide how furious he was, side door already hanging open, ushering me in as if the matter were urgent.
The interior was just as beautiful as the exterior, matte black leather curling over the bench style back seat and accessories. “Are you our Uber?” I was already hanging over the center console, legs flailing unceremoniously as the nicely dressed man chuckled keenly.
He stopped abruptly as he caught Jungkook’s unamused stare in the rearview mirror, awkwardly coughing away the humor. “No Miss Lee. I am Won Shik, the Jeon family driver.
Of course Jungkook had his own personal freaking driver and expensive looking super car. The man had everything else, why did I expect this to be any different?
Shirking back against the fragrant seats calmed my drunken babbling, opting to ignore the fact that Jungkook already knew my home address to tell the driver.
Somehow silence overtook us, my alcohol clouded mind unable to stop drinking in the scenery before me.
Towering monochrome buildings looped by endlessly out the tinted windows, practically devoid of all life at this time of night. Jungkook was resting his head on his hand, fingers splayed out over his cheek as unknown thoughts drew his gaze outside.
If it wasn’t for the strobing lights of the city or quick glimmers from the full moon, you would have guessed his hair was darker than it actually was. Colors jumping to life breaking the illusion with every dim glow.
He was spellbindingly breathtaking, well fitted suit only adding to the intrigue as the fabric pulled in all the right ways, managing to be both nonrevealing and revealing at the same time.
“Why are you staring at me?” His tone had softened considerably since the last outburst, both of us swiftly noticing my newfound closeness. I was unsure as to when it happened. My body subconsciously drew me to him, unsteady hand reaching out as if I actually had a plan for it.
Drunk me had no concept as to whether or not that was a complement a man wanted to hear.
“You must be drunker than I thought.” The way his contrastingly white teeth toyed with his deep red bottom lip all but screamed that the comment had caught him off guard. Unable to be masked by the low laughter accompanying it.
Thanks to the alcoholic encouragement and lack of better judgement, I found myself sliding into his lap. The urge to be closer to him brainwashing me into assuming this would be a good idea.
A cool night breeze waivered over us, the car apparently had come to a stop at some point. Won Shik stood with the door propped open, firmly looking at anything but us in embarrassment.
My side settled in neatly against his warm chest, strong arms moving to circle around my waist with a possessive interest. It registered for half a second that my backside was firmly planted over his hips, legs pressed together to hang over the seat and open door.
The position seemingly sexier than I previously thought it would be.
Drunken alter ego didn’t need any more time to debate about poor decisions, already leaning in suggestively.
“Rin…” It was more of a question than anything else, my finger making a tell-tale “shh” sign before he continued.
“Listen, I have to tell you now while I’m drunk okay.” Oh my god, what? Tell him what? It was too late to reason with myself, inhibitions checking out on an extended holiday.
His breathing was already picking up, dark hooded eyes hungrily assessing their next move, unwillingly finding the time to talk instead.
“I don’t like anyone else. So you don’t have to worry.” What was I even admitting to? That I liked him? Thankfully I said nothing further to incriminate myself.
“Me too...” It was nothing more than a whisper, but the urgency behind it spiked my breathing to land in the same atmosphere as his. Lines trailed up over my exposed shoulder, fingers coming to rest at the base of my neck as they coerced my face closer to his.
Was he going to kiss me?
I never got the chance to find out, a different kind of problem finding a way to persevere with the worst possible timing.
I scrambled out just in time to eloquently throw up all over the driver’s side window and door. Perfectly good sidewalk and roadway remaining squeaky clean, much to everyone’s dismay.
Won Shik looked as if I just ruined his most prized possession, eyes and lips twisting up to keep from crying as Jungkook remorsefully patted his shoulder. I wanted to apologize, but wound up puking again instead, drunk me making a mental note to try another time.
Sober me definitely not going to remember it later.
Soft silken sheets huddled underneath a fluffy down comforter willing me to drift off from the constantly maintained temperature. I had at least made it into bed, one task that could be successfully checked off my growing list of failures for the day.
The coils whined and shifted, a weight moving as the company sitting beside me was rapidly disappearing. I moved without thinking, reaching out in a desperate attempt to bring the comforting presence back.
Sleep was coming on faster than I realized, a weak grip barely managing to curl around the sleeve of a woven suit jacket.
“Jungkook…” His name fell from my lips like a reckless prayer, a hypnotic whisper in the shadowy stillness of the room. “Don’t go.”
The bed indented once more, a warm touch wandering across my cheek, my mind chalking it up to nothing more than a realistically enchanting dream.
The typical morning noises of the city churned to life, greedy sunlight helping itself in through the thin drawn curtains. The time was unknown and unnecessary, my senses electing to stay dulled knowing an aching headache was only the beginning of the hangover symptoms.
My body crossed over the most comfortable pillow I have ever used in my life, face promptly remaining buried in the firm summery climate. It shifted beneath me, almost reacting to my touch, a groggy murkiness letting the observation slip away as quickly as it came.
Hints of a clean sweetness, like pouring honey into steaming cup of tea calmed my nerves. The harmonious scent seemingly familiar, the realization pulling me out of the complacent bliss.
It wasn’t a pillow I was holding. It was Jungkook.
A casual white T-shirt clashed with uniformly tanned skin, the material failing to conceal the contours of his muscular physique from where it pushed up. He was already awake, disheveled brunette stands still managing to look stunning, chocolate eyes and playful smirk all anxiously awaiting my reaction.
“What are you doing here?!”
Sultry charcoal boxers refused to stay hidden under the blanket, his legs pulling with him as he stretched nonchalantly.
“And why aren’t you wearing clothes?!” Well, clothes in the sense that I have never seen him wear anything other than dress pants, button downs, and suit jackets.
“I could ask you the same question.”
I immediately looked down in horror, thankfully managing to have on a cute matching underwear set covered by an oversized pink T-shirt. The sheets pulled up to my neck, my face turning the same shade of pink as my clothing as I tried to piece together the previous night.
Okay be cool. There is absolutely no way that we… my thoughts trailed off, fifty shades of curious as I didn’t dare ask what happened.
“Oh come on you don’t remember? You were the one who begged me to stay.”
I thought harder pulling in bits and pieces of useless memories until one hit me like a Mack truck. “Jungkook…” “Don’t go.” My own breathy, needy voice echoed in my skull. The overwhelming embarrassment taking years off my life.
Jungkook was tapping away at the screen of a custom looking smartphone, square lens very obviously aimed in my direction.
“Are you taking pictures of me?” Embarrassment faded to disbelief, the back lit screen turning to give me a better view of the terrifying captured image. Hair a mess, almost everything in view an unflattering shade of hot pink. A disaster incarnate.
“The guys will never believe me when I tell them about this. I needed proof.” An evil snicker carried on, probably halfway through typing something humiliating.
“You are not sending that to the guys! Delete it!” His height was getting the better of me, the device positioned above our heads as long tanned arms kept it from my advances.
He grossly underestimated my tenacity, assuredly not expecting me to start scaling up him like I was raised by spider monkeys. It threw us off balance, the bed hopping in displeasure from the new found scuffle.
I couldn’t help but laugh, the mattress denting in as Jungkook braced his palms on either side of me. The position just a little precarious. His knees fell in the same fashion, bracing his weight around my waist to keep his torso in the air.
“You really don’t remember anything from last night?” I was too busy scolding myself and my hammering heart to notice his change in demeanor, the question almost sounding disappointed.
“Not really, no.” It was the truth for the most part, any reoccurring embarrassing memories not worth bringing back to his attention.
“Maybe that is for the best then.”
With eyes glued to the floor, the rest of his upset form retreated off the mattress. Attention focused on getting dressed in what looked like a different suit than he had on the night before.
When did he have time to get a change of clothes? And what the hell did I say last night?
My mind was grasping for something, anything to say to make it right. “Well… you see… when I get drunk I am a terrible liar! So chances are, there was some truth to whatever I said.” I was already kicking myself for the even dumber comment, though for some reason, it seemed to brighten his mood.
A strange man with sunken eyes sat in the driver’s seat, hands mummified to the wheel, too exhausted to acknowledge our chattering. “Is he okay?”
My concern was apparently funny, Jungkook moving to whisper back. “He was up all night washing the car. Poor guy.” What a bummer. I wonder why?
“Hey wait. I have something to give you.” The little tan box clicked open with vigor, my hasty exit stalled by the unexpected announcement.
A sterling silver band with a diamond, as large as you can imagine without being gaudy, crowned the center of the arrangement. The gem had to have been worth more than all my possessions combined. The responsibility of keeping such a thing safe falling on my shoulders.
“I can’t accept that, are you crazy?” Nimble fingers were already sliding it into place, the early morning sun refracting off the little cuts in the jewel.
“No one will believe you are my fiancé if you don’t wear it.”
“No way, they can take my word for it.” I tried to take it off, but sturdy hands stopped mine.
“Wear the ring.” We spent a few moments glaring at each other, Jungkook’s stubborn controlling personality shining through. “Fine.”
This argument would go nowhere fast. Besides, I’d have ample opportunities to ditch the thing throughout practice.
“Oh and if you are thinking about ditching the ring at practice, you can forget it. I will know if you take it off.” How did he do that? I gulped at how sure he sounded, wondering if maybe he did have a way to tell if I disobeyed him.
Maybe I didn’t want to find out after all.
I spun the ring around in slow motions, the thought of that night always flooding back to me whenever I looked at it. How many weeks had passed since then?
There wasn’t time to dwell on it, knowing our evaluation was right around the corner.
All our hard work here was meant to be showcased at BigHit’s grand trainee exhibition. Massive corporations, dance studios, talent agencies, and all the biggest names in music would be among the attendees.
They would judge us based on our given pieces as well as any custom songs or routines put together within their given time limits or parameters. Anyone of them could make us a job proposal, the event showcasing what we had to offer.
That was always the goal of this training, but why was it so sad to think about now?
A weight pressed against me from behind, feather light mahogany strands falling into view over my shoulder. “When the key changes, don’t forget to move to the left, like this.”
Jungkook always noticed when I was distracted, unnecessarily using it to his advantage. Hands slid down the entirety of my arms, lips moving the opposite direction to skim up my neck, lowly murmuring only to me. “See? That’s better.”
He knew full well I didn’t need assistance, not so secretly working on an agenda that kept us touching at any given moment.
Whenever he was around my heart clamored like someone getting a high score on a pinball machine. The company never tiring or unwanted, a more at home feeling than simply being at a house.
A touch like an untamable wildfire found new ways to catch me off guard, a permanent dizzying flush never leaving my face.
When he was gone, I missed him. The night no longer moving at a fast enough pace for the next day to arrive when we would be together again.
The thought came and went periodically, a sweeping sadness better kept under lock and key than expressed out loud. When this training was complete, we would no longer see each other. Engagement called off, going back to the normal hustle of everyday life.
That’s what I wanted all along, right?
“Jungkook, please you have to help me!” Taehyung looked positively overwhelmed, a giant stack of papers sticking in random directions within his arms.
“No, I really don’t.” Jungkook always acted indifferent, but deep down he had a soft spot for all his hyungs, typically caving in to their requests. A weakness Taehyung was absolutely going to exploit.
“You have to! I was supposed to finish the new choreography forms by tomorrow but…”
“Let me guess you forgot. Again.”
Taehyung sheepishly scratched the back of his head, an awkward laugh confirming the accusation. Jungkook was at a breaking point, papers scattering all over the expansive desk, Taehyung furiously scribbling away to make up for lost time.
“Let’s call practice here for the day. This is going to take hours.”
It was still light out, a refreshing change of scenery seeing the afternoon sun for a change. However, a gnawing disappointment was already surfacing walking out of the building alone.
No familiar black sports car parked out front waiting for the two of us, no last minute dinner plans going to materialize on the way home. No passing comments or sneaking glances in each other’s direction when we thought the other wasn’t looking.
Why was he all I could think about?
I shook my head trying to will the thoughts away, an even more dangerous one taking their place. Was it possible that… Could I maybe be… in love with him?
“Excuse me! Are you Miss Lee Haerin?” An older gentleman called out, exiting a striking prismatic silver limousine in an attempt to catch up. Different shades of grey clashed with one another, from the short professional haircut to the tasteful length Armani suit, giving each silvery tone a different texture.
“I am.” Was he a reporter? A fan? From the spare no expense air about him both seemed rather unlikely.
“Excellent! My boss will see you now.” He stepped aside, a familiarly built man scrambling to hold open the door for me.
Won Shik? What was he doing here? None of this was making any sense.
“And if I refuse?”
Two burly, muscular men stepped out next, taking their place at either side of the now smaller looking gentleman. “I’m afraid, I must insist.”
This is it. This is how I die. Visions of mafia movies danced in my head, cutthroat action scenes, and impossible angled gun fights only spiking my paranoia. Apologetic eyes caught my attention in the rear view, an unspoken signal only adding to the mystery.
Won Shik was somewhere in his early thirties, undyingly loyal and courteous, handsome in a way that would remind you of a sibling. He surely didn’t seem like the type to take a side job driving for the mafia.
Maybe the answer was more obvious than I thought.
The ride was short, but felt like an eternity. My own made up scenarios increasingly more graphic as time went on. “We’re here.”
A massive grandiose mansion settled into view, well maintained fountain and expertly landscaped gardens. Extravagant enough to give the Queen of England a run for her money. Gabled roof tops and lavish decorations ornamented the manor in an East Asian design with seemingly modern twists.
One of the many living rooms was no exception, one of a kind art work, sliding screen doors showing off an expansively magnificent rock garden.
“Miss Lee I’d like to introduce you to our founder and CEO.”
An equally well dressed man rose from one of the taut leather couches, raven waves masking his true age, formal designer suit suddenly making me feel under dressed for the occasion.
A recent issue of Forbes magazine came to mind, the same man making the cover for his accolades not only as the biggest corporation in South Korea, but the United States as well.
“It is nice to meet you Sir!” I bowed formally, quickly trying to swallow away the waves of nervous energy. Not only was he a world renowned business man, genius entrepreneur, and an outstandingly wealthy CEO...
He was also Jungkook’s father.
His head nodded in acknowledgement, waving the extra staff members away with the flick of a wrist.
“Shouldn’t we have waited for Jungkook to be here as well? I could call him if you would like.” The whole secrecy aspect made no sense, the situation only getting weirder and weirder.
“No need, this will not take long.”
I didn’t have time for games, the question coming off slightly more standoffish than I meant. “Then what did you want from me?”
“Right to the point then. Very well.” A thoughtful sigh cut through the silence, a cold combative stare giving me déjà vu. “I want you to stay away from my son.”
What? My expectations had not been high, but this certainly was not anticipated.
“Call off this foolish engagement and be on your way.” Of course he had heard about the engagement. It wasn’t necessarily a secret, but I never imagined it would have this kind of effect.
“But sir, I…” My hesitation was mistaken for weakness, a business deal worthy of a CEO cutting me off.
“What would it take then? The Jeon corporation has unlimited contacts and resources. More than enough to finish whatever thoughtless project he has promised you.” I was dumbfounded. He was trying to bribe me.
“Sir we aren’t actually…” I tried to explain the situation, but again words were lost in a heated shout.
“My son will not be married to some up and coming artist with no influence or future! I will not allow it!”
“Now is not a good time! He is in a very important meeting and-“A warning fell on deaf ears, the previous older man out of breath as he tumbled into the room.
An unexpected guest joined us, hands shoved into his pockets, frigid stare rivaling the other. “Father.”
He already took a stance beside me, the tension thicker than swimming through tar. “Jungkook my boy! I thought you were busy with work?”
“I was until Yoongi called me. He saw Rin leaving with a suspicious man. One who looked an awful lot like one of your assistants.”
“The Min boy?” A finger lightly tapped at his barely wrinkled cheek, head tilted in a passing thought. “Ah the Security Chief’s son. I should have assumed nothing less.”
Whoa, Yoongi’s father is the country's Head of Security? Why didn’t I know that?
“What’s going on here?” To say Jungkook was mad would be an understatement. A quiet calm before the storm, an intimidating aura causing everyone to duck and cover from the impending threat.
“I have invited young Haerin here as my guest. Nothing more.” His father’s comments only added fuel to the growing fire, an outburst bound to happen eventually.
“A guest you say. Then why haven’t you offered for her to sit down? Or brought refreshments? Is that how we treat guests in this house?”
A fake smile slowly slid from his father’s face, the barrage of questions testing his limits as well.
“If you ask me this looks more like an interrogation!”
“I am only doing what is best for you!”
Shrieking filled the room, growing louder and louder by the second.
“Now you suddenly care about my well-being? Don’t make me laugh. You have never supported my decision to pursue a career in music! But now that I am famous that is all you really care about right?”
“You watch your mouth!” Both men seethed with rage, lightly trembling to stay at acceptable composure levels.
“It is time to grow up. Stop playing house with those ridiculous band mates of yours and marry someone worthy of the Jeon name!”
His father’s words were cruel and devastating, my heart breaking knowing this wasn’t the first time they must have fought like this. It was always my assumption that Jungkook’s family was wealthy and powerful, giving him all the necessary tools to jump start a career.
The fact of the matter was, he worked just as hard to be where he was today as anyone else. Something so easily overlooked reminding me just how little about him I actually knew.
“Then maybe I don’t want to be a part of this family!”
“You will stop this foolish Idol nonsense and take over this company!”
The bickering continued, a circular argument that could last an eternity. “We are leaving.”
“You will not walk away from me!”
The scene before me grinded to a halt, like watching the world through a slow motion recording.
Pretty crystalline vase rising off the table, bloomed white stripped Calla Lilies swaying back and forth in the water filled space. It whirled through the air, a charted course set straight for us from where his father had thrown it.
Glass shattered, catapulting to the hardwood floor below, swept up in a torrent of chilled see-through liquid. I don’t know why it happened, my own body moving before the repercussions had a chance to sink in.
Knees curled beneath me in the newly created jagged river, the force pulling all the air from my lungs momentarily. The impact was enough to merely startle me, the floor graciously catching my minor fall.
The two men looked like they had just seen a ghost, rapidly blinking as though they could not comprehend what just took place.
Little clanks bounced in unison as extra glass clattered to the floor, my dress incessantly dripping as Jungkook helped me up. This time his father made no attempt to stop us, wordlessly staring off at our retreating forms with an unreadable expression.
The accustomed car was a nice reprieve from the exhausting day, Won Shik grimly staring out the window to give us space.
“Why would you do that!” Hands shook at my shoulders, large anguished eyes trying to understand. “It was going to hit me! Why would you get in the way?”
“I just moved without thinking! I didn’t… want you to get hurt.” An explanation eluded me as well, not understanding my own involvement more than he did.
“Turn around.” A swift turn gave a better view of where the vase landed, fingers grazing over a reddening welt spanning from my shoulder blade to the top of my neck. Specks of purple clouded the edges, a nasty bruise conspiring to take its place.
“I’m sorry.” I expected Jungkook to be angry, but instead it was much worse. His defeated whisper tugged at my emotions, shrinking away from me to stare blankly at anything else.
It was painfully obvious the entire car ride that he was blaming himself, turning into a non-responsive robot with the weight of the world bearing down on his shoulders.
I couldn’t leave him like this, instead whispering a new destination to Won Shik as I prayed this plan wouldn’t backfire like all my others.
Cicadas hummed as the brisk afternoon breeze pushed and pulled the sea of grass in every direction. The smell of rain lingered in the air, the dampened clouds rolling across the horizon, threatening to start again.
Bright neon reds, greens, and yellows clashed with the serene forested surroundings. The colors gave off a plastic hue, shimmering off a large tangled jungle gym, two wobbling animal spring rides, and a vacant swing set.
Jungkook's hand was warming mine as he trailed slightly behind, quietly allowing himself to be dragged to whatever destination I desired. Rusted chains rattled from our disturbance, a low creaking following every movement of the now occupied swings.
I immediately felt a pang of guilt watching Jungkook stay stoic in place atop the damp dirt stricken seat. A more expensive than usual royal blue suit came in and out of view as I already had a head start, gently swaying by in a pendulum motion.
A pristine white button up peeked out from the top of the ironed suit jacket, not a thread out of place. An equally expensive looking Rolex watch clung to one of his wrists holding either side of the metallic scented chains keeping the seat above the ground.
He looked like he should be headed to a business meeting or the set of a renowned film, not humoring me in some dingy park. The mission was still underway, operation cheer Jungkook up. A plan swiftly forming as time passed.
"First one to the top wins!"
He still didn't budge, needing more incentive to snap out of the self-doubting pity party.
"The loser has to do any one thing the winner asks." That got him. Jungkook was competitive by nature, not one to back down from an issued challenge no matter how trivial it might be.
Despite having a head start Jungkook was catching up alarmingly quickly, panic settling as I didn't imagine losing could be possible.
What would he ask of me if he won?
I wasn't about to find out, barely managing to scrape together a win as the swings jumped and protested from the height.
"Fine you win. What do you want then?" He was already eyeing me warily, most likely feeling that same anxiety I felt earlier wondering what he would have chosen.
"Let's see..." A finger tapped at my lower lip in thought, tracing over the features of the little park.
"I want you to go on that, with me."
A canary yellow slide connected parts of a dark walkway together, leading to bent steel monkey bars or down the straight sloping slide. It was big enough to fit at least two adults, the plastic molded with intended waves as stray leaves and mud pooled at the end of each.
I again felt guilty forgetting the fact that both of us were in rather expensive clothing. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all.
"You could have asked me for anything you know. Just remember that when I beat you to the bottom." Jungkook was all for it, pushing off the smoothed sides to gain speed in a hurry.
Visions of my own private jet or having Won Shik be my personal driver instead flashed for a moment, the opportunity lost as I chased after him." Hey hold on!"
He was already using my own tactic against me, the head start going to be my demise as I fell further behind. A loud ripping of fabric filled the air, chiffon frills of my dress catching on a metal rivet peeking out between the seams.
I got completely turned me around, going down the remainder of the way, back first with arms flailing. It wasn't enough to correct myself in time, launching a few feet into the air before falling straight onto a pile of wood chips.
A thin layer of the massive splintered nightmare covered the whole area. Not as useful as say rubber pieces or plain old grass would have been as a cushion.
Silence befell us for a brief moment. Allowing time for the hilarity of my stunt to sink in. Jungkook was already crouched over, one hand offered out to me as the other wiped at tears from shaking laughter. I soon found myself joining him, admittedly agreeing it had to have looked ridiculous.
A brief distraction was all it took for the storm to return. Loud crashes of thunder demanded our attention as little frigid droplets soon turned into a torrential downpour.
A few metal sheets served as a roof above an ancient picnic table, countless names and drawings carved into the surface where we sat out of the rain in a hurry. A chill was already settling it. Persistent water once again soaking through my dress, complimented by shards of wood, glass, and a noticeable tear down the side.
I must have looked awful, hair a mess, shaking like a wet dog from the sudden temperature change. Jungkook never commented. Instead he was already pulling off his deep blue suit jacket, draping it wordlessly over my shoulders as we sat in silence.
A soft comforting warmth emanated from the fabric. My nerves settling as the silken embroidered inside smelled faintly sweet and familiar.
"Listen about earlier. My father… He hasn't always been like that.”
“Did something happen between you two?" I regretted asking almost immediately, the self-loathing aura gracing his features once again.
"Ah I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry." Great, now he probably thinks I'm some kind of weirdo. Why would I ask such a personal question?
"What do you know about my mother?"
"Your mother?" The question caught me off guard. Jungkook not striking me as a ‘share your feelings’ kind of guy.
"I heard she used to co-own your company, but aside from that nothing really."
"Did you know she used to be a famous musician?"
"What, really? I had no idea." Talent must have ran in his family, the mystery of Jungkook only growing as he spoke.
"She was my biggest fan when I was little. Taking me to all sorts of practices and lessons. I can remember her telling my father every night at dinner how proud she was of me." He trailed off momentarily, seemingly lost in a happy memory as we stared out into the wall of rain.
“She was beautiful and kind, always encouraging me to do what I love. It's hard to believe someone like that could be taken away so easily."
"I'm so sorry I did realize that she..." the rest of my thought wouldn't seem to budge, not knowing exactly where I was going with it to begin with.
“Don’t misunderstand my mother isn't dead, but... she might as well be."
My concerned look spoke volumes as he loudly sighed, knowing I would just ask more questions if he didn't explain.
"It happened when I was around thirteen. I remember I was crying, upset because my classmates thought my singing was a worthless gimmick. That I was only there to mess around. My dream of being an idol seemed so foolish back then.
I started to wonder if they were right after all. If I really was just wasting everyone’s time. My mother refused to let me give up on myself. She personally drove to the agencies that were interested in me, begging them to reconsider. I kept denying deal after deal, her hard work in vain as I didn’t care what anyone had to say.
One night she didn’t make it home. She was on her way to another agency when the breaks in her vehicle failed. It went out of control, pulling her into oncoming traffic. The impact crushed her car almost immediately, the trauma causing massive bleeding in her brain.
Dozens of doctors were called for opinions and second opinions, but they all were unanimous. It was a miracle she had survived, but the swelling had taken its course. She would never be the same again and it was all my fault.”
I never would have guessed Jungkook had been dealing with such immense guilt for so long. It suddenly made sense, why he was so closed off and distrusting. It's hard to believe in others when you don't believe in yourself.
"There is no way you could have known."
A sigh huffed from his chest, the warm air turning into an almost visible cloud in the cooler breeze.
"My whole family blames me for the incident. Especially my father. He is always flying off into a rage, telling me I need to be better."
"Why didn't you tell your father the truth earlier? Maybe he wouldn't have been so angry."
"The truth?" His brows knitted in confusion, clearly not comprehending my question.
"That we are not engaged. That you don't have... feelings for me." Thinking it all this time was one thing, but truly saying so out loud was much harder than I realized.
Silence once again befell the space, the loud methodical dripping drowning away the tinge of awkwardness.
His elbows rested on his knees, allowing the white fabric of his shirt to pull tighter over his shoulders. The rain had already soaked through, leaving a lasting illusion of being able to see through the translucent button up.
Droplets dive bombed from the watered down ends of mahogany hair, coming to rest atop dark blue suit pants. They were smeared here and there with streaks of mud, the small amount of water encouraging the stains.
"What if it were the truth?"
I almost crashed into him from turning so abruptly, noticing our close proximity more than I previously had. When did he get so close?
Fingers trailed under my chin, halting my escape before plush hesitant lips pressed against mine. It happened so fast I almost wondered if I just imagined the whole thing. "Sorry I didn't mean... Just forget it."
I could hardly believe it myself. The notoriously disinterested and cold hearted Jungkook just kissed me. I felt dizzy as my heart pounded, dragging my pulse aboard a rocket ship set to launch into the earth's atmosphere.
My resolve surprised us both. Eyes widening as I realized I was already tugging at his damp shirt, lips sealed once again over his. I wanted, no needed him to continue. Months of pent up frustration and tension coming to fruition as we fell deeper and deeper.
I was acutely aware of his arm snaking around my waist, holding me firmly against his toned side. His warm tongue already eagerly sliding across my lower lip, gaining entry from a dizzying idea that had plagued me for a while now.
I thought it when I first met him in that dimly lit dressing room. Desperately wondering if he tasted as good as he smelled. I couldn't stop the soft sultry moan from escaping, the answer to my own question far greater than anything I imagined.
We tore away from each other after what felt like an eternity. The need for oxygen and possibly our own sanity annoyingly ushering us back into reality.
He was panting, cheeks flushed with a warm shade of pink. Rich honey eyes dilated to almost black, the intensity of his gaze enough to get lost in by itself.
"Listen there is something I need to tell you. I was going to earlier, but I never thought that you'd..." His eyes wandered suggestively.
"What I mean is... I wanted to tell you that I'm already..."
"Master Jungkook! Thank goodness!" The older gentleman that brought me to the mansion earlier had returned, huffing quickly as he ran towards us.
"I told you to stop calling me that." Jungkook tried to shoo the man away, but he was inconsolable.
"Master Jungkook it is urgent! Your father has just had a heart attack!"
"Is this some kind of joke to get me to come home? I'm kind of in the middle of something." He gestured between the two of us as the assistant seemed even more agitated.
"Young Master, please! I need you to come to the hospital at once!"
"Fine whatever, just stop calling me that." He stood to follow, acknowledging me as if it were business as usual.
"We should at least give her a ride home." I thought about agreeing, but the assistant was furiously shaking his head. "There's no time!"
"I can get home by myself. Really it's fine, go.”
Jungkook seemed hesitant, but obliged, turning to leave with purpose." Ah wait, your jacket!" I called out realizing it was still in my possession." Keep it!" Jungkook called back, waving as he elegantly slid into the back seat of the usual family car.
How long had I been holding my breath watching after him?
My hands crossed at my chest pulling the oversized suit jacket tighter around my shoulders. The rain had stopped at some point, sky clearing just in time for the sun to set. His scented jacket reminded me of his absence. Thoughts whirling with no real purpose wondering what he wanted to tell me. What this meant for us now.
Loud barking erupted by my feet, breaking me out of whatever trance I had fallen into. "Are you lost little guy?"
A reddish tan Shiba Inu puppy happily jumped up and down, the white tuffs of fur on his chest and paws illuminated by the street lamps. The dog curled into a ball of floof in my lap, shielding his big green eyes and triangular ears underneath an equally poofy tail.
"Yeah I'm having a rough day too." I giggled at the small sleeping animal having a relatable moment as stars started speckling the night sky.
"Benji? Benji come on, where are you! "A man stopped on an extensive concrete path through the park, hands on his knees as if he were out of breath.
“Excuse me sir, are you looking for a dog by chance?" His bold brown eyes lit up, spying the dog in my lap as a small collar attached to a leather leash bundled in his hands.
"He has taken quite a liking to you." I chuckled passing the dog off into his arms. "Did you and your fiancé get in some kind of fight?"
"What makes you say that?" I was frantic wondering how he knew me or Jungkook, trying to play off my mild panic attack.
His voice was gentle and inviting, complimenting a perfectly toned laugh as he pointed out the obvious. "I assumed by the ring and oversized jacket. Not to mention you look a little worse for wear if you don't mind me saying so."
He was definitely older than me, maybe by about four years or so. A striking toned figure coupled with ear length brunette hair and all around good looks caught me off guard. He seemed so familiar, his casual grey suit and captivating brown eyes not offering any clues as to why I thought so.
"I suppose you could say I'm having an odd day." I tried to laugh it off, but I knew he was right. Something like this could end up on the cover of every tabloid in the city if I wasn't careful, reporters everywhere just waiting for this kind of gossip.
"Let's be friends. It might do Benji some good to have a little company from time to time. Besides I wouldn't mind it so much either."
He was interesting and charming. Like a too good to be true prince from a made up fairy tale. Almost the complete opposite of Jungkook if I had to compare them.
The mysterious man was hurriedly sprinting off after the newly awoken hound, hand waving as he regarded me. "I'll see you around then!"
My days only seemed to go from weird to weirder, I thought taking a mental note of the text I'd ignored for the last twenty minutes.
"Get home. Safely preferably. - Jungkook"
A newfound resolve resonated within me. My game plan for tomorrow a serious check mate in whatever game Jungkook and I were playing. He was competitive sure, but I always play to win.