Injae is waiting in front of the elevator, tapping the front part of her shoes against the floor impatiently while mentally rechecking the documents on her hand when the elevator dings, a sign that it has arrived on her floor.
She takes a deep breath, finally, and is about to enter the elevator when she sees him, standing straight facing the elevator door, and unfortunately, he decides to look up at her from the phone in his hand.
He freezes on the spot the moment his eyes landed on hers. And the memory of that night suddenly flooded her mind.
The way he held her intimately in his arms. The way his eyes wandered on her body. And his long fingers...
Shit, this day is just getting worse.
On instinct, she turns around and is about to march back to her own office when someone calls her.
"Injae-sshi, are you coming?"
Injae blinks hearing her voice and turns back. She just realizes that there are Saha and Chulsan in the same elevator with coffees on their hands, clearly just went to the cafeteria for an errand to get everyone their much-needed caffeine intake before meeting in the afternoon
If there are Chulsan and Saha, then I wouldn't be alone with Han Jipyeong. It should be okay , her logic starts talking.
But still… I am not ready to face him , now her mind takes over.
Today is Cheongmyeong Company's weekly meeting with Han Jipyeong, so they will probably get off at the 7th floor , her brain counters.
It's okay CEO Yoon can wait , her mind reasons.
"Injae-sshi, if you are not coming, then we will be going first. Excuse us." Chulsan bids her goodbye and pushes the close button since they have been waiting for her for a long time.
CEO Yoon is busy. Who are you to keep her waiting?
And Injae runs to the closing elevator, "Wait for me!"
From the small gap between the closing door, she can see that Chulsan is fumbling to push the right button and Saha is looking panicked, trying to help. But Jipyeong's swift hand manages to save the day, Injae feels her stomach churns at the sight.
"Thank you." She mutters to no one in particular, earning some curious glances from Chulsan and Saha. But both of them are respectful enough not to ask anything.
"Which floor?" Jipyeong asks, eyes trained on the buttons.
"22." Injae replies, she glances at Jipyeong who pushes the 22nd floor wordlessly, then sets her sight straight ahead on the closing door.
The elevator moves slowly and Injae unconsciously taps her shoes in impatience, watching the number slowly go up. Thank God, no one enters the elevator after her because she feels suffocated. Even with another two people between them, Injae is highly aware of Jipyeong's every movement.
The man is standing straight in front of the lift button, looking impeccably well dressed in his well-tailored suit.
And even after these times, Injae can't stop herself from stealing glances at him. She closes her eyes in annoyance, hoping that the elevator moves faster to Cheonmyeong Company.
Injae finally can breathe when she sees that they have reached the 7th, where they are supposed to get off.
"We'll be going first, Injae-sshi." Injae nods at Saha's acknowledgment a little bit too enthusiastically, making the younger woman look at her warily.
"You guys can go first. I need to fetch something in my office." Jipyeong says making Injae agape, ruining her plans, and calmly dismissing the other two with a tone that leaves no room for the other party to argue. Not that they want to argue with Han Jipyeong. Saha and Chulsan immediately flee from the elevator, not wanting to be involved with whatever situation that Injae and Jipyeong are in.
The elevator closes once again. And Injae stealthily moves back to the corner, trying to make as much space as she can in the narrow lift from Jipyeong.
But he notices her movement and glares at her from the door lift's reflection.
"Do you hate me that much that you can't bear to standing next to me, Injae-sshi?" He sneers, lips thinning as if mocking her.
"I don't hate you," Injae replies, keeping on her face emotionless and looking straight at her reflection on the door.
Jipyeong grunts in annoyance, still watching her on the reflection.
"Then explain to me why you have been avoiding me since that night?"
Injae's breath hitched, now that they are alone, Jipyeong won't ever let his questions go unanswered.
"I am not avoiding you." Heck, who is she kidding? Even she knows that she's lying.
And Jipyeong definitely knows, from the bitter chuckle that he lets out.
"Then why do you stop attending Cheonmyeong Company's meetings whenever I am around? Why can't I find you during lunchtime and whenever I try to set a meeting, your secretary always says that you are busy?" Jipyeong now turns back to look at Injae, walks slowly towards her, like a tiger circling his prey, playing around with it before finally eating it alive.
Injae hugs the documents that she brings even closer to her chest.
"Because I am busy at the moment." She tries to cover her trembling voice, putting out her best CEO persona, "There's only one person needed to make the decision. Since you are already there, I don't need to attend the meetings. You are their investor, after all."
She can see the rage written in his face, the tightening of his jaw, and his cold stare.
Funny, why does he have to be mad?
It should be her who's mad.
"You don't even reply to my messages when I ask you to talk about that night." His voice drops an octave and her knees buckle as she remembered he used the same voice when he worshipped her on that fateful night.
"Maybe because there is nothing to talk about."
Jipyeong's face goes blank for a second hearing her reply, eyes wide, and lips slightly agape, not knowing what to say.
She knows she has hurt him. But there's nothing that she can do to take the words back.
Maybe this is for the best for both of us. We should get back to being mere colleagues, an investor, and a CEO of the company he invested in.
Mixing business and pleasure never ends well for anyone involved.
“I see…” He nods and Injae watches as he turns around, eyes steeled, void of emotion and she also shifts her vision to the floor display 19th. Just 3 more floors and she will be freed from this suffocating silence.
Then suddenly the elevator goes pitch black, making Injae slightly jump from the shock. And then it rattles a few times before they feel a hard jerk that makes them stumble before the elevator completely stops.
"Are you okay?" He asks, Injae can hear the worry in his voice and it makes her heart clenches.
"Yeah, I am just shocked." In the complete black, Injae tries to feel her way to grab a railing just to steady herself. But instead, her palm meets his sturdy arm and Injae immediately pulls back her hand as if burned.
"Sorry," she mutters, face heating up. But Jipyeong doesn't say anything. Instead, he opens his phone and turns on the flashlight. Injae also checks her phone, trying to call someone for help.
"You can't call someone. There is no signal." Jipyeong replies calmly and Injae checks back her phone. No signal indeed.
"Then what should we do?"
Jipyeong grabs the phone for emergency located at the upper part of the lift button and tries to call the security. But no one seems to answer. He tries a few times before giving up when he doesn't receive any response.
"Guess we just have to wait then." He sighs.
"How do they know that we are trapped if we can't tell them?"
Even in the dark, she can hear that he is chuckling, amused with her question. Suddenly, Injae feels her cheeks burn with embarrassment.
Is it a stupid question?
"It's easy. With the two most workaholic people in Sandbox missing from work, people are bound to wonder. Besides, I am supposed to attend the meeting with the Cheonmyeong Company and you are supposed to meet CEO Yoon, right? So they will look for us."
Jipyeong then moves and sits on the floor, not caring that his expensive suit might be ruined.
"You should sit too. I think we are going to wait for a long time and you will get blisters with your new shoes.
"I'm going to be fine," Injae replies stubbornly, wondering how Jipyeong knew that she was wearing new shoes.
But the more she tries to stand, the more her feet hurt. So she swallows her pride and sits down on the corner, maintaining the distance between them. She knows he is going to mock her.
But strangely, he doesn't say anything and Injae is grateful for that. He knows how to make her comfortable. And somehow it hurts her to realize that their friendship is forever ruined.
Their friendship started when Jipyeong became an angel investor for the sub-company that Injae built with Dalmi. She knew the past relationship that Jipyeong and Dalmi had, although not very detailed.
So she offered to become their middle man, knowing that both of them were still awkward around each other after Dalmi got together with Dosan. And also since Injae Company is the parent company of Cheonmyeong Company, so she also has the say on how to run the company.
They started to meet regularly. At first, it was all about business meetings. But the more Injae knows this man, it is getting more and more personal.
And Injae foolishly falls for Han Jipyeong, the man who falls in love with her own sister.
No, she doesn't blame anyone or anything aside from herself. She is the one who makes herself suffer like this.
Injae can't help but chuckle softly at her stupidity.
"Nothing," she says, trying not to care about the shiver that goes down her spine when she hears his voice.
"When you say nothing, it means there is something."
She doesn't know what to say. Han Jipyeong seems to know her well.
Jipyeong sighs. He desperately wants to talk to her but she always manages to avoid him. She skips the meeting which is unusual to do for a Seo Injae. She isn't anywhere to be found whenever he tries to find her during lunchtimes. His messages are left unread and he can't even set up a proper business meeting with Injae because her secretary always says that Injae is busy.
It has been more than 3 weeks since the last time they met and Jipyeong is getting rather impatient.
He knows if he didn't get her answer now, he wouldn't get it ever.
He moves back to the corner of the elevator, and he can see that Injae flinches at the sight of him coming towards her.
Does she hate me so much?
His heart clenches painfully seeing how wary she is of him.
"I am sorry," Jipyeong mutters, loud enough for both of them to hear. He could see she whips her head to look at him from his peripheral vision. He just wants her to hear what he has to say.
"That night was a mistake."
Injae knows it of course. But hearing it from the man directly hurts her tenfold.
"We shouldn't have done that."
She tries to hold back the tears that start to spill on her eyes, blinking them away. Injae doesn't want Jipyeong to know how he has hurt her.
"Don't…" She chokes, "Just don't say anything, I get it. I regretted it too."
"I said that night was a mistake. But I didn't regret it."
Suddenly he is there, sitting in front of her, trapping her on the corner of the elevator but still maintaining personal space between them.
Even in the pitch black, she can see his eyes blazing with determination as he speaks.
"What… do you mean? Don't joke with me." Injae laughs bitterly, her chest hurts and voice hoarse.
“As a gentleman, I should have asked you properly, taken you to the fancy dinner you deserve.” Jipyeong runs his fingers on his hair, ruffles it a bit, a habit that he does whenever he is frustrated.
“But that night ruined the order, wasn’t it?”
Injae grabbed the glass nearest to her and sighed loudly before taking a sip, her throat was parched with all the conversation she needed to take part of. As a CEO, she should be used to this kind of networking party.
But all she wanted to do now was to lie down and watch Netflix with a glass of wine to end the long day. Blame Han Jipyeong for pushing her to attend this networking party.
They served a good wine, Injae noted, enjoying her glass calmly. At least, she still got to enjoy her wine, she shrugged her thoughts.
Remembering that man, Injae looked around the room, trying to find him. They decided to split when they arrived together, not wanting to draw more rumors of them dating. It was bad enough to face the rumors in Sandbox, but this was a networking party and she needed to be professional about it.
Not that Jipyeong might have the slightest feeling for her. He was far too gone with his feelings towards Dalmi. Injae only hoped that he managed to heal his broken heart.
Then, she found him speaking with one of the directors of the biggest company in South Korea. He was standing facing her and even with the distance between them, he still captured her attention. Maybe it was because of his tall stature, or maybe commanding aura Injae didn’t know. Or probably because he was simply Han Jipyeong. Someone that everyone knew as a cold and ruthless venture capitalist. But she had the pleasure of knowing his real side, his more human side, and it made her fall in love with him.
Injae smiled softly to herself, lowering her eyes to the floor, and took a deep breath.
They were friends and it’s enough for Injae.
Trying to shake off the bitter feeling on her chest, she checked her phone to find a missed call from Jipyeong not long ago. She looked up again and found that he was watching her. He grinned when he managed to grab her attention and slightly tilted his head to the right while maintaining a conversation with the older man.
She chuckled to herself. It was a signal that both of them developed to ask for help from a boring conversation. Or in Jipyeong’s case mostly when someone was trying to set him up with his/her daughter for a date. Not that Injae didn’t understand, a handsome, gentleman, and successful man like Jipyeong was one in the million.
Injae hoped that he could find someone that could heal his heartbreak and give him the love that he deserves. Someone that could see him for what he is worth. His warm heart despite the cold exterior. His clumsiness underneath the cool facade. Not because of his network or net worth, but Han Jipyeong as a person.
Someone that was not her. Injae had long accepted the fact that they had too messy of a past to be together.
Getting too sentimental for her taste, she emptied the rest of the glass, trying to get some courage from the wine, set it down on the table, and walked towards the men.
Ah, so it’s the second scenario, she mused as she saw a woman was standing beside the director, blushing and batting her unnaturally long eyelashes to Jipyeong. Obviously fake, Injae thought to herself, as if Jipyeong would fall for that, she felt sorry for that girl. If only it wasn’t because of his courtesy to her father, Jipyeong would have been long gone.
Jipyeong perked up when he saw her making her way towards him. He knew he wasn’t supposed to feel this way to his best friend. Jipyeong didn’t have many friends growing up and as an adult, he didn’t feel that he needed one. A connection, business network, that’s all he had.
Injae started as one too. But the more he knew her, the more he fell for her. At first he was confused, how he could fall for Dalmi’s sister when he knew that he loved Dalmi. But soon he knew that his love for Dalmi was tied to his youth, part of his past and the debt he owed to Halmeoni.
With Injae however, he didn’t expect that they could be best friends. He felt comfortable sharing everything with her, from business, Halmeoni, to the silly memes that he found on his Instagram. Their relationship was started on a clean slate and now Jipyeong knew he wanted to draw a pretty picture of them together on it.
But he knew she didn’t feel the same way. And he didn’t know how to tell her. Heck, he didn’t know if he wanted to tell her or not. His past experience in love definitely wasn’t as stellar as his reputation as a venture capitalist.
If she was happy with them being best friends, then it’s enough for Jipyeong.
She was wearing the knee-length red dress, which admittedly was his favorite out of her clothes. A shame really that she rarely wears it, as he only remembered she wore the dress when they met at the first networking event with Dosan and Dalmi years ago. And despite the modest cut, she managed to attract the attention of some men, making Jipyeong grumble under his breath.
“CEO Seo.” He greeted her, hiding back a smile, as she joined the conversation.
“Director Han.” She smiled back, nodding an acknowledgement at him, then turned to address the man that had been trying to set him up with his daughter.
“Director Jang, Jessica-sshi, it’s nice to meet you.” She politely greeted them, and Jipyeong felt his chest swell with pride at how eloquent Injae was. She knew what to say and when to say to steer the conversation without the other party realizing and Jipyeong just let her turn on her charm to the Jangs.
Then he felt her warm hand on the small of his back and he froze. It was far too intimate, like a lover claiming her man back and Jipyeong felt his heart was beating way too fast at the gesture.
“Actually, I am here to fetch Jipyeong-sshi for CEO Yoon.” She smiled apologetically to the other party, unaware of the chaos that she caused to Jipyeong’s heart.
Then she turned to face him, “CEO Yoon said that she needs to talk to you.”
“Ah… of course.” He found himself tongue-tied, far too lost on his thought.
“Then Director Jang, Jessica-sshi, it was nice talking to you. Now, please excuse us.” He sent the man and his daughter a polite smile before letting Injae walk him out the room, her warm hand was still at the small of his back, drawing curious glances and hushed rumors from the people behind them. Not that he cared about them anyway.
“... Oh God, you should see her face when we leave. She looks so disappointed!” Jipyeong just managed to hear the last part of her ramblings and grinned at the woman who just saved him.
“This was the first time I saw Jessica Jang heartbroken! What did you do to the poor lady, Jipyeong-sshi?” She smiled teasingly as they reached the quieter corner away from the crowd.
“I didn't do anything aside from talking to her father. But you seemed so happy at her heartbreak.” He teased her back and she shrugged.
“Finally she tasted her own medicine for bullying me years ago.”
Jipyeong looked at her curiously, now this was something he didn’t know, “You were bullied?” He asked.
Injae looked away from him, “Yeah, she was one of Sangsu oppa’s friends. They were in the same cliques during their highschool days.”
She didn’t need to say anything else, but he could see the hurt on her eyes. Nothing good ever came out from his step brother anyway. Injae never talked much about her step family but some of the incidents that he knew, it was safe to say that they didn’t treat Injae well.
“But it’s okay now, because you have helped me to get my revenge.” She looked back at Jipyeong and suddenly was aware of their close proximity and her hand on his back. She pulled it back as if burned and Jipyeong immediately lost the warmth that it brought.
“Let’s find CEO Yoon now or else they might realize that we lie to them.” She suggested and walked in front of him, trying to hide her reddened face.
They managed to find the woman and decided to join her in the conversation she was in. It was safer this way, Injae mused. She didn’t trust herself alone with Jipyeong when she was feeling this vulnerable. Maybe it’s the alcohol talking. Whatever it was, it was the best to leave it behind her and be professional now.
“It’s getting late. Injae, do you drive here?” CEO Yoon suddenly asked when the guests were starting to excuse themselves.
“No, I plan to take a taxi.”
“Nonsense!” The older woman cut her, “Jipyeong can drive you home.”
And the man, being a good boy and gentleman, immediately agreed. And Injae could only accept the fate that Jipyeong would take her home.
"Jipyeong-sshi, I think I'm going to stay here for the night so you don't have to drive me home." She said when they had left the hotel ballroom where the event took place.
"Why? Are you sick?" Jipyeong fussed over her.
"No, it's just…" She couldn't say that she needed time away from him.
"You have drunk too much wine, didn't you?" He tutted as if he caught her doing something that she shouldn't do.
"Have you booked a room? Where is your room? I will walk you to your room."
"No, you don't have to. I can walk alone."
But Jipyeong already left her to ask the receptionist about her room. His frowns deepend when he found out that she hadn't booked a room in the hotel.
Wordlessly, he took out a black card in his wallet and booked a room under her name. So much for wanting to be away from him.
He found her standing on the same spot, arms folded in front of her chest, lips slightly pursued in annoyance. He knew she didn't like to owe something to other people, him included.
"Let's go." He showed a card on his hand and out of instinct, put his hand on the small of her back to guide her to her room, and Injae felt a shiver going down on her back.
"Cold?" He asked, noting her reaction. Without waiting for her reply, he took off his suit jacket and put it around Injae's shoulder.
His cologne smells so good. Masculine with a hint of warm spice. And Injae had to hold herself not to lean into the jacket.
Jipyeong guided her to the elevator until they finally reached her room. He helped her to open the door and she turned back to bid him goodbye.
But instead she met with the wide chest and sturdy arms on her back to keep her steady on her face. She didn't know who started but the next thing she realized was his soft lips on hers.
At first, he nibbled on her lip, asking for permission. But once she opened her lips, he kissed her like a starved man before a feast. Yearning, hunger, desire, she felt them all.
"How drunk are you?" He asked when they had to stop for a while to catch some breath. His raspy voice made her weak at the knees.
"Completely sober." She gulped as his intense eyes bore to her.
"Good, me too."
And with that he lifted her legs, wrapped them around his waist, and brought her to the bed without breaking their lips apart.
"And you left in the morning without saying anything. You don't even give me a chance to speak to you."
"If it's not clear enough, Injae-sshi, let me make it clear."
He looks at her straight in the eye, "I like you. More than a friend."
"I'm sorry that I didn't regret what happened between us that night but I regretted that it caused a strain in our friendship."
He waits for a few minutes for Injae to say anything but the woman in front of him seems to be tightlipped.
Jipyeong sighs, embracing the second heartbreak coming towards him. He moves away to the opposite corner of where she sits, trying to get some space between them to clear his head.
He thought that he is used to feeling pain but his chest is starting to constrict painfully at the thought of their broken friendship.
He won't be able to see her smiling at him again.
The small bicker that he secretly loves when they choose a place for lunch, which of course he always let her win.
The random memes that they send to each other, especially during Dosan's presentation in their meeting with the Cheonmyeong Company.
He thinks that he is okay if she doesn't reciprocate his feelings. But now, he doesn't even know if she still wants to be his friend. He took advantage of her when she was vulnerable and he knew he deserved the hate.
The thought of leaving the country crosses his mind once again.
Then he feels a pair of softness grazing his lips hesitantly, making him bewildered when his brain finally registers that she is kissing him. Instinctively, he grabs her waist, puts her on his lap, and lets her straddle him. It feels so right having her in his embrace.
"I'm sorry," she draws back a little from his lips, making Jipyeong finally opens his eyes, "I am not good at explaining my feelings with words."
"And since we communicate better with our body,” she grins, “I will show you my feelings through the body language.”
She then grabs the back of his head and molds their lips together, doesn’t care if it is a little rough that makes Jipyeong’s head hit the wall while their teeth and lips battling for dominance. Not that Jipyeong cares about that. His mind is filled with Injae and her touches only.
“Sorry about that.” She chuckles before rubbing the spot behind his head.
“Just kiss it better and I will be fine.” He smirks back at her.
He leans closer to kiss her forehead before putting their heads together, both of them smile at each other.
Jipyeong has fallen in love a few times in his life, but he has never known the feelings of being loved and he is grateful that he can share the beautiful feelings with Injae, his best friend.
She lifts her fingers gingerly and traces every part of his face gently, Jipyeong closes his eyes and leans into her touch.
“I love you.” Her breathless voice makes him open his eyes and look back with sincerity.
“I love you too, Injae-sshi.”
Injae loops around her arms around his neck and pulls him into another breathtaking kiss, while Jipyeong sets his hands on her waist, trying to keep her close to him.
Her whole body tingles, she can even feel his heart beating loudly against her. When she has to draw back a little to catch some breath, he pulls her in, claiming her mouth again, hungry and intense, setting a flicker of flame in Injae.
Her nimble fingers work fast to loosen his red tie, eliciting a sound from the back of his throat, half growl, half moan, and Injae knows he is feeling it too. Her hand then moves southward, purposely grazing his shirt with the tip of her nails, making Jipyeong shiver and moan against her mouth, and she starts to unbutton his striped suit.
“You are going to be the death of me.” He huffs, partly in annoyance and in heat, when Injae tugs the front of his suit, asking him to take it off, which of course he obeys.
“I don’t hear you complaining just now.” Injae chuckles at his pout and throws his suit behind her back when she finally gets it in her hand.
Jipyeong’s jaw drops open but he is unable to form a coherent word.
She giggles seeing his expression, he looks like a lost puppy. But his eyes darken when he sees her take off her salmon suit jacket and throw it in the similar manner, leaving her in the skin colored camisole.
“Problem?” Injae raises her eyebrow, challenging him to say something.
“No, of course not.” Jipyeong replies in a heartbeat.
He has heard Halmeoni call him by this nickname so many times, but only Injae with her confident smirk manages to turn the innocent word into something sinful.
He drags his lips against her jaw, the hollow of her throat, to the gentle slope of her collarbones, peppering them with tiny little kisses, making her gasps and grinds harder against him.
Not wanting to be defeated, Injae leans down and bites his earlobe gently, and he bucks beneath her.
“Language, Director Han.” She tutts before licking and teasing the sensitive spot below his left ear, something that she knows will drive him wild from their previous night together, making the usually sharp tongued man go putty in her hand.
Then his hands on her shoulder push her away from him, Injae tilts her head in confusion.
“We shouldn’t do it,” Jipyeong stutters, his mind is still fogged with lust, “I mean, not now. Not here.” He adds quickly after stealing a glance at Injae.
“Don’t you think it’s too late for that, Jipyeong-sshi?” She holds back her giggles. She knows he meant no harm, not when he is this flabbergasted and nervous before her.
“I won’t make the same mistake, Injae-sshi.” He sounds firmer this time, “I want to start it right with you.”
He grabs her hand and links their fingers together.
“Let me take you to dinner first. Then…” Jipyeong has the decency to look bashful after all the indecent things they do together, “If you let me, then I will take you back to my place.”
Injae feels her heart soar hearing his heartfelt confession. She knows she has found the right person to be with for the rest of her life.
She nods, albeit too enthusiastically, making Jipyeong’s smile bloom and he pulls her into his embrace.
But their newfound peace is disturbed when the light suddenly turns on inside the lift, making both of them scramble to their feet and grab their suit jackets back to cover their state of undress but not without throwing a glance and smiling at each other.
“Director Han! CEO Seo! Can you hear me?” Someone yells from in front of the lift.
“Yeah, we can hear you.” Jipyeong replies back.
“Please move away from the door, we are going to open it now.” The man announces and both of them move to the back of the lift.
And finally, the elevator opens with a ding, and both of them can finally go out with some help from the security department.
Jipyeong feels a sense of relief but also a bittersweet feeling seeing Injae walk away without sparing him another glance.
Does he misread the signs? Is it only a spur of the moment?
“Jipyeong-sshi,” He looks up to find her turns back at him, “Does the offer still stand?”
It takes him a few seconds before realizing what she means.
“Yes.” He says, smiling widely. So it’s not only on his head.
“I like French food.”
“I will make the reservation.” He immediately replies.
“Then, I will see you later tonight.”
She sends him a secret smile before turning back and resumes walking to CEO Yoon’s room, leaving him in the corridor smiling alone like a fool.
He chuckles to himself.
Well, he can hardly wait for tonight.
And this are what I imagined Injae and Jipyeong are wearing.