A subdued voice echoed in response. A bittersweet smile graced Yi-soo’s lips. She wished to reciprocate the words he had once spoken to her. Yet, in reality, she struggled to find an outlet for her own pain. Seeing Hyun-seong like this filled her with a deep sense of pity. She couldn’t fathom the kind of life he had lived.
Their law school classmates used to say, “He must have grown up without lacking anything,” as they looked at Hyun-seong. Among that crowd, Yi-soo was the only one who refrained from such discussions. She knew that appearances didn’t define a person’s life, but many enjoyed molding others’ stories to suit their preferences.
These preconceived notions likely forced him to bury his sorrows deeper. Just as Hyun-seong had transformed his life, Yi-soo didn’t aspire to make a monumental impact on him. All she could offer was her genuine presence, standing by his side and speaking from the heart. If her words could provide even a modicum of solace, she was willing to repeat them endlessly.
The hand that had been tilting the whiskey bottle in Hyun-seong’s grasp came to an abrupt halt mid-air. He turned his head slowly, gazing at Yi-soo with his deep, bronze eyes. It was an uncomfortably protracted stare, but she met it head-on without flinching.
Suddenly, a fragment of recent memory resurfaced in Hyun-seong’s mind, the faint echoes of a conversation reaching his ears.
“Attorney Yoon! Are you okay?”
“You’re not okay. Why do you say you’re okay?”
“I have to be okay. Saying I’m not okay won’t make anything better, Seo Yi-soo.”
“Saying you’re not okay takes courage.”
At that moment, it felt like his heart had plummeted with a resounding thud. No one had ever spoken those words to him before. In a society where a single misstep, even within one’s own family, could prove catastrophic, he couldn’t afford to display his pain openly.
Even when his father’s blows rained down repeatedly, even when the person he had trusted and followed had taken their own life, tears had been forbidden. Swallowing emotions had been the only acceptable response because Yoon Hyun-seong’s parents left no room for deviation from their rigid standards.
But here, in front of Seo Yi-soo, he felt like he could be the unadulterated Yoon Hyun-seong, not the one defined by others. Yi-soo, her gaze locked onto him, whispered softly, “I hope you’re okay.”
“Can you make me okay?” he responded, their gazes locked in an intense embrace. Without thinking, he leaned in and captured her lips, an instinctual act unburdened by rationale.
The pungent aroma of whiskey suddenly filled the air, causing Yi-soo to slightly part her lips in surprise. However, she had no intention of pushing him away, not when he kissed her with such fervor. Instead, she closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, welcoming the warmth. His tongue ventured inside her mouth, igniting sensations she hadn’t expected.
A sigh escaped as Hyun-seong’s warm tongue gently explored her, tracing a path down Yi-soo’s thigh. A soft, sensuous sound resonated as he suckled on her lower lip. With each lingering kiss, Yi-soo blinked her eyes and pulled him closer by the neck.
Every time their lips met and parted, she eagerly inhaled, responding to his kisses. The sensation of their bodies pressing together sent electric shivers down her spine.
“Wait, just a moment…”
Hyun-seong’s fingertips delicately slipped beneath the fabric of Yi-soo’s blouse. Warm skin met his touch, smooth and inviting. While he savored her lips, his fingers grazed her bare waist for a fleeting moment, then he gently nipped at her neck. In the subdued lighting of the room, Yi-soo’s cheeks flushed with desire.
He gazed at her as if he could consume her whole. His pupils, intensified by the effects of alcohol, instinct, and inscrutable emotions, burned more fiercely than usual. He longed to hold her close, to deepen their kiss.
However, in his inebriated state, Hyun-seong knew he couldn’t embrace Seo Yi-soo. It would be improper, and, truthfully, he didn’t want to cross that line. He struggled to maintain his restraint, his fingers tenderly cupping Yi-soo’s flushed cheek, their warmth like a gentle caress.
“…For now, this is enough.”
Yi-soo’s ears perked at his controlled tone. His touch was far more tender and affectionate than she had expected, making it difficult for her to focus her gaze. Her heart raced uncontrollably, against her own intentions, which was both maddening and exhilarating.
For now, just up to this point, she reasoned, wondering what he had in mind. With a slightly embarrassed breath, she retrieved her phone from her bag, where it had been stowed away earlier. The sip of whiskey she had taken earlier was perhaps starting to affect her.
Inappropriate thoughts, she chided herself, as she dialed Secretary Kang’s number. The phone rang for what felt like an eternity before being answered.
“Hello?” The voice on the other end prompted Yi-soo to clear her throat.
“Um, Secretary Kang… It’s Seo Yi-soo.”
Blink, blink. Under the watchful eyes of Yoon Hyun-seong, her voice held a weight she hadn’t anticipated.