Chapter 9.1

As if under some enchantment, Yi-soo lifted her gaze to meet the man standing before her. His lips slightly upturned, eyes set deep with indifference, even the veins on the back of his bloodshot hand held a strange allure.

Hyun-seong tilted his head, as if snapping her out of a trance.

Startled back to reality, Yi-soo awkwardly held a cigarette between her fingers, mimicking the act with practiced uncertainty. Having been surrounded by smokers during her college days, she could imitate the gesture fairly well. But, of course, there was a world of difference between imitation and actual smoking.

She wondered if she was doing it right. Glancing at Hyun-seong for any sign of approval, she took a deep breath, letting the acrid fumes fill her narrow throat. However, her inhaling technique must have been off because she suddenly began to cough uncontrollably.

She hurriedly lowered the hand holding the cigarette, hoping to suppress the cough, but the persistent habit showed no signs of stopping.

“You’re not good at lying, Prosecutor Seo,” Hyun-seong said, letting out a low chuckle, his reaction genuine. The more he observed her, the more he found her intriguing. He couldn’t quite pinpoint how she differed, but her persistent coughing persisted for nearly a minute, leaving an indelible impression.

Flushed with embarrassment, Yi-soo fought the impulse to bite her tongue in front of Hyun-seong. How could she reveal such vulnerability to him, of all people?

She stole a furtive glance at the terrace, avoiding his penetrating gaze. Yet, in a surprising move, Hyun-seong’s hand gently overlapped with hers. The touch of his hot, firm palm sent shivers through her, and she couldn’t help but turn her head towards him, questioning his actions with a half-formed sentence, “What are you doing…”

Before she could finish her thought, he cradled her hand, bringing it close to his lips. A mix of surprise and fascination rendered her speechless as she watched him place the end of the cigarette, which was stuck between her index and middle fingers, into his mouth.

Time seemed to stand still as Yi-soo’s eyes widened, her lips instinctively pursed, but words eluded her. Her mind felt like an empty canvas, unable to paint coherent thoughts. There was something inexplicably decadent about witnessing Yun Hyun-seong light the cigarette, his lowered gaze adding an air of alluring mystique. Despite her reluctance to admit it, he was undeniably sexy.

“Excuse me,” Hyun-seong said, turning his head to the right as he exhaled a plume of gray smoke. Yi-soo, on the verge of asking him to release her hand, found herself captivated by his profile for a moment. The smoke traced an ethereal path through his straight, chiseled nose, past his thin lips, and down to his assertive Adam’s apple. Every detail of his face left her breathless, making her wonder if she was weak to the allure of handsome men.

After a while, Hyun-seong loosened his grip on Yi-soo’s hand and skillfully extracted the cigarette from between his fingers. He casually brushed its end on an outdoor ashtray, positioned at the terrace’s edge, and nonchalantly undid his tie. Then, with a hint of awkwardness, he approached Yi-soo.

“I won’t tell you not to smoke,” he began, and she remained silent, still under the spell of his presence. “But if you’re going to smoke, learn how to do it properly. Otherwise, you’ll hurt your throat.” 

“Not that it’s good for your health,” he added with a low chuckle. 

Yi-soo, who had been entranced by his gaze, let out a soft, hollow cough. What had she been so taken with for the past few minutes? She blamed it on the cigarette she had tried earlier.

“Shall we go inside?” Hyun-seong suggested.

“Yes,” she replied. Under the cloudless blue sky, the warm sunlight embraced her shoulders, making her question whether it was truly summer.

Yi-soo opened the terrace door and turned to look at Hyun-seong. He was a combination of misfortune and arrogance, yet he had an uncanny way of holding her attention. Could she achieve everything she planned through her engagement with him? Her heart was entangled with conflicting emotions.

With a soft click, the glass door closed behind them.



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