– 22 –
“We are committed to pushing the boundaries of speed. Our ambitions are lofty but we are well-equipped to make it happen. As partners, we will share a common dream and work towards making it a reality for consumers out there.”
Taeyeon hadn’t been paying much attention to Paul throughout the entire presentation but her ears pricked up at the word ‘partners’. Partners? Were the two companies planning on collaborating? Partners. The irony of it all. Tiffany in Hyundae and herself in Speed Machine. About to become partners. Well, they’d definitely gotten a head start on their companies in that department. She chuckled, amused by the circumstances and attention shifted to her.
“Miss Kim, would you care to share your thoughts with us?”
Taeyeon lifted her eyes and met Paul’s. He was smiling, looking interested in what she had to say. She coughed and cleared her throat. “The collaboration is timely.”
Paul’s brow raised the unspoken question, prompting her to elaborate and her brain chose that moment to freeze.
“What she means is that this is a good opportunity for both companies to look into the future of racing. The racing scene has been developing slowly but surely for the past two decades but developments have sped up significantly in recent years. This is the opportune moment to take advantage of it.”
Paul’s lips curled the slightest before he said, “That’s a lot of meaning you read from Miss Kim’s short answer, Miss Lee.”
Sunny smiled. “It may seem that way but we have been friends for years. We know each other very well.”
“I see. That explains the presence of a sales manager at the association’s event. She must be pivotal to the company in one way or another.”
“She’s our top sales manager and has a hand in deciding the cars we sell. Her contacts bring in a lot of business for our showroom as well.”
“So her role in the company far exceeds that which her position suggests. Most curious indeed.”
Paul’s piercing eyes irked her. “There’s nothing curious about it. In reality, all I do is offer my knowledge of the cars we plan to bring in and suggest models that would sell fast. As for contacts, they’re my friends who have more friends. My position is accurate. My actual job is simply to sell cars and get customers to sign on the dotted line. Nothing more.”
“You undervalue yourself, Miss Kim. In-depth knowledge of cars in your field of work is crucial and having friends who have more friends is exactly the means to expand a business. As such, this presentation and tour is just a means to make another friend in the business and should our friendship bloom, both our companies will have something to gain.”
“Mr Kim is absolutely right,” said Mr Lee. “Do not underestimate the power of networking.”
“Spoken like a veteran.” Paul smiled before turning to Tiffany. “Give our new friends a tour of our premises.”
Tiffany stood and flashed a wide smile. “Let’s take a walk.”
Hyundae Motors was huge, sprawling across what could have been a few football fields. From the main building where business and meetings were conducted to the workshop that was no less well-equipped than Carnical and the training center for racers, Hyundae was nothing short of heaven for a car aficionado.
Along the way, they were introduced to several other members of the racing team at the training center. Taeyeon was quick to note the blatant hostile looks a few of the racers threw at Tiffany. So when she was introduced to the woman who was staring poison arrows at the back of Tiffany, she squeezed her hand harder than necessary and stabbed with a cold glare of her own.
“It’s a real honour to meet you, Taeyeon.”
Taeyeon didn’t think so but she kept her mouth shut.
“And this is where our racers are trained. It’s a full-fledged academy and we are certified to award certificates upon graduation. Racers can apply to join professional racing teams,” Tiffany explained.
“She skipped the whole process and slept her way into the team, yet she has the cheek to say all these things in front of visitors. What a shameless slut.”
Taeyeon could hear every word Denise said to the other teammate and she wondered if Denise had done so deliberately. Fuck. Was this the shit Tiffany had to deal with every day? She looked at Tiffany’s lips, busy with speech. Then her eyes moved from feature to feature, finally stopping at her eyes. Tiffany’s eyes were bright. Twinkling almost. She did her job with her heart. Heart and soul. Not unlike the way she persisted with her.
So. This was Tiffany.
They ended up at the track. She knew of the track. The Hyundae Raceway Seoul. Many major racers had been held right here on these tracks and the ground, graced by the footsteps of many a veteran racer. For a fleeting moment, she wondered what it would be like if she were in a racing team like Hyundae. She had no doubt her racing skills would get her into any team she wanted so for just a moment, she tried to imagine being in Tiffany’s team.
Sex in the locker room would be a possibility. Fuck. That would be so hot.
Tiffany’s eyes met hers just then and a hot flush rose from the pits of her stomach right up to her ears. She bit her lip and held Tiffany’s gaze, rendering the woman speechless for a moment. But Mr Lee asked Tiffany a question and the magic was broken, each woman regaining their sanity before things got out of control.
It took her a few deep breaths to get her heart to resume its regular pace and she tried to focus on the explanation of the track and its history. Her efforts were in vain, however. Tiffany was too much of a distraction.
“Yes, Mr Lee?”
“Would you like to try out the track?”
Taeyeon blinked. How did they end up suggesting this?
“Our team of racers would love to have a go at the track with you,” said Paul. “All the necessary gear has been set up. We even have a car for you.”
“Have a good go at it Taeyeon,” said Sunny. “We’ll be cheering you on from the stands.”
“Well then,” Taeyeon replied with a blistering smile, “what else can I say. Let’s race.”
It wasn’t all bad. She didn’t like to race when it was an obligation but there was one thing going for her—having Denise eat her dust. The irksome racer was already in her suit, getting into her car, selfish in her actions. Only Tiffany came round and helped her into the suit.
“There are eleven points on the track. Point 2 is the Hairpin. The rest is pretty straightforward for you other than the Corkscrew on Point 8.”
“What are you telling me this.”
Tiffany paused and smiled. “You weren’t listening to anything I was saying earlier, were you?”
“So what if I wasn’t.”
Tiffany tugged the suit up and their faces came within inches of each other. “Were you thinking of me?”
“So what if I was.”
Tiffany’s grin was knowing as she patted down the velcro. “Beat me on this track and I’ll give you a surprise tonight.”
That got her fired up at once. “The surprise had better be good.”
Tiffany merely smiled. “But if you lose to me, I want an answer from you.”
Taeyeon smirked. “Sure.”
It was a good thing Tiffany had pointed out the challenges of the track. The Hairpin and Corkscrew were not easy to manoeuvre, so it certainly helped that she was now aware of where they were. She kept her eyes on the lights, watching as they changed. It would be a short 3-lap run of the track. Technically, it wasn’t a race but to the racers, it was a race, just like any other.
In a way, this was a kind of test to her. Out on the streets, they raced with modified cars, each different in build and capabilities. Here, they were racing on the academy’s race cars. Each car was exactly the same, assembled by one production line. If anything, this would be a true test of her racing skills.
Red. Amber. Green.
She floored the accelerator and sped off.
Point 1 was a gentle left bend not worth mentioning. But Point 2 would be the first challenge of the track. The Hairpin was named thus due to the fact that the turn looked exactly like a hairpin if viewed from above. It was a 90 degree left turn into a short gentle curve that led to another 90 degree left turn before straightening out. It required superior control and understanding of physics to make the turns without loosing more speed than necessary while staying on the track.
Tiffany had taken the lead at the Hairpin, owing to her familiarity with the track but she’d managed to bully Denise and the other racer out of lane to claim second place. Point 3 was another 90 degree turn, this time to the right, followed by another after a short straight. She stormed down the longer straight after that and dealt with Point 5, a left turn, with ease.
Indeed, these tracks were boring. The turns were predictable due to how similar they were. Turned one, turned them all.
Point 6 was a gentler left turn leading into another straight and she was on to Point 7, the preparation zone for the upcoming Corkscrew. If there was a challenge that saved the track from being condemned to the depths of boredom, it would be this. It was much like an S-curve, with a sharp left turn and an immediate right. But even this wasn’t an issue with her. She was far too well-versed in the insane lefts and rights on the streets.
The rest of the track was as boring as hell. Not that hell was boring. She wouldn’t know until she got there. And she was sure she would one day, at the rate she was going. But at the moment, she had just one thing left to do—overtake Tiffany to claim first place.
Denise and the other racer were miles behind as she approached the Hairpin for the second time. Remembering the angle and distance between the turns, she managed to close the gap between Tiffany and her slightly. She absolutely jammed on the accelerator on the straights and prepped for the next Corkscrew. Her second go at it proved to be much smoother as well. She had found the optimal entry and exit points and was now driving on the track like a seasoned racer.
If there would be a chance to overtake Tiffany, it would be on the third and final lap.
She zoomed past Point 9, a left turn and 10, a right turn, for the second time. Point 11 had actually been a slight issue for her on the first lap but it was a breeze on her second lap, even if it was an obtuse 120 degree right turn. And a stretch of straight later, she was into her third and final lap.
She pulled up right beside Tiffany at the Hairpin. It was a risk, but she slowed her car just a fraction of a second later than Tiffany and whipped the steering wheel into a frenzy as she fought to keep her car from spinning out of control. She managed it, somehow, and her gamble paid off as they entered the straight side by side.
Tiffany managed to edge her out of the next two right turns but she held her ground down the straight and snuck into the inner left of the next curve and edged Tiffany out of that and the next. They were neck and neck by the time they cleared 6 and the Corkscrew was up next. The Corkscrew might have been the point of contention but she knew that Tiffany knew the fight for the optimal entry point to the Corkscrew began from the straight leading to Point 7.
Sure enough, the lane bully began down the straight as both of them fought to gain the upper hand in the entry point. She was more aggressive than Tiffany, bringing her car dangerously close to the other and Tiffany had no choice but to back down.
They exited the Corkscrew with her in the lead, jubilant in her victory to come. All that was left were three turns and a few straight stretches in between. Easy as pie. She eased past Point 9 and 10, neither turns giving her any cause for worry and approached Point 11 for the third time. Tiffany was half a car length behind her so she didn’t foresee a problem with the next turn but Tiffany too to the extreme left a little earlier and surged ahead into the turn.
Crazy girl. She’s gonna lose it.
Taeyeon kept to her route, pressing down hard on the turn before stomping on the brakes to make the left. Tiffany however, was doing something fantastical. She turned her car earlier, allowing it to drift sideways for just one second and Taeyeon watched as she fell behind Tiffany.
Fuck. Tiffany turned early to cut off all openings for Taeyeon to slip through. As soon as it occurred to her, Tiffany had already sped off, leaving her behind by an entire car length. Fuck. She just lost the race and the surprise for tonight.
“That was the most exciting race I’ve seen in a while. You’re such a gifted racer. Congratulations on clearing this track without any prior training on it.”
Taeyeon took Paul’s extended hand and shook it. “Thanks to Tiffany who explained the details of the track well, I was able to manage it.”
Paul smiled, then turned to Tiffany who’d joined them. “Well done, Tiffany. I’m proud of you.” He pulled Tiffany into an embrace and patted her back, whispering something into her ear. Tiffany smiled. Taeyeon bristled. She had to clasp her hands together to stop herself from pulling Paul away from Tiffany.
“Hey,” Sunny’s voice traipsed into her ear, “chill. You look like you’re ready to murder someone.”
She took a deep breath. Then another. And another. Shit. What was wrong with her. Why did Tiffany have the power to twist her emotions into knots without even trying? She had to get a hold of herself. Sunny was right. Chill. Chill. She didn’t care. Paul could hug Tiffany for as long as he wanted.
She didn’t fucking care.
Yuri wasn’t sure if she’d heard it right. “What?”
“Krystal wants to move in with us.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
“Yuri. She’s my sister.”
“I know.” She felt horrible for reacting this badly. She had witnessed how badly Jessica missed her sister and now that they were reunited, she should be happy for Jessica. “I’m sorry. I’m just surprised.”
“She says her dreams are getting from bad to worse and Doctor Seo advised her to move in with me.”
Yuri took a deep breath. “Okay.”
“Really? Are you alright with it?”
She sighed and spread her arms wide. Jessica stepped into them and she hugged her girlfriend as hard as she could, willing her mixed feelings to stay inside. “I’m good. I love you. I just want you to be happy.”
Jessica leaned back and cupped her cheeks. A playful smile danced across her lips and laughed in her eyes. “Then we’d better make the best of the privacy we have right now.”
Yuri caught on and grinned. She slid her hands down Jessica’s back to her bottom and squeezed. Jessica responded in kind and soon they were lying on her bed, making the most of their time together.
A hot shower later, Taeyeon put on her bathrobe and stepped out of her bathroom feeling considerably better. She had been riled up all day after returning to Speed Machine from Hyundae and she’d left work on the dot, rejecting Sunny’s dinner invite. She didn’t know if she was angry because of Paul and Tiffany or the fact that she was even angry in the first place. She’d had enough of having her emotions being played like a puppet in her teenage years. No more.
She popped a frozen pizza into the microwave to thaw then headed out to the living room and slumped onto her couch. A brief surfing of channels revealed nothing good on TV, so she left it on a random news channel and lay flat on the couch.
It was irrational. She knew it. But she couldn’t help it if she hated the sight of Paul and Tiffany together. And to think they saw each other every day at work. Fuck Paul. Fuck Tiffany. She would have her pizza and go to sleep.
The doorbell rang as she settled back down on her couch with her microwaved pizza. Grumbling about the inconvenience, she put her plate down and went to the door. She sucked in her breath when she saw who it was. It was Tiffany. Tiffany in the same outfit from work. The same translucent black top, revealing the black camisole inside. The same chestnut brown curls that she wanted to twirl around her fingers. The same intense eyes that seemed to be able to see right through her soul. The doorbell rang again interrupting her silent appraisal of Tiffany’s appearance.
There was a moment of silence but it was followed by the doorbell yet again. “Taeyeon!”
Fuck. Tiffany’s voice was as loud as heavy metal drilling through concrete. So, she opened the door and said, “What are you doing yelling my name like that.”
But Tiffany didn’t answer her question. She pushed her way in, translucent top, heels and all and shut the door. “Why didn’t you answer any of my calls.”
Taeyeon turned around to look at her phone. She’d left it on the coffee table after getting home and she hadn’t heard a single sound from it. “I didn’t hear it. You must’ve called while I was in the shower.”
“You were angry when you left Hyundae today. I want to know why.”
“It’s not important.” Taeyeon returned to her couch and picked up her pizza. She took a huge bite and munched on it as Tiffany took her place beside her. “Why are you here.”
“I told you I have a surprise for you tonight.”
“But I didn’t win.”
“Is that why you’re angry?”
“I’m not a sore loser.”
“What is it then. I didn’t like the way you left.”
“Why are you always asking questions.”
“Why are you always dodging questions.”
Taeyeon stared at Tiffany for a moment. “I have secrets to hide.”
“It’s tiring to keep secrets.”
“I’m used to it.”
“What do you mean.”
“I mean exactly what I said.”
“It sounds like you’ve been harbouring secrets your entire life.”
Taeyeon shrugged and took another gigantic bite of her pizza.
“Mmm?” she replied, mouth full of pizza. Tiffany remained silent, her eyes speaking in a foreign language that Taeyeon couldn’t understand. Then, in a sudden move, Tiffany hugged her. Arms all around, pulling her so tight she could barely breath. “Pippammm?”
Tiffany’s hands were rubbing and patting her back. It wasn’t sensual however. It was more like a consoling hug, which was odd. What was there to console?
Her eyes opened wide. Tiffany was sucking on her earlobe, sending little electric shocks zapping down. She chewed and swallowed, her mind losing the ability to think as Tiffany planted gentle kisses around her face, cheeks, nose, forehead and finally, lips. Hell, that felt so good.
Her eyes closed as she parted her lips and welcomed Tiffany. The hot flush she’d experienced earlier at Hyundae came right back and took her by force. She sank deep into the embrace, giving up control to Tiffany, giving her free rein over the kiss. The plate of pizza was left untouched on the couch beside her leg and it had turned cold by the time they came up for air.
For a while, they clung to each other, saying nothing. Sounds of their breaths were all she could hear and she was content with that. Slowly, they parted and looked into each other’s eyes. It was electric and she never felt more alive.
“Is this the surprise?”
Tiffany shook her head. “You won’t find out what it is since you didn’t win. But you owe me an answer.”
“What kind of answer do you want.”
“An honest answer.”
“And what’s the question?”
“Why do you hate your mother?”