The tour of Taeyeon’s apartment went really well. Well, meaning Tiffany got to know Taeyeon’s couch thoroughly, length-wise and corners. From the right seat to the left to the point where Taeyeon was lying on top of her, spanning the length of the couch, Tiffany definitely got in touch with every part of the couch. She had also decided on her favourite cuddling position on the couch in the duration of the tour. It required Taeyeon to have her back wedged into the corner, leaning against the armrest, hugging Tiffany from behind.
Tried and tested, it was the position they were in while watching an episode of The K2, a drama series playing on television that night. Tiffany had poked fun at Taeyeon, comparing her to the K2 character in the show and when the onscreen couple shared a smoking hot kiss under a blanket, Taeyeon, with a towel draped over their heads, did the same to her too. Only, their kiss was hotter and lasted way longer. And involved some hands going places.
It wasn’t until Tiffany got into her own bed later that night, that she realised she hadn’t actually seen Taeyeon’s bedroom at all. Damn it. Feeling miffed, she turned to the candle standing by her bedside and lit it. The fragrant scent of flowers that drifted to her nose made her smile. This was the candle that Taeyeon had bought for her back in Singapore.
Her mobile phone rang while she was staring at the flickering flame. Answering the call, she smiled at the sound of Taeyeon’s voice.
“Hey baby, are you in bed now?”
“Yeah. Your timing is always so good. It’s almost as though you know what I’m doing.”
Taeyeon chuckled. “Who knows? Maybe I have spies sending me information about you.”
“Are you serious?”
“Taeyeon! Stop joking around.”
“Fany baby, don’t be angry. You’ll get bad dreams if you’re angry just before sleeping.”
“You made me angry.”
A chuckle came through the line. “Okay, it’s my fault. I’m sorry.”
“You’re doing this on purpose.”
“You’re too easy, that’s why.”
Tiffany huffed. “Do you torture all your girlfriends this way?”
“I wouldn’t know. My last relationship was with Cassie and I was pretty much a follower.”
Tiffany gasped. “What? You haven’t had a girlfriend since Cassie?”
“Not unless you count the girlfriends I had in juvenile training.”
“What about after you got out of there?”
A sigh was heard. “I wasn’t kidding when you told you you’re the first and only ex-client I’ve ever dated in the past six years.”
“But I assumed you dated outside of your job.”
“In that case, let me rephrase that.” Taeyeon made a show of clearing her throat. “You’re the first person I’ve dated properly in six years.”
“What do you mean by ‘properly’?”
“There are girlfriends, and then there are girlfriends.”
“Are you telling me you’ve been having flings for the past six years?”
“Not so much a fling as a casual, open kinda relationship.”
“Your past is so complicated.”
“Am I too complicated for you?”
“Nothing I can’t handle.”
Taeyeon chuckled. “What about you? How long ago was your last relationship?”
Tiffany turned red. “Six . . . months ago.”
“Really? Your father didn’t mention it in the list of people you are in contact with.”
“My father doesn’t know about my relationships.”
“I see. So he doesn’t know . . . at all?”
“Mmm, he knows. But he tends to ask too many questions when he knows I’m dating so I try not to let him know.”
“He asks because he cares for you.”
“If he asks cos he cares for me, aren’t you gonna ask me about my ex-girlfriends?”
A long chuckle later, Taeyeon asks, “So, your last relationship. How long did it last?”
Tiffany waited, but Taeyeon didn’t ask any more. “That’s all?”
“You don’t sound interested in my love life.”
“Oh, trust me. I’m very interested in your love life. Now and the future. Not the past.”
“Why not the past?”
“Cos I wasn’t part of it.”
Tiffany was silenced for a few seconds. “Wow. Wow.” Another pause. “Is that narcissism or something else, I can’t tell.”
A short bark of a laugh came through. “Maybe it’s narcissism. Maybe it’s pragmatism.”
“Maybe you’re too pragmatic.”
“I can’t help it. Going through what I did . . . being pragmatic helps me to look ahead. With a past like mine, the future is the most important to me.”
“Do you really hate your past that much?”
Taeyeon sighed. “I don’t hate it. But I regret many things. So if I don’t look forward, the regrets will bury me whole.”
“I want to know more about your past.”
“I want to know everything about you.”
“We can play that game we played at the gala.”
Images of guns and scary men jumped to the front of Tiffany’s mind and she trembled. “I’d rather play another game,” she said, wanting to have nothing to do with that game anymore.
“A new game? Yeah, I’m up for that. But for now, I gotta go. Work is starting soon.”
“I wish you didn’t have to work. I wish we could talk like this all night.”
“Once this job is completed, I’ll talk to you all night as you wish.”
Tiffany shook her head even though Taeyeon had no way of seeing her. “No, no, no. If you’re not working, I won’t want to talk to you on the phone. I wanna see you. I wanna be able to touch you when I want to.”
“Now who’s the pervert here?” Taeyeon laughed. “Okay, I really have to go now. Have a good sleep. I’ll talk to you again in the morning.”
“Okay, goodnight, boo.”
Tiffany blew a kiss again and smiled when Taeyeon obligingly blew one back. With this on her mind, she hoped the bad dreams will stay away tonight. Please.
Getting out of her seat, Taeyeon raised her arms above her head and stretched. She shook out the tension from her muscles and jogged about in the room she’d been holed up in for the past two hours. Things were getting boring but she couldn’t lose focus. It was always when people let their guard down that danger would strike. Taeyeon couldn’t afford to let it happen. She would never forgive herself if her client’s daughter was harmed because of her failure.
The street was empty at this time of the night. A quick scan revealed nothing. Feeling stiff as a steel pole, Taeyeon sighed and did more stretching exercises to maintain her readiness to act at a moment’s notice. She was reaching for her left foot when she caught sight of movement on one of the security monitors. Abandoning her stretching immediately, Taeyeon scanned the six monitors she’d set up in the room.
“Damn,” she muttered. There were not one, not two, not three, but four men moving stealthily towards the house and scaling the wall. She had little time to get there but she stopped to send a text message to her client and his daughter: Lock yourself in the bathroom now. Then she spent a few more precious seconds to call for police reinforcements.
Taking another glance at the monitors, Taeyeon saw the security present at the house apprehending one of the men and was somewhat relieved. But that didn’t lessen her worry for her client’s daughter, and even before she was done with the call, Taeyeon was racing out the front door and onto the dark street, weapon in hand as she gave the police the address of the house.
Call finally done, Taeyeon could hear her heart thudding away in her chest as she sped across the street and up the slope to the house. She could also hear scuffling in the distance as she scaled the wall, which added to the adrenaline that was pulsing through her veins. Her phone vibrated in her pocket but she didn’t have time to check it. Her top priority was to get to her client’s daughter’s bedroom.
Based on what she last saw on the monitors, the west side of the compound was covered by the existing security guards on the property, so Taeyeon turned to the east side, bearing in mind that her client’s daughter’s room was on the east side anyway. Owing to the patrols and scouting done prior to this, Taeyeon knew her way around the compound like her own home even though there was little light to help her find her way. Her route to the east wall was undisturbed which meant the intruders would be entering from the west or front door and making their way to their target through the house. So if her deductions were correct, she had some time to climb up to the second level and get to her client’s daughter’s bedroom.
Taeyeon wasn’t concerned with apprehending the men. Her only aim was to protect the woman she was hired to guard. And the quickest way was up. Taeyeon sheathed her weapon as she looked up the wall, mapping her way to her destination. Then, she backed up a few steps, did a short sprint and launched herself into the air with a foot pushing off the bench that was against the wall. She stretched her arms and fingers, barely managing to grab hold of the ledge above. Without breaking the momentum, Taeyeon ran up the wall, each foot toeing up so that she was able to pull herself up and get a knee on the ledge.
When both her feet were secure on the ledge, Taeyeon pressed her back against the wall and crab walked her way to the window. Thankfully, it was left open, the curtains flapping in the light breeze of the night. A quick check inside the room revealed its emptiness. Clearly, the intruders had yet to get here. But where was the woman she had to protect?
Taeyeon entered through the open window and headed straight for the bathroom. If her text message had been read by her intended recipients, that would be where she could find the woman. The door was locked when she tried to open it. Good.
“Come out it’s me, Taeyeon. I’m here,” Taeyeon shouted through the door.
“Taeyeon? Is that you?”
“It’s me. Taeyeon. Open the door.” Taeyeon was unprepared for the rush of emotions that hit when she saw her client’s daughter’s tearful face. Her arms reached for the woman of their own accord and Taeyeon pulled her into a tight embrace. “You’re safe. Thank God, you’re safe.”
“W-What’s going on? What’s happening? And where’s Daddy?”
“I need to get you out of here. Follow me.”
“Don’t worry. Your father has bodyguards to protect him.”
“But why are you here? I thought you were working?”
“Shh. Be quiet for now, okay?” Taeyeon managed a smile when the woman in her arms nodded. She pressed a kiss on the woman’s forehead and said, “I’ll tell you everything later, Tiffany. After this is over.”
The door slammed open just then and Taeyeon pushed Tiffany back into the bathroom, yelling, “Lock the door! Now!” She turned her back to the bathroom door and faced the two masked men who barged in.
“Get out of the way,” one of the masked men growled.
Taeyeon crouched into a predatory stance. “No,” she growled in returned while reaching for her combat knife.
The men pulled out black combat knives with a mean edge and lunged. She leapt away, parried and delivered a kick to the side of one man’s head. He lost concentration from the blow and she took the chance to twist and connect another kick on the same spot with the other leg. The man toppled sideways, crashing into his partner, which gave Taeyeon more time to disarm the man with a wicked wrench of his arm and wrist. The other man managed to recover, however, and Taeyeon had to dodge quickly to avoid his blade.
Hearing a cry of rage to her left, Taeyeon spun to the right just in time to parry the man’s blade with hers but his strength threw her off balance and she fell onto the ground. The man’s foot almost crushed her face but she managed to tilt her head just enough so he stomped on the floor instead. In return, she slashed his ankle and rolled away as he cried out in pain.
Unfortunately, a blow to Taeyeon’s back came from behind, inflicting a wave of intense pain that radiated all over her torso. In a corner of her mind, she suspected a possible fracture but she had to hold on if she were to protect Tiffany from them. With that determination taking over, her mind quarantined the pain and she dived for the blade that one of the men had dropped earlier.
The man with the slashed ankle was crouched on the floor, trying to stem the tide of crimson red. That left the man who hit her back. Still ignoring the pain in her back, Taeyeon crouched low and bounced from toe to toe, wielding both knives in her hands. The man took the blade from his partner and came at her swinging.
She dodged one and attacked his arm. She managed to cut him but failed to maintain her balance when he punched her with the other arm. The hit sent her sprawling across the floor, her head throbbing from the impact. She shook her head, trying to clear it and tried to get up but the man was already towering above her, knife in hand. Her breath caught in her throat at the sign of possibly fatal danger and she tried to roll to the side to dodge him but the knife never came.
Looking over her shoulder, Taeyeon gasped when she saw Tiffany standing behind the man with something strange in her hands. “Tiffany! No!” she yelled, watching as the man’s knife swung towards Tiffany, its blade glinting ominously under the pale moonlight.
Tiffany yelped, galvanizing Taeyeon into action despite the staggering protest occurring within her body. Taeyeon barely saw what Tiffany smacked onto the man’s face and barely registered the man’s strangled screech as she drove both blades into his thigh, fully intending to cripple him. The man fell to the ground, clutching his thigh and tugging on whatever it was on his face, howling like a dying hyena.
Seeing the window of opportunity, Taeyeon reached into her pocket for restraints and fastened the cuffs to the fallen man’s ankles, limiting his ability to move. Then, moving over to the man with the slashed ankle, she pointed her blade at his throat while pressing another set of cuffs onto his wrists.
With the two men sufficiently injured and restrained, Taeyeon finally turned to Tiffany who had backed into a corner and was now holding her arm with tears streaming down her face. She hurried to the woman and upon seeing the rivulets of red flowing down her arm, ran into the bathroom, returning a moment later with a towel. She coaxed the tearful woman to remove her hand and proceeded to apply pressure to stop the bleeding.
“Why did you come out?” Taeyeon hissed, feeling the anger rising with her chest.
Tiffany sniffed. “What did you expect me to do? Hide behind the door and do nothing to help? Was I supposed to let them kill you?”
Taeyeon sighed. “No, of course not. But you’re not trained to fight.” She shook her head and groaned when her head throbbed again. “Come on, I need you to stand up.” Tiffany got to her feet with some difficulty. “Come, follow me.” Taeyeon sheathed her blade and put her arm around Tiffany’s shoulder. She led Tiffany back into the bathroom and locked the door behind them. “The police will arrive soon. But first, let’s clean up the cut on your arm.”
“I saved your life. Admit it.”
Taeyeon chuckled despite the situation. “If it means so much to you, yes, you saved my life. I owe you my life.”
“Damn right you do.”
“By the way, what was that thing you smacked on the man’s face?”
Tiffany grinned through her tears of pain. “Wax strips.”
“Cold. Wax. Strips.” Tiffany giggled. “It’s gonna hurt so fucking bad when they try to pull it off.”
“Tiffany, oh my—I have no words for you.”
Just as Taeyeon spoke, voices were heard outside the door. And not a second later, someone banged on the bathroom door. “Miss Hwang! Are you in there?”
“Yes! I’m in here!”
“Are you safe? Please open the door!”
Taeyeon hobbled to the door and opened it, gasping in pain when the man at the door wrestled her arm around to her back.
“Stop! She’s my bodyguard! Let her go! You’re hurting her!” Tiffany cried as she came to Taeyeon’s side, pushing the man’s hands away.
“I-I’m very sorry.” The man did look chastised, and Taeyeon knew it wasn’t his fault.
“It’s alright. No harm done. But you might wanna get those men out of her room. I called the police so they will be arriving soon.”
“No problem. We will move them downstairs,” the man said to Taeyeon. Then, to Tiffany he said, “Your father wants to know if you’re safe. I will report your status to him but if you want to see him, he is in his room.”
“Is my father safe?” Tiffany asked, anxiety filling her eyes.
“He is unharmed. Just a little shaken.”
Tiffany nodded. “He’s alright then. I’ll look for him after this is taken care of,” she said, lifting her injured arm.
“Since you’re her bodyguard, I’ll leave her injury to you. I presume you are trained in first aid. And for your info, the ambulance is on its way,” the man said to Taeyeon.
Taeyeon nodded. “I’ll take care of it.”
The man straightened his suit, nodded once again and left. Two other men in suits were already hauling the two intruders to the door. The intruders’ plan had been thwarted and the danger, dissolved. With a sense of relief flooding her chest and mind, Taeyeon stared at Tiffany, the last person she would have expected to be in a relationship with.
“Are you okay?” Tiffany asked after a moment of wordless staring.
With a smile, Taeyeon took another clean towel from the rack and pressed it against the cut on Tiffany’s forearm. “Wanna know something I discovered tonight?”
Tiffany stared back at her with beautiful brown eyes that held the universe. “What?”
Leaning close to the woman who touched her heart like no other, Taeyeon nudged Tiffany’s lips with her own, parting to engage Tiffany in a heart-warming kiss that she hoped would convey the message that her heart held. Tiffany’s eyes were misty when Taeyeon pulled away. Did she get the message?
“Taeyeon . . .” Tiffany whispered.
“You probably know what I wanna say but I’m gonna say it anyway.” And with their eyes locked in a steady, unwavering gaze, Taeyeon smiled and said, “I love you, Tiffany.”
“Oh, Taeyeon . . .”
“Do you love me too?” Taeyeon asked, wondering if they were still on the same page. There was scary doubt in her heart for a split second, but then with a blinding megawatt smile, Tiffany nodded.
“Didn’t I just risk my life to save yours? Of course I love you too.”