Taeyeon hangs her black blazer on the coat hanger and takes her seat. Taking out her notebook and scheduler, she puts them on the table, then keeps her bag in the drawer under her table. The time is ten to nine in the morning. Taeyeon tries not to smile but fails. Hwang Sajang-nim will be arriving soon.
Switching her laptop on, Taeyeon flips through her scheduler and checks the items for the day. A call from their Japan partner at a quarter to ten. Another call at half past eleven and a social-business lunch at the five-star Japanese restaurant in the city centre.
Hwang Sajang-nim usually buys a cup of coffee from her favourite café so Taeyeon doesn’t have to prepare it for her but about five minutes before nine, she will enter Hwang Sajang-nim’s office and put a little cup of sweets on the desk. She will also lay out the files and documents for the day. And just before she leaves, she turns the blinds so the office is filled with natural sunlight. Hwang Sajang-nim likes a bright office.
Nine o’clock. The elevator dings and Taeyeon stands by her desk outside, ready to greet Hwang Sajang-nim.
“Good morning, Sajang-nim,” she greets with a bow when Hwang Sajang-nim finally appears. Her eyes bulge when they spot the red killer heels her boss is wearing today. On the way back up from bowing, her eyes follow the slender calves up to thighs, thighs and more thighs. Wow. Hwang Sajang-nim’s dress is at least an inch shorter than usual and it adds a touch of sexiness to the professional get up. Not that Hwang Sajang-nim doesn’t look sexy in her usual dresses.
“Good morning, Taeyeon-ssi.”
Hwang Sajang-nim is already one foot into her office when Taeyeon straightens up. Her smile falls as the door closes. After what happened in Hwang Sajang-nim’s car yesterday, Taeyeon had been looking forward to seeing her again today but it seems to be one-sided . . .
Staring at the closed door isn’t going to make things change so Taeyeon tells herself to snap out of it and focus on her job. Whatever it is that’s happening with Hwang Sajang-nim should not affect her work.
The call from Japan comes punctually. Taeyeon transfers the call and the sound of Hwang Sajang-nim’s voice makes her smile. However, it is a short exchange of words and Taeyeon is back to her laptop, handling the tons of correspondence coming in all day long.
It isn’t until after the second business call ends that Taeyeon is summoned in by Hwang Sajang-nim. She knocks on the door as usual and opens it, sticking her head in first. Hwang Sajang-nim is typing but stops when she walks into the room.
“What may I do for you, Sajang-nim?”
Taeyeon stands still in the middle of the room as Hwang Sajang-nim rises from her seat and walks around the desk to her. Staring into her boss’s eyes, Taeyeon’s breath catches and halts just as it did in the car, when she was asked to close her eyes. Hwang Sajang-nim stops and stands close. Taeyeon’s heart quickens. Hwang Sajang-nim lifts a hand to Taeyeon’s face and sweeps a strand of hair from her cheek. Taeyeon’s breath catches yet again.
Hwang Sajang-nim smiles. “Your dress is very nice today, Taeyeon-ssi.”
“Thank you, Sajang-nim. I choose this dress especially for the business lunch today.”
“For the lunch. I see.”
Taeyeon smiles politely but she’s kicking herself inside. Why did I say that? I did choose the dress with today’s lunch in mind but it isn’t the only reason. “As your secretary, I have to look my best for you.”
“I expect no less from my secretary.” Hwang Sajang-nim turns around and moves to her coat hanging in the corner. “Get ready to leave in five minutes.”
Taeyeon blinks, a little surprised by the instruction. “Lunch isn’t until one, Sajang-nim.”
“I have a stop to make before lunch. Five minutes. Be ready.”
“Yes, Sajang-nim.” Taeyeon leaves the room wondering why Hwang Sajang-nim added a stop to the itinerary without informing her. Where is the stop and what is it for? She will find out soon.
“Take this card.”
Taeyeon looks at Hwang Sajang-nim for a moment. “What should I use the card for, Sajang-nim?” she asks while casting a furtive glance at the chauffeur.
“Use it to pay for the lunch later.”
“Yes, Sajang-nim.” Taeyeon reaches for the card just as Hwang Sajang-nim extends it further and their fingers brush past each other. It is electric. And it shocks. But Taeyeon maintains her composure and calmly pulls her wallet out from her bag to keep the card.
Hwang Sajang-nim’s eyes are on her. Or her legs actually, Taeyeon notices when she follows her boss’s line of vision. Having her boss’s eyes on her legs is hot. But it was nothing but cold back at the office until she was called into her boss’s room. Hot and cold. Just like yesterday. The kiss had been hot. Molten lava hot. But before she could wrap her arms around her boss’s neck, the lips were but a lasting impression. And the goodbye had been awkward, with Taeyeon leaving in a state of confusion.
Based on Hwang Sajang-nim’s hot-cold behaviour today, Taeyeon deduces that her boss is just as confused as she was yesterday. But Taeyeon isn’t confused today. She knows very well what she wants. It is the reason why she makes it a point to look exceedingly good every single work day, the reason why she went out and got heels an inch higher than her usual office heels, the reason why she put in extra effort into makeup, and brushing and styling her hair.
The car makes a detour and stops along the poshest row of luxury stores. Taeyeon follows her boss into the most expensive brand of them all, realizing that her boss is going to buy a gift for the potential business partners they are having lunch with. What a smart boss she has.
“Which wallet looks nicer to you?” Hwang Sajang-nim asks her.
Taeyeon points to the pastel pink leather wallet laid out on the tray brought to them. “This will suit the chairman’s daughter.”
“Which would you choose for yourself?”
Meeting her boss’s eyes for a moment, Taeyeon blinks a few times before looking again. “The blue one.”
Hwang Sajang-nim straightens up and smiles at the smiling saleswoman. “I’ll take one of the denim.” Taeyeon stares blankly when her boss turns to her and asks for her wallet. “The card.”
“Oh, yes. Of course.” Taeyeon takes her wallet out again but before she can even open it, Hwang Sajang-nim has snatched from her.
“We will use the denim immediately. So please wrap up this wallet instead,” Hwang Sajang-nim says to the saleswoman.
“Sajang-nim, I don’t think—”
“Just say thank you. Don’t say anything else.”
“Stop.” Hwang Sajang-nim turns to the saleswoman and smiles. “Please give us a moment.”
“Sure. Take your time, ladies.”
Taeyeon waits till the saleswoman is further away before grilling her boss. “Why are you buying me a wallet? Why such an expensive wallet?”
Hwang Sajang-nim smiles. “It’s for the business lunch.”
“You’re buying me such an expensive wallet just for the business lunch?”
“As my secretary, you have to look your best for me.”
Taeyeon’s nostrils flare. She recognizes that line. Hwang Sajang-nim is mocking her. “If you feel that my wallet isn’t good enough for you, I won’t show it at all. I will put your card in my pocket instead.”
Hwang Sajang-nim’s smile fades. “Taeyeon-ssi, I was joking.”
“I don’t find it funny at all, Sajang-nim.”
“I apologize for the bad joke. But please don’t take this the wrong way. I’m buying this wallet for you because I want to give you a present.”
“I don’t deserve such an expensive present, Sajang-nim.”
“You don’t get to decide if you are worth the present, Taeyeon-ssi. As the person buying the present, I will make the call. I chose this brand before it is my favourite. The price tag is inconsequential to me.”
“Sajang-nim, I . . .”
“If this present makes you unhappy, I won’t give it to you. But I want you to know that I only wanted to give you a present. There’s nothing more to it.”
“I appreciate the thought a lot. Really, I do. But I’m not comfortable receiving such an expensive gift, Sajang-nim.”
“Stop calling me Sajang-nim.” Hwang Sajang-nim’s frown is deep as she stands. “Forget it. Let’s go.”
Taeyeon follows her boss out of the luxury store back to the car. Once inside, the air around them stills and chills and the rest of the journey is ridden out in silence, reminiscent of the past two months prior to their kiss.
The business lunch goes well. Hwang Sajang-nim is her charming, smiling self and the chairman is charmed. The chairman’s daughter is nice company as well and they stand to say goodbye when she takes her leave early. As the lunch draws to a close, Taeyeon excuses herself to visit the toilet. On the way back, the chairman stops her with a hand on her arm.
“Your secretary is very good, Hwang Sajang. You are fortunate to have her.”
Taeyeon stiffens as the chairman’s hand wanders from her arm to her back. Her fists clench when the same hand slides further down and over her rear. Taking a step back so that his hand can’t reach her, Taeyeon bows politely. “Thank you for the compliment, Park Huijang-nim.”
Hwang Sajang-nim pulls Taeyeon to her side. “Huijang-nim, she is my best secretary and a wonderful human being. I respect her immensely.”
Park Huijang-nim chuckles, his chest and shoulders heaving. Then he turns to his secretary sitting beside him. “I respect my secretary a lot too,” he says with another laugh as his hand reaches for her, hidden by the table cloth.
Taeyeon can deduce what his hand must be doing to his secretary’s thigh and she feels terribly sorry for the woman. But this is a business lunch. The success or failure of this lunch will ride on Hwang Sajang-nim’s head, not hers. This is not the place for her to bite off the old lecher’s head.
“Yes, I don’t know what I will do without my secretary.” Hwang Sajang-nim’s eyes meet Taeyeon’s and Taeyeon is filled with a sudden desire to hug her boss very, very hard.
The lunch ends soon after that and Hwang Sajang-nim leaves with Park Huijang-nim’s promise to look into her proposal. It would be considered a successful business lunch but Hwang Sajang-nim’s expression in the car is darker than the stormiest night.
“Sajang-nim, why do you look so upset?”
Hwang Sajang-nim’s head snaps around, eyes locking on Taeyeon’s. “If you think I’m not enraged by what that wrinkled pervert did to you then you are not as perceptive as I thought you were. I will not work with him even if he accepts our proposal.”
“Don’t say a word.”
“Quiet. I mean it.”
Taeyeon quiets, canning all her protests in her chest. It is a melting pot of mixed emotions inside. Proud and happy. Worried and anxious. But it looks like Hwang Sajang-nim is unwilling to talk about it now. She will try again when they are back in her office.
A gentle knock on Hwang Sajang-nim’s door. A peep around the door. Taeyeon steps in after seeing that her boss is standing by the window, looking out and deep in thought.
“What is it,” Hwang Sajang-nim says without turning around.
“Let me say my piece, Sajang-nim.”
“No matter what you say, I will not change my mind.”
“But I need to say it, Sajang-nim.”
Hwang Sajang-nim finally turns around and sits down. She gestures at the chair across her desk. “Sit. I will listen.”
Taeyeon takes a deep breath and begins. “Sajang-nim, I hope you won’t let the incident at lunch affect your decision to work with Park Sajang-nim. There are many people you have to answer to. This incident should not be the reason for you to withdraw from this business deal.”
“Taeyeon-ssi, it is my prerogative to choose my business partners according to my standards. My decision is not based on my feelings for you. I will not work with a person who does not respect my staff. It means he will not respect the boundaries of our collaboration either. Don’t worry. He is not the only company I am approaching. I have other choices, other options. I don’t put all my eggs in one basket.”
“I see.” Taeyeon understands her boss’s point of view now and feels a lot better. “Thank you, Sajang-nim.”
“Why are you thanking me?”
“I would like to thank you for being such a good boss. It’s my honour to be working for you, Sajang-nim.” Taeyeon pauses, then adds, “I would also like to thank you for thinking of giving me a present. Even though that didn’t happen. I really appreciate the thought but please try to understand how I might feel if I were to accept the expensive wallet from you. We are not there yet.”
Hwang Sajang-nim leaves her seat and walks to Taeyeon. With her boss standing behind her, Taeyeon stiffens and gasps when two hands land on her shoulders.
“Taeyeon-ssi,” says her boss in a husky low tone by her ear, “let’s go for dinner together today. I’ll make sure it’s not too expensive.”
Taeyeon turns her head and is startled by her boss’s eyes hovering up close and personal. “Is it a date?”
Hwang Sajang-nim’s eyes turn into smiling moons. “Yes.”
Taeyeon smiles. “Okay.”
Those big brown smiling moons draw even nearer and Taeyeon’s eyes close naturally as soft lips press on hers. A flower blooms in her chest as she raises her arms and wraps them around her boss’s neck. This time, their kiss lasts much longer. Taeyeon melts within seconds. This is everything she wants and more.