Yukiko had swooped down on the empty seat next to Taeyeon while the latter was styling her hair. The actress rested her palm on Taeyeon’s thigh as she was talking to her, occasionally patting it to emphasize her point. Taeyeon was surprised at the actress’ boldness since physical interaction in a “business” environment wasn’t particularly encouraged. Moreover the actress was a well-known figure and her reputation was at stake.
Fortunately, Taeyeon’s hair was ready a few minutes later. The large waves in her shoulder-length hair complemented the white button down shirt and khaki skinny pants she was wearing.
Just then, the floor manager was calling for Yukiko. He wanted to brief her about the interview later since she wasn’t at the studio earlier like the rest. Taeyeon heaved a sigh of relief as she went to join her colleagues.
Seeing the actress walk away, Taeyeon began to understand why it wasn’t easy to ward of the beautiful actress, especially if one was lonely and seeking for company in a foreign land. In the past hour, Taeyeon thought about what had happened last night and she knew it wasn’t Jessica’s fault for falling for the actress. Anyway, that was the past and as long as they were true to each other now, nothing else really mattered.
“Hey, you’re smiling ‘cause you look really pretty right?” a playful male voice interrupted Taeyeon’s thoughts.
Hinata popped in front of Taeyeon and flashed a big toothy smile. Taeyeon was a little embarrassed that thinking about Jessica made her smile naturally and she could feel her cheeks warming.
“Senpai, you’re looking quite good yourself,” Taeyeon praised as she nudged him towards the studio where the interview was held.
“I always look cool and handsome, even in my chef’s whites,” Hinata proclaimed jokingly as he did a hair flip with his hand brushing past his short side burns. Taeyeon broke into a giggle as both of them headed for the interview set. Hinata was someone whom Taeyeon looked up to when she was honing her skills in Tokyo, and they did become good friends.
Staff were milling around the set and preparing the guests for the interview which would be happening in ten minutes. The atmosphere was rather tensed due to the number of guests present. Usually, it was a smaller group of two to three. The floor manager had to rent a large sofa to accommodate all of them.
The set at the television studio was furnished to resemble a small living room. The furniture were mostly white with wood trim, typical of a Japanese-styled home. Suzuki and Hinata sat on single seater chairs while Taeyeon, Yukiko and two young children were told to sit on the four seater couch. Yukiko originally had planned to sit next to Taeyeon but was directed to sit at the end of the couch so that the children could be in the middle. Taeyeon was relieved at that arrangement and tried to withhold her relieved smile from the actress.
The two children were from the children’s home which was the beneficiary of the event. They were chosen to represent the home and to tug at the heartstrings of viewers at home, hoping to attract more donations. Taeyeon enjoyed chatting with the little girl sitting next to her. She loved the innocence and curious nature of little children. The girl’s name was Emiko Daicho and she was very intelligent despite her tender age of seven. Emiko had shoulder length black hair, big round eyes and wore a bright smile despite missing her two front teeth. She held Taeyeon’s hand tightly and didn’t want to let go. She was comfortable with the baker and the baker’s warm hand provided an assurance for the little girl who was trying not to nervous in front of the cameras.
From the corner of her eye, Taeyeon noticed that Yukiko was trying to engage the little boy next to her. She could tell it was a forced attempt and that the actress was probably not very good with children. However, the actress had to put up a front and portrayed an angelic look in order to carry off her caring persona. The little boy looked a little uncomfortable and wasn’t keen to participate in a conversation with the actress.
“Hello everyone, we would be starting in less than three minutes. Don’t be nervous and remember to put on your biggest and brightest smile!” the floor manager called out.
At a distance, the children’s teacher, a middle age lady was making a ‘U’ sign across her face, reminding the children to smile. Suzuki, Hinata and Taeyeon gave each other a nod of readiness. Yukiko was already smiling gently, the typical celebrity smile for the cameras.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one, rolling!” the director called out with a wave of his hand.
The interviewer, a journalist in her early thirties, began by introducing the charity event and the guests present at the studio. Everyone smiled and gave a polite nod as they took turns to introduce themselves. The interview started off with questions about the event. Suzuki and Yukiko took turns to answer the questions that were directed to them.
When it came to assembling his team for the event, Suzuki san replied with a proud smile.
“When I approached Hinata san for help, he agreed without batting an eyelid. He is a passionate young man and loves to help others. As for Taeyeon san, she’s very creative with sweets and would be perfect for this event.”
The two young bakers grinned from ear to ear while listening to how their teacher spoke highly of them.
“Taeyeon san, you’re an award winning baker at a young age. I tried one of the strawberry shortcakes you brought to the studio earlier on and it was simply delicious!” the interviewer praised.
“Thank you for the compliment. Suzuki san taught me well,” Taeyeon replied with a warm smile.
“What inspired you to be a pastry chef?”
“I’m lover of desserts and all things sweet, even my cafe is named ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’. I guess that explains it all,” Taeyeon laughed joyfully.
“I’m sure after this broadcast, your cafe in Seoul would be packed with Japanese tourists eager to try your creations. Now, Takahashi san, I understand you took lessons from Taeyeon san. How was Taeyeon san like as a teacher?”
Taeyeon could feel that same seductive gaze coming from the end of the sofa. She focused her attention on the interviewer, not intending to face the actress.
“Taeyeon san is a very patient teacher.” Taeyeon almost jumped when she felt a cold hand touch her arm. She was surprised Yukiko stretched her arm across two young children to touch her. To the general audience, it looked like a normal pat on the arm but to Taeyeon, the pat held more meaning than that. Yukiko gently slid her hand down a little before taking it off Taeyeon’s arm.
“I learnt a lot from her and I hope I can put my skills to good use at the event,” Yukiko finished with a professional smile. “I hope I don’t embarrass my teacher on that day.”
Taeyeon forced a half smile and said in a factual manner, “You’re a good student and I’m certain you’ll do well.”
Yukiko burst into a giggle, covering her mouth with her hand politely. “Taeyeon san, thank you for your kind words.”
The interview’s focus shifted to the actress. Taeyeon noticed the subtle changes in the actress pose and demeanour when the attention was on her. In an instant, Yukiko looked like the popular celebrity Taeyeon saw in magazines and on television. The actress was elegant and beautiful, answering questions like a pro.
Minutes seemed like hours as the interview finally came to an end when the red light above the studio went off. The interviewer thanked everyone for their time and effort. A photographer approached the group and requested for some group shots. Yukiko spared no effort in rushing to Taeyeon’s side and stood very closely beside her. Taeyeon pretended not to notice as she held hands with Emiko and nudged the little girl into position.
“How about drinks tonight?” The sultry whisper and warm breath beside Taeyeon’s ear sent tingling sensations down her neck.
When Taeyeon didn’t reply, Yukiko stealthily slid her arm behind Taeyeon’s back and rested her palm on her hip. It wasn’t obvious to the people in front and there wasn’t anyone standing behind them, hence the actress’ bold move. Plus, it appeared like a friendly gesture for group photo taking.
After taking a few shots, Taeyeon pretended to huddle Emiko towards her teacher so that she could get away from the actress. She couldn’t wait for the event to be over and get back home in Seoul.
At the changing room, Taeyeon checked her phone and saw a message from Jessica. It was a brief message that contained the consultant’s apologies and words of encouragement for the day. She was momentarily at a loss of what to reply. A quick ‘thank you’ seemed like the most appropriate reply for now. Then she shoved the phone into her bag.
“Lover’s tiff? Let’s meet for drinks tonight. I can guarantee a really good time, so good you’ll forget all your sorrows.”
Taeyeon was startled by the voice and she turned around to see the actress throwing a suggestive wink at her. She realised there was no one else in the female changing room and presumed Yukiko must have asked her stylist to stand guard at the door.
Taeyeon’s heart was racing as the sensual tension in the room heightened.
“Yukiko san,” Taeyeon said firmly, knowing how much the actress detested that formal greeting whenever they were alone. “My relationship with my partner is fine and thank you for your concern. I’ll not be able to meet for drinks tonight. I have a lot of preparations to do for tomorrow.”
Yukiko stepped forward, closing the gap between them and causing Taeyeon’s back to be pressed flat against the cold wall of the changing room. The actress gently touched Taeyeon’s face before letting out her high pitched laugh.
“You’re really one of a kind. I’ve not come across anyone who hasn’t fallen for my charms by now.”
Taeyeon gulped and tried to continue breathing in the seemingly thin air around them.
“I like a challenge. Guess I’ll just have to work harder in the next few days.” The actress blew Taeyeon a kiss before leaving the changing room.
Taeyeon couldn’t believe her ears and shook her head in disgust as she left the room shortly.
“Seen a ghost?” Hinata asked when Taeyeon plonked herself on the seat behind to him on the minibus. They were heading to a cable television station for another interview, thankfully without the actress.
“Probably,” Taeyeon muttered. She closed her eyes and plugged in her earphones, wanting to shut the world out.
The rest of the day went by in a flash. Suzuki held a meeting with his team of bakers over dinner, running through every single detail of the event and ensuring everyone knew what they had to do. Tomorrow there would be a media conference followed by a meet and greet session. The day after would be the charity event. Success of the event was down to the next two days.
Seeing the hotel lobby as the taxi rolled into the front porch, Jessica’s pulse quickened. She was able to see her loved one very soon and was extremely thankful that she could book a room in this popular luxurious hotel.
While riding in the taxi to the Los Angeles airport, Jessica was frantically searching through various websites to book a room in the same hotel where the charity event was held. Price was secondary as long as she could get a room. She remembered Taeyeon saying that the hotel was very packed and some guest floors were out of bounds to public due to the event.
Jessica didn’t plan on telling Taeyeon and wanted to give the baker a surprise. Moreover, she wasn’t sure how Taeyeon would react after the ‘confession’ so it was better to keep her arrival in the dark for now.
Thankfully she managed to book a room just before she boarded the plane. Once she settled in her business class seat, she wrapped the blanket around her body and tried to relax throughout the twelve hour flight. The countdown to seeing Taeyeon had began.
End of flashback
A security station was set up at the front entrance of the hotel and there was a short queue to enter. Jessica pulled her suitcase towards the queue and waited patiently. She noticed there were workers setting up a large banner on one of the pillars inside the hotel. It stated the details of the charity event which was held in one of the ballrooms. The actress’ face was plastered on the bottom right of the banner since the event was fronted by her.
The moment Jessica entered the hotel, she was awed by the hotel’s grandeur. Soft red carpet lined the floor, leading guests towards the reception. A large chandelier hung from the high ceiling formed the centre of attraction, accompanied by towering marble columns.
The reception was bustling with people. It appeared a group of visitors had just arrived and were queueing to check in. Jessica took out her phone from her handbag, intending to show the receptionist the hotel booking confirmation in her email. Bad news greeted her when she realised her phone battery was totally flat. She had fallen asleep on the flight and had forgotten to charge her phone. Berating herself, Jessica hoped she was able to check in and get her room using her passport and credit card.
Thankfully, the check in was a breeze. Jessica held the hotel key card in her hand tightly, as if it was made of gold. She made her way to the room, wanting to take a nice warm shower and charge her phone before she went to look for Taeyeon.
Jessica vaguely heard someone called out her surname but figured it was probably someone else sharing the same surname. She continued to walk towards the lift lobby, ignoring the person.
“Jung san, Jung san.”
The voice got louder and Jessica heard hurried footsteps behind her. She stopped and turned around, only to be greeted by a familiar face. A face she hadn’t seen in a while and wasn’t keen on seeing. The hair colour had changed but the makeup and style of clothes remained the same.
“Good evening, Riko san. It’s nice to see you,” Jessica greeted politely. It wasn’t a coincidence to bump into Yukiko’s stylist since the actress was staying in this hotel.
“Good evening, Jung san. It’s nice to see you again,” Riko returned the greeting.
There was an awkward pause before Riko continued.
“Takahashi san would like to see you. She says she wants to catch up with you since both of you haven’t met in a while.”
Jessica was surprised that Yukiko knew she was coming. Only Josh knew of her plan. So how did the actress caught wind of her arrival?
Seeing Jessica’s stunned expression, Riko explained. “I saw you coming out of the taxi as I was coming back to the hotel. I called Takahashi san and informed her. She asked me to invite you for a drink.”
Jessica pondered for a moment. She believed Yukiko didn’t know both Taeyeon and herself were together and hence kept hitting on the baker. She could clarify the relationship with the actress and stop her from harassing Taeyeon. After which she would look for the baker. Looking at her watch, she figured Taeyeon was probably having dinner so she had some time to spare for now.
“Alright. Let me wash up first before meeting her.”
“Takahashi san has another appointment later on and would like to meet you right now. Moreover, your suitcase would take a moment to reach your room since the hotel is fully booked and there’re many guests arriving at this time.”
Jessica couldn’t deny that Riko was right.
A few minutes later, Jessica found herself standing outside room 1805.
A/N: an early greeting for everyone : Happy Valentine’s Day to couples and Happy Friendship Day to singles!
A shoutout to Em : in case you’re wondering, the little girl’s name is inspired by you. ^^