Chapter 13

Taeyeon woke up to incessant beeps on her phone and wondered who was bombarding her with text messages so early in the morning. Scrolling through the messages, a wide smile gradually grew on her face. Jessica was shopping and took photos of what she tried on in the fitting room. Taeyeon rolled on her back and replied the messages with lightning speed, her energy level spiking despite just waking up moments ago. After a few text exchanges, Taeyeon decided to call Jessica. She missed hearing her lover’s voice.

Taeyeon’s good mood was evident when she stepped into the kitchen. Ren was relieved his senpai was smiling as brightly as the summer sun despite the busy day ahead. It seemed she had recovered from her lousy mood last night.

When everyone was present, Suzuki rounded up his team for a meeting and gave a detailed run through on the event. The media embargo was going to be lifted tomorrow and heavy media coverage was expected. Also, the team would be assigned rooms in the hotel (where the event was held) in order to facilitate final preparations. Security would also be tighter during those days and everyone had to carry a photo id at all times. Everyone had to be on their toes and be alert at all times. Suzuki’s reputation was at stake and there was no room for mistakes.

When everyone understood what their roles were, Suzuki dismissed everyone except Taeyeon and Hinata. Hinata Shoyo was an award winning patissier and was one of the rising stars under the tutelage of Suzuki. Older than Taeyeon, he often helped guide the young woman on honing her pastry skills when she was studying under Suzuki.

“This event is a win-win situation for Takahashi san and us. If successful, we would be gaining a lot of exposure both within and outside of Japan. Takahashi san is a very popular actress and I am certain there is going to be a lot of media attention on her, and the people around her,” Suzuki said in a serious tone. The pressure of the event was building up and everyone was feeling it.

Both Hinata and Taeyeon nodded firmly.

“Taeyeon.”

“Hai, Suzuki sensei.”

“Takahashi san appears to have taken a liking to you,” Suzuki paused. He wore a serious expression on his face.  

A light pink coloured Taeyeon’s cheeks. It may seem like a compliment but she was more concerned about the underlying pressure that came with it.

“I know you’re feeling stressed dealing with her. However, you would still need to build a good working relationship with her. She doesn’t seem receptive to Hinata and myself and I think I know why. It is better to work with a friend than an enemy, therefore we need to be focused on the goal and that is to ensure the charity event is a success.”

Taeyeon flashed a weak smile as she sighed inwardly. She knew Suzuki wanted to help but certain matters were beyond his control.

Just then, an idea struck Taeyeon. “Sensei, Takahashi san has requested for another private session and it would be held this evening. I am planning to teach her something simple such as strawberry cream sandwiches. It doesn’t require much skill and is less time consuming. She could personally give her handmade sandwiches to the guests present after making them. We could assign two of our team members to help with the preparations and packing. It puts her in a better light than just being a baker’s assistant.”

Hinata grinned and gave a thumbs up. “I agree with Taeyeon chan. The rest of us can work on other sweets such as cream puffs and cakes.”

Suzuki rubbed his chin. “Sounds like a good idea. I’ll bring it up to the organizing committee and I am certain they will approve. Hinata, I will leave the bulk of operations in your good hands.”

“Hai!” Hinata acknowledged with a slight bow. “Leave it to me.”

Suzuki smiled and gave both the bakers a pat on their arms before he dismissed them.

Turning to Taeyeon, Hinata gave her a reassuring pat on the back. “Don’t worry about the preparations, just focus on handling the actress. I wished I could be in your shoes. She is very sexy.”

“Hinata senpai, I would gladly trade places with you. Maybe you would wear a wig and speak in a higher tone,” Taeyeon suggested playfully.

“You mean like this?” Hinata proceeded to act like a woman; he stuck out his little finger and wave his hand around while talking in a higher pitch.

Taeyeon guffawed at Hinata’s antics. Hinata was usually reserved but he did have his rare humorous side. He was glad to relieve a bit of stress from his junior, seeing her bright smile. It was never easy dealing with celebrities, ministers and VIPs. They had their different quirks and demands.

Around noon, Suzuki announced the organizing committee of the charity event had given their green light for the change in plans for Yukiko Takahashi’s role. The committee would be making some adjustments to their press release and they were confident this new proposal would create more hype for the actress. It would enhance her kind and pleasant image to the public.

Taeyeon and Ren got to work immediately, sourcing for ingredients for strawberry cream sandwich which were required for the private session in a few hours’ time. Fortunately, the ingredients were easily and readily available at supermarkets. A few members of the operations team went to place an order for the ingredients while Taeyeon and Ren head out to the nearby supermarket to buy some for the lesson.

At the supermarket, Taeyeon took some selfies of herself holding different fruits. Ren was a little puzzled by her actions but didn’t dare to question her reason. He went around the aisles looking for the ingredients, leaving Taeyeon at the fruits section.

Standing in a corner, Taeyeon was busy sending the pictures to Jessica.

“Heh heh heh, tit for tat. You send me so many pictures of you shopping for clothes, I’ll also send you pictures of me when I’m shopping too,” Taeyeon mumbled to herself.

“Senpai, senpai, Taeyeon senpai…!”

The loud voice startled Taeyeon and caused her to jump in shock.

“Senpai, I called you several times but you were too engrossed in your phone. I’m done, shall we pay?” Ren asked, feeling apologetic that he gave Taeyeon a fright.

“Ah yes,” Taeyeon recovered quickly and pretended that she was busy replying emails.

Ren had to hold in his laughter because he knew Taeyeon was texting Jessica since she wore such a huge grin on her face. He was amused how his usually serious senpai could turn into a soft marshmallow whenever it had something to do with Jessica.

At 6.30pm sharp, the familiar clicking of heels echoed in the quiet kitchen. The actress appeared on time and wore a more casual outfit of an oversized white shirt, a white low cut innerwear and black skinny jeans. Her outfit accentuated her slim figure, long legs and fair skin. Her long hair was tied in a neat bun and she wore a few bracelets on her right wrist.

There was a sense of familiarity when Taeyeon saw Yukiko approaching. It vaguely reminded her of Jessica and she wondered if it was due to Taeyeon missing Jessica a lot and starting to think that women dressed in that manner resembled her lover.

“Hello Taeyeon chan, it’s nice to see you so soon again.” Yukiko smirked, her eyes twinkling with delight. “I have never been to eager to attend a class and I must confess, yours is the first.”

Yukiko’s sensual voice turned up the temperature in the kitchen by a notch.

“Good evening, Yukiko … chan,” Taeyeon greeted somewhat hesitantly when she was certain there was no one else around. Riko and Ren were probably waiting outside, just like the previous time.

“Ah, strawberries, my favourite fruit,” Yukiko commented when she noticed the bowl of freshly washed strawberries on the table. She sauntered to Taeyeon’s side and casually picked up a strawberry.

Gazing into Taeyeon’s eyes, Yukiko put the red fruit against her lips and parted them a little. Her tongue circled the tip of the fruit before she took a small bite.

Holding the remaining fruit in front of Taeyeon, Yukiko teased, “Would you like a bite, Taeyeon chan?”

Taeyeon smiled weakly and shook her head. Her voice was caught in her throat and no words came out. Hinata’s voice boomed in her head. She is very sexy.

Yukiko laughed as she proceeded to finish the strawberry. “Oops, I hope there are enough for our class later.”

Taeyeon pulled herself together and focused on the lesson. Don’t be distracted!

“Shall we start?” Taeyeon put on her chef hat and stood across the table from Yukiko.

Yukiko laughed, waving her hand in a dramatic manner. “Sure, whatever you say.”

As expected, Yukiko was waiting for Taeyeon to put on the apron for her. Taeyeon tactfully told her to try it herself so that she would be able to put it on during the actual event. Pouting, Yukiko tried to urge Taeyeon in helping her but without success. Taeyeon remained firm and used verbal cues and gestures to guide Yukiko on securing the apron.

“Let’s start by cutting the crusts off the slices of bread. Place two slices of bread on top of each other and cut off the crusts cleanly.” Taeyeon demonstrated what she had just said.

Taeyeon kept a close watch on Yukiko as she sliced the bread, fearing the actress might accidentally cut herself. Thankfully it went smoothly and soon they were done.

“Now, we’ll make the whipped cream.”

“Oh, I always thought whipped cream came in cans!” Yukiko exclaimed in surprise.

“Yes it does but I prefer to make it from scratch instead of using those off the shelf. For many people, the taste of their food matters as much as the how their food looks. It’s important to create an experience that satisfies all of the senses such as sight, smell and taste so that people can have a lasting impression of the food they just ate and hopefully appreciate the effort the baker put in.”

Taeyeon realised she was rattling on about a subject which may not interest the actress and quickly stopped.

“Sorry, I must have bored you. I tend to get carried away when I talk about baking.”

Yukiko took a step nearer to the baker. “You make me look at food in a different light. Now I know why your pastries always look and taste so good. It’s made with passion.”

Taeyeon’s cheeks flushed to the colour of strawberries.

Yukiko placed one hand on the table and leaned towards the baker. In a soft and sensual voice, she said, “I’m curious how passionate the baker can be… when it concerns other matters besides baking…”

An icy palm gently stroked the back of Taeyeon’s palm and the baker withdrew her palm almost immediately, as if she had been touched with a hot oven tray.

Yukiko let out a giggle. “Why are you so shy?”

“Yukiko…chan, shall, shall we continue?” Taeyeon stuttered.

A loud cackle echoed in the kitchen. Yukiko was utterly amused by Taeyeon’s quick change in topic.

Taeyeon pushed the ingredients towards Yukiko and recited the steps of making whipped cream. Heavy cream, sugar and vanilla extract were mixed into a bowl using an electric mixer. In a few moments, the whipped cream was ready.

Taeyeon encouraged Yukiko to taste it since she made it herself. Taking a spoon, Yukiko scooped the light and fluffy mixture. She licked the whipped cream and some of it stained her lips. Dragging her tongue slowly across her lips, she licked the remaining cream.

Taeyeon looked away nervously, avoiding the sensual atmosphere which Yukiko was creating. She picked up a knife and pushed the chopping board towards the actress.

Pushing any stray thoughts out of her head, Taeyeon picked up a piece of strawberry and showed Yukiko how to slice the fruit in half. She gestured for the actress to follow suit.

“I prefer chocolate dipped strawberries. They’re sweeter and… …sexier.”

Taeyeon thought she misheard the last word but she wasn’t intending to ask Yukiko to repeat it.

“Chocolate dipped strawberries are good as desserts or to pair with wine,” Taeyeon commented as she continued cutting the strawberries in halves.

“How about making some chocolate dipped strawberries for me?”

The knife movements stopped and the kitchen was shrouded in a brief moment of silence.

“We can enjoy it over a bottle of wine. I have a bottle of chilled red wine in my hotel room,” Yukiko proposed suggestively, flashing Taeyeon a wink. She rested a palm on the table and leaned forward, allowing the baker a ‘better’ view of the porcelain skin exposed by the low cut innerwear. Her push-up bra made her chest look fuller and the skin-tight innerwear helped draw attention to that area.

Taeyeon pried her eyes away from the actress. It was admittedly a difficult task to ignore a beautiful actress who was so blatant in her advances. Plus, being away from Jessica was making her feel empty at times.

“There isn’t any chocolate in this kitchen and we need these strawberries for the sandwiches. Shall we continue? We’re almost at the last step.” Taeyeon grabbed a few strawberries and began to cut them up, keeping her eyes on the fruits instead of the actress.

Yukiko merely smiled as she watched the baker cut the strawberries at lightning speed. She knew she had Taeyeon’s attention despite how the baker was trying to end the lesson in the shortest time possible.

After all the strawberries were cut, Taeyeon picked up a knife and used it to spread the whipped cream onto the slices of bread. Then she placed two to three pieces of sliced strawberries onto the slice of bread before closing it. Finally, she sliced the bread diagonally and the strawberry cream sandwich was ready to eat.

Taeyeon looked up after she was done and noticed a strange smile on Yukiko’s face.

“Is there anything wrong?” Taeyeon asked, puzzled by the actress’ reaction.

Yukiko shook her head, that strange smile still lingering on her face. “It’s just that I usually use whipped cream in a different way…do you know what I mean?”

It took a full minute before Taeyeon knew what Yukiko was hinting at. She berated herself for choosing to teach Yukiko this dish and for failing to notice the various sexual innuendos it had.

Ignoring what the actress just said, Taeyeon continued to prepare the rest of the sandwiches and packed them into a box. She mumbled, asking Yukiko to follow suit.

“Taeyeon chan, your face and ears are so red. Are you thinking of how I usually enjoy whipped cream?”

From the corner of her eyes, Taeyeon saw the red pair of lips teased into a grin. A slender index finger glazed across the surface of the whipped cream before landing on the lips. A pink tongue slipped out between the lips and lightly licked the white cream.

Taeyeon felt the heat growing within her body. She turned away, swallowed hard and adjusted the collar of her uniform. She had to admit that Yukiko was a very attractive woman and she could imagine the countless number of people who had fallen for her looks and charm.

Seeing how bashful the baker was, Yukiko let out a crackle. Taeyeon was a tough nut to crack and was a welcome challenge for Yukiko. Most would have gladly jumped at the opportunity to sleep with the actress.

Picking up the last piece of sandwich, Yukiko held it in front of Taeyeon. “Taeyeon chan, you should try the sandwich I made.”

When Taeyeon wanted to take the sandwich from Yukiko, the actress suddenly retracted her arm.

“Just take a bite. You don’t  have to finish the sandwich,” Yukiko cooed. She held the sandwich in front of Taeyeon once again, beckoning the baker to take a bite.

Though she was reluctant, Taeyeon knew it was difficult to reject the actress and hence she leaned forward to take a quick bite. Then she quickly took a step backwards, widening the gap between them.

Yukiko sniggered. Her heels clicked forward and narrowed the gap between them instantly. Her hand reached forward and wiped a blob of cream off the corner of Taeyeon’s lips. The baker was too stunned to react and didn’t managed to dodge in time.

“Just how old are you? Still eating like a little kid,” Yukiko chided playfully. “By the way, I love how fluent you are with the Japanese language.”

Taeyeon was certainly not amused. Yukiko’s actions were getting out of hand. She had to put her foot down and make her discomfort known.

“Yuki chan, these lessons are to help you enhance your public image at the charity event, so I would appreciate if we could remain professional during the lesson,” Taeyeon said in a serious tone.

Yukiko smirked. “Does it mean we don’t have to be professional when the lesson is over? In that case, the lesson is over. Shall we adjourn to somewhere fun?”

“I am afraid you are mistaken.”

“What do you mean?” Yukiko was a little bewildered.

“I am the sensei so I have the authority to decide when the class ends.”

Yukiko’s eyes widened with surprise at the baker’s firm and even tone. Both women maintained a steady eye contact before Taeyeon spoke.

“The lesson has ended and you may leave now. Thank you for coming.” Taeyeon bowed before picking up the used utensils and putting them in the sink. “Do remember to take the sandwiches you made.”

Yukiko huffed and stormed out of the kitchen exasperatedly. She thought she had gained an upper hand but it turned out Taeyeon won.

A few moments later, Ren burst into the kitchen.

“Senpai, Takahashi san looked annoyed. What happened?” Ren asked worriedly. He looked around the kitchen and saw everything was in order. He wondered what caused the death stare on the actress’ face.

Taeyeon noticed the box of sandwiches on the table top. She had predicted the actress would leave without taking the sandwiches.

“The sandwiches in the box are handmade by Takahashi san. You may have it.”

Ren’s eyes lit up. “Really? Thank you senpai!”

“Before you get carried away with the sandwiches, remember to wash up and lock the kitchen. I am leaving now,” Taeyeon instructed as she removed her apron and threw it into the laundry basket.

“Hai!” Ren responded excitedly with a bow.

Taeyeon dropped by a small convenience store on her way back to the hostel. Alcohol seemed like a good way to relieve stress right now. After grabbing a can of Asahi beer, Taeyeon stood in front of the confectionery rack and pondered on what sweets to buy. However, she was merely staring blankly at the rows of confectionery while many thoughts were flooding her mind.

I hope I had not offended her. But…she was really too forthright! I already told her I’m engaged. Does it not mean anything to her at all? Are all celebrities the same? They think they can abuse their power to get what they want. Sigh… …

Lost in her thoughts, she didn’t hear someone calling her until the person was standing next to her.

“Kim Taeyeon seonsaeng-nim?” The person asked apprehensively.

Taeyeon turned around and met that person eye to eye.

“Oh my God! It’s really you!” The same person squealed excitedly in English.

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