Chapter 15

Suzuki, Hinata and Taeyeon were escorted to a small function room in the hotel. Several chairs, studio lights and a long table with white skirting were the only furniture in the room. Two hotel staff stood at the corners of the room while the first media team were setting up their equipment.

The first interview was with a major newspaper. It involved the organizers and the bakers only. Taeyeon breathed a sigh of relief when she discovered that not all the interviews involved Yukiko. The lesser the contact, the lesser the stress. Dealing with the media was hectic, Taeyeon didn’t want to deal with the additional pressure from handling the actress. The three of them breezed through the interview with Suzuki answering most of the questions.

Once the first interview was done, another journalist from a different newspaper entered the room. When the organizers mentioned about back to back interviews, Taeyeon was certain they were not joking.

Three interviews later, Taeyeon was rubbing her temples, feeling a little stressed and drained from doing consecutive interviews.

Everyone was given a fifteen minute break before the next interview. It involved a photoshoot with a  lifestyle and food magazine. The three bakers and a few members of the organizing committee were ushered into a minibus and driven to the nearby shoot location. Taeyeon took the opportunity to catch forty winks, choosing a seat right at the back of the bus.

Upon arrival, the photographer’s assistant welcome them into the photo studio and briefed the team of what to do and what to expect. Taeyeon peered around the studio curiously. It was her first time in a professional studio. Usually her past photoshoots were in kitchens or at cafes and the atmosphere was generally quite casual. Today was the first time she could actually experience what a modeling job was like. Excitement grew as she wandered around the studio, looking at the studio lights, camera equipment, props and more.

There were two concepts for the photo shoot; the first was a smart casual look and the other more relaxed and casual. All of them changed into the clothes selected by the magazine’s stylist.

Taeyeon wore a white three quarter sleeve jacket with a cream coloured tank top and short skirt. She slipped into the ivory white wedges and admired herself in the mirror. She laughed when she couldn’t recognise the person in the reflection. She snapped a few photos and sent them to Jessica. Jessica was not asleep yet and she quickly sent several heart emoticons to Taeyeon, signifying her stamp of approval.

My darling is so hot! *heart* *heart* *heart* – Melon Chan

Taeyeon sent several kissing emoticons back before she got out of the changing room. Chatting with her lover never fail to bring a smile to her face.

The moment Taeyeon stepped out of the changing room, Suzuki and Hinata immediately turned their heads in her direction.

“Wow, wow, wow.” Hinata strolled around Taeyeon, admiring the fair petite beauty from head to toe. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in a skirt or something that showed off your legs. You have very fair and beautiful legs!”

Even Suzuki flashed the rare grin and nodded in agreement to Hinata’s exclamation. By now, Taeyeon’s face was as pink as peaches. She was obviously not used to hearing such remarks from others and felt extremely shy.

“You look gorgeous!” Hinata praised, smiling like a proud father.

The three of them were brought to the makeup room and there were at least five people hovering around them to get them styled for the photoshoot. Born with naturally good skin, Taeyeon didn’t need heavy makeup to accentuate her look. The stylist commented that Taeyeon was photogenic and had a pleasant warm smile. The spot of pink on the baker’s cheeks deepened into a full blush. She thanked the stylist for her compliments and took a few photos for Jessica.

Once everyone was done with hair and makeup, they proceeded to the photo shoot area. There was a large white backdrop with white cubes of different heights placed in the middle. The photographer directed them on how to pose for the photos. They were rather stiff and awkward, not used to such situations. To ease the tension, the photographer told them to relax and interact with each other in their usual manner. This resulted in candid poses which showed their close bond. Hinata and Taeyeon fooled around on the set, livening the atmosphere.

Towards the end of the photoshoot, an assistant announced the arrival of the actress Yukiko Takahashi. Yukiko was ushered into the rest area for a quick briefing. A dense and dark mood blanketed the set. The frown on Taeyeon’s face was evident and Hinata could only encourage Taeyeon with a pat on her back.

The editor informed everyone of a change of clothes for the group shot and herded them into the respective changing rooms.

The female changing area contained three small rooms. There was a large mirror directly opposite the doors and some benches scattered on the perimeter of the area. The middle area was left empty, presumably for people to walk out and look at the large full length mirror before they step out of the changing area.

Taeyeon noticed one of the doors were closed and there was someone inside. She presumed that person was Yukiko. She hurried into the room furthest from the actress, hoping to avoid as much contact with the actress as possible.

Unfortunately the moment Taeyeon stepped out of the changing room, she was greeted by a Yukiko’s sultry gaze and bright red lips. The actress caught Taeyeon’s eyes and didn’t let it go. She pranced around the changing area in a very short white shift dress and a pair of strappy gold gladiator sandals, looking every bit like a fashion model. There was a Goddess-like vibe radiating from Yukiko. The magnetism of the prolonged eye contact amplified her sexiness. Taeyeon had difficulty keeping her eyes off Yukiko and had to ensure she wasn’t openly gawking at her.

Yukiko looked at Taeyeon’s wide open eyes and slightly parted lips and she instantly knew she had the baker hooked. She flashed a flirty smile and batted her eyelids at the baker, enjoying every moment she had the baker’s attention.

Perhaps tonight would be the night. Yukiko thought to herself. A sinister grin grew on her face.

“What a pretty lady,” Yukiko praised. She strolled towards Taeyeon and stopped right in front of the stunned baker. She adjusted the belt hanging around Taeyeon’s tiny waist and smoothened the pleats on the baker’s soft pink dress.

As if she was in a trance, Taeyeon couldn’t move an inch when Yukiko was adjusted her clothes. The actress’ overpowering floral perfume hung in the air and Taeyeon was trying her best not to sneeze.

“Taeyeon chan, you look so beautiful,” Yukiko whispered, leaning dangerously close to Taeyeon’s ear. Taeyeon could feel the warm breath tickling her ears and how it stirred the butterflies in her stomach.

One of Yukiko’s hands brushed the ends of Taeyeon’s hair off the baker’s shoulder. She slid her fingers slowly across Taeyeon’s shoulder and glided down Taeyeon’s arm. Their eyes were locked in a tight gaze. “I’m really quite fond of you.”

“Takahashi san, it’s almost your turn for the photoshoot,” Riko called out from the outside of the changing room.

Riko’s announcement broke the trance Taeyeon was in and the baker’s breath quickened. She averted her eyes from the seductress and took a step back, almost leaning against the wall between the two cubicles.

“I’m coming,” Yukiko replied, her eyes never leaving the baker.

“Enjoy the photoshoot and smile more. I love your smile.” Yukiko gave Taeyeon’s arm a rub. She blew a kiss towards Taeyeon as she left the room.

Taeyeon slumped against the wall and collapsed onto one of the benches near here. It was the first time she encountered such an electrifying connection. It was certainly different from how she felt with Jessica and she couldn’t put a word to this feeling. She caught her reflection in the mirror and noticed her cheeks and even her ears were redder than usual.

“Kim san, are you ready?” one of the photographer’s assistants came hurrying into the room.

“Sorry to keep you waiting. I’m ready,” Taeyeon apologised as she rose from her seat and headed out to join her seniors. She kept shaking her head, as if to shake the bizarre feelings out of her head.

Hinata noticed the slightly pale looking petite woman when she walked out of the changing room. With long strides, Hinata swiftly appeared next to Taeyeon with a concerned look.

“Are you alright?” Hinata asked in a lowered voice, not wanting anyone else to notice.

Taeyeon nodded slowly. “Thanks senpai, I’m fine.”

Hinata wasn’t convinced. Looking around, he noticed the actress stealing glances at Taeyeon and guessed the cause for Taeyeon’s lacklustre mood. He suddenly whipped out his mobile phone and took a few random photos of Taeyeon.

“What are you doing?” Taeyeon asked, surprised by Hinata’s sudden actions.

Hinata continued snapping. “I’ve never seen you dressed like this before so I’m going to take some photos for memories. Maybe I’ll sell them to a magazine or tabloid.”

“Hey, I’m going to charge for copyright fees!” Taeyeon joked playfully as she pretended to shield her face from her senior.

The sudden banter lightened the mood a little and Hinata was pleased to see a smile on his junior’s face once again.

After taking a few more shots, everyone was sent back into the changing room for the last change of clothes. Then, the photographer hollered for his assistants to gather everyone for a joint photoshoot.

The whole studio was a flurry of activities the moment everyone gathered at the same spot. Suzuki, Hinata, Yukiko and Riko exchanged polite greetings when they met. Stylists were busy touching up hair and makeup, and adjusting the guests’ clothes.

The group sat around a table for the interview once the group photos were done. Yukiko swooped down onto the chair next to Taeyeon and flashed a sly grin at the baker. Hinata wanted to wedge himself between Yukiko and Taeyeon but the actress was one step faster than him. The actress shot Hinata a smug look before resuming her attention on the petite baker.

“Is this your first magazine interview, Taeyeon san?” Yukiko gently patted Taeyeon’s thigh, as if to assure the baker that there was nothing to worry about.

Taeyeon’s unease was apparent on her face.

“I’ve done interviews before so I’m alright.” Taeyeon crossed her legs leg the other way, trying to distance herself from the actress.

The magazine editor and her assistant took seats at one end of the table and began the interview. It started off with generic questions about the event before focusing on the main star, Yukiko Takahashi.

“Takahashi san, do you like to bake?”

“I’ve always had an interest in baking but I do not have the time to learn it. This charity event is the perfect opportunity for me to pick up some basic baking skills.”

“I see. That’s why you chose such a theme for your first charity event.”

“Yes,” Yukiko nodded gracefully with a polite smile.

“I’m sure you’ve learnt baking from one of these three celebrity bakers here.”

Yukiko nodded and turned her head towards Taeyeon. Her lips curved upwards and her eyes darkened.

“Kim san is my private tutor.”

“Ah, Kim san is one of Suzuki san’s prodigy! What a good choice,” the editor praised, turning her attention on the baker.

“Thank you,” Taeyeon said softly.

“Oh most definitely. She is very patient and I learnt a lot from her,” Yukiko placed her hand on Taeyeon’s arm. Tingling sensations began to form at that spot and slowly spread throughout Taeyeon’s body,raising goosebumps along the way. If she shook Yukiko’s hand off, it would be a very rude gesture, hence Taeyeon managed a small smile and nodded politely.

“Takahashi san is a fast learner,” Taeyeon commented, choosing to look directly at the editor and avoiding the actress.

“Ahhh, how fortunate. I wish I could have the opportunity to learn from such a talented baker too.”

“Thank you for the compliment,” Taeyeon replied with a nod.

Thankfully, Yukiko’s hand left Taeyeon’s arm by now.

The topic switched to Suzuki san and his reasons for participating in this charity event. Taeyeon shifted in her seat, wishing for the interview to end soon. It was stifling to sit next to the actress. She had to be on high alert whenever she was around the actress.

It was past dinner time when the interview ended. It had been a long afternoon and everyone was feeling both mentally and physically tired. There was one more interview to go before they could call it a day. Taeyeon was little surprised to see Yukiko still looking fresh. She presumed the actress was very experienced in handling such stress and questions from the media and it was just part and parcel of her job.

As they were waiting for their minibus to pick them up, Yukiko took the opportunity to chat with Taeyeon. Suzuki went out for a smoke break while Hinata was in the washroom, hence Taeyeon was left alone.

“Taeyeon chan, I heard you’re moving into the hotel tonight and it has been quite a stressful day,” Yukiko said suggestively as she slowly revealed her pearly whites. “How about relaxing over a couple of drinks?”

Taeyeon’s eyebrows rose a notch. She had to pack up and move her stuff over to the hotel. After which she was planning to have a nice hot shower and sleep early. Attending interviews was way more tiring than waking up early to bake for the whole day. It was definitely not her cup of tea.

“Takahashi san, I wouldn’t not able to join you tonight. I have a number of things to do. Thank you for the invite,” Taeyeon declined politely, wishing for Hinata to appear soon to save her from this conversation. She used the polite form of addressing the actress as there were people around them. She didn’t want to risk being rude and Yukiko didn’t seem to mind.

“Drinks don’t start early. You can join me after you’re done moving to the hotel,” Yukiko slid her hand down Taeyeon’s arm, sending electrifying tingles down Taeyeon’s back.

Taeyeon’s twitched and took a half a step back. “Takahashi san, I wouldn’t want to impose on you at such a late hour.”

Yukiko broke into a crackle. “Oh please, you’re definitely most welcomed to join me…” Then she leaned towards Taeyeon, meeting the baker eye to eye. “Anytime.”

The minibus pulled up at the car porch. The three bakers sat in front, hence Yukiko and Riko had to sit at the back. Taeyeon was glad Hinata hurriedly hopped into the empty seat next to her before the actress boarded, hence there was zero skinship opportunities. Hinata gave Taeyeon a high five after the actress and her stylist passed them. Yukiko glared briefly at Hinata but he pretended to be engrossed with playing a game on his phone.

After almost one hour, the bus arrived at the hotel in the heavy evening peak hour traffic. Everyone alighted except Taeyeon who would be sent to the hostel to pick up her belongings before she joined them later. Suzuki and Hinata were first to alight while the stylist and actress followed.

Just as Yukiko past Taeyeon, she pressed a piece of paper and something hard into Taeyeon’s hands. She flashed a sly grin and pointed at the paper before she alighted.

As the minibus moved off, Taeyeon caught Yukiko looking and smiling at her while standing at the hotel drop off point. She unfolded the paper and saw a handwritten note plus the hotel keycard.

Join me at 1805, anytime.