(Originally posted 15 June 2014 on tumblr)
By Friday morning, Rachel had the preliminary sales reports for the jackets. A few of the smaller stores were already out of some sizes or colors, and while there weren’t many backorders placed yet at the website, a lot of people had added jackets to their wishlists or saved their carts. They were drawing steady web traffic, too. She was cautiously optimistic about it all since the jackets still had next week’s episodes to appear in. The weekend sales were going to be crucial. Rachel needed superb numbers if she was going to have any room with which to negotiate with her mother, especially after all of the inventory they’d lost to Monday’s fire.
Rachel glanced away from the sales data on her computer and over to Min-ah. The assistant had been on the phone, though she now covered the mouthpiece with one hand.
“Moon Chae-won’s coordinator is on the phone. She needs new jackets.”
They had left two each of two different styles of jacket for Moon, which should have been more than enough. “What happened to the four we left them?”
“Ruined in various stunts.”
It had been a possibility—but to ruin four jackets in four days? Then again, considering the chase through the woods sequence from Wednesday’s episode, it wasn’t entirely unexpected. The problem was that the headquarters had been cleaned of all of its inventory, and everything was either en route from the factory or at the stores already.
“Where are they filming?”
“Gwanak-gu, near Seoul National University.”
Rachel went back to the sales report data and scrolled through it quickly, checking which locations still had the right clothing in inventory. “Han Jong-hyun, call the store in Kingdom Mall. Song Bo-ah, call Giant Mall. Have them pull three each of both styles of jacket, in sable, size 55. They had some left in stock as of closing last night. If they don’t have them anymore, I’ll pick another store for you to call.” She checked the time while her subordinates scrambled for their phones. “Min-ah, tell them we will have the jackets to them within the hour.”
It would be fastest and most efficient to hire a courier to pick up and deliver the new clothing, and Rachel nearly ordered another member of her team to take care of it. But that would be extremely impersonal, and Rachel was still interested in cultivating a professional relationship with Moon. In that case, she ought to at least send Min-ah.
Lee Hyo-shin might be on the set.
The thought came unbidden and not especially wanted, particularly not when it was paired with the faintest hint of regret. Neither she nor Young-do had been wrong to suspect Hyo-shin of ulterior motives, and the speed with which their sunbae had gone from pleasant to vicious said he might have gone into the confrontation unprepared but not unarmed. She was still angry at how he hurt Young-do—
Young-do decided he ought to mock me for trying to kill myself.
—even though she doubted she could have resisted an opportunity to lash out if she had been in his place.
Hyo-shin had said she was intelligent, driven, and competent. The men who usually flirted with her generally praised her beauty, as if she didn’t have mirrors at home. Like Hyo-shin, Shi-hyun had rarely gone for the obvious compliments. That was why she was almost always certain Shi-hyun had meant them in the moment, if not in the long run. Shi-hyun ultimately had not been worth the eighteen months she had loved him.
Hyo-shin might also not be worth the effort of trying to smooth over their acquaintance, even if he was the son of the attorney general. Even if he had wanted a second date with her.
Once Min-ah hung up the phone, Rachel got to her feet. “Let’s go. There’s one additional stop I’d like to make along the way.”
The cast and crew of A Daughter’s Revenge didn’t have time to pause and savor the energy drinks Rachel brought to the set, but that didn’t stop them from swinging by the table she had commandeered to pick them up. Everyone who came by looked like they could use a good night’s sleep and knew they wouldn’t be getting one until the drama was finished next Thursday. A stray crew member was curled up on some nearby crates, dead to the world, her arm folded beneath her head for a pillow. Almost forty percent ratings didn’t come without a price.
Rachel had only had a few minutes with Moon Chae-won while Min-ah made sure the jackets they had brought still fit her—they weren’t quite as snug as they had been on Monday morning. It was good face time between takes, and Rachel had personally given Moon and her staff drinks. The actress had expressed her gratitude, downed the energy drink in one shot, and gotten straight back into studying the loose script pages while her stylist touched up her makeup.
They had been on set for nearly an hour now. Rachel kept her public relations smile in place the whole time, brightly encouraging every person who came by for a drink, and the false cheerfulness was wearing thin for her. When she had a goal she was working toward, she usually could sustain the act for much longer.
But Lee Hyo-shin was nowhere in sight.
There were a lot more people at the filming today, which wasn’t a surprise. They had been running on a slimmed-down crew at the outdoor location, and now that they were back in the city, the studio was packed with people preparing sets for scenes, practicing stunt choreography, setting up lighting, or coordinating a hundred other behind-the-scenes things that kept the production going at a breakneck pace.
Min-ah opened up their last case of energy drinks, and Rachel helped her pull the cans out. There was a tidy stack of broken-down boxes underneath the table. “I’ll get rid of these,” Min-ah volunteered, “and then we should probably head back, unless you would like me to reschedule the team meeting.”
They hadn’t been able to extend their greetings to PD Kim yet—the man had been busy filming a confrontation between the male leads the entire time—but Rachel shook her head. “No, I need to update everyone on the sales figures. Why don’t you call Bo-ah and have her put in an order for a lunch delivery as well?”
“Yes, Team Leader.” Min-ah gathered up the cases and went in search of a garbage can.
The assistant hadn’t been gone for more than a minute before Rachel’s phone rang. She pulled it out of her purse and was surprised to see Lee Hyo-shin on the screen.
Rachel glanced around the studio. It took a moment for her to spot Hyo-shin, half hidden as he was behind some lighting equipment. He was better dressed than he had been the last time she had run into him during filming: his jeans were less worn, and his short-sleeved gray shirt showed off his forearms. Hyo-shin’s hair was a bit wild, though he wasn’t quite close enough for her to tell if he had bloodshot eyes like many of the other people on set. He was looking straight at her, not smiling, waiting to see if she would answer his call.
She did. Neither of them spoke for a moment, and in that brief space without words Rachel could hear him breathing.
“Is there anything left for me?” he finally asked, even though the remaining cans were in plain view. His voice was light, not quite teasing, but his expression told a different story entirely. There was a careful set to the lines of his face that betrayed an unexpected amount of caution.
“I didn’t bring these for you.”
He smiled then, just the faintest upturn of his lips, and it hit her harder than it had any right to, hard enough that she almost apologized for how the words had come out. “My mistake, then.”
“I brought you something else.”
Surprise wiped that smile clean away. Hyo-shin stepped out from behind the lighting equipment—a tricky feat, considering he never looked away from her to ensure his footing among all the cables trailing along the ground—and walked toward her. “Should I be worried?”
“Someone ought to be.”
“This isn’t a sustainable way to run a business,” she said. Her fingers were a little clumsy as she rifled one-handed through her purse, but she didn’t want to break eye contact with him so she could search. “It’s remarkably inefficient, and burned out people make mistakes. You have dark circles under your eyes. They’re worse than they were on Monday morning.”
“I think they’re a point of attraction, don’t you? You can tell how dedicated I am to my work just by looking at my face.”
She scoffed at that, and this time the smile that spread across his face didn’t hurt to look at. Her fingertips found the red ginseng drink she had purchased. “It makes you look exhausted and entirely unfit for company.”
He stopped in front of her, just on the other side of the narrow table. They were more than close enough that they could hang up, but Rachel didn’t want to. It kept some space between them even though the distance separating them was so little she could reach out and touch him if she wanted to make the effort. She had to tilt her chin up slightly so she could continue meeting his eyes.
“I wouldn’t take you anywhere when you look like this.”
“I’m not sure I’d want to go anywhere with you when I’m dressed up, after everything that’s happened this week.”
She steeled herself for his reaction, fingers curling around the bottle in her purse. “I’m not going to apologize for Tuesday.”
“I didn’t think you would,” Hyo-shin said, amusement creeping into his tone. “I’m not going to apologize, either. Does that make us even?”
“No. You still owe me lunch.”
His grin was unexpected, and Rachel was surprised by how much his face lit up despite his obvious exhaustion. She wondered how long it had been since he had slept and if that could explain how unguarded he was at the moment.
“I thought you were going to write off that debt.”
“I’m a businesswoman,” she reminded him. “I won’t write off a potential asset that easily.”
And just as suddenly as it had happened in her car on Monday, Hyo-shin changed. This was a subtle transition, one that she probably wouldn’t have noticed if she hadn’t been paying such close attention to him. It was more a feeling than anything—somehow something she had said had made him close off or cover up a part of him that she hadn’t known had been exposed for her.
“Don’t put that much faith in my value, Rachel. I could be a liability for you in the end.”
“I’ll be the one to decide that.”
She almost said more, but Min-ah appeared in the distance, walking briskly in their direction. The assistant would be within hearing range in just a few moments, and this wasn’t something she was interested in letting her mother get a hold of, especially when there wasn’t anything worth talking about. Rachel pulled the ginseng packet out of her purse and held it out to Hyo-shin. “You’d better get back to work.”
“You remembered the brand I liked.” He took the packet carefully, not letting their fingers touch, and Rachel wasn’t sure if she ought to be disappointed by the lack of contact.
“Is it? I just grabbed the first one I saw,” she lied. She hung up, tucked her phone back into her purse, snatched up Min-ah’s purse from its spot on the floor, and walked out from behind the table and past him. “Take care of the last of these drinks for me, sunbae.”
That made Hyo-shin laugh, quiet and low.
Rachel did not let herself smile. She intercepted Min-ah, ignoring the curious glance the assistant shot over in Hyo-shin’s direction. “Let’s go,” she told her. “We have work to do.”