Rachel stayed at work late on Monday night in order to finish writing the draft of her sales report. It had been hard not to spend the entire day grinning or looking smug because they had sold out of every single jacket they had on hand. Almost of eighty-three percent of the shipment that was due on Wednesday had already been placed on backorder, too. She tried not to think about what sales could have been like if they hadn’t lost so much of the inventory in the fire; on the other hand, the messaging shift toward exclusivity had undoubtedly helped drive the purchasing frenzy.
A Daughter’s Revenge breaking the 40% mark certainly hadn’t hurt. Min-ah had told her that several broadcasters had already purchased or were in negotiations to purchase rights to air the drama in other countries, so Rachel had devoted an entire segment of her report to reputable department stores or online shopping malls within those countries that they could distribute the jackets through. If they could sort through their inventory problems, it might be possible for them to time the jackets’ entrance into foreign markets with the local broadcast of the drama.
She read through the sales report one final time, saved a copy of it to a thumb drive, and finally shut off her work computer. Tomorrow morning she would come in early to give the report a final read through and then email it to her mother before she went to her afternoon classes.
With the product placement project all but finished, Rachel could finally get back to her side project. Esther had promised that if Rachel revised her proposal, she could present it to the executives to get their approval. She needed to finish another draft of it and then schedule a time to practice pitching it to Young-do. She had helped him with his Barcelona presentation; he owed her a couple hours of feedback now. It might be a bit difficult to slot her in between their work, classes, and now his fake girlfriend, but they could figure something out this week.
Maybe Hyo-shin would be willing to let her practice on him. They had a—not a date, exactly, it didn’t count as a date when it was technically part of his coursework—an activity set for Wednesday night. Maybe she could broach the subject then.
Rachel sent a text to her driver to let him know to get the car ready. On the way home, Rachel called Young-do twice, but she got a busy signal both times.
It wasn’t that surprising, considering everything he was dealing with in the last few days. They still had no leads on the blackmailer—or if they did, Young-do hadn’t told her—and he was still busy trying to recruit board members to his side. At least his business relationship with Ha-sun had been serving him well in that regard. Rachel was a little surprised that Ha-sun was so eager to get involved in the elections that she would be willing to enter into an engagement with Young-do, but as long as she and her grandmother held up their end of the bargain, it was a good deal for him.
I want some of your free time this week, Rachel texted him. I have a presentation I want your feedback on.
Eun-sang shoved her hands into her coat pockets on her walk back home in an attempt to keep them from freezing. It was only a couple of blocks, and the streets were well-lit, so it wasn’t that much of an inconvenience. After how tense her day at work had been, it was nice to stretch her legs. A little bit of discomfort wasn’t too much of a price to pay.
Especially when it earned her some privacy, too.
Young-do’s response to her earlier text had been short. Yes, you can. Is everything okay?
I’m fine, I promise, she had sent back. I’ll call you.
There was a park between home and the bus stop, so Eun-sang sat on one of the swings and hooked her arms around the chains so she could hold on and still stick her hands in her coat pockets. She pushed herself idly back and forth, enjoying the relative quiet of this one small section of Seoul after a hectic day. Every now and then she checked her phone to see how close she was to the two-hour mark, but otherwise she just enjoyed being by herself.
There wasn’t anything she could do tonight about Writer Nam, Hyo-shin, or her upcoming meeting with Ryu Ha-sun. All she needed to do was get through this phone call and then head home and go to bed.
Eun-sang checked her phone again, saw that two hours had gone by, and dragged her feet against the ground to bring herself to a stop. Then she called Young-do.
He picked up on the fourth ring. “Eun-sang. Are you all right?”
“I’m fine.” She did not point out that he had already asked her that. It was getting less weird to talk to him on the phone, but it still wasn’t…comfortable. Most of their calls had been one of them wanting something from the other, and this one was technically more of the same. “I just wanted to let you know that your vice president came to see me at my work today.”
If she hadn’t been able to hear him breathing on the other end, she might have thought their connection had been cut.
“What did he want?”
She could hear the iron-fisted control in his voice and wondered if he were clenching his jaw like he was prone to do when trying to keep his frustration in check.
“I don’t know. He was insistent on speaking to me, but I refused him. Work was busy today, and I didn’t have time for him.” That was probably the most diplomatic way to put it. “I accepted his business card, but I was less committal on actually scheduling to meet with him. When I told him I was your friend and that I would let you know he stopped by, he said that he hoped I was.”
And that Young-do could use more sincere friends. It felt rude to say that, especially since Eun-sang had been there when Bo-na publicly kicked him out of her life. Young-do’s circle of friends—or cronies, more likely—had rapidly dwindled their senior year of high school. So far as she knew, only Rachel and Myung-soo were left.
“I’m sorry he bothered you.”
“It’s not your fault. He told me himself that you didn’t know he had come to see me.”
Young-do’s voice was filled with dry amusement, but she could still detect the anger lurking beneath it. “He gets some points for honesty, then. I’ll handle him.”
“I’ll trust you with that.”
Silence fell between them. For a moment, Eun-sang considered ending their conversation, but Young-do spoke first.
“Is everything okay at work? You said it was busy.”
She was surprised to hear the hesitancy in his voice, but maybe he had felt the awkwardness, too, whenever they were on the phone. Friends didn’t limit their phone calls to when they needed each other—they could talk about other things, too. So Eun-sang launched into the briefest possible version of her day, outlining the abrupt appearance of the prosecutors and the way Writer Nam had spent the whole day looking like she would rip out the throat of the first person to cross her. Young-do made small comments and asked questions every now and then to show he was actually listening. She switched her phone from one hand to the other when the first got too cold and wrapped up her story with movie night and how she had stopped at a park not far from her house to talk to him.
“You should go home. I shouldn’t keep you outside.”
“I’m fine. I’m having fun on the swings.” She kicked the ground a little so she swung backwards and the chains creaked. “Can you hear them?”
“Yeah, I can. Isn’t it cold out?
“I’m fine, for the most part. I need to take the time to find my old gloves and scarf before winter shows up.”
“What about you? How’s…everything, with Ha-sun?”
He was quiet for a moment, and Eun-sang nearly took the question back. Her curiosity wasn’t a good enough reason to ask questions that she knew had a high chance of hurting him.
“It has been okay, actually.” She couldn’t hear any pain in his voice, but that was harder to detect when she couldn’t see his face. “We are a good team so far.”
Young-do launched into a brief recap of what had been going on with his company; most of the names were familiar, but Eun-sang couldn’t be sure about a few of them. She needed to look up his board sometime soon to put more names to faces. He didn’t mention his night out with Ha-sun, and she didn’t ask about if or when they had planned to announce their engagement.
“Have you met Ha-sun yet?”
“Not yet.” She kicked against the ground again to move the swing. The cold was starting to seep through her clothes after being still for so long. “I’m meeting her after work tomorrow. Any tips for me?”
“Nothing in particular. So far, she has been refreshingly straightforward with me. I’d say be as honest with her as you feel comfortable with. She may just return the favor.”
Between the anonymous, demand-less blackmail and his vice president doing things he didn’t know about, straightforwardness was definitely a trait that worked in Ha-sun’s favor.
“I trust you to turn her down if you don’t like the opportunity she offers you.”
“Thanks. I’ll sort it out. Maybe the stories she has for me will be good enough to distract the Shark.”
Eun-sang wasn’t going to admit it out loud, but she had…liked the praise she had gotten from Yoo-mi and PD Yoon for her work on the Hongs’ scandal. She hadn’t ever pitched them an idea for a broadcast before—she researched and interviewed and wrote what they had assigned her to. Writer Ji had earned a little more freedom in that regard, but it would be exciting to have something to offer for a broadcast. She simply didn’t have the experience or the contacts to drum up a story all on her own, not this early in her career.
Could Ha-sun be her first stepping stone to that?
“Do you really call your boss ‘Shark’?”
Eun-sang laughed, but it turned into a shiver halfway through. “Not to her face. But it’s getting cold, so I’m going to head in. Have a good night, okay?”
“Okay. You, too.”
“Oh, and Young-do?”
“Good luck,” she said, and she meant it. “With everything.”