After her Thursday evening class got out, Rachel went home. The housekeeper informed her that Esther would be out late and that Rachel was to dine alone, and the lack of any mention of RS International meant that Esther likely had a pleasurable evening ahead of her instead of a business one. Or at least, not solely a business one. Rachel enjoyed her and her mother’s mutual silence about each other’s intimate relationships too much to try to dig up any details, not that it was likely their housekeeper knew anything. Esther had never been the type to bring her lovers home, which suited Rachel just fine.
Once dinner was over, Rachel split the evening between her assigned reading and tweaking her presentation. She texted Young-do back with her final pick for a time for him to give her feedback: Saturday afternoon, so she could have the rest of the weekend to revise based on his criticsm. If she could put the final touches on the presentation early this week, she could ask her mother to schedule a meeting with the other company executives.
Young-do tentatively confirmed with her a few minutes later: I have a few issues I need to take care of for Zeus, but Saturday afternoon should still be fine. If it isn’t, I’ll let you know.
Rachel frowned at the message. Young-do was the one who had offered her the time slots to pick from in the first place. If his schedule was in danger of changing—
Nothing yet. I’m trying to make sure it stays that way.
Is there anything I can do to help?
Not unless you can travel back in time and change who I used to be.
She scowled at her phone. Did the blackmailer do something again?
No, not yet. We haven’t been able to discover anything new, either. Whoever it is, they’ve gone quiet.
That wasn’t a comfort. Quiet was merely the space before something else happened. Rachel hated that someone was targeting Young-do. Perhaps he had been an awful person once, but he had changed. He had grown up.
(So had she. She wanted that to be enough, even though she knew firsthand just how difficult it was to let go of a grudge and how much the blackmailer could potentially gain in exchange for their silence.)
Before she could figure out how to reassure Young-do, her phone rang. It was Hyo-shin. She hesitated for a moment, but then she decided to pick up. “You’re calling late.”
“Sorry,” Hyo-shin said. He didn’t sound sorry at all. In fact, he sounded happy. “I just wanted to share the news with you—I got the slot on the production team.”
“Congratulations. When do you start?”
“Today, actually. I just got off set. The assistant PD had me start working right away. I’ve been here since three.”
Almost eight hours, then. Rachel was a little surprised that it happened so quickly, but even her small brushes with drama production made it clear that the people in the industry had to move fast if they were going to keep on top of their frantic schedules. And Hyo-shin had wanted to make the best impression he could, so he had probably dropped everything easily in order to be on set.
“Sounds like you’ll be busy from now on,” Rachel said. It took more effort than she wanted to admit to keep her voice light. “Will you have time for me anymore?”
“I’ll make it a priority.”
Even though it sounded like teasing, Rachel liked to hear the words anyway. Which was silly—their…friendship couldn’t be the center of his life. It wasn’t the center of hers. She had school and her work at RS International and her side project and her friendship with Young-do, too.
Still, it was nice to hear Hyo-shin say that.
“I’m still sorting out my schedule,” Hyo-shin continued, “but I do want to listen to your presentation. Are you free tomorrow night or Saturday morning?”
Friday night she had promised to take her team out to dinner and drinks for their hard work on the product placement for A Daughter’s Revenge. She couldn’t reschedule that. Saturday morning wouldn’t give her much, if any, time to incorporate Hyo-shin’s feedback before she met up with Young-do. That wouldn’t be ideal, but it would be interesting to see if they had similar criticism.
“Saturday morning would work for me. Should we do lunch afterward?”
“I don’t know if I’ll have the time. I’d rather focus on your presentation.”
For a moment, Rachel was tempted to point out that Hyo-shin technically still owed her lunch, but that seemed petty, especially after he had bought her éclairs and coffee at the café. He probably didn’t even remember promising her a proper lunch, and it would be childish to bring it up when he had a tight schedule.
“That’s fine. Let’s meet at—” Rachel hesitated. For this kind of thing, she normally met Young-do at the flagship Zeus Hotel. His suite or one of the conference rooms would have everything she needed, and even though he owned the building, it felt more like neutral ground.
Neither of them spent much time at each other’s homes. Esther had been far more standoffish with Young-do after she called off her engagement to Dong-wook, and Young-do still treated the house he lived in like it was solely Kyung-ran’s and not his home, too. Hyo-shin was a guest in the Yoons’ home, but even if he were comfortable having her over there, Rachel wasn’t sure she would want to go. If she invited Hyo-shin here, the staff would probably gossip straight to her mother. This wasn’t like when he came to visit as Tan’s proxy with engagement gifts.
They could meet at RS International, though Esther would probably frown at her bringing a non-employee into the upper levels of the building, and there was always the risk that someone working the weekend would spot them and start speculating about what Rachel was doing. There was more anonymity at his campus, but she wasn’t sure if she would feel comfortable there or if they could find a private place.
Rachel was grateful that Hyo-shin couldn’t see her grimace. “Do you still remember where I live?”
Eun-sang finally took a nap shortly before five in the morning, after she remembered to text Hyo-shin her congratulations. (He had sent a group text around midnight, but she had been too distracted then to respond.) She set three separate alarms on her phone—and she needed all three to drag herself out of bed before seven. The cold shower she took only temporarily cleared the exhaustion from her mind, but the coffee didn’t work nearly as well, which meant she had drunk far too much of it over the last few days.
She double checked that Ha-sun’s thumb drive and her own were both securely in her purse before she left with a file folder tucked under her arm. The chilly morning and brisk walk to the bus stop kept her heartrate up, but her nervousness kept her from nodding off during the ride.
This was going to be different from the presentation she did on the various chaebol that stood to gain from the change in sentencing policy. Writer Nam had assigned that research herself, and Eun-sang had made her recommendations for which people they should look more closely at. The information on Ha-sun’s thumb drive and Eun-sang’s initial thoughts on the subject would be a story she would have to pitch and fight for. The other story had been the Shark’s; this was going to be hers.
Eun-sang tried to breathe slowly and deeply like she had seen Hyo-shin do over the years, but it left her feeling more queasy than calm. On the walk to the YBS building, she stopped by a convenience store and grabbed a few joomukbap. After she paid for them, she sat at the counter and ate them slowly as she watched the people on the other side of the glass window scurry to work.
By the time she finished, she felt a little more stable and a little less jittery. She caught the elevator up to her floor and the room her team was in. PD Yoon and Writer Nam were already there, working away quietly at their desks. Eun-sang greeted them both—Writer Ji and VJ Han weren’t in yet—and took her time getting settled in at her desk.
Eun-sang closed her eyes briefly, reminded herself to speak confidently and clearly, and straightened her shoulders. Then she opened her eyes and stood up. She made her way to PD Yoon’s desk and waited politely for him to acknowledge her.
“I have received information that I think we could use for our program,” she told him. “I’ve prepared a briefing for it. If there’s time, I would like to talk to our team about it this morning.”