Eun-sang was a little surprised when dinner showed up at the office Friday night, mostly because placing any orders usually fell to her as the most junior member of the team. By the surprised but grateful expressions Writer Ji and VJ Han were wearing, neither of them had been asked to do it instead of her. PD Yoon or Writer Nam—or both of them—must have taken care of it themselves, which made Eun-sang feel like she should apologize for being absorbed in her work but also happy that no one had thought to interrupt her to take care of something trivial.
Between the caffeine, the lack of sleep, the fact that both PD Yoon and Writer Nam had agreed to begin investigating Ha-sun’s information, Eun-sang was an odd combination of jittery, exhausted, and elated. With the five of them dividing up the contents of the thumb drive, some of the pressure had eased. VJ Han was busy checking all of the video and sound clips, pouring through the files for clues she might have missed and verifying that the metadata matched up with the file names, among other technical details Eun-sang didn’t understand. Writer Ji had taken the folders belonging to politicians not affiliated with Chairman Ahn and was going through the information again, researching to ensure that there weren’t any connections that Eun-sang had missed. Eun-sang, Writer Nam, and PD Yoon had divided the remaining folders between them to finish going through the contents and taking detailed notes.
First thing on Monday morning, they would have another meeting to figure out if there was anything else connecting these twenty-seven politicians together.
Eun-sang worked while she ate, and she had nearly finished off her bowl of bibimbap when Bo-na finally called her. She gulped down some water, grabbed her phone, and headed for the door. “Hey, Bo-na. Give me just a second,” she said, keeping her voice low, even though this part of the building was only sparsely populated this late at night. The first conference room was empty, so she ducked into it. “How has your day been?”
“Okay. Oh, before I forget, your thank you gift arrived. Should I send it by courier this weekend, or should I just bring it to movie night?”
It took a second for Eun-sang to remember what Bo-na was talking about. Right, the designer of the green dress she had worn to the Mega Entertainment event was supposed to send her something. “Movie night, if you don’t mind. I’m not sure what my weekend is going to look like right now, and my mother is in Busan, so I don’t know if anyone will be home to accept a package.” Eun-sang closed her eyes and leaned back against the conference room door. “I’m not even sure I’ll make it to movie night.”
“Work is that busy? I thought you finished up with the Hongs’ story.”
“We did. We caught something else, though.”
“That’s why you wanted me to call? What can I do to help?”
Eun-sang smiled to herself. She remembered back in high school, how so many people easily discounted Bo-na because of her bubbly moments and her feelings for Chan-young and her impetuous decisions. But Bo-na wasn’t ignorant—far from it. Her priorities and desires were just different from what most people expected from someone in her position.
“I actually wanted to see if I could help you. Are there any persistent reporters you’d like to have distracted from Mega Entertainment and its talent for a while?”
Rachel thought that dinner and drinks with her team on Friday night had gone well. Min-ah had selected the restaurant well: its price range meant that no one on the team had been there before, and its trendy, youthful atmosphere meant that no one felt stifled by formality. Or at least, no one was afraid to get tipsy in front of her. No one felt comfortable enough to get completely smashed, either, which was good; Rachel had never liked managing drunk people. And besides, her team showed good judgment by remembering that she would someday be running the company and choosing not to get too familiar. She didn’t have to drink more than she wanted to convince them they could relax and (moderately) celebrate their sales numbers.
That left her clear-headed on Saturday morning, which she needed with Hyo-shin coming over to critique her presentation. Luckily, Esther had already left the penthouse for the day, so any awkward questioning would come after the fact, once the staff had a chance to report to her. Rachel hoped to minimize that by being as upfront and transparent about what was going to happen as possible. She was not sneaking a man into their home while her mother was out; she was asking a friend over to provide feedback on a business-related matter.
It still took her longer than she liked to pick out a suitable outfit. She didn’t want to be overdressed in her own home, but she wanted to visually prove that she was serious about her project. Rachel settled on a cream blouse and a maroon pencil skirt with a set of pearl earrings and matching bracelet. After she had the maids rearrange the furniture in the study, she informed the chef that she would have a guest in the study and to prepare a small selection of light snacks.
Even if Hyo-shin wouldn’t have time to stay for a full lunch with her, she would be a proper hostess.
Rachel had just finished double checking that her tablet was connected to the television and her presentation worked when there was a knock at the study door. She set the tablet down and smoothed her hands over her skirt. “Come in.”
One of the maids stepped in first. Hyo-shin was right behind her. He smiled when their eyes met and inclined his head in a much shallower version of the bow the maid was doing. Hyo-shin hadn’t dressed up, but she did recognize his dark wash jeans and long-sleeved navy blue shirt as typical of his on-set outfits. The clothes weren’t stained or disheveled looking, so maybe he had dressed up, as much as he could, considering he had to go straight to work after this.
“Thank you for making time for me,” Rachel said, and she meant it. “Please, sit. Would you like something to drink?”
“Ah, tea would be fine. Whatever’s available.”
They had at least five different varieties on hand, that Rachel knew of, but she didn’t press for clarification. Their chef could pick based on whatever would pair best with the food he had made. The maid bowed again and disappeared, shutting the door behind her.
“How has your week been?” Rachel asked once they were both seated. “How do you like working for My Undercover Romance so far?”
“It’s been good. I think I’ll learn a lot from the Assistant PD. And after liveshoots for A Daughter’s Revenge, it almost feels wrong to be able to leave the set to sleep.”
“What a luxury.”
That made Hyo-shin laugh, and Rachel tried not to feel smug. “I’ll enjoy it while I can. We’re on schedule to have the first six episodes filmed, if not edited, by the premier next week. With any luck, that means just the last two, maybe two-and-a-half, weeks will be hell.”
“How many episodes?”
“Sixteen. And sixteen only, I hope. This writer doesn’t like doing extensions without enough advance notice, and she’s already working on the script for episode eight.”
“You’ll wrap up in December, then?”
“Somewhere around there. With New Year specials, the broadcast schedules can be a mess. Episodes might get pushed back. We’ll definitely finish by mid-January.”
There was another knock at the study door. When Rachel gave permission, two maids came in, one carrying a tray with a teapot and two cups and the other carrying an assortment of food. It only took a few moments for them to set it all up, pour the cups of tea, and then disappear.
Hyo-shin was left wearing a curious expression that she couldn’t interpret. Rachel picked up her cup of tea and mimicked one of her mother’s elegant half-shrugs. “The least I can do is feed you while you listen to my presentation.”
“I will do my best to eat my portion of this,” Hyo-shin said seriously, like she had entrusted him with an important task, but in the next moment his smile was back, and that made it easier to relax.
Rachel kept up the small talk for a few minutes more, long enough for her to have a few bites to eat. She had had breakfast not that long ago, so she wasn’t hungry, but it would be awkward if she didn’t have anything while he ate. When she finished her tea, she took a deep breath and set the cup down carefully. “I know you don’t have much time this morning. Are you ready for me to begin?”
“I am. Is there anything in particular that you want me to focus on?”
She paused, hesitating over her answer. If Young-do had asked that question, it would have been easy to answer. Though he wouldn’t have had to ask because he knew exactly what it was like to be worried about coming across as too young, being too inexperienced, and needing to prove that you were capable of taking on more responsibility. They were good at and comfortable with criticizing each other, tearing down each other’s weak points so they could help the other fortify themselves.
If she were being honest, she didn’t want Hyo-shin to sit there and search for her flaws. She didn’t want him to try to view her as someone likely to fail and to squander RS International resources in the process.
“Doubt me,” Rachel said instead. She stood up and grabbed her tablet. “Pretend you don’t know me. That I’m the worst of the heirs set to inherit a company and it is your job as a board member to ensure that I cause the least amount of damage possible.”
Something flickered across Hyo-shin’s face, something that almost looked like pain. Before she could ask what it was, he set down his chopsticks. “All right, Yoo Rachel,” he said, and this time there was no smile to follow up his serious tone. “Show me your business proposal.”