Translated by Translated by Raven
“I’m sorry. None of our staff found a pair of high heels on the 10th floor. We will contact you after we file a lost and found report.”
I had already asked a few times, but the concierge’s attitude remained the same. I couldn’t sleep a wink last night. I put down the phone and pressed the corners of my eyes. When I thought about it, the room keeper was the only person to pick up the fallen shoes. What kind of crazy bastard would take someone else’s shoes just by seeing them?
While pacing around my room, I suddenly thought of Soo-Wan. He might have found them while on his way back to his room and decided to take them. If he had a clue, he wouldn’t have abandoned them if he knew they were mine.
He had gotten completely wasted and made a scene yesterday, but did he have to keep my shoes shamelessly like that. I hope not.
“Ahh, I hate this!”
I slipped on the pair of sneakers I brought for the tour, grabbed my phone and wallet, and opened the door. Manager Yoon had sent a message to come down for breakfast a few minutes ago. But as I was to step out of the door I collided into a huge wall, it took me a moment to realise that it was a man.
Standing in front of my room, Kwon Lee-Hyun glanced between the doorbell and me, then cocked his head to the side with a smile.
“Ms Lee Ji-Eun, is that right?”
“Yeah, that’s me, but… what’s the matter?”
My gaze immediately set upon the high heels held in Kwon Lee-Hyun’s hand. They were the pair I lost last night. As my face turned stiff, Lee-Hyun lifted up my shoes.
“You must be the owner.”
“Yes. How did you…”
I snatched my shoes as if he had stolen them and looked up at his face, holding my breath. From up close, Kwon Lee-Hyun looked different from yesterday. I am not much shorter either, but he was tall enough to the point where I had to fully tilt my head back to look at him properly. Moreover, his immaculate suit and rugged features gave off the impression of an alpha male. Anyone could get lost in those deep chiselled eyes of his.
“Umm, do you have anything else to say…”
For some reason, I felt overwhelmed and scratched my neck while I spoke.
“I’d like to talk about business.”
“To be exact, I’d like to request a design from you. May I come in?”
Two secretaries came up behind him and greeted me. They seemed to be waiting for Kwon Lee-Hyun’s instructions. I instinctively looked back at the messy room. Lee-Hyun smiled at my distress.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be accompanied by my secretaries. I’d rather we talk in a place without any eyes.”
“Still, the room is a bit….”
“I can’t help it even if you’re uncomfortable, but it won’t be good for you to draw your colleagues’ eyes.”
As he spoke, his slight impatience was not concealed. It was an extremely typical reaction from someone of his class and stature to be unfamiliar with waiting. I was conflicted about how to handle the situation.
When I raised my gaze and met the eyes of the secretary standing behind, they forcefully smiled and nodded their heads.
It seemed like Kwon Lee-Hyun did not come to return the shoes that I had dropped on the 10th floor as I had expected; rather, the point of contact was to request a design from me. Staring at my eyes, which were full of doubt, he waited patiently.
I bit my lip unknowingly, he scrunched his brows and glared at my lips. After a while, I backed away slightly.
“Then, come in.”
Lee-Hyun took a step forward before I could say anything else. He was a man who was used to being in command. The atmosphere changed as soon as he walked into the room. The two secretaries who followed behind scanned the entire room with a device in their hands. They started from my bed, suitcase, bathroom, then to the window curtains.
Embarrassed, I asked what he was doing, but he didn’t answer.
When the secretary in a neat suit and silver-rimmed glasses reported to Lee-Hyun, only then did he speak.
“Only Secretary Kim stays.”
Lee-Hyun looked around my bright room and sat down in an empty armchair. It was the only single sofa in the room. Standing idly by him, I sat in the edge of the bed. He tilted his head and gazed at me with his razor-sharp eyes and gave me a soft smile.
“Don’t be so wary. It was just for precaution.”
“Still, it’s my room… the wiretap inspection was a bit uncomfortable.”
I frowned as I spoke, and I was a bit surprised by my raised voice.
“You must know who I am.”
“I saw you at the event yesterday.”
“Then, the conversation will be quick.”
Kwon Lee-Hyun slowly crossed his legs and placed his hands over them.
“Lee Ji-Eun, you designed the villa for the Artist, Kim Eung-Soo. Am I right?”
I scrunched my brows when I heard the unexpected statement. I tried to guess Lee-Hyun’s intentions, but he was hard to read.
“Nope. That’s senior Lim…”
“That’s very different from what I know.”
For a moment, his eyes narrowed. It was a look everyone knew. Perhaps…
“Well, apart from that. What does it have to do with you?” I tried to avoid his question.
“There’s a place I’d like for you to design.”
My eyes widened with doubt.
“Don’t be so surprised. I had always planned to ask Artist Kim’s villa designer to do it from the very beginning. We need a design that will satisfy the owner’s needs.”
I raised my hand to stop him and asked a question.
“Wait a minute. What about subcontractors or affiliates? This situation is a bit sudden…I’m someone who has nothing to do with SR…”
“That’s why I’m proposing this to you. It’s a very, very personal request.”
The more I talked to him, the more confused I became, and my mouth began to dry up. I rolled up the bedsheets and looked away first. I was convinced that he had overheard Lim Soo-Wan’s drunken tirade last night, but it still didn’t make sense for him to visit me.
What’s so great about Artist Kim Eung-Soo’s villa design that it resulted in the start of a secret project…? The personal request made me feel a bit uncomfortable and plunged me into thought.
“Are you worried?”
Kwon Lee-Hyun cocked his head at my stern answer. Then, he leaned his body over and laid his voice low, as if to seduce me.
“I know you have an architect licence. I’ll give you a temporary office. Of course, it will be in SR. You only need to design the blueprint. After that, SR will take responsibility for your employment.”
“From what I see, the place you’re currently working at doesn’t seem to be very helpful. Moving on will be good for you.”
His attitude towards other people’s livelihood was like lukewarm coffee, the worst temperature of the world’s worst coffee. I could picture how he thought about me. I was just a person to whom he had no need to pay attention, worthless and meaningless. Nobody would care whether I was thrown away after being used. After completing my work with a proper pride, I’d be buried somewhere in the SR Industrial Development Department.
“I’m sorry. I don’t think I can.”
There was a slight crack on his face, shortly followed by a crooked smile. He raised his chin and looked around. Then he smiled, revealing his teeth. It was a patient smile.
“If I accept the job, you’ll investigate me, right? I don’t like it. You said it was confidential…”
“Yes, I will. I must know Lee Ji-Eun from head to toe.”
“Then I can’t do it. I hate being investigated. Besides, it seems dangerous. I’m sorry.”
Half of what I said was sincere. I was thinking about changing jobs, but not right now. Besides, I didn’t like his way. The way he spoke scared people out, and his gaze aroused tension.
As his eyes grew more persistent, I got more embarrassed, I rose from my seat as my phone went off.
“I think breakfast is almost over. Are you not going down? I keep getting calls.”
He rose from his seat after me. Then, he walked past me and grabbed the door handle.
“By the way, did you have a meal before you left that day?”
My lowered eyes raised to meet his. After a pause, he opened the door and tilted his head slightly.
“Judging from your expression, it seems like you just left. Anyway, secrets like this one will eventually become poison. To Lim Soo-Wan and you, Lee Ji-Eun.”
I doubted my ears, but Kwon Lee-Hyun had clearly said so. Feeling a little dumbfounded, I stared blankly at Lee-Hyun’s back as he left. It wasn’t until he and his two secretaries disappeared from my sight I noticed the presence of a cell phone ringing in my grasp.
“You’re not coming down? There are only 20 minutes left!”
“Sir, I’ll pass breakfast. I’ve lost my appetite.”
I hung up and immediately made a call to my dad. The long tone rang out as I waited. Finally, he picked up the call.
“What is it?”
“I have something to ask you. By any chance, Kwon Lee-Hyun…does he know my face?”
“What are you talking about all of a sudden? How would Executive Kwon know your face?”
“You didn’t show him any pictures of me right? Didn’t you tell him my name?”
“I told him your name. What happened? Did you meet Executive Director Kwon?”
I let out a sigh. I relaxed my shoulders and sat down on the bed.
“No, I asked because I was suddenly curious. Mom told me you sent more money.”
“Owning a building is power nowadays. Do you honestly believe they won’t increase other fees while raising the deposit by a few thousand won? Tell her to just save that money for now, and don’t ask for money later.”
“So when are you coming?”
“The day after tomorrow. By the way… I think it would be better not to meet Executive Director Kwon…”
“What? You… what are you talking about!”
“Just, I mean… uh, um… I don’t think this is right. Dad, I’ll call you when I get back to Korea.”
“Lee Ji-Eun! Don’t you dare cut the call!”
I moved the loud-pitched phone away and pressed the end button. My dad was a man who betrayed my mom, but he couldn’t stop loving her.
I’m not sure who received the money from his wallet and sent it to my mother’s bank account, but it’s unlikely that my stepmother was aware of it. The meeting with Kwon Lee-Hyun would also pass through his hands if he approved the deposit.
I got up and went into the bathroom and looked at myself through the mirror, I looked haggard. I turned on the cold water and washed my face. I made myself look more presentable while fixing my hair. I let out a deep sigh and looked back into my room at the high heels with the front nose broken off.
“You finally found them.”
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