Haerim stood leaning against Baekhyun’s car—a glam silver sporty number that would have gone down well in a Bond movie— on a street outside a massive house. Its three clear storeys of gabled roofs and picture windows face its imposing façade familial warmth; even while the shade of a hundred year old oak in the front yard added to the chilly weather.
No wonder Baekhyun had looked so relieved when he picked her up at her door a half-hour before. The poor man had probably expected her to turn up in hemp and a hat. Instead she’d gone for a little lip gloss, a little more mascara, fitted jeans, layered tops, a tailored jacket and ballet flats. He didn’t need to know the frilly scarf that hung to her knees was a million years old, second-hand and homemade.
“What a beautiful home,” said Haerim as she looked around the yard.
His tight response was so chilly she literally shivered. She gave herself a good mental shake. Then a physical one—stomping her feet and shaking the blood back into her hands.
“What are you doing?” Baekhyun asked, his voice tight and his while body stiff as a board.
“Trying to relax.”
He was serious. Which only made her laugh. Hard. Giving the butterflies in her belly a good workout.
“Oh, stop being so tense! How do you expect me to act? Faking it in front of a guy’s family is hardly a common occurrence in my life. How about yours?”
His sensuous mouth grew flat, his stare much the same.
“Didn’t think so. Because you’re not doing such a bang-up job of looking like a guy who likes a girl enough to bring her home.”
His jaw clenched so hard he was in danger of breaking a tooth.
“Here.” She reached for the top button of his shirt, and stopped when he flinched.
Jeez, the guy was so wound up that if she flicked lint off his jacket he’d probably self-combust. She spared a glance at the door of the beautiful home perched at the end of the perfect white gravel drive and wondered for a second what she’d let herself in for.
But it was too late for all that now.
She’d promised to help, so she’d help. She’d be such a great amount of help he’d never forget it. Maybe he’d be so touched he’d open up a little, give her fodder for her study.
“May I?” she asked, hand hovering an inch from his chest.
“May you what?”
“Ruffle you up a bit.”
“For what purpose?”
“For the purpose of making you look like a man on a date, not like an undertaker.”
He breathed deep, his chest lifting till the weave of his luxurious woollen jacket brushed the hairs of her arms, creating skitters off…something all the way up to her elbows.
His gaze finally left the house to connect with hers. The tangle of blue was enough to take her breath away.
She purposely lowered her gaze from his eyes, not quite sure what to do with the warmth that had seemed to have seeped in there from one second to the next.
Instead she focused on the top button of his shirt and slid the button through the hole. When she saw he wore a crisp white shirt underneath—heck, even that had been ironed—she undid another button, and another. Her fingers slid beneath the collar as she softened it out. The backs of her knuckles brushed against the warm cotton of his shirt, and the beat of his heart didn’t feel so steady.
Because of what he was about to try pull on his family, she told herself. For the less than steady beat of hers her excuse was less clear.
“You have a good reason for doing this, right?” she asked, flicking her gaze to his to find him watching her fingers. Intently. She pulled them away, tucked them into the back pocket of her jeans. “For lying to them. For their own good? For yours? For world peace?”
He sniffed out a laugh and looked up at her from beneath his beautiful lashes. “What if I told you the reason was less altruistic?”
What if? she thought. But she didn’t have any qualms. She trusted his heart was in the right place. Or right enough. Her allegiance was with him.
She slid her hand into the crook of his arm, her hip bumping his companionably. “Come on, lover. Let’s go make them believe.”
She pushed away from the car and escorted him up the path, the scent of flowers clear and lush on the crisp air. He unhooked his arm and slid it around her waist. She did the same to him, his body heat pressing in on her. They walked side by side up the steps, and approached the big white double doors.
Haerim looked at Baekhyun, waited till he looked back at her and made sure he was listening. “This thing between us is new, so if I don’t know something I’ll say so. All you have to do is throw me a hot glance every now and then. Undress me with your eyes a little. They’ll eat it up.”
He stared at her for longer than was comfortable.
“Hell, Haerim,” he said, his voice a growl as he ran a hand up the back of his hair—a move she was already familiar with.
She slipped her hand into his and gave it a squeeze.
Then when he looked down at her in question she lifted onto her toes and kissed his cheek. The scent of him slipped down the back of . Which was when she might have hummed. The flicker of heat that sparked to life in Baekhyun’s eyes made her sure of it.
He lifted a hand to her cheek, his thumb running slowly across her cheekbone before his fingers disappeared into her hair. Brow furrowing, his eyes roved over her face, leaving her eyes to rove over his. And what a face. The sharp nose, the dark, sultry eyes, lips just made for kissing. She’d tried not to remember just how good they were at that particular job, but it was an impossibility.
So much so that, when his tongue darted out to wet his lips and he bent towards her Haerim was so filled with anticipation she began to tremble.
And that was when the front door swung open, letting out a shaft of golden lamplight and noisy chatter.
Baekhyun blinked as if coming to from a spell, then as one they looked up as a gorgeous blonde haired girl rolled her eyes at them.
“Get a room!” said she.
“Jihyun,” Baekhyun growled, taking Haerim’s hand and holding it tight behind his back as if he was her human shield.
“Brother,” said Jihyun. “And you must be this new girl we’ve heard about. Glad to meet you.”
“Park Haerim,” said Haerim, but Baekhyun had her in such a tight grip she was forced to hold out her left hand.
Jihyun took it, laughed, shook her head, then waved a hand to usher them in. Then she bounded off, her long blonde hair swinging, but Baekhyun kept Haerim back a moment.
“Thank you,” he said, his breath brushing her ear as he leaned in close.
“I haven’t done anything yet.”
“Yes,” he said, waiting till her eyes found his. “You have.”
Then he stepped back so that his eyes could slide down her form, touching on her neck, her wrist, her thighs, before slowly meandering back to her eyes.
“Now, let’s do this,” he said, then winked—quick, brief, but potent—before he led her into his family home.
And while Haerim tried to get over the fact that gorgeous Byun Baekhyun had just well and truly undressed her with his eyes, for a brief moment she imagined running. Far, far away.
But Haerim was a stayer. Through thick and thin. You could take her stuff, call her names, ignore her through an entire childhood and still she’d never leave you. It was her definitive quality. And, no matter that Byun Baekhyun was proving to be a trickier proposition that she had