Just a heads up, there's some heat in this chapter ;)
After lunch Baekhyun found Haerim looking out of the French windows in the library, watching Soohyun’s husband and kids playing chase in the backyard. She was leaning over the back of a couch, her backside pointing nicely his way.
He shoved his hand into his jeans pocket. “Come here often?” he asked.
She came to with a start, as if from a million miles away, before a smile stretched across her face—which had his eyes zeroing in on , making him wonder when they could get the hell out of there.
“That’s the best line you’ve got?”
“I don’t usually need any.”
“I don’t doubt it.”
He might have let it go if not for the fact that her cheeks had turned a completely gorgeous shade of pink. “Really?” he drawled, with a smug smile.
She rolled her eyes. “Like you don’t know you’re gorgeous.”
She said it so matter-of-factly, and yet her admission slid through him like a wave of heat. And when her eyes connected with his awareness surrounded them like a net—heavy, tight, confining.
“So…” Haerim said, moving around the couch, clapping her hands together and using them as a shield.
Interesting. She was aware of him. She liked the look of him. Clearly. And now she was trying to pretend it didn’t mean anything.
Maybe it didn’t, he thought.
Then again, maybe it could.
It was four weeks till the wedding, and he didn’t see why they couldn’t enjoy themselves in the meantime. He took a step her way and her eyes flickered. He took another step until she’d backed herself against a bookshelf.
He put a hand on the shelf above her shoulder and very much enjoyed her shiver at his touch. The rise of her chest, the way her lips fell apart. At a noise in the hall Haerim’s gaze cut sideways leaving him room to whisper against her ear, “We want them to walk in on this.”
“We do?” she asked. Then, as an afterthought, “Walk in on what?”
He pushed her hair aside and kissed the soft skin of her neck. Her scent poured into him like pure pheromones. He pressed himself against her. Thank God she pressed back. Her hands lifted to his shoulders, where they gripped for dear life.
“Nobody’s watching,” she said, her voice a rasp as he trailed kisses along her jaw.
He dropped a kiss on the corner of her sweet mouth. “Then consider it practice.”
Her hand slid to curl around the back of his neck; her hips rocking against his and making him see stars.
Even while his body screamed at him never, ever to stop, he knew things were fast getting out of hand. Having his sisters and mother believe he was attracted to Haerim was one thing. Being caught with the evidence in his pants was quite another.
“Come with me,” he said, grabbing her by the hand and dragging her after him without waiting for a response.
Up the stairs he went, two by two, with her keeping up behind. They hit the hall and he just kept on walking till they reached his old bedroom.
With his hands on the doorknob, he balked, realising how long it had been since he’d been inside. Years. Decades. Maybe his mother had turned it into a guest room. Or an after-hours seniors disco. Hell, he hoped so. And he hoped not. It had been his refuge during the hardest years of his life.
He pushed the door open and as the ghosts of his past rose up and surrounded him with such complexity, such vividness, he felt himself sway.
Haerim shot past him. “Oh, my God,” she said, laughter in her voice. “Is this your room?”
His eyes on hers, Baekhyun felt the ache in his chest ease back a notch. He crossed his arms across his chest and looked right on back. “Not anymore.”
“No? You don’t live at home still, then? I know you own like a million houses, but we never did touch on which one you live in…”
Haerim gave him a curtsey before taking a slow turn about his room, forcing Baekhyun to follow. The room was big; the bedspread, dark wood furnishings and the nautical wallpaper were the same as they’d been the day he’d left.
When Haerim ran a finger and a thumb softly down the sail of an elegant three-foot yacht on the chest at the end of the bed, Baekhyun said, “Dad and I made that one when I was about eleven.”
She shot him a glance. Then she kept walking, as if it wasn’t as important an admission as it clearly was. “Good with your hands. Nice to know. Anything else? For the dossier, of course.”
A good listener was Haerim, he warned himself, and an eager one, with an ulterior motive. He was reluctant to indulge her in her research, and yet still he said, “He made small ones downstairs too—the ones in the bottles. It was his favourite hobby. Mine too. Until it wasn’t.”
Her eyes swept back to him—open, warm, filled with understanding. “Baekhyun…” she said, her voice husky.
His thumb pressed against his temple.
“You need to stop doing that,” she said, pulling his hand away.
“Find another way. How do you relax?”
“I don’t. I work.” He glanced up at her, then admitted, ”Occasionally…yoga.”
“Hardcore relaxing. Does it work?”
“If I let it. Which isn’t as often as I ought.”
“As do we all.”
“I have over a hundred employees who depend on me. Every decision I make affects them. And their families.” Baekhyun lifted a hand to the back of his neck, but stopped it there. How had that happened? He’d walked away from being responsible for four souls only to become responsible for hundreds. No wonder he never took a day off.
“Baekhyun, you might be their boss, but they are, each and every one, responsible for themselves. On the other hand, I wonder if you spend near as much time worrying about yourself.”
Haerim’s eyes roved over him then. Over his eyes, which he knew looked as tired as he felt. Over his shoulders, making him feel the tightness of the muscles bunched therein. She reached out, slid her small hand back into his and led him to the bed. There she pressed him down with gentle hands at his shoulders.
He sat, bouncing on the mattress, looking up at her.
She smiled a little before lifting her hands to run them through his hair. Front to back. Her fingers sliding across his scalp with p