Plan was simple: get in the Gala, find Park Chanyeol, retrieve the flash drive and make it back to the Catacombs, hopefully safe and early. With the flimsy number in red silk Lara had chosen to wear that night, the guards on the gates didn’t bother to search beyond her sparkly clutch. She didn’t carry any weapon there, but she had a dagger tied to her high thigh – so high up the slit on the skirt hadn’t reached there yet – with a thick leather strap that clung to her skin uncomfortably. But the red silk hugged her skin in a way that left no place for suspicions of such actions. Plus, Lara made sure to look at everything with childlike amazement so that her eyes shone with innocence and youth.
Faint light fell form the polished crystal chandelier lamps hanging from impossibly high roofs. Red velvet curtains framed towering crystal doors that lead to open-air balconies carved in pale stone where you could admire the night and the moonlight lazily the gardens that spread far in the backside of the building. The Cosmos hotel looked more like a medieval palace than a modern building. In a faraway corner, a small orchestra played gracefully, their music giving the air taste of classical finery.
Lara had gotten out of the backseat of a black Rolls Royce, the red silk that clung to her curves had attracted more than a stare instantly. She was a mysterious woman, visibly way too young to be in a place like that, dressed like the world was bound to fall to her feet.
The first thing she did when she got to the big hall was slide gracefully towards one of the waiters to grab her own glass of rosé champagne. She disliked alcohol, but everyone had one, and the last thing she wanted was to stand out.
she made her way to the place her gun was supposed to be hidden. Daggers were useful, but guns were fast and much more discreet. She could kill someone without even being near them, no need to ruin her perfect appearance for the night. That night, she was Jung Lara, a woman without a past that had to rely on her expensive dress and scarlet lipstick to get into the gala.
She wasn’t sure if she would be able to afford hand-to-hand combat with stilettos and her ribs still protesting from time to time.
Walking aimleslly around the hall with her champagne glass untouched, she felt burning stares on her skin – both from males and females – as if she didn’t realize, as if the innocent gleam in her eyes were enough to shield her from all corruption and evil. Little did they know that her innocence was only curiosity for the new world covered in gold and red velvet that she saw that night for the first time. Little did they suspect that she had experienced the true extent of evil in her own flesh.
She spent her time exploring the different balconies, finding every possible angle to contemplate the pale moon and escaping fake smiles and voices dripping with faked kindness that only masked their dark desires. She tried all kind of delicacies. Somewhere in the night she lost her champagne glass, still untouched.
She leaned on the pale bannister, cold stone sending shivers down her spine, and breathed in deeply. The fresh night air tasted like freedom. Though she was anything but free.
The grand clock – polished wood and hand-carved arabesques – told Lara that it had been a full hour and seventeen minutes and she still hadn’t found what – or who – she was looking for. Nor Park Chanyeol or Kim Minseok seemed to be in the gala. She turned towards the gardens and sighed all the air in her lungs with her elbows on the cold stone and her head propped on her cold hands.
It was freezing cold, but she didn’t care. Staring at the gardens, wide and silver, she could forget about everyone and everything and feel like one of those fairy tale princesses that gazed over their kingdoms wrapped in silk camisoles and perfect locks while their dream prince awaited, fast asleep, in their shared chambers.
With the tips of her fingers, Lara traced the outline of the hot spot between her collarbones. Baek wasn’t there, she couldn’t know when she would get to see him again. But the heat that he had confided her in the shape of his pendant was her only company in the cold loneliness underneath the stardust.
She guessed he would be in his huge office back in the Catacombs, working in whatever he had to. Closing her eyes, Lara could see his slender fingers travelling through yellowing pages loaded with illegible text. When she opened her eyes and looked at the Moon, she couldn’t find it in her to smile. She knew Baekhyun wouldn’t be watching the Moon nor thinking about her.
Lara noticed a couple, alcohol evidently coursing through their veins, was coming toward the balcony, towards her. Space seemed to disappear between them as their bodies melted into one another and their mouths planted sloppy kisses. She went back to the hall before they could notice her. The little orchestra had been replaced with an elderly pianist whose fingers danced nimbly over the keys.
By then, Lara had already memorized the behavior pattern of every guest, from their voices to the way they walked. With a quick glance, she determined that ten guests had left, the other seven must have been stargazing in the balconies. The waiters were still patrolling the hall with exhausted smiles and champagne trays.
Kai was nowhere to be seen, he was twenty-two minutes late. Lara sighed loudly, exasperated. He wasn’t the only one missing. She was sleepy, her shoes were killing her and she was dying to rip the bloody silk dress off to avoid more heated gazes. Was it that hard for Park Chanyeol to make his appearance?
She took the mobile phone Baekhyun had given her and opened Kai’s chat
[23:23] Where the hell are you?
The message wasn’t even delivered. Lara was on the edge of a break down. It wasn’t hard for her to hire a taxi straight to the Catacombs; or to book a room in the Cosmos hotel itself to have some sleep. Afterall, Baekhyun payed.
But then she remembered it was her mission and that Boss’ wrath – probably both Byun would be infuriated – would fall over her. And, knowing them, that couldn’t be good for her.
She shuddered before she headed for the table where all the food was. At least she had food… In the far end of the table were what Lara guessed were desserts. With her eyes gleaming, she her lips while imagining how would each of them taste. In the end she chose a little glass with some golden mousse topped with a cream swirl.
She closed her eyes when the smooth texture and the flavor melted in , almost in delight. She was about to eat another spoonful when an unknown voice pulled her out of her fantasies. was still full when she turned around and she had to tell herself not to scream.
Milky skin and soft features, Kim Minseok was looking at her with a faint smile, like a little boy eyeing his candy before sinking his teeth on it. Lara thought it was a hunter’s gaze masked with innocence. Child or not, his teeth sunk on her couldn’t be good.
“Good evening”, she greeted, “sorry to be blocking the way”, she forced a laugh.
“Please, don’t worry. I am not here for the sweets. I just thought it is not common to see such a young lady by herself in a party like this”
“Actually, I am waiting for somebody.”
In a split second, Kim Minseok’s eyes turned cold. The hidden threat masked with innocence suddenly turned into an ice dagger that pierced through her. Lara stumbled a step back on instinct, only to discover that she was trapped between the table and him.
“I don’t think I have seen you before” he said. Kim Minseok spoke like a movie’s heartthrob, soft and slowly. But his eyes shone like ice, laced with hatred and caution. “May I have your name?”
“Why would you want that?”
“Because you’re carrying a gun in that pretty clutch of yours and I can’t understand how you passed the guards. I mean, the knife in your thigh is a nice detail and I can understand, but how did you sneak in a gun, if I may know?”
Kim Minseok stepped back and studied her carefully, assessing all her features. Never had she ever felt so exposed. Who was Kim Minseok, really?
“I’ll let you keep the knife, it is a nice touch, I must admit. Give me the gun.”
She didn’t want to know what could happen if she refused. He had proved to be quite an observer. Probably – she concluded – he had noticed she shifted her weight off her injured rib too. He could attack her in a million different ways and drag her God knows where, telling that she wasn’t used to alcohol and dodging any suspicions.
“Right here? In front of all these people?”
Not even bothering to answer, Kim Minseok moved towards her, so close she could feel his breath ghosting over her lips and smell his expensive cologne. Kim Minseok wasn’t tall, but something in his cat-like eyes made him look terrifying.
One of his hands had made her way down to the small of her back while the other one advanced painfully slow towards her clutch bag. With the grace of a pianist, he undid the clasp of the bag single-handedly and swiftly snatched the gun. The cold metal bushed between their bodies as he hid it in the inner pocket of his tailored blazer.
His eyes hadn’t left Lara’s for a second. She had forgotten how to breathe. She jolted back to reality when the hand resting on her waist started south. Slowly, barely grazing the silk with the tips of his fingers. Lara didn’t want to know where that hand would stop and closed her eyes.
A second later she felt Kim Minseok’s fingers tapping the blade of her dagger and his breath disappearing from her lips. She opened her eyes and saw him holding a dessert cup, just like the one she had grabbed. With the corners of his lips stained with cream, he smiled at her again. This time she knew h was mocking her for how easy it had been to read her.
“Fresh air would do you good”, he said as he retreated. “The gardens are beautiful even in this time of the year.”
Lara finished her dessert and left the hall, still her lips. She had the feeling Kai wouldn’t come. An invisible string pulled her towards the gardens. Kim Minseok was definitely not an ally, but neither was he an enemy – yet. He didn’t know her, didn’t know who or why was she there for. There were more than a hundred guests that night, he couldn’t know that him, amongst all of them, was one of her targets.
Lara cursed herself while she stomped her way to the garden. She had completely forgotten to check if he had the flash drive on him. Kim Minseok had hidden a gun in his blazer, it couldn’t be that hard to hide a flash drive.
* * *
Moonlight bled over the outline of the black thorns that lined the rose vines, the metal spikes of the crystal pavilions and the metal fences that lined the paths, giving the whole garden a ghostly glow. Lara thought it looked a lot like what in her books were described as a cemetery, with white halo steaming from the grass and piling around her feet.
She walked slowly, soundlessly. Turning around towards the building, she eyed the empty balcony. The crystal doors were closed, covered by the heavy velvet curtains. Strange… She was sure the doors had been open and the curtains drawn when she had left the hall.
She walked and walked until her arms became numb from the cold and her teeth were chattering. The metal blade on her thigh was icy, a painful contrast with her still – somehow – warm skin. Even then, Lara smiled. It was her first time feeling cold, real cold.
The cold she had felt in the Catacombs smelled like chemicals and burned her skin like cal. This was different. It seeped into her pores and chilled her blood slowly, like a sluggish and exquisite death. Exquisite. To Lara, cold and the smell of night tasted like glory.
She breathed in the wonders of the night slowly until her lungs were full. She couldn’t exhale as calmly, though, because she heard voices. Muffled screams in the distance, an argument. She let out her breath slowly, lips barely open and soundlessly. Luckily, her heels were silent on the wet soil.
Sharp beams of light pierced through the fogged glass of one of the pavilions, surrounded by four lush trees. The voices came from in there. Lara made three voices out. Two seemed to be on the same side, demanding something to a third voice that didn’t know what to answer and only stuttered meaningless apologies.
She didn’t have time to stop to listen to the conversation because something gleamed under the light – a knife – and it was aimed towards the third voice, a man dressed in a fine suit. Tall and dark-haired, Lara knew she had seen those lips somewhere, had spent the whole night wanting to see him. Park Chanyeol.
Improvising something quick that could save Park Chanyeol from being stabbed, Lara took a deep breath and screamed to the top of her lungs – loud and shrill, just like scared girls did in movies. Anyone would scream seeing a knife in a peaceful gala. She jus had to play the part.
Both men turned to her, more annoyed than scared.
“Miss, if you could let us explain…”
Lara screamed again and turned around, begging for help. One of them ran behind her and Lara started running. Her heel got stuck in the wet soil and she fell on her stomach, cursing lowly.
The man after her pounced on her and pinned her down with hands sharp as claws. Lara could see Park Chanyeol clumsily dodging with his spaghetti legs the attacks of the other man.
She had to do something. Now.
Her hands were pinned to the ground, her back stuck in the wet soil and there was a cold blade on her neck.
“There are better ways to solve this than screaming, baby doll”
She was fed up with the bloody pet name. She felt the blade pressing harder and a string of blood rolling from her neck to the ground. She shuddered. That was enough for the smell to make her sick.
Not faraway from there, she heard the other man groaning in pain. Park Chanyeol had managed a blow to his stomach.
Lara took advantage of the split second that the man above her got distracted to free her hands and reach for the dagger. Before he could react, Lara had flipped them over. Now she was the one sitting on his ribs, her dagger pressed firmly to his neck and his knife on her other hand.
“I am not a baby doll. Dare to move and I swear it will be the last thing you’ll do.”
Lara flipped the knife and strike him between the eyebrows with the handle, hard. That wouldn’t kill him, but it would surely keep him knocked out for a couple of hours. She stood up, dagger in her hand, and run to the pavilion. Park Chanyeol looked like he could trip over his own legs.
He looked pale, panting heavily. The other man’s knife was stained with blood. Swallowing a gag, Lara hoped for it to be only from the dripping cut in Park Chanyeol’s cheekbone and the small wound peeking from the torn shoulder of his expensive suit.
Lara whistled to alert the man, who looked at his fallen comrade and pounced on her with the force of a lion. He was a small man, slim and pure fiber.
– Lara thought – He’s fast.
She could barely dodge his blows and the ones she managed to deliver him were weak. The icy tiles felt slippery under her bare feet – she had discarded the bloody stilettos – and the long skirt tangled under her feet when she attempted fruitlessly to kick the man.
Dazed and propped on the marble bannister, Park Chanyeol stared at Lara bowled over. He felt like he was choking, the burning in his lungs unbearable. The pain would most likely lessen if he stopped trying to stay conscious and he let his body fall to the cold ground. But from the floor he wouldn’t be able to watch her.
Her, the woman that danced barefoot, feet as white as the marble tiles, with moonlight kissing the dark locks that fluttered around her face when she spun around and caressed her bare shoulders when it fell back. Chanyeol wished he could be her hair to kiss her shoulders, cheeks and neck on such a gentle and delicate way. So endlessly beautiful.
That, or the fire dress that hugged her petit body and danced to the rhythm of her body. The silk clinging to her s, leaving a generous expanse of creamy skin exposed. The skirt wrapped around her legs when she danced and blanketed her feet from winter cold.
Then she screamed. A sturdy silhouette dressed in black had taken her down. She screamed in pain. The fire dress looked like a bed of blood under the white body laying on the dark dirt. When the man pounced on her one last time, Chanyeol clutched his eyes shut.
He heard a groan and the unmistakable thud of a body falling. A few seconds later a cold hand touched his cheek, soft fingers barely skimming the edges of the cut – which was still bleeding – in his cheekbone. He dared to open his eyes and saw her. Her eyes were the color of toasted caramel and a deep cut in her lips tainted them red and made them look juicier.
“Mr. Park.” Her voice was soft as honey. It felt like a caress. Chanyeol nodded absentmindedly. Park… that was him, right? “Mr. Park, we need to go.”
The woman grabbed his hand – they were small, tiny compared to his. He couldn’t understand was she was trying to tell him, but he would comply anyways. He tried to walk, but pain beat him and he fell on his knees, panting heavily.
Lara knelt in front of him and let her heels – which she had retreated – on the ground. Park Chanyeol’s face was ashen, dry lips nearing gray, and it couldn’t be just for the cuts in his cheek and his shoulder. Looking closely, Lara discovered that the black spot on his shirt wasn’t a shadow, but blood. Raising his shirt, Lara discovered a stab wound in his side, deep and bleeding.
“Mr. Park, we need to get that wound sewn, but we have to get out of here. I’m going to need your help, I can’t carry you by myself. Can you stand?”
Without waiting for a response, Lara slid an arm under his shoulder and hoisted him up. Park Chanyeol groaned in pain but kept on standing. Slowly, they went back to the Hotel. The keeper looked at them up and down and raised an eyebrow,
“He’s had too much to drink” she supplied, “it’s better for us to go back.”
The keeper nodded and offered to call a cab. Lara thanked him with one of her angelic smiles and waited until the keeper had disappeared to seat Park Chanyeol on the steps. She tore the lower part of his shirt and wrapped it around the wound. He grunted but didn’t resist, Lara closed his blazer to hide the blood stain. She’d have to be more creative with the cut in his face.
Luckily her dress – or, more specifically, the slit on the skirt – had all the eyes, nobody ever realized that a girl, still too young to be called woman, was dragging Park Chanyeol – CEO of a pharmaceutic international lab – half dead, out of the Cosmos hotel.
The cab was waiting right out the door. Lara sat with Park Chanyeol’s head on her lap and gave the driver his address, which she had memorized beforehand.
“Listen, miss”, the driver said “you are a true beauty but I don’t want any puke in the seats. If he’s that bad I can take you to the hospital, it’s at least 20 minutes closer than the address.”
“Don’t worry”, Lara lied, “he’s already vomited all.”
Park Chanyeol had passed out with his head on Lara’s lap. Sighing, she took her phone out and messaged Kai.
[00:07] No need to come anymore
[00:07] Inform Boss. Change of plans, I’m with Park Chanyeol
Please don't kill me. This update was up like a week ago but as I hadn't gotten any review I thought it was strange so I went to check what was wrong and... I forgot to unmark the draft option... So yes, this update should have been up from last week.
But yaayyy!! We have Yeollie, Minnie and uhmmm what do you think happened to Kai? I mean, he was supposed to be with Lara but he never whent to the Gala... Also, I decided maybe separating chapters with * * * is a better option than doing so many short chapters. Because this is chapter 12 and the story just began... So maybe I'll be merging some chapters into one.
What do you think about that? Should I merge them or shoul I leave them the way they are?
Alsooo let me know what you think about the new characters and if you have any theories.
Sorry for the long A/N, and see you next time!