Swallow One’s Breath – Chapter 3

Do-won was thirsty. He realized immediately that it was not a thirst caused by a lack of moisture in his body, but he couldn’t figure out why. Of course, he couldn’t find a way to solve it.

Then, it was only after passing by the JnC store, which was preparing to open, that he could realize the cause of thirst. The cause was Jeong Se-eun. Se-eun was talking with other employees while changing the mannequin clothes.

She looked overly sexy in a white angora sweater, shorts, and thigh-high boots. He even wanted to take her to his room, lay her down on his desk, pull down those shorts, and bury himself deep inside.

It had been a few months since he last saw Se-eun again at the restaurant in S Hotel. At that time, Do-won couldn’t recognize her at first glance. The Jeong Se-eun he knew, was a poor high school student.

She had to earn tuition and living expenses through scholarships, tutoring, and a part-time job. She was neat and always modest. He liked that sometimes when he would take her to an expensive restaurant, she would savor every bite of the delicious food.

However, five years after their encounter, she was dressed in luxurious and sophisticated clothes. At first glance, the expensive one-piece business suit, the stylish shoes, the designer bag, and the neatly set hairstyle seemed no different from the women he often encountered. The most surprising thing was the man sitting opposite her.

Kim Jaehee, the man sitting in front of Se-eun, was the grandson of Group A’s chairman. He inherited his grandparents’ legacy early on and became independent from his family. Since then, he grew into an extremely resourceful businessman and has sufficiently raised his wealth by engaging in clothing-related businesses.

Despite his sleek appearance and wealth, there has never been a rumor related to a woman. But Kim Jaehee and Jeong Se-eun happened to be here.

As Se-eun dined with Kim Jaehee and sipped from a wine glass, the sight felt strange as if she was a woman he had never seen before. Unlike in the past, where she blushed when kissed, the way she sat face to face with another man, eating and toasting seemed completely natural.

While watching the scene, an unknown discomfort piled up in his head.

‘After leaving me so easily, the only man you met was Kim Jaehee? The age difference is probably over 10 years. Did you have a taste for a rich, older man?’ 

Only then did Do-won try to stop his intrusive thoughts.

Because there had never been a time in which he held regrets towards a woman. Moreover, it was not like him at all to pay attention to a woman who broke up with him five years ago. But…

Shortly thereafter, much to his annoyance, he encountered Se-eun once again. This time, it was not with Kim Jaehee, but with a designer named Charles Jung.

And she looked a lot happier than when she was with Kim Jae-hee. Although she was still dressed in luxurious and sophisticated clothes, with a bright smile, she looked just as pretty as she did in the past.

Now Do-won felt even worse. Yes, in the end, Jeong Se-eun was just like the women around him. She left him after hearing that he was engaged, but after only five years, she became a woman who was trying to catch a rich and old man.

Maybe she was trying to attract his attention when she slapped him. If she wanted a rich man, he would be much better than Kim Jaehee or Charles Jung. Above all else, they were not strangers to each other.

Jeong Se-eun knew better than anyone else how well their two bodies fit together. As soon as he thought about dragging her off to his office, his desire swelled to the point of bursting.

Her pure white naked body, her small hands grasping his shoulders, and her hot, moist flesh wrapped around him, everything about her revived in his mind in an instant. It’s as if they broke up only yesterday.

‘I’ll be the man you want,’ Do-won thought with a cool smile.

This time, he wouldn’t let go until he was completely satisfied.

It wasn’t complicated. Jeong Se-eun was not just an innocent woman anymore. If it was clear that they wanted each other, he was confident that he could satisfy her more than any other man.

 

* * * * * * *

 

“I have a favor to ask of you.”

Jaehee, who received the report on the settlement of the Shinhwa Department Store event, said without taking his eyes off the documents.

“Please tell me.”

“What are you doing after work this Friday?”

“I’ll probably head straight home.”

“Then, would you like to have dinner with me before heading home?”

Se-eun almost responded without thinking but closed her mouth again. Having dinner with Jaehee after work happened often. This was because he would call her out, saying he didn’t want to be home alone when Charles had an appointment.

On the other hand, Charles would also have meals with her when Jaehee was late due to personal business matters. Of course, it was not uncommon for the three of them to eat together.

But today, something felt a little strange. She didn’t know why, but she couldn’t shake the feeling. When no answer came from her, Jaehee raised his head and asked again.

“You don’t have any appointments, do you?”

“Where is Charles going”?

“He’s coming with us.”

Se-eun shook her head. It felt like an important point was placed on the “place” where they would dine, not “dinner.”

“Where are you going?”

“To an expensive place.”

It was very unlike Kim Jaehee to beat around the bush. Come to think of it, he didn’t simply say “Let’s have dinner”, but led with “I have a favor to ask you.”

“If you don’t tell me exactly, I won’t go,” Se-eun responded with a suspicious face.

Only then did Jaehee smile awkwardly.

“This Friday is my grandfather’s birthday.”

“Yes.”

“He said that if I came alone this time, I would be kicked out of the family register.”

She stared at him with a doubtful expression and opened her mouth.

“Are you asking me to act as your girlfriend?”

“Please, it’s just for one day.”

“No, President Kim. Have a conscience. The age difference between us is over 10 years. You’re nice, rich, and from a good family, but there’s still too much of an age difference,” Se-eun responded with an absurd look

Just talking about it made her a little angry.

“And why are you asking me to do this when there are so many women chasing after you?”

Despite her harsh response, Jaehee’s expression remained calm.

“If you go with me, Charles will be less upset.”

Se-eun closed her mouth with a grim look. She knew all about the circumstances surrounding the relationship of the two men and she was also indebted to them. Even then, she still thought it was a bit too much.

“Can I ask you for a day, please?

It was a very rare sight for Kim Jaehee to ask for a favor with such a regretful expression. Nevertheless, Se-eun was still unwilling.

Being introduced to his grandfather as his girlfriend was not something that could be done in one day. In addition, Jaehee’s grandfather was the chairman of a large well-known company.

She could make a mistake at the party and end up drenched in champagne.

“I don’t think I can. I’m too timid to do such a thing. I’m sorry.”

Jae-hee nodded silently at her rejection. When she felt a little sorry for accepting the rejection so easily, Se-eun hurried out of her boss’s office as she felt a little guilty that he accepted her rejection so easily, while vowing not to let it weaken her heart.

However, she had forgotten that Kim Jaehee was not that easy-going. So the next day, when she heard the same thing from Charles, not Jaehee, she bit her lip.

“Will you come with us this Friday?” Charles suddenly asked during lunchtime after luring her out of the office with the promise of coffee.

“You know that you’re the only one we can ask for this kind of favor. I can’t stand the thought of seeing another woman clinging to Jaehee. I can put up with it if it’s you, Se-eun.”

‘No, I didn’t even say I was going.’

Of course, the words didn’t come out of her mouth. As she imagined the impossible scenario, she had no desire to fight against Charles’ unwavering persistence. Se-eun carefully responded only after the coffee was finished.

“But if you say I’m his girlfriend, what will happen later?” The boss’ family will soon find out that I work at JnC.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Charles replied as if her worries were nothing.

“Jaehee has a bad personality, so even if you broke up with him immediately after dinner, no one would be surprised.”

Se-eun’s mouth fell open in surprise.

‘No matter how urgent it is to put out the fire, is it okay to talk about the boss like that? What if someone hears it while passing by?’

Se-eun’s eyes darted around, but fortunately, she didn’t see anyone she knew nearby. She let out a sigh of relief before continuing.

“I’m a little nervous and scared.”

“I’ll buy you a pretty dress to wear that day.”

“Even if you buy me pretty clothes, I’ll only be able to wear them once.”

The clothes worn to attend the chairman’s birthday party must be of the highest quality. It wasn’t wrong to say that Se-eun had no place to wear such a dress.

“Should I ask him to give you another bonus this month?”

“This is personal. You can’t use company funds for that.”

“Then pick out a guy you like at the party. I’ll take responsibility and introduce you.”

Se-eun opened her mouth once again.

“You want me to go and look at other guys while acting as his girlfriend?”

Then Charles raised his voice with a slightly annoyed expression.

“If you don’t want anything, what should I do?” I really can’t see another woman next to Jaehee!

Se-eun had no choice but to accept the fact that she had to be Jaehee’s girlfriend this Friday evening. Charles could hold a grudge for a long time. It was better to just go along with it than to make him sulky and have to comfort him later.

Charles’ expression quickly softened when she reluctantly nodded. Then he asked her to come down to the store after work so they could select her outfit right away.

“There was an outfit that I wanted you to try on!”

Charles seemed more excited than usual, perhaps because he thought the problem had been solved. That evening, Se-eun eventually became Charles’ mannequin and had to change clothes countless times.

Despite the cool temperature in the room, she was sweating. Exhausted, she asked to take a break and get something to eat, but Charles coldly refused.

“No way. If you have a stomach after dinner, you won’t look good in your clothes.”

Jae-hee clearly said he would let her have an expensive dinner that evening. But looking at the current situation, it would be almost impossible to have a sip of water on Friday, let alone dinner, if she wore the clothes Charles had chosen.

It was so unfair that she considered asking for a special bonus. What was finally chosen by Charles was a simple two-piece design.

A white silk blouse with a generous width, a high-waisted skirt that covered her calves, and a wide belt that emphasized her waist.

However, the skirt, which looked normal at first glance, had a long slit up to the thigh, revealing her legs every time she walked. Se-eun shook her head with her determined expression.

“I can’t wear this.”

“Why? You look so good!”.

Charles looked like he literally didn’t understand.

“No matter how fake the relationship is, do you really want me to go like this to meet the boss’ family?”

“What’s wrong with this outfit?” Do you now have complaints about the clothes I made?”

She frowned and then smiled sheepishly.

“It’s not like that, but my legs are too exposed.”

“Other people go around revealing much more. It’s only visible when you’re walking, so what’s wrong?”

“Charles…”

“Wear this and go. Or we’ll be searching through the warehouse all day tomorrow…”

“I’ll just wear it!”

Se-eun wanted to cry as she threw her hands up in defeat. It was better to just wear this than to continue doing this again all day tomorrow.

‘They’ll only see me for one day anyway, I can bear the embarrassment for a moment. Anything else that happens will be left to Jaehee and Charles.

 

* * * * * * *

 

However, when she arrived at the party on Friday evening, no one showed interest in her. Jaehee introduced her to Chairman Kim with a single word.

“She’s my friend.”

“I’m Jeong Se-eun. Happy birthday, grandfather.”

Se-eun greeted him with a pretty smile, which she had practiced for two days in the mirror. However, Chairman Kim only glanced past her.

“Thank you.”

That was the end. Chairman Kim did not pay any attention to her, and the rest of his family members also pretended not to see her. The enormous amount of disregard made her feel a little uncomfortable along with disappointment and relief.

No, even if she wasn’t famous or rich, shouldn’t they be at least a little curious?

‘Are you saying that my presence is so insignificant that there’s no need to acknowledge me?’

She hadn’t experienced such an unpleasant feeling in a long time. The misery and discomfort were something she hadn’t felt 10 years ago.

During that time, she was a poor orphan who received sympathy wherever she went. She thought that if she grew up and earned a lot of money, she would no longer be ignored. But she was sadly mistaken.

‘Even after 10 years, do I still have to live with this type of disregard?’

She looked around the room in a bitter mood and happened to notice a man who made her feel even more bitter. Do-won was constantly attracting the attention of women around him today with his handsome and sexy appearance.

His charm, which had blinded and paralyzed her, still lingered after a long time. Jeong Se-eun didn’t dare covet a man with such high standing.

That’s exactly how she felt when they first met five years ago. Even the eyes of someone who grew up with nothing, with a single glance, she could see the aura of luxury and wealth that imbued his presence.

She didn’t know why such a man was interested in a woman who had nothing like her, but Se-eun couldn’t resist Do-won’s interest. She literally fell in love with him at first sight.

Her parents died in a car accident when she was in elementary school. After that, she lived with her grandmother, who was the only guardian. But even her grandmother passed away when she was in her sophomore year of high school.

Se-eun entered college with all her might, but her college days were harsh. If she didn’t receive a scholarship, she couldn’t attend school, and if she didn’t work a part-time job, she couldn’t pay for her living expenses.

So, she thought that dating was a luxury that didn’t apply to her, but everything changed as she met Do-won.

The time that she always set aside for classes and part-time jobs, gradually pushed back whenever Do-won contacted her.

For the first time in her life, she looked in the mirror and wondered how to make herself a little prettier. She spent a few days skipping dinner, which was barely a row of gimbap, to buy lipstick.

Perhaps Do-won noticed her situation, but he never said anything. If he had offered to help, her pride would have been hurt.

Instead, he would take her to restaurants she had never been to, buy her delicious food, and listen to Se-eun’s admiration with a funny gaze.

Perhaps that’s why she mistook Do-won as a caring person. Now that she thought about it, he simply was not interested in a woman like her.

Do-won had never even asked about her in detail. Then again, he didn’t even talk about himself. She had to meet him at the time he wanted, and if the time didn’t work, there was no telling when she would see him next. Upon meeting, they headed straight to the hotel and had a lot of sex.

Nevertheless, Se-eun couldn’t come to her senses because she liked Kang Do-won and thought the feelings were mutual. It was nothing but a foolish delusion.

‘Well, it’s certainly a new life experience, right?” She turned away from Do-won and smirked the moment she heard Charles’ voice.

“What are you doing alone? Where is your boyfriend?”

She rolled her eyes at the scowling Charles.

“Why did you ask me when you were with that boyfriend a little while ago?”

“So, are you upset?”

“Yeah, I’m pissed.”

Charles smiled slightly at Se-eun’s grumpy response.

“That’s why I’m here. “Don’t be so upset.”

Meanwhile, Do-won stared intently at Se-eun, who was smiling while chatting with Charles Jung. It is said that she was introduced here today as the ‘girlfriend’ of President Kim Jaehee. But upon closer observation, her real lover seemed to be Charles Jung, not Kim Jaehee. The way the two smiled and looked at each other was so friendly, that the more they looked at each other, the more his displeasure increased.

As his eyes gradually turned cold, the woman who was chatting loudly next to him called Do-won with an anxious expression.

“Excuse me, Mr. Kang?”

“Excuse me.”

Do-won gently brushed off the woman’s hand on his arm and moved toward Se-eun and Charles Jung. When he got closer, the conversation between the two could be heard.

“Tell me what you want to eat. I’ll buy you everything. All-day tomorrow, eat whatever you want, Se-eun.”

“Oh, thank you for your kind words.”

“Are you rejecting my offer to buy you food now? Does that mean you don’t want to meet me on weekends? Are we only going to see each other at work?”

” … …It’s not like that, but I also want to take a break on weekends.”

“Relax, why don’t you come to my house and eat a lot of delicious food and rest? I’ll buy you everything.”

“No, you don’t have to do that. I’ll eat what I want after going to bed early tomorrow.”

‘You’re playing well,’ Do-won thought as he laughed while listening to the conversation between the two.

The sincerity of even taking care of her meals on the weekend was very impressive. He didn’t know how Se-eun could claim to be President Kim Jaehee’s girlfriend while doing that.

“I see you two are here.”

Hearing his voice, the two turned around at the same time. While Se-eun’s smile disappeared in an instant, a pleasant smile appeared on Charles Jung’s face.

“President Kang! I heard that you were coming!”

Do-won pretended to be friendly and shook Charles’ extended hand.

“Rumors are spreading that the opening event was a success. Congratulations.”

“Hahaha, thank you.”

“If this continues, there will be no problem in entering the Gangnam location next season.”

“That’s the nicest thing I’ve heard today. Hahaha.”

Se-eun, who was standing still next to Charles while the two men were having a conversation, spoke in a low voice.

“I’m going to get some fresh air.”

While Do-won’s gaze followed Se-eun as she walked away, a slightly sarcastic voice flowed out of Charles’ lips.

“Mr. Kang.”

“Yes.”

“Not Se-eun.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s not appropriate for President Kang.”

At the unexpected fastball, Do-won’s expression sharpened.

“I don’t think you should be the one to judge that.”

“Someone close to you might be able to help.”

“Then you’re the one who can help?”

“Yes, I think of myself as Se-eun’s guardian.”

At that moment, Charles thought he was being cut down by Kang Do-won’s eyes. When the coldness intensified in his glare, the feeling was indescribable.

‘Oh, he’s really my type!’ Charles swallowed a sigh of regret. ‘If it wasn’t for Jaehee, I would have poked him.’

“I’ll have to check if Se-eun feels the same way.” Do-won left those words and immediately turned around.

“I just slightly poked him, and the reaction was amazing. I think I should have tried touching it.” Charles murmured vaguely while staring at Do-won’s back as he strode away.

“What are you touching?”

When he heard Jaehee’s voice from behind, Charles turned his head with a trembling expression.

“I mean, President Kang. The reaction is stronger than I thought. I was expecting it to be a little bit cheesier, I wanted to tease him more.”

Jaehee smirked and handed him a glass of champagne.

“Don’t delve too deeply. It’s between the two of them. In fact, I don’t think we should have bought Se-eun here today.”

“By the way, I was strangely worried about Se-eun.”

“Aren’t you worried about me”?

Charles snorted at Jae-hee, who wore an exaggerated expression of sadness on his face.

“I don’t know who’s telling me to worry about who right now. Don’t you have the same past as Kang Do-won?”

“I don’t know why you…”

Jaehee looked embarrassed. But Charles doesn’t show interest in the expression and grabbed his shoulder instead.

“Follow me outside. If you think Se-eun is having a hard time, bring her inside. Anyway, you’re Se-eun’s boyfriend today, aren’t you?”

Jaehee stared at Charles for a long time with disapproving eyes and muttered as if he was grinding his teeth.

“I’ll get it right someday.”

“I’ll be looking forward to it.”

When Charles responded with a smile, Jaehee’s eyes flashed insidiously.

As soon as she stepped outside, the cold wind wrapped around her body. Half of March had already passed, but she didn’t know why it was so cold.

“I should have worn a coat,” Se-eun muttered while trembling.

She had only been trying to avoid Do-won and now she might catch a cold for nothing. No matter what the subject was, the conversations shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes, right? Charles knew that she was uncomfortable with Do-won, so he wouldn’t talk for long.

‘What the hell is wrong with him? What is he going to do now?’ She grumbled while recalling the appearance of Do-won approaching and speaking to Charles.

The glossy navy-blue suit perfectly matched his lean body. Ironically, when Se-eun noticed him, her heart started pounding as if she had gone back five years. Each time she saw him, there was a sharp pain in her chest.

‘What should I do with this pounding feeling every time I see him?’ It was hard to understand why the lingering feelings for him did not disappear even after so much time had passed.

In the meantime, she should meet the men Charles wanted to introduce her to. Even if she didn’t want to, if she tried dating, she might develop feelings for someone and maybe even get married. Then, when she ran into Do-won again, her heart wouldn’t react in the way.

“Should I introduce myself now?”

Se-eun smiled as she remembered how Charles declared he would take responsibility for introducing the guy she liked at this party. Suddenly, a disdainful voice came from behind.

“Do you have a hobby of collecting men?”

When she heard Do-won’s voice, her heart dropped again. However, she raised her chin and turned around with an indifferent look.

“Can’t I do that?”

Se-eun’s challenging answer brought him one step closer with a smile. Do-won’s scent hovered at the tip of her nose, causing her to feel distressed. She inadvertently bit her lower lip.

“One at a time, I thought that was Jeong Se-eun’s principle.”

“Principles are bound to change.”

“Well…” His smile deepened as he continued. “In my experience, people don’t change that easily.”

“So, what do you want to say?” Se-eun asked while taking a step back.

She was afraid that he would notice that her heart was beating like crazy if he continued to stand so close.

“I’m sure you already know.”

Do-won narrowed the distance at once.

“If you want to hear it again, I can tell you again.”

“I don’t want to hear it.”

“That can’t be so. I can clearly see that you want me, too.”

“Don’t say such nonsense!”

He lifted Se-eun’s chin slightly with the tip of his finger.

“Did you think I would forget what kind of eyes you make when you want me?”

Se-eun’s lips froze.

‘It couldn’t be. There’s no way he could tell.’ 

“Se-Eun.”

Fortunately for her, at that moment, Jaehee’s voice saved her. Se-eun quickly approached Jaehee, who was coming towards them. Jaehee’s hand naturally covered her shoulder.

“Why did you come outside when it’s so cold? You’re not even wearing a jacket.”

Her hands and feet seemed to weaken at his friendly tone. But Se-eun smiled at Jaehee with a shameless expression.

“I just needed some fresh air.”

Before she could finish speaking, Jaehee took off his jacket and draped it over her shoulders.

“You’re going to catch a cold.”

Then, he turned his head as if he had finally noticed Do-won’s presence.

“It seems that President Kang accompanied you. Thank you.”

When Do-won nodded without saying a word, Jae-hee spoke in a softer voice.

“Then we’ll go in first.”

When Se-eun turned away with Jaehee, Do-won’s gaze on her back sharpened.

 

 

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