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Author: nicotine

As life often goes, people sometimes encounter completely unexpected situations. How do people cope with such moments? It’s a question one rarely needs to ponder throughout their life. Today, I realized that most people either freeze up or resort to awkwardly evasive maneuvers. I learned this firsthand today.

For example, imagine you’re about to leave after paying for drinks with a pretty decent partner, only to run into your boss at the counter, and both of you have same-sex partners by your side. And to top it off, you’re in a gay bar filled with burly men.

“Good evening, sir.”

“Ah, out for a drink, I see, Secretary Lee. The person with you is quite lovely.”

Such a conversation could not, and should not, take place. You simply avert your gaze naturally and pretend to be strangers, going your separate ways.

Despite being shocked to the point of panic, you don’t show it and pretend not to recognize him.

“…Holy shit.”

The reality of the situation hit me in the middle of intense sex with the guy I picked up earlier today.

“Why… why…?”

The guy, his face flushed red, asked me in confusion as I abruptly stopped after tightening my grip on his ankles and intensifying my thrusts. But my mind was already elsewhere.

“….”

Fuck. I couldn’t even utter that word, swallowing it down as I furiously pounded into him as if taking out my frustration. As I roughly thrusted back and forth, I thought of the other guy standing next to my boss earlier. I began to irrationally hate him.

That delicate-looking guy is probably making a face like this under my boss right now.

“Ah, ah, ahh!”

The man beneath me moaned, squirming and tightening around me, which only irritated me more. Despite the physical pleasure building up, I felt filthy, like I’d been thrown into a sewer.

Yes, the day my boss discovered that I frequented gay bars.

I wasn’t worried about my future. I was furious that he had another partner.

To share a bit about myself—not that it’s something to brag about at this age—I used to be quite, no, extremely promiscuous from a young age. It’s not that I was some kind of delinquent. Just literally promiscuous. My first experience was around the time I was in the eighth grade, and once I had a taste, there was no stopping me.

To talk about myself for a moment—though it’s nothing to brag about at my age—I used to be quite wild from a young age. Not that I was a delinquent or anything. I was, quite literally, ‘wild’. My first sexual experience was around the second year of middle school, and after that, I had no reservations.

I grew tall quickly and was considered reasonably good-looking, often described as charming. Despite my bad personality, girls were drawn to me without any effort on my part. Many girls my age and older sisters were interested in me. Although I found dating tiresome, I was very interested in sleeping with them. During puberty, when I was learning about sex, there were plenty of opportunities, and which boy wouldn’t take them?

Some bullies likely found me annoying, but I had solid protection: my older brother. He was notorious in the neighborhood, untouchable even by local high schoolers, so under his protection, I roamed freely.

In high school, I inadvertently expanded my social circle.

It wasn’t intentional; I had no choice. How could a mere high school student defy his parents’ will?

My parents, who had given up on controlling my brother, focused excessively on me. Since I was somewhat of a model student, aside from secretly meeting girls, they trusted me and supported me fully. Eventually, they decided to send me to study in the U.S., fearing I might follow my brother’s footsteps.

Thus, I left Korea and went to the more sexually liberal and open United States. My looks, which were considered handsome in Korea, also worked well there. I didn’t refuse the new world before my eyes. While my peers watched porn and fantasized about Western women, I directly experienced them.

One day, lost in debauchery, I discovered that I could enjoy sex with men, perhaps even more than with women. Though I preferred to be the one giving, I began to understand the pleasure of receiving. For a while, I was deeply engrossed in sex with men.

I cleaned up my wild sex life only because my parents both died in an unexpected accident, forcing me to return to Korea. My brother, my only remaining family, said I could continue studying in the U.S. if I wanted, but shaken by my parents’ death, I wanted to leave everything behind. So I returned to Korea.

At the time, my brother, who was already involved in the darker side of life, reassured me that I wouldn’t need to worry about living expenses, and he kept his word. I didn’t know how he earned the money, but he made sure I lacked nothing after returning to Korea.

Thanks to him, I focused solely on studying, and with the English skills I had honed in the U.S., I was able to enter a well-regarded university in Korea. I continued to work hard in college and eventually landed a job at a company that most people would recognize. Despite falling back into my old habits of a chaotic sex life, I made significant efforts to live my life properly.

The reason I worked so hard, after only pretending to study while enjoying myself before, was a mix of guilt over my parents who had pinned their hopes on me and passed away, and gratitude and remorse toward my brother.

Even though he was only a year older, my brother took full responsibility for my life as my guardian, and I felt deeply sorry for him. So I studied and worked diligently. Luckily, I had a knack for work and was able to achieve results that pleased my superiors, even receiving offers to move to other companies for higher pay.

Then, six months after becoming his secretary…

“Secretary Lee, did you have a good weekend?”

Honestly, the reason I left a good job at another company to join this hotel wasn’t primarily the salary but this man.

“Yes, sir.”

He was what people commonly referred to as a third-generation chaebol. Raised learning the ways of a leader since childhood, he took over the hotel subsidiary of the group in his thirties and was proving his abilities. His background alone made him impressive, but more than anything, I had never seen such a handsome man. I never thought the day would come when my heart would race looking up at a man, despite being 180cm tall myself.

“There is a meeting at 11 o’clock. Director Lee wanted to meet you before that; should I connect him?”

“Go ahead.”

“Yes. He mentioned it’s about the hotel acquisition, so I’ve prepared the relevant materials.”

As I spoke, he glanced down to check the documents he was holding. I looked at his lowered eyes, mesmerized.

How can a man’s eyes be so beautiful? With thick double eyelids and such lush eyelashes, no woman’s eyes I had seen were this pretty. Slightly upturned, they gave a sharp impression, but even that was a charming point that made my heart flutter. There was something seductive about his eyes; looking at them made me want to grab his neatly tied tie and pull him close to shower his eyelids with kisses.

“I’ll go prepare the coffee.”

He nodded as he checked the documents I had prepared, and I tore my gaze away from his face and left the office. Despite our encounter at the gay bar last Friday, I wasn’t too worried about my job security. After all, we each had dirt on the other, and in the worst-case scenario, if things were exposed, Jung Yiyeon would suffer more damage.

Of course, there was no need to prematurely consider such a worst-case scenario. Jung Yiyeon wasn’t particularly interested in me as a person.

Yet, I couldn’t help but feel nervous because of the unexpected revelation of his identity. Honestly, I couldn’t clearly distinguish whether this was anxiety or the thrill of facing someone I liked. Either way, my heart felt strange, and I unconsciously clutched my chest.

I poured drip coffee, which I had prepared in advance, into a cup, added a spoonful of sugar, and stirred it slowly. In that moment, about thirty spoonfuls of affection were mixed in. Barely stopping myself from adding more affection, I brought the coffee into the office and placed it in front of him while he was reading the documents. I turned the cup handle so that it was conveniently reachable with his right hand.

I knew well that Jung Yiyeon wasn’t the type to respond to his secretary or even glance at them while working. He would speak up if he needed anything, so I stood by for about five seconds.

As expected, Jung Yiyeon remained silent, and I turned away with the tray I had used to serve the coffee.

But before I could take a step, his voice rang out.

“Secretary Lee.”

“Yes, sir.”

I turned back to face him. He was still looking at the documents. Ah, I wished he would show me his incredibly handsome face. My heart was filled with that longing.

“…Sir?”

After calling me and then saying nothing for a while, I tilted my head again and called out to him. He briefly glanced at me before finally putting down his documents and pen. I tensed up, thinking it might be something serious, but his expression wasn’t particularly grave.

“Secretary Lee.”

“Yes.”

“What was your name again?”

… For a moment, I was so dumbfounded that I felt all my strength leave me. I even thought about strangling him for a second.

My name is quite unique, so once people hear it, they usually don’t forget it. But how uninterested must he be to not know my name after six months of being his secretary? Though I knew he generally had no interest in anything other than work, I couldn’t help but feel a bit hurt. Of course, I responded plainly without showing my feelings.

“It’s Lee Nan.”

“Lee Nan?”

“Yes.”

“Does it use the character for orchid, 난 (蘭)?”

In that moment, I remembered the interview I had six months ago after receiving a scouting offer. I was assigned to the secretarial office because I was deemed efficient and capable—whatever that meant—and had switched jobs a couple of times since then.

I did find it a bit strange. The previous superior, who had liked me a lot, was the one who first suggested I move. It made me realize that those smooth transitions between jobs might have been a test of my abilities. And if it took such steps to be assigned to someone, I wondered how difficult that person might be.

During the interview, thinking that I could just quit and move on if the job didn’t suit me, I met Jung Yiyeon for the first time.

He was someone who preferred to work alone, having gone through several secretaries, and only kept an office secretary for phone calls and schedule management. He didn’t even try to hide his disdainful expression.

‘If Mr. Baek recommends you, there’s nothing more for me to see.’

The only thing that caught his interest was my somewhat unusual name. He had asked the same question back then.

‘Does it use the character for orchid, 난 (蘭)?’

No… As a man, why would I use the character for orchid?

“It uses the character for warmth, 난 (暖).”

Barely pulling myself out of the past, I managed to answer just in time.

By the way, my brother’s name is Won. It means warmth, 온 (溫). The Lee Ion and Lee Nan siblings were quite well-known in our neighborhood.

“Come to think of it, I realized I didn’t know Secretary Lee’s name.”

Haha, he laughed awkwardly.

The moment his well-shaped lips curved and his neat teeth were revealed, and his low voice tickled my ears, I felt my heart plummet.

Am I keeping a good poker face? My cheeks or ears probably weren’t red, right? He wouldn’t hear the pounding of my heart like a giant drum, would he?

Trying to calm the turmoil inside me, I silently worked on mind control, and his voice rang out again.

“I thought I should at least know your name.”

Then he said something that completely shook me.

“It seems like you’re someone who will be my secretary until I die, Secretary Lee.”

Ah. Please exploit me until I die. That must be my vocation. I was born to be your secretary.

Standing in front of the man who declared he would exploit my labor until death, I thought for the first time in my life that I might be a masochist.

His previous secretaries quit not just because of the salary but because of the grueling work. The tasks he assigned were numerous and complex for a mere secretary, and managing his highly erratic schedule was a constant annoyance. Besides office work, I sometimes had to act as his personal assistant.

Moreover, there was no such thing as leaving work on time. If he stayed late, I had to stay and cater to his needs.

Despite all this, he never bothered to learn my name, always calling me “Secretary Lee.” When he got focused on work, he often forgot to tell me to leave early even if I wasn’t needed.

The job wasn’t something to keep for money alone. The man, who operated as if labor laws didn’t exist and expected his secretary to work as long as he did, compensated with a high salary. This is why his previous secretaries probably stayed until their health or sanity broke down, or they got fired for not meeting his standards.

Fortunately, I wasn’t in the latter category. I managed to meet Mr. Jung’s expectations.

However, having little time for personal life and feeling physically drained was something I experienced too.

But I couldn’t quit this job because of that man. Earning a lot while having the perfect eye candy wasn’t something I could give up. Just looking at him filled my heart, and I couldn’t imagine wanting to quit.

He was a man who shone just by being. Wearing a perfectly tailored suit, his mere presence could be summed up in one word: stunning. When he walked toward me under the midday sun, he was so beautiful that it felt like everything else disappeared and the place he walked became a runway.

He was slightly taller than me, with a balanced physique, neither too thin nor too muscular. His suit fit perfectly, suggesting a body beautifully sculpted without any sign of a typical 30s belly. His long, elegant legs gave him a graceful walk, making me envious of the ground he stepped on. I never imagined I would want to lie beneath his feet and be trampled by him.

Watching him with drooling admiration had become a recent specialty of mine, while pretending to be indifferent.

Seeing him made my heart feel like it was about to burst, and it was hard to look away from him. I was seriously infatuated, but how could I dare to show it?

Even after learning that he slept with men, I couldn’t dare make a move on him. He was the boss, and I was the secretary. That was the reality. It was a game where I had too much to lose to reach out to a man who wouldn’t necessarily reciprocate.

As he got into the car, I carefully closed the door. My seat was the driver’s seat, not the passenger’s. There were many challenges the first time I rode with him, who usually drove himself. He tried to put me in the passenger seat, which terrified me, so I ended up grabbing the car keys and playing chauffeur.

After that, my salary increased again on the condition that I acted as his driver during working hours. The base salary had already increased with each job change, and adding the substantial bonuses, the amount I earned each month was significant. I was making the kind of money that would have taken years to earn had I climbed the ranks slowly at my previous company.

Wasn’t this job practically my calling? Being in love with my boss meant spending long hours together wasn’t a hardship but a joy, and I got paid while indulging in eye candy.

“Secretary Lee.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Have you eaten?”

He was a very polite person. Though he didn’t know my full name, he was adept at showing concern with a few words. It seemed like a habit from running a tourism business. His polite small talk didn’t change even after we encountered each other at a gay bar.

However, since I found out he slept with men, I became more aware of his casual inquiries about whether I had eaten or when he momentarily looked up from his documents to meet my eyes.

Every time his gaze or voice reached me, chills ran down my spine, and my body trembled. My heart pounding was a given.

Despite everything about him being ordinary, I often found myself indulging in the pink-tinted fantasy that he might be interested in me.

“I have.”

As always, I didn’t show my feelings.

Because I had never liked someone this much before. It was the first time I found showing affection embarrassing.

After answering that I had eaten, I briefly hesitated before asking him,

“Would you like a hamburger?”

“…Now? Didn’t I just come from a meal?”

He seemed a bit incredulous. Regretting my unnecessary concern, I was surprised when his hand reached past my face for the hamburger. He had asked why I was talking about hamburgers, yet he wanted one.

Though startled, I calmly handed him the well-wrapped hamburger from the passenger seat. I had wrapped it in layers of plastic to prevent the smell from permeating the car in case he didn’t want it. I couldn’t take it out for him myself as the car was already on the road, which was unfortunate.

Rustling noises came from the back as he opened the bag.

“Thanks, I’ll enjoy it.”

Soon, the smell of the hamburger filled the car. Hearing the sound of a big bite, I couldn’t help but smile.

There was a reason I bought the hamburger despite him just having finished a meal. I knew he liked to cleanse his palate with a hamburger after having cooked fish for lunch.

I didn’t always accompany him for lunch, but I found this out from cleaning his car.

Despite his bad habit of leaving trash in the car, I was happy to clean up after him. Though I laughed at myself for liking him so much, I couldn’t help it.

Among the frequent trash were hamburger wrappers. I checked the receipts and times to find that he always had a hamburger after eating fish dishes, particularly double burgers with extra patties. Thanks to Jung Yiyeon, I learned that you could add patties and even ask for no ice in sodas at fast-food restaurants.

“What about fries?”

“I left them out since you don’t seem to like them.”

“How did you know that, Secretary Lee?”

“I found out while cleaning the car.”

I had often found untouched fries discarded in the bag. I wondered if it made sense to order a set if he wasn’t going to eat the fries, or if it was a careless mistake. I speculated that, as a third-generation chaebol, he might not be adept at ordering fast food.

“You don’t have to clean the car. We can hire someone for that.”

“It’s fine. It’s not a difficult task.”

In the past, I couldn’t have imagined saying such things. Now, I did unimaginable things too. It wasn’t just cleaning; I went through the trash to check receipts and leftover food.

I was so infatuated with him that I wondered if I was a stalker. Using my position as his secretary, I rationalized my actions, realizing this job had perks I hadn’t considered. As a secretary, understanding everything about my boss was justifiable, and I was learning a lot since meeting Jung Yiyeon.

“Would you like a vanilla latte?”

“…Yeah.”

Seeing the cup and receipt in the cup holder, I knew his coffee preferences too. After eating something he didn’t particularly like, he would get a big burger with two meat patties, no-ice cola, and sweet coffee. That was Jung Yiyeon’s way of digesting food.

“Secretary Lee, is this a professional hazard?”

“Sorry?”

I tilted my head at his sudden question.

“Being so considerate as if you’d give me your liver.”

Thump.

I wondered if the sound of my heart plummeting to the floor was audible only to me.

Jung Yiyeon’s casual comment made my face flush with warmth, so I stared intently at the car ahead.

What? Affectionate? Lee Nan and affectionate? It was so nonsensical I couldn’t even laugh.

My parents named me Nan (暖), meaning warm, hoping I would be a warm person, but I was far from it. I was extremely rational and selfish. Especially in relationships, I played the role of an executioner, ruthlessly cutting ties. A complete jerk.

To think that someone like me would be described as affectionate. While I had the basics of courtesy and consideration down, I never felt the need to be kind to others since people flocked to me regardless of how I treated them. It was enough to enjoy their company and part ways when done. That Lee Nan would be considered affectionate enough to give away his liver was absurd.

“You haven’t responded. Are you upset?”

No, there was nothing to be upset about. I was just at a loss for words, thinking about how mismatched those two ideas were. I was just realizing again how deeply I had fallen for you, enough to be described with such an unfamiliar term.

“No, I’m not upset. If you ever feel I’m being too much, please let me know.”

“So it’s just work to you.”

I didn’t bother responding to that. When serving my previous boss, I also made efforts to accommodate them, though not to this extent. It was a necessary part of being a secretary. But now, all my efforts and attention naturally went towards understanding and matching him. Feelings can be quite ridiculous.

“Adding a spoonful of sugar to my coffee every morning, keeping the scent consistent and the car clean regularly, even putting painkillers on my desk without me mentioning a headache—I didn’t think much of it.”

…I was a bit surprised. I hadn’t realized he noticed all the little things I did for him.

“Since we met at the gay bar, I’ve been curious about your unusual behaviors.”

“…I see.”

It was the first time he mentioned the gay bar.

My heart started pounding again. The hamburger I ate while stopping by to get one for Jung Yiyeon seemed to be causing chaos in my stomach. I felt like I might throw up, and a sharp dizziness swept over me.

Would I be able to drive properly? My grip on the steering wheel tightened.

“Ensuring a comfortable working environment for your boss…”

The traffic light turned red at the intersection. I gently braked several times to stop the car smoothly. While waiting for the light to change, his voice continued.

It was the same unemotional, business-like tone he used when asking if I had eaten.

“Shall we go have sex now?”

Delicate fingers brushed against my chest. The tips of his index and middle fingers tickled my chest as if walking, making me eventually open my eyes. A smile formed at the cute gesture waking me up. I grabbed his hand, pulled it to my lips, and kissed it. A low chuckle echoed in my ear.

“Wake up.”

“What time is it?”

“Six fifteen. It’s about time for you to get up, isn’t it?”

The alarm was set for about fifteen minutes later, but I nodded and reluctantly lifted my heavy eyelids.

The man was already wet, having showered. His clear, white skin and wet hair aroused me. He wasn’t strikingly handsome, but he had a fairly sexy face.

However, my exhaustion outweighed my desire.

“What was with you last night?”

“What do you mean?”

“You were pretty urgent.”

“You didn’t know? I’m usually a beast.”

The man laughed incredulously. He was always sexy and cute enough to arouse me. The man, who used to be the owner of a gay bar I frequented, now ran a café, having handed over the bar to someone else. He wanted to live his life instead of working at night.

We occasionally slept together since the time he ran the bar and made me cocktails. Neither of us had any intention of dating. I was just one of many partners for him, and he was the same for me. Because of that, we could continue our occasional relationship.

We had sex solely to fulfill our desires, with no emotional involvement.

It was the kind of relationship I wanted, but my mouth suddenly felt bitter.

“…You know.”

“What?”

“Am I an affectionate person?”

Before I finished speaking, he burst into a blatant laugh. Knowing how absurd the question was, I laughed along with him.

I wasn’t particularly kind to him either. I had basic manners, but I didn’t make much effort to maintain relationships and sometimes lacked even basic courtesy. Like when I contacted him out of the blue after a long period of no contact and suddenly showed up to jump on him.

Having held back since lunchtime, I didn’t have the energy to exchange pleasantries or engage in conversation with him. Yesterday, I didn’t even have the leisure to leisurely catch a new partner at the bar. I thought of him and contacted him impulsively.

“Does the word ‘affectionate’ even suit you?”

It was a question, but his answer was firm and unyielding. It was what I expected.

“Then one more thing.”

Now fully awake, I sat up in bed and casually asked the man who was staring at me.

“Do you like me?”

“Are you crazy?”

A sharp reply came back. The man’s face twisted into a strange expression, as if asking what kind of nonsense I was spouting. It was quite a sight, but I couldn’t laugh.

We were simply in a relationship where we had plain sex. It suited our tastes but never involved deep emotions, leaving no room for growth.

If he had answered my question with a confession that he actually liked me, it would have left a bitter taste in my mouth. Unable to accept such feelings, we’d end up never seeing each other again, just like with many others who had approached me and then drifted away forever.

“Well, I think you’re a good partner for sex,” he added when I remained silent, not even smiling. I frowned slightly.

“…Is that what you meant?”

“What are you talking about? Say something I can understand.”

After a moment’s hesitation, I sighed and shared my dilemma. Because we started as a bartender and customer, I felt more comfortable opening up to him.

“…Someone asked me to have sex.”

“Then do it. Are you worried they’ll cling to you because they like you? Since when did you care about that? Isn’t it your hobby to push them away after sex?”

“It’s not a hobby. Should I date someone I have no feelings for?”

“Then don’t lead them on. But you always pretend to be a decent person until you get them in bed.”

“When have I done that? I just have basic manners.”

“Forget it. Why am I even talking to you? So, where did you meet this guy? Does he not know how easy you are?”

He spoke as if my promiscuity was national news. Admittedly, I had a bit of a reputation at the gay bar I frequented. It made things easier, as most who approached me were only interested in one-night stands.

Yes, it was convenient. Only those who wanted to sleep with me came close. But now…

“My boss is gay.”

“What?”

“He asked me to have sex.”

“Isn’t that workplace harassment?”

He muttered incredulously, but the real kicker was that Jung Yiyeon and I met at the bar I frequented. The very place where rumors about me were widespread.

“So. Are you scared he’ll retaliate if you refuse? That your career will be blocked?”

I shook my head. Jung Yiyeon wasn’t the type to retaliate or change his attitude if I declined. I was confident that his comment about being my lifelong secretary had nothing to do with sex. The issue was something else.

“I like him.”

The man didn’t respond for a while.

Did my confession warrant such silence? Feeling awkward, I scratched my head, and he sighed shortly.

“Then seduce him. What’s the problem?”

“Just because our bodies match doesn’t mean our hearts do. If that were the case, I’d have married you. Why do you think he asked me for sex? He’s like you and me. Good for sex, but relationships are a hassle.”

The man fell silent again, staring at me, still looking surprised. Although I used the word “like” instead of “love,” he seemed to understand it wasn’t a trivial feeling.

Feeling conflicted, I recalled the conversation I had with Jung Yiyeon in the car the day before.

‘What if I have feelings for you? Why would you make such a proposition?’

‘I don’t mind, but if you expect the same from me, you’re fired.’

‘Then I guess I won’t be getting fired.’

I had replied nonchalantly but internally cursed him. I couldn’t help but grip the steering wheel so hard my knuckles turned white.

What he wanted from me was a simple sex partner. No emotions involved, just physical satisfaction.

If it had been anyone else but Jung Yiyeon, I would have welcomed it with open arms.

Meeting for fun, enjoying the act, and parting ways happily—that was the relationship I sought. I had been confident for a long time that I would never fall in love with anyone. Until I fell for Jung Yiyeon at first sight, I was such an arrogant person.

Author's Thoughts

Iljin (일진): refers to the bullies who are also often delinquents within a school setting.
Nan (暖): pronounced as nuǎn and means warm, as in kind.
Lán (蘭): pronounced as Lán and it is kind of understandable why Yiyeon mistakes his name as so, since the pronunciation is kind of similar. It means orchids.
On (温): pronounced as On, and literally means lukewarm. The same character is used in Japanese Kanji, 温泉 (Onsen).

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