"I think that's number 3—wait, that one was a false alarm." Serena Davis counted aloud with her best friend, sister, and co-worker Amelia Clark. Okay, they weren't sisters but Amelia was the closest thing Serena had to a sibling. It was 12:00 noon on Friday, a day when most of the questionable women in the office showed their faces. The two friends were enjoying their lunch at their conjoined desks while counting how many women shamelessly flirted with the CEO of Ki Fashions, Jaeson Ki. They had a direct view to Mr. Ki's office and were able to see everything that transpired inside. Serena and Amelia watched with baited breath as yet again another woman was cooled off by Mr. Ki's cold shoulder.
"I can see why they have an interest in Mr. Ki. He is so gorgeous. I never liked long hair on men but he carries it well." Serena said while taking a quick glance at her object of her affection. She watched as Mr. Ki's straight shoulder length hair caressed his neck slightly while he was shaking his head no to some random woman. A frown was plastered on his face as usual and his onyx eyes were lit with fire. His tall frame and lean muscular build were appealing. Mr. Ki had everything that Serena could ever want physically in a man but she decided he was definitely not her type. Besides being way out of her league, he was to withdrawn and angry. She didn't know what happened and couldn't even guess but she knew that whatever baggage he was carrying was too much for her to deal with at the moment.
"I am telling you, the man is gay!" Amelia exclaimed in her Baltimore accent, bringing Serena out of her slight daze. She quickly hushed Amelia when her friend's outburst caught the attention of several people. "Sorry," Amelia whispered before staring at Mr. Ki intently. "What hot-blooded straight male man would turn down so many women?"
"No one said he was hot-blooded. Angry, yes but I couldn't imagine him touching anyone, let alone having sex." This was a bold faced lie. Serena definitely could imagine what Mr. Ki was like in the bedroom. In fact, she spent a few times wondering what large, lean hands could do to her body. With a shake of her head, she removed those thoughts. Now was not the time.
"Okay, but you have to admit that it's a little fishy how he turns down everyone that throws a little his way. I mean, I hate to say this, but those bitches in Section 104 are hot, they could be models themselves and he's blown everyone of them off."
"Maybe he's married," Serena suggested. She took a bite of her Caesar Salad and tilted her head to the side to get a better view of Mr. Ki's bum. It was just the way she liked it, full and muscular, not overly so but just enough. She could just imagine squeezing it and a feeling of guilt immediately washed over her. She was sexualizing her boss at work which was not cool and if her conscious didn't make her feel guilty enough, Mr. Ki's glare that he tossed her way pushed her over the edge. She had been caught and watched with dread as he closed the blinds to his office with one quick yank of the chain.
"He looked pissed," Serena whispered fearfully several moments after Mr. Ki closed the blinds.
"I know, but damn if he's not gorgeous when he's angry." Serena slapped Amelia playfully on her arm and they both shared a laugh. "Oh, before I forget to tell you. He's not married; Carrie confirmed it."
"What do you mean Carrie confirmed it? Since when has she become the authority on Mr. Ki?"
Another trait that Serena would have to work on was her gossipy nature. She couldn't help herself. She loved a good story. She surmised it was because she had nothing going on in her life. Her career was shit, she had no man and no prospects waiting in the wings. She did have one rule though, about her office gossip, she never gossiped with anyone but Amelia. In some deluded way, she thought keeping things between her and her best friend was more honorable.
"We both know that Carrie is Ms. Gossip around here and I wouldn't normally listen to shit she has to say but her best friend is Natalie Bowman, Mr. Ki's personal assistant. So I figured that Natalie has all the ends and outs on Mr. Ki and told Gossip Queen Carrie," Amelia explained.
"You know, I'm surprised that those two haven't gotten together, Mr. Ki and Bowman."
"I'm not, Bowman's a slut. Other than Ki, every male in this whole building has had a piece of her…at least twice. If I were him, I wouldn't touch her with a twelve-foot pole. Mmm, this is so good." Amelia said suddenly after sneaking a bite of Serena's salad.
"It better be good. I decide to treat myself to treat myself to a salad from Vasilis. I paid thirty dollars for it." Amelia immediately spat the salad out of her mouth and onto her plate.
"Oh my goodness, I am so sorry but no salad is worth thirty dollars when I could make that at home for less than ten."
Serena shook her head before finishing up her own salad. Vasilis was her favorite place to go for hearty salads that were filled with as many toppings as she wanted and as a former fat girl, this was one of the treats she allowed herself to part take. "Yes, Amelia. You, the cook can craft a delicious salad. I, on the other hand, can't boil water. That is why I made it my goal to marry a chef. That way he can do all of the cooking."
"I'll be right back. I just have to freshen up a bit." Serena said before rushing off to the restroom to relieve herself of a sudden pressure.
Serena entered the bathroom and froze momentarily at the sight of the women before her. Beautiful, tall, and skinny. They were the same women that she and Amelia had been talking about before from Section 104, the bitches that turned into angels when they smelled a hint of testosterone. Section 104 people, the company's receptionists, were the face of the company. As soon as you enter Ki Fashions the clients are sold the image of perfection. The image that says that our clothes make anyone look high fashion and if you wish to look your best you must buy an ensemble. It was an ingenious set-up but for the women that are not in Section 104, it is assumed that you are inferior, at least in the looks department anyway. It was worse for Serena, however. She already felt that her looks were not up to par and Section 104 had no problem reassuring her of the fact.
Those girls made Serena feel like she was in high school once again because she became the outcast without even opening her mouth. As soon as the Section 104 girls saw Serena 2 years ago, they showered her with constant sneers, slurs, and snickers. Serena by no means considered herself to be a great beauty outside of her parents' eyes. She was teased endlessly as a child for her weight, large slightly turned up eyes, chubby cheeks, full lips, etc. She managed to lose the cheeks after dropping a few pounds but the kids only found something else to pick on Serena about and that was her financial status and how she couldn't afford name brand clothes.
Her parents owned a small restaurant just outside of the city that catered to soul food, the reason why Serena became chubby in the first place. It paid the bills, including one for the most prestigious private school in the area. Her parents thought that a good education was a must. So they scraped up every cent they had to send Serena to Wellington. The financial drain of the school and the restaurant didn't leave much leftover for name brand clothes on casual Friday.
In a way, Serena was thankful for her conservative upbringing. If her parents could have afforded the same clothes as the other kids, she wouldn't have learned she had a knack for design. By the time Serena went off to college, she was already creating originals that not only complimented her full voluptuous body but gave her a boost of self-esteem and pride.
But even though she dressed in a Davis Original and Rite-Aid glasses, she wasn't received well by the people in Ki-Fashions except for her boss Mr. Calhoun. And the only reason why he accepted her was because she was doing his work for him. Serena accidently left a book of designs on her desk one night and Mr. Calhoun stole and repurposed for a slimmer figure. She couldn't prove that he stole her work, he had the originals but Serena knew the moment she saw Ki Fashions spring collection. She confronted him and he outright admitted to it and made it clear that if she went to anyone about it, he would personally see to her never being able to work in fashion in any capacity. Serena didn't think that she would've survived the constant silent harassment without the help of Amelia. Her friend gave her a bit of a boost in confidence. She could now keep her head up in the Section 104 girls' presence.
"Do you know how lucky the girl who bags Ki will be?" One of the women asked before shivering. "I can just imagine all the stuff I can get with all that money."
"Yea and Ki isn't bad looking either. I could stare at his face every day; instead, I'm messing with that old geezer up in marketing. God, I hope I can marry him before he croaks or rather I hope he croaks before I have to…you know." All the girls began cackling loudly. They sobered up as soon as they saw Serena in the large bathroom mirror.
They immediately scowled at her before leaving the bathroom in a huff, making sure that each one bumped shoulders with her.
"Real mature ladies," Serena said with a roll of her eyes.
She sighed before walking up to the basins and grabbing a paper towel from the dispenser right above where they were standing. She knew that the majority of the people involved in the fashion industry would be shallow but this was ridiculous. Serena's experience in the fashion world was eerily similar to high school. She was once again the dorky, smart girl with a lot of boys that were friends but no boyfriends. This time around, however, there were no guys even interested in being her friend. The only friends they wanted were 5'10 and could fit in a size 2 with no difficulty.
Serena began wetting the paper towel before dabbing her face, being mindful not to smudge the little makeup she wore. The toilet flushed behind her and was immediately followed by the sound of stiletto heels. Serena looked at the woman through the mirror and resisted the urge to roll her eyes again. She was definitely one of the girls from 104, tall with long brown hair and large brown eyes with definite Asian features.
"I am really not in the mood for any BS." She said firmly before tossing the napkin. "So if you want to start trouble, I advise you don't."
"Excuse me? Do I know you?" the woman asked before her eyes grew larger as if something dawned on her. "You think I am with those women who just left. I can assure you that I am not and that I do not want to start any trouble as you say."
Serena's faced warmed over with embarrassment. She really needed to control her mouth sometimes; see first and then react. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have assumed-"
"You shouldn't have," the woman interrupted, "But we all do it so no worries."
"Thank you," Serena offered an awkward smile before turning to leave.
"You're welcome, there have been several times where I have been in your place. I believe I had foot-in-mouth disease. By the way, I'm Jae-Hwa Ki." Jae-Hwa smiled while offering Serena her hand. Serena accepted graciously; her mind was running a million miles a minute. This woman was obviously related to Mr. Ki but in what way? They didn't share any facial similarities except for the piercing upturned eyes. Could she be his wife? But that only confused Serena more. How could a woman that radiated beauty be married to a man so unemotional?
"Well, it was nice meeting you, Serena," Jae-Hwa said before departing from the restroom. It took Serena a moment to register what had just transpired but when it did she flew out of the restroom back to her desk. Amelia was still waiting for her while perusing through a magazine. Serena grabbed the magazine from Amelia and tossed it aside.
"What the hell Serena?" yelled before immediately pouting about the loss of her favorite reading material.
She ignored "I was right. At least I think I am."
"What are you talking about?"
"Mr. Ki is-"
"What about me Ms. Davis." Mr. Ki's slightly accented, husky voice drifted in from directly behind her, hitting her back gently and caressing it as a shiver went down her spine. She bit her lip to resist the soft moan from escaping her traitorous mouth before casting a fierce glare at her supposed best friend. She turned around to face the tall Asian man, towering over her 5'6" frame. His presence alone was intimidating.
"Uh, nothing – sir, I was just going to say how nice of a man you are for uh giving your employees such generous pay that I hope to still receive after this embarrassing situation." Serena added a wry smile, hoping that it would show her sincerity.
His gaze was intense as usual. She couldn't recall a time when his gaze wasn't forceful, penetrating. It was almost as if he could see right through her.
"You know how I feel about interoffice gossip, Ms. Davis. I especially frown upon it when I am the subject of it."
"Yes, I know sir and I apologize. It's something that won't happen again." Mr. Ki was quiet and looked to be toiling something around his head. Serena prayed that it wasn't whether or not he should fire her, he's been on a firing spree as of late and she didn't want to be the next victim. This job was the best job she ever had, granted that she didn't have many but the benefits were superb.
"Ms. Davis, I would like to speak with you in my office." Serena sighed and her head fell down in disappointment. She quickly straightened up, however, when she realized the change in her posture.
The walk to Mr. Ki's office was long and embarrassing. It felt like everyone on the floor was watching her make the walk into the lion's den. Everyone knew that entering Mr. Ki's office was never something good unless you were his assistant or a client. Anyone else that entered Mr. Ki's office was either put on leave without pay or fired.
"Please, sir. I really didn't mean to cause any harm it's just what else is there to do when you're on a lunch break but gossip with a close friend. We weren't going to spread it around the office or anything. I'm so sorry." Serena rambled on as soon as she entered Mr. Ki's office. When they entered Mr. Ki's office Serena spotted several files on his desk but the one that worried her was the one that had her name written on the tab.
"I hope you have learned your lesson because the next time, this scenario will end much differently for you. Actually, I brought you back here so I can discuss your future at Ki fashions. I am not terminating you, I want to promote you."
"Yes." Mr. Ki took a seat in his large swivel black leather chair that overlooked the office. He gestured to Serena to take the seat opposite him and she did. "Ms. Bowman is no longer with Ki Fashions for reasons that are none of your concern and I am in need of a new assistant." Mr. Ki paused for a moment before opening Serena's file. His long fingers caressed the file gently, contradicting his rather intimidating nature. "Out of all my assistants here, I have to say that your work has impressed me the most. I know that you have been helping Mr. Calhoun with his proposals which have led to Ki-Fashions profit surge."
Serena wouldn't necessarily say she was helping him but kept her mouth shut. Now was not the time to bring up her slimy boss. In fact, this may be the only opportunity she would have to get away from the slimy bastard.
"Thank you, sir," Serena said, surprised by the information.
"However, your resume is not impressive which causes me to have doubts about your ability to perform the tasks required. This is the only job you had since you graduated from grad school with a masters degree in Fashion. It's a little odd that you aren't putting your degree to use. Hmm."
He tilted his head slightly as if in deep thought while reviewing Serena's resume.
He turned his eyes on her; hard as granite and silenced her with a mere tilt of his head and a quick lick of his lips that reminded her of LLCoolJ. Serena winced as inappropriate images came to mind that involved Mr. Ki and his devious pink tongue. She crossed her legs.
"But I am willing to give you a chance, on a trial basis of course. You will have all the responsibilities that my assistant would have but will receive the same pay that you are now. Any mistakes between now and then will be grounds for immediate removal from the position. If I am just not satisfied with the quality of work that you offer, you will return to your previous position as Mr. Calhoun's assistant."
Mr. Ki looked Serena over for a moment, causing her body tingle in all the places his gaze traveled. She cleared her throat with a gentle cough; her mouth suddenly dry. He couldn't possibly be attracted to her, could he? He must have sensed Serena's line of thought because his lips pursed and eyes narrowed slightly.
"I am perplexed by you. The designs that you assisted Mr. Calhoun with were very well crafted, however, you come to work in such plan clothes. You obviously have taste. Why not allow yourself to be taken seriously as a designer? That is what you want to do, correct? Your MBA in fashion points to that desire."
Serena nodded, too embarrassed to speak.
"So, why the state of dress?"
"These were all I could afford sir. I was advised that it would be unseemly to wear my own creations to work. Not that they are overly sexual or anything!" Serena quickly added when she saw his perfectly arched eyebrow raise in question. "I mean; I didn't want to make it seem like I was trying to force my work on anyone."
"Why haven't you submitted any of your designs officially then? I'm sure you have many."
A dark cloud overcame her as she thought about the circumstance surrounding her lack of proposals.
"Mr. Calhoun said that they had potential but they weren't worth showing to you." It wasn't the truth but it was easier to deal with.
"Well let me decide what is worthy of showing me." Mr. Ki then picked up the folders on his desk and held them out to Serena and she took them.
"These are a list of procedures, expectations, and your tour of duty. Remember them well by tomorrow, that's when your day as my assistant begins. Goodbye." Serena nodded and left his office with a large smile on her face and quickly joined Amelia at her desk.
"You're not fired I take it," Amelia said when Serena was within earshot.
"No." Serena took a deep breath to calm herself down before joining her best friend. "He actually promoted me, well not officially yet. He wants me to be his new assistant. Apparently, Bowman either quit or was fired."
"That's great, about the promotion I mean." Amelia hugged Serena tightly, "I am so happy for you."
"Thanks," Serena said as soon as the hug was over.
"But what was it you had to tell me?" Amelia was back into full gossip mode. Serena looked around quickly to make sure that no one could hear her before making Amelia promise not repeat it and of course, she accepted Serena terms. She whispered to Amelia about her encounter with Jae-Hwa Ki. "And she said that her last name was Ki? Well, that doesn't mean anything. It could be a coincidence."
"Come on, how many people do you know with the last name Ki except Mr. Ki. I think that woman was his wife."
"It could just as easily have been his sister or his cousin. Did you see a ring on the supposed Mrs. Ki's finger?" Amelia said while putting air quotes around Mrs. Ki. Serena shook her head no. "Well, there you go then. Mr. Ki is not married and if he was it would be strange that his wife would let him walk around this office, surrounded by beautiful women, without a ring on his finger. If I was his wife I would have a leash around his neck."
"Well, I guess you're right. It doesn't matter. I'll find out soon enough anyway. You know, with me being his personal assistant and all but I am going to have to cut down on the gossip after today. I can't afford to lose this job." Serena opened one of the files and began reading the material.
"I know; you don't have to worry about me. I'll keep my mouth to myself." Amelia promised while holding up the girl scout symbol.
"You weren't even a girl scout!" Serena pointed out before they both laughed.
Jaeson Ki thought back to his visit with Jae-Hwa, the one woman in the world who could claim to be both his ex and sister-in-law. Apparently, she came to visit because she was concerned about his mental well-being. His brother and father recently died a few months ago during a car accident. Jaeson had been driving and they had been arguing about his sudden marriage to Jae-Hwa. He wasn't paying attention to the road, so blinded by his own anger. He didn't see the car in front of him and before he knew it, Jaeson was the lone survivor of a two car collision. His brother, his father, and a man and his young daughter all lost their lives. He could never forgive himself or the woman who was the center of the argument.
He shook his head to rid himself of his dark thoughts and instead thought about the future and the news that she delivered to him. Apparently, Jae-Hwa was not only a widow but a soon to be mother. Jin-hoon left a bit of himself behind. He was sure his mother and grandparents were thrilled about the news and in his own way, he was too. He just couldn't bring himself to show it, not to her anyway.
His phone began ringing, bringing him from his somber thoughts.
"Jin-nun," His mother's voice started from the other end of the phone. He recently started going by his middle name Jaeson because it sounded more American but his mother didn't seem to care. He thought it was Ironic that his Italian-American mother refused to call him by his English name. He guessed it was a testament to how much she loved Korean culture.
"Did Jae-Hwa tell you the good news?"
So much for getting away from somber thoughts. Jaeson decided he would need to sit down for this conversation. He leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes, trying to shut the world out.
"Yes, she did."
"and because of this great news, I have been thinking." He knew where this line of conversation was headed. "My position as President of Ki Fashions was always supposed to be a temporary arrangement. I can't handle this job anymore Jin-nun. This was not what I was trained to do. You and your brother were intended to take your father's place in case the unthinkable happened and now that it has, I want you to step into the role. It's time for you to be President and it's time for you to settle down, get married and have a baby of your own."
Jaeson felt the skin between his eyebrows crinkle with frustration. He would've loved take on the responsibility of president but that just was not in the cards. His father had made it clear in his will that if either of his sons were to take ownership of the company and inherit his shares, they would have to show stability by completing their education, put in five years at the executive level at Ki Fashions and be married to a suitable wife. "You know I can't. I have no interest in marriage."
"You were going to get married before."
"Yes, to Jae-Hwa. You know how that turned out."
"So you are going to let one woman keep you from experiencing the feeling of fulfillment that comes with being a husband and a father."
Jaeson didn't respond. His mother had a knack for making his notions seem silly in the long run. He heard her sigh deeply, "I am going to put the shares up for sale and resign from my position."
That caught his attention. "You can't do that!"
"I can and I will. I already informed the board of my intention to retire in six months. Jae-Hwa is going to need help with the baby and I want to be there for her. I can't do that if I am running the company. I was hoping you would see reason and do what needs to be done."
"You're being unreasonable -"
"Either way," she interrupted, "I am retiring and if you don't want to see this company fall into the hands of an outsider, I suggest you man up and do your duty for your family. Let go of this anger Jin-nun and find someone you can spend your time with."
"So I have six months?"
"I'll see what I can do."
"Great!" He could hear the smile in her voice. "I wish you luck son. Goodbye."
Jaeson ended the call and looked out of his office towards the many desks that housed several of his staff. His gaze were immediately drawn to Serena, the brown skinned beauty who came to work at Ki Fashions a few years ago. He noticed her the first day she walked in, shy and reserved and while she still held some of her shyness, he was happy to see a large amount ebb away during her time here. One had to learn quickly when working in the Fashion world. People were often blunt, rude even and anyone who took those words personally wouldn't last long.
He, himself, had to deal with ridiculous rumors about his sexuality. Some actually thought he was asexual, which was most certainly not the case. The tightness is his groin was a clear indication of that as he watched Serena bend over to pick up something she dropped, her voluptuous bottom teased him. He for sure wouldn't mind burying himself deep between her folds. He loved her curvaceous body, the thickness of her thighs and the heaviness of her breasts and had he not taken an oath to never mix business with pleasure, he would already know what she sounded like when submerged in ecstasy.
He didn't know why he chose her to be his personal assistant. Yes, she was attractive. Yes, Serena worked well and the collaborations she and Calhoun created were great but he knew deep down there was another reason he brought her into his sanctum but he couldn't pinpoint what it was. What caused him to be drawn to her in this way was more than something as mundane as sexual desire and while he would freely admit to himself that he found her physically appealing, he knew that his attraction to her was based on something else. Perhaps curiosity? He hoped to find out soon.
He decided that he needed some alleviation tonight and decided to call his contact at Syn Models.