“Good morning, Lovelies! This is Hwajeong with your Morning Coffee!”
The show’s logo appeared on screen while the theme song jingle played. The camera panned over the set and the audience in the background.
“I have a special guest today with the first interview he’s given in months! Prince Candidate Jaewon Kim!”
The studio filled with screams from the audience. Jaewon, clad in a fitted navy suit, strutted down the stage, charisma dial set to extreme. He completely owned the stage. When the camera stopped on him, he stopped waving and wiggled his pinky finger.
Junseh smiled and repeated the motion back to the screen.
“It’s been a long time,” Hwajeong greeted.
Jaewon sat on the white sofa next to her. “It has. Have you been well?”
“Not as well as you. Taking head of the electronics division, spending all your spare time at the Royal Children’s Hospital, helping build homes in poor areas for the Home for All organization… amazing. You’re hardly the same man you were last year!”
Jaewon laughed. “Has it been that long already? Time flies when you’re busy.”
“We’ll get down to your projects in a moment, but I want to know about the side of Prince Jaewon we’re not seeing lately. What’s going on behind the scenes?”
He arched an eyebrow. “You want me to talk about that, do you?”
She laughed. “Ever coy as always. Lovelies, I think I know the question all of us want to ask!”
The studio filled with the sounds of female screaming. Junseh swallowed. He’s not going to do it, is he?
“So, Prince Jaewon, I’m going to ask you the question every girl wants to know – Who is this mysterious girl you’ve been seeing the past six months?”
Jaewon smiled. “Well, as you’ve guessed, she’s not a celebrity or Royal.”
Hwajeong’s bright red lips made a huge ‘o’. “Are you telling me you’re dating a normal girl?”
He laughed. “On the contrary. She’s truly the most extraordinary person I’ve met in my life.”
“Well! She sounds like quite a girl. Am I wrong in assuming we’re going to be hearing wedding bells soon?”
He winked. “Don’t jinx it.”
“Will you tell us her name?”
He glanced to the audience and grinned. “I won’t tell you her real name, but I’ll tell you my nickname for her. Minduelle.”
“Minduelle? Dandelion?” The interviewer laughed. “What an odd name! Where did that come from?”
He laughed. “You’ll understand when you meet her. She’s not the prettiest or flashiest flower, but she’ll bloom no matter the odds.”
“How lovely! I can’t wait to meet her.”
“She’s working hard toward her own goals, and I respect that. I look forward to the day I can introduce everyone to her. Because she’s a normal girl, I don’t want to stress her out by making her handle both aspects of her life at once. When she’s ready, you’re the first one I’ll call.”
She laughed and slapped his arm. “You’re such a tease! You seem like you’re head over heels for her.”
He chuckled. “I am. You’ll understand when you meet her. You’re going to love the Dandelion Princess as much as I do.”
Junseh hit the power button. She covered her face with her hands as her body temperature seemingly increased a thousand degrees. Oh my God. I’m officially the Dandelion Princess now. She pulled out her phone and sent a text.
You went too far that time!
Haha you saw Morning Coffee?
I bet you’re making that face I love right now.
She growled and threw the phone across the bed. “You jerk, you did that on purpose! Saying all those lovey-dovey things with that straight face…” She squealed as a second wave of embarrassment washed over her. A second later her phone beeped with a text notification. She crawled over to retrieve it.
Don’t you have a vacation coming up soon?
Not for another three weeks on Buddha’s birthday.
Just a day? I’ll try to make it over the night before.
I miss you.
We’ll be together soon.
She fell back on her bed and stared at the ceiling. Even six months into their relationship, thinking about when she could see him next never failed to excite her. Though he argued for a ten day arrangement, it only occurred in the first month. After that, both of their schedules were so packed they rarely met with each other. By time Buddha’s birthday rolled around the tally would sit at twenty-five days since their last meeting.
But he always texted or called once a day. And when he was on TV he wiggled his pinky for a moment as a signal that he waved to her. But those provided only a temporary relief to the forlorn ache she felt when he wasn’t beside her. The time spent with him in the palace was like a dream at this point.
She rubbed her neck and picked up her textbook. Jinho’s score was only three points off hers on the last exam. The slightest mistake would knock her out of the top spot.
“Junseh, did you watch the interview with Jaewon yesterday?” Yuni took the seat next to her and nudged her with her shoulder. “He talked about his secret girlfriend.”
“Yeah, I did. Pretty crazy that she’s a normal girl, huh?”
“Oh, if only I was the one that met him! He never went out with a normal girl before her.”
Yuni, please forgive me when the truth comes out. “He was a playboy partier too before that, so maybe this whole prince thing changed him.”
She nodded in obvious agreement. “He’s changed a lot these past six months. I think I love him even more now!”
“Are you girls ever going to grow up? You’re law students now.”
“Shut up, Jinho,” Yuni replied, sticking her tongue out. “There’s nothing wrong with having a little fun. You should try it sometime.”
“You should try it sometime,” he imitated in a snotty voice. “You decline to answer almost every single question Professor Skeleton asks you. Maybe you should try studying the books instead of princes.”
“I’m not a freak of nature like you and Junseh. The only grade that counts is the final. I’ll be fine. The C student still graduates.”
“But will the C student pass her Bar?”
Yuni glared. “Shut up.”
Jinho readjusted his glassed and sat on the opposite end of Junseh. “What did you write for your analysis of the case?”
Though she was locked in a tight battle for top of the class with him, she also valued his opinion of her work. Whenever it came time to create a case against the government for the validity of the tiers, she wanted him on her team. His razor sharp instincts were something she feared. She may be the better person on paper, but during their mock arguments he was leagues ahead of her.
A thundering thud on the other side of the lecture hall startled the three of them. Junseh sighed. The Royals have arrived. Even though Yuni had a laissez-faire style of studying, it was leagues better than the Royals. They often showed up to class inebriated and flat out ignored the professor most of the time. Her group of friends were all children of business owners aside from Jinho, but he was one of the lowest ranking Royals and thus ended up separate from the dreck. It wasn’t that they divided themselves like that, but being the more serious students of the class, they stuck together.
“Hey guys.” Taehyun slid into the seat next to Yuni. “What did I miss?”
Junseh nodded toward the other side of the room. “The Royals decided to come to class today.”
He arched his brows. “Joy.”
Jinho rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Where’s Hanul?”
“Late, as usual,” Taehyun replied. “Hey, Junseh, let me see your notes from yesterday.” She slid her notebook to him. “The key points are highlighted in pink.”
Yuni yawned. “After class let’s go get some coffee. I was up late reading.”
“About Prince Jaewon?”
“Shut up, Taehyun! I actually study sometimes, okay?”
Junseh giggled. It may have taken her until her adult years, but she finally had a group of friends.
Taehyun shoved her notebook back to her. “Crap, it’s Professor Skeleton.”
Professor Skeleton, so named because his scrawny and lanky build gave him the image of a skeleton, was the more interesting of her Professors. He had a deep voice that carried a lot of power compared to his looks. He also had a tyrant’s personality. Of all her professors, he had the ability to tell off the Royals.
As he started the lecture, Junseh put herself into focus mode.
Junseh yawned and closed her book. Even though she wanted to stay on top, there was only so much studying she could do before the words became a soup of ink. At least in a week she’ll get to see Jaewon and get a temporary break. She picked up her phone and turned the ringer back on. Three missed calls. She arched an eyebrow. One of the numbers was new. The only people who had this number were Jaewon and her friends from school.
She nibbled on her lip until the curiosity took over. She dialed the number.
A deep male voice answered the phone, vaguely familiar to her ears. “Hello?”
“Umm, hi. I had a missed call from this number earlier…and umm, who is this?”
He chuckled. “I had to swipe Jaewon’s phone to get your number. He’s a pretty selfish guy. I don’t know how you put up with him.”
Wait, is this who I think it is? Her heart stopped. “Minhyuk?”
“Good evening, Dandelion Princess.”
“W-what do you want?”
He laughed. “You made a promise, remember?”
“I went to get the food, and you are going to model for a sculpture.”
“That was over six months ago!”
“Was it? Seems like yesterday. I’m finally ready to work on the piece you inspired.”
“I’m busy with school now.”
“And if I pick you up after class?”
“Afraid your friends will think I’m your boyfriend?”
She clenched her fist. “I’m in disguise at school.”
“Disguise?” He laughed. “All the better. No one will know.”
“I don’t want a fake boyfriend.”
“Then tell them the truth. I’m an artist, and you’re going to be my muse.”
“That sounds even worse!”
He sighed. “It’s not fair to break promises like that.”
“I don’t care.”
“So come to my studio. You’re going to Royal Academy, right? It’s about an hour away.”
She laughed in disbelief. “Do you honestly think I’m going to make an hour’s trip to see you?”
“Hmm, I suppose not. Thanks for nothing, Minduelle.”
Hearing him say Jaewon’s pet name for her sent chills down her spine. “Don’t call me that.”
“It’s a free world,” he replied and the line clicked dead.
Junseh sighed and scratched her head. “I don’t get him.” She scrolled down her contact list and dialed Jaewon.
“Yeah. I’m right in the middle of a charity event.”
“Oh. Sorry for interrupting.”
“No, hearing your voice made my night. Is something wrong? You sound off.”
She almost started talking about Minhyuk’s call, but if he was busy he may not have time to hear the whole story. “No, nothing.”
He sighed. “Minduelle.”
“I’m just a little tired from all my studying.”
“You’re top of the class, right? Don’t push yourself too hard. You’re going to be a Queen, not an attorney. I don’t know why you picked a hard major.”
“I’m going to achieve my dream with my own hands.”
“No, you’re not.”
“You’re not going to dissolve the tiers.”
“The hell I’m not.”
“Jaewon,” a female voice on the other end said.
Junseh’s heart throbbed painfully in her chest. “Who’s that?”
“No one. I have to go.”
The line clicked dead. She bit her lip and stared at the phone. I trust him, but… Her heart flared with jealousy. I want to see you. I want to make sure you still love me and you’re not going to be stolen away by someone else.
“Ah, so this is where Minduelle goes to class.”
Junseh froze. A warm hand grasped her shoulder. She slowly turned around and felt warm lips against hers and heard a click. She shoved the person back, but he wrapped his arms around her tight. “You look rather adorable in your short hair. I think I like it more than your long, in fact.”
“Let me go or I’ll scream.”
“And I’ll send this to Jaewon.”
“Send what?” He waved his phone in front of her face, showing a picture of him kissing her. Her blood ran cold. “No.”
“You don’t want him to see it?”
“What are you doing here? Why did you do that?”
“Junseh? Who’s that?”
Oh God. Not Yuni. Not Yuni! She whirled around. “H-hey Yuni.”
“Yuni? That’s a cute name.”
Yuni’s lips turned upward in a smile. “Is this your mysterious boyfriend?”
Minhyuk laughed and draped his arm over her shoulder. “I’m Minhyuk.”
Yuni’s perfectly plucked brows wrinkled into her forehead. “You look familiar.”
Minhyuk smiled. “Do I?”
Junseh grabbed Yuni’s arm. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”
“But what about your boyfriend?”
“He’s not my boyfriend!”
Junseh glanced back at Minhyuk, who waved at her with a huge grin. She glared and sped up her pace, practically dragging Yuni behind her.
“Junseh, whoa, what’s wrong?”
“You know how Professor Choi throws a fit if we’re late!”
“Who was that guy?”
“No one important.”
The second Junseh walked out of class, she was yanked aside. She instinctively punched the mound of flesh holding her, but he only grunted and tightened his grip. “You’re almost as brutal as Jaewon. Where do you hide that power in that little body of yours?”
“Don’t mention Jaewon,” she hissed as she tried to wrench her body away. The last thing she needed was her cover blown because someone mentioned her and Jaewon’s name in the same sentence.
A strong pair of hands grabbed her arms and pulled her back as another two set of arms threw Minhyuk against the wall. He scoffed. “Your friends?”
Junseh looked above her to see Jinho’s sharp eyes staring down at her. “Are you okay?”
She nodded. “Yeah. Thanks, Jinho. It’s okay, Taehyun, Hanul.” They released Minhyuk and he glared at them while dusting his jacket off.
“Is that really your boyfriend?” Hanul asked.
She cringed. “He’s…a friend of a friend.”
“Either way, he’s trespassing,” Taehyun noted.
“And committing harassment,” Jinho added.
“Hey why are you guys—whoa, what’s going on?” Yuni asked.
Minhyuk shrugged. “Nothing really. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to tell a certain person a little secret.”
“No!” Junseh cried and tried to pull his phone from his hands. “Dinner. I’ll have dinner with you and we can talk.”
Minhyuk smiled. “I knew you’d agree with me. Later, guys. It was nice meeting you.”
“Junseh? Are you sure?” Jinho asked.
She nodded. “Thanks, Jinho.”
“Don’t stay out too late or I’ll take your spot.”
Junseh giggled. “I’m not going to let you have the top spot that easily.”
Minhyuk laughed. “You’re in for a long war, Glasses.” He grabbed her hand and pulled. “Let’s go, Min—“
Junseh punched his arm. “Don’t use that name here!” As soon as they were out of the building, Junseh yanked her hand out of his. “Don’t ever come here again. Don’t ever touch me again.”
He shook his head. “Unbelievable. I thought you were different, but you and Jaewon are exactly the same.”
“Don’t say his name! What if someone hears? My cover will be blown!”
He shrugged. “Is it that big of a deal? Why shouldn’t everyone know you and him are together?”
She bit her lip. “Because…that’s what Minuh…”
He chuckled. “Well, come on. The sooner we discuss the details of your modeling contract the sooner you can go back to Four Eyes and friends.”
“Jinho’s a good guy.”
“You need to watch out for him.”
She rolled her eyes. “I need to watch out for you.”
He leaned forward until their noses almost touched. Junseh recoiled back. “If Jaewon saw that he wouldn’t have reacted as nicely as I did.”
She wrinkled her brow. “Huh?”
“His darling dandelion princess in the arms of another man.”
Her eyes widened. “That wasn’t my fault!”
“Was it? You seemed to be comfortable in his arms.”
Her jaw dropped. “I can’t believe you. You steal a kiss, use it to blackmail me, and now you’re implying I’m cheating on Jaewon?”
He shrugged. “Long distance relationships are hard.”
“I don’t shy away from challenges.”
He bopped her on the head. “Where do you want to eat?”
She cocked her head to the side. “Are you paying?”
“What’s that supposed to mean? Are you going to run the bill up?”
She grinned. “Maybe. It’s a small price to pay for the trouble you’ve caused me.”
“I’ve seen the way you eat. Pass.”
“I don’t eat that much!”
He laughed. “There’s a café nearby. Do you know it?”
“Yeah, we study there sometimes.”
She smiled. “So you are paying.”
“This isn’t a date, Minduelle.”
She slapped his arm. “Don’t call me that! Only Jaewon can use that name.”
“Jaewon this, Jaewon that. You’re insufferable. Don’t mention his name around me.”
“He’s your friend.”
“And you’re with me now.”
The café came into view. It reminded her of the café she ate with Jaewon before she left. But it was also a little on the expensive side, and she hadn’t received her monthly food allowance. She mulled over the menu and settled on a cup of black coffee.
“I haven’t received my monthly allowance yet.”
He arched an eyebrow. “You’re telling me that a trillionaire is stingy when it comes to giving you money?”
She nodded. “It was my own admission though. I didn’t want to be spoiled.”
“So that’s why you’ve lost weight. I liked you more chunky.”
“I was never chunky!”
“You feel bony now. You were soft when I first met you.”
“It doesn’t matter what you think.”
“Jaewon likes them thick too. The one thing we can agree on is our taste in women.”
I’m pretty sure that’s a lie. Jaewon obviously has a thing for tall and slender women. I don’t get why he’s friends with someone he constantly trashes too.
He gave an exaggerated sigh. “Fine, I guess I can buy you a meal. What do you want?”
“Can I get anything I want?”
“Go for it.”
She clapped her hands together. “In that case I’ll get the café au lait, croissant, kimchi jeon, galbi tang, and mondu gook.”
Minhyuk blinked. “That’s enough food for four people!”
“I can have the leftovers for the next couple of days too.”
“I said I’d pay for a meal, not several meals.”
She shrugged. “You asked me what I want.”
He glared and huffed out a sigh. “Cheeky brat.” He pointed his thumb at her. “Get her everything she said and I’ll have a croissant and black coffee.”
She pointed to the back corner. “Let’s go sit there.”
He smirked. “Want to be alone, eh?”
“I don’t want people to see us together.” She sat across from him. “So what do you want me to do? Stand still for an hour?”
He laughed. “I’m a sculptor, not a painter. It’s going to take me days.”
“I’m not seeing you every day.”
“You don’t have to. I’ll need photographs.”
“Yeah. I work from photographic references.”
“Oh. Then I guess that won’t be so bad.”
He smirked. “What if I want nude references?”
The look on her face must have been something he found hilarious, because his laugh echoed in the small café.
“It was a joke.”
“Y-you’re not funny.”
“I’m not?” He shrugged. “Guess that’s why girls don’t like me.”
Girls don’t like you because you’re a sadist. She took a sip of her coffee. “When do I need to do the photos?”
“Back to business already? You’re a bad date.”
She glared. “This isn’t a date.”
“After all the food I bought you, I better at least get a kiss as compensation.”
“I’m graciously allowing you to use my body as reference. And I’m not going to sue you for obvious blackmail. I think that’s payment enough.”
“You’re making the choice, not me.”
“The fallout isn’t worth it. If I can get out of this blackmail by taking a few photos, so be it. The other option blows my cover and creates a scandal that won’t look good on mine or Jaewon’s resume.”
He took a sip of his coffee and ran a hand through his hair. “That lawyer training of yours is already seeping through.”
He glanced at her with a smile. “That wasn’t a compliment.” He leaned back in his chair. “We can get them done this afternoon in your apartment.”
He nodded. “It won’t take long, unless you’re inept at posing.”
“Well, let’s pack this stuff up and get it over with.”
“You hardly ate.”
“Don’t you know? Bad company makes for bad food. I’ll enjoy this on my own.”
“Bad company, eh?” He chuckled. “Alright, Minduelle. Let’s get this over with.”
“Minuh remodeled it before I moved in.” She pulled out her phone and turned on the lights and ceiling fan and closed the blinds.
He chuckled. “You look used to it.”
“It was weird at first, but now I’m comfortable with it. Do you want me to get you anything to drink while I put this food up?”
When she came back to the living room, Minhyuk was sprawled out on her couch with his eyes closed. “Umm, are you asleep?” No response. She walked over to him and nudged him. “Minhyuk?”
Suddenly he wrapped his arms around her. She screamed and tried to push off, but he held her close to his chest. “You leave yourself wide open.”
“Let me go!” He opened his arms. She pushed off and slapped him. “I can’t believe you. Don’t ever do that again.”
He chuckled. “It was worth it.” He sat up and rolled his shoulders. “Let’s get started.”
“Let me go take off my wig.” She walked to the bathroom and locked the door. It took her almost an hour to put the wig on by time she pinned down her hair. Thankfully taking it all down took only about ten minutes. Okay, Junseh. Take a couple of photos and send him out. And then call Jaewon and tell him to talk to Minhyuk about personal space.
She smoothed down her hair and walked to the living room. Minhyuk rearranged most of the furniture in the room, leaving an empty space in the middle. She put her hand on her hip. “You’re moving those back before you leave.”
“Right. Stand in the middle and hold your arm up, like you’re reaching for something.” Junseh did as followed. He shook his head. “No, with your foot out. Make it look graceful. Like a ballerina.” She struggled to balance herself. He sighed and lifted her arm and supported her leg with a feather light touch. Before she could protest, he drew his arms back. “Keep that position.”
His voice sounded different. Before everything he said had a sarcastic tone to it, but now his voice deepened and he seemed serious. Even his face lacked his usual playful expression, replaced by a hardened stoic.
“Look up in the direction of your arm.”
She followed instructions and heard a click.
“Good. You did it in one take. Now I need you kneel like you’re about to ask for forgiveness.” He walked to her and said, “I’m going to fan your hair around you.” Chills went down her spine as his fingers grazed the back of her neck. He carefully arranged her hair so it surrounded her body like a cloak. The camera clicked. “Head up.” It clicked again. “Left arm extended fully.” She followed his instructions dutifully, and became accustomed to the rhythm of his voice, her motions, and the click of his camera.
Even when he adjusted her, his movements whispered on her skin, the feather touch of a butterfly’s wings. When he came by and adjusted her chin, he stopped and stared at her. “Minhyuk?”
“You can’t look at a guy like that and expect him not to do something to you.” He reached down to kiss her, but she pushed him away before their lips could touch.
His eyebrows arched. “You’re kicking me out?”
“I’m telling you to leave and if you don’t I’ll be forced to make you leave.”
He smiled. “I’ll steal you away from him someday.”
She glared. “No you won’t.”
He waved goodbye and walked out the door. She breathed a sigh of relief and collapsed on the couch. She reached for her phone and dialed Jaewon’s number. Hearing his voice on voicemail gave a small comfort. She closed her eyes. Jaewon…
The sound of her phone ringing woke her up. She groaned and grimaced as she heard her phone clack against the floor. Thank God it’s not broken. She instantly woke up when she saw Jaewon’s face on the screen. “Hello?”
“Tell me it’s not true.”
Her heart stopped. Did Minhyuk send him the photo of that kiss?
“W-what are you talking about?”
“Artist Minhyuk Kwon finds love in Yi Royal Academy student.”
The phone fell to the floor. Tears formed in her eyes. We were snapped.
She wiped her tears and picked up the phone. “It’s not what it looks like.”
“I’m at the door.”
She glanced at the door. Is he serious? She got up and ran to the door. As she opened it, she saw the familiar face she adored. Her elation at seeing him dissolved to dread as she met his eyes.
He held the same cold indifference in his eyes as he did they day they met.