A/N: Hello all :) Welcome to my new multi-chap fic. I hadn't planned on doing another multi-chapter one, but this idea came to me two or three months ago, and it won't leave my brain alone. This story will only be ten chapters like the summary says. There will be a chapter for each date, and each chapter will alternate between YJ and GE's POV. (This chapter will be in YJ's POV, the next one will be in GE's, and so on.)
This fic is AU in that Jan Di never went to Shinhwa and, consequently, Ga Eul and Yi Jeong have never met before. Neither Jan Di nor Ga Eul know any of the F4 personally. Ga Eul and Jan Di are still lifelong best friends (in this fic, they are actually roommates who share an apartment, so look forward to some appearances from Jan Di as well as others!).
Yi Jeong had come to the end of the line. No more stalling. No more excuses. His parents had made one thing abundantly clear—either he would find a suitable spouse or they would find one for him.
He'd been handed a list of the top ten most eligible A-list bachelorettes with which an alliance would be mutually beneficial and tasked with at least narrowing it down to two or three suitable candidates for his parents' perusal.
To that end, he'd set up ten dates. One per week, each with a different candidate. At the end of ten weeks, he would pick the one least likely to annoy him for the rest of his life, preferably someone who wouldn't be picky about whether he actually loved her or not. He had no interest in falling in love and enough sense to not expect it, anyway. His parents' marriage was exhibit A for why such hopes could only lead to mutually assured destruction.
As part of his plan to make the process as painless as possible, Yi Jeong had arranged for each date to be held at the exact same restaurant each week—no sense in spoiling his memories of other places—in the exact same private area where they would be waited on by the exact same waitress —no sense in getting too many parties involved, especially those who might talk to reporters.
Tonight, when he entered the restaurant, the host informed him that his date had already arrived. He frowned as he followed the man into the expansive dining area, and they veered down a hall where the private rooms were set up. He'd hoped to arrive before the lady in question, to give himself time to settle in and get his head straight. To put on his mask of charm. Already he could smell her perfume through the cracked door—Chanel, layered too thick. Perched ramrod straight on her chair, she stood when he entered the room and flashed him a flawless smile as he approached.
A tall, lithe woman with curves in all the right places and an elegant bearing.
Unfortunately, he knew her.
"So Yi Jeong Sunbae, it's such a pleasure to see you again," she cooed in a shrill voice.
"Park Ha Jin." He knew he'd heard that name before when he saw it on the list. "The pleasure is mine. It's been awhile."
Of all the damned luck, it had to be someone from Shinhwa. He only vaguely remembered Park Ha Jin, but he sincerely hoped she hadn't been one of those adamant fangirls who tried to ambush him in the locker room after his private swim lessons.
They settled into their chairs; she was chatty, peppering him with questions about his family and his latest exhibit, but she didn't seem neurotic.
A waitress stepped into the room and addressed the two of them, waiting politely while Ha Jin finished a sugary speech praising his father's latest artistic efforts before speaking.
"Good evening. My name is Chu Ga Eul, and I will be your server for this evening. May I interest you in our wine selection?"
"A bottle of the Cabernet Sauvignon," Yi Jeong replied. "And for you?"
"Oh! That sounds perfect," his date commented. "It looks like we have the same taste." She lifted her water glass like she might drink to their similarities and smiled suggestively at him over the top of the glass.
Casting her a reluctant smile in return, Yi Jeong fiddled with the fine linen tablecloth underneath the table.
The same taste. Ha. Great.
The waitress served the wine, followed by the appetizers and entrees he had pre-selected. As his date rambled on, he answered her in half-sentences and smiles; he was half-listening, half-designing a new vase in his mind. At least his date was easy on the eyes. She'd studied painting in Sweden, so he learned; he'd almost studied there himself before his mother's health took a downturn. Well, he supposed that coincidence was...something.
The worst part about this whole affair, really, was that he couldn't charm any of these women into his bed. Even a confirmed playboy like himself had a few rules regarding who he would and wouldn't go after.
No foolish girls—the ones who would fall in love with him after one kiss.
No innocents—the ones who had no idea what they were getting into.
No one associated with his friends or family—the ones on his parents' precious list.
A few glasses of wine and an eternity later, his date sent her mostly untouched plate back to the kitchen. The waitress refilled his wine glass for the fourth time and asked if they would like dessert. For the first time that evening, he allowed himself to get a full impression of her: uniformed in heels, loose black dress pants, and a long sleeve silver blouse embroidered with flowers, with her hair pulled into a high bun and her face lightly made up, she looked pretty, in a fresh, innocent schoolgirl way, with an air of friendly professionalism. She also looked quite young; he didn't guess she could have been working there long. He wondered why she'd been chosen for this particular task.
"A slice of cheesecake for the lady, please." He flashed her a charming smile, not missing the blush that appeared on the waitress's cheeks as she acknowledged his request. Which gave him an idea. Innocent appearances aside, she might be open to a bit of fun if he played his cards right. As someone once said, it was always the quiet ones. Come to think of it, he'd caught her casting furtive glances at him when he seemed to be occupied with his date. Perhaps he might have company this evening after all. Of course, it would mess up his plan to have the same waitress each night, but then again...he deserved some compensation for this utter waste of his time.
Once his date had finally left—he was already crossing her name out on his mental list for being too obviously a sycophant—he waited a few more minutes for the waitress to reappear. Lounging back in his chair as she cleared away the half-eaten cheesecake, he said, "You can give my compliments to the manager for your excellent service. Perhaps I might have a word with him. Ask him to give you the rest of the night off."
"Oh. Thank you very much." She bowed politely, clutching the plates to herself. "There's no need, though. You're my last customer."
"Ah, I see. Long day?"
"Oh, a bit." The blush returned. She tucked her hair behind her ear adorably.
Wait. Adorably? No.
Yi Jeong mentally grimaced.
Where the hell had that come from?
He didn't want 'adorable.' He wanted to get laid.
"You're getting off in a few minutes then, yes?" he asked.
"I'm guessing you haven't eaten yet." He stated it like a question, smoothing out the tablecloth over the top of the table.
"Oh, I'll eat when I get home." She gave him a warm, friendly smile, now balancing a few plates and cutlery. "Is there anything else I can get you? Or anything you would like done differently next week? I can pass it on to my manager."
"Everything was perfect," he drawled out.
Except, of course, the fact that he'd been there at all.
"Oh, good. I'm so glad we'll be seeing more of you," she replied, her voice rising a little. To be honest, she seemed like she was suppressing something…
Emboldened, Yi Jeong pressed on, "Speaking of which...Actually, it's you I was hoping to see more of," he intoned in that light, teasing manner he'd used to seduce girls at school. "Maybe..." he started and was about to add 'tonight' along with something vague about drinks, but then he noticed her glance to the side.
A flicker of uncertainty crossed her face.
"I'm sorry." She let out a nervous laugh. "I don't quite know what you mean." Her wide, honest eyes betrayed her confusion.
He paused, studying her.
Had he not been used to masking his true emotions, he might have frowned.
Not an act, he decided. A true good girl. What a shame.
Unfortunately, he wasn't in the mood to corrupt anyone tonight, nor did he have the patience to try.
Tamping down his disappointment, Yi Jeong continued, "Next week. You will be serving me again, yes?"
"Oh, yes. Yes." She seemed relieved by his answer. "Of course." She nodded her head earnestly.
"Then." He inclined his head towards her. "Good night."
"Good night," she replied, still mid-bow when he stood and headed for the door.
Checking his watch, he decided to call Woo Bin and see if he wanted to hit up a few clubs. The night was young, after all, and he was playing on borrowed time.
Next Friday would come all too soon.