What does it really take to be a champion?
When East Genesis Project’s Jo Yihwan reluctantly pinch-hits for injured band mate Steven Bae in a reality TV-slash-talent competition, he decides he’s only in it to win. After all, he is representing his band, and the All-Kill Champion title had some handsome perks attached to it.
But he didn’t expect to meet a gutsy, driven teammate like Ha Yoojung, or feel drawn to her incandescent spirit week after week after week. He didn’t expect her to be carrying a devastating secret that could cost them the grand prize, either.
What starts as a competition becomes so much more. With careers, a long-held dream, and honor at stake, can Yihwan and Yoojung’s hearts survive?
Content warnings: Mentions of sexual assault
E X C E R P T
Yoojung nervously ran her fingers through her tea-colored hair one more time and took a deep breath as she stared at Jo Yihwan’s name on the dressing room door. Earlier today, the All-Kill Champion staff had the trainees draw their teammates’ names out of a fishbowl, and she got Jo Yihwan.
All right now, Yoojung-ah. Let’s stay calm. Professional. Casual, she repeated in her head. You’re not a fan right now, you’re a teammate.
“So let me get this straight. She’s my age, she’s trained longer than I have, and yet she’s never debuted? How did she even make the cut for this show?”
Yoojung’s fist froze mid-knock. Was that…Jo Yihwan?
“Does everyone already know who their partners are? Is it too late to switch?”
“Sorry, Yihwan-ssi. We can’t do that.”
“I guess I’m screwed then.”
Well…screw courtesy, she thought. Jo Yihwan might be an industry senior, but he was acting like a brat. No way was she going to let him get away with his prejudice, especially since he was so vocal about it.
She wrapped her fingers around the door knob and twisted it open.
Yihwan’s whining stopped as soon as she entered the room. The production assistant he had been speaking to dropped her jaw. And her clipboard.
“Annyeong haseyo!” Yoojung greeted, making sure she was flashing her biggest, friendliest smile when she stepped into the room. Yihwan looked like he was about to choke. As he should. “Ha Yoojung imnida.”
The EG Project band leader cleared his throat and got up so abruptly, he almost knocked his chair over. As he greeted her with a bow, Yoojung pushed the door shut.
“Please. There’s no need to be overly courteous.” She maintained her smile even as vitriol rose up her throat. If she wasn’t careful, she might just find herself getting thrown out of this show.
That wasn’t part of the plan.
“Ha Yoojung-ssi, I—”
She raised her hand in front of his face. God forbid Jo Yihwan work his charm on her and derail her raging train of thought. Who cares about those expressive doe eyes, or that chiseled jawline, or that perfect Cupid’s bow? Not her. No sir, not today.
“I’m not going to pretend I didn’t just hear what you said, Jo Yihwan-ssi.” Her eyes darted toward the PA, who kept her eyes on Yoojung even as she was picking up her clipboard.
Taking a deep breath, she continued. “And because we’re going to be working together for—hopefully—the next two months, I’m going to make things clear: I am here because I passed the open auditions despite the fact that I don’t have an agency representing me. Now, you’re free to keep your opinions about me, but I’m not here to prove anything to you.
“I know you’re only here to replace your band mate, so I understand if the stakes aren’t that high for you. But this is a lifeline for me. This show could be my last shot at a career in this industry, and if I have to work with someone who thinks very little of me so I could get that chance, then so be it.”
Without batting an eye, Yoojung offered her hand to Yihwan. He quickly took it, only to let out a muted groan when she squeezed his hand a little tighter than what was normally acceptable.
“Don’t.” Her grip eased around his hand. “Half-assed apologies are non-apologies.”
Yoojung pulled her hand away and bowed to the woman behind Yihwan. The poor PA returned the gesture, albeit bewilderedly.
“See you at the studio,” were her last words before stepping out the room.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tara Frejas is a cloud-walker who needs caffeine to fuel her travels. When she’s not on work mode, she keeps herself busy by weaving her daydreams into stories.
Aside from her obvious love affair with words and persistent muses, Tara is very passionate about being caffeinated, musical theatre, certain genres of music, dancing, dogs, good food, and romancing Norae, her ukelele. She owns a male bunny named Max who sometimes tries to nibble on her writing notes.
Fun fact: She’s a Piscean. Go figure.
Connect with her online:
Twitter / Instagram: @tarafrejas
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