The Kiss From Hell - Chapter 2.5
It was easy to get used to something if it was repeated countless times.
Valentine seemed to kiss John as a new way of showing affection, and he also liked it very much. Valentine seemed to be smart enough not to do it when other people were watching them, but when they were left alone, Valentine almost always put his lips on John.
So John got used to kissing Valentine. The sense of crisis that he felt in the first place faded as the days went by, because they really only kissed. They never groped or felt excited about each other’s bodies. That’s why John regarded their kiss as an act of licking each other, like animals did. Though John himself knew that he was lying to himself.
As usual, the two were taking a break in the room. Valentine was reading a book, and John was dozing off on his bed. At one point, Valentine’s presence neared, and a heavy thing weighed down on John.
When John groaned, Valentine supported his upper body with his elbow. Looking down at John, who opened his eyes while blushing, Valentine smiled and lowered his head. Good-looking lips brushed his soft earlobe.
“John, are you sleepy?”
“Yeah… Are you done studying?”
“Yes, can you open your mouth?”
As John’s lips opened smoothly, Valentine’s tongue slipped into his mouth as if he had been waiting for that moment. His tongue swept across the mucous membrane as the sound of pain from John’s mouth flowed softly. It was time for his sleepy thin eyelids to close again. The cell phone he had left on the bedside table was vibrating loudly in the dark.
Pushing Valentine’s chest, John held his cell phone in his hand. Ryan’s name was on the screen. While hugging John’s waist, Valentine looked into the screen.
“Yes, what could he possibly want at this hour?”
Both Ryan and Grace prefered calling John, not Valentine, when they needed something. John, who was quick-witted, knew that it was just kindness, in case he felt left out. That’s why he always answered the phone, unless it was inevitable.
“Just let him call me back tomorrow.”
This time, too, John pushed the call button without hesitation while pushing Valentine away, who was holding his wrist, as if to stop him.
-John, haven’t you gone to bed yet?
“I’m about to.”
Perhaps dissatisfied with being ignored, Valentine leaned over John’s body and buried his lips on his forearm. His tooth scratched John’s bare skin, but it didn’t hurt. The tickle caused an unintended giggle to escape from John’s lips. As if he had heard it, Ryan questioned curiously from beyond the phone.
“… It’s nothing.”
“Don’t do it,” said John, pushing Valentine’s face away, and this time he bit John’s finger with his lips. The smooth tongue lazily wrapped around the finger, licking the sensitive flesh. John got goosebumps all over his back.
“What… what brings you to call at this hour?”
The voice flowing through John’s lips was shaking, with a faint sense of embarrassment. John pulled himself completely out of Valentine’s embrace and raised his upper body. The tip of the finger Valentine was licking was numb for no reason.
-What are you guys planning to do this week?
-Yeah. I think I’ll be home with Grace after a long time. If you guys have time, I would like to go to a play together. How about that?
“Oh, I’d love to, but I’ll ask Valentine. He’s with me now.”
“Is that so? Great.”
“Wait a minute. Valentine, can you go home this week?”
“Why? He wants us to go?”
“Yes. If it’s okay we’ll go… Nevermind, it’s kind of a bad time because you have to prepare for the exams, right?”
John mumbled with a slightly somber look on his face. Graduation was near, and the thirteenth graders were in the midst of a rush to prepare for the A-Level exams. Valentine asked as he searched for John’s face.
“What about you? Do you want to go?”
“…It’s not that I don’t want to.”
When John nodded after a short hesitation, Valentine closed his eyes a bit and said willingly.
“Then let’s go.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?”
“It’s okay. I still have some time.”
“Okay, then… Dad, I think we can make it.”
As soon as Valentine answered him, John answered the phone. Ryan, patiently waiting for their conversation to end, smiled as if he was satisfied. He said goodbye, as if he was about to hang up, but soon turned to another topic as if something had come to mind.
-By the way, I had something to tell you when you came, so it’s perfect.
“Yeah. John, are you still thinking about your career?”
John blurted and rolled up his lips. This was because Valentine wasn’t someone to have in this conversation. John, who hesitated for a moment, chose to turn the topic around instead of answering to Ryan’s words. His voice was somewhat unnatural for himself to hear.
“I’ll visit you on the weekend. I’ll talk to you then.”
Fortunately, Ryan seemed to notice John’s reluctance while hanging up the phone. It was when John, who sighed visibly, pressed the end of the call button.
“What did he say?”
“It’s not a big deal. It’s been a while since the family got together.”
“But what’s wrong with your face?”
“What’s up with my face?”
As John turned his head, Valentine, who didn’t miss the opportunity, pushed his shoulder. Valentine sat on John’s lap when he fell backwards. Valentine held John’s chin in one hand, while John groaned under the heavy pressure.
“Didn’t I tell you before, not to look away?”
“I didn’t avoid your eyes.”
“You always look away when something is bothering you.”
“I didn’t avoid it.”
When John responded with strength in his eyes, Valentine, who was watching him as if it were fun, tilted his head. The tip of the lip line was bent smoothly. A long finger slowly swept down John’s forehead, eyes and cheeks, then pressed his lips to open them.
“Alright, I’ll believe you.”
“It doesn’t matter. For now.”
Whispering, Valentine lowered his head over John’s lips. At the same time, a dark shadow poured over John’s body. Feeling the tongue coming in, John opened his lips.
* * *
Fortunately, the weekend was clear. After waiting in front of the dormitory early in the morning and getting into the car, he could see the familiar scenery he missed. As always, the beautiful property of Lindbergh was full of fresh grass.
A magnificent mansion appeared after a long ride through the gently curved forest road. Dressed in a straight suit, a man stood in the driveway, waiting for them.
“Carter! Long time no see.”
John got out of the car and walked toward Carter. Valentine followed him and also smiled brightly.
“You didn’t have to come out and wait for us.”
“How could I be able to stay still? It’s been a long time since we’ve met.”
Carter’s eyes, which alternated between Valentine and John as if he were appreciating them, were soon filled with admiration and pride.
“You’re really getting better day by day. You’re so elegant that the crown prince of England is crying.”
“Haha… I think something happened to Carter, as he’s saying emptier words day by day.”
“Which empty words?”
When John frowned at his embarrassment, Carter answered sternly.
“Don’t you already know that I’m not the type of person to say empty words?”
“Let’s go in first. It’s just the spring sun, but it’s pretty strong.”
Following Carter, John and Valentine exchanged glances. On the surface, he is a blunt man, who seems like he won’t share a single drop of blood even if he were to be stabbed, but inside, he was overflowing with kindness. John looked at Carter’s back and recalled the day he first met him.
From the moment he reached out to John, who lost Emily and was left alone, Carter became his close friend. John truly liked Carter, who was reticent, but soft and considerate. Sometimes John felt more comfortable with Carter than with his biological father, Ryan.
John’s affection for Carter was not so one-sided. Carter also felt a special attachment to John. As the young boy struggled to adapt somehow, he cheered with a mixture of sadness. As he watched John grow up in a dignified manner, Carter didn’t hide his pride, as if John was the best man in the world.
Seven years went through like that.
“Mr. Lindbergh’s in the study right now, but he’ll be done in time for dinner. We’ll prepare a family meal of your taste.”
“Thank you. Carter, you can eat with us, right?”
Carter responded to Valentine’s question in a sorry tone.
“I’d love to, but…”
“I’m on vacation during the weekend. I’m afraid I have a previous engagement.”
“Oh, a date?”
Carter kept his mouth shut when John said it without thinking. At the age of forty, Carter was still single and a romance-seeking bachelor. He didn’t seem to have dated for a while, but he seemed to have recently. Well, Carter is a pretty attractive guy. Thinking of that, John smiled.
“If it’s a date after a long time, I won’t bother you. Please introduce her to me later.”
“Of course. I’ll introduce you first.”
Carter, who answered without hesitation, smiled calmly. It wasn’t until he saw the familiar smile that John felt like he really returned home.
Four people, except Carter, had a simple dinner. Although the number of dishes served on the wide table was too abundant to be merely simple, it was a fun time anyway.
He took a light sherbet and moved to the reception room. Sitting next to John, Valentine stood up and tapped on the coffee table. John, who was talking to Grace, raised his head. When their eyes met, Valentine smiled and pointed to the door.
I’m just going for a walk. Do you want to come with me?”
“Ah… Go alone. I’m home after a long time, so I’ll stay with our parents a little longer.”
Fortunately, Valentine didn’t seem to find John’s mumbled response strange. John glanced at Ryan, after Valentine left the room with his seasonal jacket on. Then, Ryan rose from his seat, nodding lightly as if he had been waiting. Grace opened her mouth after taking a meaningful glance between the two.
“I don’t know what it is, but men have something to talk about, right?”
“Well, it’s not that secret. I thought you might be tired.”
“I’m not that tactless. Then I’ll wash up first, so talk a little more.”
After Grace left first, Ryan and John went up to the study. Shortly after sitting on a natural leather sofa in front of the window, a hired maid put two glasses of Café Royale on the table and disappeared.
“The alcohol is almost gone, so you can drink it.”
“Thank you. “
Ryan lit a sugar cube soaked in brandy, and soon the blue flame began to flutter on the spoon. Ryan was staring at the dancing flame for a while and opened his mouth. He got to the point right away, as if he had no guts.
“To be honest, John, I wanted you to go to Cambridge, but I’m surprised you don’t want to go to college at all, and you want to become independent as soon as you graduate?”
As if the words were out of order, Ryan swept his chin with his hands and closed his mouth. John, who had been silent until then, started talking.
“It’s not for a particular reason. It’s just because I don’t want to go to college yet, and I can’t wait any longer as there’s something I want to do right away.”
“But what you want is to be more capable and then be at ease? I’m really not sure if there’s another reason. I mean, you’re very anxious now that you’re an adult…”
Although Ryan spoke in a roundabout way, John quickly realized what he meant. A faint smile rose over John’s face and soon fell. John, who was fiddling with his fingers, slowly raised his head. The dim light reflected his green eyes.
“It’s true that I can’t rely on you forever.”
“…What does that mean?”
I’m grateful to both of you, but you know, there’s no place for me here.”
Ryan’s expression hardened at John’s determined voice. John smiled again, but Ryan just stared at him with an indecipherable look on his face. John looked over his face in a fresh mood.
Ryan’s blue eyes, which Valentine inherited, were like the first symbol he was reminded of when people who knew him think of the Lindbergh family. Ryan and Valentine were so similar that anyone could see that they were rich. But that wasn’t John’s case. If it hadn’t been for the proof of paternity, they wouldn’t have accepted the fact that they were blood related.
Careful not to shake his voice, John said once again clearly.
“I don’t want to enter Father’s company, I don’t want to be in Administration.”
“I never wanted to compete with Valentine or be his assistant.”
Ryan, who was keeping his mouth shut, as if he was choosing what to say, responded cautiously.
“I don’t know what you’re thinking, but John, I also think of you as my successor. Not just because you’re a son, but because I appreciate your brilliance.”
“Thanks for saying that, Dad, but I thought from the beginning that when the time came for me to stand on my own feet, I would go down the path of whatever life chose for me.”
“It’s not that I don’t want to be in debt with you anymore. I just want to be a decent adult.”
John finished talking and stared at Ryan, who wondered when the child, who was so small when he came for the first time, grew up. Ryan carefully looked at the son in front of him, with a half flustered and a half fresh mind. Although John was still a teenager, he had a grown-up look on his face that he was unaware of.
John kept looking at Ryan and once again raised a number of questions to ask. If Emily hadn’t died in a sudden accident, would Ryan have brought her to this mansion?
The answer was always the same. Ryan wouldn’t have. Thus, because of that conviction, for John, this house was just a temporary nest that he had to leave at any time. Ever since John came to England, he had lost control of his life. The sense of alienation and feeling that he had become a spectator in his life made John impatient, but there was nothing he could do as a minor yet.
However, John couldn’t remain a child forever. As he grew bigger, his desire to live independently grew too. It was no different from the pure desire to be a decent adult, and to do that, independence from Ryan’s aid was the first step.
Since Ryan was a quick-witted man, he immediately saw through John’s unstable state of mind, but Ryan wasn’t the type to persuade or force John. Unlike Valentine, who he picked and raised as a successor from the beginning, Ryan wasn’t sure what type of life to prepare for the son who suddenly fell from the sky, and whether he had the right to make any plans. Ryan opened his mouth with his clasped hands on his knees.
“John, I always thought you were a tough guy. I wanted to get you to run the company for that reason, whether you believe it or not. Of course, I wanted to give you the best future I could give you.”
“So you shouldn’t be disappointed, because you still feel like I have a wall in my heart.”
In Ryan’s cautious answer, there was still an unhidden sadness. John felt it and shook his head with a smile.
“No, Dad, not really. I’m always grateful to you and Grace, I’m happy enough. I just want to be alone.”
Of course, it would be a lie if he said that he didn’t think that this might be just the result of his childhood. There was also a good chance that he would become a loser and crawl back into Ryan’s comfort zone. But still, he thought, it was worth a try at least once.
“… Alright, alright.”
Instead of continuing the topic, Ryan nodded calmly. That seemed to be the end of the conversation, but Ryan, who was about to get out of his seat, suddenly narrowed his brow.
“But John, why are you keeping it a secret from Valentine? Anyway, he’ll find out soon.”
“As Dad said… Valentine already knows that I’m not preparing for college. But …”
As to how to tell the story, John carefully considered his words, trying to word it correctly.
During their time together, Valentine has easily given up anything for John, with no exception. Knowing he was like that, John didn’t want his choice to have any impact on Valentine’s path.
In the end, when John closed his mouth, Ryan nodded as if he understood.
“In fact, since he was a kid, Valentine’s had a special attachment to you, whether it was out of the joy of having a brother as an only child…”
After stopping for a moment, Ryan took a sip of coffee and mumbled to himself.
“For me, an inexplicable attachment seems to be formed between you. Anyway, John.”
“Yes, Dad. “
“I’ll support whatever choice you make, but don’t refuse the support you deserve as my child, because it’s also my duty.”
John nodded silently, and then there was a silence because he fell into his thoughts for a while.
After talking to Ryan, John walked out of the mansion. In the high night sky, a large full moon was blooming like a flower, and the edge of the horizon was black. The bleak wind disrupted John’s hair. The pale moonlight touched John’s straight forehead.
Maybe he was nervous as his cheeks were hotter than usual, even though it was not something to be nervous about. Pressing down on his hot cheeks with the back of his hand, John took a slow step into the woods behind the mansion. He wanted to get some fresh air to organize his thoughts.
For some time after walking around like that, John turned his head to the voice calling for him from afar. Valentine was walking with two leashes in his hands. Max and Thunderball, who found John, shook their tails violently and jumped. John approached them with a big smile.
“Are you done taking a walk?”
“Yes, I’m about to go in. Why did you come out?”
John, who was unable to look at Valentine properly for no reason, naturally lowered his eyes and kneeled on the floor. Then Max jumped into his arms, as if he had been waiting. When John stumbled backwards and scratched Max’s neck lightly, Max pulled out his tongue, licking John’s face. John smiled bitterly and leaned his cheek against Max’s head.
“I’m tired, Max. Come to think of it… You’re a grandfather now.”
“But he’s still alive.”
“Hey, Valentine. “
“Yes, tell me.”
“If you’re not tired, would you like to walk a little more?”
Valentine closed his eyes and nodded at John’s offer.
“As much as you want.”
So Valentine walked side by side with Thunderball and John holding Max’s leash. After walking quite a long way until the mansion drifted away, a huge lake appeared in a dense wooden crevice. It was quiet everywhere and pitch-black. Overall, there was a spooky and grotesque atmosphere underlying it. However, the gentle moonlight reflected on the surface of the calm lake was bleak and beautiful at the same time.
Above all, this was a private property of Lindbergh, so nothing could threaten them. Both Valentine and John were well aware of the fact that surveillance cameras were shining on them everywhere, although they seemed to be in wild nature.
“Do you want to sit down?”
“Okay. But there’s a lot of dew on the grass… Will it be okay? I think my pants will get wet.”
At John’s words, Valentine took off his coat and laid it on the floor without hesitation. Then he lowered himself first on the wet grass.
“Is this all right?”
“Valentine, it’s cold right now. Put it on again.”
“I’ll stick with you. Like this.”
Valentine, laughing jokingly, grabbed John’s wrist. John fell on his butt when his body fell down. He didn’t miss the moment he lost his balance, and Valentine’s body was closely attached.
“Look, it’s not cold at all, is it?”
Valentine’s eyes were in front of John’s nose. Their eyes were so close that they could feel each other’s breathing. Conscious of the fact, John rolled his eyes and pulled back his neck.
“I want to kiss you now. “
“As long as there aren’t eyes watching us.”
Valentine whispered quietly as his gaze traced over John’s lips. John’s ears were reddened by his unexpected words. Valentine’s hand touched the back of John’s hand and swept the tender flesh from his finger.
“Will this be alright?”
“From their point of view.”
Valentine pointed cynically at the camera hidden among the trees with his chin gesture. John blinked slowly and replied a beat late.
“Well… How much do you hold hands, is it a touch that meets a universal standard?”
Valentine’s shoulders shook lightly and laughed as if the answer was funny. Then, he leaned his head against John’s shoulder. His blonde hair
ering in the wind tickled John’s chin, and the sweet scent fluttered the tip of his nose. Unable to overcome the tickling sensation, John hunched his neck, and Valentine put strength in his hand.
So they sat side by side and looked at the lake for a while. It was a peaceful night in which nothing else could be heard, except for the dogs’ breathing.
“We really don’t have much time left until graduation.”
How much time had passed. It was John who broke one silence first. Valentine, who was still leaning his head against John’s shoulder, folded his finger and put out his free hand into the air and counted.
“Right. Two months left until graduation.”
“What do you want to do when you graduate?”
“Are you talking about me?”
Valentine smiled lightly, as if he had heard a funny joke. That’s because Valentine’s future was already set enough that even the stones rolling on the side of the road would know. After graduating from Heritage College, Valentine was scheduled to go to Cambridge immediately. After that, he would join the MBA course and eventually L&T. So that he ends up succeeding Ryan and being the ruler of his splendid kingdom.
Come to think of it, John, who thought it was a stupid question, smacked his lips. Valentine, who was carefully examining John, placed his chin on John’s shoulder.
“Why would you ask such a question?”
“Why? Do you suddenly have something you want to do?”
Reflected in the moonlight, the blue pupils looked at John. It looked as if he was trying to find out what John was hiding. Speechless, John escaped his gaze.
John answered, blaming himself for being unnecessarily emotional. It was time for him, who became embarrassed for nothing, to dig the wet ground with the heels of his sneakers.
“I’m going to support you whatever you do, and I’ll start from scratch too.”
John’s heart tightened for no reason. He still couldn’t figure out the identity of the emotion that made him heavy and shake so much. John bit his lips. Choosing what to answer, he was barely able to give a foolish answer.
“Why… Why would you do that?”
“Who knows. Didn’t think about the reason.”
“Why should there be a reason?”
John, who lost his words to the confident Valentine, rolled his eyes and pulled Valentine’s hand to him. Valentine bowed his head while John’s body was shaking. At the moment, his soft lips grazed his cheek lightly.
John, surprised, opened his eyes wide. Valentine patted his head affectionately and asked again clearly.
“Do we really need a reason to be together?”
“Then that’s it.”
When John responded, Valentine smiled faintly. John also followed him and smiled, but he had to sigh in a complicated mood.
After a long time, the two fell asleep together in John’s room. Everything in the room was not different from seven years ago, but only the two had grown up. Perhaps tired, Valentine fell asleep with a whimper as soon as he held John in his arms. John was in Valentine’s arms without moving, but sleep didn’t come easily. In the end, he slowly raised his upper body as Valentine’s breathing became loose.
Without the roller blinds, the dim lights of the garden could be seen inside the room. John looked silently into Valentine’s face.
His face was so beautiful that it seemed like Michael, the angel, might have looked like this. His forehead was straight under the naturally flowing blonde hair, and the bulging eyebrow bone left a deep shade. The eyelashes that stretched out long under the eyelids were plentiful, his straight nose and wavy lips were thin. All the elements that make up Valentine were extremely delicate and colorful. Swallowing a fresh admiration for his beauty, John thought.
Will I be able to give up Valentine’s arms?
Can I be okay without Valentine?
Can I do well… alone…
However, John’s thoughts remained unchanged even if he was asking for no reason. If he didn’t challenge full independence, he wouldn’t be able to erase the anxiety that being guided by someone for the rest of his life would be.
“Valentine, if it were you…”
I’m sure you’ll understand.
John reached out and touched Valentine’s head lightly. Fine blonde hair scattered between his fingers without resistance. John, who looked into his face which was enough to even be captivating in the dark, whispered silently.
“Good night, Valentine.”
John laid on the bed. Then Valentine tossed and turned in his sleep and pulled him in. John’s tension was loosened by the familiar arms and warm body temperature. He blinked slowly, then closed his eyes, digging into the calm arms.
Early in the morning, it was Valentine who opened his eyes first. He stood still on his upper body and looked down at John, who fell asleep like a child, gently in his arms. It was as sweet as staring at the lovely thing, but mixed with a hidden coolness.
Valentine slowly tilted his head, as if to guess what John was hiding from him.
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