EYR 11 – 15

Chapter 11

Confessions

Xiao You sat in her room, lost in thought. Uncle had kicked her out of his room because her anxiety was making him antsy. He hadn’t asked why, but he had demanded that she go do something else. Preferably in a room far, far away from his.

She couldn’t control herself.

She thought about the past few days. Surprisingly, Ximen was getting on her nerves. She had never seen him like this.

He had been her knight in shining armor. He had held her in his arms for one incredible night. He had cried tears in front of her, and had taken comfort in her arms. But she had never seen him like this.

For a while there she had begun to be jealous of this Rainie, as if she was a separate entity from the old Xiao You. And she had also begun to worry about Ximen.

Maybe he needed glasses?

He was begin charming. Too charming. He would make her eat with him in the mornings, and whenever he was home he would seek her out. It was as if he suddenly liked her company.

She remembered this morning, and how she had been too tired to get up. She had absolutely refused. She was still shocked at his reaction, and what she had discovered afterwards.

—FLASHBACK—

“Xiao You, get up,” Ximen called through the door, knocking on it.

Xiao You groaned and pulled the blanket over her head.

“No! Go away! I was up keeping your father company till the early morning hours.” She shouted at the door in frustration.

There was complete silence on the other side of the door. She thought he had gone. At least, she hoped. There was something bothering her in the back of her mind, but she was too sleepy to concentrate.

Xiao You dozed off, slowly sinking into a blissful sleep, until she was cruelly yanked from oblivion.

Ximen had come into her room again. If he kept on doing that, she wouldn’t feel so guilty anymore about sneaking into his room everyday to be closer to him. Well, yeah, that and to check out his computer.

Xiao squealed in shock as the cold air hit her through her thin pajamas.

“You sick bas—”

“Uh uh. Don’t say something you’ll just regret.” Ximen pulled the covers off of her, and pulled at her arm.

“Come on. Wake up, sleepyhead. I want you to eat breakfast with me.”

“What makes you think I’ll regret it? And, no, I’m not hungry! Now go away like a good little boy.”

Ximen just laughed at her grouchy face. Leaning down, he picked her.

“Let’s go.” He began to walk down the hallway, with her still in her pajamas.

“Hey, what are you doing? I’m still in my nightclothes. Put me down. Ximen Shao Ye, were you hit on the head last night? You’re acting too—”

Xiao You suddenly screamed again, as Ximen’s arms loosened around her, as if they were about to let go of her at any moment.

Xiao You grabbed Ximen tightly, wrapping her arms around his neck.

Ximen closed his eyes at the sensation of having her in his arms. She felt so warm and soft. This was where she belonged. In his arms for the rest of his life.

“See, now that’s better,” he murmured.

XiaoYou remained quiet. She didn’t know what to say. She was in a man’s arms. She was 21, and had never been carried before. It felt . . . good.

Ximen walked into the dining room, and gently placed her in the chair next to his.

As they settled into their chairs, Butler Ping came in.

“Here’s your coffee, Shao Ye, Shao Jie.” He placed put the black beverages in front of them.

After the maids began to place the plates in front of them, they were left alone in the dining room. Xiao You sat in a daze, still too sleepy to even move.

“Eat up, Rainie. What are you waiting for.”

“I’m not hungry. I’m sleepy, pighead,” she mumbled into her coffee.

“What?” he asked, not quiet believing his ears. If she said what he thought she had said, he could see why Shan Cai and XiaoYou were friends.

“Nothing,” she squeaked, horrified that he had heard her.

“I’m here for your father, Ximen Shao Ye, and I don’t have to keep you company. Why do you want me here every freakin’ morning, anyway?”

“Because I want you by my side, you stupid woman,” he muttered crossly into his coffee.

“What did you say?” Xiao You asked.

“Nothing, nothing. Oh look, I’m late for work. Get a good night’s sleep, I want you to be fresh tomorrow morning.”

“Whatever.” She stared at him through her bangs.

Ximen got up from the table, and began to put his coat on.

He walked to the door, and then glanced back. Xiao You was already dozing off in her chair, her hands resting on the table, her head leaning down.

He returned to her side and shook her shoulder.

“Hmm?” she looked up sleepily.

“Goodbye,” he said, bending to give her a kiss on the forehead after he had brushed her bangs back.

Xiao You’s eyes opened wide when she felt his lips on her face. She watched him walk to the door and leave, and all the while her mouth was open in shock.

She was stunned. Her hand touched her forehead, and then she gasped, taking in a deep breath. For a moment there she had forgotten to breathe.

Her first kiss from Ximen, and he had kissed her like she was his granny. Her face scrunched up in disgust.

As she lay her head down on the table, going off into a daze, imagining Ximen saying goodbye to her every morning. The only difference was that he was saying it to his wife, and he was kissing her on the lips, not her crappy forehead.

“Rainie Shao Jie, get up, please,” Butler Ping’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“No! Go away!” she replied.

“Shao Jie this is not the place to sleep,” Butler Ping insisted.

“What is it with you people, why can’t you let me sle—”

Xiao You’s widened in disbelief.

She froze in shock.

She remembered a voice yelling at her to wake up.

She remembered someone telling Xiao You to wake up. Her sleeping brain tried to work the puzzle out.

Ximen had woken her up this morning, like every other morning. Her tired brain slowly realized the different thing this morning.

He hadn’t told Rainie to wake up! He had told Xiao You to wake up.

She couldn’t believe it. How would he have known that? Unless, he had known who she was from the beginning. He had been pretending not to know her?

Who the heck did that kind of thing?

Why would he pretend?

She had a reason to pretend, he didn’t. She would’ve been embarrassed; he would only have been flattered by her return and the return of her pathetic love.

She thought back over the past few days. She thought back to the day they had arrived.

He had held her in his arms in the car. She had thought that that was a weird thing to do to a stranger, but she hadn’t asked too many questions.

Why?

Because she had been too busy enjoying the sensation of being in his arms. Xiao You blushed as that realization dawned.

She had told herself that this is what playboys did.

Then she thought about their mornings together, him seeking her out.

He had asked about her life in Canada.

Why would he have been interested, unless he already knew?

No one had even asked her how she liked her coffee? Heck, they didn’t even ask her if she like coffee! She thought about the first breakfast they had together. When she had taken the first sip of coffee, she had closed her eyes in bliss. Upon opening them she had seen Ximen staring at her, smiling. She had rudely asked, “What?” He had only shaken his head, and gone back to asking her about her life in Canada.

She couldn’t think now. He had known all this time.

She knew that Ximen wasn’t that slow. She may have dreamed that he might not recognize her, to save herself some embarrassment. But when he really hadn’t recognized her, she REALLY had been shocked.

For a while there she had thought that he might need glasses.

This explained everything. And now, for some reason he had decided to get closer to her.

She was afraid. She was afraid of falling even deeper in love with him. He had that kind of power over her.

She knew that she had gotten stronger, and she had been able to survive in Canada. The stuff with her parents had worked out. She loved her job in CompCan. She was even happy with her computers.

But if she was constantly around him, she would grow to love him even more.

She was afraid that this time the separation would kill her.

Her very real fears made her do something that she didn’t think she would ever do.

She decided to tell uncle about her past, and ask him for help.

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Ximen sat in his office, lost in thought.

He had been called the Taiwanese Don Juan before he became the business recluse.

Don Juan, huh?

The legendary lover.

The man who had romanced countless women, but had loved none.

The one who was surrounded by indescribable beauty, but was condemned to a fiery hell to eternally suffer in isolation.

But there was hope. There was a version of the tale in which this man, destined for hell, had been saved by the love of a good woman.

He had been helped by her grace, her innocence, and her acceptance of his imperfections.

Ximen held on to the hope of that tale, and dreamt of possibilities.

It was then he realized that he was afraid of losing his only chance of being saved from the pit of loneliness yawning open at his feet. He had felt the air beneath his soles, as his feet scrambled to gain purchase on solid ground.

Over the past few months he had discovered something about himself. He was jealous of the lives his brothers had. It wasn’t that he envied their luck in finding their soul mates, but he envied how content they were now.

He could have that with Xiao You.

She had said she had fallen in love, and that jerk made her forget her horrible life. That should’ve been him.

When she had confessed he had been too angry to listen anymore and had abruptly left the table. He had left her staring after him in confusion.

To think that at the beginning of that same breakfast, he had been sitting there smiling as she took her first blissful sip of black coffee. He had thought that appreciation of the black beverage represented the impact he had made in her life.

Boy, was he wrong.

But, truth be told, she hadn’t looked too passionately in love when talking about the jerk. That’s why he hadn’t given up. He thought that if she knew the real Ximen, she would pick him over her love in Canada. At least he hoped so.

The thought of losing her again sent chills down his spine. For the first time in his life he felt real fear.

And that fear lead to another first. He decided to ask his father for help.

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President Ximen sat in his quiet study. He had his eyeglasses on, and was reading a book. Because the doctors had strictly forbidden him from doing any work, he was taking the time to catch up on his reading.

He missed the controlled chaos of the office, the one that had allowed him to put his wife in the back of his mind for long stretches of time. But this wasn’t so bad. He could relax, and enjoy the good memories. The memories of falling in love, and the hope of actually getting her love in return. That was before the realization had set in, and he had given up. He knew he had made many mistakes, but he could never regret his sons, or rather the son he had left.

He was interrupted by the sound of a knock. Looking up, he ordered whoever was on the other side of the door to enter. His eyes widened as he saw Rainie.

He had thought he told her to go take a break. Do anything but be near him. She had been nervous about something, but hadn’t been ready to talk about it. So, he had ordered her to go off, thus giving her time to calm down and carefully think things over.

“Can I help you, Rainie?” he asked when she didn’t say anything.

“I need to talk to you about something very important.”

“What is it?”

“It concerns Ximen.”

“Rainie, what about him?” he finally asked after the silence had continued for a full minute.

“I need you to promise that you will run interference between us. I’m here for you, and I think Ximen is planning something. I’m asking you to keep him away from me.” Xiao You didn’t feel any remorse in asking him to help her fend off his son. Xiao You knew that uncle still needed her, because even though his heart attack had been mild, and he was quite healthy now, he still needed her companionship so that he wouldn’t be lonely.

“Now, why would I do that?” president Ximen asked in astonishment.

Xiao You lowered her eyes. She really didn’t want to tell uncle about the past. That would reveal how much she had hid from him. He would naturally ask why.

“I knew Ximen when I lived in Taiwan. I was Shan Cai’s friend, and of course he is part of F4.”

“Why would you feel the need to hide from him? What else is there that you are hiding from me?” he pressed her for an answer.

“I cared for him,” she finally admitted.

“Care? What kind of word is that?” he asked.

Xiao You closed her eyes. She was frustrated, because she was finding it hard to get the words out. But as she sat there, feeling Ximen’s father’s eyes boring into her, she realized that she just had to say the truth. There was no point in hiding it. And, her love wasn’t something to be embarrassed about, was it? If she loved Ximen she should proudly tell it to the whole world.

Okay, not the whole world, but she could tell it to this man in front of her. He had accepted her for what she was, and she felt that she could trust him.

“I loved him,” she finally admitted.

“Why? What was it about my son? You know his reputation, why would you love him? He’s not worthy of your love.”

”How can you say that?” Xiao You squeaked out in anger. “He’s a wonderful man. He’s brave, valiant, he’s my knight in shining armor and most important of all . . . “ her voice trailed off.

“Most important of all?” president Ximen pressed for her to continue.

“He needs my love,” she admitted. She quickly looked up at uncle, afraid of his reaction.

To her surprise, he sat there quietly. He wasn’t angry at her defiance, he wasn’t laughing, at her proclamation, but he didn’t look happy either.

“Why? Why do you think he needs your love?” he finally asked.

“He . . . well, I know that he doesn’t want my love, at least not right now. But, I’ve seen him with his mei meis. His one-week policy hurts him. For some reason he can’t commit.”

Xiao You sat there quietly, and then continued. Her face showed her pain, as if the words, and memories connected to those words, were physically hurting her.

“You know uncle, he once told me that he was a ‘good lover’ but not a ‘good man’. He said it so cynically. I could see that he really believed it. But a truly bad person wouldn’t think that, right? He would think whatever he did was right. Ximen knew his behavior was wrong, and I could see it eating away inside of him.”

“It may be that he doesn’t need my love. But he needs to be loved by a woman. Someone who will make him realize that a woman stays fresh forever, her expiration date never comes if she is viewed through the eyes of love.”

“Anyways, to make a long story short, he rejected me. Not once, but twice. And I retreated to Canada to lick my wounds, recover, and prepare to fight another day.”

As she finished, Xiao You realized whom she was talking with. She had just been lecturing him about the intricacies of his own son’s soul. She had confessed her love for him. And then she had said that she was ready to fight again! She blushed in shame.

To her surprise uncle looked sad, but he didn’t look surprised. President Ximen now knew a little bit more about his son. It seemed that they weren’t that different. Er Lang also found no happiness in all his women.

President Ximen didn’t question Rainie’s assessment. He had seen the connection between them with his own eyes. She had no reason to lie to him, and she had a honest character. Rainie was telling him that his son was hurting, and he hadn’t even known that.

He knew that she had seen Er Lang with her love, and although love could make you blind, in this case it had only helped her to see deeper into him. She had no illusions about Er Lang, but she did have hopes for him.

He had no idea what his son felt, but he would make it his job to find out. And if Rainie was the person to give him the love he so desperately needed, then he would do everything in his power to make sure that they came together.

“Why are you coming to me now? What prompted this confession?”

“Well, I just realized that Ximen knows who I am,” she confessed hanging her head in shame.

“What do you mean?”

“I thought he hadn’t recognized me…?” her voice trailed off in embarrassment. Uncle was looking at her incredulously.

“But…but he didn’t react in any way at the airport. And I only knew him for a short while. I didn’t think that I had left much of an impression. And he didn’t react in any way. And I thought that I had changed. You know . . . the way I look . . . I didn’t look like this before. You could actually see my face. AND HE DIDN’T REACT IN ANY DAMN WAY!!”

Xiao You’s babbling, which was quickly turning into shouting, was cut off when she saw uncle finally nodding. It was as if he had finally come to a decision.

“I’ll help you in any way I can. But promise me that you’ll trust me.”

“Of course, I trust you uncle. You would only have my best interests at heart.”

“Then, I ask you not to question my methods. Everything I do will give you the utmost happiness in the end. I promise.”

Xiao You sighed in relief, and bowing to uncle, quickly walked out the door. She would be safe from Ximen and his games now.

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President Ximen sat in his quiet study once more. He had his eyeglasses on, once more. He was reading a book, once more.

He was interrupted by the sound of a knock. Looking up, he ordered whoever was on the other side of the door to enter. His eyes widened as he saw Ximen standing there.

His son hadn’t sought him out for anything in a very long time. Once Er Lang had realized the nature of his relationship with his mother, he had stopped approaching him altogether. And because he was a very bright child, that had happened a very, very long time ago.

“Can I help you, son?” he asked when Ximen didn’t say anything.

“I need to talk to you about something very important.”

“What is it?”

“It concerns Xiao You.”

“Xiao You?”

“You know her as Rainie.”

“Ah,” President Ximen said in understanding. Now that he knew the reason Er Lang’s strange behavior for the past few days, he could understand what had happened at the airport and about the daily breakfasts.

The gossip had reached his ears. The servants were astonished by how the young master would wake Rainie Shao Jie every morning, and insist that she have breakfast with him.

He did not know what their conversations were about. But the fact that his son, the man who had ruined his health by not eating, not only ate breakfast with no nagging involved, but also insisted that Rainie join him had been enough of an indicator of the deeper currents running between these two.

“Er Lang, what about her?” president Ximen asked, when he remained quiet after that statement.

“I need you to promise that you won’t interfere in what I’m going to do. I know she’s here for you, but I’m asking you to let me have her.” Ximen asked without remorse, because he knew that his father’s heart attack had been mild, and that he was quite healthy now.

“Now, why would I do that?” president Ximen asked in astonishment. “Er Lang, I know your reputation with women. I don’t wait Rainie getting hurt. She’s a sweet girl. I don’t know what your connection to her may be, but she’s very fragile. I have had a hard time building up her self-esteem. One word from you, and she may break.”

“Oh, she won’t do that,” Ximen said confidently. “She’s stronger than you think.”

“That doesn’t mean that she won’t get hurt,” Ximen’s father insisted. “Why do you want her?”

“I care for her.”

“Care? What kind of word is that? You want this Xiao You you speak of to risk her heart for ‘care’? You can do better than that, Er Lang.”

“Ximen closed his eyes. He was frustrated, because he was finding it hard to get the words out. But as he sat there, feeling his father’s eyes boring into him, he realized that if he really loved her, why shouldn’t he tell the whole world? Wasn’t she worth it? Telling his father would be easier because his father already thought of her as a daughter.

“I love her,” he finally admitted.

“Why? What’s so special about her? She’s a poor girl. She doesn’t even have the fashion sense of a flea. Why would someone like you love her?”

”How can you say that?” Ximen demanded in anger. “She’s a wonderful woman. She’s brave, confident, cute, sweet, innocent, and most important of all . . . “ his voice trailed off.

“Most important of all?” president Ximen pressed for him to continue.

“She makes me feel that I am normal and special at the same time,” he admitted. He stared defiantly back at his father, daring him to laugh at his confession.

To his surprise, his father sat there quietly. He wasn’t angry at his defiance, he wasn’t laughing, but he didn’t look happy either.

“How? How does she make you feel that?” he finally asked.

“You know we’re F4. The world is at our feet. We have always been told that we are special. And we are, in most people’s eyes, especially women’s eyes. They never want us for who we are. All they see is our wealth and our good looks,” Ximen said without conceit. “You remember how Ah si was, and yet women still chased him. Our personalities never counted.”

“When I met Xiao You, for the first time in my life I felt moved to help someone outside of F4, and she wasn’t Shan Cai. This girl, that I barely knew, tugged at my heartstrings. I even brought her home to calm her down, and instill some self-confidence into her. I taught her about life, and in the process I learned a few home truths about my own.” Ximen went quiet.

“Go on,” president Ximen urged. He wanted to hear this story. While he loved his son, he also wanted to protect Xiao You. If Er Lang’s next few words convinced him of his honest emotions, he would do all he could to help them.

“She . . . she treated me like a normal person. We went out on a date, and she refused to let me buy anything for her. She saw me as a person, not as a god, and accepted me with my human imperfections. She decided to befriend me, all the while knowing that that person couldn’t give her anything more. She boldly asked me questions, never thinking that they would anger me. I wasn’t F4 in her eyes. I was Ximen, and she wanted to know me better.”

“And she made me feel special by loving me, by being willing to give me all of her, even knowing about my lifestyle. I was the first one she came to see when she returned from Canada. Did you know that?” Ximen asked, smiling joyfully at the memory.

“Then let me ask you one thing.”

Ximen looked up. His father looked interested, and Ximen hoped that he was convincing him to let him be Xiao You.

“Why did you let her go?”

Ximen looked up in surprise.

“I . . . ”

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Chapter 12

Fine, I’ll Do It!!!!

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Ximen looked at his father. He opened his mouth to speak, and then closed it again. The next few words would be the most important in his life.

He knew that even if he didn’t get his father’s help he would be alright. Sure, he would have to struggle harder, but he could do it.

But his father wanted to know what reason he could’ve had for letting Xiao You go. Not only that but were those reasons important even now.

Were they? Could they still make him feel inadequate, so much so that he would become cowardly once more?

No, those reasons were no longer important. He knew that he had the ability to love, and he deserved to love. Xiao You had loved him when he was at his most unlovable, and she now deserved his wholehearted acceptance of that love.

Ximen looked his father straight in his eyes.

“For stupid reasons. Reasons that no longer exist . . . that are no longer important. I was a coward before, it’s as simple as that. I want to fight for this love. The only question is, will you interfere out of some misguided desire to protect Xiao You from my clutches?”

“I need to think about it. You’ll get my answer by tomorrow.”

Ximen knew that he had to be content with that. He had done the best he could, and tomorrow he would find out whether his father actually knew him. He would find out whether his father understood the depths of his emotions for Xiao You.

Now he could only wait.

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Ximen sat in his office, musing over his conversation with his father. When he had come down to breakfast this morning his father had still been asleep.

While he had been impatient about his father’s decision, he wasn’t so impatient that he would ruin his father’s precious sleep. He had heard from Butler Ping that his father hadn’t been sleeping well lately. He had been up late at night, spending the time talking to Xiao You.

When he had knocked on Xiao You’s door this morning, she had yanked the door open and come running out. She hadn’t ever been that energetic in the mornings. She had caught him by surprise.

He had tried talking to her, but she had been unusually absentminded today. He had caught her staring at him many times. Whenever he had asked her what was wrong, she would quickly reply nothing. He didn’t get her reaction this morning.

Her hands had been shaking as she drank her coffee!! He didn’t know what to think. She had been fine before. Something had happened. He knew it had, because there was no other reason for her to suddenly become nervous around him.

Before he could think more on this new situation there was a knock on the door.

“Enter,” he called out.

Secretary Xu came in. He looked nervous and anxious, as if he had an abhorrent chore to do and didn’t know how Ximen would react.

“What is it?” he asked, when his secretary remained silent.

Secretary Xu began to wring his hands.

“I’m really sorry manager. I’m so sorry. I have no choice. Please don’t be mad. I wanted to say no, but the other party wouldn’t hear of it. Please don’t fire me—”

“Stop, Secretary Xu.”

Xu became quiet, but Ximen could see how nervous he was. His knuckles were white from how tightly clenched his hands were.

“Take a deep breath. Now tell me what it is from the beginning.”

“I’m sorry manager, but I need to ask for time off.”

“What?”

“I’m sorry manager. My fiancé is demanding that I ask for time off. Our wedding is in two weeks, and she insists that I help her with the wedding preparations. She also insists on a weeklong honeymoon. I would not have said yes, but she insisted. She threatened to walk out on me. Should I let her leave?”

Ximen’s eyes widened in surprise. When had Secretary Xu got engaged? Was he invited to their wedding? He thought back to two weeks ago, and remembered Secretary Xu shyly handing him an invitation. Xu had been absurdly quick in saying that he didn’t expect the manager to take time off from his very busy day to come and see him get married.

Ximen looked at his agitated secretary, not believing what he had asked. Was he that much of an ogre? Admitted that he had become a bit of a stick in the mud after starting work. Everyone had complained about his unhealthy work habits, but was he so into work that his secretary would actually believe that he would want him to call of his wedding so as not to inconvenience him?

“It’s alright,” Ximen said, watching Xu heave a big sigh of relief, “Just find me a competent replacement before you go. When do you have to leave?”

“Today, I mean today will be last day before I absolutely have to leave.”

Ximen’s eyes widened in surprise, but he knew that there was nothing he could do, unless he wanted his secretary to be as heartbroken as he had been upon losing Xiao You after he had realized how much he did love her.

“Fine, just look for a suitable replacement,” Ximen ordered.

Ximen leaned back in his chair. That had been a surprise. They were heading toward a big deal with one of the top conglomerates in Canada, and he really had needed Xu. But what could you do?

Ximen’s eyes widened at a sudden thought. It was too perfect for words. He now knew how he could see Xiao You beyond the breakfast table.

He sat back in his chairs, put his hands behind his head, and smiled. He couldn’t wait to get home tonight.

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Secretary Xu was left with a big smile covering his entire face. Manager had not been as angry as he thought he would be.

Xu sat down at his desk. His shaking hands reached out to grab the phone. He quickly began to dial the number.

As the other side picked up, he said, “It’s done, I’m off for the next three weeks. Is this what you wanted?”

He listened quietly to what was said.

“But I don’t understand why I suddenly had to do this.”

His face reddened, and suddenly nodding in agreement, he quickly said goodbye and hung up the phone.

He quickly let out a sigh. Looking at the phone, he picked it up and dialed another number. As he waited for the phone to be picked up he wondered what he would say.

“Hey, it’s me. I have a surprise for you. I just got three weeks off from work, so I can help you with the wedding and we can go on our weeklong honeymoon. No, everything is fine. Yes, I’ll come down tomorrow. I’ll tell you about it then. Okay hon, bye.”

He quickly got up and left. The first caller had told him to not worry about finding a replacement.

Who was he to ask questions?

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Xiao You sat in her room. Uncle was taking a nap, so she had taken this time to relax and sort out her thoughts.

She didn’t know what to think. Why didn’t she feel happy? Ximen was paying attention to her. He had recognized her, and cared enough about her to ask her how her life was going in Canada.

He was talking to her. It seemed that they never had time to talk back then. He had saved her from bitterness over Zhong Ze, he had gone out on a fake date with her, and he had held her in his arms.

Those other times they had talked about Zhong Ze and meaningless things. The only important thing that they had touched upon was his one-week policy.

That last night had been too sacred to ruin with words. As she had lain in his arms, hearing the sound of his heartbeat, she had felt so emotional. She had felt like it was the end of the world, and couldn’t control her tears. His warm hand had smoothed her hair. She had closed her eyes to enjoy the sensation of his heart beating near her ear, but there was nothing to say.

They had never talked, and now she was seeing a side of Ximen she never she thought she would. He was charming, he was sweet, and he was nice. He was weird. She didn’t get his attraction to her.

While it was sad to admit, she was questioning his motives. She didn’t understand why he suddenly cared.

Over the past year, through the changes her life had gone through, she had become a coward.

She no longer dreamed that everything would be hunky-dory.

She knew that she could never reach Ximen’s level.

He was too sexy. Too handsome. Too experienced. Too rich. Too everything.

How does one compare to that when one is a computer geek and poor? She didn’t even want to try. She didn’t understand his interest, but she was resolved on fighting against it.

Never for a moment did she believe that he could love her. Her self-esteem was too low for that.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Xiao You walked down the stairs. She was surprised to see uncle sitting in the living room. He had been in the habit of taking his dinner in his study. He had chosen to be alone. Xiao You had understood that desire, and had quietly eaten her dinner in solitude as well.

“Rainie, would you like something to drink?” uncle asked.

“No, thank you. I wouldn’t know what to request,” she freely admitted her ignorance of the protocol about drinks before dinner.

Uncle laughed at her admission.

That’s what he liked about her. She was open about her supposed faults. She never hid anything. It was as if she revealed everything and dared the world to do something about it.

The only thing she had hidden was her relationship with his son. He even understood that. If things came to fruition, he would have a great daughter-in-law one day.

He turned around as he heard footsteps coming down the hallway.

Ximen was home.

Xiao You’s eyes widened when she turned to see who had entered the room. Her mouth dropped open upon seeing Ximen Shao ye coming home for dinner. She had learned from Butler Ping that Ximen usually didn’t come home until late, because he was so busy with meetings.

He had taken his suit jacket and tie off, and his hair was tied back. His sleeves were rolled back. She had never seen him dressed so casually after her return from Canada. When they met in the mornings he was already ready for work. He looked softer . . . sexier. She had the urge to run her hands through his hair.

Her eyes traced his face. They moved from his eyes to his lips, and as he took a deep breath, she unconsciously took in a deep breath. Her hands clenched as she became mesmerized by his presence.

Ximen’s eyes were on her. He stared at her, as she looked at him. He nodded his head in greeting.

Xiao You snapped her mouth shut, and quickly nodded her head in greeting as well.

“Good evening, dad,” Ximen greeted his father.

His father didn’t look surprised at his early arrival.

As they walked out of the living room, Ximen slowed down to allow Xiao You to catch up. As she quickly moved past, his arm reached out to grab her arm.

As she looked at him questioningly, his hand moved down her arm to grab her hand.

She tried to tug her hand free. He smiled at her teasingly, as his hand tightened around hers. She silently demanded to be let go. He laughingly shook his head no.

They walked toward the dining room, hand in hand.

Xiao You didn’t know how to react. Her heart had begun to beat quickly as skin touched skin. His warmth was stealing up her arm, and arrowing straight to her heart. His scent pulled her close. She had this crazy urge to get closer . . . to nuzzle and kiss him. She could just imagine their first kiss. The image was too much that she had to close her eyes in ecstasy.

Her hand tightened around his as she sought to get control over her crazy urges.

Ximen looked down questioningly, and saw Xiao You walking with her eyes closed. He could see her mouth pouting, and then her tongue snaked out to run across her bottom lip. Ximen suddenly stiffened, he stared at her tongue, wanting to kiss her.

She looked so innocent, but he couldn’t control his urges. He stopped walking.

Xiao You’s eyes opened in shock at the sudden stop. She looked up at him. Ximen was staring down at her.

“What?” she asked.

He didn’t say anything, just continued to stare at her in silence. Suddenly he smiled, and said, “I surrender.”

“What?” she asked again. What was he talking about now? She really didn’t get him.

He slowly began to pull her closer. Her eyes widened as he shortened the distance between them. His arms began to steal around her. Xiao You began to close her eyes.

As she completed the journey into his arms . . . as her body began to settle against his . . . as her hand crept up to grab hold of his hair . . . someone cleared his throat.

Xiao You jerked back a little. She looked to the source of the sound and saw Butler Ping desperately clearing his throat. Xiao You’s face reddened, and quickly glancing back at Ximen. His eyes were closed, and he was moving forward. She gave out an “eeek!” and pushed him away.

Ximen had been caught up in the moment as well. He hadn’t heard Butler Ping’s attempt to get their attention. He was caught unawares when Xiao You pushed him away. That surprise led to his downfall. As he stumbled back, he tripped over his feet, and landed on his behind.

Xiao You saw Ximen falling, and quickly moved forward to catch him. Her help became more of a hindrance, and she ended up in his lap.

“Ooph,” Ximen’s breath was expelled from his body as she landed on him. She was now sitting on a part of his anatomy that had become quiet excited a moment before. He hoped that Xiao You wasn’t aware of how excited he really was and what exactly she was sitting on.

He quickly pushed her off, causing her to land on her behind as well.

“What is wrong with you?” she yelped in surprise. Quickly getting up, she glared down at him. She then turned and walked toward the dining room.

Ximen couldn’t help but smile as he saw her rubbing her behind. How he wished he was doing that instead of her.

He heard her muttering as she walked down the hallway.

“Stupid . . . idiot . . . what is wrong with him . . . . . . moron.”

His smile grew into a big grin as her voice slowly faded away. He had never been this clumsy before . . . but he had never been this happy before either. He got up to follow her into the next room.

Xiao You stalked into the dining room, and sat next to uncle. Uncle didn’t say anything about their long delay or the red flush covering her entire face.

Ximen walked in and sat across from Xiao You. He caught her glaring at him. All he could do was smile in return. She looked so cute when she was angry. Her bottom lip was pouting, and he just wanted to reach over and give her big kiss. He controlled himself.

“So, what are you doing home so early?” his father asked.

“Well I couldn’t get any work done. My secretary left me in the lurch, and he didn’t bother to find me a replacement. I was quiet surprised to leave my office this afternoon to find that he had already left. He’s usually not that flighty, you know.”

“Will that be a problem?” his father asked in concern.

“Well, we were working on a big deal, and there is no one I can trust with all the sensitive details. Now I’ll be doing all the work myself, and I don’t know how much my health will suffer. You know what happened last time.”

“What?!!” President Ximen and Xiao You asked in unison.

Ximen’s turned his head to look at her.

Xiao You quickly slapped a hand across her mouth, trying to keep her concern inside. She had no reason to say anything. She had no reason to care. Who was she? She looked to uncle to speak up. He was Ximen’s father, he would force him to look after himself, wouldn’t he?

President Ximen was now thoughtfully nodding his head in agreement.

“You’re right. This is very important for our company, and whom else could you trust? With my illness, I can’t help you either.”

Xiao You’s eyes widened in shock. What were they talking about? When was business more important than health?

She wanted to wring their necks. These two men, more important to her than any other men in the world, except for her father, were so blasé about their health.

She had seen uncle being careless with his health even though he had just had a heart attack. And she knew that if she hadn’t been there he would probably have had a relapse.

She had learned about Ximen’s bad health and bad habits from Butler Ping. Butler Ping had been quite concerned about Shao Ye, because last time he had been in the hospital for many days because he did not care for himself.

Xiao You began to wring her hands as she waited for one of them to assure her indirectly that they would do everything to protect Ximen’s health.

Neither of the men spoke. They continued to eat their dinner quietly.

“What is wrong with you guys?” she finally burst out. As they looked up, Xiao You began to rant.

“How can you be so careless with your health?” she pointed at Ximen.

“You know what happened last time. Do you want to land up in the hospital again? What would your mother say? How can you make the people who care about you worry like this? You want someone you can trust? Fine, I’ll do it!”

Xiao You raised her hand as Ximen opened his mouth.

“No, don’t interrupt. Your father trusts me, so you can as well. I will be your secretary for however long your real secretary is gone, okay?”

Almost yelling by the end, she slammed her hands down on the table to punctuate her tirade, and then left the dining room.

Father and son were left alone in the dining room. Both heads had turned to see her stalking out the door. Then they turned to look at each other. Both faces began to smile.

Ximen looked at his father’s smiling face, and realized one thing. Xu really never had been that flighty before.

“Thank you. I promise that I won’t hurt her,” he said.

President Ximen nodded his head in acknowledgement.

They continued their dinner. For the first time, in a long while, father and son were sitting together in harmony.

Ximen knew that there was nothing to worry about because his father completely understood him.

Chapter 13

Confused Proximity

*************************************************************************************************

She stood outside his door. The butler had told her that he hadn’t gotten up. She wondered what had happened. He had told her last night to be ready at this time, but now he refused to wake up? What was wrong with him?

She lightly knocked on the door and waited.

. . . Waited.

. . . and waited some more.

Finally getting fed up, she opened the door and walked in. The shades were drawn, and she couldn’t really see into the dark room. She looked toward the bed, and saw something that vaguely looked human.

Walking over to the bed, she peered down at the figure lying there.

Her breath became trapped in her throat as she saw him as he slept.

It had been warm last night. Obviously, the heat had bothered him, because here he slept with only his pajama bottoms on. He had kicked off the sheets. His arms were stretched out above his head. His chest moved up and down as he breathed.

She stared at him. His body called out to her. They had never been this close. The sight of his bare chest mesmerized her. She was so tempted to touch his smooth skin.

Her eyes swept down his body. Unable to control herself she sank down on the bed beside him. Stretching out a hand, she touched his cheek, and then moved up to smooth his hair back. He looked so sweet in his sleep. Who would guess what a devil he could be when awake?

Her fingers traced his lips, and then moved down, across his neck, to rest on his beating heart. As her fingers lightly caressed him, she felt his heart begin to beat faster.

She thought nothing of it.

Her hand moved farther down, and she then began to trace his stomach muscles. He shifted beneath her hand. She froze, but he relaxed once more.

She leant down to give him a kiss. Her lips caressed his eyelids, then moved down his face to place themselves over his lips. As she gave him a light kiss, her hand slowly began to move farther south.

She was just curious. What could it hurt, right?

As her heart beat faster at her daring . . . as she slowly but surely moved toward her destination, his hand came to stop her.

Her eyes opened in surprise.

Her lips left his. It was only then that she noticed he had been kissing her back.

As she stared down at him, his eyes opened slowly.

“I don’t think you want to do that,” he said teasingly.

She bit her lip, and then looked down in embarrassment. Her face turned red, and she got up to go.

He pulled her back down. He had seen the hurt in her eyes. She was an innocent, little virgin wasn’t she? She really didn’t know what condition men woke up in each morning. He was usually raring to go. If she wanted a lesson, he was willing to teach her.

He tugged her closer and suddenly moved so that she was now half under him.

She squeaked in surprise and tried to push him off.

He ignored her struggles and began to kiss her. His lips moved across her eyelids, and moving down her cheek, came to slant over her mouth. He nipped at her lips, tracing them with his tongue, and then sealed his lips to hers. His tongue begged for entry, and, once she opened her mouth, he slipped in.

As their tongues began to duel, his hand came up to cup her through her shirt. His fingers began to lightly fondle the prize, and then moved in frustration to the buttons.

He had wanted to teach her a lesson on being more careful, but her body pulled him under. It had been a long time and he was a starving man.

His fingers unbuttoned her shirt, and slipped inside to push her bra aside so that nothing would be between his hand and her silky, smooth skin.

She felt the cool air touching her breasts, which abruptly pulling her back to reality.

As he stopped kissing her, she started to break loose from the spell.

His mouth had left her lips only to move lower. His lips moved down her neck, stopping to suck at the base of her throat.

“Mmmm,” she started to speak, but was shocked into silence.

His lips had latched onto a rosy nipple. As one hand fondled one breast, he was suckling the other lovingly and, almost, voraciously.

She lost all breath as she tried to cope with these sensations. His lips were touching her there!! She was shocked, but the feelings were indescribably delicious.

Her eyes closed in ecstasy as her back arched, pushing her closer to him. Her hands sank into his hair, stroking him and pulling him closer at the same time.

His teeth lightly nibbled on her, and his hands began to move toward unzipping her pants.

She was pulled from the brink when she heard the harsh sound of the zipper in the silent room. This was going a lot farther than she wanted. She wasn’t ready for this. He hadn’t even said he loved her yet. And with all the girls in his past, especially that one special one, she was insecure.

She groaned at her stupid conscience, which had chosen to awaken at this moment. Her brain began to fight the sensual spell he had woven over her body, and she finally spoke up.

“Stop,” she ordered. At least, she meant to order him, but her voice had come out trembling.

“Please, stop,” she began to plead.

His lips wouldn’t leave her body, his hands were busy with her pants.

“Mei Zhou, please stop,” she finally said, pushing him off of her.

He lay on the bed, winded. He couldn’t catch his breath. He didn’t know what had happened.

Okay, he knew what had happened, but he hadn’t thought that it would happen this fast, that it would be this strong, and he would lose control so completely.

He liked Xiao Qiao. He liked her a lot. He probably loved her. But he had never lost control with her, he’d never lost control with any woman. Knowing how innocent she was, he hadn’t wanted to push.

Mei Zhou looked over at her. Her arms were over her head, her shirt was still unbuttoned, and her breasts lay bare to his eyes. He groaned as he became conscious of his painful erection.

He was so tempted to just lean over. He knew that he could persuade her to give in . . . But he didn’t want to overpower her senses, and seduce the yes from her. He wanted to give her everything, and part of that everything was saying “I love you” to her, and making her first time special.

He got up off the bed, and went to the bathroom, escaping temptation. He didn’t know what would have happened if he stayed in the room.

Xiao Qiao’s eyes followed him to the door. She winced as she heard the door slam shut. Her eyes filled with tears as she was overcome with self-disgust. She knew his reputation, and she knew that he hadn’t been with anyone else from the time they had become serious.

Why was she so . . . why couldn’t she give him what he needed?

She got up, and quickly buttoning her shirt, she raced out the door.

She wanted to get as far away from her humiliation as she could.

She didn’t want to see him again. Not until she could teach herself to stop expecting so much from him.

They had been dating for almost a year now. They had gotten closer after he had saved her cello, and she had told him she had loved him. But all he ever did was smile whenever she said that. He had never said it back. It hadn’t mattered then. She had been willing to wait.

No, she hadn’t worried.

Not until she had found out about HER.

— FLASHBACK—

Xiao Qiao felt so exhilarated. She’d had another concert, and it always left her with an adrenaline rush. She felt so happy. She had the man of her dreams. She had a dream career. And her future looked bright and rosy.

She sat at her dressing table, fixing her makeup. As she moved forward to put lipstick on her full lips, with her lips puckered, they had come into the room.

F4.

These men, who were from the richest families in Taiwan. They had the looks. They had the charm. And they had breeding.

Her family was rich, not as rich as them, but they were rich. But she had always felt nervous around them, until that night at the bar. Mei Zhou had tried to embarrass her, and they had been true gentlemen. They had made her feel at ease, and had made Mei Zhou look the fool.

She had seen their love for each other, which wouldn’t let one any of them get hurt. She had seen Mei Zhou through their eyes. They had known that he would only feel bad afterwards, and so had acted to minimize the damage. In helping her to feel comfortable they had ensured that he wouldn’t feel too guilty afterward.

Her eyes landed on Mei Zhou. He had her heart. Had had it for the last ten years, but only now had he realized it. She was in seventh heaven. It wasn’t often that a girl got her prince charming, but she was one of the lucky ones.

His eyes caught hers in the mirror, and he smiled. Moving toward her, he bent down to place a kiss on the top of her head. She had vaguely heard the other guys offering their congratulations, but it was Mei Zhou who took center stage.

She turned around to greet him properly. In the process her hand brushed against a vase, causing it to shatter against the unforgiving floor.

Seeing that it was the vase that held Mei Zhou’s flowers, she knelt without a second thought. Her only intent was to keep those flowers from getting bruised.

Her hand reached out to grab those flowers, and in the process she cut her fingers on the shards of glass. Blood quickly welled up, and began to drip to the floor.

Surprisingly, it was Dao Ming Si who had acted quickly. He rushed forward, and wrapped his handkerchief around her bleeding hand.

Mei Zhou ran out the door, shouting that he would find some bandages.

“I’ll make sure he doesn’t do any damage to himself in his quest for those bandages,” Ximen hurriedly explained before rushing out after him.

As Dao Ming Si sat next to her on the floor, holding the handkerchief, Hua Ze Lei finally began to speak.

As he asked her if she was okay, they heard a loud crash outside the door, followed by Mei Zhou’s pained yell.

Xiao Qiao’s eyes widened in fear. She looked to Hua Ze Lei.

“I’ll go check, don’t worry.” Saying that, he quickly left to see what trouble his friend had gotten into.

Xiao Qiao smiled, and then looked at Dao Ming Si staring at her hand. As the silence between them grew, and the others hadn’t returned, she began to notice that the great Shao Ye was nervous. Mei Zhou had told her about Dao Ming Si and his inexperience with women. She hadn’t believed it at first, but she now saw how nervous he was on being alone with her.

“I’m sorry that Shan Cai couldn’t make it. When is she coming back from the fishing village?” she finally blurted out, desperately wanting to end the awkward silence.

Dao Ming Si brightened at Shan Cai’s name.

“Yeah, she really wanted to be here. She was really sorry for missing your concert. She hasn’t even seen one has she? She threatened to do me bodily harm if I didn’t come to your concert. She said she wanted me here to represent her.”

They both laughed at the image of Shan Cai threatening Dao Ming Si. Xiao Qiao had known her long enough to realize that this was the only way Shan Cai really felt comfortable expressing her love for others, especially Dao Ming Si.

“So, did you like the concert?”

“Yeah,” he eagerly nodded his head, “I enjoyed it way more than that thing we went to with Mei Zhou.”

“What thing?” Xiao Qiao asked.

“It was for this girl that Mei Zhou liked at the time. Her name was . . . Ai Sha. Yeah, it was Ai Sha. She was Japanese. For a while there Mei Zhou disappeared from our sights, and then he showed up one day demanding that we come to a contest with him. It was so crowded, and we had to stand. Mei Zhou was even going to enter the contest with her, but he str—chickened out at the end, I guess.”

“A contest?” Xiao Qiao asked faintly.

“Can you believe it? I told him how beneath us that was, but he wouldn’t listen. But, she left, and that was that.”

“Did . . .,” Xiao Qiao cleared her throat, “Did he like her?”

“Of course, why else would he do things so against his nature? He got all depressed afterwards too.”

Xiao Qiao sat there shocked. She didn’t know what to think. It was fortunate that Dao Ming Si was the one who was helping her. Otherwise she would never have known. And anyone else would have noticed how upset she was and shut up.

She had always thought that she was the first woman to make Mei Zhou feel something. He had had all those girlfriends, but she hadn’t minded. She remembered boasting that she would be the last, no matter the number.

She had comforted herself with the thought that she was the first to touch his heart, but even there she wasn’t the first one. Once again she was a number other than one.

It didn’t feel so good this time.

Xiao Qiao quickly got up. She wanted to leave. Her perfect world lay in pieces around her, like the vase, and she didn’t know what to do. She just wanted to get away.

It was at that moment that Mei Zhou raced into the room.

He was clutching bandages in his hands. As her eyes traveled over him, her eyes noticed the band-aid on his forehead. It seemed that he hadn’t escaped his mishap unscathed. He ran to her, and, leading her to the sofa, he sat her down.

He quickly began to put the bandages on her hands all the while admonishing her. He told her that her hands were too important for her to risk them like this.

She saw him tending to her wounds, but he didn’t know about the new wound in her heart.

Would a bandage work even on that?

–End of Flashback—

She had begun to doubt then. She knew that this insecurity would go away as soon as he said he loved her, but he didn’t. That was three months ago. She was still waiting.

She didn’t know if she could wait anymore. It was eating away at her. If something didn’t change soon, she would either give herself to him without the security of his love and hate herself, or she would break up with him and hate herself.

As tears blurred her vision, Xiao Qiao raised her hand to wipe her eyes. She failed to notice the figure darting out into the street. As her hand moved away from her eyes, she saw that someone was crouched in the street, in the spot where her car would be in ten seconds.

“Oh f—,” the curse escaped her mouth as she slammed on the brakes.

*************************************************************************************************

Xiao You got up early that morning. She hadn’t been able to sleep all night. She had been too nervous about today.

Ximen had told her to be ready by 8:00 a.m. when he had knocked on her door last night. She could only nod in silence, and then had quickly closed the door. She had heard his soft laughter on the other side of the door.

She didn’t have anything to wear. She had run to uncle’s study last night. Thankfully, he hadn’t been asleep. She had asked him what to do.

“What are you worrying about?” he had asked. “You are doing my son a favor. He should be glad with whatever he gets. I know that you’ve never worried about your wardrobe before, why worry now?”

“Because . . . w-well, because he’s X-Ximen,” she had finally stammered.

“What does that mean?” uncle had asked laughingly, “He’s only human. You don’t expect him to love you, right?”

As she shook her head, doubtfully, he continued, “Then why worry about your wardrobe. Just wear whatever you wore at the office in Canada, and I dare anyone to say anything bad about you. Okay?”

“Okay,” she said, and walked back to her room.

She didn’t know why, but she cared. Well, okay, she knew why, but why was she worrying so much? He didn’t love her, he never would. But something just clenched inside her when she thought about showing up in front of him looking bad. She didn’t want him to think badly of her.

As she desperately looked through her wardrobe, digging deeper into the closet in the hopes of finding something appropriate. Her hands encountered something strange. She eagerly yanked it out of the closet.

She hadn’t searched this deep since the day they had come to the mansion. She was surprised to find a pastel shirt and a black skirt in her hands. (Similar to the office wardrobe that Shan Cai had in MGII). As she went back into the closet, she found a whole set of office clothes.

She didn’t know what to think. As she looked at the clothes, she saw a paper sticking out of one of the shirt pockets. As she read the note, she closed her eyes in chagrin.

It seemed that when uncle had hinted at her working at the Ximen headquarters, her parents had pooled their resources to get her an appropriate wardrobe.

They didn’t want their only daughter embarrassing them in a corporate setting.

Xiao You began to wail, as the realization set in. In pooling “their” resources, they had taken all of HER money. Now she couldn’t buy that new computer model she had been saving up for.

It took her a while to calm down, because she was still grieving for that lost computer. She then got practical about what she couldn’t change and went to the bathroom to change into her new clothes.

*************************************************************************************************

A couple of hours later they were in the office. Ximen had been surprised at her wardrobe. He wasn’t quick enough to hide his surprise. She had enjoyed that reaction.

At first.

Then she got angry.

What right did he have to be surprised at her wardrobe. Granted she had only worn jeans and t-shirts, but that didn’t mean she lacked a fashion sense.

She had ranted to herself quietly, all the while peeking at him from the corner of her eyes.

As he sat there briefing her on her duties, she couldn’t help but stare at him. She hadn’t seen him in a business suit. He had looked so dignified. Her eyes had lovingly traced the features of his face. She had flushed at this almost uncontrollable urge to move closer and touch him.

She had tried to relax, and had crossed her legs, which caused her skirt to ride up.

In trying to quickly lower it, her eyes had caught his staring at her legs. For a moment her hands had hesitated, but then common sense had reasserted itself. Her hands tugged down the skirt, and her eyes glared at him.

When he noticed the daggers her eyes were throwing at him, he could only shrug his shoulders and give her a sheepish smile.

In the office, she had been thrown into the chaos. Ximen had given her a bunch of orders, and then entered his office.

But, before leaving her in this chaos, he had reached down and given her a quick kiss on the forehead.

“Have a good day,” he said before flashing her one final sexy smile and leaving.

He hadn’t even bothered to introduce her to the staff. The fact that she was sitting at Xu’s desk may have been a clue, but people were still giving her curious glances.

I hate being the center of attention. Stupid Ximen. Why the hell is he so careless with his health? If he wasn’t, I wouldn’t be here. Why couldn’t he have stayed out here for a while? Why did Secretary Xu have to get married now? Couldn’t he put it off?

Xiao You mumbled to herself as she went on with her work. It wasn’t as hard as she had feared. Uncle had trained her well.

By one o’clock, she was ready for lunch. She hadn’t seen Ximen all morning, but he had given her orders over the intercom. His sexy voice never failed to send shivers down her spine.

She got up and knocked on his door.

“Sir?” she asked, not wanting to interrupt.

“Come in Rainie. You don’t have to call me sir, just call me Ximen,” he urged her, wanting to hear his name from her lips for the first time in a very long time.

“Oh, I couldn’t do that. Wouldn’t that be against office protocol, and from what I hear you run a very tight ship. I don’t want to be the only loose screw. If you don’t mind me mixing up my metaphors.”

Her eyes laughed at him, as if daring him to push forward.

Ximen quickly changed tack.

“Why don’t you have a seat? I wanted to talk to you about something that’s been bothering me.”

“What is it?” she quickly sat down, her desire for lunch forgotten.

“I wanted to talk to you about your wardrobe.”

“Is something wrong with it?” she asked in a worry.

“No, of course not. I just wanted to ask you why don’t you wear clothes that fit you at home as well? You look so much better this way.”

His tactless critique hurt her, and then made her angry.

“Back off, buster. I like the way I am right now. I’m really hot you know, this keeps all the men away. Otherwise how could they resist my charms?” she finished in a sarcastic tone.

Uncle had been right. Ximen wouldn’t fall in love with her. What did she think, that in dressing like this he would see her as more than a secretary and his father’s companion.

She got up and moved toward the door.

“I’m going to lunch. Since I won’t be here, you can’t get anything done anyways, go eat. I have hidden the files on the merger; don’t even try to get anything done. Get yourself lunch, and I’ll be back in a hour.” Saying that she opened the door and began to leave.

“Wait,” Ximen said, when he finally got over his shock, “why don’t we have lunch—”

The door slammed shut behind her.

“—together?” he finished.

He didn’t know what had happened. He had only made a suggestion, and his mei meis had never become upset over any suggestions he made in regards to their wardrobe, their habits, their personality.

This only drove home the point how different Xiao You really was.

He began to smile when he remembered her outrageous comments. And then laugh as he realized that she probably did hide the files to ensure that he would eat.

He got up from the table and moved toward the door.

Lunch would be in an hour, and he was going to set his plan in motion today.

He wanted to drive her so crazy that she would have no choice but to shout her love to the skies. He wanted her to admit she loved him, and it was only a matter of time before she let it all out. Once she admitted that, she would be willing to listen to his declarations.

Meanwhile, Xiao You had left the building. She was walking down the streets of Taipei. It was so good to be back, but she was heartsick over Ximen’s comments.

What right did he have to say this to her? He had never wanted her, so why was he trying to change her. She shouldn’t have worn this outfit. It made him think that she wanted to please him . . . which she didn’t.

She didn’t.

Really.

Well, not anymore. Tomorrow she would come back as the real Xiao You, baggy jeans and all. Let’s see what he would say then.

Then her shoulders slumped.

Her eyes had welled up with tears when she thought about how hopeless everything was. She was going to be in forced proximity with the fool, and he would never have the good sense to fall in love with her.

The depressing thoughts caused her to miss the changing signal, and she stepped out onto the crosswalk as the light turned red.

It was only as she heard the tires screech did she become aware of her predicament.

Her eyes widened in fear, her mouth opened in shock and the words just escaped.

“Oh f—”

Chapter 14

My Guy . . .

“I was brave enough to tell a guy that I loved him, even though he had never indicated that he loved me,” Xiao You boasted.

Xiao You and Xiao Qiao were sitting in a bar. They had been there for quite a while. And they had no plans to leave anytime soon. They had somehow gotten into a conversation on whose love was the stronger and truer one.

“I told a guy I loved him, even though he dropped me off at a shopping center and tried to keep me happy with money. I said it in the face of his contempt for me,” Xiao Qiao boasted.

“You win,” Xiao You admitted.

“I propositioned a guy because I loved him,” Xiao You boasted, “but, he turned me down,” honesty compelled her to finish.

“I was ready to strip in a bar because I loved a guy,” Xiao Qiao boasted, “but he told me to stop,” honesty compelled her to finish.

“Well, because I was willing to give up my virginity, I win,” Xiao You declared gleefully.

“I’ve waited for this guy for almost two years now, and he is a total playboy. I intend to wait for the rest of my life,” Xiao You boasted after a while.

“I waited for my guy for 10 years, and I’m waiting for him to say ‘I love you’ even now,” Xiao Qiao declared.

“You win,” Xiao You mumbled in defeat.

They both stared at each other, and then burst out in drunken laughter.

–FLASHBACK—

Xiao Qiao’s brakes screeched loudly, and the car stopped an inch from Xiao You had been.

She was no longer there.

Xiao You’s quick reflexes had her jumping out of the way in the nick of time. Only, her glasses got left behind.

Xiao Qiao sat in the car, frozen with shock. Her fingers gripped the wheel as she tried to make herself get out of the car. She was terrified that she had hurt somebody, and she didn’t want to face that reality yet.

Finally, she peeled her fingers off of the steering wheel, and stepped out of the car.

Xiao You was sitting on the sidewalk, where she had fallen in her hurry to get away from the oncoming car.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t know what happened. The light was green, wasn’t it?” There was no trace of Xiao Qiao’s usually calm demeanor, in fact she was trembling and tears were streaking down her face.

Xiao You looked up. She couldn’t see anything without her glasses. As she stared at the blurry face in front of her, she tried to get her bearings.

One moment she was on the street, lost in her own world, and in the next she had been brought back down to earth with a jolt that left her completely shaken.

“I’m fine . . . fine. It’s alright,” Xiao You mumbled.

She started feeling around for her glasses.

They weren’t near her. She began to crawl around on all fours, wanting them desperately. She felt naked without them. It wasn’t a pleasant feeling.

Xiao Qiao saw the girl crawling around on all fours. When she had looked into her face, her eyes had been unfocused, and she seemed very confused. It could only mean one thing. The girl had a concussion and needed to go to the doctor.

“Come on, let’s go.”

“Where?” Xiao You asked, as she stared at the crazy, elegant lady pulling at her arm now.

“You need to get to the hospital. You might have a concussion. You can’t even see straight.”

“This is normal for me.”

“You mean your eyes aren’t merely unfocused, you’re blind? Oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t know what I was thinking. So that’s why you were on the street even when the light had turned red.” Xiao Qiao’s voice trailed off, as she noticed the look of incredulity on Xiao You’s face.

“What are you talking about?” Embarrassment had made Xiao You’s voice rise.

“Look lady, I’m fine, alright? I just lost my glasses. I’m not blind.” Xiao You continued to look for her glasses.

Xiao Qiao got down on her knees to help her look.

“Uh oh,” Xiao Qiao said when she finally found the woman’s glasses.

“What is it?” Xiao You asked.

“Um, I found your glasses.”

“Well, could you please give them to me?” Xiao You asked.

“That won’t help,” Xiao Qiao replied in an apologetic tone.

“What do you mean?”

“Because they’re under the wheel of my car,” Xiao Qiao quickly confessed.

Xiao You sighed. Could this day get any worse?

“It’s alright. At least it wasn’t me that went crunch,” Xiao You finally said.

Xiao Qiao’s eyes widened in surprise, and then she burst out laughing.

“I’m sorry, you’re just so funny. I’m so happy that you’re okay. It’s relief,” Xiao Qiao explained as she continued to giggle. She quickly wiped the tears from her face, and stared at the young woman sitting in front of her.

“It’s a relief for me to,” Xiao You answered in a dry voice. “Oh, what am I going to do? I have to get back to work in . . .” She stared at her watch, and, when she couldn’t even see it, she asked, “What time is it anyways?”

Xiao Qiao told her the time.

“Oh, well, then I have about 50 minutes,” Xiao You said.

“Come with me,” Xiao Qiao said, making a decision.

“I told you I’m fine, I don’t need to go to the hospital,” Xiao You said gently.

She couldn’t even see the girl, but she was beginning to like her. Her sincerity, her concern, and her quirky sense of humor were very refreshing.

“Oh, I know you’re fine, but since I broke your glasses and ruined your clothes, let me take you shopping,” Xiao Qiao offered.

“Oh, no, I couldn’t.”

“I insist. Come on.”

Grabbing hold of Xiao You’s hand, Xiao Qiao pulled her to the car, and gently pushed her in.

“I’m Rainie, nice to meet you,” Xiao You finally said.

“Hi, I’m Pace, nice to meet you,” Xiao Qiao said after a pause.

Xiao Qiao’s encounter with Rainie had pushed Mei Zhou out of her mind, but after a while, thoughts of Mei Zhou had come flooding back in. She had returned from America almost a year ago, and her parents had immediately introduced her to Mei Zhou. He had taken center stage in her life; she was the first to admit that.

It seemed that Mei Zhou had been the center of her life for so long, that thoughts of losing him to someone else petrified her with fear.

His removal would leave a void in her life, and she was worried about how she would fill that big hole. An effort that would involve learning to fill her days with thoughts of other important things.

In wanting to forget him, and in beginning a life without him, this was an attempt to recapture a Taiwanese identity separate from Mei Zhou. That was one of the reasons she introduced herself as Pace to Rainie, because she wanted to create a world that Mei Zhou was no part of. If . . . when she lost him, a part of her life would remain untouched. And that untouched part would provide the solace she would need in trying to escape thoughts of him.

She believed that Rainie could be a good friend. Her lack of hysteria, her desire to put her at ease, and her insistence on being no trouble had proven that she was a good person. And if things went the way she dreaded they would, she probably wouldn’t even want to see Shan Cai.

Shan Cai and F4 went hand in hand.

Next to Xiao Qiao, Xiao You also sat quietly. She didn’t know what to think. Although she was with a stranger, she felt like that she had found a new Shan Cai. She felt like she was with a friend.

That was a feeling she hadn’t had in a very long time.

–End of FLASHBACK—

The girls were now sitting in the bar talking about how valiant their men were, and how they could cherish the women in their lives.

“My guy jumped into the river to save my beloved cello,” Xiao Qiao boasted.

“Was it drowning?” Xiao You asked in confusion.

“I threw it in because he said he was jealous of it,” Xiao Qiao finally had to admit. Xiao You’s eyebrow rose at that admission.

“My guy bought out all the desserts in the bakery to spend five minutes with me,” Xiao You boasted.

“You win,” Xiao Qiao conceded.

“My guy chauffeured me around, and also found a person to fix my cello so it was like new,” Xiao Qiao boasted.

“But wasn’t he the reason that the cello got hurt in the first place?” Xiao You asked in a teasing voice.

Xiao Qiao ignored her.

“My guy went on a pretend date with me and bought me gifts, just so he could help his friends figure out their relationship,” Xiao You boasted.

Xiao Qiao looked confused at that, but once again conceded that Xiao You had won. Anything for friendship, right?

“My guy pretended to be my boyfriend, and beat up my ex-boyfriend for hurting me. He said that he would kill Zhong Ze if he ever hurt me again,” Xiao You pulled out the greatest thing about Ximen, his protective nature.

“My guy was so insecure, he confessed his jealousy over a ten year old crush, that I had when I was 12 years old,” Xiao Qiao said, as she giggled over the idea of Mei Zhou getting jealous. Xiao Qiao’s heart still clenched at how possessive Mei Zhou had been, that he would contest the claim a 12-year-old boy had staked on her heart.

“You win,” Xiao You said, imagining Ximen being that possessive.

“You win,” Xiao Qiao said, sighing over the image of Mei Zhou being that intense and protective of her.

They simultaneously shook their heads at each other’s concessions.

–FLASHBACK—

Xiao Qiao took Xiao You to a boutique, which had every conceivable thing a woman could need in her wardrobe.

Xiao Qiao first insisted on getting Xiao You glasses so that she could see. Xiao Qiao had asked her if she wanted contacts, but Xiao You had adamantly refused.

“I just don’t want to go without glasses,” Xiao You admitted.

“That’s alright Rainie. You want to keep your glasses as a shield, who am I to question your insecurities? I have enough of my own,” Xiao Qiao said.

Xiao You looked at her inquiringly, but Xiao Qiao refused to meet her eyes.

In the end, Xiao You had agreed to get rectangular shaped glasses, with no frames, only ½ an inch wide.

“You look so much cuter with these glasses,” Xiao Qiao enthused over Xiao You.

“Well, if cute was what worked, I wouldn’t be in this position, would I?” Xiao You said irritably.

Xiao Qiao looked at her inquiringly, but it was Xiao You’s turn to refuse to meet her eyes.

Xiao You’s shirt had ripped when she had taken the fall earlier, and Xiao Qiao had insisted on buying her something to replace it.

In the end, Xiao Qiao’s arguments won the day, and Xiao You was stuck wearing a pink sundress, which ended at her knees.

“You look great, Rainie. You have great legs, why don’t you show them off?” Xiao Qiao asked in a teasing voice.

“Because, Pace, the guy I want wouldn’t give them a second glance,” Xiao You said sarcastically, forgetting how she had caught Ximen staring at her legs that morning.

In their search for an article of clothing that would fit Xiao You’s desire to be completely covered, and Xiao Qiao’s fashion sense, they had finally settled on this sundress. Xiao You wanted it to reach her ankles, Xiao Qiao wanted it to go higher.

A sense of camaraderie had grown between them. In the past hour they had begun to giggle together like two teenagers. Each was starved for this. Neither one of them had had someone to talk to for a long time. Since both girls were naturally friendly and sincere, they had fallen into a ready friendship.

As Xiao You twirled around, Xiao Qiao’s phone rang.

“Wei,” Xiao Qiao said in an uninviting voice.

“Look, I’m kind of busy right now. I’ll call you later. No, I’m really, really busy. Why don’t you go to work?” Xiao Qiao listened to the other side, and responded. She was growing more and more agitated by the minute.

Xiao You saw the distress on the other girl’s face, and took the phone from her hand.

“Wei. Look mister, she can’t talk to you right now. I’m monopolizing her time. Why don’t you call her later. Bye,” Xiao You said in a sunny voice. She then hung up the phone, and turned it off.

“Don’t worry about it Pace,” she told the other woman, “He said he’ll call you later.”

“Thanks, Rainie.”

“Who was that?”

“My boy—just a friend,” as Xiao Qiao said this, her shoulders slumped.

Xiao You’s eyes moved over the dejected girl. Her phone rang.

“Wei, what do you want?” she asked rudely, knowing that it was Ximen on the other line.

“I didn’t realize that I was late getting back. Look—,” Xiao You looked at Pace again, and then continued, “I had a little accident today. No, I’m fine, but I’m going to need some time off. I can’t come back today. I’ll see you at home. The files are hidden in the back of the fridge. They’ll be a little cold, but I wrapped them in plastic so they’ll be fine. Bye,” saying that, Xiao You hung up on Ximen. He had still been asking questions and demanding that she return to the office.

“Who was that?” Xiao Qiao asked.

“My boss,” Xiao You said.

“You live with your boss?” Xiao Qiao asked in a shocked voice.

Xiao You’s mouth opened . . . closed . . . and then opened to say, “Yep.”

–END of FLASHBACK—

The girls went to VS, each knowing that their “guy” wouldn’t be there. They began to talk about their lives, and Xiao You had learned about Xiao Qiao returning from America, and finding the man she had loved for so many years.

Xiao You told Xiao Qiao about life in Canada, and how fate had forced her to return to her first love. Not only that, she was forced to work with him everyday. And she already knew about them living together. It was funny how ironic life could be.

As the hours had passed, their depression had caused them to drink and become more and more drunk. They wanted to keep the pain inside and to hide it from the other.

In their alcohol-induced haze, they inadvertently revealed it all. In the end both had to admit how far out of reach a ‘happily ever after’ actually was with their guy.

“My guy told me that if I and his friends were drowning, he would save them first,” Xiao Qiao said tearfully.

“I’m sorry,” Xiao You said sympathetically. “My guy told me to enjoy myself by getting phone numbers and sleeping with other guys,” Xiao You said.

“Oh, that’s horrible. My guy numbers his girlfriends, and they even asked me what number I was!” Xiao Qiao said angrily.

“What number are you?” Xiao You asked curiously.

“I said it doesn’t matter!! I’m the last one, that’s all that matters!!” Xiao Qiao insistently said.

“My guy thinks girls are like canned food, and sets their expiration date at one week.”

“Ohhhh, that is horrible,” Xiao Qiao declared. Because Xiao Qiao had been in America for the past ten years, and Ximen had already toned down his dating habits, she had no clue who Xiao You was talking about.

“My guy kissed me in front of his friends to make me look cheap, I slapped him,” Xiao Qiao said.

“Good for you Pace,” Xiao You cheered. “My guy asked me if I wanted to date, kiss or sleep together. He made ME feel cheap. So, I slapped him too.”

“You go girl,” Xiao Qiao cheered.

They were silent for a long while.

“My guy loves someone else,” Xiao Qiao finally said. The heartbreak was apparent in her voice.

“My guy loves someone else,” Xiao You said at the same time. Her voice broke over the words.

They both looked at each other quietly.

Unable to bear it, each turned away from the pain in the other’s eyes.

“I guess we both lose,” Xiao You finally said in a quiet voice.

Xiao Qiao could only nod in agreement.

*****************************************************************************

Chapter 15

And I love you so

***************************************************************

F4 sat in a bar, drinking their sorrows away. Rather, two of the four did. The others sat there with a content smile on place.

Ah si had ordered them to meet him here when he had heard the depression in Ximen’s and Mei Zhuo’s voices. Looks like their love lives weren’t going so well. He couldn’t help but be a little smug.

He had always told Ximen and Mei Zhuo to stop living their lives the way did, and they had only teased him about his virginity. Who was laughing now?

Okay, not laughing, he could never laugh at his brothers’ pain, but he could enjoy it a little bit.

They had sat there for the last hour. Not one had spoken a word, and all were lost in their own little worlds.

YOU MAKE ME FEEL FUNNY
WHEN YOU COME AROUND
YEAH THAT’S WHAT I FOUND OUT HONEY
WHAT AM I DOING WITHOUT YOU

Ximen sat at the bar, nursing a drink.

Xiao You hadn’t called back. The last time he had talked to her was at lunchtime, and she hadn’t called back!

He had wavered between worry and anger. Worry because she had said that she had been in an accident, and anger for making him worry this much.

A gnat began buzzing around him. Ximen brushed it away in irritation.

A third emotion had also made itself known.

He was jealous. She was supposed to be taking care of him, but she had left him on the first day. He had looked forward to today, but she had forgotten him.

Ximen sat at the bar, worried, angry and jealous.

He was abruptly pulled from his musings by a person’s hand taking his drink to gulp it down.

YOU MAKE ME FEEL HAPPY
WHEN I LEAVE YOU BEHIND
IT PLAYS ON MY MIND NOW HONEY
WHAT AM I DOING WITHOUT YOU

Dao Ming Si sat in a bar thinking about his day.

He was so happy now.

Ever since he had left his mother’s home, rejecting all that she represented, for the first time in his life he felt completely free.

He had Shan Cai, and he had a future in front of him that knew no boundaries.

Yes, it was scary, because for the first time in his life he was no longer backed by the “Dao Ming” name, but Shan Cai was the only support he needed.

She had accepted him again, and that gave him the strength to move forward and create a life on his own.

She made him happy. What reason would he have to drink, when thoughts about her made him naturally euphoric?

He was pulled from his thoughts by someone’s hand grabbing his drink and gulping it down.

TOOK FOR GRANTED EVERYTHING WE HAD
AS IF I’D FIND SOMEONE
WHO’S JUST LIKE YOU

Hua Ze Lei sat in a bar, nursing his drink. He was immersed in thoughts about the woman in his life.

They were finally finding their way back to each other.

At first, she had refused to take his calls, and had done so for months.

Whenever he had begun to lose hope, he was reminded of how much they had lost when he had given up before. It only pushed him to try harder.

Her.

Teng Tang Jing.

He had given up on her, because he did not think that she needed him.

He had gone chasing after her to France, but ran away when rumors of her marriage started. He hadn’t even stayed to verify those rumors.

He had fallen in love with Shan Cai because she needed him. He had chosen to become Shan Cai’s guardian angel over being Jing’s lover.

He had never questioned that decision until that night, months ago.

The phone had rung, and when he went to pick it up, someone was crying on the other side.

At first he did not recognize the voice, but when she had called out for her Lei, he knew who it was.

She had railed at him for deserting her, first in France, and then in Spain.

She had begged for understanding in why she didn’t show up in Spain. He had rejected her by leaving, and she had refused to come out of hurt pride.

That pride had cost them a lot.

He had always thought of Jing as the stronger one. When she stepped out into the world, without him, his insecurities had clouded his judgment. And he had left.

Only now could he comprehend how much his desertion had hurt her. Only now did he understand how much she had needed him.

Jing had been his guardian angel all his life, and when she had needed him he turned his back on her.

That was something he felt truly guilty about.

She had called to explain the next day. That it had only been the stress of finals, the hell that first-year law students went through. That it was nothing personal. That she was alright now. But she had refused to take any of his calls after that.

He had chased her. He had finally talked to her in France, face-to-face. She had forgiven him, and he had forgiven her.

And gradually their friendship had changed into something more.

It was that something more that was occupying his mind nowadays.

He was abruptly pulled from his thoughts when someone pulled a drink from his hand and gulped it down.

WE GOT A LITTLE WORLD OF OUR OWN
I TELL YOU THINGS THAT NO ONE ELSE KNOWS
I LET YOU IN WHERE NO-ONE ELSE GOES
WHAT AM I DOING WITHOUT YOU

Mei Zhuo was freaking out. He hadn’t seen Xiao Qiao all day, and he was starting to worry. She hadn’t even shown up for their two o’clock meeting.

When he had finally come out she was nowhere to be seen, and his butler had told him of her headlong rush out the door.

He was truly worried.

Xiao Qiao had been acting strangely the past few months. Ever since the concert. He couldn’t understand what was going on in her mind.

She always looked at him as if she was expecting something, and no matter how hard he tried, she always left with disappointment in her eyes.

He had begun to feel like a failure. He was losing her, and that was making him truly afraid. He had begun to feel that he was standing on the edge of a precipice, and at any moment Xiao Qiao’s impending rejection would push him over.

Today, when she had had someone hang up on him, he had been paralyzed by fear.

He felt that if he didn’t do something quickly, he would lose her. That was something he wasn’t willing to allow.

She was his.

Had been his for the past ten years. She had loved him, and she couldn’t take that love back now.

Her heart was his, and he wasn’t giving it back.

But, maybe he could give her—

He was abruptly pulled from his thoughts when a hand grabbed his drink and gulped it down.

AND ALL OF THE THINGS I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR
HAVE ALWAYS BEEN HERE OUTSIDE OF MY DOOR
AND ALL OF THE TIME I’M LOOKING FOR SOMETHING NEW
WHAT AM I DOING WITHOUT YOU

All four turned to look at this intruder. Not just an intruder, but someone who had the temerity to steal their drinks and drink them in front of their faces.

The others could already see that Ah si was about to explode.

“Ah Si, calm down,” Lei ordered, “and what do you think you’re doing, Qing He?”

“Yeah, son of the nouveau riche, what do the hell do you think you’re doing with our drinks?”

“Guys . . . Mei Zhuo . . . Ximen,” Qing He wheezed out, “there’s something important I wanted to tell you.”

The liquor had gone to Qing He’s head, and he was beginning to get dizzy.

He knew that there was something he wanted to tell them, but he couldn’t quite remember it, and now the liquor was making him lose consciousness.

“The private lounge,” he finally gasped out and keeled over, dead to the world.

“Hey, son of the nouveau riche, wake up,” Ah Si ordered, nudging him with his foot.

Dao Ming Si got down to lightly slap at Qing He’s cheeks, but he was out for the count.

He looked at the others, “Should we go check out what the idiot was talking about?”

The others shrugged and got up to move toward the private lounge.

They had come into VS, and had been told that the lounge had been taken over by ladies, and nothing Ah Si threatened would make the manager kick the other party out.

As they walked toward the doors of the private lounge, Mei Zhuo and Ximen couldn’t help but be curious. Qing He had specifically called out their names.

To their surprise when they walked into the lounge, they found two ladies passed out on the sofas. While long, silky hair obscured the face of one woman, the other was laying face down on the other sofa.

Mei Zhuo walked over to the longer haired one. He knelt down besides her sleeping form, and gently swept her hair away from her face.

Somehow he wasn’t surprised to see that it was Xiao Qiao.

Ximen walked over to the lady sleeping on the other sofa. She had on a pink sundress, and her glasses were on the table.

As he gave out a sigh and turned her over, he was shocked to see that it was Xiao You.

WELL I GUESS I’M READY
FOR SETTLING DOWN
AND FOOLING AROUND IS OVER
AND I SWEAR THAT IT’S TRUE
NO BUTS OR MAYBES

Ximen hadn’t seen Xiao You all day, and he had missed her voice.

She had worried him all day, and instead of all types of horrible things happening to her she had been here at VS.

Drinking, he realized, as he came into contact with the alcohol fumes coming from her.

Shock was quickly followed by anger, which then transformed into relief when he realized that she hadn’t been with someone else and she wasn’t hurt.

As he smoothed the hair away from her face, he saw the tears that had left traces on her face, and he wondered about them.

“Who is it?” Ah Si asked.

“Rainie, my assistant,” Ximen answered. He didn’t know why he didn’t tell them it was Xiao You. But she had wanted to hide her presence from everyone, and he didn’t want to tell others without her permission.

Besides this way he got to keep her all to himself.

He was afraid of what Shan Cai might do. Although she had been the one to tell him about Xiao You so long ago, he didn’t want her protective instincts reawakened when she realized that Xiao You was here and he intended to actively pursue her.

WHEN I’M FALLING DOWN
THERE’S ALWAYS SOMEONE WHO SAVES ME
AND GIRL IT’S YOU

Xiao You had saved him once, and stopped him from slowly destroying himself. Her loving efforts in finding Xiao Gen’s message had awakened him from the nightmare in which he had been living all his life.

She had taught him that there was something special about him, because even he was capable of being loved by someone as pure and good as she was.

She had saved him from an endless round of alcohol and women.

As he saw the tears in her eyes, he knew that it was his turn to save her.

He would not let anything hurt her, and he promised himself that he would make her happy.

She just had to accept him first. All she had been doing for the past two weeks was running away.

He was determined to stop her attempts at escape and to show that her place was in his arms. Even if that meant breaking the heart of her Canadian boyfriend. He smiled at that thought.

FUNNY HOW LIFE CAN BE SO SURPRISING
I’M JUST REALIZING WHAT YOU DO

Mei Zhuo sat back on his haunches, staring at Xiao Qiao’s sleeping form.

He had heard the distress in her voice this afternoon, and when she had turned off her phone he had been truly surprised by the sense of loss that had accompanied that deliberate disconnection.

His heart clenched at her tear-streaked face, and he just wanted to lean over and wipe all of her grief away, as easily as wiping away those tears.

She was so important to him, and that was something he was only now beginning to realize.

At a moment when she might already have decided to let go.

WE GOT A LITTLE WORLD OF OUR OWN
I’LL TELL YOU THINGS THAT NO ONE ELSE KNOWS
I LET YOU IN WHERE NO-ONE ELSE GOES
WHAT AM I DOING WITHOUT YOU

Lei stood at a different angle from Dao Ming Si, and could see that Rainie looked a lot like Xiao You.

He saw how Ximen tenderly brushed the hair away from her face, and wiped away her tears.

Looked like Ximen was getting his second chance. He was happy for his brother.

As he got up, with Xiao You in his arms, Lei saw the determination in his eyes and the smile that had formed. Ximen wouldn’t let her go this time, and no one could stand in his way, not even Xiao You.

Ximen left with Xiao You.

And then Mei Zhuo left with Xiao Qiao, cradling her in his arms. And for the first time Lei saw tenderness and love in Mei Zhuo’s eyes.

He was serious about this woman. It wasn’t often one could see him this serious.

He was left alone, with an unconscious Qing He and a confused Dao Ming Si, who was wondering about why Ximen would carry his assistant out and wasn’t his assistant a guy?

Lei thoughts once again returned to Jing as they waited for Qing He to wake up. Ah si insisted on staying to find out why he had grabbed their drinks.

Jing’s drunken outburst had surprised him.

He had never believed that Jing was this vulnerable. She had always been there for him, and he had been Lei, the quite one, the one who cried, the one who shut out the world.

She had seen him at his worst, and, even then, she had accepted him.

She had brought him out of his shell, and she had taught him how to stop his tears. And she had made him into the man that had learned to live in this world.

But when she left for France, he had abandoned her. Not at first, but the end result was the same. She was left all alone.

And the biggest betrayal of all, he had allowed his heart to love another.

Jing hadn’t even hated Shan Cai for that. She had left quietly.

Only his Jing could forgive someone like him after the biggest betrayal.

Qing He’s groans interrupted Lei’s thoughts, and when they saw that he was waking up, Dao Ming Si demanded why the fool had taken the drinks from their hands.

“I needed to tell you guys that Xiao Qiao and a hot girl were passed out in the lounge?” he ended his sentence in a questioning tone.

“Why did you say Ximen’s name?” Dao Ming Si asked.

“Duh, because she had a hot body, and I thought Ximen might be interested,” Qing He exasperatedly said.

“Well, you could’ve just tapped us on the shoulder,” Dao Ming Si argued.

“I did, but none of you were paying attention. Ximen even brushed me away as if I was some annoying bug. The only way I could get your attention was if I grabbed your drink,” Qing He explained.

“Then why did you drink it if you already had our attention?” Dao Ming Si shouted.

“It was in my hand, I couldn’t waste it now could I,” Qing He said with wide-eyed innocence. The explanation made perfect sense to him, and he couldn’t believe that Dao Ming Si had even asked.

“Fine, let’s just go home,” Lei finally said with a smile on his face.
**************************************

At the end of a very eventful day, Xiao Qiao and Xiao You were squired home by their respective better halves, none the wiser of each other’s true identities.

WHAT AM I DOING WITHOUT YOU?

***************************************************************

The song was “World of Our Own” by Westlife.

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