EYR 21 – 25

Chapter 21

Perfect Moment – Lei/Jing

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Hi. This is Dao Ming Si. I just wanted to let you know there will be a meteor shower at twelve midnight. Shan Cai insisted that I tell you so that you could experience this magical moment with your ladyhr—loves. Enjoy.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Lei lead Jing out onto the Ying De rooftop.

They had watched the meteor shower, each making many wishes that the other could only guess at.

They had talked for hours, but now they were silent.

Jing looked at Lei, and then looked away. She knew the importance this place held in Lei’s heart.

This was where he went in order to separate himself from the problems of human beings. This was where Shan Cai had found him, and where she had forced him out of his shell. This place held many memories of Lei with Shan Cai.

She didn’t know that for years before Shan Cai’s arrival, Lei would light fireworks at dawn to make a wish.

He had always made the same wish.

For Jing to be here, one day, with him.

He lit the fireworks, and pulled Jing away. As they lit up the sky, she asked, “What are you praying for?”

“You,” he answered.

“You already have me,” she laughingly answered.

His eyes moved over her angelic face. His normally expressionless face had become dark. His eyes were intently gazing into hers, and he was frowning.

“Do I? Do I really have you?” he asked finally, achingly.

“Lei, stop this,” she demanded, shocked at the emotion breaking through his cool façade.

“Does that mean you’ve forgiven me?” he finally asked.

“Forgiven you for what? For Shan Cai? I told you that I did. We’re friends Lei, and I’ll always be by your side. Nothing, not even you, will make me desert you,” she promised.

“You mean you won’t desert me, like I deserted you? Will you refuse me if I ask you to make a commitment? Will you say you love me?” As he spoke, he turned his back to her, so she couldn’t witness the pain and hope in his eyes.

“Lei, we’re together aren’t we? We’ve been spending more and more time together. I’ve agreed to work in Taiwan after I get my degree. Isn’t that a commitment?”

“I want the words,” he cut in, harshly. “I want the words you gave me that day in Spain. I want to hear them again.”

Jing was silent. She had forgiven him. But she had never thought that things would come to this point so fast.

She remembered the trip they had taken on Ah Si’s ship. She remembered how he had confessed. Her heart had told her to take everything with a grain of salt.

He was four years younger than her, and was . . . young, period.

She had already known that she wanted to be a lawyer; she needed to help the disadvantaged. So, she had left.

When he came after her in France, she had accepted him. Going against all good judgment. Her fears had come true when he left her alone in France.

For days she had missed him, unable to attend classes, unable to get out of her bed. His departure had left a big void in its wake. When he had written to her to come to Spain, fear of being hurt again had made her stay in France. Her pride had told her to refuse.

Tears began to fall from her eyes. She turned her back to him so he wouldn’t witness the pain in her eyes.

She had met him again in Spain, and had begged him to take her back. Only he had no longer loved her.

She had cried, and she had left, heartbroken once more.

Sometimes, in the nights, she would cry and rail against Lei for making her fall in love with him. It was on one of those nights that she had called him.

She had tried so hard to think of him as a younger brother, but he had forcibly created another place in her heart. And then had deserted her.

She had forgiven him for that. She had allowed her love to reawaken.

But was she ready to say the words?

“Say something,” Lei moved toward her and turned her around.

As his eyes looked into hers, and his hands came up to cradle her face, he confessed, “There is only one thing that I know. I have always loved you. For a while I allowed Shan Cai’s presence in my heart and my anger bury that love, but I have always loved you. I need to know that you love me to.”

Jing closed her eyes against his entreating eyes. Tears escaped from the sealed eyelids.

Lei bent down, and began to sip at the tears. His lips traced a path from her weeping eyes to the corners of her mouth.

Pulling her close, his mouth pressed against hers, as his arms cradled her against his body.

He deliberately deepened the kiss, brushing his tongue against her lips. This time Jing couldn’t control herself. Her lips relaxed, and finally opened.

The kiss was very gentle, undemanding too, until she put her arms around his neck and turned all soft and willing on him. He couldn’t control himself.

The kiss turned hard, hot, consuming. Wonderfully arousing.

She felt as though she was melting in his arms. She loved the taste of him, the feel of his tongue rubbing against hers, the way his mouth slanted over hers again and again. She loved the low growl that came from the back of his throat, and the rough gentleness in the way he held her in his arms.

He finally pulled away.

She closed her eyes and collapsed against him. Her heart was slamming inside of her chest. So was his. She could feel the thundering beat against hers.

Over their heartbeats she heard Lei speak.

“Please,” he whispered into her hair.

Her hear stopped at the thought of this proud man begging. He was always serene, no matter what the situation. But at this instance she could feel him breaking down in her arms.

She decided. She would listen to her heart one more time. She would give their love another chance.

“I love you, too. I love you Lei. Promise me you will always by my Lei,” she finally said.

“I promise,” he promised joyfully, locking her tightly in his arms.

His wish had come true, and he would never let his insecurities get in the way.

He knew that nothing would take Jing from his side.

Chapter 22

Intimate Moment – Mei Zhuo/ Xiao Qiao

WARNING – This chapter is rated R, and is prohibited to readers under 18. Due to sexual content, please read carefully. Enjoy.

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Hi. This is Dao Ming Si. I just wanted to let you know there will be a meteor shower at twelve midnight. Shan Cai insisted that I tell you so that you could experience this magical moment with your ladyhr—loves. Enjoy.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

He quietly turned the lights off in the hotel bedroom, leaving only a bedside lamp on, to light the entire chamber.

Xiao Qiao stood by the side of the bed, staring at him.

He took off his jacket, and his shirt. He could feel Xiao Qiao’s eyes tracing over his body as he continued to undress. He finally stood there, in front of her, naked.

Xiao Qiao thought she was going to die of embarrassment then and there. She turned her gaze to the bed, but not before she had gotten a rather healthy glimpse of him.

She had wanted to experience everything with Mei Zhuo before she left. She had already said yes to the Carnegie offer, and she would be leaving in three months.

After today’s meeting, heartsick over the contract she had signed, she had demanded that Mei Zhuo take her to Maple hotel.

When they had arrived he had been shocked to find her getting a room. She had wordlessly taken his hand in hers, and had pulled him toward the elevators.

When he had tried to stop her, telling her he wanted to wait for their wedding night, the tears that had welled up were very real.

She had needed this desperately, and his refusal was more proof that he couldn’t love her.

Faced with his tears, Mei Zhuo couldn’t stop himself from saying yes. Her tears were more precious to him than any plans he may have had to wait for Xiao Qiao until they were joined in holy matrimony. And if she wanted this, there would always be other meteor showers.

She had made him promise to not stop no matter how nervous she got. He had reluctantly agreed. That had relieved her because she knew she would be nervous, but he would keep his word.

She just hadn’t realized that she would be this nervous. Xiao Qiao continued to stare at the bed, blushing. Oh Lord, she really wasn’t prepared for this kind of intimacy. She had made a mistake after all . . . she never should have—

“It’s going to be alright, Xiao Qiao.”

He was standing right in front of her. She wouldn’t look at him. He put his hands on her shoulders and gave her an affectionate squeeze. “It really will be alright. You trust me, don’t you?”

His voice was filled with tenderness. It didn’t help. She took several deep breaths to calm herself down. That didn’t help either.

And then he pulled her into his arms and held her tight. She let out a little sigh and settled down. It was going to be alright. Mei Zhuo might not love her, but he would never hurt a woman. He had too much experience for that.

She leaned a little away so she could look up into his eyes. There was such warmth there, a little amusement, too.

“Don’t be afraid,” he told her, his voice a soothing whisper.

“How do you know I’m afraid?”

He smiled. “Afraid” wasn’t quite the right word, he decided. “Terrified” was a far more accurate description.

She turned her gaze to his chest. “I don’t believe I want to do this. I know it will be alright, but I still would rather not—”

Xiao Qiao didn’t get to finish her confession. She went back into his arms and rested against him.

Mei Zhuo was pleased she was able to be honest with him, but he was frustrated, too. He had never taken a virgin to his bed, and he hadn’t realized until this minute how important it was going to be to make it as easy as possible for her. It was going to require time, patience, and a good deal of stamina.

“Exactly what is it you’re afraid of?” he asked.

She didn’t answer him. She was trembling now. He knew it wasn’t from the cold.

“There will be pain, of course, but if I—”

“I’m not afraid of the pain.” She’d blurted out that announcement.

He was more puzzled now. “Then what are you afraid of?” he started rubbing her back while he waited for her answer.

“A man can always . . . you know,” she stammered out. “But some women can’t, and if I’m one of those women, then I’ll disappoint you.”

“You won’t disappoint me,” he assured her.

“I really do believe I will,” Xiao Qiao finally whispered. “I think I’m one of the ones who can’t, Mei Zhuo.”

“You can,” he told her with great authority. He kept stroking her back. Xiao Qiao closed her eyes and let him soothe her.

He was surely the most considerate man in the world, and when he was being so gentle with her, she couldn’t help but believe that he might really love her. But that was Mei Zhuo’s charm. When he turned his attention on you, you felt like you were the center of the universe.

It didn’t take her long to get over it. She was still a bit nervous, of course, but she didn’t think that was unusual. She took a deep breath, stepped back from his arms, and quickly pulled her clothes off.

As soon as the last article slipped from her body, she rushed back into his arms.

He visibly shuddered. “You feel so good against me,” he whispered, his voice gruff with emotion.

It felt much better than good to her. It felt wonderful. In a shy, halting voice, she told him so.

The heat of his hard arousal pressed so intimately against her lower belly still worried her, but Mei Zhuo wasn’t being at all demanding, just gentle, terribly gentle as he slowly caressed her shivers away, and it didn’t take long for that worry to seem unimportant.

She wanted to touch him. She let go her hard grip around his waist and tentatively stroked his broad shoulders, then his back, and finally his thighs. His skin felt like hot steel against her fingertips. He was so completely different in texture and tone from her, and she found herself marveling at all the wonderful differences.

She rubbed her face against his chest, and then softly kissed him where the pulse beat at the base of his neck.

“I do like touching you,” she admitted.

Mei Zhuo already knew that. One of the things he loved about Xiao Qiao was her open desire to touch and kiss him. She never hid it when she wanted to kiss him. He remembered that first concert when she had broadly hinted that she wanted him to kiss her. She hadn’t changed in the past year that he’d known her.

He had also noticed that Xiao Qiao was a naturally shy person. She was always quiet around others. But she had very few inhibitions when she was with him. She trusted him completely, and that fact was every bit as important to him as her love.

And God, she really did love him.

“Xiao Qiao?”

“Yes?”

“Are you ready to quit hiding from me?”

She almost laughed. She had been hiding from him, and he’d known that was her game all along. She let go of her hold on him and took a step back. Then she slowly nodded.

He had the most wonderful smile. She thought about that while she stared up at him.

She had the most magnificent body he’d ever seen. He thought about that while he stared at her. She was exquisitely formed, from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet, and if he didn’t get to touch her soon he would lose his mind.

They reached for each other at the same moment. She put her arms around his neck as he cupped her backside and pulled her against him.

He leaned down and kissed her, a deep devouring kiss that left both of them breathless. His tongue moved inside to taste the sweetness she offered. A low growl of satisfaction came from the back of his throat when she imitated the erotic love play and rubbed her tongue against his.

She sagged against him. He turned to pull down the covers, supporting her body with one arm. She didn’t want him to stop kissing her, tugging at his hair to get his attention, and pulling his lips back to hers.

Mei Zhuo liked the little moans she made. He lifted her into his arms and put her in the center of the bed. He didn’t give her time to start worrying. He came down on top of her, separating her thighs with one of his own. He braced his weight on his elbows and let his body cover hers completely. He had never felt anything this wonderful in all his life.

Her response to him was overwhelming his desire to go slowly, to take his time preparing her for his invasion. He needed to concentrate to ensure her arousal. Xiao Qiao was making his thoughtful, calculated plan impossible. She was restlessly moving against him, driving him to distraction.

He kissed her again, a long, hot, wet kiss that made him wild for more. He finally dragged his mouth away from hers and moved lower to taste the fragrant valley between her soft breasts. His hands stroked, caressed, teased, and finally, when he couldn’t wait a second longer, he took one nipple into his mouth and began to suckle.

She almost came off the bed. Tremors of raw pleasure coursed through her body. She didn’t think she could take much more. She clung to his shoulders and closed her eyes in surrender to the ecstasy he was giving her.

Mei Zhuo was shaking with his need to take her. He could feel his control slipping away. His desire to taste her all over overwhelmed every other consideration. His hands stroked a path down the flat of her stomach, then lower still until he was caressing her inner thighs and slowly easing them apart. He leaned and down and kissed the top of the soft triangle of curls shielding her virginity.

“Mei Zhuo, don’t—”

“Yes.”

She tried to push him away from her, but then his mouth covered the very heat of her, and his tongue, dear God, his tongue was rubbing against her, and she became consumed with white-hot pleasure so intense, she forgot all about protesting.

Her hips instinctively rose up for more of his touch. Her nails dug into his shoulder blades. She had never known a man could make love to a woman in this intimate way, but she wasn’t at all appalled or embarrassed now.

She wanted to touch him the way he was touching her, to learn his taste, too, but every time she tried to move, he’d tighten his hold and make her stay put.

Mei Zhuo shifted to his side and slowly eased his finger up inside her tight sheath. His thumb rubbed the delicate nub hidden between the folds, and Xiao Qiao’s reaction damned near snapped his control. He’d never had a woman respond to him with such honesty or with such abandon. She willingly, lovingly gave him her body, and he would die before letting himself find fulfillment first.

She came before his own need . . . even if it killed him.

Loving him was certainly going to kill her. That was Xiao Qiao’s last coherent thought. She’d blurted it out loud too, but she was too caught up in trying to hold on to her control to know what she was saying or doing.

She seemed to come apart inside. She cried out his name and his own discipline vanished then.

He felt her tremors and spread her thighs wider. He knelt between her legs.

“Put your arms around me, sweetheart,” he whispered in a husky demand. He stretched up, covered her mouth with his, and forced her to stay still by holding the sides of her hips.

He slowly eased up inside her until he felt the barrier of her virginity.

He was hurting her, but Xiao Qiao didn’t think this was such a terrible pain. The way he was kissing her made everything else seem unimportant. The pressure was building up inside of her, and she moved restlessly trying to ease the sweet torment.

Mei Zhuo gritted his teeth at the incredible pleasure he was already feeling, and then drove forward with one powerful thrust.

She cried out in surprise and pain. She thought he had torn her apart. It felt as if he had. The haze of passion vanished. She began to silently cry.

The pain throbbed, but another feeling, so foreign to anything that she had ever experienced before, began to blend with the pain, confusing her even more.

His weight kept her anchored to the bed. He took deep, calming breaths in an effort to hold on to his discipline. She was so damn hot and tight, and all he wanted to think about was slamming into her again and again until he found his own release.

Mei Zhuo leaned up on his elbows and kissed her again. He felt like an animal when he saw the tears streaming down her face.

“God, Xiao Qiao, I’m sorry. I had to hurt you, but I . . . ”

The worry in his gaze soothed her far more than his half-given apology did.

She reached up and stroked the side of his face. Her hand shook. “It’s going to be all right,” she whispered, giving him the very same promise he’d given her earlier. “The pain’s gone now.”

He knew she wasn’t telling the truth. He kissed her brow, then the bridge of her nose, and finally captured her mouth for a long, passionate kiss. His hand moved between their joined bodied and began to stroke the very heart of her.

It didn’t take him long to rekindle her desire. He started to move, slowly at first, until he heard her moans of pleasure, and still he was able to hold back that thread of control he always withheld when he had been with those other women. Xiao Qiao snatched that away from him with one simple declaration.

“I love you, Mei Zhuo.”

Passion took control of his mind and his body. He thrust deep inside of her, again and again. She lifted her hips to take more of him. She wouldn’t let him be gentle any longer; no, her nails dug into his shoulders, demanding more and more of this incredible bliss.

Mei Zhuo buried his face in the crook of her neck, gritting against the white-hot pleasure consuming him.

The pressure building inside of her was becoming unbearable. Just when she was certain she was going to die from the intensity of the feelings flooding her senses, he became even more forceful, more demanding.

Xiao Qiao kept trying to understand what was happening to her. Mei Zhuo wouldn’t let her. It felt as if her mind was being separated from her body and soul.

He whispered to her to trust him, and she did, letting the ecstasy consume her.

As soon as he felt her release, Mei Zhuo found his own. With a low groan her poured his seed into her. His entire body shuddered with his own surrender.

He collapsed against her with a grunt of male satisfaction. The scent of their lovemaking filled the air, a lingering reminder of the wonder they had just shared.

“Did I please you?” she finally whispered.

“How can you even ask,” he wondered. When he saw the worry in her eyes, he said, “If you had pleased me anymore, you would have killed me. Satisfied?”

“I love you, Yin Xiao Qiao,” he whispered into her ear. “I love you so much.”

She lay in his arms, “I love you too.”

He was soon lulled to sleep in her loving arms. Nothing would keep them apart. She would stay by his side forever.

The next morning he awoke to find her gone.

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Chapter 23

Conversations in a Day

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Yin Xiao Qiao to Ling Mei Zhuo
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The person you are trying to reach is not available at this time. Please leave a message after the beep.

Beeeeppp!

“Mei Zhuo, it’s me. I guess you’re still sleeping.

Last night was incredible. Thank you for that one magical night.

I’m sorry that I’m not there to wake up with you this morning.”

She took a deep breath.

“I wanted to tell you I have to play in Sydney for the next two months.

I . . . my flight is in two hours. By the time you get up, I will already be up in the air.

I just . . . please don’t forget me.”

She laughed softly.

“I’ll try to come back between concerts.

Bye. I love you.”

End Beep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Ximen Zhong Er Lang to Yang Xiao You
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“So, how are you this morning?”

“Ximen, we just saw each other five minutes ago. Are you already missing me?”

“Yes. Now, why don’t you come inside and keep me company?”

“Get busy. Just because the merger is over, that doesn’t give you the right to slack off now.”

“I wanted to know. Who helped you with the “I love you” billboard?”

“Why, couldn’t I do it by myself?”

“Tell me.”

“Your father. He’s rooting for us, you know.”

“Is he?”

“Whatever, Ximen. Stop bothering me and do some work. Wait, I wanted to ask. This weekend . . . there’s a wedding scheduled in your secretary’s calendar. Have any idea whose it is?”

“That’s right! Xu is getting married this weekend. Want to go? We’ll have to buy a wedding present, and that might take all day. Let’s play hooky.”

“Is this Ximen talking. There aren’t any body snatchers around, are there?”

“Come on. Let’s make a day of it. The merger is finished and I could take some time off. It has been pretty hectic for the past few weeks. Very eventful, wouldn’t you say?”

“Umm, okay. Let’s go.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Dao Ming Si to Hua Ze Lei
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“Ei, Lei. What do you think?”

. . . . . . . . . .

“Hey, I can’t hear your thumb on the phone. Is it a thumbs up or thumbs down . . . say something.”

“Ah si, do you want to go back? Do you trust your mom?”

“It’s not about trusting her, it’s about trusting how much my father loves the business.”

“So, he’ll keep his word?”

“Yes.”

“Then, listen to your heart.

You were groomed to be the heir to the Dao Ming fortune. And only we know that it’s not just about the status or the name. It’s about all the people depending on us. Our employees. You know you’ll always feel guilty if they lose their livelihoods due to this instability.

Believe me, your parents will use that to finally guilt you into succumbing to their wishes.

So, use this opportunity. You have the upper hand.”

“Yeah.”

“So your decision is already made?”

“Ye-es . . . Wait, what should I do?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Dao Ming Si to Dao Ming Cheng
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“I’ve decided. I’ll be coming back. You just keep your word. If Dao Ming Feng tries to hurt Shan Cai in any way—”

“She won’t,” came the cold reply.

“If she does, I will leave, and I won’t ever come back. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Hua Ze Lei to Teng Tang Jing
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“I’m sorry. I know it’s kind of sudden, but I thought about it all last night.”

“I don’t want to hurt your education and your dreams.”

“You won’t. I’ve just decided I’ll study law in Taiwan. So, I need to go back, and get all the paperwork done.”

“But it was your dream to practice law in France.”

“Dreams change. I want to be a lawyer, that’s a fact. I love you, that’s also a fact. So, why not merge the two realities? I’ll study in Taiwan, and I’ll be with you. And with your support, I can live in the same city as my disapproving parents.”

. . . . . . . . . . . .

“You don’t approve?”

“No, it’s not that. It’s not up to me to approve or disapprove. If you think it’s the right decision, I won’t change your mind. I can only say I’m happy you’ll be with me. I want you to know I will always support you. I love you too much not to.”

“Good. So, I’ll be gone for a month.”

“A MONTH?!?!?!”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Dong Shan Cai to Yang Xiao You
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Wei, Xiao You?”

“Ximen, stop it! . . . Hey, Shan Cai, how are you?”

“I’m fine. I was planning a girl’s only night out tonight. Jing is leaving for Taiwan, and I wanted to hang out. You haven’t even met Xiao Qiao yet. I want to introduce you guys.”

“Um . . . uh . . . (indistinct murmuring) Sure, I’ll go. I did have some plans, but they can be rearranged.”

“So, come to my house at 8:00, and we’ll do a slumber party.”

“Aren’t we a little too old for that?”

“Hey, we need to teach these rich girls how the other half lives. Let’s do an old-fashioned slumber party, complete with pranks. Okay?”

“Fine. I’ll see you at eight.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Yang Xiao You to Yin Xiao Qiao
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Hey, Pace. I thought we could get together tonight. My friends and I are meeting up, so I thought that I would introduce you to them.”

“I’m actually . . . I should tell you that I won’t be around for a while.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m going into hiding. Maybe to our beach estate. . . maybe . . .

I did something last night that I think was a total mistake. The most beautiful one I’ve ever made, but a mistake nonetheless.”

“What do you mean?”

“I slept with my boyfriend. And as predicted, without his love, I’m beginning to hate myself. If I see him I just might explode and say something that I wouldn’t want to. It’s better to be away for a while until I can work it out.”

“So, how long will you be gone?”

“However long it takes to stop hating myself. However long it takes to make me strong enough to make our remaining time beautiful. I’ll see you when I see you, okay?”

“Yeah . . . just . . . don’t blame yourself too much. You made love with the man you love. How could that ever be wrong?”

Dial tone.

“Hello? Pace? Hello?”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Dong Shan Cai to Yang Xiao You
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“They can’t come.”

“Huh?”

“Jing is going to France tomorrow, so she wants to spend her last night with Lei. Actually, he’s insisting that she do so.”

“And Xiao Qiao?”

“It seems that she’s on a plane to Sydney right now. When I finally got Mei Zhuo to answer the phone, he told me that it was really sudden. He didn’t even know until this morning.”

“This morning . . . hmm? There’s something about that . . . ”

“Well, forget about that. We’ll meet. You can tell me how it’s going between you and Ximen. So, how’s your sex life?”

“Huh, what? Shan Cai. I’m not that kind of girl!”

“But we know Ximen is that kind of guy.”

“Nothing’s happened yet. When it does, I promise that I WON’T tell you about it.”

“Xiao You!”

“Whatever, just because you want to wait until marriage doesn’t mean you can satisfy your curiosity with other people’s sex lives. You wanna know, go and ask Dao Ming Si. Wait, that wouldn’t help. Well, you guys should experiment, and discover new things.”

“XIAO YOU!!!”

“Gotta go, see you at eight. Bye.”

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Ximen Zhong Er Lang to Ling Mei Zhuo
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Why didn’t you call today?”

“What do you mean?”

“You always call me at this time to bug me.”

“Well, since Xiao You’s back, I just thought that she was adding enough spice to your life. You didn’t need me to bring you out of the doldrums.”

“But it’s tradition. I’ll always be a workaholic, and you will always be here to pull me out of my endless work cycle. Now hurry up and tell me why you sound so depressed.”

“Xiao Qiao’s gone. She has a two-month long engagement in Sydney. I really wanted to wak—forget that. So, did I tell you about the music hall I’m building for her. I thought that she could manage it, and have concerts there, and find new talent to perform as well. I want her to be—”

“You wanted to wake up with her. Is that what I heard? Has our little Mei Zhuo been naughty?”

“Shut it.”

“No. Who would’ve thought you couldn’t keep a secret like Ah Si.”

“Ximen, I’m warning you.”

“So, how was it?”

“None of your business. I’m going to hang up.”

“Wait, why don’t we get together tonight with just the guys? Wait a minute, I’ll call them.”

“I don’t know . . .”

Rrrrinnnggg. Rrrrriiiiinnnggg.

“Wei, Dao Ming Si speaking.”

“Wei, Hua Ze Lei speaking.”

“Hey guys, let’s get together and celebrate tonight.”

“Celebrate what?”

“F4 . . . I don’t know. The last time we were together we were all unhappy. Now let’s get together because we’re ALL happy . . . somewhat.”

“Hey, I wasn’t unhappy. I had Shan Cai.”

“Don’t rub it in Ah Si. Look, Jing is leaving tomorrow, so I wanted to spend this time with her.”

“And I don’t know—”

“Xiao Qiao is gone, what else will you do?”

“I’ll go, Shan Cai is meeting with Xiao You tonight. She said she was going to learn some things that I might be interested in knowing.”

“What would she learn from my girlfriend?”

Brief silence.

“Ei, Ah Si, you better not let her—”

“I won’t.”

“Fine, you, me and Mei Zhuo will meet tonight. And Lei, don’t do anything I woul—Ah Si wouldn’t do, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

“B—hey am I the only one left? Hello? I better call Shan—”

Dial tone.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Ling Mei Zhuo to Yin Xiao Qiao
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The person you are trying to reach is not available at this time. Please leave a message after the beep.

Beeeeppp!

“Hey, honey.

By this time, you’re probably halfway across the waters.

I missed you this morning. I was hoping that I could wake up in your warm arms, and enjoy the morning sunrise with you. You took that away from me.

I will have to teach you about morning after etiquette. You should want to be with the one you love. If only for a last hug or a last kiss before having to meet the day head on.

Come back soon. I’m going to miss you like crazy.

So, fly in for as many visits as you can.

I love you. Don’t forget that. I will always love you.”

End Beep.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Yin Xiao Qiao to Voice Mail Service
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

You have one new message from “Ling Mei Zhuo”. Press one to hear the message. Press two to erase the message.

. . . . . . . . .

Bbbeeeeppp.

Message erased. You have no new messages.

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

Chapter 24

Reason

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I’m not a perfect person,
There’s many things I wish I didn’t do.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“Hello Xiao You,” the now familiar voice spoke in her ear.

“Why do you keep on calling me? I told you, I don’t believe you. Ximen is not cheating on me!” Xiao You ground out into the receiver.

“How can you know that for sure?

Tell me, isn’t there some doubt in a corner of your heart?

You know his history. He’s had more women than you could ever imagine. He may have made excuses, but there must’ve been something he was getting from these meaningless encounters that had him returning for more,” the woman argued logically.

Xiao You closed her eyes, fighting against the insidious effect of her twisted logic.

“Stop it. He NEVER got what he needed. And that’s why he stopped,” she pointed out in frustration.

“And what do you think he needed? Your love?” the voice now asked in amusement.

“You are so innocent. You know nothing about men and their needs. How could he simply stop? Ximen is the kind of man who enjoys using women. He treats them like objects . . . tools to be used to get what he wants and to be discarded.

And what he wants is sexual satiation. His past proves it,” the women said in anger. The voice was no longer cool and logical, in recounting Ximen’s past it had become infused with anger.

“That’s enough. Yes, Ximen was like that, but he’s changed now. His behavior now reflects the inner man. A man a woman like you could never understand.

If he used you in the past, you should forget about it. He would never start a relationship without letting the other party know about his one-week policy. His notoriety would make it impossible to hide that fact. So, you went into this relationship with your eyes open. Don’t blame him.

Whatever sick pleasure you’re getting out of this won’t be worth the hassle if I tell Ximen that I’ve been getting these calls. I want it stopped. If you don’t, he will leave no stone unturned in his quest to find the person responsible for my distress. In finding YOU. Once he does find you, he won’t hold back, do you understand?

I won’t believe anything unless I see it with my own eyes. And maybe not even then because I trust him. Stop calling me!” Xiao You ordered, and angrily slammed down the telephone.

She couldn’t tell Ximen about this. It would hurt him to know that his past was coming back to haunt her.

She trusted him.

He would never betray that trust.

But if another call came she would have to say something, because was finding it harder and harder to hide her agitation from him.

I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you.

“So, how’s it going?” he asked his friend.

“It’s only been a week, but I’m missing her like crazy. It’s a good thing I have this project on my hands, or I would probably chase her to Australia,” Mei Zhuo said in frustration.

“So, you were serious?” Ximen asked in astonishment.

“Well, yeah. Ximen, we know how hard it is to be F4, but think of how much harder it would be for our wives. I don’t want Xiao Qiao to give up her passion so that she can be with me. I want her to be happy in this marriage. In having me, I want her to have everything,” he confided.

“Hmm, so our Mei Zhuo is turning into a real romantic, huh?” Ximen teased.

“At least I didn’t shout out my love for Xiao You in an amusement park in front of Shan Cai,” Mei Zhuo retorted. “Couldn’t you have picked a better place? How uncool.”

“Talk about uncool, you jumped into the cold lake to rescue her drowning cello. Who is the uncool one?”

There was embarrassed silence on the other side.

“Fine, I won’t tease you anymore,” Ximen said, as the silence continued, “Get back to work, I’ll call you tomorrow at this time to bug you.”

“Fin—wait, not at this time,” Mei Zhuo said.

“Why?” Ximen asked.

There was embarrassed silence once more.

“Why, Mei Zhuo,” Ximen repeated.

“I left a message for Xiao Qiao to call me at this time. You know we met at two everyday, so I thought that she could call me at the same time. So, I’ll be talking to her,” Mei Zhuo explained.

“So . . . don’t bother calling, because you’ll be too busy talking to Xiao Qiao. Is that right?”

“Ye-es,” Mei Zhuo answered.

“S—,” Ximen began another round of teasing.

“Gotta go, talk to you later,” Mei Zhuo hurriedly said, hanging up the phone.

Ximen sat back as he finished the call. He couldn’t help but laugh. Who was he to talk about uncool, when he lost all composure whenever Xiao You was around?

But it was a small price to pay.

Xiao You was sitting outside the office doors. There was comfort in that thought.

Today was Xiao You’s last day in the office. He was going to miss her when Xu came back. Although Xu was a great secretary, he was almost tempted to replace him with Xiao You.

Almost.

He knew that things would not change, because she had said she loved him.

That love had never allowed her to give up on him, and had her believing when he shouted out his love for the world to hear.

The thought of someone in the world wholeheartedly believing in him was reassuring. He knew that even if he failed, there would be one person who would always see him as a knight in shining armor.

He remembered when he had seen the billboard for the first time. There had been an epiphany of sorts. It was at that moment he had begun to change. He knew that he would never be the same again.

In fact, he didn’t want to be.

He had pushed her away, but her love had encouraged him to transform himself into a man that he himself could respect.

Last summer had been a time of change. F4 had left Ying De, and he had entered the business world. He had to confront his father’s infidelity head on. He had lost an important friend for a while.

He remembered the chaotic effect that the summer had on his emotions. Everything had piled up.

At times it became unbearable. In the constant clashes with his father, and the continuous searches for Ah Si, he never got a moment to rest.

He couldn’t find peace at home, at work or with his friends, who had their own worries.

She gave him peace.

She had believed in him at a time that he didn’t even believe in himself. How could he let her down?

She trusted him, and he would never betray that trust.

He had long ago accepted the fact that he would never find another like her. Perhaps, unconsciously, he was changing himself for the day she would return and he could show her a new Ximen, one worthy of her love.

He had only become worthy the moment he had realized that he could never hurt her.

He loved her, so he would never hurt her by abandoning her for other women.

But he would never hurt her with his love either.

He was his father’s son, but he was also his mother’s son.

The traits that she had passed on to him would never let him force and control Xiao You to stay with him if she decided to go.

Xiao You. This tiny, exquisite woman had changed his life.

Because of her he found love. Because of her he allowed himself to love. And because of her love, he began to realize the man he could be.

Thinking about the first time they met, he was surprised that with the level of his intelligence, he had failed to realize that he was meeting his destiny.

I’ve found a reason to show
A side of me you didn’t know
A reason for all that I do
And the reason is you.

“Oi, Ximen, wake up,” a soft voice called, pulling him out of his reverie. “I tried buzzing you, but you were ignoring the intercom. Sign these papers,” she ordered.

“I’m going to miss you,” he blurted out, turning beet red as the words left his mouth.

“Oh, Ximen,” she said, smiling softly. “I’m not going anywhere. We’ll still have breakfast and dinner.”

“Yes, but it’s not the same,” Ximen pouted.

Xiao You walked over to his side of the desk. Placing a hand on the back of his chair and the other on the table, she leaned down to drop a light kiss on his lips.

“Don’t pout,” she ordered, “there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.”

Laughing, Ximen pulled her onto his lap. Cupping her cheek with his hand, he angled her head to seal her lips with his.

Xiao You’s fingers came up to run through his hair. She opened her mouth to invite him inside.

Ximen began to stroke her tongue with his, thrusting in and out.

His hands slowly began to unbutton her shirt, moving it aside so that they could touch her naked skin.

Xiao You pulled away from his lips, bending down to nibble at his ear.

She began to shift against him, wanting to be closer.

Her skin was tingling. She ached.

Ximen swore as her movements threatened to break his control.

He lifted her onto the desk. Getting up, he made a place for himself between her legs.

Her fingers clutched at his shoulders, trying to pull him closer.

He nudged her face up, lightly stroking at her chin.

“We can’t do this here,” he said looking into her eyes.

Her face was flushed, and she grew a darker shade of red when she finally understood his words through the haze that had fallen over her senses.

Ximen began to lightly kiss her, trying to soothe her aroused nerves. As the kisses soothed away the tension, she began to relax.

Her hands left his shoulders, coming to rest at her side on the table.

Her hands glanced off his computer keyboard.

“Oops,” she murmured, turning to see if she had hurt the computer.

“I have an idea,” Ximen said abruptly.

She looked up to find him smiling at her.

“What?” she curiously asked.

“Why don’t you work in our technology division?”

“That’s taking favoritism too far, Ximen,” she admonished.

“But you’re a good employee, as my father testified. You’re talented with computers and hardworking, you have experience, and you’re interested so that you will be passionate about your work,” he countered. “Why wouldn’t I hire you?”

Xiao You silently looked at him. He was luring her with the chance to work with computers, and he was seducing her with his presence. She couldn’t resist, and finally had to concede. Besides, she knew that she could do the work.

“Fine, I’ll take it. But I want to be treated like any other employee. No favoritism,” she demanded.

“I promise,” Ximen solemnly swore.

He reached for her.

Xiao You, sensing his next move, jumped off the desk and was out of his reach in the nick of time.

At the door she turned to look at him clutching at empty air.

“Sign those documents, and please stay at least two meters away from me. NO hanky panky during work hours, not anymore. I’m an actual employee now, not just a sub for Xu, alright?” she reminded him.

As he walked towards her, she quickly closed the door, laughing at the frustration she had seen on his face.

For the moment, all her worries were forgotten.

Ximen was not the man he used to be.

He was happy.

She would trust him until she was given a reason not to.

She doubted that day would ever come.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 25

The First of Four

It was the biggest day of his life. He knew women said the wedding day was the biggest, but for a man this was it.

She was finally coming back today.

There had been no calls. No communication between them. But he knew that she would come here first. He hadn’t insisted on greeting her at the airport.

It was his turn to wait.

It was that time. He was ready to do it.

The proposal.

It was at this moment a man put himself out there. He handed over complete control to the woman and could only wait for her reply.

She could say yes and make him the happiest man alive.

Or she could say no and break his heart.

He had no doubts about his ladylove.

She loved him too much to say no.

He really wasn’t nervous . . . really.

Everything was prepared and no one had a clue. Not F3, and not their women. So there was no way for her to find out either.

He hadn’t known either, not until that night, their perfect moment.

For the first time, in a long time, he had realized how happy he was. He wanted to share that happiness with her.

They had waited long enough. She had waited long enough.

But if she wasn’t ready, they would wait. And even that wouldn’t hurt.

He had hurt her enough in the past, that if she needed time to trust him he would willingly spend the rest of his life assuring her of his love.

In giving her this ring, he would promise her that he would never bring tears to her eyes.

He had told her they would have a quiet dinner at home; all she had to do was be there.

The flowers filled the room with a sweet fragrance.

Her favorite flowers.

Her favorite fragrance.

The candles gave the room a romantic glow. He could just imagine how beautifully she would shine in the candlelight.

The table was set in the center of the room. Her eyes would naturally focus on it upon entering the room.

And in the center of the table, in a bed of white roses, sat a red, velvet box.

It carried his declaration of eternal love.

. . . . . . . . .

She was late.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Three hours later a figure moved into the room.

She had insisted that no one pick her up today. She wanted to go to him first. There had been no calls, but she knew he was expecting her. She didn’t want to let him down.

She was late, she knew it, but nothing could be done when her flight had been delayed.

But he wouldn’t mind. He never did.

Her eyes moved around the room . . .

The candles were still burning. The flowery fragrance still filled the room.

. . . and focused on the table.

Her mouth dropped open in shock when she saw the box. It was the right size to carry a ring.

Her mind filled with doubts.

Was she ready for this?

Was it too soon for them?

Next to the box, she saw her beloved, asleep and snoring his head away.

That sight calmed her down more than anything else could.

Jing looked at her watch and saw that it was an hour into his 15-hour sleep cycle.

She softly moved to the table and picked up the box.

Her hands shook as she pried open the lid. Her eyes began to water as she saw the heart shaped cluster of diamonds inside.

Her eyes lowered to look at Lei.

His eyes were open, and he was smiling sleepily.

“Will you—,” he began.

“Yes,” she interrupted, not wanting him to wait anymore.

Lei was Lei. No one could possibly know all he was thinking at any given time, but she knew. She knew how nervous he had been. And when he began to ask her, to expose himself, she hadn’t wanted him to feel that vulnerable. Thus, the interrupted proposal.

Reaching over, he took the ring from the box and slipped it onto her finger.

He gently kissed her fingers.

She moved closer to him, and, leaning down, gave him a tender kiss.

The silence grew as each sought to express their joy in that one kiss.

He pulled back, and buried his face in her hair, inhaling her fragrance.

“You’re back,” he said.

“Yes,” she replied, holding on to him with all her might.

“You’re late,” he accused.

“Yeah,” she admitted, “sorry.”

He began to nuzzle her ear, moving down to kiss her neck.

Jing’s fingers ran through his hair, clutching at him as she arched back to give him access.

Her eyes closed in ecstasy as his lips moved up to begin kissing her anew.

She was happy.

So happy to be with Lei once more.

She had never thought that she would ever be given this chance. Her tears in Barcelona had been tears of mourning. She had lost the only man she could ever love. And she had cried for the future they would never have together.

Never for a moment did she believe that one day she would be standing here, in his arms, wearing his ring.

Lei could always surprise you.

He had opened his heart to her, and she would make sure that she would never hurt him again. He would never have to do another headstand because of her.

She gasped as she felt him unbuttoning her blouse.

She looked into his loving eyes. He had frozen at her gasp.

She wanted to be with him. She wanted to give him the happiness he had given her tonight. And she wanted to wake up in his arms at dawn so that they could watch the sunrise together.

She smiled, and, caressing his cheek, nodded.

He smiled at her, and bent down to kiss her once more.

Catching her by the hand, he gently led her upstairs.

Pulling her into his bedroom, he wrapped his arms around her, bending to kiss her once more.

The door gently closed on the entwined couple.

Needless to say, Lei didn’t get his 15 hours of sleep that night.

“No more headstands,” Lei sleepily murmured into her hair as they lay there drowsily.

Jing, her head on his shoulder, could only nod sleepily as she placed a kiss over his heart.

Both simultaneously slipped into sweet oblivion, their arms locked around each other.

All the past hurts were forgotten.

It was the beginning of a new relationship.

There was hope.

There was joy.

And there would be love.

As long as there was love, nothing could ever part them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~* 

Chapter 24

Reason

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

I’m not a perfect person,
There’s many things I wish I didn’t do.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

“Hello Xiao You,” the now familiar voice spoke in her ear.

“Why do you keep on calling me? I told you, I don’t believe you. Ximen is not cheating on me!” Xiao You ground out into the receiver.

“How can you know that for sure?

Tell me, isn’t there some doubt in a corner of your heart?

You know his history. He’s had more women than you could ever imagine. He may have made excuses, but there must’ve been something he was getting from these meaningless encounters that had him returning for more,” the woman argued logically.

Xiao You closed her eyes, fighting against the insidious effect of her twisted logic.

“Stop it. He NEVER got what he needed. And that’s why he stopped,” she pointed out in frustration.

“And what do you think he needed? Your love?” the voice now asked in amusement.

“You are so innocent. You know nothing about men and their needs. How could he simply stop? Ximen is the kind of man who enjoys using women. He treats them like objects . . . tools to be used to get what he wants and to be discarded.

And what he wants is sexual satiation. His past proves it,” the women said in anger. The voice was no longer cool and logical, in recounting Ximen’s past it had become infused with anger.

“That’s enough. Yes, Ximen was like that, but he’s changed now. His behavior now reflects the inner man. A man a woman like you could never understand.

If he used you in the past, you should forget about it. He would never start a relationship without letting the other party know about his one-week policy. His notoriety would make it impossible to hide that fact. So, you went into this relationship with your eyes open. Don’t blame him.

Whatever sick pleasure you’re getting out of this won’t be worth the hassle if I tell Ximen that I’ve been getting these calls. I want it stopped. If you don’t, he will leave no stone unturned in his quest to find the person responsible for my distress. In finding YOU. Once he does find you, he won’t hold back, do you understand?

I won’t believe anything unless I see it with my own eyes. And maybe not even then because I trust him. Stop calling me!” Xiao You ordered, and angrily slammed down the telephone.

She couldn’t tell Ximen about this. It would hurt him to know that his past was coming back to haunt her.

She trusted him.

He would never betray that trust.

But if another call came she would have to say something, because was finding it harder and harder to hide her agitation from him.

I’ve found a reason for me
To change who I used to be
A reason to start over new
And the reason is you.

“So, how’s it going?” he asked his friend.

“It’s only been a week, but I’m missing her like crazy. It’s a good thing I have this project on my hands, or I would probably chase her to Australia,” Mei Zhuo said in frustration.

“So, you were serious?” Ximen asked in astonishment.

“Well, yeah. Ximen, we know how hard it is to be F4, but think of how much harder it would be for our wives. I don’t want Xiao Qiao to give up her passion so that she can be with me. I want her to be happy in this marriage. In having me, I want her to have everything,” he confided.

“Hmm, so our Mei Zhuo is turning into a real romantic, huh?” Ximen teased.

“At least I didn’t shout out my love for Xiao You in an amusement park in front of Shan Cai,” Mei Zhuo retorted. “Couldn’t you have picked a better place? How uncool.”

“Talk about uncool, you jumped into the cold lake to rescue her drowning cello. Who is the uncool one?”

There was embarrassed silence on the other side.

“Fine, I won’t tease you anymore,” Ximen said, as the silence continued, “Get back to work, I’ll call you tomorrow at this time to bug you.”

“Fin—wait, not at this time,” Mei Zhuo said.

“Why?” Ximen asked.

There was embarrassed silence once more.

“Why, Mei Zhuo,” Ximen repeated.

“I left a message for Xiao Qiao to call me at this time. You know we met at two everyday, so I thought that she could call me at the same time. So, I’ll be talking to her,” Mei Zhuo explained.

“So . . . don’t bother calling, because you’ll be too busy talking to Xiao Qiao. Is that right?”

“Ye-es,” Mei Zhuo answered.

“S—,” Ximen began another round of teasing.

“Gotta go, talk to you later,” Mei Zhuo hurriedly said, hanging up the phone.

Ximen sat back as he finished the call. He couldn’t help but laugh. Who was he to talk about uncool, when he lost all composure whenever Xiao You was around?

But it was a small price to pay.

Xiao You was sitting outside the office doors. There was comfort in that thought.

Today was Xiao You’s last day in the office. He was going to miss her when Xu came back. Although Xu was a great secretary, he was almost tempted to replace him with Xiao You.

Almost.

He knew that things would not change, because she had said she loved him.

That love had never allowed her to give up on him, and had her believing when he shouted out his love for the world to hear.

The thought of someone in the world wholeheartedly believing in him was reassuring. He knew that even if he failed, there would be one person who would always see him as a knight in shining armor.

He remembered when he had seen the billboard for the first time. There had been an epiphany of sorts. It was at that moment he had begun to change. He knew that he would never be the same again.

In fact, he didn’t want to be.

He had pushed her away, but her love had encouraged him to transform himself into a man that he himself could respect.

Last summer had been a time of change. F4 had left Ying De, and he had entered the business world. He had to confront his father’s infidelity head on. He had lost an important friend for a while.

He remembered the chaotic effect that the summer had on his emotions. Everything had piled up.

At times it became unbearable. In the constant clashes with his father, and the continuous searches for Ah Si, he never got a moment to rest.

He couldn’t find peace at home, at work or with his friends, who had their own worries.

She gave him peace.

She had believed in him at a time that he didn’t even believe in himself. How could he let her down?

She trusted him, and he would never betray that trust.

He had long ago accepted the fact that he would never find another like her. Perhaps, unconsciously, he was changing himself for the day she would return and he could show her a new Ximen, one worthy of her love.

He had only become worthy the moment he had realized that he could never hurt her.

He loved her, so he would never hurt her by abandoning her for other women.

But he would never hurt her with his love either.

He was his father’s son, but he was also his mother’s son.

The traits that she had passed on to him would never let him force and control Xiao You to stay with him if she decided to go.

Xiao You. This tiny, exquisite woman had changed his life.

Because of her he found love. Because of her he allowed himself to love. And because of her love, he began to realize the man he could be.

Thinking about the first time they met, he was surprised that with the level of his intelligence, he had failed to realize that he was meeting his destiny.

I’ve found a reason to show
A side of me you didn’t know
A reason for all that I do
And the reason is you.

“Oi, Ximen, wake up,” a soft voice called, pulling him out of his reverie. “I tried buzzing you, but you were ignoring the intercom. Sign these papers,” she ordered.

“I’m going to miss you,” he blurted out, turning beet red as the words left his mouth.

“Oh, Ximen,” she said, smiling softly. “I’m not going anywhere. We’ll still have breakfast and dinner.”

“Yes, but it’s not the same,” Ximen pouted.

Xiao You walked over to his side of the desk. Placing a hand on the back of his chair and the other on the table, she leaned down to drop a light kiss on his lips.

“Don’t pout,” she ordered, “there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.”

Laughing, Ximen pulled her onto his lap. Cupping her cheek with his hand, he angled her head to seal her lips with his.

Xiao You’s fingers came up to run through his hair. She opened her mouth to invite him inside.

Ximen began to stroke her tongue with his, thrusting in and out.

His hands slowly began to unbutton her shirt, moving it aside so that they could touch her naked skin.

Xiao You pulled away from his lips, bending down to nibble at his ear.

She began to shift against him, wanting to be closer.

Her skin was tingling. She ached.

Ximen swore as her movements threatened to break his control.

He lifted her onto the desk. Getting up, he made a place for himself between her legs.

Her fingers clutched at his shoulders, trying to pull him closer.

He nudged her face up, lightly stroking at her chin.

“We can’t do this here,” he said looking into her eyes.

Her face was flushed, and she grew a darker shade of red when she finally understood his words through the haze that had fallen over her senses.

Ximen began to lightly kiss her, trying to soothe her aroused nerves. As the kisses soothed away the tension, she began to relax.

Her hands left his shoulders, coming to rest at her side on the table.

Her hands glanced off his computer keyboard.

“Oops,” she murmured, turning to see if she had hurt the computer.

“I have an idea,” Ximen said abruptly.

She looked up to find him smiling at her.

“What?” she curiously asked.

“Why don’t you work in our technology division?”

“That’s taking favoritism too far, Ximen,” she admonished.

“But you’re a good employee, as my father testified. You’re talented with computers and hardworking, you have experience, and you’re interested so that you will be passionate about your work,” he countered. “Why wouldn’t I hire you?”

Xiao You silently looked at him. He was luring her with the chance to work with computers, and he was seducing her with his presence. She couldn’t resist, and finally had to concede. Besides, she knew that she could do the work.

“Fine, I’ll take it. But I want to be treated like any other employee. No favoritism,” she demanded.

“I promise,” Ximen solemnly swore.

He reached for her.

Xiao You, sensing his next move, jumped off the desk and was out of his reach in the nick of time.

At the door she turned to look at him clutching at empty air.

“Sign those documents, and please stay at least two meters away from me. NO hanky panky during work hours, not anymore. I’m an actual employee now, not just a sub for Xu, alright?” she reminded him.

As he walked towards her, she quickly closed the door, laughing at the frustration she had seen on his face.

For the moment, all her worries were forgotten.

Ximen was not the man he used to be.

He was happy.

She would trust him until she was given a reason not to.

She doubted that day would ever come.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 25

The First of Four

It was the biggest day of his life. He knew women said the wedding day was the biggest, but for a man this was it.

She was finally coming back today.

There had been no calls. No communication between them. But he knew that she would come here first. He hadn’t insisted on greeting her at the airport.

It was his turn to wait.

It was that time. He was ready to do it.

The proposal.

It was at this moment a man put himself out there. He handed over complete control to the woman and could only wait for her reply.

She could say yes and make him the happiest man alive.

Or she could say no and break his heart.

He had no doubts about his ladylove.

She loved him too much to say no.

He really wasn’t nervous . . . really.

Everything was prepared and no one had a clue. Not F3, and not their women. So there was no way for her to find out either.

He hadn’t known either, not until that night, their perfect moment.

For the first time, in a long time, he had realized how happy he was. He wanted to share that happiness with her.

They had waited long enough. She had waited long enough.

But if she wasn’t ready, they would wait. And even that wouldn’t hurt.

He had hurt her enough in the past, that if she needed time to trust him he would willingly spend the rest of his life assuring her of his love.

In giving her this ring, he would promise her that he would never bring tears to her eyes.

He had told her they would have a quiet dinner at home; all she had to do was be there.

The flowers filled the room with a sweet fragrance.

Her favorite flowers.

Her favorite fragrance.

The candles gave the room a romantic glow. He could just imagine how beautifully she would shine in the candlelight.

The table was set in the center of the room. Her eyes would naturally focus on it upon entering the room.

And in the center of the table, in a bed of white roses, sat a red, velvet box.

It carried his declaration of eternal love.

. . . . . . . . .

She was late.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Three hours later a figure moved into the room.

She had insisted that no one pick her up today. She wanted to go to him first. There had been no calls, but she knew he was expecting her. She didn’t want to let him down.

She was late, she knew it, but nothing could be done when her flight had been delayed.

But he wouldn’t mind. He never did.

Her eyes moved around the room . . .

The candles were still burning. The flowery fragrance still filled the room.

. . . and focused on the table.

Her mouth dropped open in shock when she saw the box. It was the right size to carry a ring.

Her mind filled with doubts.

Was she ready for this?

Was it too soon for them?

Next to the box, she saw her beloved, asleep and snoring his head away.

That sight calmed her down more than anything else could.

Jing looked at her watch and saw that it was an hour into his 15-hour sleep cycle.

She softly moved to the table and picked up the box.

Her hands shook as she pried open the lid. Her eyes began to water as she saw the heart shaped cluster of diamonds inside.

Her eyes lowered to look at Lei.

His eyes were open, and he was smiling sleepily.

“Will you—,” he began.

“Yes,” she interrupted, not wanting him to wait anymore.

Lei was Lei. No one could possibly know all he was thinking at any given time, but she knew. She knew how nervous he had been. And when he began to ask her, to expose himself, she hadn’t wanted him to feel that vulnerable. Thus, the interrupted proposal.

Reaching over, he took the ring from the box and slipped it onto her finger.

He gently kissed her fingers.

She moved closer to him, and, leaning down, gave him a tender kiss.

The silence grew as each sought to express their joy in that one kiss.

He pulled back, and buried his face in her hair, inhaling her fragrance.

“You’re back,” he said.

“Yes,” she replied, holding on to him with all her might.

“You’re late,” he accused.

“Yeah,” she admitted, “sorry.”

He began to nuzzle her ear, moving down to kiss her neck.

Jing’s fingers ran through his hair, clutching at him as she arched back to give him access.

Her eyes closed in ecstasy as his lips moved up to begin kissing her anew.

She was happy.

So happy to be with Lei once more.

She had never thought that she would ever be given this chance. Her tears in Barcelona had been tears of mourning. She had lost the only man she could ever love. And she had cried for the future they would never have together.

Never for a moment did she believe that one day she would be standing here, in his arms, wearing his ring.

Lei could always surprise you.

He had opened his heart to her, and she would make sure that she would never hurt him again. He would never have to do another headstand because of her.

She gasped as she felt him unbuttoning her blouse.

She looked into his loving eyes. He had frozen at her gasp.

She wanted to be with him. She wanted to give him the happiness he had given her tonight. And she wanted to wake up in his arms at dawn so that they could watch the sunrise together.

She smiled, and, caressing his cheek, nodded.

He smiled at her, and bent down to kiss her once more.

Catching her by the hand, he gently led her upstairs.

Pulling her into his bedroom, he wrapped his arms around her, bending to kiss her once more.

The door gently closed on the entwined couple.

Needless to say, Lei didn’t get his 15 hours of sleep that night.

“No more headstands,” Lei sleepily murmured into her hair as they lay there drowsily.

Jing, her head on his shoulder, could only nod sleepily as she placed a kiss over his heart.

Both simultaneously slipped into sweet oblivion, their arms locked around each other.

All the past hurts were forgotten.

It was the beginning of a new relationship.

There was hope.

There was joy.

And there would be love.

As long as there was love, nothing could ever part them.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

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