EYR 31 – 35

Chapter 31

Preparations

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He smiled as he walked up to Ximen Industries. Moving quickly, he made his way to the top floor. He was already late, and he didn’t want to be even more so.

When he reached the manager’s office, he opened and door and walked in. His face broke out into a grin when he saw the person behind the desk.

“What are you doing, Ximen?” Mei Zhuo asked, his lips curving into a big grin. He’d never seen his brother so happy before.

Ximen looked content for the first time in his entire life.

“You’re positively glowing,” Mei Zhuo teased. He had decided that since this was a special time he would personally bug Ximen for the whole week.

“Mei Zhuo, what are you doing here? When will you stop with the house calls?” Ximen asked, looking up.

“I came to share some news,” Mei Zhuo confided.

“I’ve heard it like a billion times since that night,” Ximen complained.

“She said yes,” Mei Zhuo shouted, ignoring Ximen’s irritation. So what if he had said it a billion times, he would never get tired of saying it. “I’m the happiest man alive!”

“I doubt that,” Ximen murmured.

Memories of the night of Ah Si’s engagement party began to invade his mind.

It had been a week, but he could still hear Xiao You’s moans in his ear.

Her scent would remain in his memory forever. His hands ached to touch her silky skin once more. His body clenched at how she had gripped him. Most of all he still craved her taste.

She had sacrificed her virginity to prove her love for him.

And it had been a sacrifice.

He knew Xiao You. Knew how innocent she was. She would never have consented . . . demanded unless she believed in him completely.

He had vowed then and there that he would never betray her trust.

Mei Zhuo’s laughter brought him out of his trance.

“Ximen, you need to calm down,” Mei Zhuo said teasingly.

Ximen’s ears turned bright red from embarrassment when he realized Mei Zhuo knew exactly where his thoughts had been.

“Xiao You will be working late today . . .,” Ximen began.

“Yeah? . . .” Mei Zhuo asked.

“I need your help. I need F3’s input on how to propose,” Ximen finally said.

“What?!!”

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

F4 sat in a private lounge in VS. Mei Zhuo had called the other two that afternoon, setting up the time to meet later without the girls. He wanted to do it before Ximen changed his mind, he had told the other two.

They had begun to talk about Ximen’s readiness for marriage. Yeah, they wanted the best for their brother, but they also knew him. Had known him for all of their lives. They didn’t want him to take a step that might lead to failure and hurt him even more.

“Are you sure you’re ready for marriage? Think about this . . . Xiao You’s only been back for a while, and you guys have been dating for only three months,” Ah Si asked.

“Ah Si, you knew that Shan Cai was your true love from the first . . . well, okay, not the first. This is Ah Si we’re talking about,” Ximen muttered out of the side of his mouth. “But,” he continued, “you didn’t give up on her, regardless of all the stuff your mother was putting you through. At that time you had known Shan Cai for as long as I have known Xiao You.”

“But—,” Ah Si began.

“Mei Zhuo, you’ve dated Xiao Qiao for over a year, but you were in love with her a month after being introduced to her. You fought it at first, but you finally took the plunge. Literally.”

“But we knew each other for te—,” Mei Zhuo began.

“And Lei—”

“We get your point, Ximen.” Lei calmly interrupted. “You love her. She’s the one for you.”

“Yes, I love her, but most of all I can’t live without her. I won’t pressure her to marry me now. I just want an engagement ring on her finger. I want the right to call her my own. I want the right to take care of her, and make sure that nothing hurts her. Is that so wrong?”

“No,” three voices wailed, followed by loud sniffles.

The guys turned toward the doorway. They saw three pairs of feet sticking out from behind the curtains of the private lounge.

“Shan Cai—

“Jing—

“Xiao Qiao—

“What are you guys doing here?” Ximen asked in surprise, pulling the curtain back. All three had tears in their eyes. Ximen’s heartfelt declarations had moved them to tears.

“Ximen, we’ll help you too,” Xiao Qiao offered.

“Xiao You won’t suspect a thing,” Jing assured him.

“Ei, pighead. Were you trying to persuade Ximen not to propose?” Shan Cai shouted, getting over her tears, fast.

“Shan Cai, no . . . no, I just wanted him to be sure. I’m thinking about Xiao You,” Ah Si defended himself.

“You better support them 100%.”

“Why?” asked her befuddled fiancée.

“Because I do,” she said, smiling at Ximen.

Ximen brightened at her show of approval. It was always a bonus to have Shan Cai on your side.

“How are you going to help? We men came up with the brilliant ideas on how to propose. We made them perfect,” Mei Zhuo laughingly said.

“Ahhh, so was a swim in the lake with me in my sweats the perfect finish to your perfect proposal?” Xiao Qiao asked.

Mei Zhuo was quiet, as the others began to laugh.

“Yeah, Ximen came to the right people. All you GIRLS had to do was show up and say yes,” Ah Si went on, undeterred.

“So, me stealing the ring and not even letting you propose was how you planned it, pighead?” Shan Cai asked grumpily. She wouldn’t have minded being proposed to . . . although that was partly her own fault. He HAD tried.

F3 looked at Lei, and then looked at a smiling Jing.

“I have nothing to say,” Lei calmly said into the silence.

“Me neither,” Jing chimed in.

“Oh come on, Jing, there must be something you could tell us,” Mei Zhuo wheedled.

“Knowing Lei, he probably fell asleep before getting the proposal out, and Jing Jie just came in and put the ring on herself,” Shan Cai said laughingly.

Lei was silent.

Jing said nothing.

Everyone looked at him . . . their laughter transforming into shocked silence.

“Ahh, okay, let’s get back to business. My perfect proposal to Xiao You,” Ximen finally said.

The seven sat down to seriously brainstorm for the most perfect proposal.

“Ei, how about we have a blimp or something or maybe charter a plane spell out the proposal in the clouds,” Ah Si suggested excitedly.

The others booed.

“That’s just too clichéd, pighead,” Shan Cai said, whacking him on the head.

“Ei . . . what about you Lei, what do you think,” Ah Si asked.

The others watched Ah Si’s face light up with the thumbs up and fall with the thumbs down. It was amazing how often Ah Si fell for that.

“Ei, how about this . . . Ximen parachutes down with a banner that would be sticking out behind him. Xiao You can see the proposal that way, with Ximen flying into her arms,” Ah Si suggested.

“What is it with you and proposals in the sky?” Mei Zhuo asked.

“Dao Ming Si! Just what are you thinking?! That’s too dangerous. Are you trying to make my friend a widow before she can become a wife?”

“Well, then, how about….?” he began.

“NO!!!” the others shouted in chorus.

They group discussed the plans well into the night. Ximen knew that, although this proposal may not be the most inventive or perfect, it would be the most sincere.

FLOWERS . . .

“I’ll call her. I want to provide the distraction,” came the excited offer.

There was a loud smacking noise.

“Don’t you think she’ll get suspicious if the great Dao Ming Si Shao Ye calls her out of the blue to ask her out!” her voice shouted.

“Ohhh . . .”

GAZEBO . . .

“Do clothes really matter for the proposal. Why should she need a reason to dress up? Xiao Qiao, Jing and Shan Cai didn’t dress up. And we still proposed to them,” he asked.

“F*&#! Ouch!!!”

Mei Zhuo began to rub his arm where gentle Xiao Qiao’s finger had poked him, extremely hard.

THE RIGHT THINGS TO SAY . . .

“Don’t prepare, just go with the flow,” he softly advised . . .

“Stay awake,” she gently admonished . . .

As their eyes closed, and they fell into gentle slumber.

THE PERFECT RING . . .

“Please no rings shaped like fruit,” Shan Cai said, caressing hers lovingly.

“And don’t decide to go for a swim before putting it on her finger. Remember she could still say no,” Xiao Qiao warned, lovingly ruffling Mei Zhuo’s hair.

“What the—,” Jing awoke, looked at her sleeping fiancé, looked at the party, and drifted back to sleep.

Enough said.

CANDLELIGHT . . .

“And us of course,” Shan Cai added. “We need to be there.”

“What? No! . . . ”

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

Xiao You hadn’t seen Ximen all day. He’d said he had a meeting, and had left her in the office, promising to pick her up. He hadn’t shown up.

. . . . . .

She felt guilty. Incredibly guilty.

Yes. She loved Ximen.

Yes. She had pushed him.

But it didn’t feel right. They weren’t married, and she had taken this big step.

She had realized one thing over the past week. When she wasn’t with Ximen she became confused. And she wanted to be with him right now, so that he could take all the confusion away.

They had gone to work together, but they hadn’t had time to really talk since that night. To reflect.

He had been pleading work to get out of deep conversations, and had been successfully avoiding her in the process.

She missed him.

When she had come home, it was to find the girls there, insisting on doing a girl’s night out. Without the guys. There went another opportunity to spend time with Ximen.

She stood in front of the mirror.

Her hair had been tortured by Xiao Qiao, and had been swept up despite all of her objections. She didn’t want weird guys staring at her neck, but her opinion was ignored.

She was wearing a dress, brought by Jing. One that bared her shoulders and came to her knees. She had protested that as well, thinking about how people might stare at her shoulders and legs. Her opinion had been ignored.

She tugged at the material. She didn’t know what it was made of, but it had a tendency to cling to her body. She did NOT like that. Her hands relentlessly tugged, trying to make it stretch, but it did NOT work.

Her feet were killing her. The heels were cutting off the circulation to her toes, but she had to wear the damn things because Jing had insisted that they went with the dress.

Her eyelids could barely lift with all the mascara that Xiao Qiao insisted made her eyes look extremely sexy. Who wanted to look sexy anyways, she thought, pouting into the mirror, admiring how sexy her lips looked underneath all that lip gloss.

Her glasses were gone. Shan Cai had hidden them. And no matter how much she looked she couldn’t find them.

“Ei, you guys are evil. Why do I have to dress up? I don’t want guys staring at me. Ximen doesn’t want guys staring at me. And he likes me the way I am, you know, hiding my light under a bushel. He’s going to kill you guys if he finds out that I let other guys look at my beauty,” she threatened.

The others had just laughed at her.

When she refused to leave her room, they had disappeared.

A few minutes later she received a call.

“YANG XIAO YOU, get your butt down here! We’re sitting in the car. If you don’t get here in the next 2 minutes, we’ll . . . we’ll tell Ximen that you hated the sex,” Shan Cai shouted into the phone.

“But, I lov—ei, Shan Cai, I’m going to kill you,” Xiao You shouted into the phone, mortified at what she had just revealed.

Sounds of laughing could be heard on the phone.

“I told you. You should’ve believed me, but at least this way we can use it to blackmail her out of the room,” Xiao Qiao could be heard in the background.

Xiao You stalked down the stairs, and out of the house. She was going to kill Xiao Qiao and Shan Cai. How dare they?

She stepped outside, and froze in astonishment.

Someone had created a path from the house leading to the back of the house. The path was made of petals; petals that were all the colors of the rainbow.

Her eyes followed the path, and saw it disappear around the corner.

She couldn’t see the girls; maybe they had already gone ahead to investigate.

Xiao You moved down the steps, and followed the path into the garden. Her eyes followed the beautiful path as it moved through the garden to its destination.

The Gazebo . . .

Candlelight . . .

Flowers everywhere . . .

–FLASHBACK—

Xiao You lay silently next to Ximen. Her head placed over his heart, her ears listening to his heartbeat. She turned her face to place a kiss on his shoulder.

Ximen’s arms were around her, with one hand gently running through her hair.

Xiao You wiped the tears from her eyes. She was remembering that night so long ago, and the pleasure they had just shared, and she could only weep at how happy she was now.

“Xiao You,” he finally said, breaking the silence.

“Hmm,” she murmured.

“I love you,” he finally said.

“And may I ask what love means to Ximen Shao Ye,” she asked teasingly.

“What?” he asked, astonished that she even needed to ask.

“Come on, spill. What does your love mean?” Xiao You asked with mock seriousness.

“Meaning,” he replied, placing a kiss on her head before continuing, “I know all of you and I accept and admire every little bit of you. I respect you. I trust you as you trust me. I can’t live without you,” he continued, his arms tightening, “so don’t ever ask me to let you go. When you gave yourself to me,” he looked down at her, “I vowed to never do ANYTHING that would jeopardize that. Do you believe me?” he asked.

Xiao You looked into his eyes. Leaning up, she placed a kiss on his lips.

“Yes,” she said, “now prove it,” moving to straddle his body.

–end of FLASHBACK—

She slowly began to move toward the gazebo.

To be continued . . .

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Chapter 32

I Was Born to Love You

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I was born to love you
With every single beat of my heart

Xiao You walked up the steps of the gazebo, and stared in wonder at the fairyland setting before her.

The candles were lit, and provided a romantic glow in the nighttime darkness.

Flowers were everywhere. Someone had artfully arranged them around the gazebo. Their scent permeated the air.

In the center of the gazebo, sat a round table. And in the center of the table, someone had placed a red rose. There was a tube of paper around the rose.

Xiao You was awestruck. This was Ximen’s house, and his gazebo.

Something was telling her that this was Ximen’s idea, and that rose was for her.

You were made for me
You’re my ecstasy

Xiao You walked over to the table, and picked up the rose. Her hands shook as she began to suspect what all of this was.

Ximen’s home. Ximen’s garden. Ximen’s gazebo.

Ximen’s effort.

Happiness began to flood inside of her as she faced the possibility that this could be a proposal. There were no doubts what her answer would be.

Her eyes looked at the paper wrapped around the rose, and she gently unwrapped it.

Her eyes widened as she read the note written inside in Ximen’s handwriting.

“You are my princess, even in the 80’s ball gown.”

Xiao You’s eyes widened in surprise.

She remembered that day. How could she not when that was the moment she had met Ximen for the first time. When she had met her destiny?

And he remembered, that made that first memory all the more sweeter. She had felt completely lost at that party. He had made her feel desirable in that utterly embarrassing dress.

Beautiful music began to play, and the notes danced in the air. Her eyes followed the notes to the source, and saw Xiao Qiao and Lei playing.

Xiao Qiao looked up from her cello to flash her a smile, and Lei nodded at her over his violin.

Xiao You let it all wash over her. She didn’t know what to think. How to react. It was as if she was standing at one of the most important moments of life. Thinking back to a year ago, she would never have expected this to happen. She wouldn’t have allowed herself to dream. And yet here she was, and there they were.

From the moment she had met Ximen to now, not only had she somehow won the love of a wonderful man, but she had these wonderful friends. Friends who would play music for her, just to make this night even more special.

Tears of happiness began to appear in her eyes.

Just in time she remembered to blot. Xiao Qiao had warned her that this mascara wasn’t waterproof. She hadn’t thought much about it then, but she heeded the advice now.

The song slowly ended. Ni Yao De Ai. It was a special song to her. For some reason, the first night she had spent with Ximen, this song had run through her head.

It represented that night. He was the love she wanted. But she had had doubts. She had been unsure and insecure. Even then, in the face of that doubt, she had waited.

Obviously, it meant something to him as well, because he had asked his friends to play this piece for them.

Xiao Qiao and Lei put their instruments aside. He offered her his arm, and she placed her hand on it.

They slowly moved toward the gazebo with gentle smiles on their faces. Xiao Qiao’s hand held a single rose.

Silently they moved up the steps, Xiao Qiao handed her the rose, and, turning, they left her once more. Alone, and awaiting her Prince Charming’s appearance.

“You are my cute little, hardworking virgin . . . virgin no more.”

Xiao You blushed as she read the second note. Of course he would bring that up now, when she had wanted to discuss it with him all week.

She remembered the day they had come to the shop, and sold the cakes. She had gotten in line for the kiss, but had hoped that somehow he would do the kissing when it came to her.

And he had told her boss to give her a raise . . . he had always been charming that way.

Her eyes looked around, as she searched for the next event. Seeing Xiao Qiao and Lei, she knew to expect the others. Shan Cai would never allow herself to be left out.

Suddenly loud voices broke out behind the gazebo, at a location hidden from her eyes. The voices grew louder as their owners moved toward the gazebo and around to come to the steps.

“Ei, Mei Zhuo, you’re not doing it right . . . hold them! They almost fell,” Shan Cai’s bossy voice could be heard ordering him around.

When the finally appeared in sight, Mei Zhuo was carrying all the food, and Shan Cai’s hand held a single rose.

Mei Zhuo carefully placed the dishes on the round table, flashing Xiao You a cheeky grin.

Xiao You couldn’t help but smile back. She was so glad to see him happy, after the blow she had dealt him.

She could only sigh in relief when she had heard from an ecstatic Xiao Qiao that evening following the proposal.

“Careful, yeah careful,” Shan Cai ordered.

When he was done, he stepped back and hooked his arm through Shan Cai’s. Shan Cai turned to give Xiao You the rose, and they made to leave the gazebo.

“Good luck,” he said, winking at her.

Xiao You nodded back, and then jumped when Shan Cai screamed.

“Ei, little pighead!!!! You talked to her!!! We aren’t supposed to talk to her!!! And I’m talking now too!! You made me ruin th—eeeekkkkk!!!”

She squealed when Mei Zhuo grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder to shut her up.

“Mei Zhuo, put me down!!!” she ordered, beginning to pound him on the back.

Mei Zhuo gave Xiao You a jaunty little salute, and left the gazebo, carrying a somewhat subdued Shan Cai.

“You are my damsel in distress.”

Another wonderful day. Another wonderful memory. He was deliberately calling up all the moments that had made her fall in love with him.

Didn’t he know that she would never forget?

She would see him soon. Her heart began to beat faster.

She heard a soft noise. Turning, she saw Jing and Dao Ming Si coming with the wine and glasses.

She looked on as they placed them on the table.

Jing handed her a rose, and they began to leave.

“You are my brave confessor.”

She remembered when she had confessed to him, and he had asked her whether she wanted to date, kiss or sleep together. She had gotten all three, and now she was getting the greatest gift of all. His love wrapped up in this proposal.

Xiao You’s head jerked up when she heard running footsteps.

Her eyes widened when she saw Dao Ming Si coming back, he was out of breath.

Finally, he sheepishly pulled out the second rose he had forgotten to give her.

Xiao You immediately opened the note.

“You are my little seductress.”

Xiao You’s face reddened. Looking up she found Ah Si looking at her, his face was red as well.

She just knew that he had looked at it. He nodded at her, flashing her his dimpled smile, and raced out.

Xiao You waited for a moment, but Ximen did not appear. Her heart was beating rapidly, and she yearned to see him, to be in his arms once more.

Unable to stop herself, she got up to move to the other side of the gazebo, her eyes wandering restlessly, hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

She heard the sound of someone humming behind her, and finally . . . finally, she felt his arms come around to hold her.

He bent his head to place a kiss on the nape of her neck.

“You’re finally here,” she breathed out.

“Yeah, I’m finally here,” he answered. “It was a long, painful journey, but you made it all worthwhile,” he murmured into her hair.

Turning her, he placed a gently kiss on her forehead and lead her back to the table.

So take a chance with me
Let me romance with you
I’m caught in a dream
And my dream’s come true
It’s so hard to believe
This is happening to me
An amazing feeling
Coming through

As they sat at the table, her hand in one of his, he pulled out the final rose.

She smiled at him, accepting it.

“You are my every woman.”

Xiao You looked up at him, the tears began to fall. No warnings about becoming raccoon eyes would’ve stopped her.

She finally understood what he had been trying to say.

He gently wiped the tears from where they had fallen on her cheeks. He pulled her hand to place a gentle kiss on her palm.

“I love you, Yang Xiao You. For today, tomorrow and forever. I will love you faithfully,” he continued, taking a deep breath. “Why would I stray, when I have you in my arms?

You are all the woman I could ever want. You have everything that a woman should have . . . no . . . you are everything that a woman should be. I found love in your arms, and I found peace in your arms. You made me realize what love could be between a man and a woman, and you taught me how to fight for that love.

You are my lover . . . my only loved one . . . my teacher . . . my savior . . . and, hopefully, my wife.

“Miss Rainie Yang Xiao You, will you marry me and make me the happiest man alive?”

Xiao You’s eyes were filled with tears. She had never that thought that this moment would arrive. And now that it was here, she couldn’t help but cry at how perfect he had made it for her.

He was her knight in shining armor . . . but it seemed that he saw her as his knight . . . knightess? . . . whatever.

They had saved each other. She had loved, for a long time loved alone, but now they also loved together.

She was his every woman. He would never need another.

She thought back to all their moments. When they had first met, him beating up Zhong Ze, the rooftop, the meeting at the airport, the breakfasts, his seduction, their union, and this moment.

It was the most perfect of all.

She leaned in, and kissed him on the lips.

Her eyes met his in the candlelight.

He was anxious; she noticed that he wasn’t breathing.

“Yes, I will marry you, Ximen Zhong Er Lang,” she sweetly answered.

There was a loud exhalation of air.

This moment was magical . . . the outside world had completely receded, leaving them to revel in this moment alone.

Until . . .

Yes I was born to love you
Born – to love you
Born – to love you
Every single day – of my life

“Ei, look they’re kissing! Do you think she said yes?” Dao Ming Si’s excited voice could be heard, shattering the mood.

“Pighead, SHUT UP!!!” was then heard, followed by a loud smacking noise.

Ximen and Xiao You winced in sympathy.

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

Chapter 33

Girls’ Night In – Part I

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The four women sat around the dining room table. It was late in the evening, and they were finally having the slumber party they had talked about so long ago.

Each held a cup of cocoa in her hand, and each had forgotten that it was there.

Their thoughts were centered on things far important than those cups of cocoa. Namely their significant others.

Their faces were covered with mud masks. Their hair was tied back. Their bodies were swathed in their oldest jammies, and their feet were covered with ratty slippers. But they didn’t care, because no one was there to see.

Each woman was lost in her thoughts, silent.

Who would’ve thought to look at them that they had stolen F4’s hearts?

Who would’ve thought that F4 had hearts? And they really might have never allowed them to open up, but for the existence of a weed. A weed otherwise known as Shan Cai.

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

They lay in the field, their eyes on the sky. Ah Si’s arms were around Shan Cai’s, holding her tight.

She began to cough, because his arms were holding her so tightly. His arms loosened, and she began to breathe more easily.

She couldn’t believe that they were finally together. His parents would no longer intrude, and she could now guarantee that nothing would make him unhappy. Not while she was on the job.

She stared up at his face. His eyes were closed, and there was a smile on his face. His cute dimples were showing, and she couldn’t help but poke at them. She thought about all the stuff they had been through. His mother. Xiao Zi. His accident. Yesha. His mother.

She had loved him through it all, because there was something that wouldn’t let her stop. Something that wouldn’t let her give up.

She could never express how grateful she was that he had returned to her. She could only thank God by loving him with all her heart.

She saw that the meteor shower had started, and his eyes were still closed.

Reaching up, she whacked him on the face. She winced when she realized that she had hit him a bit harder than she had intended.

“Ei, Dao Ming Si, wake up. You’re missing the meteor shower.”

He opened his eyes, and smiled at her. Leaning down, he placed a gentle kiss on her cheek, and she leaned back to enjoy the meteor shower with him.

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

~~~~Shan Cai’s first like was Lei, her first crush and infatuation was Lei. He had pulled her out of her tomboy haze, and made her want to express her femininity. He had made her aware of the possibilities of love.

But, Dao Ming Si was the one who had taught her how to love. He had made her feel truly feminine. In his arms she could be strong or weak. She could cry and yell, and he would never reject her. She felt comfortable doing all those things with him.

He had chased her all over the world, and he would never let her go. His love was that strong. Surprisingly, that thought only brought comfort.

She sighed with happiness. He loved her. And she loved him. Could it get better than that?

~~~~Jing sat across from Shan Cai, lost in her own little, Lei world.

She missed him. Today would’ve been his first night back from Japan, but the girls had insisted. They would be together for the rest of their lives.

So what was one night? Never mind that it felt like an eternity.

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

Jing quietly entered the room, and her eyes moved to the figure lying in the bed. He lay there, snoring away, and she just felt the urge to look at him.

She looked at the clock; it was 7:30 a.m., too early for him to awaken. But she would be happy just looking at his sleeping, angelic face.

She sat there for a while, enjoying being with him, before leaning forward to gently pinch his nose, closing off his airways.

He choked. His hand slapped her hand away.

His eyes opened immediately. He looked at the clock by his bedside, and then turned his head to look at her.

“You’re awake,” she whispered.

He nodded, sleepily.

Lei pulled her down into his arms, and she lay there, enjoying the sensation. He had to go to Japan for the next two days, and he had wanted to spend the night with her. But she had had to refuse. She didn’t want to upset his father. He had reluctantly conceded.

She missed the wonderful sleep she got whenever she was with Lei. He was her security blanket.

“We won’t be able to meet the night you return. Shan Cai has decided that the girls need to bond, and so it won’t be just us two. That girl is freakishly like Dao Ming Si, I couldn’t say no. Mei Zhuo said that all of you should have a guys night out. So, Mei Zhuo decided that you all would meet at VS, okay?” she concluded.

She looked into his eyes. He was staring into hers, quietly, and she wondered what deep thoughts were moving through his head.

“Okay,” he answered.

She was confused by how easily he accepted that when he had argued against her going home last night, but maybe he wanted to spend this time with the guys. She wouldn’t begrudge him that.

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

She thought about the past two years. She had gone from being the pampered princess to your average student on the street.

She had worked two jobs and taken out loans to pay for law school. She had had no choice when her parents had pulled their support.

She was proud of the fact that she had only broken down twice. The first was when she had come home to find Lei gone, and the second was when she had called him. Hearing his voice had made her cry. Embarrassment had forced her to excuse it with alcohol and stress.

But he had come. His caring heart wouldn’t let him stay away.

Her weakness had not repulsed him. When Lei saw the true her, she had felt freed.

She no longer felt the need to be the perfect Barbie doll. She had shattered Lei’s perceptions of her, and not for one moment did she regret it.

And he had fallen in love all over again. Only this time there was no way she would fall off any pedestal, because she hadn’t let him place her on one.

Lei had finally loved her as she needed to be loved. He had forgotten the “worship” he had given her before.

For the first time, in a long time, she was content.

~~~~Xiao Qiao sat to Jing’s right. Her hands softly moved on the table, tracing out notes, as a beautiful melody played in her head.

It was Mei Zhuo’s favorite piece. Silly, she knew, but he liked it. His image was plastered across her consciousness, and she wasn’t complaining.

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

It was dark behind the blindfold. Really, really dark. Mei Zhuo didn’t know that she was afraid of the dark. She even slept with a nightlight!

“Okay, just a little bit more,” he gently cautioned her, leading her into the dark room.

“Mei Zhuo,” she softly said, tightening her hand around his, seeking comfort. “Where are you taking me?” She couldn’t wait to take the blindfold off.

“Just wait,” he softly urged.

She felt herself being pushed into a chair, and she heard him moving away. Her hands reached out blindly, trying to touch him.

“Yin Xiao Qiao, you can open your eyes now,” she heard him shout.

Xiao Qiao pulled off the blindfold, and looked around. She then looked toward him in question.

“This is my surprise to you,” he explained, “I built you a music hall.”

Xiao Qiao looked around. Her face showed no reaction. She didn’t quite understand. He built her a music hall? What exactly did that mean? She guessed that it meant he wanted her to travel less. She had been planning on doing that, and had faced the thought that she might have no choice but to give up her musical career to fulfill her duties as a Ling bride. She had seen her mother sacrificing for her father, and she hadn’t minded too much. Only because she was doing it for love.

Did this mean he accepted her career? That he would make room in their lives to let her have her own life, separate from theirs? She hadn’t thought to ask, but Mei Zhuo was the kind of person that wouldn’t make you ask.

She began to smile.

“I like it,” she finally said, smiling. “I like it very much, Ling Mei Zhuo. Thank you.”

She walked up the steps.

Her arms came up around him, and she initiated the kiss that time.

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

She had loved for so long. She had waited for so long. But she knew how different they really were, so she had never allowed herself to really hope that he would return her love one day.

Their love had bridged their differences.

He was too loud, had a colorful fashion sense, and had a perpetual smile on his face.

But he had chosen her. And he knew exactly what she needed. That was something she wouldn’t forget.

Her lips broke out into a smile as she caught Xiao You staring at her moving hands.

She could still remember the first day they had met. They had been miserable. But for Xiao You’s frienship, Xiao Qiao would have quietly left, and Mei Zhuo might never have known why.

What a difference a few words, spoken at the right time, had made.

~~~~Xiao You sat across from Xiao Qiao, and stared at Xiao Qiao’s moving hands. They were weaving a melody on the tablecloth.

Their friendship had pulled her through the past few months of craziness. Thinking about that day at the bar and now, she could only marvel at how far they had come.

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

“Stop calling me! What is wrong with you that you would hurt another woman like this,” Xiao You shouted into the phone.

“I’m afraid, Xiao You, I learned this from the man you purport to love. It would be better if you go away, if you don’t I’ll be forced to apply what your fiancée taught me,” the woman calmly told her.

“He’s changed. He would never hurt me. So, back off,” Xiao You demanded.

“Has he? Has he really changed? What about the woman you saw the night of the Dao Ming engagement?”

“How do you know about her? How do you? Was it you? Were you involved in some way?” Xiao You asked incredulously.

“I can’t tell you that. You chose to believe him, god how foolish can you be? He will betray you over and over. Everywhere you turn you will meet women that have been with your fiancée. How will you react, knowing that they know your fiancée as well as you do?”

“They don’t. They don’t know Ximen. All you’ve ever had is his body. I have his heart.”

“How sure are you?” the woman asked.

There was a knock on the door.

“That’s Ximen. If I tell him what you’ve been doin—”

“But you won’t. If you were going to, you would’ve done so long ago. But telling him will reveal that you’re bothered by it. Which will reveal your petty jealousies. Do you want that? Do you want him to see you as a woman who can’t deal with his past? Do you wan to scare him?”

“Don’t call me again.”

Ximen walked into Xiao You’s room. She quickly smoothed all the expression from her face, she didn’t want him to worry.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” he softly asked. Apparently she wasn’t successful.

“Nothing,” she murmured. “Let’s go somewhere.”

“Where?”

“Can we go to the rooftop?” she finally asked.

He looked at her quietly.

“Let’s go,” he finally said, pulling her up.

As they stood on the rooftop, he put his arm around her shoulders, hugging her close.

Her shoulders began to shake, as she finally broke down. She couldn’t handle it. The constant calls, awakening fears that she thought she had dealt with. She loved this man. But he had a past. If she couldn’t deal with it, she was afraid that she would lose him. That scared her the most.

“Xiao You, what is it? Tell me please. I want to help . . .,” he softly offered.

“No, it’s nothing. It’s my problem. Ximen, just hold me. Please.”

He embraced her, pulling her close. She nestled against his warmth, and ignored those petty jealousies for the moment.

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

She had dealt. He had a past. She remembered her saying that she could accept him getting phone numbers and he could do it because he was Ximen. She had accepted it back then. She could accept it now.

She had Ximen. She had a career. And she had her computers. She was happy.

He had made her night with that proposal . . . he had made her life with that proposal. But what had made her happier was the joy in his eyes when she had said yes.

It made her realize all the more that she held his heart in her hands. He would never hurt her. And she would never do anything to hurt his heart.

They had a chance, despite the odds, and she was never one to run from challenges.

She may not have had Shan Cai’s weed spirit, Jing’s elegance or Xiao Qiao’s talent, but something about her had caught Ximen’s gaze.

She wasn’t ever going to let it stray.

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

“Ei, Shan Cai, someone’s at the door,” Xiao Qiao said.

Her voice brought all of them out of their thoughts.

“I wonder who it could be?” Jing asked.

“Probably the food,” Shan Cai said.

“Ei, you’re not going like that are you,” Xiao You asked when Shan Cai moved toward the door with the gunk still on her face.

“Why not, the delivery person in this neighborhood is a woman,” Shan Cai answered. “Come on.”

“Why,” Xiao You asked.

“Because, Ms. Lazy Pants, I ordered a lot of food,” Shan Cai answered.

All four moved toward the door. They were a sight to see.

Shan Cai finally opened the door after more arguing from Jing. She didn’t want anyone to see her like this.

Their eyes widened. Their hands came up to cover their faces.

“Aaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!”

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

Chapter 34

Guys’ Night Out – Part II

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

“Why are we doing this, tell me again?” Ah Si ordered.

“Like I said, the girls just needed a time to bond,” Lei repeated for the umpteenth time. “Look, Shan Cai is almost never out of your sight, what’s so hard about giving her this one night?”

“I miss her,” Ah Si grumbled like a little kid, pouting.

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

They lay in the field, their eyes on the sky. Ah Si’s arms were around Shan Cai’s, holding her tight. He slightly loosened them when he heard her cough.

He never wanted to let her go.

He couldn’t believe that they were finally together. His parents would no longer intrude, and he could now guarantee that nothing would make her unhappy.

His eyes closed as he thought about all the stuff they had been through. His mother. Xiao Zi. His accident. Yesha. His mother. But she had stood by him through it all.

She had loved him through it all. His face broke out into a smile, and he felt a feather soft touch against his face.

He could never express how grateful he was for that. He could only thank her and God by loving her with all his heart.

He was awakened from his reverie when he felt a light tap on his cheek.

“Ei, Dao Ming Si, wake up. You’re missing the meteor shower.”

He opened his eyes, and smiled at her. Leaning down, he placed a gentle kiss on her cheek, and he leaned back to enjoy the meteor shower with her.

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

They were sitting in VS, and had been there for the past couple of hours. Mei Zhuo had called everyone to gather her, since their fiancées were gathering at Shan Cai’s tonight for a slumber party. He had insisted that it would be better to be together and miserable than alone and miserable.

~~~~Ah Si had grumbled . . . he had planned on crashing Shan Cai’s party . . . but the guys had eventually talked him out of it.

He regretted meeting them. He could’ve been there right now. Shan Cai would’ve been shouting at him, but at least she would’ve been nearby.

His mulish expression began to relax, as he pondered on the miracle that was Shan Cai. He was finally getting his weed. While other guys would boast about their “flower” girlfriends, he was proud to call this weed his own.

Her weed spirit had never let her give up, and any man with size had to be thankful for that. And he was a man of size . . . wait, no . . that wasn’t right. He winced as he imagined Shan Cai’s voice calling him “pighead”, and it came to him. He was a man of SENSE.

He was a man of si—sense, and he would become someone Shan Cai would be proud to call a weed’s husband.

~~~~As he sat there, smiling, Lei sat next to him immersed in his own thoughts.

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

Lei’s eyes opened immediately. He looked at the clock by his bedside, and saw that it was only 8:00 a.m. Looking around, he wondered what had awakened him.

He slowly turned his head. There was Jing. Her hand was raised in the air, and she was smiling at him softly.

No wonder he had awakened as soon as she had entered the room. It was like he had a sixth sense when she was there, which would even pull him out of sleep if need be.

“You’re awake,” she whispered.

He nodded, sleepily.

His mind began to wander, as he pulled her down into his arms. He had to go to Japan for the next two days, and he had wanted to spend the night with her. But she had refused, saying that she couldn’t do it when his father was home. He had reluctantly conceded.

For the first time in a long time, he hadn’t been able to go to sleep.

“We . . . . . the night you return . . . . . . bond . . . . . . . us two . . . . . . . . meet at VS, okay?” she concluded.

He realized that she had been talking for the past few minutes, but he hadn’t really been listening.

He certainly didn’t want to ask her what she had been saying. While Jing could be forgiving, this might drive her over the edge. He didn’t want to push her and find out.

“Okay,” he answered.

If she wanted to spend his homecoming at VS, then he was game. As long as he got to be with her.

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

Imagine his surprise when he had arrived here, to find F3 and no Jing. He had come very close to using profanity in a most un-Lei like manner.

He had controlled himself, and had even convinced Ah Si to stay, not that he couldn’t understand Ah Si’s need to be with Shan Cai.

He had come a long way from the lost boy he had been, needing to be rescued by Jing.

He had always been aware of everything around him. He was aware of his brother’s wants and of Shan Cai’s needs. He WAS Lei. But he had never thought about what mattered to him. When it came time to do that, he went to sleep.

He had Jing now to push him. Because of her, he was becoming more aware of his own needs. And right now, he needed to be with her.

She had always been his.

At first she was HIS knight in shining armor. She had rescued him from his self-imposed isolation.

Then she was his goddess. He could only worship at her altar.

Then, she became a Jezebel. He had thought she had betrayed him.

As he had matured in the past two years, she had transformed from a cold, capable woman to a lost waif.

It was when he began to pity her, that he had finally realized she was only human. This “human” Jing had drawn him like no other. She had attracted him more than Shan Cai.

This Jing was a student. She was another hard-working virgin. She was a beauty, even in her cheap clothes.

This Jing was the only one who was really his. One he would be comfortable in claiming and being claimed by.

“She . . . was . . . perfect, and,” he yawned, “he was grateful that she had taken him back.”

~~~~As Lei nodded off, Mei Zhuo sat there immersed in his own thoughts.

She had loved his surprise, and had already started making plans.

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

“Okay, just a little bit more,” he gently cautioned her, leading her into the dark room.

“Mei Zhuo,” she softly said, her hand tightening around his. “Where are you taking me?”

“Just wait,” he softly urged.

He couldn’t wait for her reaction. The hall had been finished one day before she was supposed to come back from Australia, but with all that had happened, he hadn’t had time to show her what he had done.

He pushed her to sit in a chair, and went on the stage.

“Yin Xiao Qiao, you can open your eyes now,” he shouted.

Xiao Qiao pulled off the blindfold, and looked around.

Mei Zhuo saw her looking at him in inquiry.

“This is my surprise to you,” he explained, “I built you a music hall.”

Xiao Qiao looked around. Her face showed no reaction. His heart began to beat in dread. Had he presumed too much? What if she liked to travel? What if she didn’t want to work with new talent? How could he have done all this without asking her??!!

“I like it,” she finally said, smiling. “I like it very much, Ling Mei Zhuo. Thank you.”

He watched as she walked up the steps.

Her arms came up around him, and she initiated the kiss that time.

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

Xiao Qiao was finally his. He repeated it for the 1 billionth and first time. He couldn’t believe it. She had said yes, even though he had hurt her so much by his insensitivity and stupidity.

The moments he had spent waiting for her answer, the insecurity he had felt, had made him realize the hell she had gone through. The thoughts of losing her had made him appreciate her insecurity.

It made him appreciate all the more that she had said yes.

Yes, Ai Sha had been special, but Xiao Qiao was spectacular. He couldn’t believe that she had thought he loved another.

She was the only woman he could imagine spending the rest of his life with, because she would always create the music they could dance to.

Without her, there would be no music . . . no color . . . no laughter.

She was his. And he would never let her go.

~~~~Next to him, Ximen sat in peaceful contentment.

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

He walked into Xiao You’s room. She looked a bit upset.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” he softly asked.

“Nothing,” she murmured. “Let’s go somewhere.”

“Where?”

“Can we go to the rooftop?” she finally asked.

He looked at her quietly. She was upset. He could tell. But if she didn’t want to talk, he wouldn’t make her. At least, he could provide her with comfort.

“Let’s go,” he said, pulling her up.

As they stood on the rooftop, he put his arm around her shoulders, hugging her close.

They began to shake, as she finally broke down.

“Xiao You, what is it? Tell me please. I want to help . . .,” he softly offered.

“No, it’s nothing. It’s my problem. Ximen, just hold me. Please.”

He embraced her, pulling her close. She nestled against his warmth, and he could only hope that she would come to him if she needed.

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

They had stood there all night, and in the next few days she had grown happier. Whatever it had been had apparently worked itself out. He was only too glad. Her pain had hurt him. It wasn’t a comfortable feeling.

His thoughts moved on to other subjects. Happier subjects.

He was thinking about that night almost a week ago. The others had insisted in taking part, and he had argued against it.

Shan Cai had argued until she had won. Not only was he the last F4 to get engaged, but he was Ximen. This was an end of an era.

And, somehow their intimate moment had become an eight-person party. But, he had to admit, he didn’t really regret it at the end. And it was something unique.

Now, nothing could get in their way.

Nothing . . . he couldn’t take this anymore.

He slammed his hands down on the table, and pushed himself up.

Two other pairs of hands did the same. Lei was still asleep.

Ximen looked at them in surprise. They looked back.

“I have to go check on my father,” Ximen finally said.

“I’m going to go do some work,” Ah Si grumbled, tired of just sitting there.

“I’m going to go work out. Too much energy to waste,” Mei Zhuo said cheerfully.

“I’m going to go home and sleep,” Lei finally said, waking up.

Ximen raced out. He didn’t care about the others, but he was going to go see Xiao You. This was really too much of Shan Cai. They had just gotten engaged less than a week ago!! He needed to spend some quality time with his fiancée.

As his car raced through the streets, he realized that he was being followed. He recognized Ah Si and Mei Zhuo’s cars. It looked like Lei was the only one who hadn’t lied.

Reaching Shan Cai’s house, he braked hard at the sight of Lei’s car parked there.

“What took you so long?” he asked sleepily.

Ah Si screeched to a halt, walked past all of them and rang the bell.

After a few minutes, the door flew open.

Their eyes widened. They moved back a step.

“Aaaahhhhhhh!!!!!!”

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

Chapter 35

Honey?

“Aaaaaahhhhhhhh!!!” One of the group let out an earsplitting shriek.

F4 stepped back simultaneously.

Where they had been expecting their significant others, they saw weird-looking, alien beings. It was surprising . . . to say the least.

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

“Shan Cai? Shan Cai, what did you do to your face?” Dao Ming Si shouted.

His face was creased with worry. He roughly pushed open the door, and stepped inside, intent on figuring out what had happened to her.

“Dao Ming Si, what are you doing here? I told you this was a girls’ night in. Leave,” she ordered, pointing toward the door.

Ah Si ignored her orders, and stepped forward to tap at the hard shell that had formed on her face.

“What are you doing?” he finally asked, getting tired from poking at her face.

“Beautifying myself,” she explained in a timid tone.

“What?” he asked, incredulously.

“Jing Jie said that this would tighten up my skin, and . . .” she trailed off.

“And?” he asked.

“I forget,” she finally admitted.

“Take it off!” he finally ordered.

“No!!”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m not done yet.”

“Yes you are.”

“Pighead, I said no!”

Ignoring her complaints he picked her up and took her to the bathroom.

Despite repetitive knocking, it remained locked.

“Who’s in there? I thought all of you were out there? I counted four scary faces!” he finally asked.

“I don’t know! I was too busy arguing with you!” she shouted.

Finally, dragging her to the kitchen, he washed the gunk off her face.

In the end he was relieved to see her beautiful face glaring at him, unharmed from that dratted stuff.

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

Jing finally got her mouth closed after letting out an embarrassingly earsplitting shriek. She couldn’t believe that she had made that sound. But this was the sort of situation that called for that kind of reaction.

She stared in horror at who was standing at the doorway. She couldn’t believe this. It was one thing to appreciate that Lei had seen the real her, it was another thing to have him see her with this stuff on her face, her hair in curlers, and wearing the worst clothes.

She had been a model!

She stared at Lei.

Good, his eyes were still closed.

Turning around she raced to Shan Cai’s bathroom, intent on taking off the mask.

She had just turned on the water when she heard the door close behind her.

She looked into the mirror, and quickly ducked her head when she saw who it was.

He was pretty fast for a sleepy guy.

She began to wash the mask off.

He remained standing, quietly.

When she was finally done, she turned to look at him.

“What are you doing here?” she mumbled shamefacedly.

“I missed you,” he said, smiling quietly.

“Whatever Lei, when I told you about this a few days ago, you were happy with the arrangement,” she snorted and moved toward the door, intent on leaving.

As she tried to push him aside, he grabbed her in his arms.

“What are you doing?” she demanded, angry that he had seen her like this.

“Like I said,” he whispered into her ear, “I missed you.”

His arms pulled her close, and then there was only silence.

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

Xiao Qiao looked at Mei Zhuo under the light.

He looked extremely curious.

She moved around an arguing Shan Cai and Dao Ming Si to pull him inside.

“What’s that on your face?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.

She smiled at him. Or tried to smile through the stiff mask.

She began to explain, telling him all the stuff she did to make herself pretty for him.

“You didn’t think that I was this pretty without any effort, did you?

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

“Can I try it?” he finally asked.

She quietly stared at him.

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

“Sure,” she answered, pulling him into the room.

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

Ximen stared at Xiao You.

She looked beautiful, as always, even under all that gunk.

As they stood at the doorstep, alone now, he asked, “And why are you doing this?”

“Shan Cai threatened me,” Xiao You grumbled. “She has a very dominant personality, you can’t say no. She told me that all women do this when they get together with their friends. It’s part and parcel of female bonding.”

“Really? All guys do is get drunk together to bond.”

“I’d rather be a guy,” she grumbled.

“I’d rather you weren’t,” he murmured.

“And why not?” Xiao You shot back, inexplicably incensed at this.

“Then I couldn’t do this,” he murmured, leaning down to kiss her lip, peeping out at him through the mask.

“Ximen!” she said, shocked. She pushed him back.

He looked at her questioningly.

“Not out here,” she finally said, dragging him inside and closing the door.

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

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