EYR 36 – 40

Chapter 36

If You Ever Fall

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

It was over.

Everything was over.

She would never forget what she had seen in that office.

And she would never forgive.

~*~*~*~*~*FLASHBACK~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was a glorious morning. It was a glorious day. In fact every day had been GLORIOUS from the moment that Ximen had entered her life once more.

She felt so happy, because life was so good.

It was exactly a month since Ximen had proposed, and she had never awoken in the morning without a smile on her face.

And those calls. Those horrible calls had stopped. The stress had become so great. She knew she had to do something. She had finally decided to give them no importance. If they had no importance, they wouldn’t worry her. Only when she had learned to ignore them, had she been completely happy. And once she began to hang up, without listening to those poisonous words, the calls had stopped.

It was as if the caller knew she was losing her power over her.

She was on top of the world, and nothing could bring her down.

Nothing.

She arrived at Ximen’s office door. Xu wasn’t there, surprisingly.

Her eyes looked around. Xu was nowhere to be seen. She remembered the first time she had met him, he had been so nervous. But his loyalty to Ximen had quickly won her over.

She had been happy that Ximen had such a loyal assistant.

So that was why she was surprised to find him missing. He never left his boss unguarded.

“Ximen,” she lightly knocked on the door, “are you in there?”

Apparently Ximen hadn’t heard her.

He wasn’t at his desk.

He was lying on the couch on the other side of the office.

No, he hadn’t heard her call out. He hadn’t heard her knock.

He was too busy kissing the woman in his arms.

Xiao You froze. Her eyes widened in shock, and she couldn’t tear them away from the scene in front of her eyes.

It was like a dream . . . no a movie . . . something she had seen before.

Memories of the last time ran through her mind. How could it be happening to her?

A sense of unreality washed over her.

How many times? How many times would she chance upon scenes like these? Had her faith in him been foolish? Had she been too naive?

Her hand crept up to pinch her arm.

It hurt.

It wasn’t a dream.

How long had it been since she had opened the door? She didn’t remember. He was still kissing her. His hands were fisted in her hair, holding her close, while his mouth ravished hers.

He wasn’t pushing her away.

Her Ximen was kissing another woman. And enjoying it.

There would be no forgiveness. Not this time.

~*~*~*~*~*~END of FLASHBACK*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Her hands shook as she packed her clothes into the suitcase.

She couldn’t think. She wouldn’t allow herself to think.

If she did, she would remember. And if she remembered she was afraid that she would forget how to breathe.

Her heart hurt.

It hurt so much.

She thought she knew pain when she had been rejected the first time. The second time. But she had been innocent.

Now . . . after grasping all that happiness . . . after dreaming all those dreams . . . dreams that he had shown her . . . on losing that future together . . . she knew what true pain was.

“Xiao You, what’s wrong?” uncle’s voice gently interrupted her feverish packing.

Xiao You ignored the voice. Ignored it.

She had to get out. If she stopped for a moment, she would completely break down.

“Xiao You, tell me,” he ordered. His hands came out to grasp hers, stopping her from packing. Stopping her from moving.

She looked up at that face.

The father of the man she loved.

She looked up into an older version of Ximen.

She looked into a future that she would never get to see.

She began to cry, collapsing into uncle’s comforting arms.

~*~*~*~*~*~FLASHBACK*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Ximen Zhong Er Lang, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” she shouted out in shock . . . in pain . . . in anger.

She felt so much hatred at that moment for this man that she loved, and she wanted to hurt him. Hurt him as much as he was hurting her.

He pulled away from the other woman . . . his eyes held surprise and a trace of guilt.

He quickly pushed the other woman away. Getting up, he moved toward her.

“Don’t come any closer. You think you can touch me with those hands? You’re . . . tainted,” she finally spit out.

“God, what kind of fool was I? Why did I give you repeated chances to prove your love? What could you prove when there was nothing to prove? You’re incapable of love, aren’t you?”

“Xiao You—,” he began.

“I’m not done yet! Do you really think that you could explain this? In the same way as you did before? Do you think I would believe you?”

Xiao You took off the ring he had given her exactly one month before, and threw it in his face. She didn’t want it anywhere near him.

It was tainted . . . like his love . . . like him.

“I don’t ever want to see you again, understand?” she spat out.

She ran out the door.

~*~*~*~*~*~END of FLASHBACK*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Uncle, I’m leaving,” she finally said, after her tears had dried up. Now, there were only gentle hiccups and resignation.

Her heart was breaking and she had to get away. She needed to escape.

He looked into her eyes, and saw straight into her broken heart. The pain was too great for her to listen. She wouldn’t listen. Not right now. Maybe . . . hopefully . . . she would be ready later.

He knew that if he didn’t help her, she would find another way.

This way, at least, he would see to her safety.

He turned toward the doorway.

“Butler Ping, tell the driver to bring the car around. And get a first class ticket for the next available flight to Canada.”

He turned to Xiao You. This woman, who reminded him so much of Xian Ning.

His heart wept. For her pain. For lost chances. For a crumbling future.

He had hoped that his son would get it right. He had hoped that this time around he could see the younger versions of himself and Xian Ning live happily ever after.

“But I guess it was too much to hope,” he thought, sighing.

“Goodbye Rainie,” he finally said.

Xiao You nodded, and, giving him a hug, quickly left the room.

“I hope to see you soon,” he murmured into the empty room.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~FLASHBACK*~*~*~*~*~*~

Xiao You stood outside the building, trying to catch a taxi. She had been standing there for the past five minutes.

No taxis had stopped.

Ximen hadn’t come running after her either. That only confirmed what she had seen with her own eyes. He had stayed behind to comfort that woman.

He was welcome to her.

She finally saw an empty taxi coming, and raised her hand to wave it down.

A hand reached out, and grabbed hers, pulling her away from the curb.

She was roughly turned around.

Ximen’s eyes looked into hers.

“Xiao You, don’t go. Listen to me. It’s not what you think. I can explain.”

“No explanations necessary. You’ve heard of the old saying, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me? Well, you won’t be fooling me twice.”

“Listen to me, that woman was not who you think. She was—,” he began.

“She was a woman. You were kissing her. That is all I need to know. I don’t need to hear anymore,” she coldly replied.

“Look, read this,” he desperately instructed, handing her a piece of paper.

“What? Will this explain what I just saw?” Xiao You asked scornfully.

“Will it say that you are once again completely innocent? Ximen, you don’t get it!! There’s nothing that this could say that would make me stay,” Xiao You shouted, ripping up the paper and letting the pieces blow away in the wind.

“No!” Ximen’s eyes widened, and he scrambled to pick up the pieces.

It was futile.

He turned back to Xiao You. Reaching out, he grabbed her by the arms.

“Listen to me, I love you. You know that! So, why can’t you trust me? Why can’t you believe that this was a scheme set up to hurt you and me? Why can’t you trust me one more time?” he shouted at her, desperate to hold on. He knew that once he let go, she would leave. And he might never see her again.

“I don’t believe you. Why did I ever think you would change? A leopard doesn’t change his spots. Not because it doesn’t want to, but because it can’t. You can’t. Right, Ximen?

If you were innocent you wouldn’t have been caught in the same situation twice. If it is a scheme, then why? Why are you the target? Because of your past, right?

If I marry you, I’ll be facing this situation at every turn. You’ve hurt so many people I know that. You’ve hurt me.

A woman, who truly loved you, would be able to weather this. She wouldn’t be bothered by your history. She could face your lovers, bolstered by the knowledge that you were completely hers. Those mei meis might have had pieces of you, but she had the whole man. She had the body, the heart, and the soul. She would be strong because of that.

. . . . . . . . .

I don’t think I’m strong enough.”

She pulled away, and turned to go.

“Xiao You, don’t leave me. Please don’t leave me,” Ximen pleaded, reaching out a hand to stop her.

“Ximen, let me go. Just . . . let me go,” she begged.

Ximen froze at those words. He stared at her back.

His fingers slowly uncurled from around her wrist.

Caressing her wrist with his thumb, he finally pulled away.

Letting her go for the last time.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~END of FLASHBACK*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

It was over.

She had no more hope. No more dreams.

She couldn’t forget. She couldn’t forgive.

The man she loved was now in her past.

And she had willingly left him.

. . . . . . . . . .

Because she was a coward.

To be continued . . . .

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

Chapter 37

And the Truth Is . . .

There was complete silence in the room. Ximen didn’t know what had just happened. His eyes were locked on the door, and he couldn’t move. He was frozen in place.

He had made the biggest mistake of his life. And he wasn’t sure why it had happened.

His eyes moved to the woman standing two feet away. The woman who had ruined his life.

He couldn’t move. He was afraid that if he did he might do something he would regret forever.

She smiled at him.

“So, Ximen Zhong Er Lang, how does it feel knowing that you’ve lost the only woman your tainted heart could ever love?”

*~*~*~*~*~*FLASHBACK~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Good morning, manager,” Xu’s voice greeted him.

Ximen only smiled in acknowledgement, saying nothing.

There was no time to talk. It was their one-month anniversary today. Exactly one month since he had proposed to Xiao You, and he wanted to celebrate in a memorable fashion. He knew that there would come a time when he might even forget their wedding anniversaries, like all men were prone to do, but right now their love was too new . . . too fragile. He wanted to revel in her love and their relationship.

He wanted to savor these moments.

After a couple of hours of strenuous work, Xu brought in his morning snack. Xiao You and Xu had concocted a scheme to keep him ulcer-free. It was not like he could refuse. All Xu had to do was complain to Xiao You of any trouble, and Ximen would get her cold shoulder.

He sat at his desk, enjoying the few moments of quiet before the chaos, when the cup suddenly slipped from his fingers.

His head began to pound. His hands came up to try to stop the pounding, and he quickly got up, swaying.

That was a mistake.

The room was whirling around him. And he couldn’t seem to make it stop.

His hands reached toward the telephone, his fingers pressing numbers at random, hoping to call for aid.

He strived to take in a deep breath, and could only inhale in short gasps. His harsh breaths were the only sound in the room.

“Manager, I wanted to—Ximen Shiao Ye, what happened? Are you alright?”

Xu began to shout as he saw Ximen swaying near the desk. His face had taken on a green hue, and sweat had formed in little beads on his forehead.

Xu ran over, and helped Ximen to the couch on the other side of the office.

“Help! We need help!! Manager, don’t go anywhere I’ll be right back!” he exclaimed, running out the door.

Only Ximen hadn’t heard his words, he had passed out.

*~*~*~*~*~*End of FLASHBACK~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Why?” he finally asked, trying to understand what had just happened.

“Ximen, you don’t remember the women you sleep with, why would you remember me?” she looked at him contemptuously.

Ximen looked at her in growing anger.

“You did this because I slept with you? You ruined my life because of a week? I’ve always been upfront about my policy. I have never seduced an innocent, and if you slept with me you did so willingly. What right do you have to revenge?” he spat out.

“You don’t listen either. I said that if you don’t remember the women you sleep with, why would you remember me? We never slept together. Thank god. Or that would be one more crime I laid at your door. Is that how you sleep at night? Comforting yourself with the knowledge that your women knew what they were getting into?”

“I—,” he began.

“There is nothing you could say that would justify your behavior,” she interrupted. “Try to remember who I am. I’ll give you a clue. I was someone you used a long time ago to make a point. Your point was made and you forgot me.”

Ximen was silent. No amount of searching would bring a name to the front of his mind. His hands clenched. The minutes were quickly passing by, and he knew that each moment he delayed, he was losing Xiao You more and more.

*~*~*~*~*~*FLASHBACK~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

The first sensation that made itself known was the pounding in his head. He had never felt such pain before, not even after the worst of hangovers.

The next was Xiao You’s scent. She was close by. That only made him want to open his eyes sooner, but he couldn’t . . . the pain was too strong.

And the next was the sweetest sensation.

Lips. Kissing him. Caressing him.

Xiao You’s lips. His mouth opened, inviting her to enter. Letting her be the aggressor this time.

The kiss grew deeper . . . his lips tasted hers. He realized some things, despite the pain coursing through his head and communicating itself to the rest of his body.

This woman wasn’t Xiao You.

She tasted different. She felt different.

Even though she wore Xiao You’s scent, she smelled different.

This wasn’t his Xiao You.

“Ximen Zhong Er Lang, what the hell do you think you’re doing?” he heard Xiao You’s voice shout out from the doorway.

It held shock . . . pain . . . anger. He knew that he had hurt her.

He pulled away from the other woman. His other senses had revealed the truth, but his eyes still held surprise upon seeing the proof. And a trace of guilt when he realized that he had broken his promises to Xiao You . . . even if it had been unintentional.

He quickly pushed the other woman away. Getting up, he moved toward Xiao You, wanting to explain, to end her pain.

She moved away from him in anger, her body rejecting his touch.

And her words. They were like arrows, piercing his heart. He knew that she was in pain, but her words drew blood.

She called him tainted. She called herself a fool for giving him repeated chances. Suddenly, without a chance to explain he was a cad, one who was incapable of love.

Without any love for others.

“Xiao You—,” he began.

But she wasn’t finished.

She wouldn’t listen! Why wouldn’t she listen?

She began to pull off the ring. His eyes became glued to her moving fingers.

“Don’t do it, please don’t do it,” he begged, but the words caught in his throat. He was frozen. Unable to believe what was happening. She threw it at him.

She rejected it, and him. She threw it away as if it meant nothing. Like his love meant nothing.

Like he meant nothing.

And he just stood there, as she ran out the door, and out of his life.

*~*~*~*~*~*End of FLASHBACK~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

“Try to remember that day you confronted someone for your beloved Xiao You. That day you protected her as your own, and threatened another to ensure that protection.

Xiao You was that precious, right? That special? You had to protect her from further abuse from a creep like Zhong Ze, right?

Now who could I be?”

Rrriiinnnggg. Rrriiinnnggg. Rrriiinnnggg.

“It’s for you,” the woman murmured in the silent room.

Ximen looked at her incredulously.

“Answer it,” she simply said.

Ximen picked up the phone, and stood there, without speaking.

A voice laughed on the other side. And Ximen didn’t have to be told who it was. That voice would remain in his memory forever.

“You said you would kill me if I hurt Xiao You. You’ve just done a lot worse. So will I have the pleasure of attending your funeral anytime soon?”

“You bas—

“I had my revenge. We’re even now Ximen Zhong Er Lang,” Zhong Ze laughed one final time, and hung up.

Ximen stood there frozen; realizing that Zhong Ze had hurt someone else he loved. And once again he was at fault. If he hadn’t dragged Xiao You there . . . threatened him . . . hit Zhong Ze, this would never have happened.

“You don’t remember me, do you?” she finally asked his silent back.

“I was the girl with Zhong Ze that day. You used me to prove a point, and just as quickly you forgot me. I have to admit that compared to that sweet, innocent girl, I was nothing. But you had no right to treat me that way. You were as bad as Zhong Ze that day.

Don’t I deserve a protector, a hero? Xiao You gets you, and what do I get? Men like you treating me like a thing, and men like Zhong Ze?”

“What the hell are you saying? How can you compare what I did to what you just did to Xiao You? Did she deserve this? Tell me, did she?” Ximen shouted out in frustration.

“Knowing you, taught me one thing, Ximen Shiao Ye. That people can only use others. That was the day I realized something. I was nothing more than a plaything, a toy. All women are. Men use them and discard them. And we . . . we don’t even realize it. We think that we’re the ones in control.

So, I used her to get to you. I’ve been calling her for the past few months, reminding her of what a rat you can be. What you’re capable of. We planted that woman at the party, but she loved you more than was humanly possible.”

He looked at her in horror, unable to believe that this had been going on for months. Why hadn’t Xiao You come to him?

“You’re so hypocritical! You beat up Zhong Ze for hurting Xiao You. Can you even count . . . no, remember all those you’ve hurt? This was just a little bit of revenge for all those women and myself,” she declared.

Ximen was silent.

“Does it hurt?” she asked, smirking.

“Get out,” he finally ground out.

“I don’t think you want that,” she smiled.

“I said get the hell out of my sight before I forget that you’re a woman an—

“Manager, I called the doct—

Xu froze at the tableau in front of his eyes.

. . . . . . . .

“Xu, get this woman out of here,” Ximen finally ordered.

“I should let you suffer. But she’s a woman too. I guess men like you and Zhong Ze haven’t sucked all the humanity out of me. This was to teach you a lesson, not to hurt her in a way that she would never get over. Not like me.

I’ve written this letter explaining everything.

The calls.

The woman at the Dao Ming engagement party.

My collusion with Zhong Ze to get back at you.

And today . . . everything.

You can use this letter to convince her that everything was staged to shake her belief in you, and for you to lose her.

You can use it to convince her. If she wants to take you back that is . . . after being so thoroughly reminded that you are only a man. A useless . . . faithless . . . imperfect man.

But will she read it? And will she believe you?

You didn’t remember me before, but I’m sure that you won’t forget me now.”

Saying that, she finally left.

“Manag—,” Xu walked into the room.

Ximen clutched at the letter, and raced out of the building intent on catching Xiao You.

Intent on making her believe.

She would listen.

She had to.

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

She wouldn’t listen. Not about the woman, not about the letter. She ripped it up and threw it into the wind.

It wasn’t the paper he desperately clutched at . . . he saw his lost hopes being scattered in the wind. It was those hopes he had striven to recapture.

It was far too late.

His love wasn’t been enough. She trusted him before. What was different now? All he needed was one more chance.

The only woman he changed for . . . could change for . . . refused to believe that he was capable of such change. She refused to believe in him. He had been a womanizing Ximen, but no more.

She chose to believe that he would remain the old Ximen forever.

“I don’t think I’m strong enough . . . Ximen, let me go. Just . . . let me go.”

Her words rang in his mind.

He could not leave his past. And his past wouldn’t leave him. He had been a fool to believe that he could ever overcome his legacy. He was destined to be unhappy in love, just like his parents.

. . . . . . .

“Fine! I love you! Happy?”

“Good,” Xiao You said with a huge grin, “now prove it.” (Chapter 17)

. . . . . . . .

“I love you, Ximen Zhong Er Lang,” Xiao You whispered, “Take it however you may, but you will never get rid of me now.” (Chapter 19)

. . . . . . . . .

“You say that you love me, then prove it,” she said, smiling up at him. (Chapter 29)

. . . . . . . . .
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. (Chapter 31)
. . . . . . . . . . .

His declarations of love weren’t enough.

Their moments together weren’t enough.

He wasn’t able to prove that he loved her.

And she hadn’t been able to believe.

Not enough to stay. To fight for their love. To believe in him one more time.

His heart clenched as he stared at her back, straining to get away from him.

His fingers slowly uncurled from around her wrist.

Caressing her wrist with his thumb, he finally pulled away.

Letting her go for the last time.

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

Chapter 38

The Art of Letting Go

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

One day you will ask me what’s more important, you or my life; I will say my life, and you will run away not knowing that you are my life . . .
~*~Anonymous

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

“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.

. . . . . . . . . .

“Ximen, let me go. Just . . . let me go,” she begged . . .

He finally pulled away. Letting her go for the last time

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

It had been two days since she had left. She had left, and he felt like he was only half alive.

It seemed that in the past four months that they had spent together, he had forgotten how to live without her.

It was hard to breathe, because he knew that at that moment Xiao You was in the world hating him.

He had never known that he could be brought this low by a woman.

He should have suspected the first time he had met her. She had attracted him even in her hideous getup, and that was when he had been at the height of his womanizing ways.

Today was the hardest. She was leaving today.

Shan Cai had called him last night to inform him of her departure, confused at what had happened.

Xiao You had told her nothing.

It might have been a blessing in one sense, but it was a curse in another sense.

While Shan Cai might have come after him with guns blazing, she might also have been willing to listen. She might have listened to his side and convinced Xiao You.

But if Xiao You didn’t speak, his lips were sealed as well.

He sat in the den, his hands clutching his car keys. He couldn’t decide. She hadn’t been ready to listen, but how could he not do anything?

He wanted to stop her. To tell her she was making the biggest mistake of her life.

But if she hadn’t believed in their love, why would she believe the words of some strange woman she had caught kissing her fiancée in his office?

He wouldn’t have believed himself if he was in the same situation. He knew his past, and he knew his weaknesses.

He was surprised that Xiao You had believed him the first time.

In the darkest hours of the night, he almost wished that she had left that first time. He wouldn’t have known what it felt like to be with her . . . he wouldn’t have proposed . . . and he wouldn’t have dreamed of a future with her.

Her lack of trust hurt the most. More than anything, her words had proven that she had never trusted him. Not completely.

His hands tightened around the keys.

Hearing a sound, he looked up into his father’s eyes. They held understanding.

President Ximen looked into his son’s eyes. They held the kind of pain he had hoped never to see in his children’s eyes.

He had wanted him to succeed in love.

But it looked like his son had inherited his own propensity to fail at love.

“Have you ever heard of the old saying ‘if you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you it was truly meant to be’?” he finally asked, breaking the silence.

Ximen only looked at him, quietly.

“But you let mom go. I don’t want to be like you.” He finally answered.

“Trust me, if you force her to stay, you’ll be exactly like me,” came the pained reply.

“You gave her your explanation,” his father began.

“I didn’t gi—

“Trust in your love. If she feels the same way, she will return,” he ended.

He left the room, leaving Ximen to ponder his advice in silence.

For the first time in his life, Ximen was forced to wait, and to allow a woman to take the lead. She had the control, and he wasn’t sure if her final decision would be in his favor.

His father had told him to wait.

But he had waited.

For two whole days.

She hadn’t called. And she hadn’t listened when he had called her.

Ready or not, he had to see her.

He couldn’t let her leave without trying to make her listen one more time.

Her flight was leaving in an hour; he still had time.

Clutching his keys, he raced out the door.

His fingers tapped against the steering wheel, as he moved down the driveway.

When he reached the gates of the estate his eyes beheld something he had never expected to see in this lifetime.

He slowly opened the door, getting out of the car.

His fingers moved up to pinch his arm.

. . . . . . . . .

It wasn’t a dream.

He didn’t know whom he should thank for this miracle.

. . . . . . . . .

SHE WAS BACK.

Xiao You was back.

She was back in his life . . .

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

Chapter 39

Revelations

The worst thing that a guy could do is let a girl fall in love and not intend to catch her fall.
~*~Anonymous

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

Yeah, I’m finally here . . . It was a long, painful journey, but you made it all worthwhile.

You are my every woman.

I love you, Yang Xiao You. For today, tomorrow and forever. I will love you faithfully. Why would I stray, when I have you in my arms?

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 sat in the airport lobby, waiting to board the plane. She had told Shan Cai that her flight was at 12:00, knowing that Shan Cai would call Ximen to inform him of her impending departure. She hadn’t wanted to face goodbyes, most especially from Ximen.

She didn’t think that she could handle it if Ximen came to say goodbye.

Once again she had taken the coward’s way out. Instead of telling her friends that her flight was really at 11:00, she had sneaked out of the house, and planned on sneaking out of the country without saying any goodbyes.

Tears sprang up in her eyes as she contemplated all that she was losing. Not only had she lost Ximen, she was losing uncle, and Shan Cai and the others all over again.

It wasn’t just a love, but a world full of friendships that she had lost.

It didn’t matter.

It didn’t matter that the woman who had been kissing him looked strangely familiar, and had smirked at her instead of looking lost in passion.

Nor that Ximen had looked a little bit sick, and that she was still worried about his health.

It didn’t matter that the woman might be connected to the phone calls she had been getting, nor that this might really have been a scheme as Ximen repeatedly claimed.

It didn’t matter.

Because the few hours that she had actually believed that Ximen had betrayed her had been the most painful in her life.

She never wanted to live through that pain again.

She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life waiting . . . scared that she would feel that pain . . . that she would lose Ximen to another.

So, in the end she hadn’t left him because of his supposed betrayal. She hadn’t refused his calls because of that kiss.

It wasn’t that she hadn’t trusted him to not betray her.

She hadn’t trusted him to love her forever.

She hadn’t really believed that a man like Ximen Zhong Er Lang could ever love a woman like her. It was as if she had been waiting for this day, and when it had finally arrived she had run without a second thought.

Without thinking. Without listening. Without fighting.

She really was a coward.

She was abruptly pulled from her thoughts by a loud crash nearby. She saw an older lady, kneeling next to a toppled over trolley, frantically trying to collect her luggage.

Quickly, dashing the tears from her eyes, she raced over to help.

As she quietly helped the woman, she looked up to encounter the older lady’s gentle eyes resting on her. Her old, experienced eyes had recognized the traces of tears . . . the wealth of sadness . . . the broken heart.

“Are you alright, my dear?” she finally questioned.

“I should be asking you that, Auntie,” Xiao You protested.

“I only have this little problem, but my eyes tell me that your problems are much bigger than mine. What’s wrong?” she gently pressed for an answer.

They had moved to sit down in the course of her questions, and Xiao You could only look at her in silence.

“I—nothing’s wrong,” Xiao You insisted.

The woman sat there quietly, her eyes resting on Xiao You sympathetically. She didn’t press, letting Xiao You decide for herself whether she wanted to answer.

For the first time since the events of two days ago, Xiao You felt like talking. She sat next to a stranger in a crowded airport. This stranger had just arrived, while she was leaving the country. Chances were that they would never meet again. “So, why not,” her brain asked. And for the first time her heart listened.

“I’m 22, and I’ve only ever loved one man. I’ve tried so hard to forget, and then to live with that love. Now, as I was beginning to dream of a future together . . . of weddings, he broke my heart once more. Not purposefully, but the result was the same. What do I do? How do I stop loving him?” she finally admitted in a broken voice.

The old lady laughed kindly.

“My dear, I’m 30 years older than you, and I’ve only ever loved one man. If I couldn’t forget mine for 30 years, what makes you think that you can forget yours?” she finally asked, with tears in her eyes.

It was unclear whether the tears were from the laughter or from a hidden pain.

“Are you with him now, Auntie?” Xiao You asked out of curiosity.

“Oh no, we were never together. Life got in the way. I was pulled in one direction and he took another. I finally got a chance to be with him a year ago, and I was never happier,” she replied.

“So, will the two of you live happily ever after now?” Xiao You asked eagerly.

Auntie gently admonished her, “That’s not the point. The ending is never that important, it’s the journey you take that counts.

I met my love again, and do you know what I realized? We were never fated to be together. Our separate journeys through life have changed us so drastically that we can no longer live in harmony, even if we were given the chance now. If he wasn’t married, with many children and grandchildren.

But his transformation made me realize he was never the man I thought him to be. It has made me doubt him . . . myself . . . and our love,” Auntie sadly finished.

Xiao You looked at the woman in front of her. Her face showed great sadness, but there was also a light, as if some hope still existed.

“What will you do now, Auntie?” she finally asked.

“I . . . I’m returning to a place that has become home for me, surprisingly enough. I will embrace the love of a man who has obsessively loved me for the past 30 years. He and I have only seen the pain that love can bring. I now want to see its joys. And when I thought about the joys of it, I could only think of him. His love for me was always been constant, and he wanted me despite the pain. I want to bring him joy.”

“So, you’re giving up on your love,” Xiao You asked incredulously. She didn’t know why the answer was important.

If this woman, whose character shown through clearly, could give up on her love, it would only make Xiao You’s decision to leave right when it felt so wrong.

“Weren’t you listening, my dear,” came the gentle question. “Through the folly of youth, I loved a man I now find unworthy of that love and constant devotion. My heart wouldn’t let me forget it. I closed my eyes to ALL other possibilities. Only now do I comprehend that reality. My love was wrong from the beginning, and I never gave any other love a chance.”

They sat silently for a few moments.

“You truly love this man?” Auntie asked.

“Yes. Ximen is—

“Ximen? You said Ximen?” she interrupted.

“Yes. Do you know him?” Xiao You asked in surprise. Although why she was surprised she didn’t know, Ximen was a part of F4 after all.

“I know . . . of him,” Auntie finally admitted. “Isn’t he a womanizer? How can you be happy with that sort of man?”

“He was a womanizer,” Xiao You admitted, squirming in her seat. She hadn’t wanted to admit that.

“And you caught him kissing another woman after he had asked you to marry him?” the woman asked in exasperation.

“Well . . . I caught him . . . before AND after,” Xiao You finally admitted.

“And you are sad about leaving him? Looks like this young man doesn’t appreciate the woman he has in front of him, why should you forgive him,” the other woman demanded.

“The first time . . . it wasn’t on purpose. And I doubt that the second kiss was on purpose either,” Xiao You finally voiced her thoughts.

“You’ve caught him in the act of betraying you twice, and yet you still love him. I don’t know if I should call that true love or true foolishness, young lady,” Auntie stated.

“But he’s changed. Auntie, you don’t understand. I knew Ximen before, and I know him now. He’s not the same man,” Xiao You argued.

“He sounds like the same man to me. Only a womanizer would get caught in such situations,” Auntie pointed out. “Believe me, I know a womanizer when I see one.”

“Or,” Xiao You struck back, “A man with a past. He’s hurt a lot of women in the past, and it’s not inconceivable that this was a scheme to hurt him through me.”

Her defensive statements were met with skeptical silence.

“I’m serious. In fact . . . now that I really think about it . . . he did look sick when I walked into the room. I think they made him sick to get him to kiss that woman. When he got up to come to me, he was swaying on his feet,” Xiao You finally said.

“Are you sure he just wasn’t pretending?” Auntie asked, her voice shaking a bit now.

“He’s never lied to me,” Xiao You protested. “He couldn’t even keep the fact that he loved me a secret. He shouted it at me in an amusement park.”

“Er Lang did that?” Auntie asked. “You said that you were engaged?”

“Yes, he asked me about a month ago, in our gazebo. Telling me that I was his every woman,” Xiao You confessed.

“Meaning . . . that he would never need anyone else because you would fulfill all his desires?” Auntie asked, not missing the “our”.

“How did you—,” Xiao You asked in astonishment.

“Just a lucky guess,” Auntie dryly said. It seemed that the Ximen men thought the same way, and had a penchant for women who understood them in the same way.

“Then why are you here, if you do think that he is innocent?” Auntie finally asked.

“I don’t know . . . I guess I’m afraid. For a while there it really hurt. But I’ve had two days to think about it. I’ve cooled down. I do believe him. It was a scheme. I’ve been getting calls for the past few months. And this only fits with them. I wouldn’t be surprised if that first time was also part of their scheme,” Xiao You pondered out loud.

“Pain? Honey, you’re running away from the possible future pain of losing him. Let me tell you, the pain you’ll feel upon this separation will be just as bad. And if someday you hear that he’s gotten married . . . that he had to move on . . . I can’t even tell you about that pain,” Auntie warned her.

“You trust him. Apparently, he loves you. And he didn’t betray you. If it’s about the pain that may come from losing his love . . . let me assure you that the Ximen men never fall out of love,” Auntie finally said.

“How do you know that?” Xiao You asked in surprise.

“I just do,” came the gentle reply.

“Let me ask you. Is your love true? Do you trust your love, and would he ever knowingly betray you?”

“Yes . . . yes . . . and no,” Xiao You had to admit.

“Then why are you here?” Auntie asked.

Xiao You’s eyes widened. Two realizations had come to bear on her mind.

One: it was 11:30. They had spent the past 45 minutes talking and she had missed her flight.

Two: that this stranger had opened her eyes to some home truths.

No matter what path she chose, pain was a possibility on both paths.

But if she stayed with Ximen, she would have less chances of encountering any pain. She knew that much about his character. As she had talked to this stranger, her clear mind had remembered things she had been unable to remember through the pain.

He had never lied to her.

He had gone out of his way to ensure that he wouldn’t hurt her, even going as far as rejecting her before anything could happen.

He hadn’t been with another woman for a long time. Not since she had left.

And once he had made up his mind to love her, he had done so without a second thought.

He declared his love in the most embarrassing way possible.

He had proposed in the sweetest way possible.

He had deliberately made himself vulnerable.

She wanted to believe that Ximen would love her forever. That he would love like his father and his mother.

He had loved.

And she had been afraid. She had told him repeatedly to prove his love.

And she had left him.

Her heart clenched at the pain he must have felt.

She had called him tainted. Unable to love. Unable to prove his love.

She had made him feel the failure, when she was the true failure.

She finally got up.

Her decision was made.

She only hoped that it wasn’t too late.

Grabbing her bags, she turned toward the airport exit.

Looking down at the woman who had helped her to make the right decision, she finally thought to ask, “I’m sorry, but what is your name?”

“Why ask now?” Auntie asked.

“I want to remember the name of the woman who helped me to make this decision,” Xiao You replied, smiling.

Auntie smiled back, nodding her head in agreement.

“Xian Ning,” she finally answered truthfully.

“Xian Ning . . . Xian Ning,” she muttered, something about that name was very familiar.

“Auntie Xian Ning,” Xiao You repeated. “I’m Yang Xiao You. Nice to meet you, and thank you for your help.”

Bowing once, she waved her hand and raced to the doors.

“Yang Xiao You . . . Ximen Xiao You. Not bad, Er Lang. Not bad at all,” the woman murmured, getting up.

It had been more than a year since she had seen her son . . . her home . . . her husband.

Yes, her husband. She was finally ready to accept him.

She only hoped that it wasn’t too late.

She turned toward the airport exit, making her way home.

It was time for a family reunion.

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

Chapter 40

I’ll Be Here Standing

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

Ximen’s eyes traced her features, as she stood there in front of him. For the first time since her departure, it felt like the sun had truly come out.

He could see her hopeful smile, her teeth biting her lower lip, and then the pout.

It seemed that he had waited too long to react.

His eyes couldn’t leave her form. It was as if he was afraid that she would disappear.

Xiao You stood there anxiously, waiting for Ximen to react. He didn’t move. His hands were clenched, his eyes on her, but he didn’t move.

She determinedly walked toward him, tired of waiting for him to act.

Reaching him, she grabbed him by the collar, pulling him down to her level.

And then she let go, and just stared at him.

He was so handsome.

His eyes held love . . . joy . . . and shock.

He was her Ximen.

Her eyes closing, she leaned in for a kiss.

A kiss of healing.

A kiss of celebration.

A kiss of . . . oh, who cared? She just wanted to kiss him!

She drew closer, her lips finally reaching their destination . . . only to find no lips. Her eyes opened in confusion.

“Ximen?” she asked in confusion.

Ximen had turned away.

Her eyes were confused, as she looked at him talking to the cabbie.

“Ximen, what—,” she asked, getting angry. What the heck was this? They were reuniting and he chose to talk to the cabbie rather than give her a kiss.

He turned around, and grabbing her by the wrist led her to his car.

Pushing her in gently, he got in behind the wheel.

“Ximen, wher—

She didn’t need to ask. He had turned the car around, and was heading back to the mansion.

In silence he stopped in front of the house, with the taxi following.

“Shao Ye—,” Butler Ping began. His eyes widened. “Shao Jie!” he exclaimed in surprise.

Xiao You timidly waved her hand at Butler Ping, but before she could properly greet him Ximen pulled her into the house with an order to take care of the cabbie.

Leading her upstairs, he pulled her into his room.

“Ximen,” she began once more, but was abruptly silenced when she heard the lock click.

“Ximen,” she murmured nervously, “I’m bac—

Tired of talking. Tired of waiting, he reached out and pulled her into his arms.

He had missed her so much. And now, now they were together.

He wanted this contact.

She needed this contact. Her arms came up to twine around his neck.

Her eyes slowly closed as his lips began to ravish hers.

Lust and love leapt through him. His tongue delved deep in a bold invasion. A piercing, unbearable sweetness shot through Xiao You followed by a fierce wave of heat. Dizzy, she locked her arms around his neck more tightly to remain upright.

As he released her tingling lips, she struggled to catch her breath against his shoulder.

Xiao You turned crimson with embarrassment. She stared off into space, her mind blanked out by shock at her own wanton behavior.

As she stood there, cradled in his arms, for the first time in a long while she felt content. She felt like she was home. This was how it was supposed to be. And it would be for the rest of their lives.

Ximen looked down at her beloved face. His lips began to rain kisses on her upturned, blushing face.

Her forehead. Her eyelids. Her cute little nose, and then finally returned to her pouting lips. He wanted to kiss every lovely inch of her, but this wasn’t the time.

Groaning, he pulled away. And crossed the room. He needed the distance to ensure that she wouldn’t distract him.

The kisses had been a true distraction. Xiao You’s breathing slowed down, and she leaned against the door. And stared at his back.

He was fighting for control.

Xiao You allowed him his space, fighting against the instinct to go to him. To cradle him in her arms.

He was right. They needed to talk first.

She finally spoke.

“Ximen—

“No, let me speak first,” he interrupted, begging her for this chance.

“But Ximen,” she protested.

“Please?” he pleaded. He turned to look at her. She saw the desperation in his eyes.

She silently nodded.

“I—,” he cleared his throat.

“I’m sorry for what happened at the office. I know this may sound unbelievable, but it was all planned. They put something in my food. And when I was passed out, she came in. The woman you saw me kissing was . . . Zhong Ze’s girlfriend. She was the other woman, you saw that day,” he hurriedly explained.

“Mei Jia?” Xiao You asked in shock.

His forehead creased in confusion.

“Yeah, I guess. She didn’t say. She’s also the one who has been calling you for the past few months, trying to turn you against me,” he explained.

“Apparently it was all a plan to get revenge for how I treated her to get revenge on Zhong Ze for hurting you,” he finally finished.

Xiao You looked at him quietly. This had happened because of that day. This had happened because of her. If she hadn’t gotten Ximen involved . . . told him about Zhong Ze . . . he would never have gone there, and he would never have hurt another woman so badly that she would want revenge years later.

“I know I deserved it for the way I treated her,” he hurried on, panicking at her continued silence, “but I was so angry that day at how the jerk had hurt you. I couldn’t think of anything but getting revenge for you.”

“Please understand,” he begged. “And the fastest way was to make him realize that he couldn’t even hold on to his women. That I could steal them away. That I was better than him. And you were better off with me. I admit that I didn’t think of her as anything but a way to hurt Zhong Ze, but how could I think clearly? You had been hurt. And your pain was eating away at me. I didn’t know you. I didn’t love you. But I had to make you happy. That was all I thought about that day.”

Xiao You quietly walked over to his bed, sitting down, suddenly feeling so relieved.

His explanation had been exactly what she had thought it would be. She felt a bit sorry for Mei Jia, but the hell that woman had put her through in the past few months made it hard to really pity her.

Ximen kneeled down in front of her, his hands coming out to cradle hers.

“Please give me another chance. I know my past isn’t exemplary. But I promise that I will become a man that you will be proud to call your own. Just give me the chance,” he pleaded, lowering his head to await her judgment.

“Ximen,” she finally said, softly.

He looked up.

“I’m sorry,” she finally said.

His face wore a look of confusion.

“I’m sorry for not telling you about the calls. I . . . I didn’t tell you because I felt guilty . . . about listening to her poisonous words. Of half believing her half-truths. I know about your past, and I thought I was ready to accept it, because it has made you the man you are. But I still listened.

And listening . . . I began to believe. That you couldn’t love me. That you didn’t have the heart to love anyone, especially not me. Boring Xiao You.

I made you prove your love over and over again. To the point . . .,” her voice broke, “to the point that I deliberately seduced you into sleeping with me so that you would be irrevocably tied to me.” Her eyes had begun to swim with tears.

“Xiao You—,” he began to protest.

“No, let me finish please,” she begged, knowing that if she stopped she might never have the courage to go on.

“Do you understand? Our first time together was not out of love, but my desperation. It was a way to hold onto you when my jealousies were silently but relentlessly driving me crazy. You see, I know that you’re an honorable man, and I was a virgin. You could never walk away from me. And if I became pregnant . . . then we could always be together. And for that, I’m sorry.”

Tears began to trickle down her cheeks, as she finished. They blurred her vision, so that she couldn’t see his reaction. She didn’t want to see the disgust on his face. Disgust over her manipulation and cold-blooded decision at a moment that should’ve been about love and only love.

His hands came up to wipe her tears away, and he gently kissed her clenched hands. He smiled at her, but remained silent, knowing that she had something more to say.

“I—,” she continued. “I know you didn’t cheat on me. I figured it out over the past few days. And as I sat in the airport, waiting for my flight, I met someone who told me some home truths. She finally made me realize that I could only be happiest with you.

I remember the first time I confessed I liked you, and the time I came to you to ask for your full-service. I’m a shy person. It was hard for me to speak up in class, and confessing to the most notorious playboy was something that I could never even imagine. But I did it for you. And the thing that gave me courage was my love for you. My love was fearless. It was pure. And it pushed me to lay myself bare to your eyes.

And I remember you confessing to me. In the amusement park. You’re not shy. Definitely not that. But you have a hard time expressing your feelings, don’t you? And yet, for me, you did that. In front of a crowd. At that moment you felt like you had nothing to lose. You wanted to show me that you loved me in the same way I loved you. Your love was pure.

But I doubted, because I felt insecure. I called you tainted and without a heart because I felt that you were too perfect and couldn’t possibly love a lowly creature like me. In the end I ran not because I thought you were capable of betrayal, but because I thought that I wasn’t worthy. But you could never betray me. You would never leave me.

And,” she raised her chin, smiling, “I’ve decided to give you chance to take away my insecurities. You can now worship me like the goddess I am, and I won’t question it.”

Ximen stared at the woman who had stolen his heart. While he may never truly forgive that girl for what she had put his Xiao You through, he would call off his plans on teaching her a lesson.

It seemed he was the one who needed to be taught a lesson.

They had needed this. Xiao You had needed to express her doubts and concerns.

They would work on their weaknesses together.

He would teach her to trust in his love and believe in her worthiness. He would show her everyday how important she was to him.

And she would teach him how to face his past. To face himself, and make amends where needed.

But they had all the time in the world for that.

“Yang Xiao You,” he finally said, taking something from his pocket. “Will you marry me?”

Xiao You quietly nodded, all choked up.

He slipped the ring onto her finger, placing a kiss over it.

Leaning up he pecked her on the lips.

“Promise me you won’t ever take it off,” he urged.

“I promise,” she softly replied.

“It doesn’t matter,” he finally said.

“What?!!” she exclaimed.

“It doesn’t matter why our first time happened. It happened. I know what you’re like Xiao You, and that act of seduction was also an act of love. You could never had done anything like that unless you loved me. The one thing I’ve never doubted is your love for me. Everyone has doubts. You had doubts about me loving someone like you. I had doubts about being able to love you and cherish you because of my heritage.

We’ll work through them together. I am the man that I am, and you are the woman that made me fall in love. You don’t have to be worthy of my love. I’m happy that you find me worthy enough to accept my love. I love you, and you need to spend the rest of your life with me so that I can prove my love to you.”

Xiao You smiled delightedly, and leaned down to kiss him.

As their joy and relief transformed into passion, they were rudely interrupted by a knock on the door.

Ximen groaned.

Xiao You softly laughed and pushed him away.

Their amusement over yet another interruption, disappeared when they heard the reason for the interruption.

“Ximen Shao Ye,” Butler Ping shouted through the door, “your father has fainted.”

The two raced to the door and Ximen pulled it open.

“What happened?” Xiao You demanded.

“It was the shock you see,” the butler said in agitation.

“Butler Ping, what shock?” Ximen shouted, getting worried.

“It’s your mother,” Butler Ping said.

“What do you mean?” Ximen asked.

“She’s back,” he finally finished.

“Your mother is back, and your father was so shocked he fainted. But he’s okay now.”

Ximen sighed in relief.

He smiled down at Xiao You’s worry. He could see that she loved his father.

“Come on. Let me introduce you to my mother,” he said, putting an arm around her shoulder. “It’s time for a family reunion.”

Xiao You froze in dismay over the thought of meeting her future mother-in-law. What if she turned out to hate her like Dao Ming Feng hated Shan Cai?

“Don’t worry, she’ll love you,” he assured her, pulling her along.

Her heart beat with dismay, as she was reluctantly pulled downstairs.

They entered the room, and found the couple quietly talking in the living room. Both wore smiles of contentment, and were relaxed in each other’s company as they had never been before.

Xiao You stood quietly behind the sofa, afraid to go around it to face Ximen’s mother.

“Ma, you’re back.” Ximen hugged his mother from the back, and then pulled Xiao You around to face his mother.

Xiao You’s eyes widened in surprise.

“Ma, this is Xiao You,” he introduced. “Xiao You, this is my ma.”

“We’ve already met,” Auntie Xian Ning smilingly said. She pulled Xiao You in for a quick hug.

“Welcome to the family, my dear.”

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

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