[Chapter 1] 1

[Chapter 2] 2

[Chapter 3] 5

[Chapter 4] 8

[Chapter 5] 11

[Chapter 6] 13

[Chapter 7] 16

[Chapter 8] 18



[Chapter 1]

XZ’s reverie was interrupted by a quiet beep. Reaching inside his jacket, he withdrew a small metal device that had a small rod blinking 'red'. Pressing on a small silencer, he slid it back and strolled across the floor of the casino in measured steps...

"Your suite." XD said as the two men entered the elevator to press for the penthouse floor. YZ, QZ and CS were there waiting, guns drawn.

"You guys wait here. YZ, you follow me."

Positioning themselves out of range of a possible line of gunshot, XZ turned the knob, kicking open the door and at the same time flattening himself against the corridor wall. Seconds ticked by, then a soft feminine sigh broke the tense silence.

"It's safe to enter. I'm not armed."

Signalling YZ to remain where he was, XZ spun and dashed into his suite, his loaded gun pointing right on target where his sharp ears had picked out and was rendered speechless at the most beautiful vision he'd ever seen.

Her delicate features with big dark brown eyes and a cute toffee nose with a smile that was curving her luscious lips at their corners. The vision was also gazing appreciatively over him ~ gosh, in the flesh, he was even more than she'd imagined him to be from her father's conversation and description of him.

Straightening up to his 180cm in stocking-feet, XZ returned his gaze, noting the taut pull of the fabric across her chest and the way it moulded to her figure, slender and curvy where it should and a pair of shapely long legs.

"As you can see, I'm not armed, or are you planning to do a body search?"

"It's an interesting thought, one I won't mind obliging."

Then remembering his men, he called out.

"YZ, tell the men to disperse, it's all right and you can come in."

YZ entered and strolled across the suite to check inside the bedroom beyond, coming out to shrug his shoulders to signal an 'all clear' to XZ. Then, leaning against the door, his eyes admiring the stunning beauty.

"How in blaze did she get past the security system?" was his soft question to XZ.

"There's no doubt as to how she could get past the security ~ my old man, the joker."
"Huh? You can't be serious about Mr Yin senior. I must say your old man's got good taste, well if you want to pass, you know I'll be willing to take over."

Laughing at XZ's discomfiture, he sauntered out, adding over his shoulders, "nice meeting you, madam."

Inviting her to a seat, XZ put away his own gun and took his sweet time to study the vision. She was truly beautiful as his eyes wandered to the silky hair knotted in a chignon at her nape. He wanted very much to reach out and pull away at the pins and run his fingers through her silken locks.

Snapping back to seek an explanation for her being there, XZ asked, "Your name and how did you get past the security system? Who sent you? Why?"

"My name is Zhen San Mei. My father is Zhen Giu Cheng," pausing to allow the name to sink in and noted the 'connection' as a glint came into his eyes. "My father said if I ever need help, to look you up."

"Please continue."

SM told him about YM, an orphan whom GC had helped to raise, but never legally adopted. While he'd treated YM as his own flesh and blood, she had always been very wilful and usually flew into jealous rage whenever she'd thought SM got more than she deserved....

And though GC had gone beyond to do what he could, YM was a lost cause.... YM had gone missing for more than 3 days now. She'd borrowed heavily to keep up a lifestyle she couldn't afford beyond the comfortable means that GC had settled on her...

SM was frantic and at a loss as her father was away from the country. She didn't want him to worry and when the 'threatening' calls had come asking for her to 'pay up' as her sister's keeper…she'd been at wits' end. And then she'd thought of him.... Her father had taught her the ropes of his business and that was how she had been able to get past his security system....

Even though SM had left out a lot on YM, XZ could guess that the wilful creature probably made life a torture for the 'naive and innocent' SM...she'd unknowingly shown it in her expressive eyes when a teardrop was on the verge of spilling down her cheeks...

XZ was drawn to SM's sweetness of character that had come up time and time again as she mentioned her father and the wilful sister.... After narrating what she knew of the situation so far, XZ asked for a recent photograph of YM and told her that for her safety, she would be his guest until the problem was handled.

He remembered Uncle GC as his mentor when he first joined in the secret service as a young rookie. He'd mentioned once about having a couple of kids but that was as far as he went....

Men of darkness kept their secrets... Why was he suddenly feeling so 'protective' of a stranger? He'd always been very detached and yet, there was something he couldn't quite put his finger on when he looked at her. The 'vision' spelt 'danger' but it was one situation he would willingly step into with eyes open…..

"I'd never been so frightened in my life," she said as a series of 'hic' interrupted her. XZ controlled the urge to capture those luscious lips as they curved into a cupid bow, trying to control her tears and suppressing the hiccups.

Giving in to his protective instinct, he reached out to draw her into his arms. She trembled and burrowed her head on his chest as though it was quite the natural thing to do and instantly gave in to a flood of tears.

"Go ahead and cry. You poor thing but everything's going to be fine now, you'll see."

"I'm not a crybaby ~ I'm not crying,”…as the tears continued to fall. He smiled, stroking her hair that he'd somehow loosened from the pins that held the chignon. They were as he'd imagined, the silken locks just hovering on her shoulders...

"Of course, you're not a 'crybaby', you know that but until the tears stop, I'm just going to hold you." Tightening his arms around her soft body as she nestled, seeking comfort from him....



[Chapter 2]

He cradled her face in his hands and gently wiped away her tears with his fingers. XZ wasn't sure that he could take much more of her warm body pressing against him to seek solace and wondered how long she was going to cry...?

XZ had never held a woman in his arms as this one ... To him; she was soft, cuddly and appealed to his instinct in wanting to protect her. But her closeness was also sending him over the edge with a desire to more than just console her! He had to ease her warm body away before he passed out...!

His original intention to comfort her had suddenly strayed off its course. Instead, it brought a desire to kiss her tears away and more....! Mentally admonishing himself, XZ shrugged his shoulders, striving to banish his 'licentious' thoughts....

Distressed that she was being overly 'emotional', SM pulled herself together and reluctantly wriggled out of his arms. Immediately XZ regretted the loss of the torturous heat from her soft warm body! In her vulnerable state, she was even more 'appealing' and he was desperate to pull her back in his arms!

"Xue Zhang."

"What? My name is 'Xiang Ze' but you know that." Wondering how it would sound from her lips. His intense gaze resting on her luscious lips,.... waiting....

" I don't think I can. For too long, I thought of you as 'Xue Zhang'. Father said you attended Cambridge too."

He wondered what else GC had told her but believed that whatever he might have said, the confidante was SM only. He suspected the other sister would have had come forward to him first had she been taken into GC's confidence.

”All right. If it makes you feel comfortable." It did bother him that SM had chosen to call him, not by his given name, but 'Xue Zhang' ~ he would rather that in her eyes, he was a man, a man in relationship to her as an attractive woman rather than like a familiar distant kin....

There wasn't a woman born who could get him the way this little 'vision' was.... And although she couldn't explain away her feeling, SM somehow felt that he was disappointed over something?

"SM, I have a few urgent calls to make. That will give you a chance to rest. You'll be safe here in my suite. Actually, when was the last time you ate?"

"Xue Zhang. I've been too scared and worried to stop for a bite. Besides, I left the house in a hurry...!"

She didn't tell him that the clothes she was wearing were all that she'd on her as she literally bolted from the house!

Perceptive, XZ understood and read into the 'silence.'

"Do you need anything? And, ....SM? Let me know if there's something else you’ll need, I'd noticed that you don't have a bag with you?"

"I would like a bath if I may?"

"Oh, you can use mine first. Make free with the towels and anything else you might have temporary need for.... It's just beyond the bedroom ... “

XZ punched a number on the line and spoke. "YX, can you get the suite next to mine ready? Yes, you heard me fine the first time! And send up some food too. Yes, pronto!"

"YZ said she's a knockout?"

"You, madam, do not need to worry your head over that! Just count yourself lucky that XD didn't get the chance to see her..."


"One more thing. Call QX to standby at the boutique. I need her to fill up a shopping list,....the lady came without a carpetbag...." A picture of exasperation as he heard the laughter teasing him back...

Gad, was this 'rambunctious bunch' of 'misfits, jokers' and 'busybodies' to be the atonement for 'his' dark past? He shook his head and grinned wryly ~ they were a close clique of stalwart individuals and he knew he could trust his life in their hands, every last man of them. Without warning, the image of sweet and statuesque SM suddenly crept into his mind .... Now how had that happened!

She would be a dangerous weapon in enemy hands....! His Achilles' heel...She made him forget what he was supposed to be doing... and while he admonished himself for letting his guard down over a 'vision', the smile stayed on his face.

Shyly stretching out a hand, SM smiled and said, "Thank you, Xue Zhang. I knew you'll take care of everything."

Somehow, he didn't quite like her gratitude.... It sounded like a 'hands off' situation to him and he was a little perplexed by his own feelings concerning her.... She was able to 'seduce' his senses and threw his mind off track!!! And he didn't like it when he wasn't in control....!

He stood up and grasped her to her feet, pulling her into his arms and before she could even collect her thoughts, he captured her luscious lips in a sensual probing kiss that shattered her mind! She couldn't think as she collapsed, crushing her breasts on his solid chest. Coaxing her to respond to his desire, XZ could sense her 'innocence' & 'inexperience' and his kiss became gentler as he found her nestling her soft curve to the hardness of his own.
And all too soon, SM found him pulling away from her. She would never know how the withdrawal sorely tested his control ....

"I don't want your gratitude, SM.... I want you…”

"Xue Zhang....?"

Lightly brushing a long finger on her cheek, he winked and strode out of the suite without looking back, the heavy door closing with a decisive click behind him. Staring wistfully at the closed door, SM took a good look around the suite.


She was very impressed as she slowly appraised XZ's suite.... It was stupendous and the rich hue of blue as masculine as the occupant himself. It was tastefully furnished with huge furniture that spoke of comfort, warmth and an invitation that seemed to beckon to her ……

She'd carried an image of XZ for as long as she could remember when her father confided in her about their work....yet she wasn't quite prepared when they came 'face to face.' The real XZ was larger than life and even more dashing than she'd imagined and heightened her awareness to his imposing presence!

There was a commanding air of authority and power to him that even a stranger would feel it the instant he walked into a room..... She had felt his hypnotic gaze whenever his eyes were on her.... But what was the use of dreaming about XZ when it was clear that, after finding YM, he would be out of her life...? She was distressed at the thought and suddenly felt like a good cry!

Torn between her worry for YM & her growing attraction to XZ, SM was in a daze as she found her way to his bedroom…… Her eyes were immediately drawn to the huge bed and soon she was sitting on the edge of his bed...

Running a hand over its cool satin sheet...she imagined XZ's toned body stretched there and wondered what kind of a lover he would be ~ ? Demanding and masterful…..? Would his passion be tempered with gentleness...? She had certainly experienced the gentleness in his kiss when he sensed her innocent response....

Confused and bewildered as to why she was even thinking this way about a man whom she'd only met today, she found tears spilling down her cheeks…... She couldn't believe she was sitting on his bed and fantasizing about his skill as a lover! She had a strange sensation like she'd been waiting a lifetime for him!


A reluctance to set off any hidden surveillance alarm, SM decided to use 'his' towel and robe and pressed them to her face, inhaling his scent... Sinking into the tub, her mind trying to recall what she'd heard from her father. Born with a 'silver spoon in his mouth,' he had resisted and refused vehemently all efforts by his family to 'have' him where he rightfully belonged. His choice to go into espionage working for the Government and then INTERRPOL was something he'd kept from his family. And it had been too late for recriminations and their objections when he revealed it to them. Not wanting their misgivings to distract him, they had finally relented and given in. He'd retired two years ago and opened up the casino.

"The Bet" was not the mediocre casino. Lavish decor and a touch of 'grandiose' giving an ambiance of timeless appeal to one that entered it. Its patrons were the aristocrats and wealthy elite and those high rollers that could afford to 'lose' a fortune at a turn of the wheels or at the flip of a card on the tables. On the other hand, it was also a sort of 'safe haven' for men whose lives could be snuffed out in seconds.

'Men of darkness' who knew they could afford to let their guard down in this sanctuary while they waited for word on their next mission.... It was not 'open' to the ordinary working class or the compulsive gamblers whose loss could wipe out a family's entire life-savings....

Feeling the accumulated tension ebbing away, SM relaxed, cushioning her head on the rolled up towel and closed her eyes...


Having made his calls and given out a few instructions to his men, XZ's thoughts strayed to SM. She must have had a rough and gruelling day, ..... he pictured her slender body curling up in his bed! With big powerful strides, he made his way back to his suite. Peeping into the bedroom, he didn't see her! And his ears couldn't pick up any sound from the bathroom! Alarm bells rang...

Without any hesitation, he quickly opened the door to the bathroom and froze as he saw her in the tub ...! She had her eyes closed. But what took his breath away was the tempting sight of the rose buds that had irrepressibly freed themselves from the surface of the foam...!

SM opened her eyes in panic as she caught the 'wind' from the opening of the door and blushed red to her roots! Glancing down, she saw the soap bubbles were but just a thin barrier to her 'modesty'! Her body was clearly visible to him! Embarrassed, she sunk down and immediately struggled to come up for air as she swallowed water!

With a speed that came only with years of being exposed to 'danger' and a natural born instinct for survival behind his strides, XZ scooped up the naked Aphrodite into his arms!! SM was coughing and gasping for breath as she clung to him, forgetting for a moment that she was as naked as a newborn baby....

"Xue Zhang!" ... as she suddenly became aware of that fact and hid her face against him, hoping he won't pull away to have a closer look at her!


[Chapter 3]

The ‘Aphrodite’ clinging to him tempted XZ! And her mouldable firm breasts were burning holes in his chest as she leant on him…! He had to apply an iron clad will on his male instincts as her sweet scented limbs assaulted and tantalized his senses…..

It was important to him that SM knew she was safe with him, protected not only from others who wished to harm her but from himself too! He hated the thought that she might ever regret coming to him for help or to cringe from his touch in fear that seduction would follow…that would severely tax on his conscience...

XZ reached out for his robe and wrapped it over SM ~ he could see that she was embarrassed… His lips lingered against the tender folds of her ear and whispered softly, “Will you let me?”

As he felt her drawing in her breath, he smiled and teased her, “I promise not to look.”

Not waiting for her response, he eased her slightly away from him to enable his action, wrapping the fold over the front.

As soon as that was accomplished, SM quickly pressed her face back on his chest as though it was the most natural thing for her to do….. Then she felt his hand tucking the wet tangles of her hair over one ear… and held her breath…

“Are you all right?” He questioned softly.

She didn’t answer right away. A thought came into her mind that it would be so easy to lean on his strength…. and then she felt him tense! Soon, she felt his soft touch on her chin, lifting her head up to his but she was too shy to open her eyes to look at him….

It seemed like forever before she could manage to nod her head and replied him in an almost inaudible whisper, “Yes… thank you.” ~

All the time keeping her eyes shut… And then continuing as though nothing had happened, he exerted a gentle pressure to swing her up…carrying her into the bedroom, grabbing another towel on his way.

He seated her on the bed beside him and began to dry her hair… SM kept her face lowered ~ the telltale crimson very becoming on her.
Still drying her hair, a reluctance to release and let go of the pleasure he found there, he murmured, “You’re a beautiful creature, SM and all the more captivating because of your innocence….”

This time, SM did raise her face, a gleam of shyness in her beautiful eyes, waiting… He heaved a sigh….. She had come to him in trust and there was no way he would abuse that trust by seducing her, temptress or not… He must put the brake on his train of thoughts!

“SM, don’t worry. Everything will be okay… but for now, consider this as … ‘unfinished business’…. It’s going to test my patience but we’ll pick up after we find YM.”

A knock on the door and QX’s voice was heard calling out, “Room service….”

XZ strolled across to open the door.

Upon entering the suite, the lady smiled and greeted SM. “I hope your stay here will be comfortable, Ms SM. I’m QX and if you need to change or get something else, let me know. Meanwhile, I hope this is to your liking! Bon appetit.”

And with a cheerful wave, she was off, leaving the trolley with a sumptuous spread of food and a few shopping bags that she handed over to XZ.

Before SM could utter a word of gratitude, QX had left and the silence in the room was suddenly broken with the shrill ringing tone of the telephone….startling her!

XZ crossed to pick up the receiver.

“Boss, QZ and CS already have the ‘update’ on Ms Y,” And pausing for effect before whistling into the phone, YZ continued. “It’s that scoundrel PRX! And wait till you hear what these two have to say about that ‘other’ sister!”

“YZ, round up the boys. Rendezvous in half an hour!”

As he replaced the telephone receiver, he felt SM standing beside him.

“Xue Zhang, can I join you?”

“No. You have to eat first then take a rest. I’ll be back before you know it, all right?”

He held her gaze and gave her a dazzling smile. It lifted her spirits up considerably! Gently tugging her along to a huge chair, he seated her and then pushed the trolley in front of her.

“Eat up, SM and try to get some sleep…. You’ll find the bare necessities inside the bags… we’ll see to the rest of what you may need when I come back.”

With that, he left. Alone with her thoughts, SM felt depressed…thinking miserably that soon…., YM would be found and that meant XZ would be out of her life…!


“Boss, QZ and CS picked up the trail on Ms YM to the ‘Sands Hotel.’ But the skunk has picked up the scent and will be after its prey soon!”

YZ volunteered the bit to all present.

“Ya. And we have a lark inside that skunk’s camp. Heard he took a ‘shiner’ to the young lady! She enticed him with her charm … but when his back was turned, she took off with a week’s makings, along with some papers from his office safe!”

“And the only reason the lady’s still safe was because he didn’t want to be made a ‘laughing stock…” CS was quick to contribute his piece.

There was a chorus of laughter and wisecrack comments following that information from QZ.

In the underground, PRX was a swindler and notorious for running a syndicate that dealt in illegal activities, being a fence for stolen goods; passing counterfeit currency, pushing dope, prostitution, and laundering of ‘dirty’ money into other channels. The cliché that there ‘was honour among thieves’ did not exist for him…

Among the crooks and even the lowest of the low, he was considered a renegade of the worst kind, the type who would peddle his own mother for a ‘puff’….

And word was that no winners walked away with their winnings intact from his casino where foul play and ‘jiggery-pokery’ were the normal business!

XZ read the dossier on ‘YM’ and was amazed at how different the two young ladies were! As day was light and night was dark…. He had caught a glimpse of the hidden ‘gamine’ & savoir-faire in the captivating yet innocent SM! From what had been gathered in the dossier, YM read more like a modern day ‘Mademoiselle Jezebel’; designing, promiscuous and free with sexual favours….

…..SM! The more he learnt of YM’s intimate association with the scoundrel, the more XZ worried about SM…! His protective instincts where she was concerned were now irrepressible!

He was disturbed that YM’s opportunistic extravagant lifestyle had placed SM’s life in peril! He would like to dust the de trop off like a mote from his shirt….

SM…SM…in his mind, she was ‘nonpareil’ & in a ‘league of her own’…! It said much for he had seen a lot of beautiful women in his life! He was feeling deprived of the sight of her and scoffed at his anxiety to return to her as quickly as he could!

Snapping back, he turned to the men and gave his orders. “Okay, boys loosen up. YZ, I want you to pick up a couple of the boys to scurry Ms YM from the hotel. YX, put Ms YM on the guest floor…. The penthouse floor is ‘off limits’ to her.”

“No ‘royal treatment?” YX asked with a sly look.

Ignoring her open challenge, XZ continued without skipping a beat. “QZ, get ZD back for duty. She’s whacky enough to keep our ‘guest’ occupied so there won’t be time to brew up more mischief.”

CS’s eyes lit up at the mention of his ladylove and a grin spread over his face as he thought of the clandestine tryst he had with ZD!

“CS, you go with QZ, and stay away from your ‘lark’. I don’t want ‘him’ in trouble. XD, set up a meeting with that renegade. I want the threat removed from SM. Any questions?”

Even though a few in the room were much more senior than XZ in years and experience, nobody thought to question the sagacity of his command….

“All right then, hit the dirt and give me a beep.”

“Yo, Boss.” Their replies coming in a single chorus…as they trooped out of the room.

XZ thought he would never get the bunch off as he hurried off to his suite, wondering if SM had followed his orders to eat and take a rest…. She was in his blood and he was feeling altogether too protective of her… for his own good! Now that YM was about to be found, what would happen? Would he lose SM or could he find an excuse for his ‘nymph’ to stay back…? And if she agreed, would he be willing to make a commitment….? The idea wasn’t that frightening at all and seemed so natural!



[Chapter 4]

YM was livid as she prattled about in the hotel room…. She felt the four walls closing down on her, curtailing her movements and freedom as though she were a prisoner… And it was ‘no thanks’ to her ‘goody good shoes’ sister, SM!

She was smart to know the reprieve was only temporary for the resourceful PRX would be coming after her soon! The rat would demand for the cash and papers she’d taken from his ‘safe.’ He must be joking if he’d thought she come cheap! The humiliation she had to endure when she’d been informed that the gems were imitation pieces copied from the real ones… and she owed her present predicament to SM!

She was furious at SM’s refusal to come up with the money she badly needed for that one last roll of the dice and the ‘high and mighty ice princess’ would pay dearly for it! It was ludicrous, to say the least, the way that brat went on a harangue saying she didn’t want any money issue to be a bone of contention between them…

The more YM thought of SM, the more she seethed with anger… Anyone would have thought SM was an angel, sweet and virtuous… well, she knew better! Why, the scheming two-faced hypocrite, the Daddy’s girl…!

It wasn’t fair… how life had dealt the cards to her…! The quickest & surest way to an easy meal ticket would be to marry into a fortune… but how many eligible young men were possessed of such that could afford to keep her in haute couture and more? One way or another she would have that gold mine…! And then she would see to it that SM had her comeuppance! Yeah, that was more like it… her beauty was marked and distorted by the sneering smile that came on…

To onlookers, YM was a tall slender beauty, possessed of a figure and poise that models would envy… Immaculately dressed in style to the ninth…! Sensual flirty eyes that lifted up at the corner when she was contemplating a thought or,…. stalking a wealthy prey…. A mouth that would seem ready to smile but usually curved into sarcasm or a sneer.

An incessant ringing of the doorbell startled her as she wondered who was at the door. She hadn’t ordered for room service…. So it could only be that, she’d been found…and even as fear struck her, she was already scheming as to how she could lie her way out…! Loud heavy pounding on the door followed..…

“Open up! Security!”


It was QX who told him that SM was in the adjacent suite and that she’d barely touched the food he’d ordered up for her. Was there anything else XZ wanted, or more to the point, SM? Smiling his gratitude for her solicitude, XZ said he would let her know and continued his way to the suite…

He knocked on the connecting door and opened in to her suite… she had one palm over one eye and the other eye was blinking rapidly...! What …?!

“SM, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing, Xue Zhang! Just talc in my eyes…,” feeling rather silly & replying in an apologetic voice. The blinking eye was now spilling tears as well!

“Here, let me have a look …..”

“Xue Zhang, please, I’m all right.”

He pressed a finger on her chin to lift up her face, pulling down her other hand… His nearness was affecting her and SM felt her heartbeats thumping wildly, hoping he won’t hear the ‘Congo’ drums… Was there any obvious imperfection with this gorgeous Xue Zhang….? Up close, she could feel the charm and mesmerism oozing from him and felt heat spreading inside her….

“Open your eyes, SM… let me take a look!”

To no avail, her eyes seemed to be acting on their own will…. One remaining shut; while the other was fluttering away like a butterfly… Oh Gad, he won’t think she was making eyes at him, would he? She would never live this down!

XZ was amused at the blushing Aphrodite …..…! Even heaven was on his side…! XZ felt rather pleased with himself as he gazed down at the gullible lamb…!

“Sorry about this,” he whispered cheerfully, not being completely honest at all just before he swooped down to capture her lips….! He could also have cheerfully waved aside his scruples as he felt her softness in his arms.


Stunned and taken by surprise, SM reacted instantly and opened her eyes..! He enjoyed kissing her so much that he refused to release her lips even though his tactic had achieved his purpose…! SM felt her knees going weak and clung to XZ!

“On the other hand,” he murmured when at last he raised his head to blow into her eyes…!

Winking at SM, he continued to tease her in a low voice, “I won’t mind being sorry again, SM!” before his mouth returned to kiss her…, this time slowly teasing the sweet innocent before sensually delving to give her a thorough lesson in French kissing….

He saw that she was still wearing his robe and envied it. It astonished him how silly he was to be envious of material objects such as the ‘antique tub’ that had touched ‘bottom’ with her pert derriere as well!


SM punched the pillow, but knowing even as she did so, that it wasn’t the pillow’s fault that she had been tossing for hours and could not sleep. It was nearly 2.00a.m. As the thought sprang to mind, she got up quickly and gathered her pillow, her sight inclined and drawn to XZ’s suite….

She walked towards the suite and saw that the door stood open! The room was cloaked in darkness ~ pausing to allow her eyes to adjust to the dark, she then ventured into his suite…

Stealthily, she walked into his bedroom and saw the still form of XZ outlined under the sheets…. She stayed still, listening to his steady breathing ~ then clasping the end of one pillow, she dropped to her knees and crept on all fours to carefully make her way to the bed…, stopping often to make sure that she hadn’t disturbed him….

Finally, she reached her target,… crouching beside the bed and …. XZ was just right above her ~ funny how just being near him could give her such a feeling of comfort and sense of security! Silently, she curled up on the floor with the pillow beneath her head…

Suddenly, strong hands reached down and she found herself hoisted up and drawn into the warm strength of his hard body!

“SM! What am I going to do with you…?” SM intrigued him and the thought of having her in his bed excited him… Wryly, he remembered ‘his bet’ with his old man…

“I couldn’t sleep….” She tried to explain… tears forming in her eyes, her emotion choking her up…

“What’s bothering you so much that you couldn’t sleep? I kept hoping that you’d come and tell me…!”

“I’m afraid, Xue Zhang …..” The tearful appeal in her soft voice struck at the core of his heart..

The years of loneliness while her father CG was away on top secret missions serving the country; coping and managing the household; literally being left in the lurch to fend for herself. Often harassed by the temperamental sister for her money until she was penniless, the poor gentle SM had to bear the cross of being around the ‘true’ YM, the dark side that was cunningly kept under wraps and never exposed to the rest of the world…

Covering up for YM took its toll on her and the ‘pent-up’ feelings gave way to a release of tears! She’d never been one to show her vulnerability to strangers, yet being with XZ and blissfully safe in his arms, she could show her feminine, vulnerable side and knew he won’t judge that for weakness…

“I can’t bear it when you cry, SM ~ do you realize what you’d done to me? I had thought that my life was full… I had everything I needed ~ but I’ve come to see it for what it was! A regimented, organized life… You brought unexpected gentleness into my life…! I don't want to rush you but one thing’s for sure, SM, I won’t let you leave me…”

“Xue Zhang..?!”

Tilting her face very slowly, taking his time, he lowered his head, grazing her luscious lips lightly, touching them with a tenderness she’d come to expect from him! He blazed a trail down to the vulnerable curve of her smooth, slender nape to nibble teasingly with tiny nips…. His touch creating havoc on SM’s awakening needs ~

Gad, her body’s plaint response sorely tested his sanity and while he still retained what little there was left to it, he wondered how he could live with himself if he took advantage of her innocence…!

His few seconds’ hesitation was lost on him as he discovered what she wore underneath her ‘borrowed’ robe…! Easing the robe slowly down her body, XZ drew in his breath! Instead of ‘Aphrodite’, he found a siren ~ she looked so … breathtakingly bewitching in the black silk teddy!

He had to remind himself that she was ‘untouched’! XZ was bewildered as to how an innocent like SM could light the fire of desire in his blood so easily…! The more he thought about her innocence, the more her virtue appealed to his inherent possessiveness!

He slipped the straps of her teddy to the side and took possession of one firm mound…, his fingers kneading the malleable flesh! His husky voice came to her through a haze of passion ~

SM moaned and felt a weakness seeping into her bones as her whole body burst into flames… All coherent thoughts fled as he heard her soft moan…

“SM …!”

SM didn’t think her body could hold out any longer against the agonizing yet pleasurable touch from his lips and hands! …..Unaware of her own action, drawing her nails down his bare chest! She felt as though she was drowning and being sucked into a whirlpool!

His hand was cupping her breast, his thumb and finger gently tugging at the jutting peak of her engorged breast…! Was this what YM was always talking about when she bragged about her sexual conquests…? And then her eyes opened at the shocking pleasure she felt when his mouth left hers to ascend and devour the peak where his hand had just been…!

She writhed and instinctively surrendered to his mastery, her limbs inflamed where he touched… A bottomless pit in her stomach as she felt the heat sizzling throughout her body… At no time did the innocent SM think of protesting against this onslaught on her body!

Then suddenly he stopped and pulled away!

“You’re going to be the death of me, SM! If I don’t stop now, we’ll be going all the way! I want to make love to you right here and now but I’m going to give you time…. I shouldn’t have lost my head and taken advantage … I…” He paused as he tried to sort out his thoughts…

Surprising him and herself as well, SM hesitantly grazed his lips with her own trembling ones, until he felt his self-control snap and holding her face still, XZ captured her luscious lips, devouring her soul..!

“Xue Zhang? I’ve never been with a man before… will you teach me … hic…how to pleasure you?”

“Dear lord, SM!”

Her innocent words seemed to be his undoing! Was she the tempting Delilah to his Samson? She must surely have shorn his locks to make him lose his strength! XZ felt the tenacious rein on his scruples weakening by the second! Gad, the sweet SM wasn’t making it easy for him at all…..! Time wasn’t a factor taken into consideration not when the attraction and magnetism pulling them together felt so right and perfect ….

An Aphrodite he wanted to chain by his side, to possess and hold, to cherish and love…. To court… in an old-fashioned way! And then it hit him right between the eyes! He almost laughed aloud! He had fallen so fast and so hard, he hadn’t even known it was happening!

Using every ounce of willpower he possessed, he put SM aside ~ This sweet innocent wasn’t just someone that a man could just make love to and walk away from…! If the desire and instinct to protect and love her meant having a ring through his nose or a noose round his neck, XZ didn’t think he would mind it with her! Not when it killed off the competition which he was sure, was around!

While his patience was running out to pick up on his ‘unfinished business’ with SM, he couldn’t understand why he kept the fact from her that the ‘licentious’ sister was at that very moment safely installed on the Guest floor....! Perhaps to give her ‘time’ lest there would be recriminations and regrets on her part later on…?

Unbidden, the thought slipped in that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread..!” Somehow, he didn’t mind being a ‘fool’ for her…. It was a challenge to his masculinity and a contest of ‘will and flesh,’ but for now….., he was just thankful for the ‘Aphrodite’ who’d found her way to his bed!

And with that consoling thought on his mind, he turned his full attention to bring SM’s senses alive…!”


[Chapter 5]

“Mr Yin!”

She saw the familiar figure bent over the rail and a surge of excitement shot through her!
As he straightened and turned, she started to fling herself into his arms without any inhibition ~ then realized her mistake!

“You!” Anger in her accusing tone, “what are you doing here?”

“My question precisely, Ms YM.” A faint mocking smile on YZ’s face as he studied the furious young lady before him.

“How dare you take that tone to me?! I’m Mr Yin’s guest!”

“You’ll find that I dare anything I like….”

It wasn’t the response she’d expected from a hired hand. Eyes slanted, she stepped back to size him up. Then a flirtatious smile came on her face as she contemplated bending the arrogant YZ round her little finger. With a haughty sweep of her head, she walked away from him to go in search of XZ.

The sparkle of temper was in her eyes as she spied XZ’s hand resting proprietarily on the back of SM’s waist as he guided her to a table. She was aware of the interested and speculative glances the attractive couple received from the people present… and she curled her fingers into her palm until it drew blood….

What was SM doing here?! How come she’d never heard SM breathe a word of his existence to her before? And judging from the way he was paying close attention to that brat, they seemed to be well acquainted….!

She made a move towards their table then stopped as she heard ZD and CS arguing just round the corner…. Frowning, she quickly found a spot to avoid being seen by the pair of fools…. She didn’t fancy having ZD around, not after having shaken her loose…! Did XZ know that his employees were courting on company time?

Returning her gaze on XZ, she knew without a doubt that he was the perfect solution for her…! But first, she needed to find the opportunity to be alone with him…. If she played her cards well, she would soon have her ‘gold mine’. Only a blind man would pass her over for a nonentity like ‘SM’…..

She supposed she could tolerate ZD until she’d dug out the information she wanted on XZ.… and while she was at it, where exactly did SM fit into all this….? She was perplexed as she pondered on SM’s presence at the casino…. It wasn’t her scene and why wasn’t she home? There had to be a reasonable explanation or, was it a mere coincidence? The curiosity was eating into her and YM got more and more impatient as the hours slowly ticked by…..


“Good evening, Ms YM. I see you are none the worse after your little misadventure…” The low mesmerizing tone sent an uncontrollable tingle on her nerves and she peeped at him through the sweep of her eyelashes.

In a breathless voice intended to seduce him, she murmured, “ Mr Yin!” Tears were spilling from her eyes as she lifted her face up to him. She had been in residence for a week and this was the only time she’d been alone with him. The man was so elusive….

The look he gave her was hooded and unreadable ~ and he didn’t answer her. She took his silence as a sign of encouragement and continued. “I’ve never been more grateful when your men came to my rescue….”

He wasn’t taken in by her crocodile tears and somehow, she left him ‘cold’, unlike his sweet sensual innocent. A gleam of possessiveness in his eyes as ‘SM’ sprang into his mind….

Mistaking that gleam was her undoing. YM was determined to snare this eligible bachelor into her web…. Spurning her web of deceit and lies, her theatrics had the opposite effect she desired from the man she schemed to win over… XZ knew that given sufficient rope, they generally hang themselves and in the lady’s case, she proved to be no exception.


Watching his retreating back, YM was frustrated at how little he’d said to her. She kicked her heels, anger boiling at how she’d been made to feel foolish, holding a colloquy by herself.

She didn’t know how he did it, but he’d turned down her invitation to take her to dinner, saying he was otherwise engaged….. It was his loss but she would just use the time to find out more about him from ZD. Now where was the loony when she was needed?


SM suspected that something was brewing for everyone seemed to be guarded around her. Each time she’d asked after ‘YM” it seemed everyone had clamped up or suddenly gone deaf.

As for XZ, he was a master at evasion and she would have stood a better chance getting an answer from a stone wall. Yet, if she didn’t know better, she would suspect that her movements had been restricted in some directions…. She couldn’t quite put her finger to it….. XZ was thoughtful & attentive, ever ready to chaperon her and he seemed to take immense pleasure in teasing her. She couldn’t reconcile this ‘image’ with the cool, collected ‘Boss’ that everyone looked up to!

Ever since the night she’d crept into his suite, the bed in the adjacent suite had not been slept in. It had felt so natural that she went to him. And while the flames of desire had been rekindled at every turn, he’d chosen to keep her virtue…intact! She could barely understand how he could turn away from her in the ‘heat’ of their passion…!

There was no mention of the future and he had made no promises. Was theirs just a fleeting moment of passion? As her vulnerability closed in, a doubt kept hammering away at her defences. Unbidden, the memory of his ‘mastery’ came to mind…and she felt the warm tingling feelings prickling her skin and under!

All too aware of her own inexperience, SM was nevertheless convinced that she would regret it somehow if she were to run away from her own feelings. Not when she felt this way about him.
She couldn’t begin to sort out the inner turmoil that was troubling her and was confused on how to proceed on their next footing once YM was found…. Would he throw her over for her vivacious sister?

If it was going to end after YM was found, that she would take whatever he was willing to give, ‘short and bittersweet’ was what she would carry with her when this was over. She prayed to find the strength and ‘will’ to walk away….

Lost in her musings, SM never knew how she ended up outside the casino entrance! Retracing her steps, she was startled to find a man beside her!

“Ms SM, thank God I’ve found you! It’s the boss! He’s looking for you and it’s about Ms YM! Follow me, hurry!”

SM rushed to his side. Had XZ found YM? Was she seriously hurt? Suddenly, she was drawn back against a heavy chest. Startled, she turned round and found herself imprisoned instead. She screamed for XZ. Too late, she felt a piece of cloth forced down on her. It smelled strongly of chloroform! She struggled hopelessly against the arm that held her back and lost consciousness!

SM gradually awoke to the realization that she couldn’t move. Her hands were bound behind her and so were her legs. She tried to scream but her throat hurt and something was in her mouth. She was gagged.

Making an attempt to shift her weight, SM found that she was crammed in a metal cabinet of some sort. Where was she? She had to stay alert and think…. Someone had obviously wanted to lure her away to this but she couldn’t imagine for what purpose? And she had fallen for it when she’d thought XZ wanted her! YM was involved in all this for her name had been mentioned…. Could it be the same people who’d made the threatening calls to the house?

Something didn’t fit in the picture. She had to think slowly…. Fool that she was! The man had said, ‘the boss’. Yes, that’s the word he’d used, not XZ’s name…. Panic set in as she wondered if XZ knew that she was even missing. Her heart sank as she thought of him. Was she to be used as a bargaining chip? Oh, why couldn’t she be more rational and cautious….? And because of her, XZ was probably in danger!


SM stared back at the repulsive man who had lured her to captivity. She wanted to scream her rage but the gag held her back. Her pride would never give him the satisfaction of seeing her fear…. She thought of her father but ‘he’ filled her mind more. Torn between stark, terrifying fear and her faith that XZ would come to her rescue, SM sank back on the cold steel and prayed….


[Chapter 6]

He reached down and tangled his fingers in her loose hair, tugging so sharply that her face grimaced with pain. Tears welled in her eyes and in desperation, she tried to kick out at him but that only made him increase the pressure.

She shut her eyes as she saw the glint of steel in his other hand. Crouching down beside her, he slid the slim stiletto blade over her face and down to the open collar of her blouse, chuckling to himself.

“I’ll say it’s a fair trade although she didn’t describe you well enough. It would be a pity to mark your skin.”

SM opened her eyes, shocked at his words! YM? Was this YM’s doing? But, why? She felt her insides churning over sickeningly, dreading at what he was going to do to her. Shame and rage at her helplessness to fight back causing her to renew her struggles to free herself. And then, in the distance, they both heard a distinct grunt.



He had let his guard down. In all the years of active service when his life was on the line, XZ had never felt this helpless! His complacency had put SM in jeopardy. He had truly under-estimated YM! He should have been more vigilant especially when she was reported to be losing heavily at the tables nightly.

He couldn’t imagine the terror SM must be going through? Could she ever trust him again? Furious, he picked up a paperweight and threw it across the room, hitting the wall with a deafening crash, instantly bringing YZ into the room!

“I’m all right. The renegade has SM. Get the ‘mole’ and hurry. I want everything on his haunts and hideouts. And I want Ms YM confined to her quarters!”

YZ sprang into action, raising the alert. He’d never seen the boss lose his cool before! He was whistling as he entered the ‘briefing’ room…. Another Achilles’ heel had fallen to a Cupid’s arrow!


XZ was disgusted with himself. If ever he felt like hitting a woman, there was no doubt over his candidate. Double-dealing & freewheeling. To save her own skin and keep the booty she’d stolen from him, YM had incited and ‘sold’ him on the ‘kidnap for ransom’ idea and used SM as the pawn. PRX had played back the ‘taped’ conversation with YM and taunted XZ that he won’t mind being SM’s first….. The call from PRX had exposed her treachery. Both had their work easily cut out for them because of a mutual compulsion in greed.


“Where is she?”

There was a steely edge in the whiplash voice and PRX’s face paled as he sized up the man who had curved a niche in the gambling world; reputed to be ‘untouchable’…. Faced with a stronger opponent, PRX’s cowardice showed even as he attempted a futile front to save his ‘face’.

“Your place is too well guarded, Mr Yin. Let’s cut a deal first. How much are you willing to pay for her release?”

To XZ, PRX was an annoying pest that could be easily removed. He posed no threat. But he had ‘SM’ and Lord only knows what she’d been through. Images of a petrified SM going through terror caused a knot to twist in his gut.

He’d remembered how she was when she first came to him about YM. If the rat ever laid or touched a single strand of her hair, he would severely pay for it! XZ put his hands behind him, clenching his fists to control against tearing the rat apart.

“Isn’t she worth a king’s ransom & some?”

Hearing ‘those’ words brought great relief to XZ for it meant ‘SM’ hadn’t been harmed!
Even as he set the ‘hostage’ up as ‘pawn’ hoping to recoup his losses, PRX sensed he might have gone a step too far, crossing over the line where XZ was concerned! The ‘man’ was larger than life!

To his dismay, he realized that XZ was no ordinary mere mortal that he could manipulate or arm wrestle to his will! XZ’s reputation was earned and not a bluff or a lark conjured by imagination. He was way out of his league!

Panic set in as PRX saw the ‘smile’ that didn’t quite reach the eyes, spreading over XZ’s face…. His calm demeanor ~ a deception. In the split second realization hit him, it was all over! He saw his ‘army’ being huddled away. It had all been so quietly handled. And then he was spitting ‘blood’ and ‘curses’ as he measured his distance on the hard ground!

“That was for ‘SM’ and this one’s for the terror you put her through.” Fury packed behind another swing as XZ grabbed PRX by the collar to connect his clenched fist against the rat’s jaw. As his head snapped back from the hard blows, PRX knew he had to ‘talk’ & fast… to save his hide!



XZ desperately reached inside the cramped space of the cabinet for her ~ he saw her tear-stained face and the ‘relief’ that replaced the ‘anguish’ in her eyes just before she passed out!

He stripped the gag from her mouth and untied the ropes that bound her arms and legs, cursing as he saw the raw welts and abrasions. She must have struggled until her strength gave out, trying to free herself! His hands were gentle trying to bring the circulation back into her limbs.

“Get a doctor over here!”

He yelled out to no one in particular as his hands gently went over her to check for other injuries…. SM struggled against the mist to hear XZ’s voice shouting orders!

“Xue Zhang, I knew you would come.”

He hugged her tightly to his chest until he felt the tautness in his muscles relaxed. He’d almost lost her!

Safe in his arms, SM shuddered. “I thought you’d sent for me.”

Then she remembered YM.

“Have you found YM?”

He stiffened at the mention of the name. Because of her conniving ways, SM’s life had almost been compromised….

“She’s safe at the casino, SM.” Guilt was eating him. Had he revealed that YM was ‘safe and sound’ all this while at ‘The Bet’; SM would never have fallen for the treacherous trick.

“Xue Zhang, please take me home.”


A cold dread settled in his heart like someone had just walked over his grave……. After the ordeal she’d been through, he supposed that it was only natural that she wanted to go back to her home…. When it came to SM, there wasn’t a detached objective bone in his body…. The detachment that had been so essential to his survival was now gone. There was so much he wanted to tell her, show her for she would never fully realize the effect she had on him!


A rush of disappointment swept through SM as XZ’s lips touched hers briefly for just an instant, giving her only the faintest taste and feel of him. Her legs were trembling and she needed his reassuring kisses….

He’d never expected to find magic such as this wonderful Aphrodite and now she was here, in his arms ~ but she was still vulnerable, with that intriguing aura of innocence about her…. He could not ignore the delectable soft curves of her as she laid pliant in his arms but he couldn’t take advantage or shattered the magic…, not until he had that ‘special’ licence. Sighing and deriding himself for it, he slowly withdrew away from her and she felt his rejection….


She refused to cry but her heart grew heavier as the hours passed. He’d left her in the suite, saying he had matters that required his urgent attention. Her sleep was plagued by nightmares ~ she was searching frantically for her father and XZ who seemed to be dodging her, out of her arms’ reach. She woke up to find the expanse of the bed empty. Tonight, more than ever, she had a need to feel the warmth and reassurance found only in his arms but he had not returned.

She cried; releasing the floodgates to her emotions all the feelings she’d tried to suppress since the moment she came to seek his help. So had she been foolishly wrong about his feelings for her? Or was she hoping for something that wasn’t even there? Did he love her? She was only deluding herself. He had made no commitment and owed her nothing. He’d found YM as he’d said he would and now it was all over. She was too numb to think of YM and her treachery.

Resigned to her misery, SM gazed round the suite where his presence lingered, a cold apprehension gripping her, tying a big knot in her heart. Convulsively, her hand tightened around the doorknob, and she took a deep, breath. Slowly, she pulled the door open with a dispassionate calm, head held high.

XZ was busy making calls. The papers YM had stolen from PRX gave detailed information on his illegal sleazy activities. The condemning evidence would put PRX and his cohorts away for a fairly long time. XZ had other things to see to and instructions to give. By the time he’d attended to the details, it was quite late. He pressed his fingers to his throbbing temple. Just one more call to make. His old man.

SM. Their time together, while yet to be physically satisfied, had been full and he knew for a certainty that he wanted to keep her beside him. By hook or by crook, he would chain her to his side; even if it were to take one lifetime to teach her to love him back….

But there was no sign of SM in his suite or anywhere else at ‘The Bet’.


[Chapter 7]

She didn’t have the cash for ‘gas’. She walked and kept walking. Not once did she look back. She rested when she was tired and she wept until there were no more tears to shed. And she had no idea how long it’d taken her since she started for the bright lights of the strip were well behind her.

Ironic how things always had a way of coming full circles. She was always on the ‘run’. Running away from ‘home’ and now, running away from ‘him’ but, ……. ‘Affairs’ of the heart had a way of catching up on one. It was almost dawn as the fainting streak of hue lightly touched the sky.

She heard the blaring car ‘horn’ and stopped. She prayed it wasn’t some ‘drunk’ looking for a ‘pick-up’. The night owls were normally at the casinos and the working counterparts were on their graveyard shifts. Straightening up her shoulders, she turned to face the glaring highlight and saw the silhouette of a man…..!

Her heart beat wildly! Had he discovered her absence? She narrowed her eyes and then started to run towards the old ‘familiar’ frame…. Laughing and crying at the same time, she flung herself into his out-stretched arms, burrowing her face against his chest, instantaneously breaking into a sob so piteously that his heart went out to her.

“Took you long enough to get here!”

He stepped back at the accusing tone creeping into her soft voice. Missed him that badly? She was his ‘life’ and he understood her well enough to know that it wasn’t just ‘their’ reunion that had triggered the sobbing.

“Sweetheart, dear Lord, SM?” And hugged her tightly, allowing her to calm down. Hustling her inside the Chevrolet, they drove in silence.

They’d covered a distance when he diverted to a beaten track. In a manner that was natural to both, she rested her head against his. And in between the renewed sobbing, she poured out her heart to him. Slowly, as he listened, the story unfolded.

“SM? Look at me, sweetheart. I’m the man who loves you, remember?” Everything will turn out fine. I know, let’s hibernate at the sanctuary while things cool down, ok?”

She leaned her weary head against his arm and nodded.

“YM. She set me up…. What are we going to do with her?”

“Nothing. She’s a closed chapter, sweetheart.”


“SM? It’s time to cut the apron strings, let her be. And the first thing will be to put the house on the market. Will you consider uprooting yourself, for me, sweetheart?”

She offered a smile as he brushed his knuckle gently over her cheek. He couldn’t begin to imagine his life without her. He supposed he would have to handle it and a grin spread as he chewed over her confession. Drawing her close, he leaned over to tenderly plant a kiss on her forehead.

“Shall we go back to nature at the sanctuary, mmm? Let’s give it a facelift, what do you say? It’ll be a challenge to lead a hermit’s life again.”

Chiding herself for being absorbed in her own misery, she turned to slowly look at the man. She had neglected him because of her indulgence in self-pity. There and then for the first time since the meeting, she turned to slowly study him. Despite his cheerful smile, he did look gaunt & tired. Must have been a ‘tough’ & ‘trying’ mission.

“You know I’ll follow you to the end of the world.”

“Now how about a smile for your old man.”

“Oh Daddy, I do so love you!”


Back at ‘The Bet’. Everyone was literally on tiptoe. They’d never seen this side to their Boss. It was not in character and they all knew what or more to the point, ‘who’ was the reason for the sudden ‘chilling withdrawal’.

She was gone in the same manner as she had come. Without warning, unless you counted the trigger on the alarm, when she’d made her way into his suite. Leaving no stone unturned, they had stakeouts at ‘her’ home and a lookout for the car in the parking lot. Of the young lady who had won the affections of their Boss’s heart, there was no trace. Why hadn’t she called? Didn’t she know that he would worry? He missed her, Gad, how he’d missed!

For days he’d kept going. His boys had made no leeway trying to find out where SM could be found and the femme fatale she called ‘kin’ could offer no clue either! He could barely restrain himself from wanting to lunge out and throttle YM….

He hadn’t realized before just how much she had imbedded herself into his life until she was gone. And with each subsequent day, there was the visible slant and droop in his broad shoulders. The ‘anguish’ & ‘despair’ had given way to a ‘blank’ look in his eyes. Being alone with his thoughts had accomplished nothing.

He was too weighed down by fatigue to sleep and what little there was, was clouded with visions of her being alone and ‘defenceless’ out there. Memories of her pliant body kept him tossing and turning, the visions so real in his mind that he could actually feel her soft body curved against him in that bed, seeking his warmth in the chill of the night….

With all the resources in his reach, it puzzled him that she could vanish just like that! Almost three weeks had passed. Standing in the shower with the cold water berating down on his weary body, he came to a snap decision! It was time for action and he was going to call in a few markers! The ‘Agency’ owed him that. His train of thought leading to Uncle GC! He would know where to reach his daughter. He had to!


“There, that’s the last stitch!”

Triumphantly holding up the patchwork quilt she’d spent the past month on. Each loving stitch bore her heart and soul. To distract her mind from drifting to him, she had begun to work on the patchwork, refusing to rest until exhaustion set in. Without meaning to, her subconscious thought had led her to choose the ‘Wedding Ring’ design!

She heard the cuckoo chime and quickly got up to prepare dinner. Except for the luxury of a plumbing system in the ‘sanctuary’; there were no modern amenities! Everything was primitive and back to ‘Mother Nature’ ~ she had to start and kindle the ‘fire’ from the stack of twigs and wood that Daddy had collected.

Dear Dad, she would have been lost without his company. Something ‘urgent’ had come up and although she missed him, the past four days had given her a ‘breather’ for she needn’t keep up the pretence of being cheerful for his sake. Not that she would have to….

Father and daughter had always been very close and his presence helped to fill the ache she felt but there was still the void that only ‘he’ could make whole. The silent tears came at nights as she lay in her lonely bed, thinking and wondering about him….

There was no reproach, only a sense of ‘longing’ and ‘wanting’ to be with him. She would give her right arm to know how he was doing……. Above all, she hoped that he was happy. But she won’t have been human if she didn’t’ feel a twinge of ‘jealousy’ oozing in her veins at the thought that some other woman was making him happy….


He heard the insistent knock on the door and called out absent-mindedly. “Better be good.” He leapt to his feet when he saw the figure standing in the open doorway.


[Chapter 8]

“Who brought you up here? YZ!”

“Sorry, Boss. The lady is very persuasive.” YZ’s resigned voice came from behind the doorway.

His spirits had sunk when he realized his mistake. How could he ever mistake this Jezebel for his sweet SM? His eyes narrowed as he saw that she was wearing one of the ensembles QX had picked from the boutique for his discerning choice.

XZ turned his back on them. She felt the ‘snub’ and saw ‘red’ that the arrogant hired hand bore witness to her humiliation…… She was seethe in fury enough to scratch YZ’s eyes out!

Desperate to clutch at any straw she could to snare him; she switched on her charm and approached him at the desk.

“Mr Yin. I’m sorry there’s been a misunderstanding….! I know it’s my word against them but I swear you’ve got it all wrong!. You’ve got to believe me!”

Her bribery attempts on his croupiers had been reported to XD and he’d had to ‘ask’ her to quietly leave the room. She was ‘unrepentant’ on her behaviour but angry that she had been caught!

XZ felt her hand tugging on his elbow and turned to face her.

“Ms YM, are you trying to tell me that I’m a poor judge of character? That I’ve been saddled with a company of liars?”

She flushed red to the roots at his harsh words. Swinging violently round to glare at her nemesis, she came at him with her fists pummelling at his chest, screaming angrily.

“You arrogant low-lying scum! How could you set me up for a frame?!”

“Enough! Ms YM, you try the patience of a ‘saint’. I’m willing to overlook the accusations but you’ll understand this when I say that the ‘gaming tables’ are now ‘off limits’ to you. When you’re ready to leave, Ms ZD will send you home.”

Being summarily dismissed was not sitting well with her and YM tried to salvage her ‘pride’. Her eyes looked down at the handsome face that was now giving her his full attention. His eyes bore into hers and she was shocked at how piercingly cold they were!

No one had ever dared to snub or dismiss her and she wasn’t going to let it happen! Her eyes chanced on the piece of paper that was within sight… Quicker than a blink of an eye, she snatched it up!

A marriage licence! With that mousey brat? Too late the two men saw through her intention! Before they could wrestle the paper from her hand, she had torn it to pieces and flung them into the air, with a triumphant laugh…

“She’s gone. You hear me? She’s gone and you’re never gonna find her!!”

“Get her out of my sight, YZ! And this time, make sure nobody gets in, or you’re fired.”


He could barely control his anger as he crouched on the floor to pick up the pieces. If it wasn’t for SM and Uncle GC, he would have been tempted to make a sandbag out of her….

He gathered all the pieces and reached for the cellophane tape. Painstakingly, he tried to put the pieces together and was annoyed when a knock interrupted his concentration. Didn’t they understand what a ‘no disturbance’ meant? He was going to bring wrath on YZ’s head.

Who ever it was on the other side clearly meant to get in. Another knock and the door opened.

“Uncle GC! What are you doing here?!” His face had gone a whiter shade of pale…..

How could Uncle GC have got his message so quickly? SM, something must have happened! ‘His’ presence could only mean one thing! Adrenaline pumped through his blood vessels as with clenched fists, he waited for the ‘clanger’ to drop!

“Could have forgiven you for not rolling out the ‘red carpet.’ But what is this? Worn out my welcome mat, have I? Mmm, I can come back another time.”

Determined to let XZ sweat a little, the older man made to leave with a handshake.

“Uncle GC, please!”

And the astute old willy goat paused in his spot and smiled. GC studied the handsome younger man and grasped him in a vigorous hug, patting his shoulder.

“XZ, my boy!”

Relief robbed XZ of his strength. He was thankful for the powerful arms grasping him. He felt a little unsteady on his feet.

“How long has it been, son? Five years, eh? Trouble?”

He’d noted the pallor on the handsome face and the visible stubble on the chin. There was none of the suave, classy dresser from the rookie days and this sharp contrast brought a smile to GC’s face. His physique was still impressive, the result of a strict exercise regime in the gym, without the bulging mass of muscles from pumping iron.

Unable to hide the grin, GC looked away, his eyes drawn to the ‘jig-jaw’ puzzle on the oak desk,…..so the young man’s intentions were ‘honourable’, haah! He couldn’t have planned it better himself. The stage and die had been cast, now for that curtain call!

“I came to seek a personal favour but on second thought, maybe I better forget it.”

“Please, Uncle GC, you know me better than that.”

“Son, shall we make ourselves comfortable? I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy myself over this.”


[Chapter 9 - Final]

Knowing that the ‘goodbye’ would inevitably come to pass, she had deliberated and finally settled on the feeble excuse of wanting to ‘spare’ him the awkwardness of an ‘impossible’ situation and left him first.

She’d convinced herself that it was all for the best for she could keep the ‘happy’ memories but memories never kept one warm in a lonely bed and she was still miserably ‘pining’ for him.

A lot of self-recrimination was beating about in her mind. Her emotions unravelling over & over on all the ‘what ifs’ playback! What if she’d stayed back? What if she hadn’t been so impulsive and allowed her head to rule her heart?

Hadn’t she been willing to accept whatever he could give her……until there was absolutely no chance of his ever returning her love? She could now clearly see what her feelings were…. ‘Injured’ pride! ……All water under the bridge now….. and the tears came….

Five lonely weeks felt like infinity without him. Did he miss her? Had he even looked for her? She badly wanted to go back, if only just to have…. one more look at him…, anything!
Was there any way she could go back after she’d burnt her bridges…?

The storm was gathering momentum as the wind snapped open the windows, blowing out candles that had been strategically placed in the room. Fortunately, it hadn’t begun to rain yet.

The sanctuary, smack in the middle of nowhere that had been a safe haven for her, now appeared to come alive with sighs and whispers ~ she covered her ears to shut out the noises and sound! She’d always been afraid of lightning and thunder! The monsters and demons in her childhood nightmares were coming at her….. She was hallucinating; growing nervous and paranoid as the howling wind stretched her highly-strung nerves.

She shut her eyes tightly but she couldn’t switch off her unwanted thoughts or banished her fears, that the house was spooky! The tiny hairs on the back of her nape began to rise as she heard the creaking on the wooden floor. She screamed!


He caught the shell-shocked expression in her glazed eyes! …. Her scream tore at his very heartstrings! Gad, how long had she been huddled there, frightened out of her wits! ……..

Seeing the wholesome image before her, the man who had filled her waking thoughts and dreams, SM flung herself into his arms and clung with a strength that bespoke of desperation! Sobbing, she clung on tightly to the figure, afraid he was truly a figment of her imagination… Was he an illusion! He felt so real….

She didn’t care how or why he had come, she only hoped it was because he wanted her! Quietly, he held her until her sobbing ceased.

“Just relax.” He coaxed, drawing her head against his shoulder, his hands warm and strong as they gently massaged her small back, feeling the tremors and tension slowly ebbing from her body….

His body’s reaction to her was instantaneous. Desire seeped into his blood as he took an inaudible deep breath. He brushed his thumb gently over her lower lip then his lips came down on her luscious ones. He kissed her until she felt her bones melting and fell against his hard chest!

“Gad, you’re thinner than the last time I held you!”

She had a way of obliterating his self-control and her innocent yet pliant response bewitched him! He groaned inwardly as her breasts pressed more firmly against his chest. SM was throbbing at the way his long sensitive fingers were rapturously weaving her senses, tying them up in knots….

“Xue Zhang!” She’d caught the intense look of hunger in his eyes and her heart pounded!

“I’m afraid you’ll disappear if I don’t keep my eyes and hands on you…! The thought of you all alone…. It nearly drove me crazy…! Don’t ever walk away from me again, promise me!”

Tracing the fullness of her bottom lip, he tugged on it with a slow deliberation, causing SM to gasp at the sensual touch. His lips explored her eyelids, brushing gently across her warm cheeks as they moved to nibble her earlobe, before blazing a fiery trail down the vulnerable curve of her nape. Without any effort at all, he swung her off her feet to find her bedroom.

The sensuous assault on her mind and body sapped her willpower and protests and turned her putty in his arms…. Forgotten were the long, agonizing hours, spent alone. Unbuttoning her blouse, he slid a hand beneath the linen, his gaze on the shadowy valley but she was through ‘rational’ thinking as he held her gaze with mesmerizing ease.

His arms moulded her delectable curves against his muscled chest, the heat of his body searing her tingling nerves. She was all womanly, soft and feminine in his arms! The tiny guileless movements she made against him were driving him off the wall…….!

Everything faded away into oblivion as she was irresistibly pulled by a strong feeling of ‘homecoming’ and surrendered to the blissful release that only his finesse and mastery could give her!

He wanted her but most of all, he wanted her love and trust….. Reluctantly, he released her, slowly pulling away from her, wanting to give her the ‘choice’ to call a halt if she wanted to….

Dejavu . The innocent action brought back the torturous memory of his ‘rejection’ and with a sob, SM tore herself from his arms, dashing out like a ‘wounded’ doe, bewildered and hurt!!

“SM, wait! You’ve got it all wrong!” His timing couldn’t have been worse, cursing himself.

“I’m not a child so stop playing games with me! You don’t really want me at all, so just leave me alone! I’m only a gullible nincompoop for all you care!”

“Gad, you’re such an adorable, innocent nincompoop! Can you begin to understand how much it was costing me each time I had to pull away from you? I love you, honey!!”

“Don’t call me your ‘honey’. I’m not your honey!” Her temper flared and in a childish fit of outburst, she stomped her foot, angry that he viewed her as an object for his amusement!

He was startled by the unexpected emergence of this enfant terrible and chuckled in amusement. Nothing in his past exploits had prepared him for this and he knew he would have to change his strategy to win her over. Life with her was definitely going to be exciting and he couldn’t resist baiting her further!

“Very well then, darling.”

He could see that verbal appeasement would not help here and slowly advanced closer to her… She met his gaze, her own, wary with a tinge of resentment and what she saw in his, took her breath away! There was nothing to conceal or hide the passion in his, hot and primitive! She couldn’t breathe….

Defying him was one thing but controlling her fear in the face of a raging storm outside was another. It was an ‘impasse’ and she knew who would come out the champion. Without his arms around her, she wasn’t feeling so brave after all.

Appearing on cue, another bolt of lightning struck followed by a loud thunderous clap! Its deafening roar was so close as to reverberate through the house that it propelled her into XZ’s arms! Seizing advantage of the divine intervention from Zeus, XZ held the unresisting ‘heaven-sent’ bundle in his arms and dug in his heels.


Suddenly conscious of the arms wrapped around her as her fear subsided, she squirmed in his arms, struggling to free herself. Holding back on her tears and frustrations as he easily dispensed with her futile endeavours. He talked and the compelling tone in his voice reached her until she listened & fully understood.

His arms imprisoned her in a crushing embrace as his mouth took unerring possession of hers, before blazing down to the vulnerable slope of her tender nape to brand her with his kisses, draining away her last stand of resistance….

His scalding kisses cajoled and demanded nothing less than her total surrender, drugging her senses, leaving her wanting more…. She swayed instinctively as his hands caressed and moulded her against him…

Lost as the familiar surge of pleasure sent her pulses and heartbeats into a spiral high, of their own volition, her arms twined behind his nape until her fingers were tangled in his thick mane….

Her velvet skin felt like smooth silk to his touch. Such soft perfection…. How he’d missed her! Caught in an enchanting spell she had cast, he was mesmerized at the delightful ways her pliant body instinctively arched towards him! His thumb gently gazed at the buds until their taut peaks teased him.

“I wanted so much to return to you. I’d missed you, Xue Zhang. And this….”

“I know, honey, so do I” And proceeded to show her.

With feathery light touches, he kissed the rigid peak, tracing the aureole with his tongue before tugging on the bud to tantalize and torture her tingling senses! One hand gliding slowly over her flat belly then up to cup and knead the gentle fullness of her burgeoning breasts. His lips roamed possessively over her soft curves, twirling her body and soul into a magical trance, leaving her breathless with desire…..

Gazing at her swollen lips & her heavy-lidded eyes, cloudy with passion, he murmured huskily, “Tell me what you want, SM?”

His gift of restraint was all the more meaningful now that she understood how terribly frustrating it must have been for him and she was deeply touched by his consideration….. Arching her body, her actions speaking louder than words, eyes hazy with desire, she showed him what she wanted!

“Don’t stop loving me, Xue Zhang.”

This time there was no restraint as he took her to the height of ecstasy!



One month later.

XZ propped himself up on an elbow and gazed down at the winsome sleeping beauty in his arms. Pulling down the ‘quilt’ that she’d sewn, his eyes running appreciatively at the labour of love that had gone into the stitches… He’d grown accustomed to the agreeable, blissful ritual of waking her up with his passion…..... Even asleep, she could arouse him! Her firm breasts gently rose and fell with each breath, the pink buds were relaxed.

On impulse, he bent down his head to draw one into his mouth. And was instantly rewarded when even in repose, her body instinctively arched into his mouth….! Aroused from her sleep by the insistent tugging at her breast, her eyes slowly opened…the dreaminess vanishing as her tingling senses were awakened with a vengeance…

“Hello there, sleepyhead!”

He laughed triumphantly at the colour that spread over her radiant face and murmured softly into her delicate ear, “You’re looking at an extremely hungry man.” A wolfish grin appeared as he winked down at her.

“Mr Yin, hush. Must you talk like that?”

“Like what, Mrs Yin? I’m so hungry I could devour a lamb!”

The innuendo was not lost on her. Her chin lifted belligerently.

“I have serious doubt as to whether your stomach is strong enough for such a sumptuous meal. Assuming first that you still have the stamina to seek out your ‘sacrificial’ lamb!”

Knowing that her taunt had hit below the belt, she quickly leaped off from the bed, offering him a glimpse of her comely derriere. The wench, smug in the belief that a locked door would keep her safe from reprisals, confidently threw out a challenge that he couldn’t refuse.

‘Come & get it if you can!”

[Do you think she bested him? No? Me neither. Old fashioned as it is, I always believe that …“The hero ‘always’ gets his girl!”……]


If you’d followed the story, you might ask:…… So what’s the ‘bet’ about & those phone calls to XZ’s old man? Well, that’s another story.



Dear EVERLAND's family of JDG,

"The Bet" was first posted at J.A.N.G.G.A., our beloved first "JDG HOME".

I hope you won't mind me taking up the space to repost it here at our new "HOME SWEET HOME" to share it with JDG's ever growing big family!

Thanks for your big heart and understanding!

5-mins' hug,

Irene [MY]