Tale Goes On
Author: Irene


Wedding Night sequal


SM’s heart beat riotously as XZ carried her into their bedroom. Soft dim lights illuminated the spacious bedroom & the scent of roses sailed the air. Shyly lifting up her head, she couldn’t believe the amazing sight of masses of white & red roses intricately decorating the room & their petals carpeting the floor! The room had been transformed into a magical Garden of Eden!

XZ had gone to a lot of trouble personally overseeing every minute detail & spared no expense to get everything ready before bringing home his beloved bride! As though on cue, in the background, Nana Mouskouri’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” from the Clint Eastwood film, “Play Misty for Me” was heard…

He sat on the edge of the bed, cradling her without saying anything, wanting her to get used to the intimacy. Some moments later, XZ heard a soft hiccup then felt SM fidgeting in his arms!

“Xue Zhang, I have something to say. Growing up without a mother to tutor me, I am ignorant about many things. I worry that I will only be an embarrassment & disappointment….” A pause as a hiccup broke in. “I will learn to be a good wife so promise me that you’ll be patient & not get upset when I make mistakes. I trust….” SM’s small voice trailed off into another hiccup, without finishing what she intended to say……

XZ was visibly moved by SM’s declaration. He knew she was nervous & didn’t want her to panic. This was their wedding night & he didn’t want anything, let alone nerves, to spoil it for them! “SM, there’s nothing for you to worry about. Only remember that I love you very much. Just be natural, okay? You must be pretty tired, have a rest while I get the bath ready for you.”

He turned to a pitcher that had been placed on a side table & poured her a glass of water. He would have preferred her to take a shot of whisky to soothe her nerves, but…. Then, with a light kiss on the forehead, he left her. She saw that a set of lingerie & night slip had been laid on the chaise for her! She blushed at the thought of XZ handling the intimate items!

SM was grateful for his thoughtfulness, knowing that he was giving her the few moments alone to calm down. Nervously removing the pearl & diamond earrings as well as the matching necklace, one of the many lavish wedding gifts from him! Her Xue Zhang had impeccable taste & was very discerning in the gifts he chose for her! All that remained were the band of wedding ring & the anklet.

SM then tried to reach the tiny buttons on the back of her evening gown. Made entirely of French lace with tiny pearl buttons opening at the back. The plunging lace bodice giving the enticing illusion of more flesh showing than there actually was! XZ had devoured her with his adoring eyes when she tried on the outfit, exclaiming that she looked stunning & she secretly agreed with him! He had been adamant that the alluring gown be added to the huge collection that he had personally selected for her wedding trousseau!

She was still struggling with the buttons when she felt XZ’s warm breath on her nape. She hadn’t even heard his footsteps!

“Let me.”

Then, he was unfastening the buttons, occasionally brushing against her bare flesh, the brief contact causing both to hold their breath.
When the last button was undone, he pressed her hips against him, slowly sliding his arms around her waist. As he felt her body relaxed, he turned her round & tilted up her face.
Their eyes locked his showing depth of passion long kept in check & hers wide with innocence & wonder! He knew she’d no idea how adorable & bewitching she was!

XZ bent down to nibble her luscious lips while his hands slid from the waist to tenderly caress her. It was an incredible sensual caress & the shocking intimacy sent her senses spinning & she felt her heart pounding loudly. Of their own volition, her hands crept up over his neck as her body swayed instinctively against him.

He could feel the firm mounds in his hands as he kissed her tenderly. Then his lips lingered down the curve of her graceful neck, strayed lower to brush lightly against her straining breasts, gazing at the edging lace that now barely hid the hardening buds, willing them in sight! He gently squeezed until one hidden bud peeped out from behind the lace to his astonished delight!

“SM, I want to look at you!” he murmured in a hoarse voice.

He gently laid her on the bed as he undressed her slowly, spellbound at the exquisite soft curves that were now bared to him, inch by inch! He looked at her tiny waist, the gentle flare of her slender hips & her lovely breasts just fit his hands! She was perfectly beautiful in his eyes & he felt the desperate ache to feel her naked flesh against him!!

The awakening of her body’s responses to XZ confused her. Vaguely, she thought she ought to feel shy & embarrassed! She’d never lain naked while a man watched! In fact, she’d never even undressed in front of another person since puberty! She had invited this by agreeing to wear the provocative gown at his insistence & she was bewildered at the incredible burning feelings she experienced where he touched her! Was this then desire, the strange tingling heat that she couldn’t put a name to!

She gazed into his deep compelling eyes & never felt more vulnerable or so much a woman as she did then! XZ’s lips slowly trailed over her soft delicate features, then lingered down to nuzzle at her breasts. She tasted so sweet and she was driving him to madness!
And when he captured a throbbing bud that had been begging for a more intimate caress into his mouth, her eyes widened in disbelief!

She swallowed her breath when he drew the dusky bud into his mouth & sucked it hungrily as though to draw out her soul! Her body writhed beneath him as she pleaded for him to stop the tormenting fires that were burning her inside!
XZ groaned as he felt her passionate response & wondered just how much longer he could control his own raging fires!

“Xue Zhang, no…!” she murmured when his mouth lifted from her breasts at last. SM wasn’t sure if she was protesting his touch or the ending of that sweet torment! He hesitated, not wanting to frighten her, then was sure as he gazed into her eyes cloudy with desire! All too aware of her innocence, he struggled to find the words to reassure her.
“SM, my angel, forgive me, if there’s any way I can love you without hurting you, I would, but………”
SM put a finger over his mouth, and in a low voice, trembling with passion, he heard her shyly, “I trust you, Xue Zhang & I know you will never hurt me with your love!” - This was what she had wanted to tell him earlier on before the hiccups took over!
XZ was deeply moved, realizing that she had sought to reassure him instead! He tried to be gentle but her pliant surrender shattered his control! His body was burning to take possession of her, body & soul! “Xue Zhang, I love you!”

The night was theirs as flames of passion ignited into a wonderful explosion of fireworks!

Later, holding her soft body curled against him in slumber, XZ felt contentment. He loved & cherished her more than anything else in the world & he wanted only her happiness! After an incredible night of passion & lovemaking, he was still yearning for her!

Sighting the sign of her purity on the sheet, he felt overwhelmed by the passion that had consumed them both! His emotions still reeling from the knowledge that this enchanting innocent was now his, all his! Getting up slowly, he reached for the robe, trying not to wake her. A grin came as he boyishly anticipated the moment SM would wake up only to realize she was in her birthday suit!

Hearing a soft sigh, he quickened his footsteps just in time to see SM sitting up in bed. She caught XZ staring at her & blushed profusely as she remembered she was stark naked! XZ froze in his track & couldn’t believe that he was gawking at his wife! Pink flesh became dusky right beneath his penetrating stare & she was startled when he bent down to catch one pointed bud in his mouth, cupping her other breast, “You don’t  expect me to ignore this, do you?”

SM went speechless at the wink he gave her when she looked down into his face!! XZ chuckled & laughed triumphantly as he carried her to the bath that he had just got ready.

Scented candles of different shapes & colors were scattered everywhere, giving a romantic radiance! Up close, she saw rose petals sprinkled on the surface, filling the tub!
XZ stepped into the tub, robe & all with his precious nude bundle. SM’s arms slided up around his neck & she kissed him shyly on the cheek. “Xue Zhang, thank you.”

Although still shy with her husband, her wits & sense of humor returned to the fore. And, to repay him for the earlier teasing, she asked innocently with an imp of mischief, “Does it mean you’ll be taking charge in the kitchen, cooking & washing up too?”

A devilish twinkle in his eyes warned her to expect retaliation. XZ was drunk in the sensuous vision before him, & wondered how she could be innocent & childlike yet so appealingly seductive at the same time!! He tucked her hair over her ears, his lips descending to part hers…..

SM sucked in her breath when she felt his hands slowly stroking her body! She closed her eyes as XZ’s lips followed the trail his hands had led! Her body thrilled at the memory of his easy mastery of her responses & instinctively ached towards him. She never knew there could be so much joy in a physical union & was carried away by his lovemaking; wondering if she was fast becoming a fallen woman in his eyes? Her thought faded into oblivion as his lingering caresses aroused her once more & SM yielded & surrendered completely to him!


Chapter 1. 3

Chapter 2. 6

Chapter 3. 9

Chapter 4. 11

Chapter 5. 12

Chapter 6. 14

Chapter 7. 16

Chapter 8. 18

Chapter 9. 19

Chapter 10. 20

Chapter 11. 21

Chapter 12. 23

Chapter 13. 25

Chapter 14. 27

Chapter 15. 28

Chapter 16. 30

Chapter 17. 32

Chapter 18. 34

Chapter 19. 35

Chapter 20. 37

Chapter 21. 38

Chapter 22. 39

Chapter 23. 41

Chapter 24. 42

Chapter 25. 43

Chapter  26. 45

Chapter 27. 46

Chapter 28. 48

Chapter 29. 50

Chapter 30. 52

Chapter 31. 54

Chapter 32. 55

Chapter 33. 57

Chapter 34. 59

Chapter 35. 61

Chapter 36. 63

Chapter 37. 65

Chapter 38. 67

Chapter 39. 70

Chapter 40. 73

Chapter 41. 75

Chapter 42. 77

Chapter 43. 80

Chapter 44. 83

Chapter 45. 86

 


 

Chapter 1

 

Looking at SM with her nose buried deep in the news script, XZ couldn help but smile as he always done where she was concerned. Where he had been bored and cynical before, his life was now filled with bliss, laughter and tenderness & it had everything to do with this lovable nymph. She brought meaning & purpose to his life!

There was never a dull moment with SM around. She would creep into his thoughts even in the midst of an important business meeting & he would then catch himself smiling & grinning silly.

It was miraculous how the weight of responsibilities & his exhaustion seemed to always vanish the second he set eyes on her. He couldn bear to be away from her for long & knowing she was always there for him made his days bearable.

He loved to tease her endlessly. Kissing her awake in the mornings, looking so adorable being thoroughly kissed He was enraptured & captivated when she came so vibrantly alive in his arms.
And because he was all too aware of her innocence, it made her pliant response all the more intoxicating!

His lips curved into a smile as he recalled yesterday ……

He had returned home early from a meeting that was supposed to have kept him till late. He had intended to surprise her by taking her out to dinner. That he was an indulgent husband was very obvious to all, but there was no trace in her of the spoilt wife.

As she got out of the shower, SM was thinking happily of the meal that she was going to surprise XZ that night. As her fingers closed on the towel, she suddenly heard the sound of door closing and soft footsteps. She wasn't expecting XZ, he would have called if he were coming home early.

Realizing she won make it to the bedroom door to secure the lock, she hastily retreated into the bathroom and quickly locked herself in. Panic set in as she looked around for something to use as a weapon!

XZ went into the bedroom to look for SM but didn see her. Where could she be? It was then that he heard the sound of running water coming from the bathroom.

This was even better than he expected as he made his way there. His face lit up as he relished joining the delectable, shy SM in the bath!

When he turned the knob, he found the door locked. Fumbling on the knob a few times, XZ rapped on the door urgently but didn get any response. Alarmed that SM could be taken sick, he shouted out her name anxiously and put his shoulders to shove the door!

As panic gave way to relief on hearing XZ voice on the other side, SM quickly opened the door, before dissolving in a flood of tears.

XZ almost tumbled into SM. His angel, wrapped only in a towel, was crying hysterically..!

Zhe Zhang! ZheZhang! she cried as she threw herself at him, burrowing her head onto his chest, wrapping her arms tightly around his waist!

SM, SM, it all right, it me. Don’t cry, I sorry if I frightened you, mmm, please don’t cry, everything fine, my love.

He whispered softly into her hair as he cuddled her close. M, you’re safe now comforting her as she continued to cling to him. He tenderly tucked her hair behind her ears, giving her time to calm down.

After some time, SM looked up at XZ with tearful red eyes & jabbed a finger at XZ chest. he Zhang, you scared me! I thought you were a burglar!XZ could hear the tremor in her voice.

And what would you have done if I were a burglar?XZ prompted her gently.

Oh, Zhe Zhang, I almost died of fright until I heard your voice. I was getting ready to use the hot water spray on the intruder!SM sobbed again when she realized XZ could have been hurt.

XZ smiled indulgently at his angel, fascinated by her display of spirits. But he had his anxious moments and shuddered at the thought that SM could have come to harm. It troubled him to see her so vulnerable!

For his peace of mind, he would call the security firm to get additional features installed.

He made a move for the robe hanging nearby & caught his breath! His movement had somehow loosened the towel & afforded him a tantalizing view of the treasure in his arms!

Zhe Zhang, don’t  move, my rr, Zhe Zhang, .please,

Hearing the panic in her whisper, XZ chuckled at her shyness. He saw the beads of water glistening on her cleavage & the soft rosy hue that had now swept over her cheeks. She was so fetching, leaning snugly in his arms where she belonged……

The warmth & soft womanly scent of her was going to his head, seducing his senses like raw, sharp whisky. & XZ felt his control stretched to its limit!

His angel had no idea how sensual and bewitching she was! Then he felt her stiffness relaxed, letting her soft curves melt into his hard body, a response he was more accustomed to. Good God, she was exquisitely sweet!

There was only so much a man could take! XZ nibbled at the vulnerable flesh exposed to him & murmured hoarsely, M, have a heart, you're killing me!

SM stole a glance at XZ & discovered a devilish twinkle in his eyes.

In a voice that was breathless, she protested weakly, he Zhang, how could you scare and embarrass me, all in one day? For that, I not going to cook for you tonight.

XZ laughed triumphantly. Oh, life was truly interesting with his little angel around! Not giving SM a chance to resist, he bent down & swung her off her feet.

Then she was lying on the bed, with no memory of being placed there. SM gave a soft gasp just before his lips captured hers XZ tried to be gentle but SM response shattered his resolve! SM felt herself drowning in the searing pleasures in XZ arms as waves of heat, more potent than the last swept through her body! And, …….. dinner is eh .served .

Without even knowing it, the innocent SM had wandered into his heart and took complete possession where many a beauty and sophisticate had tried & failed. She was unique & such a natural and he thanked the heavens for sending him this exquisite angel!
***

Zhe Zhang, Zhe Zhang, penny for your thoughts. Where have you gone? Are you thinking of another woman?

Yes, I was thinking of the vixen that has moved into my home and taken over my heart!

At that, SM laughed, pride mirrored in her adoring eyes. He was truly like a Greek god, such sculptured features & a physique even other men envy. What more, of the women?

Come here, SM. XZ stretched out his arms to pull her onto his lap. SM happily circled her arms lovingly around his neck, smiling provocatively at him.

Zhe Zhang, I am delighted that the vixen has made you very happy, but what about me? Don’t  I deserve a present for allowing you to keep her in our home?SM teased XZ, her whole face lit up with mischief, her big round eyes challenging him.

As long as the vixen stays with me, I will be your willing slave, Miss Zhen Shan Mei! And as to your present…” XZ bent to nibble her ear & whispered softly, ……

Laughing bashfully, SM poked out her tongue & made to get away. XZ was quicker & grabbed her arms, holding them over her head, his lips descending to torture her with light, feathery kisses. Instinctively, her head fell back as he sought her nape.

Zhe Zhang, please stop, you’re making me ticklish!SM giggled, trying to ward off his invading lips.

Aaarrh, Miss Zhen Shan Mei, you hurt my feelings! My ego is sorely bruised. You mean to tell me that you felt nothing but ticklish?!

SM laughed at the pathetic look that XZ presented and pressed her lips passionately against his. y darling hubby, you are my one & only! The best and the greatest and I love you very, very much!

And, XZ did not disappoint his love.


Chapter 2

 

The shrill sound of the telephone ring woke her up. As SM edged herself to answer the phone, an arm instinctively tightened its hold on her waist.

She turned her head to look at XZ but he was fast asleep. She tried gently to disengage his arm but it seemed to be steely. Then the ringing stopped. As she slid back on the pillow, she caught XZ eyes on her.
Xue Zhang, did I wake you? I wonder who calling this early?

XZ hand came up to brush her fringe & gave her a light kiss on the forehead. ever mind, if it important, whoever it is will call back. Go back to sleep, it not dawn yet.

As by habit, she cuddled up to XZ & was gathered close in his comforting embrace.

*****

SM, SM, wake up. I here, SM. It all right!

SM opened her eyes & was startled to see concern on his face. What was wrong? Why was XZ looking so worried?

SM, you were crying in your sleep! Was it a bad dream?
Was I? I don’t remember anything at all, Xue Zhang.
SM, whatever it is, we’ll talk, okay? Just stay here while I make you a cup of hot chocolate.

Please don’t  go. I don’t want to be alone.

He swept her off the bed & gave her a piggy-ride to the kitchen. Set me down. I’m all right now.
XZ won’t release her & taking the ready cup of hot chocolate, he made his way back to the bedroom.

Seating her across his lap on the bed, XZ blew on the steaming cup to cool its contents before holding it to her. She would never know just how appealing & adorable she was dressed in his oversized shirt. He slipped an arm over her, all the time keeping his eyes on her.

A soft sigh & then his angel turned to him with a smile. Xue Zhang, will you be having a full day ahead? As he raised an eyebrow in reply, she continued, free for the day & have nowhere to go. I know, how about if I make lunch & bring it to you?

‘’It’ll be too late to cancel my morning appointments, but I’ll get Ms Lee to reschedule this afternoon. I must say I like the idea of my wife bringing me lunch. But most of all, I like my wife beside me.

SM laughed at the almost childish way he said it & he joined in. here do you want to spend the day, SM?
We don’t  have to go anywhere. I actually like the idea of watching my husband at work. XZ ruffled her hair & smiled at the thought of SM sitting quietly in his office. She was such a bundle of activity, how could she keep still?

Really? You won’t be bored?
Well, what will you do if I get bored? Send me home?

I can think of a thousand & one ways to keep you occupied, my dear imp! Mm, come to think of it, why are we still talking?

She giggled as XZ suddenly tickled her on her nape with his morning stubble! Catching her lips in a swift kiss, he held her down & soon his caresses brought her to a new height of passion!

****
XZ looked down at the sleeping SM. Bending down to plant a light kiss on her lips, he left for the office.

****
He had just finished his last appointment when SM called to say she arrived at the building. XZ eyes twinkled at the memory of her passionate response that morning & like a kid, he couldn’t wait to see how she was going to cover up on one obvious telltale mark.

He soon had his answer when the object of his musing walked in! He saw the scarf knotted at the high collar & grinned, noting the pains she took to avoid looking at him.
SM, the look becomes you! I don’t remember ever seeing you with a scarf before. Is it a new fad?

Her lips pouted as she continued to avoid his eyes. Keeping her head low, she mumbled to herself, what’s this? Not enough to just embarrass me yet still want to tease me? I’ll find a way to pay back.

Trying to get her to look at him, XZ went on, SM, have pity on me. The scratches on my back are killing me, can you help me with the ointment?

It worked for she looked at him then, cheeks red with embarrassment! Xue Zhang! XZ laughed at the naivet of his angel & pulled her to him.

SM, we’re married! Passion is a very natural thing between two people who love each other. There nothing to be ashamed of! He fingered the knot on the scarf & untied it. Let me look at it. Does it hurt?

She shook her head & then jumped back as his fingers were now undoing the buttons on her blouse. Xue Zhang! What are you doing? Someone might come in! XZ laughed softly this time, the nearness of his angel was going to his head.

I just want to make sure that you’re okay. He chuckled in amusement at the way she suddenly pushed him away, quickly crossing her hands over her chest!
Holding her glance, XZ winked slyly to let her know he remembered precisely where he left the other marks!

She seen the love bites on her breasts when she took the shower! XZ had already left when she woke up & she was relieved not to have to face him then. Even though they shared intimacy, she was still shy when he openly teased her.

SM froze on the spot as with a purpose in his stride, XZ made his way to the door. She heard a click as the door was locked. Before she could utter a word, XZ was at her side, pulling down her hands.
A gasp was barely out of her mouth when he swooped down to capture her lips. She tried to push him away when she felt his fingers on her blouse! How could XZ have the stamina after this morning & to make love to her in his office? Had he gone mad?

He laughed softly as he sensed her confusion. And SM was embarrassed when she saw what he was actually doing! He was buttoning up her blouse & adjusting the scarf for her! She didn’t know whether to be relieved or frustrated. Then XZ was leading her to the sofa & perching her on his lap.
Does it hurt where the other marks are? She hid her face onto his chest & felt the silent laughter. Then before she could control herself, she bit him on the exposed flesh of his neck. XZ almost swallowed his tongue in surprise & as she just as suddenly let go, he said in a voice, muffled by mirth, SM, now everyone will know!

No sooner had she bitten him than she regretted her action! Her remorse came as she wondered if she hurt him! And as another thought flashed across her mind, she burst in tears! That her foolish action had backfired on her!

XZ saw the panic & tears in her eyes & quickly sought to repair the damage! He brushed away her tears, giving her time to calm down. It’s all right, SM. I could use your make-up shade or maybe start a new fad with a bandana!

Through her tears, SM giggled as she imagined the comical sight of a collected Boss in his new image! As though on cue, her empty stomach sounded out its signal.
With an apologetic smile, she said whimsically, Xue Zhang, I overslept & didn’t prepare lunch. I er don’t  want people looking at me, will you order in?

XZ squeezed her hand & nodded in understanding. don’t want my wife fainting on me. Gossip will have it that your boss & husband are both taking advantage of you!
SM knew he was teasing her on purpose to make her feel better. Drawing down his head, she shyly kissed him. A hiccup, then in a soft voice, she said, sometimes worry that my inexperience will cause Xue Zhang to leave me one day for another woman.

Her refreshing confession touched his heart. If she only knew how her pliant response fueled up his desire & insatiable hunger for her! Lightly tracing a finger on her bottom lip, XZ held her gaze & slowly bent to kiss her. XZ untied the knotted scarf & unbuttoned the top buttons of her blouse. Pushing aside the collar, he saw the slight discoloration of the skin. She bruised so easily!

She must be feeling sore all over! Tugging at her waist, he pulled up her blouse & unbuttoned it all the way down. SM just laid quietly, her eyes cloudy with desire as her breath suddenly caught in her throat. Tracing a finger on a mark that showed above her chemise, XZ reproached himself for being too carried away by his desire for SM.
As if sensing his feeling, SM hand closed over his & she whispered, Xue Zhang, Don’t worry, I’m not hurt. I just bruise easily, that all. I feel funny when I came out, like everyone could see Xue Zhang had branded me with his love! The last sentence was spoken with a tongue-in-cheek manner & XZ laughed. It was what SM had wanted, to break the ice.
Do you like the way I branded you?

Xue Zhang, I feel so confused, almost like a stranger to myself. I don’t quite know how to say it for I never experienced these feelings before. It’s like I’m burning all inside & it hurts yet I want the feeling to go on when we are together like now. Are they natural? I feel shy but should I feel ashamed because I like how Xue Zhang touches me?

XZ was elated yet humbled by her revelation. Her body’s awakening needs confused his innocent wife! Was it any wonder that this child-woman captivated him?

All that you feel are natural instincts that come about when two people love each other. You need not be ashamed of your feelings or the way your body responded to its needs. No other woman can ever hold a candle to you, now or ever in my life. I love you, SM.

SM raised her eyes shyly to his face. XZ held her gaze while he removed her camisole & the lacy bra beneath. With a clinical eye, he checked for abrasion on her body. As his hands slowly moved over her smooth skin, her cheeks changed to the same shade as the love bites on her breasts. SM closed her eyes as she felt her pulses racing & cried out in a small voice, Xue Zhang, please.

Expecting an interruption any moment then, XZ pulled away with a sigh as he helped her to dress.
The caterer will be here soon! SM, let’s go home, shall we? I only pray that I would survive until after you’re fed!

He looked so pathetic that SM laughed! And not a moment too soon, they heard the caterer at the door.


Chapter 3

 

SM reached out for XZ but found only an empty space next to her. With a start, she sat up then remembered that XZ was still in Japan. It was now 8:00p.m.

He was unavoidably detained because bad weather had forced the cancellation of all outbound flights from Narita.

Calling to inform about the situation, he assured her that he was all right. He didn’t want her to wait up & gave instructions to take dinner and go to bed early. He would be back before she knew it, and then the line had gone dead. Communication was temporary down.

As the hour approached midnight, still without a word from XZ, SM got more & more agitated! She should have accompanied him on the day trip; she berated herself, as she went about absent-mindedly in the kitchen to prepare some snack. She had hoped to share it with him.

Was he still at the airport? Had he taken dinner? Knowing him, he would be worrying sick about leaving her alone! “Xue Zhang, Xue Zhang!” & because she couldn’t help it, she found herself trembling with new fears for XZ’s safe return. The whiff of burnt food alerted her & she attended to the task of cleaning up.

Suddenly without warning, she was enclosed in a bear hug from behind as hungry lips pressed on her nape!! “Xue Zhang, Xue Zhang!” she cried with relief, as she realized that XZ was home, safe & sound! She turned & flung her arms around his neck, dragging his head down to kiss him with passion!

“Yo, SM. All this passion for being a few hours late? What will be the reward for staying the night away, my love?” XZ teased his angel.

“Huh, Xue Zhang, only a few hours? You think it’s funny? I thought I might never see you again! From now on, I’ll be your shadow & not let you loose on your own!” & laughing with joy, she hugged him tightly, kissing every where she could reach him! Suddenly, XZ raised his head & frowned at her!

“And what’s this rumbling sound? Skipped dinner & tried to burn down the kitchen?”

“Xue Zhang, where would I get the appetite to eat? But now that you’re back I won’t mind your special BBQ noodle & of course a hand to clean up afterwards.” The words were spoken with a charm of innocence but the laughing eyes that peeped at him held mischief!

“Imp,” XZ muttered under his breath as he playfully pinched her cheek. Then rolling up his sleeves, he set about the loving task of feeding his love. Leaning on the counter, SM eagerly drinking in the sight of her dashing husband! “Xue Zhang, how did you manage to get home? Why didn’t you call?”

“Flight clearance was given when the weather took a surprising turn for the better. Besides, I want to surprise you. However, I see there are matters to be set straight here, my love. You chose to ignore me about dinner & sleep. But, it can keep till you finish every last morsel of the noodle.”

SM stole a look at XZ for she was now quite familiar with that tone in his voice that hinted at displeasure! She tugged on his rolled-up sleeves & with the most angelic expression she could muster, she whispered in a soft voice, “I didn’t intentionally disobey you. I couldn’t think of food because I was worried Xue Zhang would spend a sleepless night without ... me …..”

He waited in silence for her next move. It wasn’t long before he felt her soft curves pressed against him in an enticing way! He sucked in his breath! When had she learnt that move! It was such a sensual touch that he was aroused! As she felt his body stiffening up, SM secretly smiled. That loony ZD certainly knew what she was talking about on the art of seduction!

Encouraged by his body’s response, she became bold as she raised his arms to wrap around her waist. Sliding her own lovingly over his neck, she showered light kisses all over his face. Then he heard her soft voice saying, “Xue Zhang, you don’t expect me to ignore this, do you?” and she nipped him playfully on the ear, causing him to yell in surprise!

His reaction was swift as he swung her over his shoulder; an arm to quell her kicking protests, then retaliated in like manner on an obvious malleable target! SM screeched as she felt his teeth sunk in on her derriere!

“No! Xue Zhang, no! I won’t do that again, please put me down!” Her pleas & protests continued to fall on deaf ears as XZ made his way to the bed. Holding her captive with his body, he begun to caress her, slowly bringing her to a burning peak until she felt she was going to burst & explode!

God, he was driven to the edge of insanity & ecstatic for the hidden fires that burned beneath that sweet innocent! And as passion culminated to a burning peak, XZ fed his own hunger as well as answered his beloved’s!


Chapter 4

 

Leaving a scribbled note on his secretary’s desk, XZ returned to his office, turning the lock behind him, before approaching the sofa. Kneeling beside his sleeping angel, he took off her shoes & smiled as the anklet caught his eye. She’d worn it since the night he put it on her.

It was later than he thought. Better to stay the night rather than wake up SM who appeared deep in sleep. He went to the suite to turn down the bed & took out a nightshirt, grinning as he selected a silk nightgown for SM. Left to her, she would most certainly go for his shirt.

He went back to SM & gently removed her clothing, trying not to wake her. She hadn’t even stirred as she did the previous nights. Must be deadbeat from waiting for him, poor angel. Stripped down to her briefs, he unclasped her bra, he’d seen how her delicate skin had been slightly marked by the straps. If he wasn’t so tired & drained of energy, he would have been tempted to rouse her up & make love to her…. !!

Although married for a time, SM was still very shy & reserved when undressing in his presence. Being the gentleman that he was, XZ respected her reticence & gave her space when the occasion required.

As he held her slightly away to put on the nightgown, XZ’s heart almost stopped! The lace slip had caught onto her breast …. & shrivel one rosy bud that was staring him in the face & he gulped down his breath, the roof of his mouth suddenly dry …was that how Adam was tempted by Eve…..? Gad, cold showers seemed to be order of the day .......

Almost clumsily, he pulled down the gown. Quickly, he carried SM to bed. Between the late hours he stayed up to rush off the project proposal, & SM being asleep by the time he got home, his temporary celibacy was not sitting well with him. There’d been one cold shower too many for his liking …..!

*****

She had been upset with him three nights ago & he supposed one could call it their first married tiff! She had even circled the date in red on his desk calendar as a reminder!!! It wasn’t the late hours she objected, of all people, she knew firsthand the responsibilities that weighed on his shoulder!

She wanted to keep him company in the office. He was equally adamant in turning her down, saying that the office was no place for her to rest… When he stood firm against her cajolery then demands, she argued her case stubbornly, she was his wife & old enough to stay where she wanted! Then she had declared a ‘silent’ war, moving & mixing up his socks & making him hunt for them & when that didn’t work, she fell back on her trump card & played it.

Why couldn’t he let her stay with him? She missed him, she didn’t want to sleep alone & he’d promised she could be his shadow. What good were his promises if she couldn’t even be around him? And when she cried, there was no stopping her storming her way to XZ’s heart ….!! Her tears worked & broke down his resolve!!

She’d kept him company the past two nights… And whenever he looked up from his papers to glance her way, she would be innocently waving, of all ironies, the handkerchief he’d presented her after one of her earlier broadcast interviews!!

In his present state, it was tantamount to waving the red flag at a penned in raging bull. No more, if he had to, he would have the office moved to his home study.

*****
SM woke up, disoriented to her surrounding. She was in the suite but where was XZ, was he still at his work? She would have to do something about Director Yin. As she prepared to go & look for him, XZ came in from the bathroom.

Worried as to why she was up, he rushed to her side. Although it’d stopped, she had been crying in her sleep & for some strange reason, she couldn’t recall what it was when XZ woke her up….

“Xue Zhang, I thought you were still working? Please come to bed, I don’t  want to sleep alone.”

Needing no further invitation, XZ held her close to him & before one could even say ‘good night’ the two sleepy but happy souls were off to ‘never never land.’


Chapter 5

 

Standing just inside the doorway, SM glanced through the office to see if it needed extra touches.

Then she sucked in her breath as a sudden jolt of memory came to mind. Here in this very room, she’d had her first rejection from XZ ………..

In the apartment that night, he had told her that maybe it was time to give her up. At the production meeting that following awful day, she felt he was intolerably hard on her for being tardy. Later, as she followed him to the office wanting to tell him that YZ & YM were back together as a couple, he had brushed aside her attempt to explain. Instead, he’d reminded her to be more attentive & serious in her job. He was sure she would not want her colleagues to misconstrue that her professional merit was gained through taking advantage of their personal relationship.

He hadn’t even said anything when she’d staggered, getting up to leave. Yet he had been the one to send her to the hospital, but how, how had he known she’d been taken sick?

Was he upset with her for going ‘off air’ abruptly just after being told to be serious? Was that why he was there at the studio? Was it like that?……

”Becoming aware of the present, she dragged herself to the corner that stood as a reminder of that unpleasant occasion & kicked out childishly at the chair as if it were a living object! She had the mind to completely rearrange his office!

“XD, you & YX go ahead first. SM is waiting at my office. See you tomorrow.”

“XZ, can’t wait to rush to your wife, eh?” XD teased XZ.

“Ah, I can’t believe the no-nonsense Director Yin being domesticated.” XD laughed as he patted XZ on his back & strolled away, shaking his head.

XZ responded with a laugh before hurrying off to meet SM. It’d been a long tedious day & he was starved for the sight of her!

“ SM,” XZ called out as he entered his office,” let’s ….” & stopped mid-air as he caught sight of SM lying on the sofa. His poor angel, he must do something about her heavy schedule.

As he knelt down to kiss her, his indulgent smile turned to a frown when he saw that she’d been crying! She had been bubbly when they spoke earlier, what could have happened?

“Ah, XZ, it’s you? Changed your mind about the drinks? SM, what about her? Yes, she’s doing very well. Everything went smoothly as scheduled. Is something wrong? You sound worried.”

“No, everything’s fine. I just wondered if she’d been overdoing things, she looks exhausted, all right, thanks XD, bye.”

Careful not to wake her, XZ gently lifted SM to cradle her comfortably in his arms & waited. He tried to recall anything that might have upset her recently & dismissed them off… he knew how sensitive & vulnerable she was to gossip surrounding him.
Even in sleep, SM instinctively snuggled close to his body. She was murmuring in her sleep & XZ caught her drifting words “… Xiang Zhe, Xiang Zhe, I … I love you, only you …”

XZ smiled but as she continued, his eyes widened in disbelief. ”YM, no! You can’t have Xiang Zhe. He is different from YZ! He wants to give up; he couldn’t even wait for me to tell him … my feelings for YZ are those for a brother only…. Why, why is YM with him, he’s so cold to me … he didn’t even greet me!”

XZ relived her pain & realized that those were old demons tormenting her! So, that was why she’d been crying! What had brought on this? Something he’d said or something else?

He leaned down to gently brush her tears & caressed her face. SM felt a gentle touch & slowly came out from her sleep.

Oh, Xiang Zhe,” she smiled up at him.“What took you so long? I miss you!” As his lips captured hers in a tender kiss, SM knew how fortunate she was to be so loved!

“Xiang Zhe, I have something to ask you …....”

Sensing her need to open up, XZ drew her closely & waited.

“That night when Xiang Zhe sent me to the hospital, how did you know I was sick? Did you happen to be there by chance or was it to check on my work?”

XZ held her tightly, hearing the dejection in her voice, remorse & guilt setting in. “SM, look at me. I know I hurt you in my office that day when I came down hard on you & I’d regretted it ever since. I thought I had already lost you to YZ. I have been calling myself all kinds of fool for telling you that I would give you up, to another man. If it were possible to lock you away in my heart until you could learn to love me, I would have done so!”

“When your voice just went off the air, I was tormented by visions of you crying & I just had to be with you, SM. I cannot forgive myself for not insisting that you not wait for YZ in the rain. I love you, Zhen Shan Mei & I don’t  know what I’ll do if I lose you….” He held her tightly & went on, “I’d never been as afraid in my life as I was when I didn’t see you & then, to find you lying unconscious on the sofa!” his rueful voice dying off.

“Xiang Zhe,” SM, who’d been listening to XZ pouring out his heart, clung to him.

“I thought you hated me when you refused to hear me explain about YZ & YM. That day outside the apartment, I saw Xiang Zhe & YM coming out together. I felt so lost & alone because I thought you didn’t want me anymore. I wish I were dead!” She started to cry & XZ felt his heart turn over at her distress.

“SM, SM, why didn’t you call out to me? I’d always wished you in my apartment but the wrong woman kept showing up. Didn’t I tell you that I don’t feel anything for YM? It’s true that she tried to seduce me but I am not moved or impressed. How could I feel anything when my heart is already yours? Please don’t  cry. I love you, Miss Zhen Shan Mei; don’t  ever doubt my love for you, all right?”

XZ smiled tenderly at the child-woman in his arms, she was his life, his everything! She’d reached out & touched his heart when nobody could! XZ made a mental note to give his office a fresh new look so that his angel could forget all the unhappy past association. He would have to rush the contractor on the renovation to his suite....

Maybe SM could help …… then his features turned comical as he remembered his angel’s peculiar taste. If she had her way, he could expect a trail of “Peter Rabbit” like figurines scattered all over his office, & he laughed out loudly!

“Xiang Zhe, have I suddenly become an object of amusement? Is that why you are laughing?”

“Oh, SM, I didn’t know you could read my thoughts!” & laughed even more heartily.

As he tilted up her face, SM saw the passion in his eyes & puckered up her lips for his kiss, a sparkle of mischief in her eyes!

“Darling SM, haven’t you learned that no one kisses with eyes wide open?”

She poked out her tongue & taunted with an impish laugh, “that’s because I want to be very, very sure it’s my darling hubby who is kissing me & not the horrid Director Yin!” & quickly attempted to escape as his hands made a mockery of giving her a smacking!

XZ roared with mirth as he held her steadfastly in his arms, gazing passionately into her eyes, “Come, and let’s go home!” before claiming her lips once more!!


Chapter 6

 

“Xiang Zhe, can we spend the night at father’s this week-end? It’s been a week since I saw him! What do you say, please?” XZ looked tenderly down at SM … minx… she’d got that childlike appealing glints in her eyes & …. Knew well that she would get her way with him, as usual!

“All right, you know I can’t say ‘no’ to you!” XZ walked over to SM as he asked, “Shall I make reservation for dinner this weekend? It’ll give you more time with your father.”

SM leaned on XZ, one finger doodling on his chest as she murmured,” Xiang Zhe, why do you pamper me so? Could it be I’ve been most accommodating & not giving you any trouble or worry?”

XZ playfully tweaked her nose,” Since when have you ever been meek or listened to me completely? You, my love, are a handful but then, you’re also a tempting one as well!”

“Xiang Zhe!” SM protested, jabbing a finger at his chest. Ignoring her protests, XZ laughed as he dragged her along by the hand.
SM giggled as she recalled the numerous times he’d dragged her along by the hand but for different reasons … & continued to giggle, struggling to get away…..

“Coward!” & then proceeded to silence his angel in the age-old manner known to lovers!

Sometime later, as a sated SM slept, XZ couldn’t help but feel his heart swelling with tenderness as he smiled down at the most adorable angel in his arms. He dreaded the business travels that separated them for it had become a habit for him to cuddle SM before falling asleep himself.

XZ looked forward to spending the night at SM’s old home. Her bedroom held a treasure trove of past memories & her well kept possessions of odds & ends revealed an insight to the life she led …… before him & XZ was ever eager to learn everything about SM’s childhood!

Knowing how her father doted on her, it was a wonder she wasn’t spoilt at all! He delighted in seeing father & daughter together, their mutual affection plain to all. He missed out on his childhood & so it was refreshing to watch her open display of affection towards the parent & their lively repartees!

Although XZ’s acquaintance with SM’s father was brief before their rushed marriage, he had warmly accepted XZ. And, XZ counted his blessings because he’d never been made to feel like an interloper in the relationship! In fact, there seemed to be an ongoing conspiracy between the two of them to spoil their beloved SM!

Her engaging playfulness brought out the lighter side in him & through SM’s enchanting philosophy; life took on a new meaning! The heavens must have taken pity on him to condescend sending down this angel for him! He gazed down at the sleeping figure & brushed her hair gently. SM stirred as she felt XZ’s lips lightly gazing her forehead.

Reacting naturally, she shyly reached out to draw XZ’s head down to plant light kisses along the chiseled line of his jaw before venturing up to meet his lips. XZ was happy at SM taking the initiative for she was still shy! Her innocence mixed with passion was a powerful heady combination that blew his senses off & he wondered how one lifetime could be enough to love her!


“Aunty!” SM screamed in delight, throwing herself at ZS (Zhen Shu, YZ’s mother) who had come out of the house to greet the visiting couple.

“SM let me take a look at you! My, my, marriage suits you! You look absolutely wonderful! XZ, my dear boy, you’ve done a good job taking care of our SM. Oh, and what’s this?” as she was handed a gift-wrapped package from SM.

“Quick, Aunty, open it!” ZS was carried away by SM’s enthusiasm & immediately opened the package. She was dumbfounded as she took out a delicate bangle; pink pearls adorned a motif of a carnation embedded with tiny diamonds!

“SM, it’s so beautiful!” ZS was choking in her emotion, as she looked at SM & the dashing figure beside her.

“Aunty, don’t  cry! Try it on! XZ had it specially made for you!”

ZS turned to embrace XZ. In a gesture that warmed his heart, she reached up on tiptoe to kiss him on the cheek & whispered, “Thank you, my dear boy. But, why?”

XZ felt a little embarrassed as he explained, “It’s nothing, Aunty. Just an expression of my gratitude to you for loving SM & taking care of her all these years!”

ZS knew what the flower motif symbolized & was deeply touched by his gift yet; it must have cost him a fortune! “XZ, this is the most exquisite & meaningful gift I have ever received & I’ll always cherish it…!”

A wise lady, ZS didn’t want to spoil the weekend with a mushy start & continued, “Oh, I almost forgot why I rushed out! Your father must be getting impatient inside, we’d already laid the table for the meal. He insisted that on serving home-cooked meal for you two! Come, let’s go in!”

XZ followed behind watching ZS & the captivating SM ahead with their arms around each other! He smiled as a ray of sunshine caught his eye, thinking joyfully what a lucky man he was to have his very own ‘irresistible sunshine’ with him everyday!

GC (Gui Cheng, SM’s father) was always happy & delighted to have the loving young couple home, most especially when they spent the night over. He had taken an instant liking to the younger man when XZ had formally introduced himself when sending SM home one night! His only regret being that SM’s mother wasn't around to see this day, sigh. Still, she must have been watching over her beloved SM or, how else to explain that … fateful encounter in London? He would have been reluctant to give her up to any man but for the impressionable XZ! Such was his high regard for his son-in-law!

Laughter broke into his thoughts and he saw ZS & SM together arm in arm, with his charming son-in-law close behind! The house already seemed to come alive with the engaging presence of the cheerful SM!



Chapter 7

 

Rubbing his fingers to the sides of his head, XZ felt a headache coming. He’d been absorbed in the project proposals for the past month & along the way, neglecting his poor angel. She would keep him company, mostly falling asleep before he called it quits for the day, or night rather……

“Xiang Zhe can I come in?”

XZ raised his head & smiled. An unseen weight seemed to have lifted off from his weary shoulders…. SM was at the doorway, rubbing her eyes. A quick glance at the watch showed the hour at 1:00a.m. Why wasn’t she asleep?
He stretched out a hand to draw her down to his lap. It seemed so natural for her to perch on his lap rather than take a customary seat. “Do you still have a lot to go, Xiang Zhe? Shall I make coffee and some light snack?”

“No, just stay where you are, SM. Only a page left.” XZ said, his chin resting on her head then he heard a soft yawn as she wriggled into a more comfortable position, one soft hand resting on his chest.
“ SM, why aren’t you asleep? Are you hungry, is that it? You ate so little during dinner.” Silence answered him. He looked down & saw from her even breathing that she’d fallen asleep! He felt her forehead & was relieved at the cool touch.

Brushing his lips lightly on her forehead, he carried her across to the sofa. Gently, he laid her down, then collected his note & returned to her side. Cushioning her head on his lap, he was contented to run his fingers through her silky hair.


When the last page was done, he gathered SM to the bedroom. He couldn’t help a smile as he noticed that she had placed one of his sweaters underneath her pillow! He recalled that the tendency had begun from the time when bad weather had held up his flight home from a business trip. Thereafter, she had cropped up lots of excuses not to sleep unless he was in bed beside her.

He slipped under the covers, drawing her soft body close to him. “Xiang Zhe?” SM whispered in a sleepy voice, “You won’t leave me ever, would you?”
“Never, my love. Do you want to talk?”
“No, Xiang Zhe, I’m fine….” He saw she had already dozed off again.


SM stirred as she caught the drifts of freshly brew coffee. Her eyes flew open as she felt a sudden draft of cold air with the quilt being pulled away!

“Rise & shine, sleepyhead!” XZ’s cheerful voice rang in her ear & then she was scooped up in his arm as the pillows were popped up behind her, a tray across her lap. He’d prepared breakfast, with coffee & juice & as she looked in askance, he rolled his eyes upward! “No, no roses, too early!”
Then with an exasperated sigh, he muttered softly under his breath, “Just my luck. A wife who only cares about sleeping & gives me nothing but troubles…. I’m missing my vixen; do you know where she’s hiding?”

XZ waited for her reaction but other than a side way glance & pouted lips that curved like a cupid’s bow, there was none. “Come, SM, finish up, we’ll have to leave soon.”

He observed her small teeth biting down on her lower lip & could see the ‘tug-of-war’ that was racing through her mind, then as though reaching a decision, she set aside the tray & reached out to him.

Wrapping her arms around his waist, SM laid her head on his chest & with a soft sigh, he heard her, “Xiang Zhe, I’m sorry if life has been boring for you. I banish the vixen because her presence is a distraction. I worry that staying up late to catch up on work & not getting enough sleep, Xiang Zhe’s health will be affected. I … err, I’ve also missed her…...” the last sentence was muffled as she sought to hide her embarrassment, refusing to look up at him.

He was touched by the reason for the vixen’s absence; that she had been concerned for his health & equally thrilled with the knowledge that his little innocent had missed the passion that they experienced!

What XZ didn’t know was that beside feeling neglected, his little angel was also disturbed because lately, XZ had appeared to be preoccupied & a woman’s instinct (or was it the green monster creeping on its toes?) was whispering into her mind that it had nothing to do with her or his current work, could it be that there was….. Some one else … waiting in the wings…ready to step into her shoes? He was unusually absent around a certain time of the day for the past couple of weeks when she dropped by, unexpectedly... at his office …& even his secretary couldn’t say where he went… & then she hear his voice …

“SM, Angel or vixen, you are one and the same to me, my beloved wife!”

Shyly, she lifted her head up & XZ read an impassioned plea & something.... more in her eyes!

“Xiang Zhe!” was all she managed to gasp out before her lips were trapped in a passionate kiss!
And they were only an hour or so late for work....


Chapter 8

 

Reaching for his jacket, he buzzed his secretary to inform that he would be out & not to forward any calls, he would check in with her instead. His angel was in the outskirts doing a recording & won’t be back till the evening.

If XZ didn’t believe in ‘fate’, he did now for it was too strange to be just mere coincidence the manner heavens had condescended to send not just one but two loves into his life….

Was it only three weeks ago? Hard to believe that in such a short period, he would find himself so very attached to a stranger, a woman for that, & ….. Be so familiarly at ease in her company….
If SM was his soul mate, then what was Liz to him? He realized now that she was the missing piece in the jig jaw he called ‘life’ & everything had at last come full circle….!!
He smiled as he recalled the first time he’d seen her. ….


He was returning to the office & had decided to walk when he spied her just ahead. She had caught one shoe in a grating & was attempting to tug free the trapped heel, without much success….

Suddenly, he heard furious words, “Hell, what next?” By then, he had actually stooped down beside the trapped heel, & her words took him by surprise! Halfway, two pairs of eyes met… one, dancing with amusement – while the other held a glint of annoyance before they too answered back with laugh!

“I’m afraid I can’t extricate the shoe with you in it, Ma’am, there’s not much I can do to save your shoe, and you’ll require a cobbler.”

“I knew I should have resisted the temptation… it’s new, hardly a week old. Mamma, thought chivalry had been lost in this millennium! And what a handsome hunk you are too.” The lady laughingly said to him as he handed over the shoe with its broken heel.

As XZ stood up to his full height, she stretched out her hand, “You may call me Liz, and I don’t  know how long I would be stuck here if not for you. May I invite you for a drink to express my gratitude?”

“Happy to be of service, Liz. I’m Yin Xiang Zhe, & yes, why not? There’s a café just right across the street, shall we? & what about your shoe?”

With roguish smile lighting up her face, she bent down to slip off the other shoe & held them in one hand, & laughingly told him to guide her across. XZ took her elbow & was slightly embarrassed at the glances onlookers were throwing at them.

Liz reminded him of his angel, she was very direct with a wicked sense of humor & so natural. Her witty conversation made him forget his pressure at work. With a start, he realized he didn’t want it to be a ‘one time encounter’ for him & asked if she would honor him with her company for a meal some time…

She was delighted & laughed, chiding him for not speaking out sooner ….


As he checked his rear mirror, XZ smiled with dry humor for Liz & SM was more alike than he’d expected. When the occasion had called for gratitude to be expressed, his angel had instead, ….always chided him in a most becoming way, he laughed recalling the incidents & stopped as he realized he was driving in a very public road …..



Chapter 9

 

He eased his car into the space just vacated by a delivery van. He waited after pressing the apartment doorbell & was not kept long before Mrs. Kim opened it. She appeared surprised to see him & quickly stepped outside the door, her head anxiously turning to the left & right as though on a lookout for something….

“You’re early, Mr. Yin. Ms Liz is in the kitchen & has asked that you wait for her in the living lounge. She won’t be a moment.” With another glance at XZ, the maid left the room.

Thought she didn’t cook at all? He’d almost reached the kitchen when he caught the drift of fresh baking tempting his senses… & before a further step was taken, Liz was rushing out & pushing him back the hall …what the …?

She had on an apron but that didn’t seem to be any good for she was a …. Mess if ever he’d seen one...!! Her face smudged with flour, “Shoo, shoo, out, gorgeous, retreat this very second & stay out! Mrs. Kim will be along with coffee & the cakes!”

True to her word, a tray of hot coffee & tempting rows of blueberry cheesecake was spread before him… before he even warmed his seat...

“Well, what are you waiting for, to be spoon fed? Cat got your tongue, Gorgeous; they’re good, aren’t they? You can’t believe the trouble I’d gone through to find the right recipe & get these ready for you.”

XZ looked at her suspiciously, the blueberry cheesecake was more than good, and she could open a bakery!!

“Liz, you shouldn’t have but I’m glad you did. But did you have to create such a mess?” He laughed heartily as he saw the smudge that was sitting on the tip of her nose & she joined in…..

He excused himself to go & clean up when, pausing just outside the kitchen, a thought flashed & he entered the kitchen… his eyes soon found what he sought & he was shaking with laughter as his suspicion was proven correct…!!

That saucy lady had ordered in delivery & fresh out from the Bakery oven at that!!!… To practice such deceit just to pull one over him … that must have been the delivery van that drove off when he arrived, no wonder Mrs. Kim was so anxious..!!

As he merrily made his way to join Liz, he thought to tease her about pulling the wool over his eyes, he wasn’t wet behind the ears to be taken in so easily…..& continued to laugh.

But as he saw Liz, he held his thought of exposing her deceit! She’d taken such pains & trouble to please him… Had even set up the ‘prop’ & act; with egg shells on counter & flour trailing the kitchen floor… to ‘fool him.’ How could he have the heart to rob her of that simple pleasure of having taken him in?

Throughout the afternoon, XZ kept a straight face and knew he’d got the upper hand when he saw how thoroughly nixed Liz was, for she couldn’t explain away his ‘laughing eyes’……each time they met!

“Go & make yourself decent, Liz & I’ll give you a massage afterwards.”

Liz sprang up, excited, “You know how to massage …Gorgeous?!”

“You bet! Had firsthand lessons from incomparable ‘Magic fingers’! Will introduce her to you if you want… she’s darn good! By the way, just thought to let you know…., she’s a grand dame, Liz, just like you & her name’s Madam nor…!”


Chapter 10

 

Having wrapped up the outdoors shooting, the crew headed back to the city. SM was getting agitated because she hadn’t been able to reach XZ the whole afternoon & his secretary hadn’t known where he was either Why hadn’t he called? This was so unlike him

Sinking into her seat, her spirits followed too Misery loved company & needing no further incentives, pushed her in the direction of self pity.Dusk had come when they reached the studio depot. As she waved the crew members off, she switched off her mobile phone. It would serve XZ right to worry when he too couldn reach her But what if he didn even notice her absence ?

In her agitation, she was blind to the disruptive condition in the suite She forgotten that renovation was being carried out, where was the wardrobe? Everything seemed to have been moved It was the final straw as she went to the sofa.
As she held him accountable for all the grievances that sprang to mind, justified or not, XZ was condemned without a hearing as she held court as judge, jury & hangman . Her woman intuition was right; his preoccupation lately had everything to do with someone on the side! Well, he could go to Timbuktu & keep a harem there for all she cared! And then she wept because she somehow missed him! Why hadn’t he called?

XZ was frantic! SM was missing & her mobile was off he conjured images of her taken ill or lying injured without help! He called & visited all her usual haunts no trace of her! She been last seen alighting at the depot, & then he turned his car & raced for the studio! But why would she be there? She knew he was expecting her home for dinner & his gut feeling told him it probably had something to do with him

He saw the light in his office & didn realize he been holding his breath! She got up fm the sofa as the door was violently swung open and then XZ was closing the gap to pull her into his arms. SM, thank God, I found you!

That was all it needed to release her pent-up emotions & she sobbed onto his chest. Xiang Zhe, why didn you call? XZ held her tightly, breathing in her womanly scent. His poor darling angel he had called but her mobile was off.

Then he felt her stiffening up in his arms to push him away. She just remembered that he landed her in this predicament! XZ saw defiance in her eyes & in her rigid stand. Well, this was one occasion when he would just have to over-ride her wishes & pulled her back, imprisoning her in his arms & swiftly capturing her luscious lips before she could utter a sound XZ heaved a sigh of relief when her body softened & swayed instinctively towards him.

Collecting her bag, he swung her up & made for the elevator, ignoring the security camera that was on

Tired from her sobbing, she fell asleep the whole journey home. XZ pressed his lips to her cheek as he unclasped the seat belt, then scooped up his precious bundle. As he laid her down on the bed, she stirred & as her sleep drowsy eyes focus on him, she turned her face away!

XZ held her face firmly in his hands & willed her to look at him. By now, her features had softened & what he saw in her beautiful eyes took his breath away! Wasn’t it Mr. Yves St Laurent who said, That the most beautiful makeup for a woman is passion

Words weren’t needed XZ bent to kiss her nape & slowly blazed a trail to her lips. Slowly he undressed her, drunk at the sight of her feminine soft curves, more exquisite than the last time he remembered. His lips tenderly weaved its way to the hidden delights of her luscious body & bringing her senses to life!

He was kissing her slowly & tenderly, then with scorching intensityhis tongue delved & tasted her, swirling about her earlobe & she found herself shivering deliciously in his passion! And when his hand plumped up one breast to offer to his hungry lips, SM was wrapped in a bewitching spell that nly XZ could set her free!

She would have been mortified to find out later that her thought of keeping him at armslength & denying him the pleasure of her body; because of his supposed infidelity, were all but vanished to Timbuktu, when he at last brought her to heaven.


Chapter 11

 

“Why is it so hard for you to accept my proposal? I’m not asking for it to be legalized at all, nor am I going to give you any pressure?”

“No, Liz. What sort of a man would I be when I simply take & take from you, without giving back anything?”

But what he was to learn later from Mrs. Kim, her loyal companion & not her maid as XZ had wrongly concluded, changed his mind about accepting their relationship…!


He began to arrange his time so he could spend the afternoons with her. She’d shared stories of her life, her loves & how she’d made & amassed her fortune through wise investments in property & stocks. She was casual & free & he always felt the tension leaving his mind & body as he slowly got to know her well.

He told her of his student days in England & confided in her about the conflicts & pressure he had from work, things he could not bring himself to do with SM. And she never once made any judgments on him but sat beside him quietly, listening attentively & squeezing his hand occasionally when he got choked up from a past memory. And when he talked about his adorable, innocent SM, his face lit up. Throughout their easy camaraderie, Liz discovered that he never once mentioned or talked about his childhood ……

She would insist, when the weather held good, that they headed for the park to go ‘kite flying’; he never thought he would have such fun too when he’d given in to her whim to blow soap bubbles! With her, he did things he’d never done for he had no childhood to retain & her outrageous games brought out the child in him!!

Then had come the affectionate gestures. Liz ruffling his hair, the pecks on his cheek & the light kisses on his forehead, The warm & loving display of affection he’d secretly craved but never received from the mother who pined away…..


Mrs. Kim had waylaid him. She was a subdued quiet person who kept to her place but one could tell, fiercely loyal & protective of Liz. “Mr. Yin, it’s not in my place to say this but I’ll do anything for Miss Liz, even give up my life for her..! Whatever she asked, please don’t  turn her down. Miss Liz is living on borrowed time. It’s her heart.”

Mrs Kim paused as she felt a lump in her throat. XZ felt his heart sinking when he heard the lady out. “She’s as obstinate as they come. Doctors had told her that she could make it if she agrees to surgery but she won’t listen. Said with the time left, she wants to go out in style, living life to the fullest & she’s sort of, like searching for someone, Mr. Yin ….. I’ve seen how her face lit her when you brought her home that first time & how she counted the hours to your visit here. If anyone can persuade her to go for the surgery, it’s you!”


Liz couldn’t play the piano but had bought it because he did. Besides, the piano made the room look complete, she’d said, winking at him!
On that particular day that turned the tide in their relationship, he had played a request from her. “Play ‘Moon River’ for me, Gorgeous. I feel like Huckleberry Finn….” & she’d a faraway dreamy look in her eyes….

She never sat by him when he played the piano & XZ had always wondered why. She had wisely guessed that his late mother might have accompanied him at the side when he played, probably running her fingers too on the keys. She didn’t want to intrude on what little sweet memory he had of his late mother….

As the refrain faded, XZ turned to Liz & was startled at what he saw. Liz’s face was crumbled up with tears rolling down her cheeks & trying to keep a smile that quite couldn’t make it & then, he understood!!! Liz was giving him back his ‘childhood’!!

While she couldn’t work magic to roll back the years & pretend that his little cocoon world hadn’t come crashing down on him, she could try & be the mother he’d lost the day his father walked out … & it drawn on him, all those childish games she’d insisted they had together!! She‘d done an excellent job of bringing out ‘the child’ in the man to life again...…!

Then Liz was holding her arms wide open, crying as she said to him, “Come, XZ….. Come to mama…” XZ closed the distance to kneel at her feet, his head on her chest as he gave in to the luxury of tears & as release came to set him free, the ghosts of his past were laid to rest …he’d finally ‘come home’ in the loving embrace of this wonderful angel!!

& as Mrs. Kim silently witnessed the touching scene from the doorway, she shed tears of joy for Miss Liz; she had found the ‘son’ she never had & for Mr. Yin, bless the dear young man. Wisely, she left the newly founded ‘mother & son” alone!


Chapter 12

 

As they ordered lunch, ZD elbowed SM & asked, “SM, you sly thing, tell me, what’s his name?” SM glared at her nutty friend & wondered what she meant.

“There’s something very different about you these days, SM, so who’s the surgeon? You’ve been glowing & I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I swear you must have unless the rumor is true, that you’re pregnant...!”

“ZD! Will you be quiet, please?”
“Well, are you going to reveal his name or not?”

“ZD, if you don’t  keep quiet, you can pay for your own lunch.”
“Okay, okay, tight puss.”

As lunch progressed, ZD kept eyeing her good friend & sighed. “SM, I really envy you. Director Yin is such a gorgeous hunk! Romantic & a devoted husband… Every lady in the studio was drooling over that capture on the surveillance video! Director Yin carrying you in his arms likes a knight in shining amour!! The guys could have made a fortune if they charge for every viewing! A few were even taking bets on whether the stork had paid a visit ….” XD laughed, nudging SM with another push.

SM smiled at the mention of XZ’s name. Xiang Zhe was also a passionate & very considerate lover. .. ZD was quick to observe the blush & pounced on her friend!

“Dreaming of Director Yin in broad daylight?! And why the blushes? Prince Charming must have lived up to his looks in bed, no doubt about it, eh SM?”

“ZD! You shameless thing! I’m shocked!” As two pairs of defiant eyes met, the giggles rang out merrily between the two good friends.

“Hey, when are you going to invite me to your home again? I know, let’s have a BBQ & sleep over this weekend. Come ‘n, will you at least think about it?”

XZ would certainly not turn down a BBQ suggestion but a sleep over? This ZD really. Anyhow, she would not bring up the idea if XZ wanted to spend a quiet weekend instead.

Making her way to XZ’s office with the take-away order for him, she wondered how the board meeting had gone. The ringing of her mobile phone interrupted her reverie. It was XZ, “SM, I’m back in my office now. Where are you? Taken your lunch?”

“Just had it with XS, Xiang Zhe & I’d got lunch for you. I’m almost at your office. O..oooh….”

The door to his office flew open as a worried XZ rushed out! She was on all fours with his lunch scattered about where she’d tripped & fallen.

“SM!”

Hearing the concern in his voice & trying to make light of the situation, she giggled & asked with an exaggerated bow, “Xiang Zhe, how do you like the special delivery?”

And that was what his secretary saw when she arrived at the scene of the commotion. The composed Director Yin & his beloved wife on the floor, laughing away like two spirited children who had got away with mischief!

Discreetly, the secretary left the loving couple to themselves. “Xiang Zhe, whatever will your secretary think if she sees the MBS Boss romping on the floor?” SM blurted out before breaking into giggles again.

Helping her up, XZ was overcome with tenderness. And because he couldn’t resist the temptation to, he bent down to lick off the gravy that was smudged on her face, the intimate act catching both unawares! Forgetting where they were, SM’s arms crept around his neck as she returned his kiss! Coming up for air moments later, he asked, “Are you going to take pity on a starving man, Imp?”

Slightly abashed, SM broke away & laughed at the hidden implication behind his innocent words.

“Xiang Zhe, aren’t you going to wash up first before eating?” she teased him.

“Aye, Imp & I are eagerly contemplating sharing that pleasure together!”

Over her giggling, he heard her saying, “Mamma, why do I get the feeling I’m being led into the lion’s den?”

With a wink & a roaring laugh, he pushed her into his office.


After dinner that evening, the loving couple retreated to the living room to enjoy coffee & good music. As was the norm, she was on his lap, content to be in his arms. Suddenly recalling the day’s incident she sat up, eyeing him with curiosity, “Xiang Zhe, when? I mean, how did you find the time to shop? The shoes & handbags, all those suits! You bought all those to prepare for an emergency like today?” She hadn’t known that the renovation to his suite was completed. She knew he’d extended it to accommodate a wardrobe, but a walk-in closet for her?!!

Liz had accompanied XZ on his shopping jaunt for his angel. The old dame was a courtier with an eye for detail & XZ knew that their efforts had paid off well, seeing the surprise & delight on SM’s face! She had excitedly gone through the closet, frequently exclaiming at the accessories…!!


SM was still a little peeved at the other night & wanting to satisfy her curiosity, asked him,
“XZ, if I had been sick that night..? How do I know that you won’t just conveniently leave me alone at the hospital until I discharge myself? You were hateful the last time. You visited YM & even enjoyed her flirtation. A phone call from the office car park was all I got!”

What was she talking about? A flirtation with YM? How on earth had she jumped to that conclusion? XZ shook his head…”I remembered someone telling me it wasn’t necessary & added that her father was coming soon…? Next time, don’t  say ‘no’, imp when your heart tells you to say, “Yes.” A sensitive man would have taken a rejection badly to heart & would be forgiven for not being able to think straight!”

XZ laughed at the chastising look from his angel & roared all the more as he wondered at the reaction of his imp to Liz, the unknown ‘liaison’ she was suspecting him of..?! SM eyed him suspiciously……

“Hmm, I believe ‘gratitude’ was mentioned earlier? Show me; imp just how you’re going to thank me?” She saw the direction his train of thoughts had taken & chastised him.

“Thank you? They could have been bought for another woman… are they? Besides, you were mean to me today! You bit me all over! Never thought you meant it when you said you were starving!”

XZ was amused & shaking his head at his naïve wife. She could never tell just how restraint he had been & the reins of control he exercised over his passion…!! She was such an innocent & still very much a babe in woods where the road to passion was leading…. “My dear innocent!”…… & coffee was forgotten when his lips took tender possession of hers!


Chapter 13

 

Standing beside the patio door, XZ felt his eyes moist as he saw his two angels together. Liz was leaning back on SM, her hands resting lovingly on the ones that SM had wrapped around her…. & Liz was softly humming a tune.

Not wishing to intrude on the two loves of his life, he went to the piano & started playing. It was Liz’s tune, “Let It Be Me” an old song by the Everly Brothers and the moving meaningful lyrics summed up his feelings.

As the music played, Liz & SM approached the piano & Liz was softly singing. …

..I bless the day I found you.
I want to be around you,
and so I beg you, let it be me.
Each time we meet, love,
I find complete love.
Without your sweet love,
what would life be? …

…And time stood still. Neither hearing the beautiful ballad, Mrs. Kim & a new acquaintance, madam nor joined the trio. The room seemed to gather warmth; its atmosphere charged with love & tenderness. And when the song ended, there was not a dry eye in the music room.


Early that morning with SM cradled in his arms, XZ made up his mind to tell her about Liz. Holding her tightly, he’d said, “SM honey. There’s something I want to tell you & I’ll need your understanding to hear me out before you say anything, mamma?”

XZ had never called her, ‘honey’ before…! She’d always been his angel, imp & vixen or his love, why suddenly, ‘honey?” Was that what he used for the ‘other’ woman? She felt a cold as though someone had walked over her grave…& waited, not sure if she wanted him to go on….

“It’s a lady, a very special lady but it’s not what you think.” XZ felt SM’s shudder as she nestled her head close to his chest. “I want you two to meet & be friends. I know that you’ll come to love her as much as I do. SM, my love, it’s truly not what you think. Trust me. Have you forgotten all the promises I’d made to you? You are the love of my life & nobody can ever replace you in my heart….. Liz is different. She’s very special in another way.”

It was just too much to ask from her that she would come to love Liz!!! How could he remind her of his promises, saying that she was his life…..& then in the same breath, told her how Liz was special to him in a different way? SM’s curiosity to meet the rival for her Xiang Zhe’s affection overcame her desire to run & hide away from him. She accompanied XZ against her better judgment then wondered why it had taken this long to introduce them to each other!!

Feeling apprehensive as they reached Liz’s residence, SM’s fears vanished without trace as she raised her eyes to meet Liz’s & poor XZ, he was fretting about being left out in the cold while his two loves became bosom buddies…..


Liz had dragged both by their hands to a separate wing that had just recently been converted to a mini gym. XZ was amazed at the sight of the latest range of fitness/exercise equipment before him…. When Liz did something, she did it in style, the classy dame… what could he say?
And then, Liz was suggesting, with innocence in her eyes, that XZ tried the rings out & saying he should perhaps strip to his waist or they couldn’t tell if he was hanging correctly or not as the gymnasts did in the Olympics…..

SM was speechless at Liz’s suggestion, shock mirrored in her big round eyes & her mouth gaping open! XZ laughed at the picture of his innocent wife being shocked by Liz’s unconventional & outrageous behavior & happily obliged!

SM was further shocked as Liz blew cat whistles at XZ & encouraged him as he bared his chest. “Way to go, Gorgeous!! Shake those buns!! More, more, I want more! & woof, that’s the way I like it, man! Man, I’m going to kill the fellow who discovered clothing. What a sin to cover up that body!”

SM couldn’t believe the way her pulses were going as she gawked at her beloved Xiang Zhe!! Gosh, what if the drawstrings snapped from all that action & his sweatpants dropped! Had he forgotten they were not alone! She didn't know how long she held her breath as she crossed her fingers behind her back!

She wanted to run her hands over the smooth plane of his bare chest? Her XZ was one sexy specimen of a man & she suddenly craved to be in his arms & be made passionate love to ….!!

And judging by the racket going on beside her, Liz seemed to be carried away too, encouraging XZ on, shaking her buns & dancing to a beat that only she could hear! And SM giggled as she approved of Liz’s outrageous outbursts.


Having been chased out of the kitchen by Mrs. Kim, SM went to join XZ & Liz. Liz was seated at the far side of the sofa with XZ’s head on her lap, his long legs overlapping the other side. She was feeding him grapes & running her other hand through his hair. XZ had his eyes closed, the expression on his contented face was one to behold, and SM had never seen it before!!

She felt a lump in her throat as her eyes glistened with tears that couldn’t seem to stop….. XZ was like …… a kid, enjoying being pampered by a mother who adored him & SM could see in this new XZ, the happy & much loved child that she herself was!!

SM hummed the tune that Liz had sung before…..& Liz looked up, stretching a hand out to her, bidding SM to approach. SM smiled through her tears & sat down on the sofa armrest, & it was only natural to slip one hand into Liz’s & said, “I want the royal treatment too! Xiang Zhe, roll over & make room for me. You can’t have Liz all to yourself!”

And knowing XZ, he would always do anything to make his angel happy!!


Chapter 14

 

Seated cross-legged on the carpet, SM pressed her palms to her sides, her body swinging back & forth as XZ tried to hold her still

Directly behind her, XZ was having a hard time trying to still SM with one hand, while his other was pressed over his eyes. He too was rocking uncontrollablyas if in pace with SM! A towel discarded beside him.

Yet behind the shaken-up couple who were both on the carpet, Liz was seated on the sofa & she was pounding a fist on the moving target of XZ back, the poor lady had tears steaming down her face & was unable to stop shaking as well……a towel trailing to the floor beside XZ.


SM tiptoed to press her lips on XZ forehead. Xiang Zhe, thank you for giving me Liz. My father is everything to me, & in her own way, Aunty ZS filled in the void left by my mother!

SM eyes were soft & dreamy as she continued, a finger doodling on XZ chest. You are right. Liz is very special. I can confide in her & tell her things I could never do so openly with my father; or with Aunty ZS who is very traditional & conservative

XZ could see the first sign of tears that were now glistening in his angel beautiful eyes as she went on.

Liz is all that I imagined how my own mother would be if she were still with me today! And she understands & encourages me to be myself And I love her for giving you back your hildhood.I love you, Xiang Zhe…”

SM! XZ drew her into his arms, his heart running over with love for his angel and offered a silent prayer for the gift of Liz into their lives. She was the entire other that both needed! He was always Gorgeous to Liz as he was her Xiang Zhe funny how they each called him differently when they had a point to put across, hmm XZ to Liz & Director Yinto his angel! He started to laugh & then controlled himself!! Close shave there!


Minx, you do realize dang-gun that you lost the bet? XZ was rubbing both hands together in glee & winking at her. SM was not however to be outdone & slanted back her eyes at him, saying are you sure you can take whatever you dish out, Xiang Zhe?

SM merry laughter had suddenly rung out when he was actually halfway to paradise with his little vixen in bed!!

ouch minx!Their bet had been that whoever had laughed first would lose & had to serve out a day on the whims & mercy of the winner And as they held each other gaze, laughter broke out for they shared the same memory .

XZ had been drying SM hair after their shower at Liz apartment; and Liz was chiding him for he neglected himself & was dripping wet too. And so, the toweling dry session had begun, one seated behind another.

Across the room, in ignorant bliss to the threesome, were the matronly Mrs. Kim who was taking some lessons from madam nor. At times, her brows were knitted in worry lines as she failed to keep up, then when she managed to, her eyes would close as though she was in her own world. Madam nor had her hands out, doing some sort of irmassagewith her magic fingers

Mrs. Kim was putting in a lot of efforts to imitate the movement but came out comically like she was kneading dough in the kitchen!

Swinging her limbs left to right, her hands never quite following madam nor! What it with middle-agespread?

Her ample curves seemed to have their own will as they went out of control & swayed in all the opposite direction!

And madam nor was in a saronga piece of material that clung to her voluptuous bosom, threatening to drop each time she swayed in rhythm to the beat of a lively song that was playing on the hi-fi!!!

Both were a study of serious concentration as they danced & swayed to their own version of the

Macarena!!

Totally oblivious & unconcerned to the laughing threesome who were laughing their heads off!!!


Chapter 15

 

Tried as she might, SM couldn’t shake off the sinister feeling of being followed & watched. The feeling had stayed with her since the weekend outing with XZ.

They had seen off Liz & her two companions at the airport. Liz was off to the States for a check-up that XZ had finally talked her into….

It gave her the creeps and she wondered if she should mention it to XZ. Then again, better not, he would worry and fuss over her and besides, it was only a feeling, an intuition.

She accompanied Seniors Li Qing Xi [QX] & Shen Qi Zhong [QZ] to the cafeteria to check out a segment that was going to be filmed on location there. The two seniors were engaged & from her very first day at work, both had taken her under their protective wing, guiding & supporting her.

“SM, are you all right, dear? You seem perturbed.” Senior QX touched her gently on the forehead.

“Thanks, I’m all right, Senior. I don’t  know if I should say this at all but I’d felt like someone’s been watching me. I can’t shake off the feeling & it’s giving me the shivers.”

”SM! What did Director Yin say? You haven’t told him yet, SM?”

“No, no. Senior, please keep this confidential. I don’t  want Xiang Zhe to worry & fuss over a silly feeling that I have, promise me you won’t say anything.”

“All right, but at least let one of us know your whereabouts if you step out alone from the building.”

“Will do, Senior. There, I feel so much better already after confiding in you.”

As the trio finished up & made their way back to the studio, the feeling returned to SM again. She turned swiftly round in time to catch a flitting shadow, but couldn’t make out the form. Frightened, she quickly caught up with the two seniors ahead.

“Senior QX, I saw someone just now! I’m frightened & not sure how to handle this anymore!”

“SM, I think it’s time to tell Director Yin about this. It’s not just a feeling or fragment of your imagination at all; you did see a figure. What if this person is out to harm or worse, kidnap you? It’s possible you know for you’re now a member of a powerful & wealthy family, SM. If you won’t tell him, then allow me to, for your own good.”

“Okay, I will, Senior.”


As SM approached the desk, his secretary smiled & waved her in. Director Yin had left instruction that his door was always open to Ms Zhen Shan Mei regardless of whom he was meeting inside. XZ was just ending his phone call & happy to see his angel. It turned to concern as he noted her pale pallor.

“Xiang Zhe, are you free? There’s something I have to tell you …...” she swayed as the words were spoken & XZ sprinted to catch her before she passed out in his arms.

“SM!”

Tenderly, he laid her on the sofa & rang for the doctor. Wiping the beads of perspiration off her forehead, he wondered how it was possible he had overlooked her health. Anxious to lighten her workload he knew he must find a subtle way of doing so without her knowledge, knowing he would have a battle on his hands. A thought hit like a bolt of lightning as he wondered if she could be pregnant!

His fingers running through her silky hair, XZ was anxious for the doctor to arrive. For no apparent reason, SM had fainted & it was the second time to his knowledge. There was something else she’d wanted to tell him. What could it be? As quickly as the thought had struck, he dismissed it for he was well acquainted with the rhythm of her body, & he had always been careful.

Coming out of her unconsciousness, SM saw XZ’s distraught face above hers. “Xiang Zhe, I’m sorry if I gave you a fright just now. How long have I been out?”

“SM, are you all right? No, don’t  get up, Dr Kim’s on his way. Did you skip lunch today? Was that why you passed out?” He was relieved to see the color returning to her face.

Patting her tummy, SM gave him an assuring smile & said, “Xiang Zhe, feel this roundness? If not food inside, what else?” She caught her breath when she saw how boyish he looked with his features softened up & the tenderness that shone in his eyes!

“SM!” & he bent to capture her lips in a tender kiss.

In her innocence, XZ knew the thought never crossed her mind that a new life could be growing inside her body. A babe with babe? Other than a brief conversation they had in England, the subject of raising a family had never come up between them! He hoped she wasn’t down with something else rather than fatigue!


Chapter 16

 

A knock on the door announced Dr Kim’s arrival. He was the Yin family physician & had attended to XZ’s late mother. After a preliminary examination, he turned to reassure XZ that it was a case of exhaustion. Prescribing a good rest for SM, he stayed to chat briefly with XZ then took his leave.

As the door closed, XZ joined SM on the sofa, refusing to let her leave. Thankful that she was all right, he held her in a tight embrace. “Xiang Zhe, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for you to worry about me. It’s just that I felt so useless and ……”

Feeling vulnerable but safe in his arms, relief brought a flood of tears & she was soon sobbing uncontrollably. He let her cry on, brushing away the teardrops & comforting her all the while in a calm voice.

When the sobs finally stopped, he raised her face & said in a firm voice, “Let’s call it a day & go home, all right? As your boss, I’m ordering you to take two days’ leave effective from now. I don’t  want viewers complaining of a tired-looking broadcaster on screen. So make sure you’re rested & fresh before you report back for work, Ms Zhen Shan Mei.”

“Xiang Zhe, I don’t  need two days to rest. Just hold me for five minutes. It’s all the rest I need. Besides, what would others think if I simply go off like that with the boss?”

“Why should we care what others think? Anyone could see you’ve been working hard & besides, a good rest is what the doctor had prescribed. I’ll fire anyone who dares to question my order.”

“Xiang Zhe!” she protested despite giving in to his request.

XZ was relieved to have won this battle & pondered on his next move to cut down on her workload. He wished Liz were there for SM as she seemed to be worried over something. He’d observed in certain ways that his angel had matured from Liz’s gentle handling & tutelage. He’d actually been on long distance call with Mrs. Kim & madam nor when Liz excitedly snatched over the phone to say she’d missed her ‘Gorgeous!’...before SM walked into his office.


XZ was insistent that she rested. As he prepared to leave her side, she stretched out a hand & pleaded for him to stay.

“Xiang Zhe, I have something to tell you but first, I want your promise that you won’t reduce my job assignments no matter what you heard.”

And when he didn’t say anything, she took his silence for consent.

“Xiang Zhe, I don’t  know who, why or what for that matter, but someone’s been following & watching me. I felt it after our weekend outing to the park and then today, I caught a flitting shadow just after Senior QX, QZ & I left the cafeteria for the studio. Actually I didn’t want to mention it but Senior QX said it’s possible that someone might want to harm or kidnap me because of your family connection …...”

As she grew more visibly nervous, hiccups intermittently interrupted her words.

“If it’s true, then Xiang Zhe is more exposed to risk & harm than I am. I got more & more frightened when I consider that possibility. I wish I could truly be your shadow, that way I can be with you always.”

XZ was deeply moved by her words. She was more concerned for his safety than for her own! It was like a role reversal with her acting the protective mother & him, her protégé. Liz’s doing? He swallowed his breath to exert self-control but his moist eyes betrayed his emotion. Eyes closed, he laid his head on her tummy, and enjoyed the bonding her closeness brought.


When he considered the options available, XZ was adamant that SM would not be exposed to any danger. He made a few phone calls & contacts. Whether it was a fan stalking SM, a disgruntled former employee or worse, someone behind a kidnap for ransom plot? He would soon have an answer & it wasn’t what he expected when the investigation file was turned in a week later!


He frowned as he stared down at the snapshot & report on Ms Park Hui Lin. He’d never met her. Age: 26. Status: Single. Height: 165cm. Weight: 54 kg. Born in Seoul but raised in the States where she was a recent graduate in Interior Design. Family: only child of Mr. & Mrs. Park Sung Hong. He could memorize the rest of the report by heart.

It also mentioned that she’d just returned to Seoul a month ago & was not staying in her parents’ home, but on her own. Mr. Park was a philanthropist known for keeping low-key in society. Why would the daughter be interested in SM? Or was he the actual target? SM was still being followed and he was leaving nothing to chances, but with two minders hired to protect her, he felt greatly relieved.

He knew that his family background plus personal fortune, an inheritance from his maternal side made him a good catch in the eyes of high society. He was not ignorant of his looks either and had kept his distance from the hordes of debutante & sophisticates who made a play for his attention. Marriage & children were not on the cards for him. And he wasn’t keen or interested in casual affairs although he could take his pick.

He could say he’d been successful in keeping his heart & emotion intact until one spunky innocent crossed onto the path of his moving car! The journey to win her heart over was rougher than a ride on the rollercoaster to him! But it was well worth it as he congratulated himself for the object of his affection was now his wife!


Chapter 17

 

Hearing his soft footsteps, SM smiled smugly to herself & crouched down to adjust the anklet just as XZ entered the dressing room.

“SM, honey, you need any help ….” XZ was stunned to silence as his eyes dropped to her décolletage!! Her cleavage was showing & gads, did she have anything beside skin in that gown or not!! SM pouted her lips & waited, her eyes wide with innocence although he could swear there was a glint of something else there!

“Have you lost your senses.., that gown is much too, too... revealing!” The thinness of the fabric didn’t leave much to one’s imagination…. His expression started to gather storm clouds as he imagined other men undressing SM with their eyes!!

“Honey, go & put on another…. That one is not appropriate!”

“You didn’t mind seeing me in it before so why the outrage now? You were the one who personally made the choice & insisted on adding it to my trousseau..!”

When he saw the mutinous face & the luscious lips puckering up, he swore under his breath….There was no way his wife was going to step one foot outside the apartment unless; it was over his dead body! And darn it, he expected to win at least half the arguments in this household, one way or another!

He dragged her by the hand to the walk-in closet, one hand furiously running through the carousal of gowns until he found one that met with his approval. Thrusting the second choice onto her, his action indicating that he would relish the pleasure of disrobing her if she won’t do it voluntarily & fast

Then an afterthought came, he rummaged & pressed something else into her hands, his temper growing more & more murderous as he wondered how SM could have suddenly grown so bold as to venture out without a bra…. He knew who was to blame & promised to take Liz to task with a blistering earful the next time they talked!

XZ only guessed the half of it. His minx was greatly relieved to change into his second choice, another breathtaking exquisite design although a more demure one than what she had on! She’d been wary of the gowns he’d picked for her trousseau because she’d considered them to be too provocative for her conservative style of dressing!

And he made up his mind just how he was going to extract that one-day of servitude when he saw how she swayed & wriggled her way out…. Lord, whatever would his minx come out next? He would have been shocked had he known that SM had learnt those moves from that exotic madam nor, complimentary lessons that seemed to work if one were to judge from his expression!!

Liz was just outrageously wicked & who would have thought of it!! She had told SM that it was all right for a woman to want & desire a man & to take the initiative. But in “subtle” moves, she could never remind her enough of that golden rule….. That being a ‘tease’ was not in good taste, but teasing to tantalize & seduce the man one loved was a different matter!


He’d purposely set aside tonight to bring SM out for candlelight dinner & had given the minders the night off. As well as wanting SM to enjoy an evening out, it was also, for him, an occasion to exorcise a bad memory.
As they arrived at their destination, SM had mixed feelings. This was the same restaurant where he’d given his blessings for her to go to England, without once saying the words she’d longed to hear from his heart!

Two hearts on the same fine line, hanging by a thin thread. At his seat, the same memory was also playing in his mind. He’d such high romantic expectations from that fateful night! XZ wanted to erase the unhappy recall when SM had blurted out the unquestionable, thus robbing him of the opportunity to propose to her!

Well, he was going to put it behind him to-night….. As the meal progressed, XZ could feel the frequent gaze of the other diners on them. It must be his darling angel, she looked so vibrant & radiant & the wine she’d been sipping so generously away seemed to have gone to her face!

He put a velvet case on the table. “SM, a present for you.”
“Xiang Zhe, may I open it now?” SM was not the materialistic type but her XZ always did give the loveliest surprises & she was excited as she wondered what piece of jewelry he’d presented her this time!

Her eyes glistened with tears & she took out a pendant that was strung through a long necklace… the pendant was an exact replica of the engagement ring he’d slipped onto her finger ‘that’ night with the unexpected happy ending!

Her first real kiss & it had to be such an open public display – in the middle of a pedestrian crossing zone & in peak rush hour too!!! She smiled at the memory of that ‘gentle’ but ‘earth shattering’ kiss.

“Xiang Zhe, thank you. Can we skip the dessert & leave now? I want to be home with you when you put it on me!”

And she got her wish when she saw the answering ‘passion’ in XZ’s eyes!


Chapter 18

 

The wine had apparently also gone to her head, as the occasional bursts of giggling seemed to testify when they drove home. SM was still remembering XZ’s reaction to the provocative gown, did he think her forward enough to wear it & without an undergarment….? But then, hadn’t he always told her when they was abed that it was a sin to cover those pert rounded curves from him? men!

Liz was so right in her prediction that XZ would be livid & that SM must understand that it was a strong case of ‘male possessiveness’ and to give in, letting him think he got his way!! And then she caught the enigmatic expression on his face & wondered if he was still furious ………

Next to her, XZ had a feeling of ‘déjà vu,’ he wasn’t going to be cheated of his high expectations again tonight, was he?!! Good grief, he didn’t know even red wine could have that effect, but then again, one could never tell with SM!


XZ carried SM to the apartment & had barely set her down on the floor when his mobile rang.
“SM, go in first. I’ll be along to help.” Giving her a gentle push, his mind wondering if it could be Liz & it was……… His humor returning to him after the revealing conversation. She had begun by asking him to bite his tongue, ‘gentlemen don’t  swear!’ & ended on a naughty note! Her wits were matchless!!


Feeling she had been given a reprieve, SM quickly stripped off the gown & chose a lace slip to wear, struggling with the bow ribbons on the front, it was the very first time she had taken to wearing all those lingerie that XZ had bought for her ……& that was the sight XZ came upon, SM swaying on the bed, fingers on the bow ribbons & caught her just before she fell! Even while knowing the mood swings she was experiencing weren’t normal, SM felt her emotions on edge as she gazed down at XZ, her hands resting on his shoulders….

Her slip had opened, exposing her curves to him! XZ’s eyes caressed her as he slowly slid her body down against him, & in the process, slipping off her slip!
Her creamy round globes with their rosy quivering buds fascinated him! SM waited breathlessly for the moment his hands & mouth would begin their magic!

She’d thought of this from the moment she’d donned on the provocative gown, & would have welcomed his distraction but instead he had been outraged! As she waited, XZ laid her gently on the bed, discarding his own clothes…… And when he joined her in bed, the onslaught of caresses, designed to thrill & seduce began!

His lips blazing a trail of torment where they nibbled while his hands were light & gentle as he massaged the rounded mounds…. Cupping the sides & bottom, he gently pressed the malleable flesh until they thrust upward to reach for his lips…..

SM groaned as she felt herself being sucked into a whirlpool….!! Drawing one enticingly tormented peak into his mouth, worrying the distended bud, XZ sucked hard…. As she writhed & gave in to her inflamed passion without inhibitions this time, XZ felt the heat rush to his loins! His little innocent was like a wanton tonight, amazing him as she scratched & clawed at him in abandon!!

Forcing himself to reach for his control, he pulled away. Her breasts appeared swollen – her taut, reddened bud quivering under his gaze & it was hard not to lower his mouth back to her….. Unable to take the torment much longer, SM raised instinctively upwards to meet his passion & XZ gained immense satisfaction as he heard his vixen gasped ….!!


It would seem he had much to thank Liz for this surprising change in his little angel. She had almost blown his mind off with her passionate responses & then given back some!!

And his lips curved into a smile & soft laughter broke out as he pulled at the sheet! So…! Liz had said she would give anything to be a flea in their bed, hey? That classy dame had the most unbelievable timing! Laughing as she’d asked if she was just in time for the first act or was it curtain call already!! And telling him to hold the thought, he didn’t need ‘murder’ on his hands! Looking at SM, he felt his tenderness overcoming him & bending down over her, placed a light kiss on her forehead before drawing her close as sleep finally claimed him.


Chapter 19

 

“Another conquest, XZ?” XD said, one eyebrow raised as his eyes moved to the direction of his subject.

XZ gazed casually round the café. His gaze resting on a lone figure seated at a corner table & as their eyes met across the room, the lady smiled at him. XZ didn’t return the smile but acknowledged her with a slight nod of the head. He then turned back to XD.

“XD, the stalker who has been following SM for the past two weeks has finally emerged from the shadow. Her name is Park Hui Lin. I believe you know her parents, Mr. & Mrs. Park Sung Hong?” XD was surprised at the revelation. He’d been informed by XZ about the incident & told to watch out for SM.

“Why would she follow SM? I would suspect you to be her true objective rather than SM. How about you, XZ?”

“You too, XD? That was my conclusion when I read the dossier. Anyhow, I don’t  want SM to be disturbed. She’s been watching me like a hawk! Was alert enough to spot the minder who had followed her into the washroom! Hmm, fortunately, she accepted it after I explained that the stalker could easily have done that as well if she was a woman or even a man dressed up as one.”

“XZ, be careful. There’s no telling what lies behind an obsessed mind? Are you going to tell SM of your suspicion?”

“No. Let’s go XD. I’m not in the mood for fatal liaisons.” XD laughed at the remark as they made their way back to MBS.


“Xiang Zhe, you sent for me?”

“Yes, SM, come here. Don’t  worry, nobody will disturb us.”

Taking her natural perch on his lap, she rested her head on his shoulders & closed her eyes. Ever since he learnt of the stalking, XZ had been most protective & wanted her close by when she wasn’t recording or on air & her outdoors shooting had been curtailed too.

“Xiang Zhe, will you be working late tonight? I was thinking of a home-cooked meal. There is a new cocktail recipe I want to try out.”

“Won’t you be too tired? I don’t  have to stay if you want to go home early. Shall we drop by the supermarket afterwards? Here, just close your eyes & rest; I’ll wake you when it’s time for your recording.”

“How about you, Xiang Zhe? Just let me up, I’ll rest in the suite, but only for a while. I don’t  want you to be tired because of me.”

“Ms Zhen Shan Mei just shut up & gets some rest! Unless you err, has something else ….. On your mind …?”

SM giggled & jabbed a finger on his chest, “Xiang Zhe, don’t  you dare!” & promptly laid her head back on his shoulder. And to get even, she wriggled her bottom to unsettle him!
“Imp!”


As they wheeled the cart along the lane, XZ caught a glimpse of Ms PHL near the aisle. He maneuvered both SM & the cart so that the two minders were one in front & the other behind them, blocking Ms PHL’s way. SM was grabbing on to his other arm, chirping cheerfully away like a robin while XZ smiled down indulgently at her.

As they shopped, heads turned to look at the handsome couple. It was very obvious from the man’s demeanor that he adored the captivating young lady beside him. And one could see & tell that the feeling was mutual. The shopping done, XZ carried the groceries so as not to give away the presence of the two minders.

“Xiang Zhe, try this. You like it?” SM waited eagerly for XZ’s reply as she fed him the fruit cocktail salad.

“Mamma, SM it’s not as good as ……...”

“Well!? Not as good as what, Xiang Zhe. Come ‘n, tell me!”

“Well, I’ll tell you but only if promise not to get mad…& one more thing, I want you to close your eyes too!”

“Oh, Xiang Zhe, of course, I won’t get mad at you. There, my eyes are closed. Quick, tell me!” SM grumbled as she closed her eyes. As if looks could kill….?

Startled as she felt his finger on her lips, her mouth parted slightly to taste the salad cream smeared there. And when his lips claimed hers to lick sensually at the cream, before delving inside to explore, SM felt torched! He nipped & pulled playfully at her lips until she cried out for his kiss!

XZ could feel her thumping heartbeats as she leaned against him. “SM, no recipe can ever measure up to the taste of you! “ Dazed, she opened her eyes, trying to focus. Nothing could disguise the desire & passion revealed in her eyes! “Xiang Zhe!”

Cast in the spell by her passionate response, food was the farthest thought on his mind as he feasted instead on the enchanting creature in his arms!


Chapter 20

 

It had been over two weeks since her fainting spell at XZ’s office the other day & SM had been pondering over what her Xiang Zhe’s reactions might be if she were pregnant…?

“Xiang Zhe, have you changed your mind about, eh ….” As she broke off into hiccups, XZ looked at his angel, curious at the subject that was making her nervous. The tightening of his embrace reassured her & she continued.

“Would you like children? A boy and a girl would be nice. Maybe not now, but in the future?” She dare not raise her head as she finished speaking. XZ was surprised & did not answer immediately. Both recalled the conversation in London’t when he’d told her that he didn’t aim to marry or have children….

She didn’t want him to feel pressure or raise a family if he wasn’t prepared for it…but she’d felt a need to know his feelings. Liz had coached her on how to handle a special man like XZ. His lonely years shut away in his bitterness over the loveless marriage of his parents had slowly began to fade as a bad memory because of his deep love for SM & Liz had taught her many ways of nurturing that love.

“SM, look at me, honey. Your existence completely changes my life! I’d never thought I could care so deeply for anyone as I do about you. Dreams, high expectations…., these with hope & love are what you bring into my life. Because of you, I’m starting to dream about little minx & angels filling up our world. Our children who’ll be adorable duplicates like their wonderful mother. I would love our children but I love you more! You’re still young SM, & embarking on a career that you enjoy….. I won’t force you to do anything you don’t  want to. I am selfish enough to say that I want you all alone to myself for now. All I want is your happiness, SM, so only when you are ready, okay?”

“Xiang Zhe!” She raised her lips to place a kiss on his cheek & continued, “I admit I am also selfish & thinking only of my career. But, being with you has made me realized how lucky I am! And it will never come down to a choice between a career and Xiang Zhe for I cannot now imagine my life without Yin Xiang Zhe!”

XZ was elated to know he came first before her career!

“SM, what do you say to a dozen kids, six adorable girls like their mother & six strapping boys to look after their sisters?”

SM pouted her lips & giggled, “You’ll do better if you buy your own baseball team, Xiang Zhe! Give me a break! You think I’m a cow & milking machine? I’ll be a hippo by the time we make it to number twelve!”

She giggled even more as the image of a hippo came to mind & XZ laughed just as hard till the tears came out!

Looking at SM, he didn’t know how one lifetime could be enough to show her how he truly felt about her!
He stretched out a hand to draw her up to her feet. Catching her laughing eyes, he winked & said, “Come ‘n, lazybones, time to put theory to practical!!”

With a glare & laugh, she rolled away from his outstretched hand & escaped, “You’ll have to catch me first, Director Yin!”

“Minx! Chasing is a game for dirty old men & ladies of the night!” And the wicked glint in his laughing eyes put wings to her legs….

“If the shoe fits!” Poking out her tongue, SM giggled at his open gaping mouth!
And then in the mere seconds it took her to flee, his muscular arms were holding her captive against his hard body!!

Her body yielded when it shouldn’t, betraying her burgeoning desire & when at last they were spent in the passion, XZ turned to whisper in her ears, “And how does madam like the shoe?”


Chapter 21

 

SM was feeling a little tired from the trip to visit her father at his work site. GS had not been able to return for the weekends & although they spoke to each other on the phone daily, it wasn’t the same thing as having her father home. XZ understood their close bond & set aside his own work to make time during the weekend to unite father & daughter together. Even Aunty ZS was away with her friends visiting Pusan.

As she came out from her shower, SM wished she could help XZ with his work…. Taking a nightgown from a chest drawer, SM’s eyes wandered to the 2-pieces suit hanging in a special corner. It brought back memory of the day when he’d tricked her into accompanying him to the boutique…..

Her eyes misted as she thought of how he had taken the trouble to pick it out specially the day before. She felt contrite as she recalled her childish reaction to his gift, feeling he was overbearing, even to the extent of suggesting YM as a replacement for her newscast session so she could join the anniversary luncheon.

Whilst she hadn’t liked the manipulation as she’d thought of it then, looking back, she felt about one inch tall!! How could she have treated her beloved Xiang Zhe so & for him to always take it within his stride & never took her to task?

She tasted the salt in her tears as she remembered how he’d left the VIP table to meet her half way; complimenting her & then dropping the spanner in the works ~ introducing her as his fiancée to his father seated among all the VIP guests!! It was a shock & given XZ’s unhappy past…., unthinkable!!

Her tears were coming in buckets as she carried on reminiscing & without another thought; she went into the bedroom & quickly made a call to him.

“Xiang Zhe, where are you now? Am I disturbing you? No, no, I’m not crying, you think I’m a crybaby? It’s just an eyelash caught inside my eye.”

“Honey, I’m into my last report. Do you want me to join you now?”

“No, Xiang Zhe. I miss Liz’s fussing & Mrs. Kim’s cooking. And neither Madam nor, she’d been giving me some fine points in ‘massage’ & I want to ask her a few other things as well…. I wish them all here, Xiang Zhe. I just felt a sudden longing to hear your voice, Xiang Zhe, I miss you!”

XZ was smiling as he listened to his angel. He knew she’d been crying although she won’t admit it! Poor darling, as he leaned against their bedroom door, looking at her! She was seated on his side of the bed & pressing a shirt of his to her cheek…!

As he gazed, enjoying the sight of his poor angel, SM hid the shirt underneath her pillow. Still caught up in her musing, she wasn’t aware of XZ’s presence until she was almost onto him!

“Xiang Zhe, I was coming to you at the study! Have I disturbed you after all?”

And when he tilted her face up to him, she could see the love & tenderness there in his eyes…..!

“You do that in the most delightful way, darling SM & never ever hold back on your feelings, mamma? I wonder if you’ll ever know just how much you mean to me.”

Kissing her lightly on her lips, SM knew much loved & cherished, safe in the warm embrace of her Xiang Zhe!


Chapter 22

 

If he felt anything, it was probably annoyance. XZ fiddled with the invitation card that had just been hand delivered to his office, a frown spreading over his forehead. XD & YX would represent him at the Anniversary Ball hosted by Mr. & Mrs. Park Sung Hong …… He intended to be somewhere else with SM on that night. The ringing of the phone interrupted his thoughts.

XZ, YX here. XD just told me in true male fashion that we’re attending the Anniversary Ball this Saturday. “My dear friend, haven’t you realized that we ladies need preparation time in order to look our best? I’m truly envious of SM, unlike the typical male species; her husband takes care of everything!”

“Ah, YX, ha-ha. I guess XD just forgot to mention it to you early. Why worry? You always look good, so I don’t  doubt you’ll be the ‘Lady of the Night.”

“Hey, when did you sugar coat your tongue? Must be the influence of your sweet wife rubbing off on you, huh? All right, I won’t tease you any more XZ. I have better things to do. Like shopping for that ‘special’ effect ha-ha. Catch up with you later on.”

“SM, it’s me. Something has just come up & I’ll have to be away this weekend. I want you to come along. Whatever your programs for the week get it rescheduled with the senior, all right? Do it, Ms Zhen Shan Mei or I’ll handle it personally! Good, that settles it. I’m heading for a meeting. Will call you once it’s through. Bye & remember to take your meal.”


“SM! CS told me that you’re eloping with the Boss for a romantic weekend! Oh SM, you lucky, lucky girl!”

“ZD! Stop the nonsense; I don’t want people jumping to the wrong conclusion about us. It’s a working trip & not what you think, so stop talking so loudly. Everyone can hear you, you nuts!”

“Okay, okay, you dummy. If I were you, I’ll be shouting on top of my voice to let everyone know how lucky I am! Promise you’ll tell me about the trip when you get back, all right?”


“Xiang Zhe, what should I pack for the weekend?”

“Absolutely nothing!” Winking at her, his eyes on the pendant nestling on her chest, “you’re already wearing my heart close to yours! It’s all you need, minx!”

SM giggled over his innuendo, “Be careful, Xiang Zhe, your tail is showing! With your business to take care of, I’m not sure you’ll have time for me? I might get bored & just wander off, you know. And then you’ll have to find me unless you already have a new girl friend on the side?”

“With such an entertaining handful, why bother with a new girl friend? I’ll search for you to the ends of the world if I have to, Zhen Shan Mei so don’t  you be getting ideas about wandering off on your own, huh?”

“You’re still worried about the stalking…. Is that why you want me to come along, Xiang Zhe?” She looked at him suspiciously, “Yet I’d got a feeling that this weekend is not what it seems?”

In response, XZ only winked at her! He’d plans for spending the weekend alone with SM, like before, & had given the two minders the weekend off. They had protested until he assured them that Ms PHL would be playing hostess alongside her parents at the Ball.

As they cruised along the highway, SM looked out to admire the scenery.“Xiang Zhe, thank you.” XZ turned to smile at her in understanding. Taking her hand, he raised it to his lips to press a gentle kiss & then kept it rested on his thigh.

SM stirred to find her being carried in his arms. “Let me down, I can walk. Where are we?”
She hadn’t realized that she had fallen asleep while on the road or that XZ had stopped the car to adjust her seat to a reclining position.

“Don’t  worry; the workout at Liz’s gym had paid off, my dear wife. Besides, we’ve arrived.” As he set her down, SM looked around her. They were at a villa overlooking out to the sea! The calm waters reflecting back the ray of the sun, tranquil & breathtaking, with a light breeze blowing. XZ wrapped his arms around her, his chin resting on her shoulder. “Do you like the view? We can camp on the beach if you like.”

“Xiang Zhe, it’s so restful! We must be miles from the nearest habitat. But, aren’t you going to find it tiring to commute to your business meetings? I thought we’re staying in a hotel?” She turned round to wrap her arms around his waist, looking up at him.

“No, SM, this retreat belongs to Liz.” Nodding his head in answer to her silent query. “A daily comes in to take care of the place. I believe the kitchen is already well stocked up for our stay. Shall we go in & look around?”

“Xiang Zhe!” SM tiptoed to peck him on the cheek in gratitude.

“It’s just as well we have the entire weekend to ourselves.” “Huh?” SM eyed him questioningly.

“My dear, I can hardly wait to feast & devour you bit by bit!” SM blushed becomingly. She still felt shy whenever XZ teased her openly on the subject of intimacy! It wasn’t all that easy to just shed her shyness for she had led a sheltered life & never even gone on a date before him!

“Come SM. You might catch too much sun.” Hand in hand, the couple went inside to explore the villa. It was built like a Spanish hacienda, the stylish interior décor exuding an air of warmth & comfort. XZ was amused at SM’s expressions of delight over everything. It needn’t take much to make her happy!

Liz had signed the deed to the property over to him without his knowledge! He had been taken back by surprise when her lawyer had called by MBS with the necessary legal documents for his execution & to personally hand over to XZ, the key to the villa & also a letter that Liz had written ….!.


Chapter 23

 

As they explored the villa, XZ’s tender gaze was on the little temptress by his side. She had told him that although it was beautiful beyond words, for her, ‘Home was wherever he was!’

The daily had prepared a light lunch before their arrival, and then disappeared for a while. Then observing how the man doted on his wife discreetly left the loving couple alone. XZ relaxed & enjoyed the wifely treatment from SM.

She had laughingly told him to sit back and let her take charge for a change. She bustled over him incessantly, even being bossy at times & although he was amused, he had to admit he thoroughly enjoyed the royal treatment.

She had fussed over him when he spotted a thin creamy mustache; compliments of the cappuccino she’d made for him & had gently wiped with her fingers, chiding him in the same breath like he were a toddler! It was hard to control his mirth because she took it all very seriously! Would a bath together count among her wifely duties?


After lunch, XZ had told her to unpack, saying he wanted to check up the place & would be back shortly. Tucking her hair behind her ears, he pressed his lips lightly against hers, and then turned her round with a playful pat on her shapely derriere! With a laugh, he left the speechless SM to scheme on the ways she was going to repay him for that…..!

Removing the toiletries from the valise bag she used for short trips, her eyes caught something else…. It was a small homemade card, shaped in a heart! Now, where did that come from? Definitely XZ’s doing & was warmed by his thoughtfulness!! Eager to read what he’d to say, she opened it.

“Take it easy, SM. The 'refreshing water natural spray' from Carolina Herrera is for you to stay 'cool' in the heat. A warm meal & bath await you.

"~ Y ~” & He’d written down a contact number in case she couldn’t reach him on the mobile!

[Oops, sorry I had to put down initial as “Y” coz in the drama, his card was always signed “Y”, excusez-moi?]

As SM read the date, she couldn’t control the tears that were trickling down her cheeks! The day she hadn’t been able to reach him! How could she have so wronged him?!! She knew now the contact number was listed to Liz!

How could she suspect him of having flings on the side & to even think he was heartless? When memory jolted her back to her willful thoughts of giving ‘tit for tat;’ she felt more & sorrier for harboring such unkind thoughts towards XZ & cried harder…!

XZ heard the sobs & dashed towards the guest room! SM! What was going on?! Had she been hurt?! Hearing her name being cried out, SM reached up to throw herself in his arms!

“Xiang Zhe! I was so wrong & I’m very sorry!” XZ didn’t know what she was apologizing for but was greatly relieved to know that she was safe, if not totally all right, judging from the tears steaming down her flushed face….!

“Xiang Zhe, can you just hold me & cuddle me? Please don’t  say anything, I’m all right…hic … I just feel the need to be in your arms!”

Whatever it was, could wait as XZ did as he was told! Him for that…..!


Chapter 24

 

As she was huddled close to XZ, SM suddenly pulled slightly away & ‘sniffed’ at him!

“Xiang Zhe, why are you smelling of ‘roses’? Looking at how her eyes were slanted, eyebrows knitted in curiosity, XZ laughed …….. It seemed madam wife was getting more & more worldly!

His gaze going to the two bags, still at the spot where he’d left them earlier. So, the cat wasn’t out of the bag yet, mamma!

“Minx. Whatever you’re thinking, just hold the thought & honey, I’m going to call in a marker as of this second.”

“A marker, Xiang Zhe? I don’t  understand but I’m sure I’m going to find out soon! How come I’m beginning to feel like a lamb to the slaughter?”

The last came out as she saw the devilish twinkle in his bedroom eyes & the lips that were curved up as if he was enjoying a private joke! They struck an alarm bell in her mind but there was also a sense of excitement for her darling husband was becoming more & more of an adventure as each new day dawned…..

“Honey, do you recall the bet I won? I believe the stakes is a ‘day of servitude’ from the loser? Complete obedience to the winner & no questions asked & no quarter given. Remember?”

SM gasped, how could she have forgotten? And judging from his mysterious smile & sudden disappearance, she knew she was about to find out!

“I admit I have you at a disadvantage here, not giving you a fair warning before now Oh no, you’re not going to escape, minx!!” Imprisoning her soft body with her hands behind her, XZ whispered to her ear, “I’ll be kind, madam….for until sunset, you are still a free woman!”

For once, SM was tongue-tied! This Xiang Zhe really!! And then she remembered too the coaching from Liz, the ‘sweetener & spicy’ conversations from sassy madam nor & Mrs. Kim’s dough kneading lessons!

Her XZ was due for a shocker & SM was surprised that she couldn’t wait for sunset!

“You’re on, Xiang Zhe! But are you sure you’ll enjoy the winner’s spoils?” She laughed to his face & XZ was delighted at her response.

Was he going to benefit from another one of Liz’s tutelage of his angel? And the thought made him laugh triumphantly! His eye caught the woman who had been waiting outside for his signal. Winking at the unexpected comrade & conspirator, he gave her the ‘thumbs up’ sign!

“Come, let’s take a walk along the beach & wait for sunset, ok?”

Each with their own expectations of what the sunset would bring, they happily set off like two carefree spirits!


Chapter 25

 

Sunset would soon be upon them when XZ turned to his angel & said with a reassuring smile, “Go on, honey. Freshen up & do whatever you have to, then come back to me, mmm? Trust me, imp.”

Huh? Trust him when he had been giving her the enigmatic look the whole day? SM shook her head as she wondered what tricks XZ had up his sleeves?

The ‘outfit’ on the bed with a pinned note caught her eyes the minute she set foot inside the bedroom. …”Humour me, honey & change into this outfit, I have very fond memory of the angel who wore it, once upon a time …” & she was surprised as to how on earth he had … & when?

Her curiosity piqued, she quickly opened the wardrobe & was immediately overwhelmed by the sight! The ‘baby blue top with the hood; ‘green knit top; the red T-shirt & the ‘cream blouse’, ….!!! Because of the fond memories they held of her carefree days in London with Xue Zhang, she had put these in a trunk, not having the heart to give them away as she normally did with her old clothes….. Aunty ZS must have told him about the trunk?

And as the first teardrop glistened on her eyelashes, she tried to control the flow & told herself, “SM, not now, you can do it. You mustn’t cry…”. Deciding on a quick warm shower instead of a leisurely soak in the tub, she was soon donning herself in the denim dungarees & yellow top with black stripes, & even two studded hair clips to boot…! It was what she’d worn when their paths crossed! How had he remembered from so long ago?

*****
XZ was already waiting for her, the red baseball cap with the Cambridge logo in one hand! He was running a very appreciative eye over her & broke into a wolf whistle, his action causing her to giggle! Eyeing him in a very conspicuous way, she laughed childishly as he had clamped down the cap on her!

“SM, remember ‘no questions asked’, okay? Just follow my lead.” “Aye, aye, Captain!” & cheekily gave him a salute for good measure, prompting him to throw back his head & laugh.

*****
At a point where it seemed she could almost reach out to touch the horizon where the sun was slowly sinking into, XZ halted. Leading her by the hand, he ran with her to the beach. Wrapping his arms around her waist, he stood behind her to breathe in her womanly scent! SM was deeply touched & pressed her soft body against him, one hand up stretched to go round his nape, & there they stood to watch the sun slowly set.

Neither spoke for words would not have done justice to the beauty & wonders of nature …….
& when the sun completely disappeared, XZ turned her slowly round to him. Tucking her hair behind her ears that the cool breeze was flirting with. SM was breathless as she saw the tenderness in his warm eyes & in silent consent, they headed back for the villa.
******
Someone had lit up a small bonfire & SM swallowed a lump as she saw the throwaway cushions on the beach towels & the ‘dinner’…Her Xue Zhang had marshmallows on skewer sticks & she saw sushi rolls, take-away hamburgers still in their wrappings & to top it, red wine in the ice bucket?!! He certainly had been busy because her eyes caught a made-shift pavilion, curtains gliding down on three sides, gently blowing in the light breeze!!

SM was bursting with a lot of unanswered questions but a finger pressed lightly on her lips told her to hold the thought …….

He won’t let her help but made her lean back on the cushions to enjoy his servings. Had she figured it wrongly? XZ had said, ‘a day of servitude’ yet it would seem the other way round & she was getting the ‘full service?’ She couldn’t help but be deeply touched by his gestures & thoughtfulness!

*****
As though reading her mind, XZ stretched out a hand, “Come, SM the night is not over yet…. “

She reached up silently for his hand & was led to the pavilion & gasped in surprise! Layers & layers of quilts with a satin sheet lay on a tarpaulin that covered the surface of the soft earth. But you couldn’t see the sheet for the rose petals on top! So her scent had been right! He did smell of roses & why, he must have bought out the florists in business!

“Xue Zhang!” She literally threw herself at him, surprising him & thereby taking both of them down! With a quick dive, XZ positioned himself to cushion her fall!

“SM! Are you hurt?”

“Xue Zhang, are you all right?”

Still holding her in his arms, XZ held her gaze & whispered, “SM, for the rest of our lives, I promise that ‘life for you will always be a bed of roses!” & SM knew without a doubt that because he truly loved her, he would always place her needs before his very own! In a move that showed her gratitude & answering love, she turned to XZ to meet him in a tender kiss….

On their backs, gazing up at the bright starlit night sky, each recalled back to one similar memorable night under a starlit sky! SM happily remembered how her XZ had exerted his will over hers & met her up front at the MBS entrance, …. Ignoring her protests & dragging her to the amusement park where she so enjoyed herself that she’d managed to leave behind the depressing incident, that of finding her prepared notes being torn to shreds….

Poor XZ’s memory was more on a somber note…. She had no idea how he’d felt about finding the somehow crumble-creased photograph of YZ & her. She had looked so happy with her cheerful smile, the bouquet of roses in her arm! But he hadn’t been able to rid his mind of the man beside her.….. & knew she wasn’t even aware that his mood had been more subdued thereafter ….. A melancholic smile came back as he remembered her ‘typical English’ peck on his cheek before cheerfully waving him off! And that had sealed his fate for he resolved there & then to embark on his courtship of Zhen San Mei!

SM sat up only to re-position her body sideways, resting her head on his abdomen so she could see him better. And in one mind, the memories of the happy times they spent in London’t were recalled & laughed over & over as they talked & talked into the early hours of dawn.

SM felt thoroughly chastised as he chided her back for what he felt was her ‘pettiness’ over the sushi incident at the grounds in Cambridge, and so it went on …

Everything else faded into insignificance for SM as she savored the warmth & tenderness of XZ’s love! Sleeping in the outdoors with the stars & moon above her, enjoying the rhythmic sound of the waves rushing to shore & most importantly, being & sharing life with the man she loved!

And sometime in the early hours of dawn as it grew chilly, XZ carried his love back to the villa. He couldn’t describe his own feelings when he saw how she had one hand clasped on the pendant & didn’t seem to want to let go!

She had told him once when he tried to release her hand that it was because the pendant represented his heart!
Gently dressing his angel into an old shirt of his, XZ drew her close to his heart, thanking the stars for his angel!


Chapter  26

 

XZ was immediately alert the moment he felt the soft touch slowly gliding over his bare chest & his mouth curved in humor! Then, he felt her fingers twining themselves in his thick hair, tenderly kneading the scalp. Gad, what a lucky break meeting madam nor! Enjoying the bliss, he kept his eyes closed, pretending to be still asleep! The minx, what was she up to?

SM gazed lovingly at the sleeping XZ & was exquisitely conscious of everything about her beloved husband. Her fingers quivering over the spot where his heart was beating & couldn’t help but pressed her lips lightly on his heart!

She had never known such pleasure existed & the only coherent thought in her mind was the desire to feel more, to give back what XZ had given her! By both Liz & madam norm’s tutelage, she understood that she must deal with her vulnerability in the passion that he was opening up in her, by trusting him … & giving of herself wholly to his love!

She reached out to touch her cheek then was interrupted by a low chuckle, “Minx, I think you’re trying to take yourself into something….?”

One of his hands slid down her back to pull her close & then he was easing her back on the bed…… There was something new in her eyes! A gleam of shyness & something else, of excitement! For an instant, she looked so appealing, yet so defenseless against her own awakening needs that something twisted inside of him!

XZ knew that SM was an innocent, almost incredibly too magically ethereal to exist & he remembered his promise…! Even if it meant forsaking his place in society, he would see to it that SM’s world of innocence would never collide with his harsh world of reality!

“Xiang Zhe! What are you thinking of? You seemed so faraway just now!”

SM felt she had lost him for a moment & XZ could hear it in the soft undertone of her whisper!

The restraint & control he exerted over his desires the previous night would have been unimaginable from a man who felt less!! His gaze returning to his angel, XZ lowered his head to capture SM’s lips!! Gad, he had wanted to do that since, forever… it seemed!

And as he slowly took the old shirt off her, SM couldn’t wait but eagerly helped too! And as XZ’s lips & fingers worked their magical journey on her senses, the nectar of passion tasted all the more sweeter for the loving couple, What was it about …’the morning after’ …that always was more satisfying!!

And in the aftermath of the passion, his minx had the last word to his earlier question, “Xiang Zhe, I think I’d done it!” And XZ allowed her that satisfaction!


Chapter 27

 

Stretched out on the sofa where SM had shooed him to while she put the food away, XZ closed his eyes & willed away the tension of the past weeks, slowly slipping into a deep sleep. They would be returning to the city shortly.

In sleep, the years seemed to roll off from his face as his features were relaxed. With the frown lines gone & his hair casually wind-blown, he looked innocently boyish.

SM felt her heart swelling with pride & love for her beloved Xiang Zhe. She knew that she always came first with him & even her happiness took precedence in his corporate battles with his step-uncle, Mr. Jin.

She also knew him to be a man of integrity while the same could not be said of Mr. Jin. For her sake, XZ had always stepped aside to avoid a power play but Mr. Jin took it as a sign of weakness & continued with his dirty campaign to oust XZ from his rightful place in the company.

The more she recalled causing XZ anguish; she realized that she should have trusted him implicitly to make his decisions in the corporate field. She should not have acted as a stumbling block in his way showing her displeasure, thereby unwittingly given her support to Mr. Jin…..

She resolved to tell XZ that she would support him unquestionably in his work. A sudden urge to be in his embrace overcame her & because he was still asleep, she was content to sit down beside him, resting her head on the edge of the sofa.

SM felt the gentle touch of XZ’s hand on her waist & opened her eyes to see him crouched down beside her on the floor. “Xiang Zhe!”

“SM! What’s wrong, honey? Are you sick or something?” Concern was evident on his face as he touched her forehead to check on her. Had she caught a chill from last night? She looked so lovely even with her brows knitted together in a slight frown….

“No, no, Xiang Zhe! I’m all right…; it’s just that I have only come to realize how troublesome I am to you.”

“What do you mean, troublesome?”

“It’s Mr. Jin! I know now that I shouldn’t have passed judgments on your decisions in company matters, especially where Mr. Jin is involved. I’m your wife & should have trusted you completely & given you my whole-hearted support. Instead, I behave childishly & add on to your worries. Xiang Zhe, I can’t understand how you can still love me after all this?”

XZ reached out to touch her cheek & pressed his lips lightly on her forehead. His adorable wife seemed geared to take on his battles with Jin! He roared with laughter as he compared Jin to Captain Hook & although his exquisite angel bore no resemblance to an alligator, it appeared Jin had met his nemesis!!

“Xiang Zhe, are you going to tell me what’s bothering you?” XZ looked at her then decided that it was time she was acquainted with the situation with one PHL & his suspicions on her intentions. SM was clinging to him when he finally stopped.

“Xiang Zhe, I didn’t tell you before but lately, someone has been calling me on the MBS line. It was a female caller & strangely, she would just sigh & then hang up without saying a word!”

“SM, how long has this been going on? I thought I got all angles covered but never expected her to call through MBS! ” XZ tightened his hold on SM

“It’s probably nothing but I’m not taking chances, not where you are concerned. I want your word that you won’t wander off on your own & am careful of strangers, all right?” XZ decided that in her own interest, he would introduce the two minders to SM.

“Xiang Zhe, I don’t  want you to worry about me. Xiang Zhe!” SM was silenced as XZ caught her lips in a swift kiss.

“Mamma…..You talk too much, Mrs. Yin.”

“And you are a fast worker, Director Yin.”

“I’m glad you’d noticed, Vixen.”

“Calling me names, huh?” In a move that stunned XZ, SM had him on his back and was sitting on top of him, playfully raining blows on his chest.

Laughing, XZ grabbed her hands to reverse their position. He retaliated by nibbling on her vulnerable neck, causing her to break into giggles!

Surely, her Xiang Zhe wasn’t going to devour her bit by bit! She realized that except for her, no one else had ever seen this lighter side to XZ’s personality; he was always so serious.

She felt humbled & when she looked into his eyes, XZ could tell that the playfulness had undergone a change. He captured her lips in a very soft & gentle kiss, thinking he could never get enough of this child woman.

As SM felt the tenderness seeping into her blood, a need to shield him from harm rushed over her. And as she surrendered to his kisses, she realized how deeply she loved this Director Yin Xiang Zhe…..!


Chapter 28

 

SM got bored with the book she was reading & went to XZ’s study for that was where she thought the essence of him was most about…! He had called to say he would be running a bit late but not to worry & teased her, … telling her not to sleep as he would be back to tuck her in…..

As she breathed in the masculine scent left on his chair, she saw that a drawer had not been shut properly. Bending forward to do so, she was unable to for something seemed to be stuck! Drawing it out, she smiled as she saw a tape lying unobtrusively among the files & wondered if, it was the one he’d so painstakingly done for her,….?

What the …?! She didn’t think Xiang Zhe would be interested in this … let alone have the time to sit patiently through it!?


Reaching out to draw another tissue paper, SM found the box empty. It was such a touching love story with a fairy tale ending….. & Richard Gear & Julia Roberts looked so perfect for each other, a dream couple! .then she wondered what in heaven’s name ‘Pretty Woman’ was doing in Xiang Zhe’s drawer, …..? She wished she knew!

Had he perhaps been looking for inspirations on ways to propose to her…? Gosh! … In a way, now that she’d thought about it, hers was just as dramatic & kind of romantic too! Yes!! He had left behind his pride to run after her!

And she remembered that ‘lost boy’ gaze in his eyes when he repeated her very words to him, just before she’d left him, he must have thought she was walking out of his life! She felt poignant at the bittersweet memory of that night… Xiang Zhe hadn’t dared raise his eyes to her when he’d taken the ring to put on her finger…! She could still hear the plea in his voice & the ‘searching’ in his eyes as he finally declared his intention, telling her not to ‘leave’ & ….proposed, saying those three words…!

How could any movie compare with the ‘real’ thing? And her tears silently rolled down her cheeks as she wondered if Julia Roberts was that lucky? Maybe, she could feature it on the chat show on how ladies felt would be a most romantic setting for a once in a lifetime marriage proposal?

Looking at the timer on the recorder, she expected XZ to be home soon & quickly went for her shower. Tonight, she was going to wear one of those lacy nightgowns he’d taken the time to pick & bought for her, the more she thought of how he personally took it upon himself to do things for her, she felt an urgent longing for him to be home…..!

XZ was anxious to be home; he’d been so busy with the producers the whole day & had missed lunch with his angel. He knew she won’t be able to sleep well unless he was beside her….. Was he fast becoming one of those guys who had a phobia about going through a day without their wives?

“SM, honey?” There was no sign of SM but he wasn’t too worried for she was probably in bed. He saw her on his side of bed; her body curled up as though seeking for his body warmth!

He felt guilty over neglecting her the whole day, he decided against waking her up & went for a shower, hoping to join her shortly…. As he stood under the shower spray, XZ’s mind was wondering how he was going to celebrate SM’s up & coming birthday….

He was so absorbed in his thoughts; he never heard the cubicle door open until he felt two soft hands wrapping themselves around his waist! SM!

She was leaning her cheek against his back & getting thoroughly soaked in her gown! “Xiang Zhe, don’t  move! I just want to hold on to you a bit longer.”

Then, he felt her stepping back & a moment later, pouring some more bath shampoo in her palms she was lathering him on his back & turning him round for the same, working her way from his waist up...… & pausing to stop short on his chest…!! Her face just leveling on the broad expanse of his chest, too shy to look at him! XZ took over from there…. He had held his breath at the unexpected but welcome intrusion into the cubicle & he wasn’t going to be greedy or pushy, not yet anyway… he still had the rest of their lives to slowly initiate this bewitching creature…

She looked like a waif with her wet hair in tendrils curling softly on her face, yet her exquisite charms revealed through the now clinging gown were a tempting vision & XZ was painfully aroused…! He found himself slipping over the edge of control & a muscle jerked in his jaw as his mouth bent to capture her luscious lips, his hands stripping her off her soaking gown!

SM returned XZ’s kiss, lost in the awareness …… of her own femininity, as she pressed herself against his virile masculinity!! All thoughts faded into oblivion as passion overwhelmed & consumed the two lovers …...!!!


Chapter 29

 

XZ stared down at the phone….. Jin had informed that he’d engaged the services of one Ms Park Hui Lin for the office renovation & asked if XZ wanted his done as well. XZ knew that a direct confrontation with Ms Park was inevitable if he wanted peace of mind. A nip in the bud was inevitable….He would need to call up Liz …..

He had been contemplating what action to take when she made her move in the professional field, had to hand it to her, she was indeed a fast worker & must have approached Jin during the ball. With her very much in the picture, he was truly relieved with the presence of the two minders for SM.

The weekend away with SM had been a relaxing break with lots of surprises. She had taken the wifely duties to heart & spoiled him. Beside that, she had also thrown her full trust & support behind him especially where Jin was concerned. XZ could never accept Jin as his step-uncle for he had never accepted the woman his father had taken as the second wife. In memory to his late mother, he was still the filial &loyal son.

The intercom buzz broke his thought. It was his secretary to remind him of an appointment. He left word that except for his wife & the two assistants, access to his office was denied to everyone else. A frown creasing his forehead at the anticipated reaction from Jin…..

Looking at his watch, he realized it was too late to speak to SM; she would be “live” on air. A smile lit up XZ’s face as he walked to his appointment.


He froze as he saw Jin & Ms PHL together just a few steps ahead. It was too late to turn away. The lady was all smiles but Jin didn’t look to be very pleased.

“Mr. Yin, at long last, I have the great pleasure of meeting you! I’m Park Hui Lin & Mr. Jin had kindly approved my services for makeover renovation to some offices here.”

This came from the lady when it appeared Jin wasn’t going to do the honor of introducing the two to each other.

“How do you do? Please excuse me, I’m running late for an appointment.” XZ strolled off with a slight nod, ignoring Jin.

Jin frowned at the intended snub & was seethe with rage, plotting to humiliate the younger man at the first opportunity available. The lady, on the other hand, was disappointed that an appointment had precipitated his early departure.

At close up, Yin Xiang Zhe was even more handsome than she remembered & she wondered how on earth a plain looking mouse like broadcaster, Ms Zhen Shan Mei could ever get close enough, let alone be married to him! From what she’d heard & seen too, he was smitten with his wife & doted on her! Well, she would have to find ways to get close to Director Yin, she just had to!


SM wrapped up the ‘on air’ session & made her way to XZ’s office, hoping to share supper with him. Although they were not conspicuous, keeping a discreet distance, she knew the two minders were near & if their continued presence relieved XZ of his tension, then she won’t mind putting up with the loss of privacy.

“Good evening, Mrs. Yin, Director Yin isn’t back yet. He did mention that you wait for him as he would be returning for you.”

“Thanks, Ms Lee, you don’t  have to stay, I’ll be all right on my own.” “Good night.”

SM shrugged off her shoes & curled up in his chair. The leather retained his masculine scent & she was missing him badly. Sigh, it truly had been a long day. She could barely keep her eyes open.

XZ quickened his pace as he thought of SM waiting for him. A call to the minder had greatly eased his mind for his calls to her had gone unanswered! His angel must have dozed off while waiting for him.

“Ms Lee thanks for staying put. You may go now. Good night.”

“Good night, Director Yin. Oh, I peeped in a while ago. Mrs. Yin is fast asleep, sir.”

“Thanks.”

XZ opened the door quietly & gazed at the spot where he’d expected SM to be resting. The sofa was empty? Where? A sound alerted him to the other side of the room & he saw his wife curled up in his chair! He almost laughed aloud for groaning sounds of hunger were coming from her! Even in slumber, she could still make him smile.

The little imp must be thoroughly exhausted for she hadn’t stirred! He placed a call to the caterer, and then bent over the sleeping figure. As he carried the precious bundle to the suite, he heard a soft murmur. “Xiang Zhe, I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Gazing into her dreamy eyes, he chuckled to answer, a mischievous glint in his, “So am I, my love, & it’s for something more delectable than a horse….!”

SM was amazed at her body’s reaction to his innocently spoken words! What might have ensued was held back by a knock, followed by a caterer with a cart laden of mouth-watering food. She was spoilt for choice!

XZ was pleased over the imp’s delight & with a warning finger sticking up, told her to finish up everything! XZ enjoyed teasing her with innuendoes throughout the evening & the imp as if sensing his impatience to be home with her, deliberately prolonged the meal!

The imp might have him wrapped round her little finger, but as things went, XZ always managed to get his way with her in the end & that was what counted!


Chapter 30

 

She stepped behind the vending machine & took her fill of the dashing figure walking past her! ...His open jacket swinging in rhythm with his long graceful strides... One hand in his pant pocket, the other gesturing as he spoke to the man beside him! He was so 'handsome' & she stood there breathless as the two men entered the lift...

She knew she was recklessly attracted to him & couldn't give a twit that he was also a very much-married man who also seemed to be very in love with his wife!...'Wife' how she hated to use that word…….!

A myriad of feelings, not the least, fury at his 'no show' at the ball, were hammering at her mind & 'by hook or by crook', she was going to win him over!


XZ had been so anxious to rush home to SM the night before, in his haste; he'd overlooked the 'message' left by his secretary. Indeed, this PHL was leaving no stones unturned....

"Director Yin, Ms PHL is here already for her appointment."

"Show her in."

A knock & before his secretary could even announce her, PHL was sailing in like a breeze as though she was completely at home!

"Mr. Yin, please don’t  blame your secretary! You'd been so busy that I persuaded her to slot this courtesy call on you in between your appointments! I'll make a 'proper' appointment the next time."

XZ had no choice but to shake the outstretched hand & a 'blank' came down over his face as she seemed to hang on for longer than was proper....

PHL saw the shutters over his eyes & felt a hidden wall erected! This man was no fool! She would have to play her moves subtly; she was not going to let him escape from her....

As XZ gestured her to a seat on the sofa, he was treated to a full view of the plunging sun-dress that she had on.... The silk molded her curves, revealing rather than concealing. She couldn't decipher what was in his eyes as he moved away.

She got up too as though to make her exit & suddenly swayed, clutching out at him! "Mr. Yin, please!" & fell.... But not before XZ had rushed over to catch her! If the lady had thought she would be in his arms, she couldn't be more wrong for he held her up only by her upper arms! Furious that her ploy didn't work, she turned her face to his & whispered, "The inhalant, it's in my bag! Quick, it's an asthma attack!"

"Don’t  worry, Ms Park, I've got you!" He reached for her bag & passed the 'inhalant' to her & heard her gasping for breath....

Returning to his desk, he buzzed his secretary, "Ms Lee, please come in! I need your assistance!" "Right sir!"

"Ms Lee, Ms Park is having an asthmatic attack, its okay now. I want you to escort her to the visitors' lounge & stay with her till Dr Kim arrives. And I want you to make sure she gets home safely, thanks."

Looking at PHL, XZ face was a mask as he slipped into his jacket, "Ms Lee here will take good care of you. I'm sorry I can't stay for I'm already running late for an important appointment." With a nod to his secretary, XZ left his office but not before he thought he'd heard a click of a door closing…..

SM was in a subdued mood when they drove home & aware that XZ kept glancing sideways at her inside the car…… She had finished her 'session' sooner & thought to join XZ for a cup of coffee. Ms Lee wasn't at her desk then.... Feeling a little drowsy, she had gone to splash some water to freshen up, a hand on the knob about to call out to XZ when that 'Ms Park' made her appearance!

...If Xiang Zhe was free, with no appointments to keep, she wondered how the 'situation' would have turned out. Would things have come about differently? SM was feeling a little upset at seeing XZ's arms 'around' another woman......


XZ knew 'something' was up for SM was not her usual bubbly self! SM slipped her hand around his & as they walked up to the apartment, XZ's gaze was gentle as it fell on his angel....

In the bedroom, SM lifted her chin & eyes misting, buried her face on his chest...., remembering Liz's words,’ always go with your heart, SM where XZ is concerned. Never let your head rule your heart for you must trust Xiang Zhe completely! The road to happiness is less bumpy when one follows the heart. Those who filter their feelings through their minds always faced more bumps on their journey!"....

When would Liz, madam nor & Mrs. Kim be coming back? The medical report had been most encouraging!

Pressing her lips over his thumping heart, she said softly, "Xiang Zhe, have I told you lately how much I love you?"

And XZ knew that she'd managed to clear the mist on whatever was troubling her.... His angel had trusted him with the most precious thing she possessed ~ herself ~ when 'giving' of herself completely on their wedding night!! Holding nothing back, allowing him to carry her away into ecstasy!!...that was trust in its purest, most beautiful form & she'd come to him full of 'innocence'!!

"Yes, you have but I will never tire of hearing the words from your lips no matter how many times you say it, darling SM!" And ……


Chapter 31

 

Coming out from his shower, XZ was surprised to see SM still up instead of in bed as he’d expected, she seemed to be struggling with her thoughts & looked up at him as he approached her.
Getting up, she tucked a hand inside the crook of his arm & said, “Xiang Zhe, if I wasn’t hanging on to your arm just now at the restaurant, you would have been pounced on & mobbed by the crowd of women there…. I’m sure they were wishing ‘you’ on their menu instead!”

SM had only been too aware of the feminine heads resting their gaze at him while they’d been dining! It didn’t surprise her for XZ was a strikingly handsome man of impressive physique & grace, a curious aura of dignity for one so young & old-world charm now seldom seem…..

He laughed, startled. “For God’s sake, imp!”

“Well, you aren’t vain, I know. But it’s true & you have to know it, don’t  you?” She looked at him, curious.

He was clearly uncomfortable with the subject & asked somewhat helplessly, “How am I supposed to answer that?” Ruffling her head that was now on his chest, her fingers doodling the characters of his name…

“Most really handsome men are so aware of their own looks, that’s just about all you remember once they’re gone….. You’re different, Xiang Zhe, with you, it’s more than a set of features that happen to be put together well…. People notice you & remember you!”

His angel seemed to be in a pensive mood…

“What brought on all this analysis, mamma ……..honey?”

“You. You certainly must have a dozen or more women throwing themselves at you, yet you chose me? Why?”

While it was true that women had been throwing themselves at him since his teens, he had always been detached about it. He never considered himself as an unfeeling person & acknowledged that he’d never felt the depth & power that loving SM made him capable of! ….Tonight, he could only show how much her existence & entrée in his life meant…..

As she pulled slightly away to look up at him, the flickering dim lights seemed to play over her exquisite curves, making her seem ethereal, almost like an illusion…! XZ felt his breath caught in his throat…!

SM held her breath for his beautiful eyes were luminous, intent on her face & body…! Her nerves tingling, SM felt herself being eased back onto the bed, his gentle hands disrobing her tenderly, as though time had stood still….

Her breathing quickened, as she lay naked to his eyes & on its own volition, her body strained against his caressing hands! XZ held back on his own raging fires & began to stroke her intimately with his gentle hands, teasing with light caresses. And when he lowered to nibble around her firm mounds, keeping clear of the rigid buds, he heard her groaning whimpers….

His lips blazing a trail down her smooth silken curves then back to her sensitive breasts… the light feathering touch on her sensitive skin engulfing her…. When it seemed she was going to explode, he took the tormented bud, one at a time as though she were covered in sweet honey, tugging gently at the bud of her aching flesh until she pleaded for him to stop….

“Xiang Zhe, please make it stop…” & taking her beautiful face, radiant with passion, XZ took his angel to scale the peak of ‘heaven.’


“Thank you, SM.”

“For what, Xiang Zhe?”

“For coming into my life. For this life & the hereafter too, if there’s any way to arrange it, my love…..”“

”Xiang Zhe, me too! Because I’m sure you’ll need someone to keep you out of ‘woman’ trouble, even in heaven!”

“Minx!” & drew her close before sleep claimed them....


Chapter 32

 

“Xiang Zhe, what do you think of this?” Holding up a hideous stuffed alligator with a ticking clock in its tummy. I was thinking err maybe on your desk at the office? No? Then how about sending it anonymously to Mr. Jin?””

XZ, looking properly horrified, grimaced causing SM to suppress a grin. XZ was thinking of Jin’s nemesis! It was the weekend & SM had dragged him the flea market…

Then something else caught her eye, an elderly man, fanning himself, with cut flowers in water-filled pails –
“You will buy these for me, won’t you?” He dug into his pocket to pay the man & wondered how adept she was at flower arrangement….?

“The poor man probably needs the money & I seriously doubt if he’ll sell half of those blooms today; they might have died without anyone ever enjoying them!”

His gaze was tender as it rested on her, & then he stooped down to exchange words with the senior & SM saw cash changing hands & caught the elderly man’s grateful expression. She raised a brow at him but XZ just smiled & pushed her on.

Strolling further, they saw a boisterous crowd, a sort of demonstration in the midst of it! Placards with bold signs, …”GIVE US BACK OUR HOMES OR GIVE US DEATH” & still another that read, “YOU CAN’T RUN ME OUT, YOU’LL HAVE TO MOVE ME OUT”

A police cordon’t was coming into place & then they both spotted an MBS TV crew trying to fight its way through the traffic of human shield. XZ directed his glance to the two minders close by, nodding his head to signal things were all right.

“Xiang Zhe, I don’t  understand how people can simply tear down & dismantle somebody’s home! Many of these elderly tenants have probably lived their whole lives in the only home they know & want to live out the rest of their remaining days in familiar surrounding….” XZ didn’t answer her & appeared to be lost in his own thoughts….

Checking out with a few of those standing nearby, they’d learnt that the protests were over an old building that had been bought over by a consortium with the intention of pulling it down to build a condominium…. To his experienced eye, the old building did seem to be in a deplorable state, actually unsafe for dwelling if the sad lack of maintenance was anything to go by…..

“Xiang Zhe, I want in on this. Maybe I can get father to help out too….”


In the next couple of weeks, XZ’s office seemed to be a hive of activity, with comings & goings of strangers whom she’d never met before, seemingly to be collaborating on something with an air of urgency about them! XZ was busy with phone calls here & there & usually calling it a ‘day’ when it looked likes ‘dawn’ already…


Alighting from the car, SM turned to ask, “Xiang Zhe, I know you’d been very busy lately & I did think about not bringing it up actually…, this Saturday will be my birthday. Do you think you’ll be able to quit early so we can celebrate together with a simple dinner?"

“Really, honey? I’m so glad you reminded me – do you still remember that night a year ago when you tied to date me?”

Closing the distance, XZ held her hand in a grizzly bear grip, same as he’d done. Giving him a reproaching look, she smiled as she remembered the consternation she’d felt, aghast as she hadn’t let on to her father that she was dating!

Grabbing hold of her hand as he approached to introduce himself to her father…. & her attempts to loosen his clam-tight grip had been all in vain! “You were absolutely too much! Couldn’t you have spared a thought for poor father’s feelings…?”

She went on to relate how her father had asked whether XZ was the person who’d bought her the suit & when informed that they’d met in London, had put two & two together & bluffed about his intention to teach XZ a lesson for knocking down his ‘precious’ …..!

XZ laughed as he recalled her futile attempts to break away, knowing his angel had been unprepared for his impromptu action! And was even more amused to be acquainted a year on with what had transpired then, playfully tweaking her nose…

After the call from a member of the newscast crew, SM was elated & called XZ! Xiang Zhe, I’m so happy today! Someone’s bought over the building & the tenants have been told they’ll be allowed to stay there. And what’s more! The new owner is willing to restore the building at his own expense! He has requested for anonymity….! But I’ll like to find out who the benefactor is & give him a big hug!”

“Oh SM, you can’t be serious about that hug? I’ll be jealous! And do you mean to tell me that my flowers & serving you the breakfast in bed this morning could not compare?”

Laughing at his dejection but knowing he was only teasing, she replied. ‘Flowers from the old man’s garden, delivered without fail since that weekend? You always have the touch of doing nice things for folks without letting it on but I know, Xiang Zhe & I want to thank you!”


“Where are we going?”

“Why, honey, have you forgotten the way back to your old home?”

“Xiang Zhe, you mean …. Oh, you’re simply the best! I only wish father & Aunty ZS were home & won’t it be great to introduce them to the ‘three musketeers’ as well?”

“SM, how could you be so disrespectful to your absentee seniors? I’m shocked & to think ‘one matures’ with ‘age’?” Throwing her a disparaging look & the imp had the grace to look apologetic & gave a salute to match!

The house was in darkness but the solar lamps in the garden lit their way to the door. “SM, let’s just leave the lights alone… I want you to be my guiding light. Humor me, honey?”

“Okay, Xiang Zhe, I know every inch of this house even if I’m blind-folded!” Confidently, she led her love to the living room….

Suddenly the room was bathed in brilliance as lights were switched on & “surprise, surprise!” were heard as SM saw her father, Aunty ZS, Liz, madam nor & the matronly Mrs. Kim with the ‘birthday cake’…!! How, she was speechless!

SM was overwhelmed as one after another embraced her in a warm bear hug & her face felt numb! As though using her face for target, her nose was playfully tweaked, her cheeks pinched & kisses & pecks were making its round….she was wondering if her ribs were in one whole piece!

It was a time to ‘catch up’ & one could feel the whole house warm & alive with friendship & love…! It was also a night for special announcements… GS & Aunty ZS had announced their intention to get hitched & also his impending retirement…! Liz’s feedback from the team of specialists was that surgery could proceed without any foreseeable complications & she planned to return to the States in a month’s time.


Liz & her two companions had left, declining to stay in the spare room, not wanting to intrude on the two couples. As time passed, XZ bade SM to go upstairs first, as he wanted a word with her father…..

Holding a shirt of his taken from her closet, she turned up the pillow & smiled as she saw that XZ, with his usual forethought, had placed one beneath the pillow …& then a thick envelope marked ‘XYZ Project” with her ‘name’ caught her eye….

Opening it, she couldn’t stop the tears from spilling! Deeds of conveyance ~ naming her as the new owner of that building & ‘blue prints’ of a new building with ‘added safety features’ for the physically disabled & elderly for her approval!!!

And a card: “Happy Birthday, my beloved SM! This is only the second birthday of many, many ones to come & I’ll always be there beside you …~ ‘Y’ ~ …….”

“Oh Xiang Zhe…!” Her finger gently caressed the anklet as she remembered vividly the sweet touching moments of that previous occasion…. She could never have imagined Xiang Zhe crouching down to put it on her, ignoring the presence & curious looks of the other diners…! Although she’d been embarrassed by his action, that had drawn a degree of curiosity & envy, she had felt very ‘special’ & been deeply touched! Allowing her memory to play on, her mind drifted downstairs to where the two men she loved most were together…!!


Chapter 33

 

As XZ sat on the bed, SM immediately perched herself onto his lap, her hands wound around his nape...

"Xiang Zhe, thank you for the 'meaningful' birthday gift! Those elderly tenants…”

Caught in a feeling of 'deejay vu' XZ recalled back to a year ago. The 'happiness' in her voice as she'd called to tell him that an anonymous benefactor had covered up the costs towards a needy operation. It had been for the younger brother to a listener who'd written in to her 'radio' program to appeal for financial assistance....

There had been a birthday present he'd originally readied for her but 'that' seemed so unworthy compared to what this small gesture would do, knowing his angel's compassionate nature! However, for now, there was no need to let SM know that the 'acquisition' had come with 'a condition attached’….

"Honey, I don’t  deserve the 'gratitude.' More than anyone else, it is you whom they should thank &... Liz!'"
"I don’t  understand, Xiang Zhe?"

"Well, it's a long story but the gist of it is that...before Liz left here for the States, she'd arranged to put her affairs in order & got her lawyers to set everything in motion”… XZ thought back to the handwritten letter from Liz that the lawyer had passed to him... Among the other issues, she'd told him that provision for Mrs. Kim's future had been amply seen to, no need to worry his head in that direction....

"Liz is a very shrewd businesswoman & has accrued a vast fortune besides owning properties abroad. Her lawyers had been instructed to dispose off all her landed properties & the proceeds to come to me. She knew I would refuse to accept it & so she'd made it such that I shall have no objections ...the money was to be used at my discretion.... to put back into properties...when the need arises..."

SM suddenly understood! It couldn't be such a coincidence that 'miracles' just suddenly happened when she was around! Her Xiang Zhe must have been that 'benefactor' too who'd contributed to an appeal from one of her frequent listeners! ... There would be time to thank him for that wonderful 'gesture.'

XZ would not need any concrete for himself but he could help the less fortunate! A home or perhaps a shelter for the abused, delinquents, homeless & orphans!

"The vast fortune from her stocks & bonds is for when I need it to stake out my independence from MBS if it ever comes to that. Bless her, she knew all about the conflicts I have with Jin & if she could, she would have come out 'guns smoking' & don’t on 'boxing gloves' to take him on...!" XZ laughed as he recalled Liz's passionate outbursts when the topic had come up & she hadn't even met Jin at all!

"Don’t  worry, honey... Liz still has many good years to come! The "XYZ" comes from our initials & you both as my right hand & left hand.... It seemed the most appropriate name back then to give to the project...!"

"Xiang Zhe! The first time I saw Liz, I thought she bore a strong resemblance to Bette Midler! ...She saw XZ smiling back in total agreement! Liz family name was "Xu."
"Got it, Xiang Zhe, how apt....! But how are we going to thank Liz?"

"By.... Making her a grandmother?"

To say SM was rendered speechless by his reply was an understatement; her big expressive round eyes just stared back at him! She felt a warm surge of emotions racing through her mind... Did it mean that the wounds of his childhood were healing & XZ had finally overcome his reservations about raising a family! Her feet were tingling as her heart bubbled with happiness!

She couldn't wait to seek out Liz & the two wise ladies....mamma, if that Jin didn't stay on the leash; he would have to contend with not only 'the three musketeers'...but also more likely, the three witches in Shakespeare Macbeth!

And because it seemed like ages before she replied, his long fingers lingeringly caressed her temple & down her cheek as though to imbed the thought into her head....

"SM, would it distress you that a pregnancy may disrupt your life?"

"Xiang Zhe, does that mean you'll be willing to put up with sleepless nights, waking up for bottle feeds & changing nappy... not to mention having a wife who may not have time to devote herself entirely to you?"

"Yes & no, honey.... I would do that for you & our baby...however, for the last bit? I would make sure that motherhood will in no way compromise your career or tire you. You will always have the freedom to be your 'own' woman..... I will see to your needs, whatever they may be…”

"Mamma, a dozen you did say? I could perhaps get a start with a pair of twins first, do you think that likely, seeing as we are an only child...."

She sounded serious but the twinkle in her beautiful eyes told him differently! He cuddled her tightly & whispered softly to her ear, "You, madam wife, are a minx through & through!"

SM reached out to hold his face & she pressed her lips lightly against his, the tenderness saying more than words ever could.... And as always when he took her in his arms, she felt safe & very loved....

All the folks she loved so well & whom she knew to return her love, under the same one roof! Maybe, XZ could persuade Liz to move somewhere close by... Tomorrow was another day..... Tonight was different!! It belonged to her Xiang Zhe & her!


Chapter 34

 

It had been 'touch & go' at the 'negotiation' for the consortium was looking into the 'economics' side to build a condominium when the shabby run-down building was torn down. Coming in at the later stage, the senior Mr. Park had convinced his people that XZ's offer was too good to 'pass over' & moreover, Mr. Yin Xiang Zhe had laid his cards on the table with an assurance that he wasn't planning a steal on them to build a condominium…….

In the end, both sides had shaken hands & closed the deal, albeit with a personal request put forward by Mr. Park. He'd asked that his daughter, a qualified Interior Designer in her own right, be somehow involved for whatever plans XZ might have, concerning the acquisition. To XZ it was more a 'string attached' for the old man knew XZ was not one to bow out of an 'obligation' whether it was voiced out or not.

After much deliberation & placing SM as his priority, he had reluctantly acceded to the request & added that he would brook no outside interference on how he ran his business but he would consider it. It was a small concession & anyhow, he would have SM's father to back him up on the project.... Nonetheless, XZ hoped Ms PHL would realize that her sudden intrusion into his life & any intentions she harbored for him would be futile.

She had made an appointment through his assistant to see XZ & had turned up on time. PHL was picture perfect in her dress as well as in her presentation across the board, her professionalism above reproach.... She'd begun by saying she hoped to work on the MBS building first as had been agreed to with Mr. Jin & made no mention of the other topic...

Yet, XZ wasn't too sure what 'made her tick' underneath & chose to make his move first... Excusing himself, knowing she was within earshot, he put out a call to SM. "Honey, I need you. Can you come over to my office right now? Yes, right away. I'm all right, don’t  worry!"

"Ms Park, I'm sorry for the interruption but my wife will be here shortly. I want her ideas to be used regarding the color themes for the staff room. No matter what, she'll have the final say; I hope you understand my point.”

A soft knock on the door, followed by a breathless SM. "Xiang Zhe, is everything all right? I rush here as quickly as I could! O...h, excuse me, I didn't know you have an appointment!"

"It's okay, honey. I called you over so you can give Ms Park your ideas for the renovation. Honey, this is Ms Park Hui Lin, Mr. Jin engaged her for the renovation."

With one hand placed casually on SM's back, a tender smile lighting up his face, XZ made the introduction. SM's thoughts were racing as she tried to place where she seen the lady before...

"Ms Park, this is my wife, SM. I hope you'll take her ideas into consideration?"

"Of course. Delighted to meet you, Ms SM." PHL couldn't believe that this small slip of a girl could hold XZ's attention! But as she continued to watch Director Yin's face, his unreadable expression changed! One could see & tell how captivated he was with his wife! His voice had been civilized to the point of being curt when speaking to her but carried such feeling of warmth & full of 'life' when he spoke to the wife; PHL felt jealousy eating into her...!!

"Ms Park, are you all right? If you'll excuse us for a while, I'll like a few moments alone with my wife."

"Of course." She answered graciously as XZ showed her to the door.

Out of sight, SM raised an eyebrow. She was puzzled by XZ's endearment when addressing her in front of PHL but went along for she knew XZ must have a good reason for his behavior. So, this was the mysterious stalker. Was PHL trying to seduce XZ? Suddenly, SM remembered where she'd seen her! Wasn't she the one who had an asthma attack in Xiang Zhe office! She'd been upset then to see XZ's arms around another woman...! She felt insecure but quickly banished the fear for XZ had never given her a reason to be...

"SM, I'm putting you in charge of the situation. Can you handle her?" She nodded her head for she understood what XZ was doing. She gazed into XZ's eyes & caught a glint of steel. Instinctively, she hugged her arms around him for comfort & was reassured when she felt his arms squeezing her lightly

“SM, ready?"

"Xiang Zhe I am still your 'honey' aren't I not?" her round eyes challenging him!

He tweaked her nose & winked, wondering if she could ever begin to know she was more than just 'honey' to him? He wanted her to stand up to the likes of PHL because only then could she not be susceptible & sensitive to gossip that daily cropped up involving him. And he was a bit worried as to how she would take it for in the future programs line-up; he would be meeting with a group of starlets who had shown interest in joining MBS....

"You imp!" XZ smiled & touched her lips in a tender kiss. In a wistful voice, she asked him,

"Xiang Zhe, do you find her attractive?”

“Do you really want to know? I'd only been tempted 'once' & she was everything I could wish for but thought an illusion, never expecting to hold!" SM felt a tug on her heart when she saw the haunting look on his face. Who was that 'illusion' & how come he'd never mentioned it to her before?

She swallowed her breath & whispered her question, "What happened? Did she marry someone else?"

XZ recalled the period of agony while he anxiously waited for the only woman who had ever touched his heart to come to him. Thank God, his patience finally paid off!

"No." The green monster raced through her mind & she berated herself for being curious. Wasn't it true that 'curiosity kills the cat"?

As her palms began to sweat, she felt XZ's body shaking. Oh God, she was torn between hitting out at him & wanting to 'take away' his hurt & then she saw him laughing instead! Had he gone mad? Then she was lifted off her feet!

"To this day, I'm not sure it's heaven or hell especially when she gives me a run for the money... I married her, Imp!"

"Xiang Zhe! You mean I'm the ‘‘vision’? Why? You ... you!" XZ was secretly pleased at SM's reaction & warding off her blows, he captured her lips in a passionate kiss. And that was when growing impatient, PHL chose to walk in on the loving couple …….

She had caught a glimpse of how truly charming SM was! Also during the brief time she spent with the couple, she had seen first hand how enthralled & protective Director Yin was with his wife. A sudden realization drew on PHL that she'd lost a battle ... before it even begun. She would have to put aside her plans for Director Yin, for now anyway if she wanted to win the war.... She just had to be close to him whichever way ……& she'd got plenty of time, he wasn't going anywhere, was he?


Chapter 35

 

Mrs. Kim was at the door to greet them, a smile big enough to warm their hearts! “Oh Mr. Yin, I’m afraid Ms Liz has gone out with madam nor. If you & Ms SM would just go to the lounge, I’ll give her a call.” Not aware that XZ & SM would be coming, Liz accompanied by madam nor had gone shopping….

“It’s all right, Mrs. Kim, we’ll just wait for her. Are we in your way? Anything we can help you with?”

“As a matter of fact, yes. I’d just baked a chocolate cake topped with mousse. Its Ms Liz’s favorite! Wait here.”

XZ & SM followed close on her heels to the kitchen….

As she laid the slices of cake on to a serving saucer, she looked up to XZ, a gleam of moist in her eyes & said, “Mr. Yin, I’ve never seen Ms Liz as happy as she is now! You breathe ‘life’ into her…. Why, she surprised even her personal physician! Ms Liz’s always been too stubborn for her own good.”

Mrs Kim spoke of Liz as one with authority on her subject & the couple could see the affection that showed in her expression.

“Won’t heed advice to go for surgery when she should... And for her frail condition to so suddenly improve even beyond the specialists’ expectation! They were shaking their heads & calling it one of life’s unexplained mysteries & nothing short of a miracle as the prognosis had been quite bleak…. She’s pushing 60 but won’t admit it, even to herself. Still acting like she was in her 20s still! You are the ‘cure’ for her; not much use the prescription that the specialists gave…”

SM was moved by Mrs. Kim’s words to XZ & saw him reaching out a hand to the lady, a grateful smile on his face. … Unable to stop the flow of emotion that was welling up in her eyes, SM reached out too to Mrs. Kim & hugged her, drawing her beloved Xiang Zhe to the circle as well….

As she spread the drinks & cake, Mrs. Kim turned to speak to the young couple. “Ms Liz wasn’t born with a ‘silver spoon’ in her mouth. She might have confided in you, Mr. Yin…? She’d never married but I’d seen her taking out an album once in a while & slept with it in her arms, as though she was looking for her lost love & clinging to her memory……”

Mrs. Kim paused, lost in her own memory…. XZ squeezed SM’s hand, knowing his cry baby angel was going to start again… He felt helpless & wished he could shed tears too to seek relief from this pain that was eating into his heart….

“Ms Liz saved me from the street…. I was married young. A marriage arranged by my parents to an abusive, alcoholic who was old enough to be my father… in the 5 years of our marriage, the only time I felt safe was when he’d drunk himself to a stupor….. He’d never put in a day’s work & forced me to turn over my hard-earned money so he could go out & drink some more.”

She tried to control her emotion as she continued, “I must have done something ‘good’ for on that fateful day, while dragging me to work in a bar to pay off his drinking debts, and he was fatally knocked down by a car…. It wasn’t the driver’s fault…as we were both struggling in the middle of a busy freeway… Yes, that’s right. Ms Liz was in that car being chauffeured to her villa…”

Seeing the poor lady’s sad face, SM said. “Mrs. Kim, you don’t  have to go on … we both understand…& that’s how’s long you’ve been with her?” XZ was very proud of his angel….

Talking softly as though to herself, Mrs. Kim continued. “She took care of everything back then. Over 30 years… I’ve been with her…& never once an unkind ‘word’…. She’d even bought me a cottage & gave me a generous settlement….wanted me to start a ‘new’ life but I told her that maybe our two lives are entwined in karma & she knows, ‘God bless her’, that the only way I’m ever going to leave her is … when I breathed my last…”

Turning to XZ, Mrs. Kim patted one hand over his & squeezed back, “I know Ms Liz saw in you as the son she would never have. I’d seen how her face lights up when she mentions you & after meeting Ms SM, she was always rattling on like you were her own ‘flesh & blood.’ It would also make me happy if you’ll call me ‘Sa-rang’ from now on instead of Mrs. Kim... Time to let go of a name I kept for appearance’s sake.”

SM was allowing herself the luxury to sob her heart out. Touched in part by her narration & more, because of how ‘Sa-rang’ had repaid that ‘act of kindnesses from a stranger by devoting her whole life to her ‘good Samaritan’….

XZ was deeply touched too. Liz gave unconditionally to everyone around her, without asking for anything in return. And the ‘only’ time she’d asked ~ from him ~ he’d rejected her. Thank God that ‘Sa-rang’ had, in her love for Liz, told him of Liz’s heart condition back then…. Taking in a deep breath, he tried quite ineffectively to hold back a tear that was threatening to drop… He had to believe in ‘miracles’ & trust in the ‘Great One’ up there…


Slipping one hand in the crook of XZ’s & with the other around SM’s waist as the three of them sat on the sofa; Liz looked at XZ & in a most disapproving tone said, “Gorgeous! Did it cross your mind to call me on your mobile? You know how much I look forward to spending time with you!”

SM laughed at Liz’s words… her voice might have sounded mournful but her eyes were twinkling & releasing his arm, she was even ‘thumbing up’ her nose at him! No wonder Xiang Zhe had said Liz & she were his ‘right hand’ & ‘left hand!’ Poor Xiang Zhe with two overgrown kids clamoring for his undivided attention…!

In the short week they’d been back, both XZ & SM had literally spent their free time at Liz’s apartment…. SM’s father & Aunty ZS were away at GS’s work site to tidy up the loose ends for when he would be back permanently…..

“Come, madam nor, sit beside ‘Gorgeous’ there & tell him about your day? SM my love, I need you here where I can see you. You’re too far away & don’t  worry ~ madam nor’s got her hands full! Her husband has been bombarding us with endless calls to get her home, pronto! In his exact words, if she’d not back by the next available flight, then he’s contacting INTERPOL…!”

As though she’d just remembered her husband, madam nor quickly jumped up to announce she’d better start packing her bags! Throwing Liz one of her ‘devil-may-care’ looks, for her ‘other half’ was just as likely to carry out that threat too…!


“Good night, sweetheart. Gorgeous…..? You did well on the “XYZ” project! Need I say again that I’m with you all the way? …Always….. I’m glad that GS will help you out there. He’s a good man & so are you, my boy… ” XZ had sought her blessings on the project…

On tiptoe, she pecked lightly on XZ’s cheek & hugged him, then turn to press her lips on SM’s forehead, tucking an arm around hers while she saw them to the car…madam nor & Sa-rang as well….


Chapter 36

 

He saw SM instantly as he entered the dressing room & groaned! “Not again, honey! I don’t  want everyone at the ball to be mentally peeling that black number off you! Go change!”

With eyes pointing ‘daggers’ at him & in a rebellious undertone, she replied, “No. You did pick it out from the carousel & you wanted a ‘knockout’…...”

“I must be careful with my choice of words ~ I overdid it!” XZ was pouting, working himself to a tantrum if she’d ever seen one! He was showing his jealousy & SM liked it very much!

“Shall we go, Xiang Zhe?” She asked nonchalantly, collecting the matching sequin clutch, an air of poise about her….

“I’m not so sure about this, honey…. Oh, all right. But if I have to stop & speak to someone, you stop ~ no talking to any swain. Don’t  wander off by yourself & don’t  flash your charming smile. Act aloof.”

“For Pete’s sake, Xiang Zhe! Why don’t  you just handcuff me to you or better yet, just call them to say you couldn’t make it?”

“Don’t  tempt me, lady! …….I swears to heaven that dress did not look like that on the hanger…” His gaze possessively skimmed over her. The black evening dress with a million glittering sequins simmered as she moved graciously across the room! One creamy shoulder bare while the other barely held up by a spaghetti thin strap stringed with sequins.

“I’m not built like a hanger, in case you haven’t noticed?”

“Oh. Indeed madam, I have! And that’s why I don’t  like it. Not one bit!”

She looked sensational. Stunning. And that’s how she was going to appear to others….! XZ was in a lousy mood & to think it had been his own choice. It seemed his innocent wife could be very obstinate as well, trying to assert her independence! Wasn’t that what he’d wanted to happen & been instilling in her?

‘Hold the thought, XZ.’ Muttering under his breath as he watched fascinated at the exaggerated swing to her steps as the minx strut her stuff out, wriggling her derriere for a good measure! SM on the other hand was delighted with XZ’s reaction….!


They were attending the inaugural party for one of the city’s youngest senators & it was also a charity ball as well…

All eyes were riveted on the ‘handsome’ couple as they made their grand entrance to the ballroom of the grand hotel. The men appreciatively on the ‘shining beauty’ & the women, those who could take their gaze away for even a second from the ‘drop dead gorgeous’ ~ with envy as their eyes rested on SM in her simple but stunning outfit!

SM was nervous & clung to XZ & as her hiccups started, he squeezed & held tightly on the small hand….

XD & YX were but a few steps ahead & came to a halt, looking back over their shoulders when they caught the curious stares amidst the admiring looks thrown seemingly at something behind them….

“SM, this is stunning! Another of XZ’s great taste?” YX said admiringly, grinning as she saw the dark look on XZ’s face! So, the man was not very happy ~

“Don’t  remind me, YX if you still want to be gainfully employed. XD, couldn’t you tell your wife to mind her own business?” Throwing a frown at his friend & mentor… The couple laughed as they took in the scene & the departure from the normally cool ‘Director Yin’….

As they approached the table ‘reserved’ under ‘MBS’, they saw the rest of the MBS seniors. Senior QZ with his fiancée, senior QX & the affable ZD jumping to her feet as she spied SM beside the Prince Charming…

“SM! You look like a ‘princess’ …...” Grasping at her as SM tore herself free from XZ’s grip.

“ZD am I glad to see you! Is everybody here already? I’ve been so nervous, feeling out of place!”

ZD & her soon-to-be husband, CS had always been a great morale support to SM & XZ was amused at the ‘childish’ greeting between the two close friends, as obviously were the rest of the room too!!

Conscious of her social standing, SM suddenly felt ‘upset’ at her spontaneous action…& the hiccups were back with a vengeance… For all her bravado, she felt like a social outcast, uncomfortable in the setting of these social functions & charity ball. She’d had always felt ‘out of her league’ among the wealthy socialite, knowing how people were quick to judge on their impression of her as wife to one of society’s heirs!

Then she felt her hand clasped & forced a smile to her face as she looked up to her husband… To her amazement & confusion, XZ winked at her & ignoring the curious audience, raised her hand to his lips & kissed her fingers…..!

She felt warmed by his public display of affection & a becoming blush lit up her sweet face! Slipping an arm around her waist, XZ guided her to the table & held out the chair for her…

ZD tried to catch SM’s eye & when they met in contact, SM almost laughed out loud for ZD was making ‘eyes’ at her, the false eye-lashes like a pair of butterflies fluttering non-stop! That put her back in good humor & looking at the familiar faces around the table; she saw every one ‘winking’ back too! To the roomful of guests, it appeared they were all sharing a’ private joke’….!

XZ purposely seated SM next to ZD so that she could ‘catch up’ with her ally. What with things coming up one after the other, SM had not met her friend over lunch for a while… & besides, XZ didn’t want SM to feel ‘bored’ or ‘uncomfortable.’

As he saw the heads still turning to rest on their table, he felt a surge of pride swelling inside him. His angel was slowly ‘coming’ out …… to become her own woman! And as he opened a bottle of champagne, XZ stood up to propose a ‘toast’ to ‘friendships’ & ‘matches made in heaven’…!

Settling back in his chair, he allowed his gaze to move round the room & saw Mr. & Mrs. Park at their table, with Ms PHL craning her neck in his direction. Then the other MBS tables where Mr. Jin was commandeering with his cronies... If ‘mischief’ was coming from these two quarters, he wished Liz had been able to come; he could leave it to Liz to handle ‘trouble’ with finesse…. SM’s merry laugh reached his ears & returning to look at his captivating imp, he vowed that nothing would ‘spoil this night’ for her.…


Chapter 37

 

It seemed the ballroom was packed with the crème of society…! Upon the arrival of the ‘Guest of honor, the formalities on protocol & all observed & dispensed with, the glittering gala evening commenced on an air of gaiety & informality …

Despite his attempts to ‘elude’ unwanted publicity, both the press & guests alike were taking a ‘proprietary interest’ in XZ & the stunning beauty whom he kept close to his side..! The ‘highlight’ of the evening seemingly focusing on the ‘attention’ & ‘open’ display of affection that Mr. Yin was paying to his ‘charming’ wife; their presence seemingly upstaging the main cause for the evening …!

PHL’s thoughts were racing as to how she could ‘invite’ herself over when she eyed the still two empty seats …. & was extremely annoyed to see the late comers joining in! She remembered them as producers for one of the radio programs.

As the evening progressed with lively music provided by a band, many of the guests were on the dance floor…. XZ saw that SM had been picking at the food he’d piled on her plate & his angel was eating sparingly… was something wrong with her?

Bending his head slightly to whisper in her ear, “Honey, are you all right? You’re not eating much… any appetite?”

“I’m okay, Xiang Zhe, just an attack of ‘nerves’ I guess.” Looking gratefully up to XZ.

An urgent need to comfort her overcame him & squeezing her hand, he led her to the floor. It was a slow number & XZ gathered her close, both arms around her waist; not moving much… SM was feeling a bit tired & ignoring the indulgent smiles on the other dancers, leant her head on his shoulder, content to just sway with him to the rhythm of the music that was seducing her senses….


“Mr. Yin, may I cut in?” XZ felt a touch on his back & recognized the voice as PHL’s… she was smiling up at him expectantly, her young partner standing beside her… helpless at being caught in a ‘situation’ by the ‘cold’ look on XZ’s face .…

Pressing SM to his side, an arm slipping behind her small back, XZ turned round to handle the unwelcome intrusion, “Ms PHL, I’m sorry but this evening is entirely devoted to my lovely wife. You kids, enjoy yourselves.” The last parting shot directed to the ‘uncomfortable’ young partner as he led SM back to their table.

PHL was livid at the open ‘snub’ & strove to cap a ‘lid on anger’ that was threatening to explode! She had been so close…! Just that light touch on his shoulder had sent the blood pounding in her with excitement..! How could he not be attracted to her…? She was genuinely incredulous at his reaction! Lusting hungrily at his retreating back, she knew the indomitable XZ was a worthy challenge & she wasn’t going to give up so easily Not wanting to create a scene & making herself an item for ‘gossip’, she willed a ‘smile’ to her face & nodded towards her partner as they continued to dance…

“Honey, we can make a move now if you want? We don’t  need to stay.”“Xiang Zhe, I’m sorry if your evening has been spoilt. I just suddenly felt ‘drained’ of energy. I’ll be all right & I’m enjoying watching the ‘seniors’ doing their bit on the dance floor!”

“Do you want to just sit out or shall we go back to the floor?”

Why? And why are you looking at me like that?” SM felt her face flushing heatedly at the intense way XZ was looking at her!

He brushed his fingers on her burning cheek lightly. “I guess I worry that you’ll bore…”

She was looking so ‘appealingly’ beautiful, the ‘sweetness & sensuality’ most apparent & he’d been controlling his desire, even before they’d left the apartment…

Xiang Zhe what I’ll like right now is to be alone with you…” her face illuminated with her burning desire ‘to be’ with him as she shyly blurted out her thought,” but I want to ‘powder’ my nose first…”

XZ smiled tenderly at his angel & tweaked her ‘nose’, pretending to ‘search’ intensely for any soot that might have settled there to require a trip to the ‘ladies’… he giggled at his teasing look & raised her protests at what people might ‘think’ as he got up to his feet….

Honey, if the men here have an ‘irresistible’ beauty like you for their date this evening, I’m sure they won’t want to let her ‘out of sight’ even for a second. I’m sure the ladies will be envious of the devotion I’d shown.”…. And true to his word, he not only accompanied her to the ‘ladies’ but … waited outside as though it was the most natural thing to do for a husband to do….


“SM, come.” And unquestionably, SM allowed herself to be led …. She was stunned at the ‘radiance’ in the mirror reflection that had stared back at her when she was at the ‘ladies’… & she’d felt her passion heightened when XZ held her gaze!

She was blind & blur to her surrounding,… snatches of conversation between XZ & someone else, a wave of a hand as though to turn down ‘assistance’ …. & she was in a daze when she found herself with XZ in an empty elevator… The second the elevator door swung close, SM was pulled into his arms, and her luscious lips nipped in a passionate kiss! … Vaguely aware of how they were checked into an opulent suite!

No matter how caught up he was in his desire & passion for SM, XZ was always conscious of the ‘pure innocence’ in his angel & never took her roughly…. He sought for the opening to her gown & took his time to slowly divest it off her, holding her gaze all the time …Her strapless bra lifting up her perfectly formed breasts, offering themselves to his hungry eyes…

SM was moaning as she waited for his caressing touches… XZ was enthralled at her pliant response! She was sensuous & bewitching! Removing the last barrier of her bra & lacy panties, XZ pressed down on the tempting womanly body…. Cupping her firm mounds & lowering his mouth to nip & pull gently at the now dusky buds that were boldly inviting him…. His jaw clenched with the effort required of him to allow her to keep the pace… The pain of his restrain, all the more exquisite as she responded passionately & surrendered herself wholly to him…!

“Xiang Zhe, whatever wills the seniors thinks when they find us gone?”

“Nothing, honey. Anyone could see that I’m not letting ‘you’ out of my sight.” He kissed her again ~ taking his long sweet time as tenderness overcame him once more…..

Pressing his lips lightly over her closed eyes, he gathered her to sleep… he intended to make a call on Dr. Kim…. He had his suspicions…


Chapter 38

 

SM couldn’t sleep & was tossing… why was XZ calling up Dr. Kim? And judging from the reply on the other end, he looked disappointed? Was he all right? She knew he would tell her if he had wanted her to know, so there was no point asking him... She would call up the clinic tomorrow...

Gently disengaging herself from XZ’s arms, careful not to wake him up, she moved to his study & curled up on the sofa, fearing that her tossing would have woken him up… And she began to cry soundlessly…

XZ raised his head from the pillow, his angel was taking a long time… he’d known the second she left his side but had thought she was going to the bathroom… worried, he went to look for her…the poor imp had been feeling queasy now & then ever since… that gala ball over a week ago..!

He’d called for Dr Kim to make an appointment and had been told by his nurse that the doctor was attending a conference in Geneva & expected back in the country in a week’s time…

Hearing a ‘sniffing’ sound coming from the study, he quickened his steps, perplexed that there was no ‘light’ on! As he opened the door, a finger on the switch, he heard her soft voice. “Xiang Zhe, please don’t  switch on the light.”

In two big strides, he had SM gathered in his arms… cradling & rocking her gently…. “Honey? I’m here for you. Now, tell me, what’s bothering you? Are you sick or something?”

Nestling her head against his solid chest, SM felt ‘safe’. Pulling slightly away, she wiped her own tears & stared into XZ’s face… she could not imagine life without him!

“Xiang Zhe…?”

“Yes, honey?”

“Is everything all right with you? I mean, I heard you making a call to Dr Kim’s clinic…that night & you looked disappointed when you hang up.” XZ saw the worried look in her gaze & understood….! And almost laughed out but controlled him….

He put her aside to switch on the light, and then returned to take her back into his arms. So, the imp had overheard his call, had she? And then jumped to the ‘wrong’ conclusion about his need to see Dr Kim….?

“SM. Trust me, everything is all right although I can’t tell if, along 8 months more or less from now, that I can still stand on my feet?”

Tears immediately swell in her eyes & XZ felt ‘guilty’ after seeing her lips puckering up …! He shouldn’t have teased her…. Wasn’t it usually the little ‘woman’ who informed the ‘dense’ husband that the stork had dropped by with its calling card….? In his case, it seemed his little woman had been remiss & inattentive to her own body rhythm...

“Oh, SM... I didn’t mean it the way it came out! It’s just that, honey, didn’t you notice that you are ‘late’?”

He’d known that she was a little late this time & she seemed to have developed a healthy appetite for certain fruits, unusually so! In truth, he knew every inch of her body, more so than his imp & had begun to suspect that the stork might be calling on them …..!!

“Oh, Xiang Zhe!” A brilliant color swept over her cheeks as she finally caught on to what he was saying…! How could she have overlooked ‘that’ ….?

She looked down at her still flattened belly & gasped as XZ put his hand there, gliding over where a new life might be growing... She put her hand over his & raised her head to his…! Slowly he bent his head to kiss her tenderly, delirious at the happy thought that they might soon be proud parents…!!

There was no need for words as he swept her off her feet, leaving the light on as he headed back to the bedroom….. SM sighed dreamily as she felt XZ’s lips on her belly, and soon his face was lightly pressed there, listening intently for a baby’s heartbeat as though nudging & expecting an exuberant kick …!!

She was ecstatic …! There was no doubt to it that her ‘firstborn’ was to be a son… not when she was the mother…! And if XZ wanted a daughter, then he could go & get pregnant by him… & giggled at her own silliness…

“Honey? What’s with the giggling?” As he gently jerked her up to him… “Xiang Zhe, it’s not a dream is it?”

“We’ll know for sure when I bring you to see Dr Kim, honey. He’s expected back in a day or two… but until then, you will ‘behave’ like an expectant mother & no madcap dashing here or there, okay?”

He hoped to survive the full term of her pregnancy… praying she won’t give him an early graying before the baby was born! Were other ‘expecting’ wives like his…! He needed to call XD for his 5 minute pep talk!! Tenderness overflowing in his vein as he lovingly drew his ‘babe’ in his arms….


“Yin Xiang Zhe. Where?! Are you all right?! Stay where you are, I’m coming right over!”

With an apology to the startled group of producers, XZ sprinted out of the room. “Xiang Zhe, I need you. I’m at Dr Kim’s clinic.” Her breathless words kept spinning over & over in his mind as he drove at breakneck speed to the clinic…. He’d already told SM that he’d made an appointment for them to consult Dr Kim the day after..!! What was she doing there at this moment?

A quick call to the minders had assured him that SM hadn’t met with an accident or was in harm’s way. Screeching to a parking bay, XZ took the lift to Dr Kim’s clinic on the 10th floor! He rushed straight for the doctor’s office after a nod from the minders who were waiting in the lobby. Not waiting for an answer to his knock, he flung the door & broke out in cold sweat when SM didn’t come into his sight!

“SM! SM! Dr Kim?!”

“Xiang Zhe, I’m behind the curtain!” SM called out. Without thinking, XZ dashed anxiously over to draw the curtain, just as SM was about to step down from the bed. He pulled her into his arms & then jerked away to look anxiously at her! He’d gone weak when he’d received her call earlier! For once, despite the strength in his arms, they appeared to be shaking!

SM, are you all right, loved? Where’s Dr Kim?”

“Dr Kim has to answer an emergency call but he’ll be back. I’m all right but I want you here with me when the report comes out.”

“What report, SM? Tell me!”
“Xiang Zhe, calm down. Have you forgotten..?.”

There was a radiance & glow about her! Could it be? No! It couldn’t be! Yet, it must be! His angel was smiling! It hit him then! In his panic, the thought hadn’t occurred to him! Speechless & feeble-minded, he gasped out, “Honey? You are pregnant then?”
“Xiang Zhe, I want us together when the result is known! You do want the baby, don’t you?”

“SM!”

Just then, Dr Kim came in, an indulgent smile lighting up his face, a report in his hand.

“Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Yin!” Extending a warm hand to XZ, he beamed at the loving couple & continued, “Mrs. Yin, you are five weeks pregnant. I’ll get the nurse to schedule your monthly check-up. You’re in good health & that’s good. But I want you to follow a nutritional diet & drink plenty of milk.”

And with a prudent smile, Dr Kim continued. “Now I’m sure you’ll want to be alone. You can use my office, Mr. Yin. If you’ll excuse me, I have another appointment.” After his tactful exit…it would need a separate timing to impart the ‘full result’ of the test to Mr. Yin… smiling as he visualized the cool Mr. Yin handling the good news….

“Xiang Zhe, did you hear that? We’re going to have a baby! Xiang Zhe, I’m so happy, I want to do a cartwheel right now!”

She attempted to do just that & XZ’s heart almost leapt out from his mouth at the sight of the new mother attempting a somersault! Gad, he was going to have his hands full with this babe with babe!!

“SM!”

He restrained her from further athletic efforts & laughed as SM fell against him!

“Let’s call up the new grandparents, Xiang Zhe! No, we can’t break the good news over the telephone. I want to see their faces when we tell them. We’ll wait till father is home, & Aunty ZS too, Xiang Zhe?”

She continued without pausing, “Our son will look every inch like his handsome father & be the most adorable baby! We must choose a nice name for him so he won’t get any silly nicknames from his school mates!”

“Anything you say, SM. I can’t wait to feel & see our baby growing inside you. She’ll be adorable just like her mother!”

“No, I’d decided that he’ll be his father’s son. Yes, I want a boy first so when Xiang Zhe’s away on business, I will have the miniature giant by my side! We’ll have a little girl next time.”

She made her point so resolutely that XZ laughed. As long as more babies would follow, he won’t mind if their firstborn was a son! It would mean having SM beside him for a lifetime! He couldn’t help being carried away by SM’s euphoric enthusiasm


Chapter 39

 

It had been a tough day at the Board Meeting with Jin and his cronies behaving like a pack of vultures hovering in for the kill.... Any victory they savored was short & bittersweet & as hollow as they came. The sneering smile on Jin's face had been wiped off when XZ laid down his ultimatum to the mutineers... 'Shape up or ship out' and he would be ready to accept any voluntary resignations on his desk if conflicts were the order of the day.... And having said that, XZ left the boardroom to return to his office.

Gad, he was tired and hungry for the sight of his angel.... She'd called to say she had been detained at the cafeteria with ZD and would be with him shortly, and to please think of her in the meantime…… No one else knew of the pregnancy yet with the exception of Liz!

To his amusement, Liz had complained that Sa-rang had stood arms akimbo, on guard over the only exit to prevent her from returning to Seoul to see her pumpkins..... Sa-rang was yelling in the background, trying to make her voice heard! Would he believe it....? Ms Liz was not above pulling an 'Amelia' solo stunt, flying lessons or not!! She wanted to be there when her grandson was born! XZ laughed as he thought about the odds of his expecting a 'little princess' when he had two angels joining up forces against him...?!

SM had been adamant that 'breaking' the good tidings to the grandparents meant precisely that! Having both XZ's father & his stepmother.... She'd wanted XZ to make 'peace' with the Senior Yin and to accept the fact that his father had a second family & his own life to live.... It seemed between Liz and SM; he was now able to look at things from another perspective, at his father as a 'man' trapped in a loveless marriage.... In his own way, his old man had loved XZ's mother though the 'passion' was missing....

Now that he was about to become a father himself, he could begin to understand the importance of family bonding and ties.... Might his own childhood been different had his mother been made of sterner stuff? One 'particular' sunset would always be imbedded in his memory.... His visual capture of one 'sunset' that stood immortalized in his memory, when despite sobbing her heart out over an unrequited love, a sweet young lass had the presence of mind to selflessly wish her jilted love well....

After that emotional 'eye-opening' sunset that touched his soul, he had allowed himself to experience his emotions & that helped him to discover a whole new world of feelings ~ the depth of which he'd never thought he had the capacity to feel....!

In his impressionable young mind, the adolescent XZ had glimpsed & formed his own image of a man who had no qualms & conscience on using his in-laws as a stepping stone to reach the height of success & recognition.... A man who'd shirked his responsibilities & deserted his wife & only son for another woman.... He knew now what it meant about two sides to a coin.... & through the pure sweet SM & the wonderful 'Liz' the mother he could have had, he was able to leave the bitter past behind....

In the wake of his desertion, he'd left behind a broken shell of a gentle lady. XZ's mother was sunk & lost in an emotional depth of despair, slowly pining away to her dying day for her lost love..... There was not even a shadow left of the caring, loving mother & the young XZ was left to feel neglected & unwanted & it had colored his perception of love and marriage....!


Stretching out on the office sofa, he waited for SM and closed his eyes. XZ smiled as he heard the sound of the door opening. Expecting to hear her cheerful greeting, he smiled as he heard the soft footsteps & closed his eyes; indulging the imp on whatever game she was intending to play on him

Hungry eyes gazed down at him ~ at the width of his broad shoulders & the way his long powerful legs were stretched out on the sofa! She inhaled his scent & smiled, she was right where she had dreamt of being for so long that regardless of what he might say or react, she was going to have him!

XZ felt the hand gliding sensually over his chest and instantly recoiled, opening his eyes, but not before greedy lips were all over him! He sprang up to his feet and shoves away the figure of PHL!

PHL didn't care about her pride or XZ's reaction! She was intensely conscious of the magnetic pull of his masculinity and flung herself back at him!!

She saw the disgust & contempt on his chiseled feature and heard the cutting edge in his steely voice, 'What the hell do you think you're doing? Don’t  you have any decency at all?!"

PHL wanted to scream out at the angry rejection as she fought for control! The slow anger that had been simmering away inside her erupted into a furious rage and she wanted to hit out! No! Not at him but at his wife! Well, that little mouse was going to get her just deserts & how!!

There was no reason to feel apprehensive, so why did her nerves feel on edge? SM asked herself as she walked briskly to XZ office. Her hand on the door knob and a cheerful greeting. "Xiang Zhe, I'm here!" In the split second that XZ was attempting to shove PHL off & dragging her arms away, SM walked onto the scene! SM stood rooted to the ground; tears immediately sprang to her eyes.... She felt a cold chill down the length of her spine as she caught the sight of PHL with her arms slung around XZ's neck, her face pressing against her Xiang Zhe's chest!

Even as her eyes and mind registered the shock, she knew it wasn't quite right! Xiang Zhe could never be a willing party to what she'd just seen! He must have been compromised.... Rational thought fled & her legs followed suit as SM made a hasty retreat! Her vision blurred by the tears that were spilling down her cheeks, a sob caught in her throat as she ran out of the office....!

"SM! Wait!"

His eyes were furious as they swung back on PHL, gesturing fiercely at the door! "Get out of my sight, Ms PHL. I'll hold you answerable if anything happens to my wife! "

With those departing words, oblivious to the sobbing PHL who had fallen to the floor, he quickly ran after SM! Too late, she'd taken the elevator down! The other one was taking too long.... Concern & fear for SM in her state of mind & condition lent 'wind' to his legs & XZ dashed for the flight of stairs...., praying that he would catch up with SM.


Rough hands grabbed at her as she struggled to free herself. Fear fueling impetus to strength and she screamed for XZ.... Then out of nowhere, the two minders were on the three louts bodily hauling them away from her...! She heard XZ's voice even before she saw him & then he was throwing himself at one of the remaining trio who had leeched himself to her....

he'd reached the car park basement in time to see the two minders onto the two strangers and SM struggling with a third one and being pushed to the ground...! His heart in his mouth..., "SM." Dear God, he prayed no harm would come to SM & their unborn baby!

Everything happened so fast! Terror gripped her as she saw XZ raining blows with the mugger! "Xiang Zhe!" A sense of terror unlike anything she'd ever felt for herself overcame her as she saw XZ falling & then mercilessly, she fainted!

Amid the commotion, the security personnel were at once all over the scene, helping to detain & hand over the three muggers to the authorities. Ignoring the willing hands that offered to help him up, XZ carried the precious bundle & headed for his car to send her to Dr Kim!

XZ could only relax when the good doctor told him that SM was all right except for a few bruises, she was only slightly shaken.... Comprehensive tests previously ran had shown no indication that there was anything medically wrong with SM.....? She just reacted differently to 'anxiety'; she was prone to 'fainting spell' when her adrenaline went into full gear! Her pregnancy wasn't affected but it was best to keep her away from too much excitement... & then Dr Kim told him something else.

Stupefied at first when the older man gently told him to prepare for not just a pair but for two pairs of "pitter patter!" XZ's face registered a gamut of emotions ~ surprise, disbelief & concern & not the least, joy at the latest news that Dr Kim imparted to him! Extremely jubilant at the unexpected good new, he was stunned & then excited at the possibility of having his own minuscule SM; his 'little princess' while his imp had her 'Master XZ Junior!' And he was only appeased when Dr Kim assured him that there was no need for SM to be kept for observation and that she could be discharged.... From now on, there would be no more bird feed during meal times; he would make certain that his angel ate enough for three!

SM was aware of bright light, the mumbling sound of noises as she slowly surfaced into consciousness ~ a floating feeling invaded her body and she felt her hand being held tightly.... slowly she opened her eyes but the lids felt heavy... She experienced a strange feeling of unreality, almost as if the room & everyone in it were part of a nightmare she was running away from. Yet she was grateful & didn't resist when she felt firm yet gentle arms enclosing her in an embrace, instinctively seeking the security she would find there.

She thought she heard her name being called out in a hoarse whisper but it was easier to shut her eyes than tried to open them and she slipped back into sleep... Over & over the nightmare played in her mind....


At some stage in the sleep, she cried out as recollection of the frightening incident woke her up.... It was no nightmare or hallucination! Immediately, XZ was beside her, gathering her close in his arms and soothing her in his calm voice. She thought she'd heard him giving an oath before him said, "SM, I should send you back to Dr Kim's ...."

"Xiang Zhe! Thank God you're all right!" Disbelief in her eyes that he was no illusion but before her! She clung to him then pulled away to take a good look at him as though she doubted her own eyes... The fatigue & concern struck her as she gazed at him.

She could feel the cold sweat breaking out & her stomach turning over sickeningly at the memory of XZ falling & it was all her fault!! She won't be able to forgive herself if anything had happened to him...!

Although she was still upset at what she'd witnessed back in his office, she could not pull herself away & feeling weak and miserable, she hugged him tightly, pressing her head onto his chest.

"How are you feeling, honey? Are you in pain?" SM heard the tremor & pain in his voice and that opened the dam to her flood of tears.... Huge tears swell, blurring her vision and then his fingers were wiping the tears as they continued to fall.

"Honey.." his head lowered to capture her trembling lips in a slow and gentle kiss ~ her lips instinctively parted as she felt her defenses broken down by his gentleness... how could XZ put his life in danger... even for her? Didn't Xiang Zhe know that life would be meaningless for her without him? Hadn't he promised to always take care of himself for her....? There were no recriminations on the 'scene' she had walked into for she knew she could trust XZ.... Because she loved him...!

Lifting his head, as he tasted the salt of her tears, his thumbs tenderly wiping the tears from her cheeks, XZ held her gaze... then pressed his lips gently on her forehead. SM was startled as she felt one hand gliding down over her belly and barely caught his softly spoken words, "that PHL will answer for this..." Then realization hit her & she looked down at her own belly & raised her eyes to XZ. "Xiang Zhe? Our baby.... he's okay?!”

His face was an inscrutable mask and he appeared to be retaining a rigid control over himself. He ran his eyes over her delicately boned frame... "Yes honey! Thank God! I can't begin to describe your courage!" His voice raw with torment as he whispered to her. "Try to sleep. I'll only be a minute, okay?" There would be time to tell her that the stork had been enthusiastically doing his delivery! She needed to rest first & recover her strength from the ordeal.... With an assuring smile and a light kiss pressed on her lips, he left her and shortly returned with a mug in his hand. XZ held the mug to her lips and insisted that she drank up every last drop of the warm milk ~ then made her slip between the sheets. She looked so exquisitely fragile and lovely in her vulnerable state!

He felt SM tugging his hand, "Xiang Zhe, you should not worry too much. I'm all right or else, Dr Kim would have kept me under observation... I'm only upset because you put your life in danger.... I would die if you'd been hurt...." Her reassuring words touched him & dispelled any thoughts he had that she might have doubted his love for her...!

He had a few calls to make ~ not the least to Mr. Park for the questioning by the police authority had led to a confession from one of the muggers! The connection pointed to one Ms PHL! He vowed the manipulative PHL would answer severely for the outrage! But it could wait until the morning. Thank God for the timely presence of the minders.... Cold sweat breaking out on his forehead, as he could not imagine the consequences & outcome otherwise...He'd thought he died a thousand deaths when he saw her being manhandled! For now, his angel needed him & he slipped in beside her....


Chapter 40

 

“Xue Zhang?”

“Yes, honey?”

“About PHL….”

“What about her, honey? You doubt my love?” Raising her head from his shoulder, SM gazed deeply into XZ’s eyes, then replied back in a light-hearted manner, dispelling his thought..

“Circumstantial evidence would have convicted you but I have complete faith in you, Xue Zhang. In a weird sort of way, I feel sorry for her, she reminds me a little of YM…..”

SM failed to understand how a qualified professional & worldly young lady like PHL from a well-connected family allowed her infatuation & attraction for XZ to lead her to act so irresponsibly….! Dismissing the pitiable PHL from her mind, SM could not condone her foolishness… & pitied the parents…

XZ pulled her back & took one of her hands in his, bringing it to his lips before keeping it pressed against his cheek. “SM, do you want an explanation?”

Without waiting for her reply, XZ recounted how he’d been caught by surprise, thinking it was SM who had walked up to him at the sofa. It was only until PHL laid her hand on him that he’d realized his mistake!

PHL must have conceived of the idea because she had even used the perfume that SM had been using & that was how XZ had been taken in… but then, the touch had felt different & he’d known instantly!

Hearing the turn of events leading to when she had come upon them, SM eyed him warily, concluding correctly that it was his darn good looks…! Next time, she would stay and fight for her ‘man,’ she told herself for she was realistic to know that married or not, XZ remained a good catch to all the ladies….

“Xue Zhang, even though I trust you …. Still, it hurts to see another woman behaving intimately with you……” Her lips curved into a cupid bow as she continued, “I shouldn’t have run out on you like that, leaving you to her! Mmm, I know better now that I should put up a fight to protect my ‘interest.’

She looked more like a kid with a score to settle & it was all for him and that thought made him happy! He laughed softly and SM felt better for hearing it!

Sober thoughts flitted through her mind as she remembered her untimely ‘fainting’; it would have been cruel to ‘wake’ up only to learn that XZ had been seriously hurt while she had been out!! Berating herself for childishly leaving XZ & not having given him a chance to explain…. Oh! Could it be finally that the ‘green’ monster was rearing its ugly head? Or perhaps, she was only being sensitive & feeling vulnerable now that she was expecting their first baby?

“Xue Zhang… what about the three strangers….?”

“SM, don’t  worry. The problem is being handled. They’d taken the chance to pounce on you at the spot where the surveillance camera was out of range… ! Thank God for the minders! Could you forgive me for coming late to the rescue?”

A shudder going through him as the dreadful thought remained with him….

“Promise me, Xue Zhang, that you’ll never ever risk or put your life in danger again! I want you ‘safe’ for me & our unborn son….”

“If harm had come to you & our babies, my life would be over too…!”

“Xue Zhang! Have you gone daft? Babies?” And she giggled & shook her head, one hand going to his forehead as though he’d lost his marbles!

XZ roared his head off to laugh….! The timing was just right for letting out the good news!

He heaved her up to seat her on his lap and tucking the hair behind her ears, he bent to press his lips on hers lightly before gently revealing to his innocent wife….

“SM, when you said our firstborn will be a boy, I didn’t argue with you, did I?”

“Xue Zhang! Are we back on that issue again?!” A glint of defiance in her eyes showing as her eyebrows were raised questioningly at him…

“Of course you’ll have your ‘boy’ & he’ll be our firstborn….. How about a compromise on the twin…, shall we make it a little ‘princess’ for me, mmm?

In the split second it took for SM to digest his words, XZ quickly captured the image of the ‘speechless’ imp with his laughing eyes…! It was amazing how life was good to him!

“O…h….” And when it set in, SM rolled away from his lap to jump on the bed! Clapping her hands with glee and shouting, “Two in one go! Wait till I tell the family! I’m going to have two twin boys!”

“SM!” XZ was immediately up to catch SM back into his arms… Disbelief on his face that SM was pulling a ‘fast’ one over him!!

“Hold the thought! I want my little ‘SM’ too! You can’t have it your way all the time!”

In their boisterous argument over the unborn twins, it never occurred to them that they would have no choice or say at all to the gender of their babies…!

XZ knew he would have to make his peace with his father & stepmother and SOON for there seemed to be no ‘holding’ back on SM’s happiness! He was in dire need for some support in his corner to have his ‘princess’ and he hoped to get it from the two grandfathers. “Father always knows best!”


Chapter 41

 

When Mr. Park first received the call from XZ requesting for an urgent meeting, he was a little curious as to what had prompted the reason behind the request…! Nonetheless he had readily agreed to meet with the younger man! Director Yin XZ had left a very good impression on him and he’d taken an instant liking to the young man!

After getting over the initial greetings, XZ had apologized for the abruptness of his request & for the sudden intrusion, imposing on Mr. Park. He had no choice, but to consider this direct approach & again apologized for troubling the older man….

It was not an easy decision to come to but it was in their mutual interest that they should meet & he won’t beat around the bush but would go straight to the point…

Without much ado, the ‘mugging’ incident at MBS car park was related. XZ revealed that one of the three muggers had squealed on Ms PHL’s involvement in the whole episode. Denying the more serious charge of ‘kidnapping,’ the trio had pleaded for leniency & for charges to be dropped or else they would implicate Ms PHL…

As there were no previous convictions on record, their confession was plausible. They had been ‘down on their luck’ when they were approached by Ms PHL outside a pub… She had taken pity on them & given them some cash for ‘drinks,’ & later asked if they would be interested to earn some easy money?

She had told them that she wanted to gather some firsthand experience for a drama play that she was writing… and it was just an innocent prank she wanted to try on her friend, the popular MBS broadcaster, Ms Zhen SM….

There was a ‘mugging’ scene to be adapted into the play & she was counting on the hope that witnessing a ‘natural reaction’ to an enactment of it would help greatly...… Yes, yes, they’d seen Ms Zhen SM on television & were great fans of hers too & they were willing to oblige… A deal was made & they had followed in her car when she drove to MBS…

As their conversation continued, the older man found that he not only appreciated Director Yin but also his respects for the young man had surpassed the top notch!

Mr. Park would have dearly approved his daughter’s choice, however as the status quo was, he could only heave a sigh of relief for the understanding that the younger man had shown!

Not wishing to create a mountain out of a molehill, XZ trusted in Mr. Park’s wisdom to handle his ‘family’ matter as he saw fit to… & would leave the discretion entirely to the older man.


XZ was very glad that SM had placated him into making up with his father. The ‘cold’ man who had sired him seemed to vanish and in his place, the warm & loving father he’d searched for in his youth….

Father & son closed the ‘gap’ on the missing years and it was many hours before both emerged from the study… His stepmother had wisely stayed away, anxiously keeping her distance! She knew it was the ‘now’ or ‘never’ for the father & son to make their peace…. She heard approaching footsteps & a light cough behind her…. Turning her head, she saw her stepson.

“Aunty….”

She was surprised & a little startled & then her eyes misted as she saw XZ giving her a bow of respect…! She stretched out both hands to clasp him on his upper arms & then gently said, “please come home more often, XZ. Your father needs you.”

Each a little embarrassed at this rare display of emotion, they stepped back to study one another…. The smile on both faces telling the other that all was well & they were a ‘family’ in its truest sense…!


SM was on pins & needles, excited & nervous at the time as she anxiously also waited for XZ, wondering how it had gone for him and his old man…. One thing was for sure, the longer he remained out of sight meant things were picking up & she was overjoyed when he came into her view, with the stepmother beside him!

“Xiang Zhe!”

Forgetting where she was, she ran into his outstretched arms…. Laughing & crying at the same time…. XZ caught the light of his life in a tight embrace…!

”SM!” By the holy saints! Had she forgotten she was carrying their twins?!

His stepmother was laughing softly as she observed XZ’s gentle demeanor with his charming wife! She knew that they owed ‘this’ day to the captivating charmer…. Patting XZ on his shoulder, she took the delightful SM into her arms & thanked her…


“Xiang Zhe, father said that Aunty ZS wants us home for dinner instead of eating out. What do you think? Will you call your father & Aunty to advise them of the change in plan?”

XZ thought it timely to inform the elders of their newly acquired status…! Ever since SM’d learnt she was expecting twins, they had been having their daily banter on the gender of the babies!

Each time XZ spoke or referred to his little “sweet ‘p’.” SM would nudge him on his flat abdomen & rolled up her ‘eyes’, “says who?”

And the playful sprite inside the expectant mother made her pull one of her many stunts over him…!

It was hilarious to watch the pained look on XZ’s face when he had to graciously give in, or at least, had to when she was suddenly overcome by one of her ‘imaginary’ symptoms!

It seemed to occur more frequently whenever the topic touched on their twins & the trick she pulled over the unsuspecting daddy-to-be could have made her ‘devil’s advocate!

After the ‘queasy’ condition she’d been in the early period before her pregnancy was confirmed, SM had surprisingly enjoyed a plain smooth sailing!

And she giggled at the names they had come up with ~ but XZ wanted her solemn promise not to ever name his son, ‘Donald.’ He didn’t relish being associated with the Disney animated cartoon when ‘junior’ was old enough to enter school! He grimaced as he imagined one by one of junior’s playmates pointing him out as, “Donald’s duck…!”

Mamma, he was rather fond of the name ‘Ashley’ for the ‘girl’ & ‘Leslie’ for ‘junior’. Ashley, Leslie, the more he sounded out the names over his mind, the more he liked them..., now to convince his stubborn wife…


Chapter 42

 

She watched his still chiseled face in appreciation even though his eyes were shut in sleep. SM’s been a little worried that he would have a ‘hangover’. He’d had too much to drink last night, toast to toast with the old men, his & hers, after breaking the good tidings to the family over dinner. They would have out drunk each other under the table had their little women not stepped in!

SM smiled as she recalled how at her old home last night, an exuberant XZ was trying to break the news in as gentle & calm manner as he could muster…. Unprepared for the news that XZ was announcing, the seniors had been tongue-tied & speechless, until recovering their senses, they were beaming & falling among themselves to congratulate each other, acting instead like they were the expectant fathers…!

impishly, she bent over him & held the coffee up close to his nose. Experimentally, she drew the mug to one side… After a second, he turned his head toward it. Suppressing her giggling, she moved the mug in the opposite direction! Sniffing with his nose in the air, XZ turned his head to the shifting direction of the aroma ….

She pressed a hand to her mouth & sat back quickly before her silent chuckles made her spill the hot coffee on his face. XZ opened his eyes to squint at her, a lazy smile spreading over his face…

“You’ve got about three seconds…..to make me forget…that I’m awake. You’ve better put the coffee down & get under the covers, minx!”

She did exactly as she was told, then snuggled close to seek the warmth of his body, wondering how she could have been so foolish as to almost lose him once…

“Xiang Zhe, are we really ready for the ‘twins’? I mean, both of us have been an ‘only’ child in the family….. I’d never had anything to do with babies, let alone newly born, what happens if I’m not the ‘nurturing’ mother material I thought I am…?”

Giving her a light kiss on the forehead, he smiled as memory of last night crept into his mind… While the minx had initially been eager & excited; raring to shout out the good news to the family, his vivacious wife was blushing, suddenly feeling shy & nudging him to be the herald instead. He was thankful for the fate that threw them together & hugged her all the more tightly...

"Are you afraid, SM? Of the disruptions in our lives or to your career?”

It was true that those thoughts had crossed her mind & she had known that at a later stage, she might even have to sacrifice her career to raise a family. Their children who would have all the love & a happy, normal family life that XZ had been deprived of in his childhood. But how if she couldn’t make it as a good mother & partner to XZ? Would she be able to handle it, juggling a career & raising a young family? Would the recriminations & regrets come in between them? And as the doubts crept in, she shrieked out in protest, “It’s not like that at all!”

And to XZ, it seemed that his imp had suddenly burst into tears for no apparent reason! Silently cursing himself for being insensitive with his question, he moved to soothe her. Auntie ZS had taken him aside to warn that pregnant ladies were prone to unreasonable outbursts & rather short on fuses & if SM were to react rather peculiarly outside her norm, then it was quite to be expected. Nothing to worry unduly but it was best that he took it in his strides & learn to be patient & humor her.

Turning her head to face him, SM languidly took in her fill of his features, trying to read his mind & was reassured that he wasn’t having second thoughts… His eyes were the mirrors of his soul. There was no mistaking that sparkle of love that showed in his mesmerizing eyes… And she could always tell from the heartwarming way whenever his gaze rested on her. XZ understood what she was trying to convey for her expressive face showed the concern she felt for him, it was ‘about’ him & all ‘only’ for him. His childhood was gone & there was nothing one could do about it…. But he’d been able to lay the ghosts of the bitter past to rest through the understanding eyes of Liz….

And ‘God only knows’ how that wonderful dame did it! She’d even managed to draw out the overlooked details from him… The once ‘happy, smiling mother’ who had taught him to play the piano & the obvious pride she had in her son. While it hadn’t lasted, he could remember being ‘safe’ & ‘loved’ that ‘once upon a time’…. All the little things he’d dismissed from his mind…. These were now coming back as precious moments he could cherish as he reflected back on the past… And with Liz, he’d been given a second chance to enjoy a ‘go’ at what a ‘carefree childhood’ was like!

Like his angel, he too didn’t know the first thing about ‘fatherhood’ but he was going to give his children what he’d never had ‘emotionally’ from the ‘absentee’ father when he was growing up. He knew only from his own experience not to repeat his old man’s mistakes & he was going to make darn sure that he was always there for them, a loving & supportive father.

And although a loving father also single-handedly brought up his angel, SM had never been in want of love through the early loss of her mother. What she had lacked from a woman’s gentle upbringing, she received from Auntie ZS. Together, he didn’t doubt that they would make a ‘winning’ team. There would be no ‘spoiling’ the children by the doting grandparents in his household... Little did the poor man know that all the best-laid plans would soon go awry?

No, he wasn’t going to spoil them with the material things for they had to learn & know the value of money even though they would be born with ‘a silver spoon in their mouths.’ It was the ‘emotional side’ he was more concerned with! He would teach them to be upright human beings so they could raise their heads proudly & hold their rightful place in society…& you weren’t he thinking too far ahead..? He had to come down to earth…& while he was firmly on ground zero, he realized that the apartment was no place to raise a family…. He wanted them to feel the grass under their tiny feet as they ran around with pets at their heels…’boohoo, wake up, XZ!’ his mind snapped at him…

“SM, father has already bought a house for us! Do you think, perhaps that the old man has been waiting for ‘this’ day? And before you start, the two grandfathers are in favor of a ‘girl’ too…! And if it were possible, a sweet angel the split image of you, honey!”

“Xiang Zhe, didn’t you tell them that I want boys who will take after their father? I don’t doubt that our boys will leave a trail of broken hearts when they grow up!” A pensive look on her face as her mind fast forward to leap into the future…

“Listen, honey… given their age, they are quicksilver! Did you know that they’d even picked out the names for ‘their’ twins…? You can pick the names if you’d rather not take up their choice…”

Xiang Zhe seemed to hesitate & reluctant to come right out & say it… Amazed & hoping they were not silly names the twins would be teased after, SM crossed her fingers as she waited to be told…

“For you, ‘Junior’ will be named ‘Leslie Yin Dong Gun,’ & they are agreed on the little ‘angel’ to be called ‘Ashley Yin Chae Rim’…. Honey, you know why, don’t  you?”

SM hugged him tightly as she recalled that sad day…. When she’d seen the news flash on TV, she’d thought it was a sick joke, even for an April fool’s Day…! Her eyes misted as she thought of the charismatic, brilliant & unassuming artiste from Hong Kong, the late Mr. Leslie Cheung…

She had watched the old classic with ZD once & had cried throughout the stirring tale of age-old romance. ZD had likened ‘Director Yin’ to Ashley Wilkes from Margaret Mitchell’s classic, ‘Gone with the Wind.’ who remained faithful, steadfast & true to his wife, Melanie ….over her more beautiful cousin, the sultry ~ Scarlet O’Hara. But XZ was incomparable & irreplaceable. There could never be someone quite like him, out there…

It was a name for either gender & XZ wanted to play it safe, but he didn’t tell his little imp that he also admired the American actress, Ashley Judd.

”But, what’s with the other names! Aren’t they…?” XZ held his breath for the arguments that might follow & offered a silent prayer when there was only silence… was he home free, getting away with a darling angel? He truly hoped so… Gosh, would their twins ever live this down??

SM could swear that XZ was bashful for she saw how his lips curved up at the corner & laughed when she saw that indeed he was!! Weren’t they the couple who starred in a popular drama produced by a rival studio? Didn’t ZD mention at one time that they reminded her of the reel couple & had been most persuasive in getting her friend to watch it too? ZD had remarked that it was almost unbelievable just how uncanny & too coincidental their lives & the drama were so similarly parallel & intertwined!

And SM would have, had she not been distracted by the stalking incident & Ms PHL. XZ had casually mentioned that Ms PHL had gone back to the States after her father had secured a big contract there.

Turning down the quilt, SM felt XZ’s face pressed to her belly. Through the thin silk gown, she could feel his lips pressing down lightly & then, his ear was in place, listening for the twins growing inside, the fruits of their labor of love… His action was sending her heart beat into an alarming rate as she felt other tingling senses of desire over-riding her...

Unable to stop the soft moan that escaped her lips, XZ looked up at his lovely wife & caught his breath! Thoughts of her ‘delicate’ condition fled as he saw the reflections of radiance & desire on her face. His own passion burned as he thought of loving & satisfying the passionate & bewitching minx who was in his arms!

With tenderness, he slowly slipped off the gown, his lips touching every inch of her silky skin as it was bared to him. Working his way from her crown of shining glory, his lips moved to her smooth forehead then tracing a lingering trail down to her nose, reaching the vulnerable crook of her slender nape to bury his lips there. While his lips were teasing her mindless, his hands were wrecking a blazing trail creating havoc where they touched!

"Xiang Zhe, less than seven months & I are not even showing! Is it normal? Auntie told me to expect the nausea & leg cramps that might come… & added that I would be at home in Sesame Street too with Grouchy….” A small frown etched itself on her forehead…. Tilting her head up, XZ kissed the frown away…..

The twins would be coming in less than seven months & she wasn’t showing much yet on her flat tummy. Very soon, their offspring’s would begin to show signs of life & he couldn’t wait to feel their first kicks... Would their kicks hurt SM? On second thoughts, best to leave the soccer training till they were a little bit older!

“Don’t  worry, honey. Not two pregnancies are alike! Do you want to see Dr Kim tomorrow? No?” Gazing his lips on her upturned nose, he continued to reassure her in a calming voice, “even when you’re as huge as a hippo & doing your baby elephant walk like Gumbo, grouch or no grouch, I’ll still love you, SM. I want to grow old with you & enjoy our grandchildren & theirs too. In this lifetime & the next & next, for all eternity, honey.”

She was, as always his beautiful, radiant imp & there was an added glow to her cream & peaches complexion... Other signs were endlessly fascinating to him! And he was drawn to the unmistakable fullness to her breasts...
If he was drawn to her belly, it was a fixation as his eyes moved to her swollen breasts, the aureole surrounding the taut peaks already now a dusky hue.

As he cupped their sides to fill his hands, he imagined the twins latching their tiny mouths to feed on their nourishment, & unable to help himself, he nestled his face between her breasts. SM arched her head back, her arms linked behind his neck, moaning softly as he trailed kisses across her tender flesh. He paused over a taut peak and she could feel his ragged breath before his lips surrounded the pointed bud & sucked hungrily…

Her body felt boneless with the incredible pleasure that was almost too exquisite to bear. Then, he moved to the other breast, putting his hand on the abandoned one & gently massaged & caressed it. He raised his head to look at her & captured her lips in a tortuous kiss….

And there was no guiding ‘passion’ when it steered its own course, as they were both swept into a whirlpool…! He was driven to distraction by her plaint response, thinking he would burst from the fires burning him inside out! Casting aside his own maddening needs, he controlled his impassioned ardency to take her & tried to be gentle….. And just when he thought it was going to kill him!!…., he heard her soft whisper, “Xiang Zhe, I need you...…”

With those assuring words he needed to hear from his beloved, XZ relaxed the tight rein on his desires & let go, bringing them both to scale the peak of passion…. And when alas they were both spent, XZ couldn’t help but savored the triumph as only lovers deeply in love with one another could!


Chapter 43

 

“Senior, I can handle it. Let me join the team, please?”

XD looked at SM & was about to voice his objections when she interrupted him. “I’d seen the duty roster & I’m the only one that’s available.”

Word had got out concerning a maritime accident at the seaport of Inchon & although a minor oil spill wasn’t an immediate threat, something else was…. A group of asylum seekers had been found onboard one of the vessels involved in the collision & they had been transported to Seoul for further questioning.

Political uproar on all sides had been at its loudest voiced over the sensitive issue of asylum seekers. Diplomatic steps had been taken to mend the broken fences but what little leeway that had been made was now in danger of being snatched away again.

XD wasn’t too sure that XZ would endorse it, throwing SM to a pack of wolves in the furor of ‘being the first.’ He wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect of putting his head on the block. Even if Director allowed him to keep it, his hide might still blister…

“SM...”

“Senior, if you’re worried about Director Yin? Let me try?” He nodded against his better judgment.


“XZ? Trouble.”

XZ patiently listened to XD’s explanation & was just hanging up the phone when the subject of their discussion made her timely appearance in his office.

Xiang Zhe, has senior XD briefed you on the ‘emergency’?” XZ had glanced up at her approach & nodded. Avoiding his outstretched arms, SM sank into the seat beside his desk & prepared herself for the objections that would come……

“You’ll give me your blessings, won’t you, Xiang Zhe? I’ll be back for dinner.”

Anticipating that such an occasion would arise, XZ had prepared to deal with it… To stifle her ‘space’ & cosset her in a cocoon were unthinkable, even if it were done in the name of ‘love.’ He must allow her room to grow & learn from her own blunders & life’s disappointments, but he would always be there for her. With the threat from Ms PHL over, he’d acquiesced to her plea for normalcy & terminated the services of the minders.

Expecting a fight on her hands to hear Director Yin on why she shouldn’t go, SM was surprised when he smiled & agreed. This time, she took the initiative & went to him. Perching herself on his lap, she wrapped her arms behind his neck to draw his head down.

“Thank you, Xiang Zhe.” Before he could do more, she’d jumped to her feet & throwing a flying kiss, was out of the office.

Had he done the right thing by her? He hoped so. There was the slight ‘telltale’ sign as her pregnancy coasted into its fourth month….

Her ‘joy’ was short-lived as contradictory feelings pried on her when she returned to the XD’s office…. Now that she had time to think about it, it puzzled her that Xiang Zhe had readily given his consent! Wasn’t he concerned that she would be outside the jurisdiction at all? What if she was crushed in the crowd? What if she was ‘sick’ or needed he? Didn’t he care? A suspicion of tear gleamed in her eyes, as her steps grew heavy…. What was it with her? It made no sense at all…. Ready to put up a fight if he vetoed it & when he had consented, she was upset peeved that he hadn’t so much by a flicker of an eyelid, talked her out of it…?


SM was more tired than she’d realized and had been overjoyed when he’d driven to the ‘safe house’ where the asylum seekers were temporarily kept in detention, pending their status. He’d surprised her & took her for a light dinner before driving back to the studio. And now as they were on their way home, a sudden pendant for ‘sushi’ took her!

And she just had to have it from the delightful Brasserie that XZ had once brought her to. But it was quite out of their way. And dinner was what, only two hours ago…. Stealing side-glances at XZ as he drove, the imp was working up to the question.

Taking his eyes momentarily from the road to rest on her. “Go on, honey.” And resting a hand on her belly, he asked in an understanding voice. “Are you craving for something in particular?”

Bashfully, she held on to the hand on her belly & in a wistful voice, asked if they could drop by ‘the’ place for some ‘sushi’? Observing her droopy eyelids that could barely stay open, XZ insisted on sending her home first & she didn’t even protest against it… meekly nodding her head…


He stepped into the brasserie to place his order. Taking a seat, he glanced at the steady stream of customers that were continually thronging in for supper & wondered how long before his turn, oblivious to the reciprocal admiring glances thrown at his princely figure.

A thoughtful smile lit up his face as he recalled how once in a familiar setting, in a Korean restaurant in London’t where he frequented, a chance encounter with a fallen angel had sealed his fate.

It had followed shortly after their third encounter…. Reading a letter from home that he’d passed to her, she had looked so ‘down & out’…. And her crestfallen expression had touched him that he’d felt an urgent need to reach out & cheer her up. The invitation to join him for a meal had been spontaneous…& surprised him too!

He’d thought that was the end to it when she’d refused because she had to rush off to work…, but there was no escaping destiny when it called…. He would think that their story had truly begun from that moment when she turned to ‘serve’ him… What was it about ‘third’ time lucky….?

As a busboy hurried past with a tray held aloft his head, the repugnant smell of raw mackerel wreaked the air. XZ suddenly felt his insides churning! He fought against the bile that rose like acid to his throat & desperately looked around for the rest room… As he doubled over the bowl to throw up, his racing thoughts were all on SM!

If it was ‘food poisoning’ then SM must have been affected too…! Feeling much better after his release, he quickly rinsed under the running tap & agonized over how SM was holding up at her end?

Pressing on the dial, he was muttering under his breath when it took longer than necessary for SM to answer the line... Worry was playing tricks on his mind as he walked briskly to the car…


“SM!” Almost taking the door down…. Silence greeted him & he saw why… Cuddled up with his old shirt pressed to her cheek, his angel was asleep…! Relief seemed to suck away at his strength as his body weight sank down on the bed… Noting that the quilt was not even drawn up…, the poor tired angel must have fallen asleep waiting for him.

He was thoughtful as he reached out to tuck the hair over one ear, he couldn’t contemplate his life without her…! In pregnancy, she had grown even lovelier, her face radiant & illuminated by the healthy rosy glow. SM didn’t even stir at his touch but her lips were curved in a smile as though she was having a good dream. Of late, she’d returned to raiding his old shirts again, claiming that she felt more comfortable….

SM had been mostly spared from the nausea & other reactions normally associated with a pregnancy, except for the sudden cravings that crept up in the most unusual times! Their tiny kitchenette was stocked up resembling a mini-market for SM had only to point out to something & he would buy up in bulks.

But he was careful in watching out for her nutritional diet & followed faithfully on Dr Kim’s advice... When it came to obstinacy, even a mule would be out of its depth…!
Satisfied that she was all right, he quickly took his shower & changed. His mind went to the ‘brief’ that he’d brought home to finish up; if he’d stayed back at the office, SM would have insisted on remaining too to accompany him….

Out of the blue, it suddenly struck him that he’d forgotten the ‘take-away’ that SM wanted! He took another glance at SM & decided he’d to go back for it. Rubbing the sleep from her eyes, she saw that he was leaving for somewhere & cried out, “Xiang Zhe, where are you going? Not to the office, are you? I’m coming with you too!” Springing into action before her words was all out!

“Stay put, honey!” XZ moved to grab & hold her still! Now that she was up & about, he held her in a tight embrace, grateful that whatever they had shared earlier in the meal, she wasn’t showing any signs of food poisoning!

“I’d just remembered about the ‘sushi’,” and as her brow rose quizzically when she saw a muscle twitching his jaw, he continued.

“I was thinking of you & called. When you didn’t answer, I got worried & came back….”

He could not let on that he’d been suddenly overcome by a sickening feeling. It was not the first time he’d experienced the nauseous bouts… If she had any suspicion at all that something was amiss, she would watch him like a hawk…

This time, he felt the strength in her arms as they linked over his neck & she buried her face in the crook of his shoulders. She must prove that she was capable of looking after herself, yet how to convince him of that especially when she was always bursting into tears for no apparent reasons?

Choking back on her emotion, she managed to whisper, “Xiang Zhe, I’m not a child anymore. Neither is I a piece of fragile Bone China nor will I break easily…. I know your actions are governed by your love for me, Xiang Zhe, and I adore you all the more for it…but….”

She almost cried at the tenderness & love that showed on his face as he indulgently listened to her. … His protective manner was never ‘suffocating’ or confining in any sense of the word, she had never felt any pressure & would indeed feel lost without that ‘safe’ & comfortable thought that he cared deeply & showed it regardless of their surroundings…

She only wanted him to relax & take it easy for he was always placing her needs & prioritizing them before his very own. He was always ‘giving unconditionally’ while she was on the receiving end, ‘taking’ what came naturally in their relationship…

He’d never used his position as a clout to browbeat anybody & even though he hadn’t said much about her outdoors assignments, she knew he felt strongly about it. And if anything, he was all ‘encouragement’ where her career was leading. It was proof of how deep his feelings ran where she was concerned…

“I’m sorry if my foolish actions give you cause for worry. I’ll remember to think through my actions first before me…. Xiang Zhe?”

The imp chewing her thoughts before acting? It would take away the essence & spirit that was SM… he couldn’t do that, clip her free spirit & wings… he wanted her to soar & be just her natural self, the ‘Zhen Shan Mei’ who warmed his heart & touched his soul. He understood her more than she could ever understand herself….

“Xiang Zhe?”

She had been somewhat successful in holding back the tears but this time, her emotions were overflowing & she couldn’t cap the flow of her tears as they streamed down her cheeks…. He didn’t reach out with his hands to brush them away…. He bent to kiss them away …..

“Honey, I want you just the way you are. Don’t  ever change, for anybody or me! Be natural & candid as you’ve always been with me, promise?”

She tilted her head up to his & caught his wink but she could tell that he was serious even though he was trying to make light of the whole thing….

“Promise to be on my best behavior! Don’t  forget I want to be an ‘exemplary’ modern mom!” And gave him a provocative smile, arching her delicate brows…giggling as she caught the answering devilish gleam in his gaze….

“Minx! I’ll hold you to your ‘word’… For starters, will you just quietly go back to bed while I pop out to get your ‘’sushi’ or has the lady changed her mind & preferred something else?”

She threw him a pout & caught his comeback, “It’s a lady’s prerogative to change her mind, & God knows, minx you have led me on a merry chase with all your sudden cravings before!” She knew that to be the truth & taking an aggrieved stance, she took a jibe at him, “And I thought you enjoy doing all that for love of ‘Ashley’?”

With both hands up, XZ conceded the round to her, looking boyishly sheepish, much like a boy who’d been found with his fingers in the cookie jar…

“You’re not getting any sympathy from me, Xiang Zhe.” She giggled. “‘And stop looking so pathetic!”

When he made a threatening move towards her, she threw a pillow at him playfully… As he caught the playful minx in his arms, SM clung to him for it was here… that she belonged.

“Xiang Zhe, forget about the food. I’m not hungry anymore.”


Chapter 44

 

SM had wanted to dine on seafood & he had accommodated her wishes. All of asudden, he looked pallid. Then, he was scrambling to his feet, beating a hasty retreat to the side. It was the raw pungency that offended his olfactory sense! While ‘alarm’ had been her first reaction to his being stricken with nausea, it was quickly replaced by mirth when realization dawn that XZ was going through the motion of being ‘pregnant’!

“Xiang Zhe, how far along are you?” She was teasing him with a definite mischievous glint in her laughing eyes.

“Madam, how can you be so unfeeling?” He groaned as the bile rose to the back of his throat.

“Now that the shoe is on the other foot, Xiang Zhe, can you understand how I feel, being forced on the bitter decoctions of herbs. Urge.” And for good measure, poked her tongue out to show her disgust….

Director Yin was understandably piqued that madam wife was enjoying the private joke at his expense! It was hard to hide the smirks of laughter especially when her boss assumed a stand of being indignant around her. But the winks, when he could manage them, told a different story. Dear Lord, was there no sympathy for him

SM’s captivating personality had won her a huge following of loyal viewers & listeners, and when her delicate condition was apparent, the flashing cameras & media had a field day, growing more intrusive daily until XZ masterfully handled the press. MBS was also busy preparing to herald the arrival of the twins, an event that was awaited with mounting excitement & sentimental expectations!


Their evenings were evenly divided between the two family homes where the endearing SM was wonderfully looked after. She was overwhelmed at the closeness that had crept in between XZ & his father, now that he was about to become one…. He was also warm & receptive to his stepmother & approached his younger half-brother in a light-hearted manner. The seniors keenly observed all these changes with warm hearts & acknowledged that SM was instrumental in bringing about the joyful changes!

Assuredly, there was the fortnightly report from Ja-rang on Liz’s encouraging progress after the successful surgery. Distressed over the distance separating them & travel unquestionably off the agenda, at least for the immediate future, Liz could only be appeased by the promise that her ‘Gorgeous’ gave…, as sure as he lived and breathed, he would bring SM & AL to the States to visit her.

The happiness & excitement of the much-anticipated ‘reunion’ worked to Ja-rang’s advantage. She had no need to coerce or resort to trickery to persuade Liz to recuperate properly in bed. The unborn twins were affectionately referred to as her ‘AL’ or ‘LA’ for Ashley & Leslie and the other way round!

The ‘manor’ with its beautiful landscaped garden in the affluent suburb, a gift from the Senior Yin, was timely! And while XZ had hired a horde of workers to get the nursery ready; his imp had her way with the inside décor, to the consternation & later amusement of the ‘professional’ team who was engaged for the service.

Whatever her preferences, the obviously devoted husband would deny his ‘pride and joy’ nothing! He would just fold his arms across his chest & nodded his consent to the team… And so it was that when he caught the very pregnant lady on a footstool, the agitated roar was equated to an ‘eight’ point on the Richter scale…!

Their weekend jaunts exploring the malls & leisurely strolls through the parks were a source of joy & adventure. Mingling with the jostling crowd, SM was ever grateful for his protective manner & the way he held on tightly to her hand. Money while never an issue was set aside for a lot of thought & love went into each item that was specially chosen for the nursery & their twins.

‘Seas of blue’ filled up her shopping bags while the excited expectant father chose ‘pink’… It was hard to stick to their ‘pledge’ not to spoil the children as they found themselves irresistibly drawn & immersed in the small world of innocence…SM had laughingly dragged him away from the ribbons and bow counter where he was steadily putting them away for his sweet ‘p’ ~ & informed him that babies’ delicate scalps were not made for pins and bows!

XZ was not above pampering his ‘babe’ & continued to astound her with his forethought on everything!

Conspicuously enthralled with the notable changes in her body, pressing his ear to her tummy had become second nature to him for he could hardly wait to feel the first kick of their twins! She had blushed & been amused when he casually mentioned that he had signed them up for the natural child birth/Lamaze classes, with every intention to be with her throughout her labor & delivery.


“You’re not eating. Is something wrong with the food, honey?” He saw the way she was picking at her plate & was concerned at her loss of appetite.

Her eyes became thoughtful as she spoke. “You’ve been so patient & good to me, Xiang Zhe.”

“Have I complained, honey?

“No.” And she raised herself slightly to pucker her lips on his jaw.

“Then do something for me.

” What?”

“Try this.”

“Mmm, smells nice, Xiang Zhe! What have you got?” It drew a smile from him for they were having the same meal.

“Chicken nuggets.” He picked up a piece and put it against her parted lips. Slowly, he pushed the nugget into her mouth until his thumb and finger were inside it. She removed the piece out of his fingers, and then playfully bit on them….

“Ah, finger licking’ good.”

“Minx.” He chuckled & was full of concern when she suddenly bolted up! She reassured him with a smile.

“I’m fine but it feels like my tummy is moving, Xiang Zhe! Can it be….?”

“Xiang Zhe, quick!” SM struggled to sit up as she placed his hand on her tummy!

“Feel that?!”

To XZ’s great surprise, he felt a fluttery movement & then a big jab like a kick! Holding centre court & thoroughly enjoying the stimulating reception from their audience, the kicks came more erratically! XZ was ecstatic!

“I want to pinch myself to make sure!” She said enthusiastically for she was beside herself with joy at the lives kicking vigorously inside her although it could never replace the blissful sensation of XZ’s arms around her.

“Let me do it instead. You’ve got some delectable places I’d like to pinch!” He yelped when she did it first! The minx was positively taking advantage of her delicate condition, knowing he won’t retaliate!
By mutual consent, both had gently turned down Dr Kim’s kind overture to reveal the twins’ gender, saying they preferred it to remain a secret until the stork’s deliveries! The remarkably exuberant kicks excited & worried him but she appeared undaunted! His concern stirred her emotionally and it was transparent to SM that ‘she & the twins’ was XZ’s raison deter. So it was when he turned to ask her gently, “Honey, would you consider having a ‘C-section’?”

Her reaction was swift as she flung back with feelings, “Xiang Zhe! Absolutely no!!”” How would she be able to present him with a team if she went for a ‘C-section’? Looking at her, he felt a lump in his throat for there was a discerning maturity to her personality….


Late one evening.

She was stretched out on the sofa; her feet nestled on his lap, as XZ gently massaged her feet. Ever since the day when he’d almost dropped her when a sudden nudge from the twins’ exuberant kicks took him by surprise, he’d been careful when lifting her….! It had so shaken him up but that ‘rare’ revelation of vulnerability moved SM to tears & brought home more strongly how he felt about her!

Goose flesh appeared over her skin as his gentle fingers found a sensitive spot & he smiled indulgently at the cooking sounds she made! She’d fallen asleep when he looked down & he carried her to bed. A frown creased his forehead as he looked down at the anklet. It was slightly pressing onto her swollen ankle but to no avail would she hear of removing it, no matter how eloquent or persuasive his efforts…..

SM felt XZ nibbling her ear & mumbled in her sleep. As his caresses continued, she opened her eyes slowly to squint at him.

“How long have you been awake? Are we late for work?” Getting up as she spoke to him.

“Ever since you snored and woke me.”

She bolted up so fast that he held his breath! Lord, not again! She was always throwing ‘caution to the wind’, forgetting that she was carrying their twins!

“I don’t  snore so don’t  you fib about it!”

He continued to lie on the bed. “How would you know, minx? You were sound asleep & snoring!”

Did she snore? She didn’t trust the smirk on his face. He must be paying her back.

“Xiang Zhe! Did I really snore?” ‘A little.” Was his come back.

“I have never snored in my life. Period.” He laughed at her self-consciousness & made a move towards her. Before he could reach her, SM had sprung to her feet & hurled a pillow at his head, her hand already holding another feathered missile! A grunt as the aim hit.

“Bull’s eye. Tell me I snore? Huh? This will teach you to say I snored!” And she hurled the second missile at him, shrieking and laughing as it landed on its target.

“You do!”

“Do not!” As she looked around for another missile to hurl, XZ lunged forward, catching her from behind. She struggled until he swung her round, his lips effectively sealing off her protests. Her hands weakly pummeling his chest as she surrendered herself.

“Tell me I don’t  snore, Xiang Zhe.” He was contrite when he saw how sensitive she was to the innocent remark & assured her that she didn’t! He loved her with an intimacy tempered with tenderness & she welcomed his absorption & consideration….

The thoughtful, affectionate gestures from him were all the more meaningful & heart-warming as the pregnancy advanced. With so much to prepare, the time had begun to pass swiftly. Summer was gone & ‘fall’ with its golden tinges would soon be making way for the cold chill of winter.



Chapter 45

 

No one could fault him for his thoughtfulness. Shopping for the twins had been a fun filled, thoroughly enjoyable adventure, but getting the nursery ready proved to be a challenge! All the appurtenances for the nursery had to pass through his stringent eye & inspection as he checked on safety features & for hazardous material

Leaving nothing to chance, no domain was too small or detail too trivia to be discounted or neglected as XZ conscientiously provided for their well being. Her initial amazement to this astidiousside of him soon made way for amusement as she laughingly rubbed it in, teasing him mockingly.

An affront XZ immediately argued his case & in his most somber tone enlightened the ignorant little woman that he was merely being cautious & exercising his judgment Dear Lord, he never suspected his prophetic words to come back to haunt him He once commented that arriage with her would be exhausting Now he wished he bitten his tongue! Unable to resist ruffling his feathers, the impish SM was ready to fire away with a big volley of applause each time an item earned his seal of approval!


The manor was ready for residence. A reen househad been a late inclusion to the grounds when the old man from the flea market had gratefully accepted XZ overture to move in to take care of the garden.

It was to XZ immense relief when Aunty ZS good-naturedly consented to move in temporarily to the manor to be lose on handfor SM. The older lady was equally grateful for their company for with the repairs, improvisation & reconstruction work on the YZ Projectprogressing at a rapid pace, GC had stayed away at the condo site quarters, wanting to get as much work accomplished & was home for the weekends only.


After their debut kickoff eight weeks ago, the twins had been raring to go & their kicks were growing stronger with increasing frequency. It was an experience XZ would always remember & knowing that she nurtured the fruit of their love inside her body brought out the paternal instincts, giving him a fulfilling sense of pride. He would never tire of the stimulating sensation ~ feeling the enthusiasm & spark of life against his palm was.a novelty that would never wear off for him!

Autumn was replaced by the chill of winter. As the season changed, so did her body. Staring pensively at her reflection in the mirror, SM sighed resignedly & wished she knew how XZ truly perceived her She had never considered herself vain but the ipposilhouette was a depressing sight to her & she couldn hold back the fallacy that her body would somehow repel him.

He was extraordinarily sensitive to her moods. He could sense that something was amiss when she reacted with more reticence than ever to his assistance to lend a hand with a daily massage. She couldn shed off her reservations & the inferiority complex & bore them like a cross until XZ browbeat her into telling him what was wrong

When she shyly blurted out her feelings, XZ was genuinely delighted with the providential reakfalling into his lap & rose unconditionally to the occasion of convincing her otherwise! He laughed off the absurdity of it & tenderly brushed away her oubts & inhibitions telling her not just in words alone how appealingly attractive she was to him Patient & understanding, he worn down her natural reticence until she yielded to him....

Solicitous, his spousal conduct had dutifully extended beyond to aiding her disrobe & dressing-up! Catching SM literally with her pants down on one occasion, he was troubled to observe how uncomfortable & awkward it was for her to bend down as she struggled to get one leg into the pants.

Her initial reservations, despite the intimacy they shared, soon gave way & she couldn deny him that small ndulgencenot when he put his foot down, saying nothing could please him more. There was no end to the onceivablepossibilities of what he would be up next & regaling the unborn twins with eter Rabbittales was one! XZ was almost comically unpredictable!


See how usic hath charms to soothe the savage breastRemoving the ear sets from SM belly, XZ looked expectantly to his relaxed imp, confident of her rave reviews. Mamma, Richard Letterman.? No wonder the twins had fallen asleep! Reading her mind, he proudly defended his choice to the imp who was poking her tongue out at him. icky Martin is out of the question for now!

The twins had been unusually active & he noticed the fatigue on her face as she reclined back on the pillow. Lightly brushing his knuckle gently down her cheek, he questioned the sanity of giving his blessings for her to continue her caled downschedule. oney, shall I speak to XD? As the producer, I have the last word & rescheduling the program shouldn be a problem.

In wanting to fulfill SM dream to host a hatshow, he consulted XD on his idea & together they come up with one such hatprogram for her. SM hadn’t been told of the true nature of the taping for it was to be a yardstick for the pilot run, sort of testing the water to see how well SM could pull it off as the lone host.

o, Xiang Zhe, I want to do the taping. I fine. Just a little tired. I think the twins enjoy the music & the stories!

That’S the general idea, honey!Winking wickedly at her before adding. glad my choice was justified!
ouch

Beneath the fade of the cool, confident, charming, infallible, successful man presented to the outside world, SM knew that like other ordinary mortals, XZ was not above feeling vulnerable or emotionally affected where she was concerned. Heir apparent to one of the country most influential families & still much-sought after by the mamas of society ~ but for her, he was the epitome of a caring, loving & giving ate~ verythingthat a woman could ever dream, wish or ask for


He tried & failed to put aside his personal feelings whenever she went in front of the camera. No one who knew Director Yin or the charming Mrs. Yin could insinuate or harbor the misconception that epotismwas at play or that he pulled strings where her popularity was concerned. Every one knew how hard Ms SM had worked for her achievements, & the long hours she put in, pulling her own weight.

By now the technicians & engineers were used to his inconspicuous presence as Director Yin stepped into the control room. Today was no different as they saw how his eyes lit up as he gazed at his wife. A current of emotions swept over him as he watched her, listening to her smooth, even delivery. His pride in her ~ obvious to all.

And then the unthinkable happened! There was a series of hiccups! Her voice faltered. SM had stopped mid-way in her taping! XZ bit back on the ineffable, his expression changing to one of dread as he caught the sudden flicker of ainin her expression! In a dash that would leave some track champions biting his dust, XZ was beside her! Ignoring the startled onlookers as they gave way to him, he caught her in his arms

I guess they are just trying to show-off to their Daddy!Trying to make light of the situation as she saw the worrying lines creasing his forehead.

He almost swallowed his tongue as he caught the twinsenthusiastic response to their mama introduction As their anxious Dad held his breath, doubtful that her petite frame could support the heavyweight, SM slumped into his arms.

Shouting instructions to call for an ambulance & get Dr. Kim, he could feel the blood rushing to his head as the kicks came on strong! He prayed she wasn’t going to faint! hel be fine, son. Stop pacing the floor or Il send you the bill for a new carpet!

Dr Kim monotone pleasantry pierced through the mist of his troubled thoughts. He was almost at the end of his tether, anxious to be at her side. Pacing back & forth, a hand in his pants pocket, the other rubbing his temple, the magnetism of the younger man was a force to be reckoned with.

You’ll be no good to her showing up like a nervous wreck, XZ. She needs your encouragement. Trust me, there not going to be any complications.


Save your strength, Mrs. Yin & relax. You’re too tensed up. lease, I want my husband. Where is he?!oul tire yourself easily if you don’t relax, Mrs. Yin. Your husband on his way together with Dr Kim.

Trying to fight against the spasm of pain, SM was consumed with fear for both herself & the twins ~ where were Xiang Zhe? Surely the calls to the families couldn be taking him this long! Her fear manifested without his comforting presence & she moaned as each spasm overwhelmed her!

Xiang Zhe, I want my husband!She cried in between each tortured breath.

Suddenly, she felt cold fingers lacing over hers & despite the mask & gown he wore, SM could recognize those mesmerizing eyes that were now stricken with fear & anguish!

Everything going to be fine, honey.He coaxed & encouraged. Wiping the beads of perspiration off her forehead, the bewildered XZ was trying to remember everything they gone through in the Lamaze classes & drew a blank! He had no idea what he was blubbering about as the influx of runaway thoughts flew out from his mouth!

That right, my boy. Just keep talking to her.Dr Kim said cheerfully. Nodding his approval.

Now, now, Mrs. Yin, this isn the time to moon over your husband. You’re got work to do ~ save your strength & don’t push until I tell you to.

Inexplicable & strange as it was, seeing the anxiety in his eyes gave her the resolve & strength to fight against the tide of pain that was tearing her insides out. Somehow she understood that it was worse on him than it was for her. His grip tightened encouragingly & SM struggled to swallow the moans that were escaping from her lips.

Dear Lord, he would never again look at motherhood in the same light vein as before! He could not bear to see her suffering in pain!

ome along now, Mrs. Yin. Youl be fine, just follow my instructions. Push, yes, that it!

The roguish stork rendezvous with Santa paid off. At the stroke of midnight, Santa made his best Christmas delivery ever! The unsuspecting world welcomed the ext generationheartthrob with a lusty bawl coming from the Yinsfirstborn, Leslie, Dong Gun joined shortly by his heart-breaker twin, Ashley, Chae Rim

Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs. Yin! Merry Christmas too!"


Word had spread like wild bush fire of the celebrity personage & soon everyone was caught up in the excitement The nurses were clamoring to be ssignedto the very pecialguest, determined to catch a glimpse of her husband!

A living, walking ream boat His matinee idol gorgeous looks & disarming smiles eclipsed only by the cordial & punctilious manner he shown to all! They drooled & watched in fascination at the charismatic hunk who wasn’t afraid to openly display his affection for all to see & there wasn’t a female soul at the hospital whose heart wasn’t filled with just the iniest bit of envyat SM.


An air of festivity & cheer engulfed the manor & at the heart of the celebration, a Christmas tree. XZ was adamant that SM & L.A. would have their Christmas! Adorned with tinsel ornaments, silver bells & colored balls bringing life to the room, with huge stockings, filled with gift wrapped presents, hanging from the mantle; the fireplace exuding warmth & cheer of the Yuletide season.

It was New Year Eve. The elders were expected for dinner. He was excited as he checked on the finishing touches to the arrangement, anxious for Liz & Madam Nor to join the family in the Video Conferencing he set up to bring together all the loved ones on this joyous eunion It was impossible not to be caught up in Liz enthusiasm! How she missed her Gorgeous & the dear folks at home! This would be Liz first glimpse at her randchildren’…!

He had a purpose too. In one of their early conversations, Liz had been thrilled to fill in XZ that their dear friend, warm & fun loving Madam Nor, who had suffered a setback in her health, was now up & bouncing about!

With one angel sitting high up on the Christmas tree, a radiant one warmly tugged in his arm, & two adorable, sleeping angels lying snugly in their warmly-lined bassinets on the carpet floor, XZ felt he was the happiest man on earth!

Tilting her lovely face, he pointed to the mistletoe, not that he would ever need one as he captured her lips in a passionate kiss.

He was astounded that he could feel entimentalbut gazing at the heavenly bliss he held in his arms, he was overwhelmed & knew that this was no fool paradise!!


Having their own distinguishable features, Leslie & Ashley was not a pair of identical twins! They just had to be different but he had no complaints on that score! For, nobody could mistake the pedigree

A split image of his handsome, princely Daddy, baby Leslie would undeniably be the next generation heartthrob & carrying the same torch, the younger playful sister, Ashley, with duplicated, delicate features of her sweet, spirited mama, would similarly leave a trail of broken heartseating their way to the Yinsmanor!

Dad, I love you so much! Do you love me?

He looked down ~ sure of her answer. Nothing could disguise the love & pride she saw in his beautiful eyes as he held her gaze

ot a bit.She yelled as he bit her on a tender earlobe

You little minx. Now I know for certain Il never let you goShe looked like a dream, an ethereal air about her. Without meaning to or making any effort at all, she could titillate him just by being her natural self. Life was good to him! As a producer, he couldn have asked for anything more.

She was incredibly happy & words could never do justice to how she felt about him & the twins. A dazzling smile lit up her face as she thought of her firstborn son, Leslie & Ashley, the ream cometrue for XZ. She laced her hands behind his nape & drawing his head down to her, showed him how she truly felt!

love you, Xiang Zhe!

My special angels.Maybe, just maybe, his atemother had a hand to do with these special blessings in his life. Nothing could be apt or more befitting when a Christmas Carol was heard over the airwaves.


Hark the Herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King,
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconcile;
Joyful all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With angelic host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem
Hark the Herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn King
((We wish you a merry Christmas, we wish you a merry Christmas,
We wish you a merry Christmas……))
"MERRY CHRISTMAS & A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!"



THE END