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203 The One I Love

 Huo Shaoheng kept his eyes on the top of the antique wooden bed when he asked the question. He did not look at Gu Nianzhi.

He waited for Gu Nianzhi's reply, but it never came.

He turned to look at her-and discovered she had actually fallen asleep.

Huo Shaoheng looked at her for a long moment. He leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.

He could almost feel a spark of electricity shoot through him when his warm lips pressed against her fair skin.

Huo Shaoheng let his lips linger for a moment, before slowly moving away. He touched Gu Nianzhi's face. When he stood up, there was a pained, conflicted expression on his face.

To a young, innocent girl like Gu Nianzhi, love was a simple matter: you either liked someone, or not.

But it took much more than that to build a relationship.

Huo Shaoheng adjusted his collar. He opened the door and went out of the resting room.

Outside the door, Xue Jingjiang and the others had already returned, and were in the middle of a passionate karaoke session.

Huo Shaoheng walked to the sofa and sat down. Hong Ziqi hurried over to chat with him. "Huo Shao, quick question: are you a close friend of Gu Yanran, the billionaire lady from Barbados?"

"No," Huo Shaoheng answered bluntly. "Why do you ask?"

"She's going to be moving her assets over to our country, isn't she? She'll be investing heavily in a few areas. I have this project with Big Xue and Little Cui, actually, and Gu Yanran's representatives have already come over to check it out. They like it, and want to invest in it. However, none of us actually know her, so we thought of asking you-we heard you got her out of a jam a while ago," Hong Ziqi said in a long breath, before adding, "but don't feel pressured. We're not trying to get you to pull a few strings for us, or anything like that. Business is business. We just want to know if she's legit-it would be so embarrassing for all of us if she turns out to be some kind of scammer."

"Oh." Huo Shaoheng nodded. "She's not a scammer. The Barbados Gu family is extremely wealthy, rich enough to call the shots in their country. You have to keep in mind that Barbados is a small country, though, so their influence isn't actually as impressive as it sounds."

Cui Bowen and Xue Jingjiang overheard them talking about business matters, and walked over to join the conversation. Bai Tianqun sat nearby, but did not say a word.

When they had finished discussing business, Bai Tianqun wiped his face and said to Huo Shaoheng: "Huo Shao, do you know what happened to my Second Uncle?"

"No. Why, what's wrong?" Huo Shaoheng replied without missing a beat. His act was so convincing it would have fooled even Yin Shixiong-had Yin Shixiong seen him now, he would have wondered whether he had hallucinated his mission with Huo Shaoheng.

Bai Tianqun said with a pained expression: "It's just that a few of my family think that his body should be allowed to return to the country. Second Uncle made a huge mistake, don't get me wrong, but he's dead now... surely he can be laid to rest in the family burial plot. It pains me to think that his spirit is now drifting aimlessly in foreign lands, never to be reunited with the rest of his family."

Huo Shaoheng's eyes narrowed and gleamed imperceptibly. He lowered his eyes and shook his head as he rhythmically tapped a finger upon his thigh. "No use telling me about it. You should be asking the main branch of the Bai family for mercy since they're the ones calling the shots."

He was referring to Bai Yueran's family.

They were vehemently opposed to the idea of collecting Bai Yusheng's remains.

Bai Tianqun knew that was the end of the matter. He shrugged helplessly. "Oh well. Second Uncle went too far. He crossed the line, so I guess it serves him right. Anyway, I've done my bit-I can go back to my family with a clear conscience now."

Huo Shaoheng smiled in reply. He turned to Xue Jingjiang to ask about their project.

The men were soon engrossed in their discussion, and lost track of time.

Gu Nianzhi woke up and discovered that it was already past four o'clock in the afternoon. She was still feeling light-headed; her nap had not actually helped with her hangover.

She was still lying on the bed when she heard the door open. It was Huo Shaoheng.

"Oh, you're already awake? Go eat your dinner, they've prepared it for you outside." Huo Shaoheng stood before the bed and looked down at her.

Gu Nianzhi blinked blearily. She tried to remember what she had said and done before falling asleep, but her brain was a pile of mush. Nothing seemed to make sense.

"All right, stop shaking your head, I get it. We'll go home once you've had your dinner." Huo Shaoheng reached out and pulled her by the hand.

She tumbled forward, right into Huo Shaoheng's arms.

Huo Shaoheng did not know how to react-something seemed off with Gu Nianzhi.

Gu Nianzhi smiled. She slid her arms around Huo Shaoheng's waist and hugged him. In the next second, she had already released him, and was making her way towards the door with a hand against the wall.

She was unsteady on her feet, but it did not look like she was in danger of tripping and falling on her face.

She exited the resting room, and saw there were now two tables outside.

The men would be dining at one table, the women at another; this separation was necessary because they would be eating traditional herbal dishes tailored to the needs of their respective sex.

Gu Nianzhi sat at the table and began eating her dinner with Mrs. Cui, Xue Xinran and Guo Huining. The three older women were drinking red wine.

"Nianzhi, this is a Lafite from '82. It's pretty good." Guo Huining poured a small glass of wine for Gu Nianzhi. "It's sweet, I like it."

Gu Nianzhi had been drinking Moutai, a baijiu, earlier in the afternoon. They were now offering her red wine; she wanted to refuse the drink, but Mrs. Cui and Xue Xinran were watching her eagerly. The men, on the other hand, were deep in conversation among themselves; she did not have Huo Shaoheng to help her this time. Gu Nianzhi steeled herself, and downed the glass.

Shortly after, it became evident that the baijiu was still in her system-now mixed disastrously with the red wine.

Huo Shaoheng eventually realized what was happening and came over to stop her from drinking any more wine, but she was already hopelessly drunk by then.

Mrs. Cui and Xue Xinran were extremely embarrassed. "It's our fault, we didn't know Little Gu wasn't used to drinking."

Guo Huining, who had been enthusiastically plying Gu Nianzhi with wine, shrank in her seat, too mortified to say anything.

"It's not how much she drank, but what she's been drinking. She's had baijiu and red wine, and the high-quality stuff at that-not even the best drinker would be able to stay on his feet after drinking those." Xue Jingjiang sighed, and called for a waiter to order a traditional hangover soup for Gu Nianzhi.

Huo Shaoheng checked the time: it was almost six o'clock. He held Gu Nianzhi in his arms and said, "Don't worry about it. I'll take her home. It's been a long day, anyway."

It had been supposed to be a simple shopping trip to buy gifts for his mother, Song Jinning. Before they knew it, it was already dark out.

Huo Shaoheng had been drinking, and could not get behind the wheel in his condition. He was forced to call Fan Jian and have him pick them up from the Scion Square parking lot.

Gu Nianzhi was completely out of it.

She did not remember getting in the car, or how she got home.

The only thing she remembered was how there had been a cozy warmth for her to nestle into whenever there was a cool evening wind making its way into the car.

Her thoughts, previously interrupted and scattered by her impromptu afternoon nap, suddenly fell into place again.

In her drunken stupor, Gu Nianzhi remembered her unfinished conversation with Huo Shaoheng.

Huo Shaoheng put an arm around her shoulder and guided her into their suite on the first floor.

Gu Nianzhi clung to his arm and said drunkenly, "Huo Shao, you want to know who I like, don't you? You were asking about it, I remember..."

Huo Shaoheng did not reply. He hurriedly led her into his room.

Gu Nianzhi's restless fingers reached for his cheek, before sliding towards his lips.

She traced his lips with her fingers as she whispered dreamily, "It's you, you're the one I love. Uncle Huo... Huo Shao... Shaoheng..."

As soon as she finished saying his name, Huo Shaoheng kicked the door shut and pinned her arms above her with one hand. His other hand slid into her hair. He pushed her into the wall and kissed her passionately on her pouty lips, over and over again.

Gu Nianzhi's attempt at seduction had been laughably juvenile; for him, however, it had been the most difficult test in his life.

The moment she called him by his first name, she had become the most powerful weapon in the world. She had shattered all of his defenses.

Huo Shaoheng had lost control and was now hungrily devouring Gu Nianzhi's lips. He pressed his mouth forcefully against hers, licking and kissing her lips.

The tip of his tongue pried open her fragrant mouth and slipped boldy inside it, stealing her breath away.

His lips and tongue attacked her. He kissed her thoroughly, inside and out, but it was still not enough for him. He began to suck and nibble on her lips, the tip of her tongue-he latched onto them and did not let go.

Gu Nianzhi had been completely awake and alert the moment Huo Shaoheng leaned in to kiss her.

She had been pushed up against the wall, her hands above her in a strained position, and was now passively receiving his kisses.

She trembled from head to toe. She was no longer in control of her body or mind.

She could not believe this was really happening. Was she dreaming? Everything was possible in a dream-it would explain why Huo Shaoheng was now kissing her so furiously, the way she had secretly fantasized every night.

But this was even better. It exceeded her wildest dreams. Everything was perfect.

He's kissing me!

He's kissing me!

He's actually kissing me!

Gu Nianzhi's entire body shivered violently, from head to toe.

She tried to respond. She wanted to feel him; she wanted to know whether this was real, or just a dream.

But Huo Shaoheng held her captive. She could not move.

He had complete control over her. Her breath, her lips, and her tongue belonged to him now. The tip of his tongue slipped in and out of her mouth, stirring waves of aching numbness.

But she did not feel smothered, nor that she was she in pain. She wanted only to submit to his unbreakable shackles, to be imprisoned by his love. She was willing to be his prisoner, now and forever.

Huo Shaoheng's lips tasted like sweet wine. There was also the scent of cigarettes from his fingers, as they held her face up to his.

Oddly enough, these scents were not at all unpleasant when mixed together. They came together to form a cocktail of indescribable masculinity, one that Gu Nianzhi found to be extremely appealing. It made her think of smoke over a vast desert, of river sunsets; she imagined him to be a general on horseback, dressed in ceremonial attire: a bow in his hand, a wine pouch hanging from his waist, and his quarry slung across his horse.

Gu Nianzhi's legs were turning to jelly; she could no longer support herself on them. She wrapped her legs around him, like vines clinging to a sturdy tree.

She would have collapsed onto the floor by now, had Huo Shaoheng not pinned her wrists up high on the wall with his powerful hand.

After a while, Gu Nianzhi's arms began to ache.

She mewled plaintively and began to struggle.

Huo Shaoheng finally ceased his violent flurry of kisses. He released her lips and arms. He lowered his head, buried it into her neck, and gradually recovered from his labored breathing.