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393 Always In My Thoughts

 "Your name is Gu Nianzhi? We have the same last name." Gu Yanran was very friendly and nodded at Gu Nianzhi. "If you don't mind, may I ask what characters are in your name?"

Gu Nianzhi answered her obediently. "'Nian' meaning thoughts, and 'Zhi' as in literary jargon."

Gu Yanran was delighted by the wordplay. "Nianzhi? Always in my thoughts? What a nice name!"

"Miss Gu is too kind." Gu Nianzhi smiled, unsure of how else to answer.

Xue Jingjiang chuckled. "Yanran, how can you talk about her name like that?Our Nianzhi doesn't even know how to answer you!"

Gu Yanran smiled, "I think her name is quite special."

Gu Nianzhi answered boldly, "Well, it's just words and my name happens to be these two."

Huo Shaoheng coughed from the side and said to Xue Jingjiang, "Xuezi, you shouldn't be rude when you're treating Miss Gu to dinner." In other words, he wanted Xue Jingjiang to take Gu Yanran away instead of chatting and wasting time.

Xue Jingjiang got the hint; he also knew Huo Shaoheng had special feelings for Gu Nianzhi. He nodded at her with a smile and became more polite. "Nianzhi, we're going to have dinner over there now. Come on over to Jiuloufengyue when you're free and I'll prepare all the food you like. It'll be ready at anytime."

"Thank you, Brother Xue," Gu Nianzhi said graciously as she watched Xue Jingjiang and Gu Yanran leave.

Huo Shaoheng had her sit down. "Did you order yet?"

"No, I was waiting for you." Gu Nianzhi sat on the window side of the two person table and Huo Shaoheng sat across from her. His large figure happened to block outside stares so Gu Nianzhi was completed enclosed in the space.

Huo Shaoheng gestured for the waitress to come and take the order. "What do you recommend today?" Huo Shaoheng asked the waitress directly.

The waitress enthusiastically replied, "Our restaurant's Valentine's Day set menu has been very popular today. Would you like to order it?"

"What dishes are included?" Huo Shaoheng glanced at the menu the waitress passed to him and immediately chose the most expensive two person set for 6666 RMB for good luck. He made sure to tell her, "Don't put onions in the black pepper steak."

Gu Nianzhi wasn't here for the food, but for the ambience. The whole point of Valentine's Day was so enjoy the romance of eating a special meal with one's lover. Their food was served shortly with appetizers first-small plates of salad and fruit salad, as well as a freshly baked baguette. Paired with the bread was a small dish of fresh caviar to be spread onto the bread with a butter knife for the best flavor. Gu Nianzhi picked up the cutlery and fluidly cut several slices of bread to spread the caviar on before placing them onto Huo Shaoheng's plate. Next was a corn and seafood chowder-the sweet and crisp corn perfectly balancing the fresh and warm flavor of the seafood. The main course was black pepper steak and cod roasted with red wine and herbs, paired with a dish of cold appetizers. The copious amount of plates filled the table. Gu Nianzhi knew that dessert awaited them after all the food. She propped her head on her hand and sighed. "Do we have to finish all this food? I'm going to get fat eating so much.

Huo Shaoheng cut a piece of steak and swallowed it before replying, "Don't worry, we can go home and exercise after dinner."

Gu Nianzhi was confused. Why would I exercise in the middle of the night? She wondered. However, she quickly realized what "exercise" actually meant. Her cheeks flushed as she looked down and picked up the cutlery and began to cut the steak into small, bite-sized pieces.

The steak was actually mediocre but was plated beautifully. It was slightly overcooked so the outside was burnt and inside tough, making it tiring to chew on. Gu Nianzhi stopped eating after a few bites and dove into the roasted cod instead. The fish was so tender and delicate that she finished the entire fillet in one breath and gushed, "This is really good! The red wine and herbs took away any fishiness, but you can still taste the sweetness of the fish. How exceptional."

Huo Shaoheng saw that Gu Nianzhi had only eaten a bit of the black pepper steak so he reached out to exchange it with his plate of roasted cod.

Gu Nianzhi quickly objected. "That steak is too tough and not very good. Huo Shao doesn't need to eat so much of it."

"It's fine." Huo Shaoheng forked another small piece of steak. "It's not good to waste food."

Gu Nianzhi smiled at this as she took Huo Shaoheng's plate of roasted cod, cut it up and ate it all.

On the other side of the restaurant, Gu Yanran and Xue Jingjiang's dinner was already coming to a close, even though it had been slightly delayed when they'd spotted Huo Shaoheng. After returning to their table, they ate a bit more of the food before asking the waitress to take away the dishes and serve dessert. Gu Yanran ordered tiramisu, while Xue Jingjiang asked for a piece of New York cheesecake.

"Jingjiang, you should really try the tiramisu here." Gu Yanran daintily took a small piece to eat with her fork and shut her eyes with pleasure as she sighed. "The tiramisu here is delicious and pretty authentic; it's similar to original ones I've had in Italy."

Xue Jingjiang smiled. "The chef here was especially recruited from Italy, so of course it's authentic."

"There are plenty of chefs in the Empire, but not many can make such delicious tiramisu. Here, have a bite!" Gu Yanran took an unused fork to pick up a small piece for Xue Jingjiang and motioned to him to open his mouth.

Xue Jingjiang took a few bites and forced himself to swallow it, frowning. "Isn't it too sweet? Do you really think it's any good when it's this sweet?"

"It's not about whether not it's good, I like it because it's the hardest dessert to make. It's known as the king of desserts," Gu Yanran said. "Although, I can certainly make a better tiramisu than this."

"Well, when I have the chance, I must personally try out Miss Gu's homemade tiramisu." Xue Jingjing quickly offered up flattery.

"When we have the chance in the future." Gu Yanran cocked her head with a bright smile, her delicate features so alluring that it was impossible from him to look away.

Although Xue Jingjiang had much experience with women, he had no resistance against a naturally charming woman like Gu Yanran. He actually blushed from Gu Yanran's glance and his heart thundered so loudly that his mind turned blank and his ears were hot. He could only see Gu Yanran's carmine lips move, her beautiful voice in his ears, but he had no idea what she was saying. He only had one wish on his mind-that this voice would continue speaking forever without stopping.

"Jingjiang? Jingjiang?" Gu Yanran reached out to knock the tabletop in front of him. "What's wrong? I was talking to you."

"Oh, I was listening. What did you say?" Xue Jingjiang recovered his senses and was secretly embarrassed how even an experienced man like him could think something so pure and naive.

Gu Yanran was both amused and annoyed. She gently kicked him under the table and the pointy Manolo Blahnik toe scraped Xue Jingjiang. It was only slightly painful, but he found that it would be especially memorable.

"I was asking if you are really childhood friends with Mr. Huo. I never heard you mention it before," Gu Yanran said casually, sipping her coffee.

Xue Jingjiang has only mentioned knowing Huo Shaoheng, but among the many people who knew Huo Shaoheng, Huo Shaoheng certainly didn't care about every single person. But a childhood friend was completely different.

"Of course we are, I had no need to tell you before." Xue Jingjiang resumed his normal demeanor and began joking around. "Also how does our business dealing have anything to do with Huo Shao?"

"I would've had my subordinates quickly sign the agreements with you without requiring so many credit checks if I had known that you're close with him." Gu Yanran stated seriously. "Although the banks have concluded that there are some issues with your finances, what do I have to worry about if you have Mr. Huo as support?"

"Well, that's not how it goes. Business is business, friendship is friendship. Just because he's my childhood friend doesn't mean that he has to be responsible for everything I do." Xue Jingjiang quickly made their relationship clear. "If the bank believes there are issues, then we can come to a mutual agreement but I would never dare use Huo Shao as a cosigner."

"What? I didn't think that you'd be so strict about a conflict of interest." Gu Yanran shot him a strange look. "It's not the first time I've done business with Huaxia people, but this is the first time I've met someone who didn't leverage their connections or take advantage of it." She sighed. "Fine, I'll become your friend purely based on your character!"

Xue Jingjiang grinned, raising his glass in a toast. "That's promise!"

Gu Yanran toasted him and asked him after a sip, "If Mr. Huo is your childhood friend, then who is the girl he brought today? You said she's a child from his family, but who would bring a child from their family to have a Valentine's dinner? Also, her last name is Gu while his is Huo..."

Xue Jingjiang hadn't been very clear about Huo Shaoheng and Gu Nianzhi's relationship; Huo Shaoheng had said only that he cared deeply for her and a had romantic interest in her. He answered vaguely, "Nianzhi is someone he protects. That's why we say she's a child from his family."

"Oh..." Gu Yanran didn't really understand but answered politely without asking anything further. They finished their dessert shortly after and left after paying the bill. Before going, Xue Jingjiang waved at Huo Shaoheng but didn't go to him again. Gu Yanran also looked in that direction and sighed. "This Miss Gu Nianzhi is indeed beautiful. I wonder how attractive her parents must be to have had a pretty little girl like her."

"Nianzhi? She's lovely now, but she's still young." Xue Jingjiang chuckled. "Now, Huo Shao's mom is a true beauty. You haven't seen her before right?"