"New Hongsheng District please," Li Yundong said once they got settled into the cab's backseat with all their shopping bags. Seconds passed with the cab showing no signs of moving. Li Yundong tore his gaze away from the window and looked to the front.
Instead of doing his damn job and taking them back home, the cabbie was gaping at Su Chan.
"Is there a problem?" Li Yundong asked with a frown. All of a sudden, he felt an urge to remove his suit jacket and then cover Su Chan's cleavage with it.
"Damn... is she a movie star or something?"
"Just drive," Li Yundong growled. "New Hongsheng District."
The cabbie cleared his throat. "Right, New Hongsheng District, got it!"
The cabbie shifted in the driver's seat until he was facing the front, then put the car in gear. As they drove off, Li Yundong caught the cabbie sneaking a few glances at Su Chan through the rear-view mirror.
Li Yundong rolled his eyes, then grabbed a shopping bag beside him and shoved it in front of Su Chan's chest.
Su Chan turned away from the window and gave Li Yundong a quizzical look.
"Hold this," Li Yundong said with finality.
"Oh," Su Chan said obediently, wrapping her arms around the huge bag.
They drove in silence with Li Yundong constantly checking whether the cabbie was trying to ogle Su Chan. The dude seemed to have gotten the memo and kept his eyes on the road.
At some point during the drive, it occurred to Li Yundong that Su Chan wasn't bombarding him with all kinds of questions like she used to. Li Yundong glanced sideways and saw that she was staring out the window at the passing scenery. For some reason, she seemed kind of nervous.
Before he could ask if she was alright, the cab pulled up in front of New Hongsheng District.
Li Yundong paid the cabbie after they got out and brought their shopping bags into their apartment. After dumping the shopping bags on the couch, they went downstairs and hopped into another cab, this time to Shengyuan Hotel.
"Hey, man. Eyes on the road please," Li Yundong growled during the fifth time he'd caught the cabbie stealing glances at Su Chan through the rear-view mirror.
Su Chan leaned into Li Yundong's side.
"Mmm... Yundong... I'm so hungry... How I wish to have some snacks right now…"
And he wished she would stop making erotic sounds like that when they were in frigging public. Li Yundong pulled out his phone and checked the time. It was almost 8, which meant they were already late to the party. Their shopping trip downtown had taken nearly three hours. No wonder she was hungry.
Li Yundong smiled at Su Chan. "You can eat as much as you like during the party," he said.
Su Chan's face lit up at the suggestion. "Really, really, really? You won't complain about my huge appetite?"
Li Yundong released a few chortles. "Of course not," he said. "Eat as much as you like, okay?"
"Yayy!!!" Su Chan threw herself into his arms.
He just hoped she didn't drool all over his new suit jacket while fantasizing about the feast that awaited her during the party.
The cab dropped them off in front of the hotel's main entrance. After paying the cab driver, Li Yundong took Su Chan's hand and headed towards the lobby. As they neared the fancy revolving doors, Li Yundong noticed that Su Chan was lagging behind. He turned around and gave Su Chan a look of concern. Su Chan was staring down at the toes of her black heels, gnawing at her bottom lip.
Li Yundong pulled Su Chan away from the revolving doors.
Su Chan squeezed Li Yundong's hand slightly. "W- what if they kick us out again?"
So that's why she seemed so nervous earlier...
Li Yundong threw his head back in laughter.
Then, he hooked his finger under Su Chan's chin and raised her head. Their eyes met in a tender gaze.
"Trust me, my dear little princess," Li Yundong said. "Nobody is going to kick us out with you looking this gorgeous. Okay?"
"Mm!!!" Su Chan said, bobbing her head up and down.
"Now. What say we go inside and show 'em who's boss?" Li Yundong said, offering his arm to Su Chan.
When Su Chan's hand settled into the crook of his elbow, Li Yundong thought that nothing felt more right.
"He Shao! What on earth were you thinking!" Ding Nan yelled. "What makes you think you can chase away the guests that Zhou Qin personally invited to the party!"
"What?" He Shao gave Ding Nan an affronted look. "Who are you referring to?"
"Those two beggars that you chased away earlier are Zhou Qin's friends!" Ding Nan snapped. "I've already confirmed it with the receptionist downstairs!"
"Those two?" He Shao curled his lips in disdain. "Great. Now she's hanging out with beggars and lowbrows." He snorted. "Looks like Zhou Qin's social circle has just been devalued. And I can't believe she invited him to the party! Isn't she afraid of embarrassing the Zhou family?"
There was a time where Ding Nan would agree with He Shao in a heartbeat. However, it was clear to Ding Nan that Li Yundong was a different man now. The once dull and ordinary Li Yundong had now become a beacon of charisma and masculinity.
Now, Ding Nan was more than ready to jump to Li Yundong's defense.
Ding Nan stomped her foot in anger. "How dare you—"
"What are you two talking about?" Zhou Qin approached Ding Nan with a smile.
"Ask him!" Ding Nan said, shooting a murderous glare at He Shao.
Zhou Qin held He Shao's gaze, the enigmatic smile never leaving her face. Silence stretched between them. Zhou Qin didn't utter a word. She didn't have to; her cold eyes were like icicles that could penetrate one's barriers, and her smile could tease one out of their comfort zone.
He Shao averted his gaze and cleared his throat. "You look ravishing today, Qinqin."
Ravishing was probably an understatement. Dressed in a red Cheongsam with a side slit that reached slightly above mid-thigh, Zhou Qin's allure seemed almost otherworldly. Zhou Qin brought her flute to her lips and took a sip of wine.
Zhou Qin lowered the flute and turned back to Ding Nan. "I think it's best if you tell me," she said, then nodded at a few of her guests.
While waiting for Ding Nan to answer, Zhou Qin glanced around the banquet hall, seemingly looking for something, or someone.
Ding Nan snorted. "I know why Li Yundong hasn't shown up yet," she said.
At the mention of Li Yundong's name, Zhou Qin refocused her attention on Ding Nan. Concern and apprehension pooled in her eyes. "Why?"
Ding Nan's eyes darted to He Shao. "You sure you want me to tell her?" she asked with a brow raised.
He Shao snorted. "Zhou Qin, if you want to befriend someone, at least befriend someone with class! You can't just invite people who dress like peasants to a place like this! They don't belong here!"
Coldness seeped into Zhou Qin's eyes.
"So you kicked him out, is that it?"
"Technically, I didn't kick him out," He Shao said. "I merely told him that this isn't a place that someone like him could set foot in."
Zhou Qin's icy gaze froze the air around them, bringing the conversation to a halt.
The cold intensity of Zhou Qin's stare gave He Shao goosebumps.
Beside Zhou Qin, Ding Nan trembled in fear.
Then, Zhou Qin smiled. She raised her hand and snapped her finger.
A waiter approached them a moment later.
"How may I serve you, Miss Zhou?"
Zhou Qin pointed at He Shao's flute of champagne. "Take this man's flute, and then escort him out."
"Are you out of your mind, Zhou Qin?" He Shao said, angry and alarmed.
Ding Nan's eyes widened in panic.
"Zhou Qin, I don't think you should go that far," Ding Nan said, shaking Zhou Qin's arm a few times. "How are you going to explain this to Mr. He later?"
Smirking, Zhou Qin glanced at Ding Nan from the corner of her eyes.
Ding Nan withdrew her hand in fear.
Zhou Qin's cold gaze refocused on He Shao.
"Didn't you hear what I said?" Zhou Qin raised her brow threateningly. "Do I need to repeat myself?"
An angry flush gathered in He Shao's cheeks, purpling them; the champagne flute quivered in his hand.
A low growl escaped He Shao's lips.
"If that's how you wanna play it, then fine!" He Shao barked, then paused as if he couldn't believe what just happen. "I can't believe you're going to mistreat me because of some... some"—He Shao's face contorted in disgust— "uncultured gigolo!"
"You have disrespected me by treating my friends with disdain," Zhou Qin said coldly. "Why should I respect those who don't respect me?"
Zhou Qin pointed at the exit. "Show yourself out, He Shao! Before I have you removed by force!"
He Shao raised his champagne flute.
Zhou Qin's eyes flashed menacingly. "I will end you if you smash anything in my party."
A shudder coursed through He Shao. He lowered the flute back down slowly.
"Hey, He Shao, just chill, alright?" Ding Nan said, trying to play the peacemaker. "Zhou Qin is just mad right now. Maybe later, once she's calmed do—"
"Do you want to go with him too?" Zhou Qin's harsh voice startled Ding Nan.
Ding Nan shot He Shao a helpless look.
Fuming, He Shao drained the contents of his flute in a single gulp, then threw it at the waiter who was watching the heated exchange anxiously.
"I won't forget this, Zhou Qin!" He Shao growled. "Right now, I only have one thing to say to you. No matter how close you are with that lowly bumpkin, he'll never become one of us. Never!"
A loud crash sounded as soon as he finished.
Ding Nan jumped slightly. What the heck... Did someone just... smash their glass? she thought.
Ding Nan followed everyone's gaze towards the source of the commotion. Apparently, a waiter was staring slack-jawed at the entrance of the banquet hall instead of minding the tray he was carrying. The tray tilted further sideways and one by one, the champagne flutes on the tray smashed into the floor. Finally, the tray itself fell with a loud clang.
Despite the noise, nobody in the banquet hall was staring at the champagne puddle that had formed at the poor waiter's feet.
When the final echoes of the clinking glass dissipated, a pin-drop silence permeated the banquet hall.
Dozens of wide eyes and hanging jaws.
One spectacular entrance.