This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Tea Leaves and White Pearls
Match One: Birthday, Yao, and Temptation:
My name Liao Ju and today is my birthday. That's right; I'm going to be eighteen this year. That means I will now have full power over the clan. Fei-xiansheng and Hen-to-xiansheng will still be advising me. Yet, the paperwork will be handed over to me. In fact, I had to do some this morning to authorize that I was now in control of the clan from here until and I die. That sounds like fun!
Bah! Why am I thinking about work today?! It's my birthday. I should be thinking about fun and happy things! I don't want to be an "old lady" as Qian called me this morning. (I'm going to get the little jerk later. What made it worse was Szu was laughing at me as well. I'm going to get them both later on.)
Anyway, I will be eighteen, as I already said. In China, you are an adult when you reach that age. So, I am legally an adult now. Yet, Bik still calls me her baby. "You'll forever be a little girl to me," she told me. I forced myself to smile and nod at that. I can't complain; she practically raised me when I was baby. That reminds me; this will be my second birthday without my father. It's been a year since his death. So far, the clan is holding up rather well. I've been doing good myself. I'm in my senior year of high school and business is going smoothly for the first year under new leadership. Tonight, however, is a good day to party and relax.
This year, the girls of the clan and my female friends decided to pull a surprise on me after school. Tina kept asking me what I had planned for my birthday this year. I took a moment to think about that.
"I guess the usual with a nice dinner out," I said. Tina frowned at me.
"Anything else?" she asked. I took another moment to think about that. I frowned a bit.
"No?" I asked. Tina looked rather frustrated at my answer.
"Wrong!" she said. I blinked at her.
"Wrong?" I asked.
"Yes!" she shouted. "That's wrong"
"Why?" I asked. Tina leaned in close to my face, grinning.
"You'll have to see this evening!" she said. I blinked at her. Okay, what are you plotting now?
"Girls!" we heard Bik calling from the doorway. "Anyone want some treats?" Tina and I looked up to see her carrying a tray of fresh sweet buns.
"Kee just made these for the birthday girl and her friend," the lovely nurse went on. Tina sat up in surprise.
"Kee cooks?" she asked.
"Oh yes," I said. Bik chuckled.
"Cai's son may be a lazy bum, but that boy can certainly cook!" she said. "If he would only apply his skills to actually hitting the books." Bik set the tray on my desk. "I'll just leave these right here," she said. Then, she turned and walked out of the room. I couldn't help but notice her mouthing something at Tina before she left. Confused, I turned to my best friend.
"What did she say to you?" I asked.
"What?" Tina asked back. I shook my head at her. Instead, I crawled off my bed and picked up a bun. They were actually quite tasty. Kee outdid himself this time.
Six o'clock came around hours later. I stood before my mirror getting dressed.
"You done in there yet?" Mei yelled at me.
"Just about!" I yelled back.
"Come on!" she called. "I want to go now!"
"Stop rushing her! It's not about you!" I heard Qin yell at her daughter.
"I know that!" Mei yelled.
"Please!" I shouted. "Don't fight! Just get in the car and wait for me!"
"Alright!" mother and daughter said. I waited until I was sure they had left. I swear, those two get worse with each other as the years go on. Reminded me of my father and I at times, only we were much civil. The day Mei and Qin actually get along is when Google and Facebook will be available to all of China.
I shook my head and finished getting dressed. I stood before the mirror before it came to me. Crap, I'm doing it again. One year without my father and I'm wearing a pink cheongsam dress. Damn it, that old man still haunts me to this day. I can't get away from it. I will have to try and break the tradition of traditional clothes when I come home. I have been trying. Oh, have I been trying! But, it just happened like this. I can hear that man laughing at me. I will break away from you yet. Mark my words!
I found Szu waiting at the door for me. I blinked up and down at her miniskirt and tank top. She looked at my clothes likewise.
"You're wearing that out?" we asked each other. I blinked at her before frowning.
"Shut it!" I snapped. Szu put up her hands at me.
"Fine, fine," she said. Then, she headed out the door.
"Hey Szu," I spoke up. She glanced over her shoulder at me.
"Yeah?" she asked.
"Aren't the boys going with us?" I asked. "I haven't seen them getting ready for dinner at all." Szu did her best to hold back a chuckle. I blinked at her.
"What?" I asked. She grabbed onto my hand and pulled me out the door.
"I got her!" she yelled at the ladies in a van. "Let's go!"
"Okay," Lili replied. Szu ushered me inside and got in. Before I knew it, I felt a blindfold come over my eyes.
"Hey!" I shouted. "What the hell?!"
"Sorry!" Mei said behind me. "We can't let you see yet."
"Why?" I asked.
"It's a surprise," Tina said to my left.
"What?!" I asked.
"Drive!" Szu yelled.
"Yes ma'am!" Bik called. The thing I knew, we were driving off. In twenty-five minutes, the blindfold came off.
"We're here!" Bik yelled. I looked out of the window and looked around. Bright pink lights were the first thing that I noticed. A girl with pink cat ears waited at the door. Gold characters flashed on and off in the sign. I blinked at the whole display.
"Uh…" I said. "What is it?" The mother giggled at that question. Bik shut off the van and turned to me.
"Happy Birthday, Ju," she said. "Welcome to Hot Lips." I raised an eyebrow at her.
"Is this a club?" I asked.
"Kind of," Cai said. I narrowed my eyes at the wives of my advisors.
"Am I going to regret this?" I asked.
"No," they all said. Szu grabbed me by the wrist and dragged me out. I tried to pull away.
"Okay, okay," I said. "I'll go in." The rest of the ladies followed behind. Okay, I had not expected to look at what was inside. Give me a moment here.
Downstairs is a restaurant while upstairs is a nightclub. Pink washed over everything. I mean, everything. This place could put Barbie to shame. All of the waitress in the restaurant part had car ears and short pink dresses. The showering glitter didn't really help out with this place either. I blinked a good few times. Am I high?
"How did you guys find this?" I asked. Mei turned to me, grinning.
"I found it just looking around online," she said. I just stared at her. O… kay… A pink kitty girl waitress walked up to us.
"Welcome!" she cheered. "How many in your party tonight?"
"Eleven," Bik replied. She leaned in close to the waitress and whispered something to her. I had a good guess that she was telling her that it was my birthday today. The waitress pulled back with a grin on her face. She clapped her hands together.
"Right this way!" the pink kitty girl said. Then, she walked over to look for a pink and glittered table for us to sit at. I put on a brave face and followed along with my crowd. Come on guys, you must be plotting something for me. Right? Right?
We ended up going upstairs to the club. A whiplash of shock came over my face. I felt like I had stepped back into time in a lavish palace. The bright red walls drew me into the elegant charm. No kitty girls up here. They all looked proper in their cheongsam and robes. Softer Zen music made my head hurt less than the pounding music downstairs. One of the "courtesans" walked over to us.
"Welcome," she greeted us. "Come and sit with us." She ushered us over to the low black tables. I smiled as settled into a familiar setting. Mei turned to me, grinning.
"Better?" she asked. I gave her a quick nod.
"Did you really think we would have the party downstairs?" she asked. "We wouldn't do that to you." Another "courtesan" walked over to us.
"Welcome to Hot Lips," she said. "I'll be your server tonight. What can I get you to drink?"
"Hot tea," I said. Szu, Tina, Qun, and Mei ordered soda while the mothers also ordered hot tea. The waitress wrote down our orders.
"Okay," she said. "I will be back with your order." The "courtesan" turned and walked away. The ladies disappeared into conversation as they waited. I let my eyes wonder around the room. There weren't many people up here tonight. Just a couple being lovey-dovey and two businessmen talking about a new business deal. (That reminds me, I have another deal coming up in two weeks. Bah! It's my birthday; it should be fun today!)
But then, I paused.
Wang Yao sat across the room with that business man, talking. My heart jumped in my charm. Oh my… Holy… What the?! My memories went back to last year. I couldn't get that kiss out of my head if I tried. I had acted out of line out of my own stupid fears. Ever since then, I couldn't look him in the eye. I even tried not to be left alone in the room with him. I probably thought from time to time he didn't have any high thoughts about what I did. I couldn't explain myself out of that one if I tried. What if he looks up notices me? Well, he will if I kept staring at him.
Then, that's when it happened.
I noticed my business partner staring back at me. Wang Yao stared right at me. Maybe it's not at me. Maybe it's in my direction. Please let it be in my direction. Please let it be in my direction. Please let it just be in my direction.
Then, Yao turned back to the man he was meeting. For some reason, I couldn't relax. In fact, my heart doubled. I tried to take in slower breaths.
"Ju? Ju?" someone asked beside me. I whipped around next to me with such a shock. Mei looked at me with concerned eyes.
"You alright?" she asked. I didn't respond at first. I slowly nodded at her.
"Yeah, yeah," I lied. "Excuse me." I stood up and walked into the open key hole-shaped doorway to find a bathroom. After a few step in the hall, I paused to take in deep breaths. What was that just now? I have been working hard to not make this awkward between him and me. I shut my eyes and shook my head. No! I will not screw this up! I vowed to keep things professional between Yao and I. I already messed up when I kissed him that night last summer. I will never screw this up further. I can do this. Just walk back in there and take it like a real woman! Go on, you can do it! You are a full-on clan leader now! Just suck it up and go!
I paused when a heavy hand placed itself on my small shoulder. I glanced behind me. My heart doubled again in the pounding. Yao glanced at me with a serious look in his eyes.
"I thought it was you here," he said. I fought to stay strong in front of him.
"Yes," I said. "Today is my birthday. I'm eighteen today."
"Oh, happy birthday."
I didn't move. My breathing and heart rate began to slow down bit by bit. This could turn out really well. Just excuse myself and get back to the table.
Then, he dropped the painful question.
"Why have you been avoiding me?" he asked. My spine froze. I knew this would happen. I might as well tell the truth. I dropped my shoulders.
"Do you remember that night we were checking out that building to set up our work?" I asked.
"Yeah," Yao said. "What about it?"
"So you remember that kiss, right?"
My lips trembled for a long moment. I had to keep going. I won't back down. I won't back down! I turned around to him. "I saw something that freaked me out outside the cab and I wasn't thinking… and… I'm sorry." I bowed my head at him. Yao raised an eyebrow at him.
"Is that all?" he asked.
"Yes!" I blurted out. "It was stupid and it won't happen again!" Then, he asked me an odd question that caused it all to unravel again.
"You sure about that?" he asked. I stared at him with big eyes.
"Huh?" I asked. He looked me straight in the eye.
"Are you sure that you won't act inappropriately as you claim again?" that beautiful man asked. I just broke down from there. The thing I knew was my lips were pressed against his in another kiss. I felt myself hungry in the moment and didn't know how to stop. Each kiss kept following behind. He pinned me up against the wall and kissed me back. In my mind, I kept hoping this was all a surreal dream. I didn't know if I wanted to be woken up or not. He held my wrists against the darkened red wall behind me. I closed my eyes and felt myself sinking deeper into each heated, passionate kiss. I just let my body go limp like wet noodles under his. I could feel my heart racing in my chest again.
Yao forced his tongue into my mouth. Little shocks jumped up my spine. I shouldn't be doing this. We shouldn't be doing this! But why can't I stop him? Why couldn't I push him off and say no? It was all easy. I could just push him off, apologize, and hurry back to my table. In, out, no questions. My friends were probably worried about me by now. Yet, I can't pull away. It just keeps getting more and more intense. I even felt my panties starting to get wet as Yao's tongue probed my mouth even further.
Love me! Love me! Love me! Yes, love me! Please love me!
But suddenly, Yao pulled away. I opened my eyes, panting. A confused look filled them seconds later.
"W-W-Why did you stop?" I asked. He gave me a small smile.
"We have to get back," Yao said in low voice. "Our parties are waiting for us." By the time that sank into my head, he was gone. I looked in the direction where he had gone. Oh crap. I screwed up again. Too late to complain about it. I straightened myself up and headed back into the club area. The girls looked all up at me.
"You okay?" Tina asked. I smiled and nodded at her.
"Yeah," I said. I came back to my seat just in time for our drinks to be served. The rest of the party went on without any other problems. However, my mind wouldn't let go of what happened just moments before. I couldn't help but to get the feeling I screwed up somehow. I have broken some unspoken taboo between us. I don't even think that it can even be repaired so easily this time. If this kept up, the damage might end up being too great for us both. I don't' know how it got missed up. I tried to avoid him, but he found me instead. This was bad, really bad. This should not have happened. This really should not have happened in the first place. If I wasn't careful, something like that could happen again and ruin me. But… Why do I want to kiss him again like that so badly?
From there, Yao pushed me further into that confusing place that I vowed to myself that I would not cross.
Giuliana Cassetta: My face is full of tears, I never cried like now with a book or even a movie. I loved every single chapter. I truly don't know what to say, I'm out of words and my eyes hurt from crying. Such an bittersweet story, it's so wonderful. One of my favorites for sure. Keep it up!
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