Li Xueyue shot out of bed, panting and clawing at her throat for air. Tears moistened her eyes and suddenly, it was difficult to breathe. She could feel choked sobs rising in her body, but she suppressed them and simply hiccuped. No matter how hard she grabbed at her throat, the disgusting sensentation of hands choking her down could not be forgotten.
Days before she was left for dead in the forest, Zheng Leiyu had choked her, his eyes filled with menace when she confronted him about his intentions with Bai Tianai. He always did as he pleased with her, but had never once mentioned that he would marry her.
When the door to her room slammed open and bursts of rain and wind crashed in with it, Li Xueyue instantly reached for the knife under her pillow. Her eyes were locked on the door which was firmly shut behind him.
Eyes wild. Heart racing. He, too, was panting for air. Yu Zhen stormed into the room, sword unsheathed and a murderous look on his face. Her eyes snapped to the sword, the polished metal flashed with promises of a swift death.
"Who came in here?" His voice did not sound like his usual. He was no longer warm and loving. In his stead was a man who wouldn't hesitate to slain anyone that came in front of him.
"Answer me," he roughly demanded when she sat there, dumbfounded and petrified by his abrupt entrance.
When he saw her ghastly expression and her jade skin as white as snow, he instantly knew the demons were in her mind. There was no one in here.
His hardened features softened just for her and he let his sword slip from his firm grasp. It clanked loudly onto the ground.
She jumped at the abrupt noise, like a prey caught in a trap.
"Xueyue." His voice was gentle and a soft caress upon her skin. "Are you alright?" He closed the distance between them, his serene voice a lullaby that soothed her heart.
Li Xueyue was in too much shock to register that this was the first time he had ever called her by her name. She scrambled backwards when he approached the bed, her eyes wild. She was mistaking reality with her nightmares.
"It's okay," his voice was warm like the mellow sun that shone solely upon him. His movements were gradual but composed. He moved with an intent to comfort her.
She didn't realize he was close to her until the spot beside her sank from his weight. He reached out to touch her but she flinched back, her heart racing. She was so used to slaps that his simple gesture reminded her of the abuse she suffered in the past. He did not question her reaction.
"You're right, gloves are uncomfortable," Yu Zhen commented, slipping the black leather gloves off of him, tossing it aside.
Her eyes landed on his large calloused hands, roughened from the years of practicing with a sword.
When he gently touched her face, caressing it as one would to a priceless treasure, she felt her heart swell with unsaid emotions. She couldn't even bring herself to question his presence in the house, or his proximity to her. The only thing she could do was allow one of his arms to pull her closer to him. He was deliberately passive and unhurried with his actions, giving her ample time to protest if she wanted to.
When she didn't voice a complaint, he continued tugging her towards him until she was nestled comfortably on his lap, her head leaning upon his shoulder. He hugged her tightly, but left enough room for her to escape.
"What are you doing here?" Came her composed voice when she had finally wrestled her nightmares away. She had finally registered that he was not Zheng Leiyu, but Yu Zhen, a man whose intentions towards her weren't pure, but his actions said otherwise. She did not miss the firm arm wrapped around her back, nor the hand stroking the back of her head.
"Does that matter?" he teased and she could practically feel the smile on his face.
"It does when you barge in here again. Where are my guards?"
"Knocked out cold."
"What?" she hissed, attempting to pull away but with his hand behind her back, he held her in place. She pitied the poor Li guards who were easily defeated by two Commanders.
"Relax, Princess. They're merely unconscious. I didn't kill or injure any of them." Yu Zhen wanted to laugh at her reaction, but couldn't bring himself to do it.
He wished her hair wasn't so silky and easy to play with. He was already distracted by her feminie scent and the tiny spot where her face grazed the side of his neck.
He wondered if she could hear the roaring sound of his thunderous heart, beating wildly for her and no one else. He prayed the horrid rain outside would mask the noise, but little did he know it also masked the heavy thumps of her racing heart.
"I preferred it if you called me Xueyue," she quietly spoke, burying her face against his comfortable shoulder when his fingers momentarily paused.
"Everyone calls you Xueyue."
"And everyone calls me Princess."
"I'm not a fan of cheesy nicknames," Yu Zhen declared. Nonetheless, he would not mind if she wanted to give him a pet name.
"Yet, you call me Sunshine," she scoffed.
Yu Zhen forced himself to not react to the cool gust of breath against his skin, sending his senses in all sorts of panic. She was sitting so close to a spot she shouldn't touch, but everything she did was tempting him. All she had to do was breathe and he was already ignited.
"Don't you think it's cute?" He grinned. "It's the opposite of you."
Li Xueyue blindly smacked his shoulders, her hand grazed the other side of his neck, sending shocks down his body.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she grumbled against his shoulders.
She tried to not breathe in his comforting scent of pine cones and warmth. He smelled like the forest when it was basked in pure sunlight.
His voice was as reassuring as his comforting gestures.
He was so puzzling to her. There was so much she did not know about him, but she still found herself seeking him.
"Take a guess," he teased her, his hands trailing to the back of her neck, massaging the spots that felt tense to him.
"It's not my fault the sun doesn't shine on me."
"Are you only book-smart?" He smiled when she tried to pinch him, but only pinched his robes.
"Has anyone ever told you you're as harmless as—"
"If you say some animal like a kitten or rabbit, I'll roll my eyes till the next century."
"Nevermind then," he snorted, his shoulders shaking.
"Why are you so cheesy?" She wrinkled her nose as her eyelids began to feel heavy. His hand was working wonders on her neck. She angled it for him, hoping his magic fingers would touch the spot that desperately needed attention.
Her face warmed when dirty thoughts swarmed her. She hoped it was dark enough in her room that he did not see it, even though he probably felt the heat of her embarrassment. Nonetheless, he didn't comment on it.
"You bring out my worst traits. It's not my fault," Yu Zhen mused, his eyes lingered on her exposed neck. He had parted her hair out of the way, and suddenly felt tempted to do something beyond massages.
"Are you blaming me?" she jokingly mumbled against him, her eyes slipping sshut. She planned to only relax for a brief second or so, but suddenly, didn't possess the willpower to open her eyes again.
"Yes, I am. Who else would I blame?" he joked, poking her cheek. When she didn't react, he shifted his head only to see that she had fallen asleep on top of him. Unbeknownst to him, an adoring smile graced his cold features.
"You trust too easily, Sunshine," he whispered, pressing a chaste kiss upon her smooth cheek. She grumbled something in her sleep, but pressed her body closer to him.
"Men are wolves, you know," he mumbled, shifting her hair to cover her neck. "You shouldn't let me in so quickly," he told her, even though his heart did not agree with him.
"I might fall for you faster if you do…" he trailed off, unable to cope with the fact that he had allowed something like that to slip out. He rarely fell in love, but when he did, he fell hard.
"You bring out the worst in me, but also the best," he complained, setting her back onto the bed. She groaned in protest, rolling to her side so that her back faced him.
Yu Zhen resisted every nerve inside of him that begged to join her. He simply told himself that it was a foolish thing to wish for. He would not ruin her reputation and dignity by trespassing her boundaries.
"Maybe next time," he suggested. He straightened to his full height and was prepared to leave, but then paused and decided to properly tuck her in. Once he made sure she was beyond comfortable, he finally decided it was time to leave.
"Annoying…" she grumbled in her sleep, turning to her other side, her body facing him.
Yu Zhen grinned to himself. "Even in your sleep, you like to mock me." He quietly chuckled to himself, his eyes landing on the pendant hanging from his waist.
"It's a stupid tradition, really," he told her before slipping it off of him and slipping it in between her cupped hands. "But I'm just a fool for love," he mumbled and with that said, disappeared into the night.
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