Yu Zhen wondered if she had a special skill of putting herself in danger. He closed the distance between them and rudely grabbed her by the elbow. She glanced up at him, surprised at his rough behavior.
"Xiao Juzi, down," Yu Zhen demanded.
Xiao Juzi tilted his head, his golden gaze flickered from the interesting prey to his Master. He swished his tail, his eyes no longer in a slit. His ears perked up and he approached them.
"Xiao Juzi," Yu Zhen warned.
Xiao Juzi took his sweet time parading to his Master.
When he was just a few feet away, Li Xueyue grabbed Yu Zhen's arm, frightened by the large animal. Did this frightsome tiger truly belong to him? How come she had never heard of this?
Li Xueyue recalled seeing this animal when she was hunting with Li Wenmin. Did that mean Yu Zhen was in the Capital earlier in the week?
Suddenly, Li Xueyue remembered how the tiger had bared his teeth. He had effortlessly torn through the flesh of its prey and watched them through the slit of his narrowed eyes.
Anxious at the approaching animal, Li Xueyue unknowingly inched closer to Yu Zhen, seeking his comfort. She hoped this tiger would not bite the hand that fed it.
Yu Zhen's lips twitched. She was placing her entire weight upon his arm. He was not in the best of mood, but her touch was enough to distract him. Her fingers dug into his clothes and she let out a small whimper when Xiao Juzi was less than an arm's length away.
"It likes to bite people."
Li Xueyue's head snapped up to Yu Zhen. Her eyes were wide with terror, her skin paling. It was as if she heard the date of her execution.
Yu Zhen found her petrified expression humorous. He wanted to laugh but resisted the urge to do so because it would give her the satisfaction that her charms were working on him again.
"C-can Xiao Juzi not bite me then?"
"He acts as he wishes."
"Like his Master."
"What was that?" Yu Zhen sniped.
"He's brazen like his Master!" Li Xueyue boldly retorted.
Yu Zhen narrowed his gaze. "It seems Xiao Juzi is still hungry. Why don't you donate a limb for his dinner snack?"
"Why don't you feed him your third leg?" she demanded, pushing off of him.
Yu Zhen silently glowered at her. Even at a time like this, she was prideful and fearless. She was about to meet her impending doom. Li Xueyue should be appeasing him. She should've pleaded for her life and asked for his help to not become the tiger's meal. Yet, she still found the time to bicker with him.
Yu Zhen hated his body's honest reaction towards her. Despite the irritation festering within him, he could not help but find her endearing. He spoiled her too much. He would always find justifications for each and every one of her tantrums.
"He prefers the meat of little girls," Yu Zhen commented right when Xiao Juzi reached him.
The massive tiger stopped a little over Yu Zhen's knee. He circled his Master and taunted his prey at the same time. Xiao Juzi opened his mouth.
Li Xueyue was absolutely horrified. Her life flashed before her eyes. Shameless and brazen, she latched onto Yu Zhen yet again.
Li Xueyue thought Xiao Juzi was opening his mouth to indicate he wanted food. But the damn tiger was simply yawning, lazily stretching his tongue out.
"You should've clung onto me a lot earlier," Yu Zhen snapped.
"As if you have the right to talk about clinging onto a person, you pervert!" she said.
Yu Zhen narrowed his gaze. Pervert? Was that what she thought of him?
Xiao Juzi sensed his Master's irritation. Letting out a quiet purr, he rubbed his body against Yu Zhen's leg, seeking treats and adoration.
A wicked plan came to mind. Yu Zhen reached down and fondly patted Xiao Juzi upon the head. He curled his fingers and scratched the beast by the chin. Xiao Juzi was familiar with only one hand and his touch; it was that of the man who raised him ever since he was found in the forest as an abandoned cub.
Xiao Juzi rubbed his head against his Master's touch. When his Master placed a hand out for him to rest his head on, Xiao Juzi instantly seized the opportunity. Happily, he was given all the affectionate pats he craved all along.
"I-it's cute up close," Li Xueyue said.
"It'll be more adorable when he bites."
"I hope he bites the hand that feeds him."
Yu Zhen's gaze snapped to her. Did she have no filter? Even his guards were anxiously shuffling in their shoes, not knowing if they should apprehend her. They had never witnessed someone as arrogant as her. No one speaks to the Second Prince that way.
"You need a bigger vocabulary, Li Xueyue," Yu Zhen sniped. "There were so many books in your library. You should try reading one."
"Doesn't seem like it."
Li Xueyue refused to give in to his taunting. She licked her bottom lip. "You're a thief for stealing from me."
Yu Zhen's eyes followed the tiny action. He swallowed and looked away. He couldn't afford to be distracted by her. "I didn't take your decrees."
"Who said anything about decrees?" Li Xueyue asked.
Li Xueyue threw him a scathing glare, wishing it would burn him alive. Despite her words and behavior, she was still holding onto him for her dear life.
Yu Zhen didn't realize he had let his tongue slip. He was not one to reveal information so carelessly. What had gotten into him? He breathed in through his nose, hoping to regain composure. Except, he was assaulted by her intoxicating scent. She smelled as sweet as he had last remembered. Whether it was her natural scent or something she bathed in, he did not know. He only wanted more of it. He recalled where his favorite spot was.
"It's looking at me," Li Xueyue suddenly said. "T-tell it to look away."
Yu Zhen wickedly smiled. She was stiff as a tree beside him. Abruptly, he grabbed her fingers.
Li Xueyue was too paralyzed by fear to retract her hand. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the tiger's. Lethal yet beautiful, the tiger was a fascinating sight, his eyes reminded her of a full moon.
"What are you doing?" she asked in a trembling voice.
Yu Zhen didn't respond.
Li Xueyue thought he would press gentle kisses upon the tips of her fingers as he always did. But that was too much to ask.
Instead, he fluidly placed her fingers near Xiao Juzi's nose. Li Xueyue freaked out. She struggled against Yu Zhen's tight grip. "Stop it, don't do this—!"
Xiao Juzi sniffed her fingers. She smelled like his Master. He licked her fingers.
She nearly fainted.
Her knees gave out, but Yu Zhen effortlessly grabbed her waist. "Careful," he said.
Li Xueyue's breathing came out in short, panicked puffs of air. She was so distracted by the tiger, she didn't realize how intimate their position was. Yu Zhen had a protective arm around her. She was pressed against him. His lips brushed against the top of her head. A single movement and he would've kissed her temple.
"I hate you," Li Xueyue whimpered, her fingers trembling. Yu Zhen closed it into a fist for her. Slowly, he retracted his hand and she immediately grabbed onto his robes.
"The feeling is mutual," Yu Zhen muttered.
She was quivering in his arms, and he wanted to do nothing but embrace her. How could he not? She was finally showing a docile side to him.
What was so scary about a damn tiger? Yu Zhen had grown up with Xiao Juzi to know the tiger did not bite. He was simply trying to rile her up. Who would've expected his plan to be so successful?
Yu Zhen made eye contact with his confused pet. Xiao Juzi's raised ears indicated he was still in a pleasant mood. Yu Zhen let out a small chuckle and fondly patted his tiger on the head. It was just a big cat, that was all. Xiao Juzi licked his Master's hand and rested the side of his head against Yu Zhen's leg.
"How long are you going to hold onto me for?"
Li Xueyue stiffened at his question. She pulled her head back. Finally, she had realized how wanton her behavior was.
Li Xueyue attempted to detach from him, but he did not let her. It took only one arm for her body to be pressed against his. His grip was iron-like and unbreakable. "Let me go then."
Yu Zhen pondered over the question. There wasn't a proper response he could give her. He simply liked the idea of having her in his arms. It was where she belonged—with him, and no one else.
Peering down at her, he could see all of her—from her enlarged eyes, drowning in fear, yet sharp with feistiness, to her lips, delectable and parted. He could not tear his gaze from her. She was a drug. She was the one addiction he did not mind.
She let out a small gasp when he bent his head. His lips softly brushed against hers. It was a simple graze, but her heart quickened.
Softly, slowly, he uttered his response. "Because you're mine. I will never let you go. I won't have it any other way."
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