She glared at him, at the way he laughed, as her arms tightened around her chest.
“You can let your guard down, little beauty.” He was sitting casually beside the fire, not quite looking at her, instead concentrated on drying his rain-soaked shirt. It dried quickly, considering that the shirt was real silk. “Take off your wet clothes,” He flung the shirt at her. “and put this on instead.”
Xia Ling was taken aback by his show of kindness.
“Stop blanking out, unless you enjoy standing half exposed in front of me.” He remarked. She could not tell if he was joking or not.
“You’re shameless, your entire family…” She snapped. Then her eyes fell on how the firelight illuminated his upper body, and a sudden wave of embarrassment washed over her. She grabbed the shirt and left.
She could hear his pleasant laughter from behind.
Xia Ling had her back turned against him as she began to change, still suppressing her outrage. She had slipped off her outer jacket quickly. However, her fingertips slowed as they approached her dress and eventually froze, unable to move on.
“You can take off your dress, you know.” He drawled. “I’m taller than you, so the shirt is going to become oversized. If you’re worried about exposing yourself.”
He was right, the shirt hit her about mid-thigh, so accidentally flashing anyone would technically be improbable. But her mind involuntarily flickered back to her year-long imprisonment by Pei Ziheng. In that entire year she had not gotten any legitimate garments to even clothe herself, and now incomplete outfits traumatized her to no end.
Especially in front of men.
“It’s fine, this is alright.” She feigned.
Li Lei gave her a meaningful look. He was the Li family’s grandson and had a silver spoon in his mouth ever since he was born. In his twenty plus years of existence, he had his fair share of women that plotted to crawl into bed with him. Xia Ling, drenched head to toe, literally had the opportunity to seduce him presented to her, and yet here she was, wrapped up like a dumpling as if she was afraid that he would take advantage of her… how interesting.
His lips curled into an unknowing smile.
All of a sudden, Xia Ling could only feel her shoulder throb in pain, as the rest of her arm faded into numbness. Nonetheless, she continued to struggle into his dry shirt, even doing up all the buttons and dragging her soaked dress back to where the fire was.
The firelight was dancing across his face, illuminating his features.
“Thank you.” She said politely.
He was side-eyeing her, considering something. “Come here,” he said, as he motioned for her to come over.
“Why?” She was confused.
“Come here.” He repeated. He said it smilingly, but somehow it still managed to hold some kind of authority, the kind that only the very powerful in society could possess.
Xia Ling paused, thinking. Not wishing to entertain the thought of direct conflict, she very warily followed his instruction.
“Sit.” He commanded.
She sat down, but before she could react, he had pulled her into his chest.
“What are you doing!” She was visibly shaken, instinctively pushing him away. He… how dare he be so casual, with one hand on her waist and the other actually undoing the buttons on her shirt?
“Be good, don’t move,” he replied calmly, easily resisting her struggling by flipping her arms to the back. The hand that was previously resting on her waist was now holding her wrists down, and Xia Ling could not, for the life of her, break free from his iron grasp.
“Li Lei, let go of me.” She threatened, raising her head to glare at him.
He lowered his head to look at her. He had that unreadable look in his eyes again, the one where nobody could tell what he was thinking. Xia Ling could only see her own pale, frenzied figure reflected in his pupils, and unknowingly began to settle down.
He grinned belatedly, saying with a gentle tone, “Don’t look so scandalized, I only wanted to help you redo your buttons, they were a little off just now.” His gaze was trailing, beginning at her face and slowly making its way down, and she remembered how he paused for a moment at her chest. “I’ll admit, your figure is pretty sweet, and your face is my type…”
Xia Ling stiffened immediately.
As he senses her discomfort, he patted her back as if in consolation. “Don’t be afraid, I’m not interested in doing anything to you. Though I’m a little hurt by how you’re so scared of me.”
He was still redoing her buttons for her as he said this, and she almost shuddered, sensing the warmth emanating from his fingertips. Time seemed to be passing slower than usual, and Xia Ling was praying with all her might for him to finish whatever he was doing, but to no avail, instead feeling his actions slow with every passing moment. Internally, she cursed herself for managing to mess up buttoning a shirt so badly, possibly giving some guy an opportunity to take advantage of her. Which then led her to question why she had taken the shirt from him so readily in the first place. After all, they weren’t related. He was just her Boss, and which Boss treated their employees like this?
After what felt like an eternity, Li Lei finally did up the last button, and she felt his slightly callused thumb and index fingertip on her chin. “It’s done.” His voice was low, practically ghosting across her cheeks.
He let go as she escaped his grip.
She subconsciously clambered away until her personal space was restored, sighing in relief. She felt a droplet of something trickle into her eye, and when she felt her forehead, she realized that she had broken into a cold sweat.
He was still sitting beside the fire, single hand outstretched towards her. “I said before, you don’t have to be so scared.”
Xia Ling knew that she was overreacting, but nobody would understand her. Nobody would truly know the horrors she experienced in Pei Ziheng’s villa. It was the reason why she was so talented in pushing people away today. She lowered her head in an attempt to conceal her expression from him.
“Yo, Er Mao.” Li Lei’s voice had considerably lightened.
No way, it was here?
Xia Ling looked over, only to be greeted by the sight of a leopard not too far from herself. It looked formidable, covered in a majestic rose pattern, amber irises silently trained on the both of them. It must have come in because of the storm, for its entire body was completely drenched, with countless water droplets falling off its slick coat, pooling in the form of little puddles beneath itself.
Xia Ling could feel each individual hair on her body stand. Being so close to a creature never spelled good news for anybody.
For some reason, Li Lei seemed unfazed, his expression brightening as he opened his arms. “Er Mao, come here.”
The leopard turned his head and looked at Li Lei, as if inspecting whether its owner had gotten any new injuries, before narrowing its eyes in satisfaction. It took several steps back, gaining momentum before pouncing onto Li Lei.
“Oof.” Li Lei, overpowered by the impact of the creature, was tackled to the floor, but his tone was still smiling. “Er Mao, you’re disgusting. I just dried myself and now I’m wet all over again… hey, don’t dry yourself on me, I said don’t do that…” He was basically rolling on the ground with the leopard now, the leopard’s head buried in Li Lei’s chest as he patted its fur, obviously having fun.
Xia Ling stared on dumbfoundedly. The leopard… was it really a leopard? Why did it seem like one of those big dogs? The only thing it had not done was run towards its owner wagging its tail…