Bride of the Moso Prince (6 page)

             
He must have sensed her glance for he turned to look at her. She shivered as the dark twinkling beads fixed on her.

 
             
“Are we close to the village?” she managed to say.

             
“Yes, very close. But the rain won’t stop any time soon. Are you cold?”

             
 
“I’m fine.” She said quickly with nonchalance. Her t-shirt was damp but not wet. Her jeans though felt like a layer of cold skin. Only a second later a sneeze betrayed her.

             
He grinned. “You might want to take off that shirt to dry it. We don’t want another sick person in the hotel.”

             
She blushed at the suggestion. She had a camisole underneath but he was a stranger.

             
He laughed. Putting on his half-dried shirt he went to the opening of the cave and sat down with back towards her. “I won’t look.”

             
“But you aren’t dry yet.”

             
“Then you’d better hurry up.”

             
Warily she took off her shirt and held it up close the fire. Then she was ashamed of her coyness. Teenage girls in LA frequently showed up in camisoles in public, and she wasn’t even a teenager.

             
“It’s ok,” she called to him after a moment’s hesitation, “you can come back.”

             
“So soon?”

             
“Yes,” she stammered, “I…have something on.”

             
“Are you sure?”

             
“Yes.”

             
He turned and as his eyes met the sight of her he froze for a moment.

             
Through the silky camisole he could see clearly the curve of her small but firm and well rounded breasts.

             
After a gulping movement of his throat, he walked towards the fire quickly and sat down opposite of her. His gaze above the flames made her self-conscious. Perhaps unlike same teenagers, she wasn’t wearing a bra under the camisole. The heat of the fire seeped through the thin fabric and made her breasts swell. She felt naked.
 
To battle the awkwardness she was feeling, she removed the hair band and let her hair cover her naked shoulders. But the gestured only attracted more attention from him.

             
“I like your hair,” he said huskily, “looks silky.”

             
“Thanks,” she shuddered at the gentleness of his voice and thought of an appropriate response before she got carried away, “I like yours too.”

             
“Oh?” he ran his fingers through his damp hair and grinned. “Thank goodness there is at least one thing you like about me. I was worried that we were turning into enemies at first sight.”
 

             
She giggled at that.

It's all your fault. Ordering to go with you without even introducing yourself. What I hate the most are bossy men.

             
“Oh! Is that so?” he raised his eyebrows, then without much sincerity he
f
olded his hands in front and bowed
to her, and said mockingly,
"I apologize.
Forgot that you’re a big sister.”

             

Hey!
it's not my problem. It's you!" Sharon
raised her voice and
argued, "anyway, don't ever boss me around again
!
"

             
He smiled teasingly, "Is that an order? Well, u
nfortunately
I don't take orders either. You see, I’m a big brother myself.
Looks like we’ll have a hell of time getting along with each other.”

             
Or not getting along. Sharon thought
with a sigh
.

 

             
With the fire burning fiercely, their clothes were thoroughly dried before the rain died down.

             
Nobul lay down naked on the floor, using his shirt for a sheet. The heat made Sharon drowsy too. Putting her shirt on her side, she hugged her knees and put her head on her knees to rest. It had been a long day for her.

 
             
She was dozing off when she felt a tickling sensation on her left foot. “Ahh!” She screamed as soon as she saw a black worm with tiny hairy legs crawling on her skin.

             
Nobul sat up at once. “What’s wrong?”

             
“A worm!” she said with a shaky voice.

             
“Don’t move!” He came over quickly and put his arm around her waist to steady her.

             
Seeing what it was, he laughed, “It’s just a harmless fluffy worm from the pines.” Then with a flashing of hand, he brushed the creature back to the floor.

             
But she was still in shock. She remembered the “fluffy worms” from childhood. They were infinite horrors. A naughty boy in first grade had once put one in her collar during class and she had to wait for a whole hour before she could run to the bathroom to get it out. Her skin had itched for days after the trauma.

             
“It’s not harmless,” she muttered.

             
As if to convince her, he picked up the worm again and put it on his own arm, “See, it won’t bite.”

             
“Stop it!” she said, “I don’t like worms.” What she meant to say was she was afraid of worms.

             
“Oh. OK.” He took the worm off his arm. “Although worms aren’t as scary as they look.”

             
“I’m not scared of them!” She shouted, “I just don’t like them!”

             
He was startled by the volume of her voice and her agitation. He threw the worm on the floor in an instant.

             
Sharon realized that she was trembling and was embarrassed at her overreaction. She tried to break from Nobul’s arms, but he caught her tightly.

             
Her heart pounded as he turned to face her, put his other hand on her shoulder and pulled her to him. She looked up in surprise, and saw the flames in his eyes. As those eyes traveled from her eyes down to her lips, she felt the corresponding trail of the heat. She was so close to him that she could hear his heartbeat echoing hers. Her upper body was separated from his bronze chest by only a flimsy camisole, from which her breasts were already eager to break free. She inhaled deeply and desperately to subdue her fervor.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Nobul felt her frantic heartbeat through that thin layer. He wasn’t sure whether it was caused by the worm or himself.
She still looked poised and
aloof. There was no way to tell whether she was feeling what he felt. A fire was burning in him and he wanted to put it out but it was nearly impossible. Her skin was soft under his palms, her hair silky against his chest, and her jasmine scent was strangely arousing.
 
Against his rational self, he stroked her hair, then her cheek. That tender gesture and the gentle voice made her tremble. It was a new sensation and it scared her. Various men had said more provocative things but they had never made her tremble. Yet almost instantly his caresses became harsh and his breathing quickened. She thought if she were really snow as he called her, she would have melted in the heat that seeped through her skin from his.

             
When he was bending towards her, Sharon stared at the stranger with wide eyes, was he going to kiss her? How could it be happening? They had met less than an hour ago! It would be insane to let him do it!

             
“Don’t!” she whispered.

             
“Why not?” His eyes were smoldering.

             
“We don’t know each other.” She felt powerless under his gaze.

             
“Our bodies seem to disagree.” His voice was husky.

             
“My body is under my control,” she said, closed her eyes and jerked away from him.

             
He sighed and let go of her reluctantly.

             
“How long are you going to stay?” he asked, still holding her hand.

             
“Not sure,” Sharon answered, puzzled by the sudden change of subject, “a month at most.”

             
“Good, that’s plenty of time,” he said.

             
“For what?” She pretended not to know what he meant.

             
“For us to know each other. Or rather, for you to know me.”

             
She pulled away from his burning gaze and looked at the opening of the cave.

             
“The rain has stopped. We should get going.” She suggested.

             
As they got out of the cave she shivered at the cold air. Looking back at the cave and the surrounding mountains, she had a feeling that she had stepped into an adventure. Excited by the unknown events ahead, she walked faster, to catch up with the big man ahead.

 

 

Chapter 3

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Soon they came out of the mountains and into the open plain. The pleasant view of Algae Village entered Sharon's view in an instant. Maize fields flanked the road and log houses sat among the fields. Smokes rose from the roofs and hovered above the surrounding treetops. The smell of the smoke and the sight of the village soothed Sharon. They rode passed fields and log houses before they reached the lake which looked like an immense piece of smooth sapphire shrouded with mists from a distance. Passersby waved at them along the road, some carried bamboo back-baskets of potatoes, some carried stacks of hay.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When they reached the end of the village marked by towering mountains, the road turned and they were greeted by an entirely different view. A hotel made of logs painted in red and yellow stood on a vast piece of land surrounded by blue water and green mountains. Billowing silky clouds bordered the edges of the mountains and reminded Sharon a scene of a paradise. When they reached the red iron gate guarded by pine trees Sharon saw the name of the hotel, “Shangri-La.” It was carved out on a wood block in broad strokes of calligraphy. The name couldn’t have been more precise. She was entering an unworldly world.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
When the motorcycle stopped in the courtyard Sharon was still in a daze. The courtyard was divided into sections of flowerbeds, with paths going through. Native species such as azaleas and dahlia bloomed among dwarf bamboos. Four connected rows of log buildings surrounded the square courtyard. Balustrades were carved in wood with patterns of birds and flowers, and painted in red, blue and yellow.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
A woman in a Moso costume came out of a room in the first floor facing the entrance and greeted her. “Hello, you must be Summer’s sister.” She put her hand on Sharon’s arm and helped her get off the vehicle. “I’m Sadama, Nobul’s mother.”

Charlene was right about her, Sharon thought after a casual glance at Sadama. Although tall and strong, the woman’s kindness was written on her plump face and her humble smile.

 
             
“And I’m Sharon. Nice to meet you.”

             
Sadama tried to pronounce Sharon’s name in English with great difficulty. After a few attempts Sharon suggested that she could call her Snow.

             
“Snow! That’s pretty!” Sadama exclaimed.

             
“You see?” Nobul looked smug. Sharon rolled her eyes.

             
“I’m really sorry that you have to come in that motorcycle. It must’ve been uncomfortable.”

             
“Not at all,” Sharon said quickly.

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