After The Gala Ends, I Want You to Pick Me Up

Just a moment ago, she was anxious as if walking on thin ice, but the next, her surprised expression almost couldn’t be concealed.

Zhou Sujin lowered his gaze, observing the subtle change on her face.

Wei Lai looked up, her expression returning to normal. “Thank you, President Zhou.”

Zhou Sujin calmly turned his attention to his stack of documents, setting aside the ones he hadn’t looked at yet.

It’s human nature to take advantage of something when given an inch, so he couldn’t blame her.

But indulging her unconditionally without any principles would be his own fault.

His gaze swept briefly over her face. “Did you used to get your way by acting cute?”

Wei Lai nodded honestly. Since she was a little girl, she got her way by acting cute; it was innate.

She added, “That wasn’t really acting cute at first.”

Zhou Sujin held the last few documents in his hand, about to put them down but paused, turning to look at her for several seconds.

Wei Lai met his guarded gaze, suddenly realizing she had misspoken. Saying too much could indeed lead to missteps. She hadn’t even fully resorted to acting cute, yet he had already relented. Where could he save face now?

“President Zhou, I…”

Despite her usual silver tongue, she found herself at a loss for words.

Zhou Sujin didn’t pursue the issue. “Why so anxious? I’ve already agreed to it. I won’t go back on my word.”

Wei Lai: “I know you wouldn’t.”

Zhou Sujin promptly continued, “Don’t say things like ‘I’m a good person’ in the future.”

Wei Lai remained silent.

Zhou Sujin stared at her. “Talking isn’t your thing now?”

Just at this moment, the sound of suitcase wheels rolling came from the living room, accompanied by a voice. “President Zhou?”

Uncle Yan and Zhou Sujin’s bodyguards brought the remaining luggage over, two of which contained books. Uncle Yan directly brought it over to the study.

In the past, as long as Zhou Sujin left the study door open, he could directly deliver things over. Now with the presence of Wei Lai, it was a bit inconvenient, so he had to announce his presence first.

Zhou Sujin responded with a simple, “In the study.”

Wei Lai took a step back and leaned casually against his desk, picking up a document from it.

The document remained in her hand, with its cover unturned.

Uncle Yan pushed the two boxes of books inside and placed them by the door.

Given Zhou Sujin’s purchase of a condo in Jiang City due to Wei Lai and the subsequent arrival of numerous personal belongings, Uncle Yan was not surprised to see Wei Lai looking over important documents of Kunchen Group.

Before leaving the study, Uncle Yan inquired about dinner plans for the evening. With Zhou Sujin’s instructions not to hire any help, Uncle Yan was left to take on the role of makeshift steward.

Turning to Wei Lai, Zhou Sujin asked, “What would you like for dinner?”

Quickly scanning the two boxes, Wei Lai realized the books inside would only take her half an hour to organize, allowing her several hours of free time.

“I’ll make some furikake* rice for myself. Uncle Yan, could you help me prepare some lettuce, beef… Actually, I’ll just order it myself.”

Zhou Sujin didn’t eat seaweed, so he told Uncle Yan, “Have my dinner sent from the Riverside Restaurant.”

Uncle Yan: “Got it.”

Each ate their own thing. There were moments when they were quite distant, not quite like a couple. Perhaps he was overthinking things.

For dinner, Wei Lai ordered the necessary ingredients from her family’s supermarket and prepared a furikake beef bibimbap along with a mushroom soup. Except under exceptional circumstances, she never messed up a meal.

Meanwhile, Uncle Yan went outside to organize the other luggage. Zhou Sujin closed the door to the study and gestured toward the sofa by the window with his chin, indicating to Wei Lai, “Go sit over there.”

He took off his suit jacket and draped it over the back of a chair, then opened the boxes to begin organizing the books.

“President Zhou, let me help you with that.”

“No need,” Zhou Sujin declined directly.

These were all books he often read, and Wei Lai didn’t understand his reading habits.

Wei Lai had no choice but to sit down. However, with the “client” boss being so busy, she, as the “contractor” employee with nothing to do but oversee, felt restless and uneasy.

She stood up. “I’ll help you hand over the books. Watching how you arrange them will help me get to know you better.”

Zhou Sujin glanced at her briefly before returning his attention to the bookshelf, continuing to organize the books. “Know so much about me for what?”

Wei Lai: “The better we know each other, the more tacit we become. Otherwise, even Uncle Yan will see through us eventually.”

The half-minute of silence that followed felt as long as a century.

After organizing the first box of books, Zhou Sujin bent down to open the second box. He took out five or six books at once and handed one to her. “Sort this.”

It took Wei Lai a moment to understand his intention. Watching him arrange the books wasn’t as effective as doing it herself to get to know him better. She walked over and took the book from him.

He handed her the books one by one, and she only needed to arrange them in order. This sequence likely reflected his reading preferences or habits.

Uncle Yan had told her that Zhou Sujin didn’t like people around him talking too much, so she didn’t try to make small talk.

Every time he handed her a book, she caught a glimpse of his cufflink and his new watch partially covered by his cuff sleeve.

Wei Lai memorized the titles of all the books she placed on the shelf, even remembering which books were next to which.

Once the books were organized, Zhou Sujin sat back at his desk to review some documents.

Uncle Yan knocked on the door again, this time to ask for Wei Lai’s help.

“Miss Wei, could you help me figure out how to organize the clothes?” He had sorted most of the other items but was unsure how to organize the clothes and watches.

Wei Lai was even less certain about how to organize the clothes, but she remained composed and relaxed in front of Uncle Yan. “I’ll take care of organizing the clothes. Uncle Yan, feel free to get back to your tasks.”

There were a total of five boxes containing clothes and personal items. Standing in the walk-in closet for a while, she didn’t even know where to start.

Unlike books, clothes were more personal.

As the walk-in closet door opened, Wei Lai turned around to see Zhou Sujin entering. He said, “Hang the suits and coats in the first wardrobe, shirts in the second. I’ll take care of the rest.”

Wei Lai laid the biggest suitcase flat. It wasn’t shipped from Beijing but brought directly from the hotel. Pulling off the dust cover, she saw her white blazer neatly folded on top of his shirts.

Clothes would only be placed together like this if the relationship was very intimate.

Suppressing her quickened heartbeat, she hurriedly moved her blazer to the nearby sofa.

It must have been the hotel butler who packed his suitcase, assuming she was his girlfriend, and thus placed their clothes together without hesitation.

Zhou Sujin also noticed her blazer as well. “The hotel butler packed it.”

Wei Lai nodded. “I know.”

Zhou Sujin handed her a hanger. “Hang it in the entryway closet. Don’t forget to take it when you leave.”

His calm demeanor dispelled her awkward embarrassment.

“Thank you, President Zhou.”

She wasn’t thanking him for the hanger—he should know why.

Relieved to no longer be in the bedroom, Wei Lai quickly stepped out with her blazer and the hanger. Just then, the groceries she had ordered on her phone arrived.

After finished cooking her bibimbap and mushroom soup, Zhou Sujin’s takeout still hadn’t arrived.

“President Zhou, I’ve made some bibimbap. Would you like to try some?”

Zhou Sujin glanced up at her before returning to his documents. “Go ahead and eat.”

It was a polite refusal of her offer.

“Okay, I’ll let you get back to work.” Wei Lai closed the door.

Just as she sat down and took a few bites, the doorbell rang, and the takeout arrived.

Among the dishes from Riverside Restaurant, half were seafood. Worse, even the non-seafood dishes weren’t to her liking either.

He also didn’t eat hotpot, which was one of her favorite foods. If not for health concerns, she could eat it every day.

Thankfully, she wasn’t in a real relationship with him; otherwise, their vastly different tastes would make it very difficult.

Zhou Sujin came out of the study and sat down across from her.

Wei Lai took a bite of her bibimbap and silently watched him.

“What’s the matter?”

He was rolling up his sleeves but sensed her occasional glances.

Wei Lai: “Nothing. Do you like seafood?”

“It’s alright.”

Zhou Sujin picked up his chopsticks and started eating. It was his first time having seafood from Riverside Restaurant. Last time, He Wancheng had brought him a seafood paella from there, and he found their seafood quite good, so he had Uncle Yan order from there.

With only the two of them in the condo, it was easier to talk.

He asked her, “After spending a few days together, do you have any comments or additional considerations?”

Wei Lai nodded, “Yes.”

She was always diligent in her work, even though this was just a part-time job.

“When I’m dating someone, I’m used to being pampered, indulged, and not given the cold shoulder.”

Zhou Sujin: “…”

He chuckled softly.

After a moment, he looked at her. “We’re not actually dating. Why are you telling me this?”

Wei Lai explained, “I’m a bit scared of you, but I can’t show that in front of Uncle Yan and your family.”

Zhou Sujin countered, “If you’re scared, how can you act so spoiled with me?”

That was because she had no other choice.

Most of the time, she still felt intimidated by him and couldn’t relax around him like she could with others.

After dinner, she stayed alone in the living room while Zhou Sujin went back to his study to work.

When there were no outsiders around, they were like strangers, and the living room was the only place where she felt at ease.

A little past 9:00 p.m., Wei Lai decided it was time to leave.

Unlike the previous meetings at the hotel where she had to stay long enough to avoid any doubts, meeting at one’s place was the most convenient. She could come and go as she pleased without any restrictions.

“President Zhou, I’m heading back now.”

Zhou Sujin nodded and then added, “I’ll be busy tomorrow.”

Wei Lai understood what he meant—there was no need to meet tomorrow.

“Then I won’t come by tomorrow.”

Once again, she forgot to take her white blazer from the entryway closet.

Leaving Zhou Sujin’s place, Wei Lai went to her mom’s house. After running into her dad at her condo last night, she couldn’t guess her mom’s feelings, so she wanted to spend some time with her today.

“Mom, I’m staying over at your place tonight,” she sent a voice message to her mom.

“Where are you right now? I’ll come pick you up.”

“No need to pick me up, it’s far away. I’m over around Jiang’an Cloud Residences.”

Cheng Minzhi had been to Jiang’an Cloud Residences once before. It was a high-end residential area developed by the Jiang’an Group, not far from the Jiang’an Villa area.

Her daughter didn’t hide where she was, seemingly intending to divulge some information to her.

It was almost 10 p.m. when Wei Lai arrived at her mom’s house.

As she crossed through the courtyard, before reaching the living room door, it swung open from the inside. Her mom, wearing glasses, hurried down the stairs without taking them off.

“Mom, are you still working overtime?”

Cheng Minzhi took the purse from her daughter’s shoulder. “Well, I can’t sleep anyway. I’m planning to open the sixteenth store.”

Wei Lai perked up. “Where are you planning to open it?”

Cheng Minzhi: “The mall at the industrial park has started leasing retail spaces. They plan to allocate 4,000 square meters on the basement level for a supermarket to meet the daily needs of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

Wei Lai knew about the newly constructed mall at the industrial park, which was owned by the Yunhui Group. It was an eight-story comprehensive shopping mall with a wide range of facilities for dining, entertainment, and shopping.

Surrounding the mall were more than ten newly completed residential areas, mostly inhabited by young professionals working in the industrial park. There weren’t any large-scale supermarkets planned in the area, so opening a supermarket focusing on fresh produce and ready-to-eat food there would likely do well.

The supermarket wouldn’t need all of the 4,000 square meters of space, so she could allocate two to three hundred square meters to design a uniquely styled free book cafe.

Cheng Minzhi: “Such a prime location, every supermarket will want to get the lease. But no matter what, we’ll give it our best shot.”

After discussing work matters, Wei Lai decided to subtly share some information about Zhou Sujin with her mom. “Mom, did you know that Zhang Yanxin’s wedding date has been set?”

Cheng Minzhi nodded. “I heard about it.”

She had just found out today that Mu Di and Zhang Yanxin’s wedding was scheduled for late December.

Whenever she remembered how her daughter had once happily said, “Mom, I want to marry Zhang Yanxin next year,” her heart couldn’t help but ache for her. It hurt more than her own divorce had.

Wei Lai reassured her mom, “I’ve moved on. With so many suitors, I don’t have time to be sad.” After a pause, she added, “I have a friend from Beijing. We haven’t known each other long, but he’s interested in me.”

She silently prayed for Zhou Sujin’s forgiveness for making things up in front of her mom.

Cheng Minzhi: “Is he the one who lent you the Cullinan?”

Wei Lai nodded. “En, it’s him. But he hasn’t confessed to me yet. He knows I just broke up and am not in the mood for a relationship, so he often comes from Beijing to spend time with me. He’s a good guy.”

She sounded so sincere that she almost believed her own story.

Cheng Minzhi didn’t ask further questions. “When there’s good news, remember to tell Mom.”

Wei Lai smiled. “Of course, I will.”

The sixteenth store for their supermarket chain was officially on the agenda.

The next day at work, Wei Lai began drafting the project proposal. Securing a spot in Yunhui Group’s mall would be challenging.

Her mom had informed her that Blissful Garden Chain Supermarket was also aiming to secure the lease for the mall’s supermarket.

In Jiang City, their biggest competitor was the Blissful Garden Chain Supermarket.

Cheng Minzhi encouraged her daughter, “In terms of the number of stores and connections, we can’t compare to Blissful Garden, but our supermarket’s business philosophy and management level are a cut above. When Yunhui is selecting tenants, they’ll consider various factors, so we still have a pretty good chance.”

“Blissful Garden’s owner’s connections are part of their strength. We’ll have to find a different approach,” Wei Lai said as she got up to pour some water, also filling a cup for her mom.

Knock knock,” someone knocked on the door.

Wei Lai said toward the door, “Come in.”

She never expected that the visitor would be Zhao Yihan.

That day, she had told Zhao Yihan to drop by her office if she had time, hoping she would but not really expecting it.

Cheng Minzhi hadn’t seen Zhao Yihan for many years. Her current hairstyle and attire looked completely different from when she was in middle school, so Cheng Minzhi didn’t recognize her at first and thought she was one of her daughter’s friends.

“Hi, Auntie Cheng, I’m Zhao Yihan.”

“You’re Yihan?” Cheng Minzhi exclaimed, staring at her in surprise, and apologized, “You’ve grown so tall and beautiful, Auntie hardly recognized you.”

“Feel free to come over to our house sometime. I’ll leave you two to chat.” Cheng Minzhi made an excuse to leave her daughter’s office.

Zhao Yihan placed her purse on the sofa but didn’t sit down. She slowly walked over to the window, looking out at the bustling street, one of the busiest in the city.

Wei Lai made her a cup of coffee, which she sipped while leaning against the windowsill.

“How do you have time to come out today?” Wei Lai asked.

Zhao Yihan: “I’m out on the fieldwork, so I don’t need to go back to clock out.”

After leaving a client meeting, she drove straight to see Wei Lai, bringing something for her in passing.

“At the end of the month, Yunhui Group is hosting an anniversary gala. Our boss received two invitations and gave me one. I don’t need it, so you can have it.”

With that, Zhao Yihan set down her cup of coffee and took out the invitation from her purse.

“Don’t you want to expand your supermarket? You can’t do that without resources and connections. Relying on Zhou Sujin… that’s not a long-term solution. You still need to rely on yourself.”

The invitation was embossed with gold lettering.

Wei Lai was moved. Every time such a rare opportunity arose, Zhao Yihan always thought of her.

Zhao Yihan alleviated her concerns. “My boss knows I’m passing this on to you, and he agreed to it.”

Her boss understood her well enough to know that attending the gala would be pointless for her; she wouldn’t actively engage in conversation with anyone. When he gave her the invitation, he mentioned that if she didn’t want to go, she could give it to someone else.

The only person she could and would give it to was Wei Lai.

“Our boss is shrewd, never makes a bad deal. He guessed that your relationship with Zhou Sujin isn’t shallow and is happy to use this opportunity to establish a good relationship with you.”

After enjoying a cup of coffee and admiring the bustling crowds and traffic for half an hour, Zhao Yihan accepted a mint from Wei Lai. As the setting sun’s rays streamed in through the blinds, she picked up her purse and bid farewell.

Wei Lai opened the invitation. Yunhui Group was the most influential publicly listed company in Jiang City. They held their annual gala at the Riverside Hotel every year, and Wei Lai had been fortunate to attend once, taken by Zhang Yanxin.

At this year’s gala, the person in charge of Yunhui’s malls would surely be present. She needed to seize the opportunity to connect with them and make herself known.

The success of securing the sixteenth store’s entry into the mall depended greatly on the night of the gala.

However, that night would undoubtedly involve encounters with old acquaintances.

After staring at the date of the gala for a few seconds, Wei Lai opened the chat with Zhou Sujin: “President Zhou, how long will you be staying here?

Zhou Sujin: “Until the end of the month, going back in early October. Is there something you need?

There was still time then.

Wei Lai didn’t like beating around the bush, so she said directly, “I’ll be attending a gala at the end of the month. After it’s over, I’d like you to pick me up. Would that be possible?” Asking him to pick her up could help ward off some unwanted suitors. Also, it would provide an opportunity for those people to see that they hadn’t broken up and that the Cullinan wasn’t a breakup gift from Zhou Sujin.

If it’s not convenient, no worries.

Zhou Sujin was even less fond of beating around the bush, “Send me the address and the end time of the gala. If I’m free, I’ll come pick you up. If not, I’ll have Uncle Yan pick you up.

Wei Lai: “I want you to pick me up.

Zhou Sujin: “What, you’re not scared of me now?

Of course, she was still scared. As she typed “I want you to pick me up,” her heart practically leaped into her throat. “I’m scared, but I’m slowly getting used to being around you.

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