"What? How...? I don't understand," said Li Mei.
What did Zhou Yu have to do with Mr. Wang?
But now that she remembered it, Mr. Wang had called him 'Master Zhou'.
"My family owns the greater part of the shares in the company he worked for. I made a few calls and we saw no other way to salvage this production after the scandal he caused. There's also a non disclosure clause, where you agree not to say anything about what happened with Mr. Wang," said Zhou Yu. His expression never changed while he spoke. It was always the same serious eyes.
"What happens if the police wants to ask me questions?" said Li Mei.
"That's been taken care of."
"Can I read it before signing?"
"Take your time," said Zhou Yu, and got up to leave. "I will have someone pick it up later."
Li Mei watched him head towards the door, and then she started to read the contract. But just before he closed the door, he walked back in, and spoke without looking at her.
"Don't get your hopes up with my cousin. He's always attracted to those who pretend they're not interested in him," he said.
"I was not pretending! I didn't know who he was," said Li Mei, getting angry. She was not playing games, or whatever Zhou Yu thought. "I don't want anything with him."
"Hmm. That's what you say now," said Zhou You.
Despite having his back turned towards her, she knew he had smiled when he said that. Then he closed the door and left.
Li Mei could not believe her luck. After the incident with Mr. Wang, she had given up all hope of working in the movie. The Zhous had been a godsend. First saving her from Mr. Wang, and then offering her a chance to pursue her dream. She wasn't sure she liked Zhou Yu, but she didn't have to like him. After all, this was just business.
Before she got the chance to finish reading the contract, the concierge called her from the restaurant, telling her the Zhou cousins were waiting for her downstairs in the restaurant.
She gave it a quick read and signed it, leaving it on the table. Then she took the elevator down to the third floor where the private restaurant was located. Thinking it would be just the two of them, she entered quickly, only to find that the enormous central table was filled with people.
One of them was Anna Mikhailov, a famous Russian model who had just done a publicity campaign for a luxury brand. Li Mei didn't recognize the rest, but all of them seemed to be rich and famous. She was the only one there whom nobody knew.
"Li Mei, come!" said Zhou Jiao, getting up to greet her.
The table went silent and all eyes turned to her, as she approached the table.
"Hello," said Li Mei, giving a slight nod.
"And who might this green-eyed beauty be?" said the oldest of the men, the one wearing a top hat and a velvet coat.
"This is Li Mei, the future star of Wings of Glory!" said Zhou Jiao, pulling out a chair next to him so Li Mei could sit by her side.
"Marvelous! She looks just like the actress who played her fifty years ago!" said another woman, whose name Li Mei didn't know.
Li Mei sat down, hoping everyone would stop looking at her. Despite being an actress, she was shy and quiet, and she wasn't prepared to be around that many people after everything that had happened earlier in the day. Only Zhou Yu, always taciturn, seemed to be more interested in his phone than in her.
"Vell, it looks like ZeeJay haz a new friend," said Anna Mikhailov, emphasizing the word friend.
"We just met today," said Li Mei quickly, noticing Anna's sarcasm. She didn't want to create a rift with this gorgeous woman for nothing.
"Hmm," said Anna, and smiled. Then she took a sip of wine.
Li Mei was saved by the butlers, who brought in the food and began to serve it. The menu was salmon with sauteed potatoes and a shrimp cocktail.
Soon the conversation switched to other topics like ZJ's future projects, an upcoming fashion show Anna was doing, and general gossip about the entertainment world.
Throughout all of it, Li Mei felt completely out of place. Just this morning she had been eating dumplings out of a street vendor, feeling on top of the world just because she was staying at such a fancy hotel for free. Now she was dining with the prettiest, richest people she had ever known.
The man in the top hat spoke to Zhou Yu softly, discussing a screenplay he was working on.
"So the leading lady falls in love with the prince, and he doesn't realize he loves her back until it's too late," he said. "Then he has to travel to his evil brother's kingdom to get her back. Standard historical fantasy. The fans will love it."
"That sounds a lot like 'A rose blooms in blood'" said Li Mei without thinking. Then she almost covered her mouth with her hand. "I'm sorry, I couldn't help but overhear what you were saying. But it does sound very similar to that movie."
The man turned his head to look at her.
"You're right," he said, after a short pause. "Did you see that movie?"
"Yes. I analyzed the screenplay in class, for a project. It's based on an ancient Chinese story, with several nods to Italian Neorealism. Everyone saw it as an epic historical fantasy, but deep down, it was a story class struggles after the devastating war caused by the prince," said Li Mei.
The man's eyes widened.
"So she's a beauty with brains. You don't get that a lot," he said.
Li Mei didn't know if she should be flattered or offended. But she took it as a compliment and smiled. In the meantime, Zhou Yu hadn't taken his eyes off her. Zhou Jiao, on the other hand, was deep in conversation with Anna Mikhailov, talking about a tennis match he would be attending in London.
After desert had been served, the wine and champagne kept flowing. The air was getting stuffy, and Li Mei's vision was getting blurry, so she excused herself and went out to the balcony to get some air. Just as she closed the glass door, it opened again.
"Are you OK?" said Zhou Jiao, smiling.
"Yes. I... I can't thank you and your cousin enough. For everything. First for helping me with Mr. Wang and then for still offering me the part. This is a dream come true," she said, out of the bottom of her heart.
It wasn't every day that the kindness of strangers meant the whole world to someone. These two had not only saved her; they were giving her a second chance. And for what? Maybe it was pity that she had been abused by one of their employees. Maybe it was just as Zhou Yu said, and the production for the movie couldn't be delayed, risking the scandal involving Mr. Wang getting out. Either way, she had gotten what she came here for, and so much more.
"I'm looking forward to acting with you," said Zhou Jiao, getting closer to Li Mei. He grabbed on to the balcony's rails and looked out.
"What?" said Li Mei. "You're going to be... Captain Lane?"
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