<br />Hello and welcome to chapter fourteen! It seems I left Nellie and Gustav in a rather steamy situation at the end of chapter thirteen. Sorry about that, but I felt it was a good place to stop. *evil grin* Anyway, this segment begins at the point the last one ended. Will Gustav finally take possession of Nellie's body, along with her heart? Turn the page to find out!<br /> Note: Again, this chapter contains scenes of a mature nature, so proceed with caution.<br /> <br />Gustav's kisses grew more demanding, more urgent as he gently pushed Nellie backward onto the sofa. He carefully lowered his body until it pressed firmly against hers. "
he whispered huskily, "
you are so warm and tender. You make me crazy with desire! I want you . . . so much."
<br />Nellie's mind reeled in ecstasy as Gustav slowly ran his hand up the length of her body, stopping briefly to caress her thigh before moving further upward. The sensations he was creating within her were almost unbearable and nearly drove her insane with lustful longing. As his fingers began to expertly undo the top of her dress, a vision popped into her head of a different time and place. All at once, a wild panic assaulted her and she began to struggle against him. "
she cried suddenly. "
Stop it! Get off me!"
Pressing her hands against his chest, she shoved with all her might, which sent Gustav reeling backward to a seated position, an expression of total confusion marring his features. Nellie sat upright and straightened her clothing, her cheeks burning from excitement and shame. <br /> <br />"
What is wrong, Nellie?"
Gustav asked. His tone was hurt and confused. "
I did not hurt you, did I?"
He was feeling confused as well as disappointed. The man had been so close to having his way with her that could already taste victory, but she had suddenly changed the course of destiny by pushing him away from her. <br />"
No, you didn't hurt me"
Nellie replied in a voice barely above whisper. She felt horrible for what she had done. In her slightly intoxicated state, she had almost allowed something to happen for which she knew she was not quite ready. Things would have progressed further if the memory of what had happened with Ho Sung had not entered her mind. Nellie sighed heavily and rose from the sofa. <br /> <br />"
I'm really sorry, Gustav"
Nellie croaked with raw emotion. "
It's not you. It's me."
She swallowed the lump in her throat and continued in a shaky voice. "
Things are . . . things are moving too quickly, that's all. I . . . I'm just not ready for this!"
Her eyes pleaded with him for understanding. "
I . . . I have to go!"
Nellie turned and suddenly fled toward the door. She burst through it and ran out into the night, as if she could not get home soon enough.<br />"
Gustav called out as he stood up to go after her, but he cracked his knee on the coffee table, nearly tripping over it to fall flat on his face. He steadied himself and stood up, rubbing his bruised knee. By the time he had reached the door and jerked it open, Nellie had disappeared out of sight.<br /> <br />"
Damn it! Damn it all to hell!"
Gustav bellowed crossly as unbridled rage flared up inside him. "
Why can anything not ever go smoothly?"
He walked over to the coffee table and gazed down at the two-thirds-empty bottle of Nectar. His eyes blazed furiously as he snatched up the bottle, raised it high over his head, and then smashed it, violently, down upon the floor. A measure of satisfaction flowed through him as it shattered and the red liquid it had contained splattered on the floor, and oozed out from it in tiny rivulets like blood from a gaping wound.<br />Several deep breaths later, a serene calmness seemed to envelope him that slowly washed away his previous fury. "
What am I going to do with you, Nellie Blye?"
He asked the empty room. "
What is it going to take to make you love me?"
<br /> <br />Nellie had run, almost blindly, back to base camp and hurried straight up to her room, locking the door behind her. Mixed emotions and thoughts ran rampantly through her like a blazing inferno. She felt horrible. She felt like one of those girls she had heard about who love to tease men, getting them all aroused and then letting them down. Although that had not been her intention at all, a heavy blanket of guilt and shame seemed to be covering her, smothering her, and making it difficult to breathe, because she had allowed the situation to get out of hand.<br />She genuinely liked Gustav Delven and would not wish to hurt him in any way whatsoever. Plus, there was a moment when she had wanted him as much as he wanted her, but when she thought of what had happened shortly after allowing Ho Sung into her bed, her mind had sprung into action and snuffed out her body's wanton desires. With a melancholy sigh, she rose from her chair and got ready for bed. She resolved herself to moving forward, and her forward direction would be taking her back to The Nectary early the next morning to search for Jean Necteaux's famous Nectar recipes. <br /> <br />Nellie rose early, forcing herself to not dwell on last night's disaster, and was down in the cellar of The Nectary, just as the sun was peeking over the horizon. She moved the Emerald carefully around in the middle hole in the wall and smiled in satisfaction as it distinctly slid into a slot. At the same time, she heard the sound of something being placed on the table behind her. When she looked, there was a keystone where none had been before.<br /> <br /> It was a perfect fit to the keystone slot Nellie hoped would lead her to Jean Necteaux's Tomb. The chains fell away from the door and she entered.<br /> <br /> The door opened to a room with only a staircase leading down. It went down quite a long way, so Nellie had the feeling she was going in the right direction.<br /> <br /> Nellie almost immediately saw a place on the wall that looked suspiciously like a secret door, so she inspected it and discovered she had been correct.<br /> <br /> The new room contained a bottle of Life Fruit Nectar, which could prove to be a precious commodity, so she promptly swiped it.<br /> <br /> Next, she made her way up a flight of stairs and had to move a statue before gaining access to the next level.<br /> <br />Nellie was now in a strange place where the floor was partially cut away and the only thing she could do from there was dive into a pool to have a look around.<br /> <br />On the other side of the pool was a small room with some money bags and a few relics. There was one other added 'attraction' as well. "
You poor bastard"
Nellie whispered solemnly. "
How in the world did you let yourself become trapped down here, left alone to die when all you had to do to get out would be go back through the diving pool?"
Determined to not meet the same fate as the long-ago traveler, or have to go back the way she had come, Nellie immediately began looking for another way out. Soon, she found a secret door and moved into another room.<br /> <br />Now Nellie was on a floor in between the two she had just visited. She stopped briefly to check the map of the cellars Estelle Fouchier had given her, and then she made her way up the set of stairs just ahead. They lead her back to the level she had been on when she had come to the diving pool, only now she had access to the loot she had spotted from the other side.<br /> <br />As Nellie kneeled to retrieve the heart-shaped keystone, she wondered what was up with all the heart-shaped keystones she had found lately. Was someone trying to tell her something? Her heart had been broken by Ho Sung, and his deception, and now it was affecting her life in ways she could never have imagined. There was a handsome man interested in spending time with her, and she was beginning to feel the same about him. Yet, she had shoved him away from her like an unwanted or broken toy. "
she scolded herself harshly. "
It isn't quite as dramatic as all that."
<br />Forcing herself to focus on the matter at hand, she grabbed the Keystone, then the coins, and moved on to the next door. <br /> <br /> Once the keystone was placed, the chains fell from the door and Nellie entered. Instantly, she was glad to have gotten an early start this morning.<br /> <br /> In all her travels thus far, Nellie had never before encountered so many floor panels to be stepped upon. There were at least forty or fifty of them!<br /> <br /> Once she had stepped on almost half of them, the chains fell off the door ahead of her, but she activated the rest, just in case it was necessary for something.<br /> <br />A sharp gasp of surprise escaped her when she realized she was now in a familiar room, only this time it contained an animated mummy. She also noticed a hole in the floor where previously there was not. Rising from the hole was an aura that indicated to her that the room below must be Jean Necteaux's Tomb. Ignoring the groaning mummy that could not reach her where she stood, Nellie turned around and went back the way she had come.<br /> <br /> She entered a room she had neglected before and had to bring out the mighty Axe of Pangu to clear away some rubble. <br /> <br /> Eventually she came to another strange place in the wall, which revealed a secret door. She opened it and found herself in a new corridor.<br /> <br />Now, she knew she was close to her prize. First, she took a moment to admire an interesting statue against the wall, and then she retrieved a piece of an ancient broken relic from the floor. Slowly, she turned toward the door and made her way over to it. Taking a deep breath, she stepped inside.<br /> <br />Immediately, Nellie spied what she knew must be Jean Necteaux's sarcophagus and she headed straight for it. Elation filled her soul when she looked inside and found the recipes of the long-dead Nectar Maker. She tucked them into her bag and quickly left the room, never giving any notice to the mummies she had awakened during her exploration.<br /> <br />"
I cannot believe it!"
Estelle Fouchier exclaimed breathlessly when Nellie handed over her find. "
These are Jean Necteaux's actual original Nectar Recipes! Thank you so very much, Nellie Blye. Now, The Nectary will become the greatest supplier of Nectar in the world once again!"
<br />Once Estelle stopped gushing and paid Nellie her wages, the young woman remembered another task she must complete. She thanked the older woman and then made her way toward the market, where she headed straight to the Relic Merchant's shop. <br /> <br />"
I was wondering when I might see you again, Nellie"
Gaston remarked coolly as Nellie approached. "
As you may know, our little haunting problem has become no better, but actually worse since your disturbance of the spirit."
His raised eyebrow and cool tone served its purpose and made Nellie feel guilty, even though it had not been exactly her fault that she had not had the materials to stop the haunting<br />She told him about the Pomegranates and he continued, "
I will plant these Pomegranates as the spirit requested. I am so glad to learn the apparition is not hostile. I was about to call my real estate agent and give him a piece of my mind! Could you ask the apparition if there is anything else needed? I want to put this entire ghost thing behind me as soon as possible."
He told her his wife and son were both at home to give her access to the Secret Garden.<br /> <br />"
Good afternoon, Remy"
Nellie smiled warmly at the boy when he stepped outside to greet her. She explained to him that she believed she finally found a way to stop the all the strange noises which had been terrifying him lately.<br />She was taken aback when he flung his arms around her waist and buried his face into her abdomen. "
Oh, thank you, Mademoiselle Blye!"
he cried happily.<br />Once the boy had pried himself off her, he headed back inside while Nellie made her way around to the Secret Garden. She stood gazing at the headstone, speaking to it in a hushed tone. "
The Pomegranates will soon be planted. What else may I do to appease you?"
she ventured. When no answer came, Nellie began to softly weep.<br /> <br />Suddenly, a voice seemed to whisper upon the wind. "
Now that you ask, there is one more thing. Do not worry. It is a simple task. I wish to lie next to my beloved for all eternity. Her tombstone resides in a hidden burial chamber that is tucked away under this garden. Here are my remains. Please take them and place them in the burial chest beside hers. When this is done, I will finally be at peace."
<br />Nellie was instantly smiling. She knew exactly the location mentioned because she had already been there during the exploration that had led her to the Secret Garden. She quickly made her way back there.<br /> <br />Once Nellie had opened the chest and put the remains inside, a slight hiss filled the air, followed by a powerful silence. A quick, "
thank you, take this ancient idol as a symbol of my appreciation"
was whispered into Nellie's ear, and then suddenly all sounds vanished. The spirit finally appeared to be at peace.<br />As a matter of fact, Nellie felt more at peace now than she had earlier. When you sit back and have a look at other people's struggles, it can sometimes make your own seem a bit less unbearable. She hurried back to the Relic Merchant's shop to give him the news.<br /> <br />After Nellie told Gaston Dutiel what had occurred, he said, "
I'm so glad to hear the apparition is at peace! Who knew a simple garden filled with Pomegranates could mean so much to someone?"
He smiled warmly at her and continued, "
I will cherish the garden in his honor. As for you, here are some old coins I found in my basement. You have my thanks!"
<br />Nellie told him he was welcome, thanked him for the coins, and headed toward the door. Her heart was light, as was her step. There was nothing like the feeling of accomplishment that filled one's soul when a goal had been reached. As she made her way outside, her cell phone began to ring. When she dug it out of her bag to answer it and noticed the caller was from China, her brow furrowed into a puzzled frown. "
<br /> <br />The voice on the other end of the line belonged to Jee Young Tsang, the woman Nellie had befriended after beating her in the sparring match that gained her access into the Dragon Cave. "
Hello, Nellie Blye"
Jee Young said breathlessly. "
I am so glad to have finally gotten in touch with you! I need to ask you a favor."
<br />Nellie told the frantic-sounding woman that she would be happy to help her in any way she could. "
How kind of you, yet again"
the woman said gratefully. "
My grandfather is a direct descendant of the First Emperor's imperial guardsmen. He knows the history of the Great Emperors – their secrets and their treasures. He has sent me the key for you to use to investigate the Tomb of the First Emperor. Are you willing to do it?"
Nellie replied eagerly. She always jumped at any chance to travel to China. After hanging up, she made a quick call to the airport for reservations, and then went to a nearby bench to sit and think. Lost in thought, Nellie did not notice the man approaching until he occupied the space next to her on the bench.<br /> <br />"
I deeply apologize, Nellie"
Gustav Delven said quietly as he sat down in the empty space beside her. His voice held a melancholy tone and his expression was filled with remorse and guilt. "
I should not have pushed so hard and been so forward. I do not know what came over me, but all the Nectar I drank must have gone to my head. Nellie, can you ever forgive me?"
As his voice trailed away, the man fell silent and merely sat, staring down at his hands resting on his lap.<br />Nellie's gaze followed his, and she, too, gazed at his strong, capable hands. She shivered at the memory of the way those hands had made her feel as his lips had hungrily devoured her own. It had not been his fault. It was hers. The silence grew thick as Nellie struggled to find the words she needed to say in order to properly convey her feelings. Gustav stopped staring down at his hands and turned his face away from her, as if embarrassed or ashamed.<br /> <br />"
Nellie began when she finally found the words she needed to say, "
Please know that none of this is your fault. The blame lies with me . . . within me."
She sighed sadly and then inhaled a deep breath in order to gather her courage to continue. "
The fact of the matter is that I'm having issues because of a previous relationship that didn't fare so well. Because of that, I guess I am a little gun shy and I'm not ready to risk being hurt again."
Nellie fell silent, not sure how much of her personal life she wanted to share with him at that moment. When Gustav said nothing, she went on, "
I think things are just going too far, too soon. I . . . I just need a little more time."
<br />She reached over and gently patted his hand and he finally turned back to look at her, his lips curving into a wavering smile. "
So, I am forgiven then?"
<br />Nellie smiled, "
There is nothing to forgive. Hopefully I can make it up to you on my next trip to France."
At his confused expression, she elaborated, "
I'm leaving for China this evening."
Rising from the bench, she added, "
As a matter of fact, I need to go get my things packed."
Gustav stood as she took a few steps away.<br /> <br />"
Oh Nellie, must you leave so soon?"
Gustav murmured as he impulsively wrapped her in tight embrace, forgetting what he had said earlier about not pushing so hard. Despite her desire to slow things down, her pulse raced at his nearness and instead of pulling away, she hugged him back. The scent of his cologne was assaulting her senses, almost intoxicating her. Suddenly she thought it should be a crime for a man to smell so . . . delicious!<br />"
I'm afraid I do"
she replied as she reluctantly broke their embrace. "
A friend of mine needs my help and I couldn't deny her."
Gustav smiled. He was happy to hear the friend was a woman for a change. <br /> <br />"
he said softly, "
but please, promise me we will spend some time together soon. I will miss you terribly until your return!"
<br />Nellie smiled, "
As she gazed into the man's almost pleading eyes, she was tempted to postpone her trip until the next day just so that she could spend more time with him. It was nice to be in the company of someone who seemed to genuinely care for her. If her trip had been to anywhere but China, she may have put off trip for another day or two, but she knew that her friend Zhan was in China, and she desperately wanted to see him. She had not spoken to him since the day she had seen him in the bookstore here, and she was dying to catch with up him. "
Well, I really do have go now"
she told Gustav. After another brief hug, she turned and headed back toward base camp.<br /> <br />As Gustav enjoyed watching Nellie's pockets sway up and down as she walked way, a sea of mixed emotions waged a war within him. He was, of course, disappointed. He had wanted another chance with Nellie sooner, rather than later. He fully believed that, despite the woman's reservations, he could have had his way with her if she had consumed another glass or two of Nectar. Feelings of anger were also present. He was angry at himself for being a failure, but he was also slightly angry with Nellie for being so obstinate. Intimacy between a man and woman was the most natural thing in the world. Why would she not allow her body to have what they both knew it craved? He knew she was lonely, which made her vulnerable to his attentions, so how could she be holding out on him so easily? "
he whispered to himself, "
You are special and nothing at all like the others. One day, I will have you and things will be so very different than those other times."
Gustav was determined to prove Colette wrong in her predictions on the subject. "
We will be incredible together, you and I!"
<br /> <br />Back in China, Nellie immediately went to get the keystone form Jee Young and then entered Tomb of the First Emperor. After going down a flight of stairs, she stopped to read a plaque on the wall.<br /> <br />Quiet your voice in the presence of the First Emperor. It is from here that he rules the empire. Nellie's brow furrowed into a confused frown. The message certainly did not convey any clues to her. It certainly was not relevant either, since she was here all alone. After a look around the room, taking everything she could reach, there was nowhere else for her to go. She decided it best that she return to Jee Young Tsang to see if she knew how to proceed in the vast, treasure-filled tomb.<br /> <br />"
Jee Young smiled when Nellie told her about her visit to the tomb, "
Grandfather worried you would not be able to fully explore the Tomb of the First Emperor. He sent me this key, which he believes unlocks another quarter of the tomb. Unfortunately, the key will not be unlocked without a monk's incantation read before it. Ask Bo Hong to recite the incantation and it should activate it."
<br />Wonderful, Nellie thought with a frown. Why not just give me the already-blessed key along with the other the first time? "
Nellie smiled at the woman and then went in search of Bo Hong. After asking around, she found him in The Scholar's Garden. <br /> <br />"
It would be my pleasure to recite the incantation for this key"
Bo Hong smiled warmly at Nellie. "
Jee Young Tsang's grandfather is well-respected in Shang Simla, as is his family name."
Bo Dong took the key from Nellie and recited some words over it in Chinese, and then handed it back to her. "
There. The key is now activated. It should be returned to Jee Young Tsang."
Thank you so very much!"
Nellie exclaimed. Now that a new adventure was truly on the horizon, she was beginning to become excited. She rushed the key back to Jee Young, who was still hanging around the Academy of Martial Arts.<br /> <br />"
You are most efficient at every task put before you!"
Jee Young complimented Nellie with a smile. "
Now that the key is activated, I believe you can once again enter the Tomb of the First Emperor. I have spoken to Grandfather. He would like you to enter the final chambers of the tomb and retrieve his family's ancient spear. Return that to me, and my family will reward you with great riches!"
<br />The hour was getting late, so Nellie decided another trek to the tomb could wait until morning, but there was one thing for which she had time, and had been anxious to do ever since returning to China. She quickly left the academy and made her way to The Market.<br /> <br />"
Nellie exclaimed with a huge grin when she found him behind the counter at the General Market. It was so good to finally see her friend's smiling face again.<br />A huge grin broke out on Zhan's face as well. "
he cried happily. "
I cannot believe you are actually here!"
He opened his arms wide. "
Come over here, girl!"
he commanded with mock sternness. <br /> <br />"
I've missed you so much"
Nellie murmured as she firmly kissed his cheek. It was a struggle to keep the happy tears from spilling from her eyes. "
It seems like ages since we last saw each other at the bookstore in France."
<br />Zhan was as happy to see her as she was to see him. "
Tell me about it!"
he chuckled. <br />Nellie pulled out of her friend's embrace and gazed at his sweet face. It seemed to her that ever since she had met him, he was her rock. He had always been there to lift her spirits when she was down and to encourage her when she was feeling afraid. It seemed lately, though, that things had changed slightly.<br /> <br />"
So what's happened?"
she asked, a frown of concern furrowing her brow. "
I haven't heard from you in weeks!"
<br />Zhan saw the worried glint in his best friend's eyes and felt the need to put her at ease. "
I am so sorry, Nellie"
he sighed. "
Somehow, my cell phone died in France the day we were supposed to meet for our picnic. Of course you know that, since your friend, Gustav, met you in my place to let you let know I had to come home. The funny thing is that it was not the battery, as I had suspected. It was actually broken!"
Zhan lowered his head and blushed before he continued. "
The really stupid thing is that since the phone held your number and I never had to fully dial it, I never memorized it. So, when I got a new phone, I could not put your number into it. I was hoping you would call me, but you never did!"
<br />Nellie was suddenly filled with shame. How could she not have taken the time to call her best friend? Her cheeks burned in humiliation. "
I'm so sorry Zhan!"
she cried. "
I've just been so busy . . ."
she began, but then stopped. That was a lame excuse. "
So how did the deal you had to rush back for so quickly go?"
<br /> <br />Zhan lowered his voice to a conspiratorial tone, "
The peculiar thing about that is that I hurried back here and reported in to the higher ups, only to learn that they did not need me for that at all! As far as anyone could tell, it was some kind of clerical mistake or something."
He frowned thoughtfully. "
So, it turns out that I could have stayed in France as planned and met you for our picnic after all!"
Nellie frowned. "
It was not your day. Your cell phone died and a mistake caused us to lose some good catching up time together."
The two of them broke into laughter at such a crazy coincidence, and then moved on to other subjects. Soon, they agreed to meet and hang out on Zhan's day off in two days, and they said their goodbyes for now. Nellie had a big day of adventure ahead of her tomorrow, so she headed back to base camp and settled into a nice, hot bath. She sighed in contentment as the water covered her tired frame.<br /> <br />As the steamy water gently caressed her body, a vision of Gustav Delven's handsome face crept into her mind's eye, reminding her of the way his talented lips had caressed hers and his expert hands had roamed over her body. Suddenly feelings of regret for not allowing the moment to continue to a climatic finish assaulted her, which caused her to become angry with herself. How long was she going to allow the incident between Ho Sung and herself to affect her life in such a negative way? It had been nearly three months since she had been used and then tossed aside like yesterday's trash. It was time to move on.<br />She made up her mind, right then, that as soon as she had finished her task here, she would go back to France and finish what had begun. She had given, first her heart to Ho Sung, and then her body. This time would be different. Who said she had to give away her heart first . . . or at all for that matter?<br /> <br />The next morning when Nellie reentered the tomb, she had an eerie feeling of being watched. At one point, she heard a set of almost inaudible footsteps on the floor somewhere behind her, and she quickly spun around to look, but nothing was there. She sucked in several deep, calming breaths and told herself she was being ridiculous. Then she moved over to a statue and pushed it onto a floor plate to reveal a hidden staircase. Above the sound of the staircase creaking open, she distinctly heard the footsteps again, so she spun around once more and took a few steps forward as her eyes scanned the room.<br /> <br />"
What is wrong with me?"
Nellie asked herself out loud in the empty room. "
I think I need a real vacation!"
She had been inside deeper, creepier tombs than this and had never been this jumpy. As she gazed around slowly to make sure she was truly alone, she wondered why her mind would suddenly start playing tricks on her down here. She closed her eyes and performed a few deep-breathing exercises in an attempt to make her pulse rate return to normal. When she opened them again, she ignored the newly-revealed staircase and headed toward the door with the keystone plaque.<br /> <br />She stood still for several moments, listening for the sounds of footsteps, but all was quiet. The chains on the door fell away when she inserted the keystone and Nellie cautiously stepped inside the next room.<br /> <br />Though Nellie now had her eye on the prize, she stopped to open other treasure chests before moving on. Although she could see the chest which contained the ancient spear, she could not reach it from where she stood. She had to pass through several more rooms and avoid traps to reach her goal.<br /> <br />Finally, she reached her destination and quickly removed the spear from the chest in which it had been stashed. Of course, she could not resist peeking inside the sarcophagus against the wall, as well as raiding the surrounding treasure chests. Satisfied she had everything she needed for now, she made her way back to the main room of the tomb.<br />Suddenly, she stopped dead in her tracks, her eyes widening in shock, as her breath caught in her throat. <br /> <br />She was not alone! Nellie stood very still, not even daring to breathe, as she gaped at the stranger who sat only a few feet from where she stood. It appeared to be a man, but it was difficult to tell from Nellie's current angle. Her mind reeled as she struggled to figure out what her next move should be. Either the stranger was hard of hearing, or he was waiting for her to act first, because he sat as still as a statue, as if he had no inkling of her presence in the room.<br />Finally, Nellie gathered together all the strength, knowledge, and discipline she had learned from her Martial Arts training and resolved to see who the stranger was and why he had intruded upon her adventure. Slowly, cautiously, and almost silently, she moved forward and made her way around to stand directly in front of the newcomer. When she gazed down at him and he looked up at her, her jaw dropped, and she was stunned into complete immobility and silence.<br /> <br />"
Ho Sung greeted quietly as he gazed up at her with an expression of hope shining in his eyes. He had been anticipating the moment he would see her again for a long time, and he hoped desperately that she would not turn and flee the room before he had the chance to speak to her. For that matter, he hoped she would take the time to listen and try to understand why he had handled things the way he had, even though he knew his actions had been on the side of the extreme, but at the time he had felt he had no other choice.<br />Still, Nellie could not move or speak. She felt as if her throat had constricted to a point that would only allow her to breathe, but just barely. Her heart throbbed painfully against her breastbone, and she thought it would surely burst open at any moment. Unable to move, she watched as he rose and stepped toward her.<br /> <br />"
I have missed you, Nellie"
he ventured softly as he searched her eyes for a reaction, but she continued to gape at him with incredulity, as she stood stock still as if frozen in place. In her silence, he pressed on, "
I . . . received word you were going to be here and . . . I had to find a way to see you. I know all this has to be a shock to you, and that you must be confused, but . . . I hope you will listen to me and give me a chance to . . . to explain."
<br />Nellie had been certain, until he had spoken, that Ho Sung must be a figment of her over-active imagination. Mixed emotions flowed rapidly through her like a kaleidoscope of varying colors and lights. Her heart soared with happiness that he was alive and well, but was replaced by confusion as to why he had waited so long to contact her. Soon, her confusion was replaced by sorrow and sadness, which stabbed into her heart like poison darts. Then all else was snubbed out by anger. Suddenly, she was overcome by a blinding rage, the likes of which she had never felt. Taking her silence as assent, So Hung reached out to take her hand.<br /> <br />"
Don't touch me!"
Nellie shrieked furiously as she violently jerked her hand out his grasp. "
How dare you sneak up on me this way after all these months, out of nowhere?"
Her eyes blazed with anger as she locked them with his. "
First, you used me for your own personal pleasure, and then you decided to leave my bed without so much as a thank you or a kiss goodbye! Now, you turn up months later and expect me to quietly sit by and listen to some lame excuse?"
The expression of pain that shone in Ho Sung's eyes touched her heart, despite her fury, and almost made her regret her harsh words . . . almost.<br />When Ho Sung remained silent, Nellie took it as her cue to go on. "
Next, I find out from other sources that you have a wife! A wife, Ho Sung . . . how could you be so cruel as to allow me to fall in love in with you, while the whole time you had a wife at home waiting for you?"
Nellie's voice broke then and she fell silent.<br /> <br />Ho Sung hung his head in shame. All the feelings of guilt and humiliation he had been fighting since falling in love with Nellie came crashing down on him once again. "
So . . . you know then?"
he croaked in a tight voice. He should have known that word of his marriage would reach her. "
I am sorry, Nellie"
he whispered hoarsely. "
I wanted to be the one to tell you. I . . . I tried to speak with you several times, but you would not talk to me."
<br />Nellie remembered, but refused to allow the burden of guilt to be turned back to her. "
That is beside the point, Ho Sung"
she replied. "
None of this would be happening had you not deceived me and chosen to be unfaithful to the woman you married."
<br />Ho Sung released a deep, sad sigh, "
It is not quite as simple as that, Nellie. I never meant to hurt you. I never meant for any of this to happen. It just . . . did."
<br /> <br /> "
It just did?"
Nellie retorted hotly. "
That is all you have to say? You ripped my heart out and tore it to shreds, and that is all you can say?"
The blind fury that had overcome her earlier was resurfacing to wash away any compassion she may have been starting to feel toward the sorrowful man. "
I can't even believe this!"
Suddenly, another thought occurred to her and she had to ask, "
Have you been stalking me? Where have you been hiding all this time anyway?"
<br />Stalking her? An expression of complete confusion screwed up his face as he gazed at her incredulously. He decided to ignore her first question and answer her second. "
After all this happened, I needed a quiet place to think, to discern what to do next. So I went to the Resolute Fist Retreat and asked the monks there for sanctuary. They could not refuse me. I have been there mediating and praying for guidance. Now, I know my destiny. That destiny is you, Nellie. I love you."
You . . . love me? Nellie spat vehemently. She could scarcely believe her ears. Whirling around angrily, she quickly moved toward the staircase leading up.<br /> <br />Stopping to look back, she added, "
You break my heart, walk away from me, and then turn up months later to say you love me?"
She paused for a breath and then continued, "
As far as I am concerned, Mr. Ho Sung Kim, you can go back and live with the monks or . . . you can go straight to Hell! The choice is yours because . . . I don't love you anymore!"
<br />Ho Sung felt as if a dagger had been rammed straight into the center of his heart as he helplessly watched the woman he adored dash up the stairs. He desperately wanted to run after her, but he knew it would only make matters worse. She needed time to think things through, and as part of his atonement, he would have to wait. He despised himself for hurting her, but whenever they had been together, he felt truly happy for the first time in his adult life. Even though he disbelieved she truly meant her parting words, they stung him nonetheless as he left the tomb and, sadly, headed back to the retreat to pray for guidance. <br /> <br />Nellie had run nearly halfway back to home base before stopping to catch her breath. Suddenly, her body was racked with helpless sobs. She had refused to cry in front of Ho Sung, but almost as soon as she had left his sight, the dam burst and the tears spilled from her eyes to flow down her flushed cheeks like Niagara Falls. At first, when she had seen Ho Sung sitting there, gazing up at her with hope-filled eyes, her first impulse had been to run to him and throw herself into his arms. A battled raged between her head and her heart, and her head came out victorious. Yes, she knew she still loved him by measuring the amount of pain in her heart from seeing him again, but she also knew the love they had shared was wrong, because he was attached to another woman . . . by marriage.<br />Besides that, she was angry. No. She was furious that he had chosen now to reappear into her life, just when she had made a firm decision to take the next step with Gustav Delven. How dare he add to her confusion like this? Now, Ellie felt, her life had just become more complicated than ever.<br />