Surprise Resignation of Female Substitute Secretary

Chapter 39

When Su Tao bought dinner and came back, she found that the master bedroom had already been occupied by Xie Jin.

He was leaning against the headboard, wearing a white shirt that Lan Xuan must have just bought for him.

Three buttons were undone, clearly revealing his chest. His slender legs were clad in black trousers, and his ankles were casually crossed, showing no signs of redness or swelling.

His hair was already dry, his bangs falling naturally, and his narrow, long-lashed eyes were fixed on his phone, seemingly working, but without the gloominess and irritability he usually had during the day.

"You're back." Xie Jin looked up and glanced at Su Tao, who was standing at the bedroom door looking at him, acting as familiar as if this was his home.

"Get out. Who allowed you to sit on my bed?" Su Tao said coldly, ordering him to leave.

Xie Jin pointed at his ankle and pleaded innocently, "I'm injured and can't move around arbitrarily."

"Fine, then you can starve to death in bed." Su Tao turned and went to the dining room to eat by herself.

Xie Jin hurried after her, limping, frowning, and still making "hiss" sounds as if every step was very painful.

Su Tao casually bought two pizzas and steaks from a Western restaurant downstairs and brought them back up, already plated. She pushed a plate towards Xie Jin and slowly started cutting her own meal with knife and fork.

Xie Jin stared at the meat she had cut off, his long lashes fluttering lightly. He leaned forward and took a bite of the meat speared on her fork. His tongue licked away the sauce from the corners of his mouth as he smiled at her mischievously.

Su Tao was stunned for two seconds before switching their forks, warning him, "Don't steal mine again."

Xie Jin pouted, "But I'm injured. Can't you feed me a bite?"

Su Tao shot back coolly, "Mr. Injured, if I remember correctly, you hurt your foot, right? Do you usually eat with your feet?"

Xie Jin had no retort to being roasted like this. He picked up his own knife and fork sheepishly and started eating properly.

"By the way, I've already called the police and asked Jin Chuiwen to handle it," Xie Jin said as he ate.

Su Tao glanced at him and nodded. "Mm, with the roadside surveillance footage and license plate info, they should be able to find out who it was. I suspect it was Tian Yingying. She probably didn't expect to injure you this time and will likely flee."

As soon as Su Tao finished speaking, Xie Jin's large hand was on her head, rubbing it as he smiled at her fondly, "Our little Su Tao is so smart."

Su Tao dodged his "devil claws" and smoothed her hair, speaking with little enthusiasm, "Even if she's caught, she'll just get fined and detained for a few days at most."

Xie Jin's jet-black eyes narrowed slightly, suddenly becoming gloomy and sinister. He lowered his head a little, dropping the relaxed attitude he had around Su Tao, reverting to his usual devilish appearance.

His deep voice said slowly, "I only need a verdict. What comes after will be hell for her."

Looking at him, Su Tao was reminded of Qin Xuexi's cries again. After hesitating for a long time, she finally asked, "Why did you dismiss Qin Xuexi back then?"

Xie Jin's gaze seemed to return from hell to the mortal realm. The gloom left his eyes and they shone as he thought for a moment before confessing honestly, "Because someone sent me that photo too. I was afraid you'd find out, so I panicked and transferred her away."

"So afterwards, whenever I mentioned Qin Xuexi, you acted like I was making a fuss over nothing. But actually, you felt guilty, right?"

Xie Jin bit his lip and finally raised his eyes, deciding to face this matter head-on. "Yes, I felt guilty at the time. Although I clearly remember not doing anything, that photo did panic me. I was afraid you would misunderstand if you knew, because I know your bottom line."

It was precisely because he cared too much that he paradoxically lacked the courage to face it, leading to one mistake after another.

"Little Su Tao, I will prove that I have never done anything to betray you. Just give me some time."

Xie Jin's sincere gaze shimmered brightly. The two looked silently at each other for a long moment before Su Tao was the first to look away without saying anything.

Xie Jin slept in the guest room. Su Tao allowing him to stay was already more than enough to make him feel content. He didn't dare make any other requests.

The next morning, Su Tao got dressed and ready before leaving the bedroom. She saw Xie Jin sitting at the dining table where breakfast was laid out.

As Su Tao walked over, she saw the breakfast clearly and a look of surprise flashed through her eyes.

It was fried eggs, toast, and hot milk—everything she used to make for Xie Jin every morning.

Su Tao's gaze moved from the breakfast to Xie Jin's face. She asked hesitantly, "Did you make this?"

Xie Jin nodded, straightening up with a proud little expression, like a schoolboy waiting for the teacher's praise.

Su Tao picked up a slice of toast and took a sip of milk, nodding to indicate her approval of his cooking skills. She picked up her bag, preparing to head out.

"Are you going to work?" Xie Jin looked at her longingly, a pitiful expression on his face. "What will I do after you leave?"

Su Tao left him a door key and glanced at him as she stood in the doorway, saying coldly, "You're not paralyzed. Do whatever you need to do."

The door slammed shut, leaving only Xie Jin alone in the house. His pitiful act instantly vanished as he switched to his usual gloomy, irritable tycoon mode. He called Jin Chuiwen, got dressed, and strode out the door with vigorous steps, showing no sign of discomfort with his ankle at all.

After work, Su Tao met two high school classmates, Liao Dan and Shao Tingting, for dinner.

After graduating from college, Liao Dan had found a job at a TV station, working her way up from the bottom to become a producer's assistant despite not having a formal position. With her personality and work ethic, she was on track to be promoted to a full-time role this year. Su Tao and Liao Dan had run into each other once at the Jiangcheng TV Station and had been in touch regularly since.

Shao Tingting was an accountant on a business trip in Jiangcheng over the next few days, so the three former classmates took the chance to meet up.

A famous private kitchen in Jiangcheng was a must-visit spot for internet celebrities and tourists, specially chosen by Liao Dan to impress Shao Tingting.

Watching Shao Tingting snap dozens of photos within minutes of arriving, Su Tao had to admire Liao Dan's emotional intelligence in arranging even little details to exceed people's expectations.

"Meh, this place isn't all that great. I thought it'd be amazing from the photos people posted online." Shao Tingting shrugged, worlds apart in EQ compared to Liao Dan.

"Right, places that get hyped up online are often exaggerated. Just take some pictures and that's enough," Liao Dan tactfully changed the awkward subject as the food arrived. The three didn't start eating until Shao Tingting was done with her photo shoot.

Shao Tingting had barely taken two bites when she seemed to remember something. Snap, she took a candid shot of Su Tao, saying, "Su Tao, you're a celebrity now! I saw that reality show you were on. Are you with that Xie Jin now? He's so handsome, totally my type—much better than those green young boys. You've really made it big, I still remember how you had a crush on Zhong Siwei from our class in high school but didn't get him..."

Liao Dan, knowing Su Tao's situation, subtly passed Shao Tingting a glass of juice to shut her up. "Try this drink, it's really delicious."

Su Tao smiled thankfully at Liao Dan and the three chatted about work instead.

Shao Tingting complained about her tiring job but admitted the pay was great. "Sigh, it cost me my hair. Studying for the CPA exam those years, I lost handfuls of hair. Not like you two, looking pretty and relaxed every day without a care for money or anything."

"Yeah, we definitely can't compare with you," Liao Dan and Su Tao said after exchanging a look, not arguing otherwise.

After dinner, the three wandered along the riverside night view, a place locals found repetitive but tourists exclaimed over.

They found a small bar nearby to chat for a bit. Su Tao and Liao Dan discussed work matters that Shao Tingting had no relation to, leaving her somewhat excluded.

Flipping through her phone, Shao Tingting suddenly yelled, "Oh! Our old class head is organizing a reunion next week. Are you two in the group chat? Let me add you."

Neither had wanted to join initially, but now found themselves pulled into the group.

As soon as Su Tao entered, many dormant members popped up that she couldn't match names to after so long.

Suddenly, someone with the nickname "Ambitious Youth" sent a question mark and the group exploded.

Everyone was saying things like "Wow!", "Exciting!", "Lord Qing's back!", and "Gimme the gossip!" that Su Tao didn't understand.

"Su Tao," Shao Tingting said with a knowing, gossipy look, poking her and pointing at the chat. "Looks like Zhong Siwei still thinks you're special. He never talks in the group, but sent a question mark as soon as you joined. Regretting how he treated you back then?"

"Aren't they all in the past? You guys are so gossipy." Liao Dan finally couldn't stand it and snapped at Shao Tingting.

In high school, Su Tao had written Zhong Siwei a love letter which he had read aloud to the whole class. Her cheesy words provided teasing fodder for their entire semester.

Although Su Tao had stated firmly that she hadn't written it, no one believed her. They just thought she was too embarrassed after being exposed and rejected.

Su Tao put away her phone, looking at Shao Tingting with indifference instead of the intimacy she'd felt at reuniting with an old classmate. "I have something to do, I'm leaving first."

She didn't know if that incident was a misunderstanding or someone deliberately framing her, but being ridiculed daily that semester made her feel like an animal in a zoo exhibit, leaving considerable psychological scars.

They were just youths back then, emotionally immature. She could understand the abnormal excitement over such things, but as adults now, still joking about something akin to school bullying was unacceptable to Su Tao.

When Su Tao returned home and opened the door, the house was very quiet and pitch black except for the warm light coming from the dining area.

As she approached the table after changing her shoes, she realized the light was from candles.

A table full of Western dishes was covered with lids. Xie Jin was laying his head on the table, his sharp side profile exposed, the usually cold edges softened under the flickering candlelight.

Su Tao's phone rang with a spam text. After dismissing it, she noticed several unread WeChat notifications, all from Xie Jin:

[Xie Jin: Little Taozi, what time do you get off work?]

[Xie Jin: What do you like to eat?]

[Xie Jin: How about Western food again? I know you like steak. I'll have Jin Chuiwen buy ingredients and I'll personally cook for you.]

[Xie Jin: Little Taozi, still busy?]

[Xie Jin: I'll go ahead and cook it then? If you don't like it just tell me and I'll make you something else right away.]

[Xie Jin: Little Taozi, where are you? No one is answering your office number.]

[Xie Jin: Your coworkers said you got off a while ago. Did you go out to eat? Do you have a date?]

[Xie Jin: I'll wait for you.]

Su Tao's bright eyes flickered in the candlelight as she read through the messages. Her long lashes fluttered softly, as if she could feel his disappointment growing line by line.

The ringtone stirred Xie Jin awake. He shook his head sharply, as if shocked that he had actually fallen asleep.

Seeing Su Tao standing in the candlelight, he asked incredulously, "Am I awake or dreaming?"

Su Tao sat down across from him and lifted the dish covers, revealing a cold, blackened steak underneath.

"Perfect timing, I'm still hungry," she said as she picked up her knife and fork and began sawing at the tough meat. Fortunately the dim lighting obscured the charred exterior and bloody interior.

Just as she was about to take a bite, Xie Jin's warm hand gripped her wrist.

"It's cold, don't eat it."

Su Tao leaned in and ate the food on her fork anyway. Blinking her bright eyes, she said, "It's not cold."

Xie Jin silently retracted his hand, watching as she chewed just twice before hesitating. After a long pause, she finally swallowed the meat down.

Su Tao pounded her chest and washed it down with water, tipping her head back as she tried to force it down.

Xie Jin said, "...It looks like you're swallowing medicine?"

Su Tao, unable to respond, shook her head vigorously.

Seeing her consider his feelings even as she struggled to swallow, shaking her head to signal it wasn't bad, Xie Jin's eyes grew moist.

His little Taozi was always so thoughtful, never making things awkward or wasting others' efforts.

As long as you treated her sincerely, she would return that sincerity.

This realization made him even more distressed, like a thousand pounds of stone weighing down his heart.

He had hurt this kind-hearted little Taozi so deeply.

Su Tao finally managed to force the meat down and caught her breath. Shaking her head, she said, "That's an insult to medicine. Even medicine isn't this hard to swallow."

Not only was it burnt and bitter, but the bloody taste was awful.

She was just grateful she had cut a small piece - this was torture.

Xie Jin: "......"