Thursday evening arrived in a flash. Zhao Chen went to the hotel to pick Li Ming up after his shift ended and then went home with him. Anyway, there still was some time until they would meet up with Si Tao and Tong Lan.
Arriving at the apartment, he went to sit down while Li Ming washed up and changed clothes. His thoughts couldn’t help but travel to the dinner later on. He wasn’t nervous any longer but he still felt slightly odd about it.
Come to think of it, he had met the friends of other boyfriends early on as well but usually, it hadn’t been deliberately arranged like this. Maybe that was why he always felt weird when he thought of it. This wasn’t just a casual meeting on the street or a coincidence because they frequented the same places. No, this was Li Ming deliberately letting him deeper into his life. That turned an originally simple thing into a big deal.
He called out to the bedroom when he thought of that. “Hey, say, that Si Tao … how close of a friend is he compared to others?” From what Li Ming had told him two days ago, they actually shouldn’t be that close. He wasn’t sure why Li Ming had asked him out of all his friends but maybe the fact that there still was a certain distance between them had played a role.
In the other room, Li Ming stopped with his hands on the buttons of his shirt. How close were they? “Uh …” He wasn’t sure how to answer that. “I guess not that close?” He continued to close the buttons before he came out of the room and went to sit down with Zhao Chen. “We text somewhat regularly and will meet up every now and then but I don’t know him that well.”
Zhao Chen nodded. That was the impression he had gotten him. “Then why him?”
Li Ming raised his brows and then sighed. “Well, I thought this kind of double date can be a bit awkward. Si Tao is … pretty easy-going, he’s also bi so no judgment there, and what we’ve mostly talked about are our relationships so … I think he’ll be pretty relaxed about this.”
Zhao Chen nodded again. “Well, you put a lot of thought into that.”
Li Ming laughed and shook his head. “It’s not that much. Just … just some things I figured should be taken into consideration. Anyway, it’s not that long anymore. Do you want to go over?”
Zhao Chen nodded and got up, reaching out to Li Ming before he could turn to leave and pulling him into his arms. “You know, I’ll admit I was worried about this whole thing at first. Partly because of his identity but also a bit because, well, this is the next step in our relationship, no? But now, I’m just happy we’re doing it and I’m looking forward to it. Really.”
Li Ming smiled and hugged him back. “Then I hope the evening won’t disappoint you.” He hesitated for a moment and then leaned closer, giving him a peck on the lips. “If anything feels weird, just give me some kind of sign or … text me under the table or something. I’ve never done this kind of thing before.”
Zhao Chen chuckled but nodded before he let him go. “Texting you under the table sounds naughty. Is there anything we can’t bring up out loud?”
Li Ming laughed as well. “You know what I mean! Just in case you feel uncomfortable but don’t want to say it in front of Si Tao and his girlfriend. After all, it’s your first meeting.”
“I know. But I hope it won’t be necessary. Anyway …” He rubbed his neck while they left the apartment, looking somewhat embarrassed.
Li Ming raised his brows at him, not sure why his mood seemed to have changed suddenly. “What’s the matter?”
“Well, I forgot to ask before but where are we meeting them? It’s not some crazy expensive place, is it?” He didn’t think it would be but he still figured he should better make sure beforehand.
As expected, Li Ming shook his head though. “No, don’t worry. It’s … well, it’s a restaurant my ex took me to. I’ve gone there a few more times afterward since the atmosphere is nice.” His gaze darted around and finally cleared his throat. “Well, it also happens to be Si Tao’s restaurant so he might not even expect us to pay in the first place.”
Zhao Chen’s brows shot up. “How many businesses does that guy own?”
Li Ming pressed his lips together and shook his head. “I have no clue. And honestly, I don’t think I want to know. Sometimes, it’s better not to know too much about somebody’s background.”
Zhao Chen sighed. “Yeah, I see what you mean. Some people are just … better at life. But usually, there’s a limit to that. Having a hotel chain at our age is one thing but having several businesses just makes you feel like you’re doing something wrong, no?”
Li Ming laughed. “I don’t know. I never thought about that. Honestly, I don’t think I’d want to be in his position either. I mean, by now, he probably doesn’t need to do much. He has managers in all his businesses and probably just needs to go over things every now and then. But … just imagine all that responsibility. So many people working under you, so many other businesses that rely on yours at least in part … that would make me nervous.”
Zhao Chen looked at him and couldn’t help but smile. He wouldn’t have thought that there was anyone who would say no to money or first think of the responsibility that came with it but Li Ming sure liked to prove him wrong. “Well, I never thought about it from that angle but, yes, that would probably be too hard for me as well.” Still, he wondered just how that Si Tao had done it. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the type of question you could ask when you met for the first time so it would have to remain a secret.