It was indeed Mr. Shen. He was dressed in a black suit with dark stripes and a pair of dark brown leather shoes. There was a beautiful woman on his arm.
The woman wore a black ankle-length evening dress and a set of sapphire jewelry. She had a delicate makeup on her oval face. The guests could feel her presence in the room. No one could ignore her.
When the partygoers got a good look at the woman's face, many of them gasped. They shot glances at Alina Tang, the hostess of tonight's birthday party, and James Xi, the man at her side.
The appearance of the woman in the banquet caused many to whisper among themselves. "Did you see that woman? Isn't that Maria Song?" one said.
"Yeah, you're right. That's Maria!" another confirmed.
"Oh my God! Isn't she dead? Why is still alive? She's a murderess! How could she have the gall to show her face again?" another guest chimed in.
"Speaking of her face, did she have work done? Since when has she become that hot?"
"Who knows? She is Mr. Shen's date. This should be fun!"
That all depended on one's idea of fun. At least things would be interesting.
Maria Song's sudden return not only amazed everyone in the banquet, but also frightened them, because the man she was with was James Xi's business rival, Norman Shen!
Not only that, Maria Song was the ex-wife of James Xi, the CEO of HL Group.
Both James Xi and Norman Shen tended to keep a low profile, limiting public appearances. They seldom showed up at these kinds of parties. But it made sense for James Xi to be here. Gossip of his upcoming engagement to Alina Tang had spread like wildfire. But as for Norman Shen, he wasn't here merely to celebrate Alina Tang's birthday, was he?
James Xi was a big shot in the finance world. Now his rival showed up with his ex-wife. The guests were excited. Who knew what else the night might bring?
Maria Song kept a graceful smile on her face the whole time. She walked up to Alina Tang in her seven-centimeter crystal high-heels, holding Norman Shen's arm.
Alina Tang was her older cousin. Six years ago, she destroyed Maria Song's vocal cords and made her into a mute.
And, now, six years later, the two were brought together, standing face to face.
Alina Tang was bowled over by Maria Song's dramatic change. Her heart skipped a beat. She tightened her grip on James Xi's arm and almost crushed the wine glass she held.
Under the watchful eyes of the other guests, Norman Shen took two glasses of red wine from the waiter. He gave one to Maria Song and kept one for himself.
He glanced at the smiling woman next to him, and then fixed his eyes on the expressionless man in front of him. With a faint smile at the corners of his mouth, he greeted James Xi warmly. "Mr. Xi, it's been a while! Did you recognize my date?"
Though the two men had their differences, Norman Shen was a gentleman through and through. If he were reluctant to do this, no one could tell. In the business world, only profits are forever, not enemies.
However, James Xi gave no indication he was pleased by this meeting. He kept his poker face intact. He didn't even look at the woman beside Norman Shen. He raised his drink and clinked glasses with Norman Shen. "Just a stranger."
James Xi had been working in the corporate sector for several years, and had been CEO for a while now. No one could deny that he was an imposing figure.
It had been six years, but Maria Song felt it hard to breathe when she was in front of James Xi again. This man had grown more mature, and his deep eyes were even more unfathomable.
The people in H City were deferent to Norman Shen. He might not be as powerful as James Xi, but he was no pushover.
If James Xi was ruthless and self-centered, then Norman Shen was shady and showed no mercy. The two men were more alike than they would ever admit.
James Xi looked noble and unapproachable, while Norman Shen appeared gentle and elegant.
"Stranger?" Taking a sip of his wine, Norman Shen was amused by James Xi's reply. A hint of slyness flashed across his smiling eyes, but he said nothing more.
Hearing James Xi's answer, the smile on Maria Song's face didn't change. It didn't matter. She would conquer this man sooner or later!
"Bring my birthday gift for Miss Tang," Norman Shen ordered his assistant behind him.
"Yes, Mr. Shen!"
Soon, the assistant handed a gift box to Alina Tang. "Happy Birthday, Miss Tang."
Alina Tang smiled elegantly at him. "Thank you, Mr. Shen."
Norman Shen nodded at her without saying anything.
As the host of the banquet, Alina Tang handed the gift to the housekeeper behind her and greeted the silent woman next to her. "Maria, you're back? Where have you been hiding yourself? We were all worried about you! How have you been?"
Maria Song put on a smile and looked into Alina Tang's eyes. "Thank you for your concern, Alina. I'm okay. I just went on a trip to relax."
Her tone was inscrutable. No one could tell how she felt.
Hearing her speak, Alina Tang was aghast. 'She can speak?'
Alina Tang was the foremost celebrity in H City. She quickly pulled herself together.
"Thanks to Mr. Shen, I'm doing okay." Maria Song's voice was soft and her eyes were misty. It seemed that she was moved by Alina Tang's concern.
But all was not as it seemed. The cousins seemed to be rekindling their relationship, but it lacked the verve of a real relationship. Their tones were flat, their words perfunctory.
Alina Tang nodded and turned to look at James Xi. She suggested considerately, "James, since Maria is back, do you want some time alone so you can talk?"
The man's thick eyebrows wrinkled visibly. He refused without hesitation, and there was a trace of disgust in his eyes. "No," he said. His voice was even more arrogant and colder than before.
Alina Tang noted his reaction. She was in a much better mood now. "Well, I haven't seen Maria for a long time. We have a lot to catch up on. James, Mr. Shen, excuse us."
After saying that, she grabbed Maria Song's wrist before she could react.
Norman Shen let go of Maria Song and nodded, "Go ahead."
Maria Song was dragged away by Alina Tang. Before leaving, she looked back at Norman Shen. She had a telltale glint in her eyes. She was having fun with this.
He waved at her, indicating he was good with everything.
Maria Song turned around and trotted to catch up with Alina Tang. "Hey, Alina, my heels are a little too high for this kind of pace. Can you slow down?" she asked cautiously, but got no response.
The two women left, leaving their two men with different thoughts. One hand in his pocket, James Xi swirled the red wine in his glass with the other hand.
Norman Shen looked at the man with a smile and asked, "What do you think? Maria's changed a lot, huh?"
James Xi cast him a cold glance and asked, "Mr. Shen, you must be bored. Don't you have someone else to bother?" They weren't on the best of terms, normally. And James wasn't much for small talk anyway.
"Not really." Norman Shen clinked glasses with him and drank the wine in his glass. "I heard you are going to get engaged to Alina Tang?"
Recently, there was a rumor in H City that James Xi and Alina Tang were to get engaged. It seemed it was true since James Xi was here at the party.
"Yes." James Xi saw no profit in lying about it.
Norman Shen nodded. After a while, he said, "What a coincidence! I was thinking of marrying Maria Song."