Lucy Gordon

And the Bride Wore Red

A book in the Escape Around the World series, 2009

Dear Reader,

A couple of years ago I visited China and was overwhelmed by its beauty, its magnificence and above all its mystery. In Beijing I saw the Forbidden City, where the Emperors lived and where their concubines had their apartments. Later I visited the Terracotta Warriors. I’d heard so much about them, but nothing could have prepared me for their breathtaking, lifelike reality.

After that came a cruise along the Yangtze River, marveling at the high banks that rise on each side, giving the feeling of being enclosed in a separate world. It could be a perfect place for lovers, as my hero and heroine Lang and Olivia discovered. But at last the outside world intruded, facing them with decisions that threatened to tear them apart.

When they finally found their destiny it was because they were true to themselves and also because they had answered the magical call of China. It was a call that would always draw them back-just as it has drawn me back, and will do again.

Warm wishes,

Lucy Gordon

This book is dedicated to my friend Xin Ying,

who lives in Beijing and whose assistance with

Chinese social customs was invaluable.


‘OLIVIA, come quickly! There’s been a terrible disaster!’

Olivia looked up from the school books she was marking to where Helma, the young teaching assistant, stood in the doorway. She was only mildly alarmed by the girl’s agitated words. Helma had a wild sense of drama and ‘a terrible disaster’ might mean no more than the school cat making off with someone’s lunch.

‘It’s Yen Dong!’ Helma wailed.

Ten-year-old Dong was the brightest pupil in Olivia’s class at the Chang-Ming School in Beijing. He was also the most mischievous, using his impish charm to evade retribution for his many escapades.

‘What’s he done now?’ Olivia asked. ‘Set a booby trap for the headmistress?’

‘He’s climbed a tree.’

‘Again? Then he can just come down. It’s almost time for afternoon lessons.’

‘But he’s ever so high and I don’t think he can get down.’

Olivia hurried out into the garden that formed the school’s playground and looked up. Sure enough, there was the little rascal, high on the tallest tree, looking cheerful even while hanging on for dear life.

‘Can you climb down?’ Olivia called.

He ventured a step, but his foot slid on the next branch and he backed off hastily.

‘All right, not to worry,’ Olivia said, trying to sound more confident than she felt. ‘I need a ladder.’

One was fetched immediately, but to everyone’s dismay it fell short of Dong by several feet.

‘No problem,’ Olivia sang out, setting her foot on the bottom rung.

Luckily she was wearing jeans, which made climbing easier, and reaching the top of the ladder wasn’t too hard. But the next bit didn’t look so easy. Taking a deep breath, she set her foot on a branch. It trembled but held, and she was emboldened to haul herself up. In another moment she had reached Dong, who gave her a beaming smile.

‘It is very nice up here,’ he said in careful, perfect English. ‘I like climbing trees.’

Olivia looked at him askance. At any other time she would have been delighted with his command of her language. In the six months she’d spent teaching English at the Chang-Ming School, she’d found that Dong was the one who grasped everything first. She was proud of him, but right now she had other things to worry about.

‘I like climbing trees too,’ she said. ‘But I also like getting down safely. So let’s try to do that.’

She began to edge down, encouraging him to follow her so that he descended into the safety of her arms. One branch, then two, then three and finally, to her immense relief, the top rung of the ladder.

‘Just a little further,’ she said. ‘Nearly there.’

But it was the ladder which failed them, sliding away from the tree suddenly and depositing them on the ground with a bump.

Olivia gasped as she felt the bark scrape painfully against her arm, but her real fear was for Dong.

‘Are you hurt?’ she asked worriedly.

He shook his head, refusing to be troubled by a few bruises, and bounced back onto his feet.

‘I am well,’ he pronounced.

Clearly this was true, but Olivia knew she had to be sure.

‘I’m getting you to a doctor,’ she said.

The headmistress had arrived on the scene in time to hear this. She was in her late forties with an air of common sense.

‘That’s a good idea,’ she said. ‘He seems fine, but let’s take no chances. There’s a hospital ten minutes away. I’ll call a taxi.’

A few minutes later they were on their way to the hospital. Olivia kept an anxious eye on Dong, but he was grinning, completely happy with the result of his escapade.

In the hospital someone showed them the way to the clinic, and they joined a short queue. A nurse gave Olivia some forms, and she filled them in while they waited to be seen.

A notice on the wall informed her that today’s clinic was being taken by Dr Lang Mitchell. Briefly she wondered about that name; ‘Mitchell’ suggested that he might come from the West, but ‘Lang’ held a hint of Chinese.

After a few minutes the buzzer announced that the doctor was free, and they went in. Olivia saw a tall young man in his early thirties, with dark hair and eyes, and good-looking features that were mostly Western, yet with an intriguing hint of something else.

‘What have you two been doing to yourselves?’ he demanded, smiling and eyeing the state they were in.

‘Miss Daley climbed a tree,’ Dong said irrepressibly, ‘and I went up to help her when she got stuck.’

Olivia looked aghast, which made Dr Mitchell grin in perfect comprehension.

‘Perhaps it was the other way around?’ he suggested.

‘It certainly was,’ Olivia declared, recovering her dignity. ‘On the way down the ladder slipped, and we landed in a heap.’

He studied the forms. ‘You are Miss Olivia Daley, a teacher at the Chang-Ming School?’

‘That’s right. Yen Dong is one of my pupils. I don’t think he’s hurt, but I have to be sure when I hand him back to his mother.’

‘Of course. Let’s have a look.’

After a thorough examination of Dong, he said, ‘I agree that it doesn’t look serious, but we’ll have an X-ray just to be on the safe side. The nurse will take him.’

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