What you’re about to read is the CENSORED version of my romance novel entitled “The Rival.” If you like to access the complete version of the chapters, visit this link: https://books2read.com/u/ba6616/M. Gaspary, Author of “The Rival”
Chapter 2 – Chen
“How come you’ve seen Alex in your office?” Jun shook his glass with his torso and leaned toward the bar table. He shook his head before he looked at me in disbelief, demanding me to speak up more. Despite my refusal to respond, he laughed and shook his head as if I didn’t have to explain everything to him.
I sighed and downed the whisky before asking for another glass from the bartender. My throat burned after swallowing the liquid as if it was a tranquilizer, calming my nerves and making me feel warmer. At least it made me feel more alive.
“How are you these days? What are your plans now?” Jun took another shot of whisky. He sighed and lowered his head, loosening his tie. “It’s been a long time, Chen.”
“Yeah, it’s been long, hasn’t it?” I shook my head and squeezed my lips together, staring at the glass in my hand, trying to avoid Jun’s dubious gaze.
“So, how are you?”
My chest throbbed. “I’m not sure how to answer that question, Jun.”
“After all these years, it appears you haven’t forgotten about him, have you?”
I let out an angry sigh. “I thought I would forget Alex by leaving him, and the grief would go away. But I’m mistaken. And I am a fool for taking ten years to realize that.” I swirled the emptied glass, rubbing the rims with my fingers. “You can’t imagine how frustrating it was to keep my distance from him today at work.” And those fucking lovely brown eyes. I pulled my face up before looking at Jun’s worried face and turned my head to face the bar again.
“How come Alex works for you? Sorry, Am I missing something here? I’m not getting this,” Jun said in a louder voice with widened eyes. “You are the CEO. You’re the boss of the company. How come you didn’t notice him around? Are you sure you haven’t missed anything?”
“Honestly, I don’t know.” I sighed, shook my head, and looked at Jun’s flushed face.
But then he let out a laugh which surprised me. “Regardless, I still couldn’t believe that bastard had you falling head over heels for him. I’d never imagine you turning a hundred eighty degrees after your brief meeting with him.” He shook his head. “How did you manage it today, though?”
“I tried to avoid doing or saying something that would leave Alex confused about why I was suddenly agitated at work. I didn’t want them to think and wonder why I was suddenly unwell.”
Jun chuckled. “God. I bet it’s beyond frustrating, isn’t it?” He finished his shot and turned to face the bartender, asking for another glass. “How come you abandoned him in the first place? It was going so well. Honestly, I’ve been wondering all these years what went wrong.” He cocked his head, facing me, with wrinkled brows.
I stared at my half-emptied glass while swirling it and released an exasperated sigh. “It would not have happened if the conditions had been different,” I said as I took a breath and returned his stare, forcing a grin.
“What should have been different when everything was perfect? Both of you seemed to have been loving it, so why? Why did you leave him?” Jun sounded like he was lashing out and frustrated with my situation.
Even though I knew the answers, I could not communicate them to him. I swallowed and decided not to respond. That caused him to sigh in frustration again. He leaned back against the counter with his elbow propped up on top while draping his arm in my direction. “Hey, what if you had a chance to spend time with Alex in private for one last time?”
I chuckled, dismissing Jun’s question. “Here you go again, Jun. You don’t seem to change this habit, do you?”
Jun laughed and tapped my shoulders. “Would you do it?”
I don’t know.
“Don’t get pressured, okay? It’s just a what if, you know?” he said.
“Can I be honest with you?”
Jun shrugged. “Sure, as we always are. I appreciate that you can be honest with your feelings, man.”
I hummed, thinking about what to say. I planted my elbows on the counter, threading my fingers. “I want him, Jun. If we have a chance to spend a few more moments in private, I’d love to as if it weren’t the final time we’d see each other,” I said and looked at Jun.
“Fuck that, Chen.”
“You’ll never know what comes in life until it comes. So, don’t say it’s the last time. Don’t outsmart the universe’s plan for you.”
When I got home, I went upstairs to my bedroom. I spread my arms and legs wide as I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Since I saw Alex for the first time in a decade, I couldn’t stop thinking about him.
My hand pressed against my chest while I pondered. Nonetheless, my feelings for Alex don’t matter anymore. And it was my fault. But why was he there?
I am the CEO. So, I must know every operation in the company. It couldn’t be that I missed something. I grabbed my phone and checked every file, note, and document I stored in the cloud. However, there wasn’t anything that mentioned Alex’s name, was it?
“Damn it, Mr. Arman!” How could it be him? I hissed. Who else could I blame when he’s in charge of knowing every shit I will do and will have to do? I closed my eyes with my fingers threaded, pressing my forehead and reeling from the events that happened, from when Mr. Arman stood in front of my desk, asking me trivial questions, to meeting Alex.
“But he never mentioned meeting Alex Yoon on the agenda!” I screamed out loud, panting. Then, suddenly, I felt a punch in my gut, and tears began to build around my bloodshot eyes. I found myself staring at the old photos of Alex and me with my hand draped around his neck.
It was that moment when I felt the tears crawl down my eyes and dampen my cheeks. However, I wasn’t sure if it was out of remorse or because I missed him after ten years apart. Although it was supposedly a wacky group photo, it brought me to tears whenever I looked at them.
“Those good ole times we had…it’s sad to say that these moments will only remain a memory,” I whispered, in tears, as flashes of the past rushed through my head.
When I heard his voice calling my name, I got a choking sensation, and my eyes grew bloodshot when I looked at him and gazed into his enormous brown eyes.
His deep, husky voice caused my heart to race when I kept staring at him.
Despite this, Alex maintained eye contact. It got worse.
When I couldn’t take it any longer, I grabbed his arm and held him as tightly as possible.
I sat at the edge of the bed. Then, I massaged my temples and rubbed my face down, wiping away the tears in my eyes. “I wanted to fight for us, for our relationship to work. But I was more frightened to have lost myself if I chose not to let you go.”
Nonetheless, I was blind to the impending events, which made me feel like spending time with you. The more time I spent with you, the more I got to know you better than anyone else, and we learned two things in common.
“I’m sorry.” I dried my tears and sobbed against the sheets. Then, I rolled back to face the ceiling.
I never imagined that I would begin to recognize myself in you in my wildest dreams. Since then, I haven’t been able to take my gaze away from you, and I didn’t realize I was falling for you.