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 4 – Chen
The following day, I arrived at work. The employees greeted me at the entrance until I reached my office. Then, as I sat in my chair reviewing the reports, I raised my head to see Mr. Arman coming in my direction. “Is everyone on the board ready for the meeting?”
“Yes, sir. They’re all waiting for you to arrive.”
“Let’s go.” I quickly rose and put my hands into the pockets of my black slacks while pulling my tuxedo down. I stepped forward as we reached the meeting room. The staff followed behind me when the doors opened.
Everyone within stood and bowed at my arrival.
I was a little disturbed as soon as I sat in the center chair, facing the presenter and my staff, working behind the scenes and preparing for the presentation. Despite the efforts to ignore this uneasiness, I couldn’t help but be curious and find it out myself. I wished it were not what I expected it to be.
When I shifted my head to the left, my eyes widened as I landed on Alex’s stare. Why were you looking at me like that, Alex? With his look, my chest clenched when I remembered what Anna had told me—he had moved on and got married. If he’s hitched, why do his eyes desire to quench something within him this time?
When Arman tapped my shoulder, I turned away. “Are you OK, sir?” he asked.
I nodded and shifted my attention to the report on the table, threading my fingers as I listened to the presentation, attempting to maintain my cool in front of everyone, despite the growing tension between us.
Though my face remained forward, something sparked inside me that I had never felt for a long time. Since that morning, I couldn’t help but search for Alex’s eyes and try to quench my emotional thirst. I leaned on the armrest and scratched my brow. I inhaled and let out a small irritated moan as I focused on the schedule, pressing my lips and glancing at him. He looked forward to the presentation and scribbled notes on his planner.
When we finished, I rose and walked towards the door after the meeting ended. But when I was about to head outside, I heard Alex shouting my name just as I exited the room.
“Chen,” he said softer while walking closer toward me.
Mr. Arman and I cocked our heads and looked at him.
“Mr. Lau, I mean,” Alex stuttered. “May we speak?”
“Please excuse us.” I motioned Arman and the others to leave the room and leave us alone.
When they left, I took a deep breath. “Can you tell me what you want to talk about?” I tried to speak in a relaxed baritone and be professional around him.
“So, what is it about?”
“Is there any place where we can talk in private?”
“Can’t you discuss it with me right here and now?”
He scoffed, smiled, and looked down, placing his hands in his pockets. Then, he walked closer to me. “Because we both know you owe me something, Mr. Chen Lau.” His eyes glowered, turning bloodshot and teary. “And I don’t care how you feel about this. But we’ve got to talk.”
I nodded and gulped. “Sure, Mr. Yoon. Come with me.” I gestured and pointed to the staircase. “Please come this way.”
“You go first,” he said.
I sighed and walked in first while Alex followed me as we hurried to the rooftop to ensure no one disturbed us.
When I stepped outside, I cleared my throat with my hands in my pockets and my gaze fixed on the vast urban landscape. Then, I shoved my hands deeper into my pockets to retain my cool when I noticed Alex standing beside me.
When I saw him at this distance, my chest throbbed so fast that I couldn’t breathe better.
Then, he turned, facing me.
While looking into his eyes, I tried to grin, but my lips were not as comprehensive as I had hoped.
Now that we were alone, he appeared to be uncomfortable. He cleared his throat and posed, intertwining his fingers and licking his lips. “Can I ask how you’re doing?”
Is that it, Alex? Tell me everything you’d like to know. Tell me I’m a lunatic for abandoning you ten years ago.
I turned away and blinked for a second before turning to face him. Unprepared for this encounter, I summoned all my confidence and looked him in the eyes as if I didn’t care for him any longer, as if he were just another employee. That was my problem. As if.
“I’m OK.” I stretched my lips to grin, unsure if it was enough to make it appear as if I was delighted to see Alex again. “How about you?” Tell me more, Alex. Please tell me if you’re furious or still want me after everything I’ve done.
While waiting for his reply, I cocked my head to better look at his features, which remained the same years ago. He didn’t appear to be getting older.
He returned my smile with a nod. “I’m doing great. Thank you for asking me. It’s funny how life goes, right? I had no idea you were that wealthy, Chen.” He laughed and stepped forward until he was close to the rails.
I could smell his scent as he stood beside me. Then, I noticed he still wore the same cologne he had been wearing before. His choice of classic vanilla and the musky fragrance remained unchanged.
As my gaze remained fixed on his enormous brown eyes, I soon found myself tracing his face and lips. “Don’t pretend you’re not,” I advised.
With his brows wrinkled, he turned his head and stared at me. “Can you explain?”
“I know you’re not an ordinary individual and merely pretending to be someone else. Are you working as my executive director now? How come none of my staff knew about this except for Mr. Arman? I knew this was all your setup. Come on. Are you bribing my employees?” I scoffed and leaned forward, dragging my soles across the ground while keeping my hands tucked into my pockets. I straightened myself and looked into his eyes. “Alex, I know you live in a mansion. I saw you going through the great gate with an old woman hugging you.”
He laughed. “Wow, you saw me there? I didn’t know you were my stalker.” He breathed in and exhaled an exasperated sigh, turning his head in an attempt to devour me with his eyes. “I like that you’re being curious about me.” He moved a few steps closer to the railings and leaned against them.
“I suppose not….” I straightened myself and glared at him. “Alex, why are you doing this? I mean, why are you here?”
Alex looked away and licked his lips. Before I continued, he tilted his head with sarcasm on his face as if he was trying to distract me from telling him whatever I wanted him to know at that moment.
“You can just take over the business that your family owns,” I said while stepping back, trying to get away from him, when I noticed him moving toward me. “What the fuck….” I continued doing so until I felt my back pressed against the cold rails.
“Yeah, I know. I’m not stupid, Chen. I know what you’re trying to say.” He smirked and walked toward me, leaving me to take a few steps back. Alex’s eyes became seductive the closer he got to me. His gaze intensified compared to how he looked at me in the office yesterday.
“Then, what’s this—”
Instead of backing off, he took a few steps more until he was a few inches away from me. “Sure, I could take over my father’s empire. It’s a call away. However, I’m here for you.” Alex grabbed the top rails and cornered me.
“Why are you doing this to me, Alex?” I said, pressing myself away from him.
He pressed and bit his lips and glared, stepping more steps forward and almost reaching my face. “I want a payback, Chen,” he whispered.
“How am I supposed to do that?”
He looked away from me, sighed, and smiled. “I don’t know.”
“Is that why you’re here?”
Alex shook his head. “I want to see your happy life and congratulate you for getting whatever you want in your life.” He scoffed, getting teary eyes, and then smiled. “Which I didn’t have.”
Alex, please don’t smile. I’m straining too hard to look at you from this distance. You have no idea how badly I want to hug you right now.
“What do you think I am looking for?” My eyebrows furrowed, wondering what he meant by what he said.
“I don’t know what it is. But it must have been so important that you exchanged me for that.”
Alex, I don’t have everything. I still don’t have you. I bit my lower lip and squeezed my lips together to preserve my calm. I sighed. “What should I say? I guess I did,” I said, letting out a sarcastic expression.
But that didn’t waver him, and he continued gazing at me instead. “Are you married?”
“Married?” All of a sudden? I repeated louder this time, which caused my brows to furrow. My head shook. When he asked that, I almost fell off my feet.
While I tried to calm myself down by looking away, my chest felt too tight to breathe. Also, I felt a little strangled from trying too hard not to tear up in front of Alex.
“No. Not yet. How about you?” I stuttered in response.
My heart was racing as I waited for him to answer me back. But when I recalled Anna’s revelation, I wanted him to stop. But then, I was too late. I had no choice but to hear those exact words from Alex’s mouth. So close.
“I’m fine…I guess, and yeah, got married.” Alex let out an intense gaze at me. His eyes were bloodshot, and his face was flushing while biting his lower lip. “Someone left a hole in my heart. So, I’ve got to fill a void. That’s what life is about, they say. You’ve always got to move forward no matter what life throws you.”
At that moment, I realized that seeing each other again for a long time doesn’t change anything. When I lowered my head to hide my smile, he shook his head, relieved. Then, I noticed him examining his wristwatch when I raised my head.
“Anyway, I have to get back to work,” Alex said.
Something pushed me to grab his hand before he got a few steps away from me.
He turned around with a smile and arched his eyebrows, perplexed as to why I was suddenly clutching his hand when it was him doing the same thing years ago. And then, I did something stupid. Of all the outrageous things I could have done, hugging Alex was the least expected.
Alex’s eyes widened when he felt my arms wrapped around him. “Mr. Lau, is something the matter?” He stood there, frozen, while I struggled to stop the tears that dampened my face no matter how hard I tried.
“Why are you crying, Mr. Lau?” His eyes knitted, and his eyebrows furrowed. With his strength, he managed to free himself from my hands after many efforts. Then, as his eyes became bloodshot and tearful, he almost mumbled. “This is…inexcusable.”
Although I struggled to find the right words to say to him, all I could do was grab his hand and hold it tightly. Little did I know that doing it would ignite something inside me that I no longer wanted to let him go. I bit my lips without losing my gaze on him. Then, I pulled him and kissed his lips.
Alex’s eyes widened, and he shoved me with incredible strength that I fell to the ground. “Fuck it.” His calm demeanor shifted as he raised his arm to punch me. “Are you crazy?”
I was stunned and furious when I looked at him, which compelled me to take a stance and exact vengeance. “What the fuck, Alex Yoon!” I grunted and collapsed to the ground.
We continued to fight until we were panting and weary. The numerous falls left our faces swollen, bruised, and scraped. “What were you thinking, Chen?”
Despite my stumbling, I attempted to elevate my torso and approach him, lying on the ground. I noticed tears streaming down his face when I stood closer to him. Yet, I ignored it and grabbed his collar, pulling him up until he stood. “Fuck you, Alex.”
“Yeah, fuck me, but fuck you, too, Chen! How could you do that to me?” Alex stumbled as soon as he tried to move away again. But my grip was firm that his dubious gaze was the only thing he could do to save himself. “Ten years. It’s been ten years. Are you sorry?”
While my eyes remained on him, I let out a sigh releasing him from my tight grip. “You can’t imagine how much misery I felt all these years since I left you, Alex.” I almost stuttered when I replied.
“Is that so? Does this kind of life look like misery to you?” he said. When he noticed me looking down, Alex looked away and tried to stand alone.
I extended my hand in assistance, but he shoved it out, got up, and straightened his necktie, although his legs wobbled. I caught him as he was about to fall forward. I took a deep breath before pulling him closer and fighting his tugs.
At this point, I couldn’t hold my emotions in any longer. My tears continued to dampen my face, washing away the blood smears on my face. “If leaving you wasn’t as important as it was, then tell me, why did you marry someone else—a woman?”
Alex shook his head as he tossed his head to the side. He kept his hands on his waist and bit his lower lip as if attempting to maintain his composure. After that, he spewed blood. He gestured to the sides and up with his index finger. “Look. After that night, you left without leaving me clues about where you were and what you were doing. I’ve looked for you in every nook and cranny. You left me in such a difficult situation where I hoped you won’t abandon me and you’d live your promise to me.” He approached me and snatched my collar. “But what did you do? You left me, so how could you say that to me?” He hissed. As his grip tightened, his eyes glowered with rage. “We were doing well. I was ready to love you completely.” He yelled and punched me in the face once again. “Why did you go, leaving me alone crying like a hopeless whore?”
I grumbled as I crawled over the floor and spat more blood. Then, I gasped and knelt on all fours, watching the dry ground grow moist as tears dripped from my eyes and blood from my mouth.
Alex grabbed me again before I could crawl a step, forcing me to look at his face and tighten his grasp around my collar. “Why did you leave me hanging for ten years? What went wrong?”
I smirked and chuckled before spitting at him when I looked at him. “Fine.” I gulped. “I don’t think I can run away this time, can I?”
He didn’t answer, though he hissed, glowered, and refused to let me go.
“Well then,” I said while looking into his eyes. I sighed and pushed him, turning my back and leaning against the rail, trying to ignore how Alex was stripping me piece by piece with his stare.