Book cover of “The Rival“ by M. Gaspary

The Rival

  • Genre: Romance
  • Age: 18+
  • Status: Completed
  • Language: English
  • Author: M. Gaspary
For years, Chen and Alex have despised and blamed each other for their violent rivalry over musical and personality differences, as they unknowingly shared similar problems outside of music – Sam, the woman they both love. While her death unknowingly caused misery for both of them, Chen and Alex unexpectedly have become fond of each other, and i... 

Chapter 1

Chen

“Have you ever loved someone, sir?” Arman, who was standing in front of me, asked while I flipped through the pages to look at the reports that were filed in folders. He has been married to a younger woman since he was in his late thirties just a few years ago.

Although the work was physically and mentally demanding, he stayed and remained loyal, unlike the majority of his peers. So, his question caught my attention. My eyebrows furrowed in response while showing a faint smile on my face. “Why did you ask that?”

“I don’t know. I wondered why you remained single all these years. Well, in fact, you have everything a woman wanted,” he paused and gestured by raising his arm a bit to emphasize what he was talking about. “You know, I don’t mean to pry over your private matters, sir. You have the face, money, and fame. Unlike you, I don’t have such things, but I was able to find my true love. So, I was wondering if you fell in love with someone at least once in your life. Did you?”

I glanced briefly at him and noticed that his hands were threaded while waiting for my reaction.

He gulped when our gazes met.

I let out a soft chuckle before I found the right answer to his question. “I did,” I said, almost stuttering with his face forward.

“How come you didn’t end up together?”

“It was a complicated situation.”

He nodded in agreement. “I see.”

He noticed that I was about to finish signing the papers he wanted me to sign before the meeting.

“I didn’t mean to meddle with your private life, sir. It’s just that everyone in this company has been talking about it only to find ourselves guessing. Some of them were even betting on your love life.”

“Is that so?” I scoffed while leaning against the back of the chair with my hands draped on the armrest.

“Yes, sir,” he approached my table to grab the folders and wrapped his arms around them, hugging them to carry all the reports at once. “Anyway, we are almost prepared for the upcoming meeting this week.”

“Are you good?”

He nodded. “Yes, I’ll go ahead after you sign the papers today and continue working on it.”

“Sure, you can leave now.”

“Yes, sir,” he nodded in agreement and turned to walk towards the exit.

When I heard the doors close, I rose and faced the large windows, taking in the beauty of the city and hearing nothing but silence within my office walls. I reached inside the pockets of my dark plaid slacks with my hands.

A creaking sound came through the door, followed by footsteps from a woman’s heels.

I cocked my head to check the view from the side.

She looked familiar.

When I turned to face her, I said in a chilly baritone, “Anna.”

She grinned and moved to the couch, where she sat with her legs crossed. “How have you been, Chen?” She hummed and smirked as she elevated her face without losing eye contact. She laughed. “We haven’t seen each other in ten years. How are you doing?”

I took a deep breath and walked over to the couch in front of her. But I stood there with my arms folded. “I’m good.”

I approached the cabinet and opened it, taking two glasses and a bottle of wine with me before I shifted my gaze.

She shrugged. “It’s okay. If that’s how you express your hospitality, I don’t mind a red wine during the day. That is much appreciated.”

She leaned her body forward towards the table with her purse and coat on her side and her elbows on her lap. Her hands were interlaced as she looked at me suspiciously.

It was only as I was setting the glasses and bottle of wine on the table that I realized it. I put a large quantity into both her and my glass.

We exchanged clinks. “Cheers,” we both said as we sipped from our glasses.

I continued tilting the glass with my palm and crossing my knees after a swallow. “How did you end up here?”

She laughed as she set the glass down on the table. “Nothing significant here, Chen. All I want to do is see my friend.”

“Friend?” I repeated with a touch of sarcasm as I swiveled my head to hear the pleasurable cracking sounds of my joints. I snorted, rolling my eyes. “Let’s not get lost in the woods, Anna. What are you looking for this time?” I took a breath and chuckled as I poured more wine into my glass. “Would you like another glass of wine?”

She flicked her finger as she crossed her legs. “No, I’m good. How’s your relationship with Alex? Are you guys still together?”

I took a breather to pour the wine and set it on the table. “Our relationship is over.”

“Is that so?” She let out a suspicion on her face.

I nodded. “I have moved on, and my life has never been so calm and enjoyable. Without the women harassing me and-”

“And?” She raised her eyebrow once again. “Sorry, go on. Continue,” she reflexively raised her eyebrow.

My head shook. “Nothing,” I took a deep breath and stood up, returning the bottle of wine to the cabinet. She continued to speak just as I stood up and took a few steps.

“Let’s pretend you’ve already moved on, Chen. Have you forgotten about Alex for quite a while now? Seriously, after everything you’ve done for him?”

While placing the bottle back, I refused to answer her and tilted my head to hide my agitation. I bent toward the table to collect the glasses after closing the cabinet, but she persisted when I walked away from her.

“Are you no longer interested in him? So, Chen, where’s the love you’ve been mentioning before?”

“What are your true intentions, Anna? As I said before, our relationship is over.”

“What happened? I thought you guys were doing fine.” She stood with her arms crossed and raised her brows. “Then there’s no reason for me to inform you of his current location.”

“How is he doing?”

With a wide smile on her face, she twisted and tilted her body backward. In a mocking tone, she laughed. She covered her lips. “Oh. I see you’re still interested in him.”

“Is there something wrong with wanting to hear news about Alex? Come on, it’s been ten years, Anna. Perhaps, he also has moved on and has a new life. I don’t know.”

She leaned very close to my face. “He’s here.”

My brows twitched and furrowed, and my chest began to throb rapidly. I blinked for a second, trying to process what she had just said.

“How did you know he was here?”

Despite my immediate eagerness to affirm it, I tried not to stammer in front of her.

She grinned. “Alex is here. That’s all I can say, Chen.”

To quench my parched throat, I squeezed my lips together and gulped. I’d like to meet him. I shook my head, attempting to maintain my cool.

She smiled. “You can go and look for him. Let’s see if you’ve finally moved on.”

“Why do you feel the need to inform me about him? Is that why you’re here?”

She shrugged. “I suppose so.”

“For what? To please you or to please my father for trying to be friendly with you just because our families need each other’s business?”

She averted her gaze after she heard the question and let out an exasperated sigh, though she didn’t say a word.

“You’re fucked, Anna,” I sputtered as I turned my back from her, but then she interjected me with a surprising truth coming out of her mouth, which was unusual.

“What’s wrong? I’m just doing you a favor. And yes, I’m fucked. My husband has abandoned me in favor of a younger woman. So, Chen, I’m here to tell you to do what I’ve asked of you.”

“Why are you involving me in your sad life, and why would I even trust you? Don’t bother me. You’ve done enough damage in my life, and I think that’s enough,” I sputtered as I stood away and walked, heading toward the table.

“What if I tell your folks that you’re still in love with him?” she shouted, her cheeks flushed with rage. “Look, I know I did a lot of stupid things in the past. I’ve tried to change to become better, Chen. So, why won’t you give me a chance to redeem myself?”

“My father may like you because of your family’s connections, but that doesn’t mean you can control me as he does. You can get anything you want, Anna, but you will never get my heart as much as you and my father want to.”

Anna nodded in agreement after that. “Alright then, but this is certain. You’ll be sorry, Chen, if you won’t believe me this time,” she muttered before she walked past me.

I stared back as she gathered her belongings and looked at me for the last time before she walked away and slammed the door shut.

When I was left alone, it didn’t take long before I turned and headed outside, walking around and checking every office to confirm what she told me.

After a while, I walked towards the department where I suspected Alex was secretly working, desperate for answers.

When I arrived and stood in front of their office, I was astounded to see him conversing with his coffee mates and laughing with them.

I gasped and crept behind the door, hoping to hear what they were saying.

My heart was beating fast while I observed him returning to his cubicle and working on his computer a few minutes later.

I stood like a fool from afar – far enough that I assumed he wouldn’t notice me. I jumped and hurriedly hid on the side when Alex turned his head in my direction.

My mouth dropped open, and I leaned against the wall, stunned. I sighed as I turned my torso sideways to see him at work once more.

I let out a breath of relief and returned to my office, rushing and ignoring everyone like a fool.

Then, I sat in my swivel chair, fidgeting for a while before I leaned against the chair and closed my eyes. “Alex, why are you here?” I whispered and bit my lips.

I thought I had moved on. But why does my heart still throb as it did ten years ago?

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