During a bright sunny weekend in California, from within an exclusive community of the rich and famous, a black Maybach was driving from one mansion to the next, covering over five kilometers in distance.
The same vehicle made another two-minute drive from the gate, going past an enormous lawn before arriving at the driveway.
Getting off the luxury car, Joan Belle instructed her driver, “I will call you when the lunch is over, Alfred. Thank you for driving me.”
She watched as the vehicle left the driveway and exited the tall gates of the Hale estate. Only then did she turn to face the 10,000 square-foot mansion, the biggest one in their community.
Joan sighed and said, “Here we go, the man of my dreams. Joan’s attempt number 212. Good luck to me.”
The Hales were their next-door neighbor. She was sixteen when her family moved to The Grand Royal Residences, a luxury neighborhood of huge mansions in California.
From one event, hosted by the Hales within the community, she met Christopher Hale, the only heir to the Hale Industries. She was attracted to him at first sight, but it was when he helped her from getting bullied at school that she concluded; she loved Christopher.
Joan and Christopher were not only neighbors but schoolmates at the same high school back in the day. Christopher was two years older than her and as soon as he left for college, they barely saw each other until he permanently returned, ready to conquer his father’s empire.
She did not know how long she was staring at the entrance of the white mansion, but after taking a long and heavy breath, she began to take steps into the home with the security, opening the vast doors for her.
She was holding up a box of Christopher’s favorite cake in her hands as she walked past the living room and towards the dining area.
It was Christopher’s birthday, but before having a party that evening at a prestigious hotel, it was a tradition for close friends and relatives to have lunch at the Hale estate for an intimate gathering.
Her family, the Belles, were practically considered their closest friends now, having lived next to each other for ten years. Only that, her parents were still on the way back from a business trip and she came alone for the lunch gathering that day.
Joan smiled brightly upon arriving in the presence of Christopher’s relatives. Her elegance reflected in her grace, the healthy glow on her skin, her beautiful golden curls, and through her semi-conservative, yet fashionable dress.
That day, she chose to wear a sophisticated three-fourth dress that had a v-neck cut on her chest, showing just enough skin. Her dress flowed freely with a small slit on the front, flaunting three inches of her legs above the knee.
For Joan, it was daring enough. It was her special choice for Christopher’s birthday. Of course, she had another eccentric evening gown in line for the grand party at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel.
“Joan, my dear. You made it,” said Meredith Hale. She welcomed Joan with a peck on her cheek. “Like every other year, of course! You would never miss any of Christopher’s birthdays! Thank you for coming.”
Meredith, a woman in her late fifties, also slender, blonde but with short straight hair. She was Joan’s biggest supporter, Christopher’s mother.
“As always, Christopher’s favorite cake?” Meredith asked, gesturing to take the cake.
“Um, Aunt Edith. I wanted to give him the cake personally,” said Joan, lowering her voice as she leaned closer to Christopher’s mother.
Meredith sighed and faked a smile. She loved the girl in front of her; prim and proper, wealthy, slender, and beautiful. How she wanted her to be Christopher’s wife someday, but in all the years they have known each other, she feared her son may only look at her as a friend.
Her son had been entangled with many girls, but never once with Joan Belle.
Still, she smiled at Joan’s efforts and said, “You should. You should give it to him. Take the seat next to Cole. When my son comes down, you can give the cake to him.”
Joan forced a smile after hearing the name she hated the most; Christopher’s best friend, Cole Adams.
When Meredith let her be, she frowned while walking to a long table and finding a seat next to the infamous playboy in the city.
At twenty-seven years old, Cole Adams was a swimmer, a famed athlete gold medalist, winning three world aquatic championships in a row. In between competitions, he was a famous model for well-known clothing lines and swimming apparel.
His face, his body, and his name could practically be seen on billboards, magazines, and social media feeds. He was a sensational model and athlete, but regretfully, a playboy.
He also studied at the same high school with Joan and Christopher, but they never once got along.
“Well, hello Joan. Miss me already?” Said Cole.
Like always, he gave that flashing, killer smile that was supposed to melt a woman’s heart. His black hair, paired with his intense dark-brown eyes, was also supposed to make any woman weak in the knees.
It did not quite work with Joan, however. She only had eyes and a heart beating for Christopher Hale.
She put the cake on the table and rested her bag on her lap, not minding his words. She always found Cole irritating and overconfident.
Ignored, Cole chuckled and abruptly leaned over to her, nearly pressing his lips into her ears. He said, “I love it when you ignore me. I think it’s fucking sexy. Are you seducing me, Joan?”
Joan’s eyes grew wide. She leaned back, hissing, and said, “You!”
Realizing how he affected her. She took a deep breath and collected a few seconds to compose herself. She softly replied, “Please. Don’t talk to me. I did not come here for you. I came here for your best friend.”
She settled for a second, smiling and greeting Christopher’s other relatives who were also present before she turned back at Cole. He was still at it, giving her his inviting stares.
Joan cast a disgusted look at him and said, “I… hate… your… guts.”
Cole was left chuckling again before he drank a glass of water. He gulped it down and once again; he leaned closer to Joan. With his manly voice, he whispered, “Well, you know what they say. The more you hate, the more you love.”
Cole Adams gave Joan Belle a taste of his profound brown-eyed gaze. He rested his arm on the chair while running his fingers through his hair. His focus remained on her grey eyes for seconds, seemingly putting her in place and casting a spell on her. For a moment, Joan lost her senses. She shook her head and reminded herself of how many women have fallen into Cole's hands; probably more than her fingers could count. More importantly, she only wanted Christopher. Christopher was the man of her dreams. Minutes passed and Christopher finally joined the dining area together with his father, Gabriel Hale, greeting eighteen of their relatives who came for their special lunch. Like always, Christopher reflected a welcoming smile. He was admirable as always, looking dashing in his black suit and blue tie. He had a well-proportioned body, perfectly symmetrical. He had intense blue eyes, pinkish lips, and dark blond hair, everyth
Joan paled at the sight of Christopher kissing another woman, but just as she thought she would be faced with shame, coming up to see Christopher, Cole came to her rescue. Putting an arm around her shoulders, he said, “Joan, my room is right here! Where are you going?” Christopher turned to find Cole and Joan, heading for the room next to his. He grimaced at the sight of them and said, “Cole? What are you doing here?” “Ah, Christopher, I'm taking Joan to my room,” said Cole. He pushed Joan against his chest, knowing she was hurt by what she saw. He gave her time to compose herself. Joan took deep breaths while hearing the beating of Cole’s heart. She looked up to him, blinking several times, not missing to appreciate his fine jaw-lines and how his adam's apple moved as he spoke. It took seconds before she realized what Cole was implying, but it was better than being found out that she came for Christopher. She cleared her thr
From the rooftop of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel, Joan and Cole sat in front of a round table, drinking and passing time. Joan practically objected to Cole's conclusion, throwing questions left and right. “What kind of excuse is that? Too good?” Joan challenged, raising her voice at Cole. She turned to look for the waiter, asking for more alcohol. On a bright and sunny late morning, someone was still sleeping off the pang in her chest from inside her room.Curled under the sheets, Joan tried her best to think not of the sight of one Shantal Lin being kissed by Christopher.From her bedside table, her phone had been ringing nonstop, buzzing while left on vibrate mode. She had clients today. She knew, but she was not in the mood.Last night, she told her assistant to cancel all her appointments. She gave no valid excuse."Urrgghhh!" She got up in anger. Joan grabbed her phone and answered, "What is it, Gina? I told you to cancel my appointments today!""Miss Joan, I'm very sorry, but a rising singer came in the shot today asking if you can her official stylist! It would be a good chance for you to shine!" Suggested her assistant, Gina. "Not that... you are not shinning. You are already... somewhat famous."After finishing college, Joan had pursued her great
The Playboy Superstar Versus The CEO Just Friends
On a bright and sunny late morning, someone was still sleeping off the pang in her chest from inside her room.Curled under the sheets, Joan tried her best to think not of the sight of one Shantal Lin being kissed by Christopher.From her bedside table, her phone had been ringing nonstop, buzzing while left on vibrate mode. She had clients today. She knew, but she was not in the mood.Last night, she told her assistant to cancel all her appointments. She gave no valid excuse."Urrgghhh!" She got up in anger. Joan grabbed her phone and answered, "What is it, Gina? I told you to cancel my appointments today!""Miss Joan, I'm very sorry, but a rising singer came in the shot today asking if you can her official stylist! It would be a good chance for you to shine!" Suggested her assistant, Gina. "Not that... you are not shinning. You are already... somewhat famous."After finishing college, Joan had pursued her great
"Joan, are you feeling better?" Joan Belle heard Christopher's voice on the other line.Right after Shantal left, she called him immediately. She had to. She had six missed calls from him last night, and it was not like Christopher to call him so many times.Heck! He rarely called her."Yes, I'm fine now. Thank you for your concern," she said. "I'm sorry, I missed your party. I just - I just wanted to rest it out. Cole brought me home instead. I did not stay in his hotel room."'I could not stand the sight of you being with another woman. I just could not,' she spoke only in her mind while holding the phone up to her ears."I see. That's a relief," Christopher softly said. "I mean, that you are better."Her brows furrowed at his words, but just went on to ask, "Chris, you are dating Shantal Lin?"There was an odd silence on the other line before he said, "Yes. Yes, I am. In fact, I am meeting her today. Would you like to join us
Joan Belle's heart was racing. Again and again, she pursed her lips while sometimes taking deep breaths."This is it, Joan. No turning back," she muttered to herself, seeing the buildings past her line of sight.Following Lina's advice, Joan rushed to the Hale Industries office, wanting to finally let out all her feelings to Christopher.Lina was right. She repeatedly reminded herself.She had loved Christopher for so long, but she never really told him. Even if she was being obvious, she could at least confess to him and get an answer.Yes or No! That was all she had to find out.It was Lina's driver who brought her to Hale Industries and the second she arrived; she asked to speak to their new CEO.Being a family friend of the Hales has its advantages. Joan was immediately directed to the CEO's office.Christopher's assistant was not there, but one other secretary recognized Joan
"Coming to you live at Park Central Los Angeles, this is ANN Afternoon with Carie, and today, we have a special guest!" Announced the show's host, Carie Umber.The forty-year-old host pushed her hair back, giving a sly smile in front of the crowd. "Guess who it is?"Screams could be heard from the audience. They came for the special episode of the famous afternoon talk show."Ahhh! I love you, Cole!""Cole Adams!""Cole Adams!""Cole is the best!""Cole is so fucking sexy!""Calm down, girls! Calm down! Geez!" The host called the ladies' attention while grinning widely at the crowd. "I'll have him first before you do!""Ahhhh!""No! No, Carie! He is mine!"Clearly, the screams from the surrounding ladies outroared the teasing of Carie Umber. She could not help but chuckle at their reactions.It was challenging to tame the surrounding excitement, but with the help of the production c
"Come on, answer me! Cole! Where the heck are you?!" Joan was wailing from inside the taxi while holding up her phone. They had been going around in circles, without any specific direction.She had been texting and calling Cole for the past ten minutes, but to no avail."Miss? Where are we headed?" The driver asked, looking at her from the rearview mirror."Please, can you go around the block again? I'm still waiting for my friend to reply," she told with her eyes watering and her lips trembling."Are you okay, miss?" The driver asked, worried for her state.Joan had been weeping the second she got in the car. Her earlier plan to confess to Christopher was a total fail. Worst, she heard him doing it with Shantal Lin!"I'm fine. Thank you. Please, just - just go around the block a few more times. I'll pay for every minute that I use up, anyway," she pleaded.A minute later, she finally received a rep