CEO's Substitute Wife
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Adelaide has been scorned by her father since the day she was born, destined to be cared for and raised by a servant, far from the comforts of her family. When her sister Nadia elopes with her lover just two days before her wedding to the billionaire Egil Arrabal, their father forces Adelaide to fulfill the commitment made fifteen years ago with that ruthless and arrogant CEO she has heard about all her life. Sentenced to become the substitute wife of the eldest son of the Arrabal family, Adelaide steps into an uncertain future where death, betrayal, and revenge will test her resilience. Will she manage to escape unscathed from the clutches of this man? What must she do to pay for her sister's elopement and prevent the downfall of her family's name?
The heavy and nauseating air makes it difficult for Adelaide to breathe. She remains motionless against the wall, clutching the hem of her dress tightly, unable to take a step in any direction. The faint light seeping through the opening reveals the gloomy, dark, dirty, and musty place, intensifying her fear that some creature might pounce on her at any moment.
Cursed be her luck. Why do all these things happen to her?
Her eyes are swollen from crying. This place is so damp and bitterly cold. She can only hope that Egil will absolve her, that he will listen, and order her to be taken out of here before night falls, even if he later locks her back in her room. Anything would be better than this horrifying place.
She hears the murmurs of men guarding the door, and a glimmer of hope arises in her. She lost count of how many hours she has spent in this place, and silence has been her only company since then—until now.
"Gentlemen, please, I need to speak with my husband, Egil" She begins to pound the door with both hands to get the attention of those on the other side. "Could you pass on my request, please? It's urgent."
Both guards start laughing and mocking her, imitating her voice and words. The young woman's nerves and sadness escalate.
"Please," she says again, choked with sobs, "I need to tell him what really happened."
No one responds from the other side.
Silence once again takes over the gloomy place as the steps of those men move away. Adelaide starts crying like she has never cried before in her life. Not even her father, who has hated her since the moment she was born, had treated her this way before. This place is inhumane; even breathing could be deadly.
"That sobbing won't change your situation." A deep, masculine voice startles her. Adelaide quickly wipes her tears as if the owner of that voice could see her from the shadows, although she's sure he's in the adjacent room. "All your outburst achieves is giving me a headache, Valencia—or should I say Arrabal?"
"Who are you?" the young woman asks between sobs. "How do you know my last name?"
"It's impossible not to know it when you just screamed it to the four winds." The low laughter of the man amplifies Adelaide's bitterness.
Who does this guy think he is, mocking her pain like this?
"You shouldn't meddle in what doesn't concern you, sir. You don't even know me."
"Well, let me inform you that I do care. I won't be enduring your crying all these days."
"I won't be here for that long if that's what worries you," she asserts confidently while sniffing her nose. "I'm just waiting for my husband to come for me. I'm here unjustly."
The sudden burst of laughter from that anonymous man startles her.
"You are overly naive, young lady. You certainly don't know Egil. If you're here, it's for a reason, and believe me, you won't leave until you've paid dearly. It's best that you find a place to settle in; the night will be long and cold."
"I don't want to be here," she takes a small step, trying to recognize her surroundings.
"Neither do I, but here I am nonetheless," his words only bring discomfort and despair to Adelaide's mind. "You'll get used to it once you start losing track of the days."
Get used to it? What did he mean by that?
Adelaide starts to feel annoyed by the man's negative attitude. He should be helping her find a solution instead of trying to drag her into despair.
The young woman begins to take slow and clumsy steps across the dirty floor. The cell is nothing more than a space of two by two, with moldy walls and a leaky roof letting drops of moisture seep through. The only connection to the outside world is a tiny window that wouldn't even fit an apple, and the door. There are no seats or beds, just trash and a lot of mold.
"I advise you to ration your energy. You'll need it later, as you can imagine, you won't have the services you're used to in the mansion here."
"Speak clearly, sir!" the redhead yells, irritated. "You're not helping me at all, only tormenting me. Everything you say is annoying and merely reflects your limitations, not mine. I haven't done anything; I'm innocent, and I have no reason to be here. Unlike you, who is probably a highly dangerous criminal."
"You're right, I earned the right to be here," the man's voice now sounds closer, as if they were facing each other, but separated by the brick curtain that prevents them from seeing each other. "I'm sorry if I'm trying to open your eyes to your unfortunate fate. I'm excessively realistic, and I know nothing but being frank. I know Egil like the back of my hand, and mercy is not one of his strong suits when dealing with people who fail him."
"But I haven't failed him..."
"But he's still heartless and cold-blooded. His most predominant virtue is not exactly forgiveness. You must already know this, being his wife, right?"
Adelaide falls silent for a long time, processing the man's words. She's heard many things about Egil, none of them good, but she's his wife, he should listen to her and not judge her without giving her the chance to defend herself.
"He won't listen to you," the voice from the other side adds, guessing Adelaide's inner struggle.
"You're an unbearable man, you know that?"
"Benedict," he responds over her voice. "My name is Benedict."
"Just leave me alone, Benedict," Adelaide huffs, turning away as if he could see her.
Benedict shakes his head as thousands of possibilities cross his mind. He places both hands against the wall and wonders what the woman on the other side is like. Knowing Egil's tastes, she must be one of those conceited young women with extravagant dresses and makeup, flawless skin, a pert nose, and straight shoulders, pretending to be the queen of the universe.
Of course, they are both in the same mess now, even if she is the boss's new plaything and he is the nameless prisoner of the Arrabal family.
Chapter 1. The Substitute
A week before, at the Valencia family mansion...
"Give the order to prepare Adelaide," Bahram says without any hint of emotion on his face. His hatred for his daughter prevents him from feeling any compassion for her or seeking another solution to this great dilemma. "I don't want anything to go wrong this time. Make sure she reaches her destination by tomorrow. I want you to accompany her and personally deliver her to her future husband."
Calixto nods and moves away from the place, determined to carry out his father's command. In any case, he can't defy him, and his sister might have a better future with Egil than she does at the Valencia mansion. In that house, she will be the wife of the heir, the most feared and cruel CEO of all time, and it will also represent the salvation of his own family.
Mercedes, the elderly caregiver who has looked after Adelaide since her birth, receives Calixto's explic
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