THE CEO'S MISTRESS
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Juliana Vera is the heiress to the Vera Group of Companies. She’s beautiful, intelligent & capable. At the age of twenty-seven, and was able to exhibit her capacity as a future leader. As a dutiful daughter, she did everything in her power to please her father. She was willing to do everything he ordered, except marry Ethan Salcedo, the infamous and rebellious son of the wealthiest hotelier in the country. For the first time, Juliana rebelled against his father and vanished without a trace. Since her finances were limited, she looked for a job with free meals, board & lodging. Fortunately, Juliana found one as a MAID. Fortunately, her boss was the most irresponsible man she had the misfortune to meet, and he was the exact opposite of her original identity. Still, she was slowly drawn into his unique charms. Juliana was already in love with his boss when she found out that she worked for Ethan Salcedo, her supposed fiancé.
Several men awaited my arrival via a chartered plane. I could say that my life has been extravagant thanks to my father's wealth. As the heiress to his vast fortune, he couldn't risk my safety. Sometimes, his style of overprotecting me was annoying. Still, I just had to recall our life situation before he became Richard Vera. Life was hard back then, and he did everything in his power to salvage our situation. As his only daughter, it was right to love him unconditionally!
"Darling, how was your trip?" He asked excitedly.
I waited for the grey-haired man to embrace me as he usually did whenever I arrived from a business conference. But instead, I smiled at the man who raised me alone with everything that he had. He had nothing when my mother left him for a richer man, and I hoped that I wouldn't get the chance to see her again. I hated that woman for leaving me and for leaving my father.
"Excellent, Papa," I responded with a promise that I would tell him anything about it.
As the write-ups said in their article, Richard Vera, a famous business tycoon, was the God of the construction industry. So if the Salcedos were prominent in the tourism industry, the Vera was also renowned in their field.
"You look more beautiful than the last time I saw you!" Richard Vera exclaimed his compliments as we walked side by side.
I knew that he was so proud of my achievements, but who wouldn't? I trained hard every day to meet his expectations, so I should also be proud of myself. "I think there's something you wanted to tell me ever since I got off the plane." The proud man shook his head in denial, but I sensed that something bothered him. I could feel it!
"We will talk about it later, Juliana," he responded but the way he pronounced my name caused me to worry. Usually, he would refer to me by my nickname even if I hate it. But Juliana?
"Alright, if you say so," I agreed. I was willing to wait for my father to speak until he was ready to spill the beans. He looked stressed already, so I didn't want to add to his burden.
The convoy of black cars drove straight from the airport towards the private road leading to our estate, The Belleview. It's a castle with five round towers penetrating the sky, linked with chunky walls made of golden stone. Tall windows and asymmetric crenellations for archers and artillery were strewn liberally around the walls in an almost random fashion.
It was for aesthetic purposes because he loved imagining himself as a King. It was his money that he used to build it, so I had no right to complain. A standard gate guarded the only entrance into the castle built on a mountaintop with thick wooden doors. Still, it's not the only way in if someone was familiar with the castle's hidden passages. Outside the castle gates, a line of king statues served as his inspiration that anyone could become great with hard work, perseverance, and determination.
Belleview had been my home since I was ten. Before that, we lived in a slum. I was young back then, but I witnessed how he struggled to provide me with something to eat. First, he worked as a laborer and a construction helper, and then he became a mason. With his experience working day and night, he learned that there's money in the construction business.
Out of desperation to become rich quickly, he tried his luck in a lottery, and he was lucky to get the jackpot.
Richard Vera used the money wisely, and the rest was history.
I looked at my father as we entered the castle gate and smiled at him. Then, sincerely, I promised that I would do everything to pay back for what he had done for me in the past years. "Papa, maybe you should get a wife," I suggested.
His hair might be grey, but it's because of the hair color he sported. The last time he dyed his hair, it was coffee brown, and he looked way much younger than his age. He's only forty-seven, so I assumed that several women would line up to become his wife.
"No, it's just a waste of time," he replied.
"Are you sure? Or until now, you are still waiting for my mother to return," I jested, but Richard Vera didn't like my sense of humor. He frowned at me and looked away. "I was only kidding," I explained.
"You are right," he answered after a minute.
I was shocked at his response because it was unexpected! "What? Are you serious? Oh my God! I can't believe you, Papa." I shook my head in disagreement. "I've never thought that you are like this!"
"It's true love," he reasoned out.
"True love, my foot! If that's true love, then I don't want it!"
"Juliana, you can't say that," he disagreed with my opinion, but I just huffed at his response.
I was about to lecture him, but we have arrived, and I didn't know any of the staff to hear us bantering over anything. There could be a spy in the house, and it would just cause a scandal! We didn't want any scandal to disrupt our business!
A uniformed woman followed me when I went towards the elevator to take me to my bedroom. "How are you doing, Marian?"
"Just fine, Miss Juliana," she replied timidly.
"Common, it's just the two of us here. You don't have to be so formal," I corrected her way of treating me. They were trained not to misbehave in front of me, but I could be lenient most of the time. For me, Marian and the rest of the staff were considered family.
Marian helped me with my bath, and we talked about random things while she scrubbed my back. "Do you think I'm happy with my life?" The question caught her off guard because I heard her gasp for air.
"You are Richard Vera's only daughter; isn't it enough to be happy?"
"You are always clever as expected, Marian." I was amazed at the way she responded to my inquiry with a question. "To be honest, I don't know anymore. People know me as the heiress, but that's all. I am a nobody if I don't use my father's last name."
Marian sighed along with me. She's been my governess ever since my father built his fortune in the construction industry. If my father would decide to have a wife soon, I would strongly recommend Marian to him. The woman has been with us for almost fifteen years! She's loyal and trustworthy, and she made me feel like I have a mother on my side.
After she assisted me with my bath, I gave her something from my latest trip to Chicago. I went there to meet the renowned architect, Mr. Albert Serrano. He's a Filipino based in Chicago, and our architectural firm wanted to pirate him. However, when several of our delegates failed to obtain his signature, I decided to step in.
Luckily, I did! Or I would lose him to a famous firm that was also based in Chicago. No one believed I would manage to convince him to return to the Philippines and worked with us. I didn't think it either!
I was just lucky to bring my father's old photo! Albert claimed that he lived in the same slum as us and my father helped him on several occasions. We used to be neighbors, but I didn't recall any of it. Would it matter? Not really. The important thing was, he agreed to my terms.
A deep sigh escaped from my lips as I walked towards the window after putting on a comfortable dress. From above, I could see the ocean. It seemed so near, but I had to travel for more than an hour to get there.
Another sigh escaped when I returned to my massive bed. The firm has been my playground, and whenever I'm home, I felt so lost and empty. Sometimes, I wondered if people would treat me the same if my name were not Julianna Vera.
My desire to always please my father was suffocating. I wanted to do something different, but I didn't want to disappoint him. He's the only person who could love me unconditionally, so the least I could do for him was to be obedient and to make him proud.
I was supposed to take a rest, but I spent my time daydreaming of the impossible. At my age, I was expected to have a lover or a fiancé, but I wasn't interested in dating. I would never allow anyone to have power over me!
When someone informed me that dinner was ready, I had no idea what was in store for me. "Hi Papa," I greeted him as usual before I sat down, but he looked stern and severe all the time. "Problem?"
"Not really. Julianna darling, can you be honest with me about your love life? Do you have a boyfriend, or are you dating someone behind my back? Just tell me," he said.
I pouted my lips before shaking my head in denial. "I'm not interested in men, Papa." Richard Vera was stunned at my response, and I chuckled when I realized what he was thinking. "No, I'm not a lesbian!"
"Then why are you not interested in men? You are already twenty-seven, Juliana. At your age, I already have you, but look at you now! Well, I've arranged a deal with the Salcedos, and you only have to marry their second son."
My eyes blinked several times, and I wished that he would correct his statement. I waited. However, he didn't say anything! "Why do I have to marry their son?"
"It will benefit the company," he replied.
"By using me? Papa, how can you do this? We already talked about it! I don't want to get married, I don't want to start my family, and I don't want to be involved with Ethan Salcedo!"
"I also wanted his older brother, Juliana, but he's already engaged! So we can't break his engagement, or it will be disadvantageous to us," he explained.
"When I said I didn't want to get married and have my family, I meant it. Even if it strengthens our business, I won't do it, Papa!" I insisted, and the proud Richard Vera frowned at my decision to stay celibate for the rest of my life.
Ethan Salcedo was the black sheep of their family. His name was famous among tabloids and magazines, but nobody knew his face. He was rumored to have a deformity, and I also believed that rumor. Otherwise, he would show his face to the public or help in his family's business.
"It's business-related!" He bellowed while trying to make a point. I remained firm about not getting involved with Ethan. "He's coming to see you tomorrow," he announced.
"Ethan and his family," he replied, and at that moment, I made up my mind to do something unimaginable; leave the castle and stay hidden until Ethan would find his suitable wife.
I stared into nothingness as I processed the fact that I was finally free. I felt the urge to express my happiness, but the status of poverty was waving at me. I knew there would be regrets in the future. Still, I just couldn't let my father dictate my marriage, especially with someone so despicable!
"Are you alright?"
When I looked up at the man who stood tall before me, my brain refused to function well — as the COO of Vera's Architectural Firm, meeting someone gorgeous was nothing special in my line of work. However, with the stranger near me, I was immediately drawn to his athletic build, and I couldn't take my gaze away from the veins on his arms.
I stood up and said, "I'm fine," before his hands could touch my skin. "Just don't mind me," I told him.
"Are you sure?" He doubted my words, and I hated him for it. "You seemed lost. Are you new in this town?"
He was trying to be
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