The Secret Island
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- ⭐ 7.5
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Celine Pierce… a fashionista and an heiress to a leading clothing company. She is accustomed to getting her own way with her model good look, charming smile, and her papa’s five credit cards. She is never truly satisfied with life as everything comes too easy. Everything… boys, bags, grades, money… everything. Life in every party. The kind of girl girls admire. She gets everything easily. Except for his heart. He never tells her how he felt, the mysterious man she met on a small island in the Mediterranean Sea. She only knows his name, and the only things she has of him are memories during those two weeks together. The two weeks that changed her whole life. ----- Martin was an ambitious financier from New York. No one knew why he chose to spend months on a small island in Italy. Tall, athletic, handsome, and unapproachable. He spent his days in the upscale villa without telling anyone much except that he was on holiday. But secret phone calls and meetings with suspicious guests leave doubts. For Martin, he hoped life went on as planned, otherwise, he will be in so much trouble. As life would have it, the arrival of a certain heiress might exactly be what he needed.
Chapter 1 That Man
I don’t know if he will show up…
He once promised he will… back to that day in the summer; he promised he will, he said he would come back to see her again. But when the time passed. Winter came and went, then spring that she loved, and summer came around all over again for the fourth time; she is uncertain of that promise.
We only spent two weeks together. Only two weeks Celine spent with him. Only two weeks changed her life. And now she is here. She is back to this small island in the Mediterranean Sea every year for two weeks… just like four years ago, just like those times fate led her to him.
He was a tall man who rarely smiled as if he carried the weight of the world.
That man… Martin
Celine didn’t know much about him, who he truly was, or what he did for a living. She doesn’t even know where in the world he is. But she thinks she knows him. She knows he was a serious and strict but kind person. She knows he rarely smiles, but once he does, she can barely breathe. He is six years older than she is but always treats her as his equal. She knows he loved niçoise salad and red wine from Chile. He liked to wake up at five every morning to run. He was an amazing cook. And he loved the sea, just like her. He loved the sea just like her.
Celine stands there at the edge of the cliff for a long while to watch the sunset. She comes back to Italy every year after her graduation from one of the leading universities in fashion here. One part is for her work. But she must admit that largely the trip is to fuel this unyielding hope of seeing him again.
The staff at her clothing company don’t know the true reason she has been missing from the management role for two weeks. And they don’t know why she imposed absolutely no contact allowed. Any why she never mentions where she goes. Perhaps Milan, perhaps Rome, she would answer dismissively when anyone dared to ask. This happens every year during her birthday. No one needs to know the significance of it. Not even her best friends. And they don’t need to because no one will understand.
She doesn’t tell anyone because people will question why she has to wait. Why does someone that the world praises as ‘having it all’ as Celine Pierce has to wait for some strange man who left without saying goodbye?
Although no one understands, she knows with her whole heart the real reason why.
During the short time we spent together, he stole her heart.
She fell in love. Foolishly. Infatuated. Deep in love. He listened to her confession and didn’t say anything; no rejection and no mutual confession of love.
But she still forgives him anyway. It must be because of trust. She trusts him. And if she has some courage to say it again, she probably calls it love.
Celine walks slowly along the beach instead of going back. Her bare feet touch the sand, and the fine grains comfort her. She picks up a seashell and studies its shape for a short while. Sometimes, little things in life remind her of old memories.
One time, she stepped on a broken seashell and was bleeding. She was a clumsy kid that just wanted to enjoy running on the beach without a care in the world. But yes, apparently too clumsy and too careless. Martin helped treat her wound. Back then, she always needs his help in everything.
The young woman stops walking and sits on the sand. She listens to the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.
She thought this year would be her last year visiting this place. She decides it is time for the wait to end. It's about time... It should be time for her to make up her mind and finally let him go.
Celine picks up a handful of sand and watches as many fine grains of sand flow through her fingers.
Her smile widened. To think about it, this is similar to that time, her graduation ceremony.
Martin liked to let her wait without saying anything. He was cruel like this... and when she gave up hope, he just showed up. She could only hope that it would be the same once again.
She hopes he will come back to her.
Four years ago. A university in Bologna, Italy.
Celine sat on the steps of an ancient building. She was weeping profusely without much care from passersby looking at her with curiosity and concern. Her latest handsome Italian boyfriend, well, ex-boyfriend, suddenly broke up with her. And the reason was some dumb excuse. He said she had to go back to London after graduation anyway, and he was not the long-distance relationship type, so we better part ways now and don’t waste any more time.
He said he couldn’t live without her.
He said he loved her.
Why did he have to lie?
She met him in her first term studying for her business degree in fashion here.
Fashion has always been her childhood passion. And the Master of Business Administration in fashion and luxury goods here is one of the best in the world. Actually, she didn’t choose to study here, her papa did, and being a good obedient daughter, she followed his advice. And of course, spending time in Italy is simply heaven, not to mention papa’s credit cards as gifts for her usual shopping spree. She thought she’d like it here. Just studying, following what papa told her, she loathed planning; too many details to think about, and life is too short, no? There was no need to care much about anything. Just enjoy life. There were so many pretty to buy. Oh, just thinking about it made her want to get all the five credit cards out and admire them individually. And all her favorite brands are here. What is there not to like?
So, the student life caught her off-guard. Who would think the study is this difficult? She thought private school prepared her well, but apparently not well enough. Celine was certain she was not some dim wit, but she must admit that math is not her thing. Two tutors got her through calculus, and after she knew she had passed the exam, everything about that subject was forgotten. She didn’t know studying fashion required this many math skills. Oh well, it is still a business school after all. Still, she didn’t think she had to study this hard. She was exhausted—there was almost no time to go out, not even shopping. All the time spent in the library and doing group projects made her rethink her future at the school and maybe lower her expectation quite a bit. Sigh, it was still too miserable. She hadn’t even gone out partying as much as she imagined.
Although she couldn’t speak Italian, she still had a lot of friends. The class had students from all over the world, and her friends arranged small parties here and there, but still, everything was boring. So dull!
Sometimes she wanted to scream—It’s blooding boring here!
But her thought changed once she met her first Italian boyfriend. She had never met anyone this tall, tanned, and handsome. His dark brown hair was always meticulously groomed. His eyes were sweet to look at, and those long eyelashes softened his strong gaze. He seemed dangerous… someone she could have some fun with. Intriguing. He intrigued her that she couldn’t look away.
Maybe it was her good luck that we were assigned to the same group project. We got to talk, we partied together a few times, and eventually, he asked her out.
And then she got dumped with a few cold-blooded dumb words after a few months. And so she now sat alone crying, not caring about anything else.
Enough is enough!
She knew she was not some weak, head-over-heels in love type of girl that cried for a guy for months on end. Enough is enough. She was sick and tired of feeling in a swamp. Damn him! He is an ex now; he doesn’t have the right to make me feel this way. She decided she would stop sulking and start to take care of herself again. Maybe begin with cleaning tear-mascara from her cheek and apply decent moisturizer. She decided to travel again, away from here. She will go shopping, and she will enjoy life!
Celine Pierce stood up, stretching to her full height, breathing in the fresh summer air, wiping away all the remaining tears, and getting rid of all her thoughts about that man.
She got out her AMEX Platinum and held it up to the sky. The silver plastic card glistened in the moonlight.
The Asian British girl felt no concern for her fellow students staring when she released her frustration out loud in a shout.
“I’M GOING TO THE BEACH!!!”
The beach has nothing interesting.
Celine loved the beach. But she hated going there alone. Loneliness is an ugly monster that plagued her wherever she went.
Her parents only allowed her to come on the trip to this island alone only because she had finished all her study and only waiting for a graduation ceremony. This trip came right after her internship. Finally, it was a time to relax, but Celine felt everything but relaxation.
Celine chose Ponza Island, a small island in Italy. She hoped for some quiet time for reflection since she read reviews somewhere that this small island is perfect for people who want some solitude and to enjoy nature. They were not wrong. Beautiful beach, crystal clear seawater, cute stores here and there. But there was nowhere she could indulge in her favorite hobby—shopping. Worse yet, most stores didn’t accept credit cards. Cash Only. Oh, two words that shouldn’t belong together.
She felt her migraine acting up from just thinking about it. The girl who was always on social media had to only sit alone and scroll through her feeds on her cell phone while sipping wine in a small traditional Italian restaurant on the beach. Her favorite sunglasses became a headband. And although her initial intention was time alone for reflection, she still hadn’t forgotten to bring two large luggage of clothes. Even though she noticed no one here dressed up as if they were going to a fashion show as she did, Celine didn't care. She bought new clothes or maybe calling them a whole new wardrobe was more appropriate, oh, those beautiful dresses. Not to mention swiping and maxing out two credit cards just for new clothes, and this trip, it would be a shame if she didn’t wear whatever she wanted.
She knew full well that although she was physically on this island, her mind was elsewhere. Her eyes are glued to her phone. And Her thought still circled around memories of the breakup. New experiences await her, but she was drowning in the past.
She knew… that perhaps all this effort was meaningless.
She knew… that people saw her as a superficial person.
She knew it all well... but she couldn't change who she was.
And who was she really? She was lost. It was as if she didn’t know who she was anymore.
Money is not happiness, but everything money could buy her happiness… clothes, bags, shoes, and the plane ticket here.
Money can buy happiness, isn’t it? But why she didn’t feel even a hint of happiness?
Soon after, Celine turned from being upset and annoyed with life to being furious after pictures of her ex-boyfriend at a rave party caught her eyes. She stared into his fun shenanigan and got engulfed in rage, so much so that she forgot to look at the battery. Her beloved phone was suddenly turned off.
And she had no charger…
“What the hell!! Why me!? Why does all this have to happen to me!??”
She spoke so loudly that the people at the tables next to her turned to look.
Then suddenly a small object landed on her table.
A small gray power bank with a charging cable was placed on the table as if from a spell of some witchcraft. Celine quickly looked to her left and right. She looked up to see someone who helped continue her social media surfing.
She couldn't see his face clearly because of the sunlight and reflections from the afternoon ocean surface. The figure of a tall man stood in front of her. His short curly hair fluttered slightly from the breeze. His face appeared so indifferent that she couldn't catch any emotion other than... annoyance.
“I’ll let you borrow this.”
A short phrase was uttered from someone she had just met for the first time. He said nothing more and went back to his seat a couple of tables away and read a newspaper.
“W-wait…” You offered help? You can just say you are annoyed!
“Yes?” The man with dark blonde hair lifted his eyes from the newspaper to look at her after she put the power bank back on his table.
“You don’t have to give me this. I didn’t ask for it.” She said curtly.
“I saw you whining because your phone ran out of battery.” He said matter-of-factly.
Can’t he just say something nicer? ‘Hi’ for example. What the hell…
“I don’t want it that badly.”
“If you don’t want it that badly, then you would have been quieter.” He turned that indifferent face back to focus on the news he was reading and ignored her. Celine just stood there. Mortified.
For real? Is he really doing this to her? What right does he have in ignoring her? What is this?
“Hey, you…” Good intention but bad manners. Celine hated it.
He turned to look at her again and lifted his eyebrows as if questioning.
So, I am not even worth a proper response? How rude!
She wanted to say something, but no words came to mind. She rolled her eyes, returned to her table, and just sat there staring at him menacingly.
She could see him smirking. Oii… rude and smug. I wish I don’t have to see his face again!
Chapter 2 Always More Baroque Than Broke
Celine laid three bikinis on a bed in a small hotel she booked online two weeks earlier.
Which one should I pick? Red… black… or leopard?
Anything is fine, actually. She felt confident in everything she wears anyway. Besides, being alone on this island that barely has any tourists shouldn’t cause much worry about appearance anyway. Since she left the boat and set foot on this island, the atmosphere here was quite calming, part of her was glad to escape the hectic life of the university, but part of her was concerned that the island was so quiet. Perhaps, I’m scared of my own thoughts.
Her Italian friend suggested her this island for a getaway trip. She flew to Rome, took a short one-hour car ride, and a small ferry to this place. All this hardship to forget. Does it worth it? It must be. It must be! I need to be happy!
Celine walked out of the room after choosing a red bikini and putting on a white hotel robe. She spent an hour doin
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