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His One Rule (Now on Radish)

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When Aria moved to the bustling West Coast of sunny California, she was looking to get a fresh start in life. Even in her dreams, she never could have imagined what would be waiting there. A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at her dream job, the prestigious Grey Fox Publishing. Then, she meets him. James Calhoun-ultra-famous author and founder of Grey Fox Publishing. Her literary idol. And now, her boss. It doesn't take long for the two to hit it off. The caveat? He doesn't date his employees. Torn between a fiery passion and obeying society's strict taboos, will they keep their desires at bay? Or, will they risk it all for a chance at love?

Romance / Other
Ebony Kent
4.6 8 reviews
Age Rating:

Chapter 1

“Last one!” Grace proudly announced as she lugged the final suitcase from the trunk of her car. Turning to face the bustling curbside that ran along the flowing city street, she handed the heavily weighted bag to her friend and exasperatedly added, “What did you pack in here Aria? Bricks or something?” All around them, the fresh pavement wavered with a mirage of rising heat, baking everything in golden rays of boundless California sunshine.

Standing meekly among the other five suitcases that were piled up on the curb’s lip, Aria let out a nervous little laugh and said, “Must be the books. I know, I know. I might’ve overpacked a little.” She watched as Grace pushed back a stray curl of hair from her sweat-laced brow and rolled her eyes in exaggerated inconvenience.

Closing the trunk, she joined Aria up on the edge of the crowded sidewalk. “Well, what do you think?” she asked, waving one arm around enthusiastically at the surrounding palm trees, garishly constructed buildings, and shops that stretched like a glittering chain for as far as the eye could see. This was Aria’s first time on the West Coast, and Grace could tell by her friend’s wide-eyed stare and slumped shoulders that she might be a little overwhelmed.

The two had been long-time best friends and therefore were brutally honest with one another. Not just verbally but emotionally, as well. From their humble beginnings in the suburbs of St. Louis, they were practically inseparable from the moment they met in kindergarten. That was until high school ended, and Grace got accepted to a business school in California. Deciding to stay behind and study literature, Aria wished her friend the best. With the promise to always stay close to one another, they parted for the first time. Through those four long years, Aria wondered if she would lose touch with Grace: the vast physical distance putting a permanent wedge between them.

But, like the ever-shifting tides, things are always bound to change.

When business school proved not to be a good fit for Grace, she took a huge risk and started her own party planning business from the ground up. And nearly four years after dropping out of business school and moving to LA, Grace had accumulated some of the most high-profile clients that the historically affluent city had to offer. Actors, musicians, and politicians alike sought Grace out for her services. And along with her clientele, her own personal wealth and popularity grew as well. Throughout this time, she always made sure to keep in touch with Aria back in their hometown, letting her old friend in on all the mounting successes she was having in the sunshine state. To Aria, Grace made everything sound so much better there. The sun, the sands, the lavish hillside parties full of the richest and influential people in the world, it all sounded like a beautiful fairy tale compared to the mundane existence she had while reading and studying back home.

But now, the warm winds mistily gritted with the nearby ocean’s unseen minerals blew through her long dark auburn hair. It made Aria wonder if making the impulsive decision to move out to LA was such a good idea after all.

Just then, Grace plunked down on the suitcase to her left. Wiping a fine sheen of clinging sweat from her face, she tiredly said, “Don’t worry. I know it’s a lot to take in, but you’ll get used to it fast.” She spoke with a wise tone, having been fully adjusted to the sleepless city’s fast pace and bright lights. “Just do me a favor; the next time I offer to give you a ride from the airport, don’t be bringin’ six freakin’ bags for me to juggle. Okay?”

Letting her anxiety falter into natural laughter, Aria, too, sat down on a suitcase at the edge of the busy curb and tried to enjoy the warm kiss of tingling sunlight that caressed her lightly tan-shaded skin.

My whole life is in these suitcases, she thought nervously to herself. The blunt fact brought back some of the lingering unease that hooked at her overly sensitive nerves. Even if only in her mind, hearing the words finally made the distance she traveled click in her head. The only place she’d ever known as home was gone, replaced with the glitz and glamour of a strange new land. Attempting to break up that unwanted feeling of misplacement, Aria joked, “Besides, it was your idea that I move out here anyway. Remember? You said you didn’t want to see me turn into a nun.”

“Oh, yeah,” Grace chuckled. “But seriously, what’s with this whole no sex thing anyway?”

Clearly not wanting to say too much at that moment, Aria shrugged. “It’s...I just...I don’t know. I guess I want a serious relationship before jumping into bed with some guy.”

“You mean the right guy,” Grace hummed, her voice taking on a sassy undertone. “We both know this weird dating hang-up you have has to do with Frank. If I ever see that asshole—”

“Can we not talk about this right now?” Aria coldly interjected, rising uncomfortably from her seat to stand amongst her disorganized luggage. The subject of her last boyfriend, Frank, was always a sore spot of discussion for Aria. The messy breakup was the final thread to be pulled when she weighed the decision of whether to move to California or not.

That, and the job offer from a big-time bookseller called Grey Fox Publishing.

Always a book worm, Aria couldn’t believe it when she got the call back after randomly applying online. With a master’s degree in classic literature under her belt from the six years she spent at SLU, Aria hoped that it would be enough to maybe get her foot in the door of a well-known publisher or booking house. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but someday. The posting she saw online was for a full-time proofreader/copy editor at their main offices in California. So, recently dumped and needing to escape that heartbreak, Aria took the job and packed all her things.

And now, like one of her favorite books come to life, Aria’s journey into independence had officially begun.

“You’re right,” Grace said apologetically as she joined Aria in standing. “All that’s in the past now. Time to start anew, baby!” Exuding that quirky, positive energy that Aria loved so much, she couldn’t help but melt to Grace’s charm. It might’ve been the breakup with Frank and the new job that led Aria to California, but it was Grace who made it all happen. When Aria first voiced her concerns to Grace about moving over the phone, Grace replied, “Girl, I got you. Don’t worry.” And like that, she agreed to rent out a room in the condo building Grace owned downtown.

If not for Grace and her generosity, Aria would probably still be sitting on her mom’s couch, reading through the same tattered paperbacks that she’d thumbed through countless times before.

“I can’t thank you enough, Grace,” Aria said gratefully as they both started trying to organize the pile of luggage. Turning around to face the impossibly tall building—glass windows glimmering in a polished shine that reflected the bright blue sky like an ocean—Aria gasped, “This place is huge!” Craning her neck, she shaded her eyes but still couldn’t see the top against the onslaught of bright sunlight.

Just then, a lean young man in an open-collared shirt and navy blue running shorts strolled out from the plated glass entrance of the building and crossed the short length of sidewalk to where they stood. Holding out one well-manicured hand, skin the same hue as his sandy hair, he smiled coolly and said, “Hey, Grace.” Looking over to scope Aria, he added, “You must be Aria.”

At first, stunned by the man’s outwardly flawless beauty—high cheekbones, chiseled abs, and pearl white smile—Aria stared blankly at the young stud’s warm expression before finally managing to stammer, “I...um...I mean, hi. Yes, I’m Aria.” Numbly, she reached out one hand and let it melt into his muscular grip.

Gently pulling his hand away from hers, he gestured towards the suitcases sprawled at her feet and politely asked, “Would you like a hand with your bags?” Before Aria could answer, he gracefully knelt and scooped up four of the bags under his arms with relative ease.

“Thanks, babe,” Grace said as she and Aria each grabbed one of the two remaining suitcases and followed him toward the front door.

Upon entering the front lobby, Aria immediately noticed a slightly pudgy man slumped over on a barstool in the far right-hand corner.

“That’s Carl,” Grace said quietly to Aria as they both walked onward. He regarded them with a subtle nod when Grace raised one hand and waved in his direction, his slicked-back crown of salt and pepper hair stiff with pomade. His face, hard and cracked like a slab of weathered concrete, moved along with their every step like a funhouse painting. “He’s the building doorman. Well...more of a bouncer, really.”

“Bouncer?” Aria asked skeptically as the man’s ancient eyes left the two women and resumed to cover the now empty doorway. “That guy looks like he could barely manage to tie his own shoes. How’s he a bouncer?”

“Don’t let the wrinkles fool you. Back in his day, Carl was a four-time middleweight boxing champ over in New York during the seventies. Trust me. He knows what he’s doin’.”

Taking Grace on her word, Aria averted her gaze back up to watch the clean-cut man carry her bags across the lobby’s white tiled floor in total wonderment. Like observing a natural creature of perfect symmetry, her eyes swept the finely toned muscles of his fit body with great interest and curiosity of its creation. Once this Adonis was far enough ahead of them, Aria turned to Grace and frantically whispered, “So, who’s the guy?”

“Oh,” Grace responded in a low sort of moan, her eyes never leaving the rhythmic swish of his hips as he walked confidently ahead of them, “that’s Kyle. And between you and me, he’s phenomenal in bed.”

Initially stunned, Aria blinked heavily before shyly saying, “Oh...kay...”

Knowing just what to say to make her friend squirm with embarrassment, Grace eagerly added, “And I mean, phe-nom-en-al. Like, hits the G-Spot every time, phenomenal.”

Cheeks burning with blossoms of scarlet, Aria quietly gushed, “Seriously? Every time?” Suddenly realizing that she’d rather not know, she quickly retracted her request. “Nope, never mind. I don’t wanna know.”

Seeing her last opportunity before catching up with Kyle at the lobby elevators, Grace hungrily licked her lips and added, “Mmhm. You should see what he can do with his—”

“La-la-la-la-la! I can’t hear you!” Aria sung loudly to drown out the rest of Grace’s dirty little story. Laughing and giggling, just as they did when they were kids, the two friends skipped along to the open elevator, where Kyle patiently waited with the rest of the suitcases.

These little exchanges were extremely common for Grace and Aria, with Grace clearly being the spunkier and more outgoing one of the two. Even as kids, she always dragged Aria to late-night house parties throughout high school, forcing her to have something that resembled a social life.

“You’re such a goody-two-shoes!” Grace would always joke whenever Aria got flustered and tried to turtle back into her mind’s introverted shell. In a way, this combative element to their longstanding friendship was—pardon the pun—a saving grace for Aria. Without the forceful hand of her adventurous friend, this lonely only child would’ve had no life outside the dogeared pages of her favorite books.

Once they were all inside the elevator, Grace reached over all the stacked suitcases and pushed the button for the eighth floor.

“Doors closing,” the autonomous voice of the overhead speakers pleasantly chimed. In seconds, the shiny metal doors slid shut, and they were on their way up. Once at their floor, they walked towards the end of a long-carpeted hallway and stopped halfway down.

“This is the condo where I’ll be staying,” Grace said as she pointed to the room labeled 802. Not bothering to stop, she led them a little farther. Reaching room 803 at the end of the hallway, Grace stopped and set down the bag she was carrying. “And this is you, Aria.” With one swipe of a silver key fob that Grace had produced from her front pocket, the door emitted a hard click then swung inward. One by one, they went inside.

Aria entered the open area of the spacious living room and attached kitchenette. She immediately spotted the large bay windows showing a clear bird’s eye view of the city, “Grace... it’s... it’s...” At that moment, she couldn’t express the proper words for the appreciation she felt inside. From the amazing view to the stylishly decorated furniture and appliances, the condo was way beyond anything Aria had anticipated.

Confusing Aria’s silent wonderment with hidden disapproval, Grace openly asked, “What’s wrong? You don’t like it?”

“Are you kidding?!” Aria finally said, dropping her bag in the middle of the floor to aimlessly wander the spacious living room. “It looks like an IKEA threw up in here; it’s gorgeous!”

Grace let out a big sigh of relief. “Oh, thank God.” Joining Aria as she stood in front of the bay windows and admired the view, Grace handed over the silver key fob and said, “All the doors in the building are keyless, so you’ll need to have this anytime you leave. It works for the mailboxes and front door too.” As she led Aria over to the kitchenette, Grace continued, “I know this place isn’t much, but I think we can both agree that it’s a step up from our moms’ places.” A huge ceramic counter, flanked by the shiny stainless steel of brand-new appliances, was completely spotless as if just being used for the first time.

Circling back around the room, Grace picked up a sleek-looking remote control from the oak coffee table that sat directly in front of the L-shaped sectional couch. “This remote controls the TV, the thermostat, and...” she paused to dramatically push a button. Automatically, heavy shades at either end of the bay windows slowly started to draw shut. “...the window shades.” Keeping the room full of warm, inviting light, she clicked the button again and reversed the process.

Beyond impressed, Aria continued to marvel at the large flat-screen TV and stylish bookcase with room for all her favorites and quietly uttered, “Wow. It’s...wow.” Reflexively, Aria pushed the sliding frame of her glasses back up onto the delicate arc of her nose and said, “This is so awesome, Grace.”

Grace teased, “Oh, we’re not done yet. Follow me.” They both turned and noticed that Kyle was still standing silently in the entryway on the other side of the room with the bags cradled in his chiseled arms.

With a catty smile, Grace offered the patient dummy a little wink and said, “You can set those down right there, Kyle. Thaaanks!” Obedient to the end, Kyle did as he was told and carefully laid the suitcases at his feet. Without another word, he turned and left the condo.

Back to the task at hand, Grace turned to Aria and excitedly said, “Right this way!” Around the corner on the other side of the kitchenette, Grace slid open two beautiful painted wooden barn doors to reveal the master bedroom. A king-sized bed anchored the middle of the large room, a walk-in closet flanking the entire right side in a row of sliding doors and mirrors. Grace concluded this grand tour with the attached bathroom and a side room with the brand-new washer and dryer. “And that’s pretty much everything,” Grace said as they both walked back out towards the brightly lit living room. “I’ll let you get settled now.” But before she was about to leave, Grace suddenly turned back and asked, “I almost forgot to ask, but when do you start your new job?”

“Tomorrow.” Now starting to feel some of the lag from flying, she added, “I should probably get organized and then try to get some rest.” As Grace turned back towards the door, Aria called out, “Thanks again for everything, Grace. You’re truly a great friend.”

“Hey, it’s the least I can do,” Grace said, her smile wide and honest. Turning back from the open doorway one last time, she added, “Oh, here’s a fun fact. All the apartments are totally soundproof. That means you won’t be able to hear Kyle and I gettin’ nasty later tonight.” Leaving Aria to girlishly blush at her friend’s sexual bluntness, Grace finally exited the condo and closed the door.

For the first time in a long time, Aria realized that she was completely alone.

After wandering around the condo for a couple more minutes, looking curiously at this and that, Aria finally started the long process of unpacking her many suitcases. Framed pictures of her friends and family, clothes, and many shoes and books found their new homes in the stylish villa. It wasn’t until nearly 9 pm that a text from her mom broke her attention away from the tedious routine of organization.

Are you settled in yet? My little girl is all grown up! In true mama bird fashion, she couldn’t wait to check in with Aria, the little chick that just spread her wings and left the safety of the nest.

Swiping one finger across the surface of her phone, Aria immediately typed back, Ya got pretty much everything unpacked, and I’m twenty-four years old, Mom. Not really that little anymore.

Within seconds of sending the text, her mom replied with. You’ll always be my little girl. Have a great first day tomorrow at work, hun! Video chat after?

After making a date to video chat with her mom, Aria finished unpacking and went straight to bed. And as her eyes finally started to grow heavy with the sands of sleep, she encouragingly thought, tomorrow will be the first day of my journey. I just hope I’m ready...

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