Between Us

 

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Playlist

All Around Me - Flyleaf 

Die For You - The Weeknd

Unravel Me - Sabrina Claudio

Too Good At Goodbyes - Sam Smith 

Down In Flames - Ella Vos 

All Night - Kirstin

Adore You - Miley Cyrus 

You Don't Do It For Me Anymore - Demi Lovato

 

 

 

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Prologue

Riley

The frigid December air blasted Riley as she stepped out of the sleek black limo. As her black stilettos hit the ground, she could feel the effects of the negative degree weather wrap around her body. 

Lights were flashing in her eyes as the sound of her name ringed through the streets. It only made her wish even more that she was at home, sitting underneath a warm blanket,  sipping on her favorite wine with her best friend. 

Standing not too far in front of her were her parents, Carla and Mike Witham. 

Carla with her fire-red hair and petite frame looked even more dainty underneath Mike's large stocky build. She fit into his side like a glove, their bodies connected at the hip. 

The two were a powerhouse in the publishing industry, building their company from the ground up. Their tenacity and sheer determination was the reason they were here today. An event gala to discuss the new publishing house they established in Paris. 

Riley hated attending these events, simply because it was something she didn't enjoy. No matter how often her mother tried telling her she'd take over one day, Riley was adamant that she wouldn't. Her passions didn't include books, they included people. 

But not these kind of people. 

It seriously irritated her when all people were worried about was lining their own pockets; and that's all these people at these events ever wanted. To line their pockets with others money. Disgusting. 

As Riley's name was shouted, she blew a kiss from her hot pink lips. Her sparkling silver Ralph Lauren dress snugged her curvy body perfectly and accentuated her already large breasts. Her long auburn hair laid down to the middle of her back, a silver shawl wrapped delicately around her shoulders. 

As Riley entered the event not far behind her parents, she made a bee-line for the bar. 

I'm going to need some liquid courage if I'm going to make it through the night, Riley thought as she approached the bar in the far left corner at rapid speed. 

"Scotch, on the rocks please." Riley said as she leaned up against the bar. 

"Wow." A deep voice said from down the bar. 

A man with ash blond hair was seated at the far end of the bar, his gray suit tailored to him perfectly. He peered down at Riley, his gaze calm and collected. 

The bartender handed Riley her drink and she took a sip. She closed her eyes as she savored the feeling of the cool drink sliding down her throat and warming her stomach. "Wow what?" She questioned as she made eye contact with the man in front of her. 

"I just didn't take you for a girl who liked hard liquor." He said as he swirled what was left in his cup. 

"I'm full of many surprises." Riley said with a smirk as she took another sip. 

The man turned to her and gave her a sly smile as he stood up from his seat at the bar. Even in her heels, the man stood quite taller than her. But, Riley was fairly short, so it didn't take much for a man to tower over her five feet. 

"Care to fill me in on some of those?" He asked as his eyes scanned up and down her voluptuous body. 

"If I did, I'd have to kill you." Riley winked as she downed the rest of her drink and slammed it on the bar. 

Leaving the man in her wake, she sashayed away. Her body doing the talking for her. 

After she was out of sight, she searched for her parents. They were seated at their designated table, discussing business with whomever. 

Riley never made it a habit to learn the names of people important to her parents work life, it seemed irrelevant to her. The only person she ever took a shining to was Gary, her parents personal assistant. 

As Riley approached the table, her mother gave her a quick disapproving look, an indication of a discussion they would be having after the event was over. Riley sighed internally, knowing that her mother was going to get on her case about drinking. She was twenty-three, it was perfectly fine for her to have a drink or two. 

When Riley took her seat, the lights began to dim and the chatter diminished. As the proceedings began, a noise rung out amongst the crowd. You could see the confusion across the faces of the guests, trying to figure out what the hell the noise was.

Suddenly, screams echoed through the event hall. Chairs were being pushed and the sound of feet hitting the floor became more and more louder the more people got up from their tables. 

Although Riley didn't know what was going on, she instantly shot up from her table. 

"Mom, Dad." She grabbed her mother who was sitting next to her and was reaching for her father when the noise rung out again. 

It was a sight unlike anything Riley had ever seen before. Her father's body jolted and then fell limp across the table. The blood squirted out of the gaping wound that now occupied a space on his back. 

"No!" The blood curdling scream ripped from her mothers mouth. 

It was like time slowed down for a minute, unable to comprehend what was happening Riley just stood there. The memories of her father flashed before her eyes, every happy, sad, and angry moment. Gone. The feeling of being ripped apart would have been more bearable than what she was staring at. Her heart pounded in her chest, that she could feel, but everything else was numb. 

Another gun shot rung out through the crowd and it jolted Riley back to reality. Her mother had run to her father and was shaking him, her eyes filled with tears. Riley ran over to her mother and grabbed her shoulder. 

"Mom!" She yelled as she violently shook her mother. "Mom!"

Her mother turned to face her, the mascara and eyeliner she had put on just a mere two hours ago was running down her face. 

"He's gone." Riley said as calmly as possible. "We have to get out of here." 

Riley didn't wait for her mothers response, she just grabbed her mothers hand and ran. 

She weaved through the crowd towards the nearest exit. It didn't matter to her that she was shoving people out of her way. She already lost her father, she wasn't going to lose her mother too. 

As soon as she was about to make her way through the front exit, the man from earlier stepped out in front of her. 

"What are you doing?" Riley said as she tried to shove past him. "Get the fuck out of my way!" Riley gripped her mothers hand tight as she stared into the mans eyes. 

"Did you miss me?" He said as he waved a gun in front of her face. His eyes turned sinister, like he was possessed by a demon. There was no trace of sanity in his eyes, he just looked menacing. 

The reality of what was going on hit Riley like a ton of bricks. This man was here specifically to kill her and her family. The realization that she was going to die was surreal. She didn't expect that day of all days to die, and if she knew, she would have lived it differently. 

People always say, live like you were going to die tomorrow, but what if you die today? Does it still count.

"Why?" was all she could ask before she heard one shot, then two, then nothing. 

**********************

Riley woke to the sounds of a heart monitor beeping in rhythm. Her eye sight was fuzzy and her body ached from head to toe. There were multiple cords hooked up to various parts of her body and it made it nearly impossible for her to move. 

"Whats?" Riley said groggily. 

"Oh thank god." She heard her best friend Jamie say with relief. 

Jamie jumped up from her seat next to Riley's bed and engulfed her in a hug that made Riley wince. 

"Sorry." Jamie said as she continued to hug her. 

"What's going on?" Riley said. Her mouth was extremely dry and she could barely talk. Her throat was killing her. She pointed to a glass of water that was sitting on a eating tray next to her bed. 

"You don't remember?" Jamie said as she handed her the glass. 

In that moment, the events of the last night she remembered flashed before her eyes. The glass of water slid through her fingers and splashed across the floor. 

She turned and gave her friend a dumbfounded look. "My mom? Dad?"

Jamie didn't have to say anything, Riley could see it in her eyes. 

It felt like the life was sucked out of Riley. Like someone ripped her heart out, threw it on the floor, then started dancing on it. Her whole body clenched as the sobs ripped from her throat and echoed through her hospital room. 

The world stopped turning that day, and Riley wished it would have stayed that way. 

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Chapter 1

Riley

"I don't care!" Riley shouted into the phone. She ran a hand through her long hair and set her hands on her hips as she listened to Gary on the other end. "Just get it done, whatever you have to do, do it." She huffed as she slammed the phone into the receiver. 

Riley turned to her best friend Jamie. She was seated in a tan plush chair across from her unusually large desk. Jamie scanned her face and gave Riley a disappointed look. 

"Don't look at me like that." Riley said as she plopped down into her seat. 

"You need to calm down Riles." Jamie spoke with a soothing yet firm tone. 

Riley knew she was being harsh, but it was the only way anyone would take her serious. After her parents passed away, someone had to take over, and Riley refused to let it be anyone but herself. But since she lacked the expertise and the knowledge, everyone assumed she was unable to fill her parents shoes. 

It didn't matter to Riley that she was unprepared for this job or that she had absolutely no idea what she was doing, she was going to make it work, no matter what. 

"I am calm." Riley replied, her brows creased in frustration. 

"It doesn't sound like it." Jamie shifted in her seat, her blonde hair falling over the back of her seat. "Tell me what happened." 

Riley gave a tired sigh and opened the drawer on her desk. She flipped through a few files and then pulled out a manilla folder and dropped it on her desk. She opened it up and handed Jamie a thick manuscript. "I had Gary go out and meet with a prospective client, Mr. Andersen. Apparently, he also has an offer from Yale Publishing that is causing him to be weary of my offer. He is very good, and if I were able to get him to sign with Witham Publishing, it would greatly increase my credibility." 

Jamie skimmed through the manuscript and then set it back on the desk. "He is good. What are you going to do about it?" She asked as she folded her hands in her lap. 

Riley stared into her best friends bright blue eyes and felt lost. She was used to that feeling now. 

"I don't have a clue." Riley replied defeated. 

"Yes you do." Jamie sat straight and reached across the desk and grabbed Riley's hands. "You are capable of doing this. I know you can, so tell me. What are you going to do?" 

Jamie's persistent faith in Riley pushed her to keep going. If she didn't have her best friend by her side, Riley would have gave up a long time ago. It was already too much seeing her employee's give her the sympathetic look every time she held a meeting, or the quiet whispers that happened when she left the room, it was almost too much, but Jamie kept her grounded and kept her moving forward. 

"I can offer to meet him myself? I think if I was able to make it more personal he might be persuaded to pick us instead." 

Jamie shook her head with enthusiasm. "That sounds great. You should do it." 

Riley released her best friends hands and then grabbed the phone. She placed a quick call to Gary instructing him to contact Mr. Andersen and set up a meeting at a local cafe. She would meet him and convince him that she was the only reasonable choice and then she would be set. Yet she was more nervous than anything. Her body trembled as she talked to Gary, her mind running a thousand miles a second.

After what happened to her parents, she didn't go out anymore unless she was accompanied by her friends and security. She never found out why Brock Wagner wanted to kill her and her parents, but she didn't ask too many questions. It was too hard, and she preferred to stay ignorant. 

Riley figured she'd be more comfortable if her security team escorted her, so she quickly shot a text to Pete, the head of her security team and a close friend. 

Riley stood from her desk and the look on her best friends face was more than enough motivation. 

"You got this Riles." Jamie said as she watched Riley grab her things and exit her office. 

***************************

When Pete pulled up to Georgie's, a small bakery-cafe located in the heart of Manhattan, Riley's heart started to pound. 

"Would you like me to come in with you, Ma'am?" Pete asked from the front seat. His hazel eyes scanned Riley's face. 

"No, I'll be fine. Thank you." Riley gave him a tight smile as he stepped out of the car and walked around to her door to let her out. 

Riley gave him an appreciative smile and watched as all the women who were passing by kept their eyes on him. She couldn't blame them, Pete was a good looking man. His tall stature and muscular build was only the icing on the top. His black hair was cut short and helped emphasize his heart-shaped face and sharp nose. He was mysterious and alluring, but, he was like a brother to Riley. 

The sounds of Manhattan was always a little overwhelming to Riley, no matter how long she had lived there. It was like a cluster of noises invading her ears and sometimes it was just annoying. 

Riley gathered herself and walked into Georgie's. The sounds of Manhattan were now replaced with Adele softly singing in the background. The smell of freshly brewed coffee and muffins wrapped around Riley and caressed her senses. 

Riley quickly scanned through the crowd and came across a man that resembled Gary's description of Mr. Andersen. She held her head high and walked towards him, the sounds of her heels clicking on the linoleum kept her mind from running through a thousand different scenarios. 

When Riley stopped directly in front of the man, he looked up and gave her a shy smile. "You must be Ms. Witham." Mr. Andersen stood up from his seat and extended his hand. His dark brown eyes looked her over as she grabbed his large hand and gave him a firm hand-shake. 

"It's great to meet you Mr. Andersen." Riley said as she pulled out her chair and took a seat. She grabbed his manilla folder from her purse and then set it on the table. She opened it and sifted through the paper until she came upon her proposition. "I understand you have some discrepancies. I'd love to discuss them with you and come to a conclusion we both can be satisfied with." 

"That would be great Ms. Witham, but I'd like wait for Mr. Yale to arrive." He said with a knowing smile. 

Riley felt like she was just smacked in the gut. She was prepared to meet Mr. Andersen, even though it took her quite a bit of courage, she did it. But she wasn't prepared for this, she wasn't prepared to barter over Mr. Andersen with a man who clearly knew more than she did. 

She had hear of Mr. Jacob Yale numerous times, but she was unaware of how big of a role he played in her parents lives until she took over. He was New York's most eligible bachelor, yet she couldn't really understand why. From her perspective, he was a pompous asshole with a god-complex. 

It wasn't until he walked into Georgie's that she knew. His chocolate brown hair and caramel brown eyes was met with a sharp jaw-line and a nose shaped like that of Adonis. His three-piece Armani suit was tailored perfectly to his toned body. His jacket was rolled up to reveal his olive colored skin and a dust of brown hair across his forearms. 

He captivated the entire room. As soon as he walked in, it was like every female went quiet as they watched him make his way over towards Riley and her companion. His gold rolex glittered in the light as he moved closer and closer to her, each stride more graceful than the last. 

Riley could understand then why woman dropped to their feet for him, regardless of his reputation as a playboy. Now she was wondering what he would look like underneath all of those clothes, even though he looked pretty damn good with them on. 

"Mr. Andersen." He said as stopped in front of their small table in the corner of the cafe. His voice was deep and cultured, like he had been around the world more than once. He then turned his gaze on Riley and burned a hole in her. "You must be Ms. Witham." He extended his hand and she put her hand in his. 

His large hands engulfed hers as they stared into each other. Riley was at a loss for words so she just nodded her head. He released her hand and grabbed a chair from the nearest table and sat next to her. 

His scent wafted under her nose, a smell of cologne and something else, musk maybe. Riley suddenly felt aware of every part of her body as the warmth of his closeness became more apparent. 

"Okay." Riley finally said as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. "Let's get down to business." Her voice came out as barely a whisper as both of them looked at her. 

The feel of Jacob's eyes grazing over her body made her all that more happy that she choose to wear something more form fitting that morning. She knew how to use her body to get what she wanted, even if that was considered shallow and vain. 

"Well." Mr. Andersen said as he cleared his throat. "I think both of you are great choices for me. I'm just having trouble choosing because both of you have offered me something worthwhile. While Mr. Yale has offered me more money, Ms. Witham has offered complete autonomy."

"I would be willing to give you more money if that would please you." Riley said calmly as she tried to ignore the sharp gaze from the man beside her. "What would you like?" 

"Fifteen-thousand upfront, fifteen-thousand after it's published." 

Riley sat quiet, her brain tried to wrap around the amount of money he was truly asking for. "That's quite a bit." She replied. 

"It's what Mr. Yale has offered me." 

Riley turned to look at Jacob, a sly smirk plastered on his face. Arrogant bastard.

"Then I will oblige." 

Two can play this game.

"Mr. Yale, is there anything you'd like to say?" Both Riley and Mr. Andersen's gaze turned to Jacob. 

Riley tried to focus on some kind of blemish, something to distract her from his beauty, but she couldn't find anything. He was perfect, his plump lips pursed at the question. 

"We've already discussed, Mr. Andersen. I already told you that I can't give you complete autonomy like you'd like. It just isn't possible." He replied. 

Riley creased her eyebrows in confusion, why would he be able to? It's a simple request, and Riley was sure that if he agreed to it, Mr. Andersen would settle with him instead of her. 

"Then I will have to decline your gracious offer." 

Riley could feel the excitement bubble in her stomach, but it was also tinged with frustration. She felt like Jacob didn't put up a good enough fight, like he just handed him over to her. She knew she won, but she didn't really feel like she did. 

"I appreciate your consideration." Jacob stood from his seat and put the chair back at the table he took it from. "It was nice meeting you." He turned his gaze on Riley and extended his hand. She placed her hand in his and he brought it up to his face and placed a light feather kiss right in the center. 

When his lips brushed her hand, it sent an electric current through her body and caused her to shiver. He released her hand and gave her a panty-dropping smile and then left, her body nearly convulsing in his wake. 

Riley turned to Mr. Andersen and gave an apologetic smile. "I guess I will be re-writing your proposition then." She said shakily. "I'll have it faxed to you, how does that sound?" 

"Sounds perfect." Mr. Andersen said as he pulled his lips into a tight smile. 

 

 

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