Authors: Lilly Wilde
Copyright 2015 by Lilly Wilde
Cover Design by Lilly Wilde
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental. The author does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for third-party websites or their content.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
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ISBN- 978-1311812384 – ePub(3.2), ISBN-13: 978-1507896969 – Print, ISBN-10: 1507896964 – Print
Thanks to the many readers who have joined
. This has been an amazing experience. Your enthusiasm and enjoyment of Aria and Aiden’s story has truly touched me.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to share this amazing journey with my Street Team, The Wilde Lillies (listed alphabetically): Jessica Anderson, JoJo Carroll, Justine Delgado, Stephanie Dunsmuir, Christel Ellis, Robin Lenth, Jennifer Mackey, Raquel Perez, Sharon Rickel, Julie Scheidt, Anja Schuster, Stephanie Smith, Jodee Taylor, Lisa Upshaw, Andrea Wasik, and Kelly Wiley! Your support has been invaluable!
And a huge thanks to my husband, your unending patience has been remarkable. Thanks for enduring my bouts of excitement with this series.
This day had been another horrendous exploit of my patience and emotions. I had formally accepted the position of CEO of Raine Publishing House yesterday and while that within itself would be cause to celebrate for anyone with aspirations such as mine; it somehow felt like a collar. I felt trapped. Aiden had presented me with a job offer and I had been coerced into acceptance. I couldn’t resign without the risk of stifling my chances to secure a comparable position at any other reputable publishing company. Aiden had made it very clear that he would block any other job opportunities that may have presented themselves and given his immeasurable resources, I knew that he could and
halt all of my efforts to leave RPH.
To say that I was confused would be the understatement of the century. Why was he doing this? Did he think that this was the only way to keep me close? If that was his logic, he would soon discover that it was pointless because proximity didn’t matter; I could’ve been stuck to him like lint on a suit and it wouldn’t change how I feel. I was done. At least that’s what I kept telling myself every hour – and so far, my reminders had proved effective. But I’d be lying to myself if I said that I knew how I would feel once I saw him again.
My new responsibilities at RPH required my dedication and focus, yet each time I saw the RPH building or even the logo, I felt a pang of betrayal. The first few days after Aiden’s departure were hard. I’d struggled to shake off the remnants of his effects, at least as far as work was concerned. As for the personal, I was taking it one hour at a time.
“I’ll see you in the morning Raina,” I said, walking past Raina’s office door. She looked up from the file on her desk with perceptible concern in her beryl blue eyes.
“How are you? I mean – how’s everything with Mr. Raine?” she asked.
“Everything’s fine or as well as can be expected,” I replied, bleakly.
Raina was my executive assistant and I didn’t typically concern her with any matters that weren’t related to Raine Publishing House. However, she was now privy to some personal aspects of my life due to my involvement with her boss, actually
boss too, Aiden Raine.
“I can see the toll this is taking on you. I would like to offer my ear or maybe some advice if you need someone,” she offered.
“I’ve had to digest more than my fair share of changes as of late Raina, but I’ll be fine,” I replied, unsure as to the truth of that statement. “Speaking of which, we need to move some things around on my calendar to prepare for our move to the top floor.”
“Yes ma’am. I actually started revising your schedule this afternoon,” she said.
I smiled at her, hoping it appeared genuine. Although I was very fond of Raina, I had no desire to discuss Aiden with her or with anyone for that matter. I wasn’t in the mood for much more than complete isolation from everything and everyone. I typically relied on work to serve as a distraction but I was unable to effectively make use of that tactic because work was now tainted with thoughts of Aiden.
“Thank you Raina. Don’t work too late,” I said, turning to leave.
I had admitted, at least to myself, that my heart was breaking … a little more with each passing day. Aiden had filled a part of my heart that I hadn’t known was empty. And for that I’d be forever grateful. Beneath the pain was the reality of the end of whatever it was we’d shared. I missed him, and his absence was profound. He was everywhere, yet he was nowhere at all.
I played mind games with myself in an effort to forget him but every morning, he was the first thought. The first part of my day was spent reprogramming … reminding myself that it was over, that he was gone, that it had all been a lie. This morning had been no different.
I didn’t know why, but every day I expected to hear from him but there had been nothing. The first few nights after he left, I cried myself to sleep. Had the tears been just for him? I hadn’t figured that part out. Part of me wanted to think it was less about him and more about what he represented that had caused my despondence. He’d given me something that I’d never wanted, that I’d never dare think of … he’d given me hope.
I sighed as I entered the Boston traffic heading home. I no longer took comfort in running there either because memories of him were there also. I’d broken pretty much every Fuck Rule in the book for that man and now I was paying the price for it.
Things weren’t good, but they were bearable. I knew that if I never saw him again, I would be okay. I could ride the wave until it all evened out. But I
be seeing him again and I knew it would be soon and I was dreading it.
He’d be out of the country on business the remainder of the week, not that he’d communicated with me, but a memo had gone out to that effect. He was visiting many of the overseas subsidiaries of Raine Industries employing calculated strategies to strengthen an already mega successful company, hence my recent promotion to CEO. We were initially informed that he had plans to work at RPH the remainder of the week. Although I shouldn’t have, I couldn’t help but wonder what had transpired to alter his schedule.
I entered my condo and my eyes rested upon the largest physical reminder of Aiden … the piano. Aiden was just as impressive on paper as he was off and one of his many talents lied in his ability as a pianist. I was blown away upon hearing him play. I’d mentioned that I’d wanted to learn and he’d offered to teach me. As typical with him, he’d gone one step further when I’d asked for his help in selecting a piano. He’d surprised me with a baby grand, complete with an inscription on the back panel that made me weak in the knees. I was in love with music and as a child, I’d longed to play the piano and if the desire and the means weren’t so vast, I would have refused the piano lessons that he’d arranged. As per his usual intrusive self, he had Raina fit in an appointment on my schedule with a local pianist who had started weekly lessons with me. Each time I practiced, I was flooded with memories of Aiden and needless to say, the lessons weren’t going as well as they could have.
The ping of an incoming text pulled me from my thoughts. I smiled upon seeing the name of the sender and quickly tapped a reply. I dressed for my workout, grabbed my phone and headed downstairs to the gym. I stopped near the entrance and tapped the control panel in search of a workout playlist. Once the tune of Disclosure’s
filled the room, I began stretching as my mind did the thing that had become the norm for me as of late. As much as I wanted to stop thinking about it, the memories continued popping in as often as they wanted. At times I stopped fighting it and just went with it. I convinced myself that the mental replays were an excellent way to retrace my steps; I could hopefully determine each wrong move on my part and keep mental critiques of what I should have done. But in the end, the result was the same.
The last few months had split my world wide open. Blake Meade, RPH’s CEO at the time, had voiced his suspicions that RPH would be under a magnifying glass for a period of time but neither of us suspected that the magnifying glass would be in the form of Aiden Wyatt.
Aiden had appeared at RPH under the guise of an intern. We ultimately learned that Aiden was the son of Connor Raine, the CEO and President of Raine Industries. While I’d been extremely impressed with the abilities Aiden had displayed during his tenure as an
, after only one meeting with him in his capacity as CEO, I discovered that he was much more of a powerhouse than I’d earlier surmised.
In one swift move, Aiden had relieved Blake of his duties as CEO and presented the position to me. I felt horrible because I knew of it beforehand. I wanted to prepare Blake for his termination but I couldn’t because of Aiden’s forbiddance. I’d decided that I would reach out to Blake as soon as the dust had settled; Aiden couldn’t stop that. I’d contacted Blake after a few days and we’d actually had a great discussion over lunch. He was disappointed, of course, but he was extremely happy for me and stated that if he had to be replaced, he couldn’t have chosen a better successor. He was currently interviewing for an executive position with Little Brown which looked promising and I offered to serve as a reference in any capacity. We didn’t discuss Aiden or Raine Industries although I could see that he had questions.
I stepped onto the treadmill and pressed the button for one of the pre-set workouts. My phone pinged again. My heartbeat quickened as I read it. It was Kellan again. He was coming to Boston and he wanted to see me. We’d started communicating soon after the Aiden debacle; primarily in the form of texts and it was easy; no pressure. I could handle that but an actual visit, I wasn’t quite sure. I was tired of processing; I didn’t want to think about anything more, so I replied telling him that it would be great to see him.
I started with a brisk walk and was soon in the midst of a full run. How amazing would it be if I could actually run from the aftermath of Aiden Raine? The fallout at RPH had been mild all things considered, but the internal explosion I was experiencing was shattering. And what made matters worse, I had no reference point. I didn’t know how to recover from a broken heart. Aiden had been my one and only relationship. I never engaged with men to the degree in which I had with Aiden … a fact that continued to confound me. He possessed a magnetism that I’d never encountered with any other man. It was undeniable and utterly indescribable. I totally lost all sense of rationale when it came to him. Every defense I’d come to rely on had abandoned me. It had felt as though I was doing things against my will but at the same time I greedily savored every second of it. I knew I would never be in the midst of this type of thing and I never gave much thought to it; yet here I was … the blubbering mess I’d despised.
I didn’t expect men to do anything more than what I’d experienced firsthand. Lie and leave. Both behaviors which were modeled by my father. So yes, I have serious trust issues courtesy of dear old Dad. My abhorrence for love and relationships had festered for over a decade so even the slightest of lies caused me to tap into the pain and heartache of my past and that’s exactly what Aiden has done. He’d taken me back to the time when my father left. He’d reminded me that I shouldn’t trust men. Even the most honorable of men can let you down and given the chance, they will. That conviction and the fear of pain had been enough to drive me for years. It was all I needed but even after this poignant and painful reminder from Aiden, I couldn’t stop wanting him and that is the part that was tearing me up inside. I was different; plain and simple. I waited for that resolve to kick back in but every day I woke up thinking of Aiden and every night I went to bed with those same thoughts of him.
I was in a pit of misery.
You’d think that my past was the stronghold I needed to make sure I never suffered this fate. My past gave reason for absolute control of my emotions when it came to any relationship, especially with men. I never mixed business with pleasure. I never had boyfriends, I never allowed anyone to get any closer than sex ... but Aiden had changed all of that.
I still wondered if he were really done with me. And if he wasn’t, what did that mean for me? Did I really want to be done with him? I’d questioned his intent in this same way when he’d left RPH under the pretext of a resignation. He’d left me in limbo. Not knowing if it was
over. Fast forward to now … I’d assumed it was over based on our last interaction but that was more of my interpretation than fact. He’d made no attempt to confirm my conclusions. I honestly didn’t know if I wanted the outcome to be any different than what it currently was.
He’d changed me. He’d loved me. He’d hurt me. He’d damaged me. To be fair, I was already damaged though … long before he’d touched me but how can someone so damaged suffer more damage without being irrevocably altered?
I completed my workout, took a quick shower and looked at the list of food delivery options. I was surprised that my appetite was returning. The first few days after Aiden had left, my stomach churned at the mere thought of food. I reviewed the menu and called The Brewer’s Art to place an order.
I wondered aimlessly around the condo. Between the memories here and RPH, where he was practically everywhere, my head was pounding most parts of every day. I’d allowed myself to get caught up in Aiden’s web and I was an utter mess over a situation that typically wouldn’t have fazed me. It really wasn’t the
in as much as it was
. Everything about him had encapsulated me; I’d been held prisoner to his whims, his voice, and his touch. Even now with the absence of contact, I was somehow still held captive. I wanted to escape but it was virtually impossible because he was now my boss.
The intercom buzzed and I grabbed my purse to pay the delivery guy. I was reminded of the one time I’d referred to Aiden as a delivery guy; it had been our first dinner together. I poured a glass of wine and sat at the table; I sighed as I realized that I was thinking of him again.
Was he thinking of me as much as I was thinking of him or maybe even a little? When he’d made his abrupt exit in July, I’d heard nothing from him the entire time he was gone; however, when he resurfaced he’d said that he’d missed me every day. He’d also told me that he loved me … yet he was gone. I didn’t fully know what it was like to feel love from a man but I knew enough to know that this couldn’t be right.
Had he expected me to say it in return? That I loved him? Did I have the slightest idea of what love was? I did … back then, when I was in Dayton living under the ruse of a happy family. I also knew how it felt to love my job or love my best friend and even to love my mom again …but loving a man. This man. I didn’t know. I had told myself that it was love. That he had touched a part of me that no one had ever come close to – a part that I didn’t know existed. But was that love? I had no idea. Mom had told me that I loved him. If anyone knew love, it was her. The depth of her love for my father was so intense it nearly killed her.