Into My Arms - Lia Riley

Chapter One


My phone screen illuminates with a text. I can’t hear the incoming buzz over the death punk track threatening to rupture my eardrums.

Bran Lockhart: Busy?

No point responding. My friend’s message is nothing but a formality, a heads-up that he’ll be in my office to harass me about something in less than five minutes. I rip off my high-definition headphones, toss them across my desk, and click to the security camera icon on my computer.

The streaming surveillance video centers on her, the woman I’ve watched these last many months. The one paid to serve my every whim, which she does, although not in the way she realizes.

There are more than enough competent executive assistants here in Silicon Valley, any number with the right credentials to keep track of my busy calendar, schedule appointments, and figure out who is worth admitting or who should be denied CEO face time.

But no one—no one—captivates like Bethanny Jacobs. That tousled mane of chestnut hair, the slight upturn to her wide eyes, as if she views the world as a surprise. And then there’s that lush mouth. Watching her talk into her headset is a form of twisted seduction in itself. Her face is a near mirror image of the one that haunts my dreams, and yet, I can’t get enough.

She is my curse and my salvation.

Every morning upon waking, the day settles on my chest like an anvil, each imminent hour a crushing pound, squeezing away my next breath, until the realization that she is here, waiting, propels me into action.

Of course, she has no idea that she is the reason I get out of bed. I haven’t ever invited her to set foot into my office. Those double doors don’t simply exist to keep others out. They are there to keep me in. It’s better this way. Desire does nothing but wreak destruction.

My personal elevator opens.

“What’s up?” Bran Lockhart, my oldest friend—correction, my only friend—stalks out, his well-worn jeans and navy hoodie flouting the strict company dress code. He squints, giving me the once-over while adjusting to the lack of light. I prefer my office space to be kept dark, with the window shades drawn, to work by lamplight. “You look like shit.”

“Good afternoon to you too.”

He glances at the computer and emits a barely audible grunt. Currently Bethanny grips a coffee mug with two hands, drinking like a person who has found an oasis in the Sahara.

I didn’t bother to turn off the screen at his grand entrance. Yes, I have secrets within secrets, but this man knows most of them and somehow doesn’t regard me as the devil incarnate.

He’s faced down his own demons.

“Ready to nut up and talk to her yet?”

“I do.” I drag a hand through my hair. “Every day.”

“That’s not what I mean, mate,” he says in his usual curt tone. “I mean a conversation, not a task list.”

“And what shall we discuss? My…feelings?” I allow scorn to drizzle over the word.

“Bloody hell.” He takes a seat on the edge of my desk. “Don’t try to paint me as some kind of Oprah. My inner child could kick your teeth in.”


“It’s a day ending in y, right?”

My momentary humor departs as the gravity of the last day returns. “I’ll be leaving town Monday.”

“What’s the grand occasion?” He picks up a pen and twirls it between his fingers. “Another White House trip? Or crossing the pond—meeting with the London partners?”

“Maryska.” I bite off the name, grimacing at the bitter taste.

“Oh.” The sardonic smile slides from his face. “Is she…?”

“Yes. It won’t be long now.”

“Shit.” He sets the pen down and rises to his feet, crossing his arms. “I’m sorry.”

“And your sympathy is something I won’t accept. She wouldn’t want me to. It’s the least I can do for her.”

“Mate, this isn’t healthy.” He wags a finger in warning. “I’m dead serious. You can’t hole up from the world, beating yourself over the head for things that happened almost a decade ago. And you have to quit being a fucking masochist about your assistant. Beth is a nice girl. Talia thinks the world of her. Reach out, make a connection.”

“You are a man in love,” I sneer, loosening my tie. “Optimism comes easily.”

“The last year has given me a new outlook.” He shrugs. “Fear is a killer. You have to face it—it’s the only way.”

“The only way to what?” My desperation bubbles to the surface.

“To get to the other side.”

I sink back into my chair. “The land of heart eyes and