Friendship on Fire (Love in Bloom:The Bradens, Book 3)

By: Melissa Foster

The Bradens, Book Three

Love in Bloom Series

Chapter One

RILEY BANKS HURRIED down Thirty-Seventh Street in her red Catherine Malandrino dress and Giuseppe Zanotte leopard-print, calf-hair pumps. It was the week after Thanksgiving, and Manhattan was buzzing with the feverish zeal of the holidays. Riley slowed her pace to catch her breath. Tomorrow I’ll find the courage to take the subway. Maybe. She tugged her coat tighter across her chest to ward off the chilly air and silently hoped that nobody would figure out that she’d purchased her outfit on, an online designer outlet store. She felt like such a hypocrite, heading to her first day at her new job as one of world-renowned designer Josh Braden’s assistants wearing discounted clothing. The thought turned her stomach—but not as much as showing up in her hometown jeans and cowgirl boots would have. She was a long way from Weston, Colorado, and she’d spent the last few weeks gathering discount designer clothes and practicing omitting “y’all” from her vocabulary.

She stood before the thick glass door of Josh Braden Designs and took a deep breath. The sign above the door read, JBD. This is it. She closed her eyes for a split second to repeat the mantra she’d been playing in her mind like a broken record for weeks: I’m educated, knowledgeable, and eager. I can do this.

A warm hand on her lower back pulled her from her thoughts.

“Have any trouble finding us?” Josh Braden stood beside her with a friendly smile and perfectly shorn, thick dark hair. His black Armani suit fit his lean, muscular frame perfectly. A few years earlier, he’d been named one of America’s Most Eligible Bachelors. Back then she hadn’t given the magazine cover a second thought. He was in New York, and she was back in Colorado, so far removed from him that she’d still thought of him as Josh Braden, the boy she’d had a crush on for too many years to count. Now, standing on the streets of New York City beside the man whose name rivaled Vera Wang, she felt the air sucked from her lungs.

His deep voice sent a shiver right through her. Not only had she had the good fortune to be reconnected with Josh when he was back home visiting his family, but during his visit, the two of them had also spent a few days getting reacquainted. Riley hadn’t been sure if it was her crush going haywire or if there was something more real blossoming between them, but those few days had each felt a little more intimate than the last. And while their lips never touched and their bodies remained apart, she’d felt like they were always one breath away from falling into each other’s arms.

“Uh…ye…no.” Oh God, please kill me now.

Josh smiled, lighting up his brown eyes. “Nervous?”

At five foot eight, she was a full seven inches shorter than him. She wondered what it might be like to stand on her tiptoes and kiss those luscious lips of his. Stop it! The way he held her gaze brought goose bumps to her arms. Stopitstopitstopit. She envisioned him at seventeen; he’d reached his full height by then, thin but well muscled, with testosterone practically oozing from his pores. She’d wanted him then, but those schoolgirl feelings didn’t come close to the desire that begged to be set free now. She cast her eyes away and took a deep breath, trying to ignore her thundering heart. The last thing she needed was to become one of those girls who swooned every time her boss appeared. She was here to build a career, not a reputation.

“A little,” she answered honestly.

He pulled the heavy door open and waited for her to walk through before placing his hand on the small of her back once again. Josh spoke softly, his mouth close to her ear as he guided her through the expansive lobby.

“Think of this as Macy’s back home. There’s the customer service area.” He nodded toward the elegant mahogany and granite reception desk.

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