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Hold Tight: A For Him Novella (For You) by Alexa Riley (1)

Chapter 1

Pandora

“I swear on every bagel in Manhattan that if you come over here and ask me what time you can go to lunch, I’ll burn this building to the ground.”

The new guy, Josh, looks at me with a blank expression on his face and takes a step back. “So, um, now?”

“Go to lunch. Before she kills us all,” Sophia says, patting him on the shoulder.

He walks away, and I drop my head on the desk. I want to beat it against it, but I don’t want the mark on my forehead for the rest of the day. It would be too much of a reminder of my frustration.

“Sorry. I meant to intercept before he got to you. How’s it going, boss?”

I lean up from my desk and sit back in my chair. “I’m still not used to you calling me boss.” I smile at Sophia, and she shrugs.

“Hey, you earned it. Might as well wear the title with honor.” She lays a file down on my desk. “That’s the Miller report you asked for. Are you taking a lunchbreak today?”

I’m already opening the file and shaking my head as she tells me she’ll bring me back something from the cafeteria. I scan the documents and start clicking on my computer to see if I can code some of it now.

An email pops up from my twin sister, Penelope, and I smile. Of course there are pink hearts in the subject line.

I skim it and see she’s excited to find out the sex of her baby, and Ivan is being extra protective, but she’s so happy she can’t seem to care.

Shaking my head, I send an email back, telling her I still think it’s a boy and I’ll finally be able to have something in common with one of her kids.

Penelope and Ivan got married when she was eighteen. They started having babies right away, and now she’s on number three. Ten years later and she’s got two beautiful girls, who are full-blown princesses, and one on the way. Fingers crossed this one likes to get dirty.

At twenty-eight, I’ve got a very different life than my sister. She lives next door to our parents, and they have this big family compound. I’ve got a place there, too, but I stay in the city most of the time. After college I went in for an internship in the security department at Osbourne Corp. It didn’t hurt that my cousin Henry was running the place now, but I’m damn good at my job. I worked my way up, and when the time came for my dad to retire, I was chosen as his replacement. I thought that there may have been some animosity in the department, but I found out afterward that my dad put it to a secret vote so that everyone had a chance to be honest and have the leader they wanted. He said every vote was for me but one. And that one was his. I know I’ll always be his little girl, so I couldn’t even be mad about it.

I work eighty-hour weeks and give everything I have to this job. I want the department to be the best it can be, but I’m only one person.

Human resources restructured security a few months ago, and we’re having some growing pains. Mostly in my ass. Some of the new hires they sent are completely incompetent, and most days I’m spending even more of my time cleaning up their messes.

Henry keeps promising me that he’s going to sort it out, but he’s running out of time. I’m at my wits’ end with trying to manage a department and trying to hold the hands of dumbasses. Good thing personnel can’t hear my inner thoughts.

I’m so caught up in my work that at one point I look down and see a bag of food on my desk. I glance up at Sophia, and she shakes her head, laughing. “Thank you,” I mouth from across the room.

I inhale the sandwich and the Diet Coke, and it’s hours later when I realize that everyone is gone for the day. I heard people telling me goodbye as they were leaving, but it didn’t register. Glancing down at the clock on my computer I’m shocked to see it’s after ten.

I pull out my phone and see I’ve got a missed text from my friend Delilah.

Del: I’m at Lincoln’s until midnight

I grab my bag and make my way out of the building, waving to the late-shift staff at the front desk in the lobby. They all know me by first name and watch out for me when I let the time slip by.

As I walk, I respond to the other texts I missed during the day. I send one to thank my mom for sending me the name of the new restaurant that popped up near my apartment, and then I reply to my dad to say that yes, I promise to come home this weekend and see everyone. They like to nag, but I love it. We are all really close, but they know I’m addicted to my job.

I check the rest of my texts on the four-block walk to the bar off the alley. Lincoln’s is tucked away and quiet, but they’ve got a good liquor list and food until three in the morning. What more could a working woman need?

I’ve got on a black jacket and black slacks with black heels. This is the extent of my entire wardrobe, and it makes me blend into a place like this. When I walk in, I spot Delilah by the pool table and make my way over. We met during the intern program at Osbourne, but she ended up taking an offer at another firm after our year was up. I couldn’t blame her. They were willing to make her lead of her own team right away, and that’s what we were both after. It was an unspoken competition, and one I’m glad didn’t end our friendship.

Her straight dark hair is to her shoulders, and she’s got on the same kind of dark suit I have. She’s taken off her jacket, and I do the same, revealing my black tank top under it. I see two beers sitting on a table next to her, and I raise an eyebrow.

“Yours should still be cold. I asked the waitress to bring it about ten minutes ago,” she says, racking the balls again.

“Am I that predictable?”

“Nah, I’ve still got a tracker on your phone.”

I shake my head. “One time I go on vacation and you never let me turn it off after.”

“Hey, that’s what friends are for,” she retorts, grabbing the pool stick and breaking.

Finally looking around, I see it’s crowded for a Wednesday night. “Why’s this place hopping?”

“No idea. I was going to ask Jim, but he isn’t at the bar tonight,” Delilah says, drinking her beer.

We know most of the guys who work here, but there’s a new one behind the counter tonight. Lincoln’s is normally pretty chill, and it’s nice for winding down after work. I love clubs, and I love to dance. I don’t get to do it as much as I used to, now that I work so much, but crowds don’t bother me. Most weekdays, however, I stay away from clubs and stick to the dive bars.

We order food and play pool for an hour until Delilah wants to call it a night. The place is packed now, and I have to admit that my curiosity is piqued. Before I can find out why, Delilah pulls me out into the night and waves us down a cab.

By the time the cab drops me off and I make it into my apartment, I’ve pushed all thoughts of it aside. I barely have enough time to strip off my clothes before I’ve fallen face first into my bed.