falleyes

Somewhere Else pt. 5 - The Theater

Summary: All of the what ifs of Drake & Riley meeting somewhere else, in any other way.] 

Part 5 to Somewhere Else

Part 1Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4


“If we’d met somewhere else…anywhere else. At a club in New York or in an airport, or at a party…If you hadn’t been our waitress that night, and I hadn’t been sitting next to Liam…Do you think all of this…do you think it could’ve been different…between us?


Drake had been involved in many bad ideas.

There was the whole hiding-forever-in-the-palace-maze with Liam shebang. Then there was that plan to sail away on a boat and never come back, which had nearly ended with the prince dying on his watch. There were countless escapades with the Beaumont brothers and the prince, all of which he begrudgingly participated in and all of which resulted in nothing but trouble. And of course, he couldn’t forget the fact that the whole reason he came to New York in the first place was because of his own bad idea.

But out of all of that, this one was quite possibly his least favorite of all. And the most uncomfortable.

He knew he should have told Rylie to forget the whole Broadway thing. It was obviously a lot of trouble for her, and he still didn’t understand why she was willing to do this for him. But then she had slipped her small hand into his, led him towards the boutique across the way, and he’d forgotten what he’d wanted to say.

The moment they slipped through the doors, Drake was immediately swarmed with a sense of familiarity as he took in the store’s white and gold theme, crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and the fancy perfume that flooded his nose. It reminded him of the palace.

As Drake stood there, simultaneously hating how polished and glitzy everything looked and also feeling slightly homesick, Riley squeezed his hand and leaned up on her tiptoes to whisper in his ear. “Stay here and try not to break anything. I know someone who works here. I’m sure we can get a deal.”

Before he could protest and shamefully beg her not to leave him in this stuffy looking place, Rylie let go of his hand and walked over to speak to a woman who was busy folding clothes. Drake watched, hands in his pockets as he tried – and failed - to look casual, while Rylie and the employee exchanged a few words. The other woman nodded and disappeared into the backroom.

Smiling, Rylie turned to give him a thumbs up. He returned the gesture, a pained grin plastered on his face. After his initial surprise had worn off, Drake no longer felt homesick but rather out of place, which wasn’t an unfamiliar feeling that he missed back in Cordonia.

An excited squeal stole Rylie’s attention away and Drake looked up to see a tall woman in a black dress with platinum blonde hair that was pulled back into a tight pony tail excitedly fast walk towards Riley, high heels click-clacking across the glossy floor and her arms outstretched.

“Riley!” she exclaimed, enveloping the shorter girl in a hug. “It’s so good to see you! It’s been too long.”

“Yeah, well, when you work in high end places like this, I can’t blame you for not coming back to the bar,” Riley shrugged, pulling away. “You look happy here, though. Fashion. It’s your calling.”

“Oh, it’s wonderful, I love working here,” the blonde said, bouncing up and down on her toes. “But I definitely owe you one because if you hadn’t had my back when we were bussing tables together, I definitely would have lost that job and never would have been able to afford my rent anymore.”

“The tips were pretty great,” Riley chuckled.

“For you, they were. I hardly got anything. I was horrible, of course, but…” the woman shrugged, smiling. As she glanced around the room, her eyes landed on Drake, an eyebrow quirking up. “So, Ryles, who’s your friend over there?”

“Oh, right, I totally forgot to introduce you two!” Rylie looked over her shoulder and waved Drake over. When he came to stand by her, she placed her hand on his arm and gestured between them. “Drake, this is Maisie. Maisie this is Drake. He’s my uh…” she looked up at Drake questioningly and he pretended to be interested in a crystal vase on the table next to him. Rylie turned back to Maisie, brow furrowed. “…friend, I guess?”

Maisie nodded, looking slowly from Drake to Rylie as a small smile formed on her face. “Right…” she said, extending her hand to Drake. “Well, it’s nice to meet you Drake. Rylie and I go way back, like college years back. She and I used to work in the same diner. You have no idea how many times this girl saved my ass. I was the worst waitress ever.”

“Oh, you weren’t…” Riley trailed off, shaking her head with a laugh. “No. Yeah, I guess you were pretty bad.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Maisie rolled her eyes. “Rub it in. But hey, not that I’m not glad to see you, but is there anything I can do for you guys? Or did you just drop by to say hello?”

“Oh, right, right!” Riley said, snapping her fingers. “Well, there’s kind of something I was hoping you could help us with…”

Rylie’s hand slid from Drake’s arm and she gestured for Maisie to follow her a few feet away. Rylie spoke in hushed tones, eyes sparkling as her hands animatedly moved about. Drake couldn’t tell what she was saying, but her hands eventually ended up palm to palm, a pleading gesture.

Suddenly, Maisie’s eyes flicked to Drake and he quickly looked away to inspect the vase again. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see her turn back to Rylie, grinning and excitedly shaking her head.

“Thank you!” Rylie exclaimed, no longer keeping her voice down as she threw her arms around Maisie. “You’re really helping us out big time, I owe you one.”

Maisie shook her head. “It’s the least I could do after how much you’ve helped me. Now… what to do with this one?” As she spoke, she faced Drake, tapping her lip thoughtfully. She turned and plucked an expensive-looking shirt off the rack next to her.

Drake looked hesitantly at Rylie, who was grinning and giving him another thumbs up as if to say, Good luck! Have fun!

He was suddenly filled with dread. This did not fit his definition of fun.

“You do what you have to do with him,” Riley said, backing away as she pulled out her phone. “I have to make a few calls… You know, friends in high places, see if they can get us in. I’ll find something to wear when I’m done and then come find you, okay?”

Drake’s vocal cords were straining to shout, Nope! Not okay, I change my mind! Just get me out of this fancy place before I throw up.

“Mhm,” he grunted instead. “Wonderful.”

About twenty minutes later, Drake sat on a bench just outside the boutique. His legs – now clad in dark dress pants - were stretched out before him and crossed at the ankles as he grumbled and tugged at his tie to loosen it up.

“Stupid fancy clothes,” he muttered without much malice, smoothing out his new, white, button up shirt. A much as he hated the dress clothes – and he did, he wouldn’t even dress up for dances during the social season in Cordonia – he felt a little better about it all considering the circumstances. Leave it to Rylie to be the only one ever, besides maybe Savannah, to get him to dress up when he didn’t absolutely have to.

Drake let out a sigh as his eyes roamed around. He’d gotten a little more used to the zoo-like atmosphere of Times Square and it was even starting to grow a little on him. Everything about New York was.

Watching all of the people mill about and listening to the blend of different languages, Drake understood why Rylie loved it here so much. He hadn’t known her for long and he still didn’t know her that well, but she seemed to thrive here. So far, she’d handled everything with ease and she certainly had the connections to make things work. Drake had a feeling she’d fit in anywhere.

The thought of anywhere had Drake thinking about home. Rylie and home. When she’d found out where he was from, Rylie had been so fascinated by Cordonia. He’d been gruff about it first and pushed her away, but ever since he’d apologized and told her about his country, he couldn’t help but imagine her there. Rylie in Cordonia, without all of the harsh and colorful lights that made her look almost untouchable but also vibrant and alive. Whenever he thought of her in Cordonia, she was softer and smooth around the edges, just like she was when he told her about his life and when she held his hand.

Behind him, bells softly jingled and he heard a door open and close.

“There you are. Ready to go?”

Drake stood, turning to face Riley. “Yeah, let’s – “

He froze. Oh.

Rylie stood before him, dressed in a flowing white dress with a plunging neckline that could have been stolen straight from Marilyn Monroe’s closet and simple flats. Her hair, dry once again, had been left to casually fall over one shoulder in gentle, dark waves. Her lips were now colored in a bright red rather than their usual soft pink.

Suddenly, words didn’t seem like a thing Drake knew how to form anymore because now, Riley was standing in front of him and she was beautiful.

“Yes?” Riley said, raising an eyebrow. She gripped a small leather clutch tightly in both of her hands, her eyes steady on him.

“Cole, you, uh…” he scratched the back of his neck, forcing his lips to move. “You look…”

“Can’t even speak, can you? Is it really that bad?” Rylie teased, although a bashful smile was tugging at the corners of her lips.

“No!” Drake said quickly, shaking his head. “No, you look…You look beautiful, Rylie.”

Instantly, she felt her cheeks warm and her hands felt all tingly. For some reason she felt like grinning from ear to ear, but she managed to contain it. “Thank you, Drake. You look quite handsome yourself.”

He nodded and turned towards the theater, ready to walk because he didn’t trust himself to stand there any longer without making an idiot of himself. But before they started off, he felt her hand on the back of his shoulder and then her arm looped under his. He looked down at her, brows raised.

“We’ve got to look the part,” she told him.

“Right.” He nodded, swallowing thickly, and they continued on.

As they wove their way through crowds of people, Drake thought endlessly about her arm linked with his and her dress and her red lipstick.

He let his arm fall to the side, untangling with hers. But before she could move away or someone could squeeze between them, he took her hand.

He decided he quite liked the way they fit.


They didn’t enter through the front doors.

Instead, Rylie led him past the line of people waiting to get in and around to an unlabeled gray metal door on the side of the building. Drake quickly saw that no one else seemed to be around and he wondered vaguely what exactly Rylie’s plan was.

“VIP Entrance,” Rylie explained. “People who want to keep a low profile usually come through here and head up to the balconies.”

“And we’re supposed to just walk right in?”

“Of course not,” she rolled her eyes and gave the handle a twist to show him. “The door’s locked.”

“You got stuff to pick a lock in there or something, Cole?” he asked, nodding his head towards her leather clutch.

She smiled faintly. “I’ve got a little more class than that, Drake. Now, play along.”

With that, she unlaced their hands and looped her arm through his, straightening up and pushing her shoulders back, expression aloof.

Drake raised an eyebrow, taking her lead and straightening up as well, although he didn’t know what they were preparing for. “Wait, what are we – “

Before he could finish, Rylie rapped on the door furiously. She drummed her knuckles against the door insistently until it finally swung inwards, revealing a tall, broad-shouldered man whose frame filled the doorway. He wore a black button up and black dress pants, an earpiece dangling over the cuff of his ear. Security. A clipboard was in his hands and he looked down at Rylie coolly, mouth slowly opening to speak.

Finally,” she huffed before he could speak, shaking her head and placing her other hand on Drake’s arm. “Do you know how long we’ve been waiting here?”

The security guard looked surprised and slightly confounded. “How long…? I only just heard – “

“We’ve been out here for nearly half an hour!” Rylie cried out, rubbing her forehead as if distressed. She stepped away from Drake and began to pace, her hands wringing her hair worriedly. “I was told we could come around back to avoid the crowd – I’m very claustrophobic - and our friends are already inside without us because traffic was such a nightmare so we didn’t have time to eat dinner beforehand and…”

Drake’s eyes flicked to the guard who looked just as confused as Drake felt, which he guessed meant whatever Rylie was trying to do, worked.

“…And on the way here,” she continued, winded,  “there was this awful man who hassled us and I just wanted tonight to be special for our anniversary and so far it’s been nothing but a disaster – we haven’t even eaten all day and I…” Riley trailed off, out of breath and her eyes, unfocused. She shook her head and swayed slightly on her feet. “And I – I think I’m about to…”

Suddenly, Rylie’s eyes fluttered and she fell forward.

“Hey!” Drake cried out, lunging forward just in time to catch her before she hit the ground.

What kind of plan is this? Drake shouted in his head, which lead him to wonder if this really was still part of the plan. What if he hadn’t been ready to catch her?

Not sure what to do, Drake did his best to continue on although his concern was genuine as his eyes darted from Rylie’s unconscious face, serene and unaware, to the guard, who looked positively bewildered. “Don’t just stand there! Do something!”

Wordlessly, the man opened and closed his mouth before backing away to hold the door open for the two. Drake quickly scooped Rylie up and rushed through the door. He looked at the guard questioningly.

“Uh, go down that hall and to the left,” he said, using his hand to gesture down a hallway. “There’s a couch you can, uh… There’s a couch.”

“Thanks,” Drake muttered under his breath and took off down the hall. As he walked, he noticed how limp and unresponsive Rylie felt in his arms. She still had yet to show any signs that this was what she intended to happen and he was actually beginning to worry.

Eventually, Drake ended up in a well-furbished room that looked as if it had been taken straight out of a 1930’s Hollywood hotel. There was a crystal chandelier, much older and more elaborate than the one in the boutique, and cream colored wallpaper with golden designs covered the walls. He moved across the plush maroon carpet and gently set Rylie down on a velvet fainting couch, ignoring the surprised looks he got from the few people who milled about, chatting.

He knelt beside her, hand cupping her cheek. “Christ, Cole…”

Her lip quirked up and Rylie opened one eye slightly to look at him. “So it worked?”

“Did what – “Drake stopped midsentence, his mouth falling open as the realization dawned on him. “So that really was your plan? Riley, what the hell - ”

“Shh!” she said quickly, trying not to smile as she slowly sat up and placed her hand on her head. She looked disoriented and Drake shook his head, knowing now for sure that it was all for show. “What happened?”

Subtly, she gestured for him to lean in and her eyes signaled for him to stay in character.

“You… You fainted,” he said begrudgingly, sitting back on his heels as he shook his head slightly. He couldn’t believe he had actually begun to fall for it.

Rylie nodded slowly, her eyes travelling around the room. They flashed in recognition and she pushed herself up into a sitting position. Drake turned and backed away as a short, nicely dressed man hurried towards them. He had pale skin, dark hair that was styled back with gel, and blue eyes that flicked around as he knelt beside Rylie and handed her a glass of water.

“Fainting, huh?” the man whispered, smiling slightly as Rylie took the glass and drank. Watching them, Drake realized with a start that this guy was in on the plan too.

“Worked, didn’t it?” she said over the rim.

“Amazingly, yes,” he chuckled, reaching into his suit pocket and discreetly producing two ticket stubs. He slipped them into her hand. “Here, these are for you. The best I could do last minute.”

Rylie grinned, lowering the glass and handing it back to him before kissing his cheek. “I owe you one, Daniel.”

“Yeah, you do,” Daniel nodded, standing. He glanced around the room as if to make sure no one was watching. “Enjoy your show, Ryles.”

Rylie nodded and swung her legs off of the couch as Daniel walked away. She looked down at the tickets and smiled faintly.

“Another friend?” Drake sat next to her, his hands in his lap as he looked at her in wonder. What she just did… He couldn’t believe the stunt she just pulled – or the fact that it actually worked. She had guts and she was definitely daring. He couldn’t help but be impressed, yet again.

“Yeah,” Rylie nodded, eyes flitting up to meet his. “What’s that look for?”

Drake looked away quickly, and shook his head. “Nothing. I just… I can’t believe that actually worked. You actually had me going for a moment, there, Cole. I was worried it was all real.”

Rylie giggled. “It’s nice to know you care, Drake. But you have to admit, it was a brilliant plan.”

“Sure, sure it was,” Drake rolled his eyes and ran a hand though his hair before tugging at his tie. “Just… warn me next time you take a dive like that. I might not be able to catch you next time.”

She smirked, nudging his arm with her elbow. “Oh, Drake. You know I like to keep you on your toes.”

Drake clucked his tongue and shook his head. He let out a long sigh and glanced sideways at her. “What am I going to do with you, Cole?”

“Well,” Rylie stood, holding her hand out to him. “For starters, you can follow me to our seats and thank me by buying me a drink later? I think I deserve it, after all. Don’t you think?”

Drake scoffed, taking her hand and letting her lead the way. “Sure thing, Cole. I know I sure as hell could use one.”


The play was great, Drake was sure of it.

Sitting in the theater had dredged up some nostalgic feelings of home that were nice to entertain for a while, but he couldn’t pay attention for the life of him. Not with Rylie sitting next to him.

He couldn’t help but glance her way every so often. Even in the dim lighting, he thought Rylie looked incredible. Stunning, even. But as he watched her, he realized that his interest went beyond how nicely her hair fell, or the gentle slope of her nose, or even how red her lips were.

Forget what he’d thought earlier about Rylie not being particularly striking or comparable to the ladies of the court. He was wrong. He realized that as he found himself caught up in the way she tucked her hair behind her ear, how her lips mouthed the words to the songs, how her eyes sparkled during some of the more powerful acts.

That was beautiful.

“Didn’t anyone teach you that it’s rude to stare?” Rylie whispered out of the corner of her mouth without looking at him.

Her words reminded him of the first ones she’d ever spoken to him. He smiled slightly, not even bothered by the fact she’d caught him staring. “Didn’t anyone ever teach you?

Her lips curved upwards. “I don’t think I’m the one staring.”

“Touché,” Drake said quietly. He looked at her thoughtfully for a few more seconds. He couldn’t believe that it was possible that they’d started their day together at odds, snapping at each other every chance they got. And even after they’d called a truce, they still argued and bickered over almost everything they’d disagreed on. She never let him get away with anything, yet she’d gotten him out here and showed him a good time even though that shouldn’t have been possible.

She was like a weak link in the defenses he’d set up around him, a chink in his armor, a storm that he never saw coming. She’d snuck up on him when he was least expecting it, made herself a place within those walls he’d built, and he didn’t know how to get her out.

But as far as weaknesses went, well… She wasn’t the worst.

Drake forced himself to look away, fixing his eyes on the performers on stage.


During the show’s intermission, the two found themselves in some corner in the back of the theater’s lobby, away from the main crowd of people who were swarming the concession stand and mingling with others.

“Are you enjoying the show?” Drake asked as they leaned against the wall.

“Definitely,” Riley nodded, looking up at him. “Are you?”

“Yeah.” He turned towards her, his shoulder pressing into the wall. “Thanks, Cole. For… all of this. I know I’m a pain in the ass half the time, but this… it means a lot to me. That someone would do as much as you have for me tonight.”

“So you don’t regret coming to New York, now?”

Drake let a few moments pass before responding. Sure, circumstances weren’t ideal and the whole thing was a giant mess. But considering everything, his trip could have gone much worse. He could think of very few things that would make it perfect. “No,” he shook his head. “It’s a mess. But it’s worth it.”

Rylie nodded as she looked down at her dress, fiddling with the hem of it. A comfortable silence lapsed between the both of them as they enjoyed the quiet they had found together amidst the crowd.

After a while, Rylie pushed off the wall and stood up straight, grabbing his hand to hold their arms out between them. She shifted her grip so their knuckles pressed into each other’s palms, thumbs resting on top. “Drake. Hey, Drake.”

“Cole,” he mimicked her, raising his voice a few octaves just to bug her. “Hey, Cole.”

“You’re so annoying, I swear,” Rylie rolled her eyes and tugged on his arm. “Thumb war. Come on, let’s go.”

“You want to have a thumb war?” Drake raised an eyebrow, pushing off against the wall.

“Yeah,” she shrugged, wagging her thumb from side to side. “Unless you’re scared I’m going to beat you.”

Drake scoffed. “Right. Believe what you want, Cole. Let’s go, I can take you any day.”

“Uh huh, less talk more do,” Rylie challenged with a grin. Never once did it occur to her how odd it might look to others that two, nicely dressed and grown adults were competitively having a thumb war in the corner of a theater lobby.

“You’re on, Cole.”

Without waiting, Riley started nudging his thumb with hers, trying to trap it down. They went on like this, laughing and yelping every now and then, not caring a single bit who was watching. After neither could get the best of the other, Rylie gave in to impatience and reached up with her other hand and pushed his thumb down to cover it with hers.

“Hey!”

“I think I win,” Rylie chuckled as she took in his extremely offended expression.

“Like hell, you cheater,” Drake scowled, dropping her hand in mock disgust.

They bantered back and forth for a while, Drake bringing in morals and accusing her of breaking made-up Cordonian laws about cheating in thumb wrestling, Rylie giggling and telling him she didn’t care because this wasn’t Cordonia and there weren’t laws here in the United States against “using one’s resources” to win. He told her that was unfair, she laughed harder.

He liked it. He liked it when she laughed. They way her skin crinkled near the corner of her eyes and her cheeks became full to accommodate her large and uncontrollable smile. He liked her laugh lines and the way her nose scrunched up.

“Cole, you’re so…” he peered at her, wonder in his eyes. “What is it about you? You’re so frustrating, but…”

Rylie raised an eyebrow, her lip quirking up as if to egg him on. “But?”

Drake was silent for a few moments before he shook his head. “But… nothing. You’re just frustrating. That’s all.”

“No, I don’t think so, Drake. You were going to say something else.” Riley grinned, shoving his shoulder. Suddenly, her face lit up and her mouth dropped open. “Wait, were you going to compliment me?”

He scoffed. “Me, compliment you? Dream on, Cole. Not in a million years.”

“You’re a bad liar, you know that?” she smirked, folding her arms.

“Am not! And I’m not lying. You’ll never find a guy more truthful than myself.”

“Yeah, right,” Rylie rolled her eyes. “I’ll believe that when pigs fly. I think you, Drake,” she poked his chest, “were just about to say something nice to me.”

“I would never…” He tucked his chin into his neck indignantly as his hand covered hers on his chest.

“Oh, I think you would,” Rylie grinned, slowly drawing closer. “Admit it. I’m growing on you, Drake.”

As she leaned up on her tiptoes so that their faces were inches apart, she became hyper aware of the fact that her hand was flat against his chest and trapped beneath his own. Drake’s expression faltered as he felt her breath on his cheeks, she was that close. The air between them suddenly grew tense, like someone had sucked the air out of the room.

Without meaning to, Drake began to study her face up close. Every detail of her face was now bared to him and his eyes rushed to take it all in, commit it to memory. Her big brown eyes, the faint and few pigmented freckles that had formed from the sun, her gentle but prominent Cupid’s bow. Suddenly, he felt as if they were back in the fountain, drenched and bodies pressed closely together. Not even thinking, he reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear and left his hand on her cheek.

“Maybe so,” he murmured. The thought was laughable, that some stranger from America could possibly grow on him the way Riley did when no one else could even make a mark. But as he gazed at her now, he realized that there was nothing funny about this and the way he suddenly felt about her.

“Knew it,” Rylie breathed out, her face heating as she flourished under his gaze, those dark eyes locking her in place and stealing her breath away. Her other hand came up to press against his chest, feeling his warmth through the fabric of his shirt.

This was strange, so unbelievably strange. A begrudgingly formed friendship between two people from very different worlds so suddenly flipped as they stood, pressed together in the back of a theater lobby.

His eyes fell to her lips.

He wanted to kiss her.

God, he wanted to kiss her.

Her voice was low and gravelly when she spoke. “Drake…”

At the sound of her voice, he looked up again and met her eyes. Instantly, he was sobered, blinking to shake off the wild thoughts that had ran rampant in his mind. He couldn’t…

Drake stepped back, letting his hands fall to his side.

Kissing Rylie suddenly felt impossible, like a bridge he wasn’t meant to cross. No matter what he was feeling, it didn’t matter. While he might go as far as to call Rylie a friend, she was still the stranger he’d met earlier in the day and nothing could change that, not in the time they were allowed. She didn’t have a place in his world, and he didn’t have one in hers. He was only here until morning, and by tomorrow night, he’d be back in Cordonia while Rylie remained in New York. By morning, they’d say their goodbyes, head in separate ways, and life would go back to normal. Nothing could change that, so there was no use to getting attached now.

It was a bad idea from the start, he should have never let things get this far. He should have never let her in.

“We can’t,” he said softly, looking away so he didn’t have to see her expression. He didn’t have to see her face to know that she was just a disappointed as he was, but he knew that looking would only weaken his resolve.

Before Riley could question him further, the crowd around them started shifting and pushed back towards the doors that lead back to the show. Intermission was over.

“Looks like we better head back,” Drake said, tucking his hands into his pockets as he fell in step with everyone else.

Rylie looked after him, her fingertips absently touching the spot on her cheek where his hand had been seconds before.

What the hell was that?

Shaking her head, Rylie shoved those thoughts, those feelings, down and followed him.


(tagging @thedrakeside )

also pixelberry wtf was that last chapter I’m?? upset??

edit: i just realized i switched the spelling of Riley to Rylie i’m so MAD
Somewhere Else pt.9 - Epilogue

[Summary: All of the what ifs of Drake & Riley meeting somewhere else, in any other way.]


Part 9 to Somewhere Else

Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4,  Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8


“If we’d met somewhere else…anywhere else. At a club in New York or in an airport, or at a party…If you hadn’t been our waitress that night, and I hadn’t been sitting next to Liam…Do you think all of this…do you think it could’ve been different…between us?


“Just another glamorous New York Saturday night of hauling trash to the dumpster…” Riley huffed, blowing a strand of hair out of her face as she heaved the black trash bag into the dumpster and dusted her hands off.

“It could be worse,” Daniel said, wrinkling his nose at the stench. “There could be – Rats! Riley, help!”

Riley looked down at the mice her old co-worker/friend/new co-worker (once again) was shrieking over with a raised eyebrow and amused smile. “Don’t tell me you’re afraid of this adorable little mouse family,” she said, squatting down to get a closer look. “They’re trying to get by, just like us.”

“Hey! Riley, Daniel, quit slacking off over there!”

The two turned just in time to see their manager poke his head through the back door of the restaurant they started working at a little over a month ago. The bar Riley had closed down but her old boss had been able to put in a good word for Riley at her new workplace, and Riley - being the smooth-talker she was – managed to put a good word in for her friend Daniel, who had just lost his job working at the Broadway Theater.

Riley scowled. “You told us to take out the garbage.”

“And now I’m telling you to wait on the bachelor party that just rolled in. Chop chop!” the manager snapped, clapping his hands to further his point. Before Riley could retort, he slipped back inside the building and the heavy metal door fell shut behind him.

“No, not a bachelor party!” Daniel groaned, falling back against wall. “Riley, you know I have that date tonight!”

“Oh, no,” Riley shook her head. “Nuh-uh. You are not going to make me take on a bachelor party all by myself.”

“Please,” Daniel pleaded, putting his palms together. “I’ve got a date tonight, and I’ll never make it out of here in time! Besides, you owe me! Remember the night I snuck you and your friend into the theater? What was his name again?”

Riley glanced down, digging the toe of her shoe into the ground. “Drake.”

“Right, Drake,” he nodded. “What ever happened with him?”

Riley shrugged, and looked away, her eyes roamed down the alleyway, up the red brick building beyond, and to the starless sky above. She knew they didn’t have time to linger outside, but her mind had already wandered far away at the very mention of that familiar name…



“Riley?” Drake turned, blinking at her in disbelief. Over the top of her head, he could see the last car of the train they’d been on – the train she was supposed to still be on - disappear from the subway station.

“Don’t go,” she told him, shaking her head and clutching tightly to his hand with both of hers.

“Riley …” he repeated, but this time her name felt heavy on his lips. The skin around his eyes tightened and a crease formed between his brows as he opened his mouth to say more, already beginning to shake his head.

“I know. I know you can’t, but I’m just…” Riley shook her head and squeezed her eyes shut, forcing down her pride. She felt ridiculous, begging him to stay when she knew from the start what she was getting herself into. “I’m know you can’t but I’m asking you to anyway because the truth is, I’m not ready to say goodbye.”

He let out a mirthless laugh, his eyes showing an emotion on the exact opposite end of the spectrum as joy. He cupped her cheek with his other hand, thumb brushing over her skin with tenderness he himself didn’t know he could even possess for another person. “I thought we weren’t going to say goodbyes, Cole.”

“But that’s what it is, isn’t it?” Riley questioned, bitterness tainting her voice. She gritted her teeth and jutted her chin in the direction he had to go. “You’ll leave and get on that airplane and I’ll never see you again. If that’s not a situation that means goodbye, then I don’t know that is.”

He had nothing to say to that. Drake had never been one to lie just to save someone else’s feelings. Once he left, whatever this was between them…it would cease to exist. Distance made certain of that. He’d made that very point multiple times throughout the night, but for once, he had no satisfaction from being right.

“This is why you didn’t want to do this,” Riley muttered, her eyes falling to the floor. Drake felt her grip on his hand loosen in defeat, but her words rang out with the opposite effect for him.

Before she could let go, Drake pulled her closer and tilted her head up so her eyes met his again. When he spoke, his voice had a new sense of urgency that demanded her attention. “Do you regret it?”

Surprise briefly flickered across her face at his sudden shift in demeanor. In the back of his head, he felt a little gratification for being able to surprise her for a change. Drake watched as the shock transformed into a sort of stubborn determination only Riley could ever have. He recognized it in the steely look in her eyes and the firm set of her jaw.

“No,” she said, a-matter-of-factly. “Of course not.”

“Good,” Drake nodded, slipping his hand from hers to tangle his fingers in her hair as it fell over her shoulder. “Neither do I.”

Riley studied his the solemnness of his face and the careful but fierce way he looked at her. When he looked at her like that, when he allowed himself a genuine smile despite himself, or when he held her close like this… it made her feel wanted. It made her own heart fill with longing. As she looked at Drake, her chest tightened with the realization that no one had ever given her a feeling like that before. Despite herself, she worried that no one else might ever do that in the same way again.

“You still have to go, don’t you?” she whispered, her hands balling themselves into the front of his shirt to bring him even closer. Drake rested his forehead against hers and nodded.

“Riley…” he began. The beginning of a goodbye.

“I know,” she said, swallowing the lump in her throat as she released her hands from the wrinkled fabric of his shirt, only to throw her arms around his neck. Riley clung to him tightly, hiding her face in the crook of his neck. Drake’s arms constricted around her, holding Riley with the same desperation she held onto him.

All of his life, Drake put up walls and precautions that would protect him from such intense emotions—emotions that could make him weak. Weakness and vulnerability was dangerous in the court and back home. He wouldn’t dare show anything of the sort. But now, in a crowded subway station all the way in New York, he left himself open. Open to this spitfire of an American woman and the heartbreak he knew she’d bring him. She’d stripped him of his armor and now he was vulnerable.

But somehow, he was okay with that.

Even in their tight embrace, they managed to separate just enough for their eyes to meet and their noses to brush before they collided again.

In that moment, Drake fully understood the meaning of bittersweet. He hated their circumstances, and the cards they’d been dealt. He hated that he’d come so close to finding happiness for himself, he might even admit that he really did find it, only to have to give it up for his unyielding devotion and loyalty to another who needed his support.

But this moment… he wouldn’t trade it for the world. Even if it was a goodbye, he had the most incredible woman in his arms and he’d found heaven in her kiss. As her lips tenderly moved with his and his heart hammered away in his chest, he decided that he had never found anything sweeter.

Shakespeare had it right, he thought. Parting is such sweet sorrow.        

When their inevitable disunion came, a sudden thought bloomed in Riley’s mind that she’d forgotten all about once Drake found her on the subway.

“Wait,” she told him, one arm still around his neck as she rifled through her purse for what she needed. Once she found it, she took his hand and pressed it into his palm. “It’s ridiculous, but…”

Drake looked up at her, as she slowly slipped her hand from his and left only the item behind. She was giving him something? He had nothing to offer in return and the realization filled him with shame, but before he could express this to her, she shook her head – as if she knew what he was thinking – and stepped back.

“It’s hardly anything,” Riley shrugged and he opened his hand.

It was the napkin. Wrinkled, coffee stained, and still smudged with ink it read: Kismet. 8 PM.

Drake laughed, caught off guard by the sentiment of such a simple thing. “You shouldn’t have.”

“Yeah, well,” Riley grinned, tucking her hair behind her ear. “What can I say? I’m a generous soul.”

Drake couldn’t help but smile down at the napkin and began to turn it over, but Riley’s smaller hands stopped him. He looked up at her questioningly.

“I…” she began, eyes falling to the napkin. “I wrote something on it. Before you found me on the subway. Just…wait until you get on the plane to read it, okay?”

Drake looked down at the napkin with a newfound importance and he desperately yearned to know what words Riley had left behind for him. But he’d wait if she wanted him to. He wished he could do more for her.

“Alright,” he nodded, carefully folding it up and tucking it safely in his pocket.

“Alright,” Riley repeated softly.

A loaded silence filled the space between them. Time had long since been up and they couldn’t ignore the ever-looming Goodbye.

“Riley …” Drake began, running his hand through his hair. “These last fifteen hours or whatever…They’ve been some of the happiest in my life. Everything you’ve done… I can’t believe you did all of that and I can’t believe that I was lucky enough to have found you.”

“Maybe it wasn’t luck,” she mused, somewhat teasing but also half believing. From the very start, Riley had a feeling that she’d known Drake from somewhere, maybe even from another life. And if that were true - that they’d known each other in a different life- why shouldn’t they be brought together again in this one? “Maybe it’s fate.”

Drake chuckled and for a second, Riley thought he might brush her off because fairy tales are for kids. But instead, he only nodded and looked at her in such a way that it made her heart pound so strongly, she thought it might beat out of her chest. He was looking at her as if he’d been searching for something all his life and now, he’d finally found it in her. It simultaneously filled her with unmatched joy and unfathomable sorrow.

“Maybe,” he agreed.

“Drake…” Riley said softly, unspoken words on her lips.

“I know.”

It was time.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at a glass of whiskey the same after all this,” she teased, but her joke fell flat as her voice grew hoarse.

“Yeah, well, now I won’t be able to eat any of that fancy finger food without craving cronuts or Sloppy Joes,” Drake give her a small smile. “I’m a changed man, Cole.”

She returned his smile with one of her own. “I’m sure you’ll manage.”

“I know you will.”

Another silence fell between them, a clear sign of their reluctance to separate.

Drake closed the gap between them, pressing his lips to Riley’s forehead. A small sign of affection that somehow meant the world. He murmured against her skin. “If things were different…”

Squeezing her eyes shut and willing the tears that had begun to burn behind her eyes back, Riley wrapped her arms around his waist and rest her head against his chest. As his arms gently enveloped her, she nodded. “If things were different.”

They stayed like this for a few moments longer – a few moments they could not afford – until Drake pulled away.

“Goodbye, Riley,” he told her, voice soft as he began to back away.

Riley took a deep breath and forced herself to stay rooted to where she stood. “Goodbye, Drake.”



“Uhh, Riley? Earth to Riley?”

“Huh, what?” Riley shook her head, blinking to snap out of her reverie. Daniel was staring at her, concern etched onto his features as his other hand rest on the door handle.

“I asked whatever happened to that guy one guy. Drake,” he said, opening the door to let her through first. “You kind of zoned out on me there.”

“Oh… right,” Riley cleared her throat as she re-entered the bar. “Yeah, um, well he went back home. I haven’t seen him since.”

“Shame. You looked happy that night.” Daniel shrugged, patting Riley’s shoulder. Riley almost scoffed. If only he knew. “Anyways, I have to head out soon. Will you please take the bachelor party?

“Ugh, fine. Fine,” Riley relented, putting her palm against her forehead. A bachelor party. Just great. She had a feeling it was going to be a long night. “The tip better be good.”

“Oh, thank you!” he cheered. “You’re the best!”

“Are you two still talking?” the manager snapped, glaring daggers. “I’ve seated them already. Now get over there before I dock your pay!”

“Right, sorry,” Riley muttered, wheeling about to head in the opposite direction. She glanced at Daniel over her shoulder and mouthed, Go, I’ve got this.

“Waitress, there you are!”

Resisting the urge to roll her eyes, Riley made her way towards a booth seating three men, all finely dressed. The one in the tailored suit, who called her over was fussing over a loose string on one of the buttons of his coat while the brunette next to him grinned ear to ear and waved to her. Riley chuckled and returned the gesture as her eyes fell on the third, undeniably handsome man with a kind smile and an almost regal air about him. They didn’t look like too much trouble.

“Hello, gentlemen,” Riley greeted them, pulling a notepad and pencil from her apron pocket. “I’ll be taking care of you this evening.”

The beaming brunette called for steaks for the table and the man in the suit ordered a medium-rare fillet mignon with béarnaise sauce. Riley had to bite her lip to stifle her laughter. Steaks and fillet mignon at a bar like this? Clearly, these men weren’t from around here. Their accents – wait, their accents…

A sudden tingling feeling formed in her hands as hope bubbled up inside her chest. Could it be? Were these men Cordonian?

“Um,” Riley cleared her throat, forcing herself to abandon such ridiculous thoughts. There was no way… “The closest thing we have to filet mignon is the deluxe burger.”

“Four deluxe burgers it is,” the quieter, princely man declared with a cordial smile.

Riley raised an eyebrow. “Four…?”

The suit’s face fell. “Dare I ask for your wine list?”

“Tariq, you don’t drink wine at a bachelor party,” a voice behind Riley suddenly spoke up and she felt her heart stop. That voice… “We’ll be fine with a bottle of whiskey.”

She’d know that voice anywhere. And the whiskey…

The fourth man stepped around Riley and slid into the booth, a familiar image with dark hair, a white T-shirt, and a denim button up. Without glancing up, he pulled his phone from his pocket and set it face down on the table, as if he needed it within reach to distract himself from the other men of his party.

Riley could hardly breathe. “Whiskey, huh?”

At the sound of her voice, Drake looked up.


Explaining how they met to the others – sparing quite a few details – Drake and Riley realized just how unrealistic the whole thing really seemed. A fairytale, a twist of fate – however it was that Riley put it… well, it seemed pretty fitting. But despite how improbable their story was, the other men of the bachelor party found it absolutely delightful and praised Riley for rousing more smiles out of Drake in one night than he usually allowed in an entire month. In fact, the others loved the story – and Riley – so much, they insisted that she come along with them to a club called Kismet.

“It was Drake’s idea,” Maxwell Beaumont, the same one Drake had told her about months ago, revealed. “He was the only one of us who knew anything about the city. Now we know why.”

Riley snorted, sneaking a bashful glance at Drake. “Kismet? You suggested Kismet?”

They had yet to talk privately and Riley had so many things to say, but she still didn’t know if she could bring herself to say them. It had been months since they’d parted, after all.

“Heh.” He shrugged, the corner of his mouth quirking up as he swirled his whiskey around. “Sentimental value.”

Riley felt her cheeks heat.

“Well,” she said, turning away from him. “Forget Kismet. There’s this gorgeous little cove by a beach just outside the city that we could go to instead. It’s my special spot, but I suppose I could make an exception.”

Drake stilled. The cove. The beach, the subway – everything after the bar, they’d left out. It was an unspoken agreement between them.

“Cole…”

“A beach?” Liam – Prince Liam, as Riley already knew him to be even though he had yet to tell her – questioned. Based on what Drake had told her of him months ago and what she’d gotten to know about him since they’d officially met, Riley had taken a liking to Liam. She understood why Drake was so devoted to him. “That actually sounds perfect. Lead the way!”

“Sure! Let me finish up here and I’ll meet you out front,” Riley told them as she adjusted her apron and then turned to check on the other tables.

She felt the weight of Drake’s stare as she went.


“So those are your nobles,” Riley smiled slightly as she came up behind Drake and joined him where he sat on the cliff side, overlooking the dark ocean. The other men were busy frolicking in the waves – even Tariq with his expensive suit – and although he joined them for a short while, Drake eventually slipped away to get some peace of mind. Riley followed.

“They can be a bit of a handful,” Drake said, glancing over at her with an apologetic smile. “Thanks for taking us all out.”

“Oh, they’re not so bad,” she shrugged, letting her feet dangle over the edge as she gazed out at the horizon. The stars weren’t as visible as the night they visited together months ago, but it was still breathtaking. “So the bachelor party…it’s for Liam, isn’t it? How’s he taking it all?”

“Well, Liam is Liam. So naturally, he’s taking it very well. Still a horrible situation, but…” he sighed, running his hands through his hair. “I want him to get some happiness out of it.”

“From what you’ve told me, he definitely deserves it,” Riley agreed, her fingers playing with the ends of her hair as she spoke. “Shame he’s getting married though. He’s so handsome.”

Without looking, Riley could see the incredulous look on Drake’s face.

She looked over at him, a sly smile on her face. “Kidding. Can you really imagine me with a prince?”

“Ha ha.” Drake rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Imagine that. You as a suitor. Cordonian nobles wouldn’t know what hit ‘em.”

“Maybe you should pull some string and get me in the running,” she teased, nudging his shoulder.

“Like hell, Cole,” he scoffed. “My goal is to keep you as far from that crowd as possible.”

“Ah, and bringing me out to party with them is just the way to do it,” Riley grinned nodded towards the cove where the others could still be heard whooping and hollering.

“Maybe I’m not doing the best job,” Drake admitted, looking over at Riley with a faint smile. A few moments passed before he cleared his throat, eyes clouded, and looked at the horizon again.“Look, Cole…”

“Yeah?” Riley felt her lungs restrict at the shift in his tone. This was it, after all these months, they could finally talk.

Drake took a deep breath and opened his mouth to speak before hesitating. He swallowed a lump in his throat and glanced down at his hands clasped in his lap. For a second, Riley thought about taking on of them in her own.

“Remember when we came here?” he asked finally.

“Of course,” Riley nodded, somewhat disappointed by his flat question.

“And the bonfire?”

“Uh-huh.”

“The stars?”

“All of it, Drake,” Riley said firmly, stopping him from asking any more detail-based questions.

“And everything I said.” Drake finished. It wasn’t a question. He was looking at her again, face solemn and eyes unreadable.

“If things were different…” Riley whispered, trailing off as if going any further would be overstepping the boundary between what they were and what they are now – whatever that was.

“You said…“ Drake’s brows drew together and his eyes grew conflicted. “You said if things were different, then maybe things between us – “

“I meant it,” Riley cut him off. “If we had more time…”

He looked away, fingers tangling the long, thin blades of grass that tapered off at the edge. Months ago, Drake had once told her he didn’t believe fairytales. But after everything…maybe he’d been beginning to hope. “Cole…?”

She looked at him questioningly, leaning in to see his face better. “What if this is our different?”

Riley’s eyes widened and she sucked in a breath. “Drake… you mean…?”

“Hell, I don’t know, Cole,” he muttered, shaking his head as if that would help clear it. “How is it possible that we met like this again? When we walked into that bar, I never would have guessed you’d be there.” He sighed, mumbling under his breath, “You have no idea how glad I am that you were…”

“What are you trying to say?” Riley asked after a weighted silence had stretched on between them, moving closer and taking his hand.

“It’s been months, Cole. I haven’t stopped thinking about you and that night since. I’m pretty sure Liam’s sick of hearing me talk about it, too,” he admitted in a rush, as if speaking any slower would make him lose his courage. Sharing feelings was never easy for Drake to do, but the moment he saw Riley tonight, he resolved that if he only had tonight with her, he wouldn’t waste it to be careful. “I just have to know if you still feel the same.”

She stared at him, heart hammering in her chest as she tried to process everything he just said. He thought about her? All this time? Which meant he still felt the same?

Not trusting herself to form a coherent sentence, Riley just shook her head and surged forward and fit her lips against his. She felt him seize up for a split second before coming to life, just as he did the first time they kissed. He cradled her against him, moving them first away from the cliff’s edge and then pulling her into his lap.

Neither of them knew how long they stayed like that, sitting and – after a while – laying in each other’s embrace, but eventually, Riley broke away. Breathless and beaming, she pulled back just enough to meet his eyes. “Does that answer your question?”

“I think so,” Drake grinned, cupping Riley’s cheek. His hair was mussed up – all thanks to Riley’s doing – his cheeks were rosy with blush, and his eyes were alight with joy, Riley wasn’t sure she’d ever seen him so happy. “But I wouldn’t mind if you’d say it out loud.”

Riley giggled, reaching up to smooth some hair off of his forehead. “I still feel the same.”

“You still feel the same,” Drake repeated, as making sure it was still true.

“Yes, I still feel the same,” she nodded, kissing the corner of his mouth – right where the hint of a smile would form first whenever she could coax it out of him.

“I didn’t think this would ever be more than a fantasy,” he murmured, resting his forehead against hers.

“Are you saying that you’ve thought about this before?” Riley teased.

“More than I’d like to admit,” Drake breathed out before capturing her lips again in a long, deep kiss. “But what are we going to do about this?”

Riley shrugged, not quite ready to face the heavy reality of their situation. Now, she was ridiculously happy, in a state of euphoria, and she didn’t want this moment to end. “We can figure that out tomorrow morning.”

Drake’s heart sputtered to a stop in his chest, cheeks flushing. “Cole…”

Riley responded with a sweet kiss on his cheek, smiling against his skin. “I’m happy you’re back, Drake.”

He tightened his arms around her waist, burying his face in the crook of her neck. “Things will be different this time, Riley.”

I promise.            



One Year Later

The sheer curtains billow lazily in the early morning breeze, the first hints of daylight just beginning to filter into the room. Drake watches with sleepy eyes and a yawn on his lips as the sunlight creeps its way across the room and onto the bed before falling gently on the sleeping woman next to him. He reaches out, tenderly trailing his fingertips over her skin as it softly glows golden before pressing his lips to the small freckles on her bare shoulder.

Riley’s eyelids flutter slightly, but she still doesn’t wake. Drake doesn’t mind it at all. He enjoys moments like these, when he wakes before her and gets to see what the rest of the world doesn’t. There had once been a period in which Drake often wondered what it’d be like to wake up with Riley next to him, to hold her hand when he wanted to, to have more than a handful of hours with her. And now, all of that is his reality.

He wouldn’t trade it for the world.

After reuniting in New York during Liam’s bachelor party, Drake had made an effort to visit Riley more (Liam was more than willing to help with travel expenses) and she’d even visited Cordonia once. But once was all it took for her to fall in love with the small country. Drake had taken her around to all of his favorite places, showed her around the palace, and together, they mocked and observed the nobles at dinner when no one else was watching. Her single visit to Cordonia – and a little bit of convincing from Drake – had been enough to make up Riley’s mind about moving not even a month later.

Now it had been about three months since Riley had moved in with Drake, and the last three months were easily some of the happiest of his entire life. Sure, the nobles talked, but Riley quickly proved herself more than capable of holding her own and Drake, Liam, and even Maxwell were there to have her back.

After Savannah had left, Cordonia felt as if it were simply a place in which he had to live in. He had no attachment to country, save for a few exceptional people. But now that Riley was here with him, Cordonia was actually starting to feel like home again.

Three small words fall from his lips as he leans down to sweep her hair off her shoulder and place another kiss in the crook of his neck before slipping out of the covers, dressing somewhat decently, and leaving the room. He returns from the palace kitchen a few minutes later, coffee for him in one hand and tea in the other, hot and with a spoonful of honey, just the way Riley likes it.

He’s learned a lot about her in the few months they’ve lived together.

She’s a side sleeper and always seems to take to the left side of the bed when she passes out as he showers, but shares the middle with him when he takes her into his arms.

She doesn’t flail around in her sleep, but tosses her legs over his thigh and curls into his side with her head on his chest, one hand tucked beneath her chin while the other rests over his. He usually likes to hold her in the night, but when the nightmares are bad and Savannah’s name slips from his lips, he always finds solace in her arms.

She prefers pancakes over waffles and likes a mountain of whipped cream and strawberries to accompany them.

She holds his hand under the table to ground him at dinner when someone brings up his family and when she whispers that she loves him in private corners of the palace, he feels warm again.

It is now a second nature for him, to hold her.

Drake sets their mugs down on their night stand, right next to an old and coffee stained napkin, smudged with ink. On the front, a location and time was hastily scrawled location and time, but on the inside was a note.

He’s read the note hundreds of times and remembers it word for word, but he picks it up and unfolds it anyway to read…

Drake,

You’re gruff and stubborn and sometimes you’re the most infuriating person I’ve ever met.

But on the beach, you asked me if we met somewhere else, if we’d had enough time…would things be different?

And my answer was yes, maybe everything could have been different. I hate that I believe that things still can be while you don’t. I hate that you’re afraid to care for me when I, for some reason, care a hell of a lot about you. There’s something about you that I can’t shake. When I first saw you, I could have sworn I knew you or that maybe we’ve met before. I don’t know what I believe in, but you make me wonder. Maybe we have—in another lifetime, and maybe everything is different there. Or maybe we didn’t work then either and we were still left wishing for something more. If that’s the case I imagine I would have wished for you to find me, for us to meet again under different circumstances.

So maybe this isn’t a life where things work out for us. But I ask you to come find me again. Because my answer is still yes.

Smiling softly to himself, he folds the napkin carefully and sets it back on the nightstand before climbing back into bed, slipping his arms around Riley.


The End.

Somewhere Else pt 6 - The Market, the Bar, and the Rooftop

Somewhere Else pt 6

Summary: All of the what ifs of Drake & Riley meeting somewhere else, in any other way.] 

Part 6 to Somewhere Else

Part 1Part 2 , Part 3Part 4Part 5


“If we’d met somewhere else…anywhere else. At a club in New York or in an airport, or at a party…If you hadn’t been our waitress that night, and I hadn’t been sitting next to Liam…Do you think all of this…do you think it could’ve been different…between us?


“What the hell is a cronut?”

Riley halted in her tracks, nearly slipping on the curb she walked along to look at him incredulously. “Excuse me? You don’t know what a cronut is?”

“No. Should I?” Drake looked at her indifferently from where he walked on the other side of the sidewalk. Ever since the theater – the intermission, really – he’d been more distant, emotionally and physically. He would hardly look her in the eye and only spoke to answer any questions Riley had about places he’d traveled with as few words as possible. Drake wouldn’t even walk near her anymore, leaving a few feet between them or trailing behind. Riley hated to think that it was all because of what happened during the play’s intermission.

He’d almost kissed her.

Almost.

“Um, yes.” Riley said, snuffing out those thoughts and her extreme awareness of the (unnecessary) space between them. “They’re only the best creation known to man.”

“Cronut,” Drake repeated, one hand in his pocket as he tugged at his tie. “You sure you don’t mean donut?”

“Oh, they’re so much better than donuts,” she sighed out. The very thought of the delicious pastry had her craving one. “It’s got the inside of a croissant but the outside is like that of a glazed donut. I can’t believe you’ve never had one!”

“Well, believe it.”

“You know what this means, right?”

“I hope not…”

“You have to try one!” Riley exclaimed, hopping away from the curb to sidle up to him. “Tonight. While you’re still in New York. You won’t find them any better than here in The Big Apple!”

Drake looked sideways at her. “These cronuts… they’re simple right? Nothing fancy?”

“Simple, I promise,” she nodded. “But the taste is otherworldly. In a good way.”

“I’m a simple man, Cole.”

She grinned. “I don’t think anyone would argue with that.”

He shook his head, but Riley could make out the small smile on his face. “Yeah, yeah, have your laugh. Let’s see how good these cronuts really are.”

“Yes!” Riley whooped, skipping gleefully. “The bakeries are probably all closed by now, but I think I know just the place…”

Without hesitation, she grabbed Drake’s hand and immediately veered left, down a small side street.

“Hey!” he protested, stumbling slightly to keep up with Riley’s newfound speed.

“Come on, slowpoke!” she chuckled, tightening her hold on his hand. “You better not slow me down, we have cronuts to eat.”

Not having much else of a choice, Drake gave in and let her lead him around yet another corner. They weaved their way around city blocks and down questionable alleyways, Riley hardly taking a second to glance at street signs before going on her way.

“You got GPS system in there or something, Cole?” Drake questioned, only half joking. He’d already lost track of how many twists and turns they made; he had no idea how Riley knew where she was going without directions. Everything looked the same to him.

“I’m your guide tonight, remember?” she said over her shoulder. “It’s my job to know where to go.”

They went on like this for a short while. Riley chirping over her shoulder to promise they were almost there. Riley darting out across the street and calling out a hasty apology to the cab who slammed on the brakes for them. Riley holding his hand. Riley , Riley ,  Riley .

It was like he couldn’t help it. No matter how hard Drake tried to keep his eyes wandering around - see the neon signs, the ivy spreading over red brick, the tour buses driving by – they always strayed back to her. Her dark hair had slipped off of her shoulder and now fell freely down her exposed back, brushing against her white dress, which looked almost pearlescent as it flowed around her legs like moonlight rippling across water. The very sight of her striding before him, glancing over her shoulder with a smile dancing in her eyes and laughter playing across her lips, almost had him convinced that he was dreaming. Dreaming that he wasn’t actually running through this big city, there weren’t beautiful women named Riley with long dark hair and expressive eyes, and he wasn’t actually happy for the first time in almost a year.

And yet, Drake wasn’t dreaming. He was in the city, Riley was real - so, so real - and he was happier than he’d been since Savannah had left.

He must have been out of his damn mind.

He’d almost kissed her. Definitely out of his mind.

But in that moment, back in the theater, he felt so warm and so comfortable,  she was so full of life and teeming with energy in his arms – she always seemed to be doing that – and he was so drawn into her light, who was he to try and resist that? Then logic had gotten the best of him and he somehow managed to do just that. Step away.

After the intermission had ended, he tried to draw back, put those walls back up and keep Riley on the other side. He didn’t glance her way again during the show and he kept a few feet between them when they walked, doing his best to ignore the look she gave him when she noticed.

Then, she talked about cronuts and he was fascinated by the way she spoke, through and through. He couldn’t even put up much of a fight when she took his hand and led him away. Even now, he was still so hazed, he didn’t even realize they had arrived at the destination until the sound of waves lapping against the waterfront was clear in his ears and Riley ’s hand tightly squeezed his before letting go.

“Welcome to The Market. Generic, I know. But also a little pretentious, don’t you think? It’s so good, it doesn’t have any other name. It’s just The Market. Which market? The Market,” she said, walking forward to go down the nearest aisle. “Well…what’s left of it, anyway.”

Drake looked around. It looked like any ordinary market, with ripe produce on display and all sorts of dipping sauces to try, but there were also things he’d never seen before: donuts made out of spaghetti, pizza with macaroni and cheese, massive sandwiches thicker than his forearm… There was so much to see, just in this aisle alone, Drake thought his head might explode with all of this new information to process. Luckily, Riley didn’t give him the chance to stare until he had a puddle of drool at his feet, for The Market was winding down around them. Vendors were packing away their goods and taking down tents. Some greeted Riley as she walked by, some had knowing smiles at Drake’s dumbfounded expression.

“There’s so much food,” he said, swallowing as they walked by a place that sold Sloppy Joes. “Some weird food… but good food.”

Riley laughed. “It’s like all of the worst kinds of junk food, with a twist. Honestly, I don’t come down here too much anymore because if I did, I’d never stop eating.”

“Yeah, well, when day in and day out, all you get is fancy finger food,” Drake shrugged helplessly, his stomach growling. “All of this junk food looks like heaven on Earth.”

“Well it looks like I hit the jackpot with this one. You look like you’re about to faint,” she teased, glancing back at him and rolling her eyes playfully. “Come on, hurry up. If we don’t get cronuts, there’ll be hell to pay. I’ll get us something to eat after we snag some of those.”

Despite himself, Drake let out a hearty laugh and tore his gaze away from the oddities of the mark. “Dessert before dinner?” he raised an eyebrow, placing his hand over his heart. “Cole, you really know how to charm a guy.”

“Don’t act so surprised, Drake,” she grinned. “I do this with all of the gruff tourists I meet at the airport who also happen to be best friends with the crown prince of a country far, far away.”

“When you put it like that, it almost sounds hard to believe,” he chuckled, sarcasm coloring his voice.

“That’s because it definitely is. This whole thing? It’s crazy, like something straight out of a storybook,” Riley admitted, drawing a piece of hair between her fingers to twirl. “If I’m honest, it feels more like once upon a time.”

Her words sobered him and he looked down at her for a long moment before shaking his head. When he looked ahead again, feet mindlessly carrying him wherever she led, his lips were no longer smiling.

“Spare me, Cole. Fairy tales are for kids.”


“Oh, I think I’ve found heaven.”

Riley had to cover her mouth with her hand to stop herself from laughing and risking spitting out her own food as she watched Drake, positively overwhelmed with bliss, eat his first cronut. They sat at a small circular table a few feet away from the tent they bought the cronuts from, and on the table between them sat a dozen of the pastries. Riley , unable to curb her own sweet tooth, had caved and purchased the last of the cronuts the vendors had for the day.

“This is pure gold,” she giggled, swallowing her bite while Drake closed his eyes and savored the sugary taste. “I can’t believe I’m actually watching this. Drake, you look so happy it’s adorable. I have to take a picture.”

“Shut up, I hate you,” Drake muttered through another mouthful of the cronut as Riley pulled out her phone to snap a picture. “Leave me alone. I like a good dessert. Who doesn’t?”

“Good point, good point,” Riley chuckled, stuffing the last bite of her first cronut into her mouth before shamelessly grabbing another.

After her second cronut, Riley stood up, wiping sugar from the corner of her mouth and dusting her hands off with a napkin. “Drake, do you think you can handle being alone for a few moments?”

He looked up at her, raising an inquisitive eyebrow. “Why? Where are you going?”

“It’s a surprise,” she said cryptically, holding onto her wrist behind her back as she rocked from her heel to toes, heel to toes. “You’ll see when I get back. Sort of. Can I leave you here alone or should I get the nice cronut lady to keep an eye on you?”

Drake scoffed and rolled his eyes. “Trust me, Cole, I’m not going anywhere. If one of us need a babysitter, it’s definitely you.”

“Oh, no, it’s not you running off that I’m worried about,” Riley shook her head and pointed at the cronuts. “It’s those. You better not eat them all, because if you do – “

“You’ll do what?” Drake teased, dark eyes glittering. “Threaten me with fancy clothes or leave me alone in the middle of New York? Because I think we’ve done that already.”

Riley rolled her eyes and let out a flat laugh. “Oh, you think you’re so clever, don’t you? Real funny. Do not eat all of the cronuts.”

Drake glanced at the pastries and then back at her. “Fine.”

“I mean it.”

“I know you do.”

“Because if you do…” Riley pointed a menacing finger at him.

“I’ll regret it,” Drake rolled his eyes, holding up his hands. “I get it, I get it.”

“Drake…”

“I won’t eat them!”

Riley stared him down for a few moments until finally, she straightened up and gave a satisfied nod. “Good. Save your appetite.”

And with that, she turned away and disappeared down another aisle.

After Riley was gone, Drake let out a deep sigh and sat back in his chair. “Sheesh, lady.”

He looked down at the pastries. There were still more than half a dozen; it’d be more than okay to take another one, right? Drake raised his hand to take a fourth, but then remembering how fiercely Riley defended the cronuts, he decided he’d better hold off.

He wiped his hands off and ran them through his hair, eyes resting on the spot where he last saw her. He shook his head and smiled despite himself. Some woman.


When Riley returned with a blanket draped over her shoulder and a picnic blanket in her hand, Drake had an idea of what she had in mind.

“A picnic?” he questioned, brows raised. “Isn’t it a little late for that?”

“I see you didn’t eat all of the cronuts,” Riley observed, ignoring his question. “I’m proud.”

“I’m glad,” Drake rolled his eyes as he stood up and carried the plastic container the desserts were kept in. “So where are we going?”

“To have a picnic,” she answered simply, smiling as he let out an exasperated smile. She started walking, leading the way out of the market.

“You’re not going to tell me about this little destination either, are you?”

“Nope!”

“Would it be too much to ask what you’ve got in that basket of yours?” he asked, already certain he knew the answer.

“Oh, yeah,” Riley nodded, shifting the basket to her other hand as if she was expecting him to try to peek inside. “You’ll have to wait and see. I’m not telling you.”

Drake sighed again and shook his head. “I expect nothing less of you, Cole.”

She grinned. “You know me well.”

Thankfully, their next stop wasn’t nearly as far as The Market had been from the theater. It was hardly even two blocks away and Drake was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a bar. But the downside…

“Cole, it’s closed,” Drake observed. The lights were off and there wasn’t a soul to be seen inside. He wondered how late it really was, but then again, it was also the middle of the week.

“I’m well aware of that, Captain Obvious,” Riley drawled sarcastically as she went up to the front door. “So it’s a good thing I have a key.”

He watched, surprised, as she pulled out a keychain from her pocket and picked one of the three she had on her ring to fit into the lock. It opened.

“Why do you just have the key to a bar?”

“Because,” Rylie grinned and faced him as she pushed the door open with her back. “I work here.”

“You work in a bar?” Drake knew his eyebrows were halfway up his forehead. This woman.

“I’m usually just serving food,” she shrugged, holding the door open for him. “Does that surprise you?”

Tucking his hands into his pockets, he followed her inside. “In the best way possible.”

The bar was small and cozy, with dark wood everywhere and golden lighting that gave the bar an almost rustic feel. The wall across from him was decorated with old pictures of people in the bar that he assumed must have been celebrities considering they were all signed. There was also a dartboard, darts wedged into the wood, and fliers for all sorts of things filled every open space on a corkboard in the corner. It was simple and full of character. He liked it.

“This is a nice place,” he told her, leaning with his elbow on the countertop as Riley walked around and looked at the shelves of liquor behind the bar.

“Isn’t it?” Riley smiled faintly. “You should see it in the winter. The bartender, Frank, he decks the place out in holiday decorations and there are tons of candy canes to go around. The heater’s almost always on, so no matter how cold it gets outside, it’s nice and toasty in here.”

Drake hummed in response as he looked around, trying to picture the holidays here. He wondered if he’d ever come back to witness a winter in New York City.

“Anyways…” she said, glancing over her shoulder as she grabbed two glasses. “What are you drinking?”

Drake grinned, seating himself on one of the stools. “Whiskey.”

Riley nodded and pulled a bottle off the shelf. “A whiskey guy, huh? Yeah, I see it.”

“I’d take a glass of whiskey over anything on that shelf any day,” he admitted, watching as she poured the amber liquid into one glass and slid it over to him before pouring a glass for herself. “You drink whiskey?”

Riley raised an eyebrow, putting one hand against the counter to lean against it. “Don’t act so surprised. Besides, I wouldn’t let you drink alone.”

“No, it’s not that,” Drake said quickly, a smile tugging on the corners of his lips as he thought back to their short time together on the bus. He’d felt bad about the way he treated her and had made a mental note to himself to make it up with her, maybe with a drink. Maybe with whiskey. “It’s just I had a feeling.”

“Ah, I knew you had some of those in there,” she smirked, tilting the glass against her lips and drinking.

“You know what I meant.”

“Of course, because I know you oh so well.”

Drake chuckled but didn’t respond, his eyes wandering around the room.

“Been one night, Cole,” Drake shook his head and downed his glass. “You already know me better than most.”

“Well, I’m honored.” Riley followed his lead and finished hers off as well. “Now,” she said, scrunching her nose slightly at the slow but deep burn in her stomach. Riley nudged her glass and the bottle of whiskey over to Drake before picking up the blanket and picnic basket again. “You take these and follow me.”

“We’re going somewhere already?” he questioned but did as she told. She led him down a short hallway to a wooden door that she unlocked with a key.

“Not far,” she said, shouldering it open. “Just up.”

Drake followed her up a few flights of stairs, past all of the residential floors, until they finally reached the rooftop. Immediately, a soothing breeze swirled around them as they exited the stairwell and stepped outside into the open air.

Drake blinked and looked around.

“Oh, wow…”

The building was much taller than Drake had originally thought when Riley brought him to the bar. Now, standing at the top of it - seeing over other buildings - he couldn’t believe there were skyscrapers that still towered over them. He wandered over to the edge, still staying on the other side of the short wall that rimmed the edge as he gazed out at the city lights.

“Incredible, isn’t it?” Riley smiled gently, setting down their picnic basket and spreading out the blanket. She opened a small metal panel near the door they came through and flipped a switch. Several lights flickered to life above the stairwell, illuminating the rooftop in a faint golden glow.

“It’s…” Drake trailed off and shrugged, glancing over at her as she came to stand next to him.

“Yeah?” Riley prompted, her eyes meeting his.

“It’s…” His voice was soft and his mind had suddenly lost track of what he was about to say. He looked at Riley for a few seconds – a few seconds too long, in his book – before snapping back to attention. Drake quickly averted his gaze back to the skyline. “Incredible, yeah. It’s not…what it looks like down there.”

Riley studied his profile for a moment, pursing her lips. Why did he have to do that? Draw back into himself before she had the chance to try? She hated it, but she knew better than to overstep. Nodding, she faced the city blocks that stretched out before them. “I know what you mean. Down there, it’s crazy. It feels so compact but also endless. Like a maze. It’s overwhelming.”

“And up here, it’s an entirely different perspective. Like you step back from a – from a microscope or something,” Drake said, surprising her with his insightfulness. “It doesn’t seem so…I don’t know. Scary,” he muttered that last bit, feeling a bit childish. He was grown up, he felt like he shouldn’t be connecting cities to the word “scary” anymore. “That sounds stupid.”

But Riley didn’t seem to think so. She was looking at him again, eyes wide as she shook her head. “No, that’s…that’s exactly it. That’s part of the reason I like coming up here all the time. Whenever I feel like I’m in over my head or something, I come up here to step back and remember that it’s not as bad as it feels.”

Drake chuckled slightly. “You? Scared of this place? I can’t imagine it, Cole. You’ve got the city mapped out and memorized and everything just seems to bend to your will. If anyone can make it in a place like this, it’s you.”

“Drake…” Riley breathed out, touched by his sudden sentiment.

“I mean it Cole,” he said, glancing sideways at her before turning around to sit on the blanket. He reached for the picnic basket and added, seemingly as an afterthought, “I swear. Sometimes, you remind me of her…”

Riley followed him, her fingers tangling in her hair as she sat and crossed her legs. “You mean Savannah.”

Drake paused, going rigid as if he only just realized he’d let that last bit slip out. After a moment, he nodded stiffly. “Yeah.”

Riley frowned slightly and the crease that had formed between his brows at the mention of his sister’s name and the tenseness in his jaw. She reached out to touch his hand but fell short as he turned his head down and opened the basket.

“So, what do we have here?” he asked, starting to pull out wrapped up bits of food. “I’m starving.”

“Well, let me see,” Riley said, getting on her knees to lean over the basket. “I know you’re a simple guy, so I tried not to do anything too crazy. I hope you like barbeque.”

“Now you’re talking!” With obvious eagerness, Drake grabbed something covered in foil from the basket and unwrapped it to reveal a slightly squished but perfectly fine Sloppy Joe.

“You’re a fan?” she giggled as he took a bite, barbeque sauce covering his chin.

“Oh, you’re killing me, Cole.”


“I never want to eat palace food again,” Drake sighed out, letting his hand rest on his stomach as he stretched out on the blanket to look up at the sky. “I’m doomed to a life of fancy finger food.”

Free fancy finger food,” Riley reminded him, packing away their food into the basket.

“Free doesn’t mean good, Cole,” he countered and she rolled her eyes.

“Only you would complain about free food,” she scoffed and he let out a sarcastic laugh.

“Yeah, yeah, call me a spoiled princess, won’t you?” he grumbled, glancing over at her. “You see this Cole?”

Riley glanced upward. It was just the sky, a few sparse clouds and a plane every now and then. “See what?”

Drake grabbed her wrist and, without warning, pulled her down to lay next to him. As she fell beside him, he got a clear whiff of her sweet but subtle scent and her hair tumbled across his arm in waves. He could feel her eyes on him, questioning. He pointed skyward.

“Do you see it now?”

“I don’t see anything.” Riley sounded slightly confused.

“Exactly.” Drake nodded, flattening his hand against the sky as he swept it along. “There’s nothing. No stars, nothing.”

“It’s because of the city lights.”

“I know that, but don’t you miss them?”

“Miss what?” Riley questioned, glancing over with an eyebrow raised. “The stars?”

“Yeah.” His voice was the softest she’d ever heard it.

Riley pursed her lips and thought for a moment. She propped herself up on her elbows, glancing over the edge of the rooftop at the Manhattan skyline. “I never really thought much about it, to be honest… I always had the city lights to distract me.”

“Oh,” he said simply.

Riley rolled over to face him, a smirk playing on her lips. “Oh my… Drake, do you have a soft spot for stargazing? I never would have imagined.”

His soft demeanor quickly vanished and Drake rolled his eyes. With a scowl, he reached over and gently shoved Riley’s shoulder, sending her on her back once again. “There’s no satisfying you, is there, Cole? Every time you learn something, you’re shocked. You’d think that after learning so much in one night, you’d stop being so surprised every time you find something out from a stranger.”

Riley opened her mouth to snap at him, but stopped short. “You’re right.”

“And to think, with how much you surprise me – wait, what did you say?” Drake sat up and looked down at her with furrowed brows.

“I said you’re right,” Riley shrugged, lacing her fingers together over her stomach. “You aren’t so bad, I know you aren’t. I shouldn’t be so surprised when I find something out that isn’t all rough. I just… stargazing. I wouldn’t have guessed they’d mean anything to you. The stars.”

“Well,” Drake said after a moment, drawing up his knees to lay his arms across them. “If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have guessed either. It’s just something with Savannah. We used to go out every year for this meteor shower. I guess I got into the habit of just going out at night to look at them when I needed to think. The stars, I mean. And after she left… It’s a little easier to forget she’s gone when I’m looking at them.” He reached for the bottle of whiskey, refilling his glass from earlier. “And drinking a little doesn’t hurt, either.”

“Drake…” Riley said softly, sympathetically. “I’m sure there’s not a second that goes by where she doesn’t think of you. In fact, I’d be willing to bet that every time she looks up at night, she misses you.”

Drake looked down at his glass and swirled the amber liquid around, bereft. He didn’t respond.

She felt her chest tighten at his fallen countenance. Unable to sit back and stare at an empty sky any longer, Riley sat up beside him, covering her hands with his. “Drake, maybe that’s why you were wrong to come here.”

He hardly glanced at her as he took a long drink from his glass. “What do you mean?”

“The stars,” she said, gently pulling at his hands. Riley got to her knees, tugging him with her as she stood up. She stood before him and gently squeezed his hands until he lifted his eyes to meet hers. “New York City doesn’t have them, not in the sky at least. She wouldn’t go somewhere that she couldn’t see the stars. I don’t know Savannah, Drake. But I know you, and I know she wouldn’t be able to give you up like that.”

“Riley, you don’t understand…” Drake shook his head, turning his head.

“Then help me.” Riley reached out, pressing her hand to his cheek to turn his face towards her. Her voice was unusually demanding.

Drake’s lips parted slightly in surprise as he looked down at her. A sudden warmth bloomed from deep within his stomach and rushed through his veins. It wasn’t the first time he’d had this feeling tonight, but he was far from used to it. Even so, he reached up to cover Riley’s hand with his own.

“Riley…” Something shifted, a new emotion coloring his eyes that Riley had yet to put a name to. It wasn’t quite sad - longing, almost.

“Don’t,” she said, shaking her head as she slipped her hand from his cheek. “Don’t say anything, don’t say you can’t. Just…” Riley stepped away but left her other hand in his. “Come with me.”

“Where?” Drake questioned, bending to pick up the picnic basket.

Riley looked up at him through her lashes as she gathered the blanket under her arm. “You’ll see.”

“You always say that.”

“And the best surprises are left unspoiled,” she said simply, leading Drake back down the stairs.

He chuckled and the sound almost had Riley grinning from ear to ear. She hated the way he looked and sounded when he was sad; she’d take a scowling Drake over an unhappy one any day. He wasn’t exactly smiling, but he had let out a slight laugh. And that was more than good enough.

“You couldn’t find Savannah here, and I’m sorry for that.” Glancing over her shoulder, Riley gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “But, Drake, I promise you. I’ll give you the stars.”


(tagging @thedrakeside )

ALSO THE BOOK ONE FINALE UM???  madeleine was so obvious but I still hate her so much???

Somewhere Else pt. 3 - The Diner

[Summary: All of the what ifs of Drake & Riley meeting somewhere else, in any other way.] 

Part 3 to Somewhere Else

Part 1, Part 2


“If we’d met somewhere else…anywhere else. At a club in New York or in an airport, or at a party…If you hadn’t been our waitress that night, and I hadn’t been sitting next to Liam…Do you think all of this…do you think it could’ve been different…between us?


“Whatever,” Drake muttered, turning in the opposite direction Riley went and kicking the sidewalk with his foot. “Whatever, I don’t need this right now. I don’t care.”

He didn’t care that Riley went off on him for being a jerk again, that the one person who’d been nice to him in this city – the only person who’d been nice to him in months, really, if you didn’t count Liam – had just left him in New York City and it was all his fault. He didn’t care.

But he also might have been the worst liar in the history of the universe because, oh hell, he did.

He cared a lot that he kept shutting down someone who was only trying to help him out and he cared a lot that Riley didn’t deserve this and he was a damn fool for putting her through this. He cared a lot because there was something different about this woman – this woman, who he could have sworn he knew. This woman, who didn’t let him get away with anything. This woman, who was nothing like anyone back home, who gave him another chance when everyone else never even gave him the time of day. This woman, who made him almost want to talk about everything, about him, even though it was stupid and nothing good could possibly come out of it.

He cared a lot even though he told himself that it didn’t make sense to, because he was Drake and trusting people, making friends, was something he couldn’t do.

“Dammit,” he grumbled, tugging his hands through his hair as he swiveled on his heel in the direction he last saw her. I should apologize. He walked a few feet before second guessing himself and turning back the other way. No, she probably hates me. A few more steps. But you were wrong and you deserve it. Turn around. But…

Turn around, turn around, turn around, turn around…


He must have made a wrong turn somewhere. Either that or he’d wasted far too much time internally debating whether or not to go after Riley and she was gone now.

Would she still have gone to whatever place she had planned to take him? Or would she have gone home?

Drake worked his fingers through his hair – it was a miracle he didn’t go bald considering how much he yanked on it – as he racked his brain for any memory that might help him figure out where she lived. So far, all he had was that stop she got off of the bus at, and Drake had no idea where that was.  He didn’t even know how far she lived from the stop, if it was blocks away or just around the corner.

The more he thought about it, the more hopeless everything felt.

Drake was just about to give up and go back to the dingy hotel he had booked for the night when a bright flash of red suddenly caught his eye. Drake looked up in search of the source and found a neon sign that read:

 Fran’s Diner

Open 24 Hours

He stood there, looking at the restaurant across the street for a few moments before his eyes wandered down, catching his reflection in the window.

He’d never looked so lonely.

Suddenly, it all felt like too much. Being here, in the city, all by himself.

He was completely alone. And not just in a literal, physical sense. All of these years, he only had one real friend, and Drake didn’t even fully believe that it was a friendship he deserved.  He wasn’t even sure it’d still be there in a few months.

And then there was the fact that the one person he was always supposed to protect, always supposed to love and take care of… she was gone too. There one day, gone the next.

After months and months of trying to push those thoughts and feelings aside, they came back in full swing now, miles away from home.

It was all because of that stupid, ridiculous idea he’d had when he was alone in his room late at night, torturing himself with the thoughts of why she left, why she couldn’t tell him, and if he could have done more. It drove him crazy, missing her so much. Drake had lost that night, losing himself in his memories and all of the things she’d said, the dreams she’d had.

She always wanted to go to New York.

Drake clenched his jaw, pressing the heels of his hands into his eyes until he saw bright flashes of light behind his lids. He let his arms hang at his sides and took another look across the street, waiting for his vision to return to normal.

Which was when he saw her.

Riley.

She was sitting next to the window in a booth by herself, chin in her palm as she stared down the straw of her Oreo milkshake and glumly drank. Riley was vaguely aware of the bells that rang over the front door when it opened, emitting a lone figure. She was just in the middle of drawing her path through the maze on the kid’s menu she swiped from the table across from her with a stubby red crayon when someone slid into the booth across from her.

It’s him.

Riley could see the tell-tale denim button up out of the corner of her eye and she wondered how he planned to make her night even worse than he’d already made it.

She kept her eyes down and drew circles around the treasure chest at the center of the maze.

“I’m sorry.”

Riley felt her heart seize up at that and her steady ring of circles nearly faltered. A faint feeling of panic flitted through her body in response to the tightness in her chest. Did he do that to her? He couldn’t have, she refused to believe it. He didn’t get to waltz back in here after being such an ass, sit down across from her, apologize, and make her heart start hammering away like that. Not again.

The first time was when they ran into each other at Kismet, his larger frame nearly knocking her off of her feet. His hand shot out, reaching for hers to pull her up. When she saw it was him, she was dumbfounded, shocked, and oddly delighted by this surprise. And then they had shared that look, and something just went off in her chest. She was grateful for the loud music around them that masked the sound of her erratic heartbeat.

The second time it happened, they were on the dance floor. She had her arms around his neck and his hesitant hands were planted on her hips. After relentless teasing, Drake had finally begun to loosen up. Riley remembered praising him and dropping her arms so he could spin her like she’d asked. He’d rolled his eyes then and begrudgingly did as she asked, but out of the corner of her eye, she caught him smiling - at her -when he thought she wouldn’t see.

The third time was when she left him.

He didn’t get to have a fourth.

Biting the inside of her cheek, she steeled her resolved and kept drawing, keeping her eyes down and her face neutral.

“Cole, come on…” Riley could hear the pleading in his voice and she hated that it almost made her want to look. “At least just hear me out and I’ll be out of your hair forever if you want, alright?”

She took a long sip of her milkshake and began doing a word search on her kid’s menu.

“Cole…” Drake groaned, pushing his hands through his hair as he leaned across the table in an attempt to catch her eye. “ Riley, I’m sorry.”

Riley looked up, a single eyebrow raised skeptically. “For?”

He looked at her for a long moment before his eyes fell to where his hands were fiddling with a blue crayon on the table. “For…being a big, mean…jerk.”

She scoffed, tossing her crayon onto the table and leaning back with folded arms. “Come to that conclusion yourself, did you? Is that all?”

“No!” Drake said sharply, finding this whole apology thing hard enough even though he knew she deserved one. But why did she have to make everything so much more difficult? Then, seeing her eyes narrow, he took a deep breath and continued more softly. “No. That’s not all.”

“I’m listening,” she said slowly, hands falling into her lap.

“I’m sorry for… Well, I get it now. You’ve been nothing but kind, mostly, to me. Except when I’m being an ass because you don’t let me get away with anything,” he admitted with a small, begrudging smile. “But the city is your home, and it’s important to you. You’ve offered to take me around and I’ve been gruff and closed off and…and I don’t know if that’ll ever change for anyone anymore. But I’m sorry and it’s not fair to you.”

Despite herself, Riley frowned at his discomfort. Sure, she hated how he got when she tried to get to know him, but she wasn’t looking to push him or anything. She just wished he’d be nicer about it all. “Drake – “

“No, wait, let me finish,” he shook his head, setting the crayon down and laying his palms flat on the table. “It’s not fair of me to ask you to do all of this and get to know you when I won’t do the same. So, if you aren’t completely done with me, you can ask me anything you want. Right now.”

“Anything?” Riley asked, slightly doubtful. Anything was… a lot. She didn’t even know what to begin with.

“Anything.” He looked calm, placid. But she could see the slight strain in his jaw. He clearly wasn’t expecting to enjoy this.

“Alright…” Riley said, sitting up and stirring her shake with a spoon. “How old are you?”

Drake’s eyebrows shot up. “Seriously?”

“Yes, seriously,” she rolled her eyes. “I know nothing about you. For all I know, you could be a sixty-something-year-old man.”

“Do I look sixty to you?” he snapped.

“If you keep scowling like that, you’ll have the wrinkles for it,” Riley shot back before taking another sip. “I’m starting off easy, don’t make such a big deal.”

“Twenty-seven.”

“Twenty-five,” Riley nodded, leaning on her elbows with her chin in her palm. “Favorite color?”

“Blue.”

“Hobbies?”

Drake rolled his eyes. “Sleeping, eating, drinking. Lather, rinse, repeat.”

Riley clucked her tongue at him. “That’s not healthy.”

“Fine, I like skipping around town to get exercise and tossing out apples to everyone to promote a healthy lifestyle and nationalism. Happy?”

“Apples and nationalism?” Riley blinked at him, confused.

“Apples are… quite a big deal in Cordonia,” Drake said carefully, brows knitted as if he just realized how odd the apple craze must sound to an outsider. “Major deal.”

“Huh,” she said thoughtfully, glancing out the window. The red neon lights reflected off of the glass and across her cheeks, dancing in her eyes. Not for the first time, Drake thought that Riley was in fact, quite pretty. She had long, dark hair a few shades darker than her thoughtful eyes and skin that reminded him of the toffee he’d sneak into his room at night to satisfy his secret sweet tooth. There was nothing particularly striking about her and she wasn’t anything like the noble women he’d grown accustomed to seeing, but there was something different about her that had him looking a little longer every time he glanced her way.

“Well, you guys love your apples,” she said after a moment, her eyes crinkling as if she thought of something funny. “And we’re in the Big Apple. Must be fate.”

Oh god, she was worse than Maxwell.

Drake barely stifled a groan with a hoarse cough. “Let’s just call it a horrible coincidence and leave it at that.”

“Oh, you’re no fun,” she pouted.

“Are you going to actually ask questions or are we done here?”

“Okay, okay,” she rolled her eyes, smirking. He was gruff as usual again, but not scalding. And that, she didn’t mind. “Favorite animal?”

“Cole…”

“Alright, no more easy questions then,” she said, smiling briefly at his exasperation. Quickly, her face grew serious and her voice took on a more hesitant tone as she met his eyes and spoke softly. “So, you never… You never got around to explaining why…” Riley bit her lip as the idea of him running off again stirred up uncertainty in her chest.  “You never told me why you’re here.”

“Oh,” Drake sat back, slightly caught off guard. He frowned at both her question and the way she was able to surprise him like that. Being surprised or caught with his guard down, they weren’t feelings he’d ever been very familiar with. That is, until he met her, of course. “I never… Right…”

“You don’t have to…” Riley began, but he shook his head.

“No, it’s okay,” he said, clearing his throat. “It’s fine. That makes sense. I – well, I came here for someone… very important to me. I thought she’d be here… but she’s not. So…”

“A girlfriend?” Riley inferred, sitting back as well.

“Sister. My younger sister.”

“Oh,” she breathed out. She was slightly surprised to find that she was oddly relieved at that, but then, seeing Drake’s distressed expression, Riley’s nerves coiled back up. “Why did you think she’d be here?”

“I don’t know,” he groaned, putting his head in his hands. Riley had a feeling his new frustration had nothing to do with her and more to do with himself. “I just…it was a whim and I was getting desperate. It’s been months since she’s returned my calls and I’ve been worried sick. A couple nights ago, I was just thinking back on everything and I remembered she once said she’d always wanted to come here, just to get a taste of America for our mom… But that’s just how she always was, Savannah. She wanted to go everywhere, see everything, do everything. She could be anywhere.”

“And you have no way of finding her?”

“None. She deleted all of her social media and she won’t return my calls. Wherever she is… she doesn’t want to be found.” His voice was strained and his eyes were darker than she’d ever seen them. She didn’t like the way they looked on his face when he was sad. He was still handsome as ever, but it made her rib cage contract around her heart like Chinese handcuffs. “I don’t blame her.”

“What do you mean?”

“It’s…I’m her older brother, Riley. I’m supposed to protect her from that…that place and those people.” His face contorted into one of anger and disdain. “But I didn’t. Because she’s still gone and I…I…”

Riley watched quietly as he trailed off, his hands clenched into fists as his face fell and his eyes were all too sad for her to bear.

“I’m sorry,” he said after a long moment. “I can’t. I thought I’d be able to talk about it, but I guess I’m still not ready…”

Without thinking twice, Riley leaned across the table and took his hands into hers. She gently rubbed her thumbs into the back of his hands to relax them from their fists to hold them, and Drake, completely surprised, let her.

“It’s okay,” she told him, giving his hands a soft squeeze. “We don’t have to talk about that anymore.”

Drake looked down at their hands, still shocked, and then at her. Riley caught the hint of a grateful smile playing across his lips. “Thanks, Cole.”

“Yeah, of course,” Riley said softly, still thinking about everything he’d just told her and if he’d find Savannah anytime soon. She hoped so.

“You know,” Drake said after a moment. “This is probably the most I’ve talked about this with anyone in the last year, if I’m being honest.”

Riley laughed. “You trust me that much?”

Drake smirked. “Not even a little, Cole. But don’t take it the wrong way. I don’t trust anyone.”

Her lips turned down at that. Could he really be serious? Twenty-seven years old, and he trusted no one? “That’s no way to live, Drake. You don’t trust anyone?”

“You wouldn’t if you were me,” he said cryptically. As a commoner living amongst nobles, Drake quickly learned there were very few people he could trust, and over the years, that number had dropped to near zero. He hardly trusted anyone these days.

He met Riley’s eyes, her dark ones searching his.

But maybe I could start to.


“Would it be too much to ask why you need to get back all of a sudden?” Riley asked as they strolled down the sidewalk.

Not long after Drake told Riley about his sister, Riley  had finished her milkshake and - with Drake’s help - her kids meal crossword puzzle so they left the diner to continue on to Riley’s secret destination.

Drake barks out a short laugh and shakes his head. “Compared to the conversation we just had? No, that’s significantly easier.”

“Really?” Riley quirked up an eyebrow. “I can’t imagine anything’s easy with you.”

“Ha ha. Whatever, Cole.” He rolled his eyes but then paused for a moment. It might be easier to talk about this one, but how would he explain it? “Well, here’s the thing… I’ve got this friend, and – “

“Drake? Having friends?” Riley gasped in mock astonishment. “I thought you didn’t trust anyone?”

“What is this, Pick on Drake Day?” He scowled down at her and she bit her lip to stop herself from laughing. “Do you want me to give you an answer or not?”

“I’d appreciate it.”

Drake sighed and ran his hands through his hair again as they came to a stop at an intersection, waiting for their signal to cross. They were heading towards the busier, more crowded sections of Lower Manhattan, and people were bustling about everywhere.

“Cole, sometimes you’re so…” He trailed off, his eyes on her for a long moment before he cleared his throat and looked away.

“So amazingly cool?” Riley grinned. “Unbelievably attractive? Completely hilarious?”

Drake glanced at her briefly before starting off across the street as soon as the sign changed. He shook his head. “Annoying.”

Riley looked after him with her mouth agape, slightly offended, although she had to admit his response was not only appropriate but kind of funny.

She was still tempted to kick him in the shins, though.

“So are you going to tell me why you have to get back so soon?” she asked once she caught up with him on the other side of the street. It wasn’t very hard because he had no idea where to go.

“If you’ll let me,” he snipped.

“I’m letting you,” Riley relented, quieting down so he could speak.

And he did. Drake told her about his life in Cordonia, living in a palace while his dad did security, becoming friends with a prince…

“Wait, hold on…Your best friend is a prince?” Riley echoed incredulously.

Crown prince,” Drake muttered bitterly.

He told her about maze tag, car-sized cakes, the eldest and original crown prince, Leo, and how he just abdicated. He told her how his best friend, Liam, just found out that he was now next in line to rule an entire country, and how he would start courting multiple suitors during the upcoming social season to find Cordonia’s next queen.

“That’s why I need to get back,” he finished. “To support him and because… well, I don’t know how much time I’ll get with him after this whole thing starts.”

“That’s all ridiculous!” Riley practically shouted, gathering the attention of a few people nearby. “What is this, The Bachelor?”

“Oh, yeah. We’ve got the rose ceremony and everything.” Drake laughed at that. At least he wasn’t the only one who saw it that way. “I agree, it’s ludicrous. But tradition, I guess.”

“To hell with tradition,” Riley scoffed and Drake could barely hide his smile.

Back home, he got by hating these events in secret and with snide comments every now and then. But now, he was here in New York with Riley , who had no problem with openly dissing such royal customs, and he couldn’t help but be slightly impressed. He’d never met anyone quite like her, and while it was infinitely easier for her to be so vocal about her critical opinions because she wasn’t Cordonian, Drake was in awe.

“What?” she peered up at him. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

“Nothing,” Drake cleared his throat and looked away. “No reason, it’s just… you surprise me sometimes.”

“That whole suitor is stupid,” she shrugged. “Outdated.”

“Not everyone sees it that way,” Drake reminded her and she huffed. “Liam is a great guy, the best I know – “

“I don’t doubt that, but he should be allowed to marry someone he truly loves, not just someone who wants the crown,” Riley cut in, looking far more bothered by all of this than he expected her to be. “Those women… I would never do something like that.”

“Some of them are forced to by their families,” he said, tucking his hands into his pockets. “Others have known the Prince for quite a while. He’s a charming guy, Cole, and a good one at that. He may be the best of us all and I’m not just saying that as a Cordonian or his best friend.”

“What are you getting at, Drake?”

“I don’t know, Cole.” Drake shrugged, a small frown marring his face. He looked down and kicked the concrete as they walked. “If you met him one night, maybe like we did – “

“Like we did?” Riley snorted. “I thought you said he was a nice guy. I don’t think we’d meet like that.”

“I meant by chance,” he said, seemingly unbothered by her interjection. “You two just ran into each other here, and it was him you took around the city… If you two really hit it off and you both thought you had a connection worth pursuing…”

He glanced over at Riley, who was watching him with pensive eyes. Drake cleared his throat and looked up. For some reason, he was hesitant to find out her answer.

“Yeah?” she prompted him softly.

“If given the chance…” he said, not looking at her. Why did he suddenly care so much? “Would you do it? Go through all of that, to see if what you had was real?”

Riley was silent for a while, long enough to make Drake turn his gaze towards her with brows furrowed. Her lips were pursed and she was no longer looking at him.

“I don’t know…” she admitted finally. “If I really thought…If I really believed we had something real? Maybe. It’d be nice if he was able to marry out of love rather than diplomatic relationships or customs.”

“Oh,” was all he said, not sure how he felt about that. Or any of this.

Drake didn’t get much time to reflect or ask any more questions because Riley suddenly came to a halt.

“We’re here.”


(tagging @thedrakeside )

Somewhere Else pt. 8 - The Subway

[Summary: All of the what ifs of Drake & Riley meeting somewhere else, in any other way.] 

Part 8 to Somewhere Else

Part 1, Part 2 , Part 3, Part 4,  Part 5, Part 6, Part 7


“If we’d met somewhere else…anywhere else. At a club in New York or in an airport, or at a party…If you hadn’t been our waitress that night, and I hadn’t been sitting next to Liam…Do you think all of this…do you think it could’ve been different…between us?


Drake ran down the street, searching the signs until he found the one he was looking for.

Your best bet for getting back is to catch the bus down on Castor Street to the station and take the subway back.

The cab driver’s advice to Riley   echoed in his head. Drake wasn’t even sure how he still remembered that, but he was more than glad he did because he needed to find her before she was gone forever.

Castor Street wasn’t too hard to find, but Drake still worried that every second he spent looking for Riley   was another second she spent getting away from him. When had she left the beach? Was it right after he stalked off or had she waited for him? Drake winced at the thought of her sitting alone by the fire while he was off brooding. He felt awful.

He nervously waited by the bus stop, counting and recounting the change he had in his pocket. After learning his lesson earlier at the airport, Drake made a point to step into the first gas station he saw to use his credit card and get some US dollars back in change. He’d only been to the States a few times before to visit family, but thanks to Liam and the royal family’s international affairs, he had a fairly good understanding of the currency here. He just hoped he had enough.

After what felt like an eternity had passed, the bus he’d been waiting for finally sidled up to the curb. As Drake quickly climbed up the stairs to where the driver looked at him expectantly, he struck with a sudden but undeniable sense of déjà vu. He almost smiled at the memory of getting on the bus with Riley hours before, but things were different now and that was enough to sober him.

“Two dollars,” the driver sighed out, looking from the road to Drake with half-lidded eyes.

Drake thrust the cash forward, tapping his foot nervously as the lackadaisical driver slowly checked the amount he paid and finally nodded.

“Thank you,” Drake said curtly and stiffly sat down in the closest seat to the door.

The drive to the subway station was tortuous. Even with his foot tap, tap, tapping away and his eyes anxiously searching out the window for any sign of the subway station, it was impossible to keep his mind from wandering. He still had no idea what he’d say to Riley when – if – he found her.

He couldn’t keep pushing her away. Drake wasn’t searching for her just to clam up when they got too close - that would just keep them in this frustrating cycle he was trying to escape. And yet, he wasn’t sure if he could just tell her how he felt– he didn’t know exactly what he felt. It still didn’t make any sense. And what made even less sense was that Riley   had said she had feelings for him too.

Drake had already told Rylie that he cared about her, and he’d alluded that he had some feelings for her. But he’d also said that they didn’t matter. He said her feelings didn’t matter.

If Drake found her now, he couldn’t dance around this conversation any longer, Riley   deserved as much. But if she really felt the way he did… how was he supposed to be able to get on the plane and move on afterwards?  If she really felt the way he did, well, that would change everything.

He tried desperately to come up with something worth her while that might even fix things between them, but everything sounded wrong and slightly pathetic. Drake had never been good with words, he’d always known that; part of him hated that he almost never knew what to say and when he did, it almost always came out wrong. No, words were more Liam’s forte – he always knew the right things to say, when to say them, and how to say them. Almost all of the nobles were like that, with perfect diction and composure. Despite how much Drake despised most of the nobility, he found himself hoping that for once, just once, he could be a little like them.

It nearly drove him mad, not being able to do anything besides sit there butchering his apologies and wringing his hands as the bus ambled on. Drake was more than relieved when subway station came into view, he practically hurled himself out of the doors the second the bus made it to his stop and the doors folded back.

The station was practically empty, which was both a curse and a blessing. The lack of people made it easier to move about and possibly easier to find Riley     . The downside of it was that if he couldn’t find her in an empty station, it was because she wasn’t there to be found.

Drake walked up to the information booth where a seemingly bored woman sat reading a magazine. He cleared his throat. “Excuse me.”

The lady looked up through half-lidded eyes. “Yes?”

“Can you tell me how to get to…” Drake squinted at the subway map on the wall behind the woman. All of the twisting colored lines and the names printed out by the stops meant nothing to him. “…New York City?”

The woman raised a single eyebrow. “New York City.”

“I’m not from here…” Drake explained helplessly, an embarrassed blush spreading across his cheeks.

“Well, you’re going to have to give me a little more than that, sir,” she said, rolling back in her swivel chair to the map. “The city’s a big place. What borough?”

“I need to get to JFK Airport,” Drake said, peering at the map. “So, Brooklyn? But I’m trying to find someone. She lives in Manhattan, I think.”

“You think or you know?”

“I…” Drake trailed off, looking down at his feet. Here was yet again another reminder of how ridiculous it was to be chasing some woman he hardly knew around New York City. “I don’t know.”

But then again, Riley wasn’t just some woman.

The employee in the booth sighed. “Look, just take this line,” she pointed to one and ran one stubby finger along it. “It’ll take you through Manhattan and Brooklyn. Pay for this stop here – you’ll have to take the AirTrain to the airport - and a little extra. That way you can get off before then if you have to and get back on.”

Drake repeated the directions back to the lady and she nodded. “Thank you,” he told her, hurrying off to buy his ticket.


Drake arrived on the platform just as the train pulled into the station.

There were very few people on the station but there wasn’t nearly enough time to inspect them before they – and he – had to board the train. He scanned the weary faces of the people who boarded the same car he did, but none of them were Riley.

Drake had the same results in the next train car, and the next, and the next.

“This is hopeless,” he muttered, running his hands through his hair as he looked outside the window. In the distance, he could see the city’s skyline, all straight lines and straight edges. And beyond that, the rising sun.

The next car was the last one. If Riley wasn’t there…

Drake squeezed his eyes shut as he hovered by the door that separated the cars. It was a classic, stereotypical battle between logic and emotion, mind and heart. He hated how he’d fallen into that trope, but here he was anyway. His brain was telling him to save himself the pain and disappoint, don’t bother trying. His heart beat strongly against his ribcage, urging him to go on.

Steeling himself, Drake gritted his teeth and looked through the small window in the door.

His breath caught in his throat.

In the very back of the last car, sat a woman, with long dark hair tumbling over her shoulder. He couldn’t see her face for she was facing the other way, but it had to be her. It had to be Riley  . Drake wasn’t sure what he’d do if it wasn’t.

He made his way into the other car and cautiously walked down the aisle, still wracking his brain for the right thing to say. Sorry wasn’t good enough, but that’s what he was – sorry, and unbelievably so.

Drake thought about what Savannah would say. She’d probably tease him in that way that little sisters do - even though they were supposed to have grown out of that phase – and tell him anything was better than nothing.

Liam would probably say something about listening to his heart. A hopeless romantic, that one.

Maybe he just had to wing it. That’s probably what Rylie would do anyway.

He took a deep breath when he reached her row. “Cole, I – “

Drake stopped. It wasn’t her.

The woman looked up at him with raised eyebrows as she pulled out her earbuds. She wasn’t even dressed the same. “Can I help you?”

“I…no,” Drake said, swallowing the lump that had formed in his throat. “I just thought you were someone else…”

Balling his hands into fists, Drake gritted his teeth and turned away. He was too late. Riley   was probably on a different train, miles ahead of him, and there was nothing he could to about it. Feeling the frustration and something else… sadness? Whatever it was, it made his throat tighten and his hands feel numb. He leaned against the wall of the train car and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose as he tried to shove those feelings down.

After a few minutes had passed and the pain had subsided, Drake opened his eyes and pushed away from the wall. He still had a long way to go back to the airport, and he preferred to sit somewhere where everyone wasn’t already watching him. The thought hadn’t occurred to him before, but he realized how odd he probably looked, in his torn dress clothes and weary eyes.

Drake kept his eyes down as he walked back down the aisle to the other car. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the people he passed. Some were dressed nicely for work, others looked like they were just coming home.

As he came to the car door, he passed a girl in a white dress and plain flats.

Drake stopped, backtracking with his heart in his throat.

It was Rylie, sitting alone by the window with her head resting against it. Her eyes, tired and half-lidded, were gazing outside with obvious disinterest. She still didn’t seem to notice him at all. Or she just didn’t care. Still so, his stomach was doing somersaults at the very sight of her.

Drake glanced around quickly, checking to see if anyone was watching. He didn’t know why he bothered, but either way, nobody was even looking their way. He sat down next to her.

Riley didn’t look up, but he could tell by the way she tensed up that she knew he was there and she wasn’t happy with him. Drake felt a pang of familiarity, like déjà vu, and he realized they’d been in a similar situation before: when they first met at the airport and she’d paid for his bus fare.

Minutes passed in silence as Riley   stared out the window, the rising sun casting soft shadows across her face and dousing them both in an orangish pink light. Drake didn’t mind the silence, he was still trying to find the words that might make everything okay again.

“I lied,” he said finally, his voice tight.

Riley   didn’t say anything for a while, and Drake worried she might just ignore him completely. He figured that was fair and that he deserved as much.

And then finally, “About what?”

“I said what you felt didn’t matter.” Drake turned to face her, his eyes searching her face for any shift in her expression. “That was a lie. What you feel, it matters more to me than you can imagine, Riley  …”

“Then why?” Riley   turned on him, brows drawn together and eyes flashing. “Why would you say it didn’t? And don’t just tell me it’s because ‘we can’t.’ I deserve more than, ‘We can’t.’”

“You do,” he shook his head, his hands smoothing over his thighs to subdue the urge to reach out for her. Drake swallowed dryly, his tongue feeling like sandpaper. “Hell, you deserve so much more than that. Truth is, Cole, I haven’t… I haven’t cared about someone new in so long. I haven’t felt the way I do about you in so long.” With every word he spoke his nerves coiled up even tighter and he was tempted to avert his gaze. But he kept his eyes on her. “And it scares me because we just met last night and you’ve already got me in the palm of your hand. You’re like my weakness, Cole, and if I know that you even feel a fraction of the way I do… I won’t be able to get on that plane.”

Something foreign bloomed in her eyes, coloring her irises in something without hue but enticing him nonetheless. “Drake, I – “

“Don’t say it, Cole,” he pleaded, eyes pained. “Please.”

“But I do.” She shifted her body so that she faced him, their faces inches apart. He could feel her breath on his cheeks and he swore she’d be able to feel his if only he could remember how to breathe. “I feel the same. You don’t get to be the only one who says it.”

“You can’t,” Drake choked out, his body going rigid as her hand slipped up to rest against his cheek. The sun was climbing in the sky and the skyscrapers were growing near. They were running out of time.

“I don’t care,” she whispered, leaning in so that their noses touched, and then just barely, their lips.

“ Riley  …”

And then she kissed him.

The first second after she pressed her lips to his, Drake stayed still, as if he was still conflicted and deciding whether to cave or hold out. But the moment he made that decision, he pulled her tightly against him, his hands smoothing up her back to tangle in her hair.

Drake pulled her onto his lap, kissing her tenderly at first until he realized that gentle wasn’t good enough. His kisses grew firmer and more possessive, demanding what Riley was more than willing to give. It was as if he couldn’t get enough of her, or he was trying to before it was too late.

It seemed like they were there for hours, wrapped up in each other, in their own little corner, and away from everyone else. But at the same time, it felt like only seconds had passed – it wasn’t nearly enough.

When they finally broke away, Riley   looked up at him, her cheeks flushed and his eyes half-lidded but full of wonder.

This was soft Rylie, he thought. The harsh city lights were gone and she no longer looked so bold and unattainable. She was beautiful when she was saturated in the neon lights and when she stood under the harsh, yellow street lamps, but that was nothing compared to the way she looked now. Now, everything seemed gentler. She looked ethereal - her hair tumbling over her shoulder and over his arms, the golden pink rays of the rising sun kissing every bit of skin he’d never be able to kiss himself.

It filled him with a sense of longing – longing for more time, longing to stay in this moment forever. Drake had been all over, thanks to Liam. He’d seen hundreds of towns and incredible landmarks, thousands of sunrises and thousands of sunsets. But out of all of the countries and cities he’d been to, nothing ever made lasting impression. Even Cordonia didn’t feel enough to hold him, not with Savannah gone. He never found a place he wanted to stay in longer than he had to.

Until now.

Now, he was imagining what it’d be like to spend the winter in New York City. He wondered what it’d be like to be able to see the restaurant Riley   worked at all decked out in holiday decorations or to see snow fall in Times Square rather than on the stoic mountains of Lythikos.

Now, he was imagining what it’d be like to go to The Market on Friday nights, to try all of the odd types of food vendors sold there until his stomach ached from being so full.

Now, he was imagining what it’d be like to live in an apartment here, with a view of the Manhattan skyline from his window. He was imagining what it’d be like to wake up every morning in that apartment with Riley sleeping next to him.

His heart twisted at the thought, his mind already starting to conjure up more scenarios with Riley if he stayed in New York.

If only they’d had more time.

“I never would have pegged you to be the PDA type,” Riley laughed breathily, running her fingertips over the stubble that lined his jaw.

“I don’t think I am,” he murmured, capturing her lips again in a deep, desperate kiss. He poured everything into it, trying to convey every bit of emotion he had because there was a good chance he might never be able to do it again. “But I don’t care anymore.”

“It’s New York. Nobody does.” Riley smiled against his mouth and melted into him, allowing herself a few more minutes of bliss before pulling away again. Her hands fell to his chest, fingers absently toying with the buttons as she looked out the window.

The sun was ever higher in the sky now, turning the light in the car golden. They were back in the heart of the city again, buildings towering around them. It wouldn’t be long before their train went underground.

“It’s almost time,” she whispered.

“I know,” Drake nodded, letting her slide off of his lap and back into her seat.

Riley opened her mouth, about to tell him that she didn’t want him to leave, that he should stay. But she knew Drake. He was as stubborn as he was loyal. And he was right. Parting ways would be harder than ever now. Instead, she intertwined their fingers together and slumped against him, resting her head on his shoulder.

His stop came all too soon.

“You’ll miss your flight if you don’t go now,” Riley told him and he nodded, his cheek rubbing against the top of her head.

The both felt the sharp twinge in their chests as Drake untangled his body from her and released her hand. “I’ve never been good with goodbyes.”

“Then let’s not say them.”

Drake nodded again in agreement as he stood and the subway train came to a halt. He felt like he should say more, at least a thank you. But he also had a feeling he’d never leave if he kept talking.

Instead, Drake leaned down and smoothed Riley ’s hair from her forehead before pressing his lips to her temple. She closed her eyes and gave his hand one last squeeze before he straightened, turned around, and departed.

Riley’s hands balled into fists in her dress and bit down on her lip hard, forcing back the burn of tears she felt behind her eyes. Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look.

The overhead speaker emitted a monotone chime, signaling the closing of the doors.

Before she knew it, Riley was on her feet, bolting out of the train car and onto the platform. She looked around, her mind in a flurry. It wasn’t hard to find him, not with the way he was constantly checking and double checking every sign and tugging on the ends of his dark hair. It’ll fall out if you keep pulling at it like that.

Riley shoved her way through the crowd until she was close enough to take his hand.

“Wait.”