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Hopeless: Chapter 10


Beau: Dinner tonight at six. All set with the fam.

Bailey: Okay. I’ll have to walk over.

Beau: Why?

Bailey: I have a flat tire.

Bailey: Actually, four flat tires.

Beau: I’m coming over. Right now.

Bailey: Why?

Beau: Because four flat tires aren’t an accident. No one just randomly gets four flat tires.

Bailey: Not sure my brothers will like an Eaton driving onto the property. Don’t come here. It’s not safe for you.

Beau: Bailey, I don’t give a fuck what they like.

I drive onto the Jansen property like I own the fucking place. I’m going to play it cool enough not to freak Bailey out, but I want to smash something. The rage that’s always in me simmers too close to the surface for comfort.

My palms twist on the steering wheel of my truck as I run through what I plan to say to her in my head, so I don’t come off like an overbearing asshole.

I drive past the main house, a bit shocked by the neglect. Every side displays chipped paint, while cardboard slabs secured by duct tape cover some windows.

Tattered clothes are hanging on a line, and I wonder how long they’ve been there. Beer cans litter the yard, concentrated around a large burn barrel just steps from the back door.

Too fucking close to the house to be safe. Idiots.

I knew this property was a dump, but seeing it firsthand—knowing Bailey grew up in this squalor—makes something in my chest twist.

She deserves so much better than this. She shouldn’t have to hide in the fucking riverbank from her own flesh and blood or worry about the people she should trust most in the world stealing shit from her.

I keep driving past the shithole her brothers call home, heading toward the river in the general direction of where I know she must live.

I weave through the treed lot, over the dry bramble that collects in the wheel ruts that lead me further back into their property. There’s clearly been zero maintenance.

Rage bubbles up, hot splatters of it lashing me.

When I turn the corner, it’s replaced by cold focus. The focus I pulled upon overseas. The kind that let me kill people and carry on relatively unscathed because I knew I did what had to be done to survive.

Bailey sits on the metal step of her trailer, wiping at her tear-swollen eyes.

I step out of my truck and turn on the spot, taking in what appears to be a sprinkling of her belongings all over the dirt ground.

Clothes, makeup, jewelry, papers.

When I finally come to face her again, she’s holding a stuffed horse that looks so well loved it’s coming apart at the seams.

Except it doesn’t need to anymore. There’s a slash down the side of it. Bailey’s eyes lock with mine while her hands continue trying to shove the stuffing back into it.

I don’t even need to ask her what it means to her. The small brown horse shows all the wear and tear of being a comfort to a little girl who, no doubt, has had little comfort in her life.

“Who. Did. This?” I bite out, my voice a low growl.

Bailey blinks frantically. “It’s fine. I’ll clean it up. I left my trailer unlocked when I fled last night. They got in.” She hiccups and hits me with the saddest smile, then tosses the stuffed horse into the plastic garbage bag at her feet. She can’t even watch herself do it. Her chin turns up, and she shifts her gaze in another direction.

I flinch. The sight of her throwing it away hits me low in the gut. It winds me.

“It’s just stuff. I can replace it.” Her eyes fill again as she stares over at her small truck. Despite its worn appearance, I imagine the old Ford Ranger handles the wild road that leads to her trailer well enough. Or it did. Right now, it sits on its rims, black rubber draped over the circular shape, spilling onto the ground, beyond deflated.

“It’s just that—” She presses the back of her hand against her lips as her voice breaks. “I can’t afford this right now.”

I itch to grab her and squeeze her, but I’m worried I might break her right now. She’s too fragile, and I’m too heated.

The sight of her crying makes me want to hurt someone.

Probably her brothers.

“Bailey, I don’t mean to overstep, but with the amount you’re working, why can’t you afford this? You shouldn’t have to pay for it, obviously, but … ”

She stands and starts swiping things off the ground, looking more angry than defeated now. “Because I’m an idiot. That’s why. My brothers charge me astronomical rent, so I—”

I hold a hand up. “Sorry, what? They charge you rent to live here?”

Her face flames. “Basically, I pay the mortgage on the property. Or the re-mortgage.”

“Why are you the only one paying for anything?”

“I don’t know.”

“Bailey … ”

“What, Beau?” she screams, turning to me. “You think I don’t know how fucked-up it is? I can’t rent anything in town because no one will approve me. I’m trying so hard to fly under the radar. I’m trying so hard to start fresh. And then there’s this part of me that feels guilty for it—like I owe them something. Like I don’t deserve to start over. Like how could I possibly think I’m better than the rest of my family and I deserve more than this?” She gestures around herself. “This is first-class living compared to what I grew up in.”

The explosive outburst steals her breath. Steals mine.

Her hands cover her face and then push up through the silky hair I spent the night with my nose pressed into. The smell of the cool rocks and something minty in her hair wrapped around me all night long.

“I’m just so tired,” she says, her voice small and wrung out. Her shoulders droop, and a tear races down her golden cheek. “I work hard to rise above it all, but I am so, so tired of struggling.”

Again, my hand itches. This time, to wipe the tear away.

I don’t bother resisting anymore. With three long strides, I’m standing in front of her. I tug her in, one arm around her shoulders, one hand palming the back of her head, and press her against my chest.

Because I can’t handle staring into her sad fucking eyes.

I expect her to cry, but she doesn’t. She relaxes in my arms, melting against my torso, just like she did all night long.

Like she feels safe enough to be tired around me. To let her guard down.

I want her to have that all the time, which is why I say what I came here to say in the first place, even more sure of myself than I was before. “You’re not fucking living here anymore.”

“I can’t just—”

“I’m not having my fiancée live here.”

“Beau.” Her voice chides me, but her body softens further.

“What, Bailey? No one will believe I’d be okay with you staying here. Just rationalize it that way.”

My arms tighten around her, a little firmer now. She’s not breakable.

“What about my tires?”

She sniffs and I rub a comforting palm over her head, smoothing her hair. “I’ll take care of it. I’ll take care of it all.”

“I haven’t moved it anywhere in years. Are you sure it’s okay?”

Bailey is buckled in safely beside me but won’t stop staring out the back of my truck.

At where I have her trailer hooked up.

Because she’s not fucking living there anymore.

She refused to move into my house with me, so I made her my neighbor.

She stood there with her hands on her hips and her jaw hanging down to her feet while I took it upon myself to hook her trailer to the hitch of my truck and take it out of that hellhole.

Those dumbasses slashed the tires on her truck, but not on the trailer. And I used that to my advantage.

“Bailey, it’s fine. I’m going slow and it’s not far.” I have my window down, the sound of the plastic garbage bags fluttering in the wind as we drive.

“I’m sorry.” She faces the front again and slouches down into her seat.

“For what?”

“Being the most high-maintenance fiancée in the world.”

I snort at that. “You are so far from high-maintenance, it’s not even funny. You slept on the ground with me last night.”

A soft smile touches her lips as she looks out the window. “Yeah, I liked that, actually.”

I nod firmly. “Same. I wasn’t lying when I said it’s the best I’ve slept in months. No pills. No alcohol. Just hard ground, fresh air.”

And her. The only thing that’s come close to working.

Silence cloaks us as we pull into Wishing Well Ranch. I was supposed to be helping Cade today. Once I got out of the army, I planned to be his right-hand man. That’s what I told everyone I’d do.

Although I grew up here, I failed to realize something … I’m not a rancher. I don’t care about the cows. I don’t find joy in working the land.

My brother wakes up every morning dedicated to running the family ranch.

I wake up every morning dreading it.

But I hate the idea of letting them all down. So I get up and do it. Bailey and I are alike that way, doing things we don’t like to support our families the only way we know how.

My family is just a hell of a lot nicer than hers. A hell of a lot harder to let down.

“Alright, sugar tits.” I break the silence by cracking a joke. “Where should I build your castle? Facing the river?” I gesture out the same way my house faces. “East for sunrise? West for sunset? The world is your oyster.”

“But your house is right there.” She points at the modern house, probably a mere thirty feet away.


“I told you I wasn’t going to live with you.”

“This isn’t living with me. It’s living adjacent to me.”

“It’s really close. Too close.” Her arms cross and her eyes narrow.

“I think it’s the perfect distance.”

Her jaw flexes as she bites down on her teeth. “It’s my house, and I say it’s too close. How about there?” She points at a copse of thin birches in the distance.

“Fuck no.”

“Why not?”

“It’s too far away.”

“It’s just far enough.”

“Why would two people in love live in separate houses that far apart from each other on the same property?”

It’s not safe is what’s really running through my head. In light of today? In light of last night? It would take too much time for me to reach her if something went wrong over there. I wouldn’t hear the noise. See the lights.

I might as well sleep at her front door like the guard dog I am at this point.

She stares at me, and it’s not in anger. It’s more like I can see her brain whirring a mile a minute. Then she looks away. “Fine. Facing the river.”

I grin at her before turning back to the wheel to line up the small trailer just right. It doesn’t matter, though, because I don’t think she’ll be living there for long. She’ll give in and move over to my place.

And then I won’t have to be alone.

“And stop calling me sugar tits,” she adds with a stubborn lilt to her voice.

I don’t mind at all, because it’s a hell of a lot better than hearing her cry.

“Sugar it is.”


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