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Hopeless: Chapter 13


Beau: I can pick you up.

Bailey: No, it’s fine. I’ll take a cab. You’re working.

Beau: You don’t need to spend your money on a cab.

Bailey: I actually don’t need your permission, sergeant.

Beau: I’m not a sergeant.

Bailey: Captain?

Beau: Not that either.

Bailey: … Sir?

Beau: Watch it, Bailey.

Bailey: If it’s all the same to you, I’ll be taking a cab. Thank you for your help, sir.

Being engaged to Beau Eaton was supposed to be helpful. Except I’m pretty sure it’s my own special brand of torture.

I’ll start leaving the back door unlocked for when you decide you want to find out if I’m a prude or not is the one-liner that had me rushing back to my trailer to pull out my box of vibrators.

I didn’t even bother pretending one of them was Jensen Ackles.

Every single one is now Beau Eaton.

Despite my lack of sleep, I had to wake up early to clean the bar this morning. Beau drove me there in relative silence while I clutched my travel mug with both hands. I figured keeping my fingers latched on would prevent me from crawling across the center console and mauling a man who is only going along with this charade to be nice.

Or because he’s bored.

Or something.

I hitched a taxi back out to the ranch when I finished, and now I’m sprawled in a fold-out chair next to my trailer. An iced coffee in hand. A sun beam on my face.

I’m trying not to stress about my tires. Or my money. Or if making myself come while thinking about my fake fiancé was a bad idea.

I want to check out and just—

Tires grind against the gravel road leading to Beau’s house. I don’t bother opening my eyes, even when they hum onto the paved driveway on the other side of the house. Regardless of any external influences, I don’t budge, safe and protected by my trailer. The one thing I still have that’s mine.

I know Beau is gonna come here, guns blazing about me saving my money. I hear heavy footfalls, and my lips tip up as I imagine him towering over me like he did last night.

But the voice that interrupts my peaceful moment isn’t his. “You seen Beau?”

I startle and shoot straight up to see Cade Eaton, Beau’s oldest brother, with his hands on his hips, looking really bitchy.

“No,” I breathe, one hand slung over my chest because he surprised me and I’m trying to catch my breath.

Cade glances between the house and me. “Why are you sitting over here when there’s all that patio furniture up on the deck?”

I shrug, trying to play it off. “Lacks a certain charm, don’t you think?”

The man nods at that. “Gotta say, I’ll agree with you there. House looks like it belongs in the city.”

I stare at the house, all straight lines and modern shapes.

It suits Beau—or some version of him, maybe—but it doesn’t suit the setting. And I find myself wondering if Beau suits the setting.

“Anyway, he took off in the middle of the day,” Cade says. “Not a fuckin’ clue where he went. Not answering my calls or texts, as usual. So if you hear from him—”

I give Cade a salute. “I’ll let you know.”

Cade turns to leave but then swivels back, uncertainty painting his features. “You think he’s doing okay?”

I weigh the question, torn between being honest and protecting Beau’s privacy.

Okay? The sleep, the way he’s set off so easily, the alcohol intake. He’s not okay, but he’s aware of it, and it strikes me that might be half the battle.

A sip of cold coffee hits my tongue, an ice cube slipping into my mouth. It slides around as I consider my options.

I choose Beau.

“Yeah, I think he’s doing alright. Better all the time, you know?”

Cade nods again. His movements are harsh, lacking the predatory, almost feline edge of Beau’s. What you see is what you get with Cade. He’s straightforward, handsome enough, but he doesn’t consume space the way Beau does.

With Beau, I can sense the tension radiating off him, the energy, see the chaos that hums through his veins. He covers for it well, but I see it. I’m drawn to it.

I’m just fucked-up enough to find comfort or familiarity in that type of unhappiness.

It’s like we’re kindred in our dissatisfaction with life. And at peace with one another because of it.

I want so much more than what I’ve had.

And it seems to me Beau has had a taste of more and is wallowing in the less.

“If he acts like an asshole, let me know.” Cade is all gruff, protective vibes. It makes me smile against the rim of my glass as the ice melts in my mouth. “I’ll set him straight.”

I cross my legs and lean back just a little. “That’s okay. I’ll set him straight myself.”

Now Cade grins, pointing at me as he turns to walk away. “And that is exactly what he needs.”

“Your brother is looking for you,” I call out when Beau pops his head out the back door. Thirty minutes have passed since Cade left, and I haven’t moved from my chair.

“You better not have taken a cab back here.” He points a finger at me like I’m in trouble.

But all it does is make me squirm against the canvas fabric of my chair.

“Or what?” I quirk my head in challenge, my iced coffee taking effect and perking me up a bit.

The carefree expression he was wearing melts from his face as he steps fully out onto the porch. A zing rushes through me as I force myself not to sit up and straighten under the weight of his gaze. I’ve trained myself to appear casual when I don’t feel it for years now. It should be easier than this where he’s concerned, but my skin prickles and my legs squeeze together.

There’s a sinful twist to his mouth, one that could be mistaken for playful—but I know better. It only lasts a beat and then it’s gone, washed away by the shake of his head. “Or you might find yourself stuck being fake engaged to me longer than necessary.”

That has me shooting up out of my chair. My instinct is to rebel against that line of thinking, tell him I’m not stuck with him at all.

I think I feel freer in his presence than I have … ever.

“Shhh!” I whisper-shout at him instead, finger held against my lips, eyes wide. “Shut up! Cade was here sniffing around for you like thirty minutes ago, Mr. Undercover.”

A broad palm runs through his freshly trimmed hair. “Great. Nothing like being babysat by my big brother.”

“Did you ditch work to get a haircut?” His haircut stands out to me because I’m actually taking him in rather than being overwhelmed by his presence.

He rolls his shoulders back and looks away. “I was due.”

“Beau. You can’t just ditch work to get your hair cut, especially when your family is relying on you.”

“I needed one.”

“Yeah, but—”

“I hate working the ranch,” he blurts, cutting me off. “Bailey … I fucking hate it. I made a promise to my family and now they depend on me to follow through. But I don’t feel like myself. I don’t care. I stand in a field, and I stare at those fucking cows, blinking back at me stupidly with their too-long eyelashes,”—I stifle a laugh—“and I am just monumentally bored. Bored to the point of misery.”

I go from almost laughing to rubbing my sternum, trying to push away the heavy ache that’s taken up residence in my chest.

“Like, no one even knows the shit I’ve done. The importance of the things I was doing. My missions? They saved lives, they changed the world. And now? Now I’m supposed to … fix fences?” He sighs, his tall frame shifting down incrementally. “It makes me … ”

“Angry?” I provide, because I can feel it. I know the way the air tastes when someone is angry, can feel the surrounding oxygen thicken with it.

I know an angry man. I grew up in a house full of them. But with Beau, even when he’s angry, I feel safe.

“Yeah.” His hands link behind his head and he watches me, gray eyes almost shrink-wrapped in tears. “And it’s fucking depressing.”

My tongue darts out over my lips as I consider his outburst, try to put myself in his shoes—his head. I don’t know a single thing about what it’s like to feel that way. And who am I to tell him he’s wrong?

“It is,” I agree, slapping my bare thighs as I push to standing. He seems startled, either by my sudden motion or my words. I’m not sure which. “I know all about living a depressing life, so, like, high five on that. Now let’s go do something fun.”

“Fun like what?” His suspicious expression almost makes me laugh out loud.

I give him a once-over, from head to toe. My gaze catches on his bright white Adidas Superstars, now smudged with dirt and grass.

“Like getting you some shoes that don’t rub you raw.” I wave a finger back and forth between his feet. “And maybe not so white. Doesn’t suit you.”

“What suits me?” He asks me like he doesn’t know. In fact, I get the sense that part of Beau’s problem these days is that he hasn’t reconciled the before version of himself with the after version.

It turns out, going missing in the desert for days on end changes a person. I’m not sure why this surprises anyone. And I’m not sure why anyone expects him to be the way he was before it happened.

I guess that’s why I shrug and say, “I don’t know. Let’s go find out.”


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