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Hopeless: Chapter 14


Beau: Hi. Bailey said you were looking for me.

Cade: At least you talk to someone.

Beau: Probably because she isn’t up my ass like the rest of you.

Cade: Must be terrible having a family who cares about you. I feel just awful.

Beau: Care a little less.

Cade: Okay, no problem. Keep cutting out on work to do god knows what and I’ll fire you.

Beau: You can’t fire me. I’m your brother.

Cade: Yeah, and I sign your paycheck. I think you’re gonna need it to pay off that ring. Or did you skip work to go mine it yourself?

Beau: Worth it. Looks good on her.

The minute we open the door to the shoe store, Bailey changes. The girl who chatted away in the car, hands gesturing around as she explained her plan to become a chiropractor, evaporates like a splash of water on a hot griddle.

The bell chimes on the door as I hold it open, but she stalls. “You go first.” Her teeth worry her bottom lip.

“Bailey, I’m not walking through a door ahead of you. That’s just rude. I’m pretty sure it would summon Harvey. He’d pop out from behind a shelf and cuff me in the head.”

“I went to high school with her,” she hisses, subtly nodding toward a girl chatting with another customer.

“Okay, and?”

“And she was awful to me. Let’s just … ” Bailey’s head swivels, and she glances back at Rosewood Street as if she’s considering taking a running leap into a getaway vehicle.

It hits me hard that she’s scared. This poor fucking girl.

She’s dreading walking into a store because someone was so mean to her several years ago that she still can’t face them.

I slide an arm around Bailey’s rigid figure and lean down over her again. She curls into my body the same way she did the other night, like she can hide behind me.

Like she feels safe with me.

I rub her back as I whisper against her ear, “You’re walking in here with me. That was the deal, yeah? Let’s give them something to talk about, sugar tits.”

She snorts a totally unladylike laugh, head tilting in toward my chest, her long hair falling over her beautiful face. Hiding herself when she shouldn’t.

I tug her against my side and drape a possessive arm over her shoulder, pressing her tiny frame next to mine.

She stiffens as we walk, rigid as a plank of wood.

“Relax, Bailey,” I whisper, turning us to face a wall of shoes.

“I am relaxed,” she bites back, staring right through the shoe display like she’s somewhere else entirely.

“You look like I kidnapped you and forced you to go shoe shopping with me. This was your idea. Sell it.”

Her eyebrows drop, eyes narrowing as she shoots me a dirty little scowl. Then she turns her face back to the wall of shoes and slides her hand into my back pocket.

My body pauses only for a beat as surprise flashes across my face. That’s not what I was expecting, but I’m not mad at it either.

“Hi!” The bright voice makes me flinch. It’s how everyone talks to me now. Too fake. Too upbeat. “What a treat to have Beau Eaton in the store today with—”

I turn to face the girl with bright blonde hair styled into loose waves. She’s pretty, but not beautiful like Bailey.

“Bailey Jansen?” The girl is so incredulous I have to bite down on the inside of my cheek to keep my lips from twitching.

It’s a struggle, so I turn, drop my lips to the crown of Bailey’s head as I squeeze her firmly against me. “Future Mrs. Bailey Eaton,” I correct, dragging her hand up over my hip bone.

Bailey’s fingers splay over my belt, massive rock on display.

Way too fucking close to the zipper of my jeans.

The girl blinks for a comically long time. Her mouth opens and closes like she’s trying to find the words, but nothing feels right.

Bailey’s other hand moves, skimming up my back—almost like she’s hugging me—until her fingers fist in my shirt. There’s something desperate about the motion.

I reassure her by sliding my hand under the curtain of her hair, propping it on her neck, right where it meets her shoulder. “Do you know my Bailey?”

That comment has my girl’s head whipping up to face me, but the salesgirl cuts our eye contact short. She laughs. Laughs. Right to my fucking face. “Yeah, I mean, everyone knows Bailey.”

I feign ignorance and smile down at Bailey. The woman with pinched eyes and flattened lips who is gazing up at me with a get me out of here expression on her face.

“Well, anyone who is a friend of Bailey’s is a friend of mine.” I grin at the other girl, but she’s too stupid to tell it’s not a friendly grin. “Maybe you can help us with some shoes?”

She looks confused but replies with a bright, “Of course!” all the same.

I glance at her name tag and decide on the spot that I hate Lily. But I play the long game. So, I offer her a bland smile before I turn away and march Bailey up and down the length of the store, assessing my options. It doesn’t take me long to realize that I don’t give a fuck about my shoes as long as they don’t chafe.

When I get bored with staring at the sea of footwear, I whisper, “Sugar, put your hand back in my pocket.”

Bailey doesn’t even move her eyes my way when she says, “Why? I think she’s buying it just fine.”

My lips dust over the shell of her ear. “I don’t give a fuck about her. I just like it.”

Bailey’s hip bumps against mine, a silent reprimand for what she thinks is a joke.

But I’m not joking. I take her hand and shove it back into my pocket, smirking at the snarky look she shoots me. Even the vicious little revenge pinch she gives my ass before carrying on makes me smile.

“What about these?” She points at a pair of brown suede sneakers. They’re a mix of white and chestnut with a gummy sort of sole.

They’re fine.

“Sure, let’s try them.” I have no idea what I like, or if I even care about my shoes, but I do like being here with Bailey. The thrill of the mission has me feeling more myself.

“And these?” She steps away and holds up a sportier sneaker. Black on black on black. “Very tier one undercover operator who could break into someone’s house in the dead of night.”

My lips twist on a chuckle. “Never going to live that one down, eh?”

“Never,” she murmurs with a smile as she moves away from me, picking out more shoes and lining them up on a bench.

She runs the gamut, and I say yes to every pair. Every time I do, she stands a little taller, seems a little less concerned about Barbie watching her from the till, like she’s about to steal all the shoes on display.

When she finally comes to stand before me, slightly flushed, she props her hands on her hips and says, “So I did some reading.”

“So proud of you. I knew you weren’t just a pretty face,” I quip with a wink.

She blinks away, muttering, “Dick,” so quietly that I barely hear it. Eyes back on mine, she tries again. “I did some reading about socks and blistering. Ways to reduce friction.” She pulls a plastic bag from her purse and shakes it at me. “We’ve got some options to try for that too. So sit down and start trying on some combos.”

I swallow, staring down at this pint-sized powerhouse, wondering how no one else sees the compassion oozing from her pores. She’s not all frilly and sugary. There’s a refreshing get-shit-done kind of practicality about her. She’s faithful.

Her fingers snap in front of my face. “Earth to Beau Eaton?”

Then we get to work trying on shoes and socks. It’s a lot of work for Lily because I decide to be extra thorough. I try half a size up and then request half a size down for every pair of shoes, sending her back and forth every time.

Just to be sure.

I don’t miss the suspicious look Bailey eventually shoots me.

It’s almost like she’s onto the fact that I know exactly what size I wear.

“Were you sending her back and forth on purpose?” Bailey asks when I slam the driver’s side door of my truck.

I avoid her eyes as I busy myself with buckling my seatbelt. “No, I was just trying to make sure I got the right size. You saw my feet, gotta be sure.”

“Mm-hmm.” My gaze latches on Bailey’s arms, squeezed tight beneath her breasts. “Petty.”

“How is asking her to do her job petty?”

“You know. Don’t stoop to their level, Beau. It’s unbecoming.”

Leave it to the twenty-two-year-old in this fake relationship to be the mature one.

I train my face into a blank expression as I twist the key in the ignition, looking forward to the blast of cold air the vents promise. “Listen, she worked hard. All my respect to Lily.”

“Uh-huh.” I can feel the disbelief in her voice, sense it in the way her eyes work over me.

“She’ll sleep well tonight. I always do after physical labor. And maybe when she wakes up in the morning she’ll be less of a bitch. Good sleep does wonders for a person.”

Bailey scoffs at that, covering her face with her hands. Eventually she removes them, rolling her head along the back of the seat to stare at me. “Speaking of sleep. How has yours been?”

I shrug and shoulder check vigorously to avoid letting my eyes rest on her. “Fine. Speaking of trucks … ” I trail off as I pull off onto Rosewood Street, desperate to change the subject. “Let’s go get yours.”

“I don’t feel like facing my brothers, thanks. It can just rot there.”

A grin stretches my mouth. Who knew doing nice things for Bailey would become the thing that gets my body humming after months of numbness?

“Do you really think I blew my brother off just to get a haircut?”

“What?” Her voice bleeds confusion.

“The barbershop is next to the auto shop. Your truck is all fixed.”

Her fingers press into her chest. “My truck is fixed?”

“Correct. Brand new set of tires.”

“How did you get it?”

“Ordered a tow truck.”

Several beats of silence pass as I revel in the feel of the cool air blowing against my face. It’s fucking sweltering today. The kind of day that ends in a killer storm. The kind of day that has heat waves rolling just above the asphalt of the roads.

“I can’t afford this.”

“You don’t need to,” I reply. “I told you I’d take care of it. And I did.”

She just stares at me after that statement. Deep brown irises bouncing around my face, a light furrow to her brow, like I’m a puzzle she can’t quite figure out.

Because no one has ever taken care of Bailey Jansen before.

But I think it’s about time she got used to it.

Jasper’s name flashes across my console screen as I follow Bailey out of town and toward the ranch on her fresh set of wheels.

“Hey!” I shout as soon as I press the button.

“Hi.” I can hear the suspicion in his voice. “Why are you avoiding me?” He’s not a big, dumb hockey player. He’s a big, smart hockey player.

“I’m not avoiding you.”

“You are. You’re a terrible fucking liar for someone who supposedly worked undercover on matters of national security.”

“Jesus, did Bailey tell you to crack those jokes?”

“No. I haven’t spoken to your fiancée.”

I bristle. “Why are you saying it like that?”

I can practically hear him shrug through the phone line. I know him so well. And he knows me so well.

“Dunno, man. Just seems weird that you completely failed to mention your engagement to me until you were announcing it everywhere.”

“Aw. Jasper, baby, don’t get all up in your feels.”

“Beau, take that shit somewhere else. My feelings aren’t hurt. What I’m telling you is I don’t buy it.”

The whoosh of air conditioning is all I hear for a few seconds as I consider my options.

“Why not?”

“That’s offensive.”

I snort. It is. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have tried to pull one over on you.”

“For fuck’s sake, Beau. What are you up to?”

I sigh, palms twisting over the steering wheel. “Bailey needed some support. She’s trying to get outta here, and people are so damn mean to her.”

He hums.

“You can’t fuck this up for her. You need to keep your mouth shut.”

“You know I’m a vault.” He sounds annoyed that I even had to say it. We’ve been best friends, practically brothers, since we were teenagers, and I don’t know a more trustworthy person than Jasper Gervais.

I sigh. “Yeah. I know.”

“You guys have a plan? How long you doing this charade?”

“As long as it takes.” My words lead to more silence. Jasper isn’t a big talker. But he’s a sensitive dude. A deep thinker. And I can almost hear him thinking right now.

“But what’s in it for you?”

My head tips from side to side as I consider my answer. “A friend. I like her.”

“I can tell. And that’s what’s got me worried.”


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