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Hopeless: Chapter 29

Beau

Willa: Talked to my dickhead brother. Just drop your names at the door. His name is Ford Grant Jr., and you can ask for him if you run into any problems.

Beau: Junior?

Willa: Yeah. Emphasis on the junior. It’s his favorite.

Beau: For some reason I don’t believe you. But thanks, Wils. I owe you one.

Willa: Cool. Actually, you can pull the little hairs at the back of his neck and say it’s from me. He loves it.

Beau: I will not be doing that. But I’ll tell him you send your love.

Willa: Lol. Yeah. Tell him that. That’s even funnier.


It’s dark out by the time we hit the city. I got caught up with work today and didn’t make it back home until later than I thought I would.

Bailey presses against my back, her arms wrapped tight around my waist. She squeezes tighter every time we take off from a standstill, and it makes me want to stop and go all night.

I know she wasn’t super keen on the bike. In fact, her words were, “Don’t get us killed, soldier. Things are finally looking up for me.”

And then she swung a leg over and hung on for dear life.

I revel in the feel of her against my body, in the knowledge that she trusts me with her life. Cocooning her in my bed last night stuck with me all day, and I’m not above admitting part of the reason I wanted to do this tonight was to have her close again.

I want her to sleep with me again too. But asking for that with the way we designed our relationship feels too forward.

Getting into her bath and making a meal out of her was probably too far too.

So maybe Bailey is right. Maybe I am impulsive. But only where she’s concerned. And I don’t regret it.

We stop at another red light. The bar I want to take her to is just ahead. I reach back, trailing a hand from her knee down over her calf. Hoping I haven’t freaked her out too badly with the bike, I squeeze her reassuringly.

I turn over my shoulder, my helmet bumping against hers. “You okay, sugar?”

She nods.

“Almost there.”

The light turns green, and within minutes, we pull up in front of Gin and Lyrics. Owned and operated by the one and only Ford Grant—world famous investor slash record producer and Willa’s older brother. Which is the only reason I got our names on the VIP list.

This bar offers music of all kinds. Different genres on different nights. Concerts for slightly bigger bands, talent nights for newbies. Tonight, there’s a DJ playing. I don’t know shit about them, but I figured a night in the city for Bailey to have fun without constantly having to look over her shoulder would be a good gift. She’s still so young. She needs some fun in her life.

I want to give that to her.

“We’re here,” I say as I pull my helmet off and run a hand through my hair. Bailey’s hands trail over my back and my ribs as she extricates herself from the bike. Music thumps from inside, and when I glance back, she looks excited.

Her eyes sparkle like dark gemstones as she straightens her hair, only slightly flattened on top from the helmet, then curling in little swoops around her arms. Long and loose.

She looks carefree for once.

Platform sandals prop up her wide-leg, loose jeans, and the skin on her chest shimmers from the reflection of the lights out front. She’s wearing a black leather jacket with a little tear in the elbow and a corset-style tank top that has me fighting not to stare at her breasts like some basic asshole who sits at her bar every night.

Even though I am one.

“I’ve heard about this place,” she murmurs, combing her hair out with her fingers. There’s a soft smirk on her lips. A flash of anticipation in those chocolate depths. “Have you been here?”

I shake my head no, struck speechless by how different she seems in the glow of the city lights.

She’s standing taller.

Her eyes aren’t darting around.

It seems as though just getting her past those town limits has given her a boost.

Even her voice sounds different—less sugary and fake. More sultry, like she isn’t trying to be someone else.

She can be herself here.

And I can’t stop staring at her.

“Beau?” Her head flips in my direction, hair whipping over her cleavage, hip cocked out.

I shake my head to clear it. It doesn’t help, though. I’m fully distracted by her, and I don’t think I’ll be getting over that anytime soon.

“Yeah, sorry. No, I haven’t been here.”

A flash of white teeth grates over her full bottom lip as she considers my answer. “I heard it’s hard to get into.”

I toss her a wink, deciding I need to get back in my confident mode and leave this starstruck version of myself out here in the parking lot. “Not for us. Willa got us onto the VIP list.”

Her eyes widen. “Seriously?”

I pop our helmets on the bike and step toward her, hand outstretched. “Seriously. You ready? Date night?”

My breath stills, a little part of me wondering if she’ll correct me. We had an agreement. This shouldn’t be a date night.

But I want it to be.

She eyes my hand with a smile that makes my chest ache, then she links her fingers with mine. “Ready.”


I underestimated how claustrophobic I would feel in the midst of this crowd. It hits me that I haven’t been anywhere truly busy since getting out of the military. I’ve been hiding on the ranch, in that town, not living my life the way I should.

I feel intensely free and deeply terrified all at once.

I cling to Bailey’s hand like she’s my lifeline and push into the bar. The thrum in my body gives me a thrill, the burst of dopamine I only get when I buy something dumb, do something impulsive, or anytime I’m near Bailey.

Bailey’s dark eyes glance over her shoulder as she leads me in. “You good?”

She looks like a different person. With a little over an hour between her and her childhood home, and a face no one recognizes, she becomes a different person. I adore every version of her.

But this?

Suddenly, I want nothing more than this for her. Excitement dancing in her eyes, a warm blush on her cheeks, a casual smile on her lips.

Conversation hums and bass thumps around us, and all I can do is nod. Because I don’t know if I’m good, but I’m realizing she is. It’s hitting me she can’t stay in Chestnut Springs, and I would never want her to. How could anyone want to keep her there when she blossoms into this vibrant woman the minute she’s away?

“Where to?” she asks.

“Not sure,” I reply, tugging her back, not wanting her too far ahead. Not wanting to lose sight of her in the crowd.

Not wanting to lose sight of her ever.

My eyes catch on a roped-off section that is only a couple of steps up from the main floor. It’s similar to what Willa described, but the man talking to a security guard beside the entrance isn’t quite an exact match for how she depicted her brother. Though I can see the relation clear as day.

Hair almost like mine, but scruffy, dull, and boring, just like him.

This man’s hair is more of a copper brown than Willa’s bright red.

Tall, so he can glare down his nose at you.

Okay, he’s about my height. Six-foot three or so, which I guess is tall enough to “glare” down his nose at Willa.

Green eyes like mine, but darker like money—his favorite thing.

I chuckled at that, but I can’t see his eye color in the dim club. He’s got a green V-neck T-shirt on, though.

Decent fashion sense but clearly trying to dress like he’s salt of the earth when he’s actually a stuffy billionaire.

Jeans. Scuffed boots. Some bracelets adorn his wrists. Leather strap on one side. Beads stacked over a Rolex on the other.

I can’t help but chuckle to myself at Willa’s description of him. It’s so … Willa. And yet, I feel like it helped me pick him out.

“This way,” I murmur against Bailey’s ear as I move us toward the two men who are deep in conversation.

The man’s head turns as we approach, and up close I can tell that he does, in fact, have an unusual eye tone. More jade-like than Willa’s golden moss.

“Ford?” I ask, inclining my head slightly while squeezing Bailey’s hand.

He looks me over swiftly before doing the same to Bailey. I have to stop my brain from going feral every time a guy lays his eyes on her. But I’m not above admitting there’s a suave energy around Ford Grant that I’m pretty sure I don’t possess. And I wonder if Bailey likes it.

His gaze doesn’t linger, though. There’s nothing inappropriate or rude about his gaze.

“You must be Beau.” We stick our hands out, giving each other a firm shake. “And Bailey,” he says, turning to her. She looks startled when he shakes her hand, like it’s alarming to her that someone would want to shake her hand at all.

“Nice to meet you both.” Ford smirks. It’s not a relaxed, laid-back kind of smile, but it’s not the scowl and grunt Willa prepared me to expect. “I’m sure my sister only sang my praises to you,” he says as he turns and unhooks the red velvet rope. “She’s got a real knack for that.” He snorts and gestures us through.

I chuckle. “A special way with words, for sure. But I know she means well. Still, makes me wonder what she said about us.”

He grins now, pointing at a table for us along the dropped dance floor. “I believe the text message I received mentioned her GI Joe brother-in-law and his jailbait fiancée.”

Bailey gasps and covers her mouth to stifle a giggle, the massive engagement ring on her finger sparkling as she does. I just shake my head.

Fucking Willa.

“For what it’s worth,” Ford continues as Bailey and I slide into our seats across from each other, “I think you make a lovely couple and my sister belongs in a straitjacket.”

Now it’s Bailey’s turn to bark out a laugh.

Ford winks at her. “And you can tell her I said that.” Then he knocks a couple times on the table and says, “You two have fun. Need anything, just let me know. I’ll probably be hiding in my office, so I don’t have to listen to fucking dance music all night long, but you can ask Karl there at the entrance to ring me.”

“Thanks for—” I stop because Ford is already walking away. I chalk him up to being abrupt and all business, but not quite the raging asshole Willa made him out to be.

“Wow, the genes in that family are something else,” Bailey says appreciatively while watching Ford walk away.

It rankles me more than it should. I straighten and give her a pouty glare.

She gives me wide eyes back. “What?” She lifts her left hand, waving her fingers to show off her ring. “I’m engaged, not dead. And you’d have to be dead to not notice that—”

“Bailey.” I stare at her flatly, and she just smirks.

“Jealous?” Her lips curve up, and I know she’s teasing me.

I swallow and hear the crackle of it in my ears. “Yes.”

Her already big eyes go wider. “Really?”

It annoys me she thinks no man could be jealous over her. That she’s learned to view herself as so undesirable I wouldn’t feel threatened by someone else.

To be frank, it’s a new feeling for me too. And I can’t help but wonder if it’s rearing its ugly head because of the nature of our relationship. The fakeness. Because I’ve never been insecure in this part of my life.

But I don’t tell her that.

I lean over the table, elbows pressed to the flat surface with my forearms crossed, and say, “If you want someone to eye-fuck, I’m right here.”

I expect her to be taken aback, but she’s not Chestnut Springs Bailey tonight. Instead, she leans in closer. “And what if I want someone to actually fuck?” She spits the words out and they land on me like rat-at-at-at from the spray of bullets in combat.

Of course, an unwanted intruder approaches the table. “Hi! I’m Dani! I’ll be your server tonight. What can I get started for you two?”

Bailey and I stare off for another beat or two before we both give into our polite instincts and turn our attention on the girl.

“I’ll have a margarita on the rocks,” Bailey answers smoothly, like she didn’t just challenge me to fuck her.

“I’ll have a Coke,” I bite out, not looking away from the woman across from me as I make my order.

The server leaves and Bailey gives her head a slow shake. “No need to be snippy at her just because your panties are twisted up over nothing.”

I clear my throat and lean back a bit in my chair, snapping out of whatever intense headspace I was just in. Of course, Bailey is right. She’s the only person with a big enough pair to call me out when I’m being a dick.

“You’re right,” I grumble, regarding the bustling dance floor.

“Have you decided which version of yourself you’re going to be tonight?”

Her question startles me, and I sit up straight again to look at her. “Pardon me?” I almost have to shout it across the space for her to hear me.

“You. You’re inconsistent. I’m gonna need a neck brace to keep up with all the different personas.”

I stare at her. Really stare. Being anonymous in a busy bar has emboldened her in more ways than one.

The truest thing I’ve ever said to her pitches up out of my throat unbidden. “I don’t know who I am anymore, Bailey.” I shout it across the table, listening to every syllable get swallowed up by the thumping bass.

“Who do you want to be?”

The question is so simple, but it bowls me over.

“I don’t know. I was so tied up in my job. Now I don’t even know. A rancher? Part of my community? Around for my family? A good uncle? A good son?”

She shakes her head at me slowly. “No, those are all things that you think other people want you to be.” She reaches across the table, index finger poking me in the center of my chest. “Who do you want to be? Be selfish. You already told me you want to be a firefighter. Why are you pretending that’s not on the table now?”

I don’t know what to say, but she forges ahead.

“Me? I want a job I can’t wait to go to every day. One that isn’t dependent on how I look, one that I’ll have worked impossibly hard to get. I want to walk into a store or a cafe and have people be happy to see me. I want them to wave hello at me. I want a fancy-ass truck with leather seats and all the bells and whistles. I don’t want to work at going unnoticed constantly. I want to look respectable, but I also want to be respectable. I want to be respected.”

Vitality courses through her and I want to soak it all up. Just being around her makes me want more for myself.

I want to answer her question with the same kind of fervor and surety, but the only thing I can think is, “I want to be yours for real.”


“Wanna dance?”

Bailey has had two margaritas now and I can tell she’s feeling good. Loose. She seems … relaxed.

I chuckle and take a sip of my Coke. I’d kill for a beer right now, and I think I could handle one, but I still have to drive us back to Chestnut Springs, and I have precious cargo. “I’m not a big dancer, Bailey. Or not this type of dancing.” I gesture at the DJ, lifted on a podium across the dance floor. Bodies bounce and writhe in the pit between us.

“More of a two-step kinda guy?” She grins at me and pats my shoulder as she stands up, jeans hugging her hips, breasts full and on display over the neckline of her top. She’s totally oblivious to her sex appeal.

As I watch her walk away from me, weaving through the crowd toward the dance floor with her head held high and her shoulders rolled back, she doesn’t look young or inexperienced. She looks like a woman who could bring me to my knees.

I can’t help but note that other men are noticing her too.

My eyes never leave her. Her hair shines, reflecting the flash of blue and purple lights from above. When she finds an open spot, her toned arms slide up over her head, her eyes flutter shut, and her hips sway in time with the sultry beat of the music.

It’s a punch to the gut.

She’s fucking stunning. And confident. I can’t peel my eyes away. I can’t believe this is my Bailey Jansen.

Quiet, nervous, borderline mousy, Bailey Jansen.

But that’s not who she is today. That’s not who she is at all.

She’s someone else entirely and her transformation is something to behold. It feels like a gift to sit here and watch her be herself.

And it’s a gift I only get to savor for so long before I see a hand slide around her waist. One brush of another man’s fingers over the single inch of exposed skin between her waistline and shirt, and her eyes snap open.

Her gaze latches onto mine from across the room.

The guy shouts something in her ear from where he stands behind her and she smiles, still staring directly at me.

Then she holds her left hand up.

I see her palm.

But he sees her ring.

I see the guy chuckle and say something else before patting her shoulder and moving away. Which is perfect because he just freed up my spot.

I’m out of my seat and moving across the dance floor toward my fiancée within seconds. We don’t drop eye contact even once. When I get to her, I skim my hands over her waist, that inch of skin, as though washing away the other man’s touch.

“Bailey,” I growl against her cheek and press a brief kiss there as she wraps her arms around my neck.

“Beau.” She says my name like a sentence, as I do hers, and returns the one simple kiss to my cheek.

I tug her close, lining our hips up, reveling in the feel of her swaying against me, the vibration of the loud music that rattles in our bones.

Dropping my lips to her ear, I confess, “I have no idea what I’m doing.”

The dancing, my life, this deal with her—I mean all of it. I have no idea what I’m doing. And for a man who’s had a plan for so damn long, it terrifies me.

She sways against me, fingers raking through the closely trimmed hair at the back of my head. “You’re just being here with me. That’s all I want.”

She turns and leans her back against my chest, ass brushing against my cock. I let myself settle into the thought that maybe it’s okay to have no idea what I’m doing.

That being here with Bailey is enough.

That maybe she wants more than this arrangement, impossible as it might have seemed originally.

I spend all night on the fucking dance floor, swaying to the beat, while Bailey dances against me with a heart-rending smile on her face.

“Beau, take me home,” she finally asks.

Of course, I’m more than happy to do that too. But this time, I don’t just hold her leg at red lights. I reach back and grip her thigh for the entire wordless drive back to Chestnut Springs.

And I swear she holds me closer than she ever has before.

By the time we make it home, I’ve realized that I’ll probably give this girl anything she wants.

A ring.

Sex.

Forever.


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