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Hopeless: Chapter 33

Bailey

When Beau and I walk into the quiet house together, our presence in the space makes the silence even more deafening. Beau tosses his keys onto the kitchen counter, and I flinch at the loud clatter of metal on marble.

There’s clearly an elephant in the room and neither of us knows how to talk about it. At thirty-five, he should know what he’s doing with all this shit. Apparently not. In his defense, it’s not like he didn’t warn me he doesn’t do real relationships.

But here I am, falling for him anyway.

I start toward the stove, needing to do something with my hands to combat the awkwardness blooming between us. “Want me to make us some tea?”

“We need to talk.”

I freeze. That boulder is so damn heavy in my gut while everything else spins around me. I force myself to keep walking. Every movement feels like a struggle, like I’m walking through molasses up to my knees.

“Sure. About what?” I keep my voice airy as my fingers wrap around the kettle.

“Bailey, I don’t want tea. Come here.”

The rush of my heart pumping blood sounds like a heavy drum in my ears, but I turn and walk back to him, like a marionette on strings.

He’s taken a seat on one of the stools on the island. His brows dip low, and he crosses the massive arms I slept in last night. They felt so warm and welcoming.

But I’m seeing them differently now. Big, foreboding, perfect to crush my heart with.

Propping a hip against the island, I mirror him and cross my arms as a shield against what I seem to know is coming. “What’s up?” It sounds more petulant than I intended, but I’m feeling a little petulant right now. “You ghost me and barely acknowledge me all day, and now you want to talk? Lucky me.”

I guess I’m all in on the petulance tonight.

“I didn’t ghost you. I went to work.”

“Right.” My lips press together, and I glare at him.

Beau sighs, broad chest rising and falling as he reaches back and grips his neck. “Look, I needed some time to wrap my head around things after last night.”

The urge to berate myself is overwhelming. I shouldn’t have told him I was hung up on him too. I’m sure I freaked him right the fuck out.

“So help me, if this is some moment where you decide to admire my virginity again, I will walk out that front door.”

“I’m not admiring it, Bailey. I’m telling you it means something to me. I’m telling you there are only so many firsts in your life before every day just turns into a blur of more of the same. I’m telling you that, whether or not you realize it, it might mean something to you one day. And I hate the thought of you living with any regrets.”

I gnaw at the inside of my cheek, feeling more childish and inexperienced by the second. Beau isn’t staring at me like I’m childish at all, though.

I can’t put my finger on what’s there in his gaze. All I know is I’m quite certain no person in my life has ever looked at me the way Beau is right now. My chest warms under the intensity in his eyes.

But he squashes that in its tracks.

“I think we should stop.”

Stop.

That’s what my heart does. Stops right in its tracks.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

My lungs no longer pump air as I stand in the too-quiet kitchen, staring at the too-handsome man before me.

“You’ve got a job now.”

I nod, but I don’t really hear his words. I keep repeating to myself: don’t let him see you cry.

“A secure one. You’ll be able to save up to get out of town, no problem.”

“Mm-hmm,” is all I can manage to choke out. I’m certain that if I open my mouth to say something, only a sob will come out.

Every word feels like he’s tearing away a piece of my heart I swore I wouldn’t give to him. I thought I hadn’t.

“ … so we can probably safely end this arrangement now.”

He was talking, and I wasn’t listening. It’s one of those moments where you know it’s happening, but it doesn’t seem real. Everything happens in slow motion.

I blink hard, forcing my lips into a smile that leans more toward a grimace. Beau is a nice guy. I don’t want to make him feel worse than he probably already does. I don’t want to be the naive girl who was foolish enough to believe in something that was never meant to be.

I’m so fucking hung up on you.

I shake the words away, filing them under “things men must say when they’ve had an amazing orgasm”.

“Yeah, of course.” My voice is watery, but I don’t think there’s any helping that.

Beau’s forehead crinkles in concern, and he unfolds one thick arm, reaching for me. When the tips of his fingers trace my hip bone, I recoil and step back.

He just dumped me. Fake dumped me?

Whatever the fuck you call this, I have enough self-respect to not want his hands on me.

In one smooth motion, I pull the diamond ring from my finger and drop it onto the marble between us. “No problem. Definitely don’t want to overstay my welcome. You take this—”

“Bailey.” He pushes to stand, and I hate that I notice the way the muscles in his legs flex. The line from his quads that runs down to his knees. Down to his marred feet.

The feet that still burn every night.

The feet I woke up and rubbed last night.

How fucking dare he do this to me?

“I’ll just head back out to my trailer.”

I can’t even look at him.

My feet move swiftly across the floor to the front door.

“Bailey, wait—”

I hold a hand up over my shoulder to cut him off. “It’s all good. Totally fine. Cool, cool, cool.” The last cool comes out as a sob.

My sandals sit in the entryway, but I don’t feel like taking the time to strap them back on. A buckle is just not in the cards right now. I yank the door open, sensing him behind me.

“Fuck,” he mutters. He starts to follow me, but then he turns around, moving in the opposite direction, back into his house, while I jog out into the cool night. The dog days of summer are upon us. They hit with startling rapidity. It went from hot at night, to tepid, to refreshing. The minute the sun disappears, so does the heat, the mountain air creeping in as fall approaches.

Dewy grass clings to my bare feet as I fixate on my trailer. If I can just get myself there—across that line, behind that door—I might be safe.

Safe enough to break down.

My palms land flat against the chilled fiberglass exterior, and I reach for the handle, my fingers wrapping around the chipped metal.

Inside, I’ll be okay.

I tug, but the door holds still.

It’s locked. Because of course it is.

A sob racks my body, and my forehead thumps against the side of my trailer. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”

The back door of Beau’s house slams. “Bailey.”

This time, my name isn’t laced with amused frustration. There’s an edge to his tone, a sharpness. It’s not casual and unaffected. It’s hot and fired up with military abruptness.

His footsteps approach me, and I feel the tension that radiates from his body. For some reason, he seems angry.

“What made you think I was done talking to you?”

I laugh, but it sounds more like I’m crying. I wipe at my cheek and my fingers come away wet. Turns out I am crying. “Felt pretty final to me. No need to drag it out, Beau. I’ll be okay.” I don’t turn to face him. “Just leave me alone. I’ll be fine by morning.”

“Bullshit. You won’t be fine in the morning.”

I start at the harshness in his words. Okay, probably not, but it seems cruel to rub my face in that fact. “Fuck off, Beau.”

His palm lands on my shoulder, and when I go to shrug him off, he flips me around, pressing me up hard against the exterior of my trailer. He gets right in my face, one hand cupping my cheek. “No. You’re crying.”

His head drops, and he kisses a tear that streaks down my face. “I can’t fucking stand the sight of you crying.”

Oh god. My heart twists and it fucking hurts.

I knew it would be painful, but nothing could have prepared me for the searing, intense ache.

I need space. I need to breathe.

I shove him, but it’s no use. He’s too big. Might as well run around trying to push trees over at this rate. “Please.” My voice cracks as I look up into his face. “Fuck off.”

“Not until I finish what I was trying to say back inside the house.”

“You dumped me. What more do you want to say?”

Intensity paints every inch of his stupid, handsome face while his eyes dance back and forth between mine.

I wait for him to say something.

But he doesn’t.

“Did you forget what you wanted to say, Beau? Because I think I can’t do this anymore sums things up, don’t you?” I spit the words out, steeling myself. Trying to inflict pain. Though I think repeating his words out loud hurts me more than anyone.

His hands tighten on my body, gripping me as he pushes his knee between my legs, pinning me in place. Tears stream down my cheeks, clumping my eyelashes, and my chest aches so heavy and deep that simply breathing hurts.

The hand on my waist moves up, wiping away another tear before pushing back a lock of my carefully styled hair. “What I meant to say, Bailey … ” He emphasizes my name in a way that sends a shiver down my spine. His hand cups my head so I can’t look anywhere but straight at him. “What I meant to say is … will you go out with me?”

Everything around me comes to a screeching halt. Not only is the sentence juvenile, but it’s also just plain confusing.

“You just broke up with me.”

A boyish smile curves his sinful lips. He kisses my temple and goes back to staring me down. “If you had let me finish, I’d have told you I couldn’t keep doing it anymore because pretending this thing between us is fake is fucking killing me.”

“What?”

God, that’s what I blurt out? What?

“The only reason you got this far is because I went back into the house for the ring.”

He reaches down and pulls the teardrop-shaped diamond from his pocket, holding it between us.

“I’m done pretending to be head over heels in love with you because I’m legitimately head over heels in love with you. And acting like I’m not tears me up.”

I grip his wrists, squeezing so I can assure myself that he’s real. That this moment is real. Because it feels distinctly unbelievable.

“Maybe it’s too soon. Maybe this is impulsive. Maybe you don’t love me back. But I’ll wait. I don’t care. I’ll take my time with you. So long as I know you’re really mine, I can be patient.”

“Beau … ” My chest heaves as my brain struggles to catch up.

He doesn’t give me a chance to say any more before he’s pulling my hand down and sliding the engagement ring back onto my finger. “This belongs here,” he murmurs.

“Maybe we should just date for a bit?” God, I’m not firing on all cylinders right now. I should tell him I love him back. I should kiss him.

“Call it whatever you want, sugar. But the ring stays here.”

We both stare at the diamond, the back porch lights flitting off every brilliant facet. Our breaths come out ragged. We’re both amped up. Confused, excited, frustrated.

“Feels like bad luck to wear it when we’re not really engaged.”

“We are really engaged.” His response leaves no room for debate.

“I mean, if we’re taking our time, testing this thing out for real, you probably shouldn’t waltz around pretending you intend to marry me when you don’t.”

I swear he growls at my response. A deep rumble in his chest. A narrowing of his eyes. The vein at his temple throbs.

I hate myself. Why am I arguing with him and poking holes in his logic when this should be a dream come true?

It’s because it doesn’t feel real. Good things like this don’t happen to Bailey Jansen. Not with men like him.

“Stop thinking what you’re thinking. Stop pretending this isn’t real.” He bends slightly and lifts me, picking me up easily and carrying me back toward the house. “Stop telling me what I intend to do,” he whispers against my ear. “Because I do intend to marry you. And I want you to wear that fucking ring while I show you that it’s true.”

Then he kicks the door open. Marches me up the stairs to his room. Drops me to my feet at the foot of his bed, and says, “Strip.”


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