They didn’t make it to the range for lunch, but Bailey didn’t mind. After the conversation with Ainsley, she’d needed Hunter more than she’d realised. He made the chaos in her brain quiet and proved to her that she did have value.
They’d gone from the table to the shower and then to the bed, neither of them able to quite get enough of the other one. Hunter had seemed just as desperate as she had been for their intimate connection and she loved the way he owned her body.
They had eventually slept, exhausted both emotionally and physically, and he’d kept her close, spooning her and making sure that she was never far from his reach.
She liked that about him too.
Maybe it was time for her to tell him just how much.
She’d fallen asleep with that thought, only to be awakened much later by Hunter’s phone. They were running late for the rehearsal, not that either of them minded. Bailey knew that Hunter would’ve been just as happy to blow off the rehearsal and the dinner following it for room service and an evening alone, just the two of them. But Hunter felt an obligation to his mother, so they dragged themselves out of bed and dressed, both trying very hard not to get distracted by one another.
By the time they made it to the church, everyone was waiting for them. Bailey didn’t blush as she walked in and everyone turned to glare at them, she simply smiled, content and very well satiated.
She could barely concentrate on the instructions the minister gave them, she was too caught up in Hunter. She sought him out, time after time, catching his eye and smiling coyly. He returned her smiles and she could feel his eyes track her every move.
Something had changed between them, yet again, and she really wished that they’d had a chance to talk before coming here tonight. Now that she knew, without a doubt in her mind, that she wanted Hunter, that she was in love with him, she really wanted to tell him, with words and not just her body.
They followed the instructions of the minister, walking down the aisle to the music, standing in their places as the minister ran through a brief outline of the ceremony. Then they walked back up the aisle behind Nick and Ainsley, her arm through Hunter’s, a smile on her lips. Then they turned around and did it again, because Ainsley needed to be convinced that they all had the timing right.
Bailey barely even looked at Nick, she had eyes only for Hunter and she couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel room to continue what they had started. He seemed to have similar thoughts and each time she looked at him, he was watching her. He even cocked that sexy eyebrow once or twice and she had felt the heat fill her body each time.
Memories of the way he had marked her as his that afternoon on the dining room table kept finding their way into her head, causing her face to flush. The feel of his hot semen painting her was branded on her for life. It had been such a carnal thing to do, a possessive and alpha male move to make her his, and she knew she should take offence, but it had also been so incredibly erotic that she couldn’t help wanting a repeat performance.
“I know what you’re thinking about,” he whispered in her ear as they walked back up the aisle for the fourth time.
“Oh, really,” she asked, giving him a smirk.
He dipped his head and brushed his lips over hers in a quick kiss.
“Yeah,” he said against her mouth, “I can see it written all over your face.” He kissed her again and then walked away before Ainsley could start scolding them for not paying attention.
The drive to the restaurant was quiet, but not awkward. It was uncomfortable, but only because they both wanted to have their hands all over each other instead of on their way to a dinner surrounded by people they didn’t particularly like.
Hunter parked the car and she waited for him to open her door and help her out. It wasn’t something that she normally did, but she knew he liked to do it and it did make her feel special. They walked arm in arm into the restaurant and shared a sweet kiss before walking towards the table reserved for their party.
They were the last to arrive and had to sit diagonally opposite each other instead of next to one another and it was torture for Bailey to be so close to him, but not close enough to touch. The anticipation that was building within her was putting her on edge and she was practically counting down the minutes until they could be alone together again and she could spill her guts to him.
She ate the food on her plate and drank the wine in her glass without really tasting either. She kept up a conversation with those close to her, but it all happened by rote and she didn’t really know what they talked about or even what she said. She was consumed by the green-eyed man across the table and was desperate to feel his arms around her again.
When the coffee was being served and after the speeches had been said, Bailey felt a tug on her arm and she looked up to see Nick. Hunter had gotten up from the table moments ago to visit the men’s room and she felt suddenly vulnerable without him near.
“Come for a walk with me,” Nick said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Nick,” she said, picking up her glass and taking a sip.
“Come on Bae,” he said, his voice soft and cajoling. “We’re still friends, aren’t we?”
Bailey sighed and looked up at him. She had loved him for so long, and still did if she was honest with herself. She wasn’t in love with him, but there was still affection for the years they’d shared.
“Okay,” she said, standing and following him out to the garden.
They walked along the gravel path, the cool autumn air making her rub her arms.
“You’re cold,” he said, shrugging out of his jacket and laying it across her shoulders.
“Thanks,” she said.
“So…” he began, dragging the single syllable out. “You and Hunter are serious.”
She smiled. “Yeah,” she replied softly, “we really are.”
“Shit, Bae,” he said shaking his head. “I don’t know what you see in him. He’s an arrogant prick.”
“No, Nick, he isn’t,” she replied. “At least not to me he isn’t. He cares for me. He looks after me.”
Nick ran a hand through his hair and shook his head. “I never thought you’d pass me over for another guy, Bae. I thought what we had was special.”
Bailey stopped and turned to him. “You walked away Nick,” she said sternly. “Not me. I’d built an entire fantasy future around you, but you didn’t want any of it. You didn’t want me.”
“I do want you, Bailey,” he said, pulling her close. “I’ve always wanted you.”
“Not enough to marry me,” she said.
He stepped away from her and turned his back. One hand scrubbed the back of his neck as his other hand sat on his hip. He turned back to her, his eyes sheepish.
“We never had that kind of relationship,” he said.
“No, but we could have,” she replied without animosity. “I would’ve given up everything for you Nick.”
“And then you would’ve ended up hating me,” he replied.
She shrugged. “Probably. I definitely would’ve wanted more than what you are giving Ainsley.”
“But you know me, Bae. You know none of those other women ever meant anything to me.”
“Maybe,” she replied, “but Ainsley deserves more and so do I.”
“And Hunter’s going to give you more?”
“He already has Nick,” she said. She took his hands in hers and looked into his eyes. “You will always have a special place in my heart, Nick, and I’ll always love you, but that part of our lives is over.”
He huffed out a laugh. “So our arrangement has come to an end?” he asked and she could tell he was still holding out on hope.
“Yes,” she replied, “but I think you already knew that.”
He pulled her into his arms and she sighed with the comfort and familiarity of Nick’s scent. It was nothing like the way Hunter held her, but it was Nick and he had been her best friend for such a long time. She tilted her head up to him and kissed him chastely on the lips.
“I wish you all the best, Nick,” she said. “I hope you and Ainsley can be happy together.”
He looked a little sad as he replied. “I hope so too.”
Hunter watched from the small bridge that spanned the koi pond as Bailey first hugged Nick and then kissed him. His gut clenched with pain and his heart atrophied in his chest. He’d wanted to tell Bailey tonight that he had fallen in love with her, he’d wanted to make plans for a future together with her. Instead he was watching his stepbrother make moves on her and she was lapping it up.
He heard her laugh as they turned and headed back towards the restaurant. He hated that Nick knew how to make her laugh. He’d tried really hard to forget the shared history of Nick and Bailey, but seeing them together like this brought it all into stark detail.
Had everything he and Bailey shared been a lie? He’d thought he’d finally gotten through to her and that she’d finally seen how good they could be together. But the evidence was telling him something different. Bailey wasn’t over Nick. Maybe she never would be.
Hunter took a deep breath of the cool night air and took out his phone. He sent a quick text to Madeline and smiled tightly at her response. He was surprised it had taken him this long to ask her what was going on at work too, but he’d had a distraction. Now he needed work to distract him from his distraction.
After another quick text, he slipped his phone into his pocket and stalked back to the restaurant. Maybe it was for the best that he and Bailey end things. He was going to have to spend a lot more time in his Canberra office and she couldn’t leave Melbourne. It probably wouldn’t have worked anyway.
He entered through the doors and his eyes sought her out. She saw him and her face lit up, her eyes sparkled and her lips curved up into a seductive grin. He groaned inwardly. He’d moved her into his suite and had no way of kicking her out now, not until after the wedding, so he’d just have to avoid her as much as possible.
She walked directly to him and he kept his hands in his pockets as she rose up on her tiptoes to brush a kiss on his cheek. He gritted his teeth against the onslaught of sensations that coursed through his body and stepped away from her.
“You ready to go?” his voice was gruff and not the sexy kind.
Her eyes widened with shock and she nodded warily. “Yeah, we can go now if you like.”
“Fine,” he said, turning and walking away, not waiting for her.
He unlocked the car and slid into the driver’s seat, not bothering to open her door for her. She slid into the seat beside him and he started the car without looking at her. He could tell she was confused but he was just too damned angry to let her off the hook.
They drove in silence, his anger and hurt settling like a hard ball in his gut. He’d fallen in love with her and she’d just been using him.
“What’s wrong Hunter?” she finally asked as he parked the car in the underground garage of the hotel.
“Work,” he replied, really not wanting to get into it with her.
She didn’t say anything and he took the opportunity to escape the car. He didn’t walk around to open her door, instead heading straight for the elevator and pushing the call button. He heard the car door slam and he pressed the lock button on his key fob as the elevator doors swished open.
He took a step in and held the door for her, pressing the button for their floor when she entered the lift.
“I was hoping to pick up where we left off this afternoon,” she said softly.
He didn’t look at her, staring instead down at the smartphone in his hands.
“Sorry,” he replied, “something’s come up at work and I’ll be busy all night trying to sort it out.”
“Right,” she said as the elevator doors opened. He let her walk in front of him, feigning interest in his phone. There wasn’t an emergency at his office, he’d just asked Madeline to send him busy work to keep him distracted, but he didn’t want Bailey to know that.
She waited while he unlocked the door and then made a beeline for the bedroom. Hunter slumped into the desk chair and fired up his laptop. He clicked open a few screens and downloaded the spreadsheet that Madeline had emailed.
A little while later he sensed more than heard Bailey walk towards him. He looked up and had to school his expression before looking down at his laptop.
“I’m going to be a while yet,” he mumbled.
She sat on the edge of the desk beside him wearing nothing but a sheer, short nightie and matching panties that were completely visible through the open weave fabric.
“Are you sure it can’t wait until Monday?” she asked, her voice soft.
He didn’t dare look up at her. He knew that as soon as he did he wouldn’t be able to resist her. The sight of her pink nipples through the pale gauzy fabric and the way her breasts had swayed as she walked towards him already had his cock pressing eagerly against his fly. He shifted uncomfortably but kept his eyes on the screen.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
She waited a moment and when he didn’t say anymore, she sighed and then got up and left, trailing her hand across his shoulders as she walked away. He closed his eyes against the sensation, but kept tight control on his raging libido.
He shouldn’t want her as much as he did, especially when he knew she was still hung up on Nick, but damn, she was a hard woman to get out of his head.