Bailey woke up alone. She’d been alone all night. When she reached out in the darkness for the comforting bulk of Hunter she’d only encountered cold, empty sheets. She’d gotten up at one stage to see where he was and she’d found him still working at his laptop. It was either a really serious problem that he was working on or he was avoiding her.
She flipped the comforter off and stood to stretch. The bride and bridesmaids were all meeting in Madam Hilda’s suite to get the hair and makeup done and to dress for the wedding. She checked her phone for the time and saw that she had a while yet before she needed to be there. Maybe she and Hunter could share some breakfast before they had to go their separate ways.
Bailey padded out to the living area and looked around for Hunter, but he was nowhere to be found. She walked down the hall to the second bedroom but he wasn’t there either and the bed hadn’t been slept in. She walked back to the office, noticing that his laptop and other paraphernalia were gone. Hunter was gone.
She checked the suite again, hoping for a note or some other clue as to where he might be but all she found was that all of his stuff was gone. She picked up the phone and dialled reception.
“Ms. Sheppard,” the woman answered in a friendly tone, “how may I help you?”
“I was wondering if Mr. Green had left any indication of when he would return,” Bailey said, not quite sure how she knew it was her calling.
“Mr. Green had to leave early this morning,” the woman informed her. “He said to let you know that you could stay as long as you needed to. The suite is fully paid for and there is a car service on call for whenever you need it.”
Bailey was stunned. Hunter had really left her without explanation. What the hell type of emergency was this that he’d had to leave in the middle of the night?
“Thank you,” she said and hung up.
Bailey wandered around the suite a little shell-shocked not quite sure what was going on. She grabbed her phone from the bedroom and sent him a text.
B: Where are you?
She waited for a reply and when one didn’t come she pulled up Nick’s number.
B: Is Hunter with you?
N: No, haven’t seen him
She threw her phone on the bed and then followed it down, burying her head in the pillows. Where had he gone and, more importantly, why?
Yesterday had been just about perfect, well the time she’d spent with him had been. And even the dinner hadn’t been too unbearable with him there shooting her heated glances. And then when he’d come back inside he’d been cold and distant. What had happened in between the time she’d gone out to talk with Nick and when he’d come back to the table?
She picked up her phone and dialled the contact number she had for Madeline, Hunter’s personal assistant. The two had talked quite a bit over the last few months with her contract with Green Aviation. If anyone knew where Hunter was, Madeline would.
“Good morning Bailey,” Madeline answered. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready for a wedding?”
“Funny thing,” she huffed a laugh, trying for levity but coming across a little hysterical, “my date is M.I.A.”
“Oh?” she asked.
“Yeah, Hunter said there was an emergency at work and he had to leave.”
“Hunter is your date?” she asked.
“He didn’t tell you?” Bailey asked.
“I hadn’t heard from Hunter until last night when he texted me to ask about the office. Did he say what the emergency was?”
“Okay, so long story, but we ended up being paired up at a wedding…”
“His stepbrother’s wedding?”
“Uh, yeah,” Bailey said, pinching the bridge of her nose, this was so complicated to explain. “I’m an old friend of the family.”
“O-kay,” she said drawing the word out.
“Right, so anyway, Hunter told me last night that something had come up at work and now no one knows where he is.”
“Leave it with me,” Madeline said efficiently.
“Thanks Madeline. I’ll keep my phone with me.”
They disconnected and Bailey let her head fall back on the pillows. What the hell had gotten into Hunter?
There was a knock at the door and she jumped up, hoping that it was Hunter and he just didn’t have his keycard to get into the room.
She swung the door open to a trolley filled with food.
“Room service,” said the bellhop as he pushed the trolley inside.
“I didn’t order any room service,” Bailey said.
“Mr. Green left instructions for us to bring this up when you were awake.” The bellhop turned and walked out, closing the door behind him.
Bailey approached the trolley with trepidation. Why would Hunter send her food? None of this made any sense. She scanned the tray looking for a note or something to explain Hunter’s strange disappearance, but there was nothing. She poured herself a cup of coffee and sat down, avoiding the dining table and all those memories, and wondering just what the hell had gone wrong.
“I’m fine,” Hunter growled into the phone without even looking at the caller display.
“Well that’s good then,” Madeline said. “You might want to let your date know.”
“My date?” he asked.
“Bailey called me looking for you. A very distraught Bailey, I might add. Were you going to tell me that she was your date to your brother’s wedding?”
“Stepbrother,” he ground out. “And no.”
He heard Madeline huff into the phone and his lips quirked in a quick smile.
“Look,” he said with a sigh, “it’s complicated, okay? Bailey is Nick’s ex and there’s a story, one which I don’t really want to go into now,” he said cutting off her questions. “I told Bailey I had to work because I needed a distraction. I’m still going to the wedding, I just needed…space.”
“Where are you?” she asked, her voice soft.
“About ten thousand feet above the Pacific Ocean,” he replied.
“You’re flying?” she asked, obviously surprised.
“I am,” he replied.
He hadn’t flown since his father died. Well, not just for the sake of it. He made sure to keep his flight hours up to keep his license, but he hadn’t gone for a joy flight in a long time. He hadn’t wanted to because it reminded him of his dad too much. But as the sun rose this morning, he hadn’t wanted to do anything else but be in the sky with it.
“Okay then,” Madeline said. “Be safe okay? And let your date know you’re okay.”
“Fine,” he said before disconnecting.
After Bailey had gone to bed last night he had spent time working, but it wasn’t anything important, it was just stuff to keep his mind occupied so that he wouldn’t give in to the need to feel Bailey’s naked body against his. He’d gotten up a couple of times and just stood in the doorway of the bedroom and watched her sleep.
He’d thought for a while that he had found the one woman he could share his life with. He’d thought he’d found the love that his father and mother had shared. But it was all a lie. He was nothing but a distraction for Bailey. A rebound. A way to get over Nick.
He couldn’t explain the animosity he felt towards his stepbrother except that it seemed like he had stolen his life. His mother was now Nick’s mother and Nick saw her a hell of a lot more than Hunter did. And now he had Bailey too, except that he’d had Bailey for the last five years and Hunter had only just met her. Nick seemed to be living the charmed life and Hunter was left with the dregs.
Not that being a billionaire was the dregs. He knew he was fortunate to have the business success that he’d had, but it didn’t mean anything when the woman he was in love with was in love with someone else. Someone who didn’t deserve her, who wouldn’t love her the way she should be loved.
He just had to get through the wedding and then he could be free of her and her influence over him. She’d completely invaded his life and had been way too much of a distraction. The one night they’d spent together six months ago had skewed his thinking. It was the only reason he could give for the way he had allowed her so close. He hadn’t been thinking clearly.
He turned the small plane back towards the airport. He needed to be at his mother’s house soon to get ready for this farce of a wedding. He was dreading the whole day. Being so close to Bailey and yet being so far away from her was almost too much to handle. But he would handle it, for his mother.
He landed and made sure the plane was tucked away in the hangar before pulling out his phone and scrolling through the plethora of text messages. Bailey had been texting him almost constantly and they had become progressively more aggressive.
B: Where are you?
B: Come on Hunter, tell me where you are. I’m worried.
B: Hunter! Talk to me, please.
B: Hunter, what the hell is going on? No one knows where you are.
B: Fuck it Hunter, where the bloody hell are you?
B: You had bloody well be in a ditch somewhere with a head injury or I am going to fucking kill you myself when I get a hold of you.
B: I hate you.
He sighed and tapped out a reply.
H: I’m fine. See you at the wedding
B: I don’t fucking care anymore…who is this anyway?
He had to chuckle at that but then he reminded himself that she was going back to Nick and the soft feelings he’d had towards her hardened once again. He would get through this wedding and then he would bury himself in work. It was the only way he was going to get over her.
Bailey threw her phone onto the vanity where she sat having her hair done. Fucking Hunter had blown her off with no explanation and all she got was a stupid text saying he was fine and that he would see her at the wedding. It was an asshole move and she had quickly gone from worry to anger.
“Who was that?” Three asked her, nodding her head towards the phone.
“Hunter,” Bailey ground out.
“Problems?” Two asked, sitting down beside her.
“No,” she replied shortly.
“So why the frownie face?” Three asked
“He disappeared early this morning without telling me where he was going.”
“Oh,” Two said, sharing a look with Three. “He probably had errands to run for Nick.”
“Yup,” she said, popping the ‘p’ like she didn’t care.
“All done,” the hairdresser said.
Bailey got up from the seat without even looking in the mirror and went to put her dress on. The morning had been awful. Ainsley and Number One were ignoring her, and Two and Three had been badgering her about her and Nick and Hunter. She was done.
Madam Hilda was waiting for her in the main bedroom with her dress. The older woman helped her into it and smoothed the fabric before taking a step back to look at her.
“It’s all going to be okay,” Madam Hilda said to her.
“Um, what?” Bailey asked, distracted from her internal diatribe by the other woman’s observation.
“This,” she said waving her hand in the direction of the suite Bailey had shared with Hunter. “It will all work out.”
Bailey sighed. “I don’t think it will,” she said, but Madam Hilda only beamed at her.
“I know these things,” she said as she adjusted the bodice and the shoulder straps. “You just need to let him know how you feel.”
“I don’t think he wants to know,” she replied.
“They never know what they want until you show them. Tell him, tell him how you feel. I promise it will work out.”
It was a lovely thought, but Bailey didn’t even know what had spooked Hunter in the first place. If she told him she was in love with him, no doubt he would run a mile. But what if he didn’t? What if he had run because he was scared? But if he knew how she felt, would it allay some of those fears?
She sucked in a breath. What else did she have to lose? The first moment they got, Bailey was going to tell Hunter exactly how she felt about him and let the chips fall where they may.
With renewed vigour, she helped get the bride ready. Ainsley had become so consumed by the last minute details that she seemed to forget to be angry at Bailey and that was good enough for her. Having something to do helped to keep her mind off the coming conversation with Hunter.
The photographer finally arrived and they posed for photos inside the suite and then outside with the cars. There were some photos across the road near the beach. Bailey’s cheeks were already aching from smiling and they hadn’t even made it to the ceremony yet.