From the moment she stepped into the church and saw Hunter, Bailey couldn’t concentrate on anything else. She was the first of the bridesmaids to walk down the aisle and as she stepped from the vestibule into the church proper, her eyes connected with Hunter’s and she was lost.
He tracked her movements too, although he didn’t look happy about it. She felt pretty and feminine in the dusky pink dress made of light, gauzy fabric with her hair up in a loose chignon that left tendrils to curl around her face and her makeup looking flawless. He had seen her in all states of undress, but he had never seen her dressed up like this and she hoped it set his pulse racing.
Seeing him in the wedding tux definitely did it for her. She had seen him in suits almost exclusively, but seeing him in a tux was…different somehow. Seeing him in a tux made her think of dancing under fairy lights and drinking champagne and kissing in the moonlight. And it was way too easy to imagine that she was walking down the aisle to marry him, not as a bridesmaid for her ex.
She barely even glanced at Nick. She only had eyes for Hunter as she took her place at the front. They were set at the very ends of the waiting attendants, as far away from each other as was possible, but the heat between them didn’t dim. She knew her skin was probably flushed and she was thankful that the dress’s bodice was lined, had a built-in bra and was covered in layers of fabric, otherwise her obvious attraction would have been telegraphed for all to see.
Hunter’s Irish-green eyes bore into her and she could almost feel his gaze on her like a caress. She had to fight to keep her eyes from fluttering shut and giving in to the magnetic pull of him. They’d only spent one night apart and she was as needy and on edge as a teenager with a crush.
The ceremony ended and finally, finally, she got to slip her hand through Hunter’s elbow and walk with him back down the aisle. She wanted to rub her body against his like a cat in heat, but they were in a church and it was a wedding and…Hunter still wasn’t himself.
“Everything okay?” she whispered out of the side of her mouth as they walked into the late autumn sunshine.
“Fine,” he replied, not looking at her.
They were moved into positions for photos with family and friends. Bailey smiled the fake smile and tried very hard to keep her mind on the job at hand, but Hunter’s aloofness worried her. Something had happened last night and, for the life of her, she couldn’t understand what it was. But she was determined to get to the bottom of it, she refused to spend another night alone.
They were ushered into the waiting cars and driven to a new spot for more photos, this time just the wedding party. They had been separated on the drive and Bailey didn’t know if it was on purpose or not. Hunter seemed to be holding himself away from her, keeping his distance. And it was pissing her off.
What was it about her that made guys take a step back just as she was ready to take a step forward with them? Admittedly, Hunter was only the second guy to do it, but it was the start of a troubling pattern. Just when she had worked up the nerve to tell Nick she wanted more, he’d told her he was getting married. And now that she was ready to go all in with Hunter, he appeared to be walking away from her too. What the hell was that about?
“Bailey, stop scowling,” the photographer called to her and she had to take a moment to actually smooth out her face into a smile.
The next time Hunter and Bailey were posed together, she asked him, “What the hell is going on Hunter?”
“Nothing,” he whispered back. “Just have a lot on my mind.”
“That’s not a good enough answer,” she said, trying to keep a smile on her face.
“I don’t owe you anything Bailey,” he said and his voice was so resigned that it shook her for a moment.
Was he really walking away from her, from them? Had this just been some quick fling made more exciting because of his beef with his stepbrother? Was this a case of one-upmanship?
Wouldn’t that just take the cake? She had been using Hunter to make Nick jealous, but maybe Hunter had been using her too. He’d been the one to suggest their little intrigue in the first place. Was that why he was now walking away? The job was done, Nick was married. Maybe he had nothing else to prove?
This was a fucking mess.
Just as Bailey was going to lose her shit, the photos were over and they were ushered back into the cars for the trip to the reception venue. Again, she and Hunter were in separate cars and when they were seated at the table, they were at opposite ends of it. She’d hoped she might be able to have a conversation with him during dinner, but no such luck.
Food was placed in front of her, but she barely touched it. Luckily her wine glass kept getting magically refilled, although it didn’t seem to be doing its job quick enough. She kept shooting glances at Hunter down the table, but he was no longer looking at her, no longer undressing her with his eyes. She really wanted to be undressed by him…badly.
They sat through the meal, followed by the speeches and then the first dance of the bride and groom. He took her in his arms during the bridal party dance, but he didn’t hold her close and he wouldn’t even look at her while they moved together around the floor. She wanted to stomp on his toes just to get some sort of reaction out of him, but she refrained…just barely.
When the song finished and the formal festivities were over, she excused herself to go to the ladies’ room. All that wine had filled her bladder and between the need to pee and Hunter’s cold shoulder, she was going a little insane.
He watched her go and ran a hand through his hair. This whole day had been torture. From the minute she had stepped into the church, his body had reacted. She was fucking gorgeous whatever she wore, but seeing her dressed up like that, her eyes glued on him, practically begging him to take her, caused his brain to meltdown. All the blood in his head had rushed to below his belt and he couldn’t control the yearning he had for her.
But she didn’t want him. He’d seen her with Nick and she knew he wouldn’t share. She’d made her choice.
Then why the fuck had she been giving him bedroom eyes? She hadn’t once looked at Nick throughout the whole ceremony. Her gaze had been only for him and the telltale flush of her skin gave him an insight into what she had been thinking about while looking at him.
Had he misconstrued what he saw last night? Yes, she’d hugged him and given him a kiss, but it wasn’t a long, deep kiss that promised more and they hadn’t been feeling each other up. Had it simply been a conversation between two friends? A goodbye perhaps?
Shit. Fuck. Shit.
He’d been so sure that she was taking him back, but none of her actions testified to that. In fact, all of her actions seemed to point to the fact that she wanted him, Hunter, and not Nick. He was pushing her away, but if she wanted Nick he shouldn’t need to push her, should he? If she wanted Nick then she would be walking away gladly, not trying to talk to him and find out what was wrong. She wouldn’t be looking at him like she wanted to take him to the nearest secluded place and have her way with him.
Fuck. Shit. Fuck.
He ran a hand through his hair again and continued to swear under his breath. He’d read the situation all wrong and now he may have completely fucked up the one relationship that had meant more to him than anything else in the world.
He strode out of the reception area. He needed to find her. He needed to apologise for his behaviour.
The venue was large with many closed doors and corridors. He had no idea where she had been going when she’d walked away from him before and he took a moment to survey his surroundings.
He saw a flash of pale pink dress and red hair and started in that direction. It might not even be Bailey, but it was a start. He followed the corridor as it snaked through the venue and heard a door close up ahead. He hurried his steps, hoping not to lose her, and found a door.
He took a breath as he gripped the door handle. He didn’t even know what this room was, it could be the ladies’ bathroom for all he knew, but he didn’t care. He swung the door open and heard clothes rustling and stifled laughter. The room was dark and he fumbled for a light. It blinked on to reveal a janitor’s closet and a sight that stabbed him right through the heart. Nick with his pants around his ankles and Bailey on her knees in front of him giving him a blow job.
Hunter turned off the light, escaped from the room and shut the door. He headed for the nearest exit, his body numb, his brain numb and his lungs gasping for breath. He hadn’t been wrong after all. She was going back to Nick and now he had proof.
He burst through an exit and stood in the chill night dragging in lungfuls of air, trying desperately to calm his racing heart. Bailey had chosen Nick over him. Nick. The guy who could only offer her one weekend a month, the guy who had married someone else, the guy who treated her like shit. He was better off without her. He’d never thought Bailey was stupid, but if she could choose a dickhead like Nick over everything he had been offering her, then…
He wanted to scream. He wanted to yell and kick and punch and have a tantrum because once again Nick fucking Heart had taken something that belonged to him. Bailey had been his. From the moment he’d sat down beside her in that bar and she’d mumbled something about his beard, she’d been his.
Now she wasn’t.
Her voice was like another stab through the heart.
“Get the fuck away from me,” he growled as she approached. “I have nothing to say to you.”
“What the hell?” she yelled at him. “You give me the cold shoulder for the last twenty four hours and now you yell at me. What in fucking hell is going on?”
He swung to face her, his anger palpable. “I fucking saw you,” he said flinging his arm out towards the building.
“Saw me what?” she asked, her voice hot with anger.
“I saw you and Nick.”
“Last night?” Her face screwed up in concentration. “You saw Nick and I hug last night? Is that what this is all about? Is that what you have your fucking knickers in a twist about?”
He didn’t answer, just grit his teeth.
“I was saying goodbye to him you moron. I was telling him that it was well and truly over between us and that I had chosen you.”
“Bullshit,” he spat at her. “And I suppose that little performance in there was just another ‘goodbye’?” He ran his hand through his hair. “Don’t fucking lie to me. I know what I saw and quite clearly things with you and Nick are not over otherwise why would you be on your fucking knees sucking his cock?” He turned and started to walk away but she grabbed his arm and forced him to look at her.
“What the bloody hell are you talking about?” she yelled.
“Stop it Bailey,” he said, his voice no longer angry but resigned. “You can’t deny what I saw with my own eyes.”
“You really think after everything we’ve shared this week that I would be off somewhere with Nick giving him a blowjob?” she asked and her voice sounded small and hurt. “Is that what you really think of me Hunter? You think I’m the kind of girl that does that?”
He couldn’t look at her, couldn’t make eye contact. He ground his teeth together and looked out over her shoulder at the dark night.
“Shit,” she hissed. “Well, fuck you. I never want to see you again.”
She turned and stormed away and Hunter felt like his heart had been ripped out.
He made his way to the bar and sat heavily.
“What’ll it be?” the bartender asked.
“Tequila,” he said, and then shook his head. Too many memories with tequila. “No, whisky.”
The bartender pulled a glass from under the bar and grabbed the bottle of Jack Daniel’s single barrel whiskey from the shelf and poured a shot.
“Leave the bottle,” Hunter said and the barman nodded, walking away and leaving Hunter with his drink.
He couldn’t believe that Bailey had duped him so thoroughly. She was a damned good actress, that was for sure. And she’d stayed in character, right up until the end. It couldn’t have been scripted any better. The righteous indignation, the slight tremble in her voice, the hurt in her eyes. Damn, the woman could have won an Oscar with that performance.
It didn’t make him feel any better though. She couldn’t even wait until he’d left before she had to have Nick. The guy had only been married hours before and they couldn’t wait to get at each other. It made him wonder how many other times they’d gotten together over this last week that he didn’t know about?
She’d almost had him convinced that there was something real between them, but it was all a fucking lie. He drained his drink and poured another. The whiskey warmed its way down his throat but didn’t touch the frozen tundra that was his heart. He lifted his glass and drank again. He wanted to wipe the image of Bailey on her knees in front of Nick out of his mind and the only way he was going to do that was with alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol.
He poured another shot as someone sat down beside him.
“Hunter,” one of the groomsmen said, “looks like you’re having fun.”
Hunter just grunted as he drank again. It would probably be less time consuming if he filled his glass rather than pouring it shot by shot, or better yet, just drink straight from the bottle.
Someone sat on the other side of him, but he didn’t turn to see who it was.
“Hey Hunter,” it was another groomsman. “You owe us a hundred bucks.”
“What?” he asked turning his head to the side and taking in the man who had just sat down beside him. “How’d you figure that?”
“We all chipped in and got Nick a wedding present,” the guy on the other side of him said.
“What wedding present?” Hunter asked. He drank again. He didn’t give a fuck about the wedding present but he’d be damned if he was going to give these morons a hundred bucks.
“For the girl,” the one on his left said. “From the other night.”
“I already chipped in for the lap dance,” Hunter said, “and it definitely wasn’t worth four hundred bucks.”
The one on his right shook his head. “Not for the lap dance,” he said, “for the rest of it.”
“The private room?” Hunter asked, pouring and drinking again. “I’m not paying for that shit.”
The one on his left laughed. “Nah, Nick paid for that himself. He seemed to like her so much, we hired her for tonight.”
“You hired her to give him a lap dance at his own wedding?” Hunter asked. He knew he was well on his way to being drunk, but that sounded like a fucked up plan even to his alcohol addled brain. “I don’t think Ainsley will be too happy.”
They both laughed and then the one on the right said. “No, we bought him a blow job,” he said proudly.
He swung his head to stare at the man. “A blow job?” he asked.
“Yeah,” the guy answered, “from the same red head from the club. Nick seems to have a thing for red heads.” The two idiots laughed again but Hunter was just confused. Why would they buy Nick a girl to give him a blow job when Bailey had just given him one?
Just then Nick walked up to them and slapped the two groomsmen on the backs. “Fellas,” he said, a smirk on his face.
“Did you have fun?” asked the one on his left.
Nick just smiled and adjusted the cuffs of his jacket. “A gentleman never kisses and tells,” he said.
“But you weren’t the one kissing,” the guy on the right said.
“No, I was not,” Nick said with a smarmy grin and then he laughed. “That was the fucking best wedding present ever.”
The three of them laughed together as Hunter tried to get his booze soaked brain to work. He turned to Nick.
“Is that what I walked in on?” he asked.
“Yeah, thanks for that man,” Nick said with a scowl. “Nearly ruined the whole thing.”
“You were with the chick from the club?” Hunter asked just to clarify.
Nick rolled his eyes. “Who else did you think it was?”
Hunter just shook his head. He had been an idiot, a damned fucking idiot.
“I need to go,” he said standing up from the bar stool and swaying slightly.
“What’s got into you?” Nick asked.
“I need to find Bailey,” he said.
“I think she left,” one of the groomsmen said. “I saw her get into a cab.”
“Fuck,” Hunter said. He pulled out his phone and tapped a button. “I need a car,” he said into it when he lifted it to his ear. He disconnected and headed for the entrance of the venue. He had been a damned stupid idiot and he only hoped that Bailey could forgive him.