The Billionaire Stepbrother: Chapter 21

Bailey flung herself onto her childhood bed and sobbed. She’d held it together until she’d gotten to this point, but now that she was alone and she didn’t have anything to keep her going, it all came crashing down on her.

Thankfully her parents hadn’t said much to her when she turned up on their doorstep close to tears in the middle of the night. They didn’t have to, their expressions said everything. It was the I-told-you-so look. Maybe she should’ve listened to them. Maybe she should’ve heeded their advice, and then maybe she wouldn’t be sobbing her heart out over someone who thought so little of her.

This is what came of wanting too much, trying too hard, reaching too high. This is the consequence of flying too close to the sun…you got burned. And she had been, twice now. She had wanted too much with Nick and he’d married someone else. She had wanted too much with Hunter and he’d turned his back on her and accused her of…she didn’t even understand what he was accusing her of.

A blow job? He thought she had been giving Nick a blow job? That just didn’t make sense. She hadn’t been anywhere near Nick since their chat last night. Had Nick said something to Hunter to rile him up? Had Nick claimed that she had given him a blow job just to get under Hunter’s skin?

Even if that was the case, it was no excuse for Hunter to believe it. She would’ve thought he’d’ve known her better than that by now. They had shared some pretty intense experiences, surely those times had been enough for him to see how she really felt.

God. He’d ruined her for any other man. There was no way she was ever going to experience sex like that again with anyone else. And that was the last thing she should be thinking about now, anyway. She was heartbroken and she was angry at him, she shouldn’t be remembering the way he had taken her, the way he had made her his.

She groaned and rolled over. This was more devastating to her than when Nick broke up with her, and she and Hunter had only really known each other for five days. She had been with Nick for five years. But everything with Hunter was so much more than it had been with Nick. It was like comparing generic brand chocolate with Belgian chocolate or Ashby Chocolates. There was simply no comparison.

Was Hunter it for her? Had he been the pinnacle, the best she was ever going to experience? Surely not. Surely there was someone out there who she could have as deep a connection with as she’d had with Hunter. Surely there was someone else out there for her, especially after the way he’d treated her in the end.

In all her time with Nick she’d never once felt cheap or slutty, but the way Hunter had looked at her tonight and made her feel like that and she’d only hugged Nick and given him a peck on the lips. It had been nothing, no more than you would give a friend in farewell. So why had it upset Hunter so much? And what the hell had he meant by the whole blow job remark.

Now she was back to angry again. Good. That’s where she needed to stay. Angry was so much better than heartbroken. Angry was so much better that completely fucking flattened by grief.

Her phone buzzed and she saw Hunter’s name on the display. She threw the phone away from her, there was absolutely no way she was going to answer that. It buzzed again, but she ignored it, instead getting up and searching through her luggage for her pyjamas. The phone was still buzzing when she walked out of her room and down the hall to the bathroom. She showered and changed and then came back to her room where the phone was still buzzing.

She picked it up and held the power button down until the phone turned off. There was no way she was going to listen to Hunter rage at her again. He’d said his piece. He proved to her that he didn’t trust her and made her feel like a piece of shit. She’d had enough. She deserved better than that. She was turning over a new leaf…no more guys who treated her like crap.

Except that Hunter hadn’t always treated her like crap. In fact, he had always been good to her, even after their first night together. It had been a one night stand, but he’d treated her with respect and even left his contact details with her so she could call him. He’d never treated her like crap.

Apart from tonight when he’d accused her of cheating.

Yeah. Back to anger. Good. Great. Perfect.

Hunter raced down the hallway and pounded on the door to the penthouse suite he had shared with Bailey. He’d made a terrible mistake and he needed to make it right.

“Bailey,” he yelled through the door. “Open up!”

He banged on the door again. “Come on Bailey,” he said. “Let me in, we need to talk.”

Still no response. He knocked again, his knuckles taking the brunt of his desperation.

“Bailey, honey, I’m sorry, please just open up so I can explain.”

He leant his forehead against the door and sighed. He couldn’t hear any movement inside, there was no indication that she had heard him at all.

“Bailey, please open up,” he yelled again, knocking insistently on the door. “I really need to talk to you.”

The door behind him opened and he turned to stare at the older woman who stood in the doorway.

“I’m sorry for disturbing you,” he said, “but my girlfriend has locked me out and I don’t have a key.”

“She’s not in there,” the woman said and Hunter’s eyebrows shot up.

“She’s not?” he asked.

The other woman shook her head. “She packed up and left,” she said. “Like that.” The woman clicked her fingers.

“Do you know where she went?” he asked, pulling out his phone.

The other woman shook her head again. “No,” she replied, “but where would she have to go at this time of night?”

The woman retreated back into her suite and closed the door. Hunter scrubbed a hand through his hair, regretting the half a bottle of Jack that he’d drunk, regretting that he’d jumped to conclusions about Bailey. He looked down at the screen of his phone and pressed her number. It rang and rang and then her voice mail picked up.

“Hi, you’ve reached Bailey Sheppard. Please leave a message and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

He waited for the beep and then spoke. “I’m so sorry Blue,” he said. “I really need to see you, to talk to you, to explain. Please call me back.”

He started walking towards the elevator, thinking. Where would Bailey go in the middle of the night? He hadn’t known her long enough to know her favourite spots or her special places. The first time they’d met was in a bar and she was drowning her sorrows, so maybe that was the place to start.

He got into the lift and stabbed the ground floor button. When the elevator opened on the reception level he got out and headed straight for the desk.

“Did Bailey Sheppard leave any forwarding information?” he asked the night manager.

She clicked around on the computer before shaking her head. “I’m sorry Mr. Green,” she said, “she handed over her key and left.”

“Fuck,” he said quietly and then looked back at the manager. “Do you know if she took a cab or the car service?”

The woman shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said, “I didn’t see her leave.”

Hunter nodded and then hit redial on his phone as he walked out the front doors of the hotel. He listened to Bailey’s voice instructing him to leave a message and waited again for the beep.

“Blue, honey, please listen to me. I made a terrible mistake and I know that saying sorry is not enough. Please call me back or text me or something to let me know you’re okay. I really need to talk to you. I want you to know what happened even if you never forgive me. Please Bailey.”

He disconnected as he ducked into the back of the waiting car.

“Where to sir?” the driver asked.

“I don’t know,” Hunter replied. “You didn’t happen to pick up another guest here tonight, a woman?”

“No sir,” the driver said.

Hunter exhaled sharply. “Okay, um, I guess we try Ocean Street,” he said. “Maybe she went to a bar.”

“Yes sir,” the driver said as he started the car and moved into the traffic.

Hunter pulled out his phone again and called Bailey a third time.

“Come on Blue, please talk to me. I’m really worried now. You’re not at the hotel and I have no idea where you’d go in the middle of the night. We really need to talk and I know I need to apologise. Please call me back.”

He squeezed the phone in his hand tightly, his knuckles going white. Where could she be? He knew that she grew up here, but she hadn’t been back in a while from what he had gathered. Was there a place she used to go when she was a kid and she was angry at her parents? Did she have a thinking place? Would it still be here?

The car pulled up outside a bar in Ocean Street and Hunter got out. It was late on a Saturday night, but the bar was packed, the whole street was packed. He wandered around looking for the beacon of her rose gold hair and chocolate coloured eyes, but she was nowhere to be found. Dejectedly he climbed back into the car and pulled out his phone again.

“Just drive to the next likely place,” he told the driver as he again dialled Bailey’s number.

“Look, I know I stuffed up, okay? I know I jumped to conclusions and read the whole situation wrong, but the thought of you and Nick together kind of blew a fuse in my brain. I know it’s no excuse, but please, just talk to me, let me explain what happened. I’ll grovel if that’s what it takes and I’m not above begging. Please Blue, give me a second chance.”

He disconnected and rested his head against the leather seat. This was ridiculous. She pulled the disappearing act on him before and it had taken six months to find her and then that was only by accident. The fact was he had no idea where she might go and driving around in the middle of the night checking out bars wasn’t going to help.

“Just take me to my mother’s house,” he instructed the driver. He needed sleep and he needed to get the excess alcohol out of his system so he could think straight.

He woke to the sound of his phone ringing.

“Bailey,” he said, jumping to his feet and grabbing his pants off the floor to search through the pockets. His hand closed around the phone and he touched the screen to answer. “Bailey,” he croaked.

“No, Madeline,” his assistant replied bemused. “Wake you?”

Hunter scrubbed a hand through his beard and then through his hair and rubbed the back of his neck trying to clear his fogged brain.

“Yeah,” he replied after clearing his throat.

“Sorry,” she said, not sounding sorry at all, “but CASA is threatening to pull our accreditation.”

“Fuck,” he breathed into the phone, that was the last thing he needed right now. “Have you spoken with Cam?”

“Yes,” she replied with a sniff and he knew she was pissed at him for thinking she wouldn’t have already contacted their attorney, “but I need you here in Canberra pronto.”

“Fuck,” he said again and then sighed. “Fine. Can you have my plane here in two hours?”

“It’s already on its way,” she said. “It will be ready for you in an hour.”

“Thanks Madeline,” he replied as he disconnected. Why did this have to happen today of all days? It was a fucking Sunday. The universe was just trying to fuck him over.

“Fuck,” he said again.

He grabbed some clothes and walked into the ensuite bath. He ran the shower as hot as he could and stepped under the steaming spray. He’d need a clear head to deal with this latest round of shit from CASA and turning up at his offices hung over and depressed was not going to inspire confidence in his team.

The water worked its magic on him and he pulled on his Armani suit like it was a suit of armour. He needed to put this thing with Bailey out of his mind for the next twenty-four hours at least so he could deal with the immediate crisis. She probably needed time to cool down anyway.

He shoved his clothes into his suitcase and called the car service, which informed him the car was already waiting out front. It was too early to wake his mother, so he left her a note before heading out the door and sliding into the back seat of the car.

The car moved off immediately and Hunter pulled out his phone and dialled Bailey. He knew she wouldn’t answer, but he just wanted to hear her voice and let her know about his unscheduled departure.

“Hi this is Bailey Sheppard…” he listened to her greeting, closing her eyes and letting her voice wash over him.

“Bailey, hey,” he said after the beep. “I have to fly back to Canberra today. CASA is up my arse about something and I’ll probably be incommunicado for a few days. I really want to talk to you and I really want to explain. Please don’t give up on me, not yet, not until we’ve talked. I miss you.”

He disconnected and closed his eyes as he rested his head on the back of the seat. God, what he wouldn’t give to have her beside him right now, just holding his hand, talking to him, her shoulder pressed up against his. He had jumped through so many hoops to please CASA and for them to come back to him and threaten to ground his fleet was the absolute last thing he needed. But if Bailey was beside him, he just knew it would keep him calm and rational. She had that effect on him. She kept him sane.

“Are we picking up anyone else sir?” the driver asked and jolted Hunter out of his reverie.

“No,” Hunter said tiredly, “just me.”

“That’s a shame,” the driver said. “I would’ve liked to have seen that lovely young woman again.”

“Bailey?” Hunter asked.

“Yes, that’s the one. She was such a nice woman.”

“When did you see her?” Hunter asked.

“I picked her up from the hotel last night,” he said.

“You picked her up?”

“Sure did. She looked so sad, but she was so nice to me.”

“Where did you take her?” Hunter growled, not caring that he was being rude.

“To her parent’s house,” he replied. “Over Nambour way.”

The car came to a stop in front of the airport terminal. Hunter wanted to demand the man take him to Bailey right now, but he had meeting with a representative from CASA in three hours and if he didn’t leave now, they would ground his fledgling airline. Millions of dollars were on the line, but all he could think of was getting to Bailey.

“Fuck,” he breathed. “Do you remember the address?”

“Of course,” the driver replied.

Hunter fished a pen and paper out of his breast pocket and shoved it at the man. “Here, write it down.”

The man did and handed it back to him. Hunter couldn’t chase her down now, but as soon as this shit with CASA was sorted out, he would find her. She would not hide from him again.

Hunter exited the car and strode through the airport terminal to his gate. His private plane was waiting and they let him out on the tarmac to board. He finally had a lead to where Bailey was and, thank God, she was fine. He had seriously begun to worry about her. He pocketed the address as he settled into his seat and buckled his seatbelt. The jet taxied down the runway and took off. He snagged a bottle of water and some ibuprofen from the flight attendant and then settled in to try and sleep off his hangover. He had a very important meeting to get through and then he had to track down his runaway girlfriend.


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