Hunter entered the lobby of Oceans Resort precisely at seven and promptly stopped in his tracks. Blue stood there waiting for him, her hair a tumble of rose gold curls down her back. Up until now he had only ever seen her in a dress or nothing at all, but tonight she was wearing skinny jeans and nude heels that made her arse and her legs look mouthwatering, like, seriously. His mouth literally watered at the sight of them. Don’t get the wrong idea, she’d looked great in a dress, and amazing naked, but in tight jeans that cupped her arse like a lover’s hands? He was already hard as a rock just from the sight and all he wanted to do was to walk up behind her and rub the evidence of his arousal over those perfect, plump cheeks.
But he didn’t.
He did walk up behind her though, and lifted his hand to move her thick hair to the side and over her opposite shoulder so he could press a soft, lingering kiss to the tender skin under her ear. He felt her stiffen and then relax against him and heard her breath hitch.
“You’re gorgeous,” he whispered in her ear, taking another moment to nibble on her neck and breathe in her flowery scent.
“And you’re late,” she said back, but the intended effect was ruined by her breathy voice. Okay, it wasn’t completely ruined. That husky sound made him want to drag her back to his suite and do dirty, dirty things to her. But he reined in the rampaging desire because he had to behave. They were having dinner with his mother in half an hour and that was not nearly long enough for all the things he wanted to do to Blue.
Reluctantly he stepped back, his fingers lingering at the nape of her neck under her hair and massaging the tight muscles gently. She turned around to face him, but he kept his hand on her neck to keep her close. He didn’t want her to back off. He liked crowding her, he liked getting in her space and seeing the little furrow between her brows that told him she was attracted to him despite her wish not to be. He liked that he flummoxed her.
“I take it by your appearance, our mission is a go?” he asked, leaning in intimately.
She looked up at him and nodded. A smile quirked his lips which were barely a hair’s breadth from hers.
“Wonderful,” he murmured. “We’re having dinner with my mother in twenty minutes.”
Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open and it was the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. There were so many things he wanted to do with that mouth.
His mind went temporarily blank as he imagined those soft shiny lips around his cock and he needed to clear his throat and mentally shake himself to get back on track.
“You agreed to have dinner with my mother and I,” he said easily, stepping back, more for his sake than hers.
“Yes, but I didn’t think it would be tonight.”
He shrugged. “Why not tonight? The rest of the week is going to be jam packed with wedding stuff.”
“Yeah, about that,” she said, dropping her eyes and fidgeting with her purse. “I’ve been roped into being a bridesmaid.”
He chuckled. “You’re going to be a bridesmaid at the wedding you’re trying to sabotage?”
“Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous. I haven’t even met the bride.” She looked like she didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
“So, why you?” he asked.
She shrugged. “The other bridesmaid dropped out and the bride is freaking out over having uneven wedding photos.”
“So why not just ask the other groomsman to step aside?” He knew, but he wanted to hear it from her.
“It’s Nick’s stepbrother and he doesn’t want to do that to him.”
That surprised him. He knew that Nick only asked him to be a groomsman because Maree asked him to, so he would’ve thought that Nick would jump at the chance to dump him. He’d thought it was because Maree had asked him not to.
“So, have you met this stepbrother?” he asked. “Maybe you and he could hit it off and make Nick jealous?”
“Isn’t that what I’ve got you for?” she asked innocently, blinking those big eyes up at him.
He bit back a groan and placed his hand on the small of her back guiding her out of the lobby. If he didn’t get her out of there he was going to drag her back up to his suite for some one-on-one alone time.
“Come on,” he said roughly, “I don’t want to keep my mother waiting.”
They walked the short distance to a casual cafe and bar and Hunter’s eyes lit up when he saw his mother waiting at the table for them. She stood and matched his grin with one of her own and he could see the way she checked Blue out too. He winked at her.
“Mum,” he said, reluctantly taking his hand off Blue’s back and pulling his mother into a hug. She kissed his cheek and then wiped away the lipstick print she’d left. “Patrick’s not joining us?”
She shook head. “No, he had some work to catch up on.” She turned to Blue.
“Mum, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Blue. Blue, this is my mother, Maree.”
“Blue?” His mother asked as she pulled Blue in for a hug.
“That’s Irish’s nickname for me,” Blue said with a giggle, “Because of my red hair. My real name is Bailey.”
“Irish?” His mother asked, quirking an eyebrow at him.
It was his turn to chuckle. “That’s Blue’s nickname for me,” he said, sliding his arm around Bailey’s waist and pulling her back in to his side. “Because of my devastatingly handsome green eyes.” He liked Bailey nestled in beside him and he didn’t even want to acknowledge how good it felt to call her his girlfriend.
His mother laughed delightedly. “Well, it’s lovely to meet you, Bailey. I can’t tell you how surprised I was when Hunter told me he had a date for the wedding.”
Bailey stiffened against him and she turned narrowed eyes on him.
“Let’s sit down,” he said, avoiding the accusing look on Bailey’s face. He knew she would keep up the charade if only for her own sake, but he had no doubt that when they were alone she was going to unleash on him…and he kind of looked forward to it.
It wasn’t too much of a stretch to put the pieces together. Maree thought she was his date to the wedding…not the other way around, which meant that Irish was really Hunter Green, Nick’s stepbrother. Bailey didn’t know whether to be pissed off or flattered that the reclusive billionaire Hunter Green was the guy she had a one night stand with. She had to admit though, that she was a little star struck by him. She’d found him attractive from the moment they met in the bar that night, but knowing that he was loaded was a bit intimidating.
Besides the fact that he was also her client (Oh my God! She was on a date with Hunter Green!), she had to wonder how long he’d known who she was. Had this been a set up from the start?
But try as she might to keep her anger at Hunter stoked, his mother disarmed her. Maree Heart (oh my God, Nick’s stepmother) was lovely and Bailey could tell that she loved her son dearly.
“So, um, this is a bit embarrassing,” Bailey said, “but I’m actually an old friend of Nick’s.”
Hunter’s eyes narrowed at her and he gritted his teeth, but she ploughed on anyway. “It was actually a funny coincidence that we asked each other to the wedding.”
It wasn’t. Hunter had neglected to mention the fact that he knew Nick, that he was fucking related to Nick. Oh yeah, there was that anger she’d misplaced.
Maree laughed delightedly. “Oh, you’re Nick’s Bailey? What a small world.”
“She’s not Nick’s Bailey anymore,” Hunter growled, and Bailey shivered. “She’s my Blue.”
He nuzzled her neck which caused her skin to break out in goosebumps and her breath hitched with his touch. God, it didn’t take much for him to get her blood humming.
“You two are adorable,” Maree said sweetly. “Why didn’t you tell us when you were at the house earlier?”
Bailey turned to look at Hunter. Yes, she would like to the answer to that too.
Hunter cleared his throat. “I wanted it to be a surprise,” he said and smiled wolfishly at his mother. “You don’t think Nick will be mad, do you?”
Hunter looked delighted at the prospect of his stepbrother being mad and Bailey didn’t know how to feel about that. She knew Nick didn’t like his stepbrother and seeing her with him was bound to cause problems, but she didn’t particularly like being a possession they were likely to fight over.
“I think it worked out perfectly,” Maree said, much to Bailey’s surprise. “You guys get to be partners at the wedding.”
“Probably not what Nick had in mind when he asked me,” Hunter said, mirroring Bailey’s own thoughts. She could practically guarantee that Nick wouldn’t want her anywhere near his stepbrother. His good-looking, richer-than-Midas and sexy-as-fuck stepbrother.
“It’s kind of bizarre to be in the wedding party when I haven’t even met the bride yet,” Bailey said.
“Oh, you are going to love Ainsley,” Maree said. “She’s such a sweetheart and she loves Nick so much. They make a lovely couple.”
Three things that Bailey did not want to know. She felt Hunter’s arm tighten around her and she was thankful for his support even if it did make this whole thing even more bizarre. She was so confused.
Hunter had made it clear that he wanted her, if the small touches and seductive kisses were anything to go by, but he had also agreed to help stop Nick’s wedding. He was sending her mixed signals and she didn’t know what to believe. Compounding that was her hot and dirty bodily reaction to him. She wanted another night of hot sex with him and she didn’t know if she was strong enough to resist him if he put the moves on her.
The waiter came over to their table and they were momentarily distracted as they ordered food and drinks. When the waiter walked away, Maree shot her a shy smile.
“So, how did you two meet?” she asked.
Bailey and Hunter shared a look, one full of heat at the memory of how they met the first time. Bailey hadn’t been able to look at tequila, salt or limes the same way since.
“Irish picked me up in a bar,” Bailey said and he laughed heartily. Maree smiled uncertainly.
“It’s true,” he told his mother. “I walked into a bar one night in Melbourne after a particularly bad day dealing with CASA and there she was. Fortunately, there was an empty barstool beside her, so I took it.”
“Yes,” Bailey said, picking up the commentary, “and I was just coming out of a messy break-up and was trying valiantly to drown my sorrows.”
“How long ago was this?” Maree asked, hanging off every word.
“About six months ago,” Bailey replied.
“You’ve been dating for six months?” Maree asked, her eyes swinging to Hunter in accusation.
He laughed. “Not exactly,” he said, “but we have been emailing back and forth. Bailey works for the PR firm that we hired to promote the new airline.”
And just like that she was reminded that she was on a date with a man who not only owns his own private plane, but a whole fucking fleet of them.
“Oh, did you know she worked with the PR firm when you met her?”
He shook his head while Bailey took a drink of the wine that the waiter placed in front of her.
“No, that was purely coincidental,” he assured her.
“And when I asked Hunter to be my date for the wedding, he confessed that he was attending the wedding too. We had no idea that we had such a close association with each other.” Bailey glared at Hunter and he had the good grace to look abashed.
“It’s like fate brought you together,” Maree said, clasping her hands in front of her and looking dreamy eyed.
Bailey choked on her wine and coughed, Hunter rubbed her back. If this was fate then she sure had a twisted sense of humour.
As soon as the door closed on the elevator, Bailey started in on him.
“What the hell, Hunter?”
“Hey, not my fault you didn’t know my name,” he said keeping his voice reasonable. “I gave you ample opportunity to find it out. If I recall correctly, I left you a note specifically asking you to call me so we could get to know one another better.”
She bit the corner of her lip in guilt and he wanted to pull it between his own teeth and plunder her mouth with his. But he kept his composure, and he doubted very much that she would be appreciative of his advances when she was pissed at him.
“Okay, fine,” she said, her eyes flashing, “but what about on the plane? You could have said something then, or, come to think of it, when I told you Nick’s name in the lounge, you should have said, ‘Oh, Nick’s my stepbrother!’”
“You’d had three strong drinks and some herbal shit that had messed you up, I really didn’t think it was the time.”
“Just how long have you known?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at him. “Did you know when you walked into the bar? Did you know when you sought out my PR firm?”
He scrubbed his hand through his hair and looked at the ceiling, taking a deep breath. “No,” he croaked, “I didn’t know until this afternoon when you told me Nick’s surname.”
“Oh,” she said, some of the fire going out of her. “So you didn’t tell Nick when you saw him today?”
He sighed. “I told him I was bringing a date to the wedding, but I didn’t tell him it was you.”
“He’s going to be pissed,” she said, her voice soft.
Hunter took a step closer to her and tucked a curl behind her ear. God, he loved touching her hair, her skin, her.
“It’s his own fault,” he murmured, “for letting you get away.”
She looked up at him and swallowed. He could see the confusion in her eyes and the yearning. What he didn’t know was if the yearning was for him or for his douchebag stepbrother. He dropped his hand and stepped back. He was asking for trouble getting involved with her when she was so hung up on him. Nick couldn’t give her what she needed but until she saw that for herself, his advances were going to just confuse her more.
The elevator came to a stop and the doors opened on her floor. She paused before exiting.
“Do you want to come in for a drink?” she asked, her voice small.
He wanted to say yes, but he couldn’t. He needed to keep the boundaries in place until she made her choice. He shook his head.
“No, I have some work I need to do,” he said, making an excuse. “I’ll see you in the lobby at nine so we can go to the brunch together.”
She nodded and stepped out of the elevator. She looked back as the doors closed and she looked so lost he wanted to reach out and keep the doors from closing. He wanted to go to her and comfort her and tell her it was all going to be okay. But he couldn’t tell her that. This was what she wanted…she wanted Nick, not him, and he refused to be a second choice or a substitute.
The doors closed, cutting off his view of her and he leant his head back against the mirrored wall, exhaling harshly. He clenched his teeth and forced himself to change the direction of his thoughts. He and Bailey were in a fake relationship and that’s all it could be unless she walked away from her silly infatuation with his stepbrother.
The doors opened again on his floor and he carded his way into the penthouse suite. He kicked off his shoes and loosened the top button on his shirt. He grabbed his phone and sat on the balcony overlooking the dark beach. It was June and winter in the sunshine state, but it was still warm enough to sit outside without needing a sweater.
Hunter swiped his finger across the screen of his phone and flicked through his contacts. Choosing a number, he hit the call button and waited to be connected.
“Brooks Barry,” a deep voice answered.
“Brooks,” Hunter said, “it’s Hunter.”
“Hunter, my man, how the fuck are you?”
“About to make a fucking fool of myself,” Hunter said with a resigned sigh.
“Is it over a woman?” Brooks asked knowingly.
“Yes, but it’s worse.”
“Aw, poor boy. You tell Uncle Brooks all your problems,” Brooks said in an annoying baby voice.
“Shut up asshole,” Hunter growled.
“Geez, she has got you all wrapped up in knots. She must be special.”
“Yeah, she is and she’s also in love with Nick.”
“Shit man, you sure can pick ‘em.”
“Hey, so where are you? I didn’t even check the time. Did I interrupt anything?”
“Nah. I’m in the New York office and it’s eight o’clock in the morning here, so you’re good,” Brooks paused and Hunter imagined he was sipping his coffee. Brooks had either a cup of coffee in his hand or a bottle of beer, depending on the time of day. “So, this chick, she’s really into Nick?”
“Yeah and Nick’s getting married this weekend…to someone else.”
“What the fuck?”
“Agh! It’s such a fucking mess. Listen to me, I’ve turned into a fucking girl spilling all my secrets to you like a pathetic virgin teenager. When I met her, I didn’t know she knew Nick and we had this hot night together. I knew she was on the rebound and I didn’t hear from her again and then I ran into her at the airport and we were both going to the same fucking wedding.”
“That’s messed up,” Brooks sympathised, “but why not just flash some cash around and distract her from your idiot brother?”
“Stepbrother,” Hunter corrected. “And she knows who I am. In another fucking twist in the tale, she’s the PR account manager for Green Aviation. And…”
“I kind of offered to help her break up Nick’s wedding before it happens.”
“And you really like this girl?”
“I do,” Hunter said with a sigh. “She’s fucking gorgeous and the one night we had together was definitely not enough.”
“Does Nick know?” Brooks asked.
“Not yet,” Hunter said, “but get this. The prick thinks he can keep Bailey as his piece on the side after he gets married. And she’s fucking willing to do it too.”
“Walk away,” Brooks said in a very serious voice. “I repeat. Walk the fuck away. I wouldn’t touch this mess with a ten-foot pole.”
“Hunter, man, you don’t need this crap in your life. Seriously. She might have a magic pussy that grants wishes, but it is not worth the pain of getting wrapped up in someone who loves someone else.”
Hunter knew Brooks was right. Brooks had married someone who had unresolved feelings for another guy and it didn’t end well. He knew from experience what he was talking about.
“When are you back in the country?” Hunter asked. “We need to get the brotherhood together, it’s been too long.”
“Shit yeah,” Brooks hooted. “I’m back next weekend, all being well. These fuckers are giving me the runaround, but if everything goes according to plan, I should be free and clear by next Thursday.”
“You need a plane?” Hunter asked.
Brooks laughed. “I finally bit the bullet and bought my own. My flight home will be its maiden voyage.”
“Nice,” Hunter said with a smile. “Well I should let you get back to work. Call me when you’re home and we’ll hang out.”
They said their goodbyes and disconnected. Hunter laid down on the sun lounge and closed his eyes. Brooks was right, he needed to walk away from Bailey. The whole thing was too messy and was bound to get even more so before the week was out. It’d be better to cut and run now while he still could.