Tangled Vows

By: Stella Hunter

Sitting up straight in his chair, he glanced at Flanagan, and the wicked grin returned to his face as he spoke to Bay. “What if I tripled your pay?”

“Money isn’t the issue,” Bailey protested.

“Then what is the issue?”

Bailey paused and thought. Was the truth the best thing in this situation, or should she be more circumspect and say something politically correct? Her head started to throb, and she rubbed at her temples. Screw it. She was too tired to play games anymore—his, her sister’s, or anyone else’s. “Trust.” She stood, determined to put this man behind her for good. “What makes you think I can trust you? I can’t even trust my own twin sister. And the last person I trusted with my life got himself killed because he trusted me. Why in hell do you think you can trust me to protect you?” Her voice had risen as she spoke, but she didn’t care. She walked stiffly to the door.

“What if I told you the real reason for my trip?” she heard from behind her.

Bailey paused but made no move to reach for the doorknob. Would the details matter to her? Did he really think he could change her mind? She owed it to Flanagan though to consider all the options. He’d kept every promise he made to her in the past year. The least she could do was give him the benefit of the doubt. “I’m listening,” she replied, her back still turned to the men.

“Look, my baby sister is getting married.” His voice was closer now, and Bailey knew he must have stood and moved toward her. “I made a promise to her that I would do everything in my power to make the day perfect for her. Her version of perfect. And what she wants is a quiet hometown wedding with a few family and friends, including her big brother—not a celebrity with a horde of security and a trail of paparazzi.” Bay felt herself softening. Damn, she hated feeling emotions for people she didn’t even know. He was weakening her resolve in spite of her own determination to do everything in her power to stay under the radar. She turned back towards the room and found him only a few feet away. Everett spread his hands out in supplication. “Unfortunately, I don’t have control over the movie production schedule. I couldn’t postpone the release until after her wedding.” From his closeness, she could see the tightness around his blue eyes and knew this was something serious to him. “Please,” he begged. “I need this to work.”

Bay felt torn. Dammit, he had found her weak spot. Until Lexie had done the unthinkable, loyalty to family had been her biggest strength. It was the reason—well, one reason anyway—she had joined the Army. To make her dad proud. Now this man stood in front of her and revealed a part of himself that the rest of the world wasn’t privileged to. The one thing that was obviously important to him. His family. How could she ignore that? How could she walk away when he needed her help? She rubbed at the tension building in the back of her neck.

Seeing her hesitation, Everett pressed on. “I can’t guarantee you won’t be outed. There are no guarantees in life, right? However, I can promise you anything else you want that’s within my power. You want money? It’s yours. You want a house, a car? You’ll get it. Name your price.”

That last bit pissed Bailey off. She wouldn’t be bought.

Chapter 4

With a scowl on her face, Bailey stalked to Everett until her face was inches from his broad chest. She poked a finger into that firm flesh. “All right, I’ll do it, but not for you. I’ll do it for your sister. And I don’t want anything extra from you.” Bailey resisted a grimace at turning down his offer. Damn, she really did need the money. She’d been living pretty much bare bones since the incident with her sister. Even with her paycheck from Halvard, it was hard to make much of a living in Chicago. But she had her principles, and she wouldn’t abandon them now just because some gorgeous man with a nice smile offered her money.

Speaking of nice smiles, Everett’s returned upon her acceptance of his offer. “I’d give you a hug, but that finger is pretty intimidating,” he offered.

“I’ve got another I can show you if you prefer.”

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