Curious, he Googled her H.L. Sinclair persona just like Tate had done, and came to the same conclusion as Tate: she was a very well-respected photographer who specialized in extreme weather photography. Hope even had a website, but there wasn’t a single picture of herself. Every photo was of violent storms or the aftermath.
Jesus. How does Hope cope with that kind of suffering and pain?
Hope was the kind of woman who would shelter a deaf cat because she couldn’t bear to see the animal suffer. How did she deal with human tragedy on this scale?
In some of the photos, he saw the same man—a dark, tall, young guy, probably around Hope’s age. He was usually in the thick of these disasters, just like the woman who took the pictures.
“Her fiancé?” he asked himself in a disgusted voice. Hell, he didn’t even know the name of her intended, and that annoyed him. He should at least know the guy’s name, right?
Irritated, Jason dug out his cell phone and punched in Grady’s number.
“What’s the name of Hope’s fiancé?” Jason asked after Grady had said hello, without any of the usual bullshit they usually exchanged.
“She always just referred to him as James. I asked her his last name once and she said it was Smith,” Grady grumbled. “If you’re going to try to check him out, forget it. I already tried. Do you know how common that name is in Colorado? Without an occupation or any other identifying information, I can’t be certain exactly which James Smith is taking advantage of my little sister,” Grady admitted gruffly.
“Shit,” Jason snapped fractiously. “Do they live together? Is he in Aspen?”
“Don’t know. Hope always says it’s none of my business. She never wants to talk about him. The only thing she said when I talked to her was that they were working their problems out and that they were getting married. Then she told me she was going to Vegas for a few days with friends for a bachelorette party. Short of having her followed, I can’t get the damn information out of her. And believe me, I’ve thought about putting a tail on her. But if she ever found out, she’d be really hurt. She lives a quiet life in Aspen, and she’s never wanted to be in the media or bring attention to herself.” Grady sighed. “All of us have threatened to go there to meet the guy, but Hope promised she’d bring him to Amesport or we’d all meet somewhere before she marries him. She hasn’t even set a date yet, so I didn’t push her. She sounded wiped out the day she told me. Said she was tired.”
Jason came very close to outing himself, telling Grady exactly what he’d done, but he didn’t. If Grady knew he’d found his little sister in Vegas, and then got her so inebriated that she didn’t know what she was doing, he’d kick his ass. Jason wasn’t worried about paying for what he’d done. In fact, he expected it. He just didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag too soon. He needed time with Hope first. “I was thinking about checking him out after you told me she was marrying him. I’m worried about her marrying a guy nobody knows,” Jason admitted, worried more now than he ever had been before. Hope wasn’t living the quiet life in Aspen that Grady thought she was—not even close.
“I didn’t know you two really kept in touch,” Grady said thoughtfully.
“We don’t connect as often as I’d like,” Jason confessed. “Since your engagement party on New Year’s, we email each other, but I’ve always considered her a friend.” Jason nearly choked on the word friend. And “emailing” was a stretch. He sent a short sentence every week and she emailed back the same two words.
“Damn nice of you to care enough to worry,” Grady said in a low, genuine voice.
Jason really started to suffocate from guilt. He only gave a shit because he was a selfish bastard, not out of the goodness of his heart. “I care,” he answered huskily. At least that statement was true, no matter his motives. “So how’s Emily doing?” Jason asked curiously.
Grady perked up immediately and started to wax poetic about his wife. Jason smiled as his friend went on and on about how much Emily had changed his life. Obviously there were no problems in that particular marriage. Grady adored Emily, and worried about her obsessively. Even though Jason had never wanted that kind of attachment to a woman, he almost envied Grady. He was happy, and the man had changed, and definitely for the better since Emily had come into his life. Once a lonely recluse, Grady was now practically worshipped by the entire town of Amesport, Maine. There was no doubt in Jason’s mind that Emily loved Grady just as intensely as he loved her. He’d seen it in her eyes when Jason had seen them together during the holidays.
Unfortunately, he hadn’t been able to make it to their wedding. It had come at a time when he absolutely had to be in London on business, and Grady had made sure he married Emily with very little planning, as if he was afraid Emily would change her mind. At the time, Jason hadn’t been sure whether that previous commitment had been a blessing or a curse. He’d wanted to see Hope so damn desperately, but he wasn’t certain he would have been able to hide the fact that he wanted to f**k her if he saw her again. Honestly, he wasn’t certain he wouldn’t have thrown her over his shoulder and boarded his jet with her in tow, taking her anywhere that they could be alone together.
He talked to Grady for another thirty minutes, mostly about Emily, and Grady’s brothers. By the time he hung up, Jason almost saw double and his body begged for sleep.
He wandered into the bedroom and he immediately got hard when he saw Hope in the bed, her fiery hair splashed over a snowy white pillow. Obviously his dick was the only part of him not exhausted, and that part of his anatomy wasn’t angry with Hope at all. Even passed out on the bed, Hope looked breathtakingly beautiful. He’d pulled off her sandals, but he’d left her dressed in a pair of shorts and her tank top.
There’s only so much torture a guy can take!
He wasn’t about to fondle Hope while she was inebriated or unconscious. He wanted her awake and aware of everything that was happening when he buried himself inside her for the first time. And he’d be doing exactly that very soon.
Jason wrestled with his sense of honor and morals again, wondered whether every man had a moment in his life where he’d do anything to get something or someone he wanted. This was a first for him. Admittedly, he took business risks, but only after he’d carefully calculated the risks and benefits of taking a particular action, when he was fairly certain of getting his expected outcome. He’d rushed into the last twenty-four hours strictly from emotion and lust, not bothering to even consider the consequences.