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Beautiful Ever After, Page 1

Georgia Cates




  Beautiful Ever After

  Beautiful Illusions Duet Book 2

  Georgia Cates

  Georgia Cates Books, LLC

  Contents

  Note from Georgia

  1. Maxwell Hutcheson

  2. Caitriona Louden

  3. Maxwell Hutcheson

  4. Caitriona Louden

  5. Maxwell Hutcheson

  6. Caitriona Louden

  7. Maxwell Hutcheson

  8. Caitriona Louden

  9. Maxwell Hutcheson

  10. Caitriona Louden

  11. Maxwell Hutcheson

  12. Caitriona Louden

  13. Maxwell Hutcheson

  14. Caitriona Louden

  15. Maxwell Hutcheson

  16. Caitriona Louden

  17. Maxwell Hutcheson

  18. Caitriona Hutcheson

  19. Maxwell Hutcheson

  20. Caitriona Hutcheson

  21. Maxwell Hutcheson

  22. Caitriona Hutcheson

  23. Maxwell Hutcheson

  24. Caitriona Hutcheson

  25. Maxwell Hutcheson

  26. Caitriona Hutcheson

  27. Maxwell Hutcheson

  28. Caitriona Hutcheson

  29. Maxwell Hutcheson

  30. Caitriona Hutcheson

  31. Maxwell Hutcheson

  32. Caitriona Hutcheson

  Epilogue

  About the Author

  Also by Georgia Cates

  Copyright © 2019 Georgia Cates Books, LLC

  All rights reserved.

  This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This book may not be resold or given to other people. If you would like to share this ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  * * *

  Editing services provided by Lisa Aurello

  Formatting by Jeff Senter of Indie Formatting Services

  Cover design by Georgia Cates

  Note from Georgia

  The idea behind Eighty-One Nights and Beautiful Ever After is unlike anything I've ever done before. Here's how– I LOVE The Beauty Series, The Sin Trilogy and its spin-offs, Dear Agony, and Indulge. I wanted to take my favorite parts and elements of each series and infuse them into one story with new characters and plot. THE BEAUTIFUL ILLUSIONS Duet is the result.

  * * *

  Yes, you will see familiar elements, ideas, and scenes from my previous releases. You'll even see mentions and appearances from characters you loved in my other series. How? You'll have to read the duet to find out how I pulled that one off.

  * * *

  Thank you in advance for reading The Beautiful Illusions Duet. I hope you love it as much as I do and I would be honored if you choose to leave a review.

  1

  Maxwell Hutcheson

  Lou. She came into my life and became my world. My everything. It’s that simple.

  Brady opens the door and shakes his head when he looks at me. “You dumb bastard. You were supposed to fuck her and let her go when the arrangement ended.”

  “Aye, that was the plan.” But plans change. And mine certainly did.

  He steps out of the doorway, making room for me to enter. “Get the hell in here, and let’s sort out this fucking mess you’ve gotten yourself into.”

  “Aye, but whisky first.”

  Brady pours two Tomatins and I toss mine back before he picks up his glass. “Hit me again, mate.”

  He pours another whisky three fingers high, and I throw it back, same as the first.

  “Another?”

  “No.” I can’t be steamin’ while we try to figure out what the hell I’m going to do.

  I place the whisky glass on the table and run my palms down my face, groaning. “Everything was fine this morning. We were fine.”

  We. Were. Fine.

  “Maybe you were fine but she wasn’t? Did anything seem off?”

  “She was crying this morning when I woke up.”

  Brady chuckles. “When a woman cries, it’s usually a strong indication that she definitely isn’t fine.”

  “It sounds bad when I say it aloud, I know, but we talked and everything seemed to be all right. She stopped crying and we had sex and everything seemed okay. Before I left for work, I told her to choose something special for tonight and she told me that she would. She was okay.”

  “Why were you doing something special tonight?”

  “Our Inamorata arrangement was ending at midnight.”

  “Ahh… I hate to break it to you, you brilliant motherfucker, but I think your inamorata left because she didn’t want to go through saying goodbye.”

  “But I wasn’t going to say goodbye. I was planning to ask Lou for a real relationship. No contract or any of that other Inamorata shite.”

  “I figured as much. I’ve seen that one coming for a while.”

  “I don’t think avoiding a goodbye was Lou’s reason for leaving early. Mrs. McVey told me Blair came to the house. She said Lou was in tears afterward.”

  “So you find Lou and straighten out this mess. Ask her to be your girlfriend or whatever it is you want out of a relationship with her. Problem solved.”

  If only it were that easy. “Finding her is going to be difficult when I don’t know her last name or where she lives.”

  “Cora knows.”

  “Already been to see her. She won’t tell me anything.”

  “That’s not surprising. The survival of her business is dependent upon discretion and privacy. Without those things, she has nothing.”

  “I understand Cora’s position and I’m not angry at her.” She called Lou on my behalf. I can’t ask more of her than that.

  “Let’s go over what you know to be fact. What do you know about Lou’s life outside of Inamorata?”

  “Her real name is Cait. I’m sure it’s a shortened version of Caitriona. Or maybe Catherine?”

  “All common names so that’s not helpful.”

  Her father and his family live in Edinburgh, but I don’t remember ever hearing her call them by their names. Also not helpful.

  “Her best friend’s name is Rachel.”

  “I met Lou’s best friend at the cocktail party, and she introduced her as Meg.”

  “Meg would be her Inamorata name. Her real name is Rachel. I confirmed that when I went to the building where they used to live. A tenant remembered a pair of roommates named Cait and Rachel who recently moved out.”

  Brady’s eyes narrow the way they always do when he’s in deep thought. “Their former landlord might be able to tell you their last names. Or a forwarding address. Unless, of course, he’s upstanding and respects their privacy enough to withhold that information.”

  “He could probably be bought.”

  “And if he can’t?” Brady asks.

  “She was planning to return to the University of Edinburgh. Maybe I could use that as a way to find her?”

  “Without a last name, that’s no help. You’re reduced to walking around campus hoping you’ll see her.”

  Ian will be there. I could ask him to be on the lookout for her, but he’d ask why she left me and why I have no id
ea how to reach her. I don’t want him to know the details of our relationship.

  Those details are our secret.

  “She has an ex-boyfriend. His name is Cameron Stewart. He’s a bartender and works in Edinburgh. Or at least he did.”

  “Finally. A first and last name. That’s helpful information.”

  “It’s helpful until you factor in that he’s trying to win Lou back.” He isn’t likely to help me just as I wouldn’t help him when he wanted me to tell Lou to call him.

  “The guy is a bartender. His knowledge about her could easily be bought.”

  It would kill me to have to go to that fucker. “I’ll only consider it after all other options have been exhausted.”

  “Then let’s go back to Lou’s best friend. I met her at the cocktail party. She was with a client. A regular, Lou said.” Brady’s brow wrinkles. “His name was Clyde or Claud. Something like that and he owns tour companies, the ones with all-day excursions around Scotland.”

  “Well that’s slightly better than looking for a needle in a haystack.”

  “You can get to Rachel through this Clyde or Claud and ask her to put you in contact with Lou. If she won’t, Cameron Stewart can be your next move. After that, you may be forced to hire a private investigator.”

  I’d prefer to not take that route. Thomas is dirty. Very dirty. And I don’t know which private investigators are and aren’t on his payroll.

  “Lou told me she loved me.” After we made love skin on skin, an act that she believes should only be shared by two people in love. That alone tells me how she feels about me. The words weren’t necessary, but I coveted hearing them from her.

  Her ‘I love you’ doesn’t accompany motive. It comes from a place of honesty. Her heart.

  “Did you say it back?”

  “No.”

  I wasn’t expecting her to say those words to me. I wasn’t prepared. And when I didn’t say them back, I hated the hurt that I saw in her eyes.

  I was afraid to love her. Now, I’m more afraid to lose her.

  I’m such a fucking dobber. I should have told her right then and there how I felt about her.

  “Do you love the lass?”

  “I do.” I love her so much it hurts. “And I should have told her so but I was afraid.”

  “Don’t beat yourself up over it. Mina put you through some intense shite. No one can blame you for being cautious.”

  I foolishly let her get away without telling her how I feel. “Caution may have caused me to lose the only thing that’s ever made me feel alive.”

  “If she’s the one, you’ll find her and tell her. Simple as that.”

  The one. Is that even possible? I’ve only known Lou for three months.

  “I made myself believe that Mina was the one and look at how wrong I was about that. How can I trust myself to get it right this time?”

  “I don’t think I’m the person to ask. In case you forgot, I got it wrong too. But if I had to guess at what kind of advice to give you, I’d say listen to your gut this time and not Thomas Lochridge.”

  Brady has that much right.

  I wasn’t ready to get married but Thomas Lochridge was clear about my options. No marriage meant no promotion. The only way I was going to climb the ladder at the firm was as his son-in-law. Because Mina was ready to be a wife. And what Mina wanted, Mina got. Thomas always saw to that.

  Somewhere along the way, I was sucked into all there was to gain but the cost was so much more than I could have ever imagined.

  I thought things were complicated before Lou, but my problems multiplied tenfold when she entered my life. Having her is going to cost me. I know that. There’s never been any doubt in my mind about it. I’ll probably lose everything. And I don’t care. Having everything means nothing without her.

  She is worth the fall.

  2

  Caitriona Louden

  Light blue focused on hazel. Hard, chiseled arms holding me. Warm flesh on flesh, two bodies fused as one.

  That’s how I choose to remember us.

  Sweet dreams. There have been none of those for me. A nearly sleepless night has forced me to think about the beautiful ever after I’m never going to have with the man I love so dearly.

  Fate, you’ve been a cruel bastard to me once again. Why am I your favorite person to hurt?

  A soft knock on the door accompanies my whispered name. “Are you awake?”

  “I am. You can come in.”

  Rachel opens the door and enters the room, sitting on the side of the bed. “Did you sleep at all?”

  “Not much.”

  “I was afraid of that. Do you want to stay in today and rest instead of going shopping?”

  “I’m tired but I need so many things. I don’t even have a toothbrush.” Or tampons. And I’ll be needing those soon.

  “You don’t have to go today. You can borrow anything you need from me and we can go tomorrow after you’ve had some rest.”

  I doubt I’ll sleep tonight either. “There’s no need in putting it off.”

  “A hot shower and a good breakfast. That’ll make you feel better.”

  That’s doubtful. I don’t think anything is going to make me feel better. And I’m afraid that nothing ever will.

  “I’ll need to borrow something to wear.”

  “You’re always welcome to anything that belongs to me.”

  “I know. And thank you.”

  This is a rare moment—Rachel taking care of me. I’m usually the one who mothers her. But she doesn’t need me anymore. She has Claud to take care of her.

  And I have no one.

  Claud’s driver stops the car in front of our favorite department store. “Would you like me to wait for you or should I return later?”

  “We have a lot of shopping to do so we’ll probably be a while. I’ll text you when we’re ready to be picked up.”

  “Aye, Miss Rachel,” the driver says.

  She smiles when I do a double take after the driver calls her by her real name. “I’ll explain in a minute.”

  We get out of the car and Rachel says, “I left Inamorata to be Claud’s girlfriend. His real girlfriend. It would be silly to have him and the staff call me Meg, don’t you think?”

  “Yeah. Of course.” Makes total sense.

  Rachel and Claud are real. Hutch and I were not. At least not on his end. What I felt was real.

  I’m happy for Rachel—very happy—but I admit that I envy her relationship. “Claud’s good for you.”

  “I know, right? He’s exactly what I needed in my life.” Truth. I love Rachel but she needs someone to take care of her. That’s who she is and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. She’s lucky Claud wants to be her keeper.

  “What would you like to look at first?”

  “Bras and panties.” I went commando today because I refuse to borrow Rachel’s. She may be my best friend but I just can’t wear her underwear.

  She holds up a cute little black lace G-string. “Nice.”

  “Nice for you but I have no one to wear that for now. I’m just looking for normal everyday undies.” Because no one besides me is going to be seeing them.

  “That’s boring.”

  Boring is what I need. “Classes start in two weeks so my life is about to become very busy. I’m jumping headfirst into my studies. It’ll be a good distraction.”

  Rachel sighs and returns the G-string to its place on the table. “Classes and studying aren’t going to stop you from thinking about him.”

  Pity. I’ve seen it my entire life. And I hate it.

  “Yes, I’m sad about leaving Hutch, but I’ll eventually get over it. It’s not the end of the world.” Even if right now it feels like it is.

  “You’re not a delicate piece of glass that can be easily broken. I know that, but you’re wounded and it hurts me to see you like this. I don’t like it.”

  “Trust me. I don’t like it either, but it’ll get better in time. It won’t always hurt
like this.” The words sound really good coming out of my mouth. I only hope that they’ll be true one day.

  “Have you thought about going back to Inamorata?”

  “What kind of crazy question is that?”

  I have an insane amount of money. With frugal spending, I could live on it for years. And after graduation, it will afford me the ability to work on my manuscript without worries about finances. I won’t be forced to put away my writing and work at a nine-to-five job to make ends meet.

  I have a chance at achieving my dreams, all because of Hutch. I’ll never forget that he’s the one who made that possible.

  “I’m not asking about Inamorata because of the money.” She shrugs. “I don’t know. Things went so well with Hutch that maybe you’d meet someone else and have an even better experience?”

  “I don’t want to meet someone else.” Ever. Hutch has ruined all other men for me.

  “Maybe not today but you will one day.” Rachel holds up a pair of granny panties. “And do you really want to be wearing knickers like these when you do?”

  “Whether I meet someone or not, I don’t ever want to wear panties like those.”

  “Pretty bras and knickers make a girl feel good even if she’s the only person seeing them. Buy yourself some pretty things. You owe that to yourself.”

  “All right.” God knows that I need something to make me feel better. If pretty panties will do it, I’ll give it a shot.