AtoZ Challenge · Macy and Hunter · Vanished

Hunter #AtoZChallenge

Lighting flashes across the sky, illuminating the clouds outside my window. Seconds later the crash of thunder vibrates through the room. I love a good thunderstorm. And it’s newly spring in Chicago so this is the first one in months, the first of the season. I smile watching the streaks of light scatter through the sky. The sound of the rain is soothing as it pelts against my windows, falling in tiny rivers down the glass.

My storm gazing is interrupting by the sound of water bubbling in my electric kettle. It hisses lightly before clicking off. I pour the hot water into my waiting mug and tea strainer. Grabbing my mug, I move into the living room and settle into my favorite chair, perfectly positioned to continue watching the storm rage while reading. I can hear my sister Vaughn’s voice mocking me, teasing me that I’m acting like an old lady. But this is exactly what I want to do with my Saturday night. At least this Saturday night. I grab my giant cable knit blanket and get all cozy, tucking myself into my chair with a happy sigh.

I’m not sure how much time passes, roughly four chapters worth, when I hear a tapping that isn’t related to the thunder outside. Straining to listen, I’m still startled when I hear the knocking again.

I contemplate ignoring it, but someone wants to talk to me badly enough to be out in this weather, so I put down my book and patter over to my front door. I peek out the window to see who it is at my door.


Confused and excited, there’s no denying that fluttery drop in my stomach, I flip the lock and open the door.

“Macy. Hey.” I’m sure my questions echo in my greeting. He’s never shown up at my place before. Usually we just flirtatiously chat at his dad’s bar or, more recently, my bakery and cafe.

He grins, his eyes crinkling adorably. “Hey. Busy?”

I glance down at my gray yoga pants and bare feet laughing, “Not really, no. Just enjoying the storm.”

Stepping aside, I usher him in. Immediately my little house is filled with Macy, his massive presence. Mace is a big guy both physically and in sheer personality. I’m tall, nearly 5’10” but even I feel almost tiny next to him. And if his height wasn’t enough, he’s also built like a sexy muscular tank, covered in tattoos. With a mass of dark hair, he typically wears pulled back in a causal man-bun and twinkling dark eyes.

I’m not lying. Or exaggerating. They twinkle. He’s like a dark, tan Santa Claus with six-pack abs.

He crosses the threshold, dripping water on the floor.

“You’re soaked! How long have you been out there?”

I rush down the hallway before he can answer and grab a towel out of the bathroom closet.

“I guess I’ve been walking for a while,” he admits, taking the towel I offer and drying his face and neck.

I frown in concern. “Everything okay?”

He takes a finger and gently massages the tension V between my eyebrows. He shrugs but doesn’t really answer.

“What are you up to?”

I decide to let him deflect the question for now. But I’m coming back to it.

“Just reading.”

“Anything good?”

This is so surreal I can’t help the little laugh that escapes. “Yeah actually.”

He nods, then asks, “Got a book for me?”

My head tilts to the side as I study him, not even hiding my confusion. “Macy. You can’t really want to sit and read a book with me in soaking wet clothes.”

He shrugs. “I kinda do actually. Is that okay?”

Something is definitely going on. But if he needs a friend right now, I guess I can be that.

“You have to get out of those wet clothes.”

He’s wrapped the towel around his neck now, holding the ends. He grins at me. “You could at least buy me dinner before trying to get me naked.”

I laugh. “Seriously. I doubt I have anything that will fit you but I’ll check. Why don’t you use the bathroom to get undressed and dry off. I can throw your clothes in the dryer.”

He grabs my wrist as I turn to attempt to find something for him to wear. My breath catches as I turn back to meet his gaze.

“Thanks, Hunter.”

“No problem.”

I can’t actually concentrate on my book with Macy sitting a few feet away, somehow managing to look both ridiculous and delicious in a pair of my old sweatpants. They are far too small, fitting more like tights as they stretch across his muscled thighs.

I thought he’d balk when I handed them through the bathroom door but in typical Macy fashion he’d just laughed and tried them on. I’d found an old mystery novel for him to read and so now he sat on my couch, also drinking a mug of tea, silently reading in pants that didn’t fit and no shirt.

How was I supposed to concentrate on anything other than that?

I’m not.

Eventually I slam my book shut, a little more forcefully than I intended. Macy looks up at me and grins.

“I’m hungry,” I lie. “How about some cookies?” I’m still trying to figure out what is going on, why he’s here. I’ve found desserts are a great way to loosen people’s tongues.

His eyes widen comically. “You got some of those spicy chocolate ones?”

I grin as I stand up. Based on his purchasing habits at the bakery, I know those are his favorites. “I do.”

He vaults to his feet, eagerly following me into the kitchen.

I warm up some cookies and we stand at the kitchen island, relishing the gooey chocolate cookies with a hint of cayenne. He’s reaching for his third one when he finally admits why he’s here.

“My brother died,” he says softly.

“Oh, Mace. I’m so sorry.” I go to him, wrapping my arms around his waist, trying to offer some comfort.

I barely remember Macy’s older brother. Unlike Macy and his sister, his brother left Chicago right out of high school. I know he comes home to visit, bringing his wife and kids on all the holidays but I’ve rarely seen him. But their family is close, this must be a massive blow to all of them.

His arms come around me, returning my embrace, his chin resting against my temple.

“There was a car accident,” his voice cracks.

I tighten my arms around him, my hands smoothing over the muscles of his back. I’m not sure how long we stand there holding each other, the pounding rain muffling any other external sounds.

Eventually I step back and meet his eyes. My breath catches at the intensity in his gaze as it moves across my face.

And suddenly, before I even realize it’s happening, we’re kissing.

Macy kisses me. And maybe I shouldn’t, but I kiss back.

We first meet Macy and Hunter here and here.

Macy and Hunter · Vanished


All I want to do right now is sleep.

Unfortunately, it’s looking like that isn’t going to happen for a while yet.

I was so close. So close. Literally turning the OPEN sign off and about to lock the door.

Instead a blast of cool air hits me in the face as a blur of stripes and color blows by me.

I shoot a look of disbelief at Jax who is behind the counter finishing the deposit.

“I want to speak with Lucas!” the tiny red-headed whirlwind demands. She seems a little unsteady on her feet.
Jax is wearing a surprised expression that I’m sure mirrors mine.

“Uh. Hi, Riley.”

“Jax.” She sways a bit and sniffs importantly, raising her chin. “I would like to speak with Lucas.”

“He’s not working tonight, darlin’” I offer when Jax remains silent, just staring at her with a bewildered look on his face.

She turns her attention to me and stumbles with the momentum.

My chuckle is cut short when Jax glares at me.

“Where is he? Let’s go find him!”

“Well. She’s feisty,” I comment.

“Not usually,” Jax frowns.

He rushes around the counter, wraps an arm around her waist and guides her to one of the couches. He’s murmuring something to her but it’s to quiet for me to make out what he’s saying.

“Mace, can you grab some water for her?”

“On it.”

I’m man enough to admit I grab a bottle of water and then promptly make myself scarce, letting Jax deal with the drama out front.

I’m allergic to drama. Something more than one woman in my past has abruptly discovered. Unfortunately, she’s family, slightly removed, so while I don’t feel the need to jump right into the fray, I’m also not inclined to totally bail. I don’t know Riley well and the Abbotts are basically persona non grata but Riley’s never shown up on our doorstep drunk before either.

Eventually Jax comes to find me in the break room. He’s rubbing one hand over his hair, a concerned expression on his face.

“She caught the fiance cheating,” he informs me.

“Damn. Poor kid.”

“Look, she’s not ready to go home and I don’t think she should be left on her own. But she can’t stay here obviously.” Jax winces, running a hand through his hair again. “We need to take her somewhere the paps aren’t going to find us. The last thing she needs is to be all over the gossip sites drunk and jilted.”

“We? When did I get dragged into this? Doesn’t she have a girlfriend she can call?”

Jax just glares at me silently.

I sigh, resigned to my new plans for the evening. “Fine.” He knows I’ve got the perfect place.

We finishing closing up and then hail a cab across town. If we’re in for a night of helping to drown some sorrows it seems smart not to have a car with us.

Riley is a chatty little thing, at least when she’s a little wasted. According to Jax, who has had more interactions with her than I have, she’s usually kind of shy and sweet. His word, sweet. I roll my eyes. That’s a shit storm waiting to happen.

We pile out of the cab in front of my family’s pub, O’Neill’s. It’s trivia night so it should be busy enough for us to blend in, but mostly full of regulars. People who know me and my family and won’t feel the need to call any paparazzi. Hopefully. Most the people here find it amusing I’ve somehow achieved tangential celebrity status and would much rather give me a hard time than feed into that nonsense.

They keep me grounded.


Tommy’s working the door and grins when he sees me. “Hey, man. How you doing?” I lift my chin in greeting, clasping our hands as if we’re going to arm wrestle and slap him on the back.

Riley’s still talking non-stop although I’m starting to get this is half the alcohol and half nervous energy. She smiles widely at Tommy and starts peppering him with questions, some of which seem relevant, questions about the bar, how long he’s worked here, if he likes it, but others make my head spin with the random landing pads. Does he prefer hockey or baseball? Has he seen the new James Bond movie? Has he ever done a walking tour with the Chicago Architecture Foundation? Apparently they’re great. Really informative.

I smile apologetically at Tommy, but honestly, she’s growing on me. And watching Jax both try to distract her from Tommy and keep her at a respectable distance is quickly turning my night around.

We finally make it inside and I see a flash of familiar, but unexpected, honey blond hair behind the bar. I tell Jax to grab one of the open tables and I’ll grab a pitcher of beer.

It’s about the crowd I expected, slowly clearing out for the night. I rest my elbows on the bar, eyes following the gorgeous blond working behind it. I’ll be honest, mostly I watch her ass. Hey, I’m a guy. And Hunter has an amazing ass. Lush and curvy, encased in a pair of well worn jeans. Years ago she let me tattoo that ass. Back in her wild child days.

“Hey, Super Star. What brings you to this side of town?” She grins, finally turning her attention to me.

I smirk. “Got sick of all the Cubs fans up there.”

“Damn right.” She nods. Then laughs out loud. “What can I get for you?”

“No kiss? What the hell? What kind of service is this?”

She laughs again, placing her palms flat on the bar and jumps up to reach across giving me a loud smack on the cheek. “Your dad’s going to be bummed he missed you. He took off early tonight.”

“What are you doing here anyway? Slumming it?”

“No, I just told your dad I could help out for the night. Brandy was feeling a little tired.”

I stiffen at the mention of my sister. Hunter covers my hand with one of hers. “Just tired.”

I blow out a deep breath. My sister Brandy was diagnosed with breast cancer several years ago. She’s been in remission for a while now but it’s still terrifying, at least for me.

“Besides, it’s fun to help out once in a while. I won’t be able to much longer.”

I grin at her. “Yeah? You opening your pastry shop soon?”

“Two weeks we have our soft opening.” Her smile could light half of Chicago. She inherited the bakery from her grandmother but it’s been closed for over a year as she’s sorted out the bills and debt and zoning crap. Grandma May was an awesome baker but she wasn’t very detail oriented. If she hadn’t been such a fixture in the neighborhood for decades she probably would have been shut down years ago.

“Congrats, sugar. That’s awesome. Make sure you send me an invite.”

She nods. “So. Drink?”

“Right. I’ll take a pitcher of Goose Island. Three glasses.”

“You got it.”

Hunter steps away and I scan the bar spotting Jax and Riley at one of the pool tables in the back. She’s seems a little more steady on her feet now. Adorably focused on lining up her shot then squealing in excitement when the ball bounces into a pocket. She draws the eyes of several folks in the bar but Jax doesn’t even seem to notice a soft, indulgent expression on his face, I’ve never seen before.

Well. That’s interesting.

She was cute, sure. A little skinny. But cute. Especially drunk off her ass like now. But she didn’t seem like the type Jax usually…. I guess Jax didn’t usually do much with the women in and out of his life.

I grab our beer and cross the room to join them. I half lean, half sit on a nearby stool. In the middle of the next ‘game’ Riley decides to check out the juke box, claiming she’s got mad song-choosing skills. I laugh at her antics but Jax seems to be veering wildly between being his typical flirtatious self, unnecessarily protective and just plain baffled.

I’ve decided despite the drama I see coming, I’m rooting for Riley. While she’s across the room proving her skills, I have a little fun.

“So, cheating fiance huh?”

He nods, eyes never leaving Riley and sips his beer.

“They live together?”

A flash of annoyance crosses his face. “I don’t think so. I’m not sure.”

“If they do, she’s going to need a place to stay tonight.”

He’s silent.

“Hell.” I grin. “She can come home with me. Cute little thing.” Truthfully, Riley is not at all my type, which Jax is well aware. Little sprites like her make me feel like I’m going to break them.

“She’s not going home with you, Mace.”

“Why not? I got a perfectly comfortable bed.”

“She’s Luke’s cousin,” Jax growls. Dude literally growled at me.

Smirking, I point out, “She’s a grown ass woman.”

Jax stiffens beside me, finally turning to face me full on. “She’s not for you, Mace.”

I stand up, deliberately keeping my movements slow and relaxed. “Oh, I know she’s not for me.” I stretch my arms above my head, then reach for the remainder of my beer. “I’m not the one that keeps sneaking glances down her shirt.” I turn and walk away.

I’m still laughing when I reach the bar.

“You need another round?” Hunter asks. The bar is pretty empty at this point but there’s still a good forty minutes before last call.

“No thanks, sugar. I’m going to head home. Kick those two out whenever you need to okay?”

“They need to crash in the apartment upstairs?”

I shake my head. “No. They’ll grab a cab home. Jax isn’t drunk.”

“Fair enough.” She tilts her head, her ponytail swinging. “Good to see you.”

“You too. I’ll see you in a couple weeks for your opening, right?”

It’s hard to tell in the dim lighting but I think her cheeks get a little pink. She nods.

I stare at her another minute before pulling myself away and heading out.

Finally, I’ll get to sleep.

Somehow going home alone isn’t as appealing as it was a few short hours ago.

See Jax and Riley’s first meeting here and here.

Want more of Hunter?

Macy and Hunter · Vanished


I’m not sure what wakes me but I roll to my back, slowly stretching. I feel twinges in parts of my body I haven’t used in far too long. I’m sure the smile on my face borders on smug. I’ll pay this price for repeats of last night. Sighing, I realize the space next to me in bed is empty around the same time my eyes slowly blink open.

He’s already half dressed.

I sit up silently, disappointment heavy in my chest.

His eyes meet mine briefly as he finishes pulling on his t-shirt. His body is insane and another, different kind of disappointment spears through me as all that ink and muscle is covered.

He comes around to my side of the bed and crouches so we’re at the same level. Tenderly he tucks my mussed hair behind my ear, fingers lingering along my neck. I shiver.

“I didn’t mean to wake you. I know you have to be up early.”

“Not tomorrow. We’re closed on Monday.” My mouth is dry with sleep, my voice raspy. I lick my lips unconsciously and see his eyes darken.

The silence hangs fragile and heavy between us. I know I shouldn’t expect anything from last night. That most likely I was a way for him to forget for a short time the grief still crowding him. I know his life has gotten infinitely more complicated in the last week and I don’t want to be another complication he has to manage. I want so badly to ease his pain even for a short time.

The timing is off, I get that. I won’t be another burden for him. Last night was already more than I ever expected us to have.

So I smile softly and press my fingertips gently against his lips. “Thanks for last night,” I whisper, my voice huskier than normal.

His eyes crinkle as he grins, grabbing my wrist and pressing a firm kiss to my palm. “I should be thanking you, sweetness.”

“My pleasure.” I giggle, somehow feeling lighter.

I run my fingers through his beard, appreciating how powerfully beautiful he is. His dark hair hangs loose around his shoulders for once. There’s a long faded scar along his eyebrow and without thinking I lean forward placing a soft kiss over it. He makes a sound similar to a groan and buries his lips in the curve of my neck, my hands going to that glorious hair. Then he’s kissing me again and I forget everything else.



She’s so fucking sweet.

At first, you wouldn’t think her name fits her.

She’s sweet and soft. I want to wrap her around me and cushion myself from the realities outside this room. But she’s also got some Chicago steel in her bones that sneaks up on you.

I’ve never kissed anyone that seduces all of my senses the way she does. Soft skin. Sexy sounds. She smells like the desserts she spends all day baking. And tastes just as sweet. Gorgeous curves. I’ve suspected for a while things would be good between us, but last night surpassed all my expectations.

I can’t imagine never being with her again. But knowing the changes and challenges I have ahead of me right now, I also can’t imagine how to hold on to this. She deserves more than I’m prepared to offer right now.

She whispers my name and I practically launch myself at her, deepening our kiss as I guide her to her back and cover her with my frame.

I have to leave.

I will leave.

But I want one more memory to take with me.

Hunter also appears briefly in Macy.