The Bachelor Auction, страница 1
The Bachelor Auction
J C Reed
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locals is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright © 2018 by J.C. Reed
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior permission of the author.
Cover Design by Larissa Klein
To all the lonely girls out there:
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Never stop dreaming and believing.
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A letter to the reader
A Sneak Peek of An Indecent Proposal
Also written by J.C. Reed
Keep in touch with J.C. Reed
The Bachelor Auction
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"Out of all the stupid things I could have said and done, insulting the rich and influential guy who could make or break our business has probably topped the charts. Calling someone a creep isn’t so bad, is it?"
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All is fair in love and business…
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My friend’s plan is pretty simple: win the bachelor auction in a charity event and get the most influential man to sign a business deal with us. It’s a do or die situation. But plans rarely go as you would expect.
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When the bids begin to take ginormous proportions, my friend can’t stop in her rush of excitement. We don’t have the money. We can’t afford him, and yet, before I can even comprehend what’s happening, we’re the highest bid.
“The bachelor” aka Tyler Becks isn’t old and ugly. He isn’t very business-like, either. In fact, it’s hard to imagine that someone with his brain and bank account can be this sexy.
He understands our cash-strapped situation and is kind enough to cancel the bid. Let us out of the contract. No hard feelings. Or so he claims.
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He’s even kind enough to want to work with us. With me, in particular. I can’t refuse, even though working for him means I have to see him every day. My future depends on it.
I won't let my guard down. I won't fall for him, and particularly not now that I know he’s hiding something from me.
Everything comes at a price. Even Tyler’s generosity.
But how much am I willing to pay? I’m about to find out.
“Do I really have to?” I ask for the third time and tug at my evening gown, trying to pull a little more length out of it to cover at least the front of my legs.
“We’ve talked about this a million times. Now, sit down and try to blend in before I decide to kick your ass in front of all those people,” Brenda whispers and shoots me a murderous look.
Sighing, I plop down into my designated chair and cross my legs, inwardly reprimanding myself for letting my friend drag me along to a charity auction with lots of people in attendance. A charity auction, which if I may say, is so out of my league it might as well be from outer space.
And to top it off, I also let her persuade me into wearing one of her gowns, which isn’t so much a gown as a nightdress that’s been through the dryer one time too many. Not only does it lack fabric in the chest department, it’s also at least two sizes too small, riding up my thighs, and leaving very little to the imagination.
Short at the front, long at the back, off the shoulders, with beading and lace covering my waist, it looks quite elegant—would look even more elegant on the right-sized person. Actually, I’m probably overdressed for the occasion.
But that’s not the problem with it.
It works just fine on her lithe frame, but I don’t have her small body, meaning it looks like I purchased it from a children’s department store—that is, if this kind of dress were being sold there.
Another waiter moves past us. Before he can even blink, I’ve helped myself to a flute of champagne as I’m simultaneously looking at my cell phone.
Two hours to go.
If I don’t stand and don’t walk around, no one will notice what I’m wearing. Given that we’re sitting at the back of the back, right near the exit that leads to the toilets, maybe blending right in won’t be a Herculean task after all. Maybe no one will see me, and I’ll get to leave with both my dignity and my professional reputation intact.
I’ll still be Emily Harding, aspiring publicist and CEO of a two-man, or in this case, two-woman, start-up business.
A business that’s still in its budding stage.
(Everyone has to start somewhere, right? So why not with your best friend and a crazy idea born after midnight under the influence of lots of alcohol?)
“Em,” Brenda whispers, her tone heeding an unspoken warning.
“What?” I mouth and take a generous gulp of my drink.
Oh my goodness, it’s good, which isn’t surprising given the price tag of our two tickets. Brenda and I have forked out money we don’t have to get into this auction. And now we’re about to fork out even more for what Brenda calls a sure-fire plan to get our business name out there.
I call it a sure-fire plan straight into the depths of bankruptcy.
But alas, we’ve already invested so much money in our business, we might as well gamble the rest of it away.
“Put that champagne flute down. This is work. We’re on a mission,” she mumbles what I can only assume are supposed to be words of encouragement. They are not. “I shouldn’t have to remind you that we need this…badly. This is our last resort.”
A last resort to save our business, which isn’t doing so well.
“Fine.” I do as she instructs, but only because I don’t think I can take another sip of champagne and not choke on it as laughter bubbles up in the back of my throat.
Work usually involves a desk and long hours spent calling up hundreds of prospective clients. That was my approach for months. When that resulted in one failure after another, Brenda brought in the big guns.
“Ladies and gentlemen, please take your seats. The auction’s about to begin,” a guy announces, his voice echoing through the packed room. I crane my neck to get a good look at the stage, but my view is obstructed by crystal centerpieces and sparkling evening gowns. It looks like the tables in our price range only come with acoustic privileges. To actually see what was going on, we probably would have had to add another zero to our check.
The lights dim a little, and the auction begins. I barely listen to the items up for bid: a designer gown that was worn to the Golden Globes by a young starlet whose name is slowly turning into a brand. Then there’s a signed baseball bat, spa tickets, a luxury dinner at a star-rated restaurant, and the list goes on and on.
Everyone seems to want to outbid one another, and the offers bulge to outrageous proportions. After half an hour, I take out my cell phone and put on my most serious business expression—brows furrowed
I’ve almost beaten my previous record when Brenda sucks in a sharp breath.
“Em,” she whispers and proceeds to place her hand over the screen of my cell phone.
I look up reluctantly and tune back into reality. “What?”
“This is him.”
I lift up from my chair and crane my neck, but all I’m able to catch is the back of a tailored suit, a mop of dark hair, and broad shoulders walking down the carpet toward the stage.
“Ladies and gentlemen, if you’re not familiar with the face before you, you’ve probably been living under a rock,” the announcer says.
Polite laughter ensues. Then, “Please welcome Mr. Tyler Becks from Becks International. He hasn’t just been voted as one of the richest and most influential men in the country, he’s also one of our most generous benefactors.”
Clapping begins. Is it just my impression or is the clapping louder now?
No, it’s definitely excitement.
I’ve no idea who Tyler Becks is. I mean, I’ve heard his name countless times before, but I’ve never actually seen him.
He’s probably another old dude with too much money laying around.
I glance at Brenda who’s straightened in her chair, her back rigid, her expression a mask of concentration and deadly determination.
Only, she’s not faking it like I just did in the throes of my Soduku battle.
From the way her gaze keeps shooting daggers left and right, she looks like she’s ready to murder whoever might be messing with her plan tonight.
“Relax,” I say a little too loud so she’ll hear me over the sound of the excited chatter and clapping around us. “You’re doing great. I’m proud of you.”
The way I see it, a little motivational talk has never hurt anyone, even if she’s about to throw us into debt for the next twenty years or so.
Which I know won’t be happening because she can’t be so careless as to really go through with such a stupid plan.
“Now, Mr. Becks,” the announcer continues as soon as the clapping has stopped. “What is it again that you’re auctioning tonight?”
“First and foremost, thanks for having me. I’m always very excited to donate to a good cause. And, please, call me Tyler. Everyone does,” says the guy in the tailored suit.
For a moment, I forget to breathe.
That’s the sexiest voice I’ve ever heard—a deep, sexy rumble with some kind of New England accent I can’t place. Maybe Connecticut or Vermont. His tone is calm, composed, and so sexy it sounds like whatever he’s saying is bound to be dirty.
I crane my head to get a look at him, but I can’t see a damn thing. As he continues to talk, I close my eyes and take a deep breath as wave after wave of scorching heat travels through me and settles in my most private places. I want that voice to whisper into my ear all night long.
It doesn’t even have to be dark outside. Just make it an after-lunch encounter or a seedy hotel room that’s rented by the hour. I could work with any of those settings.
I imagine running my fingers through his dark hair, pulling him closer to me as his mouth lowers to my nipples, paying attention to one, and then the other. His face is obscured, shrouded in mystery, making my fantasy encounter that much more scintillating.
“—dinner while you can ask me questions and get to know the real me,” Mr. Sexy Voice says, and I realize I must have tuned out because I’ve no idea what he’s actually auctioning off. I think the word “date” was dropped at some point, but I’m not sure.
“Who wouldn’t want a piece of a real mastermind, ladies and gentlemen? Maybe you’ll teach us how to turn any idea into a gold mine. And ladies, did I mention that Tyler’s still single?” The announcer laughs at his own joke.
“Now you’ve got everyone’s attention,” Mr. Sexy Voice says coolly.
“In which case, let’s not waste valuable time. Take out your checkbooks, ladies and gentlemen, and start bidding. We’ll start with five hundred.”
Barely two minutes later, we’ve reached a four-figure number, and there seems to be no decline in interest.
Talk about desperation.
I crane my neck to watch the female guests. Their eyes are fixed ahead, gazes shimmering with greediness and determination, like a hunter about to catch its prey. They are a desperate bunch. I mean, who in their right mind would spend so much money on a single date?
When the bid hits eight thousand, I roll my eyes.
Okay. This guy has the sexiest voice alive, but please! Is it worth that much money?
I peer at Brenda who’s resembling a statue of war now. She hasn’t raised her hand yet, but her gaze darts to and fro, assessing the competition.
“It’s not a big deal,” I say to her, but she pays me no attention. I’m not even sure she’s heard me.
I resume my game of Sudoku because, really, there’s no way she’ll bid on whatever sexy Tyler is offering. Even if she wanted to, it’s already out of our price range, anyway. Hell, it was out of our price range once it hit four digits. We don’t have that much cash to waste. She’s probably angry because she’s just realized we’ve made a huge mistake by even being here.
Focusing on my game, I only notice all attention is on us as the announcer calls out, “Thank you for your generous bid, Ms. Walsh.”
Suddenly, a glaring spotlight is on us.
I peer at Brenda who rises to her feet, and people begin to clap.
Why would the announcer call out my best friend’s name and the words “generous bid” in the same sentence?
I blink against the blaring brightness, unable to understand the sudden attention as unease washes over me.
No, that can’t be…she would never be that stupid…
Or would she?
“What’s happening?” Frowning, I stare at her, but she’s too focused on what she’s doing. She throws her blonde hair back. Her teeth are sparkling white in the light as she smiles, obviously basking in the attention.
Maybe it’s not the attention so much as the fact she’s beaten the competition, and the expression on her face is one of pure triumph.
Like she’s just kicked everyone’s ass…by throwing us into sure bankruptcy.
“Please don’t tell me you just placed a bid…” My voice sounds faint, the words barely moving past my lips.
The announcer continues, “Ten thousand dollars for a date with Mr. Tyler Becks from Becks International. Thank you, Ms. Walsh. All proceeds will go to the Children’s…”
I can’t think. I can’t breathe.
Brenda turns and throws me a glance—a glance that says it all. We’ve won!
She’s completely serious…and insane.
And we are seriously…insanely…bankrupt.
“Actually, it’s Emily Harding,” Brenda says. There’s no nervousness at all, no shock, no regret in the fact that she’s just put the last nail in our financial coffin.
“Thank you, Ms. Harding, then,” the announcer says and moves on to the next auction.
The spotlight shifts to someone else. Brenda sits down and peers at me, literally glowing, high on her little triumph.
I narrow my eyes at her, unsure whether I should murder her on the spot or wait for later when we’re back in our beat-up Ford, praying that we’ll make it to my matchbox apartment without the engine breaking down.
Obviously, she’ll have to cancel the bid, but first she’ll get a piece of my mind.
“Did you—” I almost choke on my words and need to clear my throat as white-hot waves of anger surge through me. “Did you just waste thousands of dollars—ten of them, to be exact—on…”
Nodding slowly, she takes a sip of her champagne. “You’ll be
I stare at her, at a loss for words. Several times, I open my mouth to say something, then end up closing it again. I probably look like a fish out of water, gasping for air, but who the hell cares?
She looks so smug, I want to shake some sense into her. But I can’t because Brenda’s such a sweet person, and she has our best interests at heart.
It’s not her fault she’s a little impulsive, right? Everyone has that one weakness that makes them both irritating and endearing.
I should have known better than to let her drag me along to this. But the thing is, I didn’t think she would go through with it.
I honestly didn’t believe she would.
Besides, I didn’t expect the bids to take four- to five-figure proportions.
I mean, you could buy a small family car, maybe even a small boat, for crying out loud.
Which leads me to—
“Go over there and say you made a mistake,” I urge Brenda, my voice hushed. “If you explain that we can’t afford this, they’ll understand. This is a charity event, after all, and people are bound to have sympathy for the less fortunate.”
I stare at her for a good two seconds, my mind refusing to let the meaning of her two words sink in. “Brenda! We’re talking about ten-thousand bucks. We don’t have that kind of money.”