The Millionaire Makeover (Bachelor Auction)By: Naima Simone
What the hell had he been thinking?
He winced as he descended the staircase to the first level of his home. That’s just it. He hadn’t been thinking. At least not clearly. When Khloe had shown up on his doorstep, surprising him by flying into Dublin from Boston, he should’ve sent her to the nearest hotel with the promise of getting together over breakfast the next morning. When he was sober. But instead, his alcohol-addled head had invited her in. And her visit of friendship had turned into a night of the most mind-blowing sex he’d ever had. She’d been innocent before she’d appeared at his house…before he’d taken that wide-eye innocence and filled that emerald gaze with passion and knowledge Michael would’ve killed him for placing there.
Any woman. He could’ve fucked any woman. But Khloe? He shook his head, the flare of agony at his temples sending black and gold dots scattering before his eyes.
He stumbled, stubbing his toe. Pain blared from his foot, and he hopped to the side, leaning against the corridor wall.
He glared down at the large brown box that blocked the hallway leading to the kitchen. Why in the hell would he leave the thing right there…?
Again, memory dawned, and grief welled up inside him, a fresh, hot geyser that overwhelmed him, plowing him down until his ass hit the floor, his back thumping against the wall.
Right. The box—or rather what occupied it—had been his most recent reason for getting ossified. He’d finally cleaned out Michael’s office and had brought his best friend’s personal items home. Niall had also cleared his own office of everything that reminded him of the man who’d been like a brother to him. It seemed blasphemous, almost sad, that the essence of the kindest, strongest, most honorable man Niall had ever known could fit into a drab cardboard container.
Fingers trembling, Niall reached for a flap. Dragged the box closer.
Pictures, books, ticket stubs—physical mementoes—greeted him like old friends. This time, Niall didn’t fight the deluge of memories. He picked up a pile of photos. Images of him and Michael as teens at dances, at school then later as adults in college, in the New York offices of Duir Music, the record label Niall’s family owned and ran. He softly snorted. Yeah, Michael’s parents hadn’t been happy when their son had abandoned his plans of becoming an educator to follow his heart into the music business. Nor had they been fans of Niall who, in their eyes, was no better than the snake with Eve, tempting their son away from the path of stability and respectability into the world of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. They hadn’t seen the passion for music in their son that had originally connected him and Niall.
Grinning, Niall palmed a dirt-smudged baseball. Coming to live in Boston at thirteen years old had exposed him to America’s favorite pastime and the Red Sox. Exposure to what had become two of the biggest loves of his life had been worth the move across the Atlantic.
With a low hum of pleasure, he reverently withdrew the first edition of The Great Gatsby, his favorite book. The novel that’d been a gift from Michael for Niall’s twenty-seventh birthday.
Hearing the outraged squawks of book collectors everywhere ringing in his ears, he smoothed his fingertips over the clear book jacket that covered and protected the mint condition dusk jacket, and opened the novel.
A smile hitched the corner of his mouth. He could so easily become sucked into the world belonging to Nick Carraway, Jay Gatsby, and the village of West Egg. Through the years, he often had. Michael had witnessed Niall’s headlong fascination with the tale of decadence, idealism, and ultimately disillusionment. And his gift to Niall had been the best he’d ever received.
He gently thumbed through the pages, every so often pausing to read then continuing. As the familiar outrage at Tom’s hypocrisy rose in him, he flipped past the scene and…stared at the thin, white envelope that fluttered from the book and glided to the floor like a paper airplane.
“What the hell?” He frowned, bending to swipe up the card-sized mailer. He flicked it over. “Fuck no…” he breathed.
His heart stalled in his chest then revved into hyper drive as he studied his name written in a bold handwriting. A handwriting he knew as well as his own. Though his pulse hammered in his ears like a mallet striking an anvil, he carefully opened the envelope and removed the single sheet of paper within.