The Millionaire Makeover (Bachelor Auction)By: Naima Simone
“Here.” Morgan liberated another glass of wine from a passing waiter and pressed the flute into Khloe’s hand. “Drink this. It’ll help you look more let-the-festivities-begin and less headed-to-a-dinner-date-with-Hannibal-Lecter.”
Khloe lifted the drink, carefully stepping on the ballroom’s gleaming ebony and marble inlaid tiles, not trusting her newly purchased heels on the slick floor.
“Maybe I look that that way because—damn it,” she grumbled, quickly steadying herself after her heel skidded, and she lisped to the side. “Because it’s exactly how I’m feeling. When I mentioned hiring a date for the gala, I was joking.” Sort of. “But I definitely didn’t mean…” She waved a hand in the direction of the brightly lit stage. “This.”
Morgan looped an arm through hers and guided her through the throngs of people. “First, we’re buying, not hiring. Big difference.” She smiled and murmured a “hello” to an older woman with so many diamonds around her neck—very likely not cubic zirconia—Khloe was certain there was an insurance adjustor somewhere praying as he white-knuckled a policy on those gems. “And while this might seem extreme, desperate times call for desperate measures. And sweetie,” she patted Khloe’s hand, “I love you, but you’re desperate.”
An immediate objection leaped to Khloe’s tongue, but after a moment, she swallowed it. What could she say? Morgan was right. Hadn’t she just thought the same thing? Still, attending a bachelor’s auction to lease a hopefully hot date poked too close at a wound that remained sore to this day. Morgan, who had probably been born with her expertly streaked blonde hair, perfectly straight teeth, and gorgeous body, wouldn’t know anything about begging her brother to take her to the prom so she wouldn’t end up with the monosyllabic, arachnid-obsessed son of her parents’ fellow professor at Cambridge College.
Khloe slid a glance at her beautiful best friend and tried not to feel like Quasimodo in a dress. Not that she was a hunch-backed, warty recluse, but next to her friend’s regal, cool loveliness, Khloe had to fight the urge to change her career path to include bell ringing.
Middle class to Morgan’s wealthy Boston Brahmin roots, quiet where Morgan was outspoken, unassuming to Morgan’s boldness, and duckling to Morgan’s swan, she and Morgan should have been the unlikeliest of friends. But underneath the stylish clothes, ennui, and dry, sometimes cutting wit existed a woman with a heart of gold. Dented maybe, but still gold. And if Khloe suspected a little bit of pity dwelled beneath her friend’s insistence on taking her beneath her perfectly coiffed wing, well…she tried to ignore it.
“No need to rub my woeful lack of options in,” Khloe grumbled. “How much do people bid at these things anyway? All I have to spend is my vacation money. Three thousand dollars. That’s my limit.” Just the thought of squandering away her hard-earned and saved fund on a single date twisted her stomach into knots a nautical engineer would’ve been hopeless to untangle.
“Don’t worry about the cost. Since the auction was my idea, it’s my treat.” Morgan waved off Khloe’s concern and avoided directly answering the question. Which caused another vicious wrench in her belly. “Let’s go grab our table down front. The festivities are about to begin.”
Smothering a groan, Khloe followed her friend to a round table surrounded by six chairs. A “Reserved” placard with “Lett” printed underneath identified the setting as theirs…or rather, Morgan’s. She pulled a chair out and gingerly lowered to the seat.
“You’re still looking worried,” Morgan admonished, leaning back from the table, dark eyes gleaming. “Get into the spirit of it. The mystique of not knowing who you’re bidding on? It’s exciting, if you’ll allow it to be. Just think. You could end up with a gorgeous Joe Manganiello or a debonair Cary Grant.”
“I hope not, since Cary’s dead,” Khloe mumbled, lifting her glass of champagne for a quick sip to wet her parched throat.
Morgan snorted. “Good point, Khloe,” she murmured, covering Khloe’s claw-like clench on her purse with her own hand. “I know this is out of your comfort zone.” Now there was the understatement of the, oh, millennia. “But you have to stay focused on your end game. What better way to guarantee landing a hot man, shocking the hell out of everyone at that party, and finally getting Bennett Charles to notice you as more than the nerd in the second office from the left?”