The Millionaire Makeover (Bachelor Auction)By: Naima Simone
“You’re not going home empty-handed. Forget it. Fifteen,” she called out, tipping her paddle.
“Fifteen thousand,” the emcee cooed. And before she could raise the amount, another hand shot up. “Sixteen.”
Khloe’s stomach bottomed as the amount continued to increase. Oh God. Was Morgan serious? Jesus, that much money could buy her a car. Hell two cars. She swallowed. An image of Bennett wavered in front of her eyes, then faded. The idea of him seeing her as someone other than the dowdy, shy programmer on the third floor had been a dream—a beautiful dream. But she had to let it go. Her existence as it stood flashed in front of her like a dreary montage. Her quiet apartment. Dinner for one. Her empty, cold bed. The loneliness. Then visions of what she could have replaced the bleak tableau. A warm home full of laughter. Noisy dinners with kids. A man warming her back as he cuddled behind her in bed. Love. Damn, it hurt. But still…no way she could—or allow Morgan to—plunk down so much money on a pipe dream.
“Twenty-thousand dollars,” her friend stated, jumping the current bid by two thousand.
Peek-a-book blinked but quickly recovered her Toddlers & Tiaras pageant smile. “Twenty thousand. My goodness, the highest bid of the evening. Do I have twenty-one?” Murmurs undulated in the room, but no further numbers were yelled out. “Twenty going once. Two. Sold to number 82 for twenty-thousand dollars. Congratulations!”
A dull roar filled her ears. She’d done it. Holy shit, Morgan had done it. As if from a distance she caught Peek-a-boo’s closing comments. Oh my God. I’m not going to Hawaii, and my friend is twenty grand lighter, but… Oh my God. She. Did. It.
Morgan turned to her, satisfaction etched on her face. “Now that’s how you win a bachelor,” she stated. The only thing missing was a fist pump.
Bemused, Khloe couldn’t respond. Frozen in her seat, she stared at the stage as the other bachelors filed back out. Instantly, she sought out number ten—her date. He’d slid his hands into the pockets of his slacks, and her gaze slid over his wide chest and slim hips, emphasized by a thin black belt. Heat flooded her face and stretched down her neck beneath the high collar of her gown. She resisted the urge to ease a finger beneath the suddenly constricting material and tug it away, granting her more air.
With a body like that, what would his face look like? Would his bone structure be bold and prominent? Or would it be angular and elegant? And his eyes. She inched forward in her chair. Those she desired to glimpse the most. Would they be soft, gentle, to counterbalance the almost overwhelming maleness? Or would that gaze be as flinty as the rest of him?
The breath snagged in her throat. She needed to know.
“Now, what you’ve all been waiting for…” A drum roll vibrated on the air as the lights in the room brightened. “Bachelors, please remove your masks!”
She didn’t pay the other men on the platform the slightest bit of attention. Every sense, every nerve was pinned on the lean, male animal slowly lifting the disguise to reveal himself. Without intending to, she shifted closer to the edge of her seat…
He pulled the mask free.
Holy Mary, Mother of God.
The breath expelled from her lungs on a loud whoosh of air. A horde of black and gold dots swarmed her vision. She swayed and grabbed the table just in time to prevent a faceplant to the floor.
She couldn’t see his sharp gaze from her seat, but she didn’t have to.
Blue. His eyes were a vibrant blue that rivaled the brightest summer sky.
She knew that face.
And the man.
The last time she’d seen him had been three years ago. When she’d fallen asleep beside him on tangled sheets after he’d made love to her for hours. No. Not made love. Screwed. Because a man who made love to a woman didn’t usher her out of his house the next morning with an indecent—and humiliating—amount of speed, and then never call or speak to her again after taking her virginity.
She’d just allowed her friend to pay twenty-thousand dollars for a man she hated with a passion.
God was a woman, Niall Hunter decided.
Had to be.