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The bachelor auction, p.4
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       The Bachelor Auction, p.4

           J. C. Reed
 
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  Run.

  “I’ve changed my mind,” I say slowly. “Please tell Mr. Becks that I’m not the right person for the job.”

  Without waiting for a reply, I turn on my heels to head back to my suite, wondering what the heck I’ll tell Brenda.

  7

  “You wouldn’t believe it,” I yell into my phone as soon as I’m out the door.

  “Where are you?” Brenda asks wearily, ignoring my question. “Weren’t you supposed to be having a business dinner?”

  Her accusatory tone renders me speechless for a moment. I speed-dialed her with the intention of lying that the company canceled the business dinner because they found a more suitable candidate for the job. Now I realize I should have taken a moment and planned my deception a little more carefully because Brenda isn’t easily fooled.

  Must be her stars or something.

  “I was, but—” I take a deep breath and release it slowly as I try to sound as nonchalant as possible. “They canceled. Said something about finding a more suitable candidate for the job.”

  “That’s strange.”

  “What is?”

  “Well, I just received an email that you’re half an hour late.”

  Shit!

  I bite my lip hard as I stare down the long corridor ahead, not really seeing anything or anyone. Closing my eyes, I wipe my hand over my damp forehead.

  “Brenda,” I say slowly. “Did you know it was Tyler Becks I was supposed to meet?”

  I wait for a gasp, an exclamation of surprise, anything that would tell me she wasn’t aware of it, but all I get is guilty silence.

  “Brenda!” I yell. “What did you do?”

  “Me?” Her voice is shrill and defensive. “I didn’t do anything. I promise. He told me he wanted to know more about the company so I agreed to you flying over.”

  What is it with this guy and his obsession to hire me? And why the heck is he so hellbent on it?

  “That’s ridiculous.” I laugh at the thought in my head. “The guy’s a nutjob. A creep, obviously. We’ve barely spoken two minutes and he’s flying me over, paying for a suite and offering me work.”

  “Maybe those two minutes were enough to convince him of your qualities.”

  I laugh. “I very much doubt that. In fact, I’m sure I didn’t.”

  “Didn’t what?”

  “Didn’t convince him of anything. I didn’t even get to pitch anything. My point is, I’m not prepared to do this because I’ve no idea what this job entails and consequently don’t feel confident enough to do it. I have no idea what he wants. For all I know he could be a creep.”

  “A creep, huh?” a male voice says. I turn slowly, fuming that someone might be so rude as to tune into my private conversation, and my look of displeasure freezes on my forehead.

  Tyler Becks is staring at me, his blue eyes sparkling with humor and arrogance.

  Heat travels up my neck, settling in my cheeks. I want to tell him that I have no idea what he’s talking about. But I can’t open my mouth to lie…or say anything at all.

  All I can do is stare at him as the seconds tick by and a tiny voice at the back of my mind slowly starts to remind me that now I probably look like a creep gawking at the most beautiful man I’ve ever seen.

  Crap!

  In the light of day and dressed in a tailored, gray business suit he looks even more perfect than the night we first met. His eyes are two dark blue pools that seem to twinkle with unspoken promises while his muscular body seems to take up all the space. I take in a sharp breath, forcing air into my lungs, but the oxygen doesn’t quite seem to reach my mushy brain.

  “Well?” Tyler prompts, brows raised.

  He’s such a gentleman—I can already tell by the way his gaze scans my shirt and skirt, lingering a little too long on my legs. My skirt is long enough to cover my knees, but under his scorching gaze I might just as well be naked.

  I raise my arms to cross them over my chest, but that only manages to push my breasts farther into focus—Tyler’s focus.

  He licks his lips. Slowly. Deliberately.

  I fight the urge to roll my eyes.

  It’s so obvious why Tyler Becks flew me in, and it sure wasn’t the result of looking at my impressive résumé.

  That one night. That one dress. Damn Brenda. She’s a great friend, don’t get me wrong, what with her focus on spiritual improvement and all that, but she couldn’t dress business appropriate if her life depended on it.

  “Em?” Brenda prompts on the other end of the line.

  “I’ll call you back.” I disconnect the call before she can reply, and slowly focus my gaze on the guy still smirking at me.

  “My private conversations are none of your business,” I hiss. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I have—”

  “Somewhere else to be?” Tyler prompts, amused, finishing my sentence.

  “I was going to say ‘somewhere important to be. ’”

  His brows shoot up. “Like the business meeting you’re about to blow?”

  My cheeks catch fire. I hope I haven’t turned as red as I think I have.

  Tyler assesses me with a challenging glint in his eyes. “I thought you wanted to prove yourself. This is your chance, and yet you don’t seem very keen on taking it.”

  I jut my chin out, wondering how he could be so spot on without even knowing me. “I want to prove myself.”

  “Then why are you bailing?”

  Yes, why indeed?

  I try to make sense of my own reaction, and fail miserably. My business success depends on this job. It’s make-it or break-it. Tyler Becks is giving me an amazing opportunity while I’m making a big ass out of myself. All I have to do is discuss business over dinner with this guy.

  How hard could that possibly be?

  “I wasn’t bailing.” My gaze holds his. “I just realized I’m not dressed appropriately for the restaurant you chose. I was going to change quickly and then join you.”

  I hold my breath as I wait for his response, silently praying that he won’t let me change because I don’t have anything remotely expensive to make me look like I belong seated at one of the tables rather than scrubbing the pots and the pans in the kitchen.

  “This works just fine for me.” He points at the front of my top. “But for the sake of keeping the peace, I’ll pretend your work attire bothers me, and that I didn’t hear you calling me a creep. Why don’t you change and I’ll schedule a driver to pick you up in an hour? And then we can talk.”

  “Fine.” I nod grimly and take a deep breath, mentally preparing myself for what I know is a very bad idea.

  8

  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?

  I bet none of his employees ever dared to call him that. At least not while he was tuning in to the conversation.

  As much as I want to blame it on the flight (never get seated next to someone who takes over an hour to clip their toenails), the stress (this is our first job), and lack of sleep because of money problems, I know I can’t.

  He’s been nothing but kind by paying for my flight and accommodations, canceling Brenda’s charity bid, and then proceeding to give our company a real chance. I should be thankful, but the truth is I just can’t stop behaving like a sulky kid.

  Not around him.

  This meeting is a blessing. Only, I can’t go through with it. There is something about Tyler Becks that makes me want to run and hide, which is why I hope Lucky will know what to say to lift my spirits.

  I’m sitting on one of the plush sofas in the restaurant’s bathroom as I try to type on my iPhone as fast as autocorrect will allow me. I’ve been in here for at least ten minutes, conversing with LuckyLuke because he’s easier to talk to than Tyler Becks who’s probably getting impatient waiting for me.

  But any diversion is better than facing him. And that
’s exactly what Lucky is to me.

  Subject: Re: Can you hide in a bathroom forever?

  * * *

  I’ve never tried but I wouldn’t think so. At some point, you’ll need sustenance in the form of food and drink. Maybe a bed, too, and someone to keep it warm for you. Why would you even want to hide?

  On a side note, you never called. I’m beginning to take it personally. Is it possible that you aren’t single like you claimed to be?

  * * *

  — LuckyLuke

  Subject: Re: Re: Can you hide in a bathroom forever?

  * * *

  I’m not really hiding. I’m just postponing the inevitable, which is talking to the creep who’s flown me to Vegas under the pretense of a job offer. Did I mention it’s the same guy I met at the auction?

  Let’s face it, my impressive résumé wasn’t what caught his attention, and now I don’t know how to deal with it. My bestie’s outburst would probably send the entire cosmos into mayhem if I told him that I’m not interested in anything he has to offer, be it a job or whatever he has in mind.

  * * *

  — Bumblebee07

  Subject: Re: Re: Re: Can you hide in a bathroom forever?

  * * *

  Why all the hostility? Are you attracted to him and think you couldn’t work for him knowing that you’ll act on that attraction at some point?

  * * *

  — LuckyLuke

  Yes, why all the hostility indeed?

  I skim over Lucky’s message as I try to push the nagging feeling that he’s right to the back of my mind.

  I am attracted to this guy, but there’s no way I’d ever act on it for countless reasons.

  One being…

  Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hide in a bathroom forever?

  * * *

  He’s a creep. That’s all.

  * * *

  — Bumblebee07

  Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hide in a bathroom forever?

  * * *

  A creep who’s giving you a chance.

  * * *

  — LuckyLuke

  Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hide in a bathroom forever?

  * * *

  Seriously, whose side are you on? Is that because your ego’s hurt at the fact that I refuse to call you? Do you want me to act on that attraction? I thought you wanted me all to yourself…or are you into sharing?

  * * *

  — Bumblebee07

  Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Can you hide in a bathroom forever?

  * * *

  I wouldn’t mind him warming you up for me.

  * * *

  — LuckyLuke

  This conversation’s definitely taken a strange turn. I’m not sure that I like his generous, sharing streak. Maybe the guy’s a little too strange for me, but now’s not the time to ponder over that.

  I switch off my iPhone and mentally prepare myself for the inevitable.

  9

  “Red Eagle Publicity is an up-and-coming new company that will take your publicity needs to a whole new level.” Staring at some point behind Tyler, I rattle off the catchphrase on our website. My hands are fretting in my lap while my mind can’t seem to focus on the task at hand.

  Usually, I’m better than this. But there’s something about this guy that makes me discombobulated, as though I’ve lost my wits around him.

  He’s sexy as hell, and that’s exactly why I won’t be able to work for him.

  “I’m sure you’ll do just that,” Tyler says with a hint of amusement in his tone.

  I take a deep breath and force my gaze back on him. His eyes are still sparkling with humor, but there’s a layer of ice about him that I hadn’t noticed before.

  Is it just me, or is he making fun of me?

  I narrow my eyes as I try to read him.

  Maybe it’s not so much ice but cold curiosity, as if he’s trying to figure me out. Under different circumstances I would ask what his problem is.

  But the thing is, I can’t start a fight. It would be unprofessional.

  I shift in my seat uncomfortably, suddenly unsure whether to go on about our company or shift the focus on him.

  “As far as I’m aware, you’re the CEO of a conglomerate, which comprises various businesses and Travel Sun is one of them,” I start. “Your brief says that you intend to build a public platform.”

  “It took you fifteen minutes to come up with that?” Tyler asks, and I realize he’s talking about my bathroom break.

  “No.” I shake my head and ball my hands into fists to stifle the anger rising inside me. “Of course not.”

  “Hmm.” He regards me intently. There’s something he wants to say, I can tell from the various facial expressions passing over his beautiful face. Eventually, he remains quiet with a frown lining his forehead as a waiter brings our food.

  “Just to make sure we’re on the same page, what am I supposed to do exactly?” I dive into my entrée, something with seafood, and marvel at the delicious taste. The portion’s so tiny, you’re probably paying a fortune per bite. But every bite’s undoubtedly worth whatever price tag Tyler Becks is paying.

  “I have this new website that attracts the wrong target audience. You’ll need to take it to a whole new level.”

  “Are we talking about Travel Sun?” I put my fork down and look up to search his face, wondering whether he’s making fun of me by using my catchphrase. And sure enough, I find a sexy smile on his lips.

  His lips are stunning, I can’t help but notice. I want to trace my fingertips over them, to feel their heat under my skin.

  When he doesn’t reply, I nudge, “Is the website about travel?” I throw in the only piece of information I have in the hope that he won’t notice the tremor in my voice or the blush scorching my face.

  “Not just travel. It’s a lifestyle. A whole new experience.” He puts his fork down, his intense gaze taking my breath away. His stony expression changes, and I can sense whatever his new business venture entails, it’s his passion. He’s probably put long hours into making it work. He probably wants it as much as I want me and Brenda to succeed. “I’ll send you the details after dinner. You can ask as many questions as you want tomorrow over breakfast.”

  Breakfast with him.

  The way he words it, it’s a request and not up for negotiation.

  I try to read his facial expressions for any signs of a double meaning, but there’s none. Everything about him screams business meeting, as though he’s changed his mind about me. Or maybe I misinterpreted his demeanor for something that it never was.

  “Sounds good.” I take another bite of my entrée and then pick up my glass of wine, suddenly no longer hungry as I try to mentally prepare to ask the obvious. “Out of all the publicity companies you could have chosen, why me—Red Eagle?” I correct myself. “I’m sorry. I just have to ask.”

  “No apology needed. Who said I haven’t tried most of the others?”

  There are probably thousands of people just like us out there. He can’t possibly have tried them all. “That’s hard to believe.”

  Tyler takes a deep breath. “Obviously, I haven’t tried them all, but I’ve considered them, looked through their portfolios, talked to some in person. They’re all the same, offer the same services. I want different because what I’m doing isn’t your run-of-the-mill travel website.” He pauses to take in my confused expression.

  “Contrary to what others might think, I believe in new businesses, especially when they’re run by young entrepreneurs and graduates fresh out of college. Those are the years when they’re still optimistic, motivated, on a roll, and conditioned to work hard. They’re invested and more than eager to take their business ideas to a new level, and they’re prepared to do whatever it takes to reach their goals. Established companies tend to use their old, tried and tested approaches. I want flexibility and innovation.”

  “I understand what you’re saying, but why me?”

  “Look
, what I’m saying is that you’re new. You have this fresh and innovative perspective on things. I mean, bidding at a charity event? That’s funny, bold, different. And it might just be a perfect fit for what I’m trying to build up here.”

  I stare at him in silence, mulling over his words. Bidding at a charity event wasn’t my idea, and he knows it. He should be having dinner with Brenda, and yet he’s not.

  I feel like there’s something there, as though there’s more to this—a deeper meaning that I can’t grasp. Then again, I’m probably being ridiculous.

  I’m putting words into his mouth when I should be thankful for the fact that he’s doing the pitching for me. He’s basically handing me a great opportunity on a silver platter while I can’t stop questioning his intentions. Just because we happened to meet again when I thought we wouldn’t in a million years doesn’t mean there has to be a secret agenda.

  “I hope so.”

  He smiles in response, his eyes lighting up, and my stomach drops a little. He is really stunning, not in a “walking straight out of a Calvin Klein advertisement” kind of way. He’s more than a beautiful face. He’s clever and business savvy, polite and well-spoken. That’s the picture the newspapers and Internet have painted of him.

  Not to mention, whatever he touches turns into a success.

  Suddenly I realize I want to impress him with my knowledge. I won’t see him disappointed because he doesn’t seem like someone who ever handles disappointment. Plus, I need to get a handle on this. From now on, no more embarrassing thoughts, endless bathroom breaks, and unfounded questioning.

 
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