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The bachelor auction, p.6
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       The Bachelor Auction, p.6

           J. C. Reed
 
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  I know I shouldn’t keep him waiting. Yet, in a moment of pure defiance, I fling out my cell phone, log into my travelbuddy.com account and type up a quick message.

  Subject: I’ve had it with this guy

  * * *

  Guess where I am on this particular Friday night?

  Stuck at work with one of the meanest (and also hottest) guys I’ve ever met. I’m about to join him in his office. And before your dirty mind’s starting to go places, no, my boss is not about to bend me over his desk and show me that huge bulge I keep seeing isn’t just a figment of my overactive imagination.

  I swear the guy’s married to his work because there’s no way he’s getting any at home during the five minutes he spends there.

  He wouldn’t be so grumpy if someone showed him a good time every now and then. And before you ask, I’m not going to. He’s intimidating enough at work, always expecting more than is humanly possible. He’s impossible to please. I wouldn’t want to see his demands in the bedroom. It’s said the quiet ones are always the freaks.

  * * *

  — Bumblebee07

  * * *

  P.S.: I’m glad we get to start over.

  Lucky and I haven’t talked since our little exchange at the restaurant mostly because my time has been limited. Sending off my message I smile and realize just how much I’ve missed it.

  My most recent rant has just made me feel a little better, but only a little because I still have to face the dragon.

  No, make that the sexy dragon in his very private den.

  In the middle of the night.

  I stuff my phone back into my bag and, taking a deep breath, knock on Tyler’s door.

  13

  “You’re late,” Tyler says. His head is lowered over his phone and he’s frowning at the screen.

  “I didn’t realize we had an appointment.” I toss my bag onto the huge leather sofa to my left and slump into the chair facing him, ignoring the electrical current shooting through my abdomen.

  He lifts his gaze and glares at my bag as though the thing could jump off his sofa just because he wants it to. To the outside world, he doesn’t seem particularly organized, what with his tendency to scribble every detail on random sheets of paper and then misplace them. But there seems to be some order to his chaos because he never forgets a detail.

  I bite my lip to stifle the tiny laughter forming at the back of my throat. Tyler likes people to do as he bids. Basically, he always gets his way, which is why I do my best to show him that I’m not at his beck and call.

  And I sure as hell won’t please him—unless he finally decides to bend me over his desk and show me what’s hidden in those tight pants of his.

  Which won’t be happening. Tyler has been nothing but professional in the last few days, working me into an early grave, so I know better than to expect anything else.

  But a girl can dream, right?

  True to my impression of him, he begins to flick through a stack of papers, obviously looking for something he can’t find.

  “Can I help you?” I ask with a sigh. As much as I think he’s hot as hell, I don’t want to spend a Friday night in his office, sweating over a website that’s bound to lose its top position if he won’t listen to a word I’m saying.

  Biting my lip, I trail my gaze down his shirt to the spot where he’s undone two buttons. His skin is golden bronze and taut, just like the rest of him, I assume, judging from his broad chest and muscular arms. I wonder when he finds the time to work out. Maybe he’s one of those guys who never sleeps.

  “There’s something we need to talk about.” His deep voice jerks me out of my reverie, and I look up, startled, my face catching fire.

  He can’t read my mind, obviously, but there’s a glint in his eyes that makes me think that maybe I haven’t guarded my expression as well as I should have.

  “There always is,” I say with a fake smile.

  “I haven’t seen your progress report yet,” Tyler says, ignoring my remark.

  “You mean my progress since this morning when you last asked for it?” I cross my arms over my chest as I regard him coolly. I’m too tired to talk to him, too angry. But it’s too late. I can’t hold back now. I have to say it. “Why did you hire me? You haven’t liked any of my suggestions yet. You don’t agree with any of the findings. Honestly, why am I here, Tyler?”

  He frowns. “Why?”

  “Yes, why? Because we both know you didn’t build an empire by doing everything yourself and watching each and every employee every step of the way. The way I see it, you don’t need my help when you’re trying to do it all on your own.”

  It’s a bold statement, given that I know nothing about this man or his business practices. But there is something—something I can’t identify—that makes me guarded around him.

  It also makes me defensive, and weak, since it’s obvious to me that I have a major crush on him.

  “You’re right. Your progress isn’t the reason I’ve asked you into my office. Truth be told, I’m not happy with the work I’ve seen so far.”

  Anger courses through me. I know I shouldn’t start a fight, but does he have any idea, any idea at all, how many hours I put into coming up with something he might actually like?

  I cross my arms over my chest and let out a scoff. “That’s because you haven’t let me show you what I’m capable of.”

  “I haven’t?” He leans back into his chair and looks at me, his gaze drinking me in. There’s that glint again that I thought I saw during our business dinner.

  “Yes. You haven’t allowed me to put any of my ideas into practice, meaning you don’t know if they’ll work.”

  “They won’t,” Tyler says coolly.

  But he’s wrong. I know because I’ve done my research.

  “You think you know even though you haven’t tried them. So, at the risk of offending you, I think that’s stupid.”

  “Are you calling me stupid?” His lips twitch.

  My cheeks flame up. “No. I’m just saying that all great plans have a beginning, one minor step to take. And that step will take you places.”

  “And your approach is that one magic step?” I can almost hear the laughter in his voice.

  There, he’s making fun of me.

  I jut out my chin, holding his gaze. I don’t know why I even bother with him.

  “I actually think so, but you wouldn’t know even if it came up and bit you on the ass.” I bite my tongue hard, but it’s too late. The words are already out and can’t be taken back. He’s going to fire me for sure. I just know it. There’s no way he’s not taking offense.

  I regard him, searching his expression for signs that he’s angry. But all I see is amusement.

  I lick my lips, unsure what to make of him. He isn’t happy with my work. Fair enough, given that he’s the employer. But I won’t let him reprimand me when it’s his inability to delegate the work or listen to anything I have to say that’s hindering my progress.

  “Give me a few days, without any interruptions, without butting in all the time, and we’ll see what I can do for you. If you’re still not happy with the results, you can fire me.”

  His eyes narrow on me. “You’re willing to insult me and consequently lose your job because you believe in your ideas that much?”

  I suck in my breath before I reply. “Yes, I am because I know they’ll work. The data says so. And I’m sorry that I insulted you. Now if you want to fire me, then please go ahead and do it.”

  “Who said anything about firing?” His lips jerk at the corners before they break into a smile. “I’m not going to get rid of you just because you’re not afraid to speak up. Get your stuff. We’re leaving.”

  “You mean—” My voice breaks off as my pulse speeds up a little.

  “Don’t get your hopes up. We’re not calling it a night.” He smirks as though I’m not the one who’s always working this late, staying overtime and working my ass off to please him.

  “I
wasn’t suggesting—” I watch him grabbing his jacket. “Where are we going?”

  “The lights in here are killing me,” he says with a shrug.

  “Your office?” I suggest.

  “We’re going to my place. Get dinner first, and then we’ll see.”

  See about what?

  “Oh.” I stare at him, at a loss for words. His place doesn’t sound professional at all. Or maybe he’s really just hungry and wants to get a bite while discussing how to proceed with the website based on the focus group results.

  Tyler gets up and grabs his cell phone, then motions at me impatiently. I almost trip over my own two feet as I hurry to get my stuff.

  “Leave it. You won’t need it,” Tyler says.

  “But you said—” My voice breaks off and I clamp my mouth shut at his look.

  He leads me to the underground parking garage where his black, very expensive sedan is waiting for us. I throw a sideways glance at the uniformed driver and can’t help but wonder whether Tyler called him to pick us up or whether my boss is always working this late. Maybe I’m not the last person to leave the building every night.

  Then again, you can’t become one of the most influential people in the world if you don’t work your ass off around the clock.

  “Same as usual, sir?” the driver asks.

  Tyler nods his head and helps me into the backseat, then joins me.

  The car’s spacious but not as large as I would prefer it to be. I can feel his proximity all around me. I can smell the faint scent of his aftershave. I can almost feel the warmth of his body, wrapping around me. I’m lightheaded and I know it’s not the lack of food that robs me of my wish to keep our relationship limited to a professional level.

  We remain silent during the short drive. Keeping my gaze averted from him, I try to focus on the moving blur of illuminated skyscrapers, but my senses remain heightened and focused on the man sitting beside me.

  I can feel his gaze on me a moment before I turn to look at him.

  Seconds pass by as I stare into his eyes, mesmerized.

  In the darkness around us, his irises are a vivid shade of sky blue.

  They’re breathtaking. Everything about him is.

  “Beautiful,” I whisper.

  “What is?”

  I frown as I realize I’ve just spoken the word out loud. “Vegas is beautiful.”

  “And sexy, and an oxymoron.” His gaze lingers on me. “Like you.”

  Sure, Vegas is bright, big, loud, but also depressing, dark, dirty. I don’t think I’m like that at all. I don’t quite see the compliment, which is why I choose to focus on the word ‘sexy.’

  I can work with that.

  14

  I only realize we’ve reached our destination as Tyler opens the door and rounds the car to help me exit. For a brief moment, I hesitate, and then I place my hand in his strong grip.

  Our eyes connect, and something passes between us. It’s just a fleeting current of electricity, but it’s enough to weaken my knees and make my head spin a little. For a moment, he looks at me with the kind of expression that makes me prickle all over.

  Maybe it’s my imagination again, but I swear there’s longing in his eyes. And then there’s caginess, as though he’s not sure how to proceed. He’s not known for hooking up with his female employees. Or maybe he was once burned and has vowed not to repeat his mistakes. Either way, this is the moment to send a clear message—a message that whatever this is, it’s not going beyond our work relationship.

  And yet I can’t bring myself to break eye contact and pull my hand out of his grip. I can’t even peel my thoughts off of him.

  “You must be hungry. I know I’m famished,” Tyler says, his voice low. For some reason, it doesn’t feel like he’s talking about food.

  I just nod my head in response as countless bells begin to ring inside my brain.

  Tyler smiles and wishes the driver a good night as I peer around us. The parking garage looks like a showroom of expensive cars. I don’t mean to stare at the polished Jaguars and Ferraris—cars I’ve never seen in real life.

  He leads me to an elevator and we ride up to the penthouse in silence.

  As the doors slide open into a spacious foyer, every hope that he hasn’t brought me to his place evaporates into thin air.

  He’s taken me home.

  His home.

  I try to ignore the way my stomach plunges into a free fall, but the sudden nervousness renders me speechless.

  Just like his office, the décor is masculine and expensive, with no personal photos or anything that would hint at a woman having ever lived here. Which means he’s single, or in an open relationship with no form of commitment, expectations, or real closeness.

  “Welcome home,” Tyler says.

  My heart skips a beat at the word “home.” Coming out of his mouth, it seems like such an intimate word that conveys more meaning than it actually should. Biting my lip, I take in his expression. But there’s nothing to read, nothing to interpret. To him, this probably isn’t such a big deal. Maybe this is his game, inviting women over, making them feel warm and welcome until they’ve let down their guard.

  I’m certainly ready to even though he hasn’t even asked me yet.

  “Come on in.” He points down the open foyer to the vast living room stretching behind.

  I follow him to the brown leather sofas set up near the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the skyline, and sit down.

  “Wine?” Tyler asks from the bar area to my right.

  “No, thank you.”

  He takes out two tumbler glasses and pours us what looks like whiskey, then hands me a glass.

  “I got you some liquid courage, anyway.” He winks. “You’ll probably need it.”

  What for, I want to ask but refrain from it.

  I take the glass from his outstretched hand and take a sip, feeling the liquid burn its way down my throat. It’s good whiskey—even I know it, and I’m not judging from the expensive label on the bottle.

  “Why don’t you make yourself comfortable while I’m ordering dinner?” Without waiting for my reply, he leaves the living room. I lean back against the sofa as I tune in to his voice speaking to someone over the phone. The conversation’s brief, his words too low to make out. I assume he’ll join me after he’s done, but instead I hear a door open and close, and then all is silent.

  A few minutes later, there’s a rap at the door and Tyler returns with our food. We eat in silence for a few minutes, and I almost find myself relaxing in his presence…until he puts down his fork and fixes his gaze on me.

  Our gazes connect over the mahogany dining table and I know in that instant that work isn’t the reason I’m here. He didn’t exactly pressure me into joining him in his penthouse on a Friday night, and I didn’t exactly put up much of a fight.

  In fact, I just followed his request, deep down knowing where it would lead.

  “Tyler,” I start, then clamp my mouth shut.

  “Why did you take this job?” His question is harmless enough. It could count as small talk were it not for the sober glint in his eyes.

  “It was the only job Brenda and I could get.” I laugh at my own joke even though it’s the sad reality.

  “You know that’s not true. You’re too good at what you’re doing not to know that your company name sucks and you would have succeeded if you had only kept at it.”

  “I’m not sure about that.” I think back to only a week ago to the unpaid bills piling up and the mounting debt threatening to drown us. “No one was interested in giving us a chance, and I think that had nothing to do with Brenda’s stupid choice of a company name.”

  He pauses for a moment, hesitating, as though he’s unsure of whether to reveal his true thoughts. “I had your application letter sitting in my inbox for a few months. I had asked HR to arrange a meeting the same day we met at that charity auction.”

  “You had been considering us for months. But your reservations h
eld you back.”

  He nods his head, gravely. “Yes.”

  “You changed your mind after meeting me in person.”

  He nods again, but this time, his eyes meet mine. Even though he doesn’t answer, there’s no need for his confirmation. I can see his response in his eyes and it’s scalding me.

  “What changed your mind, Tyler?” My voice is low, my breathing hard to control.

  I need to hear him say it, I tell myself, if only to make whatever I need to make out of it.

  “You. Everything about you.” He rounds the table and reaches for me, helping me to my feet. “I liked what I saw that night.”

  He’s talking about the auction.

  “You didn’t know me. You knew nothing about me.”

  “True. But I wanted you anyway.” There’s a moment of hesitation before his lips come crashing down on me, his mouth savoring mine, slow and tender. I clutch onto him, holding on like he’s my anchor, even though the way he kisses me he’s probably more like the rock that could pull me under water and drown me.

  Between our kisses, I barely come up for air, and when he finally pulls away from me, it feels like something’s instantly missing.

  I crave him more than I should.

  “I want you to stay the night,” Tyler says.

  There’s no question in his tone, no suggestion. No promises of a future. Not even of a tomorrow. It’s a simple request that I know I’ll follow.

  I nod and let him show me to his bedroom, even if only for one night.

  I’ll deal with the consequences later.

  15

  “I’ve wanted to do this since the first moment I saw you,” Tyler whispers in my ear.

  My chest is pressed against him, and I close my eyes, savoring the tingling sensation that seems to shoot through me at his every touch. His fingers brush gently over my upper arm, tracing their way to my breasts to caress them through the thin fabric of my top. I gasp at the jolt that travels down to my core, readying me for what’s to come.

 
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