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The bachelor auction, p.8
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       The Bachelor Auction, p.8

           J. C. Reed
 
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  I’m shaking as I switch off his phone. I told Lucky that I wouldn’t meet him, but he decided to go against my wishes and trick me into meeting him anyway.

  “The jerk.”

  If I had known, I would have never opened up to him the way I did.

  I grab my progress folder and head out of the conference room, ignoring Scarlet’s curious gaze as I dashed past her to grab my stuff from my office. My face is burning, my skin crawling with embarrassment, which I hope she can’t see. As much as I need this job, I also need my time to think, and that won’t be happening with Tyler a floor away.

  I need to put as much distance between us as I can, and that’s only possible if I take the first flight back home where I can forget the fact that he tricked me into sleeping with him.

  Running away back to my home where I can forget the fact that I might have fallen for him just a little bit.

  18

  “Going somewhere?”

  I turn slowly at the sound of the deep voice, realizing I should have left straight away rather than bother organizing my folders—in case the next person Tyler hires needs them. But hey, that’s me—the most conscientious yet naïve person I’ve ever met. I just couldn’t possibly leave havoc behind, and now I’m paying the price because Tyler’s standing in the doorway, his smile slowly fading into the scowl he’s usually sporting.

  “What’s wrong? Something happen?” He makes sure to close and lock the door behind him before he reaches me, doing all the wrong things by wrapping his arms around my waist to draw me closer.

  “Don’t.” I swat at his hand and shoot him a venomous look. “Why are you here? I thought you were meeting a client.”

  “I am. He’s actually waiting in my office right now. But I couldn’t find my phone and figured you might have taken it.” His tone is nonchalant, but there’s an impatient glint in his eyes.

  “I found it and left it in your conference room.”

  “Great. I’ll ask Scarlet to get it for me.”

  I gawk at him. There’s not a single line of worry on his face. He thinks that I haven’t checked his messages, that his secret’s safe.

  If I was angry before, I realize I’m seething now.

  “We’ll grab lunch later and then we can talk about whatever’s bothering you,” Tyler says.

  I know I should just keep my mouth shut and leave, but I just can’t. I need to see his face when I confront him with the truth.

  “I’ve read through your messages.”

  For a brief second, he looks at me confused, and then the message seems to seep through and his beautiful eyes get all panicky.

  “You went through my phone?” His tone is disbelieving with a hint of angry undertones.

  I nod and cross my arms over my chest. “I did. Do you want to know what I found, Lucky?”

  He clenches his jaw. I can almost see his brain working, sifting through possible excuses and discarding them as he goes along. Suddenly, I don’t want to know his excuses or lies. All I want is to be alone.

  I wish I were back home, where his voice can’t reach me, where his glance can’t make me feel as though I’m melting inside.

  “I’m going home.” I try to squeeze past him but he blocks my way.

  “Emily, listen.”

  I shake my head. “No, I won’t listen, Tyler or do you prefer me calling you Lucky? During all those months we were chatting, you had plenty of opportunities to tell me that you knew who I was. But you didn’t. Instead, you figured out where I lived, what I was trying to do with my life, and you turned it all into a big joke at my expense. I told you that I didn’t want to meet you, but you didn’t respect my wish. Given that the website is yours and you had access to my private information, you betrayed my trust by accessing it to arrange for us to meet. I can’t be with someone who doesn’t respect my wishes or lies to me.”

  “I never did that.”

  “You never accessed my private information?” I narrow my eyes at him.

  He hesitates, and in that instance I know he’s trying to bend the truth to suit him. Catching my smirk, he lets out a heavy sigh.

  I shake my head. “I’m done with you.”

  “No, listen. I really didn’t access your private information, initially.” He pauses, and our eyes connect again. If it only were the truth. I want to believe him, I really do, but I can’t because I’m too angry.

  “I figured out who you were,” Tyler says.

  His words make no sense. “What?”

  “You told me about the charity auction and the guy you and your friend wanted to meet.”

  “She isn’t just my friend. She’s my business partner,” I correct him, annoyed.

  “Of course.” He nods, frowning. “The point is, you were planning on meeting a potential client by bidding on having dinner with him. I didn’t realize you were talking about me. Not then. I thought it was a mere coincidence two people attending a charity event on the same day. And then your business associate won the auction and you asked me to cancel your bid. At that point I started to put two and two together. That’s when I checked your phone number with the website records and realized we had been talking all along.”

  I bit my lip, unsure how I should be feeling at this point. Part of me wants it all to be true, wants to believe him. But can I when I don’t really know him? “Why didn’t you tell me?”

  Hesitating, he rakes his fingers through his hair. “I wanted to but—”

  “But—” I prompt.

  “But I didn’t think it was a good idea. Let’s be honest, I might not know you very well, but you don’t strike me as the kind of person who takes risks.”

  I frown. “What makes you say that?”

  “The fact that I had been trying to get you to meet me for months, without much success. You disclosed a lot about your life but you didn’t ask specifics about mine. That made me realize you never had the intention of seeing me in real life. I thought by offering you a job and us getting to know each other, you would give me a fair chance at—” He breaks off.

  “At what?”

  “At this.” He points at the air between us.

  I want to be angry with him, I really do, but as I look at him all anger dissipates as I realize he does have a point. I would never have agreed to meet Lucky. That would have been too great of a risk to take when I’m not one to take risks easily. He was supposed to be just a chat buddy, someone who might take my mind off the stress of starting up a business that just wouldn’t take off. I would have probably kept him in the friends department until our online relationship had run its course.

  But there’s one point I still need to clarify. “The job. You didn’t offer it to me because—”

  He shakes his head again. “I told you I had been sitting on your résumé for months, toying with the idea of calling you in for an interview before I even knew who you were. I need you to believe me because it’s the truth. At some point, I even dug out your college thesis about the right kind of corporate exposure.”

  I cringe inwardly. That really wasn’t my best work. Even though I’m dying to know what he thought of it, I don’t think I want to know at this point.

  “So, what do you say?” He reaches tentatively to brush a strand of hair away from my face.

  “I didn’t get the question.”

  “Will you give us a chance now that you know who I am?” His eyes bore into me, and I think I even catch a flicker of uncertainty in his gaze.

  “I can give us a chance. As to working for you?” I rise up on my toes and place a kiss on his mouth. “I’ll think about it. It all depends on whether you learn to actually call or send an email rather than send Scarlet over whenever you need something. That’s been really bugging me since the first day I started working for you.”

  He laughs. “That can be arranged.”

  “Oh, and there’s something else.” His brows shoot up in mock annoyance. I hold up my hand to stop him from interrupting. “I need Lucky to be availabl
e whenever I need to bitch about my very annoying boss.”

  “You have lots of demands, but I’d be very happy to fulfill every one of them. Why don’t we discuss those later, in the privacy of my apartment?” His gaze shifts to my desk, and I can almost read the thoughts crossing his mind. “Actually, I think I have a few minutes to spare now.”

  Without waiting for my reply, he’s lifted me onto my desk. Something clatters to the floor with a loud thump, and I can only hope it’s not something valuable, like the computer. Then again, he’s the boss. He’s paying for the damage anyway, so who cares?

  Epilogue

  Twelve months later

  * * *

  So far, Tyler’s been very happy to fulfill each and every one of my requests. In fact, last night alone he’d done it three times, and I screamed his name each time I came.

  It’s almost eight a.m. but he’s already at his office, bossing someone else around. I know because Lucky’s sent me at least two messages a day, bitching about his employees’ lack of progress, offering to rehire me, which I always politely decline. I mean, the guy doesn’t just expect you to work around the clock; he’s also impatient, impossible to please, and likes to change this mind—a lot. Which is one of the reasons I didn’t agree to renewing our work contract.

  While I appreciate the chance he took on me more than a year ago, by the time my work contract came to an end I was ready to jump off a bridge from sheer frustration. It took me weeks to lower my elevated stress levels. I think I even had a few nightmares at some point. Tyler didn’t take my decision too well. After a series of arguments, I gave him an ultimatum: He either let me be independent, i.e., build my own company and choose my own clients (he’s preferably not one of them), or we couldn’t be in a relationship.

  I like to be with him, but I can’t have him as my boss. As wild as he is in bed, he’s a real hardass in business. At some point, I think he got the memo.

  Now, I love the fact that I can set my own pace, and enjoy my long mornings and free Friday evenings. The only thing I miss is our daily “conference meetings,” which always reached a perfect climax or three.

  Sitting on the sofa in my suite overlooking the Vegas skyline, I take a few sips of my coffee and go through Brenda’s emails and notes. We’re no longer a two-woman start-up, but a proud, successful, all-female company boasting a staggering eight members. After I turned Tyler’s website into a huge success, work offers started to stream in on a daily basis, and Brenda hired staff to help out with the increasing workload. We’re officially respected and have even been nominated for a few creativity awards, which Brenda believes we’ll win based on the alignment of the current star constellations or her ability to read tea leaves or something. While we’re up against impressive competition, who am I to question her spiritual abilities?

  Just as I’ve finished up and start brainstorming ideas for a new campaign, wondering why the heck I still don’t have an assistant to help out with the increasing workload, my phone pings with an incoming message.

  * * *

  Subject: You’re late

  * * *

  You should have been in my conference room five minutes ago. There’s no excuse for your lateness, unless it involves changing into that black lingerie you bought last week.

  * * *

  — LuckyLuke

  I stare at Tyler’s message, frowning, wondering why he’d possibly think we had an appointment when I don’t remember it? I check my appointments on my tablet, just to be on the safe side. That’s when Brenda’s email catches my eye.

  * * *

  Subject: Urgent request

  * * *

  Your boyfriend said only you were fit for the job. Sorry I couldn’t say no. You know how persuasive he is.

  * * *

  — Brenda

  * * *

  P.S.: He said it was urgent and that you shouldn’t keep him waiting.

  “The son of a bitch. He just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer,” I mutter and begin to gather my stuff.

  Not surprisingly, as I ride down the elevator to the lobby, I find Tyler’s driver and town car waiting for me. I shoot him a smile because, let’s face it, I can’t take my bad mood out on the poor guy when he’s not to blame.

  The few minutes it takes us to reach Tyler’s office seem to stretch out into infinity. I pass security and grumble something that resembles a “hi” to Scarlet as I dash past her, straight for Tyler’s conference room.

  He’s inside, typing on his cell phone, his brows drawn in concentration.

  “How could you?” I sprint across the room and reach him just as he looks up. My breathing comes in long, labored gasps, and my eyes are throwing daggers.

  “How could I what?” He cocks his brow, but his look of surprise can’t fool me. He’s laughing at my expense; I can tell from the glint of amusement in his eyes.

  “Rehire me,” I hiss. “I told you there’s no chance in hell I’ll ever work for you again.”

  He shrugs and his nonchalant expression breaks into a smile. “I simply put in an offer for your services and Brenda was happy to accept.”

  I cringe at his choice of words. The way he puts it, it sounds like she’s pimping me out. “I quit.”

  “You haven’t even started yet.”

  “I can’t work with you, Tyler. You know that.”

  His eyes sparkle. “Because you’re intimidated and you think you couldn’t possibly please me? You’ve been doing a fine job of that.”

  I roll my eyes at his insinuation. “Because last time you almost drove me to the brink of insanity.”

  “You haven’t even seen my offer yet. I promise it’s a good one.” He pushes a folder across the table toward me. I reach for it, but he pushes it out of my grasp. “You can read it later. I’ll give you the brief summary so we can finally get to the important part.” He pauses for effect. I can see he’s more than pleased with himself. “You get your own office.”

  “I had one of those before, remember?”

  “And your own team.” He stands and wraps his arms around my waist to pull me against him. “I know you’ve been wanting someone to lighten the workload.”

  As much as I want to resist, I let him part my legs with his knee.

  “Obviously, I’ll be checking on your progress daily, but there won’t be any late nights—unless you want to stay.” His hands squeeze under my top to unhook my bra. His fingers are cold against my suddenly burning skin.

  “What about those early mornings?”

  His lips brush my neck, traveling down just as he exposes my breasts. “Obviously, we’ll have to do something about those.” Sighing, he releases me and reaches into his pocket to draw out a black box.

  I stare at it, dumbfounded, my brain unable to grasp the meaning of it.

  “I wanted to wait for another few weeks, plan something special, but I guess now’s as good a time as any.” He opens the box and my gasp dies in my throat as I stare at the sparkling metal arranged against the velvet lining.

  I’ve been staying over at his place almost every night, so a spare key makes so much more sense than a diamond ring. Besides, we’ve only been dating for a year. I know that. It’s perfect reasoning. And yet I can’t help but feel a pang of disappointment.

  “You want me to move in?” I do sound bitter, but I can’t help it. I’m madly in love with him, and at this point, moving in with him doesn’t seem like that big of a deal when I’m already staying over every night.

  “Yes,” Tyler says.

  I blink. Once. Twice. Seriously, a diamond ring would have been so much nicer.

  “What do you say?” he asks, amused.

  “Sounds good,” I mutter, avoiding his gaze. “I think I have most of my stuff at your place already.”

  “Good. Then you won’t be wasting too much time on packing.”

  I nod. “Anything else you need before I check out my office and gather my new team?”

  “Yes.” He lowers his lips onto mi
ne, kissing me softly. His touch feels nice, maybe a bit more emotional than it should. “Are you disappointed?”

  “What?”

  He nuzzles my neck. “It doesn’t sound like you’re particularly happy.”

  What the hell gave me away?

  I swallow hard as I try to push the image of that diamond ring out of my mind. I wouldn’t even have wanted a big rock.

  “I like keys.” I cringe inwardly at my stupid answer.

  “More than this?” His fingers brush mine as he slips something into my hand.

  I peer down and my lungs forget to draw a breath.

  My gaze lifts to meet Tyler’s grin as he slips the ring onto my finger.

  “I really meant to wait a bit longer. I wanted to plan the perfect—” He shrugs.

  “Moment?” I laugh and lift my hand to admire the ring in the bright daylight. The sparkling diamond reflects the sun, almost blinding me. It is beautiful and a perfect fit. “Aside from the fact that I’m standing half naked in your conference room, the moment couldn’t be more perfect.” I kiss him gently. “And, Tyler? I think you forgot something.”

  He frowns for a moment, and then his face lights up as the meaning of my statement sinks in. “Well, will you marry me?”

  “I will. But you’ll have to promise to stop wanting to make me work for you.”

  He winks. “I can’t promise you that. But I can promise to love you for the rest of our lives. How about that?”

  “Sounds good to me.” And with that I’m in his arms again, lost in his kisses, and we don’t come up for air for a long time.

  * * *

  THE END

 
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