The Bachelor Auction, p.9J. C. Reed
A letter to the reader
A Letter to the Reader
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A Sneak Peek of An Indecent Proposal
by J.C. Reed and Jackie Steele
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Out of all the dates in my life, Tuesday at 10 a.m. was about the worst time disaster could strike. I was sitting in the waiting area of LiveInvent Designs—the one place where I had been dying to get an interview since finishing college.
Apart from me, nineteen other graduates were waiting for their big chance, all dressed in immaculate, tailored business suits—the kind I couldn’t afford. But what I couldn’t offer in expensive clothes, I knew I could make up in hard work and dedication. I was a professional, and as such I was determined to make a good impression.
I straightened up in my seat and smiled as one of the personal assistants called my name. “Yes.” I stood and took a deep breath, waiting for further instructions.
“Please take the elevator up to the thirtieth floor. Someone will be expecting you.”
The thirtieth floor.
According to LiveInvent’s website, it was the place where the big-shot strategists worked. Los Angeles wasn’t just home to some of the greatest marketing companies in the United States; it was also the best place to get started and to experience an environment of “what if,” not just “if only.”
When I applied for a graduate position as a marketing assistant, I had never even considered the possibility that one of them might like my resume enough to want to meet me personally. But now it was happening.
My dream was coming true.
I brushed my hands over my gray skirt nervously and with measured steps made my way to the elevator area, ignoring the people ambling up and down the corridor in their immaculate expensive clothes, seemingly oblivious to the outside world. They were probably used to their simple yet sophisticated surroundings, with marble floors and beautiful peonies, and calla lilies arranged in crystal centerpieces. The walls were adorned with polished frames displaying awards and the company’s most successful projects showcased like little trophies.
I stopped in front of the elevators, and sighed happily. This wasn’t just any workplace—it was heaven. And I wanted to be a part of it. Whatever it took.
This was my dream.
It had to come true.
A bell chimed, and one of the three elevator doors opened, giving me a view of a small but tastefully decorated space. Soft music was playing in the background at a pleasant volume. As I stepped into the small elevator, I bumped into someone.
It happened so quickly: my CV folder slipped out of my hands and dropped to the floor. I squatted to reach for the folder when I noticed the pair of black, expensive slacks. I raised my eyes slowly, taking in the custom suit. No, it wasn’t so much the suit, but more the tall height, his black hair, his broad shoulders, the sexy male fragrance he was wearing, that drew my attention to him.
His Rolex suggested that he wasn’t an applicant. Probably an executive.
Before I knew it, the bell chimed again. I rose to my feet quickly before the doors closed again.
I pressed the backlit button embossed with the number thirty. No need to check him out, not when I didn’t know if he wasn’t an interviewer. Getting the job was more important than checking out the next hot guy.
I turned my back on him, and mentally recollected my primed answers to possible interview questions.
Breathe in, breathe out.
This was it…my big chance.
All my life I had worked hard for this exact day. Just a few more seconds. And then I would give it all my best, because I just had to have this job.
There was no possibility, no other option, no what-ifs.
If I wanted to make it in the business world and get out of my outstanding debt, I had to go the extra mile. I was ready—more than ever because any other outcome wasn’t an option.
My hands turned clammy from my increasing nervousness, and my mouth went a little dry. I was so absorbed in my thoughts that I didn’t register that the elevator had stopped moving until a little shake told me something was up. I looked up from the floor, only to see we had stopped at the twenty-ninth floor, and the doors had remained closed.
Seriously? Did we have to stop one floor below my destination?
I raised my eyebrows when the guy behind me began to press the buttons on the control panel in an impatient manner. The music was gone, plunging us into eerie silence.
Frowning, I turned to face him, wondering what the heck was going on, but all I caught were blue eyes just before the bulbs started to flicker. The lights flashed once more, then switched off, bathing us in complete darkness.
“What the—” I heard him cussing, his deep voice filled with annoyance.
For a moment, I held my breath, my heart pounding in my chest as I waited for the lights to switch on again. A few seconds passed, which turned into minutes. And still there was no light, no movement—nothing to indicate we even were in an elevator.
I blinked in succession, blind in the pitch-black.
As my brain tried to make sense of the situation, countless thoughts began to race through my mind. How long would it take until people noticed there was a technical glitch and sent repairmen? How long were the interviews scheduled to take, and if I appeared late, would I get a second chance? And finally, how long would the oxygen last in such a confined space?
Just theoretically asking.
Not that we were going to be stuck for much longer. Or suffocate anytime soon, because that would be a worst-case scenario. But it would only be natural to know…just in case.
I wasn’t claustrophobic—actually, far from it. But dark, enclosed spaces weren’t exactly my favorite place to be. And particularly not those with no clear exit sign. The minutes continued to fly until I was sure we had been in there for at least twenty minutes. Or maybe it just felt that way.
I sighed impatiently.
“There must be an assistance button,” I said as I let my fingers brush over the cold steel wall. My hand touched his, and an electric jolt ran through me. I pulled back nervously.
“Sorry,” I whispered.
In the silence around us, I could hear his finger pressing buttons every other second, as if that would make someone hurry faster. At last, the stranger let out a frustrated sigh. Something rustled, followed by shuffling.
I narrowed my gaze to focus in the pitch darkness, but my vision didn’t sharpen to allow me to see contours.
Nothing stood out.
I groaned and braced myself against the feeling of helplessness growing inside me. Not seeing anything while knowing there was no window or door I could open was already scary. Combine that with the fact that I had no idea if help was on its way, and the entire situation was turning into a nightmare scenario.
The guy was probably just as frustrated as I was, because I heard him shifting.
“What are you doing?” I asked as more rustling sounds carried over from the floor.
“Trying to find my cell.” His voice came from beneath me, which made me figure at some point he must have kneeled down—or assumed a sitting position.
I wet my lips nervously.
A stranger was doing God only knew what at my feet. Now that made it hard to ignore him.
“Shit. It’s not here. I must have left it in the car.” He exhaled another frustrated sigh. “Do you have yours?”
“Not on me.” Which was kind of the truth. The day before, my handbag, together with my purse and cell phone, had been stolen. Lucky for me, my credit cards were maxed out to the limit, and my pre-paid cell had both a lock and no minutes, so the loss was minimal.
“Okay.” His tone was surprisingly calm as he drew out the word. “Let’s see if the emergency phone’s working.”
I jumped back as his hand reached over my chest, almost touching the thin fabric of my top.
“Hello?” he asked. Silence fell. Holding my breath, I strained to listen. The line remained dead. No voice, no white noise, nothing to indicate anyone had been alerted to our situation.
My heart began to thump hard against my ribcage, and a thin rivulet of sweat rolled down my back as realization kicked in that it might take a while before someone was alerted.
“Can you try again?” My voice came so thin and raspy, I knew I was close to having a panic attack.
“No point. Phone’s not working. Reception’s gone. We’re stuck,” the guy said, almost bored. No panic. No whining. Just cool composure with a hint of an annoyance, as if the entire situation was a mere inconvenience he experienced on a regular basis. Unlike me, he seemed to breathe just fine.
He sighed. “Let’s hope they won’t close off the elevator area for the rest of the day,” he said to himself with…humor?
I swallowed hard.
If that was true, and we ended up stuck in there all day, we’d never last. We’d run out of oxygen and—
Come to think of it, didn’t I read somewhere that people could die within two hours when stuck in a confined space? And hadn’t we already been stuck for some time?
A sense of foreboding settled in the pit of my stomach.
Something was wrong. Very wrong. I could feel it in the oppressive silence and the fact that the stranger had stopped pressing buttons and rummaging through his pockets. The air was getting increasingly hot, making it hard to breathe. The rivulet turned into a layer of sweat covering my entire back as I tried to force oxygen into my lungs.
In that moment, a loud thud reverberated from the walls, followed by a short, faint shrill.
Oh, my god.
This wasn’t some technical glitch. It was a real-life emergency. Something had happened. Something really bad. Faintly, I could hear hurried steps, some of them pounding, but none of them seemed to stop near the elevators. Everyone would forget about the two people stuck in the elevator, because they had more pressing issues to attend to—like saving themselves. The alarm continued to blare in the distance.
To my utter shock, a whimper escaped my throat as fear consumed me.
“Oh, God.” My voice came high-pitched, reflecting the dark thought that kept circling in my mind.
I’m going to die.
The thought hit me so hard a wave of dizziness rushed over me. But, at twenty-two, I was too young for my demise, particularly because I hadn’t even started to live my life yet. I had struggled through college while amassing a vast student loan debt that had kept me strapped for cash for years.
How ironic would it be if the one job I had thought would be the answer to my prayers might just kill me?
The thought of being stuck in a confined space, missing the most important interview of my life while dying from oxygen depletion, was too much. Suddenly, my breathing quickened, and my pulse began to race hard and fast.
I realized the whizzing sound echoing in my ears wasn’t a result of my frayed nerves but a noise coming out of my mouth.
“I think I’m having a panic attack,” I whispered.
“We’ll be all right,” the guy said, and this time I noticed how smooth and deep his voice was.
Sexy, with the slightest hint of a rumble to it.
Maybe my other senses were sharpened in the darkness, or we were indeed running out of oxygen and my brain was slowly starting to play tricks on me, but in the confined space I could smell him clearly. Not just his aftershave, but him—the man who couldn’t see me. The only person who would witness my untimely death.
“I’m not sure.” I choked on my voice. “What if no one comes?”
“What’s your name?” Sexy Voice said.
“Lauren, but everyone calls me Laurie,” I whispered.
Something warm brushed my shoulder, instantly raising goose bumps across my arm, and trailed down my arm until it touched my hand. Strong fingers clasped around my hand and squeezed, not hard enough to hurt me, but the motion helped me regain some of my composure, and make me realize that I wasn’t alone.
“Okay, Laurie. This is likely just a temporary glitch. You need to calm down.”
I was calm, wasn’t I?
I’d opened my mouth to tell him that when the air whizzed out of my lungs in a hot swoosh. It sounded like someone was whistling, and not in a pretty way. And there I had thought it was the sound of the elevator, when it had been me all along.
“I can’t,” I whispered. “I can’t breathe. I feel like I’m choking.”
To my dismay, I started shaking and my breathing came faster.
“You’re hyperventilating,” Sexy Voice said, increasing the pressure of his grip. “I need you to breathe with me. Okay, Laurie?” He inhaled and exhaled deeply, his hot breath caressing my skin, and I realized just how close he was standing. Under normal circumstances, too close for comfort.
Only, these weren’t normal circumstances.
Staring blindly ahead, I followed his instructions, inhaling with him, holding my breath, and then exhaling again.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked.
I shook my head, even though he couldn’t see me, as tears pricked the corners of my eyes.
“We can’t even call for help. If we’re stuck in here for a whole day, we’ll die,” I whispered.
“No.” His tone was sharp. Defiant. “People know we’re in here. Security is calling for help this instant.”
“You don’t know that,” I muttered.
“Trust me. I do.”
I wanted to believe him so badly my whole body hurt from the effort. But, for some reason, his words rang empty and senseless. “People can die in elevators. I read about it last week.”
“Not us. Not today.” His hands began to rub up and down my arms, as though to soothe me, but the motion only managed to send a layer of ice down my spine.
For a while, we just stood there, rivulets of sweat running down my spine. The whole space, as small as it was, had the temperature of a sauna.
“It’s so hot,” I whispered. “I really can’t breathe.”
“You can do it, Laurie. Focus on my voice. Focus on taking slow, deep breaths through your nose, and exhale through your mouth. That’s all that matters now. Nothing else.”
I forced more air into my lungs, but even though oxygen reached my brain, somehow it didn’t have the desired calming effect on me. “The funny thing is, I’m not ready to die,” I said weakly, squeezing his hands for support.
“You won’t.” His determined tone left no room for discussion. “Tell me something about yourself.” He was trying to divert my attention from the situation at hand, only it didn’t work. “Where do you live? What do you like doing in your free time?”
“There’s nothing to tell. I’m boring.”
A sexy little laugh, then, “I highly doubt that, Laurie. You sound like an interesting person.”
In spite of myself, I smiled. He had no idea how wrong he was. “No, really. I’m a bore.”
“Well, try me. I’m in no hurry.”
Neither was I. We’d probably been stuck for more than two hours, and I needed a distraction.
“Laurie,” he prompted, hesitating. Or maybe he was h
His hands let go of me. Clothes rustled, and something dropped to the floor with a muffled thud. Then his hands were back on me, his bare skin brushing mine in the process, his fingers holding mine.
I realized he must have taken off his jacket and rolled up his sleeves. The air was getting hot. It wasn’t just my imagination. Suddenly, I had a vision of dying without clearing my conscience. If I couldn’t do all the things I had envisioned I’d be doing with my life, if I died and all the things about heaven and hell were true, then I needed to at least relieve my conscience.
Acknowledge my mistakes to find absolution.
Well, you get the point.
“You think I’m interesting?” I asked, not waiting for his answer. “Okay, I’ll tell you something about me. I have five secrets. Five secrets I don’t want to carry with me to the grave. Probably the only five things that don’t render me a complete bore.”
“You’re being melodramatic. It’s just a technical glitch. People are—”
“Coming to rescue us. Yeah, got it.” I rolled my eyes because I didn’t believe a word he said. “Except that it sure felt like an earthquake, and everyone’s probably gone.”
“Earthquakes happen all the time. And people return for those left behind. So, what are your secrets?”
The air was getting all hot and stuffy because the air conditioning was no longer working. Already my lungs were burning, and my head was dizzy. It was only a matter of time until we ran out of oxygen, and he knew it.
“You want to hear them? Well, I’m scared of dark places. Any dark place,” I said. “Always have been, and this is my worst nightmare.”
“You don’t need to be scared. I’m here. Being stuck in an elevator is not a big deal. And a lot of people are scared of the dark, but once you know it’s just in your mind, your imagination, your fear talking, you’ll get over it.”
I smiled bitterly. “You’re great at this. You really are. And if I had to go through this all over again and I could choose one person to be stuck in an elevator with, it’d probably be you. But that doesn’t change anything. I’m still scared out of my mind. It’s—”
The Bachelor Auction by J. C. Reed / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes