The Bachelor's Promise (Bachelor Auction)

By: Naima Simone



Four more men appeared on the stage and exited with exorbitant price tags hanging over them. Ten thousand. Fifteen thousand. If she had the kind of money these people threw away, she wouldn’t be in a strange city, hiding behind trees in an honest-to-God ballroom. She wouldn’t have to seek help from a man who detested her and her family with a passion usually reserved for sex and religion.

“And here’s bachelor number six.”

A tall man emerged from the wings, his long, unhurried stride covering the distance to the center of the stage in just a few steps. His black jacket draped over his wide shoulders and tapered to his slim waist as if he’d been sewn into it, while the crisp white shirt hugged his chest like a woman who just couldn’t take no for an answer. Pants the same ebony color emphasized and flattered the powerful strength of his legs. Powerful—a perfect description of this man. He controlled it, exuded it, wore it.

Noelle straightened, an electric current surging through her body. Everything within her—every sense, every thought, every cell of her damn body—tightened into narrow focus. Nothing else existed in that moment but the bachelor standing at the front of the room, hands tucked in his pockets, his elegant grace and confidence evident in the very absence of the snicker-inducing posing and posturing of the men who’d preceded him.

A mask might’ve hid his features, and he donned the same formal monkey suits as the other bachelors, but this man she would know anywhere. It’d been six years since she’d last seen him, but not for a second did she doubt who graced the stage.

Aiden Kent.

Even as an eleven-year-old girl, she’d been fascinated by the masculine beauty of the son of her father’s girlfriend. His hair was a bright blending of canary, goldenrod, and chestnut, three of the colors in her most prized possession—the 120-crayon box her father had surprised her with on her tenth birthday. She couldn’t glimpse his brilliant green eyes from her hiding place, but she knew they were the same. Even when he’d stared at her with icy disdain or, for a precious short while, gazed at her with blistering heat, the beauty of his eyes had never changed.

That gaze had always contained the power to wound her like no other. To make hurt crawl through her like a living thing. To cause joy and love to burn bright like the Olympic torch…like no other person had been capable of stirring.

To cause guilt and shame to snake through her, even when the sins his stare accused her of weren’t hers to bear.

“This bachelor may not be a Boston native, but our fair city has certainly become home to him. Though his business and personal interests—such as travel, history, and classical movies—take him all over the country and world, he always looks forward to returning to the welcoming, open arms of…Kupel’s Bakery.” Laughter rippled through the room. Noelle shrugged. Must be a Boston inside joke. “Still, he is on the elusive search for a woman who will tempt him like his favorite bagels. And he does believe she’s out there. She will be intelligent, independent, and have a sharp wit. She won’t need him but want him. My, my.” Blondie made a show of fanning herself with the note cards in her hand.

Bullshit, Noelle scoffed. She hadn’t met a man yet who didn’t prefer a woman reliant on him for something. Money. Sex. Attention… Love.

“The lucky woman who wins this bachelor will fly in his private jet to Los Angeles for two days and one night of sightseeing, fine dining, and shopping on the famous Rodeo Drive, all topped with a red-carpet movie premiere. Exciting, isn’t it? We’ll start the bidding for this star-studded evening at $7,000. Seven. $8,000? Wonderful. Eight…and nine over here.”

Noelle watched the paddles fly up around the room, the rapid flickering of wood soon turning into a blur. Eleven thousand came and went, with fifteen fast approaching. One woman in particular seemed intent on winning. Whenever an amount was shouted out, the stunning redhead raised it by a thousand, never hesitating. She must’ve really wanted to rub elbows with celebrities. Or maybe it was the man himself she wanted to rub elbows—and other body parts—with. Noelle would bet her most treasured graphite pencil set that the draw was the trip, but the prize was the bachelor.

“Seventeen? Eighteen? Eighteen-thousand dollars! Do we have nineteen?” Blondie scanned the audience, her bright smile gleeful. “Eighteen going once. Going twice. Sold to number 51 for 18,000. Congratulations!”

Holy Christ. Eighteen-thousand dollars. Noelle blinked. Then exhaled, staring as Aiden nodded to the redhead and strode off the stage. The rest of the auction passed without Noelle paying much attention to it. Her heart thudded against her rib cage. Each second that passed drew her inexorably closer to the moment when…when… Oh, God.

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