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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
He tenderly placed the pendant back on my breastbone and then stepped back. “I’m glad you still have it, and that it means so much to you.” Just as we were about to lapse into an awkward silence, Rhys asked, “Are you hungry?”
Of course he would have to change the subject. “Maybe a little.”
“Come with me.” He then led me back into the hallway and down to the dining room. He grabbed me a plate and started piling on some hors d'oeuvres. “You still like all things cheese, right?”
I stared at him in shock. “Uh, yeah, I do.”
He grinned. “Try the spinach and cheese canapés. They’re delicious.”
As he went about adding some fruit to my plate, I couldn’t help asking, “How did you remember I liked cheese?”
He shot me a withering look. “Like I haven’t sat beside you at a million BBQs and dinners over the years. You even eat shredded cheese on your hot dogs.”
If this had been an old Southern novel or movie, I might’ve swooned at that very moment. Sure, it was just a detail about cheese, but he remembered it. About me. “You’re right. I do. My mom claims it was because she craved it so much when she was pregnant with me. Apparently, she never liked it before.” I clamped down on my lips to once again keep from blabbering like an idiot.
Rhys smiled as he handed me the plate. “There. That should take the edge off until we can go to dinner.”
“Thank you, kind sir,” I teased.
With a laugh, he rested his hand on the small of my back. He then led me down the hall to a beautifully decorated living room or sitting room. Motioning up the length of the room, he said, “The auction is going to be in there. Most of the people who are betting will be in there and in here.”
Chewing on one of the canapés, I wrinkled my nose. “It’s still so bizarre to me that they have bachelor and bachelorette auctions. It seems so outdated.”
“I totally agree with you. That’s one reason why you won’t find me listed in the program.”
“What a shame. I might’ve been inclined to bet on you.”
Rhys gave me a sexy smirk that outrivaled any of AJ’s. “Yes, but you’re the lucky girl who gets to have me for free,” he challenged.
I swallowed hard. Trying to save face, I quickly said, “That’s true. I wouldn’t want to waste my money.”
Rhys laughed heartily. He opened his mouth to say something else when we were interrupted by a woman in a glittering blue gown. “There you are,” she said.
Rhys instantly tensed. After appearing to force a smile, he replied, “Hello, Mother.”
Although I tried not to stare, I couldn’t help taking in every aspect of his mother. They both had the same dark hair and eyes. Her hair was swept back into a tight chignon at the base of her neck. Although she had to be in her fifties, she appeared very fit and youthful. She had a face devoid of wrinkles, which was either good genes or a good plastic surgeon. I was betting on the latter.
“It’s almost time to start.” She glanced from him to me. Her red lips pursed curiously while her eyes narrowed shrewdly. “And who is this young lady?”
“This is Allison Slater. You know my bandmate, Jake?”
Disdain flooded her face at the mention of the band. “Yes, I do.”
“This is his younger sister. She’s attending SCAD.”
“How lovely,” Rhys’s mother replied, with as much enthusiasm as if Rhys had said I was in Savannah for a prostitution convention. Instantly, I was assaulted by the line from Pretty Woman when Julia Roberts’s character, Vivian, says about Edward’s friend that you could freeze ice on his snotty wife’s ass. That was the epitome of Rhys’s mother.
Ignoring her tone, Rhys said to me, “This is my mother, Margaret.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said, extending my hand.
After she gave my hand a quick shake, she turned her attention back to Rhys. “I hope that you’ll fetch a good price tonight at the auction.”
“I think we’re going to raise a good deal.”
“You misunderstood me. I meant, I hope you bring in a lot of money.”
Rhys dark brows knitted in confusion. “I don’t think I understand.”
“You’re the final bachelor of the evening.”
I couldn’t help gasping in surprise, especially after the conversation we’d just had. Rhys also appeared floored, but then his face reddened with anger. “I don’t recall agreeing to be paraded around tonight, Mother. In fact, I’m pretty sure you know how I feel about auctions.”
She gave a dismissive wave of her diamond encrusted hand. “It’s all for a good cause, isn’t it?”
“I don’t like being played like this. I think I will have to graciously bow out.”
Margaret narrowed her eyes at him. “With your name already in the program? I don’t think so, Rhys.” When Rhys started to protest further, Margaret shook her head. “I will not have my event ruined by your petty demands.”
As an antique clock struck the hour, Margaret jerked her chin up at Rhys. “It’s time to start the auction.” Without another word, she turned and stalked away from us.
Rhys’s jaw clenched and unclenched. Reaching out, I tentatively touched his arm. When he didn’t flinch away, I patted him. “I’m so sorry.”
He momentarily closed his eyes. “It’s okay. I don’t know why I’m even surprised. She does bullshit like this all the time.”