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|Strings of the Heart(Runaway Train #3) by Katie Ashley|
Taking the microphone, Rhys read off a biography about Jackson that of course made him sound entirely too good to be true. When he finished, Rhys said, “Now let’s start the bidding at five hundred.”
Silence reverberated around the room. As Jackson’s beaming smile receded a bit, Rhys cleared his throat. “Do I have five hundred?”
As Vivian drew in a breath, I shot in front of her. “Five hundred!” I blurted before I could stop myself. It didn’t matter that I didn’t have five hundred dollars or that I didn’t even want to begin to explain to my parents why the charge on my “emergency” credit card was actually for a bachelor auction.
A gasp went up in the crowd, and Rhys blinked at me a few times like he wasn’t sure he could believe what he was seeing. Jackson, meanwhile, broadened his smile and winked at me. I ducked my head as my cheeks flushed.
“Well, well, look at you,” Vivian whispered.
Cutting my eyes over to hers, I replied, “I couldn’t help it. I felt so bad for him up there.”
“Never fear, honey. I’m about to put all these narrow-minded ass**les in their place.” She grinned. “I just hope you don’t mind if I outbid you.”
“Oh no, please do. My bid was simply a moment of impulsive stupidity.”
I then shifted my gaze back to Rhys who appeared to have finally recovered from my outburst. It seemed that I had gotten the ball rolling on some bets for Jackson. “We have nine hundred. Do I hear a thousand?”
With a wave of her hand, Vivian said, “Ten thousand dollars.”
My mouth gaped open in shock while chatter buzzed around us. Jackson grinned and shook his head at Vivian. Rhys coughed. “I believe that was for ten thousand dollars?”
“That’s right, sugar,” Vivian drawled.
“So we have ten thousand for Jackson Marshall. Do I have eleven?” He then had the audacity to look at me and raise his brows. When I scowled back at him, he laughed. “That’s ten going once, twice, and sold to Mrs. Vivian Percy.”
As faint applause echoed around us, Jackson came striding toward us. He pulled Vivian into a bear hug. “Thank you, Miss Vivian. You once again have managed to be far too generous when it comes to me.”
She gave his cheek a smacking kiss. Rubbing her lipstick off him, she said, “I think it was just enough.” She winked at me. “I’m sure that’ll have their tongues wagging all night, especially when Jackson here goes for the highest price all evening.”
“I do appreciate it. And I hope you’ll let you me take you out for dinner and drinks—all on me, of course,” Jackson said.
“I would be honored. I’d love to catch up with you about how college is going.” Vivian snapped her fingers. “Oh my, I just remembered that Jules will be here for a visit in a few weeks.”
Jackson smiled. “I’d love to see her.”
“Then it’s all settled.”
After he gave Vivian another hug, Jackson turned to me. “Thanks for betting on me, even if you didn’t win, Miss…?”
“Slater. Allison Slater.”
“Nice to meet you, Miss Slater.”
“And you’re welcome. You know, for my bid.”
Leaning in closer to me, he gave me a smile that would’ve normally caused my panties to get wet. “I’d love to take you out for dinner sometime, too.”
He nodded. “What are you doing after this?”
Glancing away from his hypnotic blue eyes, I stared over to where Rhys stood at the podium. He was auctioning another bachelor, but his attention was focused on me and Jackson. I couldn’t help getting a sense of a pleasure from the fact he looked like he wanted to punch Jackson for daring to talk to me. “You seem like a really wonderful guy, but I have plans.”
“Meaning there’s someone else you care about?”
I nodded. “Yes, there is.”
“Ah, all the good ones are always taken.”
I couldn’t help blushing with his compliments. “Thank you.”
“See you around.”
Waving, I watched him disappear through the crowd. The sound of Rhys’s gavel coming down caused me to jump. “And now we come to our final bachelor of the evening.” He paused and smiled. “Which appears to be me.”
Whistling pierced my eardrums. Turning to Vivian, I said, “I’m going to get closer.”
“You do that, doll.”
When I was almost right in front of Rhys, he asked, “Shall we start the bidding at five hundred?”
I opened my mouth, but a voice behind me cut me off. “Five hundred.”
Glancing over my shoulder, I saw it was Vivian’s niece—the bitch who had insulted my dress. Oh, she was going down all right. “I have five hundred. Do I have six?”
I thrust my hand into the hair and said, “Six.”
Rhys grinned. “I have six. Do I have seven?”
For the second time that night, the bitch knocked into me. “One thousand.”
Amused chatter filled the air that Miss Bitch had upped the ante. Rhys bobbed his head. “Well, then, it appears we have a thousand. Do I have fifteen hundred?”
“Two thousand,” I spat.
“Okay, that’s two thousand. Do I have—”
“Three thousand,” Miss Bitch interrupted Rhys.
I glared at her. “Four thousand.”