|Название||Bending to the Bachelor's Will|
|Автор произведения||Emilie Rose|
|Жанр||Современные любовные романы|
|Издательство||Современные любовные романы|
Bending to the Bachelor’s Will
Juliet Burns, you have a heart as big as Texas.
I’m truly blessed to count you as a friend.
Thanks for your help.
Coming Next Month
“Another one bites the dust,” Holly Prescott grumbled as she watched the second of her two best friends sashay out of the Caliber Club with a newly purchased bachelor by her side.
If you had any sense at all you’d sneak out right behind them. Instead she was stuck here in hooker-high heels and a dress that ought to be illegal—on her, anyway—fulfilling her part of the ridiculous pact she, Andrea and Juliana had made.
How had she let herself be bamboozled into this disastrous plan? Buying men, for crying out loud! She could think of at least a dozen more useful things she’d rather have for her upcoming thirtieth birthday.
So what if she hadn’t had sex in so long she’d forgotten how it went exactly? She’d hold on to her born-again virgin status until she’d nixed her tendency to choose men who needed fixing because she couldn’t afford any more strays of the two-legged variety. The last one had cost her a bundle and put her hard-won independence in jeopardy. Not that she intended admitting her gullibility to anyone. Too humiliating.
A blast of chilly air from the overhead vent made her curse her clothing for the umpteenth time this evening. Where had her brain been vacationing when she’d allowed her friends to pour her into a dress that looked more like underwear than outerwear? If she had so much as a mosquito bite—or panties—beneath the form-fitting bronze silk, every one would know it.
Crossing her arms over her breasts, Holly scanned the ballroom filled with well-heeled guests. She didn’t belong here. Never mind that her father owned the place. She didn’t fit in. Story of her life.
“See if I ever trust Andrea or Juliana again,” she groused without worrying about being overheard by the women swarming the marble floor. The auction attendees had two hours’ worth of free champagne in them, and the normally dignified ladies were too busy screaming their lungs out like rock band groupies to pay any attention to a misfit like her.
On a positive note, their lack of inhibitions could work to her advantage once the bidding on her bachelor began. “Twenty more minutes and I can go home.”
“Talking to yourself?” The rich baritone behind her made her cringe. Eric Alden, her best friend’s brother, had already read them the riot act once tonight about this foolhardy plan. As far as Holly was concerned, he was preaching to the choir. She didn’t need to hear another sermon. But she’d promised to give bachelor bidding the old college try.
Now that her friends had abandoned her, Eric would focus all his cutting wit on her. Might as well cork him before he got started. She turned, but her retort stuck in her throat. Wow. How could she have forgotten how good he looked in a tux? His banker-short dark hair looked freshly trimmed and his strong jaw gleamed from a recent shave.
Holly scrambled to rally her brain cells. “I’m cursing your sister. The dress she and my other so-called friend chose for me is indecent.”
Eric’s navy blue gaze raked over her, and Holly mentally kicked herself for drawing his attention to her attire—or lack thereof. Before tonight, she didn’t think Eric had ever seen her in a dress—certainly not one like this. The nostrils of his straight nose flared, and then he slowly, deliberately circled her, appraising her as if she were the one going on the auction block instead of him.
Holly straightened, tucked her tush, sucked in her stomach and prayed he wouldn’t guess she was completely naked beneath the dress except for the blush coating her skin.
He halted in front of her with only inches separating them, crowding into her personal space. “Definitely indecent. Indecently beautiful.”
The husky timbre of his voice combined with his proximity made her heart beat a quick rat-a-tat-tat and sent a weird frisson down her spine. Hold it. This is Juliana’s brother. Juliana’s rule-following, workaholic, socially prominent brother. That triple no-no-absolutely-no whammy made tingles of any kind taboo. Holly tried to back up, but the tipsy socialites behind her blocked her path.
“You look lovely, Holly. I almost didn’t recognize you without your baseball cap and work boots.”
So much for his ego-boosting flattery. Could she help it if her job required protective clothing? “You don’t look too skanky yourself, Alden, but then Armani probably helped design your birthday suit, so it’s no surprise you look decent in a tux.”
Eric’s smile seemed a little forced. “If that was a compliment, thank you. May I speak with you a moment?”
She glanced left and then right and found women ogling him on either side. They might ignore her, but they didn’t ignore the heir to a banking empire. In fact, they looked as though they’d enjoy nibbling hors d’oeuvres off Eric’s naked body. “Me? Sure.”
His long fingers curled around her elbow, each one soldering a tendril of heat on her skin. He guided her to the far corner of the ballroom where the noise level registered a few decibels lower and released her. His broad-shouldered frame fenced her against the walls.
“Why are you buttering me up with compliments?” she asked before he said whatever it was he’d dragged her over here to say. At five-ten and wearing four-inch heels, Holly only had to lift her gaze a little to meet him eye to eye—one of the many reasons she never wore heels.
Chagrin briefly flickered across Eric’s handsome face. He shoved his hands in pants pockets and leaned closer—close enough that she could taste the mint on his breath—to be heard above the crowd winding up as another bachelor took the stage.
Her mouth dried. Uh-uh. Cut it out.
“I need a favor.”
Of course he did. Why couldn’t a guy say something nice to her just once without having an ulterior motive? She wrestled her wacko hormones into submission and tried to clear her head.
“What kind of favor?” She glanced past him toward the stage. Her bachelor would be up next, and if all went well he’d soon be someone else’s bachelor and she could go home. Alone.
Her gaze snapped back to Eric’s. Surely she’d misheard him in the din of screeching women? “Excuse me?”
His body radiated heat, which, perversely, made her shiver. She stepped back—right into the wall. The thump of the cool wainscoting against her spine reminded her that her dress bared her to the waist in back except for the pair of crisscrossed strings that held up the two inadequate triangles of her top.
“Save me from this.” He indicated the proceedings behind him with a jerk of his square chin.
Why in the world would he need saving? She didn’t know what his date package included, but his company alone would bring a high bid. Eric was a handsome, rich hunk, if you didn’t mind buttoned-down, uptight types whom she avoided like she would a communicable disease.