Authors: Sommer Marsden
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Two Hours or More (65-100 Pages), #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction
The Highest Bidder
By Sommer Marsden
This story was first published in The Thousand and One Nights
by Xcite Books Ltd – 2012
Copyright © Sommer Marsden 2012
The rights of Sommer Marsden to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
The stories contained within this book are works of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the authors’ imaginations and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publishers: Xcite Books, Suite 11769, 2nd Floor, 145-157 St John Street, London EC1V 4PY
‘ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, five …’ Casey blew out a huge breath to steady her nerves and pushed her hands into her hair.
In a moment she was going to start screaming.
‘But aren’t we supposed to have–’
‘Six!’ Casey snapped. Then she felt bad and patted her friend’s hand. ‘Sorry, Annie.’
‘No problem, kid.’ Annie signalled the waiter by shaking her iced tea glass at him. ‘What happened to our sixth?’
Casey rifled the papers in front of her and finally found him. ‘Lester Smith – yes – Smith was …’ She shuffled through the pile. She’d gotten a notice on one of the attendees at some point and, oh, yeah, here it was. ‘… Arrested,’ she finished with a disgusted grunt. ‘And is being held. And will not be out in time for the charity auction.’
‘As if we could give him away!’ Annie giggled.
The waiter brought the iced tea pitcher and topped her off. She glanced up with a huge smile and her big blue eyes and her swingy brown hair and said, ‘Thanks, doll. Now how would you like us to sell you?’
The waiter – whose name tag read Benjamin – blinked furiously and turned an alarming shade of tomato. ‘Excuse me?’
‘Oh, don’t worry. Not a man-whore or anything,’ Annie said, waving her hand.
Casey took the moment to cradle her aching head in her hands. Dear God. ‘Annie …’ she whispered.
‘It’s for charity, Benjamin. And you are too cute.’
Casey had to nip it in the bud. She looked up and smiled at the blushing boy. ‘How old are you, Benjamin?’
Annie hmphed quietly but then laughed.
‘When will you be eighteen?’
‘Case closed,’ Casey said. ‘You’re too young. Run like the wind, Ben. Run away from the crazy lady. And can I get the check?’
‘Yes – yes, ma’am,’ he said and fled. Good boy. He knew wisdom when he heard it.
‘Now,’ she said, turning to her friend, ‘Can you please help me find a non-law-breaking man to fill in this space? You have to know men. You’re single and hot and all that jazz.’
‘You are too.’ Annie looked her dead in the eye – she was getting that stubborn look again.
‘Brendan has been gone for over a year,’ Annie said softly.
‘I know that. And I’m–’
‘If you say fine I will totally rip a chunk of your hair out,’ Annie said conversationally.
Casey chewed her lip. Her friend was right but she didn’t want to have this conversation. ‘Being a widow is different than being broken up with,’ she said.
‘Of course it is!’ Annie grabbed her hand and squeezed it. ‘But you are gorgeous and funny and smart as hell. You are vibrant and young and Christ, Case, if anyone would want you to be happy it’d be Brendan.’
‘Enough,’ she said, pulling her hand away.
Annie caught the tone and was a good enough friend to stop talking. They took the check and Casey paid. This charity event to benefit diabetes was all she cared about right now. Type 1 had taken her husband; the least she could do was attempt to keep it from taking someone else’s spouse. ‘Now … we really need a sixth man. Each team provides six for a total of eighteen. A dozen and a half bachelors for charity,’ she laughed. ‘Work your magic, Annie.’
Annie rolled her eyes but said, ‘Fine. Fine. I’ll see what I can do.’
Casey didn’t say it, but she needed Annie to do it because she didn’t know any single men. She hadn’t paid a lick of attention to a man besides her own in years. And now he was gone she was following the same pattern.
So what if she was lonely?
‘His name is Nick Murphy. And he’s hot.’
Casey glanced at her intake form for the bachelor participants. ‘I do not see a box marked “hot”.’
‘Well, add it.’
‘Why don’t you just wait until he’s here?’ Annie sighed.
‘How tall?’ Casey was so stressed she felt like she might pop a blood vessel. This auction was for a good cause but she was such a perfectionist it was giving her hives. This guy was new and they had to practice. There was a fine line between fun and cheesy and she wanted to make sure the auction came off as fun and flirty and definitely worth the money.
Casey felt her mouth go dry. What the hell was that? She glanced up at Annie who was now smirking. ‘Pardon?’
‘Six. Three. Did I stutter?’ Annie said.
Casey’s cheeks went hot and she shook her head. ‘Don’t be such a brat. How much does he weigh do you think?’
Annie shrugged. ‘Don’t know. Two hundred? Plus most of it’s muscle. And I bet a good portion of it is between his le–’
‘Eyes!’ Casey barked.
‘Eyes,’ she sighed. For some reason talking about this new guy was making her feel … flirty? No. Not flirty. She was lying to herself. Horny.
It was making her horny. Which she hadn’t been in ages.
Which was completely insane.
‘Two,’ Annie said.
A bark of laughter shot out of Casey before she could stifle it and she clapped a hand over her mouth. Some of the other women volunteers turned to see what was going on. Thankfully none of the bachelors had arrived yet.
‘Annie,’ she hissed between her fingers.
‘Blue,’ Annie sighed.
‘Hair?’ Casey went on, ignoring her racing pulse. It made no sense. How did one get turned on by discussing a stranger?
‘Yes?’ Annie glanced out the front window.
‘What colour!’ Casey said and actually stomped her foot.
‘Whoa, you are uptight. You know what you need–’
‘To know his hair colour,’ Casey said.
‘Black. And no. You need a good hard …’ She leaned in and said it. Casey didn’t think she’d say it, but she did. ‘Fuck.’
‘Annie, you are terrible. I just can’t–’ Casey turned, upset by her friend’s blunt words. But more upset by the fact that she thought she might be right. She stumbled, twisted an ankle and promptly slammed into a wall. Who wasn’t actually a wall.
‘Hi,’ he said, looking down at her.
Tall, black hair, blue eyes … and huge, did she say that part?
‘Hi,’ Casey said and tried to stand up. She promptly winced when her ankle gave her a sharp jab of pain.
‘Fine.’ She tried to stand up tall again and again but every time she winced and hissed and bent her knees.
‘I don’t think you are,’ the giant said.
He had his hands on her waist to steady her and Casey swore she could feel a baking heat from his palms all around her waist, up her back, into her chest and yes, Jesus Pleasus, into her pelvis. Her pussy gave a wet flex even as her heartbeat doubled in speed and Casey was pretty damn sure someone had turned the heat up.
‘I am,’ she lied. But on the final try, the jab of pain became a punch and she yelped.
‘Yeah, I don’t know you but you’re lying,’ he said and scooped her up before she could tell him no.
Annie gave a snort and said, ‘Oh yeah, Casey, this is Nick Murphy. Nick, this is Casey Briggs. And there’s a room in the back marked Lounge. Take her back there and I’ll find an ice pack.’
Nick nodded and started toward the back. Casey held her breath. Why was she holding it? So she couldn’t smell him. The look of him was one thing, the feel of his hands on her – on her ass no less – was another. A very distracting other thing. But the smell of him, that she picked up on first contact was so overwhelming she was trying not to inhale. Fresh cut wood, fall leaves, nutmeg. He smelled like fall and cosy things and, God help her, sex.
He smelled like sex. And no one had smelled like sex to Casey for a very long time.
‘IS HERE GOOD?’
Casey blinked and realised how stupid she must look. She’d been too busy trying to focus her attention against the smell of him, the feel of him, and truly … the look of him, to actually hear him.
Nick nodded to a chaise longue and said, ‘Is here good?’
He smiled at her and her stomach tumbled with heat, something lower did too. Casey suffered a brief but vivid flash of that dark head between her thighs. That generous mouth licking and kissing and sucking … she sighed out loud. When she heard it, her eyes went wide.
Nick smiled at her. Blue eyes never leaving her blushing face. ‘You OK?’
Just trying not to imagine your startling blue eyes looking up at me as you go down on me …
‘Fine. Totally. And here is fine, too. I’m sure I’m heavy. Your back is probably breaking. And …’
Why was she babbling? She clamped her lips together to keep from speaking any more nonsense. Nick sat her down gently and pulled a folding chair to the foot of the chaise.
‘You’re not heavy at all. I like your hair.’ Now he blushed.
Casey touched her hair as if she’d never encountered it before. Never mind the dirty blond mass was constantly the bane of her existence. Today she’d twisted it up into an intricate messy knot and speared it with a hair pick Brendan had given her once upon a time. When she felt the smooth, carved teak under her fingertips she had a sudden and horrible stab of guilt.
Annie walked in, caught the look of irrational guilt and yelled, ‘Stop!’
Nick started and said, ‘What? What do you mean stop, Annie?’
‘I meant, um …’ Her friend gave her the evil eye when Nick turned back to Casey. ‘To stop worrying. I have the ice!’
She practically threw it at Nick, who plucked it from the air as if performing a magic trick. He took Casey’s foot and gently worked the straps on her heel. ‘Sorry, we should get it out of this heel in case it swells. Am I hurting you?’
Casey heard Annie chuckle. She was watching intently and Casey could feel – as horrifying as it was – the look of arousal on her own face. The feel of his hands on her skin – soothing and ever so gentle – had her tongue feeling two sizes too big. And her panties felt about two sizes too small.
‘Yeah, she looks in agony,’ Annie said. ‘I’ll go check in the arrivals.’
‘Oh, no, wait!’ Casey said, feeling anxiety in her gut like a lance.
‘You’ll be fiiii-iiiine,’ Annie trilled over her shoulder and tossed her a finger wave.
Bitch. Deserter. Traitor!
‘How does this feel?’ Nick now had her foot between his legs. He was rubbing the spot that had been painful and she barely felt a twinge.
‘Ummmm,’ she said and then realised how close to a moan that was.
He glanced up and smiled and her stomach dropped like she was free falling.
‘Can you flex it?’
Casey pointed her toe and this time they both froze. When their eyes met she couldn’t read him, but she was sure that she looked mortified.
She had just nudged her toes against his crotch. And if she wasn’t hallucinating – which she might be – he was getting hard. ‘I’m so sorry,’ she said.
But she didn’t move her foot.
Move your foot! Move. Your. Foot. Oh my God, woman, move your foot.
So she moved her foot … by pointing it further and rubbing the very distinct erection that now resided here.
‘I’m not,’ he blurted. When he looked away, looking as embarrassed as she was, but also, yes, turned on, she felt a tiny rush of confidence.
‘I didn’t mean to … but when I … when I …’
This time his stare was direct. He’d gathered his wits and that meant hers fled.
‘I just … was surprised and well, flattered and oh my God, I’m sorry.’ She tried to stand but he took one big hand and gently forced her back.
‘Look, toe foreplay or not, there is some swelling so just sit here for a bit with the ice on. It’s OK. I’m sorry I … reacted.’
‘Don’t be,’ she said. ‘But hey, you …’ Time to change the subject. ‘You look worried. Did my friend blackmail you into being here or what?’
His fingers encircled her ankle and she watched him, somewhat mesmerized, as his fingers crept a little higher up her leg. His gaze was pinned to the place where her skirt ended. Casey almost gasped when she felt a small rush of fluid between her legs. Her panties were now officially wet.
And you brain has officially shut down …
‘I am nervous,’ he said, leaning in. His eyes danced from her thighs to her face and back again. Casey found herself both hotter than hell and flattered beyond all belief. How long had it been since a man had looked at her that way?
She couldn’t remember or hadn’t noticed.
Without really thinking she moved her toes again and, for just a fluttering instant, his hand gripped her leg tighter. She felt the resounding surge of heat as it coursed up her leg to nestle in her sex.
‘Why?’ Her voice was barely a whisper.
He smiled at her, smoothing his fingertips along her skin so that her skin pebbled in goose flesh. ‘I’m afraid no one will want me. You know … no one will bid on me. And I won’t earn any money for charity and …’ He shrugged, big shoulders rising and falling under his navy blue tee. He wore pale smoke blue chinos and athletic shoes. And that hair and those eyes combined with that body made a hell of a package.
A nervous giggle surged up out of her and she clamped a hand over her mouth. ‘You?’ Casey finally said. ‘You are worried that no one will want to buy you?’
He nodded. She flexed her toe and his eyelids fluttered. What a rush of power that brought and it hadn’t escaped her notice that what was under her foot was … sizeable. Very sizeable. And that was saying something because being with Brendan hadn’t been anything to complain about.
Another stab of guilt at the thought of her dead husband. ‘So what do you do?’ she barrelled on.
‘That’s it. All these men who are being auctioned are doctors or lawyers or heirs to great fortunes.’ He was absentmindedly stroking her leg.
Casey had to shift due to the pound of her own pulse in her cunt. If she didn’t get herself under control she was going to launch herself at him and maul him. It had been over a year since she’d had sex. She felt every moment of that time when he touched her.
‘And you?’ she prodded.
‘I refurbish. Furniture. Sometimes buildings. They’re movers and shakers and I … well, I deal in nostalgia, for the most part.’
She felt a prick of tears in her eyes and swallowed hard to ward them off. ‘I think that’s … lovely,’ she said. ‘I’d better get back. Lots of work to do.’ At his warning, she stood slowly. When he was sure she was stable, he stood.
‘Don’t worry,’ Casey said, patting his arm. My gosh, it was a big arm. ‘Women will bid on you. Trust me on this.’
It was so unexpected. He leaned in to give her a friendly peck on the cheek, murmuring ‘Thanks. I feel a lot better.’
But when he got closer, it changed. The energy, the feel of it, Casey saw it happening as if in slow motion but couldn’t stop herself or him. Nick’s lips brushed hers and his hands found her hips and she parted her lips for him thinking how fucking easy she was all of a sudden … and how great it was.
The kiss was deep and slow and so sexy her toes curled, especially the foot that was still shoeless.
‘That was very unprofessional of me,’ she gasped.
‘And very forward of me,’ he said. But he was studying her with that piercing cool gaze.
Was it inappropriate to want to push him back on the chaise longue, hike up her skirt and climb aboard? Yes. Yes, it was. Casey clenched her fists and her thighs. The second was a bad idea because she pushed herself so very close to the verge of orgasm, it was insane.
‘I have to go!’ she gasped, hurrying as fast as possible on a bum ankle. ‘I hear Annie calling me.’
Total lie. When she got out there, Annie turned to face her and said, ‘Why are you here? Shouldn’t you be getting your smooch on with Nick?’
‘You did this on purpose, didn’t you?’
‘Me?’ Annie batted her eyelashes, all innocence and total bullshit.
Casey snatched the clipboard. ‘Yes, you.’
When Nick came out to stand with the other bachelors for rehearsal she felt her heart wedge its way into her throat. When he smiled at her, it dropped way down in her gut. And other parts of her wanted her to march over there and kiss him again.
* * *
Nick knew her deal. Annie had told him that Casey Briggs was a widow. He had expected a nice, attractive, maybe a little sad woman trying to do something good. What he had not expected was a tall, willowy, honey blonde with sparkling brown eyes and a nervous way about her that made him want to grab her shoulders and kiss her.
And then of course the surprise “foot job” and her reaction – part horrification, part amusement – had sealed the deal of his attraction.
Now he stood in a line of good-looking men who probably made about six (or sixty) times what he made per year. And she stood there assessing them. Nick couldn’t help but feel less than. He wasn’t a successful doctor or lawyer, he wasn’t a country club member, he wasn’t a bad ass pretty boy. He was a refurbisher who was doing a neighbour – the nosy and ornery Annie – a favour. For charity.
It was a good deed. He’d let it go. There was no chance he had a shot in hell with the gorgeous blushing widow. Her husband had probably been just like these men. And though she’d assured him he was attractive – how could she not given the circumstances? – he wasn’t of the same calibre.
Which was a shame. Because that kiss had damn near set his head on fire and the way her long slim toes had run across his cock and the things he’d been thinking … oh, the things he’d been thinking when she’d done it. She would really blush.
Nick had had an extremely detailed image of laying that pretty woman down on the chaise longue and hiking up her snug but proper grey skirt. And stripping down her hose, that he could clearly see due to her hurt ankle and reclining position, were thigh highs. He wondered what colour her panties were and had to bite his own tongue to focus.
No erections in rehearsal, you jack-off …
When he looked up and she smiled at him, looking away shyly as if remembering the kiss, well, he had to bite his tongue twice as hard to keep himself in line.