Emma Wyatt has had enough of her ex best friend and his lady killer ways. Gone was the sweet boy of her youth and in rides the womaniser. But this time he has ready gone and done it!
Oliver didn’t expect to be coupled with Emma. She was in an awkward situation and he couldn’t help the words that came out. She should be grateful, he saved her.
Now the whole town knows. And Emma is pissed! She’s going to kill him.
But a heated argument leads to a fiery moment of passion and suddenly the two are fighting an unlikely attraction that neither saw coming. But Oliver has a secret that could tear them apart…
Emma walked into the Community Center Grand Hall and took in the scene before her. Women of all shapes, sizes, and generations milled around, cocktails in hand. Their hair was perfectly coifed and their makeup impeccable. The pheromones in the air were practically tangible.
A bachelor auction.
How the hell did I get roped into this? she mused.
“Isn’t this exciting?” Her best friend, Audrey, sipped a pink drink with a twirly straw, her eyes wide.
“If you call a bunch of horny women paying for a date with an equally horny man exciting, then no, it’s not particularly thrilling.”
“Oh, stop being Old Mother Hubbard. Besides, it’s for a good cause.”
Emma knew this, of course. The Crystal Valley Homeless Center was an up-and-coming organization that rehabilitated homeless people and helped them get their lives back on track. It wasn’t merely a halfway house. It was a place of refuge that offered people in need a hand up—not just a handout. Emma tried to volunteer at the Center as much as she could, and she knew firsthand how rewarding the experience was. The auction couldn’t have benefited a better cause.
“You and I both know it’s not the auction that’s got your knickers in a twist.” Audrey grinned devilishly as she tossed her dark hair over her shoulder. “It’s that hot hunk of junk over there.”
Emma followed her friend’s gaze to Oliver Kyle—the six-foot-two, sandy-haired Adonis… and the bane of her existence. Emma rolled her eyes, the familiar irritation settling in. “Now why would I let anything Oliver-related have anything to do with my panties?”
“Did I hear my name and your panties in the same sentence?” His deep voice reverberated over her shoulder and sent an unwelcome shiver up her spine.
“Speak of the devil and the demon appears.” She turned to face him and nearly slammed into the rock-solid mass of his chest. When did he get so close to her? Her eyes landed on those firm pecs and traveled up the thick column of his neck, past the deep dimple of his left cheek and into those smug honey-colored eyes.
She squinted at him, hackles raising like an old friend. “Personal space much?”
He leaned in, that overpowering male musk unique to Oliver surrounding her. “Just trying to get closer to those panties, sweetheart.”
The damn jerk had the audacity to wink at her. An actual wink!
“You, Oliver Kyle, are a man-whore and will never get within an inch of my panties.”
“Now, now, Emma, did you just issue a challenge? You know that feistiness just makes me want you more? I like your attitude problem.”
“I don’t have an attitude problem. You have a problem with my attitude. That’s not my problem.”
He gave an arrogant little chuckle.
Emma opened her mouth to unleash some choice words when Audrey stepped between them. “Okay, children, play nice now.”
Oliver reached out and twirled a strand of Emma’s hair around his finger, as though testing its texture. “This isn’t over, Goldilocks. I like a challenge.”
Emma was left to ogle his broad shoulders in his Boss suit before she could formulate a comeback. She fought the urge to stamp her foot like a petulant child.
“Wow, the sexual tension between you two is hot.”
“The only thing hot between us is my palm getting ready to slap his smug face.” Emma grabbed Audrey’s glass and downed her colorful drink.
“Uh huh. And denial is a river in Egypt. What happened between you two anyway?”
“He’s a jackass. A womanizing jackass who is always trying to make a pass at me, but I won’t become a prospect of his.”
“Oh honey, ten minutes with that man and I’m sure he would ruin you for any other man.”
Emma swatted her as they made their way toward a seat near the stage. The cloying smell of cheap perfume of overzealous women lingered in the air, giving Emma an instant headache. Or maybe that was compliments of Mr. Kyle. Audrey didn’t realize how close to home she had hit. Emma and Oliver had been friends during their youth. They had grown up in the same neighborhood and, despite the two-year age gap, had been practically joined at the hip. Till one day, soon after she turned thirteen, he had morphed into someone else and just stopped being her bestie. At first, he had pulled away and Emma had passed it off as part of growing up, but then he stopped being a sweet boy and became a hell-raiser.
Now, at age thirty-two, he was the quintessential bachelor. She wondered if he was up for auction tonight. Not that she would bid on him. No, she had her eye on that sexy fireman, Mike. Besides, she was sure half of Crystal Valley would outbid her even if she did. He was very popular with the ladies.
The lights dimmed suddenly and a hush of anticipation filled the auditorium as hordes of women scrambled to find vacant seats. She could practically feel Audrey bouncing in her chair beside her and although she wouldn’t admit it out loud, it was kind of thrilling. Emma might have a grudge against Oliver Kyle, but she sure did appreciate some of the other fine specimens on display.
The opening beats to Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” started and the crowd went wild as each bachelor walked on stage, decked in suits and looking mouth-watering. The song was fitting; most of the singles were from the police or fire department. The hotness kept coming. How did Crystal Valley have so many hot, single men? Emma caught herself using her auction paddle to fan herself. The men did a few steps in sync to the beat, which greatly amused the audience, before standing single file, hands behind their backs, which only emphasized the chiseled chests and lean hips.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” the announcer’s deep voice rang out. “Give it up for the bachelors of Crystal Valleeeey!”
The applause was deafening. Emma found herself adding to the roar. The last time she checked, she was still a warm-blooded female.
“Thank you all for coming tonight and supporting this great cause. These gracious bachelors have volunteered their time and… um, services, to raise funds tonight.” A smattering of nervous giggles peppered the hall. He went on to talk more about the cause as the gents backed offstage.
“Without further ado, ladies, let’s get the ball rolling!”
An upbeat track sounded and one of Oliver’s police buddies strolled on stage, all muscle and sex appeal.
“Ooh la la,” Audrey cooed beside her, barely audible over the roar.
The bachelor walked down the ramp. Every woman alongside it tried to get her hands on some part of him, and he was soaking it up. He grinned devilishly as he swung his hips a few times before strutting back to center stage.
“We will start the bidding at one hundred dollars.”
Dozens of paddles went up. And kept going up as the price increased.
“Why don’t you bid on him?” Audrey nudged, her brown eyes dancing.
“He’s not my type.”
“What? Hot and delicious is everyone’s type. Plus, he has handcuffs.”
She did have a point there. Emma was ready to raise her paddle and place a bid when the announcer called a winner. She swung around in her seat to face the blonde mama who was going to enjoy officer sexy pants. She looked drunk off her ass and horny to boot. They were going to have one hell of a night.
The next beat was the ever-popular and brain-grinding “Gangnam Style.” Emma recognized the bachelor as one of the new kids at the fire department. He couldn’t be more than twenty-two, but he was filling out nicely. He slid out in nothing but his tighty-whities and a shirt. Very Tom Cruise–like. Till he started the “Gangnam Style” dance.
Emma threw her head back and howled. His moves were perfectly in sync and the crowd was lapping it up. Despite the ridiculousness of his act, he sold for nearly three thousand dollars. That date was going to be interesting, to say the least.
The strains of Nelly’s “Hot in Here” blared from the speakers and none other than sexy fireman Mike came strolling out in his fireproof suit—sans shirt.
“Hot tamale.” Emma swallowed. “He’s Hercules.” Mike had a golden tan accentuated by glistening oil slathered on his bare torso. His blond hair was messy and his blue eyes mischievous as he played right into crowd, taking off his shoulder straps and wiggling to the beat, teasing and taunting the ladies with overt sexuality.
Emma had to tear her eyes away when she realized that the bidding war had begun and were already a grand up. She raised her paddle but was immediately challenged by a brunette two rows down. Emma needed this. It had been two years since she had a decent date, and small-town gossip had it that Mike was a decent guy. He was stable, honest, faithful, and unbelievably sexy to boot. Emma was a traditional girl and wasn’t comfortable making the first move on a guy, but with the veil of the auction for charity, it was the perfect excuse to match herself up with Mike. She needed to pick up her life after the drama with the mayor’s son.
“We have one thousand five hundred dollars. Do we have one thousand six hundred?”
Emma raised her paddle. And so it continued till the bidding went up to two grand. Fireman Mike was sure noticing her now.
Emma felt a grin spreading on her face. She was going to win.
“Three thousand dollars!” The brunette outbid her. How the hell?
Before Emma could recover, the announcer slammed his gavel and fireman Mike was gone, snatched from her clutches.
Audrey giggled beside her. “Well, that was entertaining.”
Emma huffed. “How embarrassing! Now everyone knows I got a thing for the fireman god.”
“Trust me. Nobody is noticing anything except the male hotness here tonight.”
“I hope so.” She signaled the waiter for another cocktail. She needed a drink to overcome the mortification.
The evening passed with suitor after suitor gracing the stage, and each time the adoration never dimmed. From scantily clad to suave, funny to serious, the men were different in their own right. Yet none of the others appealed to her enough to raise her paddle again.
She was about to call it a night when the emcee announced the last bid for the night. A fun tune sounded and Emma sat up, wondering who would be gracing the stage. She felt her jaw go slack when the thorn in her side came out on stage, still in his Boss suit. His shirt was unbuttoned beneath his suit jacket, and the peekaboo of his bronze torso flirted with every woman in the auditorium. His mirrored aviators sat on the bridge of his nose, shielding what she was sure was a sex-promised gaze. His sandy hair was mussed up like he had run his hands through it, or more likely some woman had. His pants curved his strong buttocks, emphasizing the muscle and strength. Emma felt her throat go dry. The music played a sexy tune and, almost in slow motion, Oliver put his hand in his pants pocket, moving aside his coat and shirt and revealing an honest-to-God eight-pack.
The crowd went wild. Emma coughed. When the hell did he get those? She didn’t even know eight-packs existed, and here he was baring those washboard abs like he was born with them. His lips tilted in a sexy grin, revealing that naughty dimple.
“Ladies and gentlemen, let’s start the bidding at one hundred dollars!”
Paddles went up all around the room. Emma took a sweep through at the faces that could potentially be sharing Oliver’s bed tonight. Just about everyone bid, including the more vibrant male variety of Crystal Valley. Emma smiled at that, knowing that would throw the smug playboy for a loop.
The response was loud. The bidding was fast and quick, and already up to three thousand dollars. Mr. Kyle was clearly in demand. It looked like Malibu Barbie was going to win him after all.
“Five thousand dollars!”
The crowd was stunned into silence at the sudden bid. The announcer called it. And looked right at Emma.
She turned to Audrey, then noticed that she had grabbed Emma’s arm, paddle in hand, and bid. Audrey grinned widely and shrugged nonchalantly.
Emma turned back to the stage, her face draining of color as she stared at Oliver, who looked like the Cheshire cat.
“What have you done?” she whispered.
Melissa Kate is a self-confessed book-a-holic who lives in a small town along the coast in sunny South Africa. She writes contemporary romance with quirky characters and witty banter; a true romantic at heart, she loves the moment of falling in love. Her pet Beagle and maniacal lovebird keep her company while writing and often inspire senseless moments in her stories.
When she’s not furiously tapping away on her laptop, Melissa can be found laughing away with her husband (who happens to be her pre-school sweetheart… you just know there’s a story there) or scouring online stores for additions to her ever growing stiletto collection (ehm addiction).
She balances her day job and conjuring up new romantic tales with a local personal blog with arb ramblings about her life in Durban.
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