Bidding on Her Boss

By: Rachel Bailey
One

 Dylan Hawke had done a few things he regretted in his life, but he had a feeling this one might top the list.

 The spotlight shone in his eyes, but he smiled as he’d been instructed and gave a sweeping bow before making his way down the stairs and onto the stage. Applause—and a few cheers that he suspected were from his family—greeted him.

 “We’ll start the bidding at two hundred dollars,” the emcee said from the front of the stage.

 Dylan sucked in a breath. And so it begins. Step one of rehabilitating his image—donate his time to charity. Now that his brother was marrying a princess, Dylan’s own mentions in the media had skyrocketed, and he’d quickly realized his playboy reputation could be a disadvantage for his future sister-in-law and the things she wanted to achieve for homeless children in LA.

 “What do I hear for Dylan?” the emcee, a sitcom actor, called out. “Dylan Hawke is the man behind the chain of Hawke’s Blooms florists, so we can guarantee he knows about romancing his dates.”

 A murmur went around the crowded room as several white paddles with black numbers shot into the air. He couldn’t see too much detail past the spotlight that shone down on him, but it seemed that the place was full, and that the waiters were keeping the guests’ drinks topped off as they moved through the crowd.

 “Two fifty, three hundred,” the emcee called.

 Dylan spotted his brother Liam sitting with his fiancée, Princess Jensine of Larsland. Jenna—who had been hiding incognito as Dylan’s housekeeper before she met Liam—gave him a thumbs-up. This was the first fund-raising event of the new charity, the Hawke Brothers Trust, which Jenna had established to raise money for homeless children. Now that she and Liam were to be married, they planned to split their family’s time between her homeland and LA, and the trust would utilize the skills she’d gained growing up in a royal family. It would be the perfect project for her—she’d said it was something she could sink her teeth into.

 Dylan believed in the cause and believed in Jenna, so his job tonight was to help raise as much money as he could. He just wished he’d been able to do it in a less humiliating way. Like, say, writing a check.

 But that method wouldn’t help rehabilitate his image.

 Which had led him to this moment. On stage in front of hundreds of people. Being sold.

 “Five hundred and fifty,” the emcee said, pointing at a redhead near the side of the room, whose paddle said sixty-three.

 Dylan threw Sixty-Three a wink, and then crossed to where a blonde woman held up her paddle. The emcee called, “Six hundred.”

 Dylan squinted against the lights. There was something familiar about the blonde... Then it hit him and his gut clenched tight. It was Brittany Oliver, a local network weather girl. They’d been out two or three times a few years ago, but she’d been cloying. When he found out that she was already planning a future and children for them, he’d broken it off. He swallowed hard and sent up a prayer that someone outbid her. Maybe the cute redhead with paddle sixty-three.

 He dug one hand in his pocket and flashed a charming smile at the audience—a smile he’d been using to effect since he was fourteen. He was rewarded when a stunning woman with long dark hair and coffee-colored skin raised her paddle. He was starting not to mind being on stage after all.

 “Six fifty,” the emcee called. “Seven hundred dollars. Seven fifty.”

 He knew Jenna was hoping for a big amount from this auction to get their charity started with a bang, so he took the rosebud from his buttonhole and threw it into the crowd. It was a cheesy move, but then the bidding happened so quickly that all of a sudden it hit two thousand.

 Dylan steeled himself and looked over at Brittany, and sure enough, she was still in the running. He had no idea whether she’d want to chew his ear off for breaking things off or try to convince him they should get back together. Either way, it would be an uncomfortable evening. He should have had a backup plan—a signal to tell Jenna to bid whatever it took if things went awry. He could have reimbursed her later.

 “Three thousand four hundred.”

 It was the redhead. Dylan looked her over. Bright copper hair scraped into a curly ponytail on top of her head, cobalt blue halter top, dark eyes that were wide as she watched the other bidders, and a bottom lip caught between her teeth in concentration. She looked adorable. In his pocket where the audience couldn’t see, he crossed his fingers that she won. He could spend an enjoyable evening with her, a nice meal, maybe a drive to a moonlit lookout, maybe a movie.

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