More than a Mistress(5)

By: Sandra Marton

"Hey." he shouted, "I'm worth a lot more than that!"

The crowd stamped its well-shod feet in approval. The brunette laughed, and another redhead shot to her feet. "Seven-five," she called, and everybody cheered and applauded.

Travis grinned. The guy from Hannan and Murphy had gone for five.

"I'm worth more than that, too," he yelled. The crowd loved it.

"Eight," the lady in the front said.

"Eight-five," the brunette shouted.

"Nine!"

Travis laughed. The evening he'd dreaded was turning out to be fun. One more glance at the blonde, that was all, before the gavel swung down. Not that it mattered. He'd probably overestimated her looks. If she'd walked farther into the room so that she was closer to the stage, he'd have seen her flaws.

What flaws`?

She had come closer, while the bidding was raging. She was almost at the stage and Lord, she wasn't beautiful, she was spectacular.

And she was looking at him. Her expression was difficult to read. Interested, yes, but it seemed...

Speculative. As if she were appraising him. And finding him wanting.

Travis's hands knotted at his sides as the woman turned swiftly and started back up the aisle.

Who did this babe think she was, to check him out and then walk away? Turn around, he thought furiously, turn around!

The woman's pace increased.

Travis took a step forward. To hell with the auction! "Nine thousand," the auctioneer shouted, and the crowd roared. "Nine thousand once. Nine thousand twice..."

"Ten," the brunette screamed.

The blonde woman stopped. That's it, baby, Travis thought. Turn around. Look at me.

And she did. Her eyes met his. Their gazes locked, and held. For one breathless moment, there was no one else in the room, no one else in the universe. It was only them. Travis, and the woman.

She knew it, too.

He saw her acknowledge it as her eyes widened, saw the impact of the understanding in the sudden, rapid rise and fall of her breasts. The tip of her tongue a pale, silken pink slipped over her soft-looking mouth.

Travis's eyes bored into hers. Do it, he thought. Do it, do it...

"Going once," the auctioneer said, "to the lady at table three, for ten thousand dollars. Going twice. Going—"

"Twenty thousand dollars."

The crowd gasped. Every head swiveled toward the woman with the blond hair. Even the auctioneer leaned for forward.

"Would you repeat your bid, please, madam'?"

The woman took a deep breath. Travis thought he saw her tremble but he knew he must have been mistaken, because when she spoke again, her voice was cool, controlled, and touched with something that bordered on amusement.

"I said, I bid twenty thousand dollars."

Bang went the gavel. "Sold," the auctioneer said, triumphantly, "to the lady in red."

And the crowd in the ballroom of the Hotel Paradise went wild.





CHAPTER TWO




THE bang of the gavel echoed through the ballroom, but it wasn't as loud as the sudden thump of Alexandra Thorpe's heart.

"Sold," the auctioneer shouted. "Sold to the lady in red." The lady in red, she thought numbly...

Alex thought, for an instant, her legs would buckle. She bowed her head and gripped the chair in front of her. She'd come here to buy a man, and she had. A man named Travis Baron.

A stud named Travis Baron, a little voice inside her said coldly. It was true. The man onstage was every inch a stud, if looks and attitude were anything to go by...

And now, she owned him.

Why on earth had she done something so stupid? Carl's words had hurt, yes, but so what? Their divorce was two years old. She didn't miss Carl, or love him; she knew now that she never really had. So, why should anything he said, anything, still haunt her? And the rest of her plan, if you could call it that, was not just stupid but sick. A woman didn't just—a woman couldn't just—

Awareness sizzled thought her blood.

He was looking at her. Every nerve ending in her body was screaming it.

Don't, Alex told herself, don't lift your head....

Stopping the rotation of the planet would have been easier. Alex caught her bottom lip between her teeth and slowly raised her eyes to the stage.

Her heart did it again, just as it had when he'd first looked at her. It took that leap within her breast that made the room spin. Travis Baron hadn't moved. Those hot green eyes were still fixed on her as if he was a hawk and she was his prey. There was a smile of pure masculine satisfaction, tilting across his mouth—that sensual mouth—she could almost feel on her own. Everything about him, from the set of his broad shoulders, the way he stood, with his long legs planted slightly apart, sent a message, and the message was unmistakable.

I am a man, he was saying. And you are a woman. And when you and I are alone...

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