“Next up is Emily Rauch, co-owner of the Atlantic Rise Hotel,” Helena Bond said. “As many of you know, she is from Patricia’s side of the family. Come on up here, sweetie.”
Emily squared her shoulders. The last thing she wanted to do was be put up for auction for the Bond family fundraiser, but it was for a good cause bringing in a lot of money that went to various much-needed and underfunded causes on the island. This year it was for the health clinic that many of her cousins worked at too.
“Here goes nothing,” she said to her younger sister, Penelope. Irish twins they were. Her mother having them just under one year apart. For one week a year, they were both the same age. This past summer, late August, they were both in their twenties. Then she turned the big three oh.
“You’ll be fine. I’m just glad she asked you and not me,” Penelope said.
“She didn’t ask you because she heard you were out on a date a few weeks ago and thought you were taken. I should have said it was a blind date and didn’t work out so you’d be stuck too.”
Penelope laughed and pushed her toward the stage where Helena was waiting with a big grin on her face.
Not her aunt, but close enough to one. Her mother, Sophia, was actually best friends with Janet Bond, Helena’s sister-in-law. Janet and Helena ran this fundraiser, but Helena was more the voice of it. Or at least the voice of the auction since it was her idea.
“I’m coming,” Emily said to Helena, who held her hand out, then grabbed Emily’s and patted it.
She did have a fear that she wouldn’t get that many bids. Or none at all. Her cousin Bode’s went well and she was afraid that might be a hard one to follow. Hailey Bond was after her and she knew damn well that would be high. Anyone with the last name Bond did well in life.
But she liked that she could hide behind being part of the family without really announcing it to the world.
“The bidding can begin,” Helena said to the auctioneer. Thankfully, it wasn’t one of the fast-talking kind and it was more in fun.
After she got an opening bid at a thousand, she felt a little bit better. When it started to go up in hundred-dollar increments by men she didn’t know, she was worrying a little, but everyone would be vetted before the date occurred through security measures.
The bidding was still going and she was standing there stiff in her fitted black dress and Valentino Garavani studded nude pumps. They made her feel powerful and feminine at the same time. She’d learned to master that in her life if she wanted to get ahead.
She had no problem getting noticed for her looks, but she was damn well going to make sure that wasn’t all someone saw.
Tough. Businesslike. Get out of my way if I’m in the zone.
Yep, that was what people thought of when they saw her.
Not sexy and laid back.
Not standing on stage with a big smile on her face waiting for some guy to pay a few thousand dollars to spend a couple of hours with her.
For the life of her she had no idea why anyone would want to.
But it was for charity, and on the island, the Bonds put that first.
When the bidding stopped, the auctioneer said, “Going once, going twice—”
“Three thousand,” she heard in the back. Damn, that just jumped up a thousand. There were some chuckles in the crowd and she was trying to see who belonged to the paddle that was just raised but couldn’t make out his face.
“Someone is interested in winning a date with Emily,” the auctioneer said. “Going once. Going twice. Three thousand it is to number sixty-one in the back.”
She nodded her head and walked off the stage, then caught sight of who it was and started to laugh. “Wow. Guess that might be the only way to get a date with me.”
Crew Ackley, her mailman, grinned and winked at her and she wondered how the heck he was able to drop three thousand dollars on this and why he would.
And at the end of the night, she made her way over to him. “That was nice of you. It will go for a good cause.”
“I’m sure it will,” he said.
“I’m not sure how this is going to work. You obviously know where to find me to set this up, but why don’t I get your number? I’ve got to go out of town next week and then with Thanksgiving, it might be a few weeks if that works for you?”
Crew pulled his phone out and she tried hard not to stare at his large hands. Everything about him was big and intimidating and she almost had to do a double take to realize it was him in the dark suit and black tie rather than the government-issued blue-and-white one with a bag over his shoulder as he hopped in and out of the truck driving around her neighborhood.
His dark eyes were laughing at her and she was trying her hardest not to flush like she always wanted to when he smiled at her. She’d never been attracted to big men before or ones that were rougher looking, but Crew got her salivating more than juice from an orange being squeezed in a press.
“That works for me,” he said, reading off his number. “Do I get yours so I don’t think it’s some cold call and send you to voicemail?”
“I guess you do,” she said. She sent him a quick text, heard his phone go off. “There you go. We’ll be in touch with each other.”
“We will,” Crew said, walking away. She tried her damnedest not to follow his movements, but when she heard Penelope laughing she knew she was caught.