Beauty and the Bachelor

By: Naima Simone

Aiden swore under his breath. “All this damn intrigue.” He shook his head, his eyes troubled. “There’s something about you blue bloods with your plots and schemes. Us blue-collar folk? We might not have been born with silver spoons in our mouths or McMansions on the Gold Coast, but at least you can immediately tell if we don’t like you. A fist to the face transcends race, religion, creed, and social and economic lines.”

“I’m not a blue blood,” Lucas stated flatly, tone carefully void of emotion.

Aiden sighed. “You were born into the same world these people live in, even though the streets of Chicago raised you as they did me. Still, the tax bracket your parents belonged to doesn’t make you any less, or more, of a man. But what you’ve set in motion here”—he nodded in the direction of the man and woman under discussion—“doesn’t speak to the person you’ve become. Luke, let the rage and hatred go before it eats you alive and leaves you with nothing.”

You have no idea what the hell you’re talking about.

The words surged to the back of his throat, scalding the lining like bile. But he swallowed the hot rebuke. Aiden might have been born and raised in Chicago’s rough South Side, but somehow his spirit hadn’t been sullied with a bitterness that had been embedded inside Lucas since he lost his family at fourteen. And also underneath the unsolicited kumbaya-why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along advice, he detected Aiden’s affection and love. And worry.

“I made a promise, and I’m not going back on it. Not even for you or my highly debatable soul.”

“Oh, you have a soul,” his friend scoffed. “It might be a little charred around the edges, but it’s there.” Aiden scrubbed a hand over the back of his neck. “Fine. I can’t talk you out of going through with it. But just…be careful. Ever hear the saying, ‘Unforgiveness is like drinking a poison and hoping the other person dies’?”

Lucas stared at Aiden. Blinked. “What the hell? Did you read a box of Hallmark cards before coming here tonight?”

“You know the redhead I met last week?” Aiden shrugged a shoulder. “She was watching Dr. Phil earlier. The show was about warring in-laws, but I thought the quote seemed appropriate for the situation.”

Lucas snorted. “I remember her. What worries me is you were with a gorgeous woman, and the only thing you could find interesting to do was watch Dr. Phil.”

“Unlike you, I know there’s more to romance than sex.” He clapped Lucas on the shoulder. “I’m out. Only ten of these women will leave with a bachelor. The others will need consolation.”

“Real romantic,” Lucas called after him.

With a wicked grin, Aiden walked away, and damned if several appreciative gazes didn’t follow him. The attention didn’t surprise Lucas. With his dark blond hair, green eyes, and classically handsome features, Aiden drew women like flies to shit. Not that Lucas had ever experienced any problem attracting women, either. Aiden was just prettier to look at.

He slid his hands into the pockets of his tuxedo pants and returned his attention to the older man surrounded by family, friends, and those who wished they were friends.

Pleasure stole through him, filling him like the hearty beef-and-carrot stew his uncle used to cook on the coldest Chicago winter nights. Thick. Warm.


Fifteen years.

It’d taken fifteen years, but finally Jason Blake would pay for everything he’d cost Lucas.

His childhood.

His legacy.

His father.

Chapter Two

“Welcome to the Rhodonite Society’s tenth annual Masquerade Bachelor Auction.” The cultured voice of the mistress of ceremonies echoed throughout the brightly lit ballroom. “We have a fabulous night planned for you. In just a few minutes, ten of the most handsome and eligible bachelors the city of Boston has to offer will take the stage offering ten romantic, luxurious dates! And every penny of the proceeds will benefit the Blake Literacy Foundation, which raises awareness of illiteracy as well as provide programming, tutoring, and technology to Boston’s underprivileged youth. So bidders, have your checkbooks ready!”

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