Beauty and the Bachelor

By: Naima Simone

He’d never been near enough to notice the perfect indent of her waist, the beautiful thrust of her breasts against the emerald silk, or the sexy path of her hip. Thank God her mother—who resembled all the other thin-to-the-point-of-emaciated women in the room—hadn’t managed to starve or shame the curves off her.

Slowly straightening, he lowered her hand and even more slowly released it. But he didn’t liberate her from his scrutiny. The longer he stared, the more his perplexity grew. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman he’d ever met. Since the age of sixteen, he’d dated—and fucked—many of them. Her mouth was a little too wide, her features just a shade too plain to be labeled beautiful. But the totality of her? The sensual promise in that imperfect but sexual mouth, the gorgeous almond-shaped eyes, the strong facial structure, and the walking-wet-dream body…she was alluring. She was tempting.

She was stunning.

“Lucas Oliver,” Jason Blake greeted him, extending his hand, and though disgust curdled in his stomach, Lucas shook it. He ground his teeth together, silently ordering himself to smile but unable to manage it. When a man devoted his entire existence to greed and the relentless pursuit of more wealth, more assets, more power at the expense of loyalty, friendship, and honor, that evil should show on his face. Should etch his skin. Weather him. But God or fate seemed to favor the wicked. Because Jason Blake appeared as strong and handsome as he did in Lucas’s memories. Though his closely shaven hair was liberally sprinkled with gray, lines barely etched his smooth, brown skin. His shoulders were wide and straight and the bright hazel eyes he’d bequeathed to his daughter were clear and sharp.

Lucas waited, bracing himself for any signs of recognition in the man’s face. But aside from the polite smile, he didn’t catch a flicker of acknowledgment from Jason. Then again, why should he recognize Lucas? The last time they’d encountered one another, Lucas had been a devastated, angry fifteen-year-old, and his last name had been Ellison. The son of Robert Ellison, Jason’s former best friend and business partner, and the man he’d stepped on as carelessly as a pile of shit. Correction—Jason would’ve at least paused and wiped shit from the sole of his Italian loafer. He hadn’t afforded Lucas’s father the same courtesy.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you face-to-face. I’ve heard so much about Bay Bridge Industries, all of it impressive,” Jason boomed.

Giving the thieving bastard a nod and murmur of thanks that he nearly choked on, Lucas turned to the quiet woman he’d tricked into buying him.

“Since you’ve purchased me”—he flashed her a quick, disarming grin—“I figured I’d better get over here and introduce myself before you demanded a refund. Lucas Oliver.”

“Nice to meet you,” Sydney said, and the slight huskiness reminded him of a voice gone hoarse after hours of crying out in pleasure in the hottest, deepest part of night. His gut clenched in reaction. “Sydney Blake.”

“I’m a little embarrassed, Mr. Oliver,” Jason interrupted, stepping closer to his daughter. Too little, too late, but smart man. “I’d like to apologize on behalf of my daughter. I’m afraid there’s been a misunderstanding—”

Lucas arched an eyebrow. “Really? I clearly remember Ms. Blake bidding on me. What is the confusion?”

Jason rolled his lips into a flat line, but Lucas read the unease in the gesture. Good. “Mr. Oliver, Sydney is engaged to Mr. Reinhold.” He gestured behind him toward Tyler, who stood silent, his arms crossed. “He—”

“Congratulations,” Lucas interjected smoothly.

Jason blinked, momentarily taken aback. “Well, yes, thank you. But you can see our dilemma.”

Lucas cocked his head. “No, I can’t.”

The other man exhaled a hard, frustrated breath. “Somehow, she bid on the wrong man. My daughter believed you were her fiancé,” he gritted out from between clenched teeth.

Now it was Lucas’s turn to frown, but on the inside he delighted in Jason’s discomfiture and irritation. It won’t be the last time you squirm for me, old man.

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