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Bidding on Her Boss

By:Rachel Bailey

Bidding on Her Boss
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.                       
       
           



       

"Four thousand six hundred."

A flash bulb went off and he smiled, but he needed to get the bidding  higher for the trust. He ambled over to the emcee and indicated with a  tilt of his head that he had something to say. She covered the mic with  her hand and lowered it.

"Make it three dates," he said, his voice low.

Her eyebrows shot up, and then she nodded and raised the mic again.  "I've just received information that the package up for auction now  consists of three dates."

Over the next few minutes, there was another flurry of raised paddles  before the emcee finally said, "Going once, going twice, sold for eight  thousand two hundred dollars."

Dylan realized he'd stopped following the bidding and had no idea who'd won.

"Number sixty-three, you can meet Mr. Hawke at the side of the stage to  make arrangements. Next we have a sports star who will need no  introduction." The emcee's voice faded into the background as Dylan  realized the cute redhead had made the top bid. He grinned.

Maybe turning his reputation around and doing his bit for charity wouldn't be so bad after all.

* * *

Faith Crawford stood, adjusted the hem of her halter top over her black  pants and slipped between the tables to where Dylan Hawke was waiting  for her by the side of the stage.

Her belly fluttered like crazy but she steeled herself and, when she reached him, stuck out her hand.

"Hi, I'm Faith," she said.

Dylan took her hand, but instead of shaking it, he lifted it to his  lips and pressed a kiss on the back. "I'm Dylan, and, on behalf of my  family, I appreciate your donation to the Hawke Brothers Trust."

He gave her a slow smile and her insides melted, but she tried to  ignore her body's reaction. Her body didn't realize that Dylan Hawke was  a notorious charmer who had probably used that exact smile on countless  women. Which was why her brain was in charge. Well, she thought as she  looked into his twinkling green eyes, mostly in charge.

Dylan released her hand and straightened. "I have a few ideas about places we could go on our first date-"

Faith shook her head. "I know where I want to go."

He arched an eyebrow. "Okay, then. I like a woman who knows what she wants."

Oh, she knew exactly what she wanted. And it wasn't Dylan Hawke,  despite how good he looked in that tuxedo. It was what he could do for  her career. She'd just made a large investment in her future-having bid  most of her savings-and she wouldn't let it go to waste.

He slid a pen out of an inside pocket of his jacket and grabbed a  napkin from a nearby table. "Write down your address and I'll pick you  up. How does tomorrow night sound?"

The sooner the better. "Tomorrow is good. But instead of picking me up,  I'd rather meet you. Let's say in front of your Santa Monica store at  seven?"

He grinned, but this time it wasn't a charmer's smile. It was genuine.  She liked this one more-she could imagine getting into all sorts of  mischief with the man wearing that grin.

"A woman of mystery," he said, rocking back on his heels. "Nice. Okay,  Faith Sixty-Three, I'll meet you in front of the Santa Monica Hawke's  Blooms store at seven o'clock tomorrow night."

"I'll be there," she said and then turned and walked along the edge of  the room to the door, aware that several curious gazes followed her  exit. Including Dylan Hawke's. Which was just how she needed him-with  his full attention focused on her.

Now all she had to do was keep her own attention soundly focused on her  career, and not on getting into mischief with her date and his grin.

* * *

Dylan pulled his Porsche into the small parking lot in front of his  Santa Monica store. He tried to get around to all thirty-two stores  fairly regularly, but given that they were spread from San Francisco to  San Diego, it didn't happen as often as it used to, and he couldn't  remember exactly when he was last at this one. It looked good, though,  and he knew the sales figures were in the top quarter of all the Hawke's  Blooms stores.

Movement near the door caught his attention. It was Faith. Her red hair  gleamed in the window lights and bounced about her shoulders. She wore a  halter-neck summer dress that was fitted in all the right places and  flared out over her hips, down to her knees, showing shapely calves atop  stylish heels. His pulse picked up speed as he stepped out of his car.

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