“He’s on the way! Oh my God, what if he chooses me?”
“What do you even do with a billionaire?”
“Shut up! They say this one’s extremely good-looking and young, and that someone here will die when she sees him. Chloe says she already knows who he’s probably going to choose!”
Whitney Donahue laughed at all the fuss surrounding her. A mysterious billionaire was apparently on his way here. He’d ordered that no one leave the event, for he would bid for a kiss tonight and donate a million dollars in exchange.
Since all the ladies in attendance had gathered for the sole purpose of selling kisses to help abused women across the country, they all tittered in excitement over who it was that the billionaire would choose.
As one of the organizers, Whitney hadn’t planned to kiss anyone tonight. Not tonight, or any other night. Nor was Chloe Lexington, her good friend and fellow organizer, up for grabs.
Chloe’s kisses were strictly reserved for Graves Buchanan, the man she loved and who’d been at her side the entire evening. They made a striking couple. Chloe was fair, and Graves was dark, and when they were together, there was always a part of their bodies, even if only their little fingers, attached. And Whitney? Oh, no, she was not up for sale.
One time getting her heart broken had been good enough, thank you very much.
She’d devoted the past three years to expanding Women for Women so they could reach even more women in need, and she’d steered clear of men as much as she could. She’d been burned before by a man, and had no interest in any kind of contact with their species.
They were all the same.
They’d want sex . . . they’d make you burn like a thousand fires until you promised to belong to them forever . . . and then they’d leave.
Heart imploding at the memory, she stroked her fingers along a sable tattoo, the word Andrew surrounded by an elegant Celtic ink bracelet that completely circled both of her wrists.
Bound By Him The brand was as permanent as the one he’d left in her heart, and now both marks lay nestled discreetly under the wide gold-cuff bracelets she used to hide them. Oh, no, she was not up for sale. How could she? After Andrew, she would never belong to anyone again.
“Whitney, you need to do this, too!” Chloe came up in a flash of gold silk, green eyes dancing with excitement. “We can’t miss out on snagging this guy’s interest. Think of all the women we’ll help with a million dollars!”
Whitney’s stomach clenched at the memory of her own abused childhood. She’d had doting parents, but when they’d both perished in an awful hotel fire in Las Vegas a decade ago, her father’s brother had become her guardian. The bile rose up Whitney’s throat as she remembered him. “Of course I won’t deny a million dollars for our cause,” she told Chloe. “I’ll do it. If I’m chosen, I’ll kiss him.”
“Tell us who he is!” Another woman blushed. “Is it your sexy brother, Chloe?”
Chloe shrugged and shot a playful smile at Whitney. “The condition for his arrival was to keep it a mystery, but you’ll know soon enough. Oh, I think he’s here! Line up, ladies,” she said, ushering them forward.
Whitney followed several dozen women onto the empty dance floor. Suddenly, the room fell ominously silent. She turned curiously as all eyes focused on the open doors, but her view was obstructed by several other, more eager women who were up on their toes.
“All ladies forward, please. Our last-minute bidder has arrived,” the auctioneer of the night said into the microphone.
The formal auction had ended thirty minutes before, after each of the ladies had taken the stage, one by one. Now, some forced improvisation was necessary for the new bidder, and he’d have to review the women side by side.
“Whit!” called the lively brunette who’d fetched five thousand dollars for her kiss just minutes ago, and she hauled her over to the center of the line.
Whitney followed, trying to smile but failing miserably. She was tired, and she wanted to go home, soak her feet, and watch something funny. She didn’t want a man. She didn’t want to even feel anything. It had taken too long to get to the point of blessed numbness.
Gasps erupted across the ballroom as a dark-clad man appeared through the doors, and it seemed like the crowd parted like the Red Sea for him.
Whitney blinked, and her heartbeat picked up unexpectedly.
His shoulders were broad, and he towered above all the others.
He reeked of power. Strength. Just the way he strode forward told you he’d made it big. Her eyes raked over six feet of pure man, pure sin, pure fantasy, and then she stared deeply into his drop-dead gorgeous face.
His drop-dead gorgeous, achingly familiar face.
Her sex spasmed when she found herself staring into a pair of liquid coal eyes she’d feared never seeing again.
Andrew Fairchild. Oh, God. He looked so . . . male. Grown. Mature. And sexy as hell. His jaw was lean bone, his eyebrows drawn low and dark, dark as those piercing eyes, looking down at her like they used to. His lips were still sensual and sinful, slightly tilted at the corners.
A piercing arrow of lust sliced through her; her nerves, her cells, every inch of her body recognizing him. Wanting him.
The world came to a standstill. The background music was drowned out by the sudden sound of her heart thundering as he continued advancing. In her direction.
Adrenaline coursed through her as she prepared for fight or flight, her breath held in a chest that suddenly felt heavy with so much emotion she thought she’d explode with it.
She hadn’t felt lust in years.
She hadn’t felt this pull. Magnetic. Overwhelming. In years.
He was . . . still him. Her childhood sweetheart. Her only love. The man who’d taken her body, her heart, and her soul. Who’d protected her from . . . from Uncle Harry . . . from what she’d done to him . . . from what he’d done to her . . . from everything. From everything, except from the only thing that could destroy her—him.
Tall, with those obsidian eyes, that sable hair, that sensual smile, that scruff on his jaw, and those beautiful lips, she was dying while still alive as he stretched out his hand to her, and said, in a voice that made her knees melt, “I’ve been waiting a thousand days to look into your face, Whitney Donahue. Will you dance with me?”
Cheers erupted all around her as his choice was made clear to the group of people. But Whitney stared at his hand, his long fingers, dying. Dying. His musky scent had been imprinted in her nostrils, and now her lungs were burning to breathe more of him inside her. He was a powerful man, with an oil and energy empire that spread across the world, and he’d had the power to make Whitney love him beyond reason.
Years ago she’d melted in his arms, melted. She was still not . . . solid. How could she resist him now? After she’d spent nights and days, taking out his precious few letters, aching to read between the lines, searching for something she’d missed, some sort of clue to when he was coming back home.
He was so much more masculine now, her body was coming alive in a way she hadn’t felt since he’d left. He kept staring at her with those all-knowing black eyes that cut through her like sharp little diamonds, a small smile on his lips.
Whitney envisioned herself wrapping her arms around him like a monkey and crushing his mouth, taking every part of him she could into her body, but she wouldn’t. Of course she wouldn’t. She hated him now. Didn’t she?
Will you dance with me . . . ?
Heart thundering as the fight-or-flight urge really took charge, and flight seemed the better option, she glanced toward the exit that would lead to the elevators. Before, she’d always run toward Andrew, and he’d catch her, twirl her, kiss her, hold her . . . never had she run away. She’d never imagined that she could even be capable of it.