A smattering of applause, a shrill whistle, and a male voice that croaked, “Go for it, buddy,” greeted Nick’s announcement.
Molly’s chin dropped, and her mouth opened wide in perfect imitation of one of her favorite comic strip characters, Lio, when he either stepped into trouble or caused it. Her brows knit together. She couldn’t have been more disconcerted if Nick climbed up on his chair and begun to perform a slow striptease.
“What are you talking about?”
“You heard me.” Nick stood in the aisle, his jacket open, hands jammed in the pockets of his pinstriped pants. A black belt circled his waist and rode above narrow hips and the flattest stomach this side of a vegan convention. His legs looked as long as a carnival worker’s who strode around fairgrounds on stilts. Molly could think of at least six women who’d kill to be trapped aloft with him beneath a hot air balloon. Was she one of them? Well, she wouldn’t exactly kill for the privilege. Then again, it wasn’t the worst proposition she’d ever had to juggle. It opened up too many problems, though. The warning “consorting with the enemy” came to mind. Having “consorted” once, she knew better than to repeat that mistake.
“I … um … unfortunately don’t come as part of the package.” She kept her tone light for the benefit of the audience, while she struggled against the undercurrent that pulled her toward and then away from Nick. “Since that’s the case, perhaps you’d like to withdraw your bid.”
Molly’s instincts told her to shut him down. “I have five fifty from the previous gentleman,” she called out in a somewhat quavering tone. Then she cleared her throat. “Who’ll make it six hundred?”
“Twelve fifty.” Nick began to walk toward the stage.
“You can’t raise your own bid.”
Dominique snickered in her ear. “Says who?”
Nick paused halfway up the aisle. “You said you wished you could bid on the item.”
“Well, yes, but … ”
“There you are. You want to go, and I want to as well. So, why don’t we go together?”
There seemed only one reason why he wanted to spend almost a whole day with her. If he were persuasive enough, his twelve hundred and fifty dollar investment could wind up saving him — she did a quick calculation — seven hundred fifty thousand if she got the tenants to agree to his original offer. He thought he could wear her down. Why wouldn’t he after the way she’d let him do a lot more than she’d allowed her last date?
“Really, I can’t accompany you.” Ugh, she sounded like a school marm from a bygone era.
Dominique picked up the gavel and banged it on the table. “Really, she can. This item is herewith sold to the lucky gentleman standing in the aisle.” She plucked the card with all the particulars out of Molly’s hand and hurried over to Nick.
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