The Bachelor Auction
Table of Contents
A Preview of The Playboy Bachelor
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To the Cinderellas of the world…
May you find your prince…
Preferably one who knows how to clean better than Brock.
He’s senile. Last night he asked if I believed in unicorns.”
Brock suppressed a groan at Bentley’s insensitive statement. No doubt about it, or way around it. Their grandfather, the CEO of Wellington, Incorporated, was losing his damn mind.
But still, someone should come to the old man’s defense, and ever since he was twelve years old, that someone had always been Brock. Always.
His younger brothers—twins—were a united front against anything and everything that happened, not only within the family, but especially with Brock. It had always been them against the world, leaving Brock the awkward job of defending them to his grandfather while simultaneously living with the ever increasing aggravation of their sex- and alcohol-filled lifestyles.
“His medication…causes…” Brock clenched and unclenched his fists, mainly so he wouldn’t do something stupid like punch one of them. Sleep. He needed more sleep, and a life outside of running a company he’d never wanted to run in the first place. “Visions,” he finished. Bitterness took hold like it always did when he thought of the company, his grandfather, and the heavy weight of the world on his shoulders.
“You think visions of unicorns is bad?” Brant, the younger of the twins, gave Brock a disgusted look. “Just last week I found him skinny-dipping in the pool.”
Brock frowned as the elevator doors opened to the main offices of Wellington, Inc. “Why is that strange?”
“Alone,” Brant said. “Who skinny-dips alone?”
Bentley smirked, pushing past both of them. “Not you…clearly.”
Brant’s lips pressed into a smug grin. “Jealous?”
“Of the skank from last night?” Bentley snorted and sent off a text, most likely to the very same girl who had left Brant’s bed the night before. Always a competition with them. “Hardly.”
“Hello, boys.” Mrs. Everly, their grandfather’s secretary, was like family. She refused to acknowledge the brothers were well past the “boy” stage and had been for years.
“Hello,” they all said in unison. Bentley reached for her hand and kissed the top of it.
“You get younger every day. Amazing, almost like you’re aging backwards.” He winked.
Brock’s patience was already on edge. Running the company for his grandfather was one thing. Keeping the twins from making asses of themselves was another.
“Bentley.” Brock gripped his brother’s shoulders with a jerk and shoved him toward the door. “Don’t keep Grandfather waiting.”
The twins exchanged an eye roll.
“So responsible,” Brant said under his breath. It wasn’t meant to be a compliment.
“So…old,” Bentley added, because that’s what he did. “Brock, when was the last time you even got laid? If you say anything past seven days I may need to disown you.”
It had been more than seven.
Way more than fourteen.
But with a company to run…
And two brothers to keep under control…
Not to mention the accident that had nearly taken his grandfather’s life this last year. Resentment washed over him.
When would he even have time?
“You’re not getting any younger,” Bentley interrupted Brock’s depressing thoughts. “Aren’t you turning thirty-eight this year?”
“I saw a gray hair when he turned his head,” Bennett added. “Depressing as hell.”
“It’s not gray,” Brock snapped, clenching his jaw so tight his teeth ached. “And if you haven’t noticed I’ve been busy.”
“Boys?” Brock flinched at the sound of their grandfather’s booming voice. “Boys, is that you out there?”
“He may be losing his mind but he sure hasn’t lost his vocal chords,” Bentley murmured as all three of them stepped casually into the office and shut the large wooden door behind them.
It closed with a resounding thud and Brock felt an ominous current of anxiety travel down his spine.
It was the same feeling he’d had when he was twelve and his grandfather had told him his parents had died in a plane crash.
The same feeling he’d had last year when he’d gone head to head with his grandfather over an acquisition—and won. The board had approved his decision. And less than twenty-four hours later, he’d almost lost his grandfather in a car accident.
As if reading the direction of his thoughts, his grandfather winced. The pain was still there, Brock knew, even if Grandfather refused to admit it.
Charles Williams Wellington the Third was seated behind his desk as if he sat on a throne, his mass of silver hair flowing into a deep curl that fell over his forehead. His wrinkled and tanned face didn’t look older than seventy, though he was pushing eighty-two, only weeks away from celebrating his birthday.
“I have decided”—he paused and stood to his full height of six-four—“to have an auction.”
“Oh?” Brock was the first to speak. Business he could deal with. Numbers he could process. Anything outside of that and he was going to need a drink.
“What would you like to auction?” He pulled out his iPhone and started a new note. “One of your houses? A few of your stallions? Titus Enterprises had a car auction last year that was extremely profitable.”
Grandfather’s face transformed into a wicked grin. “Maybe the other two should sit down.”
“I think he means us,” Bentley said under his breath, while Brant shot Brock a worried glance.
“I mean to auction…” Grandfather took a deep breath and raised his finger to point at them. “You.”
Brant, the fastest of the bunch, jerked his chair to the right. “He’s pointing at Bentley.”
Bentley, never the more clever of the two, faked a coughing fit and fell forward in a vain attempt to kick Brock’s chair closer to the middle.
Rolling his eyes, Brock said, “He’s pointing at all of us.”
“Actually…” Grandfather’s voice deepened. “I was pointing at you, Brock.”
Brock had always done everything his grandfather asked. When he graduated high school he’d been pressured into going to Harvard, because wouldn’t it be so wonderful to go to the same school as his father? In honor of his memory?
Football, not basketball.
Chess, never checkers.
It was easier to keep the peace, to keep the smile on his grandfather’s face. And because he’d do anything to keep the old man from more grief and sadness. He’d seen those emotions on his grandfather’s tear-stained face when he’d told him his parents were dead. And ever since, Brock had said yes.
To business school.
To taking over the company.
To the women his grandfather thought it best he be seen with.
“Auction a person?” Brock tried to clarify. “Why?”
Immediately relieved they were no longer the focus of attention, both of his brothers had already directed their attention to their phones.
Not even paying attention.
Story of his life.
Grandfather limped around his massive desk. Guilt slammed into Brock’s chest in perfect cadence with his increasingly erratic heartbeat.
With a curse, Grandfather grabbed his cane and wiped his brow with the back of his hand.
His eyes locked in on Brock. “Please.”
Brock opened and closed his mouth.
“It’s for a good cause,” His grandfather didn’t blink, just kept limping toward Brock until he had to crane his neck to stare up at the man he’d do anything for and had sacrificed everything for.
The final nail in the coffin was when the older man lowered his chin and humbled himself by uttering, “Do it for me.”
Jane!” Esmeralda shouted. “Hurry up! You’re taking way too long! We’re going to be late to the party!”
“Maybe you should just go without me,” Jane offered in what she hoped sounded like the perfect balance between depressed yet content. She was exhausted from work—the last thing she needed was to babysit her sisters while they drank their body weight in vodka tonics.
Esmeralda’s voice was loud and clear as day. “Jane! If you don’t come who’s going to fix my dress if something happens? Or watch over Essence; you know how she gets shy with guys! And you’re the best wingman.”
Jane clenched her teeth together. What girls actually had their own personal seamstress? Though Jane was really more of a jack-of-all-trades. And she was probably the worst wingman in history.
“You girls ready?” Essence asked.
“Jane! Hurry up! We don’t want to arrive too late. It’s rude, and he may not notice us.”
Jane barely managed to hold in her gasp as Esmeralda and Essence tumbled down the stairs and presented their dresses.
Esmeralda’s tight black dress had just enough fabric to cover her surgically enhanced boobs and barely covered her ass.
Essence’s was nearly the same style, except it was white.
One wore purple lipstick, the other had on gray; they were always on top of the newest trends even if the trends were stupid—and ugly.
At Fashion Week, they could get away with it.
In Phoenix they just looked like Bratz dolls.
“Yeah, I think”—Jane coughed into her hand—“he’ll notice.”
“Aw!” Esmeralda clapped her hands and flicked her dark hair over her shoulder. “That’s so nice of you to say.”
“Yes.” Essence twirled a few times to show off her dress to full effect. “How sweet of you, Jane.” With her eyebrows drawn in perfect arches, it was amazing she could even move them. “Jane, why aren’t you dressed?”
“I think I’m just going to stay in,” Jane answered, tugging at her dress self-consciously. It was the best one she could find at the last minute. She hadn’t even known about the party until an hour ago, and the best she’d been able to scrounge up was a dress she’d borrowed for prom four years ago from one of her sisters.
She’d tried her best to make the black cocktail dress appealing.
But you couldn’t fix plain.
And that’s what it was.
What Jane was.
Her sisters gave her the same empty-eyed stare. Arguing with them was completely useless. When it was two against one, she never won, not that it mattered in the long run. Her sisters typically got their way regardless of what Jane said. They were pushy—but they were family.
Swallowing back her insecurity, she nodded quickly. “I’ll just grab my purse, then.”
Her sisters whispered under their breaths, though Jane heard every mean word.
“Doesn’t she have any other dresses? Poor Jane.”
“Hey, I offered to help her shop and she said no.”
Jane snorted quietly. She’d said no because Essence’s shopping style was more like buy everything name brand and go into major credit card debt. At one point, Jane had had to use all of the money her parents had left them to pay off the bill.
“Poor Jane,” Esmeralda said again.
She hated pity.
She would move out of the house if she thought her sisters wouldn’t starve without her. Well, that and the fact that they were family and family stuck together. Even if family exhausted you, stressed you out, and made you want to scream at least ninety percent of the time.
“Let’s go!” Esmeralda clapped her hands loudly and they were off…headed to a party that Jane didn’t even care about.
Admit it. This is one of the best ideas he’s had in years. The sheer publicity alone is priceless.” Bentley tossed back his third drink of the night and slapped Brock on the back then showed him his phone. “Hey look, you’re trending.”
“I will literally break your phone in half with my bare hands if you show me one more tweet with my name and ‘auction’ in the same sentence.” Brock barely managed a polite nod in his grandfather’s direction as he greeted people filling the large downtown nightclub for the annual Wellington party.
He tossed back a gulp of whiskey, watching as his grandfather winced in pain after a particular hearty handshake from a journalist chomping to get in on the story of the century. Brock grimaced. The press had gone wild when they’d caught wind of the auction.
The World News.
The New York Times.
God, every damn newspaper in the universe thought the auction was the most newsworthy thing they’d ever heard of.
One of the country’s richest bachelors was allowing women to bid on him.
And allowing his grandfather to pick a winner from the bidders.
A winner that Brock would date—and even potentially marry. That was the worst part about the press: give them a crumb and they’d make a feast.
Brock sure as hell hadn’t agreed to marry anyone.
One of the newspapers had hinted at a future Mrs. Brock Wellington.
And they’d taken it and ran.
Date a stranger? He could do it. For the good of the company. For the press. And most importantly, for his family’s reputation.
His grandfather had informed him that the Board didn’t trust his brothers to do anything right—hell, he agreed with that assessment—but Grandfather had also let it slip that they were starting to doubt Brock’s ability to be a team player.
Because he wasn’t a team player.
He kept to himself.
He made them hundreds of millions.
And they still weren’t happy.
He stared into his empty glass.
“Do it for me and for your reputation in the company.” Grandfather had slapped him on the back. “You’re a stick in the mud. Hell, have you ever even been to any of the company baseball games?”
No, because he hated baseball.
“Fine,” he’d whispered while his hands shook, with rage, with the need to hit something that would break.
The only silver lining was that the money that would be raised was going toward cancer research—one of his passions—so there was that, at least.
It was stupidity at its finest, but Brock had agreed to do it. Maybe because he was just as insane as his grandfather. Or, even worse, maybe because he was convinced he would never find love, nor cared to.
Because what his brothers said was true.
He was getting older.
And he’d yet to find a woman who wanted him for who he truly was.
Then again, did he even know himself anymore?
He’d allowed his protective love for his grandfather decide how he would live his life, his future, his everything.
With a groan, he stole Bentley’s
“Cold feet?” Bentley teased.
“Go to hell,” Brock fired back.
Bentley, as if sensing how pissed off Brock really was, quickly grabbed a flute of champagne from a passing waiter and shoved it into Brock’s waiting hand. “Look on the bright side. Grandfather said if you married the girl he picked he’d give you the ranch as a wedding present, so there’s that.”
Their safe haven after their parents had died, where their grandfather had pushed aside his own grief to give them the best life possible. Shit, he was screwed.
“Hell.” Bentley let out a low whistle. “I’d even sleep with her for the ranch.”
“Who?” Brock was too busy chugging champagne to notice anything except the constant beat of the techno music and bright red and white lights flashing around them. He really was getting old.
“Her.” Bentley glanced at Brock’s empty glass and handed him another from a passing waiter. “Her lipstick’s purple.”
“How…exciting.” Brock actually flinched when the woman waved his way. “She looks like she should be poking her head out of a limousine screaming, ‘What up, bitches?’”
“Oh God, I’d sell my soul to hear you say that exact same phrase in a high-pitched voice while you rip at your shirt. Please, it’s just what this party needs.”
Brock’s lips twitched into an amused smile as he let out a bark of laughter. “What? And steal her moment?” He nodded at the woman, who had just started convulsing on the dance floor with a friend. “I think I’ll let her have the spotlight.”
Bentley grinned. “Imagine how they dance when they’re drunk.”
“Are you under the impression they’re sober?”
“Either way. Bad choices.”
“Oh, shit!” Brock choked on his third drink. “They just saw Grandfather.”
Brock prayed to God that his grandfather wouldn’t send the girls his way. Time slowed as Grandfather turned, made a face, and dismissed them.
Both Brock and Bentley exhaled loudly.
“Drink,” Bentley encouraged. “Maybe the caterpillars will turn into butterflies. Whiskey encourages these things.”