The Bachelor Contract

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.

  Copyright © 2017 by Rachel Van Dyken

  Excerpt from The Bachelor Auction copyright © 2016 by Rachel Van Dyken

  Cover design by Elizabeth Turner

  Cover photograph by Yuri Arcurs

  Cover copyright © 2017 by Hachette Book Group, Inc.

  Hachette Book Group supports the right to free expression and the value of copyright. The purpose of copyright is to encourage writers and artists to produce the creative works that enrich our culture.

  The scanning, uploading, and distribution of this book without permission is a theft of the author’s intellectual property. If you would like permission to use material from the book (other than for review purposes), please contact permission[email protected]. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.


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  First Edition: November 2017

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  ISBN 978-1-4555-4213-0 (mass market edition)

  ISBN 978-1-4555-9875-5 (ebook edition)




  Title Page




  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  Chapter Sixteen

  Chapter Seventeen

  Chapter Eighteen

  Chapter Nineteen

  Chapter Twenty

  Chapter Twenty-One

  Chapter Twenty-Two

  Chapter Twenty-Three

  Chapter Twenty-Four

  Chapter Twenty-Five

  Chapter Twenty-Six

  Chapter Twenty-Seven

  Chapter Twenty-Eight

  Chapter Twenty-Nine

  Chapter Thirty

  Chapter Thirty-One

  Chapter Thirty-Two

  Chapter Thirty-Three

  Chapter Thirty-Four

  Chapter Thirty-Five

  Chapter Thirty-Six

  Chapter Thirty-Seven



  About the Author

  Also by Rachel Van Dyken

  Praise for Rachel Van Dyken

  Fall in Love with Forever Romance


  To Lauren Layne, “wife.” I don’t think I could have made it through without all of your feedback and willingness to calm me down. You’re the reason I finished this book and this series. Your wisdom has been everything!


  Colorless shapes moved in rapid succession as the roar of the crowd grew louder by the minute. Nikki clutched the auction paddle with one sweaty hand while making sure to keep her wineglass secure in the other.

  She wasn’t sure what was louder:

  The people.

  Or her heart as it pounded against her chest.

  At least she didn’t have to see him.

  Then again, she’d never had to see him to feel his magnetic presence. Brant Wellington was and always would be a larger-than-life figure to her, a person who didn’t just live up to the hype, but out-hyped the hype.

  He’d been her hero.

  And then he’d fallen. And stayed down.

  That was the worst part.

  When people fell, they got up—it was simple logic. You fall down, and you fight to stand again, you fight with everything you have to make sure you can find solid ground.

  Not Brant Wellington.

  He fell down. And he’d been on the ground ever since.

  “The next item for auction!” the loud voice boomed. It was happening. It was actually happening.

  Nadine Titus had given her strict instructions. And because she was out of her mind, she’d agreed to follow them.

  “Brant Wellington!” the voice announced as a hush fell over the crowd.

  And then the bidding began.

  Heart in her throat, Nikki waited for paddles to lift—though she couldn’t exactly see them, she supposed the announcer, Charles Wellington, would keep everyone up to date with how much was being bid.

  A cough sounded to her right.

  And then a second loud cough.

  That was her cue.

  Hand still shaking, she raised her paddle into the air. “Twenty-five thousand dollars.”

  “Going once,” the voice boomed. “Twice.”

  Her pulse soared into dangerous territory while her mouth went completely dry.

  “Sold! To, sorry, what is your paddle number?”

  “Zero, Zero, Five.” She’d memorized it the minute Cole, her date for the event, had let her know the number.

  She stood and forced a smile she didn’t feel. A practiced smile. One that would convey her excitement at winning one of the most notorious bachelors in the country.

  But she knew the truth behind that smile.

  The hurt that still remained. The rejection that haunted her day and night. And still she couldn’t shake the feel of his hands on her body, or his hot kisses, and how they always managed to make her melt into a helpless puddle at his feet.

  Maybe it was better that she was legally blind, according to her driver’s license. Because when she stood, she didn’t have to see the look on his face. The look that would solidify how horrible an idea this had been.

  Because she was pretty certain that look was almost identical to the one he’d worn the day he had walked out of her life.

  And never come back.

  She took Cole’s arm and let him lead her away. Because even though she couldn’t see Brant, she sure as hell could feel him.

  And Brant Wellington was pissed.

  Chapter One

  Present Day

  Get the hell out!” Brant roared as he threw a vase across the room. It landed with a crash on the tile floor, where it exploded into hundreds of blue glass shards.

  Bentley stared at the mess, then stepped over the shattered pieces, and continued to make his way over to Brant. “A vase, man? Did you somehow transition into a chick? Is this our first fight? You might as well have thrown a bra. Oh, also”—he walked around the couch while Brant retreated—“you missed.”

  “I’m drunk.”

  Bentley’s clear blue eyes flashed. “You’re always drunk.”

  Brant’s ass collided with the wall. Trapped. He was completely trapped.

  In his own apartment.

  With the most annoying man on the planet.

  Who just so happened to look exactly like Brant minus a few key muscles and with a very unsavory personality flaw.

  “Just go.” Brant wiped his hands across his scruffy face.
“I’m fine. I just need to sober up.”

  Bentley snorted. “And if I had a dollar for every time that phrase came out of your mouth.”

  Pain—raw, familiar, all encompassing—wrapped itself around Brant’s throat until he felt like he was going to choke. “Why are you here?”

  Bentley slowly turned his head and looked around the apartment. Brant knew what his twin saw. Empty pizza boxes. Beer bottles littered across every flat surface. A few empty fifths of whiskey. Clothes strewn across the couch, and white powder on the coffee table.

  “It’s not mine,” he said quickly as guilt stabbed him in the chest at his brother’s disappointed look. “I swear.”

  “Would it matter anyway?” Bentley asked in a quiet voice before he slowly walked over to the table, grabbed one of the small plastic packets, and then disappeared down the hall.

  A toilet flushed.

  When he returned, a tense silence crackled through the air as Brant waited for the yelling, the accusations, more pain.

  Because if there was anything he knew without a shadow of a doubt, it was that there would always be more. A human’s capacity for pain was limitless.

  He would know.

  Damn it, he wasn’t drunk enough if he could feel the pain, if he could conjure up images of her jet-black hair and red pout.

  If the air still smelled like her skin no matter how many times he told himself it was a trick of the imagination.

  God, he hated her. But not as much as he hated himself.

  Nobody hated Brant Wellington as much as he hated himself. He had that market cornered.

  And he wore the title with pride. Most days. At least when he was drunk. And not sobering up enough to sense the shattering truth of his reality.

  “I’ll clean up.” Bentley went over to the large gourmet kitchen, grabbed a trash bag, and began tossing bottle after bottle. The loud clang of glass hitting glass jarred.

  And Brant just stood there.

  What was the point? He’d have another party tonight, and the apartment would get trashed again. Why clean up? Why do anything?

  “I’d shower if I were you,” Bentley said, interrupting his thoughts. “Grandfather’s on his way over, and I think you’ll want to hear what he has to say.”

  Brant clenched his teeth so hard his jaw ached. “I’m not doing it. I don’t care if that woman won me in an auction. I’ve sent her a check to pay back her donation, and every time she sends it back, I send it again. It’s not my fault she doesn’t cash it.”

  “Hah!” Bentley barked out a laugh as the clank of glass hitting glass grew louder. “You’re an idiot, you know that, right?”

  “Says the man who’s living with his childhood best friend—and a dog you adopted together. Now who’s the idiot? You had it all!”

  Bentley froze, the whiskey bottle brushing the top of the trash bag as he shook his head. “You’ve got it backward, man. I used to have nothing. Now I have everything.”

  Raw pain sliced through Brant’s chest—and just like that he was transported back to the hospital.

  “I have everything.” He kissed Nikki on the forehead. “Everything.”

  She grinned. “I hope he looks just like you.”

  “And I hope she looks like you,” he countered, just as the doctor walked in, his expression grim.

  Brant stood.

  The doctor took a deep breath and whispered, “I’m sorry, but, there isn’t a heartbeat.”

  Nikki gasped, then started crying softly into her hands. Brant shook his head. It was impossible. The baby was healthy. They were already halfway through their second trimester.

  “No.” Brant charged toward the doctor. “Look again! She has a bump, I felt, I felt.” His voice wavered. “I felt our baby yesterday, it kicked and—”

  “I’m sorry.” Dr. Jones placed his hand on Brant’s shoulder. “It’s rare, but sometimes these things happen.”

  I have everything.

  I have everything.

  “And because of how far along you are”—the doctor’s face hardened—“you’re going to have to deliver.”

  “My baby?” Nikki choked on her sobs. “I have to deliver my dead baby?”

  “He isn’t dead!” Brant roared. “It’s not true!”

  The doctor sighed. “I’m sorry. I’ll give you a moment.”

  Brant turned to Nikki.

  I have everything.

  I have everything.

  I’ve lost everything.

  “Hey.” Bentley was suddenly bracing Brant’s shoulders. “Did you hear me? You smell like shit. Go shower before Grandfather shows up and decides your future. You’ll feel better if you don’t smell like old pizza, cocaine, and prostitutes.”

  “Well, that was an uplifting speech,” Brant said in a hollow voice, as the memory of Nikki’s face haunted him. Like it always did. Like it always would.

  “Go.” Bentley shoved him toward the hallway. “It wouldn’t kill you to shave!” he called just as Brant slammed the bathroom door behind him, slid to the floor, and let out a hoarse yell as he pounded his fist against the cold tile, once, twice—it was going to bruise.

  Maybe it would eventually look like his heart.



  Fucking broken.

  Chapter Two

  Click. Click. Click. Click. The pen slid between Brant’s fingers, his thumb resting on top as he repeatedly depressed the little button so that the tip at the other end went out, in, out, in…Click, click, click.

  Anxiety mixed with a heavy dose of anger hit him full force as he and his grandfather continued their epic stare down.

  Wars had been fought in this very room.

  Business deals won.

  Lives destroyed.

  This was one battle he wasn’t going to lose. Not a chance in hell.

  “Yes.” Grandfather.

  “No.” Brant.

  It had been fifteen minutes; it was as if the damn man practiced the art of not blinking under pressure.

  Click, click. “All day.” Brant leaned forward, pointing the pen in his grandfather’s direction. “I can do this all day.”

  Grandfather’s eye twitched. “No, you really couldn’t. You’d start getting the shakes, and then you’d start sweating, your knee would bounce in agitation as your parched mouth dried up like the damn Sahara—I’m calling your bluff.”

  Brant swallowed, and then did it again just to prove to himself that he was fine, his mouth wasn’t dry. He wasn’t having the shakes, and he sure as hell didn’t need alcohol to get through the day—he just wanted it, because it made things easier.

  Since when have you wanted the easy way out?

  Bitterness lodged in his throat.

  Since he’d done the right thing and gotten fucked.

  Since being kind, good, and hardworking got him nothing.

  Since her.

  “Yes.” Grandfather towered over the mahogany desk, his fingers digging into the wood grain. “You’re an ungrateful, depressed little shit, so your answer is yes.”

  “The hell it is!”

  “Am I late?” A familiar female voice interrupted their argument, a door slammed, and with each click-clack of her heels, Brant felt his testicles actually shrinking from fear. He wouldn’t put it past the woman to grab and twist; she’d done it before. Not to him, thank God, but she wasn’t the type of woman one said no to.

  “Brant!” Nadine Titus, aka Satan’s mistress, placed a well-manicured hand on his shoulder and squeezed. He flinched as her razor-sharp nails dug into his skin. The last thing a man wanted was claw marks from a psychotic eighty-nine-year-old woman who screwed his grandfather on a regular basis. “It’s been what? A week?”

  “Two days,” he corrected. “But who’s counting?”

  Nadine Titus was an enigma. The type of woman who meddled in everyone’s business regardless of race, religion, relation—she manipulated, she controlled—it wouldn’t surprise him at all if Vladimir Putin was her bri
dge partner.

  “Sorry I’m late.” She released his shoulder. Her floral perfume was so strong, he sucked in a breath and coughed. “I had a few minor details to clear with the resort.”

  Dread crept along Brant’s spine.

  “Did he say yes?” Her eyes held a challenging glint.

  “No.” Brant smirked. “And I’m not going to say yes. Besides, don’t you have other employees to torture? Family? Puppies?”

  “Of course I do.” Her smile widened. “I just prefer working with jackasses.”

  Grandfather hacked out a cough while Brant tried to keep himself from showing any hint of amusement.

  “How are your grandsons?” He changed the subject, sliding the pen into his pocket and leaning back into the smooth leather chair. “And the great-grandchildren? Didn’t the youngest just have a recital?” The only way to fight with Nadine was to fight dirty—he made it his business to Facebook-stalk the hell out of her family so that he’d have something—anything—to use against her.

  Nadine’s smile fell. “Yes, and I wouldn’t have had to miss that lovely recital had you gotten your shit together and gone through with the auction weekend.”

  “Damn, did I miss that?” Brant snapped his fingers. “And the answer’s still no. I won’t go through with it. I won’t see her.” And just because neither of them flinched, he said it again. “That ship’s already sailed.” He stood. “We done here?”

  “He’s hired.” Nadine’s red lips spread into an evil grin. Was it his imagination, or was she growing horns before his eyes?

  “I didn’t apply for a job,” Brant said dumbly.

  “He’ll do just fine.” Grandfather nodded his head and pulled out a portfolio, opening it to the first page. “Just sign here, Brant.”

  “Why does it feel like I’m getting sold into slavery?”

  “Oh, honey.” Nadine tapped her red nail against her equally red pout. “You should be so lucky.”

  “I think my sperm just died,” Brant mumbled, rubbing his face with both hands.

  “Not like they were being put to good use anyway.” Nadine smiled sweetly. “Now, I think you’ll be happy to know that I’m giving you a hefty signing bonus, a gorgeous corner office, and naturally, the only person above you—will be me.”

  “Funny, since women are so often beneath me.”

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