Right after Eve had won Cole, Melody had pulled her from her seat and dragged her over to settle her bill. She wasn’t going to allow Eve to spend any more money on any more men. That was okay with Eve. She’d accomplished what she intended. She had felt a quiet calm while she was writing the &10,000 check. Or so she tried to tell herself. It ended up being a quiet calm before the storm.
Did she really “buy” two men for nefarious reasons? She fought back the nervous laughter wanting to bubble up during their car ride home. No, she hadn’t “bought” two men, she’d bought two dates. Dates. That was all it was. And when it hit her how much she’d spent, she told herself it went to a good cause. Sure.
Now two days later, she stared at the business card sitting on her kitchen table like a beacon. The business card belonged to the men’s sports agent, Daniel Osbourne. Since she had not seen either man after the auction, she had been given the agent’s card instead, with his contact information. This Dan guy was supposed to set up the dates. She had fought the urge to call him the next day, but she didn’t want to appear too eager. Plus, she was still gathering her nerves. But nerves or not, she was anxious to get the ball rolling. Or balls, she thought, and a little nervous giggle escaped her.
She covered her mouth with her hand, horrified. That was so
not like her.
As she lifted her cell phone, it rang, startling her. The phone almost slipped from her shaky fingers, but she caught it before it fell to the tile floor. The number of the caller was blocked.
She never answered unknown numbers. She put it on the table as if the person calling might see her holding the phone and ignoring their call. She was being silly. As the ringtone finally quieted, she sighed in relief. Why was she so on edge?
Oh, it was because she was about to call this agent about the dates.
Was she having second thoughts?
No. She was not going to chicken out. No way. No how. Keep telling yourself that.
She jumped as her phone rang again. Blocked number.
Who blocks their damn number? And then expects people to actually answer it!
She slid her finger across the screen. “Hello?”
A male voice said, “Oh, hey. I didn’t think you’d pick up. I was going to leave a message this time.”
“Who is this?”
A deep chuckle filled her ear. “You don’t recognize my voice?”
“Should I?” Should she know who this was?
“Damn! I’m wounded.”
“Do you have the wrong number?”
“I sure hope not.”
Wait. This couldn’t be—
She pulled out one of the wooden chairs, her hand shaky from adrenaline.
“Ren,” Eve repeated slowly.
“Wow. You’re killing me here. Yeah, you know—Ren Landis? I’m the guy you paid five big ones to go on a date with? Remember him?”
Eve sank down onto the kitchen chair, crushing the business card in her fist. “Oh, Ren. Yes. I’m sorry.” She swallowed hard. “I was about to call your agent. I wasn’t expecting—”
“Aaaah, I’m just messing with you. I wanted to discuss the date. I had an idea and I wanted to run it past you.”
“Oh really? I wasn’t sure who got to choose what the date included.” Eve heard him snort. She cursed under her breath. “I mean, where we’d go. Or whatever.” She bounced her fist off her forehead a couple times. She needed to get it together.
“Well, I usually let the lady make the decision, but that’s why I’m calling. I didn’t want to go through Dan. I wanted to run this by you first.”
Usually? How many times has he done this? “Shoot.”
“I’ve got a buddy who is having a get-together next Saturday night. I thought maybe you could go with me as a date. That’s unless you had something else planned…”
“No. I… I actually hadn’t thought about what we’d do. I guess that would be okay. He wouldn’t mind me coming?”
“No. I was told to bring a date. There’s only one little catch.”
“It’s a commitment ceremony.”
“What do you mean? I mean, I know what a commitment ceremony is, but why would that be a ‘little catch’?”
The phone went silent for a moment. On the other end, Ren took a deep breath. “I’ll just come out and say it. It’s my former teammate Ty White. He and his…lovers…partners…uh, are getting committed to each other…since I guess three adults can’t marry each other legally. I guess… I don’t know.”
Eve perked up. Maybe she should put poor Ren out of his misery. But her head was spinning too fast to process what he was saying. “Wait. Wait! Are you talking about Quinn Preston and her two boyfriends?”
The surprise was clear in Ren’s voice. “Yes, you know her?”
“Yes, I’ve actually met her before. I met her a while back.” In fact, it was the first time Eve had seen Ren Landis. It was at the House to Home Charity event that Quinn’s mother had organized. A date with Quinn had been auctioned off. Eve had watched the whole bidding war between Quinn’s boyfriend Logan and Ren. She’d never forget it. That’s when she noticed Ren and she hadn’t gotten him out of her mind ever since. It was one reason she, since she sat on the charity’s board, had suggested Ren, and later Cole, to be part of the auction that was held the other night.
Watching Quinn with her two men by her side had piqued her curiosity about the idea of being able to love and enjoy more than one man at a time. She hadn’t even known where to begin to explore something like that for her own life. And now, because of her interest in Ren, the opportunity to be around Quinn and possibly even to be able to ask her questions, just fell in her lap. She hadn’t expected this when she had forked out the five grand for the date with Ren. This was a completely unexpected bonus.
“I would love to go. I’ve been meaning to contact Quinn anyway and this would be the perfect opportunity for us to have a little girl talk.” At least Eve hoped Quinn would be willing to speak to her. From what she knew about Quinn, she was an open and friendly person. And she was very proud of her men.
“Well, that was too easy.”
Eve laughed. “Yes, I would really enjoy going to the ceremony with you. Will it be formal or at a church?”
“No. The email said it’ll be at their home. It’s casual. Unfortunately, though, it’s a couple hours’ drive for me. I hope you don’t mind the travel.”
“No, not at all.” Not if it gave Eve the opportunity to pick Quinn’s brain. Not to mention spend more time with Ren than she thought she’d get on a typical date.
* * * *
Since it turned out Eve lived almost an hour from Ren, he arranged a driver to pick her up. The car that arrived was a blacked-out town car. It might not have been a stretch limo, but she got to sit in the back and enjoy a glass of champagne during the trip. She never pampered herself like this. She hadn’t even had a limo for her wedding.
Eve and her husband had not been rich. They had lived modestly, typical middle class—or what used to be the middle class, which was now part of a dying breed.
But her husband had not become a doctor to be rich. Never to be rich. He truly wanted to help people. He had been a humanist at heart, treating everyone equally, and she had loved that about him. It had been one of his most endearing qualities, one of his greatest attractions. He had even worked for over a year with Doctors Without Borders.
His generosity and his selflessness had made Eve a better person.
And though they lived modestly, he had made sure she would be taken care of if he ever died. He had a few life insurance policies. One she had known about. The others, she hadn’t.
Because of that, she now she had money like she’d never dreamed of. But it was not worth the loss of her soulmate.
Eve shook her head to clear the cobwebs. She meant this evening to be the start of the next chapter of her life. To be more unpredictable, to live more on the edge. To boldly go after what she wanted. Her husband’s death proved life was short, so enjoy it while you can…
The driver pulled off the pavement onto a long stone driveway, dust kicking up from the tires. As they approached the clearing, a beautiful, sprawling log ranch home came into view. Even in the darkness it sparkled like a diamond, all lit up.
The car came to a stop in the circular driveway, and before the driver got out to open her door, someone else beat him to it.
Cole Dixon reached out a hand and she took it gratefully as he assisted her out of the car. He certainly wasn’t who she was expecting. As she unfolded herself from the back seat, it was hard to miss the mischievous grin he wore.
Once she got her footing in her heels on the stone driveway, she smoothed down her short dress. Sometimes she wasn’t so ladylike getting out of a car in a dress, and wearing high heels didn’t help.
She didn’t even attempt to hide the surprise in her voice. “Hi.”
“Hi,” he answered, offering the crook of his arm. She took it, once again grateful for his assistance. “I bet you expected Renny.”
She looked out the corner of her eyes at him, but quickly returned her attention to where she walked until they reached the smooth surface at the foot of the steps that led up to the huge wraparound porch. She paused. “Yes. This was supposed to be his date night.”
He lowered his arm and grabbed her hand before she could move away. He raised her arm above her head and he slowly spun her around like a ballerina in a music box. He let out a low whistle. “Very nice!”
She was not
going to blush. No she wasn’t!
Jeanne St. James