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A nurse in Providence, Paige Foster never once considered purchasing a ticket to the Helping Hands Bachelor Auction. But when Aunt Bebe invites her along, she accepts, expecting nothing more than an enjoyable evening with her favorite aunt. Aunt Bebe has other plans though. By the end of the evening Paige finds herself the proud owner of four romantic dates with Scott Belmont, President Warren Sherbrooke’s nephew.
Lately billionaire Scott Belmont doesn’t have time for a social life, never mind a bachelor auction. Regardless, when his mom asks him to take part in the fundraising event, he agrees. Scott assumes he’ll take the winner on a few dates and then dismiss her from his mind. Then Paige Foster walks on stage to claim him.
Scott is not at all what she expects. Before she realizes it he’s made his way into her heart. But Paige has a secret, one she fears might send Scott walking.
From the beginning Paige intrigues him and soon Scott finds himself in love. But when an ex-girlfriend reenters his life asking for help, their new relationship is put to the test.
Heat burned her face and Paige suspected her skin matched the side of a fire engine. How could Aunt Bebe do that? Hadn’t she told her aunt she wasn’t interested in winning any men tonight?
“They’re waiting for you up on stage,” Aunt Bebe whispered, leaning close to her.
Paige looked first at her aunt, a woman she loved but at the moment didn’t particularly like, and then up at Scott Belmont and Rose on the stage. So far each winner had joined their bachelor on stage for a kiss and some photos before sitting back down in the audience together.
“I hate being on stage too,” another woman at the table said. “But you don’t have to stay up there long. A kiss, a few quick pictures, and you can bring Mr. Hottie back to the table.”
If going on stage was the only problem, she’d march up there now and get it over with. The fact she had to go up there, kiss a man she’d never even spoken to in front of hundreds of people while being photographed was the biggest but not the only obstacle holding her back.
“The sooner you go, the sooner you can sit back down,” Aunt Bebe said, patting her hand affectionately.
Leaning closer to her aunt, she whispered, “I can’t believe you did this, Aunt Bebe. You knew I didn’t want this.” She didn’t wait for a reply before pushing back her chair and standing. Thanks to Aunt Bebe she had no other choice.
Perspiration trickled down her spine and her legs shook, but somehow she managed to climb the stairs. Left foot, right foot, Paige mentally repeated as she forced herself across the stage toward the podium.
Either Scott was getting impatient or he’d picked up on her apprehension, because he met her halfway, something none of the other bachelors had done. Instead they’d all waited for the women to reach them. Of course, the other winning bidders had made their way on stage in no time.
Smiling at her, he took her hand. “Relax, we’ll be out of the spotlight soon,” he said, his voice low even though it was unlikely anyone in the audience would hear him. With his free hand Scott indicated to the photographer that he should move closer if he wanted pictures, rather than make them walk back toward the podium again.
Once the photographer was in position, Scott turned toward her and she knew what was coming. A kiss. Every bachelor and winner had shared one.
“It’s nice to meet you. We’ll have fun, I promise.” He lowered his mouth to hers, his barely there beard rubbing against her skin.
Her ears burned as the heat from her face spread and her stomach twisted itself into a pretzel. She needed off the stage.
Scott’s lips left hers, and she took in a deep breath but couldn’t seem to unclench her jaw.
“Let’s go somewhere a little less crowded and talk,” Scott said, and she wondered just what kind of expression she wore. Actually, on second thought she probably didn’t want to know.
With the inside of her mouth coated in cotton and her tongue permanently stuck to the roof of her mouth, she could only manage a nod. Still holding her hand, he led her back the way she’d come and out of the spotlight.
“You look like you need some fresh air. How about we go outside to the garden terrace?” he asked when they reached the ballroom floor.
She’d visited the small garden terrace located off the lobby during her friend’s wedding. Throughout the evening guests had spilled out into it so they could enjoy some fresh air and the magnificent view. With some luck all the guests tonight would be too busy with the auction and the view on stage to venture outside, and the area would be empty. “Sounds great,” she managed to get out now that she no longer stood in the spotlight with hundreds of eyes staring at her.
He released her hand and offered her his arm instead as they walked past the occupied tables. Several women called out greetings as they passed, and Scott offered polite replies but didn’t pause to chat. Actually, he seemed as eager as she was to get out of the crowded ballroom and away from the curious eyes.
When they stepped outside, hot, humid air, a stark contrast to the cool climate-controlled ballroom, wrapped around her. For a moment she wondered if going outside into the heat had been a wise idea. Then she caught a glimpse of the view. From the rooftop she could see the entire city, including the bonfires that had been lit along the river below for the evening’s WaterFire.
“I don’t know about you, but I find this much better than being inside.” Scott smiled before he continued, humor evident in his voice. “Since we’ve kissed in front of over two hundred women, I should already know your name, but I don’t.”
She hadn’t picked up on it before, but now, alone without everyone staring at them, she noticed how deep and rich his voice was. “You’re right. It’s Paige.”
Scott extended his hand toward her. “It’s nice to meet you, Paige, I’m Scott.”
Considering the man’s entire bio had been printed in the program, his statement struck her as ridiculous. Right away a giggle worked its way out, and she couldn’t contain a smile.
End of Excerpt
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