Riana watched the huge double doors for Allan. She knew he was livid and hurt and she just wanted to give him the same comfort he’d given her. A distraction he’d called it. Well it had worked. It also opened her eyes.
Riana found herself wondering if she ever did love Steve, because she shouldn’t have reacted so wantonly toward a man seconds after meeting him, right after her breakup. What she knew for sure was that the betrayal by two people she lived with and trusted was what cut her deep.
“Riana, you’ve been staring at that door since you walked in,” Loraine said, pulling the empty tray of appetizers out of her hand and replacing it with a full one. “If the dragon lady sees you, she’ll fire you and you’ll have no money to pay me rent.”
Riana rolled her eyes and walked alongside her friend as they made their rounds in the large ballroom. “I just want to know how Allan is.”
Loraine sniggered, clearly an effort to keep from laughing out loud. “I would have loved to have seen them getting caught with their pants down. Get it, pants down?”
Riana bumped her, shaking the glasses of champagne on Loraine’s tray. “That’s not funny. There is nothing funny about seeing the people you trust betray you.”
Loraine sighed. “Well look at the bright side. You are free to jump each other’s bones now.”
She spun around at the sound of her name. Her breath hitched in her throat when she spotted Allan, smiling down at her. Damn, the man is a hunk.
His smile widened as if he’d heard her thoughts.
She felt Loraine lean close to her side. Riana didn’t turn to pay her any attention. She was too busy staring at her very own Greek god.
“Honey, you said that out loud,” Loraine whispered.
Loraine chuckled. “See you later, hunk. Don’t forget.”
He chuckled. “I won’t.”
Riana groaned covering her face with her free hand. This was extremely and unequivocally the most embarrassing moment of her life.
Riana felt Allan lean down, like he was curving around her body to whisper in her ear, “Don’t worry. I find you very attractive too and I’d like to take you to Venice with me.”
Her hand dropped from her face. “What?”
“All you have to do is win the bid for me.” Then he walked away without any further explanations.
“What about your girlfriend?” she called after him.
“What girlfriend?” he tossed over his shoulder with a chuckled and Riana could barely restrain her smile.
Venice? He wanted to take her to Venice and all she had to do was win the bid for him… with money she did not have!
She stomped her foot. Damn!
Riana really wanted to go to Venice. She hadn’t been anywhere except her home in Florida. Well, it hadn’t been her home for the last three years since her mother died. She’d only gotten to experience New York because of her scholarship and she really, double time really, wanted to go to Venice with Allan.
What to do, what to do?
Riana bounced on her heels with a giddy cheer then rushed toward Loraine. She pulled on Loraine’s waistcoat to get her attention from the older couples.
“Excuse me please,” Loraine said to them politely before she turned a stern look at Riana. “What!” she whispered harshly.
“Allan wants me to go to Venice with him but I have to win him in the bid first.”
Loraine stared at her like she’d lost her mind. “Do you want us to pool our savings and bid on a billionaire?” Her voice rose an octave. “I have five hundred dollars in the bank and around ten dollars in pennies in my piggy bank. What about you?”
“Don’t make fun of me Loraine. I’m not an idiot!” Loraine raised a brow in response. Riana huffed. “Come on Loraine, help me out. I really want to go!” she whined.
Loraine let out an exasperated sigh. “You just saw the boy you love cheat on you with your roommate. Then, a few hours later, Allan’s girlfriend takes it from behind from…whoever that guy was.” She harrumphed. “What’s wrong with you two?”
Riana shuffled on her feet nervously. “I didn’t love Steve and I just realized that. I wish I’d come upon that revelation before I let him have my V-card—”
“And you think running off to Venice with a guy you just met on a rebound affair is the better decision?” Loraine spoke, cutting her off. “Two wrongs don’t make a right Riana.”
Riana sighed. Loraine had a point. Running off to Venice with a guy she’d just met, and of course with no passport, was a little daft. She had one more paper to write before she finally finished University, and then she would head to the teacher’s training college that began in two months’ time. She needed to stop chasing after love just because she was lonely and concentrate instead on her future. She wanted to be an art teacher in a high school and that was where her focus was staying. Maybe in another five years she could try this whole love thing again.
“Loraine, you are—” she was cut short when Loraine hit her elbow making her hand shoot up and a male voice boomed thirty thousand dollars.
Riana rubbed her throbbing elbow. “What the hell Loraine!”
“Allan’s up on the stage and he’s staring daggers at you.”
She grabbed the tray out of Riana’s hand and placed it and her own on the nearest table. She then turned Riana full body to face the stage. Allan stood there looking intently at her, the edges of his lips turned up in a slight smile and his arms crossed over his chest. He looked like a king staring down at his subjects.
She sucked in her lower lip, butterflies fluttering in her chest. Yup, he was Greek god material.
“You better start participating actively if you want to go to Venice.”
Riana’s brows furrowed in confusion. “But you said—”
Loraine silenced her with a wave of her hand. “Oh shut it. I say a lot of things I don’t mean. Now do you want to go to Venice or not?”
“Fifty thousand!” the woman next to Riana yelled.
Riana placed a hand over her ringing ear. “But I don’t have the money.” She watched the hands shoot up all over the room and she felt desperate. They were at eighty-five thousand already. These women are horny vultures!
Loraine rolled her eyes. “I’m sure he doesn’t expect you to pay for it. He said bid to win, he didn’t say anything about you paying right?”
“No, he didn’t.” But he didn’t say he would pay either, she thought.
“So what are you waiting for?”
Then the hands stopped shooting up and the room went silent. That was the final bid and no one was going to up it. She turned to the source of the shout to get a look at the lucky girl with ninety thousand to spend on her trip to Venice, but the room was too crowded.
Loraine clucked her tongue. “Riana, it’s between you and the slut in the hooker dress and Allan doesn’t look the least bit amused by your silence.”
Riana turned to Allan and Loraine was right. She was sure the others in the room couldn’t tell but his eyes showed how furious he really was with her. She saw the fingers of the hand tucked under his arm move up. He wanted her to bid higher.
“Isn’t that too much?”
Loraine knocked her elbow again and yelled, “One hundred thousand!”
“Loraine!” Riana hissed, stepping away from her and rubbing her elbow.
Loraine pulled her back. “Does he look hard for the cash? Look around you Riana. Do any of them look hard for the cash? He probably spends that much in one day buying a suit or flying his dinner in from Paris. He’s a damn billionaire!”
“But it’s not my money to spend!”
Loraine shook her fist in Riana’s face, tightening her grip on her arm until it hurt. “Riana, outbid that slut and go to Venice or I swear I’ll break your perfect little nose!”
“One hundred and fifty thousand!” Riana yelled leaning away from Loraine and her fist, taking the threat seriously. She liked her nose as it was.
Then she spotted the slut in the hooker dress charging toward them from behind Loraine. “We’ve got trouble!” she whispered.
“This is ridiculous! This waitress can’t afford that!” She protested, settling a seething look on Riana.
Loraine stepped in between them, shielding Riana. “Whether or not she can afford it is none of your business. Call out your bid or forfeit now. Either way, she’s the one leaving with him.”
“Damn straight I am,” Riana announced happily, bouncing on her toes.
Allan’s ex-girlfriend—stress on the ex—took Loraine in from the tip of her shoes to the top of her head with a superior look, her lips curved in a sneer. Then she turned to Riana, killing her victory instantly with her livid look. “Two hundred thousand.”
Riana chocked on her own breath as a gasp echoed in the room. She turned to Allan and he gave her a reassuring smile and a nod. “Two hundred and twenty thousand,” she countered.
Then the slut’s lips spread in a sinister smile and she turned to the stage. “Two hundred and fifty.”
Riana’s eyes popped. A quarter of a million dollars! She couldn’t go higher than that. Allan wouldn’t possibly agree to it. She turned back to Allan feeling defeated but his smile just grew wider. He nodded his head to the side, signaling her to his hidden fingers.
Riana’s head cantered to the side to see.
Is he holding up three fingers? She dipped her head further for a clearer view. Four, no five…five!
The same moment the slut cheered, “I win,” Riana exclaimed loudly, “Five hundred thousand! Allan you can’t be—”
“Sold!” Allan yelled from the stage.
Before the auctioneer could utter a single word in protest, Allan leaped off the stage and charged toward her.