Read an Excerpt
Bachelor in Blue Jeans
By Lauren Nichols
Chapter OneZach Davis scowled, his humiliation building as shrieking women beyond the velvet curtain nearly drowned out the bump-and-grind music blasting from a speaker somewhere.
God help him. God help every bachelor on the auction block this evening.
Releasing an exasperated breath, he glared down at his tiny great-aunt as she continued to fuss with the boutonniere on his tux. The tux some other poor sap should've been wearing.
"Aunt Etta, I swear, if I'd known why you wanted me to come over here tonight, I would've packed my truck and headed straight back to Nags Head."
Etta Gardner sent him a delighted smile, her sweet, musical voice fueling his irritation. "Nonsense, dear. You'd never leave my porches in the sorry state they're in. Why, however would I sell my house?"
She reached high to pat his cheek. "I know you're distressed about this, but who was I to call? The bachelor who cancelled was very tall and quite brawny. You were the only person I could think of who could wear his tuxedo."
Zach yanked down his shirt cuffs. "Lucky me."
"Gracious, no! Lucky us that you were back in town!" Etta winced then, and quickly lowered her voice - presumably so she wasn't overheard in the lavish country club's crowded dining room.
She needn't have worried. Though the foyer-turned-staging area where they stood was adjacent to the dining room, it was like Mardi Gras in there - loud and frenzied. Zach doubted the womencould even hear each other.
"Just remember that tonight's proceeds will give our needy children a lovely Christmas this year," Etta continued, "and you'll do just fine."
The tag "needy children" hit home, conjuring thoughts Zach didn't like to think about. He willed them away as Etta took a step back to assess him through her rimless bifocals.
Zach regarded her at the same time, his heart warming despite the untenable spot she'd put him in. The skinny little woman who'd shown him what love was and saved him from foster care wore a filmy-looking pink and blue flowered dress and sensible white shoes. The blue tips on her carnation corsage nearly matched the tint in her cap-cut hair.
"Very nice, dear," she gushed. "Of course, it's too bad you didn't have time for a shave and a trim before you came over, but I've heard that some young women go for that lumberjack look. Now, how does the tux feel?"
"Frustrated and manipulated, just like the guy wearing it."
Zach hooked an index finger inside his collar, gritting his teeth when his fingernail scraped his Adam's apple. "And why does this collar have to be so tight? I probably have ligature marks on my neck."
Etta shooed his hands away. "It's not tight, it's perfect. Don't you dare spoil the lovely line of your bow tie." In a flash, her smile returned, mischief brimming in her blue eyes. "Mark my words. You'll thank me for this one day."
"Right," he grumbled. "What man wouldn't want to look like an idiot in front of a bunch of people he hasn't seen in thirteen years?"
Just then, the rowdy female auctioneer behind the curtain bellowed out a number, and Etta's interest in turning him into something he wasn't, fled. Scurrying to the ramp leading to the curtained-off runway, she beckoned to the bachelor who was next in line. Chad Hollister bent to hear Etta's instructions.
Zach sent Hollister another cold once-over. He and Hollister had exchanged greetings when Zach arrived a few minutes ago, but they both knew it was all for show. They'd never liked each other. Not in high school, and not now. Blond, polished Chad had been the antithesis of everything Zach had been and still was - Joe College to Zach's school of hard knocks. The town's golden boy to Zach's working stiff. Girls had flocked to Hollister like gulls to French fries. He'd had it all ... expensive clothes, a flashy car, and moneyed parents.
He and Zach wouldn't have had a reason in the world to say hello to each other, much less cross swords, except they'd both fallen hard for the same girl.
Kristin. Zach glanced back at Etta, who was wrapping up her speech in a loud stage whisper. "As soon as you're sold, go directly to the woman who bought you, and sit at her table. And be charming, Chad. We want these ladies to bid high."
Hollister sent her a sly wink and a sexy drawl. "Don't worry, Mrs. Gardner. I'll get every dime they have left in their pocketbooks." Then the auctioneer called Hollister's name, and Wisdom, Pennsylvania's handsome young police chief burst through the red velvet curtain with a killer attitude and a cocky grin.
The shrieking in the dining room reached new heights.
Zach turned away in disgust, digging inside his collar again. What was it people said? The more things changed, the more they remained the same? Being fresh meat at this charity freak show didn't seem to bother Hollister at all. But then, the jerk had always loved the limelight.
Unbidden, an image flashed of Kristin and Chad being crowned king and queen of their junior prom, but Zach shoved it away, just as he'd beaten back that disturbing reminder of his childhood. There was no reason to dwell on those thoughts anymore. He was a success now. He'd never have to feel ashamed again.
An explosion of applause and unladylike whistles signaled that Hollister had been sold, and suddenly Etta was nudging him up the ramp. "Your turn, dear. Now, will you kindly smile when you get out there?"
No, he wouldn't. He'd be too busy praying for a power failure that would empty the damn building.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm going," he muttered. Then, with a last impatient look at his aunt, he stepped through the curtain and onto an elevated runway lined with twinkle lights - and the room went wild.
He nearly bolted when the buxom auctioneer with the flame-red hair screeched over the melee, "My heavens, ladies, get out your checkbooks! Look what we have here! Welcome home, Zach Davis!"
Excerpted from Bachelor in Blue Jeans by Lauren Nichols
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.