Read an Excerpt
"Three times ... Sold to the blond-haired woman standing in the front holding paddle number eight-zero-one."
Thunderous applause filled the room and echoed throughout the hall and hotel lobby.
Nico turned her face up to the early afternoon sky. The unseasonably warm sun shone brightly and birds chirped melodically in counterpoint to the noise of the city.
"You guys mind if we stay out on the patio?" Fran asked her and Audrey as they neared their favorite café.
"Nope," they replied, making their way to an empty table not far from the entrance.
A young gentleman stopped at the table. "May I take your order?"
Dressed in black, neatly pressed pants and a crisp white short-sleeved dress shirt, he fished a pad and pencil out of his apron pocket and jotted something down as he waited for the women to answer.
"I'll have a mocha latte," Nico replied.
"I'd like an espresso," Audrey answered.
"I'll have a caramel latte with a little whipped cream," Fran added.
"Would you like anything to else? Maybe something to eat?" he asked as he noted their orders.
"Nothing else. Thank you," Nico replied.
The waiter disappeared back into the coffee shop.
Every Friday after work Nico met up with her girlfriends at Java Café. They sat down and discussed their week.
Sometimes it felt like they were living their own version of Sex and the City. They talked about everything and most of the time one thing or another always led to the discussion of sex.
"Nico, tell me, how's that scrumptious man you call Jeff? Have you asked him outyet?" Audrey asked.
Audrey had been asking her that question week after week, but the answer never changed. Nico shook her head. "Give me a break. You know if I ever did something, you'd all know about it by now. Besides, it would be horrible if things didn't work out. I'd have to see him every day or try to avoid him on my way to the office. No way." She gave a dramatic little shudder. "It would just be too weird." Leaning forward, she added, "I'm not sure that he even likes me anyway. We haven't really talked that much. I think the longest conversation I've had with him so far was when we introduced ourselves to one another."
Sometimes she realized she'd been flirting with him and wondered if he'd picked up her signals. That's as far as it went.
"Well then, I think it's time for you to make a move. It's obvious he has the hots for you." Fran prodded her. "Come on, every time he looks at you he drools. I saw it with my own eyes when I dropped you off that one time. There's no doubt he wants you."
"If you decide you aren't going to make a move, I'll have a go at him," Audrey said. "You know, it's such a terrible waste of a good looking man. I could definitely have a little fun." A salacious smile spread across her face.
Nico shot her a you'd better not even think about it glance. It shouldn't have surprised her to hear that from a woman whose hobby was men. Audrey had always said they were put here on this earth for one purpose and one purpose alone: for her to play with. And that's just what she did.
"Ladies, I have some very--and I mean very--good news to share with you." Fran leaned forward, her eyes dancing with excitement. "This year's list of New York's ten most eligible bachelors is hitting my desk as we speak.
"So what's so good about that you may ask? Those men will also be at this year's Valentine's Day Bachelor Auction. As always, I expect you both to be there with me. Please."
Audrey didn't spare a single second. "I'm in."
Already on a roll, Fran pulled her usual speech to try to get them to agree to join her at the event. "It's for a good cause, so I know you won't say no. Well, I knew Audrey wouldn't say no to anything that has to do with men."
Audrey smiled and didn't try to defend herself against the statement.
"So as I was saying, it's for a good cause. This year it's the Ella House on Forty-third Street. We're hoping to beat the previous one hundred thousand we raised. We are adding more items to this year's auction list," Fran continued.
Every year the law firm Fran worked for got together with other companies around the city and all donated their time to organize the Valentine's Day auction.
Fran was in charge of persuading men from the companies to take part in the auction for a Valentine's Day date with the highest bidder.
Every year all the money raised went to different causes. Last year it had gone to the local hospital for the children's ward. The money helped with completing renovations that had been started but never finished due to unforeseen circumstances.
This year the Ella House, a women's shelter that had opened its doors in 1976, had been chosen to receive the money. Funding had decreased significantly over the past few years and they were having a hard time keeping the doors open.
"Like I said, you can count me in. How could I pass up an evening with all those bachelors?" Audrey joked.
"Me too, I'll be there," Nico added. Just not sure if any of the men will want to go on a date with boring me.
Experience had taught Nico most people considered her a plain Jane. Her last date even had the audacity to say it to her face. It had never been a big secret that she wasn't the life of the party and she was perfectly content with herself, for the most part.
Yet sometimes she wished she could be a little more spontaneous, but it wasn't easy for her to do. The first and last time she decided to live a little had led her to the local tattoo parlor. She still couldn't believe she let the girls talk her into getting a little something...
Only Fran and Audrey knew about the adventure. It was a small part of her that made her feel sexy. She wished her liberated part would come out more often. Who ever thought a nipple ring could make you feel so daring and wild? Plus she'd heard nipple rings increased pleasure during sex, but unfortunately she hadn't had the chance to try it out to see if it was actually true or not.
Nico was just about to get up to go check what was taking so long with their orders when the waiter stepped out onto the patio carrying their drinks.
"Fifteen minutes to wait for a drink. I think that's a record," Audrey said as the waiter approached the table.
"I apologize for the wait, ladies," he said as he hurried over and started setting the drinks down in front of them.
The women continued discussing the auction while enjoying their beverages. This was the event of the year and it always drew a hefty crowd of people.
Whistles and jeers filled the construction lot as Jeff left his red pickup truck and headed for the office trailer to get changed.
This day was about to get a lot longer than he wanted it to be.
He'd hoped the crew hadn't heard anything yet about his new title. Who would have ever guessed he'd be named one of the ten for New York's Sexiest, Most Eligible Bachelor. Another reason for the guys to stick it to him--just so they could get a reaction out of him.
How the heck did the guys at work find out about the list? He'd only just found out about it himself.
Jeff volunteered his time and money for the auction since the woman who'd contacted him assured him it would be an evening he would never forget. He was glad to do it since it was for a good cause, and he always made an effort to do what he could to make some kind of difference. The last thing he expected was to make their yearly list.
Having grown up in a family who didn't always have everything they needed, he knew how it was to depend on the kindness of strangers. He had always made sure to give what he could to those less fortunate. Growing up, his father always told him that you never knew when the tables might turn and you might be the one asking for help.
"Man, the people who compiled this list need their eyes checked!" Why would anyone think you're handsome enough, let alone sexy? Single--yes. Desperate for a date--probably very. No way handsome or anything close to sexy," Ryan joked around as Jeff approached the group standing next to the trailer. The rest stood laughing at Ryan's comments.
"Better me than you, buddy," Jeff shot back.
Ryan smiled at his friend's reply.
Jeff had known Ryan since they were two years old. They grew up next door to each other. Jeff didn't have any siblings and his friend was like a brother to him. They had done everything together from going to the same school to learning to drive. To say they were close was an understatement.
"Okay, enough fun. I know it's easy to have a good time at my expense, but I have a ton of work that needs to be done," Jeff said as he began heading up the trailer steps.
He was annoyed and just plain pissed off. Problems kept coming from every direction.
"Hey man, wait up," Ryan called as he walked toward Jeff. "You know I was just yanking your chain earlier. You aren't pissed, are you?"
Jeff took off his hard hat and ran his fingers through his hair. "No way, I just have a lot of crap to deal with today. The building department left me a message that there are some issues with regards to compliance with building codes."
"You gotta be kidding me. What's the problem this time?" Ryan asked.
"They said the building permits are incomplete and unless they get them, everything will be put on hold," Jeff replied as he put his hard hat back on.
"Do me a favor and tell me when the utility company people get here. I need you guys to deal with them. It's not enough they screwed up the work order, I find out they lost the paperwork. I swear sometimes I get the feeling this project is never supposed to get off the ground."
Ryan began walking toward the other guys. "Don't worry, man. It can't get worse than it is now."
"I just want to get through today with nothing else going wrong," Jeff replied as he closed the trailer door.
It was late in the evening when the crew was ready to wrap up for the day. Everyone including Jeff was exhausted. He couldn't wait to be able to sit down and relax. He was getting fed up with dealing with the municipal building department.He truly couldn't help but wonder if something was throwing all these roadblocks in their path to prevent the project from ever getting off the ground.
"Guys, I think we can call it a day. I made sure to talk to the city and they promised to send someone over to check out the water main situation first thing tomorrow morning. There's not much we can do tonight," Jeff informed the crew.
They had been working on this lot for the past three months. They'd had to tear down the old structure and clear the area before the work on the new project could begin. There seemed to be a lot of setbacks. Anyone in their right mind would have dropped the project, but not him. Jeff saw this as a challenge, and it was one he was ready to take on full-force from start to finish.
Plus there was a perk to working at the location. A perk in the form of a brown haired, fair-skinned beauty who worked in the office that overlooked the site.
On so many occasions he gave himself a pep talk to just go for it and ask her out, but each time she appeared anywhere near him he froze up and chickened out. It was like being back in high school and trying to ask out the most popular cheerleader.