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Sophie didn't want to die anymore. She was saved. Orin turned around to glare at her. One strand of hair had escaped the confines of the swirl plastered to his bald head and hung limply down the side of his face. The look he gave her after being defeated by Mr. Westland radiated pure waves of unrelenting rage.
Yeah, how dare she allow herself to be bid on by someone with more money, the nerve of her? The lock of greasy hair hanging unattractively to his chin made Sophie even more grateful he wasn't about to be her-what was it the crazy new world order referred to this as?--her lord and master.
Orin looked the exact same way as he had on her first day of work. His nostrils flared in righteous indignation at having been thwarted by Matthew ... again.
Sophie had needed her job because she helped support her mom and sister. She'd been fortunate Mr. Westland had agreed that Orin should be castrated instead of rewarded. She might have faced termination for failure to get along with her peers in any other company.
She and Mr. Westland exited Orin's office, but she'd scurried away from his magnetic presence before she did something inappropriate, like throw her arms around him, latch her mouth to his luscious face, and refuse to let go. No, she'd saved that for a few months later at the Christmas party. A vibrant thrill ran through her at the memory of his hard-planed body trapping her against the metal door to the garage.
The auctioneer cleared his throat impatiently and motioned her off the stage urgently, as if she should hurry because he'd just made a bunch of money on her. She instead sauntered to the steps, earning his frown. She resisted the urge tostick her tongue out at him as she passed behind him on stage.
"If you would step over here, sir, we can officiate the contract," the Tiberius representative said to Sophie's future husband at the foot of stairs off the stage.
The contract of marriage these days had a whole different meaning. Promising to love and honor et cetera went by the wayside to be replaced by who got what percentage of funds spent for the bride being auctioned off.
Sophie's worthless scum of a father, a sperm donor at best, got to have a whopping ninety percent. Eight percent went to the auctioneer, and finally two percent went into the coffers of the Tiberius group. A cut they told everyone they earned by officiating the contract and ceremony joining the couple in matrimony. Plus the forty-eight hour body scan done to ensure consummation of every union. They certainly didn't want people getting married to escape Tiberius persecution.
Men being forced to have sex with whomever they married supposedly made them more cautious about their ultimate choices. But Sophie only understood the rules favored men, and they could do as they pleased regardless of their initial choices. An uncontrollable and unwanted urge to weep came over her and she fought to stay serene.
The official Tiberius marriage broker stepped up and motioned impatiently for Sophie to come off the stage. It was time to meet the groom. As if he read her mind, Matthew Westland looked up at her, still paused on stage, and smiled lightly.
From behind her, Sophie heard the auctioneer say, "We'll start the bidding for the next bride at five thousand and see where it takes us." She paused at the head of the steps and gazed at her groom.
"Hello," he said warmly and held out his hand.
Sophie remained quiet, fighting tears threatening to spill over burning eyes as she descended the few steps. If she so much as uttered one word, she'd burst into loud, uncontrollable sobbing. Her desolate mood stemmed from the narrow escape with the deviant in the front row along with the general horror of the auction. Unqualified and here-to-date unknown relief now raced through her, making her very emotional. A single tear slipped out and ran down her face before she could wipe it away.
"Why the tears? Is there someone else you would prefer to marry?" he asked in a low voice, taking her arm.
Sophie reached up and wiped away moisture and shook her head. "It's the whole auction situation I find disturbing." She then added quietly, "And if I ever find out who authored the Working Woman's Auction Memo, which put me up for sale in my own damn company, I'm going kick his balls up his ass."
Matt's eyes widened briefly, but didn't acknowledge her response. He simply led her to a room behind the stage where the funds would be paid and the ceremony performed. Sophie could smell his expensive cologne as they stood together, the scent of which sent her right back to last December and the wall she'd been pressed against when he'd kissed her that first time ... and then ... more.
Sophie watched him out of the corner of her eye. Her whole body vibrated with the memory of the last time they were together. He saved her, again. Maybe he remembered the kiss at Christmas. Maybe he felt something for her.
"Thank you for saving me."
His sudden sardonic smile startled her as he whispered, "I didn't actually do it for you."
"Then why would you marry a veritable stranger? I can read the papers. I know you have ... well, other choices."
"You aren't exactly a stranger," he said, leaning in close, whispering in her now sensitive ear. "I know exactly how you taste, how you smell, and especially how you feel in my arms when you scream in climax. It's an intriguing combination. One I found I couldn't pass up."
Sophie closed her eyes and felt her face go hot in memory of that supremely gratifying sensation, which had stabbed through her at his assistance long ago, as if she were experiencing it all over again. "I didn't think you remembered. You never..." Her head bowed and she found she couldn't finish the sentence.
"Neither did you," he stated coolly as she felt his arm circle her shoulders.
"You were my boss," she snapped with accusation in her tone, still unable to look him in the eyes.
"Yeah, that was my excuse, too. But it isn't an issue any longer." He squeezed her shoulder once and pulled her closer. "Is it? Are you ready to marry me, Sophie?"
This time she looked in his beautiful blue eyes before answering. "Yes. I would be ... grateful to marry you."
"I don't want gratitude."
"What then?" She sounded breathless to her own ears.
He laughed before he said, "Well for starters, I'd like to finish what we began in the parking garage hallway. That particular experience, while gratifying in many ways, has always seemed a bit incomplete to me."
The combination of his warm, sexy body pressed up close, his sultry voice caressing her senses, and his decadent I-want-to-fuck-you-this-second cologne wafting all around made another rush of moisture accumulate between her legs in readiness. Sophie's heart beat so thunderously in her chest, she couldn't speak. She took short breaths to calm herself, but with it came Matthew's sexy scent, the fragrance of which made her insides quiver in long awaited need.
He leaned in suddenly, right into her personal space. "And then I'd like to do it some more. And then some more after that."