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By Margaret Daley
Harlequin Enterprises LimitedCopyright © 2002 Harlequin Enterprises Limited
All right reserved.
Chapter OneBachelor number forty-six: Andrew Knight, 37, is a senior vice president of International Foods. When not working, he likes to play golf and read. With black hair and gray eyes he is any woman's idea of a dream date, especially the one he plans, dinner at Maison Blanche followed by a concert on the lawn of Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa.
Sadie Spencer read the description in the catalog, then looked at the man who was number forty-six. He stood on the platform in a black tuxedo that fit him perfectly. Made for him, she decided as her gaze traveled up his tall length to rest on his face, sculpted in clean, strong lines. She had to agree with the catalog's description. He did inspire dreams.
"The opening bid for our next bachelor offered on the auction block tonight is two hundred dollars. Do I hear two twenty-five?"
"Two hundred twenty-five," a distinguished-looking woman in the front row shouted.
"I thought you wanted to bid on him," Carol West whispered to Sadie.
Her friend's urgent words focused Sadie on her mission. "Four hundred dollars."
Everyone turned toward Sadie, and for a few seconds silence reigned in the hotel banquet room. Leaning against the back wall, she shifted from one foot to the other, her throat suddenly very dry. The room seemed unusually hot.
"Sadie, are you crazy? I don't know why I even bother asking. Of course, you are." Carol's astonishment, mixed with her exasperation, was evident in her round eyes and furrowed brow.
"It's for a good cause - fifteen good causes, in fact," Sadie whispered, never taking her gaze off number forty-six. "I've got to have him."
"Four hundred fifty," the distinguished-looking woman countered, shooting Sadie a look of determination.
"Five hundred," she returned, mentally calculating how much she could bid and still have enough for the next month's rent. She really hadn't thought the bid would go so high, but she wasn't going to give in when she was so close to her goal.
Sadie turned to Carol. "Will you loan me fifty? I've been trying for two months to get past his secretary. I'm a desperate woman. This plan has divine inspiration - well, not exactly divine, but when I saw his name on the list of bachelors for this auction, I knew my prayers had been answered. I know this will work. Please, Carol."
With a deep sigh her friend nodded. "Five hundred fifty," Sadie said, aware all eyes were on her, including Andrew Knight's. His cool regard trapped her, momentarily wiping all reason from her mind. She tried to ignore the tingling sensation that streaked up her spine but she couldn't. Sweat broke out on her upper lip. She resisted the urge to wipe away the sign of her nervousness while he watched.
Determinedly she pulled her gaze from him. With a willpower she was beginning to think she'd lost, Sadie fixed her attention on the woman in the front row and silently pleaded for her to give up. She held her breath while waiting for the woman to bid again. If she did, Sadie would be forced to come up with another way to meet Andrew Knight. When the woman shook her head, Sadie relaxed her tensed shoulders.
"Five fifty once." The auctioneer's visual sweep of the room seemed minutes long rather than seconds. "Twice." Another pause, Sadie was sure for dramatic effect. "Sold to the lady in red for five hundred fifty dollars."
"I realize the man is gorgeous, but it isn't too late to back out." Carol's frown was deeply in place.
"His looks are beside the point. You know why I need to meet with him. His company is perfect for what I have in mind." Sadie still felt his intense, piercing gray gaze on her and found herself drawn to the platform.
"There are less expensive ways to see Andrew Knight. I'm sure with your vivid imagination you'd have come up with a way to get past his barracuda secretary. You always do think of something in time."
Carol's words barely registered in Sadie's mind. Instead, she felt ensnared by assessing eyes and couldn't look away from the man her friend was discussing. Much to Sadie's dismay, she had the impression of being probed, cataloged and filed away in a matter of a few seconds by Mr. Andrew Knight. With a blush flaming her face, she averted her gaze, resolved not to look again. Apparently her vivid imagination was working overtime this evening.
"Carol, school will be over before I get in to see him if I don't do something fast. I've tried to get past that woman who guards his door as if her life depends on it. And perhaps it does."
"You're much too melodramatic for your own good. Life indeed!"
"I don't mean her life literally, but I do mean her job. It's his eyes and the way he carries himself." Sadie gestured toward the stage but didn't dare look at the man. "There's something about him that's so intense - almost brooding." Or perhaps it's ruthless determination, she concluded silently, not sure from where that impression came.
"You need an outlet for that imagination of yours. Have you ever thought about writing?"
"No," Sadie answered immediately, her smile vanishing.
"It's got to be in your genes," her friend continued as if Sadie hadn't said anything. "Your father's historical characterizations are great. He makes those people seem so alive and real. That last book he wrote about Napoleon was fascinating."
The air became stuffy, Sadie's chest tight with each breath. Standing in the back of the room with the other organizers of the annual fund-raiser, she took the opportunity to slip out the door into the hallway. As she inhaled deeply, Carol joined her.
"Are you all right, Sadie? You're so pale."
She waved her hand in the air, dismissing her friend's concern. "Too many people in there. Our turnout was much larger this year."
"Since you're on the board of Children Charities, you're in the position to get a larger room for the auction next year. Have you decided what you're going to say to Mr. Knight?"
"Me? Plan ahead? Only when absolutely necessary."
"In other words, you haven't the slightest idea how you're going to sell him on the work project."
"Of course, I know. I'm going to appeal to his soft vulnerable side, to his love of children. If I can convince IFI to go along with my project, then the other companies in the area will follow like cattle to the slaughter."
Excerpted from Sadie's Hero by Margaret Daley Copyright © 2002 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
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