Sadie Spencer would stop at nothing to help her students. Even if it meant winning a date with one of Oklahoma's most eligible bachelors, Andrew Knight, to get him to listen to their needs. But on their "date," Sadie quickly saw that Andrew was more than the cold businessman she'd assumed he was, and he had a lot more to offer than mere money.
Experience had taught Andrew that he didn't need anyone in his life. Until Sadie began to show him that he could make a difference in her students' livesand in hers. But though the walls he'd built around his heart were slowly crumbling, would he ever find the courage to make peace with his past so that he could be not only Sadie's prize but her husband?
About the Author
Margaret Daley, an award-winning author of eighty-three books, has been married for over forty years and is a firm believer in romance and love. When she isn’t traveling, she’s writing love stories, often with a suspense thread, and corralling her three cats that think they rule her household. To find out more about Margaret visit her website at http://www.margaretdaley.com.
Read an Excerpt
Bachelor 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 causefifteen 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 administrative assistant. I'm a desperate woman. When I saw his name on the list of bachelors for this auction, I knew the was the chance I'd been looking for. I know my plan 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 assistant. 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 intensealmost 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."
"From what I've heard there may not be a soft, vulnerable side to appeal to. I suppose he might love children, but he has been a confirmed bachelor for thirty-seven years."
"The first twenty don't count. Too young to marry. Something will come to me when I'm having dinner with him. If not, by the time he takes me to the concert, I should have come up with the right approach."
Carol's laughter rang in the silent hallway. "If anyone can come up with the perfect approach, it'll be you. Come on. We'd better get back inside. It sounds like the auction is over."
Perfect. The word stuck in Sadie's mind as she walked back into the room. All her life she had striven to be perfect because that was what her father had demanded. When she had brought home an A minus on her report card, her father had wanted an A. When she had brought home an A, he had wanted an A plus. She had always come up short in his eyes, never quite the daughter he wanted. As a teenager, lost, hurting, she had turned to the local youth group for solace when her father had been particularly tough on her self-esteem.
"I'd better pay for this date or I won't be going anywhere." Sadie made her way to the table at the side set up for that purpose.
"I see you won our number forty-six." Jollie Randall took Sadie's check. "You know, I was the one to recruit him for this auction. Most reluctant, though. Wanted to donate money instead. Don't scare him off, Sadie. We could use him next year."
"He could get married."
"Not likely. I work at IFI, and there have been many women who have tried to snare him, but he doesn't have the time for a serious relationship."
Good, Sadie thought. She didn't want a commitment, just his okay on her work project. "Then he's safe for next year. I'll send Mr. Andrew Knight back in one piece and you can save your money for next year's auction."
Jollie's eyes widened, and her mouth fell open.
Sadie felt pinpricks go up her spine. She slowly turned. Her whole face reddened as she stared into the subject of their conversation's unreadable gray eyes.
"As soon as you two ladies finish planning my future, I'd like a word with you." Andrew directed his comment to Sadie.
Intense might be too mild a word to describe Andrew Knight, Sadie thought as she continued to stare at him, her mind blank of any response to give him. She was sure her face rivaled her red dress.
His eyes warmed to a dove gray. "About the arrangements, Miss"
"Miss Spencer." He extended his hand.
When his fingers closed around hers, she wasn't surprised at the firm handshake that transmitted confidence and determination nor the warmth that spread up her arm at the tactile contact. For a few seconds she felt surrounded by him, a taut pressure building in her chest. Then he released her hand, and the tension eased, allowing her to breathe again.
"About the arrangements, Mr. Knight. May I have a word with you in private?" There was nothing she could do about the quaver in her voice, which signified the disruption this man caused to her equilibrium. She glanced about the room full of people, all talking at once. "I think there's a small room off this one we can use."
"Lead the way, Miss Spencer."
"Please call me Sadie. Only my students call me Miss Spencer."
He started walking beside her toward the room she had indicated. "You're a teacher?"
"At Cimarron High School. I teach students with special needs."
"That must be very demanding work that requires a lot of patience." Andrew opened the door for Sadie.
"My job is demanding, like a lot of people's, but I love working with my students. They're what make my job rewarding," Sadie said as she entered the room.
"I'm afraid I haven't been around any children with special needs. In fact, I haven't been around many children." Andrew shut the door, enclosing them in the suddenly small space.
Even though a few feet separated them, Sadie felt overwhelmed by his presence. He filled the room with his intensity. He leaned against a table and crossed his arms. An amused look softened his stern features as several minutes passed and Sadie remained silent, trying to figure out the best way to approach him about her work project. Nothing came to mind except the fact that he'd said he hadn't been around people with special needs. She needed to change that before approaching him about working with them, or his answer would probably be no even before she had presented the whole work project to him.
"Sadie." He finally broke into the quiet. "You said you wanted to speak with me in private. Since the hour is growing late and tomorrow is a workday"
"But it's Sunday."
He arched his brow and quirked his mouth. "Some people do work on Sunday. I get more work done on Sunday when everyone else is gone than I do two days during the week."
"Well, then." Sadie began to pace, nervous energy compelling her to move. "I have to confess I had a reason for bidding on you tonight." She stopped and faced him, deciding only to tell him about part of her plan. "I want IFI to help support Cimarron High School's Special Olympics program. Since you're the vice president of special projects and human resources, I thought you would be the person to see at IFI. For example, at the school we're in desperate need of uniforms."
"Why didn't you take the five hundred fifty dollars you spent on this date and buy uniforms with it?"
"Because we need continual support, not a one-time shot in the arm. New uniforms will have to be purchased every year as our program grows. Fees to the state games in May paid every year. Some equipment purchased."
"I see. Wouldn't it have been easier to contact me at my office?" His facade of cool businessman descended over his features.
"I tried, but your admin assistant said you've been too busy to see anyone right now. Something about being out of town a lot lately on business. So when this opportunity came up, I decided to bypass normal channels."
He raised one eyebrow. "Have you always been unorthodox?"
Sadie laughed. "I have been accused of that a few times. Since I give to Children Charities every year, I thought it was a brilliant plan."
"IFI is constantly being approached about donating to good causes. Sometimes Mrs. Fox screens the requests and the people seeking appointments not connected directly with IFI, especially when I'm particularly busy at work."
"Then you weren't out of town?"
"No, I was. Since you went to so much trouble, I'll take a look at your proposal. Write up what you need in the way of support and get it to me as soon as possible. I'll have an answer for you by the time we go on our date. I assume you still want to go?"
Sadie nodded, aware of the polite distance he was putting between them.
Glancing at his watch, he straightened away from the table. "Would next Saturday night be okay? I have tickets for the concert for that night."
"Yes, that would be fine."
"I'll call you about the time closer to the day."
His tone of voice conveyed that their conversation was over. As Sadie walked toward the door, she wasn't sure just how she was going to get him involved when he was so busy. Between now and their date she would have to come up with an offer the man couldn't refuse.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Great read from Margaret Daley, as usual.