Tony Milan can't believe the stunning vision in red who's placed the highest bid at the bachelor auction! One night of dinner and dancing with Lindsay Calhounhis stubborn next-door neighboris all he's signed up for. But Lindsay's makeover has him forgetting all about their long-standing family feud.
Bidding on the sexy cowboy is Lindsay's plan for creating a truce. Until Tony sweeps her into a night of blissful passionand a surprise pregnancy ensues. Can two rivals work together to build a futureone that includes marriage and family?
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Tony Milan felt ridiculous. Standing in the wings of the wide stage of the elegant Dallas country club ballroom, he promised himself that next time, he would be more careful making bets with his oldest brother. Losing at saddle bronc riding in a rodeo last April had put him backstage tonight at this gala charity event, which included a dinner dance as well as an auction. One that would auction him off. At least it was all for a good cause, he reminded himself. The funds raised would go to Parkinson's disease research.
As he'd made his way to the stage earlier, he had seen some of the attendees: beautiful women dressed in designer gowns accompanied by men in tailored tuxedos. The highest bidders would win a night with "Texas's most desirable bachelors," according to the brochure that had been mailed to a select group wealthy enough to afford the event. He couldn't imagine any woman bidding much for an evening out with a guy she won in an auction, but after the opening bid, he realized he was wrong. The Texas ranchers who'd gone before him had stirred up high prices.
Looking out at the latest bachelor who now pranced offstage, Tony could not recall ever feeling more out of place. And then he heard his name called.
Taking a deep breath and forcing himself to smile broadly, he stepped forward, striding out of the darkened shadows into the blinding spotlights in front of a glittering audience. Applause was loud as he waved at the audience, most of which he could no longer clearly see because of the spotlights shining in his eyes.
After a spiel about his bachelor status, the master of ceremonies opened up the bidding. Tony was startled by the number of women who jumped into the bidding, but as the amount climbed, first one and then another dropped out until only three women were left.
Shocked yet pleased by the amount he was going to draw, he grinned and walked around the stage as the bidding climbed.
When a woman in a front table bid, he glanced down and saw it was an ex-girlfriend. He hoped she didn't win. As far as he was concerned, he'd said a final goodbye to her when she'd started getting serious. No long-term relationships for Tony Milan. He liked to flirt, play the field, just have a good time with no strings attached. Thankfully, after a flurry of bidding, his ex-girlfriend dropped out and only two women were left.
Tony couldn't see either one of the women, hidden by the blinding lights, but he heard their competitive bids. They were calling outrageous sums of moneyall for an evening with him. When one graciously dropped out, the MC brought down the gavel.
"We have a winner," he said, not able to hide his outright glee at the final amount for the charity. "Would our lucky woman please come up onto the stage?"
Tony couldn't contain his curiosity. He scanned the audience for a glimpse at her, and then a spotlight found her at a table off to the right. His pulse jumped when a stunning blonde stood up. Her hair was piled atop her head with a few spiral curls falling about her face, and she wore a fiery red dress as she threaded her way to the stage. Even from a distance he could see the dress clung to a breathtaking figure. Jeweled straps glittered on her slender shoulders and her full breasts pillowed above the low-cut neckline.
One of the auction's ushers took her hand as she climbed the steps to the stage and Tony's gaze finally swept over her from head to toe, taking in her long, shapely legs revealed by a high slit in the skirt. Instantly Tony began to feel immensely better about the entire auction and the upcoming evening.
As the blonde crossed the stage, his gaze swept over her features. She wasn't a local resident, he thought, because he didn't recognize her. But then as she neared center stage to give the MC her name, he had a niggling feeling that he did indeed know her. He looked at her again. Something about her features seemed familiar. Perhaps There was a faint resemblance to a localhis neighbor and lifetime enemy, Lindsay Calhoun.
He shrugged away that notion. The woman talking to the MC could not be Lindsay Calhoun. For one brief moment, a memory flashed through his mind of Lindsay dressed in skintight jeans and driving her muddy pickup, her long sandy braid bouncing beneath her floppy old hat. That was followed by another memoryLindsay wagging her finger at him and accusing him of taking her ranch's watersomething unethical he would never do to any neighbor, even Lindsay. She was mule stubborn, never took his advice and wouldn't agree with him if he said the sun set in the west.
Most of all, she was serious in every way, all business all the time. With their many confrontations, he had wondered if she'd ever had any fun in her life. So there was no way on earth that the vision who had won an evening with him was Lindsay.
Curiosity ran rampant as the MC took the mystery woman's hand and she turned to the audience, shooting a quick glance at Tony and then smiling at the audience while the MC held her hand high like a boxer at a heavyweight fight.
"Our winnera beautiful Texan, Miss Lindsay Cal-houn!"
Tony was stunned. His gaze raked over her again. Why had she done this? Their families had maintained a perpetual feud since the first generation of Milans and Cal-houns had settled in Texas, and he and Lindsay kept that feud alive. Besides, she didn't even date. Nor would she spend a dime for an evening with him. She never even spoke to him unless she was accusing him of something.
He squeezed his eyes shut as if to clear them, and then looked at her again. Actually, he stared, transfixed. Not one inch of her looked like his neighbor.
She turned as another man in a black tux came forward to escort her toward Tony while the MC began to talk about the next bachelor.
"Lindsay?" Tony's voice came out a croak. The woman he faced was breathtaking. He wouldn't have guessed all the makeup in Texas could have made such a transformation.
Her huge blue eyes twinkled and she leaned close, giving him a whiff of an exotic perfumeanother shock.
"Close your mouth, Tony," she whispered so only he could hear. "And stop staring."
The tuxedo-clad man stepped forward. "Lindsay, it seems you've already met your bachelor, Tony Milan. Tony, this is Lindsay Calhoun."
"We know each other." Tony hoped he said it out loud. His brain felt all jumbled and he couldn't force his gaze from Lindsay. He still couldn't believe what he was seeing. He had known her all his life. Not once had she even caused him to take a second glance. Nor had he ever seen her as anything except a colossal pest. Saying she wasn't his type was an understatement.
But was there another side to her? Why was Lindsay here? Why had she bid a small fortune to get the evening with him? No doubt she wanted something from himand wanted it badly.
Would she go to this length to get water? He ruled that out instantly, remembering her fury and harsh words when she had accused him of buying bigger pumps for his wells to take more groundwater from the aquifer they shared. He had told her what she should dodig her wells deeper. She had charged right back, saying she wouldn't have to go to the added expense if he wasn't depleting her water with bigger pumps. And there it went. Once again her usual stubborn self refused to take his advice or believe him.
Then she had started calling him devious, a snake and much worse. She pushed him to the edge and he knew he had to just walk away, which he did while she hurled more names at him.
That was the Lindsay Calhoun he knew. This Lindsay tonight had to be up to something, too. Surprisingly, though, he couldn't bring himself to care much. Thoughts of ranching and feuding fled from his mind. He was too busy enjoying looking at one of the most beautiful women he had ever seen.
How could she possibly look so good? They were being given the details of their evening, beginning with a limousine waiting at the country club entrance to take them to the airport where a private jet would fly them to Houston for dinner. He barely registered a word said to him; he couldn't focus on anything but the sight of her.
"Excuse me a moment. I'll be right back," their host said, leaving them alone momentarily.
"You've got to give me a moment to come out of my shock," Tony said with a shake of his head.
"You take all the time you want. I've been waiting for this," she drawled. "If necessary, I would have paid a lot more to get this night with you."
"If you'd come over to the ranch dressed the way you are now and just knocked on the door, you could have had my full attention for an evening without paying a nickel, but this is for a good cause."
"It's for two good causes," she said in a sultry voice, and his heartbeat quickened. He still couldn't quite believe what was happening. Before tonight, he would have bet the ranch he could never be dazzled or even take a second look, let alone willingly go out with his stubborn neighbor.
"Lindsay, I've never fainted in my life, but I might in the next thirty seconds, except I don't want to stop looking at you for anything."
"When you saw I had won, I was afraid you'd turn down this evening."
"I wouldn't turn down tonight if I had to pay twice what you did," he said without thinking, and her smile widened, a dazzling smile he had never seen in his life.
"If you two will follow me, I can show you to the front entrance," their host said, returning to join them. "First, Miss Calhoun, you need to step to the desk to make arrangements about payment."
"Certainly," she answered. "See you in a few minutes, Tony," she added in a soft, breathless voice.
Where had that sexy tone come from? He recalled times when he had heard her shout instructions to hands on her ranch. She had a voice that could be heard a long stretch away and an authoritative note that got what she wanted done. As he watched her, she turned to look at him. She smiled at him, another dazzling, knee-weakening smile, and he couldn't breathe again.
Holy saints, where had Lindsay gotten that enticing smile? It muddled his thoughts, sent his temperature soaring and made him want to please her enough to get another big smile.
He had seen her stomping around horses, yelling instructions and swearing like one of the men, the sandy braid flopping with her steps. He had faced her when she had yelled furious accusations at him about dumping fertilizer. How could that be the breathtaking woman walking away from him? His gaze ran down her bare back to her tiny waist, down over her flared hips that shifted slightly in a provocative walk.
With the tight dress clinging to her every curve, he caught a flash of long legs when she turned and the slit in her skirt parted. That's when he noticed the stiletto heels. He would have sworn she had never worn heels in her life, yet she moved as gracefully as a dancer. He wiped his heated brow. This was rapidly turning into the most impossible night of his life.
Befuddled, totally dazzled by her, he tried to remind himself she was Lindsay, and he should pull his wits together. That might not be so easy. He would never again view her in the same manner.
Why hadn't he ever really looked at her before? He knew full well the answer to his question. He had been blinded by their fights over every little thing, from her tree falling on his truck to his fence on her property line. Not to mention her usual raggedy appearance when she worked.
If she had gone to such lengths tonight to wring something she wanted out of him, he had better get a grip, because it was going to be all but impossible to say no to the fantastic woman in red standing only yards away and writing a check for thousands of dollars for an evening with him. Not even a nightjust a dinner date and maybe some dancing.
But Lindsay Calhoun wasn't interested in dinner dates and ballroom dancing, boot scooting or even barn dances. He eyed her skeptically. To what lengths was she prepared to go tonight to get what she wanted?
He gave up trying to figure her out.
Still, he couldn't take his eyes off her. The skintight red dress left little to the imagination. Why had she hidden her gorgeous figure all these years? Why had she always pulled her hair back in a braid or ponytail? He looked at the beautiful silky blond hair arranged on her head, some strands falling loosely in back. He had never seen her hair falling freely around her facewould he before this night was over?
She looked seductive, like pure temptation, and he knew he should be on his guard, but there was no way he could be defensive with the woman standing only yards away. He wanted her in his arms. He wanted to kiss her.
And, if he was truthful with himself, he wanted to make love to her.
When she finished writing and handing over her check, their host led them to a garden, where they had pictures taken together. As he slipped his arm around her tiny waist while they posed for the camera, the physical contact sizzled. He was so heated he thought he would go up in flames.
He made a mental note to get a picture. His brother-in-law and sister were in the audience, so they had seen her tonight. So was his oldest brother, Wyatt. He was certain Jake Calhoun had seen his sister look this way before, but Wyatt was probably as shocked as he had been.
Talking constantly, their host escorted Lindsay and Tony through the wide front doors of the country club, where a long white limousine waited.
As soon as the door closed on the limo, they were alone, except for the driver on the other side of a partition.
"Maybe you've been using the wrong approach," Tony remarked.
She smiled another full smile that revealed even, white teeth that made him inclined to agree with whatever she said.
"That's what I decided. So we'll see how it helps letting my hair down, getting out of my jeans and into a dress, smiling and being friendly. So far, it seems to be working rather well, don't you think?"
"Absolutely. I don't know why you waited this long. I keep reminding myself not to give you the deed to my ranch tonight."
She laughed with a dazzling, irresistible smile on her lips. "The other way is a more direct approach. You know where you stand."
"And this is a sugarcoated enticement to get what you want?"
"Oh, my, yes. I'm just getting started. When I walked up on stage, I'm sure you wanted to refuse keeping your part of the bargain."
"You're wrong. Not the way you look tonight," he said in a husky voice. "With you in that red dress, there's nothing that would cause me to turn down an evening with you."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Good conclusion to the series, as the last of the Milans and Calhouns bring an end to the family feud. The antagonism between Lindsay and Tony has been present throughout the series and it was only a matter of time before it lit sparks of a different sort. Tony lost a bet with his brother and as a result ended up as one of the prizes in a bachelor auction. The last person he expected to bid on him was Lindsay. Lindsay has one goal from this dinner and dancing event - to set up a truce between them. She figures that getting them into neutral territory will make it easier. She doesn't expect the irresistible attraction between them and the complications it brings to their lives. Tony was pretty funny in his reaction to a cleaned up and dressed up Lindsay. He'd spent so long looking at her as an adversary that seeing her as a beautiful woman throws him for a loop. He's pretty sure that she has a reason for winning the bid, but he's more interested in the woman than the rancher. Lindsay fights the attraction, but gives up pretty quickly. She looks at their time together as a one time thing because they are just too different. Lindsay doesn't want to get involved with a fellow rancher because she doesn't want someone telling her how to run her ranch. She has worked too hard for her independence to give it up. She sees Tony as another take charge, bossy kind of guy who would try to take over. Her frequent run ins with him have come when she thinks he is trying to tell her what to do. Their night together shows her a different side to him, one she likes, but is reluctant to believe is the real him. Over the next few weeks, Lindsay and Tony try to stay apart, but discover that they can't do it. Whenever they are apart, they find that they miss the other, not just in bed but just talking and being together. Then one or the other will find an excuse to see each other, and it will start all over again. Then Lindsay discovers she's pregnant. She knows that Tony is going to want to be involved, and that he will immediately try to take things over. She can't give up the independence she's worked so hard for. I loved seeing Tony fight his instincts as he gives Lindsay the space and time she needs. They got support from their families instead of pressure, which helped a lot. I liked seeing both of them look at themselves, their relationship, and what they want for their future, and see what had been going on all along. The ending was pretty sweet. Tony maintains his sense of humor even when Lindsay's stubborn streak rears up. I liked that both of them seem to have a realistic view of what their life will be like, and that they don't expect it to suddenly be all sweetness and light. There is a little twist regarding her pregnancy that shows up at the end.
Found myself skipping parts in order to finish faster. Writing was flat and uninventive. There was never any solid reasons or instances to reinforce the conflict between the leads and there was no resolution of the conflict except for "what the hell, let's do this". I'm sorry to the author but the story was blah.