BIDDING ON DR. RIGHT
Salon owner Cassidy Kaye has always been determined to live life on her own terms. But when she kicks off the bidding at the Jackson Hole charity bachelor auction, she doesn't expect to win the doctor of her secret fantasies or for her date with the single dad to lead to pregnancy!
Timothy Duggan is determined to do the right thing and marry the sassy styliststat! After all, his twin daughters adore herand with a baby on the way, the widowed obstetrician knows making them a family is the ideal solution. But Cassidy will only marry for loveand it's up to Tim to convince her that, pregnant or not, he can't envision a life without her
About the Author
Since selling her first story to Harlequin Books in 1999, Cindy has been forced to juggle her love of reading with her passion for creating stories of her own. But it's worth it. Writing for Harlequin Special Edition is a dream come true.
Read an Excerpt
Cassidy Kaye knew the instant Tim Duggan walked into the Green Room. Though she was busy doing hair for those participating in the Jackson Hole Bachelor/Bachelorette Auction, her spidey senses never failed to alert her whenever the handsome doctor was nearby.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw him pause in the doorway, a tall man with a thatch of hair the color of mahogany. His hair was cut stylishly short above a face with a strong jaw and straight nose. His hazel eyes looked green at the moment, but she knew they could turn a mesmerizing golden brown in a heartbeat. He was boyishly handsome, down to the sprig of freckles across the bridge of his nose.
His gaze scanned the room, his expression solemn.
When she'd first heard Tim would be filling in for his friend Liam Gallagher, she'd been stunned and disbelieving. Unlike the other bachelors up for bid this evening, Tim was a family man, a widower with twin seven-year-old daughters. He certainly wasn't a party animal. Other than escorting librarian Jayne Connors to a few social events now and then, he didn't even date.
When his gaze settled on her, something that looked almost like relief lifted his lips and she felt warm all over.
"Back in five," she told Zippy Rogers, a young woman whose thick dark hair practically begged to be placed into a sexy twist.
Cassidy wove her way through the small area just off the main ballroom of Spring Gulch Country Club, loving the energy in the air. With each step closer to Tim a different kind of excitement filled her. Embracing the sensation, she sidled up to him.
"Hi." Cassidy cursed the odd breathlessness that attacked her whenever he was near. To compensate she offered him a cheeky grin. "Word on the street is you're up for bid on the meat market tonight."
She could almost see his mind spinning like a hamster wheel as he attempted to come up with the proper response to her not-so-proper comment.
"Liam had an allergic reaction." He shifted from one foot to the other. "Right now his face is puffed up like the Incredible Hulk."
Liam, an all-around nice guy, was a child psychologist who'd recently returned to Jackson Hole to set up practice. Cassidy felt a stirring of sympathy. "Poor guy."
"He hated to back out at the last minute."
"If he resembles the Hulk, it was a wise move," Cassidy said matter-of-factly. "For these events, handsome, not hulk, is what brings in the money."
Tim's gaze lingered for a moment on the pretty blondes, sensual brunettes and one dazzling redhead getting their hair and makeup done. It slid to the group of young men standing together talking.
Other than Liam-the-absent, the guys on the chopping block tonight weren't his buds. These men were businessmen and ski industry people, at least five or six years younger than Tim. His social circleand herswas composed primarily of medical professionals and young entrepreneurs with a few attorneys and social workers tossed into the mix.
Cassidy fell into the entrepreneur bucket. She owned a successful hair salonClippity Do Dahin downtown Jackson. In the past year she'd expanded into doing hair, nails and makeup for events, such as weddings and other special occasions.
"I'm not sure exactly what I'm supposed to do." Tim shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. "Liam just told me to show up."
"Lexi Delacourt is coordinating tonight's fund-raiser. You know Lexi."
"Of course." The lines of strain on Tim's face eased.
Lexi was a mutual friend. She was also as classy and elegant as they came. The pretty social worker brought that class and elegance to anything she touched, which meant the auction wouldn't be sleazy. Or at least as non-sleazy as bidding on another human being could be.
"I'll take you to her." Cassidy looped her arm through his, congratulating herself on so quickly finding a reason to touch him.
As always, being this close sent blood coursing through her veins like warm honey. Though Cassidy normally preferred bright colors and flash, Tim's brown trousers and cream-colored shirt suited her just fine. In fact, on him she found the subdued colors incredibly sexy.
Cassidy glanced down, wondering if he liked her bright orange skirt that resembled a tutucomplete with tulletopped by a clingy lime tee. The outfit was one of her faves.
"This way." Cassidy tugged on his arm.
His feet remained firmly planted. "You're busy. I don't want to interrupt."
Cassidy looked at him blankly.
Tim gestured toward Zippy, who was busily applying another layer of color to her mouth.
Cassidy approved of the young woman's efforts. After all, could lips ever be too red?
"No worries." She tugged again, more firmly this time, and he moved with her, the faint intoxicating scent of his cologne teasing her nostrils. "Zippy is the last woman up, so I have plenty of time."
He nodded. "I just didn't want to disturb you."
She smiled to herself. What would he say if she told him everything about him disturbed her, but in only the very best of ways? Cassidy barely resisted the urge to ask. Instead, she steered the conversation in another direction. "How are Esi and Elle?"
Tim cocked his head and stared as if she'd spoken a language he hadn't yet mastered.
"Oh, you mean Esther and Ellyn." Warmth filled his eyes the way it always did whenever he spoke of his daughters. "They're well. Spending the evening with Grandma and Grandpa."
"I bet your mother had a coronary when she heard you were filling in for Liam tonight."
Cassidy didn't have to be a fly on the wall to know how that discussion had gone down. Suzanne Duggan, retired schoolteacher, helicopter grandmother and all-around pain in the butt would never approve of her doctor son participating in anything as gauche as a bachelor auction, even if it was for a good cause.
"She didn't say much."
Tim may have kept his tone offhand but Cassidy wasn't fooled. Mama bear had definitely given him a few hard swipes of her tongue.
"What did Jayne think?" This time it was her tone that was carefully neutral. To complete the trifecta, she paired the voice with an interested expression and a slightly raised brow.
"Jayne Connors," Cassidy prompted. "I didn't think to mention it."
Relief surged, as sweet as a bottle of cold beer on a hot summer day. Obviously Tim and Jayne were still casual, though Cass had to wonder for how much longer. It was hard to miss the desire in the librarian's eye whenever her gaze landed on him. Not-so-plain Jayne clearly had Dr. Duggan in her crosshairs.
" for such a good cause."
Cassidy realized that while her mind was tripping down the plain-Jayne path, Tim had been speaking. Thankfully, thinking on her feet was a specialty of hers. After all, as a hairdresser, she spent a lot of time on her feet.
"Raising money for the new Women and Children's Center is something I fully support," he continued. Compassion filled those hazel eyes. His caring nature was one more check in his positive column. "For such an affluent community we have so many women and children who struggle "
For a second, her throat constricted and breathing came hard. Instead of remaining stuffed away in a rarely opened file cabinet in her head, the comment brought her own childhood front-and-square.
Cassidy plucked the disturbing memories from her head, shoved them back into the file cabinet and firmly shut the drawer. The past had no place in her life. She was all about the present and the future.
"Lexi is right there." Cassidy gestured with her free hand, wishing the auction registration desk had been farther away. She wasn't ready to release Tim back into the world. These one-on-one times were rare and the warmth of his skin beneath her fingers an unexpected pleasure.
"I should speak with Lexi." Yet he made no move to step away.
Though Cassidy sometimes wondered how she could be the only one to feel the sizzle that was so blatant whenever they stood close, she wasn't foolish enough to entertain the thought that Tim hesitated because he wanted to spend a few more moments with her. He was simply uneasy about what he'd agreed to do and was trying to put off beginning the process for as long as possible.
"I have this image of standing up there and not getting a single bid." He emitted a slightly embarrassed chuckle. "I'm a middle-aged dad. Who's going to bid on me?"
Tim wasn't fishing for a compliment; he wasn't that kind of guy. He obviously had no idea just how appealing he was to the opposite sex.
"You're thirty-four. You're successful. You're hot."
He laughed. "Yeah, right."
"If it will ease your mind, I'll start the bidding," she promised him. "Kick things off."
Gratitude flooded his face. "You'd do that for me?"
"Hey." She punched him in the shoulder. "We're buddies."
Okay, perhaps that was a stretch, but saying it felt incredibly good.
"You're a very nice person." His gaze lingered on her face so long that her lips began to tingle. For a second, she had this crazy thought he might kiss her.
Instead he squeezed her shoulder and strolled off in Lexi's direction.
After Cassidy finished making Zippy even more stunning, she took a few moments to touch up her own makeup and hair.
The auction of five women and five men had already started. The order had been predetermined beginning with a female and following a female-male format. Liam, or rather Tim, would be last on the auction block.
From the laughter and applause that arose from the ballroom each time the bidding concluded for an individual, Cassidy decided it wouldn't take long to get to Tim.
Still, she lingered in front of the long mirror, taking a second to add a touch more orange-marmalade gloss to her mouth before fluffing her hair with her fingers. For the evening festivities, she'd resurrected the true blond of her childhood then tipped the ends with royal blue to match the color of her eyes.
Though she often wore glasses in vivid hues or patterns, the frames were a fashion accessory rather than a necessity. Tonight she'd left them in the small apartment over her shop, the place she now called home.
Cassidy smiled broadly, making sure there were no lipstick smudges on her teeth. Satisfied, she sauntered into the ballroom on five-inch heels.
After obtaining a number for bidding, she secured a spot halfway back from the stage and watched the spirited bidding for a date with Zippy. Mr. Business Exec with the receding hairline and Mr. Snowboarder with the sun-streaked shaggy hair both seemed equally determined to win a date with the beautiful attorney.
Zippy was the last woman on the list. The bidding reached one thousand dollars before Business Exec conceded to Snowboarder. Once the applause ended, many of those who'd stayed to watch headed to the adjacent ballroom where silent-auction items flanked the perimeter of the room and a champagne fountain anchored the center. A plethora of hot hors d'oeuvres were dispensed by waiters in black pants and white shirts, holding silver trays.
Thankfully, not everyone left in search of food and drink. Cassidy calculated at least a hundred remained in the ballroom when Lexi stepped forward to introduce Tim. The dark-haired social worker, lovely in navy chiffon, included in her introductory remarks that Tim had grown up in Jackson Hole, was a respected member of the medical community and the father of twin girls.
The young doctor's face remained calm but Cassidy wasn't fooled. He was nowhere as relaxed and confident as he appeared. Her fingers tightened on the numbered paddle in her hand. She'd made a promise and was ready to do her duty.
Nick, Lexi's husband and well-known family law attorney, was serving as the event's guest auctioneer. He took the microphone from his wife and his gaze scanned the audience. "Do I hear a bid of one hundred?"
For a second the room was silent. One hundred was the lowest acceptable bid. From what she'd overheard while she waited, the lowest winning bid so far had been three hundred, while eleven hundred was the night's record. Most had come in around five hundred.
Cassidy was just lifting her paddle when she saw a redhead off to her right raise hers.
She recognized the woman in the sexy black dress that hugged a taut body and emphasized ample breasts. Leila Daltry was a customer at Clippity Do Dah. She stopped by regularly to get her hair cut and for an occasional color boost. A registered nurse, the striking redhead worked in the obstetrics department at the hospital. Though she wasn't the right woman for Tim, Cassidy liked her well enough.
Nick asked for a two-hundred-dollar bid. When none was forthcoming he moved into his going once, twice speech. Cassidy stopped him by lifting her number. No way was she letting Leila get Tim that cheap.
Leila turned slowly and her cat-green eyes narrowed.
Though the RN had always been friendly enough, Cassidy absorbed the feral gleam directed her way and grinned back.
If Leila thought a hostile glance could intimidate her, she was mistaken. Cassidy Kaye ate feral cats for breakfast.
"Three hundred," Nick confirmed when Leila waved her paddle as he upped the bid.
The curious gazes of the well-dressed men and women in the room were now shifting between her and Leila. Once again, Nick upped the bid. Without even thinking, Cas-sidy lifted her number.
"Four hundred is the bid," Nick called out. "Do I hear five?"
The redhead hesitated now, her gaze shifting from Tim's impassive expression to Cassidy's cool gaze. Though nurses were paid well, the cost of living in Jackson Hole was through the roof. Five hundred dollars was a lot of money.
Leila tossed her head and raised her paddle.
"We're at five hundred dollars," Nick pronounced. "Will someone give us six?"
Let it go, Cassidy told herself. Five hundred was a respectable bid.
"Going twice," she heard Nick say.
Without taking a second to talk herself out of it, Cas-sidy shot her hand into the air.
"We have six hundred."
Leila's head snapped around and the satisfied smirk on her face vanished. If looks could kill, Cassidy would be six feet under.
"Going once, going twice. Six hundred dollars to number ninety-eight."
It was a charitable donation, Cassidy told herself as she wrote out the check. Though she had to admit dropping that amount of money in a single night hurt.
Or rather it did until she turned and found Tim standing. Right. There.
"I'm sorry you got stuck," he said.
Normally never at a loss of words, for a second Cassidy could only stare. Her heart gave a painful twist.
"I mean, I know you were only trying to increase the bid. I can give you the money to"
She shot out a hand, stopping him before he could say more. "You're not getting out of our date that easily. I bought you fair and square, mister."
He smiled then, a warm easy lifting of his lips that did strange things to her insides. And when he took her arm, she realized he was worth every penny.
They strolled into the ballroom, where they both enjoyed a glass of champagne. After handing the empty glasses to a passing waiter, they wandered out onto the veranda, where the conversation shifted from mutual friends and future events to their upcoming "date."
"I'll pay for the evening." Tim's tone brooked no argument. "You pick where we go. Fair?"
Cassidy considered for a moment then nodded.
The moon bathed his face in a golden glow and a light breeze tousled his hair. He really was a great-looking guy. Not only did he have a fabulous face, his lips were firm and perfectly sculpted.
As she stared, she wondered what they would feel like, taste like.
"Sounds like we've got a deal." He stuck his hand out but she ignored it, keeping her gaze focused on his lips.
Cassidy firmly believed hesitating or second-guessing was for wimps. Stepping close, she wrapped her hands around his neck and covered his mouth with hers.