I paused and stepped back as the clapping started up again. My eyes were still fixed on Aiden, but he had his head down, as if he was busy texting. A frown momentarily darkened my face, but I pushed it away. I wasn’t going to let Aiden take this away from me. Tonight was my night. I was so hopeful about all this, even if my mom and stepfather disapproved. I knew that I’d never inherit any of the Durant money, and this was my own way forward.
The Sotheby’s man came up to the podium, and announced bidding to start at $10,000. Right away a few paddles went up. My whole mood brightened then, because I knew that it was going to be an amazing party if people were bidding for my services at this price. I was hoping for a movie star to pick me, and then I’d be a household name.
The number climbed up, higher and higher. I could hear Sam bidding, though he dropped out pretty quickly. I guess he picked up on my lack of enthusiasm, I thought. At some point, I could hear whispering. Mine was the biggest entry so far. I was so elated that it took me a few seconds to register someone yell out.
A murmur rushed through the crowd. My head jerked up, hoping that for once it was who I wanted. And it was ! I gasped when my eyes fixed upon Aiden, lifting the paddle into the air. The Sotheby man was equally surprised by how high he had jumped. Raising his eyebrows, he paused, but nobody said anything at all.
“Going once… going twice… Sold! To number 416. Please make your way over to the side here to finalize your contribution.”
I walked over in a daze, shocked not only by the fact that I had managed such a large contribution, but by who had bid on me. In the background I could hear another girl, this one offering to give a full body makeover.
As I walked up slowly to the desk at the side, I could see Aiden all by himself. The blonde he was with was nowhere in sight. My steps were slow. I wasn’t sure I was ready to face him. After all, ever since he’d come back, he’d paid me very little attention. He didn’t even to care one way or another what I was doing, and when he had, it was never good. So to find that he had won me at the auction made me wary. For all I knew, he wasn’t going to throw any party at a
ll, and that would not be a good start for my business.
“Now please just sign here,” the lady at the table said.
I wanted to pull him aside, and demand to know what he was doing before he did, but it was too late anyways. The auction had already moved on, and I wasn’t going to be getting a second chance. At least, not without a lot of embarrassment and questions.
“Here you go,” Aiden replied as he finished up and handed over a check.
“Thank you. I know that Celebrate Life will be very grateful for your generosity!”
He smiled and shook the lady’s hand, then turned around to face me. I could see a big smile on his face as he leaned in and gave me a hug.
“Sis! Have I told you how proud I am that you’re going to be making your own way?”
I pasted on a smile as I leaned and gave him a hug. Before I could pull away though, his strong arms tightened around me, holding me close. For just a moment, his lips brushed up against my bare neck, and my eyes fluttered. My neck was my weak spot. I always melted whenever anyone kissed or bit it.
“Aiden,” I whispered. “What are you doing?”
Slowly he pulled away. His hazel eyes were hooded, and a shiver ran through me. Why couldn’t I look away from his gaze? He straightened up, and I wobbled a little on my own two feet.
“Well, I had to support my little sister in any way I can,” he said. The lady at the desk nodded approvingly, but I was still suspicious.
“I think we should have a talk. Alone.”
I walked outside of the auction room and into the main hall where the gala was in full swing. The heavy velvet drapes by the windows let in little light, to encourage everyone to let loose. I smiled distractedly at people as they passed by. As the waiter went by I picked up a glass of wine and downed it. I’d need the liquid courage if I was going to have a talk with Aiden. It was almost impossible to find a quiet place to chat. Instead, he tugged on my arm and gestured toward the window. The velvet drapes had covered up the entrance to an empty balcony, and we slipped through gratefully for a moment of peace.
Aiden walked forward toward the stone railing of the balcony, and all I could do was follow. We spent a few minutes looking down at the people below. Up close by his side, I squeezed my thighs together involuntarily as my body reacted to his proximity. I’d given up trying to figure out what made this man so attractive to me.
“So, is this party business thing for real?” His tone was light and surprisingly candid. It changed his whole countenance, so that he looked approachable for once.
“Yeah,” I said, startled by his friendliness. Was this really the same Aiden who made snarky comments about me doing the same work that the help did?
“I’m glad. You need to be doing something to get out from my stepfather’s thumb.”
“What do you mean?” I asked, confused. “I’m doing this for… for myself.”
“I mean, that I’m glad you’re going to have a means to your own income. That way you never owe my father a thing, and he can’t just decide what he wants for you.”
My eyes opened in surprise as I saw how bitter Aiden seemed to be. Somehow this had shifted from being about me to himself. I thought carefully back on everything. Going abroad to learn the business, his dreams of being a lawyer suddenly gone, those glances I’d catch from him sometimes…