Seven Day FianceBy: Rachel Harris
Shivering as cool November air kissed her exposed skin, Angelle Prejean quickened her pace across the Magnolia Springs Banquet Hall parking lot. The rhythmic click of her toe-pinching heels sounded amplified in the dark, but it did jack squat to drown out her mama’s voice still ringing in her ears. What Angelle needed was a distraction, and an event planned by her crazy roommate was sure to deliver. Digging through her beaded black handbag, Angie fished out her ticket and flashed it at the entrance, then stepped inside the toasty warm lobby with a hopeful smile. It promptly froze and withered on her face.
Looming directly across from her in the crowded vestibule stood an almost life-size poster of three faceless, shirtless men. The words For Your Holiday Pleasure were written in elegant swirling letters along the bottom.
For her stupefaction was more like it.
Angie glanced at her ticket, confirming she had the date and location right, and promptly returned her gaze to the glorious sight before her. Her breath escaped in a rush. Heat crept up her neck. But a herd of wild horses couldn’t tear her gaze away. And from the excited whirr of murmurs and giggles filling the entryway, she wasn’t the only one enjoying the man-tastic view.
Together, the half-nude beefcake trio in the poster was devastating, each man impossibly gorgeous. But for Angelle it was one man in particular, the one in the center, who had butterflies doing the cha-cha in her belly and her limbs gushing with warmth.
It didn’t matter that the image stopped at his throat. She didn’t need to see his face to recognize the rugged bartender. The confidence in the man’s stance, the ink on his skin, and the way her entire body shook with desire and trepidation gave his identity away. Thanks to the class they took together at Northshore Combatives, Angie had seen Cane Robicheaux in various stages of undress. But despite the overwhelming temptation, she’d never allowed herself the luxury of a thorough examination. In fact, she did everything she could to avoid eye contact of any kind—not an easy feat in a town as small as Magnolia Springs. Or with an attraction as fierce as hers. But now, alone with a bazillion other women doing the same, Angie let her eyes drink their fill.
Her gaze caressed the width of his broad shoulders. Traced the lines of his flat, rippled abdomen. And feasted on the artwork adorning his skin. A koi fish swam up one side of his smooth ribs, flames licked up a thick, muscular arm, and a cross with angel wings and his mom’s name peeked from inside the other. An intricate yin-yang of a tiger and dragon covered the left side of his bulging chest, and she knew from prior, covert inspection that a fleur de lis marked his toned calf. The sound of her erratic pulse eclipsed all other sound in the room, but if Angelle were a betting woman, she’d put even money that a hum of feminine swooning was breaking around her. Cane Robicheaux exuded sex—sex and danger. And in spite of her many, many, many attempts to pretend otherwise, she was every bit as susceptible to that potent combination as the rest of the female population.
“Which is why I’m in so much trouble,” she whispered with a disgusted snort.
A long shadow fell over the trio, breaking Angelle’s lust-dazed trance. She blinked and shifted her attention to a statuesque brunette wearing a bright red evening gown and an amused smirk. “Sure puts you in the holiday spirit, doesn’t it?”
“Uh, yeah.” Angelle averted her gaze back to the poster as the heat of a blush extended to her cheeks. “That it does.”
The annual Bachelor Auction was the town’s official kick-off to the holidays and usually involved tuxedo-clad gentlemen and endless glasses of champagne. Of course, that was before her roommate and Cane’s spunky youngest sister, Sherry, took control of the reins.
The brunette tapped a painted nail over Cane’s chest. “Makes me want to do a little early Christmas shopping.”
Irrational jealousy flared in Angelle’s stomach. Cane’s not really mine, she reminded herself. Despite what my parents may think. This chick’s free to bid on him if she wants. But as the woman’s lips tipped up in a cougar-like grin, that irrational flare grew into a blazing inferno of possession.
Chuckling to herself, the woman glanced at the elevated stage and catwalk centered in the room. “Good luck in there tonight. And may the auction gods be in both our favors, huh?”
Angelle nodded, forcing a brittle smile as the brunette sauntered away, hips swaying beneath the skin-tight fabric of her dress. Then, exhaling a frustrated breath, she began scouting for the bar. Normally, Angie wasn’t much of a drinker, but if Cane was a bachelor up for bid—which she should’ve assumed considering he was Cane, after all—then she was gonna need the mental fuzziness. Otherwise, she’d likely do something to embarrass herself.
Such as win the man and then ask him for an incredibly crazy favor.
Looking past the image of forbidden flesh, her eyes slid over the long silent auction table boasting lingerie, jewelry, and highly questionable novelty items. Lining the floor beyond that were cramped cocktail tables decorated with what appeared to be whips and bright feather boas. A jolly, holiday-appropriate, yet completely incongruous Christmas tree was off in the far corner, holding ornaments she was sure would shock the country out of her if they were visible. To say Angie was out of her comfort zone would be an understatement of massive proportions. She was so far outside the zone she may as well be in a different zip code.