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No Deal
by Christy Poff

Category: Erotica/Erotic Romance/Suspense/Thriller
Description: Alicia lived with a man who used her to further his legitimate financial climb in the corporate world. Every day she hated him more. Blake spent a cool million to get to know her for one evening. Will their love grow into a win/win result? Or will it be no deal?
eBook Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press, 2010
eBookwise Release Date: April 2010

eBookeBook

20 Reader Ratings:
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Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [354 KB]
Words: 76353
Reading time: 218-305 min.


Chapter 1

"You've been ignoring our guests," Lohan Billings chastised his wife.

"They're your guests and they don't care."

"The maid said she found you with a man."

"My God, Lohan, get over yourself. Do you think I would give you any reason to punish me? Especially in this...this mausoleum?" My God, he's right...

"You watch your..."

"Lohan, I'm tired of this. The only reason you haven't done anything drastic is because I refuse to sign my family's money over to you. Do you think I'm not fully aware of what will happen to me once I do?"

"Such insolence," he accused. "Where is all this coming from?"

"It's me, Lohan--if you'd ever taken a moment to notice."

"I'll deal with you later," Lohan threatened. "Now go put something on your neck. It's becoming obvious."

"What, that I'm damaged goods? Used and..."

"If we didn't have guests, I'd..."

"Do that and you definitely won't get what you want from me."

Alicia pulled away from him and disappeared into the crowd of guests trying to find the perfect spot for the auction. When she returned, she noticed Blake Atherton standing off to the side with a man she recognized but, at the moment, his name escaped her. Why did he stay?

"It's about time you returned," Billings hissed under his breath as he sported a fake smile. "You've been holding up the night's festivities." Her husband firmly gripped her upper arm while pushing her to the front of the ballroom to a platform set up for the auction. As always, Lohan expected his wife to stand next to him throughout the evening's charitable portion of the party but tonight, he got strange vibes from her he didn't like. At the moment though, he had to take care of the auction.

After an hour passed, the auction had raised seventy-five thousand dollars from the first several items. Pleased, Billings knew exactly what his guests waited for and purposely hurried through the proceedings. When the highpoint of the event came up, he drew each deal out trying to get his friends to part with a small portion of their wealth.

The grand finale of the evening quickly came. He turned to his wife and said one word.

"Behave."

Turning back to his guests, he took her hand and pulled her up front to appear as the ever-loving husband and philanthropist--an act he'd perfected over the years. The buxom blonde who looked like Pamela Anderson and a redhead lightened their winners by twenty-five grand each. A brunette left with a guy who handed over forty thousand for her and several others matched this or offered more. At this point, he could start the bidding on his wife at seventy-five and easily get it or more. Easy to match and raise a dollar...

"Now, for the final offering of this very successful evening," he announced, pulling Alicia closer. "I'll start the bidding at seventy-five thousand."

"One hundred thousand," a voice from the side of the room toward the rear called.

The crowd gasped then went silent.

"I have a bid of one hundred thousand dollars--do I hear a higher bid?"

"What are you bidding, Billings? After all, she is your wife."

Laughter filled the room though Lohan Billings didn't appreciate it being at his expense.

"I'll raise it by a thousand," he stated.

"One hundred and twenty-five," the voice from the rear called.

"One hundred twenty-six," Billings said.

"One hundred fifty thousand."

Obviously unnerved by the way the auction went and knowing his bank account would be taking a hit, he gazed around the room then looked at his wife with suspicion.

"One hundred fifty-one," he said trying to remain composed.

"One hundred seventy-five thousand."

"And I raise that by one thousand," he bid, hoping that would end it.

The crowd gasped then silence filled the room.

"Do I have another bid?"

No one said a word.

"Then going once...twice...three times..."

"One million dollars."

"Sold," Billings stated, unable to stop himself from accepting the last and final bid. "For one hundred seventy-six thousand..."

"No, Billings, the bid reached one million before you said sold. You have to award him the winning bid."

"But..."

"Too late, Billings, someone wants her more than you do."

The crowd laughed and with the auction over, some began to say their good-byes thanking Lohan Billings for a wonderful and interesting evening.

Billings turned away from the crowd to regroup, seeing Alicia standing before him.

"What the hell have you done?"

"Me? This has always been your idea and now, somebody's trumped you."

"There's no way he can afford his bid..." he said, trying to reason out his next move.

"Mister Billings, I'd like to settle up with you."

"Excuse me," Billings said, turning around. "You want to what?"

"Who do I make the check out to?"

"Check?" Billings asked, suddenly unable to think.

"To cover my bid for an evening with the lady. I don't want the check going to the wrong people."

"Your bid?"

"A cool million."

"Uh, can we talk?" Billings said, drawing the man off to the side. "Alicia, go see to our guests."

"No, I think I need to hear this. After all, I am the one involved."

"Alicia," he hissed.

"I'd like the lady to stay as well."

"Suit yourself," Billings muttered.

"Mrs. Billings," the man said, motioning to a chair. "You look like you need to sit down."

"Yes, thank you," she said as the stranger held the chair for her.

"Now, about my bid..."

"One million dollars."

"Sold..."

"Blake, do you have any idea what you've just done?"

"Donated to charity--why?"

"Let me explain something--again," Blake's friend George Carson said. "Lohan Billings puts his wife up for auction every year and his bid is always the winning one."

"So..."

"By outbidding him the way you did, there is no way he can top your bid and look good at the same time while his wife remains protected with their marriage intact."

"She needs protection from him," Blake stated.

"What?"

"I saw the proof on her neck and I've seen her unease. She took three shots of whiskey just before the auction began."

"That may be true but he's an enemy you don't want."

"Tell me more about him."

"He's Old Boston money though from the ill-gotten gains' side of the register. He's ruthless and gets what he wants no matter what it takes. He plays dirty, Blake."

"And his wife?"

"Legitimate old money only rumor has it she won't sign over her family's fortune to him which would help make him more welcome in some of the inner circles."

"He could always go to court for it."

"And then he'd be admitting to the fact he's in a bad marriage. He needs her money and the association to her family without tarnish."

"Smart lady," Blake commented.

"And you may have placed her in danger. He doesn't like losing, especially in front of this crowd."

"So you think I should withdraw the bid?"

"Yes, then give it anonymously later."

"I appreciate the information and the advice but I intend to get what I've paid for."

"Then let me take a good look at you because, my friend, I'm looking at a dead man."

"Gee, George, thanks for the vote of confidence."

"Sorry, man, but I think you've made a huge mistake this time."

"Won't be the first or the last," Blake said.

"Blake..."

Taking a deep breath, Blake Atherton looked toward the stage.

"Wish me luck."

"You got it because you're sure as hell going to need it."

Blake nodded then headed to the front of the room where Lohan Billings stood, horror-struck at what had just happened.

"Mister Billings, I'd like to settle up with you."

"Excuse me," Billings said, turning around. "You want to what?"

"Who do I make the check out to?"

"Check?" Billings asked, obviously unable to think.

"To cover my bid for an evening with the lady. I don't want the check going to the wrong people."

"Your bid?"

"A cool million."

"Uh, can we talk?" Billings said, drawing Blake off to the side. "Alicia, go see to our guests."

"No, I think I need to hear this. After all, I am the one involved."

"Alicia," he hissed.

"I'd like the lady to stay as well."

"Suit yourself," Billings muttered.

"Mrs. Billings," Blake said, motioning to a chair. "You look like you need to sit down."

"Yes, thank you," she said as he held the chair for her.

"Now, about my bid..."

Alicia Billings witnessed the auction in shock. Never had it turned out the way this one had but for the first time since they'd been hosting the charity gala, Lohan Billings had been outbid and substantially.

Feeling light-headed, she refused to show her reaction though the same man she'd met in the small anteroom earlier saw right through her. Does he honestly know what he's done?

"I'd like the lady to stay as well."

He held a chair for her which she gladly took, her hand grabbing the top of it for support.

"Now, about my bid," the man said.

"Can we discuss this?" Lohan Billings asked. "You see, I'm always the one who makes the final bid of the auction thereby winning my wife. I can't even begin to top your bid but I'm willing to let it go if you are."

"Which I'm not," the man stated.

"But, as a gentleman..."

"What kind of gentleman auctions his beautiful wife off like a piece of artwork?"

"It's for charity..."

"And I've offered to give your charity one million dollars. I'm quite sure they would be extremely disappointed to learn that you are trying to deny them the funds they need."

"It's not that but I refuse to allow you to spend the night with Alicia. She's not like the others who went up for bid before her."

"I'm sorry, but no deal. I'm not asking to spend the night with her but I think my money can at least buy dinner with the lady."

"But I'm giving you a way out."

"One I didn't ask for."

"My wife is not for sale."

"Then you should never have allowed her to participate."

"Why can't I convince you to do the right thing and withdraw your bid?"

"Because I made it in good faith and I expect the same."

"But..."

"While we stand here discussing this, have you even thought to ask your wife how she feels."

"Alicia will agree with what I decide."

"No, Lohan, I won't. He's right," Alicia said. "He's made a very generous bid which is why we do this every year. He's already stated his intentions for dinner and not what you assumed. You have no choice but to agree to the outcome of the auction."

"But you can't... How would it look?"

"Like I'm honoring a very generous donation by having dinner with the donor."

"You can't be serious, Alicia."

"I am," she said. "You're in way over your head on this one. Mister..." Please don't admit to earlier...

"Atherton, Blake Atherton and it will be my pleasure to take you to dinner one night this week."

"It should be very interesting," she commented.

"Atherton," Billings said. "I'm not familiar with your name. Are you sure you're able to back the check?"

"Mister Billings, I resent your implication. If I hadn't been able to, I would never have made the bid."

"Lohan, give up," Alicia sighed. "You've lost to a very worthy opponent. I look forward to our next meeting."

Billings obviously resented her siding with the stranger but with several of his associates lingering nearby, he couldn't very well push the matter any further. Alicia knew it and appreciated that her husband's survival instincts remained in place though she knew that somewhere down the road, he would get even with Blake Atherton, a man who'd kept their prior meeting to himself. Thank God but how do I warn him?

Both men shook hands, a gentlemen's agreement in place.

Once he wrote the check and handed it to the treasurer of the evening's event, Blake left the Billings' Beacon Hill home determined to do something to help Alicia Billings out of her predicament--namely, her marriage. Clearly ill at ease with the man and a victim of his abusive personality, Blake could tell she wanted out but had no way of doing so. Maybe I can help...

On the way to his car, he pulled out his cell phone and called a friend of his. Patrick Fox and he had been friends since their teens and when each got their degrees at Harvard, they returned to Boston and settled into business. While Blake took over the generations' old Revere Waverly, a business started in the seventeen hundreds by his mother's ancestors, Patrick went into security consultation and investigations. They'd worked together off and on over the years, their friendship tight.

"Fox."

"Hey, it's me. I need some information on Lohan Billings, his wife Alicia and his business interests. Also, see what you can find out about her family's fortune."

"And you want this yesterday, I assume?"

"Something like that."

"Come on over for a drink and explain this to me."

"What about Claire?"

"She and her mother went to Nantucket for the weekend. Got the house to myself."

"On my way and thanks."

"Anytime plus you'll get my bill."

Both men snickered as Blake ended the call and got into his 2008 Jaguar XJ8L. Parked in the shadows, the indigo color almost made the car disappear. After getting behind the wheel, he started it and drove off. Checking his mirrors from habit, he noticed a car had appeared behind him and followed him for several miles. Speeding up then turning down a darkened alley, he quickly shut off the lights and waited, watching the mirrors to see his tail slowly pass by where he hid.

Satisfied he'd eluded his new friend, he drove down the alley then turned onto another street before taking a circuitous route to get to Patrick's. After he pulled into the gated property and parked, he walked over to the house then knocked.

"It's open," a voice called.

Though being the same age as Blake, Patrick looked several years younger thanks to his extremely active lifestyle. When not playing hockey with Blake, he vigorously worked out every day. They made a good pair.

Blake went inside, meeting his friend in the entry. Patrick handed him an old-fashioned glass filled with several shots of Jack Daniels.

"Damn, this tastes better than that fancy shit at Billings' party. I tried getting a beer but all they served seemed to be champagne and not the best I've ever tasted."

"Figures. From my prelim on him, he appears to be a man who is trying desperately to fit into a world he obviously doesn't belong in. What's the deal?"

"I bought his wife," Blake said calmly.

"You did what?"

"His profile should mention an annual gala he and his wife host every year. They hold an auction before the end of the evening with the last item, so to speak, being Alicia Billings. He usually makes the winning bid but this year he couldn't surpass mine."

"For?"

"One million."

"What the hell have you gotten us into?"

Blake laughed at his use of the word us.

"I'm not exactly sure but it should be interesting."

Blake told Patrick about the evening up to and including the confrontation after the auction and the tail he'd picked up once he left Beacon Hill.

"This guy is not one to fuck with, my friend."

"So I've heard but if you had seen her reaction to their grand entrance then throughout the night, you'd understand. I personally witnessed her taking three very healthy shots of whiskey to steel herself for the auction. When I saw her before it, her neck showed the beginnings of a wicked brush burn as if someone had ripped something from her. At the auction, it didn't show but I saw its shadow when we spoke afterwards."

"So you think he's abusing her?"

"In one way or another--yes. He treats her like a child, ordering her about as if she has no brains. He lives in the Victorian Era and it's a shame because I think she's trapped in that mausoleum of a house."

"Might I remind you that she's married?"

"I know but I held her hand momentarily when we introduced ourselves and I felt something I've never experienced before. She felt it, too but a maid came into the room before we could say anything."

"From what I could find out about him, he grew up on the lower end of Beacon Hill. His family had a moderate fortune but not enough for Lohan. The main reason the marriage between him and Alicia had been arranged came about as a deal between two very old friends--his father and hers after he went to see her old man. The marriage gave him the inroads he needed into the financial world while she would come into a huge fortune from both sides of her family--one she has to freely sign over to him which obviously she has yet to do."

"George told me he refuses to take her to court over it because he will not admit that the marriage is a sham."

"In essence--yes. You know how gossipy some of those old biddies are and if they ever have daughters, it would hurt their debuts."

"Lovely," Blake commented before taking another sip from his drink. "Just how much is the lady worth?"

"Suffice it to say she's on a par with you."

"That much? Why haven't I heard about her before?"

"I think you've been checked too much and have ice for a brain."

"More than likely," Blake said then snickered.

"Do you want the guys and if so, how many?" Fox asked, referring to several of their teammates from their hockey team. A minor league affiliate of the Boston Bruins, the team had come together as friends from college hockey and continued playing. Several had played well enough to be called up to the NHL but mainly, this team did it for fun and love of the sport.

"Yeah, and about half the team."

"It's a good thing we're home for the next few games."

"That it is and one thing," Blake said, his tone serious. "If anyone gets hurt in this, the bills are on me."

Patrick nodded, knowing Blake Atherton would look after his friends so they would have no worries if anything went wrong.

"Any plans yet?"

"Just one."

"Which is?"

"After Alicia and I enjoy dinner, I'm taking her to the rink."

"But her profile mentions a bodyguard."

"I think I've got that one figured out though I'll have to make sure before I do anything."

"Lovely."

"You love the adventure," Blake said.

"Honestly?" Patrick asked. "Yeah, I do."


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