Home > Bound to the Bachelor (Montana Born Bachelor Auction #1)(5)

Bound to the Bachelor (Montana Born Bachelor Auction #1)(5)
Sarah Mayberry

She hadn’t seen Luther since the night she climbed out her bedroom window fourteen years ago, taking nothing with her except a handful of clothes and the few dollars she’d managed to squirrel away. It had taken time, but she’d ousted him from the place he’d once occupied in her emotional landscape. These days, she barely thought of him at all.

And now he’d done this.

The chime of a text message arriving made her lift her head. She blinked, remembering where she was, what was happening tonight. The auction, Josh, Molly…

She didn’t have time for this.

Shooting to her feet, she tossed the letter onto her chest of drawers and started dressing. She tied the sash on her deep aubergine wool, wrap dress as she went in search of her phone to find out who was texting. It was Molly, letting her know she might be a little late to Grey’s as she and Josh were moving more slowly than she’d hoped. Lily texted back a quick reassurance before hastily finishing dressing. Makeup consisted of some hastily applied mascara, eye-liner and lipstick. Her hair was pinned up, with a few loose tendrils teasing around her face. A spray of perfume, and she was dragging on her long down coat, shoving her shoes into her bag and slipping on her waterproof boots. Snow was forecast for tonight, and she wasn’t ruining her black suede ankle boots for anyone.

Her mind whirled with all the things that still needed to be done as she drove back to Grey’s. She’d asked the bachelors to arrive thirty minutes before kickoff and she smiled with relief when she pushed through the double doors into the welcome warmth of the saloon and saw Jett Casey and Ryan Henderson talking with Reese at the bar.

Great. Two bachelors on deck, four to go.

“Gentleman. Bless you for showing up,” she said by way of greeting.

They swung to face her, and she had to admit they’d both scrubbed up very nicely, indeed. Ryan had on his best chef’s whites, the double-breasted tunic making his broad shoulders seem even wider than usual. Jett was in a black suit, his shirt open at the collar, a look he pulled off with easy confidence.

With a bit of luck, the ladies were going to go wild over these two tonight and lay down good money for the dates they were offering.

“Come upstairs and I’ll walk you through the running order for tonight,” she said, ascending the stairs to the overflow area Jason Grey had opened up to accommodate what they hoped would be big numbers at tonight’s function.

Dillon Sheenan was setting up the bar in the corner, and he gave her a friendly nod as she set down her bag and slid out of her coat.

“Okay, first things first. We’ve got Buck Thompson to officiate the auction itself –”

“The cattle auctioneer?” Ryan asked.

“That’s right.”

Jett raised his eyebrows, then a slow smile curved his mouth, taking him from handsome to devastating in a flash. “Going to put us through our paces, is he?”

“I hope so,” Lily said. “Remember, this is all for Josh, so you work that stage, gentlemen.”

Over the next half hour, Jesse Grey, Gabriel Morales, and Lincoln Brady arrived. Lily familiarized them with the stage and the running order for the evening, one eye on the door most of the time.

Where the hell was Beau Bennett? Mr. I-never-back-out?

The saloon was starting to fill up, women coming into the warmth from the cold night, laughing and smiling with their friends. Lily fretted about her absent bachelor as she watched groups settle at tables and into booths. She saw Paige Joffe from the Main Street Diner with McKenna Sheenan and Taylor Harris and gave them a wave. Andie McGregor rushed through the door, closely followed by her husband, Heath. Andie sent Lily a big grin and two thumbs up to wish her luck as Heath helped her out of her coat. There were a lot of women she only vaguely knew, and some she knew only too well – women who’d looked down their noses at her when she’d first arrived in Marietta, and it had gotten around that once-upon-a-time, Lily had been a stripper. These days, their disapproval was more a subterranean rumble than a Vesuvius waiting to erupt, but Lily hadn’t forgotten the judgment in their eyes during her first few months in town.

It was all too easy for those women to decide how she should live her life when they hadn’t walked a mile in her shoes. The Rottweilers – that was how she thought of them – all considered her a hussy, a woman of dubious virtue because she’d once taken her clothes off for money. They went to church on Sundays and listened to sermons about the milk of human kindness, forgiveness, and acceptance, and then turned their backs on her at the supermarket. Once, Cora Bartlett had even gone so far as to hustle her seventeen-year-old son across the street, worried, Lily imagined, that Lily’s astonishing powers of vice and corruption could leap across the sidewalk and infect him with animal lust.

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