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Discovering Mr. X: Chapter 4

TANNER

“Tell me again why you still do this?” Drew asks me, taking a swig from his takeaway Starbucks cup as his eyes roam around the drafty auction house.

It’s a good turn-out. People are sitting in every chair that’s set up facing the Auctioneer’s podium at the front of the room. And a whole load more are piled in at the back standing, like us.

“I like to do it; it helps the students. Nothing like getting your hands dirty and getting stuck in to learn,” I say seriously, making some more notes on the auction catalog.

“Come on, man, don’t give me that shit. What’s really in it for you?”

“Drew.” I eye him sharply. “I like to do this. It reminds me of where I started. Now I’m giving others the same chance. The really promising ones come and work for us.”

“Ah, so that’s it.” He smiles smugly, nodding his head. “I knew there would be some shrewd business decision behind it somewhere.”

“It’s always about business,” I say gruffly, sliding my pen into the back pocket of my jeans.

“What’s got into you today? I thought you’d be all happy having escaped Mandy the money-grabber now we’re back from New York?”

I look at my best mate and Head of Staff, Drew, his eyes alight with mischief. “You know, maybe I should have left you over there for another year,” I say, my face deadpan.

“Relax, Tan, I’m just yanking your chain.” He bumps his shoulder against mine. “You make it far too easy, mate, far too easy.” He chuckles to himself. “Anyway, I enjoyed working out of the New York office. American women, phew, they’re feisty.” He grins. “It is good to be home, though.”

I clear my throat. “Looks like it’s about to start.” I nod towards the front, where the auctioneer has arrived. I’m pleasantly surprised to see it’s an attractive blond woman. She’s wearing a fitted wool dress with a low-cut neckline that shows off her ample cleavage. I run my hand back through my hair as I watch her climb up the stairs of the podium.

“Check out the cougar. Better than the old codger that used to be here last year. What do you reckon? Popped his clogs?” Drew says, inclining his head towards the podium where Blondie is standing.

I scowl. “No idea, but you need to stop talking. We’ve got four lots to bid on, and I want them all. If we miss one because you don’t know when to shut up, you’ll be looking for a new job in the morning.”

“Alright, Boss.” Drew holds his hands up, his empty cup between one thumb and forefinger. “Now I know you’re pissed. I guess now that Mandy money-grabber isn’t rinsing your wallet anymore, you’re also not getting your balls milked.”

His smirk leaves his face as I hiss, “Don’t you even think about my balls.”

I notice Blondie’s eyes roaming up and down my body all the way from her place at the podium. She raises an eyebrow at me, and I respond with the faintest of smiles. At least this auction won’t be boring.


Almost an hour later and we’ve won three out of four of the lots I came for. The houses themselves are all one or two-bed starter homes on the outskirts of London. Perfect projects for the local colleges’ trade apprenticeship programs my company helps to fund. They get to learn hands-on like I did when I started out as a builder’s apprentice all those years ago. It’s a win-win for the company. It provides great publicity opportunities, and I hand pick the most talented tradespeople to come and work for my property development company. We’re doing well. Offices in London and New York, and talks over some major new Los Angeles and Las Vegas contracts are in motion.

“Tan, this is the last one, Lot sixty-nine,” Drew says to me, keeping his voice low. The last thing we want is for another bidder to overhear which lots we plan bidding on, or worse, how much I’m willing to pay for them.

I shift my feet as Blondie starts the lot. “Okay, ladies and gentlemen, onto plot sixty-nine.” She looks me in the eye as she says the number. I try not to roll my eyes at her blatant flirting. I shouldn’t discount the potential for a fuck later, but I’m already losing interest in all the obvious glances she keeps throwing my way. I look around the room as she drones on about the “charming curb appeal” and “perfect location, close to Heathrow Airport”. There are a lot of heads bobbing and catalog papers being shuffled. This is obviously going to be a popular lot.

“Who will start the bidding at Two Hundred and Eighty thousand?” she calls out. There’s a pause as she scans first the seated portion of the room and then the standing bidders at the back. “Make no mistake, this plot will sell,” she says, glancing around again.

A hand with hot red painted nails rises out of the crowd. “Thank you!” Blondie calls.

“Any advance on Two Eighty?” She scans the room again. I tip the top of my rolled-up auction catalog towards her. “Thank you, sir.” She smiles as she acknowledges my bid.

“Two Ninety?” she asks red nails. I can’t see a hand, or even where the person whose hand it is sits, but whoever it is must have bid again because Blondie’s eyes are back on me.

“Two Ninety-Five?” she asks sweetly, her eyes dropping to the crotch of my jeans and back up again. God, hurry up, woman. I nod, irritated that she seems to be dragging this out.

“Three Hundred and Ten Thousand!” I hear a voice call out. Blondie’s eyes flash, annoyed at the interruption. She looks into the crowd, and I can see the same small, delicate, red-nailed hand extending up through the crowd.

Oh, she’s stubborn.

I sigh. I really don’t have time for this. Drew and I have some proposals to look over today before we head out tonight.

“Three Hundred and Thirty Thousand,” I say, boredom creeping into my voice. Heads in the crowd are whipping back and forth, watching the bidding war.

“What happened to the Three-Two-Five budget?” Drew whispers from the side of his mouth.

“That’s my plot, Drew. I just want to get out of here now. It’s worth the extra five just to hurry this the hell up,” I bark.

Drew rolls his eyes as he crosses his arms across his chest. “Your call, Tan.”

Blondie smiles at me before casting her eyes back into the seated crowd near the front. “Three Hundred and Thirty-Five Thousand?” she asks. There’s a murmur around the room as we wait.

After a long pause, Blondie looks back up at me. “It’s your bid, sir, at Three Hundred and Thirty Thousand pounds.” Red nails must have maxed out. Good. I never usually go over budget.

“Going once.” She scans the room for any last-minute bidders. “Going twice.” Silence. “Gone! To the handsome gentleman at the back,” Blondie calls out, her eyes on me as she licks her lips and brings down her gavel with a loud thud.

There’s some excited chatter around the room as I hold up my bidding number so a member of staff can note it down near the podium.

“Congratulations, sir,” Blondie says, but I’m past caring about her. A man has stood up and left one seat near the front, and I now have a direct line of sight to the person sitting in front of him—the woman who must have been bidding against me. She’s turned around in her seat, a murderous expression on her face as though she’s fantasizing about tearing me limb from limb with her red nails.

My breath catches, and my cock twitches as I stare back into the beautiful face belonging to Snow.


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