Thursday, January 8, 2015
(continued from Monday’s blog)
At first it looked like Serenity might just get her man/ride home. Competing bids were scattered and half-hearted. She got the impression this bachelor might not be too popular with the crowd.
Why not? He was handsome enough to turn a girl’s head. Not a shorty, not too tall. His dark face appeared blemish-free. He didn’t look too thrilled to be up on stage, like he’d only entered the auction on a bet and now regretted it. His reluctance might have communicated itself to the women, accounting for the spotty bids.
Which made him perfect for Serenity. A ride home from a man who didn’t want to date her was exactly what she wanted right now.
She topped a bid with her own for $300. No one else spoke up. Obeying gestures from the drag queen auctioneer, the man on stage struck a pose. It didn’t help. Serenity had to squelch her urge to hop up and down. She was going to make it out of the shifter club unscathed!
Crud. Serenity glanced over to where the bid had come from. A hard-faced older woman in a tight cocktail dress and too much lipstick gazed at the man on stage with clear predatory intent in her gemstone eyes. She licked her overglossed lips. Even at a distance, the bachelor's gulp was visible.
Serenity’s normally weak temper suddenly flared. Not my ride, you don’t. “Four hundred.”
“Five hundred,” the woman instantly countered. She snarled at Serenity, with a growl and teeth showing and everything. In her case, “cougar” was probably literal.
No way, Serenity thought. No way she was spending the night here. “Five-fifty.”
Double-crud with an egg on top. She’d gone over budget at $400. The man on stage stared at her beseechingly.
Serenity jumped, with an audible, “Eek!” The bid came from right at her shoulder, and the voice was undeniably male.
She risked a glance at her new competitor. Skyscraper-tall, dark-haired, dusky-skinned, wrapped in a silk suit that sneered at off-the-rack. He grinned down at her and winked.
Serenity slumped. I’ve been bidding on a gay man. In public. My life is now officially over.
The bachelor on the block flared to life. “Guri!” That was either a curse or the bidder’s name. He made it sound like both. “This travesty is for the women only!”
“I’m trying to get you a suitable date. Just stand there and look desirable.”
The bidders howled with laughter. Serenity wanted to sink into the floor. She opted for slinking away.
The tall man caught her arm and held her in place. “It’s all right,” he assured her. “Bid as high as you like. I’ll cover it. Sanjay is my brother. I want him to go to a lovely maiden, not some dried-up hag.”
Lipstick Lady overheard. She snarled at the man like a panther. Serenity’s new benefactor snarled right back at her. Lipstick Lady backed off.
Serenity shrank as far from the man as his grip on her arm would allow. Runny eggs and bacon. Her pay pal was a predator. If the one on the stage was his brother, then that meant—
“Going once … going twice … SOLD for one thousand dollars to the girl with the panicked look on her face,” the drag queen cheerfully announced. “He’s all yours, chica. You might as well take off the bra right now. Save you both some time. Oooh, look who’s up next! He’s an EMT and former football star, with a hard head and an even harder—”
Serenity’s spinning head tuned out the rest of the spiel. She was now the proud owner of some kind of shifter. She let the tall ATM in the silk suit guide her off to the side, where her purchase waited beside a cashier.
Brothers. They were brothers. Good Lord, he’d just paid a thousand bucks. Would she have to go with both of them?
Her resolve steeled its spine. As long as they had a car. That was all that mattered. The rest she could figure out when the time came.
Serenity’s ride home was buttoning up his shirt. He didn’t appear any more comfortable than she felt. His brother shoved the two of them together and then abandoned them to pay the tab.
Okay, let’s get this over with. Serenity took in a deep breath, steadied her nerves, and looked her bachelor in the face.
For an alleged predator, he had the mildest eyes she’d ever seen. Not in color, though. That green was intense enough to blast paint off a truck, or resistance off a woman. His sudden smile matched his eyes, peaceful and reassuring while at the same time brutally lethal. He smoothly took her hand and kissed the back of it. Serenity made a little mewling sound.
“I am Sanjay Ghan,” her impulse purchase introduced himself. “And you … ” He regarded her hand. “Are very sweaty.”
“Sorry.” Serenity snatched her hand away and scrubbed it frantically against the butt of her dress. “I never bought anybody before. I’m Serenity.”
“Serenity.” His accent turned it into a song. A little shiver took her, that for once had nothing to do with her hair-trigger nerves. “How lovely. If I may ask … are you a deer? You’ve got that look about you.”
“A deer? No! I mean, no, I’m not, I’m not a shifter, I’m just here by accident. I’m human.”
“Human? That’s even better.” A smile exploded across his handsome face like an H-bomb. “Father will shit in his pants.”
“Excuse me.” Sanjay’s brother returned to them. He was stuffing a wad of bills back into his wallet. Serenity’s eyes bugged at the thickness of it, and the visible denominations. He slipped the wallet into one pocket and his hand into the other. This hand came up with a set of car keys, which he handed to Sanjay. “I have to leave you now. There will be many ladies who will lose out in the bidding tonight. I must stay and console them. Take the car. I’m sure I can find a ride. Or a room. Or I’ll have someone come get me.” His grin and wink took in the two of them before he sauntered away. “Enjoy your date.”
Serenity gaped after him. They were rich? They had people who would come collect them if they called? She shook those thoughts off. They were also shapeshifters, species unknown, but in all likelihood predators, and she was a jumpy human girl whose date had just mistaken her for prey.
He had a car. Good enough.
“About that date,” she started. “All I really want is—”
Her bra strap slipped again. She reached for it. Sanjay’s hand stopped hers. He took the bra strap, slid it back up her shoulder and tucked it beneath her dress. His fingers left a trail like fire up the bare skin of her arm.
Serenity’s brain flatlined.
“Have you eaten? Would you like dinner?” he asked in his musical voice.
From somewhere in the outer reaches of the universe Serenity heard herself say, “Dinner sounds great.”