Bound To The Bachelor
Go in there, ask the question, deal with his answer. Easy peasy.
Lily Taylor nodded, fully in agreement with the voice in her head. And yet she still didn’t move a muscle. Her hands remained clenched around the steering wheel of her rusty Honda hatchback, her ass parked firmly in the driver’s seat.
Chicken. Yellow-belly. Coward.
She was all of those things, but only when it came to Beau Bennett. Damn his eyes.
The front door of the squat, bunker-like building in front of her opened and a tall, broad-shouldered man stepped out, his hair and face obscured by the baseball cap he was wearing. If it was Beau, heading out somewhere on a work-related matter, she’d have to come back another time.
What a shame.
Her relief died a quick death as the man headed for the line of black SUVs emblazoned with the Copper Mountain Security logo on the far side of the lot. His step was long and determined, with none of the cocky confidence of Beau’s gait.
It wasn’t him. Dammit.
She’d recognize Beau’s walk anywhere - the way he carried his shoulders, his right dipping slightly lower than his left with each step, the roll of his hips. A cowboy’s walk. Although, as far as she knew, Beau had never been a cowboy.
Her gaze returned to the front door.
Think of Josh. This is all for him.
She pictured his smiling face, her heart aching with the force of the protective love she felt for her godson. He might be only ten, but Josh was the most courageous, inspiring person she knew, and she was determined to do her bit to make his life a little bit easier.
Okay. Let’s do this.
Shoving the car door open, she got out, squared her shoulders and started walking. As she approached the front entrance of Cooper Mountain Security, she reminded herself that, despite the voice in her head, she wasn’t afraid of Beau. He didn’t scare her. He simply made her…uncomfortable. And, of course, defensive, because she knew he didn’t like her, didn’t approve of her friendship with his sister, Andie.
None of that mattered right now, though. Josh was the important thing. Only Josh. The glass door was cold beneath her fingers as she pushed her way into the building. She glanced around briefly to get her bearings, taking in the three modern chairs and the small side table in the waiting area, then the reception counter, which was unmanned. Lily looked for a bell to ring or some other way of letting the staff know she was waiting. Unfortunately, there didn’t appear to be any way to signal her presence.
She eyed the unmarked door behind the reception desk. Normally, she’d never just help herself to the staff-only areas of a business, but she was a woman on a mission. Taking a deep breath, she strode forward and tried the handle. It turned beneath her hand.
Here goes nothing…
She pushed the door open and found herself on the threshold of a large, open space that had been divided into three distinct areas - glass-walled office cubicles to her left, an open kitchen with a long table lined with more than a dozen chairs in the middle, and a training area, complete with boxing gear, floor mats, ropes and other work-out paraphernalia to her right.
The training area was the only space that was occupied. Two men were hard at it on one of the floor mats, one of them wielding a long pad to protect himself while the other went at him with a series of kicks and punches. Both were wearing nothing but running shoes and loose workout shorts, their powerful, well-muscled bodies rippling as they moved around the mat.
Lily stood frozen for a few seconds, her gaze locked on Beau Bennett’s broad shoulders as he rained blows on his sparring partner, every fibre of his being focussed on the task at hand. The thwack of solid muscle slamming into padded vinyl echoed loudly in the space. Even though the guy with the pads braced himself for every blow, he still staggered backward with each kick or punch, testament to Beau’s relentless power.
Lily glanced over her shoulder. Beau was deep in his training session or whatever it was. She would come back another time.
She was on the verge of retreating when Beau caught sight of her, his head whipping around.
“Oh, hey. I didn’t see you there. I’ll be with you in a sec,” he called.
She could tell by his friendly, welcoming tone that he didn’t recognize her all rugged up in her winter coat, fluffy beanie and scarf. She couldn’t wait to see his smile drop like a rock when he realized it was her.
“There’s no rush,” she called back. “I just wanted to have a quick word.”
His eyes narrowed for a split second and she knew he’d recognized her voice. Right on cue, his mouth straightened into a flat line.
“Lily. What brings you to this neck of the woods?” He started toward her, mopping at his chest and face with a towel.
Lily tried not to stare at the well-honed planes of his chest and belly. Beau had been a Marine when he was younger, and he till kept himself crazy fit. Just how fit she hadn’t fully realized until this moment. The man barely had an ounce of fat on his body, he was so ripped and beautifully defined.
“Um. I wanted to talk to you about something.” She dragged her gaze from his body to his face.
His short, dark blonde hair was damp with sweat, his face slightly flushed from his workout. She looked straight into his cornflower-blue eyes and knew that she was not welcome here, not in the least. Nothing new there, though. Not with this man.
“Do you, uh, know Molly and Josh Dekker?” she asked.
Beau grabbed a piece of clothing off the back of one of the chairs in the kitchen zone, and she gave a silent sigh of relief when she realized it was a navy blue hoodie. Thank God she didn’t have to have this conversation staring at his ridiculously hard body. This was difficult enough already.
“Josh is the kid who had the accident up at the old mine, right?” Beau asked as he shrugged into the zip-fronted hoodie. “How’s he doing?
“He’s getting there. Slowly.” Lily wiped suddenly damp hands down the thighs of her jeans. “He’s got some pretty bad injuries from the fall, though. Incomplete paraplegia, to be exact. At this stage, the doctors are telling Molly - that’s his mom - that it’s unlikely he’s going to be able to walk again.”
Beau frowned as he stopped a few feet away, as always keeping a slightly-more-than-usual distance from her. “That’s tough news. I take it his father’s not around?”
“He and Molly are divorced. Which makes it even harder for Molly to make sure Josh has everything he needs. Which is why I’m here.” She felt a little breathless, and she willed Beau to finish dressing and zip up the front of his hoodie. Instead, he shoved his hands into the pockets and waited for her to continue.
“Money is tight,” she said, keeping her gaze on his face through a sheer act of will. “Josh is going to need a bunch of specialist treatment and equipment in order to maximize his recovery. And Molly is a school teacher, so the money isn’t exactly pouring in. Molly’s proud, but I’ve managed to convince her to let people pitch in to help out. Long story short, I was wondering if you’d be willing to be involved for a fundraiser?”
She knew it was kind of sneaky not mentioning what form the fundraiser was going to take up front, but she knew Beau well enough to know he was not going to be an easy recruit.
“Sure. What are you looking for? Donations? I’m more than happy to write you a check.”
“I need volunteers, actually. For the auction.”
Beau’s expression became wary. “What sort of auction are we talking here?”
She offered him a hopeful smile. “The bachelor kind.”
His eyebrows shot toward his hairline. “A bachelor auction? Like a meat market? You’ve got to be kidding.”
“I did an informal poll, and it was the idea that got the most interest from everyone.”
Beau was already shaking his head. “Listen, I am more than happy to hand over a nice, juicy check, but I am not interested in being offered up on an auction block like a slab of beef.”
“We need bachelors,” Lily said stubbornly. “The whole point is to put on a show, give people something for their money. Like I said, Molly’s proud. She won’t just take hand-outs.”
He ran a frustrated hand through his hair. “There must be someone else you can ask. What about Danny Martin? And what about that ex-Olympic skier guy?”
“Danny just got engaged, and I’ve already spoken to Jett Casey. He’s in, by the way. Because he’s not a big chicken and he knows a good cause when he sees one.”
“Come on, Lily. Don’t do this to me.”
“I’m sorry, but there are only so many men with their own teeth, hair and hips in this town.”
Not to mention washboard abs and shoulders to make a woman weep. If Beau came to the auction dressed like this, they’d have a stampede on their hands.
Beau shifted his weight, a frown pleating his forehead as he tried to come up with an out for himself.
“It’s one hour of your life. For an awesome cause.” She pulled her phone from her pocket and tapped the screen until she’d called up a recent picture of Josh. Like most of the photos she had of him, he was grinning, his whiskey-brown eyes full of life and laughter. His small frame was dwarfed by the wheelchair that was now a permanent feature in his life.
She held the phone out to Beau. His gaze held hers for a long beat before dropping to the screen, his reluctance palpable.
“Man, you fight dirty,” he said.
She had him. She could tell by the way his shoulders dropped a notch. She bit her lip, stifling a triumphant grin.
“When is it again?” he asked.
“Does that mean you’re in?”
“Like I’m going to say no after that.” He gestured toward her phone, clearly unhappy about being railroaded.
“It’s Saturday, Feb 7, at Grey's. I’ll email you the details.”
“If I get my ass pinched one time, I’m coming after you.” He nailed her with his deep blue gaze.