Home > The Bachelor Contract (The Bachelors of Arizona #3)

The Bachelor Contract (The Bachelors of Arizona #3)
Author: Rachel Van Dyken


Prologue

 

Colorless shapes moved in rapid succession as the roar of the crowd grew louder by the minute. Nikki clutched the auction paddle with one sweaty hand while making sure to keep her wineglass secure in the other.

She wasn’t sure what was louder:

The people.

Or her heart as it pounded against her chest.

At least she didn’t have to see him.

Then again, she’d never had to see him to feel his magnetic presence. Brant Wellington was and always would be a larger-than-life figure to her, a person who didn’t just live up to the hype, but out-hyped the hype.

He’d been her hero.

And then he’d fallen. And stayed down.

That was the worst part.

When people fell, they got up—it was simple logic. You fall down, and you fight to stand again, you fight with everything you have to make sure you can find solid ground.

Not Brant Wellington.

He fell down. And he’d been on the ground ever since.

“The next item for auction!” the loud voice boomed. It was happening. It was actually happening.

Nadine Titus had given her strict instructions. And because she was out of her mind, she’d agreed to follow them.

“Brant Wellington!” the voice announced as a hush fell over the crowd.

And then the bidding began.

Heart in her throat, Nikki waited for paddles to lift—though she couldn’t exactly see them, she supposed the announcer, Charles Wellington, would keep everyone up to date with how much was being bid.

A cough sounded to her right.

And then a second loud cough.

That was her cue.

Hand still shaking, she raised her paddle into the air. “Twenty-five thousand dollars.”

“Going once,” the voice boomed. “Twice.”

Her pulse soared into dangerous territory while her mouth went completely dry.

“Sold! To, sorry, what is your paddle number?”

“Zero, Zero, Five.” She’d memorized it the minute Cole, her date for the event, had let her know the number.

She stood and forced a smile she didn’t feel. A practiced smile. One that would convey her excitement at winning one of the most notorious bachelors in the country.

But she knew the truth behind that smile.

The hurt that still remained. The rejection that haunted her day and night. And still she couldn’t shake the feel of his hands on her body, or his hot kisses, and how they always managed to make her melt into a helpless puddle at his feet.

Maybe it was better that she was legally blind, according to her driver’s license. Because when she stood, she didn’t have to see the look on his face. The look that would solidify how horrible an idea this had been.

Because she was pretty certain that look was almost identical to the one he’d worn the day he had walked out of her life.

And never come back.

She took Cole’s arm and let him lead her away. Because even though she couldn’t see Brant, she sure as hell could feel him.

And Brant Wellington was pissed.

 

 

Chapter One

 

Present Day

Get the hell out!” Brant roared as he threw a vase across the room. It landed with a crash on the tile floor, where it exploded into hundreds of blue glass shards.

Bentley stared at the mess, then stepped over the shattered pieces, and continued to make his way over to Brant. “A vase, man? Did you somehow transition into a chick? Is this our first fight? You might as well have thrown a bra. Oh, also”—he walked around the couch while Brant retreated—“you missed.”

“I’m drunk.”

Bentley’s clear blue eyes flashed. “You’re always drunk.”

Brant’s ass collided with the wall. Trapped. He was completely trapped.

In his own apartment.

With the most annoying man on the planet.

Who just so happened to look exactly like Brant minus a few key muscles and with a very unsavory personality flaw.

“Just go.” Brant wiped his hands across his scruffy face. “I’m fine. I just need to sober up.”

Bentley snorted. “And if I had a dollar for every time that phrase came out of your mouth.”

Pain—raw, familiar, all encompassing—wrapped itself around Brant’s throat until he felt like he was going to choke. “Why are you here?”

Bentley slowly turned his head and looked around the apartment. Brant knew what his twin saw. Empty pizza boxes. Beer bottles littered across every flat surface. A few empty fifths of whiskey. Clothes strewn across the couch, and white powder on the coffee table.

“It’s not mine,” he said quickly as guilt stabbed him in the chest at his brother’s disappointed look. “I swear.”

“Would it matter anyway?” Bentley asked in a quiet voice before he slowly walked over to the table, grabbed one of the small plastic packets, and then disappeared down the hall.

A toilet flushed.

When he returned, a tense silence crackled through the air as Brant waited for the yelling, the accusations, more pain.

Because if there was anything he knew without a shadow of a doubt, it was that there would always be more. A human’s capacity for pain was limitless.

He would know.

Damn it, he wasn’t drunk enough if he could feel the pain, if he could conjure up images of her jet-black hair and red pout.

If the air still smelled like her skin no matter how many times he told himself it was a trick of the imagination.

God, he hated her. But not as much as he hated himself.

Nobody hated Brant Wellington as much as he hated himself. He had that market cornered.

And he wore the title with pride. Most days. At least when he was drunk. And not sobering up enough to sense the shattering truth of his reality.

“I’ll clean up.” Bentley went over to the large gourmet kitchen, grabbed a trash bag, and began tossing bottle after bottle. The loud clang of glass hitting glass jarred.

And Brant just stood there.

What was the point? He’d have another party tonight, and the apartment would get trashed again. Why clean up? Why do anything?

“I’d shower if I were you,” Bentley said, interrupting his thoughts. “Grandfather’s on his way over, and I think you’ll want to hear what he has to say.”

Brant clenched his teeth so hard his jaw ached. “I’m not doing it. I don’t care if that woman won me in an auction. I’ve sent her a check to pay back her donation, and every time she sends it back, I send it again. It’s not my fault she doesn’t cash it.”

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