Home > The Billionaire's Betrayal (Highest Bidder Book 3)

The Billionaire's Betrayal (Highest Bidder Book 3)
Author: Carmen Falcone

Chapter One

   Brooks Taylor opened his Italian leather wallet and grabbed the old picture of him with his half sister. The noise of the elegant room around him gave way to the beating of his heart, now throbbing in his temples. He caressed the picture, as if he could once again touch Pamela’s face. He’d give anything not to attend a virgin auction at House of Alexa tonight, because being here meant Pamela was gone.

   “Sir? More champagne?” the ultra sexy waitress asked, yanking him from his musings.

   He slid the picture back inside and shut his wallet. Focus, man. If anyone finds out you’re here to search for clues about Pamela’s death, you’re fucked. No one will talk. Madam Alexa will throw your ass out. He and Pamela didn’t share the same last name, so he doubted they’d connect the dots if they’d looked him up online. Hell, they’d better not. He flashed the lady the kind of smile he’d been told drenched women’s underwear. “Please.” He tilted his flute, and a blush spread across her cheeks.

   She filled his glass, then glanced around and moved closer. She wet her lips with her tongue, flashing him a look full of promises. “I’m not supposed to socialize with guests, but if you want my number—”

   He lifted his flute, in a silent toast, but also using it to keep her from getting any closer. “Any other night, nothing would make me happier. Today, I’m here with a purpose. But thank you, darlin’.”

   She nodded, disappointment washing over her expression, and turned around.

   Brooks ignored the sweet sway of her ass and took a long sip of the bubbly drink. He preferred beer or something stronger, but he also wanted his head in the damn game. He hadn’t flown all the way from Texas to Nevada to screw up now. He lasered his gaze at the stage. Within minutes, a warning for the one hundred-plus “gentlemen” to get to their seats sounded. The auction was about to start.

   Gentlemen? Pillars of ice filled his bloodstream. Any man resorting to buying a woman’s first time was desperate and pathetic. He picked a chair in front, not in the least interested in the virgin auction. Frustration clogged his throat and he swallowed, drinking the remaining champagne, then setting the glass under his seat.

   Who in their right mind would sell their virginity for cash? His collar felt a notch tighter. Pamela had. Had she needed money so badly she’d resorted to prostitution? He’d find out, and better, he’d do it without making a spectacle of it. He’d spare his sickly mother, who’d been through enough. His jerk of a father he couldn’t care less about. Brooks now earned his own money, lots of it, and didn’t give any fucks about Craig Taylor.

   Lights shone on the stage, and men around him squared their shoulders, holding their paddles, gazes fixed on the podium.

   The decorations of a psychedelic seventies party with a huge disco ball dropping from the center caught his attention. Soon, a sultry voice came from the speaker, and the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. He peered at the stage again, and once he found her, his gaze lingered.

   Madam Alexa.

   Waves of silky black hair framed her pale face, and her big blue eyes had been enhanced with some shimmery makeup. Not that she needed cosmetics. A shot of lust traveled through his bloodstream, and he could kick himself. Desiring her didn’t change his intent—to find some evidence leading to Pamela’s death, and destroy Alexa and every bit of her business. To send her to jail, hopefully.

   Pamela had joined this ridiculous virgin auction scheme and had ended up dead. The least he could do was discover what had really happened to her. He owed it to his little sister to be there for her and unveil the truth, even though he hadn’t spoken to her in two years. That was the least he could do. Bitterness replaced the light aftertaste of the champagne.

   “And our dear Shannon loves seventies music.”

   He blinked and focused on the beautiful twenty-something woman on stage. All eyes were on her. He’d played with the idea of bidding for one of the auctionees and buying time with them for information but had quickly shut that idea down. Most likely, the naive women trusted Madam Alexa and would tell her about his inquiries immediately. Then what? He’d lose his opportunity to find out why—a year ago—Pamela had walked into what was supposed to be her evening to be auctioned and was never seen alive again.

   She could have been a great musician. A mother. A legend.

   Anger clogged his throat—she’d never be any of those things. Why hadn’t he been there for her, tried harder? Maybe he wouldn’t have lost the one person who had mattered, besides his mother.

   “Sold!” Madam Alexa hit the gavel, and the crowd applauded. The young woman turned around and disappeared behind the drapes, and so did Madam Alexa.

   What kind of woman made a living out of exploiting other women? A scowl formed on his face, but he quickly caught himself and slapped on a neutral expression. He had to think about his end goal and not Madam Alexa’s lack of ethics.

   Hhhhmmmm. From what he’d found out, the buyer would have a few minutes alone with the woman to make sure both parties still wanted to go ahead, before signing the contract.

   Jazzy music filled the air, and the waitresses reappeared, carrying trays filled with empty glasses. He caught the elbow of a waitress. “I need to talk to Madam Alexa. It’s urgent.”

   “That’s not my job.”

   He grabbed a few one-hundred bills and put them in her hand. “I know. That’s why I’m so grateful.”

   She rolled her eyes, sighed but shoved the money in her pocket. “In about two minutes, take the door to the right,” she said, pointing at the hallway close to the neon EXIT signs. “She’ll be in her office. It’s the first door to the left. Screw it up, I’m calling security.”

   “Thanks,” he said, and strode toward the hallway. Maybe she’d guessed the two bulky security guards would be on break or minding the people exiting the room.

   When he opened the door, he followed the waitress’s instructions and knocked on the door.

   “Come in,” Alexa said, her sexy voice sending forbidden ripples through his system. Those reactions had nothing to do with real desire, merely organic responses his body darted at him to mess with his resolve.

   He walked in to find her working on her laptop with her attention on the sleek screen. “Madam Alexa?” he said, his voice catching her attention. She lifted her gaze to his and a flicker of annoyance flashed in her eyes. Then, she rocked back in her chair. “I was hoping to talk to you for a moment.”

   “Out,” she said.

   A sizzling energy swirled between them, encouraging him to follow through. She stared at him like he was nothing special. He held her gaze, inwardly telling himself not to fall into the trap of her fascinating cobalt eyes. Specks of silver flickered around her irises, deepening their alluring effect.

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