Home > Deathly : The Dillon Sisters(4)

Deathly : The Dillon Sisters(4)
Author: Brynne Asher

“His name is Brando, but he goes by Brand, and he’s thirty-seven years young,” the announcer starts.

Brand.

I look left to the stage. There he is, this time holding the doodle at his side, his bicep flexing with every move.

“I mean, he looks like a Brando. Right, ladies? When he’s not fighting fires or performing mouth-to-mouth, he’s … ah …” The announcer tips his head and flips this card over and back, then shrugs. “Well, Brando is somewhat of a mystery, I see. The highest bidder will just have to figure him out on their own. More fun for you.”

Jealousy eats at me. All of a sudden, I hate the highest bidder and the bidding hasn’t even started.

“Brand’s little pooch won’t be little for long. The vet thinks he might grow to be about fifty pounds. He was rescued from a puppy mill and our volunteers tell us this little guy is friendly and loyal to everyone he meets. He’s almost housebroken and probably not a guard dog, but he’d be perfect for a family.”

Well, there you go. Another reason I don’t need to bid on a dog or a man. I don’t have a family, nor do I plan on starting one in the near future, or far one.

“One thousand!”

I turn and find a woman who looks older than Brand raising her paddle. Probably in her mid-forties, she’s beautiful—dripping in diamonds, bursting with Botox, and radiating self-esteem.

“Two thousand!” another voice comes from across the room.

“Twenty-five hundred!”

“You ladies are anxious.” The announcer’s bright smile shines and he eggs on the crowd. “Remember, this is the last date and dog of the night. You won’t get this chance again until next year. And who knows, Brand here might be snatched up by then!”

Brand glares and isn’t doing anything to raise his bids, unlike the others who played to the audience. It doesn’t look like he’s going to allow anyone to snatch him anytime soon.

“Four thousand.” I turn and the cougar looks as serious as Brand as she ups the bid.

I look back at Brand and my breath catches. Even through the bright lights, his dark eyes find mine. He hitches the doodle up in his arms and his frown deepens.

“Six thousand!” is shouted from across the room.

Shit.

“Now, this is exciting!” the announcer bellows into the microphone. “We haven’t seen six thousand all night. Seems the ladies are into broody, and Brand here might just be your golden ticket. Do I hear seven?”

“Seven.”

My head whips around. The cougar is not happy as she lowers her paddle and crosses her arms.

“Give me eight thousand! C’mon, let’s do this for the homeless animals.”

A murmur blankets the room as women glance at one another, waiting for the next diamond to drop.

“Seven thousand,” the announcer warns. “Going once…”

I look back at the cougar. Her lips tip on one side. Damn. She’s smug as hell.

“Twice.”

I turn back to the stage and Brand looks as if he couldn’t be more miserable.

Fuck.

You don’t not need to fix everyone, Aria.

“Three—” The announcer’s voice rises.

“Eight thousand.”

The announcer squints through the stage lights, into the crowd. “Where did that come from?”

My stomach drops.

I raise my paddle and stares from around the room weigh heavy on my soul.

I’ll have to work more overtime to pay for this and I’m already at sixty hours a week. Not to mention, Briar is going to have words for me. I have no business making a commitment to a pet right now.

I clear my throat and speak clearly—it’s been ingrained into me ever since I could remember, after all. “Eight thousand.”

Brand stares me down, not a hint of emotion etching his beautiful olive skin.

“Nine thousand.”

I turn, and unlike Brand, emotion is bleeding from the cougar—anger pouring off of her in waves.

I turn back to the announcer and raise my paddle with conviction this time. “Ten!”

A whoop, a holler, and a bit of applause erupt around me, but I pay them no attention.

“Ten thousand, five hundred.”

I don’t give the cougar the satisfaction of a glance. I’m committed to the game at this point and ignore all thoughts of how many hours I’ll have to bill to pay for this…

This …

Obsession.

I’m not proud of it but there’s no other way to describe it.

I raise my paddle again. “Eleven.”

It’s small but I don’t miss it—Brand shakes his head.

“Eleven-five.”

Damn the cougar.

“Twelve,” I counter, refusing to give her the satisfaction of my attention.

Her bid is swift. “Twelve-five.”

I expel all the air in my lungs and scrutinize the man and the dog, both of whom I’m allowing to control my future. Money I can’t afford to spend on anything but student loans, or saving for a small down payment on a tiny house. Or, who knows, maybe a splurge on a good pair of shoes that aren’t dupes.

My paddle—bent, wrinkled, and crushed since I had no plans for it to see any action tonight—finds the space above my head. “Fifteen thousand.”

Brand’s eyes narrow and the doodle, as if understanding the worth of the hard-earned dollar, barks.

I don’t dare turn to see what my competition is doing and pray the small fortune I pledged is enough since my one and only credit card maxes out at sixteen thousand.

“Well, I’ll be!” The announcer waves his hand in the air and I remotely wonder if he doubles as a Southern Baptist preacher. “When they asked me to volunteer to lead tonight’s auction, I never—never—thought it would get as exciting as this. Fifteen-thousand dollars for a floppy-eared puppy and a date with a local hero. This is drama made for cable TV, if I’ve ever seen it. Do I hear sixteen?”

Please, no.

“Fifteen-five?” he eggs.

I swallow the bile that bubbles in my throat like the cauldron I’m about to dive into headfirst.

Female murmurs return and the hair on my arms stands straight. I hold my breath waiting for something.

Anything.

“Fifteen. Going once…”

Holy shit.

“Going twice…”

What have I done?

“Three times!”

I gasp as a beacon of light blinds me and I curse the audacity that masked itself as bravery just hours ago.

Bravery, my ass.

Consequences can be life changing. I fear I’ve tickled the beast.

I jerk at the slam of the gavel, sealing my fate. “The broody Brand and happy pup go to bidder six-four-two-eight, the lovely lady in black with a philanthropic heart.”

Philanthropic my ass.

As cheers erupt around me, I don’t waste any time. With the damn paddle in my sweaty grip, I turn on my cheap heel and head for the back of the room.

When I exit the ballroom doors, Kate is nowhere to be found, but there is a line at the table where I’m supposed to pay for my overwhelming obsession. I ignore every woman waiting and cut straight to the front. “Excuse me, I’m a doctor. I’ve been called out on an emergency. I need to pay for the damage.”

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