Piper Sullivan
Romance Author

Previews » Be Mine Preview » Chapter Three

Becca

That man. Jackson Steele. God, he was so damn infuriating! Who did he think he was, sneaking up on me and trying to seduce me with that deep honeyed voice, that sexy smile and those laughing hazel eyes? His compliment did nothing for me. Nothing at all. That moan was because my shoes, though absolutely gorgeous, hurt like a son of a bitch. Yeah, that was my story and I was sticking to it. As if I didn’t have enough to deal with tonight. One of the singers had backed out and I had to find a replacement ASAP or the evening’s entire scheduling would be off.  And now, wunderkind Jackson frickin’ Steele. I hadn’t recognized his name or face in the parking lot earlier today, but a quick look at the final guest list had jogged my memory. And when I saw him talking to Eric, I just knew he would be trouble.  Then—bam!—there he was…everywhere. Watching me. His gaze, even from across the room, was like a damn caress. Slow and sensual, and don’t even get me started on that lazy, seductive grin he flashed like it was Halloween candy.  And now my anger burned out of control. I shouldn’t have done it, I really shouldn’t have, but I was double checking the auction items and I couldn’t resist. It was childish, and I could get into a lot of trouble. But like he’d said, he’s Jackson fucking Steele. He can certainly afford to be more generous than the rest of us. Especially for a good cause. Okay, yes, I also wanted a little payback for him being such a jerk earlier, and such a presumptuous jerk tonight. I didn’t like being angry. Anger served no purpose other than to distract you from ways to actually solve your problems. But shaking off the anger wasn’t an option for me, especially with all the other things that had gone wrong today. Neither was drinking because I was on the clock until this place was empty and clean enough that the staff wouldn’t complain in the morning. I found the perfect item and tripled the bid with an evil smile that was so unlike me. I felt a momentary pang of guilt, but it passed quickly, and I jotted down the bid amount. I knew it would be the winning bid amount. I took a step back and let the guests look through the items being offered while I checked that everything else was going smoothly.  An hour later, I wondered what the hell I was thinking, being so excited when Eric brought up the idea of a Valentine’s Day charity ball. There was so much work, on top of my regular work load, and it was completely thankless. No one gave a damn that I’d been pulling double duty for weeks, or that I was dead on my feet by the time the MC began announcing the bachelorettes up for auction. A break would be nice. Would be fantastic actually, but there were maybe ten minutes between the final auctioned bachelorette and the start of the silent auction winner announcements. There wasn’t even time to duck outside for some fresh air, since I couldn’t just pop out the front door, because rich people had crazy rules. They needed the help, relied on the help for everything, but they hated to actually see them. So, I leaned against the bar and considered that my break. Plus it gave me the best view of the entire ballroom from where the guys sat up front, to the servers moving busily to ensure everyone had champagne, cocktails and dessert if they wanted it. If someone needed me, I would be there in seconds, but in the meantime, my feet really did need a break from all the sparkly fabulousness that wasn’t meant to be walked in all night. I felt someone staring, and I should have ignored it because by the time I realized who it was, our gazes had collided. Even from here I could see the playful glint in his hazel eyes. Well-formed lips curled into the barest hint of a smile, as though it was just for me. So I would know how amused he was by me. Like I was some damn trick pony. I rolled my eyes and listened—okay, pretended to listen—as the winners of the silent auction were announced. My mouth remained fixed into a polite and professional smile as the winners of the lavish items were announced. A weekend on a sailboat, a helicopter ride around the city, a painting by an up and coming local artist, and a box of very rare Argentinian chocolates. Applause, gasps and phony gripes of dissatisfaction went up all around the room. But everyone was in a good mood because charitable donations were tax deductible, and more importantly, they had all been seen being extremely generous.  “Our final winner of the evening, with a very generous donation. Stunningly generous, even for a man as wealthy as our winner. So let me say on behalf of all of this evening’s charities, thank you.” The MC cleared her throat and dabbed at a fake tear at the corner of her eye. I suppressed an eye roll and kept my smile in place. “Thank you, Jackson Steele, you have won an evening of ambience and romance at LA’s premier seafood restaurant, Le Fin.” I tried not to look at Jackson, but it was as though his hazel gaze was magnetic and forced my eyes to his. Dammit, he looked amused, despite the straight line his lush mouth was set in. I, like everyone else, clapped enthusiastically. “Now I just have to find a beautiful woman to enjoy the meal with me,” he said loud enough for everyone in the ballroom to hear even though his gaze never left mine. One thought went through my mind. Message received. Not accepted, but definitely received. A guy like Jackson wasn’t serious. He flirted with any woman between the age of twenty and ninety, and he never meant it. Which meant there was no harm in enjoying it. I smiled back and gave a slight nod. It was the wrong move, because the music began again and Jackson was out of his seat. And headed my way. Shit.