All billionaires. All looking for the one thing that money can’t buy.
All the men were impeccably dressed and of the highest quality New York City had to offer. Every man was startlingly different from the rest, but they all had one thing in common. They were worth billions. Each and every one of them.
But this wasn’t about me. This was about them. The candidates.
“Gentlemen,” I said, clapping my hands together. Some of them turned to look at me. Others continued to talk quietly amongst themselves until I raised my voice over theirs, demanding their attention. Last year, I stood where they were now. I had insider knowledge about this elite matchmaking process. “It’s time to get this show on the road. Put up your measuring sticks, and tuck your dicks back in your designer slacks. We have a lot to get done tonight, and I have a beautiful woman to get home to. One of you lucky bastards is going to be just as lucky if you play your cards right. Time is money. Sit.”
None of them were in a hurry to take their seats. They moved slowly, as many wealthy men did, knowing that everyone had to wait on them, not the other way around. Once they had all pulled out their high-backed leather chairs and tucked in to the obsidian round table, I knew it was time to begin.
“One hundred?” one of them asked. Joshua the Canadian. A smirk played on his lips as he swirled the straw around in his whiskey glass. When he lifted it up and took a sip, he didn’t use the straw. “Only ninety-nine to go. Should be easy.”
“If I win,” Joshua said dryly.
More laughing went around the table. Easton, the broad-shouldered quarterback from Florida, rested his elbows on the table and cleared his throat. “How many do you want us to cut tonight, Jackson?”
Easton rubbed at his jaw. “Why can’t the club just let more women be part of the contest?”
I straightened up and crossed my arms over my chest. “Twelve men. One woman. You knew how this worked when you signed on. And last I checked, your sponsor still wants you to be part of this. So sit back and do your part. It gets easier. Trust me.”
None of them had a wise word to chime in. They had all seen firsthand last year that this process really could work if you gave it a chance.
At the beginning of 2017, I had no clue how much my life was about to change. I’d gone into this whole thing with a critical mindset and a chip on my shoulder. I hadn’t actually anticipated falling in love with the one girl we’d hand picked out of thousands of submissions. In fact, I’d been positive it wouldn’t work for me.
But here I was, standing in this same damn room, giving the same speech my old President had given us. The victor leading the blind, so to speak.
These boys had no clue what 2019 had in store for them. Shit was going to get messier before it got easier, and they were going to have to come to terms with the fact that one girl was going to be courted by all of them—and each of them only had a month with her.
And then there would be waiting while she spent time with the others. The competitors.
I knew for a fact that none of these men grasped how truly difficult that was going to be.
But I knew.
“At the beginning of the year, we will have ten women competing to be part of the Casanova Project. You will have the chance to meet them all, and from there, we’ll reduce the numbers down to a single woman. You will each have a month with her throughout the year. At the end of the year, shortly before Christmas, she will either accept a proposal from one of you, or she will walk away with one million dollars.”
“We know how the Casanova Club works, Jackson,” Wyatt drawled from my right side. The way he leaned back with a slight slouch in his chair spoke of his southern roots, as did his thick Texas accent. All that was missing was a piece of hay pinched between his teeth and a wide-brimmed hat shadowing his eyes. I was sure the only reason those two accessories were missing was because he might have been turned away at the Club entrance.
“I hope you guys are ready for a wild-ass year,” I said, cutting to the chase.
They all nodded. Some bumped each other’s shoulders in camaraderie that would be gone in a year and a half.
I lifted my chin. “We’ll meet again in December to pin everything down.”
“I hope you bastards know I’m bad at sharing.” Easton chuckled as he reached for a couple photographs.
Joshua remained where he was but cast an eye roll in Easton’s direction that went unnoticed by everyone but me. “Sharing is for the birds, Easton.”
“This bird?” Easton asked, flipping Joshua the middle finger.
More laughter rippled through the room.
Jeremiah, who had been brooding all evening, raked his fingers through his hair and let out a long sigh. “Someone break out the gin. It’s going to be a long night.”