“So let me get this straight.” I lower my beer to the tabletop and stare at my best friend Spencer with a knowing smirk. “The woman you’re dating wants you to participate in this boy toy auction thing.” He nods. “At which time, a room full of horny women are bidding on spending one night with you. A night alone, might I add, where just about anything can take place.”
“Yep,” he says, and I see the gleam in his eyes. Spencer is not a dumb man and I know he understands just how wrong this can go if not played out right.
“That doesn’t seem right.” Terry, another of our friends, interjects. “I think it’s all some kind of setup.”
“Yeah,” Frank agrees, “some test she’s performing on you to see just how loyal you truly are.”
We are all gathered at our regular Friday night hang out. Beer and wings at Malone’s was something we’d done for years. It was our time to unwind after a week of work.
“It’s not a setup,” Spencer insists, “because she’ll be the one that wins me.”
“Like you’re some prize,” Terry mumbles around his beer now pressed firmly to his mouth and the rest of us laugh. Except for Spencer who appears wounded, with his eyebrows scrunched and his lips pressed in a tight line as he looks around the table to each of us. None of us come to his rescue to ease his now battered ego.
“How do you figure she’ll win?” I finally ask the question I know we’re all wondering.
“Did I mention my girl has some cash?” He states proudly. “Oh, and she runs the thing, so she’s got it all worked out already.”
“This is gonna backfire,” I assure him and he narrows his eyes.
“No, it's not.”
The other guys look around the table at one another before returning their attention to him. Almost in unison, we say, “Yes, it is.” Instantly I’m trying to come up with a way to strap a camera to him without him knowing so I don’t miss a minute of his girl kicking his ass when the plan falls apart. Spencer is a disaster, like a ticking time bomb. If there is trouble, he will find it. He always has been that type of guy.
Spencer grins wide with overconfidence even though he understands just how badly this could all blow up in his face. Shit like this never works out just how you think it’s going to.
“It’ll be fine,” he shrugs, still wearing that same smirk. “Besides you’ll all be there to save me.”
The group falls silent as we all stare at Spencer. He seems utterly unaffected by the idea all eyes are on him. In fact, he looks a bit too cocky, which assures me that whatever he means by his last comment is something none of us are going to like much.
The problem with Spencer is even when he’s creating all kinds of havoc, the dick somehow manages to pull the rest of us into his messes.
“I sorta volunteered us all to take part.” He shrugs as he lifts his beer and finishes off the last of its contents. He then motions toward the waitress, waving his hands, signaling for another round for the table.
Yeah, buy a round to soften up the blow, asshole. Good try. When Spence looks back at his three friends one by one, taking in our displeased stares, he chuckles. “Come on guys, it's for charity. We can make it a competition thing.” He leans forward. “Ya know, see who gets the highest bid.”
“Well, that’s easy it’ll be me.” We turn our attention to Terry, who grins wide. “Women love a man in uniform.”
“A uniform? You wear shit brown and deliver packages every day,” I announce, still lounging back in my chair watching this entire thing unfold. “I hardly call that a man in uniform.” The guys chuckle, but Terry glares at me.
“Not all of us can be a badass like you, Nic,” Terry says sarcastically.
We love to hassle Terry; his face gets red like a fucking tomato when his blood pressure shoots up. The man is a good guy though, and in great shape. He makes it too much fun getting him all wound up, the way he stutters and shifts around like his ass is on fire while trying to figure out a way to get out of the spotlight.
I look around the table to see Frank and Spencer both watching Terry closely. I knew they were thinking the same thing I was. We love this show.
So, of course, I push on. “Let me see…” I lean forward and place my elbows on the table just as our waitress steps up and begins to serve another round of beers. “A UPS delivery driver who gets his lunch trapped in his beard on a daily basis, or a Marine veteran now homicide detective with the Chicago PD.” I shrug. “I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t take a second for all of us to agree that the detective wins on the sexy as fuck meter.”
“Agreed,” the waitress chimes in without even a second to mull that one over.
“See,” I said, pointing toward the pixie hair cutie that just helped me win my argument, hands down. Offering her a wink, I half expect her to blush but find her giving me a challenging look. A look I find intriguing and make a note to follow up on a little later.
“Detective Nicholas Vaughn, fighting crime and all that bull,” Terry mumbles, “means shit.” He picks up his beer and downs half the bottle before lowering it once more.
“What’s wrong, Terry? Does it piss you off that I’m more desirable with the ladies than you?”
“Fuck off,” he says, shaking his head. Everyone begins to laugh and Terry realizes how he has once again made it so very easy for all of us to hassle him. The tension in his shoulders visibly relaxes. “Buncha dicks for friends, that's what I got.”
None of us even attempt to deny it or argue our way out. We are those type of friends, always giving each other a hard time whenever the opportunity arises. But we are also the first to come to the rescue of another when needed, and never did we turn our backs on each another.
“So we’re doing this?” Spencer asks hopefully, choosing to leave poor Terry alone for now. “We’re gonna make a competition out of this auction? We’re gonna own it.”
“What does the winner get?” Frank asks, and we watch while Spencer thinks over the question for a few short minutes.
“Bragging rights.” He shrugs, as if that alone is enough for us to participate in this circus he’s volunteered our group for.
“Nope, that ain’t gonna cut it,” Terry tells him before anyone else can. “How about a night out, fully paid on the three losers’ dime?”
“What if you’re one of those losers?”
“I won’t be,” Terry insists. “And I’m not talking about a beer and wings kind of night out. I’m talking strippers and high dollar VIP rooms, no holds barred. A wild night, with no limits.”
“What if you meet the woman of your dreams at this auction, Ter?” I ask him, and he only chuckles as if the idea of that is as far-fetched as seeing a purple elephant tap dancing.
“Are we on or are you boys too scared?” He chooses to not respond to my question.
“We’re on.” I’m the first one to agree. One thing about me is that I live for a challenge. Nothing is better than coming out on top while everyone else is gasping for air. This might not be so bad after all. “Now if you’ll all excuse me, I’ve got a cute little waitress to find.” Tossing them a wink, I pushed back my chair and walked off in the direction of the girl who I already knew would take me for one hell of a ride.
* * *
“Shannon,” I holler out as I enter my sister’s apartment, looking around the living room. “I need your help.”
She exits her bedroom in her workout attire with a small towel draped around her neck. My kid sister is twenty-three and a fitness instructor. Not only does she teach classes six days a week at the most exclusive fitness gym in the area, but she also does personal training. She’s a badass, and the one person I know without a doubt can help me win this competition, hands down.
“You're beyond help, Nic.” She pats her forehead dry with a towel, not even attempting to hide her smirk. “We all know this.”
“Smart ass,” I reach out to hook her around the neck and pull her in close. Immediately she starts to wiggle in my hold and pinch at my side. “Let go, asshole.” She gets a grip on the skin at my waist and twists just right, causing me to release my hold on her. I jump back with a groan from the sharp pain it creates.
“Man, you’re feisty.”
“And you’re a bully.” She straightens her ponytail and narrows her eyes at me.
Shannon and I have always been close. With our six-year difference, most people would think I was annoyed with the kid sister in my younger days, but that was never the case. She is and has always been one of my best friends. The woman is a fucking rockstar and someone I turn to often.
“So what is it that the great Nicholas Vaughn is in need of? Besides game, because we know that you lack the skills most women are in search of. It's sad, really, how pathetic you are when it comes to the female species.” She lifts her water bottle, and it doesn’t matter how hard she tries to hide her smile, I see it.
“Stop blaming me for the fact that every single one of your friends would rather ogle me than spend time with you.”
“You’re a whore,” she retorts, lowering her bottle.
“Seriously though, I need you to show me how to dance.” She stares at me with her mouth hanging open and one eyebrow arched. “And I don’t mean ballroom dancing or anything boring like that.”
“What kind of dancing are you thinking then?” A mischievous grin is tugging at her lips.
“More like what you would see at a strip club.” She laughs and immediately covers her mouth with her hand, just a moment too late. “Now who’s being the asshole?”
“What?” She tries to act innocent, but we share the same bloodline, and I know there was no way that shit was true. “Okay give me a minute to regain my composure. Geesh, you show up here and ask me to teach you to pole dance, and I’m not supposed to find the humor in it?”
“Not pole dancing,” I correct her, suddenly feeling like this may all be a mistake. “More like sexy and inviting.”
“Are we talking Magic Mike?” It's my turn to wrinkle my eyebrows in confusion, which only makes her laugh once again. She was enjoying this far too much in my opinion. “You’ve never seen that movie?”
“No.” Fuck, my stomach tightens as I begin to realize that I would live to regret this choice for the rest of my life. I was handing her ammo without resistance.
Shannon steps forward, and hip checks me just before stepping behind me to push me forward toward her living room. “Come on big brother, you and I have a movie date.”
“Oh yes.” I can hear the humor in her voice. “By the time you leave here today, I’ll have you dancing like Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer.”
Channing and Alex who?