Sinatra might have had a few, but Callie Rose could fill a book with hers.
On a scale of one to ten (with a one being duck waddling across the bathroom floor with your pants around your ankles to get a roll of toilet tissue that you stupidly forgot to replace the last time, and a chart-topping ten for falling in love with a heartless bastard who wrecked your life and destroyed your world), tonight's escapade was at least an eight.
A very strong eight with the potential to become a nine.
If she needed her attorney to make bail.
Because she was going to kill Bastion Baines.
Technically, it would be justifiable homicide since killing her business partner was entirely justified. After all, he had been the one to convince her to participate in the charity bachelorette auction. Since she had founded the charity, Callie was willing to do anything to help the cause, except selling herself to the highest bidder.
The only reason she had agreed was because Bastion had promised to be the highest bidder. The problem was that he hadn't bid on her. Not one damn time had he lifted his paddle. It hadn't even twitched! She knew because she'd been glaring daggers at him the entire time she'd been standing on the damn stage.
Even though she had taken a sedative, Callie was still so nervous that she was sweating balls. Okay, so she didn't actually have balls, but she did have boobs, and sweat was pooling between them. Boob sweat. Ugh. She hoped it didn't stain her gown. Hmm. Maybe she should add some type of boob sweat absorber in her designs from now on.
That wasn't a bad idea.
She was certain that other women must experience the same thing, so it could be very practical. It would need to absorb and retain moisture. Something disposable would be best. With adhesive to hold it in place. Like a miniature version of a maxi pad. Wait, wouldn't that make it a mini pad? Ick!
Her creative mind consumed with thoughts of disposable sweat absorbers, Callie damn near jumped out of her skin when the gavel came down on the podium with a bang. While the auctioneer thanked her and congratulated the winner, her addled brain comprehended that the bidding was finally over.
A fervent prayer of thanks died abruptly when she noticed Bastion's expression turn menacing. A chill of apprehension slithered down her spine leaving gooseflesh in its wake. Shifting her wary gaze in the direction that her partner was looking, her heart skipped a beat or three when it landed on a silhouette of the man walking toward the stage.
Callie stood frozen in place, the spotlight shining in her eyes obscuring his facial features. What she could see was that he moved with the easy confidence of a man who knew his place in the world. That the understated elegance of his handmade Italian leather shoes and bespoke suit exuded wealth and power, as well as enhancing the muscular body they had been tailored for.
She sucked in a shocked gasp when his handsome as sin face came into view. The hastily indrawn breath lodged in her throat as a lethally sexy smile curved his sensuous lips. Dark, fathomless eyes held hers with an intensity that she could not look away from. His expression was so deliciously wicked that she went weak in the knees.
She'd been sold to the devil!
When the invitation to the charity bachelorette auction arrived, Rutherford Prescott Hammersmith II had tossed it aside. All he had to do was smile at a woman to have her on his arm, and in relatively short order, in his bed. The idea of him bidding on a female was laughable. At least it had been until he'd seen the list of participants. After that, winning a date had been his only objective.
Because one of the bachelorettes held him enthralled.
When the hammer dropped after his last bid, he had no idea how much the date had cost him, nor did he care. She was worth every penny. The opportunity to finally get to know Callie Rose was priceless beyond measure. A triumphant smile curved his lips as he walked to the stage to claim his prize.
What a prize she was.
Ford had been rendered speechless when she stepped on the stage in her signature color of amethyst. The sexy as fuck evening gown clung to every delicate curve that his mouth watered to taste. It had obviously been designed to make a man want to peel it off of her, slowly revealing every delicious inch.
The woman was absolutely stunning, hotter than hell, and his. At least for a night. Stepping up onto the stage, the flash of panic he saw in her amethyst eyes dimmed his pleasure, but not his desire. Lifting her cold, trembling hand to his lips, he pressed a gentle kiss to it and said, "Mine at last, sweet Callie."
Her luscious lips opened and closed soundlessly before she turned on her bejeweled four-inch heel to walk backstage. The fact that he had yet to relinquish his hold on her hand did little to deter her headlong flight. Once behind the curtain, she tried shaking him loose to no avail before finally turning to face him.
Those arresting amethyst eyes flashed purple fire as she demanded in a fierce whisper, "What the hell are you doing?"
"Claiming my prize," Ford responded with his most charming smile. The narrowing of her eyes assured him that she was not pleased with the situation. Since he had every intention of pleasing her, in every position known to man, he asked a tad anxiously, "How soon are you available for our date?"
"We are not going on a date," Callie hissed vehemently and managed to twist her hand free of his hold.
"I beg to differ," he replied confidently. "I paid a hefty sum for the privilege."
"I'll reimburse you," she spat and escaped into an adjoining lounge area.
There was no way in hell that he was letting her escape that easily. Ford followed; his eyes glued to the enticing sway of her shapely ass. If he'd been paying attention, he would have realized the room was packed with females waiting their turn on the auction block. Most of whom he'd either dated or fucked.
Determinedly making his way through the press of women who called out to him, he barely acknowledged their greetings while continuing to stalk his prey. Once Callie retrieved her purse from the attendant, he grasped her wrist before she could try to evade him again and turned to lead her out of the room.
A surprised cry of "Pussycat!" had him groaning aloud. Before he could take evasive action, small hands slid around his waist and a petite body plastered itself against the length of his. The hard as granite erection he'd been sporting since Callie stepped onto the stage died a swift and painless death.
"Tell me you're here to bid for me," Bimini Teller enthused as she wrapped around him and clung as tenacious as ivy to brick.
"I've already claimed my date," he imparted and tried to extricate himself from her grasp. The little vixen was stronger than she looked and damned if he wasn't afraid he'd have to bruise her to get loose. Since Callie was also trying to free herself from his grasp, there was a good possibility that he was going to bruise her while trying to hold on to her.
It was a damnable fix.
The very spoiled daughter of a shipping magnate had been blatantly pursuing him for months, but she was too fucking young and immature for him which was why he avoided her like the plague. Her green eyes widened before she batted ridiculously long fake eyelashes and cooed, "Are you trying to make me jealous, pussycat?"
God, give me strength.
Bimini was a quintessential dumb blonde who had been sheltered and pampered by a doting father old enough to be her grandfather, and this ridiculous infatuation she had with him was more damned annoying than flattering. "We've had this conversation," Ford reminded with an edge of impatience.
"But I like older men," she persisted with a pout that he was sure some men would find adorable, regardless of her age.
A disgusted sound from the woman he wanted to spend time with had him tugging Callie closer. Deftly sliding one arm around her waist, he pulled the designer possessively against his side and his cock once again rose to the occasion. "Then go find one who's interested," he replied bluntly and finally managed to disentangle himself from her clutches.
Before the young woman could respond, he hustled his date out of the room and down a hallway. "You should have bid on her," Callie said with enough bite that he could have sworn the comment stemmed from jealousy. It had to be wishful thinking on his part because the sexy as fuck designer managed to twist free of his hold again.
"Why the hell would I want an immature child when I can have you?" He queried huskily.
"They're easier to manipulate," she snapped back, disdain written all over her beautiful face. "And you don't have me."
"I'm beginning to get the feeling that you don't like me," Ford said in amusement as he snagged her hand in his again. The need to touch her, hold her, was simply too strong to resist. His thumb gently caressed her wrist and her rapidly racing pulse elated him. Her body couldn't lie about its reaction to his touch. Callie wanted him. Thank God, because he was desperate for her. "Care to tell me why?"
Her bitter laugh surprised him almost as much as her reply. "Because I know what a heartless bastard you are."
Provoked, he backed her against the wall and caged her to it by placing his palms flat on both sides of her head, his chest pressed to hers. Her breath hitched; those impossibly deep amethyst eyes grew even larger as he closed the distance between them. He lowered his head until his mouth was just a breath away from hers. Close enough to taste.
He wanted to take her just like this. Hard and fast against the wall. His hardened cock swelled even more at the mental imagery. "The first time I ever saw you, you were wearing a sexy as fuck peacock costume," he murmured silkily and saw her eyes widen as her mouth dropped open.
If only she were on her knees.
With his cock between her lips.
Swallowing a groan of raw need, he whispered seductively, "You mesmerized me, Callie. All I can think about is worshiping every inch of your body. Fucking you like you've never been fucked before." His right hand lowered, fingertips trailing sensuously over the warm silken skin of her bare shoulder. "You haunt my dreams."
"I hope they're nightmares," Callie spat venomously before she placed her hands against his chest and forcefully shoved him away.
Stunned by her vehemence, he let her escape instead of demanding an explanation. As he watched her walk away, he wondered what the hell he'd done to garner such an intense reaction from a complete stranger. Other than the two occasions when he'd tried to introduce himself, they'd never even met.
Maybe he'd dated one of her friends and things had ended badly. There had been a few women over the years who hadn't handled his loss of interest all that well so it was plausible, though not likely. As evidenced in the lounge a few minutes ago, the majority of his former lovers were eager for another chance.
Perhaps it had something to do with business. His, not hers. Ford didn't know a damn thing about the fashion industry other than what looked good on a woman. What he did know was that Callie was an amazing designer if the sexy as fuck clothing she wore was an indicator. Then again, she'd make a burlap sack look good.
So, what the hell could it be? As far as he knew, she had no interest in any of his ventures. Even if she did, business was good and none of his clients had a problem with the way he handled things. Besides, Callie's issue with him seemed to be personal. But, why? What could he have done to cause her disdain for him?
Whatever it was, he was determined to correct it. He'd do whatever it took to rectify the situation if it meant getting closer to her. Preferably in the biblical sense. Since the first time he'd laid eyes on Callie Rose, her tall, curvaceous body had filled him with a hunger no other woman had ever been able to inspire.
Or compete with.
For the last year, she had held the starring role in his dreams. Dreams so erotic that he'd wake in a pool of sweat, with his cock so hard it was painful to touch. Dreams so vivid and realistic that he actually expected to find her lying beside him, sated and spent, staring back at him through slumberous eyes.
But as much as Ford lusted for her delectable body, it was her eyes that haunted him. At their first meeting, the deep amethyst orbs had revealed a depth of vulnerability that had reached inside and squeezed his heart. One look into them and he'd wanted to wrap her securely in his arms and protect her from everything.
Unfortunately, the lovely lady hadn't been as taken with him. Before he'd had the chance to introduce himself, she'd hightailed it out of the room as if her hot little ass were on fire. Once he'd discovered who the woman in the peacock costume had been, he'd done a bit of cyberstalking to find out everything he could about her.
What he'd learned about the mystery lady had only intrigued him more. Not only was she a much sought after fashion designer, Callie was also considered a bit of a recluse. Other than her fashion shows, she rarely made public appearances, and when she did, she was always accompanied by her business partner.
Bastion Baines was very protective of her, and if his menacing expression didn't keep unwanted attention at bay, his ruthless reputation did. When he'd contrived to meet Callie a second time, the lady had run from him again, but her partner had not. Baines had the balls to warn Ford off, not that it had deterred him in the least.
Because she had become his obsession.
Now that he had a date with her, it was the perfect opportunity to finally put an end to those damnable dreams by making them a reality. But first, he needed to determine why Callie despised him. He'd waited too long to have her to let anything stand in his way. A rueful smile curved his lips at the direction his thoughts had taken.
No one would believe that the infamous playboy was chasing a woman who'd rejected him. The very idea would be laughable with anyone else, but not with Callie. The power she held over him was damned unsettling. And intriguing. It was just too bad for her that he loved a challenge. A wicked smile curved his lips.
Game on, baby.
"Youse okay, Miz Cal-lee?" Bruno's deep voice asked as she burst through the Opulent ballroom's rear entrance in a mad dash. The familiarity of her driver's massive frame and Bronx accent was a comforting balm to her frazzled nerves. Technically he was Bastion's driver, but since her partner was rarely in New York, Bruno, and the car had become hers by default.
"Yes. I'm fine, Bruno," she managed shakily.
"Youse sure 'bout that?" He queried doubtfully, a frown marring his concerned expression as he shot a suspicious glare toward the door she had exited. "Mr. Baines texted me that some guy might be hasslin' youse so I should dispose of him."
God, she didn't even want to know what he meant by dispose of. Given Bastion's reputation, it could mean killing someone. Then again, Bruno had a habit of butchering the English language so it could just as easily have been an innocent comment. In this instance, she'd much prefer the former to the latter. Especially if he included his employer's body into the equation.
"Everything is fine," she assured him with more confidence than she felt as he opened the rear door of the Bentley. Callie slid into the luxurious interior, laid her head back against the plush headrest, and closed her eyes. Her entire body was shaking with nerves, fury, and… lust. Damn Bastion for getting her into this mess. And damn Ford for being such a heartless bastard.
Damn him, damn him, damn him.
Even after all this time, all Ford had to do was look at her with those dark soulful eyes and her heart started racing. And his touch. God, how she'd craved his touch. Despite everything, if he'd kissed her, she would have melted at his feet. Which only served to prove just how weak and pathetic she truly was.
And how much power he still held over her.
Ford Hammersmith was a heartless bastard and she couldn't let herself forget that for an instant. If she did, he would destroy her and everything she'd worked so hard to build. There was no way in hell she was going to let him ruin the life she'd fought for. Not when her dreams had finally become a reality.
"You haunt my dreams."
Her fists clenched tightly against the full-grain Nappa leather seats. The sound of his low, husky voice had invaded her senses, filling her with unquenchable need. Because she knew his taste, his touch, his passion. God help her, she'd never been able to forget it. An affliction that he obviously did not share, damn him.
Ford hadn't recognized her.
For some perverse reason, the knowledge hurt like hell. It was bad enough that he'd walked away without an explanation, leaving her with a broken heart and shattered dreams, but this was just rubbing salt into a wound that wouldn't heal. To him, she was just a random woman he wanted to fuck.
Maybe that was all she'd ever been.
Her eyes began to burn before a tear slid down her cheek. Angrily, she swiped it away. No way in hell was she breaking down and having a pity party. She'd cried enough tears over that bastard to last a lifetime. Callie was no longer the pathetic, broken girl who had fallen apart because the man she loved walked away.
She had fought long and hard to become the strong, independent woman that her mother had raised her to be. The kind who didn't need a man to complete her. She knew the value of self-respect and her worth as a decent human being. So what if he hadn't recognized her? That had been the whole point of her transformation, hadn't it?
Ford's reaction was confirmation that no one could look at the successful woman she was today and suspect that she was the same wild teenager that she had been back then. Callie had changed everything from her name to her hair color. She had created an entirely new persona to fit the life she wanted to live.
The only thing she hadn't been able to change was the color of her eyes. Oh, she'd considered colored contacts, but her mother had loved her amethyst eyes so much that she hadn't had the heart to disguise them. The deep purple color was so unusual that most people thought they were contacts.
Her eyes were the one thing that Ford should have recognized, yet he hadn't. Proof positive that he'd forgotten her as easily as he'd walked away. Callie had long ago accepted that she had meant nothing to him so the pain she was experiencing filled her with self-loathing and her hatred for him rekindled stronger than ever before.
She knew from experience that hate was a useless emotion. Anger was her friend so she embraced it. She could channel its all-consuming fire into her designs and use it to fuel her creativity. It was a process she'd perfected over the years with spectacular results. Some of her best designs had come from fury filled sessions at her drawing board.
As soon as she reached her loft, she selected a heavy metal playlist, sat down at the drawing board, and gave the fury free rein. Her hand flew over sheet after sheet of paper, colorful charcoal images forming on each page without conscious thought. Callie lost herself in the hard rock beat as the cathartic ritual soothed her troubled soul.
Mentally exhausted and physically drained, she tossed the charcoal pencil aside and grabbed a wet wipe to clean her fingers. She didn't bother to look at what she'd tirelessly created. There would be time enough for that in the morning. For now, she needed a glass of wine and a relaxing bath to help her wind down.
"Your talent never ceases to amaze me," a familiar voice opined from the connecting room when she turned the music off.
Rising from the stool, she turned toward the open doorway to glare at her business partner. "You bastard," she accused with what little heat she had left in her.
"Guilty as charged," Bastion confirmed without contrition from his slouched position on her living room couch. Even relaxed it was impossible to mistake him for anything other than what he was; a dangerous man. Yet she had no fear of incurring his wrath as theirs was a bond that superseded mere friendship and bordered on familial ties.
From her earliest memories, Bastion was the one constant in her life. The only man she had ever been able to rely on to be there for her, no matter the circumstances. For him to let her down and break a promise was simply inconceivable. "I cannot believe that you reneged on our deal," she bit out.
With a heavy sigh, he sat up and reached for the bottle of wine he'd placed on the coffee table. "I didn't know until after the auction started that the rules only allow one win per bidder," he admitted as he poured her a glass and himself a refill.
That meant he had won a date with someone else, which was shocking in and of itself. Despite his rather scary if well-earned reputation, Bastion never lacked female companionship. He was a handsome devil with a well-honed body and sharp intellect. Not to mention he was filthy rich, so members of the opposite sex flocked to him like bees to honey.
"I was supposed to be the one," Callie complained as she sank onto the couch beside him and accepted the glass he offered. "You promised to win me if I participated and you didn't even bid. How the hell could you just sit there and let Ford fucking Hammersmith win?"
"He was sitting in the back of the room so I didn't know it was him until the bidding was over," he complained and the menacing expression that scared sane people out of their wits was back. It didn't even faze Callie because she had absolute faith in the knowledge that Bastion would never harm her. "Are you alright?"
"Does it look like I'm alright?" She demanded and flung an arm toward the designs littering the floor around her drawing board. He knew her habits well so her question was as redundant as his had been. "He didn't recognize me, Bastion," she admitted as she stared into the contents of her glass so he wouldn't see the pain in her eyes. "Ford doesn't know who I am."
"Are you sure?" He asked doubtfully.
"Oh, yes. I'm just someone he wants to fuck," she imparted bluntly and almost smiled when the swallow of wine he'd just taken went down the wrong way.
"I'll deal with Hammersmith," he said dismissively after coughing the liquid from his lungs.
"Before or after our date?" Callie demanded in exasperation and took a healthy swallow of the vintage wine.
"There won't be a date," he assured her and pulled her against his side in a comforting embrace. Her head nestled against his chest just as it had done since she was six years old. "I'm sorry I let you down, kiddo. It wasn't my intention, and I'll do whatever it takes to fix this debacle."
Other than tonight, Bastion had never let her down before. If he said he was going to do something you could damn well believe he'd do it. Since he routinely ignored or circumvented pesky things like laws she was better off not knowing the details. "Fine. You deal with it," Callie readily agreed and really didn't care how he handled the situation. "Who is she?"
"The woman you're so hot for that you left my ass swinging in the breeze to bid on," she snarked with her usual sass.
Even though he knew everything there was to know about her life, the man who was the closest thing that she had to family remained somewhat of a mystery. He never discussed his past for any reason, with anyone, herself included. He was very private about his personal life and she respected that enough not to pry. So it was no wonder that he shocked Callie into complete silence by admitting, "My wife."
She hadn't even known he had a wife!
Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoyed Chapter One of Heartless Bastard. If you want more, drop by Goodreads September 2020 Most Anticipated Romances, mark it as Want To Read and Vote For This Book! Heartless Bastard releases September 13th and will be available for pre-order at Amazon on September 9th.
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