Boston socialite Morgan Lett is having a run of bad luck. Her fiancé just dumped her for her stepsister, the charity foundation she's given her life to is in danger of folding, and now, the gorgeous man she bid on and won at a masquerade bachelor auction turns out to be a cold-hearted jerk...and her new employer.
Millionaire Alexander Bishop needs the best wife money can buy. In order to inherit his family business, he must get engaged-fast. And Morgan, with her beauty and pedigree, is the perfect candidate. Her sharp tongue may drive him crazy, but she needs money to save the foundation she loves, and he needs a fiancée. It's a flawless arrangement-no strings, no love. But soon she has him craving more, and cursing the platonic terms of their agreement.Still, he won't allow need-no matter how hot it burns-to threaten everything he's built.
About the Author
Philip Alces is a renowned narrator who specializes in intense romance. After splitting his youth between California and England, he now spends much of his time savoring the solitude of the outdoors in a cabin in the Great North Woods.
Ava Lucas is a formally trained actor and a Sultry Listeners Award semi-finalist. Her passion and focus are romance novels because she loves to tell stories about people who are missing pieces of themselves and fall in love with a partner who can fill in those gaps. The first romance novel she ever read was Judy Blume's Forever, which was given to her by her mother. A social-media addict, she lives and works in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
A Millionaire at Midnight
A Bachelor Auction Novel
By Naima Simone, Tracy Montoya
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2017 Naima Simone
All rights reserved.
"The prince slid the glass slipper on Cinderella's foot, and of course it was a perfect fit. So then he carried Cinderella to his waiting carriage and his castle where they wed. But the prince ended up being a cheating asshat, and Cinderella, who really wasn't all that sweet in the first place, moved out, taking the prince for half his kingdom and his entire fleet of carriages. Which served him right because he should've kept his dick in his damn pants in the first place. The End."
Morgan Lett finished the fairy tale — or her embittered version of it — with great relish and satisfaction. Even the heavy sigh emanating from the speaker on her cell phone couldn't dim her grin.
"Really, Morgan?" Her best friend Khloe Hunter's drawl rolled over the line. "When you said you wanted to read the baby a bedtime story, I was kind of expecting the more traditional, profanity-free, less Real Housewives of Ever After account."
"What?" Morgan shrugged, lounging against the back of the limo's black leather seat. The vehicle paused at a stop light, and she stared out the dark, smoked windows to the mixture of old churches and glass and steel towers that made up Boston's Copley Square neighborhood. "I think my goddaughter deserves to hear the unvarnished truth instead of some watered-down story with sewing mice and crystal castles that are probably mortgaged to the hilt with Rent-to-Own thrones and crowns."
A soft snuffling sound echoed in the limo, and a warm sensation like sweet, buttered syrup slid through her chest. "Aww. See? Sinead agrees with me. Don't you, sweetheart?" Morgan cooed to the newborn baby girl whom Khloe had just given birth to a couple of weeks earlier. Morgan had traveled all the way to Dublin, Ireland for her goddaughter's entrance into the world and had fallen in love at first sight with her pink, wrinkly, gorgeous face. She sighed. "I miss you guys."
"I know. I miss you, too. We'll be in Boston in a few weeks so my parents can see the baby," Khloe said. A heavy pause emanated through the trans-Atlantic call, and Morgan gritted her teeth, knowing the question that would come even before her friend voiced it. "Morgan, are you okay?"
Are you okay? How are you? Is there anything I can do for you? All variations of the same question, which was: How fucked up are you since your fiancé dumped you for your stepsister?
As if that could be answered with a simple reply.
If she said, "I'm hanging in there. It's not the easiest situation in the world to deal with, but I am," people would think she was lying.
But if she said, "Well, honestly, I'm not going to be satisfied until I have his balls pried off with a rusty spoon," then they would look at her like she'd gone all Wives with Knives on them.
With either impression, they wouldn't be wrong. Finding your fiancé and stepsister declaring their undying love for one another and sharing a passionate kiss kind of made a girl swing from morose to numb to rage-a-holic in alarmingly short intervals.
So instead, Morgan just said, "I'm fine." Khloe was her closest friend, but admitting how stupid and humiliated she felt was tough. Damn near impossible. "Listen, I'm almost to the hotel, so I have to go. But I'll call you tomorrow."
"All right. Have fun tonight," Khloe said and sighed. "Part of me wishes I could be there with you. After all, it was the bachelor auction that brought Niall and I back together. Who knows? Maybe you'll find your Prince Charming tonight."
A year ago, Morgan had coerced Khloe into attending the Rhodonite's Society annual Masquerade Bachelor Auction. Donations from the charity event provided much-needed funds to the Blake Literary Foundation ... and served up ten bachelors on silver platters. Khloe had found the man of her dreams. The chances of Morgan finding similar happiness? Pretty much nonexistent.
Morgan snorted. "Uh, pass. I'm only going because Mom is forcing me to attend. This is just the latest party in a whirlwind of parties. She wants to show a united front and mitigate the embarrassment of having a daughter who was dumped by her high-society fiancé. And what better way to do that than force me to prey on another man?"
Her mother loved her — of that Morgan had no doubt — but contrary to what she believed, no number of appearances at philanthropic galas, political fund-raisers, and cocktail mixers could strip away the coat of humiliation that rejection had painted on her.
Instead, they only presented people with more opportunities to gawk and gossip. Seeing the former untouchable darling of Boston's social elite brought low gave them a lot of fodder.
The only saving grace was that each party allowed her the opportunity to schmooze and network for Phoenix House, a nonprofit organization that assisted women who were fresh out of abusive relationships or homelessness in gaining their independence and solid footing in a fast-moving world. What had started as writing a check for a charity had blossomed into volunteering — and from there into a passionate advocacy. Through her time there, she'd met such brave, loving, self-sacrificing women who were survivors ... warriors. So yeah, Morgan's suffering did have one silver lining.
No. Make that two.
Cynthia and Troy, her stepsister and fiancé — ex-fiancé, damn it — hadn't attended any of these parties. Keeping a stiff upper lip could only go so far.
"Morgan," Khloe murmured.
"Nope," she said, slicing a hand through the air although her friend couldn't see the gesture. God, she hadn't meant to say all that about her mom. Hadn't meant to reveal she gave a damn. "Not going there. And I'm here and have to put on my resting bitch face, so talk to you soon."
With another sigh, Khloe conceded. "Call me, and let me know how it went."
Morgan hit the end button and tucked the phone into her postage stamp-sized sequined purse. The limo slowed to a halt in front of the luxury hotel where the bachelor auction was being held. Butterflies slam-danced in her belly, and she inhaled a deep breath, hoping to suffocate the little beasties.
One more night to get through. You can do this. It can't break you.
"I'm fine," she whispered as the chauffeur opened the rear door. Was she practicing or trying to convince herself? She didn't know, but if she had a fifth of Vodka for every time she'd repeated those two words, she'd be drunk off her ass and really fine.
With a cool smile for the benefit of the press gathered around the hotel entrance, she accepted the chauffeur's offered hand and stepped out of the limousine.
People adorned in furs, gowns, glittering jewels, and tuxedoes strolled into the covered hotel entrance. Boston's financial titans, philanthropists, socialites, celebrities, and fashion icons had decked themselves out in their finest to attend one of the fall season's most popular events.
In the past, she'd looked forward to the gala. Her stepfather had considered himself a humanitarian, so Morgan shelling out thousands of dollars on masked bachelors hadn't been a catalyst for one of his "learn the value of a dollar" lectures.
Still, those sit-downs had been their only long, heartfelt conversations. He'd saved the "How was your day?" and "What's going on in your world" talks for his daughter, Cynthia. Her, he'd adored; Morgan, he'd tolerated because of his wife, Morgan's mother.
And he couldn't have proven that more in the reading of his will four months ago.
If there was one thing Gerald Carrington loved more than his daughter and wife, it was getting the last word.
Burying all thoughts except those about getting through the night ahead, she shored up her polite social mask and erected emotional barriers that would make Fort Knox look like a kid's snow fort.
Let the charade begin.
An hour later, that social mask bore minute cracks and fissures. The result of well-meaning How are you's and smirked Such a shame's. But worst were the pitying glances. They scraped at her like a coarse blanket over tender, exposed skin.
"Mom, I'm going to the restroom. I'll be right back," she murmured to her mother, squeezing the other woman's hand.
Katherine Lett Hudson Carrington excused herself from her conversation with a friend before shifting her attention to Morgan.
"Is everything okay, honey?"
"I'm fine." Jesus. At some point she was going to have that tattooed on her forehead, so when people asked, she would just point to it. Exhaling a deep breath, she nodded. "I just need a little bit of air."
Blue eyes identical to the pair Morgan met in the mirror every morning softened.
"Don't take too long. The auction is about to start."
"I won't." Offering her mother a tight-lipped smile, she threaded through the crowd toward the exit. Glimpsing a waiter, she switched directions and headed toward the large French doors at the back of the ballroom. Air. Swiping a glass of champagne from the tray of a passing server, Morgan swallowed a large gulp. If her mother had caught her, she would've admonished Morgan about champagne being sipped not downed like a keg of beer by a frat boy. But in cases like these — cases where a person skipped real close to the bitch-slapping edge — alcohol should be consumed in large quantities.
Yes, she chugged more champagne. Alcohol and fresh air. Didn't matter if the cold November night would turn her into a Popsicle. She needed to escape. Stat.
Plastering a smile on her face, she slowly pivoted and faced Angela and Chrystal Mooreland. Aside from their vibrant red hair, the sisters looked nothing alike — Angela, tall and slender as a rail, and Chrystal, petite and sporting the curves of a Botticelli model. Oh yes, there was one more thing the sisters shared, Morgan reminded herself, gritting her teeth as she spied the avaricious gleam in their eyes.
Gossip. The more salacious and spiteful, the better.
"Hi, Morgan," Angela greeted her again, sympathy oozing from her voice. "How are you?" she asked, drawing out "you" until it stretched into three syllables.
"Hello, Angela, Chrystal. I'm fine," she said, cringing inside. "How are you?"
"Oh, honey, you don't have to pretend with us," Chrystal cooed. "We know how difficult all this ... messiness must be."
"Yes, you can tell us the truth." Angela tilted her head, the syrupy tone conflicting with the steely glint in her gaze. "I don't even know how you're here. I mean, if my sister betrayed me with my fiancé ..." She shook her head.
"I would never do that to you, Angela," Chrystal said. "Sisters just don't do that to one another."
"Well, the heart wants what the heart wants," Morgan murmured, cocking an eyebrow. "Or, at least, that's what I hear."
"You must be so humiliated," Chrystal continued, placing her hand on Morgan's arm. "I heard you caught them in bed having sex. Is that true?" The other woman pressed closer, her grip tightening. "Did you and Cynthia really fight over Troy?"
Oh for the love of ... Morgan rolled her eyes and pried Chrystal's fingers loose. "No. I'm sorry to disappoint you, but the rumors of a drag-down catfight are false. Girls Gone Wild wants their refund back, actually," she drawled.
"Well, of course, she has to say that," Angela pseudo-whispered to her sister as if Morgan wasn't standing right there.
Jesus Christ, how had she ever considered these two friends? Then, a more sickening thought crowded close on the heels of the previous one. Had she been this mean? Yes, she'd enjoyed a good piece of gossip as much as the next person, but had she delighted in the pain of others, too? Bile churned in her stomach, and for a second, she feared the champagne would make a reappearance.
"It's a shame." Chrystal tsked. "First your stepfather leaves everything to Cynthia, and now she steals your fiancé. It's all so cruel."
Morgan fought to control her polite, faintly bored expression.
Inhaling, she submerged the pain under an icy sheet of anger.
Anger over the insensitivity and malice from her so-called friends.
Anger over feeling like a helpless victim when she was the one who'd been wronged.
Anger that people expected her to wear a huge, red D for "damaged" on her chest when she had nothing to be ashamed of.
And it felt a damn sight better than grief and humiliation.
She smiled. "Please. Cruel is a dramatic word. In the end, it's just dick and money. And both are easy to come by."
Both sisters blinked, their lips forming small Os.
Chrystal chuckled, recovering faster than her sister. "Look at you putting on a brave face." She shook her head. "We know you have to be devastated, Morgan."
"Do I?" Morgan arched an eyebrow. "Why? Did Troy have something that plenty of other men don't? Maybe the reason I'm here tonight is to start the search for someone else who has more of ..." she paused, allowed the smile on her mouth to widen, "everything."
Her reason for attending the auction had nothing to do with finding another man. No thank you. That love shit was for Hollywood, fairy tales, and the rare couples, like Khloe and Niall, and her parents before her father died. Yeah, it existed; but true, sustaining, unconditional love was as rare as a unicorn. Or a wooly mammoth. Or a plastic surgery-free Playboy bunny.
And love devastated. Morgan had loved Troy. In her head, they'd made sense. She'd easily imagined the two of them together years down the road sitting quietly together, sharing comfortable silences and warm companionship. And realizing she'd never been enough all along had crushed her. No way in hell was she opening herself to that kind of pain again. Screw love.
Shutting down that particular train wreck of thoughts, she refocused on Thing 1 and Thing 2.
"So you're trying to convince us you don't care about Cynthia and Troy?" Angela scoffed.
Morgan shrugged. "Sorry to disappoint you. Sure, I was upset for a minute. I mean, I'd just sent in the check to have the Backstreet Boys perform at our reception." Again, she lifted a shoulder. "But what're you going to do? Besides, this city is full of CEOs and millionaires. Where there's one, there's another, and most are ready and willing to get laid ... and agree to have Nick Carter sing "As Long as You Love Me" for our first dance. As a matter of fact, there are ten of those ready and willing men here tonight. What can I say? We can't all marry for love like you did, Angela." Cocking her head to the side, she pointedly glanced in the direction of Angela's husband, who resembled Hugh Hefner's older brother. "Can we?"
Red suffused the other woman's face, and her mouth twisted into an ugly snarl. "At least I have a husband," she sneered, then twirled away and stalked off in a huff of righteous indignation.
"You can be such a bitch, Morgan," Chrystal spat before trailing after her sister.
Meh. She'd been called worse. And two ducks in a bucket, fuck it. That had felt good.
Turning around, she headed back for the ballroom. Funny. She no longer needed that fresh air —
She slammed into a wall, quickly shooting her hands up to prevent a face-plant into plaster. "Son of a —" she grumbled, but the gentle but firm grasp of fingers circling her upper arms and steadying her cut off the complaint. O-kay. Maybe not a wall. She blinked. Not unless the hotel's décor included stark white dress shirts and black tuxedo jackets.
Slowly, she lifted her head. Black bowtie. Taut golden skin stretched over a strong neck. A clean-shaven jaw and chin that could've been carved out of granite. A shockingly carnal but stern mouth with a slightly fuller bottom lip that appeared as if a woman had just been nipping at it only moments earlier. A straight, arrogant slash of nose and equally patrician, sculpted cheekbones.
And ... Oh God.
A pair of stunning, silvery-grey, thickly lashed eyes. Luminescent. The flowery word popped into her head, and though it seemed ridiculous to attach such purple prose to this man with his face of honed edges, cutting angles, almost harsh sensuality, she couldn't banish it. When she was a kid — when her father was alive — her family would vacation every summer on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. The color of his eyes reminded her of the shimmering surface of the softly rippling lake right after dusk when the moon reflected off the waters. A fist of emotion tightened her throat. She hadn't thought of those summers of carefree joy in years ...
Crazy how a lovely, grey gaze glinting with ... with ...
Icy contempt dispelled any lingering warmth inside her with an arctic blast.
Excerpted from A Millionaire at Midnight by Naima Simone, Tracy Montoya. Copyright © 2017 Naima Simone. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
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