“Next on the block of the annual Beauties and Bachelors Auction we have Mitch!” The emcee paused as the slow dirty sounds of Closer played through the sound system. She turned a little to watch the approach of the bachelor as he strolled down the catwalk, one hand in  his jeans pocket as the other pushed a fall of dark blonde hair back from his face.

She turned back to the crowd and dramatically fanned her face with her cue cards and mouthed the word ‘hot’ at her audience who gave a polite round of applause as Mitch stopped beside her.

“Mitch is obviously tall.” She waved her arms up and down like a model on The Price Is Right. “He’s lean, keen.” she smiled at her own improvised joke. “And according to his questionnaire.” She waved a piece of paper in the air. “He could be the man of your dreams.” A pause for dramatic effect. “Provided those dreams are filthy of course.”

That elicited a louder round of applause and a few catcalls. Mitch shrugged and smiled as he crossed his arms across his chest putting his inked forearms on display.  He tried to see beyond the spotlight to see what kind of crowd was out there since he’d missed the meet and greet portion of the evening, had in fact barely arrived in time to make it on stage. His friend Dee had glared at him as she’d shoved a clean shirt at him and snapped at him to, “Hurry up!”

He got the shirt done up and tucked in but fumbled with the buttons at the wrist so did a quick fold and roll which made putting on the jacket redundant. No time for a tie and the vest was unbuttoned but that went better with his jeans and biker boots. This look was more him anyway and judging by the cheering and whistles, it was perfectly acceptable.

“Okay, here are some highlights from Mitch’s questionnaire.” The emcee rattled the sheet of paper and cleared her throat. “Mitch’s eyes are brown and ladies, I can tell you they are chocolate brown, yum! He is an artist and enjoys… well, let me read you this.” She sent Mitch a sly glance then licked her lips and started to read. “The question is ‘How do you keep fit?’ and Mitch has answered ‘I enjoy many forms of exercise. My favourite involves two people and is an excellent cardio workout.’ Hmmm, whatever could you mean by that Mitch?”

Mitch gave the emcee a questioning look and she nodded and held out the microphone for his answer. “I meant boxing.” His answer had a ripple of laughter flowing through the room.

The emcee tossed her head, not liking being bested. “Well, there’s no mistaking this one: the question was ‘Your perfect partner would be?’ and your response Mitch?”

Mitch frowned as if in thought though he knew exactly how he’d answered. He shook his head and shrugged, as if he couldn’t recall.

“Here.” The emcee helpfully held out the sheet of paper.

He ducked his head a little to speak into the microphone, his deep voice echoing slightly as he read, “Comfortable on her or his knees.”

“One thousand dollars!”

“Two!”

“Three!”

The emcee’s mouth dropped open as the bidding started without her guidance. Mitch couldn’t see who was bidding but there was nothing wrong with his hearing and there were a mix of male and female voices yelling out amounts. After a furious ninety seconds the emcee banged her gavel and yelled, “Sold!”

There was a round of applause and some yelling and cheering as she said, “That’s our highest price tonight but we still have a few Beauties and Bachelors to go after this short break. If our lucky winners could see Dee to arrange payment, we’ll be back with you in a few minutes.”

Her grin huge she turned and trotted back down the catwalk to the backstage area and Mitch followed behind her.

“That was amazing,” she said as they slipped behind the curtain. “You’re in the blue room. You should have thirty minutes to relax and have a drink before your guest arrives.”

“My what? Blue room?” Mitch frowned at the flow of words. He had no idea what was going on. Maybe he should have read the info sheet Dee had given him, he figured it would be turn up, get sold, then go to dinner at some later date. Not tonight. Not when he was wiped out from a late night and a full day of work.

“Dee explained right?” The emcee said as she took a seat at one of the make up stations and touched up her lipstick.

“I ah, might not have listened,” Mitch admitted as he tried to discreetly rub the tension from his neck.

The emcee sighed and rolled her eyes then pointed to the door he’d come in a mere ten minutes earlier. “Outside of the ballroom there are a series of private dining rooms. You go wait in the blue one and when your guest arrives, be nice and have dinner with them. A couple of hours and you can go. Okay?”

Mitch nodded and she didn’t wait for any more answer than that before she stood up and walked over to where a woman was fixing her hair in a mirror. The next victim, err volunteer probably.

“Two hours,” Mitch muttered with a sigh as he made his way to where he’d left his helmet, jacket and tshirt and grabbed them. He found the blue room easily enough and let himself in making sure to shut the door behind him. It was, as advertised, blue. Blue carpet, blue walls, blue tablecloth. The table was set for two but there was an extra chair in one of the corners so he hung his jacket on it and set his helmet on the seat before he took the chair facing the door at the table.

The emcee had said he had thirty minutes so he pulled out his phone and set an alarm, placed it on the table and closed his eyes. What felt like mere seconds later he was woken by a vaguely familiar voice.

“Didn’t know I was paying to watch you sleep.”

“Hey.” Mitch sat up and scrubbed a hand over his face. “What the fuck are you doing in here? I have a date in…” he reached for the phone. “Two minutes.”

“No.” Icy blue eyes twinkled as he sat down. “You have a date now.”

“I what?” Mitch shook his head and laughed. “You bought me?”

The man shrugged but said nothing as they were joined by a waitress. Ordering was a quick process, part of the date deal with a choice of two things for each course, so in minutes they were alone again.

“Why did you buy me?” Mitch narrowed his eyes at the man he described to his friends as ‘the hottie from the gym’ and waited for an answer.

“Who wouldn’t want a man with filthy dreams at their beck and call for a couple of hours eh,” he said with a smirk.

“Beck and call eh?” Mitch mimicked then they fell silent again as their drinks and entrées arrived. “I thought you were hung up on someone?” he asked as he scooped up some prawn cocktail, that bit of information had been overheard in the locker room.

His dining partner picked up his garlic bread and took a bite, making Mitch wait while he chewed. “I was. Am.” He looked down at the plate for a long moment then looked up with a faint smile. “You looked tired. Didn’t figure you’d want to be fighting off an amorous date.”

“Huh.” Mitch nodded. “Thanks then. I owe you.”

“Yeah you do. Maybe some of that art work you do,” he said deadpan.

Mitch groaned and pushed his hair back. “I don’t know what the fuck that was. I know I wrote ‘personal trainer’ under occupation.”

“Guess that wasn’t impressive enough.”

“Maybe not,” Mitch agreed and took a drink from the water glass on the table as he looked at his ‘date’. His gym hottie had shortish dark hair, icy blue eyes, a square jaw with a little stubble, and was dressed in a tailor made suit. A far cry from the shorts and tank he wore in the gym. “Seriously? You just happened to be here?”

“It’s for a good cause. I recognised you and thought what the hell.” He shrugged and drank from the wine glass, the deep red staining his lip for a second before he licked it off.

Mitch shifted in his seat and cleared his throat as arousal thrummed in his blood. “And here we are,” he said, his voice husky.

Hottie’s lips kicked into a smirk and he nodded slowly. “And here we are.”

“Are you-” Mitch broke of with a frustrated sigh as the door opened and the emcee breezed in.

“Gentlemen. Just checking we’re all okay in here. You’re happy with your purchase?” She stopped beside Mitch’s date and smiled down at him as she patted his shoulder.

“So far so good,” he said softly without looking away from Mitch.

She smiled widely, her eyebrows twitching at Mitch in some kind of message. Couldn’t she feel the tension, why wouldn’t she leave? His date’s smirk turned to a grin and he lifted his wine glass again as the door opened.

“Well, here’s your food so I’ll just…” Mitch nodded and smiled as she moved aside for the food to be set down and a few moments later they were alone again.

“This looks good,” he said more to fill the silence than on any real commentary on the food. Hottie had picked up a fork and was pushing the food around on his plate, not looking at all interested in it.

“I’ve had better,” he murmured without taking a bite. He sighed heavily and set down the fork in favour of the wine glass again.

Mitch watched the other man stare into his glass as he ate a bite of succulent steak then sampled the herb roasted baby potatoes. “The food is pretty good,” he commented after a moment and got a nod in response.

“Look, I’m sorry. I’m terrible company, I shouldn’t have come.” He set down the wine and cut a bite of steak then pushed it aside and speared a potato instead. “I just needed to get out…”

“Do you want to talk about it ahh…” Mitch shook his head, a puzzled frown creasing his brow. “You know I just realised, I have no idea what your name is?”

“Really? It’s ah…” He arched a brow and smirked then shook his head. “Zander.”

“Zander,” Mitch repeated and got a small nod of acknowledgement. “Well, it suits you better than ‘Hottie’,” he admitted with a grin then took a sip from his water glass,

“Hottie?” Zander repeated with a little snort. “Well, thanks I think.” He grinned then shoved in another bite of food, still no steak though.

“You’re welcome,” Mitch said with a smile then set down his fork and knife and sat back in his chair with a sigh. “So? Did you want to talk about it?”

Zander looked down at his plate as he shrugged and said, “Not much to talk about. Some things just aren’t meant to be. You know?”

“Not really. I always figured love would find a way.” Mitch was surprised to hear the sentiment from himself and felt himself flush. “Not that I’ve ever been in love,” he added and Zander’s piercing blue eyes lifted to meet his own confused one. “Fuck, I must be more tired than I realised. I don’t know where the hell that came from,” he said with an embarrassed laugh and let his head fall back to look up at the ceiling.

“No, you could be right.”

Zander’s foot tapped Mitch’s under the table and Mitch dropped his head down to look back over at his ‘date’ to find him smiling a little. “Maybe it’s just… the wrong time, the wrong place.”

“You don’t have to humour me,” Mitch reassured as he sat forward and leaned his elbows on the table. “Just do me a solid and don’t tell anyone about my hopeless romantic streak.”

“A favour now? This might cost you Mitch,” Zander said teasingly and his eyes narrowed in consideration. He crossed his arms over his chest then lifted one hand to his mouth and stroked his thumb along his lower lip slowly. “Let’s see,” he said softly as Mitch shifted in his chair.

“You’re such a tease,” he admonished with a groan. “But do go on.”

Zander laughed and reached for the bottle to top up his wine glass.

“You’re not driving are you?” Mitch checked and got an eye roll in response.

“No, I walked. You?”

Mitch inclined his head to the side and Zander looked over.

“Ah of course. I’ve seen you leaving on your bike,” he said as he sipped his wine. “So Mitch, was your answer out there a tease or…?”

“I never tease about the important stuff,” Mitch said with a grin then laughed at himself. “Look at me, flirting with you. Sorry, it’s reflex. I know you’re not interested…”

“Are you? I thought you were tired but if you’re not there was a hot blonde bidding pretty hard for you. Sounds like the party is still going out there.”

“Yeah? Man or woman?” Mitch considered it for a moment then changed his mind. He really was exhausted.

“Didn’t think it mattered?” Zander said as Mitch said the same thing.

“It doesn’t matter.” They laughed then Mitch said, “It doesn’t matter but I’m also not interested. I just want to get home and relax.” On cue he yawned and the door opened to their dessert arriving.

“Well if you really want to go, I can suffer through two desserts,” Zander offered with a fake heavy sigh.

Mitch looked at his bowl of chocolate mousse and rolled his eyes. “Yeah, no. I think I can manage,” he assured.

They had both said no to coffee when their dessert was delivered so it wasn’t long before the food was gone and the date was officially at an end. Mitch left Zander sipping his wine as he crossed to the chair and pulled his leather jacket on then stood there with his tshirt and helmet  in his hand.

“So you walked here? Is it far? Can I walk you home?”

“Yeah I did.” Zander set the empty glass down and stood up. “But no, I’m not going home.”

“Oh?” Mitch took a couple of steps closer as Zander stepped away from the table and they stood a couple of feet apart.

Zander lifted a hand to rake through his hair and his familiar smirk appeared. “Do me a solid and don’t tell anyone about me not wanting to go home eh. There’s too many memories… I’m just going to walk for a while.”

Mitch frowned, not liking that idea at all. Zander had drank most of a bottle of wine and there was a reckless gleam in his eyes too. “Why don’t you come home with me? No strings,” he added as Zander’s head lifted a little in challenge. “Just a friend offering some company. I just want to drink a beer and watch a movie.”

It took a minute for Zander to nod his head. “If you’re sure? I mean you barely know me and I might judge your movie choice pretty harshly you know.”

Mitch grinned and headed for the door. “I think I’ll risk it. Anyway, I need some new friends, all of mine are pairing off and given that you’re not interested, I think you’ll make an excellent wingman.”

“Oh you do?” Zander sounded amused and Mitch turned to see him grinning. He arched a brow in question and Zander laughed. “Oh I’m just surprised that a renaissance man like yourself needs a wingman. You know, with you being all artistic…”

“Oh shut up,” Mitch groaned. “You’re never going to let me forget that are you?”

“Work with me here, it’s a tried and true line after all. Come up and see my etchings.”

“Maybe I don’t need a wingman after all…”

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