She was losing her mind, rendered immobile, and couldn’t stop standing there while they looked at her as if they had ordered her to do so.
She almost cried in relief when Miriam caught up with her again, startling her out of her enthralled state and bringing her back to reality at once.
Was it really time she packed up and left without leaving a trace behind? With her father gone, it had been almost four years since the day he passed away, and her mother, thankfully, was non-existent in her life, and except for Miriam, whom she’d allowed in, she had no one else.
She had made a name for herself in the world of electronic cars and cruise liners and made plenty of allies, but she still kept her eyes on each of them. Anyone could turn on her at any point. She preferred to be ready for that eventuality.
And then, to appease her feminine side, she owned a high-end cosmetic company just so her opponents knew she was a woman they were competing against - and losing.
She had more money than she knew what to do with, and then she started pumping millions upon millions toward poverty and education all around the world. She did all that anonymously, though.
Her entire existence screamed at her to be in the background, but she had to prove her mother wrong and step out of her introverted nature to become a force to be reckoned with in a world she was predicted to fail in before she started.
Her father would have been proud, but he would have also told her she didn’t need to prove anything to anyone. He divorced her mother when Adrienne was twelve years old on account of her being unable to love their only child.
Recently, the fantasy of being a swamp-lady hermit who could scare everyone off with just a glowering gaze became an instant favorite of hers. She deserved that much, dammit. Alone time. The more she thought about it, the more the idea glowed in her head. She could so easily slip off the face of the earth. Only Miriam would know where to find her.
She imagined never having to be someone else. It was exhausting, all that pretending, and she was tired. So, contrary to Miriam’s diagnosis, she needed sex like she needed a cactus in her panties. And yes, she had tried it a few times—sex, not the cactus—but found it to be nothing spectacular.
Her world wasn’t moved. On the rare occasions she did indulge, she gave herself better orgasms with less fuss. Also, she really, really hated messy, wet sheets. Her sex life was fine—non-existent as it was. Just the way she liked it.
So no, she was not losing her mind. However, the three men, who were unbelievably attractive, extremely powerful, and virulent, had temporarily affected her. And she wasn’t the only one to think so.
Every woman in the banquet hall of The Hilton seemed to be looking at the three newcomers, clutching their hearts and fanning themselves as they smiled coyly. Adrienne could have looked like one of them if she hadn’t had the fortitude to rein it in when she did.
But who were they really? She had never seen them before. And it didn’t matter one bit, either. She had already nipped her body’s overreaction to them right in the bud, resuming normal functioning at once.
Still, she really wanted the night to end. She was tired, a little grumpy, and maybe even hungry. She’d been working out twice as hard and couldn’t trim anything off her already strict diet regimen.
Who could blame her? It required a lot to maintain her size four figure naturally by keeping her boobs and butt where they belonged, but yes, she was exhausted. Her fantasy of being a secluded hermit lady also meant she could eat whatever she desired and not care about the repercussions on her hips.
She could go soft in all the right places, and nothing would make her happier. The idea was growing on her more and more, to the point where she could taste that kind of freedom in her mouth.
She hadn’t eaten any chocolate in eight years. She forgot what pizza tasted like, let alone what it looked like, and strategically sipped from the same glass of champagne at events like this the whole night long. She didn’t need the extra calories.
“Oh, it’s going to start. Here,” Miriam said, handing Adrienne a gold auction paddle with the number ‘three’ on it. “I have my eye on three unparalleled, magnificent, young man-gods, who I have never seen before at functions like this. Mama is going shopping.”
Adrienne didn’t need to ask her which three men she was talking about, which reiterated her mindlessly taking the paddle but pointedly now scrubbing from her mind the same three men who had shifted her axis off several degrees in a direction she hadn’t approved.
Erasing them completely from her mind was something she had perfected since childhood. Thanks to her mother, her dissociative skill levels were legendary.
Allowing herself to be dragged along by Miriam to get to the chairs in front of the stage, Adrienne knew she had every intention of just sitting out the auction. She was not interested in buying a date for the night. Or any night. If she did coerce herself into coming out for the event itself, she usually wrote out a very generous check for Cassie before she left.
Miriam, of course, always threatened her with ending their friendship if she didn’t bet on a guy and take him home, but she would never carry out her threat to completion. Adrienne was just not built for fun and games.
Her first boyfriend broke up with her before he got to kiss her because he thought she was cold and stuck up. The only reason she knew what he’d been thinking was because he told her she was cold and stuck up. She was seventeen. She didn’t know why it shocked her that he mistook her reserved nature for coldness and snobbery.
All other encounters after that were brief, curt, and over as soon as she said so.
There were twelve to fifteen attractive men on the stage, all dressed in designer suits and looking as well-groomed as money could buy. Some were bachelors, most were married, and their wives would bid on them, all in good fun. Everyone on the stage was within her circle.
But this time, she didn’t even pause when Miriam and every other single woman in the room, young and old, squealed over the newcomers, Darien Price, Austin Brown, and the guy with the blue eyes, whose name was Emerson Foley, from the board he held up against his chest.
Let all the other single ladies fall over themselves, bidding for the three of them, including Miriam.