“A million three.”
People are popping up in the back shouting numbers. The auction is going fast, and it’s getting away from us. “Two million,” I say, holding up the paddle.
The announcer looks surprised, but nods at our bid, continuing with the auction, asking for other bidders. It takes a few moments, but he starts the countdown.
“Three million,” someone in the back interrupts.
My fist clenches around the paddle, almost breaking it in half. I don’t give a fuck about the money, I just want to know who’s stupid enough to challenge us to our woman.
“Six million,” Aaron says, and the room goes silent.
The announcer's voice is a little shaky as he starts the countdown again.
“Six million to number twelve for the stunning Stella. Going once.”
My heart is beating out of my chest, the anticipation is killing me.
“Six million, one hundred thousand.”
This time I do snap the paddle in half, and we both turn around to see who the other bidder is. When I spot Charles Townsend in the back, I see red. He’s the owner of the Snake Eyes casino, and he’s a problem.
Frank Johnson is once again fucking things up. After using up the good graces of Don and making his way to our casino, he must have thought he pushed his credit, because he moved on to someone else. Charles does business differently than we do at the Cortez, and we recently found out how much so. Not only did he extend credit to Frank, but he also gave him credit in Stella’s name too. We cleared up that debt already so our girl is no longer tied to him. From what Charles said to us, he wasn’t aware that Frank was taking out debts in her name. We believed him, but he’s here and bidding on the same girl he previously held some power over. I don’t know how, but it looks like he got wind of the auction tonight and is trying to get his hands on her.
Aaron looks to me, and we communicate silently that we’ll deal with him later. Aaron nods to the auctioneer and holds up the top part of our broken paddle. “Ten million.”
The announcer’s eyes go wide, and he must sense the room is about to break out into a brawl, because he grabs the hammer and starts the countdown. “Going once, twice, sold!” He slams it down before anyone else can bid.
The curtains drop quickly, concealing Stella from everyone’s view, and Aaron and I stand up so fast both of our chairs fall back. We walk to the back of the room, towards Charles, but by the time we get there, we see him on his way out of the room. I grab Aaron’s arm to stop him from chasing after him, nodding toward the hallway on the other side. We’ve already got plans tonight.
“You’re right, Justin. Later. We can deal with him later.” He takes a deep breath, and we walk towards the door, towards our girl.
When we get to the door, security checks our stuff and lets us pass. I have to give Samantha credit. She runs a tight ship. The hallway is long and dimly lit. Once we are at the end, another security guard directs us to a red door. Aaron opens it and walks through. I enter after him and shut the door. I hear a beep behind us, and I assume that security is locking us in. I guess this is for our protection just as much as it is for the women. I can imagine money and bidding makes people do crazy things. Better safe than sorry.
Looking at the room, the first thing I notice is the bed. It’s a king-size four-poster with dark blue bedding, and thick drapery hanging from the posts. The room is decorated much the same, with dark navy carpet and ornate furniture throughout. The room looks like a place a king would take his bride on their wedding night. I look to Aaron and he nods his head, confirming the plan. While this is a fine room, and they have rules for a reason, this isn’t where Stella will become ours.
I hear a noise, and a hidden door opens on the opposite side of the room. Samantha emerges, paperwork in hand. She smiles, and I’m sure it’s because of the payout she’s about to receive.
“Gentlemen, congratulations. If you’ll sign on the indicated tabs, you’ll be all set.”
We each grab a pen and sign, confirming the wire transfer of ten million, plus her twenty percent commission. Half of the ten million will be sent to Stella now, and the other half at the end of thirty days. Once it’s all in order, Samantha takes the papers and goes back out the hidden door.
A few moments later we hear the door open again, and Stella walks in. She’s still in her see-through silk, and seeing her like this makes me feel utterly out of control. She has her head down and is looking at the floor as she approaches us. She must be terrified, because she can’t even make eye contact. Seeing her fear is the one thing keeping me rooted to the spot. I don’t want her frightened of us. Especially right now when she feels vulnerable.