Lexi looked at the roll of raffle tickets and debated how many she should buy. It would help if she knew what the prizes were, but this raffle was secret. The only thing Lexi and her fellow guests knew was the theme: Testing Limits. That and all proceeds would go to build and fund a new cancer research lab in downtown L.A.
Last year, the raffle theme had been indulgences and featured everything from imported chocolates to a day as the only guest at Disneyland. Lexi had won a nice basket filled with rare wines.
Susanna, the auction organizer, and Lexi’s best friend, sighed and waved the tickets impatiently. “Come on, Lex. I don’t have all night. There are three hundred other people who need to buy tickets. How many do you want?”
Lexi pursed her lips and ran numbers in her head. While, in theory, money was no object– her father had made the family fortune in television– she was constrained by her monthly allowance. The money had already been spent on clothes for the upcoming winter season. She should have just enough left for five tickets. Anything more and she’d have to ask for additional funds. Her parents still remembered being poor and liked to lecture her on the value of a dollar. It was annoying.
Before she could tell Susanna she wanted five, a deep, melodic voice next to her said, “While Miss Hamilton makes up her mind, perhaps I could buy my tickets?”
“Oh, of course Mr. Saake,” Susanna said with a bright smile. “How many would you like?”
Lexi raised an eyebrow. Fifty tickets at a thousand dollars each was quite a bit of money.
Susanna counted out the tickets. “Check or credit card?”
Saake reached inside his tux and pulled out a tight roll of bills from the breast pocket. “Cash.” He smiled at Lexi, his sea blue eyes crinkling at the corners.
She acknowledged him with a reserved twitch of her lips. He was handsome in a rugged, spent-a-lot-of-time-outdoors way. His shoulders were wide enough that she idly wondered if perhaps he was a football player or some other type of sports pro. Athletes, flush with new money, were just the type to whip out a stack of bills at a charity benefit.
So gauche. So not her type.
Lexi sighed and broke eye contact with Mr. Saake. Turning to Susana, she said, “I’ll take five.”
“Five?” Saake echoed in a mocking tone.
“Is there a problem?” Lexi asked.
“Seems a bit stingy is all.”
“Oh, and you are keeper of my finances?” she challenged with an annoyed frown.
“I know you’re not exactly poor. Come on rich girl, pony up.”
Rich girl? Pony up? Is that what this nobody thinks of me? As if I haven’t attended this charity raffle for the last three years? As if I didn’t help Susanna launch it, stuffing envelopes and making calls to big donors? Jerk.
Lexi forced a smile. “Fine. Make it twenty. I’ll put it on my Visa.” She’d ask her father for more money. Better to face his disapproval than the judgment of some jock jacked up on ego.
“Very generous, Miss Hamilton,” Saake said with a satisfied grin. “You should have a good shot at winning something with that many tickets.”
Lexi ignored him, focusing instead on locating her credit card in her clutch purse. Susanna counted out the red raffle tickets and then went to run the credit card, leaving her alone with the mockingly arrogant Mr. Saake.
For her part, Lexi made a point not to look his way. She had no interest in encouraging any further conversation, and was just about to excuse herself to go find Susanna and her credit card when he said, “I don’t believe we’ve formally met. I’m Mark, Mark Saake.”
Lexi sniffed, ignoring his extended hand. “How nice for you.” Turning on her heel, she stalked off, irritation at Saake’s too easy manner making her spine stiff.
A high pitched squeal of delight made her turn back, though. Julie Tanner launched herself at Mark Saake. She wore a gown so skimpy, every time she moved there was a wardrobe malfunction. Too much self-tanner, too much boob, too much bitch: That was Julie. She hadn’t changed since they were ‘frenemies’ in High School.
Lexi rolled her eyes and kept walking, but their conversation followed her. Julie liked to be the center of attention, which meant she talked loudly to ensure no one missed anything she had to say.
“I hear you have a prize in the auction,” she said, simpering. “See anyone you’d like to win?”
“Maybe,” he said.
Lexi paused. Saake, the huge walking ego had donated a prize? For what? Testing the limits of pretention? She couldn’t help herself, she looked back again only to see Saake staring at her intently. Julie didn’t miss it either and anger flashed across her face.
Shocked, Lexi whipped around and walked away as fast as her stilettos would let her. Julie had nothing to worry about, she planned to stay far away from Saake.
After dinner, Susanna took the stage and tapped the microphone with her finger to get everyone’s attention. “Thank you for coming. Most of you here tonight have been touched in some way by cancer. Together, with your donations and our research, we can find a cure.”
The audience applauded and Susanna waited for the noise to die down before continuing. “The theme of this year’s raffle is Testing Limits. We hope to push the limits of what we know about cancer and how to treat it. Tonight, we’re raffling off prizes that will test your limits in new and unusual ways. From tattoos and scuba diving with great white sharks, to spanking sessions with a Dom.”
Around her people gasped and tittered at the announcement, but Lexi just stared, wide-eyed, at the podium. She’d had no idea what the prizes would be. Susanna had refused to tell her, and now she wondered if it was such a good idea to buy so many tickets.
Saake chose that moment to settle into the chair next to her. Leaning over, he whispered in her ear, “Which of those would you like to win?”
Ugh. What is he doing? Stalking me? His table had been on the far end of the ballroom. Lexi shifted to the opposite edge of her seat, putting more distance between them. “You are here sitting next to me why?”
“I wanted to be closer.” He paused and then said, “You didn’t answer my question. Which prize do you want?”
“None of them.” Was it her imagination or was there a bit of disappointment in his eyes at her response? She shook it off. Who cares? I’ll never see Mark Saake again after tonight.
Or so she believed right up until one of her ticket numbers was called. She was awarded a slim red envelope, which she took back to her table and opened. Her jaw dropped when she saw what was inside: A gift certificate for a spanking session with one Mark Saake.
Horrified, Lexi looked from Saake to the gift certificate with the logo of a fifties pinup girl being spanked with a paddle. He flashed a wicked smile at her followed by a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows.
“No. Absolutely not. I won’t do it,” she said.
Mark shrugged and nodded toward Susanna who had taken the microphone from the Master of Ceremonies.
“As an added incentive, the companies and patrons providing tonight’s prizes have agreed to donate an additional five thousand dollars for every person who actually uses their prize. If that’s not a good reason to conquer your limits, I don’t know what is.”
Lexi shook her head. “No. I’ll give her the five thousand myself.”
“Have it your way.”
“Her way, what?” Susanna asked having made her way from the podium back to their table.
“Your friend won my gift certificate and doesn’t seem interested in redeeming it.”
“I’m too old to be spanked,” Lexi said firmly.