Here is Part 4 of my serialized novel, Four Bidding For Love.
And don't think distance will protect your collection, Ross thought with grim determination; Duluth, Charleston, Mobile, heck, even Fairbanks—I need that toaster. Rising from his deep-in-thought slouch, Ross leaped from his cat-shredded office chair with an energy few living souls had ever witnessed and trotted across the hall to knock insistently on Kylie's door.
For a plan had burst into fullness in his overheated mind: recruit Kylie to negotiate for the T-20Z with GreenDollGal, and through the negotiation, discover the location of GreenDollGal's abode. If the negotiation succeeded, so much the better; and if it did not, then burglary would deliver the T-20Z or the doll hostages.
His comely neighbor managed to cool his fevered plans by heating his animal spirits, for she came to the door post-bath, wrapped in a white towel which set off her brown skin most alluringly. Her damp curling hair dangled around her perfectly oval face, and her lips were parted most wonderfully in surprise at his unusual insistence.
Tearing his gaze from her bare shoulders, he asked, "What size shoe do you wear?"
Pulling the towel self-consciously higher over her bustline, Kylie met his flustered gaze with a curious guardedness. "I'm not sure we know each other well enough for that."
"Oh, sweet Hallelujah, I didn't ask for your bra size, I just want to know if you wear a size 7 shoe."
Kylie sucked her lips in a thoughtful pause, and Ross had to remind himself that she played in a league far above his own: beautiful, smart and self-effacing women like Kylie flicked hopeful guys off like dead gnats.
"Why do you want to know?" she asked.
Frustrated that a simple question had turned into a mini-Inquisition, Ross mustered a stripped-down response. "You know that toaster I lost on eBay? The woman who won has lots of shoes for sale. I need you to buy a pair from her."
Wary of revealing his sordidly repellent burglary scheme, Ross fumbled for an appealing explanation. "I need to open a line of communication with her," he replied.
Kylie's expression darkened with annoyance. "Why involve me? Just offer her more money for the dumb toaster."
"I did, but she turned me down. But maybe she'd strike a bargain with another woman."
Kylie twirled a damp strand of dark hair around her index finger and despite his lower-league status, Ross's body jerked in instinctive reaction to her flirtatious gesture.
"I'd pay for the shoes, of course," he said, and added in a pleading tone, "Please, Kylie, as a favor. I really need your help on this."
Abject begging seemed to reach his absurdly gorgeous neighbor, and she nodded. "I could always use another pair of shoes."
"Your intimate secret—size 7—is safe with me," he replied in a conspiratorial voice. "If we're lucky, she lives nearby and you can pick up the T-20Z tomorrow."
"I know you're crazy about toasters, but what's the rush?"
"The show," Ross blurted heatedly. "Las Vegas. My future. I have to submit photos of my collection in two days or I'm doomed."
Kylie's expression fell into a pout which was even more adorable than her smile. "But why me?"
"You're a woman," Ross replied quickly, "and the whole idea is for you to negotiate for me. Two, I trust you, and three, you have lots of free time."
"So do you," she rejoined, and he said, "Which brings me to point four. I already hate this woman with every fiber of my being, and she's clairvoyant. She's already sensed my hatred and refused to deal with me."
"Clairvoyant," Kylie snorted. "Right. Then just go buy another T-30X."
"T-20Z," he corrected her. "They're stupendously rare and I'm out of time. I checked with dealers, there's none available at any price."
Kylie shook her head in a show of frustrated pity. "So you lost an auction. Don't blow it up into a tragedy."
"Not getting in the show would be a tragedy," Ross said insistently. "Look, she outbid me by eleven cents the first time and by two cents the second time. Either she read my mind—telepathy—or she foresaw my final bid—clairvoyance. And now she detects my need for the T-20Z and is refusing me because I hate her."
"How can you hate someone you've never met?"
"If she's wantonly obliterating your most treasured dream, then you don't need to meet her," Ross said, and the grim tone of his voice startled Kylie.
"Maybe she's planning to go to Vegas, too."
"You know, I believe in women's intuition," Ross said. "You're probably right."
Kylie raised her arms to swirl her hair atop her head and Ross struggled not to swoon too visibly, for her slender brown arms, long bare legs and luxurious damp hair were mesmerizing; the small white towel was stretched to the extreme to cover both her derriere and bust, and Ross's eyes were drawn irresistibly from her damp dark hair to her cleavage and thence to her shapely calves.
With a supreme effort, Ross focused on her large brown eyes, and felt his inner man melt like sun-drenched Jell-O. My God, this is torture, he mused; please say yes, but not too soon.
"I don't know," Kylie said dubiously. "It's an awful lot of trouble for a dumb toaster."
"Are you kidding? It's ten minutes work. And you'll get a free pair of shoes—hey, make it two pair. That's worth at least $60."
"Only ten minutes?"
Ross put on his most imploring expression and nodded. "Just look at her shoe collection, email her an offer and then buy a pair."
"You said two pair."
"Yes," Ross agreed with a sigh. "Two. You have an eBay account, don't you?"
While she held her hair aloft, the white towel suddenly came undone and dropped noiselessly to the floor. Despite the speed of Kylie's recovery, some of her charms had been briefly laid bare for Ross's stunned viewing and a warm flush rose over her face as she snatched the towel to her chest.
Swallowing hard, Ross stammered, "So you have an eBay account, right?"
Kylie nodded assent, and as she struggled to re-wrap the towel around her midriff Ross worked up a faux-calm voice. "I'll send you the link. Just log in, look at her shoes and email her about the shoes."
Still flushed with embarrassment, Kylie nodded and began to close her door. When the door was a few inches from closure, she paused and murmured, "32-C."
Edging up to the crack, Ross asked, "What?"
Kylie's oval face filled the opening, and she looked down. "My bra size," she said shyly. "32-C. Since you know my shoe size, you might as well have that, too."
Taken aback, Ross whispered, "I'm honored," and Kylie closed the door.
Ross exhaled with rough vigor and focused his bedazzled attention on the devious, nay, even devilish, Plan B which had unfurled its dark wings in his mind as he'd awaited Kylie's grudging acquiescence. Now that Plan A—the apparently innocent inquiry by Kylie—was launched, Ross returned to his desk to launch Plan B—the acquisition of whatever GreenDollGal was currently bidding on.
For his initial thievery fever had, on reflection, been chilled by the harsh realities of transforming a pudgy, utterly lacking in criminal experience white-collar drone—i.e. himself—into a stealthily fearless burglar. His wild scheme to grab her dolls as hostages led to a realization that holding something she valued hostage should be his plan from the start. But rather than break in and purloin GreenDollGal's existing treasures—a crime, he reminded himself, no matter how justified by circumstance— far better to snatch away a desired treasure via eBay sniping.
This required considerable sleuthing and analysis of GreenGalDoll's past and current bids. The first rule of collecting, Ross knew, was the most expensive items pointed unerringly to the collector's most prized possessions. From this corollary Ross quickly concluded GreenDollGal's obsession with shoes was mere frippery, while her collection of dolls and old movie posters were centered deep in her heart. But she hadn't bid on dolls in months; all her recent activity had been in vintage appliances and film posters.
And while he could not yet discern a pattern in her poster bids, it was clear that film posters were being sought for an important collection. That was knowledge enough to launch Plan B, and Ross set to work researching the value of her current goal, a poster for the 1940s film The Thief of Bagdad.
A number of bidders had already entered the auction—given their own auction histories, several were quite experienced—and Ross anticipated the bidding would be spirited. As a non-expert, he knew he would be overpaying unless he set a bid which automatically raised the last bid by a dime up to a pre-set limit; but at what limit? It had to be high enough to win; and with that thought grimly in mind, Ross opened a new web window and transferred the last of his savings to his PayPal account.
This was for the money, Honey, he told himself with renewed resolve; he would get The Thief of Bagdad poster and with that leverage, pry GreenDollGal's undeserving fingers from the T-20Z in time to win glory in Las Vegas.
To read all the segments, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.