The Bachelor Auction (The Bachelors of Arizona Book 1)(10)

By: Rachel van Dyken



What did he expect to find? Her name and address written inside?

Every cell in his body was telling him he needed to see Jane again. To find out if the connection he’d felt with her was real.

She’d made him laugh.

And engage.

He’d wanted to have an actual conversation that had nothing to do with his money, his brothers, the auction, or his grandfather.

It had been nice.

She had been nice.

And now she was gone.





Chapter Six



Jane!”

Jane pulled her pillow over her face, and for one brief moment wondered if it would be possible to suffocate herself. Not that she was suicidal, but Mondays with her sisters? They always made her violent.

“Jane!” Esmeralda screamed at the top of her lungs. “It’s seven! I’m going to be late for work! I’m starving!”

God forbid her sister pour her own coffee.

Grumbling, Jane crawled out of bed, tossed on a ratty sweatshirt, and ran down the stairs just in time to get shoved against the wall as Essence moved breezily past her in a cloud of cloying perfume and cigarette smoke.

Both of her sisters sat at the table expectantly, checking their phones.

“Eggs okay?” Jane asked with fake cheer as she made her way over to the fridge.

Neither of her sisters answered.

Her parents had hated Mondays—and early on had established a family tradition by starting the week with a home-cooked breakfast. Jane had kept the tradition alive—long after she suspected that she was the only one who cared about the tradition.

And then one Monday she’d poured them all cereal, thinking she was too tired to keep up the tradition no one else seemed to care about. Her sisters cried.

It was horrible.

Manipulative, yes.

But also horrible.

Everyone mourned in their own way; it didn’t matter that their dad had been gone a few years already, and their mother longer. It was still hard to be without them. Sometimes it was the only thing Jane thought she had in common with her sisters—their sadness over the loss of their parents.

Sighing, she quickly made the eggs and fried some turkey bacon.

“Finally,” Essence grumbled, swiping the bacon off the plate. Her bleached hair was pulled into a knot on top of her head. “Can you stop off at the dry cleaners and pick up my clothes?” She slid a receipt across the table.

Jane had to resist the urge to slap her sister’s hand with the spatula.

“You know…” Jane said as she pulled out a chair. It squeaked across the wood floor, causing both sisters’ heads to bob up. “I’ve been thinking, about the whole cooking and errands thing. Why don’t we take turns? I’m swamped with work.” Okay, that was a lie; she wasn’t exactly swamped. More like overwhelmed.

Both girls were silent and then Essence reached across the table and grabbed her hand. “I’m sorry I yelled at you.”

Jane’s heart clenched.

“Yeah,” Esmeralda said. “It’s just, you’re so good at those things, and nobody taught us how to cook. We’d probably starve without you. Besides, you’re in that cleaning van all day zipping around town so it’s easier for you to run errands. We’re stuck in an office building all day.”

“True,” Jane admitted, “but—”

“Promise we’ll think about it.” Essence squeezed Jane’s hand one last time then pulled away. “But, Jane?”

Oh no.

Essence’s eyes filled with tears. “You cook just like Mom used to. And you’re so good at it.”

The room fell into a tense silence.

The silence made Jane’s heart ache with memories of laughter and food fights.

No.

At some point she had to have her own life, away from taking care of her sisters twenty-four seven.

“Yes, but—”

“So it’s settled.” Essence stood and clapped her hands. “You’ll keep helping us around the house! And cooking!” Her lower lip jutted out. “It makes us feel like a family again. Besides, it’s what you do for a job anyway. I mean, you own your own cleaning company. How is this different?”

And there it was.

The guilt.

The other reason Jane stayed.

She had sworn to her father that she’d keep the family together at all costs.

“Family,” he had said between coughs, “is all we have in this world. I was never a rich man when it came to material possessions.” Another coughing fit had ensued as Jane tried to hold back the sting of tears. “But, my Jane, I’ve always had you.” His eyes were blurred with tears. “Your sisters don’t have your same heart, Jane, and they won’t deal with this like you will. I need you to keep them strong. You’re the youngest but you’ve always taken care of them. Don’t let the family fall apart.”

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