Rainbows Bring Riches, The Celebration Series, Book 4
Chapter 1 – Dabby
“I hate these things. I don’t know why I sign up for this every year,” I remarked to Chase, another one of the men being auctioned off for the Valentine’s Party.
“Well, first off, you didn’t sign up, Shirley talked you into it—like she has the past five years—and second, you know you do it to help the community,” Chase replied as he straightened his collar in the mirror.
He was right about the community; I’d do anything to help the people of this town. Over the last ten years, we had really come together and made this small upstate Pennsylvania Township a nice place to live.
“Damn woman! If she didn’t bring all those tasty muffins when she came to ask me, I’d probably say no.” I sighed and sipped my beer.
Chase laughed. “That’s why she brings them, she’s not stupid.”
Thad Wagner, one of our local police officers, walked into the room carrying a tray of shots and joined the group of younger men on the other side of the room. I studied them as they threw the liquor back. All of them were good-looking young men who were in shape and eager to find a woman. Hell, even Jason Hayes was wearing a tuxedo. I snorted—a freaking tuxedo.
I examined my own reflection. My beard was trimmed, but it could probably use a bit more off of it. My suit was old, like dirt old, but I only owned one, and it only came out of the back of my closet for weddings and funerals—and for this godforsaken event. Maybe someday, I would buy a new one. Yeah, not likely. Chances were I’d be buried in this suit, and that was fine by me.
Actually, I’d prefer for my funeral to be in one of my favorite flannel shirts with a good ol’ pair of worn jeans covering my legs and my favorite work boots. That was way more my style than these fancy-shmancy monkey-suit things. I tugged on my collar—I was being choked to death—maybe it was time to lose a little bit of weight.
I took another look at the younger guys. None of them needed to lose any weight, but they were all at least fifteen years younger than I was. They had time to exercise and take care of themselves. Me, I worked my ass off at the tavern.
The tavern was my life. It had been since I was twenty-five and my father had died of a heart attack at the age of sixty. I was the youngest of six kids, and all of my siblings had hightailed it out of this then-dying town the moment they could. Some of them had never even stepped back in it. Of course Stuart couldn’t, he’d passed away, but the rest seemed to have forgotten their roots.
That was fine by me. I loved the tavern, loved the people of the town, and I’d never considered leaving this place. I figured when I did die, after the funeral, they could cremate me and throw my ashes out behind the building.
“Gentlemen, are you about ready?” The fancy dude that was going to sell us off popped his head into the room.
Chase turned to me, “Come on, old man, let’s go do this.”
“Old man, my ass. I’m only six years older than you.”
Chase laughed, “Yep, and that makes you the old man in the group.”
Chase and I had been friends since he moved into town twelve years ago. He liked to build things, all kinds of things, but especially houses and additions. He had kind of taken over for George, our local handyman who used to do big jobs, but now stuck to smaller tasks like holes in walls, and simple fixes, although Chase told me that he was currently helping him with a fancy addition to a house in the next town over. Someone had wanted to add a sunroom.
A sunroom—who needs a sunroom? Why couldn’t they open some curtains, or better yet, step outside?
I couldn’t understand some people and how they wasted their money. Like tonight, people were preparing to bid on a human person for a date, a freaking date. Why couldn’t they just write out a check? So much easier.
Sometimes people pissed me the hell off.
I trudged behind Chase out to the stage with the other nine men. I was about halfway through the group and took my place in line. Tonight’s auction was going to be more interesting than in years past because Jason had some crazy plan to win a girl’s heart. What these young guys did to obtain a woman’s attention, I’d never understand.
When he’d asked me if it was alright if he did a striptease act, I about wet my pants laughing so hard. I asked him if I had to stay and watch, or if I could slip out before he started taking his clothes off. I was in no way interested in watching a man dance to some loud tune and shuck his clothing. Ah, hell no!
Chase was auctioned off right before me, and he went for nine hundred dollars, not too shabby for a guy who had just hit forty. I figured I’d be lucky to hit five hundred. I sucked in my gut as I stepped forward. There was no way I was going to strut around on the stage like a freaking peacock, hell no. I looked out over the audience. They all knew me, and those that didn’t, well, they weren’t worth my time anyway.
The announcer started the bidding at one hundred, and Shirley raised her hand. She better bid on me, she’s the one that talked me into being here. I knew that if she won, she wouldn’t even want a date, she’d only want a free dinner at the tavern for her and Fred Maxim. Of course, she’d insist that I eat with them, and I liked that idea. No fuss.
Another woman raised her hand and bid two hundred, and I squinted into the audience to see who it was. She was seated in the shadows on the other side of the bright lights, and I couldn’t make her out. Shirley bid three hundred and I figured that would be the end of it, but then the woman I couldn’t see stood and shouted loudly, “I’ll take him for a thousand.”
The room went dead silent, and I was honestly waiting for her to say, Oh, I’m sorry, I take back my bid, but the announcer called out that I was sold for one thousand dollars. I was speechless and stared into the crowd to see the crazy woman jumping up and down and screaming her excitement at having won.
Did the woman think she was bidding on someone else? She did know I was the prize, didn’t she? I started to descend the stairs and by the time I reached the bottom, this whirlwind of bright red hair threw itself at me and wrapped strong arms around my neck.
What the hell? Who was this woman? I didn’t know any ladies with hair this bright. I turned to ask for help from the guys on the stage and found them all laughing.
The woman finally unwrapped herself from me and landed on her feet in front of me. She was a pipsqueak of a woman, maybe five foot, if that.
“You have no idea how excited I am! I can’t believe I won a date with you!” She tugged me back towards her table while some of the townspeople laughed and whispered amongst themselves. “I have wanted to meet you for so long, and I can’t believe I won you!” She bounced a bit more as she reached her seat, and I gaped at her. “I can’t wait to go out with you. It’s going to be so much fun.”
“Wait,” I held up my hands to stop her prattling long enough for me to ask her a question: “Who are you?”
She grinned so wide it made my cheeks hurt. “Oh, you don’t know me, that’s right. I live over in Dexter, but I know all about you! I love your tavern website and the picture of you on the About the Owner page, it is so handsome—and your food is sooooooo good!”
“What is your name, little lady?” I asked when she paused to breathe.
“Me? I’m Paige, Paige Brogan, and you are Dabney Finnegan, but your friends call you Dabby, which I don’t quite understand. I would think they would call you Dabney, instead of Dabby. Why is that?” She stuck her tiny little hand out and my big paw engulfed it for the short hearty shake she gave it.
I cleared my throat and shook my head, “Paige, if you’ll excuse me for a moment, I need to go grab a beer.” I began to turn and walk—make that run—away, but she thrust a bottle in my hands.
“Here you go. I had one ready for you. I figured you’d want one once you got off the stage. They had two kinds to choose from, I figured the darker beer would be more your style. You don’t seem like a light lager person to me.”
I stared at the bottle in her hands and then back at her. Who the hell was this woman?