We share an awkward smile.

"Come sit down." I gesture to the sofa – neutral territory and she obeys, slipping off her sandals and curling her legs underneath her as she sinks into the cushion farthest away from me.

"Ask me anything you want to know. No more secrets," I promise.

Bouncing one knee up and down, she twists the ring on her thumb. "How long have you been married?"

I release a heavy sigh and push my fingers into my hair. Much longer than I want to admit.

"If you try to hide things…if you’re going to be evasive…" She swallows.

"Anything you want to know. Even if the truth is hard to hear," I confirm. As much as I’d like to protect her from the ugly truth, I won’t. Not if that’s not what she wants. "I’ve been married for four years. For the past two we haven’t lived in the same state."

"Why was she at your house that day?"

"Who the fuck knows with her. We've been trying to settle our divorce for a long time. But neither of us can seem to agree on anything."

She licks her lips, thinking over this information. "Is she the reason you went to New York?"

"Yes, Stella lives in New York with her boyfriend. I went there to try and talk to her about the terms of our divorce in person. That didn't work."

Her forehead creases. "She has a boyfriend?"

I nod. "Our former gardener. I found out they started fucking after we got married."

Her mouth tugs down in a frown. "Oh."

"It turns out that she never loved me, and even though my family warned me about her motives, I couldn’t see it. I wanted a woman in my life, and I don’t know..." I rub my temples absently. "Maybe it had to do with losing my mother at such a young age… But I liked the company, the companionship of someone by my side. Someone warm and loving to share my life with." I sound like a complete pussy, but that was how the twenty-four year old me saw the world.

And Stella was the perfect trophy wife, accompanying me to work functions, dressing in the latest fashions and always a happy smile on her lips. Too bad it had all been fake.

"What happened?" Sophie asks, her tone softening.

"Things changed as soon as we got engaged. I thought it was just stress over planning the wedding–she wanted it to be the affair of the decade, something the Los Angeles elite would be buzzing about for years to come–she put way too much pressure on herself planning it. I didn’t see at the time that it was all for show. It was more about the dress and the party and French champagne than it was about me and her."

Sophie chews on her lip, listening intently. I have no fucking clue why I’m unloading all this…but something tells me if I have any hope at salvaging things between us, I need to bare my soul.

I clear my throat and continue. "And even though my brothers tried to talk me out of it, I had convinced myself that it was all going to be fine. I wasn’t going to call off my wedding simply because my fiancé was turning into a bridezilla. I figured it would all settle down after the wedding day."

"But it didn’t?" Sophie asks softly.

"No. She was distant, and cold. Not at all like the smiling, charming girl I fell for in the first place. Once the rock was on her finger and the ink on the marriage license was dry, she turned into a completely different person. The one I suspected she’d actually been all along. She’d played me. Married me for my money and I’d fallen for it like a lovesick fool."

"I’m sorry, Colt…" she starts.

"No, don’t." She shouldn’t be the one apologizing to me. The headache I’d felt coming on earlier was full-on throbbing in my temples. I continued, "After the game Stella pulled on me, it made it hard to even think about trusting another woman. Being separated for the past two years, I tried dating causally. I didn’t want to, but my brothers occasionally set me up with a woman. Behind every sweet smile and every flirty look was someone only interested in my bank roll and the lifestyle I could provide. I wanted a genuine connection, not a trophy wife. But I realized with my status and my wealth, real love wasn’t going to be something easy to find."

"Then why go to that auction?" Her confusion is etched between her eyebrows as she waits for me to answer.

"To put it bluntly?" I smirk.

She nods for me to go ahead.

"A man has his limits. The pent up sexual frustration of being celibate for two years…I was horny as fuck and needed to get laid."

Her mouth twitches in a smile.

"That’s the complete truth. I knew exactly what I was paying for and that there’d be no chance of feelings or false promises."

"Why not just hire an escort?"

I shrug. The thought had crossed my mind a few times. "I guess I’m not the kind of guy to hire an escort. I wanted something more discreet. I couldn’t have that information getting leaked. CEOs who get caught hiring prostitutes usually end up on the evening news."

She nodded in silent understanding.

"With the auction, I liked the medical testing, non-disclosure agreements and confidentiality promised to me. Plus the companionship angle we covered before."

"But you never…we never…" She pauses.

"I never fucked you," I finish for her.

She lifts her chin in indignation. "Why not? Is it because you would have felt like you were cheating on her?" she asks, her big blue eyes locked onto mine.

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