Eve stood nervously on stage and watched the dirty old man grin at her. He winked when he noticed her looking at him. Eve turned away, her stomach turning.

As the auctioneer started the bidding, numerous young men bid for Eve. Whitney watched with interest and was pleased that her mother was going for a hefty amount. Smiling, she tried to get Eve’s attention and encourage her. Noticing the distressed look on her mother’s face, she followed her gaze.

Whitney yanked on Chad’s arm. “I think my mother is worried about one of the bidders.”

“What? Why? There is nothing to worry about,” he tried to assure her.

“Look at that guy.” She pointed to the dirty old man who kept right on outbidding everyone. “The bid is already two thousand dollars, and he is still in the race. I think she is scared, Chad.” She faced Eve to confirm her suspicions.

This time Eve caught her look and noticed that they saw the old man too. Eve mouthed, ‘help.’

“That’s it; I am bidding for my mother!” Whitney exclaimed as she nodded to Eve.

“What? We don’t have any money,” Chad yelped.

“Wrong, I have ten thousand dollars,” Whitney said, determined to win the bid as she help up her paddle for a bid of twenty-five hundred dollars.

“Are you sure it’s OK?” Chad asked, a worried look in his eyes.

“Julian said it was mine, to use as I wished. And right now, I wish to save my mother from that guy.” She pointed to the dirty stranger. “Lord knows what he wants with her.”

“Well, I hope you know what you are doing,” Chad replied. “Maybe I should go over there and tell him to get lost.”

“No, you can’t do that; he has just as much right to be here as we do. We’ll just outbid him.” She smiled.

“What if he bids higher than you?” Chad asked.

“Let’s hope he runs out of money long before we do, though he doesn’t seem to be the kind who would have that kind of money.”

“I guess looking poor doesn’t mean you are,” Chad added.

The auctioneer was thrilled with the large bids that were coming in. “Come on, gentlemen, who wouldn’t want a date with the beautiful woman? Who knows, maybe she can show you a little CPR later,” he joked with a laugh. “Do I hear three thousand?”

Eve winced in embarrassment when the ragged old man shouted with glee and bid three thousand dollars.

Panicked, Eve turned to Whitney, as it seemed that the bid was too rich for anyone else’s blood. She didn’t care if she had to get a loan to pay for this bid, but she was desperate enough to encourage Whitney and Chad to bid for her. She nodded her approval to Whitney and was pleased that she understood.

Whitney held up her paddle. “Five thousand dollars!” she shouted.

The auctioneer grinned. “Do I have six thousand?” His eyes returned to the old man.

On cue, he raised his paddle.

Eve gasped. Her stomached churned and threatened to turn over.

“Seven thousand!” Whitney cried.

“Seven thousand, five hundred!” the man shouted.

Whitney glared at him. “Ten thousand dollars!!” she breathed, her heart racing madly as she continued to glare at the dirty old man, fearing that he would top her bid.

The crowd gasped. The auctioneer was delighted; greedily he looked at the old man, hoping to keep this going.

The old man shook his head in defeat, and Whitney jumped and hugged Chad, crying out with joy as the auctioneer pointed at her and shouted, “Sold to the young couple on the right!”

Eve exhaled in relief. “Thank God,” she said as she smiled her thanks to Whitney. She turned to look for the old man. He stood and grinned at her, seeming to have enjoyed getting her blood pumping. She dropped his gaze and headed off the stage toward Whitney and Chad.

Whitney hugged her mom when she reached them. “That was close.”

“Yes,” Eve agreed. “Too close. I wonder where he got that kind of money anyway,” she said.

“Who knows, maybe he didn’t have any and was just bidding to make it more interesting,” Chad put in.

“Well, I am just glad I don’t have to go with anyone I don’t know. I am not really up for a date with a stranger these days,” Eve said.

“Are you feeling OK?” Whitney asked in concern.

“Yes, I am fine - just tired, I guess.” Eve smiled wearily.

“You do look tired, Dr. Russell…” Chad started.

“Call me Eve, Chad,” Eve suggested.

Grinning sheepishly, he said, “OK by me. But really, you should go home and rest or something - you do look tired.”

“You’re right; I think I will pass on the party.” Eve yawned. “The hospital got its money, right, so there is no harm done in not showing up.” Turning to Whitney she said, “I will pay you back every cent you had to spend, honey.”

“No!” Whitney objected. “It was for a good cause; I didn’t mind. I am sure that Julian wouldn’t mind either.”

Eve’s heart accelerated at the mention of Julian’s name. She turned away from Chad and Whitney and stared up at the sky as twilight started to set in. She searched, but could not yet find, the first star out. Sighing, she thought about Julian. A tear slipped down her cheek, and she quickly wiped it away.

With his handsome face imprinted in her mind, and the warmth of his embrace in her heart, she raised her hand to her lips and remembered his tender kisses. A moment later, she collected herself and turned to Whitney and Chad. “I’m ready to go if you are.”

Chad coughed lightly. “Whitney and I were just thinking. Maybe we should go out and have some fun tonight. I know you said you are tired, but we thought that getting out and having a little fun would help get you back on your feet.”

Eve smiled. “Don’t worry about me. You guys go on; I think I will just go home and rest.”

“No, you are coming with us,” Whitney insisted. “We will go home and change, and then we are going to go out for dinner. After all, you are my date.” Whitney grinned mischievously.

Eve laughed. “All right, but I need to shower and change first.”

“OK, let’s go home and change then.” Whitney grabbed Chad’s hand and headed for the parking lot.

“Where are you planning on going tonight?” Eve asked curiously.

“The Blue Note.” Chad smiled. “Who knows, maybe Whitney can sing for us there.”

Eve smiled. “Yes that would be nice. I would like to hear you sing, without all the pressure that I had put you under about not singing.”

“OK, great, it is all settled then - we are going out tonight.” Chad and Whitney grinned at each other.

Eve looked at them curiously. ‘I wonder what they are really up to,’ she mused to herself.

An hour later, showered and dressed in black slacks and white buttoned shirt, Eve headed to the garage where Whitney and Chad were already waiting. “Ready guys?” she asked when she saw them standing next to Chad’s car.

“Yes,” Whitney smiled. “How are you feeling, Mom?”

“Much better, thank you,” Eve smiled.

“Well, I guess we are off then.” Chad held open the door for them and then got in the driver’s side and started the engine.

Arriving at the Blue Note, Chad parked the car and helped Eve and Whitney out.

Whitney walked on ahead in anticipation.

Chad grabbed Eve’s arm and held her back. “Can I speak to you a minute?” he asked.

“Sure,” Eve said gently.

“Well, before we go in, there is something I want to tell you. I want to ask Whitney to marry me tonight, and I was wondering if you are OK with that.”

Eve smiled. “How sweet of you to ask,” she said, thoroughly pleased. “Of course it’s OK with me, as long as you are good to her and take care of her.”

“I promise.” He grinned. “I am going to ask her now. Do you mind going on ahead? We’ll be in as soon as she says “yes.”

Laughing lightly, Eve said, “Sure, I’ll tell her that you wish to speak with her,” as she headed for the entrance of the club.

Just inside the door, Whitney stood waiting for them.

“Whitney, Chad wants to speak to you in private.” Eve’s eyes sparkled.

“He does? Why doesn’t he come in here?” she asked.

“I think he wants a little more privacy than this.” Eve smiled.

“OK, you go on and find us a seat; I’ll be right back with Chad.” Whitney turned and walked out the door.

Music started to play softly as Eve stepped out of the dark entrance into the soft light of the Blue Note’s cocktail lounge. She was surprised to find it empty. Curious, she walked through the lounge into the dance floor area. There in the center of the room stood a single table with two chairs. It was set up with a bottle of champagne and two glasses, and a single red rose lying across the center of it. Eve smiled at Chad’s romantic intentions. “How beautiful,” she smiled.

“Not as beautiful as you, my dear.” A man stepped out of the shadows and slowly approached her.

“Julian!” she gasped as tears immediately flooded her eyes.