The All-Star Antes Up (Wager of Hearts #2)(15)

by Nancy Herkness

“You have brought the issue to my attention, Miranda. Since I am the CEO of Elite Concierge Services, it is, of course, a priority for me to make sure this problem does not occur again.” Orin smacked his palms on the desktop, making Miranda start. “You need not concern yourself further.”

As she left his office, Miranda let out the breath she’d been holding. She’d made her point and he hadn’t fired her.

Still, she would polish up her résumé when she got home.

Luke settled on the leather seat of the limo and wondered what had Miranda Tate so riled up. She didn’t seem the type to throw things—even balls. He had a suspicion that Orin Spindle was involved, and guilt nagged at him again. If Luke hadn’t had that god-awful hangover from drinking with Trainor and Miller the night before, he wouldn’t have let that whole situation get to the point it did. He owed it to Miranda to fix it. But she had made it clear she didn’t want him to fight that battle for her.

Which surprised him.

So many people expected him to help them out.

He’d get a better idea about her at the meet and greet. He wanted to see her outside her professional persona. Bring out that genuine smile again, the one she’d given him when Trevor had pissed him off. Find out if that smooth, satiny voice ever took on an edge, or her sleek, shiny dark hair ever looked mussed. Like someone had run their fingers through it. See how the spark of temper he’d caught in her brown eyes might be turned into a different kind of heat.

He felt a stirring in his groin. Where the hell had that come from? One brush of her breasts against him and he wanted the whole package?

Luke straightened on the seat and began to run through the Empire’s playbook in his mind. One of his signature moves was not using a wristband with plays listed on it. He kept a mental file instead—it made his decisions on the field easier. And it intimidated his opponents.

Football was a physical game, but it never hurt to mess with your enemy’s mind, too.

Chapter 4

“This is awesome,” Theo said, his hazel eyes the size of saucers. They’d just been escorted into the VIP box.

“Awesome is right,” Miranda agreed. She was startled to discover that the box was decorated like someone’s large, elegant living/dining room, except for the wall of glass that overlooked the outdoor seating and the brilliant green of the football field. She’d gotten tickets for people to sit in VIP boxes more times than she could remember, but she’d never actually been in one herself. She’d imagined they would be decorated with team logos and neon beer signs. This suite boasted oak paneling, tan leather sofas, and plush russet carpeting.

“Mr. Archer got you one of the nicest boxes, and you have it all to yourself,” Heather, their young hostess, said. She’d met them at the VIP entrance, wearing a skirt and jacket in the now-familiar Empire blue, and whisked them up to their luxurious suite in an elevator.

Dennis whistled. “Four flat-screen TVs.”

“Hot dogs and pizza.” Theo inspected the contents of the chafing dishes laid out on the marble countertop.

“A private bathroom,” Patty said, sticking her head in the door. “With real towels, not paper ones.”

“Anything you want, just ask Milt here. He’ll be taking care of you.” Heather introduced them all to a wiry older man dressed in black slacks and a white dress shirt with a black necktie. “I’ll be back after the game to take you to the lounge.”

“You folks want something to drink?” Milt asked. “Anything we haven’t got right here, I can get for you.”

Theo ran to his mother and beckoned for her to bend down so he could whisper in her ear. She listened and then nodded. “Yes, but after you eat.”

The boy raced over to Milt and skidded to a stop just in front of him. “Mr. Milt, do you have milk shakes?”

“Chocolate, vanilla, or peanut butter?” Milt asked with a smile.

“After I eat”—Theo threw a glance at Patty—“may I please have a chocolate one?”

“You got it, young man.” Milt looked at the adults.

“How about a beer?” Dennis asked. As Milt recited what he had on tap, in the refrigerator, and what he could get from the lounge, her brother’s face lit up almost as brightly as Theo’s. The circles under his eyes and the lines of fatigue etched around his mouth disappeared. Patty had been right—her brother needed a day off.

Patty and Miranda both opted for white wine, much to Dennis’s disgust. “You don’t drink chardonnay at a football game,” he scoffed good-naturedly.

“So far, I don’t feel like I’m anywhere near a football game.” Miranda sipped the crisp chilled wine.

“Yeah, well, let’s change that.” Dennis gestured for Miranda and Patty to follow Theo past the televisions and the sofas to the glass wall. Tall bar chairs were lined up along a countertop positioned so one could watch the game from inside while eating and drinking. Theo pushed open the frameless glass door, letting in a burst of brisk autumn air.

“Want your coats?” Milt asked.

“No, no, we’re fine,” Miranda said. “Just exploring before we eat.”

The brilliant sunshine made the green of the synthetic turf and the royal blue of the Empire logo blinding. Clumps of early spectators dotted the giant arcs of seating, most of them sporting blue jerseys, but a few stood out in the dark red of the opposing Cardinals.

“We’re on the fifty-yard line,” Dennis murmured in a tone of awe. He turned to Miranda. “Just what did you get for Luke Archer’s brother?”

“You know I can’t answer that.”

“Yeah, that was rhetorical,” her brother said with a wry smile. “It must have been really something, though.”

Miranda was a little overawed herself, especially because Luke had reserved a box that probably accommodated twelve people for their exclusive use. This was far beyond what she’d expected, especially when she considered that she’d received all of this by refusing to get Trevor Archer what he wanted. Luke was trying to buy her silence in a big way.

“Can I have my Empire stuff now?” Theo asked, tugging on Miranda’s elbow.

“Of course, sweetie.” She’d sorted through the boxes and selected jerseys and hats for all of them to wear at the game, packing them in the tote bag she’d brought with her. She also had the autographed football and a fancy commemorative booklet that she figured Theo could get more autographs on after the game. The rest she had shipped to the farm.