The All-Star Antes Up (Wager of Hearts #2)(7)

by Nancy Herkness

There was no need for Photoshopping on all those billboards and clothing ads. Luke Archer looked exactly like his pictures, only better, because she could feel the heat of his hand through her silk sleeve, watch the expansion and contraction of his chest as he breathed, and inhale the scent of clean, warm male.

“You’re welcome,” he said, and released her before turning back to his brother. “Trevor?”

It took all her powers of concentration to recall the question Luke had asked before. She needed to get her inappropriate reactions to the quarterback under control or she would have even bigger problems with her boss than she already did.

Trevor leaned back in the chair with an air of unconcern that Miranda didn’t buy for a second. “I just wanted a little company, and I asked her to find me some.” He shifted away from his brother’s gaze. “Just make a call to an escort service. Nothing illegal about that.”

Luke’s smile evaporated and all the warmth leached out of his eyes, leaving them the pale blue of a glacier. “That’s what you asked her to do for you?” He hissed out a sound of disgust. Miranda watched him settle himself with an effort of will before he pivoted to meet her gaze. “We owe you an apology, ma’am. If I’d known what—” He shook his head. “Well, I’m sorry my brother asked you to do something so distasteful, and even sorrier he complained about it to Mr. Spindle here.”

Miranda tried to keep her smile from appearing forced, but all the apologies in the world weren’t going to fix her already precarious relationship with Orin after this. “Don’t mention it, Mr. Archer,” she said. “I won’t, either.”

His gaze traveled over her face like a laser beam, scanning and assessing. She felt a wave of heat flush her cheeks and then spread lower and deeper. Luke turned to Orin. “Mr. Spindle, I just want to make sure that Miranda will not be held at fault as a result of my brother’s actions. Trevor never should have made that request.” He turned a hard look on Trevor, who was now slumped in the chair, staring at his knees.

Trevor hunched a shoulder. “This meeting was Spindle’s idea, not mine.”

Miranda watched Luke’s big hands curl into fists. She’d heard him called the Iceman because he never showed his feelings on the field or off it. However, his brother seemed to have gotten to him. She considered her own family and how they could push her buttons. Without thinking, she flashed the quarterback a smile of understanding.

For a split second, surprise registered on his face, and she regretted her impulse. A man like Luke Archer didn’t need her sympathy. In fact, a man like Luke Archer didn’t want anything from someone like her. She was just a country girl trying with all her might to act like a city sophisticate.

“We’ll talk about this later,” Luke said to Trevor, jerking his head toward the door.

Trevor unfolded himself from the chair and stalked out of Orin’s office. Luke started after him before turning back. “My apologies. Let me know if you’d like tickets to Sunday’s game.”

Orin lit up. “That’s very generous of you, Mr. Archer.” Miranda was sure he would sell them to one of their other clients for a hefty price.

“I’ll have my assistant call both of you,” Archer said, turning away.

Miranda felt bad that the quarterback had been put in this situation by his brother. She didn’t want him to feel obligated to give her compensation for it. “You’re very kind, but I have to work on Sunday.” It was a lie, but she couldn’t gracefully refuse the tickets after her boss had accepted them. She was counting on the fact that Orin didn’t know the weekend schedule for the assistant concierges, since he never worked then.

Archer looked over his shoulder with the dimple in evidence again. “Would you like a signed football as a substitute?”

Her brother’s son would love that. And it would make Orin’s greed less obvious, so maybe he wouldn’t punish her for refusing the tickets. “Thank you. I know someone who would very much appreciate that. My nephew is a huge fan.” She added a smile.

For a moment Archer seemed to freeze, and she wondered if her smile had revealed a little too much of the warmth he had sent sizzling through her. Or maybe she shouldn’t have taken the ball. It seemed fairly insignificant compared to tickets. She was trying to think of a way to back out when he nodded. “It will be in your office later today.” Then he was gone, his absence leaving a curious flatness in the room.

“Are you aware of which assistant concierge called an escort service for Trevor Archer recently?” Orin’s nasal voice was harsh.

Miranda shook her head. “Someone must have done it without realizing there was a rule about it.”

That was the sad part. Concierges often called escort services—and worse—for their clients. The first time she’d gotten such a request, she’d been openmouthed with shock. Growing up on a dairy farm in the boondocks of upstate New York hadn’t prepared her for the shamelessness of vice in the big city. She’d been relieved when the Pinnacle’s owners had instituted the policy after a resident had sued because he caught an STD from the escort. She had always refused to handle those requests, even before the rule was put in place, but she was in the minority, since the gratuity for arranging that kind of service tended to be large.

Orin nodded. “I’ll make sure the other assistant concierges are aware of the policy.” He shuffled through a pile of papers and pulled out the week’s schedule. “You aren’t working Sunday, so why did you turn down the tickets?” He skewered her with his “I’m your boss and I want answers” glare.

She pretended surprise. “I must have gotten my weeks mixed up. I thought I was on duty this Sunday.” Giving him a conspiratorial smile, she said, “I’m not much of a football fan anyway.”

“So the ball is really for your nephew?” Orin appeared unconvinced.

“Yes. Theo thinks Luke Archer walks on water.”

After shooting her one more skeptical glance, Orin dropped the schedule back onto his desk and turned to his computer monitor. “Mrs. Belden wants you to book her massage because she says you always send the best people.” There was a note of peevishness in his voice. Mrs. Belden was a big tipper, and Orin tried to reserve that kind of client for himself.

“I’m so glad she liked the last one. I mentioned to Mrs. Belden that he was from a spa you’d recommended,” Miranda said, crossing her fingers behind her back at the lie. She needed to stay in Orin’s good graces just a little longer so he would give her a reference for the head concierge job at a new apartment building going up in Midtown. Expecting a glowing recommendation was unrealistic, but at least he couldn’t give her a bad review without real evidence.