'Shut up,' Damian said, abruptly cutting Carter off. 'We're in mixed company.' He and the rest of the guys stared beyond her to the newest person in the room, Veronica Butler from Esports Network.

The gorgeous redhead in the cream-colored suit with gold stitching co-anchored the cable network's most popular prime-time show. She was also a friend of Micki's and a colleague who booked many of the Hot Zone's clients. Like Micki, as a woman in a man's world, she demanded respect and received it. Unlike Micki, she also received the deference due a lady, at least where Damian Fuller was concerned. In his eyes, Veronica wasn't one of the guys.

Micki swallowed hard. Considering her upbringing, foul language wasn't a shock to Micki and yet she might have been grateful for Damian's sensitivity anyway-had he been worried about her.

Unwilling to stand around a minute longer, Micki jabbed Roper in the arm. 'Private talk. Now.'

Her client followed and Micki finished their meeting with a threat that if he didn't cooperate with the PR plan they'd agreed upon and lay off the day spas and back waves during the season, she was through as his publicist. She then escaped the locker room, including its accompanying male testosterone and humiliation, as soon as humanly possible.

That night, Micki sat in her apartment's small kitchen across from Roper. His eyes gleamed as he devoured the meal she'd cooked for them both.

'Micki, you make the meanest omelet I've ever had the pleasure of eating,' he said between the forkfuls of food he shoveled into his mouth.

'No need to suck up, John. I've already cooked for you.'

He grinned. 'And I thank you for inviting me.'

'You invited yourself,' she reminded him, recalling his phone message about how he'd be over around seven for some good food.

She knew he meant they'd go out for a bite. She and John often caught a late meal together if they were both free. He was one of the guys she felt completely comfortable around because she could be herself and he didn't care how she looked or dressed. He accepted her in her after-work sweats or old faded jeans. Which was why she didn't mind cooking for them so they could really relax instead of eating in a restaurant surrounded by people.

She glanced down at the Spanish omelet she'd prepared, frowned and pushed her plate aside.

'No appetite?' he asked.

She shrugged. 'Not really'

He switched his empty dish for her full one. 'Do you mind?'

She shook her head.

He dug into her portion with equal gusto. 'If you want him to notice you then you need to step up,' Roper said between bites.

At his words, Micki froze in her seat. 'If I want who to notice me?' she asked, feigning ignorance and buying herself some thinking time, she hoped.

She and John clicked on many levels and he was a close enough friend that she'd confided in him about many of her deepest insecurities, but she'd avoided discussing Damian Fuller and that kiss. Roper was Damian's teammate and Micki knew the propensity for guy talk in the locker room. Still, unlike most men, John had a sensitive side and she didn't think he'd deliberately betray her confidence if she decided to fill him in.

She pursed her lips in thought, still undecided about how much to reveal.

'Hey, babe, you should know by now you can't put anything over on me. You obviously have the hots for Fuller.”

She swallowed and choked on her own saliva, grabbing for a glass of water.

'Easy,' he said, laughing. 'It's just me, so before you try and argue, remember I'm the one who knows how you always felt left out when your sisters would start with the girl talk growing up. And I also know how hard it is for you to date or open yourself up to guys on any level other than friendship. So why wouldn't I notice your reaction when Fuller rolled out the red carpet for Veronica but ignored you?'

'Way to watch out for my feelings, Roper.' She glanced down at her hands, unwilling to meet his gaze or admit he was right.

'Hey, you've been dancing around those feelings, which hasn't helped you any, so I decided it was time to bring things out into the open.' He raised his eyebrow, challenging her to talk openly with him.

'I had no idea I was so transparent,' she muttered.

'Only to those who love you best.' He treated her to his trademark grin and the dimples women loved. Thank God she wasn't into him that way, Micki thought wryly. She had enough trying to handle her attraction for Damian Fuller.

'So what are you suggesting? That I step up…how?'

'Why hasn't Damian noticed you as anything other than my publicist up until now?' John countered her question with one of his own.

'Because…' Her voice trailed off. She really didn't want to tread these painful waters, Micki thought. Didn't want to dig into the differences between herself and her sisters, the girlie girls versus the tomboy.

Not that her sisters had ever criticized or belittled her choice to be more like Uncle Yank. In fact Annabelle had coddled and babied Micki. She'd looked out for her little sister and made sure Micki felt safe and loved. And though Sophie had been more reserved, that was her personality. Annabelle reached Sophie more easily because they had more in common. Still, when all was said and done, there was a loyalty between the sisters that ran deep. In their hearts, the Jordan sisters remembered being left alone in the world by their parents with the knowledge that they only had each other to count on. Each other, Uncle Yank and Lola, their surrogate mother.

'I’m going to tell you why Fuller hasn't noticed you yet,' John said, intruding on her thoughts.

His soft tone indicated she wasn't going to like what she heard. 'I don't suppose you can spare me the details?'

Roper shook his head. 'Fuller hasn't looked twice because you blend into the woodwork, doll.'

She winced at his too-accurate assessment.

He patted her hand. 'That's not to say there's anything wrong with who you are. I happen to adore you. It's just that you've fallen for a guy who likes frills. Now take me for example.'

“At the moment, I wish someone would.'

He shook his head and laughed. 'We're hanging out and I'm wearing what?'

Micki didn't have the foggiest notion what he was talking about 'Clothing?' she asked.

He groaned. 'A Hugo Boss shirt, Polo pants and Cole Haan loafers. I've gelled my hair and-'

'Waxed your back and painted your nails with clear polish. I get it. You've done all the things I'm trying to break you of doing until the season's over!

'Exactly.' John leaned back in his seat and smiled contentedly. 'If you would put in half the effort, Damian couldn't help but notice that gorgeous face, perfect complexion and those darling curls you hide in a ponytail.' He gave a fake shudder at the last word.

She glanced at the ceiling, thinking about the validity of his point. The insecurities she'd experienced growing up around her beautiful sisters and the self-doubt she'd felt with Veronica in the locker room today surfaced again now.

He leaned forward. 'So what's going on in there?' He tapped on her forehead.

'It's just that if I change who I am on the outside, then I wouldn't be me. Don't I deserve to find someone who appreciates me for who I am?'

'Of course you do.' John placed a comforting hand over hers. 'And if you did what I just suggested, you would still be you-only more obvious. Once you catch the right man's interest, he'd be a fool not to see all you have to offer him.'

'You're a great guy,' she told him, then gave him a sideways look. 'I notice you didn't say that Damian Fuller is that right man.'

John shrugged, conceding the point, then leaned back again in his chair. 'Fuller's my captain and teammate. I admire him. But he's still living the life of an athlete who just made his first million. He may have the potential to grow up, he may not. I don't want you to get hurt but…'

Вы читаете Hot Number
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату