She turned at the sound of her name above the noise of the happy crowd. Sophie Jordan approached quickly, a warm smile on her face. No matter how many times Amy saw Sophie, she was always shocked by her beauty and perfection. Tonight her honey-blond hair was pulled back in a neat knot, her face beautifully made up.

Amy hugged Sophie, the sister who was the organizer behind the Hot Zone. She had met Sophie for the first time in Florida last year. Though Sophie wasn’t as touchy-feely as Amy, she hugged right back.

“You look happy. Marriage to my cousin must agree with you,” Amy said, taking in Sophie’s glowing face.

Sophie grinned. “Well, marriage to Riley is pretty darn good.”

“I just bet it is. Where is my cousin, anyway?”

“He’ll be here soon.”

“And your sisters?” Amy glanced over Sophie’s shoulder. “Are they around here somewhere?”

“Unfortunately Micki’s still on the island-her husband, Damian, owns a slice of paradise. Her daughter had a respiratory infection and Damian insisted on taking the family to a warmer climate for a little while. From what they say, it seems to be helping. But Annabelle is here working the crowd. I’m sure you’ll see her soon.”

Amy nodded. “Well, please send Micki my love.”

“I will. And you can do it yourself at the first staff meeting in a few days.”

Amy already knew she was stepping into a high-profile, high-pressure place with loyalty and dedication in spades, and she wanted to play a successful part. Nepotism might have gotten her the job, but only proving herself would keep her here. She was definitely ready for the challenge.

“Well, look who’s here!” a booming male voice said. Her uncle’s partner, Yank, pulled her into a big hug at the same time Amy caught sight of his wife, Lola, standing behind him.

Amy waved to the other woman, who smiled right back.

“Just tell me your crazy mother and aunt are still at home in Florida,” Yank said as he stepped back.

Lola groaned. “Ignore him. He’s had a drink or two and doesn’t know what he’s saying.” She smacked her husband on the shoulder.

“I’m stone-cold sober. You’ve been watering down my drinks all night.” He leaned closer to Amy. “She thinks just because I can’t see, my taste buds have gone, too.”

And he thought Amy’s relatives were crazy? She shook her head and laughed. “No problem, Lola. I’ve heard from Uncle Spencer that Yank says whatever’s on his mind.” She shot the older man a grateful look. “Thank you for giving me a chance here,” she told him.

Yank grinned, obviously pleased. “You see? The only one who’s got a problem with me is you,” Yank said to his wife.

Sophie rolled her eyes. “Okay, you said your hellos, Uncle Yank. How about giving me a chance to introduce Amy to some other people at the party?”

“I’d like that.” Amy rubbed her hands together.

“Why not start with someone she knows and ease her in. John Roper’s over there in the corner,” Yank said without much tact.

Amy’s stomach flipped. “Oh, I think we can skip over him,” Amy said, only partially meaning it. A traitorous part of her wanted to get a glimpse of him again.

“Nonsense. Amy wouldn’t want him to think he was avoiding her, considering he’s been eyeing her since she walked into the room,” Yank said.

“He has?” Amy asked, then wished she could bite her tongue and take it back. Still, she had to admit it stroked her ego to know Roper’s eyes had been on her since she’d arrived. She had to force herself not to glance at the corner and look over at him.

Lola scowled at her husband. “Leave Amy alone,” she instructed.

“Lola’s right,” Sophie said. “But tell me something. Just how would you know where Roper is, considering you can’t see well enough to identify anyone?” Sophie perched her hands on her hips and eyed her uncle warily.

“She’s got your number, old man,” Lola said, laughing.

“Who are you calling old?” he grumbled.

Lola ignored him, meeting Sophie’s gaze instead. “Actually, Yank’s been checking up on Roper ever since he arrived. I feel like the man’s personal GPS system.”

“Speaking of guides, where is Noodle?” Sophie asked.

“One of the staff took the dog out for a walk.” Lola gestured toward the windows overlooking the city. “They’ll be back soon.”

Sophie nodded. “Gotcha. Well, I can understand your concern for Roper. We’ve all been worried about him lately. The papers have been brutal.”

Despite her better judgment, Amy’s curiosity got the better of her. “Why? What’s going on?”

The other three stared at one another, wide-eyed and surprised.

“I guess New Yorkers forget that not everyone else’s world revolves around sports,” Sophie said, realization dawning. “You know that the Renegades made it to the World Series?”

Amy nodded. She just hadn’t kept up with the details since the opposing team hadn’t been from Florida.

“Roper went into the post season in a serious slump,” Sophie said in a low whisper. “He didn’t play well at all in the series, struck out in the clutch and injured his shoulder in an attempt to stop a home run. The team lost the series and Roper became the media scapegoat.”

“Ouch.” Poor man, she thought, then caught herself. The poor man didn’t need her pity, that much she knew for sure.

Despite herself, Amy’s gaze came to rest on the sexy guy who had made her pulse kick up a notch and her mouth go dry.

And he still had a female cozying up to him just like the last time.

“He doesn’t look happy,” Sophie murmured.

She was right. Despite the attention of a woman who appeared to be hanging on his every word, Roper appeared dazed and bored.

“How odd,” Lola said. “Normally Roper loves every bit of attention he can get, female or otherwise.”

Amy pursed her lips and kept silent. She’d once been all too happy to shower him with that attention. Thanks to the scene made by his date at the wedding, everyone here knew it.

“Must be today’s paper that’s getting to him,” Yank said. “Lola read it to me earlier. The News ran a list of New Year’s resolutions. Said if Roper didn’t get a renewed dose of talent from Santa, he should resolve to take a one-way ticket to Siberia as his contribution to the team.”

“That’s awful,” Amy said, shocked by the brutal treatment despite her feelings about Roper at the moment.

“That’s New York,” Sophie replied. “Something you’ll be getting used to, I promise.”

Amy nodded. “Still, I can’t imagine being the center of such negative press day in and day out.”

Yank shrugged. “In this city, it comes with the territory. The bigger the contracts, the worse the scrutiny and the higher the expectations. Let’s go save him,” Yank said. He practically gave Amy a shove forward, calling Roper’s name at the same time.

So much for steering clear of him, Amy thought. And one glance his way had her wondering why she wanted to.

“I’m sorry,” Sophie whispered, catching up with her.

“Not a problem,” Amy said with a forced smile as they walked forward.

Yank Morgan trailed right along with them until Lola deliberately pulled him away for a scolding.

Amy chuckled at the family dynamic, one to which she could relate. But she had something more important to focus on now than Yank and Lola.

Roper’s gaze locked on Amy’s and her insides twisted with the familiar sense of awareness he’d invoked in her once before.

“Ladies, please come rescue me from wedding talk,” Roper said, reaching out and putting an arm around Sophie’s shoulder.

But he never broke eye contact with Amy.

“Wedding?” Sophie asked, her voice rising. “I didn’t know you were even seeing someone special.”

Wedding? A voice inside Amy’s head echoed and her stomach cramped.

“As in, you and a member of the opposite sex making a permanent commitment? Someone give me a fan. I

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