I leave my home and head to the elevator. It whisks me down, and my pulse picks up as it slows near the seventh floor. Maybe Luke will get on with me.
But wait. Why am I thinking that? I brush off the thoughts as the doors open on Elsie Rubenstein, a gray-haired lady wearing a Comets T-shirt.
She narrows her eyes at me, wagging a finger. “What did I tell you about swinging at bad pitches?”
I hang my head. “Don’t do it,” I mutter, repeating her words.
“That was such a hanging curve. I could spot it a mile away.”
“I shouldn’t have swung at it.”
She clucks her tongue. “I should have been a hitting coach. What are they teaching you these days?”
“Not enough, evidently,” I say.
She eyes me up and down. “Hot date? Is he cute?”
“Nah. Well, maybe. It’s a players’ auction.”
Her dark eyes brighten. “Ooh. Perhaps I’ll crash it and bid on my neighbor. Luke is such a cutie, isn’t he?”
I grit my teeth, biting back a reply. I don’t want to give her an answer.
When the elevator reaches the lobby, I wish her goodnight, then go on my way, leaving her question behind me too.
Once I reach The Luxe Hotel, it’s easier to stop wondering about tonight, and dares, and bids since Reese Kingsley marches up to me in the lobby. While she’s the publicist for the San Francisco Hawks, these auctions have become a passion project of hers. They raise good money for charity, and she’s been shepherding them around the country for years, not only in her hometown.
She greets me with a smile, then says, “You look good. And I’m sure you’ll bring down the house like you always do.”
“That’s the goal,” I say, turning the focus where it belongs. “Raise the most for the kids and animals.”
I’d be a cocky bastard if I bragged too hard. But the reality is, I’ve cleaned up at these auctions. I like to use my high profile for good, and being a franchise player on a popular team helps raise lots of dough for charity. I enter as many as I can, and I’m grateful for the donations, and the Comets are grateful for the publicity my participation in the auctions afford them.
But maybe it’d be a triple win if I met a generous dude along the way.
Reese sets a hand on my arm, steering me through the Friday evening hotel crowds and toward the ballroom. “So, I have a little favor to ask. Trish is here from Trish’s Morning News Show.”
I shoot a teasing smile her way. “That’s on in the morning, isn’t it? Just a guess.”
“So smart,” she says, then continues. “And yes, I know ballplayers are never up that early, but it’s a fun show, and they like to spotlight positive things teams are doing. But Trish also does happen to like her gossip.”
Translation: she’ll be hungry for the who-won-who details. Well, that’s just understandable. It’s a public auction. Not a private one.
“So she’ll want to highlight some of the guys?”
“Yes, she already asked to talk to you before and after. And since you’re so good with the press, I was hoping you could do it.”
Well, stroke my ego a little more. “Sure, I’d be happy to.”
Reese presses her slender hands together in a thank you. “You’re the best,” she says, then we reach the back of the ballroom and I head into the greenroom. Instantly, I survey the space where guys are mingling and shooting the shit with their buddies.
Pro sports is a small club, and I know most of these dudes already so I give chin nods and smiles to the likes of North Rhodes, a cornerback from the New York Rebels, José Vargas, a left fielder from our cross-town rivals, and then fist bumps to Jack Cohen, one of the pitchers on my team.
“You’re up past your bedtime, Cohen,” I say, since I’m required to rib the younger guys.
“It’s cool. I took a nap this afternoon at the game. Like you did at the plate,” he fires back.
A low whistle comes from behind me. And I’d recognize that whistle anywhere since it belongs to the guy with the big mouth.
“Sweet burn,” he says, entering the room, and when I turn my attention to Luke, my pulse skitters.
Like it did the other night in the elevator.
Like it did last week at Rapture.
I’d better not feel this way all night long.
But I barely have time to linger on shit like feelings or annoying things like thoughts, since another voice floats past my ear, warm and professional. “Hi Tanner! Any chance I could have a quick word with you?”
I turn around to find a woman wearing a black silky blouse and sporting a straight blunt blonde cut. She’s in the hallway next to Reese, so the woman must be Trish.