Match Me if You Can(6)

By: Susan Elizabeth Phillips

Ignoring his hand, she shot to her feet. He was more than a head taller, and she had to tilt her neck to meet his eyes. “Do you still remember what it was like to be the underdog, Mr. Champion, or was that too long ago? Do you remember when you were so hungry to close a deal that you’d do anything to make it happen? You’d drive across the country without sleep just to meet a Heisman candidate for breakfast? You’d spend hours hanging around the parking lot outside the Bears’ practice field, trying to catch the attention of one of the veterans? Or what about the time you hauled yourself out of bed with a raging fever so you could bail another agent’s client out of jail?”

“You’ve done your homework.” He cast an impatient eye at the blinking phone buttons, but he didn’t throw her out, so she kept going.

“When you started in business, players like Kevin Tucker wouldn’t give you the time of day. Do you remember what that was like? Do you remember when reporters weren’t calling you for quotes? When you weren’t on first-name terms with everybody in the NFL?”

“If I say I remember, will you leave?” He reached for the executive headset that lay next to the telephone console.

She curled her hands into fists, hoping she sounded passionate instead of loony. “All I want is a chance. The same chance you got when Kevin fired his old agent and put his faith in a fast-talking, sports-savvy guy who made his way from an armpit town in southern Illinois to Harvard Law.”

He coiled back into his chair, one dark eyebrow angling upward.

“A blue-collar kid who played college football for the scholarship, but counted on his brains to get ahead. A guy with nothing more than big dreams and a strong work ethic to recommend him. A guy who—”

“Stop before you make me cry,” he said dryly.

“Just give me a chance. Let me set up one introduction. Just one. If you don’t like the woman I choose, I’ll never bother you again. Please. I’ll do anything.”

That caught his attention. He pushed aside the headset, tilted back in his chair, and rubbed the corner of his mouth with his thumb. “Anything?”

She didn’t flinch from his assessing gaze. “Whatever it takes.”

His eyes made a calculated journey from her rumpled russet hair to her mouth, down along her throat to her breasts. “Well…I haven’t gotten laid for a while.”

Her constricted throat muscles relaxed. The Python was toying with her. “Then why don’t we do something about that on a permanent basis?” She grabbed her fake leather tote and whipped out the folder of material she’d finished preparing at five o’clock that morning. “This will tell you a little more about Perfect for You. I’ve included our mission statement, a timetable, and our fee structure.”

Now that he’d had his fun, he was all business. “I’m interested in results, not mission statements.”

“And results are what I’ll give you.”

“We’ll see.”

She drew an unsteady breath. “Does that mean…”

He picked up the telephone headset and hooked it around his neck, leaving the cord dangling down his shirtfront in a serpentine tail. “You’ve got one chance. Tomorrow night. Hit me with your best candidate.”

“Really?” Her knees went weak. “Yes …Fantastic! But…I need to clarify exactly what you’re looking for.”

“Let’s see how good you are.” He flipped up the headset. “Nine o’clock at Sienna’s on Clark Street. Make the introduction but don’t plan on leaving. Stay at the table and keep the conversation going. I work hard at what I do. I don’t intend to work hard at this, too.”

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