But Mick knew she was anything but oblivious.
Mick’s agent, Elizabeth Darnell, was nothing if not a traffic stopper. She let her shocking good looks get her in the door and reel you in. And then she went in for the kill while your tongue was dragging the floor.
She finished her phone conversation when she saw him heading in her direction, and turned her dazzling smile on him.
“Mick, I didn’t know you were here.”
“Liz, I doubt there’s very little you don’t know.”
She slid her arm in his. “True. Take me to lunch, and let’s chat.”
They hit a restaurant a few blocks away. Mick was starving after his flogging from Ben, so he loaded up on protein and carbs, while Liz nibbled at a grilled chicken salad.
“You need a cheeseburger,” he said, waving his fork at her pitiful attempts at eating.
“Honey, if I get fat, general managers won’t ogle my legs and my tits. Then who’ll get guys like you multimillion-dollar contracts?”
Mick took a long drink of water. “I’d rather see you eat a cheeseburger.”
She arched a brow, dabbed her oh-so-pretty mouth with her napkin, then pushed her plate to the side. “There’s a Hollywood premiere this week I’d like you to go to.”
“You always say that. And then you always go.”
“Still not interested.”
Liz inhaled deeply, as if she were a parent exasperated with a difficult child. He knew she wasn’t trying to impress him with the hint of cleavage on display. Mick didn’t fuck people he did business with, which worked out really well for Liz, too, because she didn’t mix her business with her pleasure either. To Mick, Liz was like a sister—a sometimes extremely annoying sister—who made him a lot of money.
“Mick, it’s summer blockbuster season. People are paying attention to television and magazines and to who’s showing up at these big movie premieres. This would be a great time to make an appearance at one of these huge, moneymaking movies. Cynthia Beaudreaux’s new film releases Wednesday.”
“What kind of movie is it?”
Mick bit into a piece of bread. “I like action flicks.”
“But wouldn’t you love to attend the premiere of her movie?”
He’d rather have a root canal. But maybe Tara liked romantic comedies. “Let me check my schedule, and I’ll get back to you.”
Liz arched a brow. “Honey, I’m your schedule. I know every move you make.”
“No, you don’t.”
“Yes, I do.”
“You don’t own me, Liz. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you do. You want to manage my career, fine. Don’t think you manage my life. I’ll check my schedule and get back to you.”
She picked up her glass of sparkling water, not at all offended. Her life consisted of dealing with athletes with huge egos. He knew it would take a steamroller to stop her.
“Can’t you do that right now?”
“My phone’s in the car.”
“Can’t you go get it?”
And Mick had to admit that he enjoyed pissing her off.
She sighed. “You try my patience, Mick.”
“Yeah, but I make you a hell of a lot of money, so you’re willing to put up with me. I’ll call you later tonight, Liz. And then I’ll tell you whether to grab me some tickets for that premiere.”
“I meant for you to take Cynthia Beaudreaux to the premiere of her movie.”
“Doesn’t she already have a date?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she does. I don’t care. I’ll arrange for you to be her date.”
“There you go again, arranging people’s lives for them.”
“For their benefit. For your benefit.”
“If I go to this premiere, it won’t be with Cynthia.”
Liz’s eyes flashed with irritation. “Who will it be with?”
“I’ll bring my own date.”
“That event planner?”
He shrugged. “Maybe.”
“She’s a nobody.”
“But the point of me going to the premiere is for me to be seen and photographed, right?”
She tapped her fingernails on the table. “Yes. But—”
“But nothing. You’ve introduced me to these women for years now, Liz. And the PR has been great. Now and then I’d like to choose my own date, okay?”
She opened her mouth to say something, but the look he gave her made her think twice.
Smart woman. She knew when not to argue. “Call me and let me know what you decide.”
“I’ll do that.”
NATHAN WAS SPENDING THE WEEK AT A FOOTBALL camp. Both teams—JV and varsity—were attending. He’d never been away from her for so long. A few days for school excursions yes, but not all week long. Tara had put him on the bus at five a.m. this morning and tried not to let him see the tears that threatened to fall, knowing he’d be embarrassed. Plus she wanted him to grow up strong and independent, and he certainly was that and more. He’d been so excited about this camp, and she’d scrimped and saved to be able to afford this. She was happy to be able to do it for him. He’d earned it with good grades and doing chores, and if his attitude over the past year hadn’t been spectacular, she’d understood it wasn’t easy being a teenager and starting high school. There were so many pressures on kids these days. She tried to cut him some slack as long as things didn’t get too out of hand. And those pesky hormones accounted for at least some of his Jekyll and Hyde behavior.
But now she had an entire week of quiet nights at home. She didn’t know what she was going to do with herself. Days she kept busy with work. She had a luncheon on Wednesday, so today and Tuesday she and the other women would be busy enough prepping for that.
But what was she going to do at night? She supposed she’d better start preparing herself for those lonely times, since eventually he’d get his driver’s license, start dating, go off to college. He wasn’t going to be around all that much anymore.
She caught herself staring out the kitchen window, zapping back to reality at the sound of her cell phone ringing. She grabbed it and answered.
Mick. She smiled at the sound of his voice. “Hey yourself, handsome.”
“What are you up to?”
“Feeling sorry for myself because my son has abandoned me for a week.”
“Oh yeah? Where’s he off to?”
“I remember those. He’ll have a good time.”
“I’m sure he will. But it’s the first time we’ve been apart this long.”
“Geez, Mom, time to cut the apron strings.”
Now it was her turn to laugh. “You’re right. I’m going a little overboard, aren’t I?”
“Definitely. So what are you doing Wednesday night?”
“I have a luncheon to do Wednesday.”
“But Wednesday night? Are you free?”
“Um, I guess so.”
“What time is your luncheon over with?”
“We should finish up about two o’clock, including cleanup.”
“Would you like to see a movie with me Wednesday night?”
She smiled. That would be the perfect way to relax after doing the event Wednesday. “I’d love to.”
“Great. If you give me the location of the event you’re doing, I’ll have a limo pick you up there around two.”
“Yeah. They’ll bring you to the airport.”
“Airport? To see a movie?” She felt like she’d missed a part of the conversation somewhere.
“We’re flying to L.A. to see the premiere of I Dream of You.”
She fell into the chair. “Are you kidding me? I’ve been dying to see that movie.”
“Are you serious? A premiere?”
“Oh my God, Mick.”
“Does that mean yes?”
“Um, yes. Of course yes. I’d love to.”
“Good. I’ll have the limo pick you up at two. We’ll fly down there, stay in a hotel there overnight, if that’s okay with you.”
“Yes. Perfect. Oh, God, I have to find something to wear to a premiere. Good Lord, I don’t have much time, do I?”
“I’ll take you shopping tomorrow.”
“I don’t need you to take me shopping. And I don’t have time to shop. I’ll be busy all day tomorrow finishing up plans for this luncheon.”
“Fine. I’ll have Liz send something over.”
“No. I can shop for my own clothes. I’ll make time.”
“Tara, I didn’t invite you to the premiere so you’d panic. And I’ll make sure you have something premiere-worthy to wear. That’s my responsibility, so don’t sweat it, okay? Besides, my agent has people who work for her who don’t have nearly enough to do.”
She laughed. “Okay, if you insist. And Mick?”
“Thank you for inviting me. I’m very excited.”
THE NEXT TWO DAYS PASSED IN A FLURRY OF ACTIVITY. When she told the girls about the invite to the premiere, she wasn’t sure who was more thrilled about it—her or them. Even though she had a million last-minute things to do for the luncheon, Maggie insisted Tara get a manicure and pedicure, despite Tara’s vehement protests that she had zero time for it. But Ellen and Karie said everything was covered for the luncheon, and Tara was worrying needlessly.
But that was her job. If she didn’t worry about every small detail, who would?
At least the luncheon kept her mind off going to some fancy movie premiere with Mick. Otherwise she’d have been an utter basket case worrying about what she was going to wear and how she’d put her hair up and what jewelry she’d choose.
But those things, apparently, were out of her control, at least according to one Lisa Montgomery, who showed up bright and early Tuesday morning. Lisa worked for Elizabeth Darnell, Mick’s agent. She burst into the store right when they opened, took Tara’s measurements, asked about Tara’s preferences on dress colors, shoes, hairstyles, makeup, and even jewelry. Maggie, Ellen, and Karie giggled and got into the spirit of it while Tara mostly just sat there shocked through it all until Lisa thanked her, told her everything would be taken care of, all Tara had to do was show up in L.A. on Wednesday, and breezed out the door.
By the time the luncheon—which went off perfectly—was over, Tara was physically and mentally drained. Yet when the limo service showed up, she couldn’t help but feel a renewed sense of excitement, more because she’d get to see Mick again than over the premiere. But Maggie shooed her out the door and told her they’d finish overseeing the last of the cleanup.
So she climbed into the black stretch limo, feeling way more important than she was, and tried to relax as they made their way to the San Francisco airport. She was surprised to find they were taking a small private jet rather than a commercial airline. She climbed on board the luxurious jet. Mick was seated at the back in one very comfortable looking chair. He stood when she walked in, came over to her, folded her in his arms, and kissed her soundly.
She melted in his arms, all the stress of the week floating away as his lips moved over hers, his tongue sliding inside to lick against hers. She sighed, leaning against him, loving the feel of his hard muscles as she held on to him.
It was hard not to want to continue kissing him, touching him, but they weren’t alone. She broke the kiss, and he touched his forehead to hers.
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