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.""That's my job."She sighed."I know you're looking forward to working for Reed, and I can't really blame you."She expected a wisecrack, but instead, Dan looked thoughtful."Frankly, I've never been too crazy about your cousin.I'm also getting the distinct impression he's behind some of our bad press.Over the years, he's cultivated a lot of friends in the media."Phoebe had suspected the same thing.Still, she could hardly take Dan's statement as a vote of confidence."At least he knows something about football.""That's true." He slipped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a comforting squeeze."But he sure is going to look funny kissing Bobby Tom."Chapter 16Ron stared down at the field from the skybox window."I knew what would happen when I suspended him, but I was hoping it wouldn't be this bad."The Stars had been ineffectual against the bloodthirsty Los Angeles Raiders.Jim Biederot was intercepted four times, Bobby Tom couldn't keep his footing, and the defense didn't make the tackles that counted.Phoebe gave one last glance at the final score: Raiders 34, Stars 3."Never mind," she said."It'll be better next week.""We're playing the Giants next week.They only have one loss this season, and that was to the Sabers."Before she could respond, one of Bert's cronies came up to talk to him.The next morning, as she drove to work for the eight o'clock meeting Ron had requested, she once again found herself reliving Saturday afternoon.She couldn't remember the last time she'd had such a wonderful time.From the art fair, the three of them had gone to an area restaurant for an early dinner, and Dan had proved to be as good a listener as he was a storyteller.She'd invited him back to the condo, where he'd talked Molly into modeling all her new clothes for him.His teasing compliments had done more for Molly's self-confidence than anything Phoebe had said.He'd left a little after eight, and she'd spent the rest of the night torturing herself with images of him in bed with his ex-wife.Unusually heavy traffic on Naper Boulevard held her up, and she arrived at Ron's office a few minutes after eight.Dan was already there.She gave them both a cheerful smile as she took a seat around the conference table and hoped Dan couldn't see how skittish she felt being with him again.As soon as she was settled, Ron began."Now that your suspension is over, Dan, I wanted all of us to have a chance to clear the air.As you're both aware, we've taken some hard hits in the press these past few weeks.This morning's papers are the worst.I received a call at home from our new commissioner last night stating, in the strongest possible terms, that we have become an embarrassment to the League.""Don't you think that's a little extreme," Dan said."He cited the Beau Monde photographs, your suspension, Phoebe's manner of dress on the sidelines, and, of course, the rumored romantic liaison between the two of you.He also mentioned a phone conversation he had with you last week, Phoebe.I wish I'd known about it.Is there any reason you didn't tell me you'd spoken with the commissioner?"Phoebe shifted her weight in the chair and decided she'd liked Ron better when he was a wimp."It slipped my mind."Dan regarded her skeptically."That's a little hard to believe.""He's still rather upset about it," Ron said."I'm the one who should be upset.""Would you like to tell us why?"She tried to figure out how to present this so they wouldn't jump all over her."He was actually sort of fatherly.He told me that sometimes a person can get in over her head—especially a pretty little thing like myself who is trying to do a man's job.He said I wasn't being fair to Reed.He mentioned all the things he spoke to you about, plus a rumor, he'd picked up that I was also carrying on with Bobby Tom." Her mouth tightened."He suggested that monthly hormonal fluctuations might be at the root of my troubles."Ron knew her well enough to regard her warily."What did you say?""I—uh—" She looked past him out the window."Never mind.""Phoebe…"She bowed to the inevitable with a sigh."I told him I had to get off the phone because Playboy was on the other line."Ron winced, but Dan laughed."Don't encourage her." Ron was clearly annoyed."You know that if the Stars were winning, we wouldn't be getting all this flak.""I was suspended last week! It's real hard to win a football game when you're not coaching the team.""That's one of the reasons I wanted to talk to both of you." Ron toyed with his coffee mug."As far as I'm concerned, what's past is past.We can't do anything about the photographs, and as for Phoebe's dress on the sidelines—Well, I believe the commissioner's wrong.""I can just imagine how thrilled he was with that Stars' tattoo she had on her shoulder blade yesterday.It showed up real nice on TV.""It's removable," she said."And I was simply displaying my team spirit.""You were displaying a lot more than team spirit.""She's filling up some of the empty seats," Ron said."Many of them with women, by the way." He looked at Dan."Your suspension was my decision and I take full responsibility for yesterday's loss.I'm also giving you both a warning.I don't know what's going on between the two of you, but I don't want to get caught in the cross fire again.Is that understood?""Understood," Dan said brusquely."There's nothing going on," Phoebe said.Dan's steady gaze was making her uncomfortable.Once again she reminded herself that—temporarily, at least—these two worked for her.She stood."Now, if you'll excuse me, I have work to do."The corner of Dan's mouth kicked up."Say howdy to your buddies over at Playboy for me."She repressed a smile as she left the room and headed for her office, where she spent the rest of the day reading reports and studying the spreadsheets on her computer screen that detailed the team's complex finances.As she jotted figures on the steno pad she kept next to the keyboard, she admitted to herself that it felt good to use her brain again.Their next game was being played at Giants Stadium in the Meadowlands for ABC's "Monday Night Football." Since no team wanted to lose in front of such a sizable television audience, Monday night games were considered to be among the most important of the season.As the week advanced the already tense atmosphere at the Stars Complex grew so explosive that fights began to break out among the players, while the staff snapped at each other, and Dan snapped at everyone.The team's recent bad publicity had made it impossible for Phoebe to continue hiding from the media, and her dread of the upcoming game was compounded when she reluctantly agreed to ABC's request for a halftime interview.The players were tightly strung, the chartered plane virtually silent as it left O'Hare on Sunday afternoon for Newark."It's like a morgue back there," Phoebe said to Ron as the flight attendants handed them the drinks they had requested: beer for Ron, tomato juice for her."I don't think it's good for the players to be so tense.""Dan's worked them as hard as I've ever seen this week, and they know what's at stake.We have everything riding on this game [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]