The CEO Buys in By Nancy Herkness

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Excerpt from THE CEO BUYS IN, Wager of Hearts Book 1

“At this hour of the night, I’m betting it’s a woman.”

Nathan looked up to see who the dark-haired man at the bar was talking to.

“I know what his problem is.” The bar patron tilted his head toward the blond man in the corner. “He threw an interception with five seconds to go against the Patriots.”

The alcohol had lubricated the connections in Nathan’s brain, so with that hint, he could identify the broad-shouldered drinker as Luke Archer, longtime quarterback for the New York Empire. You couldn’t go anywhere in New York City without seeing his face on a billboard. Archer ignored both of them.

The bar stool occupant took another swig of his bourbon and brought his gaze back to Nathan. “So am I right?”

“I don’t see that it’s any of your business,” Nathan said.

The other man laughed. “Everything’s my business. I’m a writer.”

Nathan scowled. The last thing he needed was to appear as an item in some gossip column. He relaxed when he remembered this was the Bellwether Club, where the dress code was laid-back but confidentiality was strictly enforced. A lot of high-level business deals got done within the thick walls of the club’s tall brownstone. Probably a lot of government deals too, but he wasn’t privy to those. Didn’t want to be.

“What do you write?” he asked, to turn the conversation back on his overly talkative
fellow drinker.

The man’s posture went tense. “Novels.”

“You’re Gavin Miller.” The quarterback spoke, a noticeable Texas twang in his voice. “I read your Julian Best books on planes. When’s your next one coming out?”

Miller stared down into his glass as he swirled the bourbon around. “My original deadline was three months ago.” He looked up with a mocking smile. “I missed it. My deadline extension was today. Missed it too. Writer’s block.”

“So what happens when a writer misses the deadline?” Nathan asked.

“The same thing that happens when a quarterback throws a bad pass. The coach isn’t happy. And I get no royalties.” He took a swig of bourbon. “But there’s nothing they can do about it, because I don’t have a backup.”

“No ghostwriters?” Nathan asked.

“Don’t think I haven’t considered it, but I have enough respect and gratitude for my readers to believe I owe them my own efforts.” He shook his head. “The truth is, I could keep myself in style on what I earn from the Julian Best movies for the rest of my life and beyond, but good old Julian has become a small industry in his own right. The editors, directors, actors, film crews—hell, even the movie theater ticket takers—all depend on him.”

He grimaced and looked at Nathan again. “So we’ve established who two of us are. What about you?”

“I’m just a businessman,” Nathan said.

“Not if you belong within these hallowed walls,” Miller said, gesturing with his glass to the dark wood paneling that lined the room. “Frankie Hogan doesn’t allow ‘justs’ in her club.”

Nathan shrugged. “Nathan Trainor.”

“Computer batteries,” Archer said.

Miller saluted the quarterback with his glass. “So you’re not just a dumb jock.”

Despite the slight haze the scotch had cast over his brain, Nathan was shocked at Miller’s bad manners. Archer, however, ignored the near insult. “I’m considering an investment in Trainor Electronics stock,” the quarterback said. “No one has ever figured out how to make a computer battery as long lasting as yours.”

“We’ve diversified,” Nathan said. “Just in case they do.” The truth was he no longer knew what products his research-and-development department had in the works. His job as CEO was to read endless reports and go to endless meetings. He didn’t hear about new products until the paperwork hit his computer.

Another problem, right up there with Teresa. It struck him that he hadn’t thought about her since Gavin Miller had started this odd conversation. “Why don’t you all join me?” he asked, pointing to his table. “That way we won’t have to shout at each other.”

“Don’t mind if I do,” the writer said, staggering slightly as he eased off the stool.

Archer rose to an impressive height and strolled across the room, glass in hand. This was the guy Nathan had hated in school: the tall blond jock whom all the girls swooned over, while he and his fellow nerds were invisible. He allowed himself an inward smirk of satisfaction at meeting on an equal footing now.

Then he considered Teresa and her kind and decided that maybe the Archers of the world weren’t so lucky after all. The high school girls had wanted Archer for the status of dating the star athlete, just like Teresa had wanted Nathan for his wealth or power.

Neither was a good basis for a relationship.

“It’s the beginning of a bad joke. A writer, a quarterback, and a CEO walk into a bar,” Miller said, slouching into a chair and setting his glass down on the table.

“What’s the punch line?” Archer asked, an undercurrent of amusement in his voice.

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