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Chapter 17

Cassie

To say that I hit the ground running would be an understatement. Tammy was good about showing me things and we went through it piece by piece and as I picked things up she would take more and more walks out of the office. Barb was a life saver as she would pull in folders and contracts and help me arrange them by date stamp and duration.

From what I could tell we were just skating under the salary cap the league established for players and the overall budget was operating at about eighty percent of projection. I found a couple of simple solutions to some of the gap quandaries, and between that and a deferment that we could handle now, we could see a bigger excess next year.

Tammy was pleased with what we had accomplished the first day and when we looked at the clock it was already seven thirty. The day was gone and I was starving. Barb had went out and got us Panera Bread for lunch, but that was like six or seven hours ago.

“How about dinner. It’s on me?” Tammy asked standing up and stretching.

I could see what Joe saw in her. She was hard working and had a look about her you would say was cute and innocent. I hated it. Of course it was hard to hate someone for my own mistakes. I got myself back to the now and answered her.

“Why not, how do I let the driver know where I’m supposed to go?” I asked.

“Easy, we are taking your driver. He knows where to go, so he will drop you off and then take me home. If it’s OK I would like to start a little late tomorrow, can he pick you up at eight?” Tammy asked.

Eight was late? Well maybe it was for her, she did have a lot here for one person. “Sure, whatever works better for you. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Thanks, it was a long day today, and to be honest I want to do some yoga in the morning.” She said leading the way out. I noticed we were the last two to leave. I had no idea when Barb left, but it must have been a little while ago.

“I wish Barb would have popped her head in before leaving so I could thank her for the help today.” I said, but I was a little disappointed she didn’t let me know she was leaving in case I needed her.

“I saw her outside the office when you were crunching the salary figures and told her to go ahead. I should have thought of your needs and asked you first. I’m sorry, next time I will remember to ask you first.” Tammy said getting us in the elevator.

“Oh, it’s fine. I mean, this is your department, I’m just helping.” I said.

“No, you are more than that, and you have to act like it. People here and everywhere sense weakness and pounce on it. You have to be strong and do what the position calls for. Sometimes it’s good to be on top, but most of the time, you are the bad person.” She said as the elevator took us down to the main floor. “Chinese?”

“Excellent, I love General Tso’s Chicken,” I said as we walked across the clean marble floor.

I was amazed how quiet it was now. There was one man sitting behind the big desk and one man in uniform by the door as we walked out. There were two white Cadillac escalades outside with a driver in blue uniforms in front of both.

“Just a moment while I send mine back to the service.” Tammy said stepping up to the first driver.

I waited and looked around. The corporate offices were in the middle of the city near the arena but it was quiet enough tonight that there were only a few pedestrians walking around. Tammy rejoined me and we got in the back of the other vehicle.

“Tom, can you take us to Dragon House?” Tammy asked.

“Yes Miss Tammy.” He called back putting the car in drive and heading out. I thought it was odd that he called her by her first name, but I remembered that was how she introduced herself to me as well. Must have one of those last names you just didn’t like hearing.

“So Cassie. Tell me about you.” She said looking at me sheepishly.

Here it was. She wanted to know why Joe fell in love with me first. I didn’t want to tell her anything, but I knew that was being childish. I told her of college and my time with my bank. We talked about childhoods, and I gathered she came from a pretty well to do family. Then she told me about her mom passing away and my heart sank for her.

I hadn’t talked to my parents in a while, but I still had them. I couldn’t imagine what it would be like not having them in my life asking the awkward questions that parents always asked. I told her I was sorry and she thanked me.

She told me a little of her background. She went to Oklahoma State University, and she took business and finance. She said she never dated much, because partially she went to a boarding school and said it was different when you were surrounded by the same people all the time. Then she said she dated a lot in college and then just quit for a while to concentrate on her studies and then on work.

We arrived at the restaurant just when I was afraid she was going to ask about Joe. Before we got out Tammy yelled up to the driver. “Same as usual Tom?”

“if it’s not too much trouble Miss Tammy.” He said getting out of the car to come open the doors for us.

“it’s never a problem,” she said as she stepped out of the backseat.

I followed her into the restaurant and was immediately impressed. This wasn’t some fancy restaurant, this was like a family owned place, and it showed in how the older Chinese woman came running up to Tammy.

“Miss Tammy, we glad to have you back.” She said taking her hands and holding them.

“Always Mrs. Chen. I love this place. This is Cassie, a friend of mine.” Tammy said indicating me with her head.

“Special friend?” Mrs. Chen asked with a glint in her eye.

Tammy laughed. “No, only one special person for me.”

“This way Tammy and friend.” She said leading us through the restaurant.

“This is perfect, thank you.” Tammy said taking a seat in a corner booth.

“I be back, driver tonight?”

“Yes, he will have Sweet and Sour Chicken and rice.” Tammy said.

“Of course,” she said nodding her head and walking away.

“She’ll be back to get our orders, but she will put Tom’s in so he can eat it before we are done, so he is ready to continue his duties. If I go out to dinner I make sure to get the drivers something, because they are taking care of me, and waiting for me.” Tammy explained.

“I understand,” and I did. If you were receiving this service it wouldn’t be polite to not reciprocate to someone else. “What if you aren’t hungry that night, or not feeling good?”

“What have you heard?” She asked urgently.

I was a little caught off guard. It was just a question, why was she acting defensive. “I don’t know what you mean. Sometimes I am just so tired that I want to call it a night and flop on a couch, but I wouldn’t want to insult anyone, or not take care of them.”

“Oh, that’s fine. They have dinner back at the terminal. They usually have pizza and wings and such. It’s just nice to treat them when we do go out, but it’s not mandatory.” She answered more like her old self.

Mrs. Chen came back and got our orders and I did order the Tso’s chicken. Tammy ordered the beef and broccoli and then she looked at me and got an evil smile on her face. “So, do we talk about Joe now?”

“Shit,” I said.

Joe

“Thomas, this was a waste of time. He’s not going anywhere, call me when you get a chance.” I said into my phone to leave him the message.

I was sitting in my hotel room bored as hell, and Thomas wasn’t answering his phone. I still had no idea why I was here. Starvos wasn’t leaving, and this was all a giant waste of time. I flew in commercial because he needed the company plane, which was fine, except now I was stuck. I had a ton of real work to do, and this wasn’t helping.

Tammy was alone, and I knew she needed my help, so why was I here. I was getting madder and madder by the moment. I calmed myself and pulled out my phone. I dialed the one person I knew would answer me no matter what.

Cassie

I was sweating. I didn’t want to talk about Joe, and I knew she knew that. How could I talk about him with her, it just wasn’t right. Then when I was about ready to answer her cell phone went off.

“No way,” she said. She pushed the answer button and said “hey Joe, how’s Florida?”

“Shit,” I mumbled again.

Joe

“A colossal waste of time. It was wild goose chase. How are you? how is your condition.” I asked her fearing the worst since I wasn’t there.

“I’m fine, a little headache, but nothing too much. I can’t wait for you to get back.” Tammy said on the other end of the connection.

“I’m sure. You’ve probably got a boatload of work piled up for me.” I said laughing.

“Nope, I’m at dinner now with a new friend. She has been helping me today. We got all the way through the buyout agreements right before we left. We’re having dinner at Dragon House.” Tammy said.

“Well I guess you aren’t missing me at all.” I said laughing.

“Quite the contrary, I was just talking about you. That reminds me, when are you coming back? I heard you had to fly to Europe to look at a goalie.” She said.

“Please tell me you’re joking?” I asked having a knot form in my stomach.

“Nope, I am almost positive. They said they were sending the jet for you, and you would be leaving in the morning. Haven’t you heard anything yet?”

“No,” I said. “Thomas isn’t returning my calls yet.”

“Well you know how he is. I think it was Sweden. I’m sure you’ll hear tonight. I know you will be here by Friday though.” She said.

“How do you know that?” I asked a little angrier than I should have.

“The company box was reserved for you to entertain a new prospective employee.” She said. “I’d say it’s hush hush, but I think everyone knows about it.”

“Why me, Thomas is the employee headhunter.”

“You’re his closer, you know that. No one makes better deals than you. I have to run Joe; I feel like I’m not giving my new friend the attention she deserves.” Tammy said.

“How are you feeling, really?” I ask before she can hang up.

“Sore, but we got a lot done today. Lord knows I will need one of your special massages when you get back.” She said.

“Count on it. I am going to have to teach Alex how to do that.” I said still feeling like she wasn’t telling me about her real condition.

“Those aren’t the same kind of massages.” She said giggling and a big smile broke on my face. Leave me to touch on something I shouldn’t have.

“Good night Tammy.”

“Good night Joe.”

Cassie

I heard the words “need one of your special massages,” and I wanted to climb under the table. Then I heard the thing about other massages and I wanted to leave immediately. She was getting everything I was too stupid to get and I was hating her for it.

She hung up and looked at me. I knew from the look on her face that she knew I was upset. “What is the matter, I didn’t think you would want to talk to him over the phone.”

“I can’t believe I came here. I can’t believe he moved on that quick. I’m sorry, but I can’t do this. I need to get out of here.” I said starting to get to my feet.

“Sit down Cassie.” Tammy said and I sat. It was how she said it. I just dropped. “Now tell me what is wrong?”

“I always thought he would come back. Then when I realized he was here, I came to get him. I made a bad mistake, and I thought if I tried hard enough, he would forgive me, and come home. Now I hear you two talking and I know I lost him. I just can’t believe he moved on so quickly.” I said starting to tear up.

She just stared at me for a long time and then a smile fought with her face. “So, me and Joe, that is bothering you?”

“Of course it’s bothering me. I was stupid and let him go. Now you have him, and no matter what I do, I’ll never get him back.” I said.

“I see.” She said.

Our food came then, and we both began eating. “When I told Joe about the private meeting Friday, that wasn’t a lie, it is with you. Thomas arranged for the two of you to have the company box during the game. He said it was the least he could do for all the help you’ll give me this week.”

She said it like it was just a business meeting. Didn’t she understand what I had been saying? “I don’t want just a meeting with him, I want him. I came here with the intention of taking him back and running over any woman who got in my way. Then I met you, and you are freaking perfect. How do I compete with that? Then you have to be nice to? I have no chance.” I cried out.

“Cassie, you are gorgeous. Not to mention smart and very business minded. Joe loves that, and I am sure he loved you. I think you have more pull than you realize.” Tammy said.

Why was she telling me this? She should be kicking me out before I ever saw Joe. “I don’t understand, why are you telling me this? Do you want me to steal Joe from you?”

“Of course not.” She said. “I want whatever will make Joe happy though. I am going to fight to keep Joe here, because he is worth it, but what are you going to do?”

“I want Joe. I love Joe. I need Joe. I don’t want to hurt you Tammy, I really like you, but we both can’t have him. I know I love him more than you do.” I said leaning back in the seat to look at her. She was smiling. Why the hell was she smiling?

“Well, you may love him a little more, but I love him too. I think we both want was is best for Joe, so if he wants you, then I will let him leave, but, if he wants to stay here, then you have to respect that too. Is it a deal?” Tammy asked narrowing her eyes at me.

She was a fighter. I could see it now. She would fight for what she wanted and I respected her for it. “It’s a deal, but I am going to fight hard.”

“Girlfriend, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Joe

The call came in a little after I talked to Tammy. She was right, Thomas was sending me to Europe to talk to Henrik Forsberg. He was on the Swedish Junior Hockey Team and would be eligible for the draft this year. In my own mind I had him going in the top ten and the number three defensive man in the draft.

We would have our pick, which I was hoping was the last one, which means we had won the cup, but we would also have Buffalo’s pick and Arizona’s. They both looked a little rough this year, but in my mind I had buffalo being in the playoffs and Arizona, just missing, but an injury either way could change things dramatically.

We usually didn’t talk to players like this till we got closer to the draft, and knowing where we were picking, but he was a great prospect, so I was excited to go. We could use him, and even if he spent a year on the Tailwinds, he would be a great player for years to come.

The jet would be in here in the morning and I would head to Sweden. Funny how things were going. I was turning into a scout more than a player rep, but if that was what I was needed to do, then that is what I would do. I was just hoping Tammy was doing ok.

Cassie

Tuesday and Wednesday were blurs. We reconciled everything and found a few discrepancies that needed to be addressed. One of the players’ bonus was being paid out in larger installments than originally agreed, but it wasn’t like you could ask for it back. We would have to cut upcoming payments to reconcile with the contract.

We also had to resubmit a couple of small discrepancies to the league office, but they were not in violation of the salary cap or any of the leagues rules on salary structures. They just had to filed to update the status and what went wrong in the initial filing.

Tammy was taking more time to herself and was even doing yoga in the office a couple times a day and the one time when Thomas walked in and saw me working and Tammy stretching he seemed very happy.

“Cassie, do you have a moment?” He asked, but when the main man asks if you have a moment, you jump up and follow him.

“Of course,” I said doing just that.

We walked up to the top floor and he took me into an office and asked me to look around. I walked around looking at pictures on the wall and the sparse furnishings. Then I saw a couple boxes of pictures that weren’t unpacked yet. I pulled one out and it was Joe shaking hands with an older gentleman a few years back before I knew him.

I went through the rest of the pictures looking them all over. They were mostly of Joe and other people and they all seemed happy and excited. It was wonderful to see Joe, even in this way. I put the last one back and found Charles sitting in the big chair behind the desk.

He motioned to one of the two opposite chairs and I took one and waited for him to tell me what this was about. He seemed uncomfortable, so it took him a bit before he was ready to talk.

“Well we might as well cross the bridge and see where it goes. I need Joe here. I want Joe here. I love hockey, but I am spending too much time dealing with things. This is Joe’s office, and it has been since he came from Syracuse, but he hasn’t even unpacked. What does that say to you?” He asked and even if I wanted to hide it, a small smile bridged my face.

He saw the smile and said “Exactly, he hasn’t given up on Syracuse or you, is my guess. I don’t think its intentional that he hasn’t unpacked, and if I asked him about it, I know he would. The thing is I want Joe to be here not part here and part there. Now young lady, we need to have a talk, and we are going to tell each other the truth about what we both want from Joe, and by the time we are done, we will have an understanding.”

I was shocked he was so upfront and honest, and the way he said it left no room for arguments. Well I had already decided I would fight Tammy for Joe, so if I had to fight one of the wealthiest men in the country as well, then so be it.

“Yes sir, should you start or should I?”

Joe

Thank god I was home. The trip was good and I think he would make an excellent player for our organization, but I missed being in my own country. I wasn’t sure if I missed Oklahoma, or If my heart was still lost in Syracuse, but at least I was back in the states.

Henrik was a fine player, but he was young, and a little more immature than I expected. He would definitely need at least a year on the Tailwinds to grasp the concepts we used at the main level, but he was still high on my list.

The car was waiting and when I threw my bags into the trunk and jumped in I saw Avery was driving. He was the oldest driver, just about sixty, and he knew more about the history of the league than I did. I liked Avery, and I especially liked how we both liked steak and shake restaurants.

“What do you say Joe, hungry?”

I laughed. I was always hungry when it came to Steak and Shake. “Take us to closest one Avery, I’m starving.”

“Yes sir,” he laughed back and put the car in drive and headed out.

We pulled in and both went inside and ordered. I paid for both our meals and we settled into a table waiting for it to be delivered. “So what have I missed?”

“Casitov, hurt his knee, is out for a couple of games.” Avery said taking a bite of his sandwich. >new girl in the office is a looker the boys in the service said. I haven’t seen her yet, but those guys are the type to think every girl was a looker.”

I laughed at that. Avery might like to pretend he was old but he still kept a close watch on the ladies. If she was a looker he would keep a close eye out on her.

“Rumor is; you have a meeting with her tonight during the game. You’re supposed to steal her away from her team and bring her to ours. If she is good looking, then I wish you well.” He said smiling.

“News to me Avery. I just got back. I’m sure I will get filled in at the office. Speaking of which, you don’t happen to know where Thomas is do you?”

“Nope, I was told to come get you, and I knew I would get lunch out of it, so why ask any more questions than I needed to.” He said in a practical way that made Avery, Avery.

“Point taken. Well, let’s finish up so I can find out what is going on.” I said.

Cassie

Alright to say I was confused, was an understatement. Thomas and I laid our cards both on the table, and to be frank fully honest, he had a much better hand than I did. My hand consisted of being in love with Joe, and wanting him back. His hand, well, was a full house. I couldn’t compete with that, and he didn’t want me to. He wanted us to both be winners, but was that possible?

They told me to take the afternoon off and get ready for my one on one time with Joe. I didn’t need any other suggestions. I got my hair done and had a killer knockout business suit that highlighted, I hoped, my best features, and I brushed up on all the deals and contracts we went over while he was gone.

Thomas thought that would be the turning point in the negotiations. I didn’t know about that, but him being this willing to help me, well, I wasn’t going to discount it. It was still a few minutes before the driver was supposed to pick me up, and I was nervous, so I did what all girls do, I called my best friend.

Cindy answered on the second ring. “I hate your job, and I’m not doing it once you get back. What was I thinking agreeing to do this? All the employees are crybabies. When are you coming back?” She asked all in a row.

“First,” I said. “Nice to hear from you too. I finally get to see Joe tonight, so everything rests on tonight.”

“Oh, I thought you would see him right away.” She said.

“Me too, but the owner found out I was coming and he sent Joe away for the week. He wanted to talk to me about things, and well, this is going to be an interesting night.” I said feeling my head start to swoon a little bit.

“Are you going to be ok?” Cindy asked and I wondered if I was.

“I hope so, either way, I’ll know after tonight. Wish me luck.” I begged.

“I did before you left and nothing has changed. Good luck, and find your happiness.” Cindy said.

“I found it, I just have to reel it in. Talk to you later.” I said hanging up and heading out of the building to the car.

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