Tuck dialed Jackson.
“I don’t need to be insubordinate with Dixon. He knows what he’s doing.”
“Well, I...” But there was no retort for that. Tuck didn’t know what he was doing. And that was the problem.
Jackson answered his phone. “Hi, Tuck.”
“You need to pull out the stops,” said Tuck. “Do whatever it takes.”
“But—” Amber began.
Tuck silenced her with a glare. “I just lost my marketing director and my finance director.”
“Did you fire them?” asked Jackson.
“They quit. Rumor has it they got an offer from a rival, and with Dixon out of the picture—”
“People are getting nervous.” Jackson filled in the thought.
“It seems I’m not seen as a strong leader.”
“You’ve barely gotten started.”
Tuck knew that was no excuse. Maybe he should have barreled past his father’s objections years ago. They might have been able to stop him from having any power at Tucker Transportation. But they couldn’t have stopped him from learning. This was his fault, and he had to fix it.
“Find him,” he said to Jackson.
“I’m in New Orleans.”
“Do you think he’s there?”
“I don’t know that he’s not. There’s no evidence that he left.”
“Is there evidence he arrived?”
“Maybe. It could be nothing. Can I get back to you?”
“Don’t take too long.” Tuck’s gaze met Amber’s.
She gave a slight shake of her head.
He knew she wanted him to leave Dixon alone and do it all himself. But there was too much at stake. He didn’t dare try.
* * *
Tuck looked fantastic in a tuxedo. But then Amber had known that all along. She’d been seeing pictures of him in the tabloids for years, mostly at posh events or out on the town with some gorgeous woman. His ability to work a party had never been in question.
The Tucker Transportation reception was ending, and the last few guests trickled out of the ballroom. Amber made her way to the main doors, grateful to have the evening at an end. Her feet were killing her, though that was her own fault. She’d knowingly worn two-hour shoes to a five-hour party.
But she hadn’t been able to resist. This was by far the fanciest party she’d ever attended. And she’d never even taken the silver lace peep-toe pumps out of the box. They had a crimson stiletto heel and she’d done her toenails to match. Her feet looked fabulous, setting off her rather simple black dress.
The dress had cap sleeves and a slim silhouette. Its one jazzy feature was the scattering of silver sequins at the midthigh hemline. She’d worn it at least a dozen times, but it was tried and true, appropriate to the occasion.
Tuck appeared beside her, lightly touching her waist. “You promised me a dance.”
“Your dance card seemed full,” she answered him.
“Women kept asking, and I didn’t want to be rude.”
Amber kept walking toward the elevator. “You forget the point of hosting such a lavish reception was for you to make business contacts, not to collect phone numbers.”
“You sound jealous.”
She wasn’t jealous. She refused to be jealous. She was merely feeling critical of his wasted opportunities.
“That was a business observation, not a personal one.”
“No?” he asked.
Though, at the moment, it felt intensely personal. His hand was still resting at her waist. The heat from his body called out to her. And his deep voice seemed to seep through to her bones.
“Dance with me now.”
She steeled herself against the attraction. “The band is packing up.”
The only music was the elevator kind emanating from the small hotel speakers on the ceiling.
“We can go somewhere else.”
“It’s late. My feet are killing me. And I don’t know why I’m giving you excuses. No. I don’t want to go somewhere else and dance with you. I want to go to bed.”
He let a beat go by in silence. Then there was a lilt in his voice. “Okay. Sure. That works for me.”
They came to the elevators. “Tell me you didn’t mean that how it sounded.”
He pressed the call button. “That depends. How did it sound?”
“You can’t flirt with me, Tuck.”
“Am I doing it wrong?”
“That’s not what I—”