Amber nodded. “Tuck insisted Dixon take some time to himself. He left a contact number, but we haven’t wanted to bother him. You know how brothers can be when one is betrayed. They value loyalty above everything.”
Regina glanced at her husband.
“Loyalty,” Norm agreed with a nod.
“In business as well as life,” said Amber.
Her words were bang on, the inflection perfect. Tuck had to glance at her to convince himself she’d done it on purpose.
He caught her gaze and realized she had. She had skillfully and adroitly reminded Norm of his long-standing business arrangement with Tucker Transportation. She was frighteningly good at this.
Then Amber gave the man a dazzling smile.
Norm raised his glass to Tuck in a toast. “Good of you to come tonight.”
“Good of you to invite us.” Tuck took a drink with him.
The small orchestra came up with opening bars on the opposite side of the hall.
“We’ll be in touch next week,” Norm said to Tuck. “I hear Zachary Ingles moved on.”
“I’m afraid he thought the grass was greener,” Tuck said with a disapproving frown, deciding to stick with the loyalty theme.
“Don’t like to see that,” said Norm.
“I’ve promoted Lucas Steele to vice president. Good man. He’s been with us for over a decade.”
“Worked his way up through the ranks?” asked Norm, looking pleased by the notion.
“Absolutely,” said Tuck, though he had no idea exactly how far through the ranks Lucas had worked his way up. “Corporately, we like to nurture talent.”
Tuck was tossing things out on the fly, but it seemed like a vague enough statement to be true of most companies.
“Have Lucas give my guys a call,” said Norm.
“First thing Monday,” said Tuck.
Norm smiled at Regina. “Shall we dance, dear?”
“My pleasure, darling.”
Tuck and Amber watched the two walk away.
“You were good,” she said. “Very confident, very much in charge.”
“Me? You’re the one who deserves an acting award. My father gathers peace of mind knowing I’m in charge?”
“I’m sure he does. Or he would. If he knew what I know.”
Tuck arched a brow. “Dixon left a contact number?”
She gave a sly smile. “He did. It didn’t work in the end, but he did leave a number.”
“Remind me to listen very carefully to how you phrase things.”
“You don’t already?”
Tuck started to smile, but then he caught another man eyeing Amber and sent him a withering stare.
“We should dance,” he said.
Because she might not be his date, but she’d arrived with him. He wasn’t used to having women poached from under his nose, and he wasn’t about to start now.
“It’ll look good,” he said, taking her hand.
“To who?” But she came easily as he started walking.
“Norm and Regina.”
Why wouldn’t it look good? It was a perfectly acceptable excuse. They made it to the dance floor and Tuck turned her into his arms.
She fit perfectly. Of course she fit perfectly. And she smoothly matched his rhythm. Within seconds, it was as if they’d been dancing together for years. He immediately relaxed, drawing her closer.
“Thank you for all that,” he said into the intimacy of their embrace.
“Just doing my job.”
“You’re doing it extraordinarily well.”
“I guess that’s what you get when you pay double overtime.”
Tuck smiled at that. “You’re a mercenary at heart.”
She was quiet for a moment. “Money makes life easier.”
“It can,” he agreed. “But it can also be a burden.”
Right now, Tuck felt the weight of every employee who depended on Tucker Transportation.
Her tone turned teasing. “Spoken like a man who just spent a mortgage payment on a dress.”
“In order to ensure hundreds of other people can make their next mortgage payment.”
“Do you have any idea how that feels?” she asked.
“To make a mortgage payment?” He wouldn’t pretend he did. “The house has been in our family for a couple of generations.”
“To worry about making your mortgage payment. To worry about paying for food, clothes, medical bills.”