Even the Score(4)

By: Beth Ehemann

“I’m so sorry about the delay, Mr. Sotelo,” I said confidently as I strode across my office, extending my hand to him.

He stood and wiped his palms on his jeans before shaking my hand back. “That’s okay. Sounds like you’ve had a crazy morning already?”

Pointing back toward my desk, I raised my eyebrows at him. “Oh, that? Nah, that’s just business.” I gestured toward the couch. “Please, have a seat. Can I get you anything?”

“Oh, no thanks.” He shook his head, wiping his palms on his jeans again. “Your assistant—Ellen, I think her name was—already hooked me up good.” A bottle of water, a bottle of Gatorade, and a half-eaten cinnamon roll were on the coffee table next to the magazine he’d been reading.

Way to go, Ellie.

I sat in the chair across from him and studied his face as he took another swig of his Gatorade. Sweat had pooled on his upper lip and forehead, and I could hear the soft tap of his foot against the coffee table. He was nervous. I had the upper hand before the negotiations even started, and there was no way I was losing it now.

“I know we’re both busy men, Mr. Sotelo, so let’s cut to the chase. You’re a very sought-after athlete these days, and we’re a very sought-after firm. You’ve seen my client roster; I’ve seen you play football. On paper, we make a great team.” I leaned forward and rested my elbows on my knees, staring him straight in the eye. “We’ve already spoken on the phone, and you’ve had a chance to talk to your people. What I need to know from you is that you’re in this to make a name for yourself and for me. I need to know that you’re going to keep your head in the game on the field and your ass out of trouble off the field. In return, I’ll protect you like a papa lion protects his cubs. Anyone messes with you, they mess with me. Period.”

Vinnie nodded slowly, taking in everything I’d just said.

“In terms of the money aspect,” I continued while I was on a roll, “we already went over this on the phone, and my assistant e-mailed you a copy of our agency agreement before you arrived, so there should be no surprises. My fee is the standard three percent of any team contract I get you and twelve percent of any endorsement deals I negotiate on your behalf.”

“That seems fair,” he responded as a big cheesy grin spread across his face. “Let’s do it, man. I’m ready!” He clapped his hands together loudly.

I stood up and reached my hand across to him again. “Mr. Sotelo, you just signed with the best agency in the market.”

The smile hung on his face as he nodded.

“I’m gonna call Ellie in here with the contract, and we’ll go over a few more things before you sign, and then we’re good to go.” I patted his shoulder as I walked past, relieved that not only had I covered my ass, but I was coming out of the meeting with a new client.

An hour later, I walked Vinnie to the elevator, said good-bye to my newest star athlete, and let my shoulders relax for the first time since I’d walked out of that same elevator a couple of hours earlier.

Once the elevator doors closed, Ellie sat back in her chair and shook her head incredulously. “How did you pull that off?”

“I don’t really know.” I ran my hands through my hair and let out a heavy sigh. “I pretended to be on the phone with another client’s people to intimidate him and then basically told him he was signing with me.”

“Considering how not happy he was when he got here and found out you weren’t in yet, very well done,” she congratulated, turning her attention toward her computer. “You’ve got two more meetings this afternoon and two contracts to look over.”

Tension built in my chest, bringing along with it the dull pain I’d been feeling for months, every time I felt stressed about work. “Got it. Thanks, El.” I winked at her and spun on my heel, heading back to my office to tackle what the day had for me.

As I pushed my office door shut behind me, I felt someone force it back open gently.

“Sorry.” Ellie smiled at me. “But can I grab my phone back?”

“Oh! Yeah. Sorry.” I walked over, snagged her phone off my desk, and handed it to her.

Just as I set it in her hand, “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé rang out loudly and her phone lit up.

We both stared down at the glowing phone, and she giggled. “Wow. That would have been awkward if it would’ve rung while Vinnie was here, huh?” Her laugh grew louder as she walked across my office. Just before she pulled the door shut behind her, she called out, “By the way, you owe me a cinnamon roll.”