From Enemies to Expecting

By: Kat Cantrell

One

Logan McLaughlin hated losing. So of course the fates had gifted him with the worst team in the history of major league baseball. Losing had become an art form, one the Dallas Mustangs seemed determined to master. Short of cleaning house and starting over with a new roster, Logan had run out of ideas to help his ball club out of their slump.

Being the team’s owner and general manager should be right up his alley. Logan’s dad had run a billion-dollar company with ease and finesse for thirty years. Surely Logan had inherited a little of Duncan McLaughlin’s business prowess along with a love of baseball and his dad’s dot-com fortune?

Ticket sales for the Mustangs’ home games said otherwise. A losing streak a mile long was the only reason Logan had agreed to the ridiculous idea his publicist had put forth, otherwise, he’d never have darkened the door of a reality game show. As last-ditch efforts went, this one took the cake.

But, as his publicist informed him, Logan had run out of charity golf tournaments, and they hadn’t helped drive ticket sales anyway. Short of winning games—which he was working on, via some intricate and slow trade agreements—he needed to get public support for his team another way. Now.

Exec-ution’s set teemed with people. Logan stood in the corner nursing a cup of very bad coffee because it was that or rip off someone’s head due to caffeine withdrawal. He should have stopped at Starbucks on the way to the studio, but who would have thought that an outfit that asked its contestants to be on the set at 5:00 a.m. wouldn’t have decent coffee? He was stuck in hell with crap in a cup.

“Logan McLaughlin.” A pretty staffer with an iPad in the crook of her elbow let her gaze flit over the other contestants until she zeroed in on him standing well out of the fray. “Care to take a seat? We’re about to begin filming.”

“No, thanks. I’ll stand,” he declined smoothly with a ready smile to counter his refusal.

Chairs were for small people; at six-four, 220, Logan hadn’t fit in most chairs since eleventh grade. Plus, he liked being able to see the big picture at a glance.

A soft-looking middle-aged man in a suit nodded at Logan. “Thought I recognized you. I’m a Yankees fan from way back. Used to watch you pitch, what, ten years ago?”

“Something like that,” Logan agreed easily.

The Yankees had let him go eight years ago, but who was counting when the career he’d poured his heart and soul into ended in a failed Tommy John surgery? His elbow still ached occasionally, just in case he didn’t have enough reminders that his days on the mound were over.

“Man, you were great. Sorry about the arm.” The man shook his head. “Shame you can’t get any of your starters shaped up. The Mustangs could use a guy with your skill.”

Yeah. Shame. Logan nodded his thanks. He tossed his crap in a cup into a trash can and crossed his arms over the void in his chest that owning a baseball team hadn’t filled. It was getting harder and harder to convince himself that his glory days were not behind him.

Winning games. Ticket sales. Merchandise sales. These were things that would fix that void. And when he won Exec-ution, sports news outlets would have something to do with his name besides dragging it through the mud.

The staffer called a few more people to take seats around the boardroom table. A photograph of the downtown Dallas skyline peeked through the faux window behind the table. Crew members buzzed around the cameras, and a few tech guys sat behind glass in a control room, wearing headsets. The host of the show sat at the head of the table, hands carefully laced in front him, with perfectly coiffed hair and a bogus TV smile.

“Let’s have a good show!” The staffer melted away, and Well-Coiffed Guy launched into his spiel.

“Hi, everyone! I’m Rob Moore, your host for Exec-ution, where executives compete in two-person teams in an entrepreneurial challenge designed to showcase the ability to run a business. The winners get one hundred thousand dollars for charity. Losers? Executed!”

Logan rolled his eyes as the host smacked the table with his trademark chopping motion. So cheesy.

A commotion caught everyone’s attention. A dark-haired woman strode onto the set with the pretty staffer dogging her heels.

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