Thursday, February 5, 2015

Interview with Melanie Scott about her New York Saints trilogy

Please welcome Australian author Melanie Scott who's here today to chat about her new New York Saints trilogy for St. Martin's Press. The first two books, The Devil in Denim and Angel in Armani are already out and getting some rave reviews and the third and final novel, Lawless in Leather is due out in early May. So sit back and enjoy our chat and learn a little about her baseball bad boys.

New York Saints

No one ever called them saints…once upon a time there were three not so little guys. Guys who loved baseball. Guys brought together at college by their baseball scholarships. The wily catcher. The hot-shot pitcher. The slugger who could knock em out of the park.  From very different backgrounds, these guys bonded over pizza, beer, women and their love of the New York Saints, the worst team in the history of major league baseball. The three of them had looks and talent. World beaters. Headed for the show, no doubt about it.
Until the bombing. Three guys who ran into a burning stadium to rescue people. Three guys who came out changed. They chose different paths. One to the world of money, one to medicine, one to the military. But different paths couldn’t break their bond, or the love of their team.  Now, fifteen years later, the Saints are in trouble…and three very different men are on a brand new mission to save ‘em.
They know it won’t be easy. They’re prepared for foul balls and furore, but they can’t prepare for the sneakiest pitches of all…the ones made for their hearts.

Excerpt from: The Devil in Denim

Chapter One
God, she hated tequila. Maggie Jameson squinted at the bottle in the bartender’s hand. The little red devil on the label leered back at her. Perfect. Tequila was the devil’s drink. Which was fitting because her life had just gone to hell. She lifted the shot glass before her, tilted it and slammed the tequila back. It burned all the way down and she sucked lemon desperately. She really hated tequila but it was the fastest way she knew to get drunk.
And tonight she really, really needed to be drunk.
One more shot and she was getting into a cab and going home. Where she would hopefully pass out and wake up in the morning to find that everything that had happened today had only been a nightmare.
Because that was the only explanation for how she’d woken up this morning thinking all was right with the world and was ending the day mainlining alcohol.
She motioned for a refill and the bartender poured. She was so going to regret this in the morning, but given she was pretty sure that this wasn’t a nightmare and, unlike in the movies, no one was going to magically grant her a do-over for today, she was going to regret a lot of things and tequila would be far, far down the list.
“Ms. Jameson, you look like you need some company.”
Oh God. Not him. The universe could not possibly hate her quite so much that it would send the cause of her misery to the same bar where she was trying to drown out his memory. She turned very slowly. Alex Winters. Smiling at her. Wearing the same jeans, expensive white shirt, and gray blazer he’d worn this afternoon when he’d ruined her life. It was a disguise, she’d decided. He wore those clothes so no one would see that underneath it all he was another ruthless suit. But he was. And now he was here. Apparently she’d made the universe’s shit list after all.
She gritted her teeth and tried for some semblance of calm. The tequila burning in her stomach and fuzzing her brain made it difficult. “I’d prefer to be alone.”
His smile widened. “Drinking tequila alone is never a good idea.” He nodded at the bartender and a shot appeared in front of him like magic. If Alex Winters snapped his fingers, people jumped. High.
“Mr. Winters.” She heard the s on the end of his name slur a little and winced. “As I learned today, there are many things in the world that are not good ideas and yet that doesn’t stop people from doing them.” Top of the list being her father selling the Saints franchise to the man sitting next to her. The betrayal of it burned worse than tequila. She’d worked her ass off. Gotten a degree crammed full of economics and psychology—and then a master’s in sports management—going all the way to Chicago because her dad had insisted she had to leave New York for school so she could concentrate. Chicago. Where even the Cubs fans looked down on the Saints. All so she could help her dad keep the Saints alive. And now, now when she’d finally been ready to put her plans into action, Alex Winters and his two partners from Hades had made her father an offer he’d apparently been unable to refuse.
She scowled at Winters. In the dim bar light, you couldn’t see quite how green his eyes were and his hair looked merely brown but he was still appallingly compelling. It was like he had some secret master-of-the-universe force field surrounding him. All around them, women were turning to look at him and men were subtly moving aside, giving the alpha male space. She’d noticed the same thing in the meeting today. It was ridiculous and annoying and yet she’d had to work hard to not give in to the desire to do the same. At least until he’d started talking and she’d realized what was happening. Then she’d had no trouble finding him one hundred percent completely resistible.
“You’re upset,” Winters said. “About today?”
Her jaw dropped, her fingers clamping around the shot glass. “Did you seriously just ask me that? Well, gosh, Mr. Winters, no, I’m not at all upset that my father sold my legacy down the river. Didn’t bother me in the slightest.” She downed the tequila before she could do something stupid like burst into tears in front of the enemy. The alcohol hit her stomach like a bomb and she felt herself slide over the edge of tipsy into firmly drunk. Crap.
“We can talk about a job, if that would make you feel better.”
She squinted at him incredulously. The trouble with tequila was that it made men more attractive, she decided. And Alex Winters didn’t need any help in that department. The man was hot. Or he would be if he wasn’t a soulless corporate raider who had apparently grown bored with buying companies, building ever-taller skyscrapers, and seeding the suburbs of America with minimalls and had decided to come play at professional sports.
Men like him were the reason that baseball had turned into a business. She accepted that fact, but her father had fought to keep the Saints traditional, to not let it be all about the money. Which was possibly why they were the worst team in the league but was also why they had fans who wouldn’t abandon them despite their dismal record. Fans who loved hot dogs, and old wooden bleachers, and their silly halo-clad mascot as much as she did. Saints fans were more devoted than even the craziest Cubs fan. They had to be.
All she’d ever wanted was to work at the Saints with her dad. He was a hands-on owner, taking on the responsibility of running the Saints as CEO instead of leaving that to an executive team like some owners did. She’d always hoped one day she could step into his shoes and he could retire. Until Alex Winters had snatched that dream away. And he would no doubt proceed to turn the team into a slick moneymaking machine that was just as soulless as he was. So it didn’t matter what he looked like. She hated him.
“My dad was going to make me CEO eventually,” she said as icily as she could given how tanked she was. “Is that position available?”
“I’m afraid that’s my job,” he said.
“Figures.” Maggie sniffed. “Then, Winters, you and your job can go to hell. Where I’m sure you’ll be right at home. Being the devil and all.”
“I’m the devil?” He was grinning at her now. She wasn’t sure why. She’d just told him to go to hell. “Why, Ms. Jameson, are you feeling tempted?”
“I’d rather kiss a goat.” Heat raced over her face. Why was she talking about kissing? You didn’t talk about kissing to guys unless you wanted them to kiss you. Which she didn’t. Goddamn tequila.
He laughed. Which was unfair. His laugh was sexy. No, scrap that. Nothing about Winters was sexy.
“A goat? Horns, a beard, cloven hooves? Kind of like the devil?”
She dropped her head onto the bar. She was in no mood to banter with the devil. She knew her folklore. Nothing good ever came of trying to best Beelzebub. Nope, that path led only to lost souls and eternal damnation. Which sounded about right where Winters was concerned. He’d looked happy as her father had scrawled his signature on the offered contract and signed their lives away. Delighted even. Her father hadn’t been able to look at her afterward—he’d ducked out and made a rapid getaway and left her there with her world in pieces. Her throat burned at the memory. “Please go away.”
“Do you enjoy making people miserable?”
“If they deserve it.” He sounded serious. It made her shiver.
“I don’t think I deserve it.” She heard her voice hitch, squeezed her hands into fists where they were hidden by the bar. She would not cry.
“You don’t. I’m sorry. It’s nothing personal.”
Her head snapped up. “You took my whole life away today, that’s pretty damn personal.”
“It’s business.”
“Go to hell.”
“You already said that.”
“And yet, you’re still here.”
“Because I’m not leaving until I take you home.”
She stared at him. Maybe she was hearing things? She’d rather go home with … well, just about anybody. “It’s funny,” she said.
“What’s funny?”
“That you apparently suffered a blow to the head sometime between this morning and now.” Maybe he’d suffered it earlier. Maybe that was why he thought there was any likelihood of her letting him anywhere near her.
“My head is fine, thanks.”
“Not possible. Because a rational man would not expect a woman whose life he just ruined to go home with him.”
He tilted his head, amusement clear in his eyes. “I didn’t ask you to come home with me, I said I was taking you home.”
His words slowly penetrated the tequila fog. “I’m not sure there’s a difference. The answer is still no.”
“Maggie. You’re drunk.”
“I’m aware of that.”
“Which means someone needs to see you home safely.” He paused, looked around. “You don’t know anybody else here, do you?”
She shook her head. “No. But you know what New York has? Cabs. Lots and lots of lovely cabs, willing to take me wherever I want to go.”
“People get into trouble in cabs.”
She peered at him. “Mr. Winters. No one could possibly cause me any more trouble than you have already.”
“Nevertheless. I like your dad and I don’t want to have to explain to him why I didn’t see you home.”
“If you like my dad, you wouldn’t have done what you did today.”
“I didn’t force your father to sell,” Alex said. “He was ready.”
“I wasn’t ready.”
“So I gather. But that’s a conversation for a time when you haven’t had quite so much tequila.”
“I doubt I’ll like you any better sober.”
“Pity. Now, are you going to let me take you home?”
“Okay, then.” He nodded at the bartender. “Perhaps it’s time for coffee?” He pulled out his wallet, extracted a couple of fifties. “Will this cover her tab?”
“You are not paying for my drinks.” Maggie fumbled for her purse in outrage. She wasn’t taking a penny from Alex Winters.
The bartender froze, his hand halfway toward Alex’s money. His eyes slid toward Alex, as if seeking instruction, which only made her temper worse. Goddamn it, did the whole world want to kowtow to him? She extracted her credit card and shoved it toward the bartender. “There.” She looked at Alex. He was regarding her with amusement. “You want to argue?”
His dimple flashed again. “This is a nice jacket. I’d rather not wear tequila.”
She stuck her nose in the air. “As if I’d waste good tequila on you.”
He lifted an eyebrow, looked at the bottle on the bar. “That’s hardly good tequila.”
Maggie reached out, lifted the bottle, poured herself another shot and downed it. It burned. He was right, it was terrible. “Tastes good to me,” she said, just to be contrary. The tequila swirled through her veins, the room spinning slowly around her. No more booze. Any more and she’d really regret it in the morning. Still, right now, she seemed to have achieved the perfect level of inebriation, the one where her earlier misery had subsided and had been replaced with a hot, hot anger that was far more enjoyable.
She scowled at Alex. He smiled at her. She was starting to hate that smile. Pity, when it made him even more gorgeous. But that was the devil for you. Pretty enough to distract you from his dastardly deeds. And apparently perpetually good-tempered.
Infuriatingly unannoyable. She wanted to sock him just to see if she could get a reaction other than good humor out of him. Something real. Something to indicate he might be human in any way. But drunk as she was, she’d probably miss and fall on her ass. She had no desire to have Alex Winters helping her up off the floor with his casual politeness. She scribbled her signature on the slip the bartender presented and slid down off the stool. Alex hadn’t picked up his fifties.
For some reason that was annoying as well. No one tipped a hundred bucks for one drink. Except if they were stupidly rich. Or a pretentious ass. Alex Winters was an ass but he didn’t strike her as pretentious. Which meant he was the former.
Maggie knew money, of course. Her father owned a baseball team; they weren’t exactly struggling for cash. But her father had inherited his money from a father who’d built a business from the ground up, a business he’d worked in as well. He’d raised her to have a healthy respect for the value of that money and what they could achieve with it … and not only for themselves. Her mom—before she’d died—had taught the same lessons. Appreciate what you had but still work hard and be thankful.
But there was money and there was money, and Alex Winters was in a whole other league. The new generation of bazillionaires. He’d probably earned thousands of dollars in various ways while they’d been standing here in the bar.
She gritted her teeth. She didn’t care if Alex wanted to throw away his fortune. In fact, she might pray for that very thing. It would be one way of making sure he gave up his grip on the Saints.
“Are you ready to go?” Alex asked.
“I already told you, I’m not going home with you.”
“And I told you that wasn’t acceptable.” His face was still pleasant but there was an edge to the words. A tone that expected to be obeyed.
Too bad. She was in no mood to obey anyone. “I don’t care what you find acceptable.”
“I know. But I do.”
She rolled her eyes. “Do you seriously think you’re going to get me to walk out of this bar with you?”
He shrugged. “I know you’re coming with me. You can walk or I can carry you, your choice.”
“Carry me?” She heard her voice go up half an octave. “Try that and you’ll—”
Alex regarded her steadily. “I’ll what? You’re not short but you’re hardly a giant. I’m taller than you. I’m a lot heavier than you. You’re pretty drunk. Unless you’re a secret ninja, I’m pretty sure I’ve got this.”
Maggie tried to talk, but she couldn’t quite make her mouth connect with her brain because she was too busy trying to convince herself that yep, he really just had said that. “You—you—” She gave up, turned back to the bartender. “Call me a cab.”
“Don’t.” Alex’s voice came from behind her, the command even clearer. The bartender froze again. Maggie glared at him—wimp—and started to reach into her purse for her phone.
“Carry it is, then,” Alex said from behind her, and before she knew what was happening, his arms came around her and somehow lifted her around and up and over his shoulder. The sudden change in position made the tequila swirl in her blood and the room spun even harder. She swallowed hard, not entirely sure she wasn’t going to throw up. Alex’s back was broad and warm as she rested her head for a moment and his arm was reassuringly strong around her legs. God. It was the perfect humiliating end to the worst day of her life. She wanted to keep fighting, to make him put her the hell down, but suddenly all the fight drained out of her and all she wanted was to be home. And if letting the devil take her there was the fastest way to achieve that, then so be it.
She closed her eyes and let Alex carry her out of the bar, ignoring the chorus of wolf whistles and applause that followed them as they went.
*   *   *
Maggie was not feeling even remotely human when the intercom buzzed the next morning. She clutched her coffee mug and groaned, wondering who on earth could possibly be bugging her at the ungodly hour of … She glanced up at the clock on the wall. Damn. Ten already. So really, not that ungodly. That was only the way her head felt.
The devil’s drink.
The thought reminded her of Alex Winters and the taxi and she clutched her mug harder and dropped her head down on the bench. The door buzzed again.
Deciding that answering it would be the quickest way to make the confounded racket stop, she moved very carefully over to the door, picked up the phone, and said, “Yes,” while she leaned her forehead against the mercifully cool wall and closed her eyes.
“Ms. Jameson, there’s a package for you. Would you like me to bring it up?” Dev, who’d been the doorman in the building forever, as far as Maggie knew, sounded, as always, cheerful.
“A box, Ms. Jameson. About as big as a shoe box.”
Shoes? She hadn’t ordered any shoes, had she? Last night’s tequila binge had been the pass-out-at-the-end kind, not the max-out-the-credit-card-on-inappropriate-footwear kind.
“Ms. Jameson? Would you like me to hold the package for you?”
“No, bring it up.”
Then he wouldn’t have to call again to remind her. Anyway, maybe she’d gotten lucky and someone had sent her Alex Winters’s head on a platter. Though that would require something substantially bigger than a shoe box given the size of the man’s ego. She’d read his press after all. Hell, she’d even had to do a case study on the previous boy wonder and his business success during her master’s. Alex Winters was not a man who doubted his own worth.
Nor did he downplay his successes.
Of which, annoyingly, there were many. Enough to make him the sort of man rich enough to buy a baseball franchise. Impressive when he was only thirty-seven. The sort of success brought by lightning striking at the right place and the right time. In Alex Winters’s case that had been a series of inspired real estate deals when he was fresh out of college and then an equally inspired series of corporate acquisitions starting with a stake in a little software house that had subsequently been acquired by Apple for roughly eleven zillion times what he’d paid for it initially. Everything Alex Winters touched seemed to turn to gold.
Probably proof that he was indeed the devil.
Devil or not, with his business instincts, she should be happy that he’d decided to take an interest in the Saints.
But all she wanted to do was scream.
Dev’s quiet knock at her door interrupted her train of thought. His face was carefully bland as he handed her the package. Given she was wearing sweats, her oldest Saints training camp T-shirt that dated back to sometime in the nineties and was threatening to become more hole than fabric any day now, no makeup, and second-day bedhead hair, that was nice of him.
She carried the box back to the bench, dug out Advil and water to go with the coffee, and unwrapped it without enthusiasm.
When she pulled out the voodoo doll from the final layer of tissue paper she was too surprised to look for the card for a few seconds.
When she found it, she recognized the handwriting as that of her cousin Sean who worked for the Red Sox.
“Thought you might need this,” he’d written.
Which meant, she realized with a horrible sinking sensation, that the news was out.
People knew the Jamesons no longer owned the Saints. Knew she’d been booted like a rookie who couldn’t connect with the ball.
She did what any sensible woman would do when coming to such a conclusion. She yanked the phone cord out of the wall, switched off her iPhone, and went back to bed.
*   *   *
Several hours later Maggie woke up again. This time the remembrances flooded back faster, which was probably a sign that her goddamn hangover had retreated slightly. Damn. She squinched her eyes closed, hoping that she could will herself back to sleep. No such luck.
Her mind, in a move she thought highly unfair, started replaying the events of the previous day from the moment Alex Winters had walked into the conference room at Deacon Field and she’d been hit with a hefty dose of reality. The images continued relentlessly until she reached the point where she passed out in the taxi that Alex had carried her into.
She rolled on her back, arm flung over her eyes.
A mature person would get up, shower, form a plan, and go out and show Alex Winters that a Jameson didn’t take things lying down.
Apparently her maturity had been significantly diluted by last night’s alcohol.
All she wanted to do was stay exactly where she was.
What she needed was a pep talk. A motivational speech. The sort of inspiration her psychology professor had always advocated. She considered how exactly that might go.
“Well, Ms. Jameson, what seems to be the issue today?”
“I don’t want to get out of bed.”
“Why not?”
“That’s not really a reason, is it, Ms. Jameson? If you don’t get up, you won’t be able to achieve any sort of outcome today, will you?”
She pictured the notes being written.
Patient very unmotivated. Needs to find source of passion. Or large vat of coffee.
“I don’t care about outcomes.”
“Come now, Miss Jameson, everybody wants something.”
Patient very, very unmotivated. In danger of consuming large amounts of chocolate and ice cream.
“Think of something you want. Something small. Picture it in your mind. Can you see it?”
“What is it, Miss Jameson?”
“Alex Winters being hit by a piano falling from several stories up?”
Patient may be actively hostile. Or borderline psychotic. Prospects for intervention poor.
Oh good, now her subconscious was giving up on her. What did that say about the situation?
That she really, really wanted Alex Winters’s head on a platter. Or maybe her father’s. She still couldn’t believe he’d sold the Saints. Without even once mentioning his plans to her in advance. Which could only mean that he felt guilty about it. Had Winters pressured him? She wouldn’t put it past the man. He was a very highly motivated individual. All about the win. And the money. She knew men like him like the back of her hand, having grown up around professional athletes. Even though her father had tried to keep that culture out of the Saints as far as possible, there was only so much you could do to hold back the tide.
What she didn’t know was when he’d stopped trying. They’d had all these plans. She was going to come back from Chicago and start helping him out. They’d talked about it forever. So what had changed?
How had Alex Winters convinced him to sell?
She didn’t understand any of it.
So maybe that was the first step. Talk to her father.
*   *   *
Alex strode into his new office at Saints headquarters on Wednesday morning and paused just inside the door to take in the sight. His at last. No sign of Tom Jameson’s old battered desk and wall of photos. Instead there was everything Alex needed to get to work. The desk was just like the one back in his New York office. His laptop. A bank of three phones. The only things hanging on the wall were the number he’d cut out of his jersey after the bombing and framed and the bank of flat-panel TVs tuned to every possible sports and business station under the sun.
Right at home. Ready to make the Saints the team they could be or, at least, stop them from sliding into oblivion.
So why did he feel guilty?
Goddamn Maggie Jameson, that was why. She’d looked at him with those big angry brown eyes last night, and told him to go to the devil before she’d passed out in the taxi home.
She’d looked lost. Something he’d never seen before.
Maggie Jameson was a chip off the old block. Never far from her father’s side as long as Alex had been a Saints fan. Which was forever. He could picture Maggie’s childhood and teen years as well as his own, thanks to the never-ending photos of her in the press and in the team newsletter and on the Web site. She’d been cute as a kid, big brown eyes and straight dark hair and bangs, tucked under her dad’s arm or whacking at balls tossed by the pitchers at kid-friendly speeds. She’d had a pretty good swing, he remembered.
He rubbed the side of his face idly. He’d bet she had a pretty good swing now too and he’d probably been lucky that she hadn’t slugged him one last night. He wouldn’t have held it against her.
Tom’s Little Saint, the press had dubbed her, which had morphed into Saint Maggie as she’d grown older and become a seemingly perfect teenager, bringing home straight-A report cards, helping out with the Saints’ community programs, and avoiding any hint of teen drama. Or, at least, avoiding anything that Tom hadn’t been able to keep out of the papers.
She’d grown up to be more than cute—he’d had time to appreciate the sleek curves under her suit yesterday before she’d realized what the meeting was about and her expression had turned to ice and fury. But those sleek curves and the way her face was an intriguing mix of angles and softness were things he was determined to ignore.
He needed Maggie on his side, not in his bed. She knew more about the Saints than anyone apart from her father. In many respects she was the team’s mascot, even more than the actual fuzzy blue, white, and gold angel that cavorted on the sidelines at the games.
Trouble was, after last night, he had no idea how to win her over. And if he couldn’t win her over, he was going to have to fire her. Lucas and Mal were going to laugh their asses off. Lucas had suggested that informing Maggie about the deal sooner might have been a good idea, but Alex hadn’t wanted the complication, worried that guilt over his daughter’s feelings might stop Tom Jameson from doing what needed to be done to save the team.
There was no place for messy emotions in business. They didn’t get the job done. He wasn’t a monster, he tried to make sure people were treated well and taken care of, but someone had to make the hard decisions.
And that someone was usually him.
Which was just the way he liked it.
So why was Maggie Jameson tugging at his conscience like goddamn Jiminy Cricket in a bad mood?
Maybe he was just tired from the pressure of closing the deal, though, as one of his old bosses had said, “if you’re tired of the deal, you’re tired of life.” Alex wasn’t ready to be tired of life. He had a team to save. And he’d call the plays the way he saw them. Even if he had to drag the rest of the world kicking and screaming along with him.
He resolutely put Maggie Jameson and her long fall of dark hair and eyes like embers out of his mind and opened his e-mail to start dealing with whatever the day was going to throw at him.
Copyright © 2014 by Melanie Scott

Excerpt from Angel in Armani:

Chapter One
It was like having a tiger in the back of the helicopter.
The knowledge of something big and dangerous and ruthless riding behind her. Something that could squish you like a bug and not blink a big golden eye.
Of course, the man behind her had blue eyes, not golden ones. Very blue.
So maybe a tiger wasn’t the right metaphor. Maybe—
“Got another chopper coming in about five, Sara. You getting airborne sometime soon?” The crisp tones of Ronnie, running control today, broke her train of thought. Just as well. She shook her head. Because you, Sara Charles, are being an idiot. There was no room for distraction when she was flying.
“Any second now,” she replied. She twisted in her seat to look at her passenger. “We’re ready to go, sir.” She called all her passengers sir or ma’am, unless instructed otherwise. Most did—or the regulars, at least. Not this one, though. He seemed to accept “sir” as though it were his due. Which was weird because, unless she was way off the mark, he wasn’t ex-military. And he wasn’t English royalty slumming it in New York. No, his accent was firmly American. Not that he’d spoken more than about six sentences to her in the three trips she’d flown for him so far.
Short sentences. Things like “Good morning.” And “Thank you.” His voice was deep. Cool. Controlled. His silence should have been annoying but instead it was somehow compelling. Made her want to hear more.
“I’ll have us in the air in just a minute,” she added, just in case he might break his streak and say something rash like “Great.”
He didn’t look up. He rarely looked up. He just nodded and kept his eyes on the screen of the slim silver laptop open on his lap. Focused. Intense.
His powers of concentration were clearly excellent. Even with the headsets on, it was loud in the helo, but he didn’t let anything distract him. She had to admit that there’d been the odd idle moment when she’d let herself wonder what it might be like to have all his attention focused on her. What it might be like to hold his focus and be the thing he didn’t want to be distracted from.
But that was about as likely to happen as her sprouting wings and being able to fly without a helo, so she tried to ignore the thoughts when they arose.
She did wonder where he’d learned to shut the world out, though. Maybe it came with being a doctor. She knew that much about him. He was a doctor. Dr. Lucas Angelo.
That was the name on the bookings. She didn’t know much more than that. She refused to Google a man she barely knew and wasn’t likely to. That would just be sad.
Sadder than comparing him to jungle cats?
Suppressing a sigh, she turned back to face the controls. Time to forget about tigers and get this bird in the air.
For the first few minutes, the joy of the flight took her mind away from the puzzle of the man she was flying. The city had turned on a perfect winter day. Fine. Sunny. Just enough breeze to make things interesting. Good light. Good visibility. The helo hummed under her hand, seemingly as pleased as she was to be in the air.
Away from all the problems down there on the ground. Nothing to think about but the sky and her destination for a few hours, at least.
She cut a path around the city, feeling the familiar rush as the gleaming buildings and the swath of the park slipped beneath her. Best view of Manhattan for sure. Best view in the world maybe.
Of course, Dr. Mystery back there was ignoring it as usual.
She frowned and straightened the helo now that she had her heading. She didn’t know how he could just sit there and not even look up, let alone out the window. Focus or no focus there was nothing a laptop could possibly hold that could compete with the view from up here.
Hell, most of the time the passengers were paying her for exactly that view—sightseeing flights made up a good chunk of the charter business. She loved listening to the excited voices of the tourists as they took in her city. Of course, a few of them turned green and spent the flight barfing, but those were the exception.
No barfing from her current passenger, of course.
No, he wouldn’t do anything that might risk ruining his perfectly cut suit.
Three times she’d flown him and every time, no matter where she was taking him, it had been a suit.
Deep charcoal for the time she’d taken him to the hospital in New Jersey.
A medium gray for a hop to Staten Island.
Navy with the faintest of pinstripes to JFK.
She’d liked that one. The navy and the deep-blue tie he’d worn with it had made his eyes even bluer. She’d decided he should always wear blue.
Until he’d walked into the terminal this afternoon wearing a tuxedo. Most guys looked better in a tuxedo, of course, but very few of them actually looked like they were born to wear one. It was unfair. Stark black and white shouldn’t turn a man into a god. But damn, the man’s tailor was genius.
She’d taken one look at him, forced herself to tear her eyes away, and beaten a path for her A-Star, leaving the checking-in of tuxedo-clad perfection and his immaculate luggage to the terminal staff. It was one thing to admit that the man was intriguing, in an annoying sort of way, and too handsome for his own good; it was quite another to hyperventilate at the sight of him. Particularly while she was standing there in her pilot’s uniform of sensible black pants, sensible black shoes, and sensible blue shirt. With headset hair.
She’d talked sternly to herself as she’d done the preflight checks. One did not get crushes on clients. Because the sort of client who could afford regular chartered helo services had money and power with a capital Money and Power. They did not notice pilots with headset hair. They noticed supermodels. Therefore there would be no inconvenient hormonal responses allowed. Besides, she needed money, not man-candy.
And Dr. Lucas Angelo had hired her three times. Almost a regular. Which she desperately needed. Eyes on the prize, not the scenery.
It had been a good speech. She’d almost convinced herself. Then he’d climbed into the back of the helo and she’d started thinking about tigers.
Though now, as they sped through the air, heading for the Hamptons and whatever no doubt ridiculously expensive event he was attending, she was thinking that tiger wasn’t the right metaphor for the sensation. No, the way his silent presence seemed to fill the cabin, impossible to ignore, was more like riding the edge of a storm, feeling the weight of the air and the tingle of electricity. Knowing that if you were foolish and let the storm tumble over you it would sweep you up and control whatever happened from there.
Not going to happen.
She was a damned good pilot. She knew how to avoid a storm.
Even when she wasn’t sure she wanted to.
*   *   *
Lucas studied the patient films on the laptop screen in front of him and tried to ignore the steadythwap thwap thwap racket of the helicopter around him. Even with headphones he was far too aware of the engine noise. Of the fact he was God only knew how high in the air in a high-tech tin can.
Focus on the problem.
In front of him the X-ray showed the fractured clavicle clearly. It would heal fine once he got to work on it. It was a simple surgery and one he didn’t perform that often these days, but this particular clavicle belonged to a promising male figure skater and his parents were willing to pay for the best to ensure that promise could still be fulfilled.
He couldn’t blame them.
The surgery wasn’t complicated enough to distract him, though, and he keyed up the next file. The helicopter dipped a little, and his fingers clutched the edge of the laptop a little too hard.
Freaking helicopters. Supposedly Leonardo da Vinci had come up with the design for the first one. Crazy bastard. Lucas didn’t care how much of a genius the guy was supposed to have been. No one sane would think that a helicopter was a good idea.
He made himself loosen his grip. He wasn’t fond of planes in general, though he ruthlessly suppressed the illogical nerves they brought to life in his stomach because not flying wasn’t an option in his life. It was harder in a helicopter, though. Too small. Nowhere to hide from the empty air surrounding him.
He understood flight theory and aerodynamics. He knew how helicopters—and planes—stayed airborne. He’d made it his business to know, but that still didn’t ease the fear.
His first time in a helicopter had been an emergency airlift to a hospital, a race to repair his shoulder. He’d been in pain and shock and reeling from the aftermath of the explosion that had put him there, spitting ash and bile as the nurse and doctor in the chopper had tried to sedate him.
All the while feeling like the ground was dropping away from beneath him and he was never going to find his footing again.
Turned out that instinct had been right.
The surgeon had done a brilliant job on his shoulder. It was fully functional. But there’d been no chance that it would stand up to the demands of a career pitching pro ball.
And just like that his dream had been over. All because a bunch of deluded young idiots had decided that they’d had a grudge against the government and that blowing up a college baseball game was a good way to protest. And because he and Alex and Mal hadn’t been able to follow their coach’s instructions to get the hell off the field and to safety. No, instead they’d stayed and tried to help some of the people trapped in the crumpled wreckage of the stands. He still didn’t remember what he’d done that had torn up his shoulder, but he had.
Leaving him with a shattered dream and a new path to find. He’d found it in medicine, but it had taken some time. And it had left him with an unshakable fear of flying.
His brain knew that the explosion and helicopters weren’t the same thing, but his body didn’t. Every time he stepped into an aircraft, his mouth turned to a desert and his stomach to water.
But in his profession, flying was inevitable. People were hardly going to wait while their crack orthopedic surgeon took the bus across the state or across the country.
So he sucked it up and flew when he needed to. But he didn’t like it and he never would.
He took a deeper breath, schooling himself to be calm, and tried to send his attention back into the next patient file.
Which would be easier if he were back in his office in Manhattan rather than flying to the Hamptons to attend a party he had no desire to attend.
Socializing was another necessary evil of his career. Hospital fund-raisers, charity golf games, and all the hoopla that came with being a member of the oh-so-wealthy, oh-so-philanthropic, oh-so-full-of-expectations Angelos.
But this party wasn’t one his family was roping him into. No, this one was due to the latest piece of insanity to enter his life.
The New York Saints.
He still wasn’t sure how his best friend, Alex Winters, had convinced him—and their other friend Malachi Coulter—to join forces to bail out the baseball team they’d all supported since childhood.
There’d been bourbon involved but also a good dose of crazy.
He didn’t do crazy.
But he did do baseball. And for once, he hadn’t been able to resist a bad idea. Owning a baseball team. He’d imagined it as a kid, as his parents made him attend cotillions and play golf and learn to sail and tried to discourage his love of baseball.
It hadn’t worked. It was an incurable disease.
His presence in this helicopter was firm proof of that. As was the fact that he was now officially part owner of a Major League Baseball team. Even if it was the worst team in the MLB.
“We’re about twenty minutes out, sir.” The voice of his pilot buzzed in his headphones. He liked her voice. It sounded confident and relaxed and had a pleasant female thrum to it that was a small distraction from his discomfort.
He flicked his gaze up from the laptop but saw only the back of her head. The ends of her medium-brown hair curled out in wisps under the cap she wore; the set of her shoulders in the very plain blue shirt was relaxed, but he couldn’t see much more than that.
He hadn’t seen much more than that in three trips so far. She was always seated in the pilot’s seat when he boarded the chopper, already wearing a cap and her headphones or whatever you called the radio-mike thing that let them communicate during the flight.
He did know that she had pretty eyes. Blue. Not bright blue like his. More ocean-y. A hint of gray and green lending depth. Sea-blue eyes and a cute smile, though he’d only seen that once.
The main thing he knew about her—other than the fact her name was Sara Charles, as attested to by the neat name badge on her uniform—was that she seemed to be a very good pilot. She got him where he was going in one piece, with no flashy maneuvers to shatter his hard-won calm, and she didn’t bother him with chitchat.
Which was why he’d hired her again after the first time he’d booked her when his regular guy couldn’t fit him in. And why he’d booked her again for this trip.
He was glad she’d taken the job. Though any sensible person would, given he was paying quite a nice bonus to have her hang around and wait to fly him home again after the fund-raiser. With Sara Charles, for some reason, even though being in a helicopter still sucked, it wasn’t quite as bad as usual. Still, he’d be happy when they were both safely back on Manhattan soil at the end of the night.
He intended that the end of the night would come sooner rather than later. He had surgeries lined up in the morning and roughly four hundred other things to juggle around in his schedule ahead of the Saints decamping to Florida for spring training in a little over two weeks.
Alex and Mal had decided that he, as an orthopedic surgeon, was the one most qualified to keep an eye on things in Florida. Most qualified and also the one with less Saints business already on his plate. Mal was busy trying to bring Deacon Field—the Saints’ home stadium—out of the security Stone Age, and Alex was wheeling and dealing with finances and TV deals and the money stuff. Which left Lucas to deal with the team, the potential new players, and getting everyone ready for the coming season. The Saints’ first season since they’d taken over.
Of course, that was mostly the job of the coaching team and the trainers and the scouts, but he was going to be boss man on the ground as much as possible. Which meant the weeks between now and the beginning of the season in April were going to be a nightmare as he tried to split his time between New York and Florida. And that was before he even thought about all the air time that was going to involve.
He didn’t want to think about that.
So he wouldn’t. Instead he’d finish reviewing the files he’d brought with him so that he was ready for tomorrow’s procedures, and then they’d arrive at their destination and he’d do his duty at the damned party and get the hell back to New York.
*   *   *
Sara led the way across the airfield to the small building that served as the terminal. Dr. Angelo—she didn’t really feel like she could call him Lucas—had thanked her politely when he’d climbed out of the chopper, taken a moment to straighten his impeccable bow tie, slung his black leather laptop bag over his shoulder, and then asked, “Which way?”
That had been the sum total of their conversation. The afternoon light had turned golden, the weather warm for this time of year despite warnings of possible storms later on. He looked not quite real as he walked smoothly across the grass, the gilded light playing on his hair and face.
He moved a bit like a tiger, she thought. Lithe and powerful. Graceful for a tall guy. She was five six and he easily had half a foot on her. She wondered if he’d played a sport of some sort before he’d become a doctor. She’d spent a lot of time around guys who kept themselves in good shape in the army, but even among them it was the ones who’d been great athletes who, in her experience, moved like the man walking besides her. Totally in control of every inch of his well-honed body.
The one she wished didn’t make her skin spark with awareness every time she saw him. The one that made her desperately need a little more control over her own body.
Thankfully the walk to the terminal building was a short one. Dr. Angelo held the door for her—of course he was the kind of guy who would hold a door for her—and she walked into the terminal, looking around to see who was on the desk.
She spotted Ellen Jacek, who ran the airfield with her husband, before Ellen spotted them. But not much before. Ellen’s dark eyes widened and a smile of appreciation bloomed on her face as she took in Dr. Angelo. Which was gratifying in a way. It meant it wasn’t just Sara who was dumb enough to react to the sight of him.
But like her, Ellen was a professional, and her smile smoothed into something more welcoming as she came toward them.
“Sara, honey. How are you? How’s your dad?”
Sara returned her brief hard hug. “I’m good. And Dad’s doing better. Hoping to get back in the air in a few more months.” She remembered why she was there. “Ellen Jacek, this is Dr. Angelo. I think there should be a car waiting for him?”
“Oh sure, Dean delivered it a while back. It’s parked out front.” Ellen turned her attention to Lucas. “Nice ride. I’ve got the keys over at the desk.” She headed in that direction and Lucas strode after her, leaving Sara to follow behind. She did so, listening to Ellen chatter and Lucas give short answers until Ellen reached the desk, leaned over it, and grabbed a set of keys before passing them to Lucas.
“It’s the red one out front,” she said.
“Red?” Lucas queried.
“Dean said to say he was sorry but there was an issue with the car you requested. So he gave you this one instead.” Ellen grinned at Lucas. “If you don’t like it, you’re welcome to borrow my truck and I’ll take the Mercedes for a spin.”
Lucas tilted his head at her. Sara couldn’t quite see his expression from where she was standing but Ellen’s cheeks flushed slightly and she smiled, so presumably it was amused not angry.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” he said, dropping the keys into his jacket pocket. He turned back to Sara.
“I’ll call you when I’m leaving the party. It should be around ten.”
“That’s fine, I’ll be here.”
He nodded just as his phone started to ring. He fished it out of his jacket pocket and glanced at the screen before taking the call. While he spoke, Sara watched him, getting in a few more seconds of tuxedoed-glory-appreciation time. There was much to appreciate. But sadly appreciation was all there was going to be, so she forced at least part of her attention onto making a plan for the hours ahead. Hopefully Ellen would lend her the truck so she could at least drive to the beach and get in a walk on the sand and pretend she was wealthy enough to own one of the gorgeous houses lining the shore.
After that there was paperwork stuffed in her flight bag that needed her attention. More correspondence with her dad’s insurance company in dense legalese that she had to interpret and decide how to respond to. That painful task would earn her a few hours vegging out with her eReader and takeout in the tiny upstairs pilots’ lounge while she waited for the good doctor to be done with whatever beautiful-people gathering it was that he was attending.
Not actually that much different from what she’d have been doing on a Friday night after a long week anyway, when she thought about it. Which was just sad. She couldn’t, off the top of her head, think of the last time she’d been out. With her dad out of action, there’d just been too much work picking up the slack to want to do more than stay in and catch up on sleep when she got some downtime. Do the good and sensible thing.
Tired pilots made mistakes. And Charles Air really couldn’t afford another mistake. She’d flown exhausted and riding on adrenaline in the service but she didn’t have to now. She wouldn’t. Even when there were a thousand and one things calling for her attention, she tried to make sure she didn’t wear herself out. Sleep and rest were more important than bars and restaurants and the dating merry-go-round right now. Even if her therapist had made a few pointed comments about rebuilding her social life in their last session. Her best friend, Viv, had started to nag, too.
Lucas hung up his phone at last and Sara dragged her thoughts back to the present and him. Her client.
Her paying client. She was here to make his life easier, not obsess about her own. Was there anything she’d forgotten to tell him about the arrangements for the flight back? Nothing sprang to mind. Which meant it was time to stop admiring him in his tuxedo and let him disappear. But she allowed herself one last quick once-over and her eyes snagged on the laptop bag ruining the line of his jacket as it hung from his very broad shoulder. “You’re welcome to leave your laptop bag here with me,” she said. “Save you dragging it around.”
“We have some secure lockboxes,” Ellen added. “It’ll be safe.”
He nodded. “That would be helpful, thank you.” He held out the bag and Sara took it, ignoring the tiny flare of heat that rippled through her when her fingers brushed his. Holding his laptop was as close as she was ever going to get to Lucas Angelo. And as she watched through the glass terminal doors while he climbed into a red convertible and then sped off into the distance, she tried very hard to ignore the part of her that really, really wished she was speeding off with him.
Copyright © 2015 by Melanie Scott

Hi Melanie welcome to The Reading Frenzy. Your new trilogy for St. Martin’s Press looks great.
Tell us first a little about where the idea for the trilogy came from and how the books are connected.
Thank you for having me here! The idea came about in a slightly unusual way. Sometime ago when I first got my agent I mentioned to her that if I ever wrote contemporary romance I’d love to work with Jennifer Enderlin. But then we sold one of my fantasies so I was focused on writing fantasy for the last few years and didn’t really think about it. Then I got a phone call from my agent saying she’d been talking to Jen who was looking for some contemporaries and wanted connected heroes and did I want to try and pitch something. I said yes (of course). So then I sat down to think up an idea, trying to figure out how I could connect my heroes. I didn’t want to do military heroes and for some reason didn’t want to do brothers and then baseball popped into my head. I am not a huge sports fan but I’ve always liked baseball and love baseball movies and books. But I wanted to do something slightly different for a sports team so I decided to make the heroes three best friends who had bought the team rather than being players. I still can’t quite believe that Jen liked the idea and bought the books.

The first novel The Devil in Denim and Angel in Armani are already out and you’re getting some great press about them, in fact Publisher’s Weekly listed Devil in Denim in their top 10 Romances for the Fall of 2014. Congrats!!
Some authors I know cringe when reviews come out.
How about you?
Do you read them all, none or somewhere in between?
It’s always nerve-wracking getting reviews. I love that readers write reviews and read some if they come across my desk but I don’t go looking for reviews in general as it gets confusing. And I don’t think reviews are really intended for the author, they’re for other readers. You can never write a book that will please everyone and what annoys one reader will be the thing the next reader loves. So I try to write a book I’d love to read and hope that other people will mostly feel the same way.

Melanie you write dark fantasy and romance, but your dark fantasy is written under M.J. Scott who you call your evil twin. Your first urban fantasy in fact was a finalist in the Golden Heart.
Do you have to undergo an emotional or physiological change to go from writing in one genre to the other?
I note that M.J. calls Melanie the evil twin too J. Who knows who the evil one is…maybe whoever is writing the most misbehaving book at the time. And thank you, re the Golden Heart. That was very exciting. But as for changing to write one genre to another, my fantasies do tend to be a bit darker. Those worlds are riskier for the characters in terms of life threatening situations. So they can be more draining to write. But they also let me play with magic and fun things I couldn’t do in a contemporary. I do write in a different font for the fantasies versus the contemporaries as a little reminder to my brain as to what world I’m in.
Why the different pseudo – pseudonyms?
When I sold the New York Saints books to St. Martins Press I thought that it was a different enough genre that a slightly different name would help flag that to readers.

Tell us what your evil twin is up to right now.
She has a new fantasy series starting in April. The first book is called The Shattered Court. The plan is to write the third book of her urban fantasy trilogy this year as well.

Melanie you say on your website that you wrote your very first story when you were 8 and it was about a family of Unicorns.
Have you ever thought of finishing this and turning it into a novel?
I’m not sure the world is ready for the wonder of the flying unicorn secret baby story! Though I am fond of unicorns…

Melanie you've published with both a brick and mortar house and by self publishing, and on your website you discuss the pros and cons of both in depth.
Self-publishing has come a long way since its inception and traditional houses have had to reinvent themselves to a degree also.
Does having these two very different breeds of publishing make it easier or harder for aspiring authors?
I think having choices is a good thing but it does make it harder to figure out what’s right for you. There are definitely pros and cons to both sides of publishing and there’s a lot of information and opinions to digest. And the pros and cons might change as the business changes, as you change as a writer, as other things in life change. Whichever combination of publishing methods you choose, I think the most important thing is making sure the book is great and then that the packing/marketing etc are the best you can get as well.

Do you think the industry as a whole has settled down or is it still in flux?
I think it’s still in flux and will be for a while yet. And then when we think it’s settled down, I’m sure something else will come along and shake things up. But that’s kind of the nature of business anyway. I keep an eye on the business side of things but try to focus on the writing as much as possible.

Melanie you’re writing us from Australia.
How many countries are you published in?
My books go into all the big English speaking regions so US, UK, Canada, Australia etc. The New York Saints books are/will be in audiobook via Audible and have been bought by a German publisher so that’s exciting. Not yet sure when they’re coming out. But will have the information on my blog and website when I know it.

Melanie thanks for answering my questions.
Good luck to you and your evil twin!
Is there a trip to the US in the works where fans could meet you?
Thank you! I’m hoping to come to the Romance Writers of America conference in New York in July and there’s always a big literary signing at that that’s open to the public. It’s always great to meet readers, so I’d love to see people there. I really need someone to invent a speedy and cheap form of travel so I can get to the US more often!

Connect with Melanie - Website - Facebook - Twitter 

MELANIE SCOTT, who also writes as M.J. Scott, grew up in a family of avid readers who fostered her love of words. A long time reader of fantasy and romance, it was inevitable that her own stories combine the two genres. Her unpublished novels have won a number of awards including the Romance Writers of Australia’s Emerald Award and Valerie Parv Award and the Romance Writers of New Zealand’s Clendon Award. She is a two-time finalist in the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Award. Shadow Kin, her debut novel, won praise from threeNew York Times bestselling authors. All three books in her Half-Light City series have been finalists in the Australian Romance Readers Association Awards. She lives in Melbourne, Australia, 
where she distracts herself with books, cats, and yarn when she’s not writing.

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  1. Great interview. Isn't it funny how the game of balll can continue to bind you together over time.

    1. Hey thanks pal. I love connected stories and this one looked like a winner before the whole world thought so :)

  2. Ooo thanks for both the excerpts!

  3. I love the sound of this series Debbie and the excerpts sealed the deal. Thanks for alerting me, as always fantastic ans informative interview!

    1. Thanks Kim as many books as you add to my tbr pile I'm glad I can help grow your garden a bit ;) LOL

  4. Replies
    1. I know Anna aren't they great!
      Happy weekend to you too!