Read The Devil in Denim Online

Authors: Melanie Scott

The Devil in Denim (3 page)

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?”

“Uh-huh.”

“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.

 

Chapter Two

“You know, A, I’m not exactly feeling the love.” Malachi Coulter jerked his chin toward the closed door of Alex’s office. “I’ve been in war zones more welcoming. I thought you said Jameson was on board with this deal?”

“He is,” Alex said. He tried to read another e-mail while Mal paced. “He signed the papers.” He typed a short response and keyed up the next message.

“So why is the atmosphere around here so arctic?” Mal growled.

Alex stopped reading and looked up. Mal was taller than him, just over six foot four and all of it rangy muscle. His strength and reach had made him a great batter, probably hadn’t hurt in his army career, and definitely had come in handy at the start of his security business, even if Mal’s interests in that profession lay more toward surveillance and security systems than cracking heads. The man looked like a hard-ass bouncer with his too-long hair—always too long since he’d left the army—and tattoos, and Alex had developed a healthy respect for the power in that body after many years of playing all sorts of sports with him. When delivering bad news to Mal, it was always best to ease into things. Though, today, there wasn’t much time for easing.

“I may have underestimated Jameson’s ability to get his team on board with the deal a little.”

“Define ‘a little.’” This came from Lucas, his other best friend. The other one crazy enough to take on the Saints. Lucas was all logic and precision with a big dose of relentlessness.

And right now he had a very determined look in his cool blue eyes. Alex grimaced. Determined and amused, he realized. It probably came as no shock to Lucas that the Saints organization wasn’t immediately taking to its new owners. Lucas didn’t do anything without analyzing it six ways from Sunday and planning for all possible contingencies before he started. It was what made him one of the best orthopedic surgeons in the country. Alex still wasn’t sure how he’d managed to convince Lucas to throw his hat into the ring on this particular venture. One to chalk up to the mystic powers of baseball fanaticism and just be thankful for.

Still, Lucas would keep grilling Alex until he got the answers he wanted so it was time to just get on with it. They had a press conference in a little over an hour.

“They seem to hate our guts,” he said bluntly.

“Perfect,” Mal groaned. “That will make things so much easier.”

“Hey, they’ll love us once they get to know us.”

“They’ll love me and Lucas,” Mal retorted. “They’ll see you for the clearly crazy person that you are. Is it too late to get a refund?”

“Yes,” Alex said. “Quit whining. You don’t want a refund. We own a fucking baseball team. We own the
Saints
.”

“The worst team in the American League,” Lucas said.

“The worst fucking team in the whole fucking major league,” Mal amended.

“That’s why we love them.” Alex grinned. “That’s why we have to save them. So a whole new generation of fans can share our pain.”

Mal shook his head but he was smiling now too. “Misery loves company.”

“Means the three of us should be ecstatic right about now,” Alex said.

Lucas was nodding agreement but he had on his decisive face. Just like him. Working out a strategy. “Still, it’s not a done deal yet. Not until the other teams’ owners sign off. So we need everybody to be on board. Jameson’s coming to the press conference, right?”

“Yes. He’s making a statement before ours. I’ve read it”—hell, he’d helped write it—“it’s good. Then I’ll make mine and introduce the two of you and we can get things started.”

Lucas pursed his lips. “What about Maggie Jameson, is she coming?”

Alex froze. “Maggie? I’m not sure.”

Mal made a disgusted noise. “C’mon, Alex, what are you doing? Everybody in this place loves Maggie Jameson, you know that. They might be suspicious if Tom says we’re good guys but they won’t doubt Saint Maggie. You need her to vouch for us.”

Alex made sure the desk was still between him and Mal. “Good idea. But there’s one little problem with it…”

*   *   *

A shower went a little way toward restoring Maggie’s sense of humanity, if not her faith in said species. She blew her hair dry roughly, piled it up, slid into jeans and a hoodie, and decided she wouldn’t call her dad to let him know she was coming. She had a feeling he might try to duck out if she did. Tom Jameson had eaten team managers, coaches, players, and members of the press for breakfast in his time, but he’d never been good at dealing with anything too female. Given Maggie had been a tomboy, that worked out well. Most of the time. The few times they had fought and she’d succumbed to tears, she’d had the distinct impression her father would rather gnaw his own arm off than go through it again. Which might explain why he’d never remarried.

But that wasn’t the point. Today, it didn’t matter how uncomfortable it made her father, she was going to get the explanation she deserved.

Her purse was still on the kitchen counter where presumably Alex—goddamn it, her memory of what had actually happened when they’d reached her apartment was way too blurry—had put it. She’d woken up in her clothes—most of them at least. He’d taken off her jacket and shoes but thankfully had left it at that. She really would have had to punch him if he’d seen her passed out in her underwear.

Maggie just about reached the door when there was another knock that made her jump and drop her purse. She bent to grab it, frowning. Dev was fairly dogged about calling up to announce visitors. The building’s security had been one of the reasons she’d chosen it. Maybe it was Dev himself with another parcel. She straightened and moved to peer through the peephole.

The person standing there was both welcome and unexpected and, Maggie suspected, definitive proof that the news had gotten out.

“Maggie, open the damn door. I can hear you breathing in there.”

Maggie grinned. Hana probably could at that. She had skills.

She opened the door. “Hi,” she said brightly. “I thought we were getting together tonight.” A “welcome back from Europe” blowout dinner with the gals. All planned. Though no longer what she was in the mood for. Especially as she now suspected she knew precisely why her father had surprised her with a month-long vacation to France and Italy as a “graduation” present instead of letting her come straight home to start work at the Saints.

Hana’s immaculately groomed black eyebrows drew together. “You know why I’m here.”

Crap. “You missed me unbearably?”

That earned her an eye roll as Hana stalked into the apartment, dropped her perfectly plain but extremely expensive black purse onto the nearest flat surface, and turned back to Maggie. “I saw you a month ago at your graduation. Where, I seem to recall, you said nothing about the Saints being sold. I had to hear it from Brett last night. God, Maggie, what’s going on?”

Hana’s voice turned a little scared at the end, which made all of Maggie’s anxiety return.

“I swear, I didn’t know, Han,” she said. “I would have told you, you know that.”

Hana bit her lip, her hazel eyes unhappy. “Brett was aaaannnngry last night. There was ranting. How could you not know about this? Has your dad lost his mind?”

“I don’t know” was the answer to both those questions but telling Hana that wasn’t going to be helpful. “Brett will be okay. They didn’t say anything about trading or cutting.” Even Alex Winters wasn’t fool enough to get rid of Brett Tuckerson, Hana’s husband and the Saints’ star pitcher. Cuts. Her stomach curled uneasily at the thought. The trading of players like chess pieces was the one thing she hated about baseball. Tom had been softhearted, often giving players several chances too many. Alex Winters wouldn’t share that weakness.

“What did he say? When did this happen?”

Maggie shrugged helplessly. “I really can’t tell you. Two months ago Dad and I were talking about what I was going to be doing when I finished school, and now this.”

“Shit.” Hana flopped down on the sofa. “Alex bloody Winters. And the other two. I can’t believe it. I mean, last season went pretty well.”

It was true. The Saints had finished seventh in the American League. They hadn’t made the play-offs. They hadn’t made the play-offs for nearly three decades. But they’d had a far better year than the previous two when they’d been last and eleventh. The younger players had settled in, Dan Ellis—the manager who’d taken over when the Saints’ veteran head coach had retired a few years ago—had seemed to hit his stride and things had been gelling nicely.

Other books

Sagebrush Bride by Tanya Anne Crosby
A SEALed Fate by Nikki Winter
The King's Man by Pauline Gedge
Decadent Master by Tawny Taylor
An Ocean in Iowa by Peter Hedges
Instant Love by Jami Attenberg