Reigning beauty queen Samantha Winger is launching her pet project, a music program for kids. All she has to do is follow the pageant's rules—no smoking, drinking, or "cavorting" in public.
That's fine, until D.J. Thomas—God's gift to baseball—throws her a wild pitch. He slams her in an interview, and the video goes viral. Sam's no shrinking violet. She parlays D.J.'s apology into a national T.V. appearance—and a very unexpected, very public kiss.
Soon, paparazzi catch the couple in a steamy make-out session, and Sam's music program is on the block. The blazing hot relationship is threatened even more when D.J.'s son begs to trade in Little League for music class.
Can Sam and D.J. sizzle past the sour notes and find their perfect pitch?
Excerpt from PERFECT PITCH
D.J. Thomas, Sam’s mind supplied, even as she registered the face she’d first seen on her grainy video screen the night before. But that poor-quality picture hadn’t done justice to the man’s riveting lapis eyes. And it hadn’t adequately captured the determined line of his jaw. And it had not even begun to reveal the broad set of his shoulders, or the way his waist tapered to the extraordinarily well-fitting jeans that threatened to snag the last of Sam’s suddenly-scattered concentration.
“Excuse me,” D.J. said, and his voice was smoother than she expected, a rich baritone that flooded her senses like the aroma of fresh-brewed coffee. She felt herself pulled forward one step, two, then three, even though she hadn’t made a conscious decision to move. The man turned toward her. “Miss Winger?”
She couldn’t have made a sound if the building were crashing down around her. All she could see was D.J. Thomas. D.J. Thomas and a massive bouquet of sweetheart roses, three dozen at least. The flowers cascaded over the ballplayer’s hands, yellow and peach and a pale pink that tugged at her heart, all cradled between lush ferns and wrapped with a bow.
They weren’t the type of flowers a baseball player would ever choose to deliver. They were the flowers a marketing department would order—a public relations crew that was determined to redeem one of its players from his own faux pas.
D.J. took a step toward her, offering up the bouquet with all the charm of a small boy making amends for stealing from a cookie jar. She wouldn’t have been surprised to see the toe of his well-worn boots digging into the conference room floor.
Then those amazing eyes locked on hers, and she knew she would never think of him as a little boy again. Electricity sizzled between them—a secret telegraph she had no way of translating. All she knew was that she never wanted to look away, never wanted to break that searing bond.
Some tiny part of her brain continued to feed her information. Judith and Bill were frozen in place, halfway across the room. Johnny had braced himself against the conference table, his camera settled on his shoulder. She could see the red light on the front of the contraption; she knew she was being filmed.
She and D.J. Thomas were about to make another video. One that had the potential to erase the horrible clip that she had watched over and over and over again in the long, lonely hours of the night.
But Johnny wasn’t going to be able to help her if she didn’t do something. If she didn’t say something. Now. “Mr. Thomas,” she finally managed.
Her heart slammed against her ribs as he offered her the flowers. “I’ve made a terrible mistake, Miss Winger. And I hope you can see your way clear to forgive me.”
At that moment, in that place, pinned by that incredible blue gaze, Sam was willing to forgive him just about anything. But Sam wasn’t just a woman, standing in front of a man. She was the Summer Queen. And the ball player who stood before her had embarrassed her and the Summer Fair.
“Why, Mr. Thomas,” Sam somehow managed to say, forcing an arch smile to her lips. “We were just talking about you. How kind of you to stop by, after such an important night in your pitching career.”
Behind her, Bill actually laughed. From the corner of her eye, she could make out Judith’s tight nod of approval. Johnny reached up and touched something on his camera, changing the angle of the lens, or the depth of its focus, or something else that was going to help enshrine this moment forever.
D.J. glanced at the cameraman, but then he blanched and looked away. Sam might be reveling in how this was all working out, but the pitcher seemed mortified. This time, when he spoke, he directed his words to the roses. “Miss Winger, I’m here to make my own apology. But I’m also here to represent Marty Benson, the owner of the Raleigh Rockets.”
Of course he was. The same P.R. department that had hunted down the flowers would have formulated a careful message. Marty Benson, a long-time Raleigh philanthropist, wasn’t about to have his name sullied by one pitcher’s smartass comment. Not his name, and not the name of his team.
That smartass pitcher might not be happy to be filmed, but he wasn’t a coward. He forced his eyes back to her face. There was that zap again, that instant connection that made her wonder if his heart was galloping at the same pace as hers. She had to say something. Had to respond. That’s what any Summer Queen would do. She kept her voice light, but her words sounded about an octave too high when she asked, “And what does Mr. Benson have to say about all this?” She gestured toward Johnny and the camera, silent symbols of the controversy D.J. Thomas had created.
“He’d be honored, Miss Winger, if you’d join us at the ballpark tomorrow afternoon. We’d love for you to sing the national anthem, and then you can watch the game in the owner’s suite.”
Sing The Star Spangled Banner. At a major league baseball game. On national television.
A year ago, she would have quailed at the possibility. But after ten months of public appearances as the Summer Queen? And with a chance to let the public know about Musicall, after her fruitless hours trying to track down wealthy donors the day before? She was stunned by her change of fortune.
But D.J. Thomas apparently misunderstood her silence. “Please, Miss Winger. I’d take it as a personal favor if you could find a way to say yes.”
The urgency of his plea drove him forward, closing the distance between them. She caught her breath in surprise, drawing in the perfume of the rose bouquet. But there was something spicier beneath that rich floral scent, something like cedar and sunshine. D.J. thrust the flowers toward her, and she clutched them automatically.
Her fingers brushed against his—long and lean and warm against the greenery. She had the sudden sensation that the room was tipping, that the conference table was rocking like a ship at sea. But she was standing steady. She was standing strong, with D.J. before her, their hands still tangled in the roses.
“Please,” he said. “Say yes.”
And suddenly it didn’t matter if the roses had been purchased by the P.R. department. It didn’t matter if Marty Benson was extending an olive branch to make the Rockets look good. The only thing that mattered was the steady gaze and the warm hands and the determined jaw of the man who stood before her.
“Yes,” she whispered.
Mindy Klasky learned to read when her parents shoved a book in her hands and told her she could travel anywhere in the world through stories. She never forgot that advice.
Mindy's travels took her through multiple careers - from litigator to librarian to full-time writer. Mindy's travels have also taken her through various literary genres for readers of all ages - from traditional fantasy to paranormal chick-lit to category romance, from middle-grade to young adult to adult.
In her spare time, Mindy knits, quilts, and tries to tame her endless to-be-read shelf. Her husband and cats do their best to fill the leftover minutes.
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