Paolo Lancaster was a character we first introduced in At First Touch, the Germany Football (Soccer) story in the International Men of Sports series with TA Chase. Since we work together on our books, it's really helpful (and damn near required!) for us to find photos of the characters as we envision them in our heads to help out the other author. It was pretty easy for me to choose a real life person (in this case Thyago Alves) who fit my mental image of our highly paid, partying, prima donna of a goalie.
Here's an excerpt from At First Touch where he begins to grow from a two-dimensional background character into a secondary character who ended up needing his own book:
“King’s right, Paddy. You gotta watch what you say. Kids out there look up to you and when they hear you say shit like that, they think it’s okay for them to say it.” Paolo rested his hand on Padraig’s shoulder. “Then those kids treat other kids like that. It’s a vicious cycle, man, and we have to figure out how to break it.”
Blinking, Ewansiha wondered where this Paolo had come from and who had switched them. Whatever Paolo’s opinions had been before this, the man had never expressed them, and he was Padraig’s best friend, so he should’ve been the one to say something earlier.
“But why would they think that?” Padraig looked puzzled. “And anyway, why shouldn’t I speak up when I think something’s wrong?”
“Because the way you do it encourages anger and hatred against people who aren’t any different from you.” Paolo took a deep breath then said, “If I told you I was gay, would it change how I play football? Would it change how you think of me, and what you thought you knew about me?”
Shocked silence reigned while Padraig’s eyes widened. Ewansiha saw him pale.
“Are you?” Padraig whispered, and only Paolo and Ewansiha heard his question.
Paolo licked his lips, then shot Ewansiha a quick glance before he smiled slightly. “Nah, but see? My question got you thinking, didn’t it, Paddy? That’s all I’m asking at the moment. Just think before you speak.”
Right now we're working on A Grand Prix Romance, in which Paolo heads to Monaco at the end of the season for the Grand Prix. He loves high performance cars and all of the glitzy party atmosphere that goes on in Monaco, both at the casinos and having to do with the race. But he's needing the annual trip more than usual this year because he's beginning to wonder what the point of his current lifestyle is.
Paolo glanced at his phone and grinned before answering in German, “Hey, kid.” He’d been about to get out of his car but settled back into the Ferrari’s driver seat to be comfortable for the conversation.
The animated voice of Xav, his teammates’ teenage foster son, came across the line. “Oh my God, I just read online that you got called up to the national team. What does that mean? Are you moving? I didn’t even get to see your last game with our team--”
At the growing disappointment in Xav’s voice, Paolo cut in and soothed, “Whoa, whoa. Slow down. It wasn’t my last game here. It’s pretty common for players to get called up to fill a hole for a game or two, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to be a permanent member.” Not unless the fantastic goalkeeper Germany had either got injured or retired--unlikely to happen anytime soon, maybe not even in his career since they were the same age. He inhaled to try to rid himself of the familiar and gnawing sense of futility, that he’d reached the pinnacle of his career without any future advancement in sight...unless of course he moved to a different country and started over.
“Oh. Does that mean you aren’t going to be on the World Cup team then?”
“No.” He strove to keep the bitterness out of his voice. The kid didn’t deserve his drama. “Not this time.” And with four years between World Cups, he’d be lucky to still be playing for two more, much less make it onto the German national team’s roster.
“Huh.” Xav sounded deflated. “I’m not sure if I’m happy or disappointed.”
Paolo had to smile. Nothing like a young person to lay it all out there and keep things in perspective. “Yeah, I know what you mean.”
“Okay, well, I know you’re probably late to practice as usual, so I won’t keep you.”
“Brat.” It was true, though, so Paolo couldn’t be mad about the tease. “I’m already at the stadium.” Technically. He was in the parking lot. “Don’t worry. You’ll be seeing plenty of me. Can’t get rid of me that easy.”
They said their goodbyes then Paolo reluctantly got out of his beloved sports car--the latest in a long line of favorite high performance cars. His previous Ferrari had been totalled by a one-week stand who had taken it for a joy ride while Paolo had slept off the late nights and too much alcohol. Thankfully the woman hadn’t been injured, but his baby’s frame had been irreparably damaged, so he’d been forced to replace her--the car, not the woman.
Sergio rose and walked with Paolo to the door to the corridor leading towards the field. “I…” He cleared his throat, and Paolo glanced down at the usually self-assured trainer in surprise.
“What is it?”
Sergio evidently changed his mind about what he’d been about to say because his expression went from ill-at-ease to his usual humor. “It’s time you stopped with the Greta Garbo ‘I vant to be alone’ bit. We’ve missed seeing you at Lukas’. Maybe you could stop by sometime. Like tonight.”
Paolo knew a command when he heard one. He supposed he was just lucky they’d let him get away with it this long. “Fine,” he sighed. “Gotta go or practice will be over before I get there.”
“Go on then.” Sergio patted his ass then headed to his office.
Paolo just shook his head and jogged out to the field. Lukas and King each gave him a wave from across the pitch as he ran towards the far goal. He glanced at Paddy, but no change there. He was doing a great job of pretending Paolo didn’t exist.
While he warmed up, he put his game face on and pretended he didn’t care. The season would be over soon and he’d be heading away from everything and everyone to indulge in his favorite treat--Monaco during the Grand Prix. The high performance machines, casinos, glitz and glamor, constant parties. He was ready to leave behind the disappointing stagnation of his life here and lose himself in the hedonism that combined everything he loved. Maybe he’d even get his libido back and find someone to have a holiday ‘romance’ with.
Paolo put his gloves on and clapped them together several times, giving the player facing him a cocky nod. “Bring it!” he shouted. Time to do what they paid him for.
Here's hoping Paolo finds some answers--or at least a little bit of fun--in Monaco... I have a feeling he will. :)