But as I said, I'm never disappointed, so as soon as I see a new one, guess what I'll be reading next! So here I was, just checking what's new from my favorite site, Pelican Books, and what to my wondering eyes should appear...but a new one from Mary. So let's check it out!
NFL running back Nate Saylor is the best in the league, a star in his own universe…until a brush with the law tarnishes his career. When his agent suggests he sign on with the Moments for Miracles Foundation, a charity organization that grants wishes to kids with life-threatening illnesses, Nate agrees with a half-hearted shrug, never expecting to be contacted. As the offseason begins, he retires to his property on the outskirts of Mill’s Landing, secluded from the press…and fans that are so quick to judge.
Shayna Grady is a single mom struggling to stay afloat financially while tending to the needs of her son, Zac, who’s been struck with childhood leukemia. A bone marrow transplant is Zac's only hope for survival, but a match has yet to be found. While they wait, Shayna plans to see that Zac’s special wish is granted…to spend a day with his hero—NFL running back Nate Saylor. Though Shayna has reservations about pairing her son with the player whose blistered more than his fair share of negative headlines, she writes a heartfelt letter to the Moments for Miracles Foundation, pleading for their help.
Shayna’s letter—and her love for her son—are a pick-six to Nate’s heart. He finds himself longing for more, but is it too late to grant Zac’s wish…and to prove to Shayna there’s more to him than newspaper headlines reveal?
“Nice headline, huh? And get a load of that photo.”
“Let me see that.” Nate gasped as he scanned the print beneath a snapshot of him sporting a pair of handcuffs while he was loaded into the backseat of a police cruiser. The bold-print, oversized font screamed at him.
Playoff disgrace, Nate Saylor, arrested for assault following devastating loss.
“That jerk at the restaurant deserved to get his clock cleaned.” Nate tossed the paper aside. “Besides, one dropped pass and I’m a disgrace?”
“You were in the end zone, and the pass did land right in your sweet spot.” Stan pinched the bridge of his nose as he slowly shook his head. “And the touchdown would have launched the team straight to the Super Bowl.”
“Don’t rub it in. I’ve relived that moment I don’t know how many times during the past twenty-four hours.”
“I’ll bet. You look like you haven’t slept a wink.”
“How could I…with this hanging over my head?” He crumpled the paper. “It’s ludicrous.”
“Well, whatever we think now, the damage is done. There’s no point in rehashing it.” Stan took a roll of antacid tablets from his shirt pocket and popped one into his mouth. “Besides, you know how the media suffers from a love-hate relationship with the NFL, especially during playoff season.”
“As for the rest of it—what happened after the game—they’ve got it all wrong.” Could it get any worse? A flush of heat curled up Nate’s spine as his temper flashed. “They’re missing half the facts.”
“Thank goodness for that.” Stan chewed, swallowed, and slipped a second tablet into his mouth. “Should have bought stock in these.” He tucked the roll back into his pocket.
“You know it didn’t go down that way, Stan.” Nate leaned forward in the chair. “Off the field I don’t go around provoking people.”
“Of course, I know that.” Stan picked up the pen he’d tossed and jotted a note on the desk blotter. “But it doesn’t matter. Like I said, the damage is done.”
“Well, it matters to me.”
“Regardless…we have a mess to clean up. I got a call from Worldwide Sporting Goods. They’ve dropped your contract.”
“That’s not all. By lunch, Pro Fitness did the same.”
Blood rushed through Nate’s ears as his pressure rose. “Can they do that?”
“You broke their image clause, Nate. They can do whatever they want.”
“I should call them and explain.” Nate reached into his pocket for his cell phone. “Once I tell them how it really went down—”
“No!” Stan lunged across the desk, toppling his foam coffee cup. Muddy brew splattered file folders. “Give me your phone.”
“But I can make them understand.”
“Understand what, Nate?” Stan grabbed Nate’s cell phone. “That the star running back for the Tennessee Titans had a meltdown after an embarrassing playoff loss and managed to get himself arrested?”
“I didn’t have a meltdown. I told you, I was—”
“Tell it to the judge, Nate.” Stan removed the battery from the phone and slipped it into one pants pocket. The case went into his other. Then he reached for a tissue and began to mop up the spill. “Take a breath before you dig a deeper hole.”
“It can’t get any deeper.”
“Oh, I assure you it can.” Stan lobbed the soiled tissue into the trash can.
“So, what am I supposed to do?”
“We did get a third phone call…one you might want to consider.”
“Tell me more.”
“Have you ever heard of a foundation called Moments for Miracles?”
“Well, they’re interested in you.”
“I don’t understand.”
“They grant wishes to critically ill children.”
Nate sat back in the chair, resting his hands across his knotted belly. “You mean, kids who are going to die?”
“Some of them—most of them—will.” Stan nodded. “But the rest…”
“I don’t think I can handle that.”
“You don’t have a choice, Nate. You need damage control, and this is just what the doctor ordered—no pun intended.” Stan shook his head. “Besides, doing this might lead to a breakthrough of some sort for you, which can only be a good thing. If you don’t let go of the past, it’s eventually going to consume you.”
“You know what I’ve been through, Stan, as far as that goes. This whole mess…well, you know where it started.”
“That’s my whole point, Nate.” He picked up the pen and twirled it in his fingers. “Yes, I know. I was there, remember?”
“Then, you should know better than anyone that I just can’t do what you’re asking.”
“Yes, you can do it.” Stan tossed the newspaper into Nate’s lap. “Go home, Nate, and keep your nose clean. I’ll contact the director of Moments for Miracles, pull some strings, and orchestrate a measure of damage control.”
“I can fight this battle without your meddling.”
“No, you can’t. You’re in too deep, Nate. Trust me on this.”
Nate tossed the newspaper back onto the desk and raked a hand through his hair. Could he trust Stan? The two had been friends for years before entering into an agent-athlete partnership. Nate’s gut roiled as the ESPN ticker tape continued to flash news of the previous night’s escapades. From the look of things, he didn’t have much of a choice. Right now, Stan was his lifeline. “OK, I’ll let you deal with it.”
“Good. That’s why you pay me the big bucks.” Stan slipped the newspaper back into the file drawer. “Pack a bag, Nate, and head back to Mill’s Landing. Relax and enjoy some down time, now that the season is over. Just promise me you’ll stay out of trouble.”
“I can manage that—if you keep the press away.”
“I’ll do my best.” Stan nodded. “In the meantime, why don’t you catch up on a bit of reading?”
“What type of reading?”
“The type that will help screw your head back on straight.” Stan handed him a soft-cover book. “It’s a devotional. I have a copy of my own, and I’ve read it cover to cover. You should do the same.”
The words stabbed Nate. He had been caught up in the season, but this run of bad luck with the press was the wake-up call he needed. Maybe. He slipped the book into his jeans pocket. “Thanks.”
“I’ve got you covered.” Stan nodded. “Now, go home. I’ll call you in a couple of days.”
What a wonderful story! Be ready with a box of tissues, though, I've got to warn you. This one is a tear-jerker. Ms. Manners covers a sensitive topic with a very light hand showing her Christian heart to all the world through her characters.
Shayna, is a wonderful mother, striving only to be strong enough for Zac to count on no matter what happens.
And Nate is a kindhearted soul, surprising even himself sometimes with the depth of his feelings for this mother and child.
If you like a sweet romance that tugs at your heartstrings, this is a good one!
Mary Manners is an award-winning author of inspirational romance who lives in the beautiful foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee with her husband and teen-aged daughter. She is a member of the Romance Writers of America and Smoky Mountain Romance Writers.
During the school year, she teaches middle-schoolers reading and Algebra. In her free time, she likes to garden, take long walks with her husband, and read romance novels in a hammock beneath century-old shade trees.
Visit Mary at www.marymannersromance.com