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(Miracles at Mills Landing, Book 1)
(Miracles at Mills Landing, Book 1)
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. ~Galatians 6:2~
Nate Saylor slouched in the padded leather desk chair and scowled as a crimson banner emblazoned with the latest sport-news updates flashed across the bottom of the flat screen mounted to the wall above a row of shelves. Footage of yesterday’s playoff game—and his game-losing fumble—replayed over and over. An announcer’s muffled voice issued humiliating blow-by-blow commentary.
“Where did those reporters get their information?” The words scalded Nate’s throat as his gaze followed the dropped football and then the scathing words on the banner. He crossed his arms tight over his chest and flexed his fingers. “What they’re reporting is a bunch of hogwash—the farthest thing from the truth.”
His agent, Stan Moore, tossed a pen onto the cluttered oak desk and massaged his temples, exhaling loudly. “Once it’s in print, Nate, it’s true.” He reached for the remote and muted the offensive sound. “And this, my friend, is definitely in full-blown print.”
“So I see.” Nate crossed one leg over his knee and grimaced. His body was bruised and battered from yesterday’s assault. Not that it mattered to any of the fans. All anyone seemed to care about was what they deemed to be his flagrant errors, both on and off the field. “Can’t you contact someone at the news station and get those statements retracted?”
“Retracted?” Stan snorted. “Maybe, after I’ve cleaned up this mess.” He pulled a newspaper from the top shelf and shoved a stack of files aside before slapping it down on the desk. He jabbed the print with his index finger. “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
“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.”
Shayna Grady’s eyes filled with tears as she stepped into the Mill’s Landing Children’s Hospital hallway to listen to Dr. Garrison’s soft-spoken voice.
“Zac’s blood work is discouraging this go-round.” Dr. Garrison shook his grizzled head. “We’ll need to run some more tests, but it’s not very promising. I think Zac’s best bet is going to be a bone marrow transplant.”
“But Zac doesn’t have any siblings, and his father—“
“I understand. But there are other options. We’ll add him to the BMT registry immediately—as a priority candidate.” Shayna dabbed her eyes with a tissue. “I really hoped it wouldn’t come to this.” Dr. Garrison scribbled a note on Zac’s chart, and then leveled his gaze to meet Shayna’s. “But at least it provides a measure of hope.”
“And what are the chances of finding a suitable match in time?”
“One in ten-to-twenty-thousand that a viable match for an allogeneic BMT will be found in time. Unfortunately, the transplantation of stem cells from someone other than Zac himself is a long shot, but if we want to bring Zac’s leukemia into remission, it’s our best option at this point.”
“No.” Shayna gasped, and the tears flooded over. Her voice was thick, and the words came with great difficulty. She glanced into the hospital room where Zac lay curled in the bed, clutching a teddy bear dressed in a signature blue Tennessee Titans jersey. His smooth head peeked above the starched, white sheet, and a Titan’s ball cap tumbled to the side of the pillow, exposing a dusting of spiky-red curls that were just beginning to grow back to cover his pale scalp. “Is there anything we can do to improve the odds?”
“Pray, Shayna…just pray.”
“I have been praying. I just…”
“There’s someone here to see you.” Dr. Garrison took her by the elbow and led her toward a row of vending machines at the end of the hall. Off to the side was a small, sunlit room where families could gather to share a quick meal or a respite from the stark hospital rooms. “She’s a volunteer from the Moments for Miracles Foundation.”
“Oh, yes. I took your advice and contacted her a few weeks ago.” Shayna’s stomach growled, and she realized it had been a full day since her last meal. She felt a bit lightheaded as she continued. She’d need to get something into her belly soon. “She’s probably here to follow up.”
“They don’t just grant children’s wishes, Shayna. Perhaps there’s something you’d like to have, as well.” It was more of a question than a statement.
“My wish—and prayer—is to see Zac get better and be fully healed.” She crossed her arms over her rumbling belly to calm the hunger-storm that surged. “Can this foundation find a donor for him?”
“Unfortunately, no. That’s not their purpose.” Dr. Garrison shook his head. “But what they can do is give Zac a little dose of happiness—grant a wish for something he’d truly like…something tangible. Laura Evans, the volunteer, will explain.”
Shayna glanced into the room to see a dark-haired woman seated at a small, round table. She sipped from a foam cup as she sorted through a file of papers. “I’m so glad she came, but this will have to be quick. I need to get back to Zac. He’s sure to wake soon, and he’ll be frightened if I’m not there.” Shayna fished in her jeans pocket for a handful of coins. She counted out seventy-five cents and slipped it into a vending machine, jabbing the buttons until a bag of pretzels dropped into the dispenser.
“I’ll be back to check on Zac this evening.” Dr. Garrison squeezed her shoulder gently. “Promise you’ll eat more than those pretzels, Shayna. You need to keep up your strength.”
“I’ll try.” Shayna grabbed the pretzel bag from the dispenser, thankful to know a pediatric oncologist who cared about so much more than vital signs and prescriptions. She nodded slightly and offered a halfhearted grin before turning away to enter the sunlit room.
As she approached the table, Laura Evans glanced up and smiled. “Mrs. Grady?”
“It’s so nice to meet you.” She extended a hand, her bright blue eyes full of compassion. “I’m Laura. May we talk for a bit?”
“That would be fine…but not for too long.” Shayna slipped into a chair and stretched the kinks from her back. Outside, sunlight danced across the river beyond the hospital parking lot. Shayna was thankful she lived so close to one of the best children’s hospitals in the nation—one that specialized in cancer treatments. Mill’s Landing was as good as it got, and with her house only a few miles away, at least she and Zac were afforded some sense of comfort and familiarity, despite his illness. “I have to get back to my son soon.”
“Of course.” Laura nodded and flipped open a file folder, then took a pen from her purse. “Go ahead and eat your pretzels while we talk. I’m just here to fill you in on the steps we’re taking to grant Zac’s request to meet Nate Saylor.”
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