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Genre: Sweet contemporary Romance
Length: 222 pages
Blurb: After an auto accident destroys his pro-football career, Matt McCallum struggles to find a new dream for his life, but nothing engages him the way football did. After a stint in rehab, he takes a job managing a grocery store where he meets Violet Emerson.
Violet works in the bakery department, but her dreams carry her far beyond the doors of Chef’s Pantry. As soon as she can save the money, she plans to open a catering business. And she thinks the new manager’s broad shoulders and blue eyes are simply divine.
Thrown together at work, Matt and Violet find a common dream for their lives, but a loose end from Matt’s past returns to jeopardize their future. Will love be enough to save their new dream before it turns into a nightmare?
The red convertible cut a path through the moonlight, its
headlights dancing along the arched limbs of the trees above the
“Oh, Matt, it’s such a beautiful night,” Stacey declared with
a sigh. “I’m going to miss you when you leave tomorrow.”
Matt reached for her hand and brought it to his lips. “I’ll
miss you too, but if I don’t report on time, I’m in trouble with the
“That’s what I get for falling in love with a pro football
player,” Stacey teased, her blonde hair turned to frosted silver by
the light of the full moon above them.
Matt squeezed her hand that wore his engagement ring. “It’s
too late to back out now,” he teased. “You’re mine.”
“Mmm, do I like the sound of that!”
The car rounded a curve, and without warning a deer
bounded across the road.
“Look out!” Stacey screamed.
Matt braked sharply to avoid the animal. The tires slid on a
patch of loose gravel in the road, and he lost control of the
convertible. It fishtailed and started to spin in the road.
Matt hauled the steering wheel to correct the slide, but it was
useless. The car turned around once more and skidded backwards
for a short distance before it charged off the road. It jumped a steep
ditch and went airborne. All Matt could see was a blur of trees and
darkness as the car careened into the woods. It made a lazy turn in
the air and came to rest bottom side up.
The last thing he remembered was the sound of Stacey’s
Marilyn McCallum drew a deep, shaky breath and groped
for her husband’s hand. “We’ve been waiting for hours now,” she
quavered. “What could be going on in that operating room, Rod?”
Rod never answered. His face contorted and he sprang to his
feet as a nurse approached. “Would you like some more coffee?”
“We’d like to know about our son,” Rod answered. “Is
everything okay? He’s been in there so long.”
Nurse Whittaker patted him on the shoulder. “Please, don’t
worry. Dr. Williams is the best doctor on staff. He’ll do everything
As she bustled away, Stacey Thomas, who sat beside
Marilyn, dropped her head into her hands. Marilyn tried to ignore
the smear of blood across the girl’s back. She swallowed hard
against sudden nausea. Stacey was fine even though Matt’s fate
was still up in the air. “Hang on. It can’t be long now.”
Tears slid down Stacey’s face. “This isn’t the way the day
was supposed to end. Matt and I had a beautiful time, but now…”
A tall man in sweat-‐‑stained surgical scrubs approached
them. “Mr. and Mrs. McCallum?” The doctor’s voice brought all
three of them to their feet.
“How is he?” begged Marilyn, her eyes anxious, wide, and
staring in her white face.
“Better than I expected,” the doctor admitted. “His left leg
was mangled from the knee down. It took a long time, but I think
we’ve saved it. He has four screws and two plates, and he’ll
undoubtedly have a limp for the rest of his life, but we did save his
“He kicks with his right leg anyway,” Rod muttered.
“Ah, well, that’s the other thing I wanted to talk to you
about. I’m sorry, Mr. McCallum. I saw him play last year, so I know
he had a wonderful career in front of him, but in spite of everything
we did, his right leg was hurt too bad to save. We had to amputate
right above his knee.”
“At least he’s alive,” Marilyn sobbed as she rhythmically
shredded a tissue. “I don’t care about his leg; I just want my son to
“I can almost promise you he will,” the doctor comforted
her. “Barring unforeseen complications, he’s going to be fine, and
as soon as his leg heals we’ll fit a prosthesis on him and teach him
how to walk again.”
“When can we see him?” Marilyn begged as she wiped away
“He’s in Recovery now. We plan to put him in ICU until he’s
stable. The last thing we need is an infection, and we can watch him
better there. We’ll let you know as soon as he gets there. Then you
can see him for a minute.”
Rod groped for the sofa and fell backwards onto the
miserable thing. “The best kicker in thirty years,” he whispered,
quoting what a sports announcer had said on TV only hours earlier.
“The best kicker in thirty years, and now they have to teach him to
He jumped up as if he’d sat on a porcupine. “I’m going
home, Marilyn. Are you coming?”
Marilyn’s eyes bugged. “Are you serious? I’m not leaving
until I’ve seen him.”
“I… I’ll… go with you. I need to tell my parents Matt’s out
Marilyn watched in amazement as Rod and Stacey hurried
away and sat back to continue her vigil alone.
Matt awoke early the next morning because the dull, aching
pain in his legs made him sick to his stomach. Must have been one
rough practice, he thought. He didn’t much want to get up yet. He
still felt tired out and kind of …heavy. Yeah, that was it; he felt
heavy. Too heavy in fact to bother opening his eyes, but Stacey was
holding his hand, so he forced himself to wake up.
A short, round, little woman, not Stacey, held his wrist. The
way she looked at her watch he decided she must be taking his
pulse. Where was he? What had happened to him?
He had to clear his throat before he could speak. “Who are
you?” he croaked.
She beamed at him as if he had done something wonderful.
“Oh, you’re awake now. I’m Nurse Whitaker. How do you feel?”
“I’m tired, and my legs hurt. Where am I?”
“You had a car accident last night, Mr. McCallum.” She
pulled a sheet and a thin white blanket across his chest. “You’re in
“Your girlfriend is fine. Don’t worry about her.”
Matt closed his eyes for a moment and rubbed his throbbing
temples. “I don’t remember what happened.”
“That’s normal. You may never remember everything.”
Matt tried to sit up, but he couldn’t muster enough energy.
“What’s wrong with me? Why is it so hard to sit up?”
“Oh, that’s because of the medication we gave you to help
you rest.” She patted his arm and checked an IV that he hadn’t
noticed until she touched it. “We didn’t want you tossing and
turning all night.”
“What’s wrong with me?” he repeated.
“Shh, don’t worry about that now. The doctor can talk to
you later when you feel better.”
Matt didn’t like the blank expression on the nurse’s face at
all. I must be hurt pretty bad. “No, tell me now,” he insisted.
Nurse Whittaker stuck a thermometer in his mouth. “You
have some trauma to your legs, Mr. McCallum, but the doctor says
you’re going to be fine.”
Matt spit the thermometer out. “Trauma to my legs?”
“Yes, sir, and I’d rather you talk to Dr. Williams about it.”
It’s bad. It has to be. “Tell me,” he demanded.
Matt forced himself to sit up. His head spun and made his
stomach turn over, but he managed to pull the sheet off his right
leg. Wow, he must really be out of it. It looked like most of his leg
was gone. He shook his head to clear away the cobwebs and looked
again. His leg was gone!
He started to shake and grabbed the nurse by the arm.
“Where’s my leg?” he cried.
The nurse took a look at one of the monitors in the room and
called, “Jenny, would you bring me another dose of Mr.
A nurse arrived with a syringe which she injected into
Matt’s IV. “There you are,” she soothed. “You’ll be comfortable in a
Dizziness washed over Matt. “What did…you…give…me?”
“Something to make you rest,” Nurse Whitaker answered.
“You go to sleep and don’t worry about a thing. We’re taking very
good care of you.”
Stacey shuddered and splashed some more water on her
face. The nausea had passed now. She staggered back into her
bedroom and threw herself across her bed. Matt’s legs looked
horrible! She’d give anything not to have been at the hospital when
the bandages came off. It had been bad enough when a sheet
covered Matt, but to actually see his mutilated legs turned her
stomach and made her feel faint.
She knew one thing, though. Until this afternoon she hadn’t
really understood that Matt’s football career had ended. Oh, she
realized he had lost a leg, but somehow it hadn’t been real to her
until she saw it for herself.
Rolling over, she curled into a tight, little ball. She had had
such fun going places with Matt. People always recognized him
and wanted his autograph. He had plenty of money too, and he
wasn’t stingy with it. The fame and money had thrilled her, but it
was all over and done with now. No more autographs or big
Her stomach lurched again. She had more than just fame
and money to worry about. Matt had wanted to kiss her this
afternoon. In fact, when the doctor came in to take off Matt’s
bandages he had caught her sitting on the edge of the bed kissing
Matt. The doctor had kidded him about it, but she hadn’t minded
being interrupted at all. She…didn’t like to touch him too much
Her thoughts drifted to the afternoon of their accident. Their
parents wouldn’t approve, but she and Matt had gone to Greenville
and checked into a luxury hotel that morning. They had spent his
last day of freedom in bed together. She drew a deep, shaky breath.
The day had been everything she’d dreamed it could be. Her body
tightened with the faint echo of passion. Matt was a good lover.
Oh, why did they have to have such a terrible accident? What
would happen to Matt now? Her engagement ring winked and
twinkled as it caught the light. She stared at it for a moment and
began to cry.
Matt stared at the empty physical therapy room and took a
sip of the hospital brew the physical therapy assistant had given
him. It could use a little work, but it did have a much needed jolt of
caffeine in it. He sighed, blinking away sleep. Why’d they schedule
him so early in the morning? He could have slept a little longer. It
wasn’t like he had anything to do.
The door opened with a click, and a tall, well-‐‑built, young
man with dark hair entered the physical therapy office.
The man poured himself a cup of coffee. “Who’s the new
The physical therapy assistant, Betty she’d said her name
was, shoved a folder at him. “Matt McCallum.”
“Oh, yeah. Man, that’s a shame.”
Betty scowled at him. “It’s always a shame when people are
hurt as bad as he was, Being a football player doesn’t make him
any different from anyone else.”
“I know and I didn’t mean anything bad. It’s just that he
played one year of pro ball, and it looked like he was going to be
one of the greats. Now, he’s here to get fitted for a prosthesis.”
“Well, I think he needs some counseling. He has that dull,
withdrawn, shell-‐‑shocked look on his face.”
“Most amputees feel that way in the beginning,” the man
answered. “We can schedule him with Dr. Whitney if we need
Matt’s fists clenched. Didn’t they know he could hear them?
Didn’t they know how it made him feel for them to talk about him
like he was an old, washed up nobody?
The man picked up a file and joined him in the waiting area.
“Hi, Matt. I’m Sam Dickson.”
He held out his hand, and Matt took it briefly.
Sam indicated the file in his hand. “It says here you got the
bandages off yesterday and that the stump is nicely healed. Is that
Matt shrugged. “I guess.”
“Your other leg is banged up pretty bad too, so we have to
work with that as well, but the sooner we get started, the better off
“That’s what they say.”
Sam nodded. “Okay, today I’ll show you how to take care of
yourself. After that we’ll fit you for a temporary prosthesis.”
Matt’s head spun; he swallowed hard and focused on a bar
mounted on the wall to steady himself. “All right.”
Matt was a quick study. He paid close attention when Sam
showed him how to clean and protect the stump. Then, Sam passed
him the sock that went over it. “You put it on,” he said.
Matt repressed the shudder that shook him as he pulled the
sock on and smoothed it. “Very good,” Sam approved. “I hope
your motivation is this good once we get you up to walk.” He
laughed. “As a former athlete, a physical task might be more
appealing than what you just learned.”
Matt drew a deep, shaky breath. Of course he was
motivated! It humiliated him when anybody saw his legs or had to
help him get around. He was desperate to regain some control over
his own body.
A tall, striking brunette passed through the room and
waved to Sam who grinned and waved back at her. “Gorgeous isn’t
she?” he asked Matt, the look on his face reminding Matt of a
gamboling, goofy puppy. “Layla is her name. I’ve been trying to
get her to go out with me.”
Matt barely glanced at her. “Yeah, she’s pretty.”
Sam eyed Matt with a quizzical expression on his face.
“That was sure lukewarm, buddy. A woman that drop dead
gorgeous ought to get your heart pumping. Are you worried about
women now that you’ve lost your leg?”
Matt’s face colored, but he made no reply.
“Man, you need to think about how lucky you are. I know
you’ve lost a lot, but you can still be with a woman and father
children. Hurting your legs doesn’t mean the romantic side of life is
over for you.”
Matt raised his eyes to Sam’s for the first time. “You left out
“Not too many women are interested in having sex with a
cripple. Seeing a stump like mine is a good way to kill the
Sam squatted down so he and Matt were on eye level with
each other. “Matt, the nurses said you’re engaged. Have you talked
to your fiancée about all this?”
“That won’t be necessary. Stacey was with me yesterday
when the bandages came off. She turned as white as a sheet and
said she had to go home. A messenger brought her engagement
ring to me this morning.”
Matt cringed when he saw the look of pity of Sam’s face.
His stark, unemotional rendering of the facts hadn’t fooled the
Sam slapped his shoulder and said, “Not all women are like
that, buddy. Some of them will stand by a man through thick and
thin. Next time you’ll choose better, right?” He stood up and took
hold of the handles on Matt’s wheelchair. “Let’s see about fitting
that prosthesis so we can get you walking again.”