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MIRACLE ROAD
by Emily March

Genre: General Contemporary Romance, Contemporary Romance

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March

Central Texas

March Madness.

Lucca Romano stood at the window of his office on the campus of Landry University and gazed out at green grass and purple bearded irises without actually seeing them. In his mind’s eye he focused on another place, another time, when a white ten-passenger van traveled a ribbon of dark asphalt highway bisecting a barren winter plain.

Despite the warm sunshine beaming through the window glass, cold permeated Lucca’s bones, and he shuddered as the memory washed over him. Pings and whooshes as text messages arrive and depart from a half-dozen different cellphones. The rhythmic beat of rap. Young men’s laughter as a yapping chocolate brown puppy claws his way over the front passenger seat.

Everyone’s spirits are high after a win, especially after the first win of the season. Sure, it was just an exhibition game, but it proved that the Midwest State University Ravens are tough competitors.

“Keep the dog in the back,” Lucca says, reaching for the little pup. Why had he allowed Seth Seidel to bring that dog home, anyway? The kid lives in a dorm. He has nowhere to keep a dog.

He’d done it because the people selling the puppies out of the back of their truck had been puppy mill people. Lucca’s own heart had gone as soft as Seth’s upon seeing the “display.” Lucca had even loaned the kid some cash to buy the dog.

“Sucker,” he mutters, passing the pup now christened “Sparky” to the backseat.

Five minutes later, Sparky is back. Lucca sighs and stretches for the puppy. Sparky wiggles out of his hand and falls, his sharp little claws reaching for purchase and finding the driver’s arm. The driver startles and stomps the brake, and in an instant, Lucca’s world changes forever.

The wheels lock. Tires skid on black ice. The van slides . . . slides. . . slides in slow motion.

Standing in his sun-drenched office, seventeen months and a thousand miles away from the horror, Lucca swayed and reached out to brace himself against the inevitable crash.

Tires skid off the road, and the van tilts, then rolls, again and again and again. People and possessions fly. The boys scream. Lucca’s body jerks against the seat belt. His head hits something hard, and the world goes black.

He regains consciousness with a pounding head; cold, icy air; and panicked voices. “Alan? Oh, God. Alan! Coach! Somebody! Help me! Coach!”

He opens his eyes and sees splatters of blood on the dashboard.

“Coach?”

Jerked back to the present, Lucca glanced over his shoulder to see his graduate assistant in his office doorway, a puzzled expression on his face. How long had he been standing there?

Lucca cleared his throat. “Yes?”

“It’s ten after four.”

Lucca’s gaze shifted to the clock on his wall. He had called a team meeting for four o’clock, so he was late. He was never late. No wonder his assistant looked confused. “I’ll be right there.”