Knocked UpBy: Christine Bell
Luke Anderson had exactly two things on his mind: Getting the f&%k out of Alhouette, Louisiana, and opening his own bike shop. But when he meets sweet little Tawny Mitchell at a bonfire by the lake, things get so hot, he’s almost tempted to stay in town a while longer.
Tawny Mitchell has her life perfectly planned now that she’s graduated college. Become a school nurse, form some roots in a small town and, eventually, find a kind, hard-working man to start a family with. The type of loving, close-knit family she never had growing up. But when her best friend convinces her to go to a party and let her hair down, just this once, she never dreams that the consequences of that steamy summer night will change everything…
"Come on, come on, come on."
Tawny Mitchell tapped the top of the 1990's printer in the corner of the college library and blew a strand of brown hair out of her face.
After checking nearly every hall on campus, she'd only been able to find one available printer, and based on the state of the thing and the random, ominous beeping sound it emitted every three seconds, she had to guess this one only had a few days before being put out to pasture.
Not that it mattered. By this afternoon, this school and all its outdated and overworked equipment would all be behind her. Of course, that would depend on her damned paper actually printing before the afternoon was over.
She glanced at the clock and tapped the top of the printer a little harder. She had exactly five minutes to catch the final moments of her Civics class, hand in her last-ever essay, and then she could kiss this school goodbye.
The printer groaned a long-suffering sigh, then spat her paper out so harshly that it smudged the words at the end of the page.
She waited, foot tapping, as the next nine pages followed in similar fashion. Then, stapling all her hard last-minute work together, she sprinted from the library and rushed down the steps and across the lawn until she’d reached the science building.
Her sandals slapped the linoleum floors so loudly that she was sure everyone in the hall could hear her, but she didn’t slow down. Instead, she skidded around the corner of the long, narrow hallway and stopped short just as Doctor Jeffries was shutting the door behind him. Panic settled over her as she realized she was two minutes too late.
“Doctor, I—” she started, practically throwing the paper at him as she spoke.
He glanced down at it, then frowned slightly and took it.
“I’d been wondering where you were, Tawny,” he muttered.
“Right. It’s…a long story.” She breathed out her nose, then added, “Thanks. For taking it, I mean.”
“Consider it a graduation present.” The doctor offered her the smallest glimpse of a smile, then said, “Happy summer.”
“You too.” She watched as the balding, lanky man trailed past her and made his way to the spiral staircase in the middle of the hall. When he’d finally made it up to the second floor, Tawny slumped against the door and let out the breath she felt like she’d been holding for four years.
She was done. College was over. All she had to do was walk across that stage and grab her diploma, and she could finally start her life.
"You okay over there?" A familiar voice, thick with a northern Louisiana accent, interrupted her quiet moment of celebration and Tawny looked up to find her best friend, Suzette, peeking at her from around the corner.
"Oh, hey," Tawny said.
Suzette's normal shock of bright red lipstick seemed even brighter than usual today, and her trademark Dolly-Parton-meets-Daisy-Duke ensemble was in full swing. She cocked her slender hip as she surveyed Tawny suspiciously. "I didn't see you on the quad. You were supposed to meet me twenty minutes ago. I figured you got stuck here doing extra credit or something."
Suzette took a moment to glance around the hall and Tawny wondered if it was the first time her friend had even bothered to see the inside of one of the campus' buildings besides the dorms and the cafeteria. Between cheerleading, field hockey, and playing flag girl to all the unofficial motorcycle races in town, she wasn't sure Suzette had actually managed to pick up a textbook in the past few years she'd spent here. Somehow, though, she’d managed to squeak by and now they were on their way to graduating.