Somewhere in Pennsylvania…
"Come on, Keesha!" Evangeline nudged her cousin as they entered the roadside convenience store. They were still in Pennsylvania with half a day's journey ahead of them to reach Atlanta. After lengthy study sessions and grueling finals, Evangeline anticipated Spring Break and the chance to enjoy herself with friends. She only hoped that her cousin would muster some enthusiasm for the trip.
"I warned you that I wasn't ready for this," Keesha grumbled. "You should have just left me at home, but would you listen? No. You never listen!"
"I was not about to leave you in Philadelphia with Uncle David glowering and muttering 'I told you so' under his breath," Evangeline replied. She grabbed a supersize bag of chips and gestured with her hand. "That's not what you need to hear at a time like this."
"No, I need to crawl under a rock--"
"Jason Morgan is not worth it! No slight to his head injuries, but he's an idiot. You were the best thing that ever happened to him. If he's too dense to realize it, screw him. There are so many great guys out there, just waiting for a chance to know you."
"Evangeline, please." Keesha snatched packages of Ho-Ho's from the end display. "Not every man is as great or wonderful as John McBain. You cornered the market on Mr. All-American. And as far as I see right now, power to you. I don't ever want to feel like this again."
"I know," Evangeline said softly, "and I'm sorry. But Atlanta will be fun. Justus and Faith are waiting for us. We'll have a great time. You'll see!"
The cousins paid for their purchases and returned to their car. As they buckled up and Evangeline started the engine, she hoped for a great trip and for Keesha to permanently erase her ex-boyfriend from her heart.
On a dirt road in Hazzard County, Georgia…
Bo Duke's primal yell almost burst his cousin's eardrum. Luke tugged his earlobe and shook his head. The bright orange 1969 Dodge Charger, aka the General Lee, jiggled once, but overall recovered from the jump over another ditch with ease. Luke listened to his chuckling younger cousin and wondered how much longer they'd play this game: running from the law and dodging maturity. Sooner or later, Uncle Jesse and Daisy would grow tired of their rabble rousing. Having served in the Marines, Luke knew what the real world was all about. But his fair haired cousin didn't have a clue.
A hard slap to his chest brought a quick end to Luke's reverie. He jerked and gave Bo a hard look.
"What's with you?" Bo asked. His eyes only darted from the road a few times to make contact with Luke's. "You're as quiet as a tomcat on the hunt. What girl's on your mind tonight?"
"None," Luke said. "Just thinking is all."
Dust flew as Bo roared the General Lee back onto the main road. Luke looked over his shoulder. No sirens blared. There were no flashing red and blue lights behind them. Just the quiet haven of a forest of trees and a darkening sky. Maybe Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane had enough for the night. It wasn't like the old coot to give up so easily. A cold knot formed in his stomach.
"Luke? What did you see back there?"
He slowly shifted to face the front. "Nothing."
"Well, that's a good thing! Lighten up, cousin. Tonight's turning out better than we could have planned. How about a few drinks at the Boar's Nest?"
"Sure why not."
"You can sound more enthusiastic than that! It's amateur night. My guitar's in the back. Let's get up on stage and show them how it's done."
A sudden throbbing pounded his temple. Luke grimaced and rubbed his forehead. "I don’t know."
"What's to know? After we finish, I bet there'll be a couple of really cute girls around to ease that frown off your face. What do you say?"
When it came to girls and singing, Bo was a like a dog with a bone. Luke knew better than to try to dash his cousin's hopes because the kid simply wouldn't listen. He shrugged and kept his mouth shut the rest of the drive. Besides, maybe his cousin was right. Maybe time spent with the right girl would shake his melancholy and put the fun back into his life.
"Did you hear that?" Keesha clutched the steering with a painful grip. The car hadn't sounded right since she got behind the wheel. With her present state of mind, she feared it was all her imagination. She didn't dare ask Evangeline for feedback until the noise became deafeningly loud.
"Yeah, how could I not?" Evangeline stiffened. "What is it?"
"I don't know!" Keesha just barely kept the frantic edge of panic out of her voice. Tall pine and oak trees walled them on either side. With the sun making its daily descent, she longed for the safety of bright lights and the promise of help. "I'm afraid to pull over and I'm terrified to keep going. Why couldn't Justus' directions include the interstate?"
"He said this was faster."
"Well, it's the last time I'll ever listen to him. This is crazy. What are we gonna do?"
"Let's just keep going until we can't," Evangeline suggested. "And don't ask what we'll do afterward. One crisis at a time, please."
"If John knew you were about to be stranded in the backwoods of Georgia, he'd have a cow."
Evangeline laughed. "You think he'd have just one? How about a whole herd? I bet years from now, we'll sit back and laugh about this."
Keesha sighed. "I wish I had your optimism."
"I remember when you used to." Her cousin patted her shoulder. "You'll get it back. I believe it."
The car made another quarter of a mile. Then, it unleashed a final outraged sputter and died. Keesha continued to grip the steering wheel. She feared letting go. What would they do next? Two young black women lost and without transportation in the Deep South where in some parts the confederate flag still waved. She dreaded to think of the outcome. If her dad knew about this, he'd have a heart attack.
"I'm sure this isn't as bad as it seems," Evangeline said.
"Let's see. It's dark. We're in the woods. And no one who cares about us knows exactly where we are," Keesha said. "Nah, this isn't bad at all."
"Your sarcasm isn't appreciated," Evangeline scolded. "You've listed the cons. I'll list the pros."
"Of course, you will--"
She released the steering wheel and sat back. "Okay, I'll shut up. What are the pros? Where's your pot of gold at the end of the rainbow or is it a silver lining in the cloud? Tell me something good. I'm all ears."
"More like all mouth," her cousin mumbled. "The pros are we have shelter and food."
Keesha arched an eyebrow. "Is that it?"
Evangeline slumped low in the passenger seat. "That's all I can think of."
Bo took the long way to the Boar's Nest. For them to have a good showing at amateur night, Luke had to shake his grumpiness. Normally, a fun, rocking drive knocked his cousin into a good mood. Not so lately. Bo was at his wit's ends trying to figure Luke out. If something didn't change soon, he'd have to turn to Uncle Jesse and Daisy for a solution.
"Slow down!" Luke all but shouted.
"Not again," Bo grumbled. "The General Lee's not even going that fast."
"I think I see something down the road. It looks like a car. Just slow down until we know for sure."
Bo hated how his older cousin was fast at giving out orders. But nine times out of ten, Luke was right. So without putting up a fuss, Bo slowed down.
The General Lee wanted to speed up. Bo resisted the urge. Instead, he focused on the road ahead. Sure enough, a shiny Thunderbird had stopped flat busted in the middle of the road! He parked behind it. In silent agreement, the cousins crawled through the car windows and landed on the pavement.
"Is anybody in there?" Bo asked.
"I can't tell," Luke said, "but why would anyone leave a T-bird in the middle of the woods?"
"I'll take the driver side," Luke suggested. "You handle the passenger. Don't get too close. We don't know what's in there and we don't need another false rap against us."
"I hear ya."
The cousins crossed paths. Bo headed to the passenger door. With his arms outstretched, he waited for Luke to speak on their behalf.
"Hello! If you're in there, speak up!" Luke called. "We want to help. We won't hurt ya."
"The windows are so dark," Bo said, "that I can't see inside. Can you?"
"I think I see shadows, but I'm not sure."
"They look harmless enough," Evangeline whispered. "This big blonde one over here is kinda cute."
"How can you even look at a man at a time like this?" Keesha muttered.
"I don't know. It's better than being terrified out of my mind."
Evangeline released her seat belt and opened the dash for the can of mace. "This should stop them long enough for us to get a head start if it comes to that."
"I hope you know what you're doing."
"Granny Mae always say that angels come in many forms." Evangeline rolled down her window. The tall handsome vision on the other side almost took her breath away. "Hey, there."
His grin lit up the night. "Hi yourself. What's a beautiful girl like you doing stuck on a backwoods road like this?"
"Aw, Bo. Come on," the other guy grumbled.
"Who's that?" she asked.
"My cousin, Luke. I'm Bo Duke," he said all smiles. "What's your name?"
"I'm Evangeline. That's my cousin, Keesha. Our car died," she said, suddenly not feeling the least bit sorry. "Can you bring it back to life?"
"Sure, I'm great with cars. We both are."
Captivated by his dazzling smile and easy friendliness, Evangeline didn't feel Keesha's nudge until her cousin pinched her arm.
"Ow!" She rubbed the sore spot and faced her cousin. "What is it?"
"Stop flirting. Okay? We need to get out of here."
"I'm not." Guilt took a weird tumble inside her stomach. An image of John came to mind. He wouldn't like this turn of events at all and neither would she if the roles were reversed.
Then, she heard Keesha roll down her window. "Hey, Luke! Can you guys fix it for us or not?"
"Yeah, but we'll need some light. Will it start at all?"
"It won't even cough."
"We have a friend who can tow it to our farm," Luke said. "Bo, call Cooter on the CB. Get him out here real quick." As Bo ambled toward their car, Luke squatted and peered inside the T-bird. "Are you ladies hungry? We were headed to the Boar's Nest. They have the best barbecue in all of Georgia. We'd be much obliged if you joined us."
"It would probably be better if you just helped us get our car fixed and we can be on our way."
Luke nodded. "Sure, but it's getting dark. I'm guessing you're headed for Atlanta. With this delay, it could take even longer to get there. You'll need something solid in your stomachs."
"I'm too exhausted to drive to Atlanta tonight," Evangeline said. "Besides, who knows how long it will take them to fix this thing. Let's check out the barbecue place and find a place to sleep." She leaned over Keesha to check out Bo's cousin. Damn! With dark brown hair and bright blue eyes, he was just as cute. And another sharp reminder of her boyfriend. Darn. "Please say there are some decent hotels in town."
"We have a few, but they're all booked up for the Retired Moonshiners Convention," he said. "But you're more than welcome to stay at our farm--"
"I don't know about that," Keesha interjected.
Luke held up his hands in mock defense. "Hold on. That didn't come out right. We have an uncle and a cousin--a girl cousin. Her name is Daisy and she works at the Boar's Nest. It'll all be innocent. I promise."
At the Boar's Nest…
"Man, they sure are pretty." Bo couldn't take his eyes off the cousins as they disappeared into the ladies' room. Of course, he was more partial to the taller one. Her brown eyes sparkled like chocolate diamonds and she had a spirited personality that completely captured his attention. He popped a handful of peanuts into his mouth as he kicked Luke under the table. "Well?"
"Well, what?" Luke asked.
Bo rolled his eyes. What would it take for Luke's mood to improve? The sky to fall or for running shine to become legal? Heaven had already dropped two beautiful women practically into their laps. Why wasn't that good enough for Luke Duke? Bo certainly had no problems with it.
"Oh, you mean the girls." Luke chugged a swallow of beer. "They're cute. The shorter one has a chip on her shoulder that won't quit. Somebody hurt her real bad."
"How do you know?"
Luke shrugged. "I just do. If you're lucky, you won't ever get hurt like that."
"Come on, Luke. You've broken more hearts than you've mended."
"Yeah, well, my heart breaking days are over," his cousin declared. "I'm changing my ways."
"So, that's why you've been such a sourpuss lately. You're mending a broken heart! Who's the girl? I can't remember a single one that you've been hung up on."
Daisy appeared at their table with plates, coleslaw, slices of bread and a huge platter of barbecue sauce dripping ribs. The cousins took the food from her and laid out the table. As she watched them, she said, "Cooter just called. He looked over the girls' car. He said they need a part that he doesn't have in stock. He can order it in the morning, but he won't know how fast it'll get here."
"Keesha won't like this news a single bit," Luke said. "What time you get off tonight, Daisy? The cute short one doesn't trust us a far as she could throw us. Having you home would make us more respectable."
"You mean I can play chaperone. Uncle Jesse and me are gonna have to watch you two like hawks." She shook her head in mock dismay. "The two biggest rogues in Hazzard County have new prey. You can tell them I'll be home before midnight. You Dukes had better be on your best behavior 'til then."
"We will," Luke promised.
Bo held up two fingers. "Scout's promise."
As the male Dukes broke into laughter, Daisy wagged her finger and walked away.
"What's so funny?" Evangeline asked as she and her cousin reappeared.
Bo and Luke simultaneously stood and pulled out the girls' chairs. To Bo's delight, Evangeline returned to her seat beside him. He glanced at Luke as Keesha moved into place beside him. If Bo didn't know better, he'd swear Luke's face reddened with pleasure. Hot doggit! This night was looking up for both of them.
"Daisy brought the food while you were washing up," Bo said. "I hope you don't mind getting messy when you eat."
"Are you kidding?" Evangeline's ready smile fell into place just as he hoped. "I love ribs. The messier the better."
As everyone fixed his and her plate, Bo couldn't help but notice that Keesha sat still as a statue and her eyes darted nervously around the honky tonk. Again, he kicked Luke under the table. But his warning boot was slow on the uptake. Luke was already accessing the situation.
"What's wrong?" Luke asked. "It's not that spicy."
"No, it's not the food," Keesha whispered. "I was just wondering…if um…Evangeline and my presence will be a problem here. I'm looking around, but I don't see any other black folks here except the cook in the kitchen. Maybe I'm weird, but I like to feel comfortable when I eat."
Bo and Luke exchanged looks. They hadn't thought of that. In all the years they'd been coming to the Boar's Nest, they'd never encountered a problem. But then again, everyone there looked just like them.
Then, Luke said, "You both will be just fine. Nobody will bother you with us here. We guarantee it. Right, Bo?"
"Sure thing! You ladies are safe with us."
"You'd best eat up," Luke said with a gentle smile. "The coleslaw is starting to warm."
They ate and chatted. Bo learned the girls lived in Pennsylvania but were on Spring Break from their senior year of college. They were headed to Atlanta to spend time with some other cousins. For a blink in time, Bo wondered what college would have been like. All night parties and cram sessions. Pretty girls who made him dream about the future. Luke signed up for the Marines and spent a few years from home. Meanwhile, Bo had never been out of state. Had he made a mistake in staying close to home? Was it too late to have a change of heart now?
"What's the deal with the guitar?" Keesha asked. "Do you guys play here?"
"Didn't you see the sign?" Evangeline chimed in. "Tonight is amateur night."
"Oh! I don't know how I missed it." Keesha laughed softly. "What happens if you win?"
"The pot of cash at the bar and the chance to sing again," Luke said. "Do you ladies sing?"
"Well…" Keesha shrugged. "Evangeline is much better at it than I am."
"She's being modest. She's great."
"Why don't you sing, too?" Bo asked.
Both girls shook their heads. "I don't know," Keesha said.
"We'll go up with you," Bo volunteered. "We can play back up. Anything you wanna sing either Luke or me can pick it up real easy. Think about it, okay?"
Evangeline smiled. "Okay."
A few minutes later, the amateur night began. A few hits and misses came onstage. Finally, the Duke cousins stood and headed for the stage. They briefly conferred on the material. As soon as they made a decision, Bo grabbed the guitar and claimed the stool. Luke adjusted Bo's mike and took one for himself.
"This is for two special ladies. We hope you like it."
Bo strummed the intro and Luke began the opening verse.'Our paths may never cross again
They sung the chorus together:
'I wouldn't have missed it for the world
Wouldn't have missed loving you girl
You've made my whole life worth while, with your smile
I wouldn't trade one memory
Cause you mean too much to me
Even though I lost you girl
I wouldn't have missed it for the world…'
Bo claimed the final verse for his own.
'They say that all good things must end
Loves comes and goes just like the wind
You've got your dreams to follow
But if I had the chance tomorrow
You know I'd do it all again'
Rousing applause followed their act. Bo gestured for the lady cousins to join them onstage. After a moment's hesitation, Keesha grabbed her empty mug and both women stepped forward.
"We don't have anything prepared, but there's this one song we kept hearing on the radio," Evangeline said.
"We don't know the name of the song," Keesha warned.
"Just start singing," Luke said. "We'll figure it out."
Evangeline started first.'He wore that cowboy hat to cover up his horns
Keesha eagerly came in with the chorus.
'Here's to the past they can kiss my glass
I hope she's happy with him
Here's to the girl who wrecked my world
That angel who did me in
I think the devil drives a Coup de Ville
I watched them drive away over the hill
Not against her will and I've got time to kill
Down in brokenheartsville'
The Dukes blended their harmony to match the stranded cousins. Bo had never heard anything sound so sweet. And if what Luke said about Keesha suffering from a broken heart was true, with the song choice it seemed like she was getting over it.
At the Duke farm…
The next morning arrived sooner than usual. Keesha was slow to admit it, but she was enjoying this detour in the country. In his cocky but cute way, Luke Duke distracted her from the pain of lost love. The drive from the Boar's Nest to the farm was filled with lively conversation. Despite her earlier misgivings, Keesha found herself opening up and finally relaxing.
"They are cute, aren't they?" Evangeline said from the bunk bed above her. "Bo has the sweetest face. He sometimes reminds me of a little boy, but he's all man. Oh, boy," she groaned. "I really need to call John."
"Yes, you do." Keesha worried about her cousin doing something stupid and ruining the great relationship she shared with John McBain. "He's a good guy. Don't do something you'll regret."
"I won't." Evangeline climbed down and joined Keesha on the bottom bed. "I love John and he loves me. Bo Duke is an interesting diversion, but I know where my heart is and my head won't let me forget it. But you on the other hand…"
"What?" Keesha felt heat flooding her cheeks in spite of herself.
"Luke can't keep his eyes off you and you're eyeing him, too. He's not who I would have imagined for you, but that's not to say I don't like him. Uncle David will blow a gasket, but this is your life. Not his--"
"Hold up!" Keesha held up her hand for emphasis. "You have us married with ten kids. Nothing's happened. Maybe a little flirting. Nothing more than that. By nightfall, you and I will be in Atlanta and far from the minds of Bo and Luke Duke."
"Girls." Jesse Duke's gravelly voice sounded through the closed door. "Breakfast will be ready in a few minutes. You better shake a leg if you want any of it. The boys are good but when it comes to grits, pancakes and bacon, they lose their manners."
"Thanks, Mr. Duke," Keesha said.
"You can call me Uncle Jesse," he replied. "I'll see you both downstairs directly."
"Did you hear that? He already wants you to call him 'Uncle.'"
"Oh, hush!" Keesha popped Evangeline with a pillow. Then, they burst into a fit of giggles.
A night in the hayloft wasn't what it used to be. Luke rubbed the dull ache in his lower back as he finished with his chores. Last night, he and Bo willingly surrendered their room to their houseguests. While he didn't regret the decision, he would have enjoyed sleeping in the loft more if it had been a nice warm curvy body keeping him company instead of his cousin's rumbling snore.
"Can you smell that?" Bo asked, pitching hay like he was in race. "Uncle Jesse's doing it up right. I swear I can taste the maple syrup from here."
"We can't eat breakfast beside those beautiful girls smelling like the farm." Luke swiped a hand down his bare, sweaty chest. "They're from the big city. They'd probably pass out as soon as we walk in the door."
Bo laughed. "No doubt about that and if Evangeline passes out, I want it to be right in my arms. Think we can sneak in and shower before Daisy eats everything up?"
"I don't know about you, but I can!"
At that, Luke took off at break neck speed toward the rear of the house. Bo huffed fast on his heels, but Luke had a few tricks his younger cousin didn't know about. He hopped, jumped and climbed faster than a fox in a henhouse. By a hair's breath, he reached the bathroom first and promptly slammed it in his cousin's face. Stripping down, Luke chuckled to himself as he considered Bo's present options. Either wait or head out to the creek. Neither mattered much to Luke because the hot spray of water and the fresh scent of soap washed his worries away.
A few minutes later, he was clean and ready to properly greet Keesha and her cousin. To his surprise, Bo entered at the exact same moment as he did. Maybe the creek wasn't such a bad option after all.
"Good morning!" The boys greeted. The girls rewarded them with cheeky smiles. Uncle Jesse and Daisy hid snickers behind their cloth napkins.
"How did you sleep?" Bo asked.
"Great," Evangeline said. "You know, we feel bad about taking your beds. We should make that up to you."
"There's no need," Bo said with a smile. "Just knowing that you slept well is enough for us."
The smell of buttery grits and crispy bacon soon overrode good manners. Everyone dug in. After the first helping provided some comfort, Luke asked, "Were you able to reach your cousins last night? They know you're safe, right?"
Keesha nodded. "Justus was a little worried. He wanted to come, but I told him we're okay and will probably be in Atlanta by nightfall."
Luke frowned. "I wish you hadn't said that. We don't know when Cooter will get the part in."
"But if you need to be in Atlanta tonight," Bo said, "we can make it happen. The General Lee can get you there and we can drive your T-bird down later after it's fixed."
Evangeline shook her head. "We can't let you go to that much trouble."
"It's not trouble at all," Daisy said.
"All that driving back and forth will probably keep them out of trouble," Uncle Jesse added.
"Come on, now," Luke complained. "You're giving them the wrong impression about us."
Daisy laughed. "I'd better get out of here before I say something I shouldn't." She stood and washed her plate. Before she left, she moved between Keesha and Evangeline. Patting their shoulders, she said, "I have enjoyed having you here. If you don't absolutely have to get to Atlanta tonight, stay another night. It's fun having a balance of females around the place."
The lady cousins thanked her for the offer and Daisy left. Uncle Jesse offered a second helping. Evangeline and Keesha declined, but Luke and Bo didn't. The girls took their plates to the sink and began cleaning up. The phone rang and Luke jumped to answer it.
"Hey, Luke. Cooter here. I checked into that part for the T-bird."
"How soon can you get it?"
"The closest I could find was in Atlanta. They're too shorthanded to drive it here and you know I am. If you guys could pick it up, I can set the ladies up before nightfall. Can you do it?"
Luke sighed. This definitely tied into the idea of taking the girls to Atlanta. Something, he wasn't ready to do. Like Daisy, he liked having them around. But if he really wanted to change his ways when it came to the female persuasion, what better way to start than being selfless. "Sure, Cooter. We can do it."
After he hung up, all eyes focused on him. He nodded. "Yeah, that was Cooter. The part is in Atlanta with no way of getting here, so I told him we'd get it and bring it back. Ladies, if you'd like we can drop you off and then bring your car down later."
Evangeline's mouth curved into a faint smile. "That sounds like the best plan. Do you mind if I use your phone? Justus and Faith should know we're on our way."
"No, go ahead. You can use the one in the living room for privacy."
Evangeline thanked him with a smile and left the room. He glanced at Keesha. Her enthusiasm was just as lacking.
"I suppose this is it. Thank you all for taking such good care of us and giving us food and a place to stay. If there's any way we can repay you--"
"Don't even think of it," Uncle Jesse cut in. "Just stop by on your way back to Pennsylvania and anytime you're in this part of Georgia."
Keesha smiled. "Thanks, Uncle Jesse." She headed to the back staircase. "I'd better start getting our stuff ready…"
"Keesha, wait." Luke followed her. "Let me help."
They ascended the staircase and reached the bedroom without conversation. Luke lingered in the doorway, watching as Keesha stuffed the last of the girls' belongings into a bag. "We really enjoyed having you here."
"We've had a good time, too," she admitted. "You know we were scared when our car died like that. You guys saved us."
"I think you kinda saved us, too." Luke crossed the room to stand just inches from her. "Heck, Bo's been talking about college. None us ever dreamed that would happen. You got me thinking about the future, too. That song we sung last night… Well, it came straight from the heart. I wouldn't have wanted to miss the last twenty-four hours for anything."
Feeling bold, he reached out and pushed a stray tendril of hair away from her cheek. The warmth of her flesh seeped into his veins. Their eyes locked. Something intense flared between them. He felt the sensation boil in his gut and spread all over. Staring into her shining brown eyes, all the weeks of melancholy and restless faded. He understood everything and nothing at once.
Then, in the next instant, she was on tiptoe and he was bending down. Their lips touched. The kiss began slow and thoughtful. But when his arms automatically wound around her slight, curvy frame, deeper instincts took over.
The kiss deepened. Their tongues collided. Exploration sent his senses soaring like the General Lee in a heated race. Her moist, full mouth responded to the insistent demand of his lips and tongue. This was an embrace that Luke never wanted to end.
"Why in the world would you do that?" Evangeline rubbed the pain at the base of her neck. Every since Justus' confession, tension threatened to be her undoing. She collapsed onto the nearby recliner and forced an even, controlled tone to return to her voice.
"What am I supposed to do?" Justus asked. "John called and wanted to know where you were. I couldn't lie to him so I told him. How was I supposed to know he'd follow you?"
"You wouldn't," she conceded. "I'm sorry I blew up, but John will never find us here. Our car stopped in the middle of nowhere thanks to your directions. I don't know even know what town we're in except that it's in Hazzard County. The Duke cousins offered to drive us to Atlanta. What are we supposed to do now?"
"You could wait for John. I gave him the Dukes' phone number. He left around midnight so he should be there around lunch time."
"You're right. We'll stay here and wait." She sighed. "Thanks, cuz. We'll see you soon."
Moments after the call ended, Bo entered the room. "I wasn't trying to listen, but did I hear you right? Are you hanging around a little longer?"
The adoration in his blue eyes gave her warm fuzzies. But the feeling wasn't fair or right. The time for her to come clean was now. She gestured for him to sit.
"Yeah, we are staying at least until lunch time. My boyfriend got worried about us so he's driving down to get us safely to Atlanta."
"Boyfriend?" The animation left his face. Adoration faded from his eyes. "You never mentioned a boyfriend."
She bit her lips in dismay. The hurt in his voice would haunt her for her a long time to come. "I know and I'm sorry about that. I should have."
"What's his name?"
"John, huh?" Bo repeated. "That's a strong, respectable name. I bet he's in college, too."
"Yeah," she admitted. "We met last year when he transferred from a junior college. He's impulsive like you and Luke, but he's caring, too. I think you'll like him."
"Maybe." He abruptly stood. "But I'd probably like him more if he didn't have you. Does he make you happy?"
She nodded. "Very."
"Good." His mouth curved into a genuine smile filled with regret. "You deserve to be happy. I'll let Luke and Keesha know we're not driving you to Atlanta." He headed to the door and stopped. "Now, Keesha…she doesn't have a boyfriend, too, does she?"
"No, they broke up a little while ago."
"That's good," Bo murmured softly. "Real good for Luke. Hey, I just thought of something. Luke warned me about this, but I didn't understand what he meant. Now, I do."
"About what?" she asked, half afraid to know the answer.
"Heart break and how it changes you."
"I almost feel guilty," Luke said. He held Keesha's hand as they walked toward the creek. "I warned Bo and then it happens."
"It's not your fault," she said. "Things happen unexpectedly. I told Evangeline to be careful."
"You shouldn't blame her. She didn't really do anything wrong. You two were just passing through and like you said, things took an unexpected course."
He found a shaded spot on the grass. They sat and his arms curved around her, pulling her back to his chest. Nothing in life had ever felt this right. He inhaled and breathed in the true meaning of life for the first time. Her responding purr soothed him and got him hot. Resting his head in the nest of curls on top of her head, he said, "Are you sure about staying the week? You had big plans in Atlanta."
"Oh, are you trying to renege on the offer?"
"Of course not!" His arms tightened. "I just don't want you to miss anything and then regret it."
"The only regret I'd have is not spending this time with you."
"Eventually, you'll have to go back to college."
"Yeah, but you'll come up on the weekend and for my graduation."
He smiled. "So I make it to graduation? Sounds good. But are you sure I'm not the rebound guy?"
Her hands slid over his forearms. "You don't feel like him. I'll admit that Jason hurt me and I wasn't fully recovered when we met."
"All of yesterday."
"Yes!" She laughingly agreed. "But I don't know how to explain it. This feels right."
"And as soon as I do something about that flag on top of the General Lee things will feel even better, right?" His mouth brushed her cheek. They'd already discussed the confederate flag and its meaning to her at length. He respected her dislike of the emblem and had no problems with replacing it with the national version.
The dull roar of an engine interrupted the tranquillity of their romantic interlude. Luke looked over his shoulder.
"Does John have a black Ford Mustang?"
"Yeah." She shifted in his arms and followed the direction of his gaze.
"He's here." Luke stood and pulled Keesha to her feet. "We'd better go run interference."
By the time, they returned to the farm introductions had been made. Bo had a smile plastered on his face, and Evangeline was safe in the arms of her love. An hour later, the couple headed for Atlanta with the promise to Fed Ex the car part as soon as they got there. Bo took off in the General Lee and Luke and Keesha got busy with the business of getting to know each other.
[Song credit: I Wouldn't Have Missed It for the World sung by Ronnie Milsap & Brokenheartsville sung by Joe Nichols]
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