Synopsis After getting involved with Dylan, the bad boy of the Dixon High Swim team, Charley decides to stay close to home for college. It’s just safer that way. Later, she realizes it’s a mistake, just like dating Dylan. She decides to put the past behind her and leave the small hick town of Grassy Pond. There is only one problem; she makes this decision three weeks before the fall semester begins.
Charley packs up her Honda and heads to Southern College. On the morning she’s about to leave, Cash walks back into her life. He has been her best friend since they were four and is the only one who knows the REAL Charley. She leaves her farm in Grassy Pond with all kinds of “what if” questions.
Charley decides to live her college career to the fullest. She finds a great group of friends, joins the swim team, and meets a guy named Joe. He’s got eyes that make ya wanna melt!
At college, she encounters a new problem. Charley has been away from home for only forty-eight hours before she breaks the two promises she made to herself. Will she be able to overcome her past? Find new love? What will happen with Cash now that he is back in her life? Will she find what she is wanting in Jackalope Joe? How will her first semester of college end? Joe, Cash, or alone?
As we make our way to the door, Georgia slips on the gravel. She starts laughing and the rest of us do as well once we help her up.
“Y’all, I think the ground and curbs are out to get me. I mean they come out of nowhere. The next thing I know, I’m on my ass again!” Georgia is a hoot. She always makes light of situations.
Hank’s Tavern is not exactly what I pictured. It’s an old, worn down, wooden shed. There are five parking spaces in front of the restaurant section of the place. The rest of the parking is located across the road in a gravel lot. It’s gravel, no pavement anywhere. The bouncers are dressed in jeans and Hank’s Tavern t-shirts that fit just a little snug around their arms showing off their muscles. They ask for our IDs, take a brief glance, and in we go. I will have to say, the guys don’t get in quite as easy. They get patted down and driver’s license checked. Sometimes it pays to be a female.
We enter through another set of glass doors and immediately cigarette smoke and stale beer hit my nostrils. The room is open except for a few pool tables and the bar. It is dark, lights are flashing, and the music is bumping. We do exactly what any group of girls would do, walk straight to the restroom. You have got to kidding me! No door really! There is no freakin’ door on the last stall. After taking a few minutes to get over the negative stall door and freshen up, we walk out and head straight to the dance floor.
I have to say that this is exactly redneck meets ghetto fabulous. Whoever thought a place like this would play Mystikal, Dr. Dre, Lil Wayne, throw in a little “Downtown” by Lady A and Old Crow Medicine Show? We have the best time just dancing in a big group. I notice Crystal and Lucas on the floor; she smiles and waves before continuing to do things she should be embarrassed to be doing in public. I am so thankful that I don’t have to deal with that in my room. That is one benefit to her dating a Resident Assistant… he has his own room.
By midnight, Hank’s is packed. I decide to grab a bottle of water, and as I’m about to pay, I hear that oh so sexy voice.
“I got that.”
“It’s okay, Joe. I got it.”
“No, I insist. I was an ass earlier. I didn’t mean to make you feel bad. It’s the least I can do.”
“Damn straight! I’m proud of who I am and where I’m from. I just hate when damn Yankees come down here and then try to make us look like hicks. You don’t like the way we live, then don’t cross the Mason-Dixon,” I say as playful as possible. It did tick me off earlier, but I don’t want him to think I’m a bitch.
“I swear I won’t do it again, and nobody is gonna pick on you eating squirrel but me,” he says with a smile.
“Okay, I’ll give ya that.”
“So Squirrel, you wanna dance?”
“Mr. Scaredy Cat, I’d love to.” He takes the water bottle from me and leads me to the dance floor.
“So, does anyone know how dressed up people get for this dance?” I ask. “I mean I know it’s more formal than Hank’s or a club. I don’t think it’s church attire, or is it like a mini prom?”
Anna gives us the details she has researched, “Okay, it’s like a mini prom, but you gotta be careful. You don’t want to look like you tried too hard or spent too much money. Oh, and for tonight... I got us a ride.”
We all stop and look at her like what do you mean you got us a ride?
“What?! I’m doing my job here. I know none of us want to DD, so I found us one with a minivan!”
“Shut up, no you didn’t!” Tori laughs.
“Oh yeah, the Love Machine, it has a name.”
“You’re serious aren’t you?” I ask.
“Yeah, well you know I’m not an athlete and I found a few others that aren’t as well. What’s that girl on your team with the friend that is freakin’ hilarious and always has something smart ass to say?”
“Uh, you mean Sarah and her friend is Hayden,” Tori says.
“Yeah, it’s Hayden’s van.”
“Well, that makes me feel a little bit better, but who’s driving ‘cause I know it’s not Hayden. She drinks like a fish!” Caroline states.
Hey, Char, while Cash ain’t in here. Where the hell am I staying tonight? I mean, I don’t want to intrude on y’all.”
“Piper, you can stay in there because you know as well as I do nothing is going to happen.” She looks at me like whatever.
About that time Cash opens the truck door and climbs in. We make our way to campus, up the stoop, and into Kluft. I am exhausted and need a shower to recoup before Hank’s tonight. As we reach the top step, I can hear Caroline, Tori, Georgia, Jenny, Anna, and Cassie in hall. They are singing to “Thrift Shop”blaring over the radio and dancing like fools in the hallway.
Cash glances at me, “Oh lawd, what have I got myself into?” I just shrug my shoulders and pull him down the hall. All the girls take their turn putting moves on him, and of course, Anna has something to say. “Hey, Cowboy, I ain’t ever rode a cowboy before.” With a wink Cash answers back, “Sorry, Sweetheart, but I ain’t a cowboy. I’m a homegrown country boy that only has eyes for one little lady,” as he stares into my blue eyes.
“Hey, let’s hit the dance floor.” I take Caroline’s arm while the rest of the Kluft girls follow us, and we hit the make shift dance floor in the living room. They are playing Mobb Deep’s “Quiet Storm.” It’s old, but I love the beat. We hit the middle of the floor and start swaying our hips to the music. We giggle like school girls as we notice the guys in the room taking note. A few others join us, Crystal and Lucas included.
“If they’re watchin’, let’s show them how we Southern girls have a good time,” I say to Caroline.
“You got it!”
We add just a little more emphasis to our hips and start dancing with each other. Before I know it, the song is over, and we walk back to the kitchen to grab another drink.
“Caroline, I’m so glad Crystal got me to come with y’all tonight. I’m not big on partying, but it looks like I might have to change that thought if we have this much fun!”
“Girl, anytime! I can tell already that Georgia and us are gonna be tight because we are a lot alike. Only thing is she’s super quiet. We are from ‘round here. Most of the students here are Yankees. Not that it’s a bad thing. They just piss me off when they make us seem stupid by the way we talk. I mean they chose to come to school here.”
“I understand you completely! But aren’t those Yankees too damn cute? I love me a country boy, but I might have to widen my horizons.”
I’m about to pour myself another round when I hear the sexiest voice known to women. I look up and there is Jackalope Joe. If his voice does that to me, I can only imagine what will happen if those perfect lips touch mine.
“Let me get that for you.”
“Thanks, Joe? Joe is your name, right?” Play dumb Charley.
“Yeah, and you’re Cougar Charley.” We both laugh.
“You know all I want to call you is Jackalope Joe,” I say with a half smile.
I think I might fall out looking into those make yawanna melt, piercing blue eyes. Keep it together, Charley. I’ve gotta keep in control. Good lookin’ or not, guys are like a bad habit I can’t break. The last time I got involved with someone that could make panties drop by just lookin’ at me almost ended my life. I have to stay in control, no matter what my emotions are screaming at me.
“Miss Cougar, yawanna try out the dance floor? Joe smirks. This is not good.
“Sure, see if ya can keep up.” I smile.
“I know. I don’t know what I’m going to do without y’all for a month!” Georgia exclaims.
“I could care less about exams. I’m just ready for Study Day!” Caroline squeals. Why the hell is she so excited about Study Day? You study all damn day! “It’s only the biggest party day of the year at Southern. Y’all thought Homecoming was epic. Y’all aint seen nothing yet!”
“Explain.” Tori states.
“Well, undoubtedly on Wednesday at noon the campus goes to quiet hours to study for exams. No class, practice, or anything. Pretty much people put off studying until Thursday afternoon, and spend Wednesday partying like it’s 1999 or something!”
We all look at each other, and know that it’s legit because somehow Caroline always is in the know.
Anna speaks up, “So, if Hank’s isn’t open, where does everyone go?”
Caroline gets up and walks over to her wall and points to the number eighty-eight sticker on the wall. “That’s easy, Whiskey River!”
“What’s that got to do with racing?” Anna asks. Georgia, Caroline, Tori and I look at each other like she has got to be kidding.
“Anna, hunny, bless your heart,” I speak compassionately. “Dale Jr. owns Whiskey River.”