Protecting His Pregnant Lover - Leslie North


Levon Asher stood alone in his high school’s gymnasium, took a sip of spiked punch, and winced. Every muscle in his mouth came together in a pucker that would have spat the concoction back out if his willpower didn’t dictate otherwise. Had the rum-punch combo always been this God-awful, or was he just getting old?

Admittedly, he was a little old to be standing inside the gym at Harper’s Forge High, breathing in the familiar dust and lingering perfume of souring sports socks. He had never planned on attending any of his school’s reunions. Not that he hadn’t been popular in school.

That was turning out to be the problem.

“Asher! Get your dyslexic ass over here and drink with the men!” one of his old football teammates hollered across the other conversations in the room. Every head turned toward the old guard clustered in one corner of the bleachers, which Levon was sure had been the intended effect; then every head turned toward him. Levon froze, then lifted his Solo cup in acknowledgement, then set it aside and moved through the crowd toward them. He could withstand what was sure to be torturous conversation if it meant they’d offer him a beer.

The shout had been jarring; almost as jarring as seeing how fantastically out of shape his old teammates were. They had no way of knowing he was diagnosed dyslexic; hell, he hadn’t known it himself until he joined the naval academy. All they knew was that he had struggled academically, same as the rest of them, and excelled on the field—and with the cheerleaders.

“Damn, son! What they been feeding you down in Florida?” One of his balding classmates, evidently the designated leader and the one who had yelled over to him, grabbed hold of Levon’s rock-solid bicep and tried to jostle it. Levon endured this; he was too busy studying the other man and trying to decide who he was. Finally he gave up and let his gaze fall to the stick-on name tag.

“How are you... Randy?” Randy. Christ, the guy had been stud in school. What the hell had happened to all of them? Levon knew he wasn’t the only one from their class to enter the armed forces—so why did these men all look like carting six-packs back to their car was the only heavy lifting they did anymore?

“Never better. Seen better, that’s for sure.” Randy jerked his head toward the crowd milling about on the floor, and the other guys guffawed. They were nearing rank with the smell of booze, but Levon didn’t decline when one of them passed him his first beer of the evening. One and done, he told himself. There was nothing worth sticking around here for as far as he could tell; Randy confirmed this for him by continuing: “Am I right? Can you believe the butterfaces we went to school with? Yeesh.”

“How can it be that every single cheerleader let herself go?” another aging jock chimed in. “Don’t they have any self-respect?”

“Sure didn’t when we were in school!” Randy launched a high-five indiscriminately into the group, which was instantly answered. Levon grimaced at the old pack dynamics. “That’s what happens when you get knocked up,” Randy continued with a sneer.

“Glad I’ve managed to avoid marrying this long,” another volunteered.

“Yeah, but you still got that baby mama breathing down your neck, Sammy!”

“Ha! Ha!”

Levon sipped his beer, counting the seconds until he could make his excuses to get away. It had been a dumb idea to come in the first place. He was back in town for a job interview, and when he’d realized the timing of the reunion, he’d felt nostalgic enough to give it a try. Clearly, that had been a big mistake. He decided to deepen his sips. As soon as the can was empty, he would be hitting the door.

“Hey, check it out.” Randy nudged him, and the others quieted accordingly to hear their leader’s commands. “Why don’t we all make a bet on which of the nerdy chicks turned out hot? There’s always gotta be one, right?”

“Huh.” Levon grunted, neither compliant nor non-compliant.

“What about that little mousy chick you had for your lab partner, Asher? She skipped a grade or two, but she still graduated with us, didn’t she?”

Levon didn’t reply. In truth, his thoughts had strayed to Olive Owen more than once tonight... and all the nights leading up to the reunion... but he hadn’t seen her yet. He doubted if she’d come. Olive had always been the smartest person