COMMUNITY SERVICE is a 2014 RONÉ AWARDS Nominee (New Adult Category).
As Maggie Mitchell enters her final semester of college, the last thing she wants is a guy in her life, let alone two of them.
Her new lab partner, Sawyer Reed, is still the overconfident and sexy jock that made fun of her in high school. The only thing that has changed is that he now uses a wheelchair, the result of a skiing accident.
Jude Marino is a hot actor who all the girls want and would do anything to get. He works at a local theater where Maggie has been assigned to complete community services hours after rear-ending a police car.
Both Sawyer and Jude want Maggie but only one of them will be able to capture her heart.
As I entered the lab, I was immediately struck by the state-of-the-art technology. I knew Dr. Weaver was the recipient of a number of very large grants but this lab was beyond anything I could have imagined. I could feel my body start to shake with nervous anticipation.
“Looking for a lab partner?” I heard a voice say from behind. The voice sounded familiar but I couldn’t quite place it.
When I turned around, I was surprised to see Sawyer Reed staring at me. I hadn’t seen him since high school. He was a year older than me but I still knew who he was. Everyone in school knew Sawyer Reed. He was a popular jock who all the kids adored. He still had the same boyish good looks that I remembered so well. And the same sexy little grin that could light up any room. And the same killer green eyes that would drive girls wild. The only thing that was different, and it was really different, was that he was in a wheelchair.
It completely floored me.
I had the biggest crush on Sawyer Reed. I think every girl in our school did. It was hard not to. He could charm the pants off of any girl in a matter of minutes, and usually did, or so I heard. I wasn’t a girl that guys wanted to charm the pants off when I was in high school. I was awkward bordering on geeky. My mom called me a late bloomer.
And I definitely wasn’t on Sawyer’s radar…
Except when we were on the school bus. Every day when he passed by me on his way to the back of the bus, he’d call me Freaky Four Eyes. Not that I didn’t deserve the moniker. For some reason, when I was a teenager, I thought it was a good idea to wear Marilyn Monroe Cat Eye glasses. Not that I looked anything like Marilyn Monroe. In high school, I had frizzy brown hair and the body of a 12-year-old boy. I could have been called the antithesis of Marilyn Monroe, if there was such a thing. But I sure loved those glasses.
I didn’t think there was any way that Sawyer would remember me. I looked a lot different than I did in high school. I found product, so my long brown hair now fell into controlled waves and I wore contacts. I’d also filled out a little. I was still no Marilyn Monroe in the curves department but I had a decent figure.
And why would he remember some younger girl he teased on the bus anyway?
When he said, “I’m Sawyer” and introduced himself, I realized he really didn’t remember me, so I responded with, “I’m Maggie.”
I wasn’t sure if I should put out a hand for him to shake. When I looked down at his hands, I noticed he was wearing half gloves with the open fingers. I assumed it was because he used a manual wheelchair and did a lot of pushing every day. I guessed it got hard on the hands after a while.
He must have noticed me staring at his gloved hands because he said, “I’m a T-10 incomplete, if that means anything to you. I’m paralyzed but I still have some feeling in my lower body. I assume you’ve taken A & P.”
I nodded. I took Anatomy and Physiology my sophomore year. I didn’t know a lot about spinal cord injuries but I had learned a few things about spinal cord function. I knew enough to know that level of injury impacted the lower half of the body, paraplegia, and an incomplete injury meant the spinal cord was not completely damaged and there may still be some functioning.
“How long ago was the accident?” My voice sounded so tentative. I didn’t mean for it to be. I guess I wasn’t sure what was appropriate to ask a person in a wheelchair. I had never actually spoken to anyone in a wheelchair before. That really made me think. Was it because I didn’t have an opportunity to meet anyone in a wheelchair or had I purposefully not made the effort? I had to admit, his wheelchair made me a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if it was because of the wheelchair or because the Sawyer I’d known before was able bodied.
“Four years ago. My freshman year of college. It happened over Christmas Break.”
Sawyer’s upper body looked as good as he did in high school, muscular and toned. I assumed he still worked out although I wasn’t sure exactly how someone in a wheelchair worked out. I guess I never thought about the mechanics of it. A flood of questions filled my mind. I wondered if he drove a car and how he got dressed and made his bed. Then I wondered why I was so curious. I never wondered how anyone else went about their daily functions. It was pretty obvious he had things under control because he looked great, in his nicely fitting white polo shirt and black jeans. I even got the slightest hint of a delicious smelling after shave.
“Maggie,” Sawyer said and I was brought back to the present moment. “Got a lot on your mind?” He gave me that sexy little grin of his and it took my breath away for a moment.
“I—um—” I wasn’t sure what to say. I felt embarrassed even thinking about how he put his pants on in the morning.
“If you have a question, don’t be afraid to ask. I know being in a chair sometimes freaks people out.”
Was it that obvious that I was freaked out? I felt like a real jerk. But I didn’t want to lie to the guy either. That was no way to start a relationship.
A relationship? What was I thinking? There was no way Sawyer Reed would ever want to be in a relationship with Freaky Four Eyes, even if he didn’t remember me from high school. Even though I now passed for normal in the looks department, inside I was still that little nerd who got teased on the bus.
The more I thought about it, the more I realized that Sawyer was probably being so nice because we would be spending so much time together as lab partners.
I looked at my watch. Dr. Weaver said she’d meet us at noon and it was just a few minutes before twelve.
“Is everything okay?” Sawyer asked. When I looked at him, I could see a level of compassion in his eyes that I had never seen before. “You seem a little nervous.”
What was there not to be nervous about? I was starting the most sought after internship in the university with a super-hot guy from high school who was now in a wheelchair.
“You know you wouldn’t be here unless you deserved to be,” Sawyer tried to assure me. “You’re obviously smart and I’m sure you’ll kick this internship’s ass.”
That made me smile. He had a way of making me smile that no one else had. There was something about his energy and the way he made me feel in his presence that was just so comforting. “Thanks. I’m sure you’ll kick the internships butt, too.”
“Of course,” he said and smiled. He had to be the most confident person I had ever met in my life. I had no doubt he could talk a car salesman into buying a car.
In highschool Sawyer Reed was the boy everyone crushed on, including Maggie Mitchell. However their brief relationship usually ended as quick as it began with Sawyer teasing Maggie on the bus and Maggie wishing she was the type of girl he would look at.
Now in her last semester of college, Maggie is about to be paired with a lab partner and unbeknownst to her it is Sawyer. Sawyer still maintains his handsome looks but there is one big change, the highschool jock is now in a wheelchair. Another shock to Maggie is that Sawyer is flirting with her and Maggie isn’t sure what to do about it.
Throw in an accidental accident that has Maggie doing community service and bad boy actor Jude Marino intent on adding Maggie to his pool of women. Maggie, never one to be receiving so much attention from the opposite sex is torn between two men, which one will claim her heart?
Excellent read, I liked both men but Sawyer won me over. He is self assured but he is also steadying himself for rejection. I thought Maggie was a strong woman and really got a kick out of her direct approach with both Sawyer and Jude. Perfect weekend read.
Dakota Madison has been writing since she learned to read and fell in love with books. When she’s not at her computer creating spicy new romances, Dakota is traveling to exotic locales or spending time with her husband and their bloodhounds.
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