Normally, parents love me. I’m a natural. A charmer. I can sweet-talk grandma out of her panties.
But the way K’s dad is looking at me has me second-guessing every word that comes out of my mouth. Coming home with her for the holidays may have been a huge mistake. We’ve only been together for six months.
Was it too soon to meet them?
When Kendall asked if I wanted to join them for Thanksgiving, I thought it would be a great idea. She said it would be low-key, just her parents and her sister. A small dinner followed by board games. We’d have to sleep in separate rooms – I could deal with one night without her by my side – but I’d be able to stay at their house. And her mother had been begging K to bring me home so she could meet her.
Her mother is the sweetest person on the planet. She gives amazing hugs and Kora and Kendall look exactly like her. She’s a ball of energy, which is more than likely where K gets her spitfire personality and hasn’t stopped asking me questions since I walked through the door four hours ago, even demanding my help putting the final touches on dinner so we could keep chatting.
Her father on the other hand… scares the shit out of me.
We stand eye to eye but he has about twenty pounds on me and if I saw him on the street, I wouldn’t fuck with him. It takes a lot to intimidate me, I’m not a small guy – in stature of build – but Mr. Potter is about as fierce-looking as they come.
And he’s kept his eye on me all day. Narrowing his gaze any time K came within arm’s reach. Waiting for me to do something stupid like touch her.
Which I haven’t done since I let her hand go so she could let us in the house.
“Daddy, stop it,” K chastises her father. “He’s not even touching me and you’re looking at him like you want to rip his head from his body.”
“Derick,” K’s mom adds while Kora tries to hide her laugh behind her napkin.
She hasn’t helped the situation at all, chiming in with ‘fun facts’ anytime she’s seen fit. She’s not trying to ruin the chance that her father likes me, but she’s not making it easy for me either. I’m going to have to work for it, prove to him that I’m worthy of his daughter.
I’m on board with that. Some day when K and I have kids of our own-
Shit! Where did that come from?
“I just want to know his intention, Kendall. Is something wrong with that?”
Did he just growl at me? I think he did.
“Yes, daddy. There is something wrong with that. Dec and I haven’t even been together a year yet. I don’t even know his intention, or if he has any. So let it go. He makes me happy right now. That should be enough for you.”
Averting his eyes to his daughter, Mr. Potter’s gaze softens. When he bows his head, focusing on his untouched meal, I let out the breath I was holding.
It’s over, for now at least.
After dinner, we all moved into the living room where Kora had set up a selection of games for us to choose from. The football game was on in the background, holding Mr. Potter’s attention long enough for K to grab my hand and give it a squeeze.
I needed that. Her reassuring touch.
Kendall may have forgotten to mention that she’s never brought a guy home to meet her parents before until we were already in the car and on the way here. Her high school boyfriend, cough asshole cough, found ways to avoid meeting them. So I was the first and my coming with her was a big deal.
Which put me on edge.
I wanted to make a good impression. And I did that with her mom. She seems to like me. She’s been smiling since the moment I walked in. And talking to me constantly. Interrogating is more like it. But her dad… he’s a tough nut to crack. I thought Max was crazy protective of his sisters. He has nothing on Mr. Potter.
“Help me make the popcorn,” K states, taking my hand and pulling me up off the floor.
“You need help working the microwave,” I tease as we make our way into the kitchen.
“No.” K nudges me with her shoulder as we round the corner and then pushes me flat against the wall, trapping me with her body. Not that I mind. My hands immediately find her hips and give them a little squeeze as she crowds me in. “I just wanted a moment alone with you to see how you’re holding up. My dad can be a little-“
“A little what, Kendall?” her father asks, causing us to jump apart at the sound of his voice.
That was definitely a growl.
“Why don’t you help your sister choose a game and Declan and I will make the popcorn.”
K shoots me an apologetic glance as she slowly backs out of the kitchen.
“Now, Declan, tell me a little bit about yourself,” he starts, keeping his back to me. His voice is flat, unreadable. “Where are you from? What do your parents do for a living? What are you studying?” he continues when I don’t answer right away.
I can do this. I can talk to him about my life. Tell him a little bit about myself. No problem. This will be easy.
Ten minutes later and we’re sitting at the island in the kitchen, laughing at a story I’ve shared with him from my childhood. Micah, Finn, and I had dared each other to go sledding down a dangerous hill. At the bottom, was the road. If you were successful, you flew over the road and continued down the hill on the other side. The dangerous part was the cars that would speed down the road because once you were going, there was no stopping yourself.
“And you made it?” he laughs.
“By a hair. Finn said Micah started to cry as soon as he saw the car round the corner while he was trying to figure out how he was going to tell our parents what happened.”
“I’m guessing you were supposed to be going down that hill?”
“Nope. Our parents had banned us the previous year when Finn’s best friend had a near miss.”
“So why do it?”
“I was dared. I never back down from a dare. Especially one from my brothers. We love to torment each other.”
“Even now?” His brow lifts in curiosity.
“Yeah, but not like that anymore. We’re not as stupid as we used to be. I actually live with my younger brother, Micah. Now that we’re both in relationships, we’ve eased up on each other. Nothing crazy has happened in years. And my older brother, Finn, is dating Kendall’s roommate, Willow.”
“She mentioned something about that a while back.”
“It’s been a long time coming for them to finally get together. He’s loved her since he was a teenager.”
“And she didn’t feel the same?”
“No, she did, but her brother is Finn’s best friend and Max is a little overprotective. He actually reminds me of you. I can see how much you love your daughters and your need to protect them.”
Why the hell did I just say that?
“Oh, you noticed that?” he jokes, his smirk growing. “Yes, I love my daughters. Aside from my wife, they’re everything to me. I want to protect them from the pain that life can inflict on them if they’re not careful. From the people that inflict that pain. So tell me, Declan Graham, why should I trust you with my daughter?”
Fuck. My. Life.
“You shouldn’t,” I state causing his eyes to widen in surprise. “I know what happened to her in high school. What that, excuse my French, asshole did to her. I’d be wary of everyone around her too. But I’m not a bad person, and I care about your daughter, deeply. I have no intentions of hurting her on purpose. I’m also not perfect. I’ll do something stupid to upset her. I have no doubt. But I also plan to do things that I hope will make her happy. I intend to treat her like the princess she is. To protect her from the other assholes in the world to the best of my ability. To shield her from the ugly and show her how beautiful life can be. But no, you shouldn’t trust me. Not yet. Because I haven’t proven to you that you can. And I don’t expect you to.”
He lets my confession sink in.
It wasn’t what I expected to say to him. Hell, it might be the last thing I should have said to him. But in the end, I was honest, and I hope that counts for something with him. Enough for him to at least stop growling and giving me the death stare.
“Are you two about done in here?” Kendall asks, leaning against the door jam.
When my eyes meet hers, they’re glistening with unshed tears leaving no doubt in my mind she heard everything I said to her father.
“We are sweetheart,” my father pipes up. “Just getting to know your boyfriend a little better.”
Mr. Potter walks over to where K is, kisses her on the top of her head, and whispers something in her ear. Those tears that she tried to keep bottled up fall when her eyes close and I rush to wipe them away with my thumbs.
“What’s wrong, babe?”
“Nothing. Everything is perfect.”
“What did he say?” I ask, swallowing the lump in my throat.
“He said he was proud of me and that I should bring you back home for Christmas.”
He accepted me. I have permission to date his daughter. Not that I would have walked away if he hadn’t, but this makes my heart lighter. Because the next serious conversation I have with Mr. Potter will more than likely be when I ask him for permission to marry Kendall.
And with the way she’s looking at me right now, like I hold our entire future in her hands, that conversation will be coming sooner rather than later.
Which is why I lean in and press my lips to her. A promise of what’s to come.
A life together that will bring more happiness than either of us can imagine.
Two Graham brothers have fallen and that leaves the baby of the family, Micah. The playboy. The one who refuses to be tied down. Until he meets her… Find out who she is in Risky Little Affair.