“AXEL REID, DON’T YOU DARE!” my mom exclaims. Then she yelps when my daddy charges through the front door.
“Don’t I dare what, Princess? No way that boy is going near my girl. Look at him! He looks like he can’t wait to creep on my daughter!”
“Well, there is no need to scare him to death!” she mocks.
My cheeks heat instantly when I see Dane start backing away from the porch. My hopes of being able to actually go to my senior prom are starting to go up in flames.
Just like that.
Not that I should be surprised about it. Mom did her best to calm Daddy down, but we should have known better. He took one look at me and stormed over, only to return ten minutes later looking like he does now.
“You need to stop this nonsense right now, you big lug, or you’ll be sleeping on the couch,” Mom fumes.
“Like hell I will, woman!” Daddy roars at my mom.
I watch her face get sharp. He stops long enough to sling one of—that’s right, ONE of—the rifles he’s carrying over his shoulder, where it lands next to the other one he already has over his other shoulder.
Only my mom would be brave enough to deal with him when he’s in “Protect Dani from everything with a penis” mode. He looks absolutely ridiculous. He has two hunting rifles now hanging by their leather straps over each shoulder. He has two handguns strapped to each thick thigh, two on each side of his belt, and various knives along the way. His shirt, which he thinks is hilarious to wear when I attempt to go out on a date, says I kill things . . . and eat them. I know it’s a hunting shirt—for animals, not teenage boys—but Dane doesn’t.
Mom moves in front of him, standing in the front doorway and blocking his path, where Dane is still slowly retreating. She’s been dealing with this way before they even had me. He’s . . . protective. I guess that’s the nicest way to put it. Well, she calls him protective. However, I call it possessive, overbearing, controlling, demanding, and jerky.
“This is her senior prom, Ax. You wouldn’t let her go last year. ” She pauses when he grunts. “And I’m sorry, but you won’t be stopping her this year. She has a right to experience this. And Dane is a nice boy. Right, Dane?” she yells over her shoulder.
“Uhh . . . ” he stammers, causing my daddy to grunt some more.
“The boy doesn’t even know how to talk, Izzy. I bet he will be nothing but handsy and think with his little pecker. Nope. No way. Not near my baby girl. ”
Oh. My. God. I wish I could just fall into a hole right now. I try to see over my parents to find out if Dane heard that, but with Daddy basically being a giant, that’s not happening.
“You did not just say that!” I yell at his back.
Daddy turns around, his movements awkward with how many weapons he has strapped to his body. His green eyes, so like my own, slant and harden. He looks down at my dress for the thousandth time since I came downstairs and doesn’t even bother hiding his displeasure that it’s showing too much of my body. Even if it is about as tasteful as it gets.
My strapless, red dress has a sweetheart neckline, and everything he calls my “girly bits” is covered. There isn’t really any cleavage. Well, okay, there is some, but surely with my lack of being busty, you couldn’t even call what is showing “cleavage. ” His first problem was with how much of my legs was showing. Then I made the mistake of turning around without my wrap on. That’s when he saw that the dress was completely backless to my bra line. Well, what it would be if I had been wearing one. Which is clearly when he lost his mind.
“You look just like your mother did that night twenty years ago when we finally came back to each other. Right down to those strappy shoe things. And I guarantee you, Danielle Reid, any teenage boy who doesn’t bat for the other team will be thinking thoughts I’ll cut his dick off for. No. You aren’t going with that boy, and that’s final. ”
I harden my eyes, and his narrow even further.
I put my hands on my hips, and he squares his shoulders, his rifles clinking together.
I raise one brow, and he mirrors the action.
“I’ll cry. ”
“No, you won’t. You have more balls than that. ”
“Want to bet?” I attempt to muster up some tears, knowing that he won’t be able to handle them, but before I can force the first one out, my brother jumps into my line of sight and blocks our standoff.
“Yo, Dane! You just run along now. Dani is unfortunately feeling a little under the weather. Ebola. Or the flu. I don’t know. It’s really ugly and you probably don’t want to be around this. The boils—they could pop at any moment. ” Page 2
“You did not just do that,” I heatedly whisper, fuming at his nerve.
Nate turns and smirks at me. “Oh I just did. ”
“I can’t believe you two!” I spin to look at the one person who can help me. “Mom, seriously?”
Her expression softens, and she just shakes her head. “I’m sorry, Dani. I tried. ”
“You two,” I start, pointing between my older brother and father. “You just can’t leave it alone? I’ll be eighteen in a few months. What are you jerks going to do then?”
“You’re not dating, Danielle. Not ever. ”
“Oh yeah, Daddy? And how realistic is that crap?”
“Watch your mouth, little princess. ”
“I’m so sorry, Dani. ” She walks over and wraps me in her small arms.
I could probably really cry now a lot easier than when I was trying to fake it, but I’ve never been one of those girls who weep constantly. It would be easier to just go upstairs, take off the dress mom and I spent hours looking for, scrub off the light makeup she helped me apply, and pretend this night didn’t happen.
An hour later, I’m sitting in my bedroom, still wearing my perfect dress. My makeup is still done and my hair is still flowing in long waves. And I’m no less mad at the men in my life than I was earlier. I’ve considered climbing out my window. I’ve considered asking my best friends, Lyn and Lila, to come help me escape. But what would be the point? Rambo-Dad already scared away my date, the only boy left in school who had been willing to ask me even though his friends had warned him about my father.
I lie down on my bed and stare up at the ceiling. Maybe I should go away for college. I planned on living at home while I attended Georgia Tech, but there is no way I can deal with this stuff any longer. If my father had things his way, I would be shipped off to become a nun. Or he would buy an island and make it an all-girls cult.
“Uhggggg!” I yell to the empty room.
“Seriously, Dani-girl, things can’t be that bad. ”
I jump up when I hear the deep, gravelly, insanely sexy voice coming from my bedroom door. That voice. My lord. The things it alone does to me should be classified as illegal.
My hair slaps me in the face, a good handful landing in my open mouth, and I hastily pull it out before I turn to where he is standing.
My lord, he’s beautiful. He’s always been. My heart speeds up when I take in his smirking face and the mischief dancing in his brown eyes.
“Cat got your tongue?”
I shake my head.
I shake it again.
“Do you really have some flesh-eating, boil-slash-Ebola-like sickness?” he laughs.
I narrow my eyes at him, and his rich laughter booms through the room.
“I’m just kidding, Dani-girl. Come on. Get yourself ready and let’s go rock this prom. ”
My jaw drops again.