Dinner with the Jacobsons was not going well. Dad looked like he wanted to stab Luke in the throat with a salad fork.
For simply meeting me.
Okay, so Luke’s done more than just meet me. Especially in his Jeep the previous night. But, considering he was still alive, Dad couldn’t possibly know about that.
Luke was seated beside me, across from my father. He sported black jeans, a metallic blue shirt, and his silver chain. His icy blue eyes glided over to me from time to time. I hadn’t heard him breathe in a while, and hoped he’d survive dinner.
Because my life would really suck without him.
“Paul,” Burke said in his thick accent, trying to get Dad’s glare off my poor—okay, not so poor—fiancé.
“Paul!” Mom kicked him under the table. Her eyes bulged and her mostly drawn-in eyebrows formed a scowl.
“What?” Dad groaned.
“I am off next week for spring break. Would you like me to chaperone the trip to Prince George?” Burke asked, gesturing to me.
It’s amazing how much Burke will do for the sake of Dad’s sanity—which isn’t all there, anyway. Never mind his stepdaughter was going on the same trip with Troy De La Fontaine and Gino Barone—Burke Jacobson felt he had to tag along to babysit me.
Troy sat on one side of Lilly, in black jeans and a white tank top, regularly peeking at her. Gino sat on the other, in khaki pants and a brown shirt, practically burning a hole through Troy’s face.
So much for Luke’s best friends getting along.
It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that those two would have no problem killing each other.
“I don’t know if she’s going,” Dad grumbled.
“Paul would like that, thank you, Burke.” Mom stabbed her pork chop and shook her head at my father, her dreamcatcher earrings swaying as she did.
Burke ran a hand through his messy mocha hair. “Ah, no worries, Paul. She won’t even be gone a week, yes?”
Burke had to know it was pointless—Dad barely survived my trip to Switzerland. He’s going to flip when he hears I’m moving out with Luke Pawlak—which is why I’d decided it may be best not to tell him.
Perhaps my ring was a clue, but I would not dream of telling Dad Luke and I planned to live together before getting married. He’s old-fashioned like that.
And a hypocrite, to boot.
“Gino, are you feeling hot?” Mrs. Jacobson looked concerned. “Your face is so red!”
Gino glanced at her, shook his head no, gave a hint of a smile and went back to glaring at Troy.
“May I be excused?” Lilly asked awkwardly.
“No,” Mrs. Jacobson said. “Eat your sweet potato.”
Lilly brushed some long blond hair over her shoulder and heaved a sigh. She wore a hot pink tee shirt and jeans, and even in clothes so plain, she was gorgeous.
“If you don’t want your sweet potato, I’ll take it,” Sullivan offered.
Lilly flashed a fake smile. “Please do.”
Sullivan reached over the table, grabbed her potato and—between “Ow!”s— dumped it on his plate.
Lilly looked to her mother. “Now may I be excused?”
Luke cleared his throat. “It’s been a whole five minutes since she last did her make-up.”
With one swift swing, Lilly whacked him over the head. This time, he didn’t even see it coming. “Shut up, Lukasz.”
“Enough,” Mrs. Jacobson growled.
“It’s been at least fifteen, Luke,” Troy said in his light French accent. “Not that Lilly even needs make-up.”
Lilly grinned before her glance turned to Gino.
Luke snickered. “She’s all right as far as girls go.”
I rolled my eyes.
“She’s all right....” Troy threw his head back and laughed. “She’s ... she’s...” His voice trailed off, and he gazed at her, mesmerized. “Stunning.”
Gino clenched his jaw.
“Absolutely gorgeous,” Mom said, looking at her. “I always thought so, too.”
Lilly sighed and sat back in her seat. She obviously wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“Too bad I’m not older!” Sullivan boasted. “She’s smoking hot!”
Everyone looked at him.
He shrugged. “What?”
“Is this an appropriate conversation for such a young man?” Mom pushed on his back to straighten his posture.
“Yeah,” Sullivan said simply.
Dad chuckled, and Mom shot him a look.
“Troy, isn’t she hot?” Sullivan asked boldly.
All eyes were on Troy in an instant.
“Stunning,” Troy repeated with a smirk. “Don’t you think so, Gino?”
Gino leered at him. “Yeah. Sure glad I saw her first.”
Lilly’s eyes widened, and her forehead glistened.
Our parents—minus Dad—meant for this “peaceful” family dinner to bring us all together.
I’m not sure what they were thinking!
“I saw her before any of you,” Luke said, “and I sometimes wish I hadn’t.”
Lilly moved to smack him again, but Luke laughed and moved his head.
“Do you two not get along?” Dad asked, oblivious.
“We do on occasion,” Luke said, growing serious. “This isn’t one of those, though.”
“I thought twins have a magical bond that makes them get along,” Dad said between bites of salad.
“No.” Mrs. Jacobson smiled. “There is no such bond.”
“The only bond Lukasz has,” Lilly briefed, “is a cushy savings bond.”
Everyone laughed. Everyone but me, Luke, and Gino.
“Gee, thanks, Rapunzel,” Luke said.
“You’re welcome.” Lilly moved some food around on her plate.
Gino crossed his arms and leaned back in his seat. “This is starting to feel like dinner at my house....”
“Well I’m sure glad I saw her!” Sullivan grinned and tucked his brown hair behind his ears. “I think about her every night!”
Mom shot Sullivan a look.
“How can that be?” I taunted. “I mean, she’s real!” That one, of course, was aimed at his girlfriend—whose existence was never proven, by the way. She’s like Bigfoot, or Nessie.
Sullivan crossed his arms. “She’s as real as you are.”
With another eye roll, I shook my head.
“Lilly, I love that necklace on you!” Mom said to change the subject.
Lilly’s hand went to her neck. Her fingers touched the impressive sapphire hanging on a heavy gold chain. “Thanks. Gino’s grandmother gave it to me. It’s a family heirloom, and I promised it would never leave my sight.” She glanced at Gino. “His grandma’s so sweet to me.”
Gino smiled and looked down.
Mom beamed. “That’s wonderful! It’s gorgeous!”
“I only take it off when I shower, or at night when I go to bed. And even then I feel kinda bad.”
Mom took a bite of her potato.
Gino and Lilly gazed at each other.
Burke cleared his throat. “Ah, as I was saying, Paul ... I reserved a two-room suite in Prince George. I have no problem going along with them, to supervise them on the trip. I need a vacation anyway.”
Burke looked to his wife. “If you would like to go, the option is open, yes, Gwen?”
Mrs. Jacobson smiled. “Leave the cold to visit the cold?” She waved a hand at him. “I need to help Mrs. Barone at the restaurant. I promised.”
Burke looked at Gino. “Ah, I am so happy everything worked out for the Barones!”
Gino’s eyebrows gathered. “Yeah, my ma’s never been happier. She’s always wanted a successful restaurant.” His gaze softened and fell on Lilly. “Now she’s got one.”
“And now she can not have a vacation, yes?” Burke said with a grin.
Gino shrugged. “It doesn’t look like she minds.”
“They’re rolling in dough,” Sullivan noted. “Who would mind?”
Everyone looked at him, but nobody said anything. It must be awkward being my brother.
“That’s a good idea, Burke,” Dad said, glancing at Mom. “If Adonia must go.”
I thought I saw Mom roll her eyes. You would think people with PhD’s don’t roll their eyes.
“I will take care of her,” Burke said, gesturing to me. “No worries, Paul. No worries.”
At eighteen, I found this conversation beyond ridiculous.
“And if Burke doesn’t,” Sullivan said with a goofy grin, “Luke is bound to!”
Dad’s eyes widened, and his glare struck Luke. I could see the paranoia building in his head.
“I’ll make sure my friend Troy here doesn’t run off with her,” Luke joked, pointing to Troy.
“I hear Troy has a history of that,” Burke said with a light smile.
Gino’s chest heaved.
My breaths grew rapid when I saw Dad’s face—he was white as a ghost.
“Dad,” I said. “He’s not serious.”
Dad looked breathless. “Troy runs off with girls?”
Luke nodded. “He used to steal my girlfriends in school.”
Dad’s brow creased. “How many did you have?”
Luke’s eyes widened. “Not many. I’m talking in middle school, no one...” He glanced at me. “...No one serious.”
Dad gnawed on his thumbnail.
Mom smacked his hand.
“In fact,” Luke added, his forehead growing glossy, “I never saw any of those girls outside of school.”
“I’m betting none of them liked to ski,” Lilly said dryly, eating some salad.
Dad stared. “I see.”
Luke’s eyes brushed mine, and settled on Dad again. “Troy’s an awesome guy. I trust him with my life.”
Dad knitted his eyebrows. “After he stole your girlfriends?”
Luke chewed some meat. “Yeah.”
“It’s okay, Dad,” Sullivan said. “Troy will pack a blow-up doll, too.”
Troy burst out laughing. “Ah, yeah?” When everyone looked at him, his face fell, and he looked down awkwardly.
Gino sat back in his seat. “Works for me.”
Troy pursed his lips.
Dad gripped his chest and heaved.
“Paul?” Burke narrowed his eyes. “Are you all right?”
Troy looked to Dad. “I don’t own a blow-up doll, if that helps, monsieur.”
Dad gasped for air. “No, Troy. That doesn’t help.”
“Troy!” Burke raised his eyebrows. “You are not making things better, yes?”
“Dad, stop freaking out!” Sullivan demanded. “Adonia’s got it covered, I saw pills in her dresser drawer!”
“You went through my stuff?!” I shrieked.
“Pills?” Dad said in a breathless panic. “She’s doing drugs?!” He looked at Luke. “You got my little girl into drugs? You got—” Dad wheezed. His body rattled.
Sullivan crinkled his nose. “Drugs...?”
“I’m not on drugs, it’s just birth control!” I blurted. “And why would I cheat? I wouldn’t sleep with another guy just because he’s smoking HOT!”
I froze as the words left my mouth. I’d done it again.
“I mean,” I attempted. “Not that I’d cheat in that sense, because we don’t do stuff! And besides, Mom got me the pills to regulate my period! They’re not for sex! How can we have sex when we’re not even married!”
Mom’s eyes glided over to Dad.
Luke swallowed hard.
My father heaved one final, terrified breath before he gripped his heart and collapsed.