Lick, p.43
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       Lick, p.43
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         Part #1 of Stage Dive series by Kylie Scott
Page 43

  Author: Kylie Scott

  David for his part had gone all out, wearing a gray button-down shirt with the sleeves secured to his wrists. It covered the bulk of his tattoos. Black jeans and plain black boots completed his meet-the-parents wardrobe. Considering he’d refused to dress up for a ballroom full of Hollywood royalty, I was impressed. He’d even poofed up his hair into a vaguely James Dean do. On most men I would not have liked it. David was not most men. Frankly, he looked gosh-almighty awesome, even with the fading bruises beneath his eyes. And the gracious manner with which he dealt with my parents’ abysmal behavior only reinforced my belief in him. My pride that he’d chosen to be with me. But back to the dinner conversation.

  Lauren was giving a detailed synopsis of her plans for classes for the upcoming semester. My dad nodded and listened intently, asking all the appropriate questions. Nate falling for her was beyond my parents’ wildest dreams. She’d been a de facto part of the family for a long time now. They couldn’t have been more delighted. But more than that, she seemed to make them take a look at their son anew, noticing the changes in him. When Lauren talked about Nate’s work and his responsibilities, they listened.

  Meanwhile, David was only on the other side of the table but I missed him. There was so much to talk about that I didn’t know where to start. And hadn’t we already talked over the bulk of it? So what was the problem? I had the strangest sensation that something was wrong, something was slipping away from me. David had moved to Portland. All would be well. But it wasn’t. Classes started back soon. The threat of the plan still hung over my head because I allowed it to.

  “Ev? Is something wrong?” Dad sat at one end of the table, his face drawn with concern.

  “No, Dad,” I said, my smile full of gritted teeth. There’d been no mention of my hanging up on him. I suspected it had been chalked up to broken-hearted girl rage or something similar.

  Dad frowned, first at me and then at David. “My daughter goes back to school next week. ”

  “Ah, yes,” said David. “She did mention that, Mr Thomas. ”

  My father studied David from over the top of his glasses. “Her studies are very important. ”

  A cold kind of panic gripped me as the horror unrolled right before my eyes. “Dad. Stop. ”

  “Yes, Mr Thomas,” said David. “I have no intention of interrupting them. ”

  “Good. ” Dad steepled his hands in front of him, settling in to give a lecture. “But the fact is, young women imagining themselves in love have a terrible tendency to not think. ”

  “Dad—”

  My dad held up a hand to stop me. “Ever since she was a little girl, she’s planned to become an architect. ”

  “Okay. No. ”

  “What if you go on tour, David?” my father asked, continuing despite my commotion. “As you inevitably will. Do you expect her to drop everything and just follow you?”

  “That would be up to your daughter, sir. But I don’t plan on doing anything to make her have to choose between me and school. Whatever she wants to do, she’s got my support. ”

  “She wants to be an architect,” Dad said, his tone absolute. “This relationship has already cost her dearly. She had an important internship cancelled when all of this nonsense happened. It’s set her back considerably. ”

  I pushed back, rising from my chair. “That’s enough. ”

  Dad gave me the same glare he’d first dealt David, hostile and unwelcome. He looked at me like he no longer recognized me.

  “I won’t have you throwing away your future for him,” he thundered.

  “Him?” I asked, horrified at his tone. Anger had been pooling inside of me all night, filling me up. No wonder I’d barely touched my dinner. “The person you’ve both been unconscionably rude to for the past hour? David is the last person who would expect me to throw away anything that mattered to me. ”

  “If he cared for you he would walk away. Look at the damage he’s done. ” A vein bulged on the side of my father’s forehead as he stood too. Everyone else watched in stunned silence. It could be said I’d gone the bulk of my life backing down. But those had all been about things that didn’t matter, not really. This was different.

  “You’re wrong. ”

  “You’re out of control,” my father snarled, pointing his finger at me.

  “No,” I said to my father. Then I turned and said what I should have said a long time ago to my husband. “No, I’m not. What I am is the luckiest fucking girl in the entire world. ”

  A smile lit David’s eyes. He sucked in his bottom lip, trying to keep the happy contained in the face of my parents’ fury.

  “I am,” I said, tearing up and not even minding for once.

  He pushed back his chair and rose to his feet, facing me across the table. The promise of unconditional love and support in his eyes was all the answer I needed. And in that one perfect moment, I knew everything was fine. We were fine. We always would be if we stuck together. There wasn’t a single doubt inside of me. In silence, he walked around the table and stood at my side.

  The look on my parents’ faces … whoa. They always said it was best to rip the Band-aid off all at once, though, get it over and done with. So I did.

  “I don’t want to be an architect. ” The relief in finally saying it was staggering. I’m almost certain my knees knocked. There’d be no backing down, however. David took my hand in his, gave it a squeeze.

  My father just blinked at me. “You don’t mean that. ”

  “I’m afraid I do. It was your dream, Dad. Not mine. I should never have gone along with this. That was my mistake and I’m sorry. ”

  “What will you do?” asked my mother, her voice rising. “Make coffee?”

  “Yes. ”

  “That’s ridiculous. All that money we spent—” Mom’s eyes flashed in anger.

  “I’ll pay it back. ”

  “This is insane,” Dad said, his face going pale. “This is about him. ”

  “No. This is about me, actually. David just made me start questioning what I really wanted. He made me want to be a better person. Lying about this, trying to fit in with your plan for so long … I was wrong to do that. ”

  My father glared at me. “I think you should leave now, Evelyn. Think this over carefully. We’ll talk about it later. ”

  I guessed we would, but it wouldn’t change anything. My good-girl status had well and truly taken a dive.

  “You forgot to tell her that whatever she decides you still love her. ” Nathan got to his feet, pulling out Lauren’s chair for her. He faced my father with his jaw set. “We’d better go too. ”

  “She knows that. ” Face screwed up in confusion, Dad stood at the head of the table.

  Nate grunted. “No, she doesn’t. Why do you think she fell into line for so many years?”

  Mum knotted her hands.

  “That’s ridiculous,” sputtered Dad.

  “No, he’s right,” I said. “But I guess everyone has to grow up sometime. ”

  Dad’s eyes turned even colder. “Being an adult is not about turning your back on your responsibilities. ”

  “Following in your footsteps is not my responsibility,” I said, refusing to back down. The days of my doing that were gone. “I can’t be you. I’m sorry I wasted so many years and so much of your money figuring that out. ”

  “We only want what’s best for you,” said Mom, voice thick with emotion.

  “I know you do. But that’s for me to decide now. ” I turned back to my husband, keeping a firm hold on his hand. “And my husband isn’t going anywhere. You need to accept that. ”

  Nate walked around the table, gave Mom a kiss. “Thanks for dinner. ”

  “One day,” she said, looking between the both of us, “when you have your own children, then you’ll understand how hard it is. ”

  Her words pretty much wrapped things up. My dad just kept sh
aking his head and huffing out breaths. I felt guilty for disappointing them. But not bad enough to return to my former ways. I’d finally reached an age where I understood that my parents were people too. They weren’t perfect or omnipotent. They were every bit as fallible as me. It was my job to judge what was right.

  I picked up my handbag. It was time to go.

  David nodded to both my parents and escorted me out. A sleek new silver Lexus Hybrid sat waiting by the curb. It wasn’t a big SUV like the ones Sam and the other bodyguards used. This one came in a more user-friendly size. Behind us, Nate and Lauren climbed into his car. Nothing much was said. Mom and Dad stood in the house’s open doorway, dark silhouettes care of the light behind them. David opened the door for me and I climbed into the passenger seat.

  “I’m sorry about my father. Are you upset?” I asked.

  “No. ” He shut my door and walked around to the driver’s side.

  “No? That’s it?”

  He shrugged. “He’s your dad. Of course he’s going to be concerned. ”

  “I thought you might have been running for the hills by now with all the drama. ”

  He flicked on the indicator and pulled out onto the road. “Did you really?”

  “No. Sorry, that was a stupid thing to say. ” I watched my old neighborhood passing by, the park I’d played in and the path I’d taken to school. “So I’m a college dropout. ”

  He gave me curious glance. “How does that feel?”

  “God, I don’t know. ” I shook my hands, rubbed them together. “Tingly. My toes and hands feel tingly. I don’t know what I’m doing. ”

  “Do you know what you want to do?”

  “No. Not really. ”

  “But you know what you don’t want to do?”

  “Yes,” I answered definitely.

  “Then there’s your starting point. ”
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