“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. “What?”
For the first time, I notice that he’s dressed in a perfectly tailored tux. My eyes travel down his tall form to his shining, black dress shoes. On the way back up, my eyes hit the corsage spinning around his finger before I look back up into those gorgeous eyes.
“Let’s go, beautiful.”
“Does Daddy know you’re here?” I ask, not moving from my spot.
He sighs, steps into my room, and walks over. His cologne, Gucci Black, wraps around me. He’s worn the same scent for years. I perversely sniff it every time I hit the mall with Lyn and Lila. That scent—it’s my undoing.
He grabs one of my hands and gives my knuckles a kiss before placing the corsage around my wrist. He gives my hand a squeeze before letting go. Placing his strong hands on my shoulders, he presses down until I’m seated on my bed. Kneeling before me, he takes my feet one by one and fastens the straps of my black heels before standing and grabbing my hands, again, to pull me to my feet.
The whole time, I act like a freak and just gape at him.
What in the hell is going on?
“Ready?” he asks.
“Uhhh . . .”
“Right. You’re ready,” he laughs, grabs my hand, and pulls me through the house, down the stairs, and into the entryway of the house, where my parents are waiting.
Mom has her camera ready, forcing us to take some pictures, for all of which I’m sure I’m just standing there in a daze. I think I smiled in them, but I was too busy trying to figure out what the hell is going on. Daddy smiles big and triumphantly the whole time, like he’s won some battle here.
“Oh, good. You got here,” Nate mumbles through a sandwich he’s stuffing down his throat.