Knowing that he was shaken up made me feel better. I didn’t feel quite so crazy. Or alone. I reached my hand up.

He yanked me to standing. “I admit I’m having a hard time and she’s finally smiling?” Dastien said.


I chortled and it felt really good.

The back door slammed. Dad walked down the back steps in his work clothes. Even in this heat he wore a suit.

“Just what in the hell are you doing to my daughter that she runs—runs—the whole way home from school?” His tie hung loose around his neck. “You’re supposed to be taking care of her because apparently we can’t and it seems to me you’re doing a shit job of it!”

Mr. Dawson tried to step in front of us, but I skirted around him.

“Dad!” I swallowed him in a hug. He smelled good, even if it was an overwhelming mess of things—anger, dryer sheets, shampoo, relief.

He pulled away and looked at my face. “You okay?”

“I’m okay.”

He kissed my forehead.

“Your mother called me. She’s worried about you.” He handed me a pair of white gloves.

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I put them on. “Didn’t seem like she was too worried. She called Mr. Dawson to come get me.”

“Tessa. Your mother loves you very much, but we have to do what’s best for you. We’re both struggling to figure out what that is. How to handle this…” Dad looked beyond me and tried to push past. “I thought we agreed he would stay the hell away from my daughter.”

Michael shoved his hands in his pockets. “I said he would, unless he was her mate. And he is.”

“What is this bullshit! You can’t marry off my daughter. She’s only seventeen.”

I stepped in front of him, but he moved me to the side. I was scared to push him back. I didn’t want to accidentally hurt him.

“Calm down, Dad. You know I’m going to be eighteen really soon.” He had a right to be upset. Hell, I was still a little upset. But I didn’t want him to yell at Dastien.

“No one is going to make her marry me tomorrow. I would never force her to do anything she didn’t want,” Dastien said. “I know that’s a lot coming from me. I can’t ever take back what I did, but I hope eventually you’ll be able to forg—”

Dad’s face turned a bright shade of red. “You can get the hell off my property. Now.”

“Oh my God, Dad! Seriously. Calm down.” I grabbed the back of his jacket as he strode toward Dastien. The cloth’s rip stopped all motion in the back yard. Dad tried to get a look at his now ruined suit coat. “Oops.” I hadn’t meant to tear it.

“Teresa. Did you just rip my coat?”

I gave him a sheepish smile. “I’m sorry, Daddy. I honestly didn’t mean to.”

Dad pulled off the two pieces that used to be a jacket. “It’s okay. I guess one less suit won’t kill me.”

The back door slammed again. “Tessa. What happened to your father’s coat?”

“It was an accident. I’m sorry, okay?”

Dastien’s chuckle was too soft for my parents to hear. My cheeks burned.

“Would everyone like to come in and have some lemonade?” Mom said.

“No, thank you. We should head back to campus,” Mr. Dawson said.

Dad pulled me into his arms. “I don’t care what he says, if something isn’t right there, you come home. There are other options.” His lips were set in a firm line when he pulled away from me.

“I’m going to be fine, Dad.” I hoped I wasn’t lying.

“Forgive me?” Mom said.


She came down and wrapped her arms around me. “Call if you need me.” She pulled away. “And call your brother. He’s freaking out.”

“I bet he’s having an awesome time in Austin and isn’t thinking about me at all.”

Mom grinned. “You’d be mistaken, kiddo.”

We walked around the side of the house to the black Escalade parked in the drive. Dastien pulled a pair of flip-flops from his back pocket. “Missing something?”


“They were like a trail to you. One not far from here, one at your front door.”

I yanked them from his grasp. “Thanks.” I slid them on and got in the car.

Dastien held my hand in the backseat as Mr. Dawson drove us to St. Ailbe’s. I watched the trees fly past.

All too soon, we pulled through the gates, and into the small parking lot next to the main building. Dr. Gonzales ran up to the car.

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