Ryan didn’t know if his father was looking at him, but he kept his head down and polished his new, beautiful motorcycle. He made sure to keep his mind shielded against his father’s thoughts. He didn’t want to hear that his father thought it was disgusting for him and Kalie to be together.
“Ry, do you remember when you were fifteen and walked in on your mom and me having an argument?’
Ryan looked up, baffled. Jeremiah was leaning against the black Impala with his arms folded over his chest, probably to keep finger prints off the vintage car.
“Um…yeah, I remember. I’d never seen you and Mom argue like that.”
Jeremiah nodded. “We never had before, or since. Did you ever find out what the argument was about?”
“No.” Ryan’s brows knitted as he wondered where his father was going with this. “I tried to see if Olivia knew, but the KGB couldn’t get a secret out of her.”
Jeremiah laughed. “True.” He cleared his throat. “We were arguing about Kalie.”
“Because your mom wanted to adopt her and I didn’t.”
Ryan jerked back like his father had just struck him in the chest. “Why not? Don't you--"
“I love her,” Jeremiah said intensely. “She’s my daughter in every way that matters. But…well, I guess I always knew that scene in the gazebo would happen and—”
“Whoa, Dad. If you’re about to tell me that divination is a part of our gift then I’m going to be so unbelievably pissed. I haven’t even gotten used to this mind reading crap.”
Jeremiah smiled. “No, we’re not gifted with the divine powers to see into the future. As I was saying, your mom came to me when Kalie was six and said we should adopt her.”
“Don’t tell me you saw something between us when she was six and I was eight.”
“No, I didn’t. Back then I felt it was too soon after the loss of her family to adopt. I didn’t want her to think we were trying to replace her parents. Patty agreed. After that, every time she brought it up, I put her off, or talked around it.” He sighed and rubbed a hand through his brownish-blond hair. “You and Kalie never really interacted like siblings. Yeah, you got on each others’ nerves like siblings sometimes, but it was more like an old married couple even when you were children. When I saw how you reacted to seeing her in that bikini at your going away part, I knew I’d made the right decision.”
Ryan’s face heated as he remembered Kalie in that bright orange two-piece. “But Dad, even if I had less that civilized thoughts about Kalie, it doesn’t mean you couldn’t have adopted her.”
“If she was legally your sister would you have kissed her like you just did in that gazebo?”
Ryan vehemently shook his head. “No way.”
“See.” Jeremiah stepped away from the car and clapped a hand on Ryan’s shoulder. “If there was even the slightest chance that Kalie could be the one for you, there was no way I was going to let a piece of paper stand in the way. I love Kalie and I don’t care how she’s a part of this family, be it as my daughter or your wife—”
“Calm down, I’m not dusting off my tux yet. I’m just saying, if you want to be with Kalie, you have my blessing.”
Ryan swallowed. “I appreciate that, Dad. I really do. What about Mom?”
“Well, she’s a different story. She just doesn’t see this thing that's been between you and Kalie and probably won’t see it until you're having your first dance at your wedding.”
“Dad, enough with the wedding talk. You’re giving me palpitations.”
Jeremiah laughed, then he looked Ryan in the eyes. “Treat her with respect, Ryan. Don’t mess about with her because if things go to crap, I don’t want her to feel awkward around us. I want Kalie to know she’s always a member of this family.”
Ryan scoffed. “Trust me, Dad, if there's a vote on who to boot out the family, I'll be the one packing.”
“No, we’d work it out so you’d both feel comfortable. Just treat her right. No more groping her in public.”
Ryan smiled crookedly. "Yes, sir."
“Are you in love with her?”
He looked away from his father’s questioning eyes. “I should probably tell her before I tell you.”
Jeremiah pulled Ryan into a sideways hug. “You make me proud, son.”
A lump formed in Ryan’s throat, but he swallowed it down, and then remembered something. “Dad, what song did you sing for karaoke?”
The older man’s grin was both boyish and wicked. “A nice little tune by Sir Mix-A-Lot called, Baby Got Back…it’s a classic, you know.”
Ryan fell over laughing, hating that he’d missed that performance. But if given the choice between seeing his father sing about liking big butts or making out with Kalie, he would choose Kalie every time.