Aaron and his brothers received a group text simultaneously and pulled their cell phones from their pockets. A family group text was often life-changing news, like someone has died and we’re flying to Saudi Arabia. Get packed. This one was just as shocking.
They stopped the game they were playing with all the little cousins in the street outside of Felicia’s house. They were losing anyway. The cousins thought it was funny that they could beat Aaron and his brothers at Chasumcas because they knew the rules better or maybe they kept changing the rules. The brothers had a tendency to play the game as if it were soccer, which it wasn’t. They weren’t really playing to win, just to keep the little cousins busy while the ladies prepared an evening meal.
Aaron, Hayden and Owen walked toward one another with their phones in hand and when they were far enough away from the kids, Aaron read out loud,
“You are cordially invited to attend the wedding of your brother, Prince Augustus Sayid to the lovely Phoebe Harris on Saturday, June 26th at 3:00 p.m. Please prepare to return from your vacation.” The text was from Alex Stephenson, Junior, Gus’ best friend.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Owen’s jaw dropped.
“I’m declaring the wager right now,” Hayden said. “Pregnant? Or not pregnant?”
“Pregnant,” Owen said confidently.
“Not pregnant,” Aaron said. “Gus wouldn’t do that.”
Owen and Hayden both snickered.
“Have you seen the way they look at each other?” Owen asked. “This was inevitable.”
“I thought he had turned his life around.” Aaron’s heart sunk.
“A man only has so much willpower,” Hayden said. “Believe me, I know.”
“You had better not get the king’s daughter pregnant,” Aaron warned.
“The Princess Miranda is in New York City attending college under the watchful eye of her older brother, Prince Ethan. I don’t think there’s any danger of that.”
“You’d be surprised how easy it is to make the wrong choice under the right circumstances.” Aaron glanced across the yard as the beautiful Felicia Cohen set a stack of paper plates on the picnic table. She looked up and smiled back at him. “Too easy.”
“Well, it looks like we’ll be packing up and heading home to America,” Owen said.
Hayden wrapped his arm around his brother’s shoulders and followed Aaron’s gaze. “What’cha gonna do about that?”
“Find out if she has a passport.” With his phone still in his hand and the text message still on the screen, Aaron strode with purpose across the yard to where Felicia was helping her mother and aunt lay out food for dinner.
“Ladies, can I steal Felicia for a moment?” Aaron didn’t wait for them to answer just snaked his arm around Felicia’s back and pulled her gently away. When he had her sufficiently out of earshot, he whispered, “I need to speak with you and your father.”
“My father?” Felicia’s purposely innocent expression and batting eyelashes told Aaron she knew exactly what he wanted to ask her father. “He’s probably in his office.”
Perfect. Dominic would be ready to talk business if there was a desk between them. The first part of this conversation needed to stay professional. Aaron took Felicia’s hand and led her into the house to the office where her father ran their business and household finances.
“Padre?” Felicia knocked on her father’s open door, and Dominic lifted his head, pulling his attention away from the ledger on his desk. “Can we interrupt you for a moment?”
“Of course.” Dominic removed his reading glasses and tucked them into the collar of his shirt. “What can I do for you?”
“Sir, I just received a text asking us to return to the States because our youngest brother is getting married in a few days.”
“You’re leaving?” Felicia gripped Aaron’s hand tighter.
“Well, that’s the thing, I wondered if… maybe”—Aaron glanced at Felicia and then squared his shoulders and face her father— “if maybe Felicia could come home with me to the States. There will be a lot of extended family at the wedding and she could meet her cousins.”
“Oh! Please, Daddy, can I go?” Felicia sounded so young begging her father’s permission to leave the country even though she was twenty-one years old.
Aaron felt just as old fashioned asking her father’s permission, but these were the traditions he needed to respect.
“He’s very young.” Dominic’s brow creased. “Are you talking about Augustus?”
“Yes, Gus and Phoebe, his high school girlfriend.” Aaron let his statement hang in the air, waiting to see what Dominic would say.
“Do you plan to return to Guatemala?” Dominic asked.
Aaron wasn’t sure if Dominic was asking Aaron or Felicia. He decided just to answer in the collective. “We still need to help rescue the Mayan girls who have been stolen from their families. So, yes, we’ll be back.”
“True…” Dominic tapped his pencil against his lips.
“We’ll also have the opportunity to talk to my grandfather, Senator Alejandro Cohen,” Aaron said. “He might have some suggestions on how to get help from the U.S. government.”
“Your grandfather is my uncle.” Dominic raised his eyebrows. “I’d forgotten about that.”
“Maybe you’d like to come with us also?” Aaron suggested.
“I have a business to run here. But thank you for the offer.”
“Can I go, Padre?” Felicia asked.
“You don’t have a passport.” Dominic sounded like he was looking for a reason to forbid her to go but didn’t really have one. After all, his daughter was an adult.
“There’s time. I can get one.”
“Well, let’s see if that’s possible before I make any promises.”
“Oh, thank you daddy!”
This was almost an admission of acceptance. But there was one more thing that Aaron needed to do. He turned to Felicia.
“Could I have a moment alone with your father?”
“Of course,” she said, lifting from her chair. “I’ll just go help with dinner.” She leaned down and kissed Aaron on the cheek. He wanted more than a kiss on the cheek, but he would have to wait until later for that.
As Felicia left the room, Aaron stood and pulled the door shut so that he had Dominic’s attention all to himself and privacy for this part of the conversation.
“Sir, I think you know why I want to speak with you, so I won’t beat around the bush. I’m not going to presume that Felicia will be willing, but I would like your blessing to request her hand in marriage. If, while we are visiting America, I get the impression that she would like to be my wife. I don’t want to take away her right to choose by asking you exclusively for your permission, but I would like your blessing to ask her if she wants to marry me.”
“I have no doubt in my mind what Felicia’s answer will be,” Dominic said with a chuckle.
“Nor do I,” Aaron said with a relieved, shaky breath. “But what are your thoughts on the subject?”
“I can’t think of a better man to take care of my little girl.”
“Thank you, Sir.” Aaron lowered his gaze and wrung his hands in his lap. “I haven’t always been the kind of man worthy of your daughter. But I will do the best I can to make myself worthy going forward.”
“I know you will, son,” Dominic said. “We all have a past, and not one of us is perfect.”
“Thank you for your grace.” Aaron felt as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders now that he’d admitted to Felicia and her father that he had made some bad choices as a youth.
“Now, go do some research and find out what it’s going to take to get that girl a passport,” Dominic said. “It’s time you introduce her to your family and ask their blessing as well.”
“Right away, Sir.” Aaron hopped up from his chair and reached for Dominic’s hand in a show of respect. He thanked the man he was certain to be his future father-in-law and hurried from the room.