What do think of the name Hidden Swan?
How am I supposed to keep my hands off this girl the whole time we’re out to dinner with her parents? Joel almost couldn’t stop himself from wrapping his arm around the back of Winnie’s chair. He wanted to hold her hand and smooth the flyaway strands of hair that had fallen from her bun, and hold her delicate face in his while he gently pressed his lips to hers.
He cleared his throat and forced his thoughts back to a more appropriate topic, like the question her father had asked. Where did he grow up? Right.
“I’m originally from southern California and my parents still live there,” Joel said, giving up the fight to wrap his arm around the back of Winnie’s chair. “That’s one of the reasons I’m excited to go to the Rose Bowl. My friends all think I’m a traitor for coming to U of M instead of staying and playing for USC.”
“That is a long way to come for school.” Winnie’s father, Warren LaFleur creased his brow. “What brought you to Michigan?”
“The finest medical school in the world.” Joel lifted his chin with pride.
“Do you have a specialty you’re considering?” Teri LaFleur asked. Winnie’s mom was beautiful and upper class to a fault even while trying to fit in. She lifted a glass of wine and took a sip, passing the proverbial baton.
“Sports medicine,” Joel said. “That’s one of the reasons I was fascinated about Winnie’s injury.” He looked over at the gorgeous brunette sitting beside him and lost the will to keep from tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. Then he winked at her. Oh my gosh, if he didn’t stop, he was going to do something crazy like pull her into his arms and make out with her right in front of her parents.
“Are you sleeping with my sister?” Marshall, Winnie’s older brother folded his arms across his chest and narrowed his eyes at Joel.
“What? No!” Did he sound overly defensive? Yeah, a little. Joel gulped. “We just met a few days ago.”
Winnie coughed and reached for a drink of her water, probably thinking the same thing he was, remembering how close they’d come a few days ago. If her roommate hadn’t been there and they’d had her apartment to themselves, the ice cream would have been a midnight snack instead of a barely satiating alternative.
“Marshall, why would you say such a thing?” their mother hissed at him. “That’s not the type of thing you blurt out at dinner the first time you meet your sister’s new boyfriend.”
Marshall didn’t even glance at his mother or release Joel’s gaze. “I don’t trust you.” He seemed to have vocalized what Winnie’s dad and younger brother were thinking because they all had their eyes trained on Joel.
“I don’t blame you,” Joel said with confidence. “I’m a twenty-one-year-old guy who is enamored with your beautiful sister. I’d like to continue to get to know you all better and perhaps gain your trust. And I’d like to take her on a couple more dates. Not just because she’s elegant and talented and funny. I really kinda like her.” Joel turned again to meet Winnie’s gaze and she smiled back at him, almost batting her long, feathery eyelashes at him. Joel almost melted.
“Why don’t you come have dinner with us for Thanksgiving,” Winnie’s mom suggested. All eyes turned to her and her husband’s jaw dropped.
“Sweetheart, we just met this young man,” Winnie’s dad said. “We can’t just invite him over for dinner. We don’t even know him.”
“Well, if he’s going to be dating our daughter, wouldn’t you like to get to know him?” She had a valid point. “Did you have any plans on Thanksgiving?” Teri turned her gaze back to Joel.
“My family is in California, so… not really.” Joel glanced at Winnie and raised his eyebrows as if asking her opinion.
Winnie surprised him by reaching for his hand and interlacing her tiny fingers with his. “I’d love to have you come with me to my parent’s house for the afternoon.”
“Well then I guess it’s settled.” Joel squeezed her hand gently.
“Before I let you in the door to my home on Thanksgiving, you need to pass one test,” Warren said. Joel gulped. “Who’s going to win? Green Bay Packers? Or Detroit Lions?”
“No self-respecting Michigander would bet against Stafford,” Joel said with confidence, not really answering the question literally. Knowing the Lions lost more often than won on Thanksgiving, there was less than fifty-fifty odds of getting that correct. The more important underlying question was whose team are you on? “I’ll proudly sit by your side and cheer on the Lions.”
“You considering the draft?” their younger brother, Gage asked.
“Nope. I’m considering medical school. That’s the only reason I came to Michigan.” Joel glanced sidelong at Winnie. “I’m really glad I did.”
Rather than answering with words, Winnie gave his hand a squeeze. The message clear. I’m glad you came to Michigan too.