“The clan is already gathering, I see,” David’s tone was harsh and chill. “At least Dad’s here.”
“There’s a saving grace,” Hana said. “You’ll like Dad,” Hana promised.
“Will he like me? I’m the one who deflowered his youngest daughter,” Jasper gasped. “We should have waited. I knew we should have!” He broke out in a sweat.
“Chill, man,” David said. “I’ve got your back.”
Jasper exhaled suddenly, feeling as if he’d been nut punched. “Jesus, what have I gotten myself in for?”
Hana took his chin, turning his face to hers. “Look at me. You’re going to be fine. I’m here. Dave’s here. We’ll hang together, safety in numbers.”
“Are we sleeping here?”
“We’ll be staying at Auntie’s. I already told Mom and Dad. Since we’re sorting through things, packing and closing it up, Mom agreed that it made sense.”
David parked at the end of the driveway. “Once more unto the breach, good friends,” he quoted.
“Oh, God,” Jasper said, suddenly bowing his head in prayer. “Oh, God.”
Hana nibbled his ear. “Save that for later. I promise to make you call on the Lord at least three times tonight.”
Jasper chuckled, kissing her. “Thanks. I have something to look forward to.”
David smirked as he got out of the car. He opened Hana’s door. She climbed out and Jasper got out the other side.
A clutch of people had wandered onto the porch, waiting. Jasper noted the difference between Hana’s reserved family and his own boisterous one. No one waited on the porch unless they were unable to run. They would have been surrounded in seconds, before the car shut off.
An attractive blonde stood front and center. She had to be Hana’s mother. Her hair was perfect, her makeup perfect, her clothing perfect. Nothing about her was flawed. Jasper had the fleeting suspicion that she was really a Stepford Wife. A handsome, athletically built man stood next to her. When he saw Hana, he hopped off the porch and ran to her, swinging her into his arms. No reserve for Mr. Sutherland. He kissed her on both cheeks, greeted his son and turned to Jasper with an expectant smile.
“You must be Jasper. My daughter can’t stop talking about you. Please, come in! Let me introduce some of the clan. My wife, Aileen. Darling, this is Hana’s young man, Jasper.”
Aileen gave him a tight lipped smile. Jasper greeted her as he might the Queen of England. He felt as if Aileen Sutherland expected that amount of pomp and ceremony. In addition to her parents, Hana’s siblings and their spouses had gathered. Jasper also met her maternal grandparents. Her father’s parents had the good sense to stay home, he noted, though he would have liked the reinforcements.
A late lunch was served shortly after they arrived. It was lavish and pretentious, but delicious. Jasper wasn’t the least bit surprised to find out that Aileen had prepared it all herself. They did have a maid who served under Aileen’s watchful eye. Jasper made sure to compliment it heavily, getting a tight smile from Aileen.
After the meal, they retired to the sitting room. A variety of comfortable, white clad furniture, greeted Jasper and the rest. Aileen offered coffee and other beverages. Jasper opted for water. He had visions of spilling something on the pure white fabric and making an horrendous stain.
“Hana tells us you’re a blacksmith,” Hana’s sister, Alice said.
Alice was a skinny, bony woman with short blonde hair that wreathed her face in tight, uncompromising curls.
“Actually, I’m a farrier,” Jasper replied. “I work specifically shoeing horses.”
“A lot of money in that?” Tick, the eldest brother asked in a bored tone.
“Yes, quite a bit. Hard work, but I don’t mind. It keeps me outdoors.”
Brenna, the second youngest, shuddered. She tossed her strawberry blonde ponytail over her shoulder. She was more ample than her sister, but still scrawny by Jasper’s standards. Her makeup was severely applied, making her look like an angry bird. Jasper kept expecting her to sprout talons and pinions.
“Being outdoors is hell on the complexion,” Brenna declared.
“I like it,” Jasper said with a grin. “I’ve got a natural tan.” He rubbed his dark cheek, winking at Brenna.
Her pale face blanched. He hadn’t thought she could turn any whiter, but he’d been wrong.
“Tick, what is it you do?” Jasper asked, deciding to turn the tables on the family.
“I’m a tax attorney.”
Jasper nodded, sipping his water. “Lots of money in that?”
Tick sputtered. “Of course, why go into it otherwise?”
“Why, indeed? Sounds dull as dirt to me. Give me a bucking bronco and the great outdoors any day.”
“Alice and I are doctors,” Brenna said with a satisfied smirk.
“No kidding? I’m a trained veterinarian,” Jasper countered. “I got tired of dealing with sick cows, so I gave it up.”
The women stared at him, batting their eyelashes, dumbfounded.
“Do you golf?” Alice’s husband asked.
He was a mousy, quiet man. Jasper couldn’t remember his name for anything. He was so pale, he blended into the furniture. Until he spoke, Jasper had forgotten he was there.
©2022 Dellani Oakes