Hello family, fans, people who randomly read this blog, and friends (both real and imaginary),
The Aurora Awards, which are for Canadian science fiction and fantasy writers and artists, are open for nominations! This means the LONG lists of eligible works are being narrowed down to 5-6 per category.
Once they have a list of nominated works, every single person who signed up and paid the $10 membership fee gets ALL the nominated works as downloads. That’s all the adult novels, YA novels, novellas, short stories, graphic novels, and related works (usually anthologies), so about 36 works, for just $10 CAD, which is a great deal.
Getting nominated for an Aurora Award is a BIG DEAL in the writing community. You get a nomination pin (only once, so I’m terrified I’ll lose mine!), and you’re part of an elite group of people.
It would mean a lot to us if you’re willing to nominate us! (Categories are in alphabetical order by work)
Category 1 – Best Novel
Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers by Jen and Éric Desmarais
Category 3 – Best Novelette/Novella
Birth of the Aetherverse by Éric Desmarais
Category 4 – Best Short Story
Ringing In The New Year by Jen Desmarais
Choose Your Own Adventure – Welcome to Westmeath by Jen Desmarais
Category 7 – Best Related Work
Nothing Without Us Too by Cait Gordon and Talia C. Johnson (Jen has a short story Semper Ubi Sub Ubi in this one!)
Category 9 – Best Fan Writing/Publication
JenEric Movie Reviews by Éric Desmarais
The Travelling TARDIS by Jennifer Desmarais
In case you’re wondering why Assassins! Accidental Matchmakers is not included in the best cover art category, it’s because our cover artist is Vietnamese! Only Canadian creators are eligible, unfortunately.
Thank you so much for your time, attention, and support!
Tuesday the 31st of December, 2002 – Westmeath, Ontario
“Five, four, three, two, one!” Jason, Kennedy, Zoe, and Gabrielle counted down with the TV. “Happy New Year!” The couples exchanged kisses, and then hugged the others.
“I can’t wait to see what year two thousand and three will bring,” Kennedy said, cheeks flushed with the champagne they’d opened.
“Plenty of good things,” Zoe replied, smiling at Jason, and squeezed Kennedy’s hand.
Jason grimaced anxiously at his sister, who he could see was trying not to laugh. “I know what’s in your immediate future,” he said to her. “Sleep.”
Gabrielle checked the clock. “For another hour at least. Brooke usually wakes up at one or one thirty for a boob.”
“Then we’ll get out of your hair and let you get as much sleep as possible,” Kennedy said, wincing in sympathy.
More hugs were given once they were dressed in their winter gear. Jason tucked her under his arm and they headed next door, back to their house.
“Do you mind if we go into the backyard for a minute?” he asked, his stomach tying itself in knots. “I’m not quite ready for tonight to end.”
“I’m up for anything as long as I’m with you,” Kennedy replied, giving his arm a squeeze.
I really hope she is, Jason thought anxiously. He led her up the driveway to the back of the house and plugged in the cord that turned on the fairy lights he had set up the week before, while she’d been at her parent’s.
“Ohhh!” Kennedy gasped, clasping her hands to her chest. “Jason! Did you do this for me?”
“I did.” He took her hands in his and admired the way the little lights reflected in her eyes. “You’re so beautiful,” he breathed.
Kennedy blushed. “Is this when you’re finally going to tell me what’s been on your mind? You’ve been distracted for weeks.”
Jason gaped at her and then laughed ruefully. “I should have known you’d notice.” His carefully prepared speech vanished from his mind and he gulped nervously. “You haven’t felt upset about it, I hope?”
“Not at all!” Kennedy replied cheerfully. She kissed him gently. “You don’t keep secrets from me without a very good reason. I look forward to hearing about this one, whenever you’re ready.”
He nodded. “I’m ready.” He took a deep breath. “But it’s okay if you’re not.” He smiled at her confused expression. “I had a whole plan, but now that it’s time, I’ve forgotten everything I wanted to say. So I’m going to keep it simple.”
Her eyes widened as he let go of her right hand, pulled out a box from his jacket pocket, and dropped to one knee. “Kennedy Fairfield, you make me happier than I ever thought I could possibly be. You are my light and I love you with all my heart. Will you marry me?” He opened the box with a flick of his thumb, revealing the emerald ring.
“Jason!” she gasped, her hand trembling in his. The other rose to her mouth. “We’ve only known each other a few months!”
“I have never been more sure about anything in my life.” He swallowed hard, steeling himself for her refusal.
Kennedy looked thoughtful. “I have fought assassins, robots, aliens, gang members, and monsters of all shapes and sizes with you.” She collapsed into a straddle on his knee and kissed him, lips trembling. “I will gladly keep doing that as your wife.” She kissed him again, more firmly this time.
Jason could hardly believe his ears. He pulled back to look her in her eyes, heart beating what felt like double-time. “Wait, sorry, is that a yes?”
“Yes!” Kennedy laughed. “Yes, yes, yes!”
I hope you enjoyed this year’s Christmas story! Have a great New Year!
Saturday the 28th of December, 2002 – Parry Sound, Ontario
Suddenly Kennedy was draped across his back and he collapsed to the ground with a wheeze. “Warning!” he gasped, and everyone chuckled. “Or you can go with high weight, low rep.”
Kennedy settled herself, the scent of her shampoo filling his nostrils. He braced his hands and toes on the floor, tensed his abdomen and glutes, and pushed up. Down, up, over and over, he concentrated on pushing his body through the motions it was used to until he reached ten. He controlled his downward motion one last time until he relaxed.
He heard clapping and flushed. “It’s just a push-up,” he mumbled into the carpet.
“It’s impressive and you know it,” Kennedy chuckled. She sat up and climbed off him, letting him stand. “Come on, get in the shower and then we can start our day. Dad’s promised to take the sleigh out for rides!”
It turned out that the sleigh was large enough for four adults and a driver.
Jason helped push the sleigh out of the barn and watched, curious, as Gerard hooked up the two draft horses to the shaft. Then he helped the others pile the inside with warm quilts and blankets.
“Sometimes my dad would wake us up in the middle of the night to go for a ride,” Kennedy told him. “The stars would be out and it felt like we could see the whole universe. It was absolutely breathtaking.”
“Sounds idyllic,” Jason replied, smiling.
They were joined in the sleigh by Eliza and MacKenzie, and Kennedy cuddled into his arms. He knew she didn’t always get along with her sisters and gave her a squeeze.
“All set?” asked Gerard as he sprang into the driver’s seat at the front of the sleigh. He clucked at the horses and flicked the reins.
The brisk wind swept into the open sleigh and Jason burrowed deeper into the coverings, tucking his hands under Kennedy’s sweater and tracing her developing muscles. Her soft skin twitched as she giggled.
“Your hands are cold,” she murmured into his ear.
“They’ll warm up fast.”
She placed her hands over his, stilling them. “This is nice,” she said, loudly enough to include her sisters in their conversation.
“So how did you two meet?” Eliza asked, leaning forward to see past her sister.
Jason smiled. “I was out for a jog and I saw this beautiful girl eating a croissant. I waved and said hi, and she almost choked on her food.”
“That’s not the whole story,” Kennedy protested. “I saw him, wanted to get his attention but couldn’t figure out how, and then inhaled croissant crumbs. He made sure I was okay, we introduced ourselves, and then he said he’d see me around.” She pretended to swoon.
“And here I thought you meant that the whole story was you beating an assassin with a chair, kicking his knife away from him, and then sitting down to finish your croissant, as cool as you please!” Jason said wryly.
“I had to sit down, or else my knees would have given way.”
“That makes so much sense.” Jason grinned at the shocked expressions on the twins. “Then I found her again after work and brought her to a dance.”
“Where we stayed until it closed at three in the morning!” Kennedy laughed. “I was so tired at work the next day!”
Jason ducked his head sheepishly. “I actually slept in the next day.” He’d been up until almost sunrise with Phantom work.
Kennedy glanced at him sideways. “Lucky.”
“Mmm, I am.” He planted a kiss on her hair.
“And your first kiss?” Eliza asked slyly. “Was it at the dance?”
Kennedy blushed. “I wanted one then.”
“Did you?” Jason asked.
Kennedy rolled her eyes. “I would have let you—” She cut herself off abruptly, flushing even more.
Her sisters made faces. “We get the picture.”
Jason grinned and settled back. “Is that what you were thinking about while we were dancing?” he murmured into her hair.
“Trying not to think about,” Kennedy whispered back. She kissed his lips, her nose cold against his cheek. “I barely knew you at that point. I would have kicked myself if I’d fallen into bed with you so fast.”
“So you waited, what,” he did a quick calculation on his fingers, “Six days?”
“And five more dates,” Kennedy said primly.
Jason chuckled. “Only you would count all of those as dates.”
She raised her eyebrows at him and he laughed harder, pulling her closer. “It was the right timing for us. Too fast, too slow, those only apply if we say they do.”
“What is it that you do, Jason?” MacKenzie interrupted. “Kennedy said something about investments?”
“I run a pizza place and an investment company with my younger sister.”
“Working with your sister?” Eliza wrinkled her nose. “What’s that like?”
“We butt heads sometimes, but if we take a step back, we recognize that we’re working toward the same goal and can figure out a compromise.” Jason tried not to laugh as he remembered one standoff last week, when they were discussing the Council at home. It had ended with him soaking wet from a ball of water she had dropped on top of him. “She’s usually right. I have a one-track mind and sometimes fail to see the bigger picture.”
The girls looked impressed, and silence fell over the sleigh.
Jason looked out across the snowy fields, filled with what he knew was winter wheat, oat, and barley. “This place must have been pretty amazing to grow up in, with all this space.”
“We didn’t go out in the fields much as kids, but we rode the horses around the property pretty much every day.”
The house reappeared on the horizon, and they pulled back in front of the barn for the second group.
Jason hopped out first and offered his hand to each family member as they stepped down.
“You’ll do,” Eliza said as she accepted.
“Ringing praise,” Jason replied dryly.
MacKenzie laughed. “Gotta keep you on your toes.”
“What was that about?” Kennedy asked him as they walked back to the house together.
He shrugged. “Sibling approval?” he offered.
Kennedy glanced at the empty house, the rest of the family having squeezed into the sleigh for a second trip. “Hey… How long do you think they’ll be gone?”
Jason grinned down at her, hoping she was thinking along the same lines as he was. “At least half an hour, plus putting everything away.”
“What are we waiting for?” she asked, breaking into a run and tugging him toward the house. “That’s plenty of time for a quickie!”
He tossed her, laughing, over his shoulder when she stumbled in the snow. “I love how your mind works.”
Saturday the 28th of December, 2002 – Parry Sound, Ontario
He trotted back down the stairs, pulling his shirt on as he entered the kitchen the second time that morning. He sat at Kennedy’s abandoned place and picked up a piece of toast, dipping it into the egg. He looked up at the rest of the table, all of whom were staring at him. “Um, good morning?” he said. “Don’t worry, I’ll get her another plate once she’s done in the shower.”
The silence continued, and he took another bite of breakfast.
Finally, Tommy spoke up. “How…” his voice cracked. “How do you look like that?”
“Easy.” Jason swallowed his mouthful. “You get scars if you’re in a lot of knife fights.”
He bit into his toast again and tried not to laugh as one of the twins—MacKenzie this time, he thought—whispered to the other, “What scars?”
“I don’t recommend it,” he added, pointing at the boy with his toast. “Very painful.” He mopped up more egg.
“I think he meant the muscles,” Sarah said, raising her eyebrows. “Do you have a specific training routine, or…?” she trailed off.
“I started out working on a farm mucking out stables as punishments, but when I stopped getting in trouble, I started lifting weights, push-ups, jogging, martial arts, and, well, genetics plays a large role in how much muscle you can put on safely and practically,” Jason said, enumerating on his fingers. He looked back at Tommy, who was staring at him, mouth agape. “D’you want me to go through one of my routines with you after breakfast?”
The boy nodded enthusiastically.
“Do you have free weights?”
“Hmm.” He took a bite of sausage and looked down the table at the toddler. “Hey Sarah, mind if we borrow Arthur for a bit? He weighs what, about twenty five pounds?”
“Feels like a hundred sometimes, but yes. Mind if I watch?”
“Not at all.”
“There’s space in the rec room in the basement,” suggested Lilah. “I think the lot of us are interested in watching.”
Jason fought the colour he could feel rising in his cheeks. I can do this. I’ve been a teacher plenty of times before. Just, not usually with an audience.
He insisted on helping to clear the table and fill the dishwasher, and by the time that was done, Kennedy was downstairs again. As he’d told her family he would, he made her a fresh plate and everyone headed for the basement.
“You can use anything as free weights,” Jason said, reaching for Arthur. “Want to be tossed around a bit, buddy?” The toddler laughed and reached back, so Jason took him. “Cans of soup, textbooks, bags of potatoes, even bales of hay. But kids are the best because they are unpredictable.” He tossed the boy in the air, and Arthur giggled. “You have to keep your core muscles tight to balance yourself, because the way he comes down isn’t always the way he went up. If he lifts his legs, his weight shifts.” Jason put the boy on one side of his body, squatted, lifted him high in the air, and brought him back down on the other side, twisting his torso and squatting again. “It makes the workout much more interesting.”
“You sound like you have a lot of experience with kids,” Phillip remarked, leaning against one wall.
“I have a lot of honorary cousins, and my niece is exactly Arthur’s age, to the day.”
“What a coincidence!”
Jason nodded and continued the lesson. “I usually do about fifteen squat twists five times with a thirty pound weight to start, so medium weight, high rep…” Jason walked Tommy through his regular workout routine for the next half hour, Jason using Arthur as his weight, and Tommy using a book. Finally, when the boy looked completely worn out, Jason grinned and clapped his hands together. “Two last things before cool-down. Push-ups and a jog.” When Tommy groaned, Jason added, “We can leave out the run today, mostly because I didn’t bring the proper shoes.”
He got Tommy settled in the proper push-up position and then took Arthur back from his mother. “Once you get used to doing push-ups and feel like they’re too easy, you can add a weight to them too.” He showed Arthur how to climb onto his uncle’s back and hold on.
Tommy tried to do a push-up and collapsed to the ground. “What do you use for yours?” he asked, gasping for breath.
“I used to use a weighted vest, up to a medium weight. I couldn’t add more than fifty pounds to it without damaging it.” Jason said. He gave the child back to his mother and got into position beside the boy, demonstrating as he talked. “When regular push-ups are too easy for you, you can switch it up, hands closer to your body, one handed, fingertips, and so on. Work up to the added weight.”
Friday the 27th of December, 2002 – Parry Sound, Ontario
“Did you bring the ring with you? What does it look like?”
“It was my mother’s,” he said again. He listened, and finding complete silence, he fashioned shadow into a delicate ring. “It looks like this, with an emerald.” He twisted it in front of her eyes before letting it vanish back into nothing.
Lilah looked impressed, although he wasn’t sure if it was for the ring or the display of shadow manipulation.
Jason finished his sandwich and drained his glass of milk. “I’m actually feeling a little more tired now,” he said, surprised. He got up and took his dishes to the sink. “Maybe I just needed to talk. Thanks.”
“That’s what mothers are for.” Lilah stood as well, putting her bowl with the leftover fruit in the fridge. She touched his arm lightly. “I would never try to replace your mother, but I hope you will think of me as a mother figure in your life.”
“I already do,” he admitted. He shook water off his hands and wiped them on the hand towel hanging off the oven. “Sleep well.”
They crept up the stairs together, Jason feeling weird about using the shadows and leaving Lilah at the bottom. He cringed at every creak, but nobody else poked their heads out of their rooms, so he assumed they weren’t as loud as they felt.
Lilah continued up the next set of stairs and he slipped back into Kennedy’s room, closing the door behind him. She had rolled onto her stomach and was splayed out across the entire bed. Jason huffed a laugh as he stripped. With a practised movement, he rolled his girlfriend just far enough to slip in behind her, spooning up against her warm body.
She hummed sleepily and wrapped her fingers around his arm as he draped it over her.
He yawned, gave her a gentle squeeze, dropped a kiss on the back of her head, and allowed himself to drift off to sleep.
Saturday the 28th of December, 2002 – Parry Sound, Ontario
He woke up slowly, stretching carefully. Eyes still closed, he felt around in the bed beside him. Kennedy’s spot was cold. He groaned and cracked his eyes open, blinking as the room came into focus. The door was closed, so he rolled to sit on the edge of the bed and rubbed his eyes. He stretched again, hearing his back pop. He eyed the pile of clothes on the floor, abandoned from the night before, and scooped up his pyjama pants while hunting through for his boxers and shirt. They were missing. He smirked. She wants a show? I’ll give her a show.
He slipped into his pants and headed for the kitchen after a quick stop to relieve himself in the bathroom. There were multiple voices echoing over each other, teasing and asking for dishes to be passed down the long table. A high-pitched screech from Arthur, the toddler, played like a descant above the adult voices. Good. I didn’t want to wake him.
“Kennedy!” he shouted before he reached the door, and every voice went silent, except for a tiny squeak from his girlfriend. He stood in the doorway, arms crossed. “Where is my shirt?” he asked, voice deceptively calm.
A fork clattered to the plate of one of the twins; he thought it was Eliza. Kennedy shot to her feet with a gasp, wearing his purloined garments. She glanced at the far door, eyes sparkling with amusement, and he grinned. “Going to run for it?” he asked, challenging her.
She backed toward it, and he stalked her movements, loosening his wrists and stretching out his shoulders as he walked. She ran and he chased after her, catching her two rooms away, just inside the living room. A laugh burbled out of her as he wrapped his arms around her waist from behind. “If you wanted to show me off to your family, you could have just asked,” he murmured in her ear.
“I honestly thought I’d be able to return them before you woke up,” Kennedy replied, just as quietly. “I wanted to grab a quick bite before I showered.” She spun in his arms and gave his lips a quick kiss.
“Mmm, don’t distract me. I want my shirt back.” Jason slid his hands up under it, encountering nothing but bare skin. “Shall I make you walk back to our room topless?”
Kennedy giggled and pulled away, slipping around him to run for the hallway and the stairs.
Jason gave her a head start and then jumped through shadow to the top of the stairs just in time to catch her. He’d counted all the family in the kitchen and knew no one would see him.
She squeaked and slapped his chest. “Don’t do that!”
He peeled his shirt off of her and flicked it at her ass when she headed for the room. “Mmm, that view!” He wolf-whistled.
“Go eat.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder. “And try not to imagine me naked in the shower.”
Friday the 27th of December, 2002 – Parry Sound, Ontario
“You’ve thought it all out, haven’t you?”
“Down to the ten strings of fairy lights in my backyard,” admitted Jason. He picked up the manual again. “Have we bonded enough? Can we get Kennedy in here to save us?”
Gerard chuckled. “She’s probably chomping at the bit to help us. Go ahead.” He stopped Jason from getting up with a hand to his shoulder. “And, son, we would be thrilled to welcome you to our family.”
Jason grinned, relieved. “Thank you.”
Late that night, he cuddled Kennedy close in her childhood bedroom, running his fingers over her shoulder and trying not to think about the expanse of bare skin he had access to further down. He shifted his hips, relieving the pressure of her leg that was draped across his body. She grumbled in her sleep and squeezed him tighter before relaxing and snuggling deeper into his embrace. Her breath tickled his chest on each exhale. He traced her left hand as it rested on his abdomen, imagining the delicate ring encircling her finger. Only four more days, he thought. Hopefully.
Jason sighed. Despite his early start and the busy day, he didn’t feel tired. Moonlighting as the Phantom meant that he was often up late, and he was used to that routine.
Gently, he shifted Kennedy until he could stand up.
“Hmmm?” she mumbled in her sleep, turning her head to follow him. “You ‘k?”
“Not tired yet. I’m going to go grab a quick bite and maybe do a workout,” he whispered, pressing a kiss to her forehead. She tilted her chin up for a kiss to her lips, which he happily provided.
“I know how to tire you out,” she said sleepily, eyes still closed.
He chuckled. “You do indeed. But not tonight. Go back to sleep.”
“Mmm’kay.” She yawned and burrowed into the spot he had left.
Jason picked up his pyjama pants and slipped them on, foregoing his shirt. He tiptoed out the door, closing it quietly behind him. He listened carefully to the silent house; only muffled snores met his ears. Satisfied he wouldn’t be spotted, he jumped through shadow to the main floor to avoid the creaky stairs, and walked into the kitchen.
Despite being in the last quarter, the moonlight was bright enough to reflect off the snow, making the kitchen shine. He opened cupboards, searching for a glass and plate, and placed them on the counter. He was halfway through making himself a sandwich when he heard a loud creak on the stairs. Company, he thought. Not Kennedy; she would be quieter. He finished making his sandwich and took a bite before putting everything back in the fridge. “Hello,” he said quietly after swallowing. “Can I get you anything?”
Lilah stepped in from the hallway. “I should have known I couldn’t sneak up on you,” she said, just as softly. “I’ll take some pineapple, please.”
Jason washed his hands, got a bowl, and took out the freshly cut pineapple from the fridge. He scooped out a handful. “More?” he asked.
Lilah shook her head, and he placed the bowl in front of her at the table.
He brought his own midnight snack over, taking another bite.
“What brings you down here at this hour of the night?” Lilah asked, choosing a piece of fruit.
Jason twisted his lips. “I’m used to patrolling at this hour. My internal clock didn’t get the memo that I’m on vacation.”
Lilah snorted a laugh. “Poor baby.”
Jason grimaced. “I’ll just go exercise and tire myself out, and then I’ll be fine to sleep.”
“After a snack.”
Lilah selected another piece of fruit. “Gerard told me that you’re going to ask Kennedy to marry you.”
“Yes.” Jason watched her closely. “You think it’s too soon.” It wasn’t a question.
“It’s only been three months since you met.” Lilah inclined her head. “Granted, those first couple weeks were rather intense, what with the attacks and the disappearances.”
“You can say that again!”
Lilah sighed. “There’s no question that you two are meant for each other.”
“Waiting to ask her is only delaying the inevitable,” Jason said in agreement. “If she isn’t ready, then I’ll wait until she is, but I believe it’s only a matter of time. So I want her to know what I’m feeling and what she means to me.”
“And does that involve a ring and forever?” Lilah asked.
“Yes, it does.” Jason shifted to face Lilah head-on. “She’s it for me. She’s my forever. I can’t imagine anyone better suited for me than she is, and vice versa.”
“I think she feels the same way about you.” Lilah sighed. “You two make me feel old. My baby girl, already getting married.” She sniffed.
“Don’t think of it as losing a daughter, but gaining a son?” Jason teased. “I know I’m not much—”
“Don’t you dare insult the man my daughter loves.” Lilah said, glaring at him. “Even in jest.”
Friday the 27th of December, 2002 – Parry Sound, Ontario
“For Arthur.” He handed the brightly wrapped parcel over. “I know toddlers usually have way too much of everything, if my niece is anything to go by, but you can never have too many books.” It was a board book about the Phantom of Westmeath. He thought Kennedy and her parents would appreciate the joke. He hadn’t yet told the rest of her family about his powers, since they weren’t aware of the supernatural world. Jason took the jug and headed into the kitchen.
“Show off,” Kennedy muttered under her breath as he passed her, arms full, and he winked.
“Why don’t you let the others take care of the produce,” Gerard told him after he’d put the jug and crate down on the counter near the sink. “Come help me set up my new TV and sound system in the media room!”
“Uhhh, you sure you want me to help?” Jason asked, allowing himself to be led down some stairs and a hall. He could hear Kennedy telling her mother, “Don’t worry, I can fix it later. It’ll give them some bonding time,” and he winced.
Gerard handed him a stack of papers. “The instructions.” Jason’s eyes widened. “Lilah let me buy a new plasma TV and surround sound system on Boxing Day. If we set this up, Kennedy said we can watch the extended edition of The Fellowship of the Rings that you gave her for Christmas.”
“Of course she did.” Jason chuckled. “Such a hardship.” He eyed the sheaf of paper and sighed. “We’d better get started.”
An hour later, sitting on the floor with pages of the manual spread around him, Jason felt ready to tear his hair out. The directions were sounding more and more like gibberish the longer he looked at them.
“Did you ever do this sort of thing with your father?” Gerard asked, not looking up from the pile of wires he was sorting through on the floor.
“Ah, no.” Jason flipped the papers around. Maybe the diagram is upside down? “He was not electronically inclined, and neither am I, really. He worked with his hands. He was a great chef and he made beautiful things out of wood. Our bonding usually took place in the kitchen or the basement in our workout room, either with weights or sparring.”
Gerard laughed ruefully. “I’d probably hurt myself if I tried to spar against you. You lifted two hundred pounds on every load for six hours this Fall and barely broke a sweat.”
“I wouldn’t let you hurt yourself.” Jason frowned. “There’s no place for pride in a spar.” He grinned faintly. “The very first time I tried to train Kennedy, she knocked me on my ass.”
“Speaking of my youngest daughter, what are your intentions?”
Jason looked up from the instruction manual to find himself pinned by a perfect copy of his girlfriend’s gaze. He put the papers to the side and met his eyes. “I came out here with the intention to ask for your and Lilah’s blessing,” he said frankly.
Gerard’s jaw dropped and he frowned.
“I know it seems rather sudden,” Jason continued, his heart feeling like it might beat out of his chest. “But I feel like I’ve known her my entire life. She’s the most incredible thing to ever happen to me, and I love her with the whole of my being.”
“A pretty speech. You practise that on the way up here?”
Jason wrinkled his nose. “Did it show? I’m nervous.”
“Try again, without all the practised words.”
Jason thought for a moment. “The first time I saw your daughter, I forgot how to breathe.”
The older man drew in a sharp breath.
“She’s funny, she’s so smart, she’s creative and inventive and imaginative… She figured out the Phantom within five minutes of meeting him. And she’s sexy, you should have seen her on that runway—” Jason cut himself off, remembering he was talking to Kennedy’s father. He cleared his throat. “Her confidence. Her enthusiasm for everything. The way she always finds a positive spin to every situation. She loves her friends and is willing to do anything for them.”
“I’m going to stop you there.” Gerard was smiling slightly. “What would you do if I said no?”
“To be honest, sir, I’m going to ask her no matter what your answer is. She’s more than capable of making her own decisions.”
“Hmm,” Gerard grunted. He looked back down at the wires. “Does Kennedy know you’re thinking about marriage?”
Jason smiled sheepishly. “It might be a bit of a surprise. I’m not planning on asking her in front of an audience, so it won’t be awkward if she needs more time to decide.”
“Do you have a ring?”
“Yeah.” Jason thought about the little box in his workshop again. “It was my mother’s. She wasn’t a big fan of diamonds, so my father gave her an emerald. She said it reminded her of gardens and forests. It makes me think of Kennedy’s eyes and her love of agriculture.”