Chapter 22 iWas Branded

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Keeley heard the ding of the doorbell and raced downstairs before her parents could answer it. Luckily, Zach was gone for the night, which meant one less person to worry about. Now all she had to do was get her father's approval. Her hands trembled slightly as she smoothed her hair and straightened her clothes. Everything was going to be fine. Everything was going to be fine. She kept chanting the words as if it was her own personal mantra. Maybe if she said it enough, it would come true.

The doorbell rang again and she took a calming breath. Freaking out was not going to help the situation. She needed to remain calm and collected. With one last check of her clothes, she turned the handle and opened the door.

Her mouth went dry when she saw him. The porch light had cast an almost angelic glow on him, making him appear ethereal. His skin appeared almost translucent while his blonde hair had turned a wondrous gold. The image was stunning.

"Hey," he casually greeted, seemingly unaware of the effect he held over her. "You ready to go?"

His words brought reality crashing back. "Not yet. I have a surprise for you," she replied, feigning excitement.

Talon's eyes lit up in curiosity. He gave her body a slow perusal. "Let me guess. Red underwear?"

The comment didn't even register with her. She was too wrapped up in her own thoughts. With a forced smile she said, "Actually you get to meet my dad." Her smile slipped as she watched all the enthusiasm seep out of his eyes. Her nerves increased. "Surprise!" she added weakly.

His gaze slid down to where her fingers were nervously tapping against her leg. An inaudible sigh escaped his lips. "I think we need to work on your definition of a surprise," he glibly informed her as he entered the house.

Keeley let out the breath she was holding. "I'm sure he'll love you," she reassured him as she looped her arm through his and pulled him further into the house. Unwanted thoughts of Talon's inappropriateness popped up. "Well," she grimaced and patted his arm, "hopefully he will. Just smile and try to keep the pervert comments to a minimum. I hear fathers aren't too keen on that."

"He doesn't own a shotgun, does he?" he whispered as they walked down the hallway toward the living room.

"No. My dad doesn't believe in guns." Keeley heard his sigh of relief and couldn't help but add, "Although he does have a Taser and a can of pepper spray."

"If that was supposed to alleviate my nerves it didn't work," he muttered darkly.

"Just a friendly reminder," she said lightly as they entered the living room where her parents were waiting. Her mother sat primly on the couch while her father stood in the middle of the room with his hands planted on his hips. His expression was stern as he watched them approach. "Mom, Dad," she said as she felt Talon's body stiffen next to her, "This is Talon."

"Ma'am," he acknowledged with a nod of the head before he turned to her father. "Sir," he said solemnly, his voice considerably deeper than before. "It's nice to meet you both."

Her mom gave him a welcoming smile. "It's nice to finally meet you too, Talon. In all these years, I don't think we've ever had the chance to formally introduce ourselves. Usually we just see you across the field. I didn't even recognize you without all the football gear."

Talon's body relaxed a fraction as he let out a small chuckle. "The padding and helmets tend to change our appearances. Even my own mom has a hard time recognizing me when I'm in uniform. A few times she's cheered on the wrong player, thinking it was me."

A laugh escaped her mother's lips. "I've done that too. It's nice to know I'm not the only mother who gets confused."

During the exchange, Keeley sneaked a glance at her father. Speculation gleamed in his eyes as he studied Talon. He made no move to offer him a seat or welcome him into the home. In fact, he looked like he wanted to do quite the opposite.

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