Carter wiped his hands nervously on the front of his jeans. He and Kaitlyn had just pulled up to her parents’ house, so Carter could officially meet Kaitlyn’s father. As they sat in the car for a moment, Kaitlyn watched him with an amused smile on her face.
“Relax,” she said kindly. “My dad will love you.”
Carter let out a snort. “Do you not remember what happened last time he saw me? He beat me and then threw me out!”
Kaitlyn rolled her eyes. “I know,” she said. “But last time he saw you, we were just idiots messing around on the sofa. Now we’re past that. This is the real deal, Carter, and if you want us to work this time around, you’ll have to officially meet my father.”
He groaned. “But Katie, it’s going to be so awkward!”
She rolled her eyes and got out of the car. Carter had no choice but to follow suit. As they walked up to the front door, hand-in-hand, Kaitlyn whispered in his ear, “If you behave tonight, you’ll get a treat when we get home.”
Carter gulped. Now he was twice as nervous.
They reached the front door, and before they could even ring the doorbell, the door was pulled open.
“Katie!” an excited seven-year-old screamed. The seven-year-old in question was Kaitlyn’s little brother, Jordan.
“Hey Jordy!” Kaitlyn said happily. She pulled her hand from Carter’s and wrapped her little brother in a giant bear hug.
Kaitlyn’s mother Layla walked up behind Jordy. She smiled at Carter, already knowing what he was like from when she had remodelled his house.
“Jordy, leave your sister alone,” Layla scolded. She shot Carter a smile. “Hey Carter, how’ve you been?”
Carter gave her a tight smile. “I’ve been good thanks,” he replied.
Layla laughed. “You’re nervous aren’t you?” she asked. “Well, don’t be. Regan may have been a dick last time, but he’s mellowed out now. I think he’s realised after everything you’ve done for Katie, he can’t hate you without looking like an idiot.”
Carter just nodded.
“Well, we can’t stay here on the doorstep all day can we? Why don’t you come inside and we’ll get you something to drink?” Layla asked, ushering them inside. Carter and Kaitlyn walked inside, and Kaitlyn squeezed his arm.
“Don’t worry,” she whispered. “It’ll be ok.”
Again, Carter just nodded. He was beginning to feel like a mute.
They walked through the house and into the backyard, where Kaitlyn’s dad was setting up the barbeque.
He lifted his head at Carter in greeting. “Hey man.”
Beginning to feel like Noddy, Carter nodded again. Regan cracked a smirk and went back to focusing on the barbeque. Kaitlyn scowled.
“Dad,” she said sternly. “Come and say hi properly. Don’t be rude.”
Regan rolled his eyes, but did as he was told. He wanted to keep his daughter happy, so if he had to suck up his pride and greet her boyfriend in a friendly manner, he would. He walked up to Carter and stuck out a hand. “Hi there, Carter, I’m Regan.”
They shook hands, and Kaitlyn smiled.
“Finally,” she said. “It’s about time you grew up, Dad.”
Regan smiled and ruffled Kaitlyn’s hair. “Dream on, Katie. I’ll always be your embarrassing father.”
Kaitlyn scowled and pulled away. “Do not touch the hair.”
Regan rolled his eyes. “How about you go inside and help your mother in the kitchen? You could actually make yourself useful for once.”
Kaitlyn slapped her father on the arm and stalked off inside, leaving Carter alone with Regan. Regan walked over to the cooler and pulled out two beers.
“Want one?” he asked Carter.
Carter didn’t know what to say. Was this a test? If it was, and he said yes, Regan would think he was an alcoholic. If he said no, he could look rude.
Regan noticed Carter’s hesitation and smiled. He was beginning to warm to his daughter’s boyfriend.
“Relax dude,” he said casually. “It’s just one.”
Carter hesitantly took the beer. “Thanks,” he said cautiously.
Regan grinned. “Chill out. I know we got off to a bad start, but in my defence, I’d just had the shittiest day at work and I was all messed up. I’m not usually like that.”
Carter nodded. Regan sighed internally. If Carter was nervous…well, he couldn’t blame him. If Layla had a father and he’d reacted like he had, he would’ve been nervous too.
Regan turned back to the barbeque and fired it up. He ripped open the packet of burger patties and placed them in the grill.
“So, what do you do for a living, Carter?” he asked.
Carter gulped. “I-I’m unemployed at the moment,” he stuttered. “But I am looking for work.”
Regan nodded. “At least that’s something. What kind of work would you like to do?”
Carter shrugged. “Something with cars, for sure. I love doing them up, tricking them out, that kind of thing.”
Regan looked over at Carter. “Seriously?” he asked. “What kind of work do you do to them?”
Carter rocked on his feet. “Well, for my car, I custom-painted it, changed the wheels, added a huge sound system, replaced the front seats and that.”
Regan’s eyebrows rose. He sounded like a guy he could have been mates with when he was younger.
“Seriously? Did you drive it here tonight?” Regan asked.
Carter nodded. “Yeah. Do you want to see it?”
Regan grinned. “Hell yeah.”
Together, the two men walked around the house and out to Carter’s car. Sitting proudly in the driveway was Carter’s cherry red Evolution VII, with its custom black design on the sides, its black bonnet, and black spoiler. Carter had made a few changes to the car since he’d quit racing.
Regan whistled. “Man that is a nice car. How the hell did you afford a sweet ride like this?”
Carter shrugged. “I was an only child when my parents died. Their house got sold, along with everything in it, and I got the money. I managed to buy a house, too.”
Regan was impressed. His daughter had picked a good guy. He knew about cars, he had money, and he was nervous meeting her father, which meant that he really cared about her. Not to mention he’d heard the tale of how he actually took a bullet for her.
Regan grinned and clapped Carter on the back. “I have to say,” he said, “I’m glad Kaitlyn picked you. You seem like a good guy.”
Carter grinned. “Thanks.”
Regan smiled. “Now, I would love to stay out here and admire your car some more, but I have to get back to the barbeque.”
Carter nodded. “I’ll help.”
Regan smiled. Kaitlyn had definitely picked a good guy. He couldn’t think of anyone he’d like better.