Family Dinner 1.0
“This is us,” Landon tells me, pulling up to--- something I definitely didn’t expect!
The Stone’s swim in money, so I was sort of expecting a mansion sort of thing, with marble statues or something! What I see however was a modest 2 story home, a very ordinary garden, a double garage… And a street littered with cars.
“Is this your home?” I asked, feeling all kinds of confused, while Landon found us a parking spot. As in he’s actually looking for a parking spot!
It sort of--- felt surreal!
“It’s actually my grandmother’s house,” he clarified making another round around the block. “I’ll take you to where I grew up after dinner, but first you met Grand Sally.”
He found a spot not too far away and turned off the ignition, before turning to me. But I was way too surprised by the--- I don’t know! The simplicity of it all? The normal-ness? All I’d ever heard about these people was that they were filthy rich, so naturally, I assumed a garage a mile long, chefs and maids in abundant.
Not having to make another round around the block just to park the car!
“You look,” Landon suddenly said, pulling me out from my thoughts. I turned to him, noticing his weary expression. “Disappointed?”
“Confused,” I confessed--- and now it was my turn to blush. Oh, dear! Had I been that obvious? Kill me now, please? But like any other time, the earth didn’t open and swallow me whole, so I had to explain myself before Landon reached his usual dumb-ass conclusions. “I don’t know. I guess I just had some---” I tested some words on my mind, hoping I didn’t sound crude. “Expectations for the rich kid.”
God, I felt like the biggest idiot ever! But to my relief, Landon just busted into a fit of laughter.
“We might be loaded, but Mom and Dad like the simple life,” he explained and shrugged. “Dad has his financial business and Mom runs her architect firm. But they both like to be home a 5, cook and put their kids to bed.” His grin then turned sly as he leaned a little bit closer. “Although if Mom offers you something to eat, make sure she didn’t cook it!”
I can’t believe how relieved I felt. Despite all the – and yes, I’m ashamed to admit it – prejudices I had about rich people, I’m glad to see, that Landon and his family are rather – very – ordinary. Like the fact that they too had to spend an absurd amount of time to find a parking spot!
He put the car in park and told me to wait. And then did the most gentleman thing ever! He went around the car and opened the door! I couldn’t stop grinning. I was nervous, yes, but I couldn’t help but think, how very domestic it all seemed. He reached out his hand and helped me out. And sure, I could do that myself, but who doesn’t like it when a man treats you like a princess?
I smiled and thanked him. And the smile he beamed back at me---? My heart skips a beat, and my panties might have dropped. Like a lot!
“Landon! You’re here! You’re here!” an old, yet gracefully beautiful woman beamed at us the second we entered. She had light golden hair, with a lot of grays. But it was beautifully styled and framed her small face perfectly. Her clothes were the same way and instantly I knew! If I managed to grow old, I wanted to age gracefully like her.
She rushed around the kitchen island and engulfed Landon in a bearhug, beaming and rocking him side to side, despite her small frame and Landon’s enormous height. It looked comical to see him being manhandled by a woman who barely reached his waist.
“And – Oh, my goddess! She’s gorgeous!” she then beamed, turning her attention to me. Her smile was bright, lifting her face into a youthful expression of joys, as her hands clapped around my cheeks, giving me a gentle squeeze.
“Lexi, this is our Grand Sally,” Landon introduced next to me.
“Nice to meet you Mrs. Sally…,” I said, hoping that my voice was firm and not as timid as I felt.
“Call me Grand Sally or Aunt Sally,” she cut me off with a big grin and waved her hand, as to shoo away the awful name I’d given her. “That’s the only two name’s I’m used to.”
“We thought about calling her Just Sally,” a sarcastic, young feminine voice said. “But that seemed too plain.”
Everyone grinned at that statement. And that’s how I got to meet Hannah and Anna (the twins) and lastly Tom, who was only a handful of years older than Landon. After the round of greeting and “nice to meet you”, one cheerful and softly feminine voice cut through them all.
“Oh my, she’s here!” the woman beams, rushing over to us, all smiles and kindness. “HI! I’m Dina, Landon’s mom,” she instantly greeted me--- and I suddenly knew where Landon gets it from. Blood or not, there’s no way a personality like that doesn’t rub off somewhere. She’s all kindness and sweetness while oozing confidence and femininity. She’s everything I imagine Landon’s mom to be and more.
Sweet, caring, and confident.
She was however also a very short woman, even shorter than me! But her raven black and intense green eyes quickly pulled any attention away from her height. She was stunningly beautiful, even for a woman with 4 grown children. There’s a dark marking on her shoulder that looked like some kind of scarring, but while it looked plain and simple, it was also beautiful to look at…
“And goddess, you are gorgeous!” She said, after a warm hug – which I didn’t mind. I have a hugger mom myself and might be one too and it was comforting to have her welcome me like this. It was a sign of trust and love. After a quick squeeze, she let go of me and gave me a quick once over. Nodding approvingly and smiling at Landon, who instantly blushed – which everyone also noticed and start to comment on.
Landon groaned and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“I like your mom,” I told him in a low whisper. In a way, I’m glad they’re calling him out on it. It means that they know him, more than just a relative-workaholic, but as a friend and brother. This earned me a smile that not only makes my heart drop but my stomach clench with need.
And food wasn’t on the menu!
“You know,” a male voice suddenly said behind us. “It’s been a while since I saw you smile like that! Who died?”
And holy momma of the--- That. Voice!
It sounded like Michael Bublé’s voice knocked up Sean Connery’s and together they had a perfect baritone, deep husky voice, that – and forgive me my sins! – had even me wet!
I turned toward the man. And the image of a military thanks came to mind! Freaking boulders on freckled steroids! His shoulders were wide, his arms the size of my waist, and this firm chest and harden abs were visible even through the black T-shirt he was wearing. His eyes were a hunting pale blue or gray (I couldn’t really decide) and his closely shaved hair was a light brown color in a military-styled manner. His jawline was defined and would be otherwise perfect – if it wasn’t for the 4 huge scars that ran from the bottom of his ear all the way to his chin, then disappeared, but reappeared just below his collarbone and vanished beneath the fabric of his T-shirt. It looked like some kind of animal had tried to rip him open and I couldn’t help but shiver at the thought…
“Very funny Luka!” Landon exclaimed and embraced the man that just walked in, before turning to me. “Lexi, this is my older little brother, Luka Stone. Luka, Lexi Smith. My--- erm…”
I tore my gaze from the man – Luka, apparently (the older little brother?!) – hoping he hadn’t seen me staring at his scars. Landon’s face was his usual ‘I’m overthinking everything again’-expression.
“Girlfriend?” I helped him along, seeing the deep red in his cheeks.
“Really?” he beamed at me--- and I couldn’t help but smile back, feeling all kinds of funny. I knew that I and Landon were more than just “friends”, but everything within me was so ready to make it official. We’re not just dating or testing the waters.
“Oh, here,” Luka suddenly interrupts our little moment and pointed at the corner of his lips. “You got a little drool right there…”
Landon glared at him while the other tilted his lips into a smirk, happy that he managed to make his brother all kinds of red. And the rest of the family joined in, laughter filling the room in jesting and joking manner.
“Nice to meet you, Lexi,” Luka continued and held out his hand for me. I took it, trying to be polite, but… Darn, I didn’t know it would feel this wrong to shake hands with someone else. Someone who wasn’t Landon! I---it---it felt wrong!
Suddenly Landon tightened his grip around my waist, and I was being pulled closer to him. I don’t know what it was, but--- I could have sworn that I heard a growl rumble deep inside Landon’s chest. Instantly Luka’s eyes traveled from my eyes to Landon’s hand; and a knowing smirk crossed his lips.
“Nice to meet you too,” I said, pulling my hand back after the quickest shake in the world. I mean, I shouldn’t feel like this! This is Landon’s family and in the future my family! I shouldn’t--- and I shouldn’t be thinking of them as MY family! This is the first time I meet them and-and--- And I’d be a fool to ignore the growing possessiveness and need to protect them and keep them safe. Which is crazy and I really need to check my medicines!
Ok, Lexi, your head needs to slow down a peck. Or a million!
“But how do you get to be the older little brother?” I added, trying to distract myself as well as anyone else, in case they noticed the direction my mind was going.
“Luka is adopted like me and DJ,” Landon told me, smiling at me with bright red cheeks. “But he came last so even if he’s older, we call him little brother.”
“Yeah, and then he became shorter, and his life really turned the sunny side up,” a feminine, cheery voice suddenly sounded from the door. All eyes turned to the newcomer--- and holy jellybeans is that a supermodel?! Her luscious mane of perfect chestnut-colored hair fell in perfect waves over her shoulders. Her small face was dominated by big, bright brown eyes and lashes that lasted for days. Not to mention those mile-long legs, that gracefully snuck out from under a perfectly modest black dress, that despite its modesty, showcased all – and I mean ALL – of her perfectly sculpted curves.
She was gorgeous!
“Kara!” Landon exclaimed, with a mixture of surprise and discomfort in his voice. “I-I didn’t know you’d be here!”
My heart dropped and the hoard of butterflies in my stomach took to arms and started to poke my insides with their tiny swords.
THIS was Landon’s “friend”?! His childhood friend and the only other girl he’s ever had in his apartment?! And they’d never been together?!
Why did I suddenly have a hard time believing that?
“I finished my shift with Luka and decided to come over,” she smiled, giving Landon a quick kiss on the cheek. He didn’t look like he enjoyed it, but he didn’t push her away either. Which somehow felt just as bad!
Ok. I’ve never been a bloodthirsty sort of woman--- but if that she-dog didn’t ger her hands off MY man within the next second, I was going to color the walls with her freaking blood!
“Hi, you must be Lexi,” she continued in the same sweet voice and extended her hand to me. “I’m Kara! It’s so nice to finally meet you!”
As if sensing my sudden bloodthirst, Landon gave my hand a gentle squeeze, before lifting it to his mouth. His lips just barely graced my knuckles, but the shivers and soft, blissful current of electricity that follows is so intense, that all and every thought in my mind stopped and all my focus turned to Landon. His eyes met mine and the calming smile that lingered on his lips, was enough to turn even the darkest of days bright. And a short sigh of relief floods through me…
“I invited her to come,” Luka confessed, instantly picking up on his brother’s distress, while Kara was pulled away and received the same welcome as me. “Is that ok?”
“Why wouldn’t it be,” Kara replied in her overly sweet voice before Landon was able to speak. “We’re just friends.”
OK, so many things wrong with that statement!
An uneasy knot of jealously surged through my blood. She is so very – VERY, VERY! – beautiful. I’d never been able to even hold a candle to her in that aspect.
“Where’s LJ? I thought he was coming,” Landon asked, instead of replying to Kara’s question. Oh, smart man! But we’re totally going to talk about it after! There’s no way, there hasn’t been something between those two! But then again: who in their right mind – at least a guy’s mind – would confess being a virgin just to get into a girl’s knickers?!
“Knowing him, he’s probably coming somewhere, alright,” Luka remarks dryly, making everyone else in the room snicker, while Sally looks just about ready to have a heart attack!
So, he’s the playboy-brother?
“LUKA STONE!” Mrs. Stone scowled, glaring at her youngest-oldest son. “That’s no way to talk about your brother! And definitely not in front of our guests!”
“Sure, but it’s probably true,” Landon shrugged, with a hopeless expression on his face; as if trying to defend Luka. Dina scowled, but it was the new deep voice at the door, that in the end saved the situation from--- well, going anyplace good!
“I’ll have you know, I made it a quicky so I could come here and meet the mystery-girl,” the male said with a huff, earning everyone’s attention. A large arm came down on Landon’s and Luka’s shoulders as a grinning face appeared between them. “So you better appreciate it.”
I gasped as I noticed the big man between Landon and Luka. He was bigger than Luka, but only by an inch or two. His hair was a deep red color, and his eyes were the same intense green, that Mrs. Stone had. And he was big! Not as tall as Landon but way bigger than Luka. And whereas Luka looked like he had boulders for breakfast, LJ was just--- big all over!
Yep! Definitely the player in the family!
He looked like a super-model. Big arms, firm chest, and a very noticeable six-pack. Paired with his mischievous smile and sizzled jawline and it was enough to make any girl weak in the knee.
Well, any girl but me!
“Levi Junior!” Grand Sally gasped, looking utterly horrified. “Not in front of the guests!”
“Hi! I’m LJ! The awesome brother,” he grinned at me giving me a quick once-over, as he extended a hand out to me. A hand that I hesitantly took. “You’re hot! If things don’t work out with big brother here…”
“Back off, LJ!” Landon growled, pushing his brother off me. And YES! He growled! Like a freaking dog! What the---?! I frowned, looking up at him, confused. I’d heard a LOT of different sounds coming from different people but that was---!
Before I got to ask him, I was distracted by the duo that suddenly formed in the kitchen.
“Uh,” LJ and Tom mused--- and suddenly started singing! “Lexi and Landon, sitting in a tree…”
“One more word, and you’ll be hanging from a tree,” Landon cut them off in the same sing-along tone, sending them a murderous glare--- That only seemed to amuse them even more.
“If you think this is bad, you should have seen it when I first met Levi’s family,” Mrs. Stone smiled at me, coming from behind me and put an easing hand on my shoulder. “Even the turkey blushed.” She winked and I felt myself release a breath I hadn’t even realize I’d been holding. She gave me a reassuring pat and smiled even brighter. “Welcome to the pack, Lexi.”
“Thanks, Mrs. Stone,” I laughed, realizing how very accurate it was, calling them that. They really were a pack. One looking out for the other without question, while the next tease and eases any uneasiness that might come up.
“Please,” Mrs. Stone said as she curls an arm around my waist and led me to the dining room, where most of the family had gathered. “Call me Dina.”
I nodded, feeling wholeheartedly welcomed by the family. The girls all sit, while the guys were standing, being perfect gentlemen and letting the ladies have a seat first. Tom joined his sisters, Landon stayed by my side while Luka firmly placed himself between us and Kara – which I sent him a mental “thank you” for.
I don’t know what it was, but I couldn’t be far enough away from that woman!
“Where’s Dad?” LJ asked in a light tone, standing between his mother and Grand Sally.
So the player has a heart at least. Not that I doubted it. I could sense his protective nature the moment I set eyes on him. Sure, he liked to tease Landon, but he wouldn’t try anything. Not really anyway. I belong to Landon and they all know that. It just felt weird to touch any male that wasn’t Landon. But I’d hoped it would become more bearable once he claimed me and--- and where was that coming from?!
Oh, my gosling, Lexi! I thought, shocked at my own thoughts. I think your mother might have drugged you before you left the house!
“He had some business to attend to, but will be here shortly,” Mrs. Stone--- No, Dina! – replied, and looked at her son with a look, that he apparently understood all too well. Because he lit up like a child at Christmas!
“Anything we can help with?” LJ asked enthusiastically, already halfway through the door. “We could use a good run before dinner.”
I frowned. We?! I cringed, hoping he didn’t intend to have Landon and Luka come with him. I didn’t mind being alone with the rest of the men and women – it was just Kara I didn’t like.
Why the bollocks would Landon be friends with her? She’s all sweet and innocent on the outside, but that apple is more poisonous than Snow White’s!
But then again, I can’t really blame him. I look at the women in his life – all sweetness and tenderness. I bet he doesn’t think women capable of having a bad bone in their bodies. Even Hannah and her dark, sarcastic humor was all heart in all the right places.
This was a loving and caring family having raised a loving and caring son…
LJ had his mouth half-opened when another presence appeared in the doorway. And yes, it was a presence. It felt like the air suddenly became denser, charged with electricity and power. It demanded attention and I could feel my skin prickle.
“Sorry, I’m late,” sounded from a deep husky voice. I looked up--- and met a pair of ocean green eyes, that looked so blue it was almost surreal. “Hmm,” he halfway smirked, when he noticed me and stepped closer. “You must be Lexi.”
My breath got stuck in my throat. LJ was his carbon copy, but whereas the younger version was bright and mischievous, this one looked cold and murderous. His red hair was still wet from a shower and it was noticeable that he’d dressed in a hurry. I didn’t know how old he was, but he looked extremely fit. Big arms and a broad chest, just like LJ. But somehow Luka had adapted his outward expressions. There was no smile or welcome in his tone. Just seriousness and a little hint of pleasantries; but only out of necessity.
“Levi Stone, Landon’s father,” he continued, shaking the hand I hadn’t even realized I’d extended to him.
“Lexi Smith,” I replied – hoping for a firm, confident tone, but it barely came out as a meek squeal. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Likewise,” he replied, without a hint of his true emotions. “Sorry for the rough appearance, I just came back from a--- a business meeting.”
“Then I don’t want to see the other guy…”
The words leaped from my mouth before I managed to stop it. And to my horrification, everyone heard! But to my relief, Landon chuckled and the old giant hovering over me snickers with a satisfied grin.
“You’ll fit in here just fine,” he said, turning away from us and headed straight towards his wife. “My love,” he said--- and I almost choke on air at how completely different his tone was when he leaned over and gave his wife a quick peck on the lips. She beamed back at him, whispering something I didn’t catch, but I didn’t need to. The way those two look at each other, with respect, admiration, and--- oh, so much love it makes me want to curl my toes!
Oh boy, do I want that when I’m old and gray!
He moved from his mate and gave his ‘Aunt’ a quick peak on the cheek as well, commenting on how lovely it smells. My heart swells all at new. Is everyone here nice and utterly cute?! Jeez, talk about kissing babies these people are so picture-perfect, I’m starting to wonder about that whole ‘kinky-killer’ again…
“Hi Dad/ Uncle Levi,” sounds in a unison from around the dining room in a mutual tone of respect and admiration. Only one, ultra-sweet voice stood out from the rest.
“Hi, Mr. Stone,” Kara said--- and waves at the man.
Be the better person, Lexi, I mentally chant in my mind. Be the better person--- and don’t jump across the room and kill the Prom-Queen-Wannabe!
“Kara---?!” Mr. Stone said, sounding as surprised as can be. “I see you’re invited?!” He quickly glanced over at Landon and as discreetly as possible, I glanced up at MY boyfriend--- And happiness swarmed my stomach when I noticed his eyes had gone hard and there was a small shake of his head.
“She’s with me,” Luka intervened--- and quickly moving in as my number one favorite brother of the bunch.
“As if she has to be with anyone,” LJ scoffed unimpressed--- moving to the bottom of my list. “She’s practically family.”
And he looked so pleased with himself.
I could feel the frustration coming off Landon’s body and Luka was doing a remarkably subtle job at giving LJ the ‘you’re an idiot’-look. At least that made me feel a little better. I’m not the only one who’s weary at Kara.
“Ah, thanks LJ,” she however smiles sweetly at the idiot brother.
I took in a deep breath.This was going to be SO awkward!