She touched the little box in her pocket and smiled. She hadn’t put the ring on yet, telling her boyfriend that she’d wanted to talk to her parents before wearing it around them. He’d understood the reasons behind it. Her father didn’t approve of her dating Tyler. He’d hate the idea of her marrying him. She’d have to work him around to the idea. She’d also told Tyler that it would help immeasurably for him to ask her father’s permission.

Old fashioned as he was, he might be impressed. Besides, Tyler needed to learn that her father wasn’t going to eat him like half a sandwich. If there was one thing that she disliked it was how scared her boyfriend… fiancé was of her father. She loved her father and knew his overprotective streak – even his dislike of Tyler – stemmed from his own strong feelings toward his daughter.

So, though in her mind, Chloe was engaged to be married, she refused to put on the ring just yet. She bounded into the house and dropped her books, looking up as he brother bounded into the room, listening to music and singing.

Caden had a nice voice. He seemed to mishear lyrics on a regular basis, however. “I’m blue, I’m a bee, I’m a guy, I’m a bee, I’m a guy,” he sang. When Chloe giggled he paused. “What?” he asked, all innocence.

“Not, ‘I’m a bee, I’m a guy,’ Caden. It’s abudee, abudai. They’re nonsense words,” she said.

“Right,” Caden said. “How’d your date with Tyler go?” He grinned when he saw her blushing.

“You still seeing that kid?” her father asked as he leaned on the doorjamb. He shook his head. “Just once I’d like him to come inside to get you, instead of waiting on the porch.”

“Well, he’s coming over to dinner tomorrow so you’ll get your chance to actually meet him,” Chloe said. She smiled and pecked her father’s cheek. “Just don’t scare him off because he’s really very nice.”

“If he treats you right and makes you happy, I’m fine with him. I just don’t know what kind of person he is since I’ve never actually met him,” the older man said. “I’ll tell your mom to let me make something special tomorrow.”

“Schnitzel with noodles?” Caden proposed.

“We have the materials,” he replied. “You offering to help?”

“You know it’s his favorite, Dad,” Chloe said. “Of course he’s offering to help. I think it would be the perfect example of soul food ala Eckstein.” She kissed her father’s cheek again and bounded up the stairs with a call of, “Thanks Dad.”