Saving Gino - Excerpt
Updated: Jan 27
This edition of my life starts out much like all the others—with Dad being ridiculous.
It was the third week of January, and our final dinner with the Jacobsons. Their dining room was luminous, and—thanks to Gwen’s scrumptious cooking—sweet-smelling. Luke and I shared one end of the table, while Gwen and Burke sat at the other. Between us were Nikki and Andre, Dad, Sullivan, Lilly and Troy.
Mom left Alaska to prep a new museum exhibit, which left us with Dad and his never-ending madness.
“So, what are you two doing between now and February 7th?” Dad asked me and Luke.
We’d leave for the Alps on February 7th, where Lilly and Troy De La Fontaine would be joined in Holy matrimony.
“I wanted to stay in Alaska, but my boss has other plans.” Luke rolled up the sleeves of his silky blue shirt. “My ski lessons are booked for the rest of the season.
“I’m lucky I can get time off for Lilly’s wedding,” Luke added, glancing at me. “And our honeymoon afterwards.”
Dad’s face fell at the word honeymoon. “You’ll be spending it on the slopes, right?”
Yup, poor Dad was still in denial!
Luke blew some blond strands out of his eyes. “Yeah.”
“Good.” Dad ate some steak.
“We are so proud of you, Lukasz,” Gwen chirped. “For such a young ski instructor, you’re really making a name for yourself!”
Luke smiled uncomfortably. Because, let’s face it, it was his dad that made the name for him, by landing himself in the paper….
For banging Mrs. Claus.
“It was bound to happen,” Andre stated.
“Banging Mrs. Claus?!” I blurted.
Everyone looked at me.
My cheeks burned. I shrunk in my seat a bit, suddenly hot.
“Making a name for himself,” Andre said with a cheeky grin. He wore a red tee shirt and denim jeans and looked dreamy as usual.
The kind of silence I wanted to die in.
“Eat, Sullivan,” Dad finally lectured. “Gwen took the time to cook for us.”
“It’s overcooked,” Sullivan protested.
Dad looked daggers at him.
“It’s okay,” Gwen told my father. “He doesn’t have to eat it if he doesn’t like it.”
“He likes it,” Dad assured her.
He glared at my brother. “Don’t you, Sullivan?”
Sullivan smiled uneasily, scooped up a pea and ate it.
“So, young lady, did you change your name yet?” Burke asked before a bite of salad. He ran his fingers through his messy mocha hair.
“Yes,” I gushed. “Weeks ago!”
“Me too,” Nikki exclaimed, gripping Andre’s arm. Her blond hair was in a bun, she wore a baby blue dress, and was drop-dead gorgeous as usual.
“What’d you change it to?” Sullivan taunted.
“Adonia Pawlak.” My heart fluttered as it rolled off my tongue.
He rolled his eyes.
“I can’t believe I’m a LeBlanc!” Nikki squealed.
“Neither can I!” Sullivan mocked.
“Sullivan, enough,” Dad demanded.
Sullivan crinkled his nose. “What? It’s true. After the trouble she got herself into with her fake boyfriend—”
“You mean the trouble you got me into,” Nikki said crossly.
Dad heaved a frustrated sigh. “Sullivan, the starving kids of the world would love what’s on your plate!”
Sullivan nudged the plate toward him. “Then send it to them!”
Dad’s eyes bugged out. “I—I don’t have their address.”
“Well, that’s not my problem!”
“Sullivan, you are so immature,” Lilly scorned as Troy wrapped an arm around her.
“Sullivan,” Dad insisted, “eat your mashed potatoes.”
Andre glared at my brother. “Yeah, troll, eat.”
“I may be a troll but at least I’m not a fake Frenchman.”
Andre jabbed a finger at him. “I’m not a fake Frenchman.”
“Yes, you are.”
“Dad?” Sullivan peeped. “Do I really have to spend a week with this fool?”
My eyes popped. “Excuse me?”
Luke looked confused. “Why do you have to spend a week with Andre?”
“I’m not technically spending it with Andre.” Sullivan took a bite of mashed potatoes. “I’m spending it with you. But he will be there—”
“Daddy?!” I shrieked. “What is Sullivan talking about?”
Dad showed his palms. “I was going to ask you, sweetie. Would you watch Sullivan for a few days? I have a deadline, and I’m just over halfway through this manuscript. Your mom has to work, and, well, you know how it is.”
Speechless, I looked to Luke.
Luke’s eyes traveled the table. Everyone looked surprised, and mostly apprehensive.
Finally, Luke’s eyes met Dad’s. “I guess….”
I stomped on his foot. He flinched.
“Luke,” I hissed. “What are you doing?”
“I appreciate it, Luke. He won’t be much trouble.” Dad scooped up the last of his potatoes.
“By the way, Gwen, these potatoes are incredible,” Dad added.
“Dad,” I cut in, “you want us to babysit? We’re newlyweds!”
After a brief stare, Dad gestured to Luke. “He said it’s fine. Besides, Luke has to work. You’ll be bored sitting at home alone. Your book’s done and you said you’re letting it sit. Sullivan can keep you company in the meantime. It’s only for a week or so.”
“Dad,” I objected, “I won’t be bored at home. I have a life. I have friends. I need to help Lilly with her wedding planning.”
“It’s already planned.” Lilly twirled a long blond lock around her finger.
I shot her a look.
“What about school?” Burke asked. “Mustn’t Sullivan attend?”
“Dad enrolled me in Internet school,” Sullivan boasted.
My eyes narrowed. “Daddy? You wouldn’t enroll me in Internet school when I asked. What makes Sullivan so special?”
“He doesn’t have any friends,” Dad stated. “And I’m sick of hearing him whine about it.”
“What happened to that other troll?” Andre inquired. “You know, the one that looks like a leprechaun?”
“Zach,” I said, crossing my arms at Sullivan.
“He got suspended one too many times,” Sullivan said. “He’s in the Internet program, too.”
“Dad, can’t he go with Burke to Hawaii?” I begged. “Burke has that astronomy seminar he needs to speak at—and who wouldn’t love a trip to Hawaii?”
“Ah, that is days away,” Burke noted.
I was devastated.
“But it is always an option, Paul,” Burke quickly added. “Gwen and I are both going, and we love having kids around, yes?”
Dad put up a hand. “Really, Burke, it’s fine. I know Luke and Adonia can handle it.”
Luke gripped my hand to console me.
I couldn’t believe Dad said Sullivan would not be too much trouble! It’s like they haven’t even met!
“Looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of each other,” Sullivan told Andre with a sly grin.
“What an experience it will be,” Andre said dryly.
“I can’t wait to hang out with Adonia and her hot friends.” Sullivan waggled his brows at Lilly.
My eyes met Luke’s. This could not be happening! My blood was boiling.
“Dad, does Mom know you plan to pawn Sullivan off on me?”
Dad grabbed a biscuit from the center of the table. “Gwen, you’ve got to give me the recipe—”
“Dad!” I barked. “I just got married! I can’t believe you’re doing this to me during my honeymoon!”
Dad’s face went blank. “Your honeymoon doesn’t officially start until Valentine’s Day.
“Luke said it’s fine, and I want you to know that I really do appreciate this, Adonia. I need to make this deadline so I can pay back what I spent on your wedding gown.”
Well, there it was—the guilt trip I was anticipating.
My heart sank—I couldn’t say no.
Gwen smiled and shrugged at me. Burke looked like he pitied us.
I gazed at Sullivan, who winked at my friends. They looked at me, unenthused.
“Well, it’s only a week, eh?” Troy breathed. “What can go wrong?”