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A Reluctant Hero

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I had to give JD credit. He walked into my house, practically ignored his own daughter and my dad, and kissed me as though we had no audience at all. Once he was satisfied I knew just how badly he’d missed me in the just over 24 hours we’d been apart, he pulled away and smiled down at me.

“Sorry,” he offered, face still so close I could feel his breath fanning my kiss swollen lips. “I just couldn’t wait another minute.” I was smiling as we pulled apart, and remembered Dad and Kelsey were still sitting at the dining room table. Licking my lips, and causing JD’s eyes to focus on them again, I shook my head with a quick inhale of air to clear my head.

“You’re just in time to meet my-” I started to turn to the table, but Dad beat me to the punch, so to speak.

“You must be Kelsey’s dad, JD, isn’t it?” My dad was standing next to me, and as everyone did, forcing me to look up. My heart rate calmed down when I saw he wasn’t glaring or trying to look intimidating. Holding out his hand, he smiled even and offered his name. “Adam Ampstead,” I watched as JD took his hand with as much confidence as he did anything. He didn’t try to dominate the handshake, which I’d seen some men do, but he shook Dad’s with the same pressure and strength that my father was asserting.

“It’s a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Ampstead.” Point for JD, doing his homework and using the correct title. I remembered him asking about my family during our first dinner here, and smiled. “Ani mentioned your focus is on infectious diseases.” Well played. Dad studied JD as their hands dropped. Clearly he was hiding being impressed, my dad was an old hat at feigning indifference to someone who was showing him their intelligence.

“I am, do you know the field?” Volley, and I waited for the lob back from JD.

JD chuckled and shook his head. “Hell no, I barely managed a D in biology,” his dimples were peeking at me and his eyes met mine with a twinkle. “Ani tells me she wasn’t much better.”

My dad, shocking me, laughed with him. “Yeah, I never quite understood how someone as brilliant as Anilea couldn’t grasp science and maths.” I rolled my eyes and took my seat at the table.

“I can still kick your ass at Scrabble, old man,” I challenged, seeing Kelsey watching our dads like a tennis match. “You alright there, Kels?”


She snorted as her dad took the seat next to me and Dad retook his own. “Sure, I was waiting for fireworks, but this works too.” She shrugged as we restarted the game. JD was content sitting next to me and watching the three of us play Scrabble more competitively than most sports players played for trophies.

He was touching my tiles, leaning close to me when Dad ordered him back. “No outside aid,” he growled at the two of us and I snickered.

“Pretty sure Dad wasn’t helping her make a word,” Kelsey offered, dropping her tiles onto the game board. “Besides, I just won, hands down.”

We all studied the board and I nearly spit the sip of the drink I’d just taken out. “OXYPHENBUTAZONE, Kelsey, how the fuck did you manage-”

JD was watching the three of us like he couldn’t grasp the nerdiness on such a high scale. His daughter, the little freak that she was, had managed to use our own competitiveness against us, and adding the ‘oxy’ to the rest of the word had earned her a whopping 1,778 points. My mouth had recovered, and was hanging open while my dad was working hard to find a loophole to make her win illegitimate.

“I win,” she pushed back from the table and Dad stood to help her to her feet. “And now, a victory pee.” I laughed as she waddled to the closest bathroom and Dad was shaking his head.

“That girl is,” he sighed, and turned back to JD and I. “Your daughter is brighter than she likes to pretend.” I felt JD holding back his laughter. “One day she’ll be as accomplished as Ani, mark my words.”

I smiled and nodded. “I don’t fucking doubt it for one minute.” JD was watching me. “What? I met her in the class I taught.” My smile grew at the memory of how impressed I’d been with the papers she turned in. “She has a way of writing that’s far better than her peers, I’ve told her she should work on expanding some of the things she got graded on.”

“I had no idea,” JD offered, knowing that his daughter was smart was one thing, clearly, but learning she had talent in writing was another.

“What didn’t you know?” Kelsey had come back, her bump leading the way. “What?” We were all staring at her and she glared back. “Seriously, what?”

“We were just telling your dad how talented you are at writing,” my dad offered, holding her chair for her. She rolled her eyes at us and sat down.

“Sure,” she offered, as I stood up to refill our drinks. “A couple short stories and a poem or two and I’m a writer.”

“How do you think I started?” I tossed back, feeling JD following me.

He helped me with the drinks and smiled as I offered to reheat dinner for him. “You can’t keep feeding me, I’ll weigh a thousand pounds.”

“I can’t fatten you up so you can’t run away,” I stepped closer to him and looked up as his hands slid up my arms. “And I can’t burn all your clothes to trap you through forced nudity. How the hell do I keep you?”

Smiling, he leaned down to capture my lips in another kiss, but first he offered the solution. “Who says you haven’t captured me already?”