Home > Olivier (Chicago Blaze #9)(6)

Olivier (Chicago Blaze #9)(6)
Author: Brenda Rothert

I push back the covers and get out of bed. “There’s nothing unreasonable or inappropriate about advocating for the marginalized,” I say, annoyed. “If Dad’s embarrassed about what I stand for, that says a lot about him.”

“He’s not embarrassed by you, Daphne.”

“But you are,” I remind her. “You never fail to point out what a disappointment I am.”

“I just think you could do so much more with your life.” She sighs, exasperated.

“My work saves lives. It’s not that you want me to do more; it’s that you want me to want what you did. And I never will, Mom. I’m never marrying some rich man and planning his dinner parties while he’s out making more money. That’s not who I am.”

“It is, actually,” she says with a humorless laugh. “Your last name is Barrington.”

I take in a breath and let it back out, reminding myself what my therapist says about circular conversations. If having them accomplishes nothing and makes me feel bad, I should see the writing on the wall and walk away.

“I’ll go to dinner tonight and meet Olivier Durand,” I tell my mother. “But I have two conditions.”

“Heaven help me,” she mutters. “What do you want?”

“I’m moving back to my apartment tomorrow morning, and I’m going back to work. Once the reporters get some photos of me, the attention will die down.”

She crosses her arms over her chest. “And?”

“And I want one of the news photographers let inside tonight to take a few pictures.”

“That won’t be necessary. Your father’s staff photographer will take photos and release them.”

I shake my head. “I want a news photographer, from an accredited news organization.”

“Daphne, I’m not letting one of those people into our home,” she balks.

“Why not? I’m not asking you to give them a private tour. They can take pictures of us meeting in the entryway if you want.”

“No. Your father’s staff photographer will do a better job.”

“No one wants those bullshit photos of Dad shaking this guy’s hand with a tear in his eye, Mom. Again, I know this is hard for you to understand, but not everything is about you and Dad.”

“How did I raise such an ungrateful brat?” She scowls at me. “After all I’ve done for you, this is—”

“I’m getting in the shower,” I say, cutting her off. “Do we have a deal or not?”

“Fine.” She throws up her hands. “I’ll have your father’s communications manager approve one photographer. But only one.”

“Good.”

I turn to walk into the bathroom.

“So you’ll do the hair and makeup,” she says.

“No.” I don’t turn around to look at her.

“That wasn’t one of the conditions.”

“That was never up for debate. I’ll go to dinner, but I’m doing it dressed in my own clothes.”

“You’re thirty-one years old, Daphne. Not exactly a spring chicken. And since you don’t intend to give Aiden another chance, why not put your best foot forward with the man who saved your life and also happens to be a great catch? Would it be so awful to look beautiful for once?”

Her words sting. Even after all the years of being on the receiving end of her bitter comments and attempts at matchmaking, it still hurts. I don’t let it show, though.

“I don’t wear designer clothes, Mom. You know that.”

She waves a hand as she walks toward the door, like I’m a lost cause. “Fine, Daphne. Embarrass your father after he’s spent thirty-five years building a career he’s proud of. You’d probably enjoy that.”

I sigh softly, reminding myself that she’s a master manipulator. Queen of passive aggressive jabs. Just another reason I have to move back to my apartment. She and I are like oil and water and always have been.

Just one more night. One dinner. And then I can go back to my everyday life, away from having my family’s wealth and privilege showcased on a daily basis.

That’s not who I am, I remind myself. I get to decide who I am. And while my last name is Barrington, I am not and never will be a self-absorbed heiress.

It’s taken me a long time to feel like I truly fit into the life I’ve made for myself. And that life may be less than an hour from the affluent suburb of Naperville my parents live in, but it might as well be another world.

I’ll be back in that world tomorrow. Not a moment too soon.

 

 

Chapter Five

 

 

Olivier

 

The Barrington mansion comes into view as Ben drives through a canopy of trees near the end of the long, private road that leads to the sprawling stone building. Even though it’s January and the trees have no leaves, there are evergreens surrounding the home on all sides other than the front.

Seclusion comes at a price in Naperville, but the Barringtons have it. This property has likely been in their family for a long time, and the real estate developer in me can’t help wondering how much it cost to buy the land and build the mansion.

Ben stops at the front entrance and comes around to open my door.

“Thanks, Ben,” I say as I step out of the vehicle, buttoning my suit jacket.

There’s a photographer nearby, and he snaps a couple of photos. Senator Barrington’s office called my office to see if I was okay with a photographer being here tonight. And while it’s not what I would have chosen, his spokesman said Daphne wanted it, so I didn’t argue.

The front door is opened by a middle-aged man dressed in an old-school butler’s uniform.

Nodding, he says, “Welcome, Mr. Durand.”

“Thank you,” I say, walking through the open doorway as he steps aside, holding the tall, carved dark wood door open.

Everything about this place, from the stone exterior to the formal landscaping to the butler, reminds me of the time I spent in London. That’s where I lived when I was a twenty-something entrepreneur making a name for myself.

“May I take your coat?”

“Yes, thanks.” I shrug off my long wool coat and pass it to him, then offer him my hand for a handshake. “Hi, I’m Olivier Durand.”

He lowers his brows in disapproval. Christ, I guess we’ve time travelled back to the 1800s, and it’s considered bad form to introduce yourself to the household staff.

“Mr. Durand, I’m so glad you could make it,” a male voice says warmly.

I turn to see US Senator Ron Barrington in a well-tailored suit, his gray hair combed back neatly.

“Ron Barrington,” he says, shaking my hand and then chuckling as he brings it in for a hug. “Words can’t express my thanks for what you did for my daughter. If there’s ever anything, anything at all, that I can do for you, you only need to ask.”

He stands back and locks eyes with me, gratitude shining in his eyes. I don’t think much of politicians overall, but this guy seems sincere.

“It was my pleasure,” I say, meaning it.

“Mr. Durand!” a female voice calls out, her heels clicking on the wood floor as she approaches.

She’s heavily made up, wearing what looks like an evening gown, and looks the same age as the senator. Even with all the makeup, it’s obvious she’s quite pretty.

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