Home > Olivier (Chicago Blaze #9)(7)

Olivier (Chicago Blaze #9)(7)
Author: Brenda Rothert

“Olivier, please,” I say, extending my hand.

“Sandra Barrington,” she responds, smiling. “Daphne’s mother. Thank you so much for saving our daughter, Olivier. We’re so thrilled to have you here tonight.”

The photographer is clicking away, and I feel like a prop. Part of a performance. My privacy comes at a high cost, and I can’t believe I’m willingly giving the #Olidaph movement the fodder they’ve been begging for.

“Come in, please,” Sandra says, leading the way to a room outfitted with couches, chairs and a wall of tall windows overlooking a dormant garden.

I meet Daphne’s older sister, Julia, who seems nice, and also her husband, Andrew, and their two young sons, Tate and Heath.

“So this is the famous Olivier Durand,” an older woman says as she enters the room.

She’s tall and lean, her white hair neatly styled and her eyes sparkling with mischief. In black linen pants and an emerald-colored blouse, she looks every inch the matriarch of this family.

“I’m Josephine Barrington,” she says, looking me over from head to toe.

“Olivier Durand. Nice to meet you.” I offer her my hand, but she goes in for a hug instead, which given her formal appearance, takes me by surprise.

“I’m so grateful to you,” she says softly. “I’d write you a large check to show my thanks, but I don’t suppose you need it.”

I laugh and say, “No, but thanks.”

Leaning back, she puts her pale, delicate hands on my forearms and holds on as she looks at my face.

“You don’t happen to have a thing for older women, do you?” she asks.

Her expression is completely serious as I grapple for a response. Finally, I manage to say, “Well, I—”

She cuts me off with a full-throated, infectious laugh. “I’m joking, Olivier. I’m sure you’ve got your pick of firm, ripe peaches. You don’t want this old raisin.” She looks over at a well-stocked bar cart and says, “Let’s have a drink, shall we.”

I like her. Josephine Barrington is the kind of person I like to spend time with. She doesn’t take herself too seriously, and she’s warm and generous.

“Macallan?” she asks me as she holds a decanter above a glass.

“Yes, thanks.”

The butler from earlier rushes over, his expression gruff as he says, “Ma’am, let me do that.”

“Jerry, leave me be,” she snaps, meeting his eyes. “I’m eighty-seven years old, and I’d like to pour my own drinks and wipe my own ass while I still can.”

“Mother, please,” Ron says from the other side of the room.

“It’s true.” She shrugs and passes me a tumbler, holding up another for herself. Both have very generous pours of Macallan. “Cheers, Olivier.”

“Cheers.”

We clink glasses and I take a sip of the scotch, enjoying the touch of toffee I taste as it goes down. I’ve got some nervous energy I’m hoping the drink will calm.

Since watching that video clip of Daphne, I’ve found myself thinking of her during meetings. Over dinner. While lying in bed at night staring into the darkness.

Will I feel the same attraction to her in person? It’s been a long time since I was truly drawn to a woman. Before Giselle moved in with me full-time last year, I went out on dates and slept with women, but it was more to fill my weekends alone than anything. It was fun, but nothing more.

Now that I have Giselle full-time, though, I’m usually at home with her when I’m not at work or a work function. And it’s good. I like being a full-time dad. In the past year, I haven’t missed dating. I never knew if women really wanted me, anyway, or just the money and power that came with the package.

“There she is,” Ron says as a woman I immediately recognize as Daphne walks into the room.

She’s wearing a simple pale blue dress, a cream-colored woven cardigan and ballet flats. Her hair is down in loose waves around her shoulders and other than a little pink lipstick, it doesn’t look like she has any makeup on.

The room goes quiet as we lock eyes. I go to set my glass down, but there’s no table there. I can’t look away from Daphne, though, so I just keep blindly trying to set my glass down on nothing.

Finally, Josephine takes the glass from me.

“Hi, I’m Daphne,” she says, smiling warmly.

“And I’m…”

Fucked. I am so completely fucked. I negotiate contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, but in this moment, I can’t speak. I can’t even remember my goddamn name.

She’s beautiful. There’s wisdom, compassion and joy in her sky blue eyes. But it’s her smile that really sets her apart. I don’t just see her smile; I feel it. It’s like sunshine—warm and bright, washing over me from head to toe.

“Olivier,” Josephine says in a loud whisper as she pokes me in the side. “You’re Olivier.”

“Right.” I smile, pulling myself together and walking over to meet Daphne in the center of the room. “I’m Olivier.”

Daphne holds her hand out and I take it, mindful not to grip her like I’m closing a deal. Her skin is soft. She has to tip her chin up slightly to hold my gaze, and I can’t help thinking about the way she’d fit against me if we were closer.

“How’s your arm?” she asks me. “I read that you were burned.”

“Oh.” I look down at the arm that was burned, now hidden beneath my dress shirt and suit jacket, and then back at her. “It’s nothing. I’m fine. How are you healing?”

“Good.” She glances at the doorway and says, “Can we talk in private?”

“Of course.”

My heart pounds at the thought of being alone with her. Just this small interaction has me feeling more longing than I have in a while.

I want to take her in my arms and kiss her. Hold her and never let go. Feel her hair against my cheek. And more…much more.

“We can go in my dad’s office,” she says, turning to lead the way.

The photographer, a shaggy-haired guy in his thirties, follows. When Daphne walks into a dark-paneled room and stands aside for me to enter, the photographer tries to come in, too.

“No,” I say, shaking my head. “Wait out here.”

He wrinkles his face in confusion. “I was given an exclusive.”

“And you got it,” I tell him.

“This is gonna be the best part.”

I shake my head. “You’re not coming in.”

He mutters something as I close the door. I forget he even exists as I walk over to Daphne, who’s standing by a wall lined with bookshelves, all filled with books, plaques and awards of her father’s.

“Do you think he might be listening?” she asks softly.

I walk over to the door and open it to check. The hallway is empty.

“All clear,” I say, closing the door again.

She sighs, looking relieved.

“I’ve thought about what I’d say when I met you so many times over the past month,” she says. “And now, nothing feels right.”

“You don’t have to say anything.” I approach her and she sits down on a leather couch, gesturing for me to sit next to her. “What I did was just instinct. You would have done the same.”

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