Home > Olivier (Chicago Blaze #9)(8)

Olivier (Chicago Blaze #9)(8)
Author: Brenda Rothert

“I hope so,” she says as I sit down on the other end of the couch, reluctantly leaving the middle cushion empty. “But none of us really know until we’re in that situation. When I watched the video and saw all the people just standing there, I realized…” Her smile is sad. “If you hadn’t been there, I don’t think I’d be here right now.”

“But I was, and you are.” I want to reach over and take her hand, but I don’t. I remind myself that we don’t really know each other.

“I can never thank you enough. And I want you to know, I’ll pay it forward. Somehow, in some way, I’ll make the world a better place.”

“It sounds like you already are, with your work.”

She smiles, and this time there’s no sadness there. “I try to. I really do try, every day, to lift people up and give them hope. I’m going back to work tomorrow, and I can’t wait.”

“What do you do at your job?”

“It depends on the day. We’re a resource for homeless people, so we help find rooms in shelters, and we’re a stop off site for meal deliveries. We have a doctor who comes in to see people once a week, we help connect homeless kids with tutors…that kind of thing.”

“Sounds rewarding.”

“I think so.”

I resist the urge to tell her I provide the majority of the funding for a homeless shelter and restaurant operated by Reese Deveraux, the wife of a Blaze player. Something tells me Daphne wouldn’t be impressed by anything to do with money. She’s been there, done that and chosen a different direction for her life.

“I hear we’re a hashtag,” I say instead. “Or we have a hashtag? What’s the terminology on that?”

She laughs. “Don’t ask me, I’m thirty-one. Practically a senior citizen in terms of Internet lingo.”

“Well, I’m forty-one, so you have to be better than me.”

Daphne holds my gaze, and I feel something passing between us. Damn, I hope she feels our chemistry as strongly as I do.

“Anyway…” She looks at her lap and then back up at me. “Thank you. And thanks for doing this dinner, and being okay with the photographer. I think once the world sees a photo of us meeting and we go back to our everyday lives, this will all pass.”

“You don’t like all the attention,” I say, because given her tone and expression, it’s not even a question.

“No. My family has money, and with my dad’s work, I’ve always felt like we were in the spotlight. And finally, I’m away from all that.” With a sheepish grin, she says, “I mean no offense by this, but the world of the rich and famous isn’t for me.”

“I understand.”

And I do. I wish I could live my life with less scrutiny, but it’s just not possible. Once I passed a certain level of wealth, people became interested in everything about me. Where I’m traveling to. Who I’m with. How much I tip at restaurants. And the level of interest is highest in Chicago, since I own the Blaze.

“After tonight, I’m hoping to slide back into oblivion,” Daphne cracks, but I know she’s not entirely joking.

There’s no way she can completely fly under the radar, though. She’s too bright. I don’t say that, though. I’m still feeling like a tongue-tied teenager in her presence, which is new for me. Usually I’m in control of every situation I’m in. I’m the one in the room everyone wants to impress, not the one trying to be impressive.

“I guess we should get out there,” she says with a soft sigh. “My family can be a little much, just so you know. I recommend drinking and pretending you don’t hear about seventy percent of what they say.”

“I’ll manage,” I say with a wry smile.

She leads the way back to the room we came from, and as soon as we walk in, Josephine gives Daphne a puzzled look.

“No T-shirt about crushing the patriarchy, I see,” she says. “Is it laundry day?”

Daphne shakes her head and accepts the drink Julia passes her. “Just mixing it up, Grandma Jo.”

“She’s a firebrand,” Josephine says to me, pointing at Daphne. “I won’t be surprised if I wake up some morning and she’s chained herself to a tree trying to save the earth.”

“I’m more about human rights, Grandma Jo,” Daphne says, sounding weary.

“Oh, let’s not get into all that unpleasantness,” Sandra says, scrunching her nose. “Olivier, you grew up in France, didn’t you? We’d love to hear about that.”

I spend the rest of the evening talking to Daphne’s parents. We chat about France, the stock market, politics and the Blaze. I’m disappointed to see that Daphne is hardly even paying attention. She looks like she’s just trying to survive the dinner.

I do get a warm smile as she says goodbye to me when I’m leaving, but it feels perfunctory.

I shake my head on the ride home, both frustrated and amused. Daphne Barrington couldn’t be less interested in me. I was named Hottest Bachelor in Chicago by a magazine a few months ago, I’m wealthy as fuck and I’m not bad looking.

I know she’s single and attracted to men, because her grandma made several cracks at dinner about her dirtbag ex-fiancé. But for whatever reason, Daphne isn’t the least bit interested in me.

At least, not yet.

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

Daphne

 

“Grocery store sheet cakes are so underrated,” my coworker Nina says as she cuts another piece of the cake in our closet-sized breakroom. “I’ll take a piece of this over that gourmet bakery shit any day.”

“It is really good,” I agree. “Thanks again, you guys; you didn’t have to do that.”

When I got to the office this morning, Nina and our boss Ty were waiting for me with a cake that said, “Welcome back Daphne.” I got tears in my eyes when I saw it. I hugged them both, overcome with relief. Ty and Nina know I come from a wealthy family, but it’s never been an issue. With all the coverage of the accident and my family online, though, I worried that maybe they’d see me differently now.

Things haven’t changed a bit, though. Ty caught me up on what I’ve missed and then asked me to sort through the mountain of donated clothes and shoes piled up in our back room once I got caught up on email and settled.

“People donate some really nasty shit,” I tell Nina and Ty as I toss my paper plate into the trash. We wash and reuse the plastic forks, because every dollar counts here.

Nina snort laughs. “Some lady called me last week and asked how much of a tax donation she could get for giving us a snowmobile without an engine.”

“Always a helpful item for the homeless,” I say, rolling my eyes. “This morning I sorted through stained, dirty underwear with holes. And toothbrushes. Used toothbrushes with flattened bristles. People are disgusting.”

“I hope you wore rubber gloves,” Ty says.

“I doubled up.”

He glances at his watch. “After my next meeting, I’ll come take over on sorting. You should go to the bridge and see everyone. They’ve been asking about you.”

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