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

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

“Really?”

Ty grins. “Of course, Daphne. Everyone loves you. Ray’s been missing you something bad.”

I sigh heavily, but then laugh. Ray is a homeless man in his seventies with mental health issues who has a thing for me. He’s proposed to me at least fifty times, offering to share his tent under the bridge with me forever if I’ll have him.

“Don’t ever tell him this, but I even missed Ray,” I say. “I never would’ve imagined that’s possible. I think I will go over this afternoon.”

“We just stocked up on toiletries if you want to bring some with you,” Ty offers.

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

Visiting the homeless people who live beneath a bridge not far from the shelter is one of my favorite things to do. I stuff a backpack full of candy, socks and toiletries and pass everything out. It’s humbling to see people cry with gratitude when they receive something most of us take for granted.

I sort through more donations, building up my three piles—garbage, clothing that needs to be washed, and items that are ready to be used. It’s cold, so I know the boots, shoes, coats and hats will go fast.

Once Ty takes over sorting, I grab the backpack I filled earlier and prepare to walk. With downtown Chicago traffic, it takes me longer to drive. I’m putting on my coat when the front door to Safe Harbor is opened and Olivier Durand walks inside.

I’m so surprised to see him that it takes me a couple seconds to process his presence. In his dark custom suit and long wool coat, he looks out of place in Safe Harbor’s shabby lobby, where the old linoleum floor has chunks missing and the only seats are ancient metal folding chairs.

“Hi,” he says, raising a leather-gloved hand in greeting.

“Hi.”

He looks at my T-shirt, which has a picture of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and says, ‘You Can’t Handle the Ruth.’ I can’t tell if his grin is amused or patronizing, but it irks me that he’s grinning at all. My shirts are not meant as jokes.

“How’s your first day back at work going?”

“Really good. It’s great to be back.”

He nods and takes off his gloves, stuffing them in a pocket of his coat. I want to ask him why he’s here, but I don’t want to be rude, so I wait for him to tell me.

“Going out for a hike?” he asks me, looking at the backpack on the floor.

“Oh.” I look down at the pack, then up at him. “No, just going to pass out a few things to people who need them.”

“It’s freezing out there.”

I zip up my coat and say, “Which is why it’s so important that I take these hats and gloves to people who need them.”

“What about your boot, though?” He frowns.

“The doctor said I can do as much walking as I want, as long as I’m wearing it.”

“In the snow, though?”

Who even is this guy? He saved me and I’m forever grateful, but now he’s standing in my workplace and treating me like a child who needs looking after.

He came close to dying when he saved my life, though, so…no snarky comments, Daphne.

“I’ll be okay,” I assure him. “And I don’t mean to be rude, but I really need to get going. I want to be back here before it gets dark.”

He looks a little stunned as he says, “Do you have security?”

“No, but I figure there’ll be at least a few photographers following me. Most people don’t like to mug someone if there’s a guy taking photos of it.”

With a look at his watch, he says, “I’d go with you, but I have a meeting I can’t miss. How about if I send one of my security guys with you?”

I laugh, because seriously…I still don’t even know why he’s here.

“You don’t need to do that. I’ve been doing this job for three years now. The people I’m helping know me. I’ll be perfectly safe.”

Olivier furrows his brow. “Even so, you don’t need to be carrying around that heavy backpack with your ankle still healing. Just let my guy carry it for you, okay?”

My guy. Olivier is apparently one of those rich guys who thinks he has “people” to do his bidding.

I shoulder the pack, trying not to grunt beneath the weight of it.

“Daphne.” Olivier takes the few steps separating us and tries to hold up the backpack from behind me.

“I’ve got it,” I say.

“Do you want to hurt your ankle again and end up away from work even longer?”

His tone is scolding, and my laugh is unamused.

“I’m sorry, who asked you to come lecture me at my workplace?” I say, aggravated.

He sighs heavily. “I don’t mean to lecture, I’m just concerned about you.”

“I appreciate it, but I’m fine. I’ve been sitting around doing nothing and helping no one for a month now, and I need to get back to it.”

“What if you tell my security guy where to go and he takes it? He’s trustworthy.”

I shake my head. “It has to be me.” Turning my head to the side, I look back at him. “You don’t need to hold on to the backpack.”

“It’s heavy.”

“I know.”

“Will you just take it off for one minute?” he asks. “I came here to give you something.”

“Something other than a hard time?” I quip.

“Yes, smartass.”

Shrugging out of the pack, I turn around and give him a mock glare as it hits the floor.

“Smartass? Do you treat every woman you rescue from a burning car this way?”

He’s fighting off a smile as he says, “Do you treat every man who tries to help you this way?”

“Depends on whether I actually need help. In this case, I don’t.”

Olivier leans to the side to look out the front window of the Safe Harbor lobby. “There are photographers taking photos of us right now. Is there somewhere more private we can go?”

My stomach does a flip at the sound of the words more private. I can’t deny that Olivier is very attractive. He’s tall, with broad shoulders, blue eyes and light brown hair. Even though nothing else about him is my type, I can’t help my body’s inner dance of joy over a hot guy asking me to go somewhere more private.

Aiden and I were together for almost four years and had been engaged for more than a year when I found out he’d been cheating on me. It didn’t just hurt, it also made me question my judgment. How could I have thought everything was just fine when he was sleeping with someone else, and even taking her out on dates sometimes?

I never want to get blindsided like that again. So no matter how hot Olivier is, I’m not letting on that I notice. Twitter will move on from #Olidaph.

“This is my office,” I say, leading Olivier into the small room.

“Wow,” he says as he steps inside.

“I know, it’s not much.”

“No, I meant…I like it.”

I lower my brows, doubt laced through each word as I say, “You like my office.”

Like the waiting room, my office has peeling, damaged linoleum, which I’ve mostly covered with a bright blue rug. My desk is small and simple. One wall of the room has a bookcase stuffed with books and potted plants. The others have colorful framed paintings of people I admire and their words. Olivier scans pictures of Maya Angelou, Alice Nkom and John Lewis and a smile slowly spreads over his face.

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