Continuing on from Part 1 – Jump back if you want to read What if you fly Part 1
“Hmm.” Mr. Ray’s white shirt strained over his broad shoulders as he leaned his elbows onto his knees and ducked his head to look at his daughter. “Sounds like chicken talk to me.”
Olivia gaped at the back of his gleaming head. She was so not okay with this style of parenting. She opened her mouth to deliver the blistering correction the arrogant son of a bitch deserved.
“Does not.” Mazie’s chin came up and stuck straight out as she glared back at her father. Her glare melted into a huge grin. “You’re a chicken.”
David…Mr. Ray’s–dammit—rich chuckle stroked up Olivia’s spine like a hot finger. “No, you’re a chicken.” He stood and held a big, tanned hand out to his daughter. “Come on. Let’s go and audition.”
Just like that, the sun came out over Mazie’s world as she slipped her hand into her father’s.
He glanced up suddenly, caught Olivia staring and raised his eyebrow. He did that chin lift thing that had been hitting her in the back of the knees since high school. “Olivia.”
“Mr. Ray.” She needed to keep things on the strictly professional. God knows where this would end if she didn’t. She knew where it wouldn’t end, parked outside old man Cranley’s farm in the back of Mr. Ray senior’s F350.
David grinned at her and that brow went even higher. “How are you, Ms. Buffenbarger?”
Not still crushing on you. Olivia gave him a tight-lipped smile.“Fine.”
“I’ve been back in town a while now. I don’t see you around much.” Oh, those devil eyes, staring straight at her, calling her a liar right to her face.
And she’d like to take umbrage, really she would. However, considering she’d been actively avoiding him since he’d arrived back, sans wife, child in tow, it seemed a bit hypocritical. “I see you have everything under control.” She stood and wriggled her pencil skirt back down over her hips.
His dark gaze tracked the movement in a slow, lazy blaze of heat that hit her squarely in the gut.
“I’ll just be on my way home then.” She bent to snatch up her tote crammed to the brim with yesterday’s homework assignment.
David got there first, and held it out to her with another of those knee tremblers he’d been using since their freshman year.
Olivia barely managed a civil thank you.
“You aren’t coming to watch me audition.” Mazie turned her face up to Olivia. Dried tears had streaked into dirt trails down her baby-soft cheeks.
“You should at least come and watch.” David grinned at her.
“Pleeease.” Mazie ramped up the Shirley Temple factor, all huge pleading eyes, and quivering top lip.
Olivia felt like the worst kind of bitch as she shook her head. “I’m afraid I can’t. I’m sure you’ll do great.” She managed a smile for Mazie. “Be sure to come by tomorrow and tell me how you did.”
“What about me?” David sidled into her line of sight. “Do I get to come by tomorrow and tell you how I did?”
“No.” Heat exploded up her neck and over Olivia’s cheeks. Hastily, she hauled back on the hostile bark in her voice. “I don’t think that’s necessary. Mazie can give me all the details.”
Fabric strained across his shoulders and biceps as he folded his arms over his chest, head cocked as he stared at her.
Chicken! It was written so clearly on his face he might as well have shouted it out loud.
Olivia dropped her gaze first and settled her tote over her shoulder. Yes, she was a chicken. But it beat the hell out of risking another crash and burn lesson in the brand of heartache David Ray handed out. She’d bet his wife and her could get together and swap war stories. Where was the wife? Certainly the Hickoryville jungle drums reported no sign of a wife. None of her business. David Ray was not a place she was going again. Ever.
Olivia locked her focus on her car and marched through the central quadrangle, weaving around a group of students clustered near the ostentatious statue of the town’s founding father. Jebediah Hickory perched on his concrete plinth, snearing down his iron nose at the lesser life forms scurrying around beneath him.
Her glass of chardonnay upped the ante and yelled at her to go for the whole bottle.
“Olivia, wait up.”
Her heart juddered to a stop as David caught up with her. His red power tie looped over one shoulder, wavy hair fingercombed around his beautiful face by the flirtatious wind. Olivia’s flight reflex kicked in and she had to keep her legs in place by sheer force of will.
“Ms. Buffenbarger,” she said.
He frowned and gave his head a small shake. “Whatever. But you’re going to have to talk to me sometime.”
To be continued …