She could pretend they didn’t know each other, but he certainly knew Ms. Buffenbarger. Knew her intimately. Well, maybe not this tight ass, skittish version of her but underneath that tight skirt and standoffish attitude was a hot woman with a turtle tattooed on her right hip. That’s the Olivia he knew.
It was annoying, this facade that they were acquaintances, but her determination to make it true was cute. He could really use a friend right now, and he and Olivia Buffenbarger had been friends, once.
Hell, they’d been the best kind of friends, the kind that shared laughs and dreams. The kind of friends whose touch and feel had left an indelible impression so easily called forth that the subtle whiff of her perfume or the way her eyes roamed over him made him relive their days together in a flash of memories.
“Are you really still mad?”
“What’s in the past should stay there.” She told him. Well, told his tie actually since she struggled to make eye contact.
“Yes, I can see you mean that.” He knew his sarcastic tone wasn’t lost on her when she cut her eyes to his.
“David,” she whispered.
He stepped closer, his thumb itching to stroke her cheek, to run his hands down her body and search for more tattoos. Had she gotten others like she said she wanted or had conformity sucked that from her? Had fear pushed her too far? It had certainly changed his life.
Her eyes met his and held firm.
“Don’t call me that. We are not those people anymore. You have a child and a wife-”
She cocked her hip, planting her hand on it. “She’s not your child?” She returned his sarcasm. In that brief moment he saw the woman he knew her to be. The strong force of nature she was and he was awash with relief. She was going to need those attributes in the days to come. He was going to need them, too, as was Mazie.
He looked over his shoulder and smiled at his daughter. “I’ll be right there, baby.” He held up one finger. “Just give us a minute, please.”
“Ok, Daddy.” She twirled and bowed, her curls dancing around her.
He turned his gaze back to Olivia. “Is there no way to forgive me? You just said the past should stay back there yet it’s standing right here between us. ” He stepped closer and picked up a strand of her flaxen hair, twirling it between his fingers. “Livvie, I don’t know how else to express my remorse-”
“It’s not that I’m still holding onto….well. Anyway…it’s that I can no longer trust you and though you look exactly like someone who I used to trust with my life, behind that gorgeous face is a deceptive heart and this is the way things need to be if I want to protect myself.”
“I can help protect you.”
She bit out a laugh and shook her head, pulling the strand from his fingers. It was clear to him that they were not talking about the same threat and he briefly lowered his head, ashamed at how poorly he had treated the gift of her heart.
When he decided to move home, hoping to give Mazie as much stability as he possibly could, Liv-pardon-Olivia Buffenbarger had been his first thought. Whether she had forgiven him had been his second.
“Mazie needs a woman in her life. One she can trust,” he said.
“I’m watching over her at school. You don’t have to worry. But I’m not going to bail you out this time. Those days are over.”
“You’re all grown up and too serious for that, I suppose.” He leaned forward, his face inches from hers. The air between them was suspended in anticipation. “But try as I might, Liv, there’s a lot about you I can’t forget.”
She let out a shaky breath and stared into his eyes.
“See ya tomorrow,” he whispered, glancing at her lips. It was knowing his child stood twenty feet behind him that gave fuel to his self control and allowed him to rein in his need to touch her.
David took a step back and then another. It was still early, his appearance back into her life, and he knew he needed to be patient. If only time was on their side, but unfortunately that was not the case.
He turned on his heel and focused his attention on his daughter. “Come on sweetheart, let’s go audition.” Olivia Buffenbarger would have to come around, whether she wanted to or not.