The moment her eyes landed on the person standing with the faint autumn sunlight outlining his body, Olivia’s heart did a huge leap and her hands began to shake again. Only this time, the culprit was her own nerves as they reacted at the sight before her. Michael Hurst was leaning against the door frame, dressed in black trousers and a black formal jacket. Beneath it he wore a crisp white shirt and a tie that astonishingly enough matched the color of Olivia’s dress.
She wanted to slap herself as the only thing she could think of right now was in doing the same movement she’d done in front of her mirror, just for him. A slow turn to show him off the final result, as if she’d been waiting for him all along to come pick her up for the wedding.
Taking a deep breath to make up for the one that had escaped her lungs the minute he smiled at her, she was successful in keeping her voice even when she demanded with an edge.
“What the hell are you doing here?”
“God, Olivia, you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
He replied in a breathless tone. Michael Hurst would be in total and eternal debt to his niece, Camie. When that girl had gotten home two days ago and told him she needed to speak to him, he’d immediately thought she needed help with her math homework. But when Camie began retelling him what she’d heard outside Ms. L’s classroom, he literally picked her up and flung her up in the air like he used to when she was just a toddler.
He hadn’t needed Camie to explain her plan to him because he’d formulated it even before she had finished talking. And now, as far as plans went, this was by far his most successful. Or at least it would be once Olivia agreed to take him to her best friend’s wedding as her date.
“Michael! Stop staring and answer the question. What are you doing here?”
“Picking you up. What else?”
The casual way in which he answered her, infuriated her. Almost as if she was just playing stupid and they’d planned this all along.
He saw her nostrils flare and the temper slowly rising, turning her cheeks the same color of her dress.
“Are you out of your mind?”
Indeed, that’s what Jerry had said to him as he’d caught him getting ready an hour ago.
“Michael, are you out of your goddamned mind?” Jerry put his hands on his hips, like their father used to do when either one of them had misbehaved or gotten home late from some party they weren’t supposed to go to, in the first place.
“What?” Michael raised one of his eyebrows, acting is if his brother’s question offended him. “Weren’t you the one who said that as long as she wasn’t married to the guy it was fair game?” He reminded his brother as he finished buttoning his white shirt and began tying the tie around his neck.
“You make it sound like she’s some prize to be won. What I definitely didn’t say was ‘please Michael go and stalk Olivia until she either chooses you or sends someone to beat the crap out of you’.”
Jerry was worried the outcome might turn out to be even worse. He worried that Olivia, not on purpose, would break his brother’s heart when she chose her current boyfriend over his brother. What was more unsettling was that he’d never seen Michael act this way before with another woman. Certainly a clear sign this could all be heading toward disaster.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, big brother.”
“Michael, listen to me. You’re playing with fire here. I don’t want you to get caught up in the middle of it when it is too late to escape.”
“Jerry, when I need you to write me a nice, deep from the heart poem, I’ll let you know. I know what I’m doing and….” His quiet gaze set on his brother’s furrowed brows, “I appreciate your concern but I can take care of myself. Nothing is set on stone, yet.”
Throwing his hands up in the air, a clear sign he’d given up trying to talk some sense into his brother’s thick head, Jerry stepped into his brother’s room and sat on the edge of his bed.
“Just don’t do your Elvis impersonation. You know the moving your hips dance move. It scared the hell out of everyone when you did it at cousin Louisa’s wedding.”
“I’ll try my best, bro.”
However, as he stood with his heart wanting nothing more than to beat out from his chest and fall at Olivia’s feet, his only thought was that Jerry had been right.
Yep, I’m out of my mind.
Michael was out of his mind if he thought he could act like a gentleman and keep his hands to himself, when this woman before him looked good enough to devour in one bite. The sweet smell of her perfume, strawberry, was doing bad things to his self-control.
The dress left her shoulders bare and exposed, the creamy complexion of her skin a soothing background against the vibrant red color of her dress. It’s richness reminded him of an exquisite foreign glass of red whine. His whole being ached to trace his tongue over her entire length to see if some of that intoxicating taste had lingered on her skin once that dress was removed.
Hold it, Michael.
Her chestnut hair was struggling to be free as she wore it held loosely at the base of her neck, allowing a couple of strands of rich brown hair to hang around her face. His eyes were drawn to the small diamond tear resting at the center right above the swell of her breasts. A shiny dot lost in a sea of creamy and soft white skin.
Olivia could feel the power of his inquisitorial gaze as it traveled up and down her body, as it left a small fire blazing on every spot where his gaze landed. All of a sudden, all of her senses went on alert and all she could think of was damned him for looking so freaking hot when he dressed up.
“Michael, please? I don’t have time for this.” She urged him.
“Tracy’s wedding is today, isn’t it?”
Olivia felt the claws of panic grabbing at her neck. At first, her brain had been as slow as a turtle to fully comprehend what a well-dressed and handsome looking Michael could possibly be doing standing outside her house. As soon as the words, Tracy’s wedding were out of his mouth, her brain jolted to awareness as the meaning of his formal attire finally registered.
“Yes, but as I recall, you don’t know Tracy, therefore you’re not invited.”
“Sure I am. Maybe not directly but they did give you an extra ticket, didn’t they?”
“They did.” Olivia squared her shoulders and offered him her coldest face yet.
“But my date was supposed to be Noah.”
“Which brings me to why I was bold enough to come to your doorstep.”
“That’s the understatement of the year. I think the word you’re looking for is arrogant.”
Michael couldn’t be deterred by her angered attitude. All he could think of now was that there was no way he was walking out of here without this gorgeous woman by his side.
“I heard ark-boy bailed out on you.”
How could he possible know about Noah?
Almost defiantly, she lifted her chin and haughtily replied.
“His name is Noah. And for your information, I don’t need you or want you to come with me. I can go by myself.”
“Now, that would be insulting not to mention dangerous for you, especially when I’m pretty sure no hot-blooded guy will be able to take his eyes off you. I would feel bad if I let you go unescorted.”
“It’s supposed to be Tracy’s wedding, remember? She’s the one who people will be staring at.” Olivia snapped.
“Believe me, babe, I think if she weren’t your best friend, she’d hate your guts because you look absolutely breathtaking.”
His simple statement made her skin tingle and her stomach tighten. Amid her out of control hormones, her brain shot forward the most basic question of all.
“Wait a moment. How the hell did you know Tracy’s wedding was today?”
Not willing to give away his source, Michael only took a step closer and had the satisfaction of hearing her hold her breath and her eyes go wide with shock. Those intense brown pools mirroring the disarray of powerful and bone melting emotions coursing indiscriminately over all of his body.
“I have my ways.”
“But…but you just can’t come with me to the wedding.”
“Why not? Have you found someone else?”
“So? What’s the problem?”
“It’s just….what about what you came to tell me the other day?” The memory of his promise to fight for her, made her entire skin blush.
Michael wanted to tell her nothing had changed. For now, he would have to twist the truth a little bit if he wanted to have a shot at being her date tonight.
“I like you Olivia. But I promise, this is nothing more than two friends going to a party and having a good time.”
How could she think straight if she couldn’t keep up with him? Friends? Wary still, Olivia tried to find in his guarded face a sign that he would take advantage of this later. Still, even before she found her answer, a little voice inside her told her Michael would never do anything to make her feel uncomfortable. And if he’d had that effect on her in the past, then it was all on her and her stupid impressionable heart.
There were a million reasons why she should say no. It hit her that Emilia was not there to tell her what to do, not that she could have a hard time imagining what the ghost’s words would be.
However, Emilia was not here, and time was running out. Olivia only hoped she wouldn’t come to regret her decision later.
“Fine. Let’s go, then. Tracy will freak out if I am late.”
Going back inside to grab her coat, and small purse, she walked outside and had to hold the impulse of inhaling his clean, simple masculine scent as he stood behind her while she locked her front door.
After he helped her get into his car, Olivia couldn’t help but smile as she saw Michael had asked his big brother for his silver Volvo, like he probably had done countless times when he was younger and he had needed his big brother’s wheels to take a girl on a date.
Only this is not a date. She reminded herself.
Before she could say anything, Michael had begun driving in the direction of Tracy’s parents’ house.
“How did you know….” But as she glanced at him, Olivia suspected he wouldn’t tell her how he’d gotten his information either.
Smiling briefly at her confused face, Michael only shrugged and said.
“Trust me, you don’t want to know.”
Unwilling to spoil the happy event ahead, the maid-of-honor enjoyed the quiet purr of the car’s engine and let go of her unease whenever Michael was with her. She closed her eyelids and agreed with Michael. She truly didn’t want to know.