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The Mating Game: Big Bad Wolf(3)

By´╝ÜGeorgette St. Clair

“They said that? That can’t be right.” Ryker Harrison came from a pack of scrappy redneck country wolves; her mother would sooner have mange than mingle with their kind. And her mother still held out hope that Daisy would take Frasier back, six months after she’d dumped him.

Wynona shook her head. “I’ve given up trying to understand your mother, believe me. And of course my brother just goes along with whatever she wants, to keep the peace.”

Daisy leaned back in her chair with a scowl.

“I just don’t know. There’s something weird about this. Ryker Harrison likes to bake and watch rom-coms? That sounds like the kind of thing that would make the news.”

Wynona stifled a snort of annoyance. “So, what were your other plans this weekend?” she asked. “What excitement do you have lined up?”

Well, that was just playing dirty. Her aunt knew what Daisy did with her weekends these days. Sat there and watched sappy movies on the DVR and played solitaire.. Sometimes she even cheated. It was pretty depressing.

So was listening to her roommates, Larissa and Cadence, chattering about their latest hookups.

“I am getting way too good at solitaire,” Daisy admitted.

“And,” her aunt continued with a slightly guilty look, “it’s possible that the local press is aware that you’re going to be meeting him, and there might be photographers waiting. So this date is actually very important to the success of my agency.”

“Aunt Wynona!” Daisy squealed indignantly. “Jeez, no pressure or anything! Press? Why didn’t you warn me?”

“Because you probably would have said no. I’m treating you to hair and makeup at the Uptown Girls salon on 35th Street, tomorrow afternoon,” Wynona said quickly. “And there’s a gorgeous new outfit and heels in it for you. Which will be waiting for you at the salon.”

Daisy folded her arms and thought about it. She didn’t have much else going on this weekend – or in her life in general. Her biggest thrill was going to work at Wildwood Elementary and Middle School each morning, and given the neighborhood the school was located in, it wasn’t the fun kind of thrill.

“I hate getting my picture taken, and I hate first dates, and the combination of the two sounds like a nightmare. You’re lucky you’re my favorite aunt,” Daisy grumbled, standing up and brushing a candy wrapper off her lap.

“Only aunt.”

Daisy glanced at her watch; it was her lunch hour and she needed to get back to school.

“Whatever. And I’m still bringing my pepper spray.”

Chapter Two

Saturday night

Flashbulbs popped as Ryker strode towards the Café de Vivre. He walked quickly past the reporters. There seemed to be an unusual number of photographers gathered there, even for a restaurant that was known as a local celebrity watering hole. Ryker had heard of it only by reputation; this wasn’t the kind of place he wanted to be, tonight or any other night.

He didn’t bother pasting on a fake grin or stopping to sign autographs. That was part of his persona – the Big Bad Wolf thing. And it suited him just fine, because he wasn’t a huge fan of paparazzi or idle chit-chat.

The maître d’ raised a disapproving eyebrow at Ryker’s appearance. Ryker was wearing jeans, a leather jacket, T-shirt and boots. And he probably smelled like a horse.

“Sir, we have a dress code here, and—” A hostess leaned in and urgently whispered something in the maître d’s ear, and the man blanched.

“Ryker Harrison? Right this way,” he said, gesturing at Ryker to follow him in.

Just walking through the door confirmed that this wasn’t Ryker’s kind of crowd. Women in cocktail dresses, men in formal evening attire, and waiters looking at Ryker as if he’d come to steal their silverware.

As Ryker scanned the room, he saw that his Uncle Water, whom he was there to meet, was waving frantically at him by the bar. Walter was on Big Bad Wolf’s board of directors.

Why wasn’t Walt sitting at the table already? Oh well, Ryker could use a drink. He’d been arguing with the company’s suppliers all morning, his mother had been riding his tail about settling down and giving him grandcubs, one of his boxers had been arrested and needed to be bailed out of jail…it had been a long, annoying day.

As he made his way towards the bar, his bored gaze swept the crowd of diners…and came to an abrupt halt. A stunning woman was sitting by herself at a table towards the back, checking her watch.

She had shiny red hair styled in retro 1950s-looking waves, and a deliciously curvy figure. Her satiny emerald dress flowed over her and emphasized her luscious body, including her rounded tummy and full hips. Now, there was a woman who had a healthy appetite – in all areas, he’d like to imagine. It was so hard to find a woman like that these days; the boxing groupies were all skeletal anorexics who would order a salad with no dressing for dinner, stare hungrily at his plate of food, and refuse when he offered to share it with them. Ryker hated that; ruined a man’s appetite.