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The Mating Game: Big Bad Wolf(8)

By´╝ÜGeorgette St. Clair

As she walked away, her phone started ringing with the shrill, stabby ringtone that set her teeth on edge and announced that her mother wanted to speak to her.

She grabbed the phone from her purse and answered, with a red-hot flash of annoyance burning through her.

“Yes?” she snapped.

“Oh dear, what a shame the date went badly.” It was that syrupy-sweet tone, the one that her mother coated her words with when she delivered her worst insults.

“What do you mean?”

Her mother ignored the question. “And now, with that public humiliation, you’re really going to have to beg Frasier for forgiveness. You may simply have gone too far this time.” Her mother’s tone was gently mournful. “Frasier was your last chance. You probably blew it. Well, you can always move back in here, if, you know, you can’t patch it up with him.”

Move back in there? Why did her mother not understand that Daisy was just fine on her own? She had an apartment with roommates, she had a job that she loved, and she was able to pay all her own bills. And yet her parents saw her as a desperate failure because she wasn’t respectably married, living in a mansion, and hosting faux charity luncheons for the smart set.

As for her former fiancé, Frasier Sheffield, just hearing his name set her teeth on edge. Frasier Sheffield’s pack owned the land next to her pack’s back in Georgia. As far as her family was concerned, he peed champagne and farted rainbows. He could sacrifice a kitten in front of them and they’d still worship him. When he’d cheated on Daisy with a skinny yoga teacher, her parents had blamed her for it.

“Well really, dear, with the way you neglect your figure – can you blame the man?” had been her mother’s exact words, with her father nodding solemnly and looking disappointed – with her.

Yes, she could blame him. And did. And she had thrown his ring back in his face.

“What makes you think my date went badly?” Had it been on the news already? She swallowed hard. Talking to her mother always gave her anxiety attacks.

“For heaven’s sake. Aside from the way you answered the phone, it was obvious from the start. I mean, seriously. You and a famous athlete like Ryker Harrison? I don’t know what your aunt was thinking, trying to arrange a match like that.” Daisy could visualize the venomous scorn dripping from each word.

So that was why her parents had given their approval for the date. Because they had been sure that Ryker would run for the hills as soon as he saw her – and somehow, that would force her back into Frasier’s arms.

“I answered the phone like that because you were interrupting my date,” Daisy said desperately. Oh, why bother lying? Her parents would find out soon enough.

“Hey, I think you dropped your bracelet,” Ryker’s voice rumbled right behind her.

Daisy squeaked and spun around. Ryker was holding up a glittery rhinestone bracelet, dangling from one finger.

“Mother, if you will excuse me, I have to go,” she said. “My date and I were just about to grab something to eat. And yes, I will be having seconds.”

“Daisy!” her mother gasped in horror. She couldn’t have been more offended if Daisy had passed gas in church.

“And dessert,” Daisy added viciously, and turned off her cell phone.

“That isn’t my bracelet,” she said to Ryker.

“I know, it’s my cousin Katie’s bracelet, I just grabbed it out of my car so I’d have an excuse to talk to you. Wait, I’m confused. We are going on a date?” he said.

She looked around. Apparently he’d given the groupie the brush off and come back to try to talk Daisy into going out with him. Interesting. The groupie had been a sure thing.

She turned and regarded Ryker with a skeptical eye. “Can I be brutally honest with you?” she said.

“Go ahead. But not too brutal - I’m fragile,” he said with a big, boisterous grin. She stifled an answering smile. His enthusiasm was contagious; it was hard not to smile along with him.

“I’m only agreeing to finish this date to prove my mother wrong. Also, the rec center is in desperate need of funds or it will probably never get built. So if we can still stand each other after hanging out for one night, I’m willing to pretend that we’re together for the next few weeks.”

“I’m not proud. I’ll take it,” he said with a shrug. He pointed at a food cart, where a man was doling out hot dogs and pretzels. “Hey, there’s a hot dog cart! I’ll even buy you dinner, because that’s the kind of stand-up guy I am.”

“Whoa, big spender, slow down,” she said, stifling a laugh.