A Team of Love Ch. 05bysimply_cyn©
"Are you sure you don't mind doing this?" Raelyn asked, looking over at J.T. They were in Raelyn's Ford Explorer on the way to Summer's school. There was a P.T.O. meeting and J.T. had agreed to be on the agenda as a surprise guest. He would be giving a brief talk about being involved in education and how important it was to be involved in a child's life. Afterwards he would be at an autograph table, giving autographs. Parents had purchased autograph tickets in advance for one dollar as a fund-raiser for the school. Word was that almost 100 percent of the parents would be attending as well as all the staff at the school. J.T. was a crowd attractor and he had graciously allowed Summer's school to benefit from his fame.
"No, I'm glad to help," he replied, smiling over at her. "It's for a good cause. Besides," he added. "I love that daughter of yours. She's such a sweetheart!"
"She is, isn't she?" Raelyn had to agree. There was no doubt that Summer was a sweet child and very lovable. She had attached herself to J.T. with gusto. Raelyn attributed part of it to the fact that she was very affectionate and the other part to the fact that her father was no longer in the picture. Raelyn knew she missed having a father around and she was sorry about that. What warmed her to the core was J.T.'s responsiveness to Summer. There was no doubt in Raelyn's mind that he truly loved and cared about her daughter, and it showed.
"I wish she could be here tonight," he said wistfully.
"She's sick about it," Raelyn replied, frowning. "But there's no way I'm letting her out of the house with a high temperature."
"No, she doesn't need to be out in this rain," J.T. said, watching the wipers work on Raelyn's windshield. "I just miss her."
"You're so sweet," she replied, reaching over to squeeze his hand. When she would've let go, he held onto it, lightly massaging it with his fingers. She looked over at him, tears forming in her eyes. "You'll never know what it means to me and to Summer that you've taken her under your wing. She adores you."
"Does her mother feel the same way?" he said, his eyes searching hers.
Raelyn laughed and turned back to the road. "You're not going to start that again, are you?"
"It's always worth a shot," he said, looking down at her hand in his. Her nails were manicured and lacquered to perfection and her fingers were free of any jewelry. "You can't blame a guy for trying."
"I thought we were agreed not to complicate matters by getting involved," she said, looking back at him out of the corner of her eye.
"That's what you wanted," he reminded her.
"But you agreed to that, isn't that right?"
"I did," he said, shrugging his shoulders. "But maybe it's time to rethink that."
"Oh, J.T.," she said, gently laughing. As much as she was attracted to him, as much as she felt drawn to him, it was too soon. Too many bad feelings about her prior relationship still existed and she didn't want Summer to get hurt again. As much as she wanted to believe him, it just wasn't in her. Not yet.
Raelyn sat quietly in the audience, watching as J.T. stood on the stage in the cafeteria at Summer's school. She felt a smile play across her lips as she listened, mesmerized, as he spoke of his continued efforts to support children through the work of his foundation. His words warmed her through to the core, knowing that, if nothing else, his intentions towards Summer and the other children were of the highest intent and after all they had gone through with Summer's father, quite honestly, it was a relief. True to his foundation's mission statement that permeated his speech, "to provide financial support for the physical, psychological, social, and educational needs of dependent children whose needs are not being met, either in whole or in part, by any other viable resource", it didn't take a genius to see how important his work was to him, especially off the football field. And as she sat absorbing this other side of the man that she was unintentionally letting get close to her, she couldn't stop the warm feeling that was spreading through her like one of contentment. Again and again their eyes met as he spoke and Raelyn couldn't help but smile at him, her support genuine that reflected back in the glimmer of appreciation in his gaze.
"There is nothing more important that then health and well-being of children," he went on to explain as the end of his short but well-received speech came to a conclusion. Pamphlets were being distributed throughout the filled cafeteria with information on how parents and children could get involved with the program that ranged from simple monetary donations to membership information in his fan club, proceeds of which directly went to support the Foundation's work. Raelyn tucked one into her purse, making a mental note to bring the brochure to the attention of her boss at the station. Surely there was something they could do to help support J.T.'s work. Just the short 20 minutes that she had sat listening to him bare this other part of her soul had touched her in ways that he hadn't yet. Just when she thought he couldn't surprise her, something else came up that made it impossibly difficult to resist the attraction she knew was starting to take a deeper root in her for him.
He had talked her into dinner afterwards at a local but elegant little Italian bistro. The tables were built for intimacy. There were hardly any tables around that could hold more than two occupants at a time. Each one was covered with a red tablecloth and had two, tall tapered candles in shimmering brass holders centered in between them as she sat across the way from him, her linen napkin unfolded properly across her lap. It was a very romantic setting and Raelyn tried to relax despite the fact that she was having a hard time keeping her eyes off of the handsome man sitting across the table, glancing over the menu.
She sighed inwardly, letting her gaze move to the stings of white lights that covered the ceiling like a soft myriad of twinkling stars. Coupled with the candlelight that served as the only main lighting in the room, it gave the room a soft romantic glow. Her eyes shifted, taking in the different levels of the room from where her table with J.T. sat on a little balcony surrounded by a short wrought-iron fence. When her gaze finally settled on J.T. again, she found his blue eyes on her and she smiled gently, a soft blush kissing her cheeks. "What?" she asked, a hint of nervousness in her voice.
"Nothing," he said with a smile. "Just enjoying the view." She noticed that his gaze hadn't left her at all as he said this and felt the blush in her cheeks growing until it seemed to stretch all the way through her until her toes tingled.
"Flattery doesn't work with me," she said with a soft laugh, fiddling with the napkin spread out over her thighs.
"What does?" he asked, leaning forward some so that his arms rested on the table. In just that simple movement she felt the temptation to slide her small hands into his.
"J.T. ...," she began.
"I know you were hurt in the past, Raelyn," he said, his voice strong but his face taking on a determined look. "But I have to tell you ... the first day I saw you, at the radio station, I wanted us to be together. I deserve a chance. You deserve a chance to love again." He stopped a moment gauging her reaction to his words. When she didn't say anything, he added, "Summer deserves a chance to have a father-figure in her life."
"Please, don't," she said, her gaze lowering to her lap, the hurt shining in her eyes at his truthful words. She wasn't ready to have this conversation with him.
"I would never do anything to hurt you, Rae. The more you get to know me, the more you'll realize that what I say is true. Why don't you just give into the feelings you have for me?" His fingers stretched across the table, open as if waiting for her hand to slip into his. Raelyn bit back the tears that she felt welling up inside of her. Why was he doing this? She couldn't take this kind of pressure ... not yet.
J.T. frowned, his fingers closing into his own palm before he pulled his hand back. He sighed deeply, lacing his fingers in front of him on the table to keep from succumbing to the urge to simply shake her until she saw what he did. "Give me a chance, Rae and you'll see that I'm nothing like he was. I'd rather die that do that to you again. I swear that to you."
When she didn't say anything, he added on a soft note, "If I could right all the wrongs that he made, I would. If I could, I would change your mind. I don't know what else to say."
Raelyn simply stood, the napkin falling out of her lap as she gathered her purse. J.T.'s eyes look surprised as he stood suddenly, afraid that he had said too much. "Rae .."
"Then please, J.T. ... please don't say anything," she said, choking back a sob before she hurried out through the restaurant towards the front door, leaving him behind with a fear he had never experienced before.