Charisse stood on the curb and allowed the clash of horns and shouting to fill her head. She stared unseeing at the traffic going by. There was no way Conor should want anything to do with her salon. It had barely started making a profit. Any three of her father’s paintings would be worth far more than her business.
“Hey, ma laideur, let’s go,” said Marie.
Charisse shook her head when she heard the childhood insult which meant my ugliness. A yellow taxi Marie must’ve flagged for them had rolled in front of her. Marie stood with the door open, waiting for Charisse to get in.
Ugh. It smelled like ten teenage boys without deodorant had just been inside. She slid across the seat and rolled a window down as she spoke. “I can’t work with Conor. He’s the king of all suits. I don’t even understand why he’d want partnership in my salon.”
Marie shut the car door and gave the address for the salon. Though she didn’t speak, Charisse could feel Marie staring at her. Charisse finally turned to her and saw that Marie had her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed like she was thinking.
“What?” asked Charisse.
“I think I know why Conor wants a partnership.”
“You do? Did he say something to you about it last night?”
“Not exactly. Look, are you sure Daddy even has the right to turn over his partnership to Conor?”
Charisse didn’t want to talk about the contract. She wanted to talk about Conor’s motives. “What do you mean, ‘not exactly’? What did he say to you last night?”
Marie leaned back and stretched out her long legs as much as she could in the back of the taxi. She pulled her ponytail around and started to braid some of the strands. Without realizing it, Charisse tugged on one of her own curly locks until it was straight and then let it spring back.
“I think Conor likes you,” said Marie.
For the second time in less than an hour, Charisse cried, “What?”
“That’s why our date ended early. It was obvious that he’d asked out the wrong sister.”
“That’s just crazy. I called him douchey and a rat bastard when we were at the sink. But even if that didn’t bother him, something about the shampoo did because he didn’t want anything to do with me after that. I wasn’t sure he’d even let me cut his hair.”
“You should’ve seen the way he combed his fingers through his hair all night, like it felt better than money.”
Charisse stared straight ahead. Cold air blew at her from the air conditioner while the heat outside soaked into her cheek. There’d been that first moment when their eyes had met and she thought he was different, when she’d thought there was mutual attraction. But then the suit mask slid across his face, shutting her out—just like Josh had shut her out when she was pregnant. Rat bastard was right.
“I can’t let this happen. Conor can’t be my partner. I still find it hard to believe you think he likes me. He practically growled at me like an angry dog yesterday. I can’t work with him.”
“Are you sure the contract allows Daddy to do this?”
“I don’t know.” Her face flared with heat. She rolled up the window, but that didn’t help.
“Well, can’t you find out? Where’s the contract?”
“I don’t have it. Daddy keeps it.”
“You’re fucking kidding me. It’s your business. Why does Daddy keep the contract for you?”
“You know how out of it I was. I was only focused on keeping Josh out of my mind and starting the business. I have all my contracts with vendors and my lady luvs, but Daddy said he’d keep that one safe and I just let him.”
“I don’t believe this. If Conor ends up as your partner it’s as much Daddy’s fault as it is yours. I bet you didn’t even read the contract.”
Charisse stared out the window, blinking back tears. Marie never chewed her out about that time of her life. But she was probably sick of having to be sensitive. And if Conor indicated he wanted to date her instead of Marie, Marie was probably sore about it.
“Well?” asked Marie.
“Did you read the contract?”
The cab pulled to a stop in front of her salon. Charisse jumped out while the car was still rocking back. She’d be safe inside the salon. There she wouldn’t have to admit to her sister that she’d never read the business agreement.