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And now back to Charisse and her lady luvs:
“Conor Grishin is going to be a partner at Ma Charisse?” asked Letti with her hands on her hips. Her French manicured nails seemed like small weapons—like she was already preparing for war with Conor.
In contrast, Vanessa bubbled at the prospect. “Does that mean we get flowers on our vanities everyday?”
Opal’s rich voice sounded the most practical. “Why does a billionaire want anything to do with us?”
Denise gaped over her phone and Sophia reflected Letti’s stance.
Charisse clasped her hands in front of her. Even though these were the women she was closest to, other than her sister, her nerves rocketed. “Con…” she rethought. Maybe she should be referring to him as Mr. Grishin. No. She was the superior at Ma Charisse. “Conor is looking for a new business venture. There’s no need for alarm. Everything will stay the same. The flowers are beautiful, but I doubt we can expect them every day. I’ll be meeting with him tonight after business…”
“Mmmm hmmm,” said Vanessa with a sly grin.
Charisse wrinkled her nose. “Honestly, it’s just business with him. We’ll be meeting today to sign everything. I just wanted you to know I’m still in charge. He will be a silent partner, just like the other man was.”
“Who was it, anyway?” asked Denise. “We never met him.”
“He still prefers to be anonymous.”
A barrage of questions hit Charisse. She answered them the best she could until Sophia asked, “Is Conor seeing you’re sister again?”
“That doesn’t matter. All that matters is you’re still my lady luvs. Business will continue as usual. If Conor makes suggestions like he did yesterday, politely tell him to take it up with me. He’s not your boss.”
“Thank God,” said Letti. “The last thing we need is a man marching around here all up in our business. Just keep telling him he’s a rat bastard if he gives you trouble.”
Charisse drew in a quick breath. “You heard that?”
The lady luvs exchanged looks with each other and then nodded.
“It was awesome,” said Vanessa. “You’re our hero.”
Charisse pushed aside her embarrassment and stood a little straighter. She could do this. She could keep being the boss, even with the likes of Conor Grishin barging in. “We should get back to work. Letti, could you tell Mei I need a few more minutes? I need to call Conor.”
The women stood and whispered to each other as they walked towards the door but Letti hung back. She stared down on Charisse and placed her hand on her shoulder. “You sure about this being all business. He’s that bored he wants to take on a hair salon, even as fabulous as we are?”
Charisse stared straight back at her and said, “As far as I’m concerned it’s all business.”
“Everything with you is all business. Even when we go out for drinks it’s a tax write off.”
“That’s how my life has to be right now.”
Letti wrapped her arms around her in a brief hug. “Think about your life being something besides work.”
When Letti released her and left the breakroom, Charisse pulled out her phone and Conor’s business card. People were always telling her to move on, to have fun again. But life was good right now. There was no reason to change things.
Conor’s card was white with black ink. She didn’t know what she’d expected, but not something so plain. At second glance, she realized the elegance of the font and simplicity. Now his hair matched the card. For a moment, her mind slipped to the memory of shampooing his hair—his strands so sensual, his face so at peace.
She clenched her teeth and grabbed her phone out of the back of her jean’s pocket. Business not romance. She was in charge. She’d start the relationship right today.
She punched his number in and waited.
“Conor Grishin’s office. This is Jack speaking. How may I help you?”
Stupid. Why hadn’t she realized an assistant would be answering? It didn’t matter. She’d power through this. “This is Charisse LaRouche. I’d like to speak with Mr. Grishin.”
She made a face. She’d practically squeaked out every word. And then she’d called him mister.
“Oh, Miss LaRouche, I’ll put you right through.”
The ‘Miss Larouche’ made her feel a little better. It sounded like he’d been expecting her call.
“This is Conor.”
His voice resonated through her body to her very core. It was the type of voice that could whisper anything and still make her moist.
Charisse gripped the phone and unhinged her jaw. “Hello. Th, this is Charisse.” Great, she was stuttering. “This turn over is very unexpected.”
“Yes, I understand that it would be. I didn’t expect to become a partner in a beauty salon a couple of days ago, but the prospect has me excited.”
“I don’t understand why you’re even interested,” she blurted out. Gaah. She was blowing this.
“I’m sure you heard about the lost ships.”
“Yes, I know all about that. But my father’s paintings are worth more individually than my salon.” Her voice sounded better that time—more assertive and less mouse like.
“I’d be happy to discuss it at my office when we sign the paperwork.”
Something about his voice sounded like he was blowing her off. Like he was suddenly distracted by something. She didn’t like being disregarded. This was no way to show him who’s boss.
“Well, I’m afraid that’s a problem. I can’t possibly make it to your office at five. My salon closes at six. You’ll have to bring the paperwork here at 6:30. Then you can tell me all about your boyhood dreams to own a beauty salon.”