Conor leaned back in his chair and laced his fingers together. Marie glared at him with her nose turned up, defying him to say no to her request to become a florist. He said, “You want to do floral arrangements? There’s a lot of training that goes on. It’s not something you can jump into.”
“So get them to train me.”
Conor rocked back just a bit in his chair. He recalled that Roy had told him she’d attended Bryn Mawr. “What did you study at Bryn Mawr?”
He leaned forward and put his hands on his desk. “You studied biology in college?” He’d pegged her for a business major or maybe a general liberal arts, but never a science.
“Yeah, what’s the big deal?”
“You don’t strike me as a scientific person. Why were you majoring in biology?”
“That’s none of your business.”
“You’re asking me for a job, so consider this an interview.”
Marie crossed her legs and tapped her toe up and down in the air. She sat up straighter, reached around the back of her neck and tightened her ponytail. Her cheek bones were more prominent with her hair pulled back. If she was in the business world, she’d be a no nonsense boss.
She spoke in a voice that sounded practiced. A little rusty, but he suspected it was similar to what she’d said at her college interviews. “When I was a girl, my mom took Charisse and I to the bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico.”
The mention of Charisse made him lean forward a little more. A piece of her past. Maybe the bays were important to Charisse too.
Marie continued. “They seemed like magic. I couldn’t understand how something like that existed in a world without a Santa Clause.” Marie shifted, slumped a little. “But in college I realized I was more attracted to the aesthetics than learning why they were that way. But I stuck it out because the major annoyed Daddy. He wanted me to do business.”
Conor tilted his head. He liked Marie more like this. Last night she’d been every business man’s dream date: beautiful, witty, savy. She still had those qualities, but she had no hidden agendas.
An idea struck him. “Instead of being a florist, would you be interested in mixing science and aesthetics and training as a horticulturalist in my gardens at my Hamptons mansion?”
At first, he thought she would agree. She uncrossed her legs, put her hands on the armrests and opened her mouth to speak. But she switched her face into a frown and leaned back, “You’re trying to get me out of the way so you can get to Charisse.”
“What? You said you wanted to make a change in your life. You could get away from the city, from your dad, who, excuse me for saying, is a bad influence on your life.”
“You leave Daddy out of this. You don’t care about me. You care that if I’m still living with Charisse, I won’t let you anywhere near her.”
The air conditioner chilled the room, but Conor’s temperature rose. He’d been generous and she’d twisted it all around. “If you’re so worried about Charisse, then take over her salon if you can. I was being genuine with the Hamptons offer.”
Conor automatically pressed the intercom.
Jack said, “Charisse on line one for you.”
Forgetting that Marie was in the room with him and thinking only that he’d been hoping she’d call all afternoon, he grabbed the phone and said, “This is Conor.”
“Hello. Th, this is Charisse. This turn over is very unexpected.”
He frowned. She sounded scared. Not at all like the woman who’d been blunt about his haircut. He combed his fingers through his hair. There was still silkiness left, but he feared he’d ruined it by washing it that morning. He tried to get her to relax. “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.”
That was more like it. Honest.
“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.”
Out the window that looked into the rest of the office, Conor saw Roy with a cylinder he guessed held a painting. Roy was trying to bluster his way into the office, but Jack seemed to be prepared for battle after allowing Marie to get by. It must be Roy’s last ditch effort to change his mind.
Distracted, he spoke into the phone. “I’d be happy to discuss it at my office when we sign the paperwork.”
“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.”
Conor blinked and turned away from the window. She’d just set the meeting time. He always set the meeting time. No one ever argued with him. “6:30 is too late for me. I have evening meetings.”
“Then maybe we should postpone it to tomorrow. I’m in no rush for the transfer to take place.”
He imagined her full lips as he heard her combative voice. A stiffening in his pants caused him to roll his chair so his lap was under his desk. He didn’t want to wait until tomorrow to see her. And he didn’t actually know if he had any appointments. He’d cancel them if he did. “Fine. I’ll see you tonight at 6:30 at Ma Charisse.”
As soon as he hung up. Marie laughed. “A point for my sister.”
Conor glared and called for Jack to send Roy in, turning Marie’s grin into a smirk.
When Roy stepped in, he paused at the door and said, “Marie! You’ve changed your mind!”
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