Sorry this post is going up so late today. I’ve been writing 6-10 hours a day since the beginning of September, but it all came to a crashing halt today when personal events collided. Remember if you’re anxious to read the end of Episode 2: The Contract, you can buy it at All Romance and now Amazon for only $0.99. I would truly appreciate your support. I love having people read my work, but I’m also trying to make a living at this 🙂
And now back to Conor and Charisse:
Strains of Mozart galloped through the air as Conor stared back at Charisse. He didn’t want to answer her question about the contract. Of course, he’d come prepared to sidestep it, but his desire to lean in and brush his lips against hers fogged up his brain. She’d looked like an orchid when he arrived, ready to lose all her petals if a gust of wind blew by. He could understand why her family tried to protect her. But then she’d changed into a rose right before his eyes—still delicate, but with thorns ready to defend herself. He shouldn’t have laughed when she’d yelled at him about yesterday. He should’ve apologized instead.
And then the phone call from whoever Josh was. It’d caught him off guard. No one had said she wouldn’t date him because she already had a boyfriend; they kept telling him she wouldn’t date him because she hated him. Thank God Josh was an ex. He’d been far too jealous in that moment for anyone’s good.
Sitting next to her on the couch, she didn’t seem to hate him, but if he told her about the contract between him and her father, she’d probably toss the steaming coffee on him.
“I left the contract at my office. There’s nothing different than when you signed it. My lawyer was there, your father was there, everything went smoothly.”
Charisse reddened; he couldn’t tell if she was embarrassed or upset. She said, “I’m sure everything’s fine, it’s just that it’s my business and my lady luvs are counting on me, and I hate that I wasn’t there.”
He placed a hand on her arm. “I’ll be as silent as your dad was if that’s what you want. But I’d really love to hear how you run a salon. And who knows? Maybe I’ll have an idea or two for you.”
He felt her muscles relax and he withdrew his hand though he did slide his fingers all the way down to her elbow first. She wore a red silk top with no sleeves. He’d bet her skin was softer than her shirt.
Rain pounded the pavement outside, muffling the Mozart music. The atmosphere was intimate. Maybe it would help getting her to open up. They both took a sip of coffee; his was just as good as yesterday. “So what’s the split of profit between hair products and salon services?”
At last a conversation started rolling with no animosity or hesitation. She knew all the numbers of her business without looking anything up. He couldn’t believe she’d never read the original contract; she obviously was a sharp business woman.
Eventually, she got up to refill their coffee. He admired the luscious chocolate colored curls that hung down to the middle of her back. Her jeans were cut exactly the right way to show off her round ass. His cock thickened, but he forced himself to suppress it.
“Are you thinking of expanding?” he asked.
She walked back and handed him a fresh cup of coffee before she sat down. “No, I like it small and cozy. If I expanded, I might start losing track of things.”
He gave a sideways smile. “I think you like being in control and are afraid you’d lose it if you expanded.”
“I guess you’d know since you own how many businesses?” She smiled as they spoke as if they were two friends. Maybe he was making progress.
He took a sip and shook his head. “I’m not in control of any of it. I hire people to run things for me so I have free time to go out and acquire new businesses.”
She frowned. Shit. He’d just blundered.
“Like beauty shops?” she said.
“I’m not after your business. I’ve never started a business from the ground up. I just buy old ones that have already proved their worth. I want to learn how you’re making a success from scratch.”
Her expression softened. “Well, one of the ways is to get customers hooked on the hair products. I bet you shampooed this morning, like I told you not to do, with the shampoo your hairdresser has been having you use for years.”
Conor ran his fingers through his hair and gave a sheepish grin. “How did you know?”
“Because I knew you wouldn’t listen to me, and I can see you used styling gel. Styling product should be used but not seen. Are you happy with your hair today?”
He leaned in a little. Charisse’s voice had taken on a flirtatious lilt. “Actually, I was hoping you’d have time to give me another wash and rinse. It feels gritty today.”
She smirked and tilted her head to the side. “You need to quit washing your hair so much.”
He moved in even closer, restraining himself from wrapping his arms around her. At least the coffee mugs they held made that impractical. “But you’re so good at it. I swear if you wash it again today, I’ll buy your product and I won’t wash it for two days.”
She gave him a quizzical look. “I thought you hated how I washed your hair yesterday.”
He backed away, remembering how her touch had dissolved the walls around his emotions and how gruff he’d been. “Actually, I really enjoyed the shampoo. It was like getting a massage.”
“Then why were you so mad about it?”
He gazed into her dark brown eyes. She’d understand about his wife and his fear of getting close to someone again. But he wasn’t ready to bare his soul to her.
“I haven’t let my guard down like that in a long time. Your hands put me to sleep—to sleep. We could market that if we could figure out their magic. But sometimes surprises like that are hard for me to take. It made me act like a bastard. I’m sorry.”
He couldn’t read her expression as her eyes searched his. At last she took his cup, got up and walked over to set the mugs down. When she came back, she held out her hand. It quivered.
He stood up and took her hand, the intoxicating mix of new romance and infatuation surging through his blood. When they reached the sinks, she turned and put her hand on the knot in his tie.
“You’d probably be more relaxed if you took this off.”