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Conor had stormed out of the salon without his coat or umbrella. He crumpled the tie up in his fist. The rain battered against him like all the emotions within. That fucking family.
Water sped down gutters and through grates. It sloshed up on the sidewalk when a bus ran through a puddle. He hated the turmoil. He’d just managed to reach a point of peace with Elise’s death when he’d seen that picture of Charisse on Roy’s phone. His brain wished that he’d never seen it, but his heart knew that was a lie.
His passion had moved way too fast in the salon chair, but he couldn’t regret that either. He could’ve kissed her plump lips the rest of the night if Marie hadn’t interrupted them. He’d still be at the salon with Charisse if it hadn’t been for Marie’s insinuations and lies. He thought he and Marie had resolved their issues in his office, but he was wrong—way wrong.
He stormed for two blocks, hoping the rain pounding on his back would beat out his emotions. It worked until he spied Marie driving by in a taxi. She didn’t look over, so he didn’t know if she’d seen him or not. His fresh anger ebbed again when he realized Charisse was alone in the salon. Unless she’d left.
She’d better not have left. His coat was in there with his wallet and phone.
He jogged back as quickly as he could without falling on his butt. Fortunately, he was the only one dumb enough to be on the sidewalk right now. He arrived at her salon and yanked the door open, not even thinking about the mess the water would cause for her inside.
The door closed behind him. All he could do was stare at Charisse and wish they’d met away from her family—far, far away.
Charisse stood by the coffee maker behind the couch where they’d talked earlier. Her curls appeared mussed still from the rapturous time when they’d made out on the salon chair. Her brown eyes held a timid expression, almost fearful. He wanted to kiss away all her doubts about him.
It looked like she’d been about to pick up her phone, but she drew her hand back empty.
He said, “I’m sorry, I know you don’t want to speak to me, but I left my coat and umbrella. Would you mind if I called my driver from here? I think it would short out outside.” Realizing he still had the tie crumpled in his hand, he hung it on the rack next to his coat.
Charisse frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. “You said some pretty horrible things about my father.”
Water ran down in rills from the top of his head over the back of his neck and onto his soaked shirt and undershirt. He was about to start shivering with the air conditioner blowing right on him, but that would make him seem pathetic. He gritted his teeth against the chill.
Her phone rang before he could say anything.
Her gaze flitted to the phone. She paled with the haunted expression she’d had when that Josh guy had called earlier.
When she didn’t pick it up, he stomped across her tiled floor, behind the couch and grabbed the phone off the counter. Charisse put a hand out to stop him, but then let it fall.
He pressed ‘answer’ on the phone and held it to his ear. “Charisse’s phone,” he said.
“Who the hell is this?” said a man’s voice on the other end.
“Is this Josh?” Conor asked. He stared back at Charisse, wanting to pummel Josh because of the anguish in her eyes. Who could ever cause Charisse pain? And then he remembered the contract in his office.
Josh said, “Yeah, and I want to talk to Charisse.”
Venting his anger from the past hour, he growled, “Never call this number again.”
“Who do you think you are?”
“I’m the person who can make your life miserable.” He hung up and set the phone down.
Charisse stared back at him with wide eyes.
The desire to pull her into his arms and hold her for the rest of the night surged through him. He fought back at it and forced himself to remain distant. After everything Marie had said, he couldn’t kiss Charisse again until he got rid of that contract. Charisse was sure to think he expected her to do whatever he wanted if she saw it. But drawing up a new contract would require her signature, and she’d want an explanation of the old one.
“I’m sorry,” he said. He couldn’t tell what she was thinking and pressed on. “I was out of line telling him never to call you. I don’t even know what happened between the two of you. I only know I can’t stand how haunted you look when he calls.”
She wrinkled her wispy, brown eyebrows and frowned like she was uncertain. She said, “If you go into the restroom, there are clean towels and terrycloth robes. Help yourself. You must be freezing.”