Conor’s eyes widened to match his dropped jaw.
“I bought it for my wife,” he blurted out, and then he clamped his mouth shut like he’d said something he’d never wanted to.
Charisse understood. She couldn’t even answer the phone when Josh called. “Well, I’m sure she loved it,” she said, trying to dismiss the subject. This was supposed to be a business meeting, and she’d already blown the opening.
“Actually, she was indifferent to it. I bought it for her after we climbed a cliff opposite that one. But she never liked looking back on our adventures. She was always looking for the next one. So I moved the print here. Funny how I don’t even see it anymore when I come in.”
He switched his gaze from her to the window as he spoke. His voice sounded far away by the end, almost like he was talking to himself.
Charisse wanted to walk over and slip her hand into his. She wanted to be the salve for his pain. But the contract seemed like a rock as big as the cliff in the picture between the two of them. She decided not to say anything and stepped over to a chair in front of his desk.
When she sat down, Conor crossed the room and closed the door she’d left open. He sat down across from her and folded his hands on top of each other on the desk. She wanted to squirm when her gaze met with his sapphire eyes, but she stayed steady.
He said, “I’ve been thinking a lot about your business and my involvement. I think the best thing for all parties is to shred what I signed with Roy yesterday and draw up new papers with the business entirely in your name. My lawyer is expecting me to call him this morning and has all the new papers ready for you to read and approve.”
Charisse gripped her clutch with both hands. “But you shouldn’t be the one shredding papers and drawing up new ones. This is my business. I started it from the ground up.”
Conor leaned back in the chair, closed his eyes and put his fingers to his temples. After a moment, he opened his eyes and dropped his hands. “Your father was very protective of you and didn’t want me to have anything to do with you. When I met you, I expected you to be like a crystal champagne flute, easily broken if gripped too hard. But you weren’t. People kiss my ass every day, and here was this delicate woman calling me a rat bastard.”
Charisse reddened and crossed one leg over the other. “I don’t see how this has anything to do with the contract.”
Conor leaned forward with his hands back on the desk. He went on as if he hadn’t heard her. “Marie was the same way about you. Very protective of you whenever I mentioned you. It didn’t make any sense to me. But when your father showed me the contract, he said you were in no state to start a business. Something happened that no one will tell me about.”
Charisse clenched her teeth, angry that she was so pathetic. “I still fail to see what this has to do with our contract.”
“Because if you had read it to begin with, you wouldn’t be in this position now.”
Oh God, he knew she hadn’t read it. It’d probably been apparent for a long time. She wanted to go back to her salon and get lost in chatter about teenage daughters who took joy rides in Ferraris. She wanted to snip and dye hair all day long instead of being forced to show her past to Conor.
“But it was between me and my father. He wouldn’t put anything in there to cross me. I completely trusted him.” It felt like someone was twisting the knots of hair at the base of her head. Now that it appeared her father had been trading Marie for business deals, she couldn’t even begin to think how he might’ve arranged the contract.
“Which is why we should just shred it and move on. Roy said the contract was to protect you from yourself. But now that you’re more assertive, according to him, you might not see it that way.”
The pain in her head eased up. Whatever Daddy had done had been for her own good. That’s what father’s did. “I want to see it.”
Conor sighed and slid a drawer open. He pulled out a manilla envelope and tossed it across the desk.
Outside the door, Charisse heard Conor’s assistant yell, “Not again. He’s busy,” right before the door burst open.
Her dad ran in and said, “The third ship pulled into harbor!”