Charisse stood up and stared at her father. She should’ve never pulled her hair back so tightly because she thought she might faint from the headache that took over. How could he use Marie to smooth his business deals over? How could she have never realized it before?
“Charisse, what are you doing here?” Daddy asked. His head was red and he breathed as if he’d run several blocks to shout out the news about the ship.
“I’m here to read the contract between me and Conor. I don’t understand how you two could sign it without me yesterday.”
Her father whipped his head towards the desk. He lunged for the folder.
Charisse lunged too and got the folder first. When she looked back at Daddy, she saw Jack had caught his arm and stopped him from moving far. Daddy shrugged out of his grip and said, “You don’t need to worry about that, princess. The stock is rising, I can buy the business back from Conor.”
“Buy the business back? It’s my business. He’s just a silent partner.” All her fears about what the folder contained made her head want to split in two.
Conor rose and said, “Thank you Jack. Could you close the door again on your way out?”
Charisse opened the folder.
“Don’t read that,” said her father, trying to snatch it out of her hands.
Somehow she was too fast for him and stepped back just in time to hold onto it.
“Everything’s going to be fine now. I’ll take care of it. Like I always take care of you,” said her dad.
“Like you take care of Marie?”
Her father’s face paled. His voice came out chalky. “Marie and I have an understanding. There’s nothing hinky going on there no matter what Conor has said.”
“It’s not what Conor’s said. It’s what Marie’s said.”
Daddy took a step back and a handkerchief out of his pocket. He mopped his head even though the temperature in the room was comfortable.
Charisse opened the folder and read the contract.
Conor controlled everything. He owned Ma Charisse. He had the power to make all the decisions. The only thing that Charisse had correct was she got 80% of the profit and Conor got 20%.
Her knees buckled and someone caught her. When she realized it was Conor, strength came back and she jerked away.
“Was this how it was between you and I?” she asked her father.
“You were a mess. You were making terrible decisions after–”
“Don’t say it. Don’t ever mention it outside of the family.” She didn’t know why, but she didn’t want Conor to know about the miscarriage with Josh—she’d been such an idiot then.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of,” said Daddy.
She ignored him. “I wasn’t making all bad decisions. Look at Ma Charisse now.”
“I know, baby. It’s doing great. But back then I didn’t think you could ever make a go of it. I designed the contract to protect you from yourself.”
“You designed it so you could use it for your own gain.”
“No, you misunderstand–”
“And you,” she whirled on Conor.
Sadness took over his eyes. It almost made her stop yelling, but she didn’t.
“How could you sign this and then come to my salon and act like you were interested in dating me and what we did–” she broke off horrified that it might’ve been part of the deal.
Conor stepped towards her and said, “What happened yesterday had nothing to do with the contract. I told you, I want to shred it and give the salon to you.”
“What happened in the salon yesterday? Did you touch her?”
Daddy pushed past her and right up to Conor. “I wanted you to stay away from her from the start. She’s not for you.”
“Stop it,” yelled Charisse. “It’s my life. It’s not something to write up in a contract and toy with.” She waved the folder in the air and then dropped her hand. “But it’s all my fault.”
She turned on her heel and walked towards the door the best she could without collapsing. She heard her father call to her but didn’t stop. As she continued towards the elevator, she loosened her hair by yanking out bobby pins. She didn’t even care about propriety and dropped the bobby pins on the floor as she went.
She pushed the elevator button and knew tears streamed down her cheeks. When the door opened, she stepped in and turned around. Conor ran up behind her and caught the door with his hand.
His blue eyes implored her as he spoke. “I’m sorry I ever signed that contract. I was just trying to get closer to you. Please let me sign it all over to you. You built it. It should be yours.”
She took the last bobby pin out, and her hair tumbled down. “I can’t talk to you right now. Please just let me leave.”
Conor stepped back and released the elevator doors. Once they closed, she collapsed with her knees pulled up against her chest and wished the elevator could transport her straight to her apartment.