Charisse tightened her hand in his as he walked toward a door to the side of a Monet painting. She’d spent much of her life in the elite society of New York, but his penthouse was unmatched. She adored it, at least what she’d seen of it. She found contemporary styles to be sterile, but the whole living room was somehow welcoming despite feeling like a museum. It had to be the beauty of the art. None of the pieces were ugly or tried to make a statement. All of them had warmth.
But her surprise over his living room was nothing compared to her astonishment when he opened the door.
The sound of a fountain had hit her ears before she saw it was actually a stream bubbling over rocks and winding away from the door. It disappeared behind a small grove of plum trees heavy with fruit. Steps led up to a path of crushed rocks that meandered around floral bushes and plants. Blue skies accented the greenery through the glass walls and ceiling. Heat and humidity sunk into her skin, though neither were overwhelming. She inhaled deeply and smelled a variety of flower scents mixed with the scent of soil. It was an escape from the city right in the middle of it—even better than Central Park.
Charisse didn’t move. She gripped Conor’s hand in hers and soaked in the pastoral scene until he said, “I can’t read the silence. Do you like it or hate it?”
She turned her head to him and stuttered out, “I, I love it. I’ve never seen anything like it in New York or anywhere else. How long did it take you to have it built?”
He placed his free hand on her waist and pulled her in for a long kiss. At first his lips brushed against hers, but they came back right away with a pressure and desire that made her head reel. He teased her lips open, and she slipped her tongue into his mouth right away, reveling in the way her skin tingled all over.
When he released her, her head spun.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I know you want to keep everything platonic, but just seeing you took away an enormous part of my headache. And you like my garden, which is so important to me. I had professionals wire it and do the plumbing, but the design and planting I did myself.”
She steadied herself by holding his hand even tighter. The shadows under his eyes had lightened, and his elation made him appear boyish. She said, “You designed this? It had to take forever.”
“I’ve been working on it for three years. Most of the plants have only been here a year. Come on, let’s walk through. There’s a perfect spot for a picnic.”