Good news! Episode 6 will be released next week to buy! Episode 5 is drawing to a close soon on the blog. To thank all of you loyal readers, I’ll be reducing the price of Episode 5 to FREE for a limited time. Which means you’ll be able to read the moment Charisse and Conor seal their new deal without cost to you!
And if you’re new to my blog, The Beautician and the Billionaire Episode 1: The Deal is available for free on my blog and at these locations: All Romance, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Smashwords.
Today we’re going back in time a little at the salon to see what’s been going on while Conor’s been morose in his office. It’s not looking good for Charisse. Josh has found her.
Charisse brushed purple polish over the nails she’d just filed into curved tips. The customer chatted about her date plans, but Charisse was busy wondering when Mei would get through to Conor. His assistant had turned her away once already. Maybe they were on the no call list or something, but that didn’t really make sense.
She could call him on his cellphone, but she feared he definitely wouldn’t pick up. They were going to be all business now, and he was sure to do everything in his own time.
“Have you ever been to Inferno?” asked the barely twenty-one customer. “I was thinking of going there tonight, but my boyfriend doesn’t like spicy food. Do you believe that? He can be such a wuss. Maybe I need to find a new one.”
“Charisse,” said Mei, walking towards the back, “the phone’s for you.”
“Is it Conor?”
“He didn’t identify himself, but it’s a man.”
“I’m sorry,” said Charisse as her customer popped a bubble of gum. “I need to take this call while the first layer of polish sets.” She stuck the fingers under the UV light and stood up.
At the reception desk, she picked up the phone as Mei sat back down in her chair.
“This is Charisse.” Her heart pounded, waiting to hear Conor’s voice. She didn’t want it to be just business with him, but she’d do her best to sound distant and unattached. When she heard the voice on the other end, her calm crackled and her legs shook.
“Hey, princess,” said Josh. “You’ve been really hard to get a hold of.”
Rage, sorrow and fear twisted inside and knotted up her vocal chords.
“You there?” he asked. “I’d really like to talk to you.”
A blow dryer blew to the side of her while women chatted. He shouldn’t know about her salon. He’d left before she opened it. “How did you get this number?”
“What do you mean? You have a web page.”
“But how did you even know to look for it?”
“Are you kidding? Rumors about the LaRouches make their way around. I thought you just wanted to own a salon, but it sounds like you take freaking customers.”
The shaking in her legs spread out to the rest of her body as a chill took over. “Never call me again. Not at home, not on my cellphone, not here.”
“Wait! Don’t hang up.”
She should’ve slammed the phone down, but, like always, she waited.
“I’m seeing someone about my anger problems, and I wanted to apologize to you for the past. I’m moving back to New York and thought it would be good to have dinner with you so things wouldn’t be weird between us.”
His voice tried to weave the spell of trust and confidence he always wrapped her up in, but it didn’t work this time. She’d spent a year thinking about what she’d say to him if she ever had to confront him, and the words tumbled out of her mouth.
“Weird between us? You were going to let me die. I don’t accept your apology, not that you really gave one, and if you see me in New York, you’d better turn and run the other way.”
The hair dryer had stopped along with the voices. She knew everyone was listening to her, but it was a rush to tell him off at last.
On the other end of the phone she heard glass break, shattering her confidence. The salon vanished around her, and it was as if she was in the same room with Josh during one of his rages.
“Damn it, Charisse, this is what you do to me. I’m engaged, and I never have to raise my fist to her. But I’m not even in the same city with you, and I want to slap you silly. How did you ever find another boyfriend? You’re so worthless.”
Josh kept yelling, but a sense of self-preservation kicked in. She didn’t have to listen to him. He was all the way in Chicago. She slowly lowered her hand and hung up the phone. It was small, but she’d taken some control over the situation.
The phone started ringing right away. Most likely Josh either calling to yell at her some more or apologize. Her eyes adjusted to the chandelier lighting of the salon as if she were walking out of a movie theatre into daylight. She saw Mei reach to take the phone. Charisse placed her hand on Mei’s and said, “Let it ring.”
Mei stared at her with her perfectly waxed eyebrows scrunched together over her almond eyes. Mei was Charisse’s employee. At Ma Charisse she had control, and she wasn’t going to let Conor take that away from her like she’d allowed Josh to take away all of her confidence.
Charisse said, “Please try to call Mr. Grishin again. I need to see him when the salon closes.”
“Are you okay?” asked Mei.
“Yes, of course.” She swept a stray curly lock out of her face and walked to the back.
Letti came up next to her and put an arm around her. “Honey, I can finish the nails. You go to the back and take a break.”
The scent of coffee reached her but didn’t wake her from her trance. “I’m fine, but I could really use a cup of coffee.”
“I’ll get it for you,” said Letti.
Charisse sat down and removed the UV light from the girl’s nails. She’d rushed and painted a little skin on two fingers. Worthless. Josh’s words echoed in her ears. She shook her head. It was just a small mistake, easily corrected. Without a word, she opened the acetone and went back to work.