The Beautician and the Billionaire 6: Scene 1b

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Charisse sat on the couch with her arms crossed over her body, watching Conor put on an exquisite suit and tie. Though all of his suits were expensive, she could tell this one had a higher thread count than his usual. Plus, the shirt had French cuffs. He opened a desk drawer and pulled out gold cufflinks with what looked like diamonds on the end.

He didn’t look at her at all as he dressed. Fear snagged her and caused her to bounce her knee up and down.

After he’d smoothed down a tie that looked like impressionist art and buttoned his jacket, he said, “Let’s go.”

Charisse stood up, put on the jacket he’d given her and buttoned it. She walked to him in silence with as much of a blank expression as she could muster. When she stood right in front of him, she couldn’t stand it anymore. “Where are we going? I thought we were heading back to the penthouse, but you’re all dressed up.”

He gave her an equally blank expression and said, “You’re going to my penthouse. I have a dinner date.”

She tried to stop her face from flaring in anger but knew she failed. “You have a dinner date?”

“Yes, you didn’t want that sort of relationship. Remember when I offered you time to recover at my penthouse, and you threw it in my face by accepting a date your father had arranged for you with one of my employees?”

Charisse glowered, uncaring if he punished her somehow. He stared back at her so long, she decided the question was not rhetorical. “I remember,” she bit out.

“I’m sure after what happened with Josh this afternoon, you’d like some time by yourself. Raul’s setting up one of the guest bedrooms for you. Since we don’t know when Josh is appearing in New York, I don’t want to risk a run-in with him while you’re mine. You’ll stay away from your apartment, and you’ll keep the doors to your salon locked before and after hours. I hate how casual you are about that. Anyone could walk in and rob you, or worse.”

“What about my belongings? I need to go back to my apartment to pack a bag.”

“I’ll provide everything you need. Let’s go, I’m late.”

He held the office door open for her. She walked through the door with her arms crossed over her stomach. The sleeves were way too long and hung down over her hands. He was going to keep her safe because he didn’t want anything to happen to one of his possessions, but obviously any romantic notions she’d had about the situation were wrong. Humiliating was too weak of a word. Degrading.

The tile chilled her from her feet to her breasts. She tensed all her muscles before she started shivering. He might try to warm her, or he might let her suffer. Either one seemed unbearable.

They remained silent all the way down in the elevator. Until now, no one had seen her, but a security guard stood behind a counter in the lobby.

The guard gave a hint of surprise in his eyes when he saw her, but he quickly looked away to Conor. “Good evening Mr. Grishin.”

To her horror, Conor stopped. “Hey Jarell, are you ready for the first game of the Giants’ season?”

Charisse tightened her hands around her waist, scrunching up the jacket. He’d probably chide her in the car for wrinkling it.

Jarell gave her a doubtful glance but then smiled at Conor. “You know it. Thanks for those tickets you gave me.”

“Who are you taking with you?”

Charisse stood listening to a ten minute conversation about Jarell’s son and the possibility of the Giants going to the Super Bowl. It was the kind of stuff she listened to all day long, but tonight she couldn’t wait for it to end.

Other people who’d been working late came out of the elevator. They’d gawk at her and then wave to Jarell on their way out. She tried to look out the windows of the building to see if Conor’s car was out there. Maybe if she just started walking that way, he wouldn’t say anything. But he might actually call her back and introduce her. She wanted to remain as anonymous as possible.

When the conversation finally ended, she sighed inwardly that this was probably the worst of the evening. But she realized she was wrong when she stepped on the cement still warm from the day and saw Raul waiting for them by the car.

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