Charisse heard a knock, though she’d left her door open. “Come in,” she said from the bathroom. She fluffed her hair with her hands as she mentally criticized her reflection in the mirror. She’d gone with a long black silk gown. The neckline showed off the tops of her breasts without plunging down as the green gown had. There was no slit in the skirt, but it came up to mid-calf in the front and touched the floor in the back. Her gold nails and heels went well, and the necklace would be much more of a showpiece now.
Conor sighed as he walked up behind her. He wrapped his arms around her waist and gazed in her eyes through the mirror.
“I don’t know,” he said. “You look gorgeous in everything.”
“I’ll gladly stay home.”
“Home?” he said and turned her to face him. His eyes stared at her with an intensity strange for such a simple word. “Are you calling my penthouse your home?”
“I’m sorry. I just meant…”
“No apologies.” He kissed her more tenderly than the harshness of his tone. “Would you like living here? If it was your choice and not because I own you?”
She could tell her answer was important to him. “Well I assume if I was living here of my own free will, I’d be allowed in the garden?”
“Yes,” he breathed out. His hands cupped her face, and his fingers dove into her curls to wrap around at the back of her head.
“And would I be sharing your bed, or sleeping in here?”
“My preference would be to have you in my bed.”
She blinked as she weighed her answer. She actually adored his apartment, but she enjoyed having the upper hand for a change. She lowered her voice as she answered and kept her gaze on his. “Then yes, I would enjoy living here.”
“Enough that you wouldn’t be leaving all the time?”
“I don’t know what you mean. Work’s important to me, so I would still work, but if you’re talking about vacations I hope you’d be going with me.”
He drew her in for a long kiss. One of his hands left her body, and she heard the necklace sliding across the counter where she’d left it. When he pulled away, he commanded, “Turn around.” Maybe she’d gotten too close. The remark about home had just been out of habit like when she was on vacation and called the hotel home. She hadn’t meant to bring on a serious discussion.
She turned around and pulled her hair up. He appeared stoic as he placed the necklace around her neck and clasped it. In the mirror, she saw a tiny emerald at the end of a cuff link sticking out beneath his tuxedo jacket. He matched her necklace. The private gesture softened her emotions toward him more.
He kissed her neck down to the crook at her shoulder and held her waist like he might snap her if he gripped too hard. She brought her arms down and rested a hand on his head.
She didn’t want to anger him again. Seeing both the captain and her father at dinner seemed like a terrible idea. She took a picture in her mind of the intimacy of his lips on her skin and the warmth of the back of his neck under her fingertips. She was sure she’d need to remember this moment to get through the evening, but more importantly, she’d have to remind him too.
When Conor lifted his head, he stared at her in the mirror and asked, “Who do you belong to tonight?”