Episode 7 will be released this week! Stay tuned for more information!
Conor stared out the window in the back of the sedan. The privacy glass was up, but he wasn’t taking advantage of it. He really needed to be at the banquet to show his appreciation of the captain despite the setup with Charisse and all of Roy’s interference. It wasn’t Armand’s fault his boss was crazy, and Armand and his crew definitely deserved recognition.
Charisse’s arm touched his through most of the drive, making him roil with desire. He knew he’d turned cold on her, but he’d almost broken down and voided the deal when they were in bed and then again when she’d considered his apartment her home. Fuck, he’d imagined himself proposing.
It was way too soon for a proposal, and if he nullified the deal, he was sure he’d never get her to the banquet. Worse, he’d never get her to help with the damn party he’d promised Becca. Raul was making all the arrangements, but Conor needed Charisse just to be there with him.
The car pulled in front of the Waldorf. Charisse placed her hand on his knee, startling him out of his thoughts.
“I’ll be yours for a fourth week if you let me go back to your penthouse now.”
“What?” He grabbed her hand in his and turned to stare at her.
“A fourth week. I’ll be your secretary and give you blowjobs under the desk all week if that’s what you want. I’ve lowered myself this far already, and if it avoids a blow up for all of Manhattan high society to see, then I’m okay with that.” Her voice shook as she spoke, though no tears brimmed on her eyes.
“You haven’t lowered yourself…”
“I’ve whored myself out to keep a salon that was never mine to begin with. When we’re together like earlier in your bed, it seems like we’re a couple, but now you’ve shut me out again, reminding me of how it really is between you and me…”
He held her face with both hands but didn’t kiss her. “You made a business deal. You did not demean yourself. I think you wouldn’t take the salon as a gift because it blurred your moral lines. You’d always wonder if you’d sold yourself for it or if it really was a gift. This way, you paid for it on your terms. I turn cold because you blur my lines. I want us to be a couple. I want to whisper how much I care about you and hold you all night, but you weren’t ready for that. So we’re seeing this deal through. I reject your offer of a fourth week because I want you with me right now. I want your father to start seeing how important you are to me. And I want you to stop being afraid of gossip. You turned your nose up at all these people by stepping out of their society and opening your own business. Why give them any power back by worrying about what they think now?”
He wished he could read her mind. Several emotions seemed to flash through her eyes, ending with what appeared to be a bit of defiance mixed with confidence.
“Okay,” she said.
He leaned in and brushed her lips, not wanting to ruin her lipstick. “You’re gorgeous. I’m glad you wore your hair down.” He turned away before he started taking her clothes off, amazed at how desirable she always was to him. When he clicked the door handle, he felt Raul pull it open on the other side.
He stepped out but blocked the door. Clouds were gathering above, bringing the streetlights on early. “How did her mother make it through these things?” whispered Conor. “I’m worried she’s going to have a heart attack just to get out of it.”
“Cocaine,” said Raul. “But I’m sure all her sellers are dead or out of the business.”
“Jesus Christ, you were her drug dealer?”
Raul shrugged, and Conor knew he wouldn’t say any more. It was surprising he’d said that much.
He stepped aside and helped Charisse out. When she stood up, he heard Raul’s breath hitch.
“You look as beautiful as Gianna tonight,” said Raul.
Conor watched Charisse, worried what her reaction would be. He assumed Gianna was her mother.
To his relief, her face relaxed into a smile. “Thank you, Raul. That’s quite a compliment.”
Raul simply nodded, but Conor saw him watching Charisse wistfully as she stepped by him.
The golden sign of the Waldorf Astoria greeted them along with the flags flapping in the wind on either side. The temperature had cooled considerably. Fall had arrived. Time to return to the Hamptons when everyone else was leaving, but this year, he’d have Charisse with him. He settled his hand at the small of her back. The black material was soft, but not as soft as her skin. Later.
He nodded at the doorman as they passed inside. Charisse’s heels echoed in the lobby in arrhythmic time with the other footsteps on the tile. The high ceiling with beige paint and gold leaf reminded him of Versailles and the salon. The conversation earlier in his penthouse made him realize he could push her too far, far enough that she might decide the salon wasn’t worth it and walk away from the deal. She’d be right. Charisse was priceless, and the salon was paltry by comparison.
Outside the door to the banquet hall she stopped and turned to him. “Please don’t make me go to this,” she whispered. “Daddy made a huge scene at the salon earlier today. He’s furious I’m with you instead of the captain. He never makes a public show like that. What if he does it again here?”
“Roy’s not that foolish. This banquet is important for the company. He’s not going to do anything that will jeopardize it. You’re going in with me, and you’re staying next to me the whole time.” He said it as a command, and it worked.
He took her hand, walked through the door, and immediately regretted his decision to bring her.