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Tomorrow is the last post for Episode 6. Things are looking bad for Conor…
Conor tried to eat. Charisse’s hands had eased his headache but made the muscles across his shoulders tense up. He knew Becca was out in the audience, watching and waiting to pounce.
He searched through the audience. From years of habit, he sized up each person as his gaze fell on them. Most people he knew or knew of. He paused at an older man, completely out of place. He sat at a table with a few of the major shareholders. His tux had to be rented, and he only watched and listened like he didn’t have anything to say. Most businessmen couldn’t shut up. Odd.
He heard Roy speaking into the microphone to introduce him. He hadn’t even noticed when he stood up. Charisse gave his hand a squeeze, and he realized people were applauding. Knowing he’d look about eighty, he rose slowly, trying not to make it too obvious how much he was leaning on the chair. He couldn’t shoot up, or he’d probably pass out.
He took the speech he’d written from the inside pocket of his jacket and unfolded it. The pain in his head increased, making him force each word out of his mouth. Becca loomed in his thoughts, even as he heard his voice praise the captain. As soon as the speech was done, he’d take Charisse and run.
The audience laughed as he read an anecdote the captain had told him at lunch. He must be doing a decent job at the speech anyway. Closing remarks. The room swayed. Roy stood with the coins they’d had specially made for the crew. Just a few more words and some handshakes, and he could get the hell out.
As soon as applause filled the room, Charisse was at his side and whispering in his ear. “Can I call Raul to get the car?”
“Was the speech that bad?”
“It was wonderful, but you’re so pale. I’m worried about you.”
He rested his hand on her waist, never wanting to let her go. “I’m okay. I’ll text Raul now.”
“I’d forgotten what a smooth talker you are,” said Becca behind him. “I trust you’ll be making a toast at my party?”
He turned around, switching the hand that touched Charisse as she turned with him. “Let’s talk about the party tomorrow.”
“Actually, I’m leaving in the morning. Let’s chat now.”
“I’m sure all the arrangements can be made over the phone,” said Charisse. “I’ve been sick, and Conor promised we could leave right after the speech.”
Conor gaped at Charisse, surprised by her defense.
Roy approached the group and said, “I’d like to steal my daughter for a minute. I’m sure you two want to catch up.”
“Conor and I were just leaving…”
“It’s okay,” said Conor. At least Charisse would be safe with her father while he satisfied the long list of questions Becca was sure to have. He wanted to get them over with so he didn’t have a headache all night. “I won’t be long. I know you wanted to talk to Marie too.”
She gave him a questioning look but then walked away with Roy.
“I guess it’s been three years, but it’s strange to see you without Elise,” said Becca. “Do you ever feel guilty?”
His head throbbed. “How do you want the party to go?”
Becca catching Conor at the right time….this doesn’t look good….
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