Conor slid his tie out from under the collar and threw it on his bed. “Goddammit, I can’t do this when I have a raging headache. Cancel dinner with Charisse.”
All the lights in the room were off and the curtains drawn. The only light came from the bathroom, diffused by the door being partially shut.
Raul picked the tie up from the bed and slung it around Conor’s neck. “She doesn’t think you killed Elise.”
“You didn’t see her running for her life out of the banquet hall. Or the scared look in her eyes when I caught up to her.”
Raul flipped up Conor’s collar and proceeded to tie the tie. “You said she was abused by her former boyfriend. I’m sure the rumors she heard about you at the banquet were hard to take, no matter how much she might like you.”
Even with his headache, it was hard to miss the anger in Raul’s voice. He seemed very protective of Charisse, considering he hadn’t seen her for years.
“She stayed with that asshole after he started hitting her. All she does is run from me.”
“She’s not running now. She practically begged me to let her have breakfast with you.”
He watched Raul finish tying his tie. His shoulders unknotted, relieving some of his pain. He thought she’d try to get away from the mansion during the night, even if it meant losing the salon. Watching her try to figure out the hedge maze had been the best part of his day simply because she was still there.
In a quieter voice he said, “Why didn’t you tell me she wanted to have breakfast with me?”
“Because you threw your plate of eggs against the wall like a spoiled toddler, sir. No one needed to see that, especially Charisse.” Raul flipped the collar down, stepped away, reached out to adjust the tie once and nodded. “That will do.” He took a Cartier box from the nightstand and handed it to Conor.
Conor said, “I don’t know what I’d do without you. Why do you put up with me?”
“The considerable raise every year helps.”
Conor managed a smile. He stepped to the door of the bedroom and caught himself on the doorjamb. He stared straight down the hallway to the door of the bedroom he’d shared with Elise. Elise would’ve kicked his ass if he’d ever tried to own her. He would’ve gotten a lecture about objectifying and demeaning women, which wasn’t what he was trying to do. What the hell was he trying to do?
His knees buckled. He wanted to own Charisse because he hadn’t been able to hold on to Elise.
He felt Raul’s hands propping him back up against the doorframe.
“I can’t do this,” Conor said.
“Yes, you can. Charisse wants to see you.”
“Maybe I don’t want to see her anymore. Give her this.” He handed the box back to Raul, shoved him out the door and slammed it.