Charisse sat on the couch in her apartment with her legs stretched out and her feet on the coffee table. Comfort wrapped around her as she chatted with Marie and ate way too much dark chocolate and drank too much coffee. The new Marie was much easier to talk to.
They hashed over what Raul had said about Mother. Marie recalled times their mother had acted strange—times that Charisse remembered but hadn’t thought anything about. Marie blamed Daddy for everything, but Charisse was still unsure. Even if he had chased her off, why couldn’t they have been like normal divorced parents, sharing time with the kids? Maybe she’d never kicked the cocaine habit. Still, she couldn’t believe her father would keep their Mother from them.
The conversation eventually drifted back to Armand and how much Marie missed him. Charisse was saved from too much melodrama when the buzzer interrupted them. Marie jumped up and pressed the intercom. “Yes?” she said.
“It’s Conor. I have a present for you.”
Charisse flushed and toyed with her necklace. She turned to stare at the intercom as if she’d see Conor there.
“This is Marie.”
“I know. I figure a present is the only way you’d let me in.”
His voice sounded light like he was in a good mood, not like he’d had a hellish conference about the Chinese company.
“I always knew you were smart,” said Marie. She buzzed him up and turned to Charisse. “So I assumed that dress you wore to the banquet was something Conor bought for you because you never spend that much on clothes, even though I know you want to.”
“Yeah, he has great taste. I know Raul picks out a lot of things for him, but I think Conor chose that dress. And he had this necklace made…”
“I know, I know. Out of roses he grew himself.”
Charisse smirked. She’d only mentioned the necklace once, but in typical Marie fashion, she acted like Charisse had been talking about it all day.
Marie opened the door when Conor knocked. Marie said, “You look like hell.”
Charisse stood up and was hit with a head rush.
“You’re not being very friendly to someone bearing gifts,” said Conor, but he didn’t sound mad.
“I wasn’t being mean. You’re sure sensitive for a ball-buster billionaire.”
Charisse steadied herself and saw Conor had no tie and his top two buttons undone, revealing the white t-shirt underneath. His hair was mussed, and his eyes were shadowed. He had both hands behind his back.
He stared at Charisse as he spoke to Marie. “You’ll just have to wait for your present now. I’ve been thinking about Charisse all afternoon.” He crossed the room, wrapped one arm around her and pressed his lips against hers.
“Zanotti!” squealed Marie. “For me?”
Conor released Charisse’s lips but kept his arm around Charisse as he turned to Marie. She held a black shoebox in her hands that she’d grabbed from Conor.
Conor said, “I know you have to do a lot of standing at your job, and you said something about not wearing heels anymore the last time I ran into you. But I was pretty sure you still wanted to be fashionable.”
Marie took the box and set it on the couch before lifting the lid. Inside was a pair of black leather sneakers with gold soles and laces. They were high-tops with a rhinestone-embedded Velcro strip across the top.
“I love them! We were just talking about your amazing taste.”
Charisse squeezed his waist. She’d known something was up when he’d asked her for Marie’s shoe size, but these would be so useful for her.
Conor said, “I know it’s been rough between us, but I hope we can have a fresh start. Charisse is really important to me.”
Charisse leaned her head on Conor’s shoulder.
Marie said, “Just as long as you remember Charisse is important to me too, we’ll all get along.”
Conor said, “Don’t worry. I only plan on stealing her away to The Hamptons, Puerto Rico, Paris—the world.”
Everyone laughed, and Charisse gave a silent sigh of relief. Her dad might never come around to like Conor, but at least Marie did. Now she just had to get through the party tomorrow.