The hum of the tires speeding over the road and the darkness broken only by passing headlights soothed Conor’s nerves as they headed back to The Hamptons. He stroked Charisse’s hair back out of her face, grateful to have her with him. She’d fallen asleep with her head in his lap a few miles out of the city. Now, they were a few miles from his mansion.
What a difference one week had made. Last week, he was miserable in the back of the car with a throbbing head. Maybe if he hadn’t forced Charisse to sit up front, they would’ve worked through their problems a lot faster. No. He couldn’t do the “what ifs” anymore. He had Charisse now, and that was what mattered.
His muscles tensed as he recalled the morning. It had been brutal for her. No wonder she’d been asleep for three hours. He caressed her arm, enjoying the sensation of her silky skin and wishing he could erase the pain Josh had caused. Aside from feeling enraged and useless as he listened to what Josh had done, the worst part was his lawyer confiding in him that a restraining order might be difficult to get right now. Josh had only shown up once at her salon, and it’d been a year since she’d seen him.
The lawyer had said a bodyguard would be best even if he was able to obtain the restraining order. Conor could just imagine Charisse’s reaction to a bodyguard: I’m not having some thug sitting in my salon all day long.
Still, he was going to be gone all next week. He rolled down the privacy glass.
Raul looked at him through the rearview mirror. “Yes, Mr. Grishin?”
“I’m sorry about last week.”
Raul looked at the road. “I understand. We talked about it already. You don’t need to apologize again.”
“It’s just that taking care of my girlfriend isn’t exactly in your contract.”
“Taking care of Charisse was a pleasure. How is she?”
Conor didn’t think Raul would balk at his request, but he still needed to come at it from the right direction. Though Raul liked Charisse, Conor knew he was mad that Conor had left The Hamptons without him. He still hadn’t told Raul where he’d been all week, and that annoyed Raul even more. “She’s been asleep most of the ride. She’s had a long day.”
Raul frowned, and he glanced back in the mirror. “She seems unusually tired. At the beginning of the week she was walking all over the grounds even after working out in the morning, offering to wash dishes…”
“What? You didn’t let her, did you?”
Raul’s frown deepened. “Of course not, sir. The point is, she had a lot of energy. She doesn’t seem like someone to be worn out by therapy sessions and meetings with lawyers, even if they are emotional.”
Conor ran his fingers through her curls. “She seemed fine yesterday. And you don’t want to know about the meeting this morning. I’m exhausted from it.”
“But then you had a business meeting, and you’re not asleep.”
It was Conor’s turn to frown. Raul had a point. “I’ll talk to her about it when we get home. What I wanted to ask was if you’d stay behind as Charisse’s personal assistant while I’m in China. I know you like the travel part of your job, but with Josh in town, I’d like you to keep your eye on her while I’m gone.”
Raul glanced at him in the mirror again. “I’ll do it, but I’m not sure she’ll like that. She lives close to her salon and seems to like to do a lot of things on her own. I couldn’t keep her out of the kitchen.”
“But if I talked her into it, you’d do it?”
Conor’s shoulders relaxed. Charisse’s body shifted, but she didn’t wake up.
“Sir,” said Raul.
“About the party…”
Conor groaned. He should have a private party to celebrate after Becca’s party was over. “What about it?”
“Becca has asked me multiple times to tell Charisse not to come.”
“I don’t care what Becca wants. I want Charisse at the party.”
“Of course. I was only remembering how difficult parties were for Gianna, and Charisse seems similar. With the strain of having Josh show up and being so tired, I wondered how she felt about going to the party.”
Conor glared at Raul in the rearview mirror. He hated when Raul pointed out his mistakes, even though it made him an excellent assistant. He turned his gaze to Charisse and softened his expression. He shouldn’t make her go to that party. He needed to grow a pair and face Becca himself.
Still looking at Charisse, he said, “Could you take us to the cottage? I think she prefers it to the mansion.”
“I’d be happy to,” said Raul.