Conor gently shook Charisse’s shoulder. The only light in the car was from the back porch light on the cottage. Raul had turned it on when he went in to get it ready.
“Charisse,” he whispered when she didn’t wake up. He shook her again and whispered, “My beauty, we’re home.”
Charisse mumbled something and sat up. She ran her hands through her curls, appearing both sweet and confused as she looked around.
Love for her grew inside, but he checked himself. He’d blurted out the “I love you,” yesterday far too soon in the relationship. He wanted to hear her return his love, but he wasn’t going to push it or say it again for a while. They needed to settle in as a couple first.
She rubbed her eyes and said, “We’re home? Do you mean the mansion?”
“I had Raul bring us to the cottage. But if you prefer the mansion…”
Without warning, she kissed him. Her hands cupped his face, making desire and love for her surge.
She ended the kiss as suddenly as she’d begun it and pulled away before he’d even wrapped his arms around her waist. She said, “No, the cottage is perfect. I’m really disoriented. I don’t feel like I’ve been asleep very long.”
He pulled her to his body and gave her a longer kiss. At first she seemed eager for him, but her body grew heavy like she was tired. He ended the kiss and pulled back. “Raul is concerned about how tired you’ve been, and maybe I should be too. Do you think you’re coming down with the flu?”
She shook her head. “No, I’m sure I’m tired because of talking about Josh so much. It drains me of everything.” She rested her head on his shoulder, and he held her tightly.
Now was not a good time to talk about bodyguards and restraining orders or even tell her he wanted Raul to look out for her while he was gone. Instead he said, “Tomorrow we’ll take it easy. I wanted to do some fall cleanup on the climbing roses. I’d love it if you’d keep me company. You don’t have to work. We could just talk while I work.”
“I’m sure I’ll feel better in the morning. I’d love to help you garden.”
“Great. And then you can stay here reading or watching movies while I go to Becca’s party. I’ll try to keep the party short, but I can’t guarantee anything.”
“What?” Her eyebrows crinkled together in confusion. “I thought you wanted me to be with you at the party?”
“I’ve been really selfish. I shouldn’t ask you to go to that party, especially since Becca seems to have it out for you just because you aren’t Elise. I’m not going to do that to you.”
“Conor,” she whispered and placed her hand on his cheek.
The warmth of her body and scent of her skin and hair made him dizzy with desire. Maybe in the morning they could make love.
She continued, “I want to be there for you. I ran into her at Friedman’s and made it clear I was going to the party. And Marie has something on her that made her back down. I know seeing her is hard for you. I want to help.”
He hugged her tightly for a long time, unable to respond with words. Finally he simply said, “Thank you.”