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When Conor reached the bottom of the stairs, he saw a couple whose name he couldn’t recall being checked in by security. Outside the early afternoon storm had blown on by, which was good considering he’d arranged for tables and a bar out in the garden. He had tents waiting in the wings, but he preferred to be under the starlight.
Candles glowed around the living room, offering a vanilla scent. Art lights shone on the paintings, and guests were already admiring a large Impressionist piece. He turned towards the back of the house, which held the other half of the living area. Becca stood alone at the open back door. Her blond hair was swept up and twisted in the back. She wore a short green dress with a loose skirt.
He crossed the hardwood floor and walked around the white leather chairs and sofas until he reached her.
With one last reminder to himself to be nice, he said, “Becca, sorry I wasn’t here to greet you when you arrived. Charisse is sick and needed a doctor.”
“Really?” she said, turning around with a glass of water in her hand.
The dress complimented her figure. It was subtle, but the pregnancy wasn’t going to be a secret any more.
She continued talking. “Does that mean she won’t be here?”
“I doubt it.” He wanted to add something snarky about Raul following her request, but he resisted. “Where’s your fiance? Don’t tell me he’s still tying things up in Chicago.”
“No he’s outside, anxious to see the hedge maze. There he is. Joshua!” She yelled and waved her hand to a man at the bar. He turned and waved back. He wore a blue striped button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His brown hair was in the douchey style Charisse hated so much.
A tinge of worry for Charisse crept into his thoughts as he recalled the first time he met her. He ran his fingers through his hair, hoping there was a reasonable explanation for her fainting.
Joshua grabbed a drink and wove through the tables and chairs. Wind pushed at the flames on the candles in the center of the table, but they stayed lit.
When Joshua arrived he held out his hand. Conor shook it.
“This is Joshua Duran,” said Becca. “You might’ve heard of him. He was a brilliant floor trader a couple of years ago.”
“Sorry, I haven’t paid attention to the market in a while.” He withdrew his hand. “Were you trading on the Chicago floor?”
“Yeah, but it doesn’t have the same energy,” said Joshua.
Conor noticed beads of sweat at Joshua’s hairline, and he kept glancing around like he expected someone to show up.
Becca jumped into the conversation as if she’d noticed too and hoped Conor hadn’t. “He was the one who gave me the tip about the shipping company. The stock is still rising; I might make enough to move into this neighborhood.”
Nice and calm. He had to stay nice and calm.
“Well, I believe my job tonight is to introduce you to everyone so you can make your business dreams happen. Let’s get to it.”
Becca raised her eyebrows and dropped her jaw.
“That’d be great. We’d really appreciate it,” said Joshua like an overeager dog barking at his owner.
Unease about the couple crept over him, but he pushed it aside. So far being the perfect host was working like Charisse had said it would. He’d introduce them to a few people and then go upstairs to check on her.
Come back tomorrow to find out what’s wrong with Charisse!