Thanks to everyone who’s reading an ARC of the compilation! Episode nine comes out this Thursday!
Conor buttoned up a fresh shirt, frowning towards Charisse. She had already changed into jeans and a red v-neck shirt. The short sleeves didn’t quite cover up the bruises that were appearing on her arm.
He could kill Josh. He might’ve if he’d known he’d been hurting Charisse.
She sat in a white leather loveseat with a straight back, staring down at the floor with her hands folded in her lap. An oil painting of a western sunset dominated the parlor wall behind Charisse. He’d carry her into the picture if he could, far away from everything that had just happened. Instead, he’d have to settle for taking her to the cottage when the car was ready. He wished she would say something. She’d been silent since they’d come to the room to change and take care of her arm.
A knock sounded at the door.
“Come in,” said Conor, turning to face the door.
Raul brought Conor a prescription bottle and said in a whisper, “These are the pills her therapist prescribed in case she had another episode like at your apartment. I don’t think she’s taken any.”
“Thank you.” Conor grabbed the bottle and walked over to kneel down next to Charisse. He held her waist with one hand and held out the bottle in the other. “If you take one of these you’ll feel better.”
Charisse stared at the bottle and then shook her head.
“But these helped at my apartment, remember?”
“I don’t think I should take anything without talking to Dr. Beaumont.”
“Why? What’s wrong?” Panic set in. Josh’s appearance had made him completely forget about Charisse fainting and Dr. Beaumont.
Her eyes widened, and she didn’t answer at first. “It’s, it’s an inner ear thing. It makes me dizzy.”
“An inner ear thing? Like an infection?”
Her face brightened. “Yes, like an infection. I don’t know if I should take this with the antibiotics.”
She was lying to him. He searched her eyes, hoping he was wrong, but she squirmed and wouldn’t look directly at him for long. Still looking at her, he said back to Raul, “Call Dr. Beaumont and ask if she can take these while on the antibiotics.”
“No!” exclaimed Charisse. “I’ll call her and ask when we get to the cottage. What I really need is a snack. I haven’t eaten since lunch, and she said I should be snacking throughout the day.”
“For an inner ear problem?” asked Conor.
Her eyes pleaded with him to not ask any more questions.
Raul said, “I’ll have the chef make you an acai bowl. I know that’s your favorite. But I’m afraid there’s something else, Mr. Grishin.”
Conor pulled himself up and sat on the couch, pocketing the pills. Relief flooded him when Charisse sat back with him and leaned her head on his shoulder. He’d let the lying go for now. It’d been a rough evening for everyone.
He said, “You’d better say the something else is China called, and they’ve fixed all their internal problems so we’re free to go on vacation.”
Raul grimaced. “Unfortunately not. Becca is here and wishes to speak to both of you. I refused her, but she promised she would be nice to Charisse and not yell at you. She seems surprisingly contrite.”
Charisse stiffened and turned to face Conor. “I’m sorry. I tried not to cause a scene. I didn’t want her threatening you with going to Twitter or the police or whoever about Elise. But I couldn’t let him hurt me again. I couldn’t live with myself if I did.”
“You did the right thing, Charisse. I’m so glad you shoved him down the stairs. I don’t care what Becca does. I’m innocent. If there’s a Twitter frenzy about me, fine. It’ll trend for three seconds and then be over. And if it lasts longer, we can hide out until it’s done. Or not. What matters is that we’re together and you’re safe. I’m not feeling guilty about the past anymore.”
Charisse nodded and then gave a sly grin. “He did not see it coming. When the security guard called over to check on me, I suddenly knew exactly what I needed to do. I drove my heel into his foot and kneed him in the nuts. Do you have any idea how good that felt? It was two years of anger fueling me.”
Conor smiled for the first time in hours. “I know you impressed the guard. He was singing your praises when he was telling me what happened. Are you up for seeing Becca, or should I take her to my office?”
“We can see her here, but can she wait until I’m done eating?”