Even if that meant betraying the man standing in front of her. The man she was so angry with right now, but to whom she was still so very attracted.
* * *
An hour later Josie emerged from the guest-room bath and threw on the clothes Connor had handed her earlier. He’d picked a soft blue cardigan, a light blue button-up shirt and a pair of worn jeans that held a hint of lavender. The jeans were about an inch too short, so Josie rolled them up to capri length and decided that would do.
When she picked up the expensive shirt, her heart slammed to her feet. She knew this scent. This shirt didn’t belong to Deidre. It belonged to her big brother. Putting the cotton garment to her nose, Josie inhaled Connor’s aftershave, silly tears pricking her eyes and making her throat grow tight.
She wouldn’t let him get to her. Looking down at the cut on her palm, she remembered how gentle he’d been with her earlier.
The little gestures got to her more than any grand gesture ever would. She slipped on the too-big shirt and buttoned it, feeling safe and comfortable surrounded by something of his.
But he’s lying to you, Josie. You have to see that. He’s lying and he’s covering for Armond.
Why couldn’t she believe him?
Closing her eyes to that admission, she tugged on the lightweight sweater and then rolled up the shirt’s sleeves.
Then she told herself to stop being so mushy and get back to business. Connor’s new revelation about another possible Armond son was ridiculous, but...he had been around Armond more than she had. His instincts were good on such matters, too.
In spite of everything, she wanted to believe him. She wanted to believe in him, too.
After she dressed, she took her time studying Connor’s home. Eclectic and sterile. Edited and minimalist. Artsy and comfortable. The old industrial building held a hint of steam-punk mixed with a futuristic vibe.
A lot like Connor. Old-fashioned and gentlemanly, but edgy and hip, too. The man knew his art. Twisted metal sculptures merged with watercolor still-life scenes and spiritual Impressionist paintings. The chunky wooden bed in this room looked antique, but the stark red-and-gold painting of a lone jester who was not smiling showed the paradox of Connor’s life.
That painting made her heart bump against her chest in a sympathetic tone that both thrilled her and annoyed her. When she saw an antique Bible on the Rococo-style dresser, she opened it and saw marked pages. Connor? Or maybe Deidre?
Thankfully, his sister’s influence had turned him back to the Lord. Josie closed her eyes in prayer for both of them and for herself, her fingers touching on the always-comforting passages of the Psalms.
She didn’t want to want this man in her life but after being around him 24/7 for the past few days, Josie knew she’d feel like that sad-faced jester if she lost Connor now. Befriend and betray. Was that what they were doing to each other? That was what her job required.
After drying her hair, Josie slid open the heavy metal bedroom door and walked back out into the open-air loft. Apparently Connor’s bedroom was up on the top tier of this interesting place. He’d gone up there to get his own shower and change of clothing.
She pushed at her hair and took in the dark leather couches and worn tapestry patterned armchairs, the shelves of books and the walls of artifacts and paintings. The kitchen beckoned with a gleaming industrial shine, so she headed that way and opened the refrigerator to find boiled shrimp resting on ice.
When had he ordered in?
Josie didn’t question this gift. She was starving, so she took out the big bowl and grabbed a couple of the fat, juicy shrimp and dipped them in the thick red cocktail sauce. They tasted fresh and spicy. When she heard him coming down the metal stairs, she turned and smiled and gulped in a breath.
He was barefoot and in jeans and a faded T-shirt.
A different kind of Connor.
“I found food,” she said, nervous now that they were alone. Which was silly, since they’d been traveling around alone for days now. “I don’t know how this got here, but I’m glad it did.”
“I called a friend who works as a chef in one of my favorite restaurants.” He pointed to the counter. “We have pecan-crusted trout and a side salad, too.”