Josie let out a yelp of joy, then quickly dived into the fish, taking a nibble with a low moan of appreciation. “You do have connections.” Then she turned FBI again. “This chef, can we trust him?”
“Yes. He owes me.”
She figured a lot of people owed him, and she did not want to ask why. “And dessert?”
“Of course. Caramel crème brûlée.”
She had to hold on to the shimmering steel counter. “I could stay with you forever just based on the food.”
When she realized what she’d said, Josie looked up at him there across the counter from her, her mouth opening in shock and awareness.
Before she could change her comment to something more reasonable and not so adoring, Connor stalked around the long counter and pulled her into his arms.
The kiss was demanding and sweet, a contradiction, just like the man. He pulled her hair through his hands and pressed his palms against her head. “Josie...”
Josie lifted her lips away, her gaze holding his. “We can’t do this, Connor. We can’t—”
“Says who? Is there some rule in the FBI handbook about this?”
She searched for her next breath. “Lots of rules, and we’re breaking all of them.”
“I don’t care.”
“But I do.”
She backed up, pushed at her tousled hair. “I do and I’m sorry.”
“What if I wasn’t me and you weren’t FBI?”
“Things might be different then.”
He moved away, leaned back against the deep sink. “I’ve changed, Josie. I’m on the right side of the law now. I pray for forgiveness but I want acceptance.” Shoving off the sink counter, he started covering the food. “I long for you to...accept me. I’ve tried to be honest with you. Do you hear me? This is not one of my cons.”
Josie wanted to believe that. But they had so much between them. “We have a job to do, Connor. You’re all tied up in this case. I’m your handler, the person you have to report back to, the person who’s supposed to watch out for you and advise you and protect you. Nothing about this makes any sense because you don’t have any information and neither do I.”
“You think I’m playing you, right? You think I’m faking all of this and that I’m still in cahoots with Armond?”
“Yes,” she said, wishing she didn’t think that way. “I trust you with my life, but I can’t trust you to tell me the truth.”
He hit a hand on the counter, jarring the crystal goblets sitting on a silver tray. “What do you want me to say?”
“I want you to tell me everything you can remember about being on the inside of Armond’s organization. We can’t keep running.”
She let go of the counter and stared out the big square windows covering one wall. The city twinkled around them and the sound of music echoed out into the night, a lone saxophone playing. Probably Harold down at the Café du Monde. The Mississippi wrapped like a dark velvet blanket through the city on one side, while the St. Louis Cathedral shone in an abiding light off to the left.
This was the kind of night that could mess with a woman’s head. The soft, soulful music drifting up into the sparkling stars, the river following the tide, the food, this room, this man. That kiss.
She turned to find Connor staring at her, his eyes a deep, burning blue. “I think you’re the one who needs to be honest, Agent Gilbert. I can feel how you feel when you’re in my arms, so you can’t hide that. But you need to be honest with me and you need to be honest with yourself.”
“What could I possibly be hiding?”
“Everything,” he said. Then he turned and went back up to the loft.
Josie wanted to call out to him to come back. Instead, she put the tempting shrimp back in the refrigerator. Then she moved closer to the window and wondered who out there wanted both of them dead.
And she also wondered if she’d ever know the real Connor Randall.
Her dreams were mixed in swirls of clinging tropical vines and dark raging waters twisted into moments of running for her life through the swamp. She tried to move her legs, but thick brown mud held her down, pulling her closer and closer to a black spinning hole. She had to get through the swamp, but she couldn’t pull herself up to run to the place where she knew she’d be safe. Connor was waiting there. Waiting for her, his hand outstretched.