Sold into Marriage(7)

By: Ann Major


“What if you are? What if you don’t know quite who you really are?”

“I’m not! I do!”

Part of her regretted that she’d displayed herself so lavishly and recklessly. But another part of her relished it. He was right, and she so hated that. Then her nose began to run from the cold, and she had to dab at it with her hand.

“Have it your way. The last thing I want is to argue,” he drawled in that deep, possessive tone that made her shiver more violently as she imagined what such a man might want from her.

“So, you’re American,” she said.

He neither denied nor confirmed this.

“And I’m from Louisiana. New Orleans. Katrina…and all that.” She shut up, afraid suddenly to tell him more.

His silent eyes regarded her as they had when she’d displayed herself in her window. His hot, male interest made her feel wild enough to risk anything.

“You’re an artist.”

“A painter,” she corrected rather primly.

“Ah, yes. That canvas with all the red and purple. What exactly are you painting?”

“Gargoyles.”

“Fearsome creatures,” he said in what she assumed to be a mocking tone.

“They’re very popular here in Paris,” she said, feeling defensive. “There’s even a tour of them. Maybe because I’m from New Orleans, I have a taste for the macabre.”

“Really?” He didn’t look all that interested in gargoyles as a topic of conversation.

“I shouldn’t be here. It was rather reckless of me to come down.”

“‘Watch me,’ I believe you said.” His taunt was huskily soft. “I very much enjoyed your little show.”

Heat crawled up her cheeks. She could think of no way to defend herself. “I should be upstairs painting. With my shade down!”

“Recklessness. Would anything ever get accomplished if it weren’t for recklessness?”

“I regret what I did…and coming down.”

“Do you?” He cocked his dark eyebrows as if he didn’t quite believe her.

“I do. I swear it.”

“Because I could be a serial killer?”

“Or worse.”

“Isn’t that part of the thrill? The unknown? Since we’re all such pretenders in daily life, we get into ruts that can become exceedingly dull.”

“Are you saying we all have secret agendas?”

“The most interesting people do. We know nothing about ourselves until a stranger in a window…” He paused.

“Reveals our truest nature,” she finished, amazed that their minds seemed to be on such an identical track.

“The name’s Adam. And just for the record, I’m much too dull and civilized to attack you.”

“Josie,” she whispered, not at all sure he was totally tamed. Deliberately she left off her last name—as he had.

“I’m a lawyer. I put real estate deals together. In Austin.”

“Texas?” Like Lucas, she thought.

He nodded. “No hidden meanings in my career. There’s only one agenda—greed, profit…the bigger the better.”

“Adam. Nice name.”

He thrust his hands in his pockets. “I shouldn’t have watched you. I apologize. It was wrong of me.” His mouth twisted. “Very wrong.”

“Girlfriend back home?” she asked. “You were alone…missing her maybe. You saw me….”

His dark brows shot together as he moved across the darkness toward her. “I have a girlfriend,” he admitted.

She saw that he was not dressed totally in black after all. His leather jacket was smooth, glossy black, and his boots were black, as well. But his overly long, denim jeans were actually a deep shade of navy.

“Long term relationship?”

“We’re supposed to get married,” he said.

So, why didn’t he look happy about it?

“When?”

“No set date.”

“Why not?”

“You ask too many questions.”

“It’s called getting acquainted. It’s called making sure you’re not that serial killer. So, why no set date?”

“Can we leave her the hell out of this?” His voice was bleak, angry suddenly, more at himself than at her, she thought.

She liked that he seemed to have a conscience, but she was suddenly too curious to stop. “So, were you missing her? Is that why you watched me?”

His eyes grew hot and dark, and she felt herself blushing again.

“I shouldn’t have watched you,” he repeated.

“So you’re the Boy Scout type?”

“Eagle Scout. But that was a lifetime ago.”

“So, now that we’ve apologized, maybe I should go back upstairs. You can call your girlfriend, and I can paint.”

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