Wow. Devon didn’t want to care, but he didn’t think the woman standing before him was anywhere near as talented an actress as she thought she was—which meant the flash of pain and sorrow he’d seen flicker across her gaze was real. Something he’d said had pricked at her heart—or at least her conscience.
“Your grandmother speaks often of you,” he said with a reluctant frown. He wanted to dislike her, he really did. But there was something earnest in her eyes. “She never complained, but I could tell she was disheartened that she didn’t see more of you.”
“That’s none of your business,” she snapped back, then shifted her glance away, rubbing her arms as if she were suddenly chilled.
She wasn’t the only one.
“You’re the one, Devon,” Candy Dunkleman had murmured, and now her words echoed in his ears. The old woman had gone on to say he was perfect to renovate the house, but now he couldn’t help but wonder if she’d had ulterior motives.
The one for—what?
She slowly brought her gaze back to his.
His throat tightened and he swallowed hard. Those eyes could really do a number on a man.
“I have to be honest with you. I don’t have a Plan B,” she murmured. “I have nowhere else to go. I just assumed my grandmother’s house would be available for me to stay in.”
“I’m sorry for that,” he said, and meant it. It must have been a real shocker to her to come into the house and find him there. “I assumed your grandmother would have told you about me buying her house.”
He pulled the solitaire diamond out of his pocket and held it out to her. “I was going to take this to Candy, but if you’re as desolate as you say, I’m sure she’d want you to have it. Maybe you can pawn it or something for—“
“Pawn it?” she repeated, her voice rising to a high squeak. “Pawn my grandmother’s wedding ring? Are you crazy? What kind of no good, unfeeling jerk would suggest I give away something of such sentimental value to the family?”
“I—er,” he stammered. It had only been a suggestion, and that only because he was trying to help her out of a bad situation. It was obvious to him now that Candy had sold her house for Adette's sake, so why should a ring be any differen? He didn't go for the mushy stuff, but now that he thought about it, he realized what a mistake he’d made to bring it up. He wished he could take back the words. Her gaze singed him with it's fiery intensity.
“Give it to me. Give it to me now!” she demanded. “You might have bought this house, but you have no right to my grandmother’s possessions.”
Devon agreed with her there. Maybe Adette’s sudden appearance could be to his advantage. He could offer her a place to stay—temporarily—and she could help him decide what to do with all of her family’s belongings.
He reached into his pocket and withdrew the ring, intending to extend an offer for her to stay with him. But when he held out the diamond, their eyes met and it was as if all the air left the room. He looked at the ring and then back at her. It wasn’t as if he was proposing to her or anything, but--