Oh, dear, this gorgeous man who was extending a diamond ring to her knew exactly how it looked. She could tell by the expression that he was as horrified as she was.
Something needed to be done, and pronto! And yet, she could do nothing but stare.
Devon suddenly grabbed her left hand and shoved the ring onto her finger as if the beautiful piece of jewelry was burning his skin. Then, still holding her hand, he said, to her very shock, "Stay here with me, Adette."
What? Forgetting her pain, forgetting the sounds of some truck backing up at the condo site beyond the front yard, and, of all things, forgetting her grandmother, Adette rose with far too much speed. Her ankle protested and she buckled in front of Devon.
He was there, wrapping his arms around her. They stared at each other for far too long.
"Let's begin again," Devon whispered. "I lost my temper and should have had a bit more compassion. This home has been a part of your life for far longer than it has mine."
"No," Adette answered just as softly. "I jumped to far too many conclusions. My grandmother has done what she thought was best, and I was unnecessarily indignant. And rude. I'm sorry."
Devon nodded, and Adette felt the sweetness of the moment drench her. Yet, she could not move.
"I only want to do what this house deserves," Devon went on. "It has good bones, and with a bit of love and care, can be a real showcase of the last century. Your grandmother may not have understood why you couldn't come to visit her, but she understood why I was the best person for Truffle Manor."
He paused. "You need a place to stay. Stay here. You can have your pick of rooms. They all need work, but-"
"I don't mind!" Adette shut her eyes. She certainly didn't want to sound desperate, but she'd spent so much just getting here. She had no money for even the Chocolate Chip Inn., with its rooms the size of chips in an mini cookie. She looked up again into Devon's candy blue eyes.
Devon blinked. What on earth were they doing, standing here on the stairs, in each other's arms? Had he really offered her a room in this sprawling mansion? Well, there was certainly enough space. They could wander around all day and never run into each other. But, Adette, still in his arms, still warm and sad and sweet, kind of like taking the last cookie from a tray straight from the oven, sounded as though he was offering her a lifeline.
He wasn't anyone's lifeline. He was a simple contractor who'd acted on emotion and bought a house in part to please an old lady. Sank every last dime into it.
He set her back on the stairs so she wouldn't need his assistance again, and stepped back. Way back.
"There you both are!" A voice called from the front door Adette had left partially open. "I took a chance you'd both be here when I couldn't get either of you on the phone!"
Devon turned. Carmella Sweet, a short, bubbly woman who worked at Nougat Peak Assisted Living Home, heaved a huge sigh of relief. Her peppermint pink scrubs were skewed in her haste and she now smoothed them out.
"Carmella, what's wrong?" Devon asked.
"It's Candy! She really isn't doing well at all. She's asking for both of you!"