He leaned his thumb on the doorbell, held it longer than necessary then released. When there was still no response, he sucked in a breath and pivoted on his heels. Two steps away, the door opened and a breathless, irritated voice hit him from behind.
“Quit with the ruckus.” He turned to look at her. “You’re, uuh….” Her voice tailed off.
In a heartbeat, he took in her soft skin, eyes the color of light honey and wavy chestnut hair threatening to escape whatever she used to pin it up.
Was this…could this gorgeous woman be the frightened girl of fifteen years ago? The image of her from that night had stayed with him over the years. He couldn’t even explain why. “Ashley Fitzgerald?”
“You’re late,” she said in a cool, impatient voice.
He raised an eyebrow. “I am?”
She thrust a delicate wrist under his nose. Her gold watch caught the overhead light and sparkled. “It’s after eight. You were due at seven-thirty.”
Her feminine scent drifted to his nose. Something flowery. Roses? He frowned, annoyed with himself for letting his mind wander from his goal. “I believe you’ve mis—”
“Never mind. You’re here now.” She took a step back, and with her other hand clutching a cell phone, gestured him into the loft. “Come in.”
She was obviously mistaking him for someone else. But after the obstacles he’d encountered in the past two of weeks, being invited inside her home was one step closer to achieving his goal. “Thank you.” He flashed a grin as he strode into the room.
She hesitated, then closed the door. “What’s your name?”
“Make yourself comfortable, Ron.” She waved in the direction of a leather lounge. “I’m on the phone. I’ll be with you in a sec.”
He watched her sashay towards the kitchen area, the phone at her ear, and found himself enjoying the way the silk one-piece outfit shifted and flowed around her curves. Hmmm, he loved curves on a woman.
Ron tore his gaze away, shook his head to rattle his brain back in place and grimaced. He needed to get a grip, quick. He couldn’t afford to be distracted. Ashley knew a lot, but from the stubborn gleam he’d glimpsed in those eyes, she wasn’t going to roll over and spill her gut just because he asked. He must tread carefully. So far, his haste to uncover the truth had gotten him nowhere.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee pulled him farther into the room. He took a deep breath and looked around with interest. The sheer numbers of cloth-draped canvases along the walls combined with the effect of the light pouring inside the loft from large windows were startling. He wished he could see some of the pieces. The ones he’d seen around town, including the two his grandmother owned, were truly magnificent.
A piece on the easel drew his attention. It was facing backward, but something about it pulled him closer. He tilted it for a better look and sucked in his breath.