“All right. All right. I know when I’m beaten. I’ll give the party top priority.” After a pause, he continued. “Cici, I need to get back to New Orleans. Tonight. I have a date.”
“With Alicia Butler?” Cici’s eyebrows arched. “Of Butler Shipyards?”
“And just how in the hell do you know that?” He stopped himself, when he saw her smile.
“I’m a journalist. I read the gossip columns.”
He ignored her answer. “You and I need to discuss your lease. Did you bring it with you?”
“Sorry.” Cici, who cupped her hands over her mouth, didn’t look the least bit sorry. “Forgot.”
A woman sharp enough to know what was going on in his personal life better than he did had deliberately refused to bring it just to provoke him.
“Well, go get it!” he thundered.
“All right,” Cici purred, smiling at an alarmed Noonoon and Pierre. But just as she turned to go, her gaze darted toward the back of the house and then to her watch. “Oh, dear…. Bad timing. Looks like our tour has assembled. “Noonoon,” she said. “I know this is a lot to ask, with all you have to do, but if you wouldn’t mind wheeling Pierre around back—you and he could start our last tour of the day. You won’t have to say anything…if you’d just be kind enough to push him. I’d do it, but Mr. Claiborne insists he wants to discuss my lease. Maybe by the time the tour is over, he and I will be finished with each other, and he can be on his way.”
Cici’s sweet smile made Logan wish he had a nail or two to chew. “After all he has a very important date with Alicia Butler. Butler Shipyards.”
Feeling like he was about to explode again, Logan nodded curtly toward Noonoon. When Noonoon walked over to Pierre, Cici ran back to the garçonnière to fetch the document she should have brought with her in the first place. Fuming, he watched her retreating bottom in those skintight jeans with way too much interest.
Not for the first time today, he told himself to calm down, reminding himself that he was firmly in control, that when she returned, he would be so utterly ruthless she would soon be packing her bags.
“I said I’ll double the money you paid my naive grandfather, if you’ll be so kind as to rip up this worthless piece of garbage and leave tomorrow morning.”
Logan relaxed a little when Cici, who was sitting on a wide wicker chair on the gallery, was quiet, her brow furrowed as if she were considering his most generous offer. Then she looked up from the document and smiled at him, blushing so prettily he itched to caress her.
When her sparkling eyes teased, luring him, he should have been warned.
“If I sleep with you, for old times’ sake, would you let me stay?” Her voice was soft and husky, shaking a little, yet her invitation flowed through him like music, causing something vital and true, something ripe and raw, in him to leap toward her.
“What?” he growled, his gaze lowering to her breasts despite his best intentions, because he was truly tempted by her outrageous offer. Which she, no doubt, knew.
Damn her silky hide.
She laughed at him. “Oh, dear, even your ears are turning red. Why is that, I wonder?”
Because he felt as hot as a volcano about to burst.
“Quit staring at my breasts like I’m offering them to you on a serving platter! I was just kidding. Okay? You looked so grim and uptight I thought a little levity would do us both good.”
“Well, I wouldn’t kid about something like that, if I were you,” he snapped.
“Why? Because you’re mad that you want to sleep with me too much?”
“I don’t want to sleep with you.” His voice sounded strange to his ears, maybe because he was speaking through gritted teeth.
“Good,” she said in a teasing tone that said she didn’t believe a single word. “Because I don’t want you, either. So, we’re both safe. In no sexual danger from each other. You have your pretty Alicia, aka Butler Shipyards, and I have my work in progress.”
Why in hell had he asked that? He didn’t give a damn whether she had a boyfriend or not.
“Would you care?”
“I can ask a question if I want. You don’t have the right to tell me what to say or do any more.”
“I never told you any such thing. We weren’t ever that important to each other.”
“Thanks. They say it’s good for one’s character to be humbled once in a while.”
“I want you off my land. If you don’t agree to my terms, I’ll have my lawyer contact you. Trust me. The fight over the legality of this lease will cost you far more than it’s worth. If you’re smart, you’ll take my offer.”