He had memories about those half-naked feet. After sex, she used to climb on top of him and stretch out, placing the soles of her feet on top of his feet. God, he’d loved the feel of her on top of him as he’d wondered what she’d do next.

And her hair—it was wild this morning—springy curls tumbling to her shoulders. Big hair was not a look he liked on his woman…usually…except right after sex. Still, he was hard as a rock, and the view wasn’t what was turning him on.

Ignoring Cici, Logan concentrated on his grandfather. “You seem upset, Grandpère. Why are you here?”

“Maybe because sitting around Belle Rose isn’t doing me much good. I was always a man of action.”

“Yes, you were.”

“I’m here because I want to start by righting a few wrongs.”

“Such as?”

“In the past, I was unfair to Cici. And so were you.”

“At whose instigation?” Logan whispered.

“Mine. I take full responsibility. I was so furious at Bos and so discouraged by your father’s failures and Jake’s wildness, I didn’t want Jake to be seduced by Cici and marry her. I didn’t know what a niece of Bos’s might do to our property if she married into our family. I didn’t trust her. So, I asked you to intervene to save your brother, who was always more susceptible to temptation than you.”

Little did he know.

“And because I did, Cici was hurt so badly she ran away and got into a dangerous, heartbreaking profession. She stayed away, until now.”

“Is that what she told you?”

He nodded. “Last night we had a long talk.”

Logan could well imagine that they had.

“She wants to come home,” Pierre said. “She says she forgives me. She’s persuaded Jake to come home, which is what I’ve wanted ever since I got sick. And for that, now you want to throw her out.”

After such noble praise of Cici, Logan’s gaze swung across the room to the young woman. Her fragile face framed by masses of gold curls looked tense and shadowed in the morning light. Beneath his scrutiny, she blushed and averted her eyes.

“Last I heard, Belle Rose isn’t and never was her home,” Logan said. “She should lease some other place. Grandpère, I don’t think…she’s the best influence on you…in your present state.”

“Let me be the judge of that. I’m not the man I was, and Cici’s never been the girl I thought she was.”

Logan swallowed. He felt guiltier than he ever had for the past, so it didn’t help when he noticed Cici’s hands that were knotted in her lap were trembling.

Had she had trouble sleeping last night, too. Had she relived that damn kiss on the gallery again and again as he had, wanting more? Or did she hate his guts as she had every right to do?

“I want you to relent and let her stay…near me,” his grandfather persisted.

For another long moment Logan’s gaze lingered on Cici’s pale, contrite face. Strangely, he felt touched by his grandfather’s request and like his grandfather, ashamed of his own actions nine years ago.

Most of all he hurt. But he couldn’t undo the past. Jake had left because he was furious at Logan for doing his grandfather’s bidding by bedding Cici just so he couldn’t have her. He’d said he was tired of the way the Claibornes always thought they could manipulate other peoples’ lives.

Logan had tried to explain why he’d acted as he had to Jake at the time. “Grandpère said the family couldn’t afford another marriage like our parents’. One of us had to do the smart thing. He knew you’d probably go the whole nine yards, including marriage if you slept with her, so he told me to make love to her. To save you, Jake,” he’d said.

“What are you, his puppet? Cici doesn’t deserve that. She’s not like Mother. You’re not like Daddy. Funny, I used to think that was a good thing. I used to admire you. You always worked so hard, made such good grades. Now, I just want out of this family.”

Jake’s fist had slammed into Logan’s jaw on his way out. Logan hadn’t seen him since.

Suddenly the wrenching pain of the past held Logan’s heart in a death grip. He’d thrown Cici away, blindly, stupidly. He’d told himself he’d done it for Jake. For his grandfather. For the family. And for Cici even, because she would have been unhappy in his uptight conservative world. He’d convinced himself he’d done the right thing.

Damn it, he’d been so sure of himself back then.

But could he say he’d acted honorably toward all concerned? Toward Cici?

Logan shut his eyes. Then he pressed his eyelids and sucked in a long breath.


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