“No, I ran away from you. From how you made me feel, which was cheap and horrible, if that gives you any satisfaction. Talk about jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It didn’t take me long to discover there are worse monsters than you. And by the way, you don’t know anything about how I lived…although I imagine you think I lived wild and loose.”

“What’ll it take for you to go away again?”

“Maybe it’s time you learned that I have as much right to be here as you do.”

“Your uncle doesn’t want you any more than he ever did. I don’t see him opening his damn door. Not even for Noonoon’s gumbo.”

“He will. He’s just being stubborn.” Her lips curved. “Like a lot of other people…you,” she taunted.

“He and I are nothing alike.”

“You say you don’t want me. I don’t think you mean that any more than he does. I think I’m messing things up for you, maybe…maybe because you don’t feel like you pretend—indifferent to me.”

Logan’s head jerked back as if she’d slapped him. “Shut up,” he whispered even as he stepped thrillingly closer.

“Okay. Then why did you kiss me? And why are you looking at my lips like you want to do it again?”

“Stop it.”

“No. Because maybe I can’t stop what I feel any more than you can.”

“I can stop it, all right.”

“Right.” She laughed. “You’re the guy with all the willpower. You probably skip lunch to jog. So, why’d you leave your fancy office and track me here?”

“I came here to work out a compromise.”

“No. You didn’t. You want what you want. The problem is maybe so do I. And maybe I’ve finally learned to go after what I want.”

There was a startled cry from the swamp. They both turned as a blue heron flapped its wide, gray wings and took flight, skimming low just above the brown water.

“You know what I think, Logan,” she said, turning back to him and finding his eyes glued to her face. “I think we’ve both caught the same fever. If you’re so sure you’re immune to me, kiss me again. Prove I’m wrong about you. About us.”

“There is no us.”

“So, prove it, big guy. Kiss me.”

When he took a step backward, probably to seek the safety of his car, she reached out and grabbed his tie. Reeling him close, she stepped into his arms.

Stiffening, he stood up straighter. For a second, she was sure he’d push her away and barricade himself in that tank of a car. But he just stood there on the edge of surrender, his heart pounding so hard she could feel it.

She pulled him even closer. “Kiss me.”

In the next instant his breath was hot and ragged against her forehead.

“I don’t want to hurt you again,” he whispered even as she tightened her hold on his tie. “I’m no good for you.”

And with those words, which were better than an apology somehow, the worst of her anger and hurt that she’d been harboring for so long melted a little.

Gently, she let go of his tie and touched his thick, dark hair, combing her fingers through it, mussing it a little further. Then she reached up and, framing his face with her hands, she placed her lips gently against his throat.

“I’ve always liked your hair,” she said. “It’s one thing about you that’s always a mess.”

He smiled. “You don’t know the half of it.”

In the next instant his hard mouth was on hers, tasting sweeter than honey and burning hotter than a flame, but then it always had, even if that was a cliché. His mouth sent fire dancing through her veins as she melted against him.

The kiss was unlike the last one because he wasn’t fighting it, and neither was she. Their lips joined them. Every part of him belonged to her in that primeval man-woman way that felt wilder and more dangerous than the swamp.

His hungry mouth still locked on hers, he tightened his hold on her, pulling her even closer, his muscular arms binding her to him. Not that she had any desire to run from his kisses or the possession of his powerful embrace. No, like a fool, like before when she’d been a naive kid, she wanted to stay in his arms forever and do all the naughty, forbidden things they’d done before. Was she a fool or what? Yes. Where Logan Claiborne was concerned, the answer was all too obvious.

Unfortunately, Uncle Bos must’ve been spying on them all along. Suspecting her of having less than wise instincts where Logan Claiborne was concerned, Bos banged his door open and hollered down to her.

“If you come by for a visit with me, girl, I’m up here waitin’. The door’s wide open. But it won’t be for long unless you get rid of him, yes. If you miss the chance, the next time you see me I might be laying up in my coffin.”

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