“Well,” she said, smiling triumphantly up at Logan. “See, he does too want me. And maybe, just maybe I’m right about you wanting me just a little bit, too, yes?”

Logan pulled her against him and held her close so that she was in no doubt about the hardness or size of his erection. “Maybe a little, but just like always, the old cuss’s timing’s lousy.”

With a shaky laugh, she raised her hand and smoothed his sensual lips which were still hot with a gentle fingertip.

“See you,” she promised huskily.

“Cici, I don’t want to hurt you. This isn’t going to work.”

Why not, because I come from this hovel on stilts half sunk in rot and muck and you come from your beautiful, charmed Belle Rose? Will I never, ever be good enough?

Not that she spoke such truths aloud. She wasn’t in the mood for a quarrel or a reality check. No, she had much more appealing ideas about how to spend her time with Logan Claiborne.

“You really do need to go,” he chided. “I never considered your Uncle Bos a patient man.”

She smiled, causing him to grin, too. “You have a beautiful mouth,” she said. “Lots of straight, white teeth.”

“The better to eat you with.”

“Naughty boy.”

His eyes glinted as they moved over her face and then down her T-shirt. Tipping her chin with a fingertip, he gently nicked her nose with his teeth. “Naughty girl.”

“You do have a point.” Fluffing her pompoms, she swished her hips, just to get his mind on her ass where it belonged. Turning, she left him.

Feeling his heated gaze burning into her spine, she put more swing into her hips and really began to strut.

Not once did she look back or say another word, not even a sultry goodbye.

He chuckled out loud.

It was amazing how well they could get along if they stopped talking.

The inside of her uncle’s cabin was as dark and musty as ever, maybe mustier. Imagining all sorts of terrible molds, Cici itched to open all the windows and take a scrub brush soaked in chlorine or lemon juice and scour every surface.

“You knocking on Logan Claiborne’s doors, too? Bringing him gumbo? Trying to win his heart since he be single and the most eligible bachelor in Louisiana again?” Uncle Bos demanded gloomily. “He’s not for you, you know.”

His expression surly, he was sitting at his rusty dinette set playing with a knife he’d carved out of a razor-sharp alligator tooth while she heated his gumbo over a single flame. His sleeves were rolled so high she could see the beginnings of his many tattoos, which were angry swirls of dragons, snakes and spiders.

“No, you might say he’s been knocking on mine.”

He slammed a beer bottle onto the table and violently yanked the top off another. “Well, it would be a mistake to trust him. I hear he’s got a new rich girlfriend.”

She swallowed against the painful thickening in her suddenly dry throat.

“Name of Alicia Butler. Her daddy owns a bunch of shipyards. Banks, too. I seen her with him on television.”

Instead of meeting her uncle’s eyes that were much too watchful, she stared at his crucifix earring. “I know. He told me about her already.”

He slammed his beer down. “I hear she’s as beautiful and sweet and high class as his first wife, Noelle, who sure was a pretty thing.”

Glancing away, Cici swallowed and then took a quick breath. She felt trapped suddenly and wished she was anywhere but here.

“Not that his wife ever smiled or looked happy the few times I seen her.” He kicked back his chair so that he was now sprawled at a disrespectful angle.

“So, how have you been feeling, Uncle Bos?”

All four feet of his chair slammed the floor again. “I can’t complain. A little tired since the chemo, but the doctors say they got it all. But then they probably always say that, the bastards.”

“Maybe they’re telling you the truth.”

“Maybe,” he agreed gloomily. “Tommy and Noonoon, they showed me all those pictures you took. I tacked a couple up in the front room.”

“Yes, I saw them.”

“I like the one where the vulture’s about to eat those starving little girls in the desert.”

“A lot of people like that one.”

Everybody except her. She’d won an award for the picture, but it haunted her dreams even though she’d been able to save the girls afterwards. Still, the photo always reminded her that there were too many little girls who wouldn’t be saved.

“I’ve quit taking pictures for a while.”

“That’s too bad,” he said. “Why would you stop, when you’re so good at it?”

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