Because life could get too scary.

She didn’t feel like telling him that her hands shook every time she even looked at her camera case. “I needed a rest from it, that’s all. It’s called burnout.”

“So, what did you come back here for?” he asked, a wealth of suspicion in his gravely tone.

Again, his narrow gaze was much too keen and hostile for her liking.

“I’m writing another book about Louisiana.”

“That’s not what I asked you, girl, and you know it. You’d be a fool if you came back because of him.”

When she ignored that, too, he said, his tone caustic now, “How long you be staying?”

“It all depends.”

“Not on Claiborne I hope. Don’t you know that all he’ll ever want from a girl with your background is to do what he did before, to get in your pants and then dump you?”

“People can change…sometimes….”

“Not so much. And not him. I know him and all his kin. And none of ’em have ever been our friend.”

“Okay. We haven’t so much as spoken in nine years. Can’t we please…”

“You two aren’t much different than you were back then. Oh, I know you think you’re a professional and all because you write and took all them pictures that made you famous for a day or two. But you didn’t go to college like he did. And he didn’t just go to an ordinary college. He went back East. Ivy League,” he said sneeringly. “He’s rich and powerful and conservative as hell. You’re not. He lives by a set of rules that you could never cotton to, no.”

“Gumbo’s ready,” she said, ignoring him still.

He studied her and then looked out the window in exasperation. “I don’t blame you for not listenin’. There was too many times in the past, when I ignored you, too.”

“I didn’t come here to fight with you about Logan.”

“Do you still love him?”

She swallowed tightly and didn’t answer. But his eyes bored into her, and she was afraid that he saw the confusion she was determined to hide from him.

“Don’t threaten him or hurt him to protect me from being a fool,” she whispered.

“So that’s how it is,” he muttered. He spit toward a corner in disgust.

“You’re wrong. I don’t love him.”

She bit her lips and was silent, and he made no promises to behave. But at least, he made no threats.

“After we eat some of this here gumbo, you want to take a spin with me in the swamp,” he said at last. “Maybe you could help me with some traps I need to check before it gets dark.”

For Uncle Bos that was as close as he was likely to come to offering to smoke the peace pipe.

“There’s nothing I’d like more.”

“Weird thoughts come to you when you get sick and find yourself stuck in a hospital bed,” he said.

“Like what?”

“Regrets. I—I wasn’t never much of an uncle to you.”

“But you took me in. Where would I be if you hadn’t? I wouldn’t have anybody.”

“Maybe you’d be better off. You wouldn’t have known Claiborne.”

“At least you’ve always been as hard on yourself as you were on me.” She paused. “Just for the record, I’m glad you opened your door today.”

“I resented you back then. I was through with females. I didn’t think I needed any little girl messing around in my bachelor life, such that it was.”

“I know.”

“You’d be better off to leave this place, to leave me and Claiborne forever.”

“Probably. But you and me—we don’t always do what we should, now do we?”

Five

When Logan arrived at Belle Rose, and a valet parking attendant in a crisp white shirt jumped up from the steps and rushed to open Alicia’s door, he wasn’t surprised by the hordes. Nor was he surprised by the twinkling lights that turned the grounds into a magical fairy land or the least bit amazed when he entered the mansion with Alicia on his arm and found the house blazing with light and filled to the rafters with lively swamp pop, Cici’s favorite brand of music.

All week Mrs. Dillings had been paying extravagant bills from caterers and florists and making healthy advances to various bands. If he’d raised the slightest objection to the cost of an item, his grandfather had called him, demanding that Cici, who was having the time of her life arranging everything, have her way.

Logan had done nothing but lose ground as far as Cici was concerned, and he still didn’t know what she was up to. She just seemed to be moving in and taking command of his grandfather and Belle Rose, rewriting their past. In short, she was fast conquering territories that had long been his.

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