He was hoping tonight, somehow, that she’d do something so outrageous Grandpère would come to his senses and Logan would once again be able to assume control of his own grandfather and family again.

Logan ushered Alicia, who looked beautiful in a long backless, gold gown inside the mansion.

She stopped and glanced up at the swirling staircase and crystal chandeliers that were garlanded with fresh yellow roses. “Why, darling, your old home is even lovelier than I imagined.”

Frowning because he had Cici to thank for Alicia’s compliment, his gaze swept the tall vases on mantels and polished tables that overflowed with the same yellow roses as well.

“Yes. Thanks to Cici,” he said.

“Talented woman.”

No, dangerous.

“It reminds me of the parties my mother used to throw,” Logan said. Ironically, in trying to prove her worth, his mother had destroyed it.

Those parties had stopped abruptly at his parents’ deaths when the Claibornes had found themselves mired in debt and on the brink of financial ruin due to his mother and father. Still, he remembered a younger Cici standing outside on the gallery, peeking through the windows, her round dark eyes awed and made hungry by the splendor of it all.

Grandp#232;re was seated in the parlor holding court next to a big table stacked high with birthday presents. A dozen older women had pulled their chairs around him and were all vying for his attention. The old man appeared fit. He seemed to be having the time of his life when he looked up and saw Logan just beyond his admirers’ blonde heads.

The corners of the old man’s thin lips tilted upward in what appeared to be the beginnings of a smile.

Logan rushed Alicia over to meet his grandfather.

“Who is this beautiful lady?” Pierre demanded, his eyes sparkling at Alicia. When Logan introduced them, Pierre’s smile warmed. A few more moments of conversation had him beaming.

“He’s enjoying your company immensely. Since Grandmère died, I’m afraid the dear old fella’s been lonely. And since his recent stroke, even lonelier,” Logan whispered a little later. “Stay here and keep him happy a few minutes longer, while I get you something to drink, why don’t you?”

“My pleasure,” Alicia replied in a low voice. “I’m having fun, too. You favor him, you know.”

“Chardonnay as usual?”

When she nodded in that agreeable way he found so calming, he released her elbow, nudging her a little closer to his grandfather.

Logan was on his way to the bar that had been set up in the main salon, when an uproar in the ballroom caught his attention and he turned.

At the sound of Cici’s merry laughter coupled with the deeper notes of Jake’s deep baritone, Logan abruptly pivoted, changing course. But when he saw Cici in a shimmering metallic sheath, her voluptuous body wrapped tightly in Jake’s arms, Logan froze just outside the doorway. For a long moment Logan couldn’t take his eyes off his tall, leanly muscular brother and Cici.

As the couple moved to the heavy beat of the music, he couldn’t stop watching them.

Was he over-reacting or was she going after his brother now?

Whatever her motivation, Logan, who’d long regretted his past actions to both her and Jake and wanted reconciliation with his twin, suddenly felt like strangling him.

“That’s some outfit.” A man’s voice from inside the ballroom said.

“Who are you kidding? You and every other man are looking at her legs,” a woman said.

Logan clenched his fists.

“He’s been gone nine years.”

“The prodigal grandson. What made him come back?”

“Need you ask?” the man said. “She’s hot.”

“You should have seen how happy Pierre was when Jake showed up. The old man wept. So did Jake. It was so touching.”

Hell.

Logan’s angry gaze flicked from Cici to his dark, broad-shouldered brother, who looked too tough and strong to ever cry. Still, their grandfather’s sentimentality must have affected him. Or maybe it was hard for Jake to see how much older and frailer Grandpère was.

Suddenly Logan wondered if Cici might be right in her handling of Grandpère. He was clearly thrilled about his party. Maybe the old man needed more independence and responsibility and activities rather than less. Logan had thought the old man required quiet and rest and more medical attention, but Grandpère acted like he was bored with quiet and rest. Instead of retiring to an assisted living facility, he seemed to want his active life back. He’d said he wanted to return to the office. Was that really what he should do?

“Has she interviewed you for her book?” the man standing in front of Logan asked his companion.

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