A year of work, hopes and dreams were down the drain. His future with Alicia was over as well. So, what?

Logan ran his hands through his hair. Curiously, he was too tired to care. Maybe tomorrow, the loss of it all would hit him. but then maybe not. All day he’d felt different, curiously free of his seething ambition. Things that always mattered to him more than anything, hadn’t gripped him.

Someone knocked on the door of his outer office, and he heard Mrs. Dillings greet whomever it was much too cheerfully for it to be so late in the day. And on a Sunday.

She was amazing. She’d come in early. Did she never tire?

Then his own intercom buzzed. “It’s your brother,” she said in a calm tone, as if Jake’s reappearance at Claiborne Energy at such a disastrous moment on a Sunday evening after an absence of nine years was a matter of course.

Forgetting the merger, Logan sprang to his feet, dashed to the door and threw it open just as Jake was striding toward it. When his twin’s hard gaze met his, Logan stiffened, but only for a second.

Relaxing, Logan grinned. “You’re not going to hit me this time, are you?”

Jake smiled as he thrust his big hand toward him. Without hesitation Logan shook it heartily.

“Welcome home. It’s been too long,” he said.

“Much too long. What can I say? We Claibornes are a stubborn bunch. Unforgiving to a fault.”

“It’s genetic,” Logan said. “I was high-handed and completely out of line.”

“To say the least. Still, I stayed away too long. I guess we both take after the old man.”

“In any case, I’m sorry for manipulating your life. And Cici’s.”

“Hey, I guess I should have been used to it. But what about Cici?” Jake’s smile died. “After the way you two danced together, I can’t help wondering if she’s forgiven you, too?”

“Not yet, but maybe I’m working on it.” Logan paused. “Care to sit down?”

“Another time. This will just take a moment.” Jake was smiling, but he seemed tense.

Logan shut the door.

“The reason I came by,” Jake said, “or one of the reasons is that I know you’ve been calling Alicia last night and again today.” He hesitated. “Because I was with her when you did, you see. So, I know she hasn’t returned your calls.”

“Is she okay?”

“She’s fine. But she says it’s over between you two, or rather that it never was. And I wanted to know if that is true.”

Logan inhaled. “If she says so.”

“What about you? Would you care if she started seeing someone else?”

“Meaning you, I suppose.”

“She wants nothing to do with me. She says it’s too soon. And that I’m the last man she’d ever date because I remind her too much of you.”

“Sorry. I’m afraid I behaved badly toward her at the party.”

“I explained about you and Cici.”

“I should have explained things myself, but I was in the middle of them and didn’t understand them too well myself.”

“You never did. You loved Cici, you know. You were just too damn stubborn or arrogant to admit it.”

“Well, I wish Alicia every happiness. You will tell her that if you see her or talk to her before I do, won’t you?”

“Right now, she’s not taking my calls.”

Jake soon turned their conversation to a safer topic, their grandfather’s health, and the next ten minutes were spent pleasantly. When they parted, they shook hands again and wished each other well.

It would take a while to mend the rift of years and renew their former emotional closeness, Logan thought as he turned off the lights so he could leave, too. But, at least they’d made a small start.

Cici was eating a sandwich for supper at her kitchen counter while she watched the news on her television. The breakup of the merger between Butler Shipyards and Claiborne Energy was such big news, it was on every channel.

She was grabbing her purse on her way out to T-Bos’s Bar when her cell rang.

“I want to see you,” Logan said, his voice so deep and dark, the energy in it charged her.

“I saw the news about the merger. Sounds like you had a rough day. I’m sorry.”

“Are you busy tonight?”

“What am I? Your consolation prize.”

“Hell, I don’t know.”

“What kind of answer is that?”

“What kind of question is that?”

All day she’d thought about his kisses and lovemaking until she’d felt he’d branded her as his own. And he didn’t even know why he was calling her.

“I was on my way out when you called,” she said.

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