Smiling, she set her empty coffee cup in the sink. “I guess I’ll go out to the garçonnière now. Catch up on my beauty rest…”
“Would you like to go dancing first?” he asked. “Maybe at Rousseau’s. That’s not so far. And we wouldn’t have to stay long.”
He was smiling, and his eyes were sparkling. She was tired; she should be wary. But being wary was not in her nature.
“Maybe I wouldn’t mind a little dancing,” she said archly. “But only if we go in my car…and you let me drive…with the top down.”
“I like a woman who likes to be in charge once in a while,” he whispered.
“Well, don’t you dare try to be a backseat driver.”
His white teeth flashed as he put his arm around her and led her outside onto the gallery and then down to her Miata. Then he stopped and quickly wrote his grandfather a note telling him he’d found Cici and that they were driving to the well-known dance hall. After placing the note in the kitchen, they raced out to her car.
She put the top down and said, “Buckle your seat belt.”
Once behind the wheel, she drove fast, maybe to scare him a little or maybe because that’s the way she always drove. Not that he acted the least bit scared.
As the humid darkness flew by, he talked about how for years his life had been nothing but business. He told her that running Claiborne Energy was so challenging he often worked seventy-hour weeks, sometimes even more.
“I guess I thought I had to work like that because my father let Grandpère down, and maybe because Jake had walked out because of me. I think I thought I had a lot to make up for.”
“Or maybe you were simply ambitious.”
Petrochemical plants along the river lit up the darkness from time to time, their smokestacks belching noxious fumes, but other stretches beside the levee were edged thickly with trees. They rushed past a stand of willows that streamed eerily in the breeze.
The moon was high and golden, but she paid it no attention. She was too busy watching the road and listening to him. When she saw the sign for Rousseau’s, the wildly popular dance hall since the 1930s that was located on a tiny piece of sinking land beside the bayou, she pulled over.
“You were married,” she said, after they found a picnic table on the plywood porch outside the dance hall, because his marriage interested her more than his work did. “Surely, even someone as ambitious as you didn’t work all the time.”
“But I did. I was never home.”
“I’m sure she understood,” Cici lied, hoping for more as she nibbled a cracker and watched a pair of elderly dancers through the windows as they slowly glided past them.
When Logan ordered beer and crawfish tails and an-douille, a spicy, smoked sausage, she wondered how a man could eat so much and remain in such good shape.
“I guess I told myself she did…at the time,” he said.
“I have to confess I’ve read about you and Noelle through the years. I poured over every glossy picture of you and her in front of your Italianate mansion in the Garden District I could find. Even when I was overseas I kept up on the Internet. I was still curious to know how the glamorous Claibornes lived. About how you lived.”
“Magazine articles are as airbrushed as those photographs on their covers. They leave out a lot.”
“Your life with Noelle sounded like a fairy tale,” she said, turning the conversation back to what she was curious about.
“Yes. It was supposed to. We were much admired.” His deep voice sounded full of pain. “Image was important to me then.”
“But no longer—after last night in my bed,” she said.
“I think you’ve made that point before.” His eyes met hers. “Don’t sell yourself short. “Still, I’ve always had a knack for getting what I want, and back then, I was greedy for success.” He hesitated. “But, be careful what you wish for, as they say. Even success can be dangerous.”
She could tell him a thing or two about danger. Like tonight. What was she doing here with him? Listening to him? Believing him? Almost forgiving him?
She shifted on her seat. “So why did you come looking for me tonight?”
“You mean besides the fact that you are a sexual goddess.”
“You are, you know?”
“You’re spectacular. And not just in bed.” His hand reached across the table and folded hers inside his fingers, causing a trill of warm sensation to flood her.
“Cici, I received many calls today, thanking me for the wonderful party I threw my grandfather. Apparently, he had the time of his life all because of you. Thank you for making him so happy.”