“I can’t take all the credit. You paid for everything. You’ve been letting him come into the office.”

“You showed me that I was neglecting him…just like I neglected Noelle. And he’s actually proved himself useful at the office. He knows so much about the company’s past, and he’s very wise. Hopefully, because of you, I’ll be more attentive to him in the future.”

“Like having breakfast with him in the morning?”

“Like that.”

She smiled. “He loves you so much.”

“I love him, too. I owe him everything.”

“Funny, how easy it is to forget those we love sometimes.”

“Not so funny.” He pressed her hand tightly and then brought it to his lips. He kissed her fingertips warmly. “I’ve run roughshod over the people I’ve loved,” he whispered. “It’s time I stopped.”

“You know what they say about good intentions, Claiborne.”

“If you can wear that demure blue dress, maybe I can change a feather or two of my plumage.”

“It’s not so easy, you know.”

“You forget how determined I can be when I want something.”

Their food and beer came, and he withdrew his hand. She ordered more crackers. For a while their food and drink proved so distracting, they didn’t talk. Then he asked her to dance, and being held in his arms was even more distracting than chatting or holding hands or eating had been.

He pulled her close, his voice in her ear as they swirled faster than the elderly dancers. Tonight there was no one to stop them from dancing with each other as long as they liked, so they remained on the dance floor for nearly an hour. She was breathless when he led her back to their table.

“It’s late, and I’m very tired,” she said. “Would you drive me home?”

“You trust me to drive?”

“Yes, but that’s all I trust you to do.”

“For now,” he said in a husky tone.

Nine

It was a balmy spring morning with water splashing in the nearby fountain and bees buzzing in the azalea blossoms.

Logan was being the perfect gentleman, not that he was to be trusted, Cici reminded herself. Still, she was enjoying his company as well as Pierre’s way more than she wanted to as she sipped steaming chicory coffee and nibbled at her scrambled eggs and spicy Chaurice sausage on the wide veranda.

A swamp girl could get used to the high life. Yes, she felt totally at ease with them and their elegant surroundings as the old man proceeded to extract each detail concerning the failed merger from his grandson.

“This is a temporary setback,” Pierre said. “A challenge. Mitchell will come around.”

“I don’t think so, and frankly… I’m not sure…” Logan’s sudden grin revealed a flash of straight white teeth.

Underneath the tablecloth, his leg was nudging Cici’s much too flirtatiously, causing her to gasp.

“You’ll see. If you ask me, Mitchell was a bit too happy to sink the deal,” Pierre murmured before turning to include Cici. “But we’re boring you.”

The warm heat of Logan’s calf grazing hers had her blushing now.

“Not at all,” she murmured, scooting further away from Logan.

Pierre patted her hand. “Nevertheless, I insist we talk about the wonderful party you gave me. I had the time of my life—seeing friends I hadn’t seen in months.”

“I’m glad,” she said.

“Me, too,” Logan agreed.

When breakfast was over, Logan walked her to the library before he had to leave for the city.

“You make him happy,” he said. “I like that. Still, I’d like to be selfish and borrow you so I could enjoy you myself for a while. I do have a library in New Orleans, every bit as good as this one.”

“I’d love to see it sometime,” she murmured carelessly as she lifted a book off a table.

Gently he took the book from her and closed it. Setting it down, he said, “Why not today? Cici, I think we’ve wasted enough time…and all because I was such a fool.”

“You were far worse than that.”

“You’re right. And I am sorry. And I know I’m probably rushing you, but like I said, I’m selfish. I’d really like for you to follow me back this morning. I lay awake all night thinking about this. We need to get to know each other better.”

“I grew up here, remember. I’ve known you most of my life.”

“I mean…know each other as adults. I have a huge house. You could stay in it…write in my library. I’d be away all day, but in the evening we could go out together. We could talk, dance… We could see where this thing between us is going.”

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