“Funny, I’m having the same problem,” he said, his deep voice husky. “I shouldn’t have followed you out here.”

Her senses catapulted in alarm. Sexual chemistry seemed to ignite the air between them. To hide her nervousness she slid her hand back and forth along the slick black railing and laughed softly. “I forget. Why exactly are we sleeping apart tonight?”

“Old-fashioned courtship. So that I can prove I don’t want you just for sex.”

“Oh, right.” So, why were his warm, gleaming eyes glued so hungrily to her breasts?

“Now we know why old-fashioned courtships didn’t sanction sleepovers,” she said. “Hey, maybe I’ve always been too open to risk. Maybe I don’t have to know you’re perfect and will treat me perfectly forever and ever.”

“You’re sure about that when I still don’t know how I see this thing between us long-term,” he said.

“Maybe I want to lie cuddled in your arms all night too much to resist sharing your bed.”

He sighed. “I wouldn’t say no. But then, be honest. Ask yourself, once you’re in my bed, do you really think you can trust me to stop at cuddling.”

“Or me? I just said cuddling to make myself sound ladylike…and…er…demure.”

His gaze seared her. Even though she felt his swift movement toward her through the darkness, she hissed in a breath when his big hands wrapped her close, his heat instantly warming every sensual cell in her body.

Fool. Fool.

She couldn’t help herself. She felt small and feminine and very desirable in his arms. Like a marshmallow over a fire, she burned on the outside and turned to mush on the inside.

His lips eager, he kissed her brow, her mouth. When he finally let her go, her heart was thudding furiously in her throat, and her entire being was ablaze.

“Cici, I don’t know what I felt nine years ago, but whatever it was, it damn sure knocked me off course. I’d been dating Noelle when I came down to Belle Rose to see Grandpère and Jake that summer. I’d even decided to marry her. Not that I’d asked her or that I was even seeing her exclusively. Still, I’d made up my mind.”

“You were good at that. Stubborn to the core once you set your course.”

“So, when I saw you in your pirogue that first day and realized you were all grown up, I never imagined that you and I could ever be seriously involved…even after Grandpère convinced me I had to save Jake from you.” He broke off.

“I understand. There was no place for me in your life.”

“I was slightly angry that you weren’t that cute little bratty girl who followed me around in the swamp anymore, but there you were with the sunlight in your hair. A sex goddess of the swamp. Irresistible.”

“Little girls do have a way of growing up.”

“Yes. Do they ever. I couldn’t take my eyes off you. When Grandpère convinced me to save Jake, I soon became so obsessed with you myself, I no longer knew what I was doing. Not that I could admit it.”

Logan bent his head and kissed her softly. “After we made love, I was wild to have you again. And again. Then you told me you were in love with me, and I realized maybe I’d gone too far.”

“Because I was naive.”

“I… I was so determined to go out and conquer the world. My grandfather was convinced I had to have someone like Noelle at my side. He had my life all planned out. Since the family was in trouble, I went along with whatever he said. I didn’t think I had the freedom to choose.”

“And you had Noelle waiting in the wings.”

“I was stupid where she was concerned. She was never more than an illusion. I should have behaved more responsibly toward both of you.”

Logan was caressing her with both hands, slowly running his callused fingers down her arms and hips, causing her to shiver.

“Do we have to rehash all this…when it feel so good just to be together?”

“I want you to know how it was with me…and Noelle. I married her on the rebound. I was still crazy about you. Maybe I told myself in the beginning that I seduced you to keep Jake from having you, but that couldn’t have been all there was to it. Because of my feelings for you, I was messed up for years, maybe until I saw you naked in the garçonnière and wanted you so fiercely. I never felt a tenth for her what I felt for you that day. I sure as hell never loved her. Looking back I see that I worked all the time, probably to avoid being home alone with her and having to face the truth. As I told you before, I’m afraid I neglected her and made her very unhappy. She told me how miserable I’d made her shortly before she died. She tried so hard to be a good wife, too. She was a lovely woman. She didn’t deserve to be slighted any more than you did. I’ll always regret how I treated her. Not that it fixes anything. She’s dead. There’s no going back.”

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