After that, except for the pulse that knocked painfully in her throat, his empty house was silent and still.
Eight hours later the gray afternoon sky threatened rain as Logan knelt before Noelle’s white marble, above-ground tomb in Lafayette Cemetery No. 1.
Carefully he laid a single red rose on the gleaming white step before the marble angel that bore a profound likeness to Noelle.
“I’m sorry I made you so unhappy,” he whispered, hoping she could hear him. “I wanted to marry you so much. I was so sure I was doing the right thing. But I lied to you. And to myself. And I hurt you…just as much as I hurt Cici and our son. Just as much.”
There was a low sigh, and he started. Looking up, he saw it was only the wind in the trees.
How could he have been so horribly wrong about everything when he’d been so sure he was right? He’d hurt so many people he’d thought he’d loved.
Last night when Cici had told him about their son, the pain in her voice had pierced his heart like a knife. If he’d helped her back then, maybe their son would be alive.
He’d driven around all morning, thinking about Cici and all that he’d put her through. He loved her, but after the torment he’d caused her, he knew he didn’t deserve her.
He loved her. Maybe he’d always loved her. Too bad he hadn’t known it until it was too late.
He had to let her go. For once in his life he wouldn’t go after what he selfishly wanted, just because he wanted it.
He wasn’t worthy of her. She was better off without him.
Slowly he arose, and as he walked out of the cemetery he thought of the bleak, empty years ahead and wondered how he would ever find the courage to face a future that didn’t include Cici Bellefleur. Would he ever be able to live with what he’d done to her?
Cici was wearing dark glasses to hide her red eyes as she stepped out of the elevator on Logan’s floor late that afternoon just as Mitchell Butler rushed from the offices of Claiborne Energy.
“You!” he snapped, bristling upon seeing her.
“Good afternoon,” she whispered as she tried to move past him.
He grabbed her arm and then realizing he shouldn’t have done so, dropped it. “If you’re smart, young lady, you’ll stay away from him. He’s marrying my daughter, Alicia.”
“Don’t say I didn’t try to warn you last night. He’s buying my shipyard and marrying my daughter—to seal the bargain, so to speak. So if you think he wants to have anything to do with you, you’re crazy.”
“If you think I’ll take your word for that, Mr. Butler, you’re the one who’s crazy! I know you probably feel pretty desperate about the merger. You’d do or say anything…”
Hatred and wrath seemed to spew from his eyes even as his jaw went slack. Not wishing to prolong their unpleasant exchange, Cici ran past him into Mrs. Dilling’s outer office.
“Is your boss here?” she asked, turning to see if Mr. Butler had followed her and feeling relieved when she saw he hadn’t.
“Sorry,” the woman said as she looked up from her computer.
“Where is he?”
“Do you have an appointment… Miss Bellefleur, is it?”
Cici nodded. “When…when do you expect him?”
“Not until next week. Do you wish to make an appointment?”
Without bothering to answer her, Cici walked to Logan’s door and threw it open. Like his house, his office was empty and felt cold and dead without him in it.
“He’ll be back next week,” Mrs. Dillings said from behind her. “I’d be happy to schedule—”
“That won’t be necessary,” Cici said in a dull, defeated tone. “He’s made it very clear he doesn’t really want to see me.”
The next morning an article in the Times-Picayune caused quite a stir over breakfast at Belle Rose as the early morning sun slanted across the emerald-green lawn and turned the columns of Belle Rose to pillars of gold.
“Mitchell Butler says right here that Claiborne Energy is buying Butler Shipyard and that Logan’s marrying his daughter,” Pierre said. “I thought you and he… I mean I thought that you went to New Orleans to be with Logan.”
Cici didn’t trust Butler, so she wasn’t so sure that Mitchell’s account was entirely accurate. Still, since what he said upset Pierre, her hands tensed as she tried to frame an answer.
“I’m afraid that’s all over,” she said. “I’m going on assignment to Egypt. A feature story about…”
“But you can’t leave,” Pierre said from his wicker chair on the gallery. “What about our tours? And your book? Our research? Our interviews? Logan?”