Why in the hell had he turned his phone off?
“Mr. Jake and Miss Cici and Mr. Bos, they be in the swamp in Mr. Bos’s boat looking for him.”
“I’ll be there as fast as I can,” Logan said. Slamming the phone down, he jumped to his feet.
Dressing hurriedly he tore out of his bedroom, down the stairs, taking them two at a time. Then he was outside his mansion, storming blindly to his Lexus.
A cool, cloaking mist was seeping up from the swamp, shrouding everything. There was no wind, no movement of any kind.
Cici felt cramped, hemmed in.
“Pierre?” she called, her heart hammering as the swirls of fog wiped out familiar landmarks.
She hated the damp this evening, hated the way everything was so still and gave off the dank odor of rotting vegetation. Uneasiness swept her. Pierre wasn’t strong. She was no longer sure where she was on the plantation, so how could she possibly help Pierre? Would he venture this far into the swamp?
The last of the sunlight was almost gone, but, at least, the evening was still fairly warm. So, maybe he wouldn’t be too cold despite the damp. Still, the thought of him walking in this mist, especially after it grew dark, filled her with dread.
Their search party had split up hours ago, so Cici was alone as she picked her way through the dense forest made up of blooming dogwood and tupelo gum as well as cypress and oak at the northern edge of the Claiborne property.
“Pierre?” Her voice sounded soft and fearful even to her own ears, muffled as it was by the mist.
Off to the right she heard a twig pop as if stepped on by a heavy boot, and she jumped.
“Pierre?” Her voice cracked. “Is that you?” Please, God, let it be Pierre.
There was a long silence. Then another twig broke, this one nearer than the first.
“Pierre!” she cried.
“No, it’s me, Cici,” Logan said, his voice deep and cold.
“Logan…” Relief swamped her.
She almost ran to him before she remembered he’d deliberately rejected her, just like he had before. Freezing, she stood her ground even though the mere sound of his hard, strained voice made her feel as if chains that had bound her heart ever since he’d walked out on her were falling away.
“Where are you?” she said.
“Stay where you are,” he commanded. She heard crunching footsteps. Then he stepped out of the fog, but no joy of recognition or love lit his tense, blue eyes.
She drew a deep breath in an attempt to fortify herself.
“I’m sorry about Pierre,” she whispered. “This is all my fault. He hasn’t been the same since I told him I was leaving.”
“I tried to call you.”
“But my phone was turned off.” His bleak eyes held no light as he stared through her. “Like always. I’m never there when you need me.”
She felt the final death of something in his low tone and couldn’t bring herself to reply.
“We’ll find him,” Logan said but in a heavy, dull voice that didn’t cheer her. “This isn’t the first time he’s pulled a stunt like this. He always just reappears, almost as if by magic, from his wanderings. Usually…he turns up…right before dark. I think the old fellow has a healthy respect for the dark, or maybe he’s being considerate of us. He’s not that far gone that he doesn’t know exactly what he’s doing.”
“He wants his way, and I can’t blame him.”
“Still, it’s one of the reasons I wanted to move him to New Orleans. His little disappearances always scare everybody half to death—me included.”
She swallowed. “I’m sorry that I didn’t consider this possibility. Noonoon had told me about the other times.”
“When will you leave?”
“In a week.”
“So, you have plenty of time to prepare and pack,” he said indifferently. Then he turned. “Maybe we should head back to the house just to make sure he hasn’t come home already. Like I said, he doesn’t like being out after dark much.”
Sure enough, everybody, including Pierre and Jake, was on the porch drinking hot tea and laughing when they returned.
“Can I pour you a cup, Mr. Logan, yes?” Noonoon asked, a smile in her voice now that the crisis was over, and she saw Logan with Cici.
“I’m afraid I have to get back to New Orleans,” Logan said curtly as he shook his head. Turning on his heel, he strode off into the darkness in the direction of his car.
Everybody began chattering anew, and Pierre seemed very happy to be home safely and to find himself the center of attention after his misadventure.
All Cici could hear were Logan’s footsteps dying away on the gravel path.