“I will. I promise.” Cradling the gift, her eyes had feasted on the majestic frozen-in-time scene amidst the white confetti. The blood-red rose nearly glowed against the black background, as pretend snowflakes swirled. It was the rose the Phantom had intended to give Christine at her ultimate performance, but then dropped on the rooftop when he discovered the woman he thought he possessed had fallen for another man. From there, the epic emotional battle ensued. She shivered again.

Soon she would have the gift from her father back. Although, she still wasn’t sure whether Logan would turn out to be the heroic viscount Raoul or, like Trevor, the Phantom.

Streetlights became more obscure. Snow began to fall. She slowed her car. She was definitely out in the suburbs—the rich suburbs.

Every half-mile offered up a new house of galactic proportions. Other driveways led back into the woods, some gated, leaving the imagination to wonder what splendors lay hidden there.

Hitting the break, she paused before a driveway exactly like the three before it, with a black gate and pavement that disappeared into the wooded lot. The gate stood open, beckoning her. She blinked, checking the address. Gold-plated numerals on one of two stone pillars read 12957. This was it. She gulped and steered into the entrance.

Thank goodness for the lights lining the pavement. Without them she’d get lost back here. As she followed the dips and turns, she caught sight of a colossal house. It looked like an Aspen ski resort. Stone and wood came together in elegant construction imparting an aged feel despite the huge modern windows. She counted six chimneys sprouting from the roofline. Yellow light poured out through tall windows, illuminating the forest and dormant landscaping around the house.

She caught a gasp. “He lives in a castle.”

Why am I surprised?

Nervous, she pulled her car under the covered portico on the right. Snowflakes caught the glow of exterior sconces reminiscent of horse-and-carriage gas lights. The tiny flakes drifted around her like glitter, lending a fantastical feel to the scene.

I am so far out of my league .

She felt painfully displaced, like she needed permission to tread the flagstone path leading to the front entrance.

Two enormous windows flanked the front door. Through them she saw lights blinking on his cinder-block-sized Stone Security Elite System, alerting him to her arrival. Her heartbeat calmed a little. His home might be the most impenetrable fortress she could find. In spite of all the windows. Any thief or intruder would see evidence of his security system and run for the hills. Or so she hoped.

As she walked up the wide stone steps, she stood before his doorbell and paused. This was too much to take in all at once.

Suddenly, Logan emerged from an interior hallway. Her pulse kicked up again.

A glass of red wine cradled in one hand, he moved toward the door with confident strides. He wore his striped work shirt un-tucked, sleeves rolled back on his forearms. Well-fitted jeans clasped muscular thighs and bunched slightly at his feet. Her gaze lingered there.

The intimacy of seeing his bare feet reminded her of the night they spent together. She knew every taut, tanned muscle under his clothes. Her lips tingled, remembering how brazen she’d been, running her tongue down the grooves of his six-pack abs, and later molding her hands around his spectacular biceps that strained as he’d drove deep inside her.

A hot breath escaped her and clouded in her face. Pulling herself back to cold reality, she blamed pregnancy hormones for the primal pull of attraction that made him irresistible, the ultimate masculine provider. She blushed. We don’t live in the ice ages. I don’t need a man to take care of my basic needs . Her body had a different opinion.

Logan d swung open his door. His dazzling smile greeted her with potent impact. “Perfect timing.”

Several snarky comments came to mind, but she couldn’t push them past her lips. “For what?”

Then her mind went numb, all attention focused on the warm, delicious scents wafting from inside. Her stomach grumbled loudly in the silence of falling snow.

He tugged her inside. “I promised you dinner. It’ll be ready soon. But first, the tour.”

She sent him a questioning look. “I want you to know the layout of my place so you can go where you want, as you please. I want you to be comfortable here. With me.”

Words escaped her as he set his wine down on the glass-top table in the foyer, unzipped her coat and slid it down her arms. A slow undressing that sent tingles across her shoulders. He hung her coat in the entryway closet, set her purse on the table, picked up his glass and motioned toward the kitchen. “I have a plate of hors d’oeuvres to hold us over. Half-an-hour until the chicken’s done, fifteen minutes for the steaks to broil.”

At the promise of food, she followed at his heels. “Thank you. I’m starved.”

“I thought you might be.” She walked into his gourmet kitchen of glass tile and stainless-steel everything. “Had to make sure it wasn’t caviar or sushi or steak tartare, my usual go-to appetizers. I read that the bacteria in raw food can be dangerous for pregnant women.”

It was? She cringed, realizing how much she didn’t know about being pregnant. Thank goodness one of them had a clue. For the first time, she acknowledged how much easier it was with a partner, someone she could count on, going through this new and exciting and terrifying experience alongside her. A warm rush of gratitude filled her heart. “I appreciate that.”

The appetizer tray on his granite countertop looked like a work of art. Creamy dip nestled in the center of a huge saucer ringed with colorful vegetables and rolled cold-cuts.

“This looks amazing.” Without waiting for an invitation like a polite person, she dove into the delectable tray.

He ran a hand through his hair, leaving him with a rumpled sexy look. “I can’t take credit for that. I picked up the tray from a caterer.”

“Is the dinner that smells so good take-out?”

“Nope.”

“No caterer or personal chef?”

“All me, sunshine.” He grinned. “Believe it or not, a guy gets sick of pizza and chicken wings. That’s when he learns how to make the good stuff.”

“Impressive,” she said around a mouthful of food.

After five solid minutes of stuffing her face, she paused and scrounged up the decency to put back that sixth turkey-and-cream-cheese wheel. “You said something about a tour?”

“This way.” He motioned her to follow him.

The lure of food had blinded her to all else. Hunger sated for the moment, she glanced around the open floor plan, a cavernous space that combined the kitchen, dining room and great room. A giant fireplace of natural stone held the focal point in the great room. Subtle textures and muted colors filled in the gaps to offer a deceptively simple, rustic experience.


Tags: Vanessa Waltz Billionaire Bodyguard Suspense
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