The last person Logan wanted to see right now was Melanie Barnes, especially dressed as she was in a short white tennis skirt that showed off her gorgeous legs and brought back memories of bouncing around the tennis courts with her, amused by her competitive streak and awed by her talent. He had spent years running from the young woman gazing up at him with that mingled look of concern and love shining in her bright blue eyes, and with the memory of Lynn’s cruel death haunting him, his defenses were battered down. The last twenty-four hours had been brutal, answering questions by the cops, their guests leaving the island and heading back to Charleston wondering which one had betrayed them in the vilest of ways. With Hunter staying on the island and Ryder returning to his loft apartment downtown, he was the only one at the house today, his uncle having taken off on one of his private retreats. They were close, the four of them, but led their own lives and each of them needed to deal with Lynn’s death in their own way.
With his emotions a hair’s breadth away from exploding in any of several directions, he knew he wouldn’t be able to keep Melanie at the arm’s distance he needed her to be for long. It had been eight years since he confronted her peeping Thomasina act that gave her a front row seat of a sampling of his sexual preferences and he saw her for the first time as a sexy woman instead of the cute, appealing girl next door who had a crush on him. Refusing to give in to the unexpected surge of fiery lust that had flamed to life inside him that afternoon and had continued to simmer every time he saw her again, he’d worked hard to keep their special relationship in its proper place. He had no business fantasizing about her, even though his thoughts were the one thing he hadn’t been able to control, and he wouldn’t risk losing what they had or diminishing that light shining in those exquisite eyes by introducing her to his dominate sexual preferences.
If that made him a selfish bastard, so be it. That’s the price he would have to pay for keeping her the innocent girl he’d grown to cherish and had taken as his responsibility to protect the moment he lifted her up off the street, gazed into those tear-filled eyes and brushed off her scraped knee.
“It doesn’t take news long to travel, does it?” he finally answered her, shrugging off her small hand that burned against his skin and ignoring the flash of hurt in her eyes. “I’m not good company right now, Mel. We’ll catch up later. I’ll call you.”
“Nonsense,” she replied with prompt assurance, her eyes snapping, her hands going to her hips in a stubborn stance that didn’t bode well for the outcome of their reunion this time around. “You’ve always been there for me, now let me return the favor. Sit down and talk to me. Please.”
Aggressive need crawled under his skin, the urge to lash out, drive away the image of Lynn’s lifeless body lying in the sand in any way he could wouldn’t be denied for long. He needed her gone.
“You haven’t changed, have you?” he snapped, harsher than he meant to. “I don’t want to talk. I don’t want company. Now, be a good girl and run along home.”
Shit. He knew right away that was the wrong thing to say. When she got her dander up she dug in her heels each and every time. Those eyes snapped blue fire as she took one combative step forward, went on her toes and got in his face. His dick went hard the moment she spoke in a furious, hurt whisper.
“I. Am. Not. A. Girl. And I haven’t been for a very long time.”
“Be very careful, kitten, that you don’t tread where you won’t follow,” he tried warning her again. “You saw firsthand what I like to do with women. You’re way past due for a spanking.”
It wasn’t her low, taunting laugh that ended up fracturing his control, but the immediate flush of arousal that spread over her pale face and lit her eyes followed by a challenge he was in no mood to ignore. “I think you’re afraid I will follow, afraid you’ll have to act on that threat at last.”
“Let’s see, shall we?”