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Authors: Rochelle Alers

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BOOK: Summer Magic
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He stopped to feed and walk Domino before he returned to the house to begin the preparation of his celebrated sauce. Caryn sat on a tall stool and watched carefully as he pureed several cans of crushed tomatoes in a blender before transferring them to a large Dutch oven. He added precisely measured portions of cider vinegar, firmly packed brown sugar, molasses, dried mustard, cloves of garlic, onion, ginger, and Worcestershire sauce. Hours later, the aroma of the simmering sauce still lingered when Steven and Stephanie Shelton arrived with their cleaning supplies, both commenting about how wonderful the kitchen smelled.

Caryn and Logan shared a late lunch of a mixed green salad and a fruit platter before she retreated to the family room to read and Logan to the second-floor library to begin his preliminary proposal for the Raleigh zoning board. It was after eight when he walked into the family room and asked if she was willing to watch several videos he had found in the Crawfords’ library.

“I will if it’s not blood and gore.”

“I suppose that means no Rambo,” he teased.

“And no war films, please.”

“How about Schwarzenegger?”

Her eyes brightened.
“The Terminator?

He nodded, visually admiring the delicate dewiness of her skin under the flattering glow of a table lamp. “I found both
Terminators, True Lies
, and
Eraser
. It appears either Marcia or Terrence really like Arnold.”

Unfolding her legs, Caryn closed the book and stood up. “It’s Marcia,” she confirmed.

He gave her the smile she’d come to look for. She hadn’t meant to call him a tight-ass, but she had to admit that
their initial meeting was anything but amicable. It was now their third day together, and she found the more time she spent with him the more time she wanted to spend with him.

He was easy to talk to and a remarkable listener. She was beginning to feel comfortable sharing the house with him because his presence offered her a sense of security she would not have had if she’d been alone.

Logan placed the videos on a side table. “You make the selection while I make the popcorn.”

She picked up one and read the jacket cover. “This one.”

He took the video from her, smiling. “Good.
True Lies
would have been my choice.”

Caryn placed the video atop the VCR, turned on the television, then sat down and waited for Logan to return with the promised popcorn. She tried imagining sitting at home on a rainy night watching a movie with Tom and failed miserably. Their home had been professionally decorated expressly for entertaining purposes. Tom always seemed to grow an extra inch whenever someone commented on the elegance of the carefully chosen furnishings. And she had walked away from it all—the opulence and her very successful husband. She hadn’t realized she was a prized, caged bird until after she’d attained her freedom.

Logan returned, cradling a large bowl of hot buttered popcorn and a couple of bottles of chilled seltzer. He handed her the bowl of popcorn and sat the seltzers down on matching coasters on the coffee table. He popped the video in the VCR, dimmed a lamp, then sat down on the love seat next to her.

He sat close, too close, and despite the heat coming from his large body Caryn shivered slightly. The setting was very intimate—a darkened space, both sitting close enough where their shoulders and thighs touched; and every time Logan reached over to pick up kernels of popcorn his left hand grazed her breast. She smoothly placed
the bowl on his lap, eliminating the need for him to touch her upper body.

Forty-five minutes into the film, she shifted, tucked her legs under her body, and rested her head on Logan’s solid shoulder. He placed the bowl of popcorn on the table with the half-empty bottles of seltzer, curved an arm around her shoulders, and pulled her closer.

Logan glanced down at Caryn when he felt her head slide off his shoulder, coming to rest on his chest. He moved slightly, and her head jerked up before sliding back down again in his cushioning embrace.

His gaze was fixed on her face instead of the images on the television screen. He wanted to push her away because her presence brought back memories, memories he wanted to forget. He didn’t want to want her; all he wanted was to share the house, a platonic relationship with Caryn Edwards, and nothing else, but he knew that was impossible.

He’d enjoyed spending the day with her and sharing in their cooking tasks. He’d found her beautiful, charming, and intelligent. And he was aware of the wall she’d erected to keep him at a distance whenever he attempted to touch or kiss her. He had tasted her mouth, and despite his silent denouncement wanted much more than a kiss. Pressing his lips to her hair, he closed his eyes and reveled in the sweet warmth emanating from her body.

His mind was a jumble of confusion as he tried assessing his emotions. For the first time in his adult life, he felt a soothing, gentle peace. With Caryn he could be who he was—Logan Prescott. He wasn’t the adopted son of Jace and Maeve; he wasn’t an equal partner with his father in J. Prescott and Associates; he wasn’t the only African-American who captained the Yale Rowing Team to a national championship; and he wasn’t the man who was cuckolded by his fiancée and best man a week before his impending marriage. With Caryn Edwards all he had to be was
himself!

He picked up the remote, stopped the video, and turned
off the television. Caryn groaned softly when he gathered her in his arms to pick her up. She stirred once, then settled back to sleep as he carried her up the staircase to her bedroom. A smile creased his face when he realized how light she felt in his arms. There was even less of her than he’d first imagined.

Walking into her bedroom, he placed her gently on the bed and covered her with a lightweight blanket folded at the foot. Leaning over, he kissed her mouth, careful not to apply too much pressure. He stood, motionless, staring down at her until he forced himself to turn off the bedside lamp, leave the room, and close the door behind him.

It had taken only seconds for him to realize spending the entire day with Caryn had changed him forever. She may not have looked anything like the women he usually found himself attracted to, but she was the woman he wanted.

Chapter Ten

Caryn woke up totally disoriented, her body layered with moisture. Pushing herself into a sitting position, she rested her back against the headboard. The diffused light coming in through the windows offered no indication of the hour. She reached for her watch on the bedside table and peered closely at the numbers on the face. It wasn’t quite five o’clock.

Running a hand over her damp hair, she closed her eyes, trying to remember why she had gone to bed fully dressed. An image of Arnold Schwarzenegger riding a horse into an elevator while a frightened couple clung to each other in a corner crowded her blurry memory. Moaning softly, she massaged her temples. She had fallen asleep while viewing the movie, and Logan had carried her up to bed.

Biting down on her lower lip, she halted a curving smile, recalling the solid hardness of his body when she’d snuggled against him. Logan was the complete opposite of Tom. Her ex-husband tended to admonish her whenever she offered him any affection out of bed.

A quick frown formed between her eyes when she
thought of Tom. He’d been in her thoughts more times in the past three days than he had been in a long time. She’d told Logan about him, but only what she wanted him to know. There were details about her married life she would never disclose to anyone.

She straightened, turned on the lamp, and reached for her journal. The only way she could exorcise Thomas Duff was to write down her troubling thoughts. Uncapping the pen, she wrote the date:

July fourth—Independence Day …
It’s been a while since I’ve written an entry about Tom. His name came up yesterday when Logan asked why I’d left him. I told him the truth—what I’ve told everyone about his need to control my life. But what I really wanted to do was reveal all of the sordid little details about my marriage that I’ve never disclosed to anyone. How could I tell about his constant verbal abuse?
About how he belittled me when he claimed I could never satisfy him sexually. What I failed to understand was that he managed to satisfy me while I never could satisfy him
.
I still find it hard to believe that the first year of our marriage was truly wonderful. Tom was the first man I’d fallen in love with and the first man who had taken my innocence. I will continue to ask myself over and over—what happened to change him? Us?
I can still recall the day he walked into the B&B in Arlington, requested a room, and his presence literally took my breath away. At seventeen I thought he was the most handsome, brilliant man to walk the earth. It hadn’t mattered he was ten years older than I—all I knew was I’d found my Prince Charming
.
But Prince Charming turned into a monster. In my naiveté and blinded by an all-consuming need to please him, I set myself up to become a willing victim to all the abuse he heaped upon me. After a while I realized I could retaliate verbally, but readily acknowledged I would never survive the physical abuse
.
The day he pushed me and I fell headfirst down the staircase and lay bleeding I knew it was over. If only I had left him the day before, I wouldn’t be writing these words, because I hadn’t known at the time a new life was growing inside my womb. I’d made the ultimate sacrifice—my baby’s life for my own survival
.

Closing her eyes, she blinked back hot tears. She held her breath, hoping not to break down. She was unsuccessful. The tears fell and she cried without making a sound. She lay on the bed, waiting for the calm which always followed the sobbing.

She was getting better. It had been long time since she’d cried. She knew she had healed, even though the invisible scars would never fade completely.

Gripping the pen, she continued:

Today is Independence Day, and I claim my independence. This will be the last time I’ll write Tom’s name in my journal. I am free of him and will only remain free if I don’t allow him in my consciousness. I have divorced him not once but twice
.
I’m looking forward to this Fourth of July. There are plans for big doings on Marble Island, and I intend to enjoy every event
.

Caryn met Logan coming up the stairs, carrying a tray as she was descending.

He frowned at her. “You ruined my surprise, Sleeping Beauty. I was going to bring you breakfast in bed.”

She flashed him a smile that spoke volumes. It said she was pleased to see him. “I can always go back to bed if you want me to.”

“That’s all right. Now that you’re up, we can eat on the porch together.” She lifted the white towel covering the tray, trying to see what he had prepared for her, but he pulled it out of her reach. “No cheating.”

“You’re a tease, Logan.”

He went completely still, staring down at her upturned face.
No, you’re the tease, Caryn
, he shouted back silently. He hadn’t slept more than two hours throughout the night because everything about her excited him until all he wanted was to spend every minute with her. He wanted to lie down beside her and hold her until her soothing, quiet spirit fused with his, offering him the peace he’d sought since fleeing Raleigh.

His gaze telegraphed her damp curly hair floating around her face, over her shoulders, down her back, then shifted to her eyes. They were slightly swollen, yet appeared lighter and more luminous with the added color to her face. His eyes widened at the same time as he felt a familiar stirring in his groin. Caryn was clothed in a T-shirt and a pair of shorts, but she could’ve been totally nude as the first night he’d observed her sleeping on her bed in the full moonlight. The same hot, rushing surge of desire gripped him until he couldn’t move.

The realization hit him hard. He wanted her! Not just for a slaking of his passions, but for more. He wanted to protect and take care of her. He wanted to erase the bitter memories of the man who felt the need to dominate her instead of worshipping her. He didn’t know why, but he wanted to take her to his bed and love her until both dissolved in a renewal baptism of reverent trust.

He wanted all of that and more, even though he’d continued to tell himself that he didn’t want to fall in love with her. Not because he did not want to, but because he could not. Not yet. It had been only two weeks since Nina’s deception, and he knew it would take a lot more time for him to learn to trust a woman again.

He flashed a half-smile. “Aren’t you going to let me surprise you?”

Caryn wrinkled her pert nose. “I’m not much for surprises.”

She didn’t like surprises, but she would have been shocked if she’d known the thoughts swirling in his head and not permitting him a restful night’s sleep.

Turning, Logan made his way down the staircase, she followed, and the scent of her clean, scented body cloaked him in a cloud of silent seduction. She pushed open the screen door, holding it while he placed the tray on the round wicker table.

Leaning over, he kissed the top of her damp head. “Wait for me. I’ll be right back.”

Instead of sitting, Caryn walked over to a corner of the porch and stared out at the panoramic scene before her. The healing beauty of Marble Island was bewitching. It was as if she had come to a mystical place accessible only to a privileged few who knew the magic word to gain entrance. The rain had passed over the island, leaving in its wake a shockingly blue cloudless sky, a brilliant sun, and a calm ocean breeze. Occasional shrieks from circling gulls competed with the lulling sound of the incoming tide. The weather had cooperated, setting the stage for what was sure to become a spirited Fourth of July celebration.

After breakfast she planned to cut up the fresh fruits she’d purchased and make a watermelon fruit boat, then bake the breads she’d prepared the day before. Her lips parted in a smile when she anticipated sampling Logan’s barbecued spareribs. He’d dropped a minute portion of the thick red sauce on her forefinger for her to taste. She’d savored the sweet, piquant sensation of mild spices lingering on her palate, wanting more.

The distinctive sound of the screen door opening garnered her attention, and she turned to find Logan balancing another tray. She strolled forward and watched him set the table with a carafe of steaming coffee, a platter of hot waffles covered with a mixture of fresh berries and toasted pecans, links of broiled sausage, and a pitcher of squeezed orange juice.

“How wonderful. It’s looks delicious, Logan.”

He nodded. “Thanks. Please sit down and eat before the waffles get cold.” Pulling out a chair, he seated her, then shifted another chair and sat down beside her.

They ate in silence, staring out at the beach as a gentle breeze cooled the air and countered the buildup of heat from the hot summer sun. The silence was comfortable, neither seeking to initiate conversation, each enjoying the food, companionship, and the setting.

Logan drained his second cup of coffee, his gaze fixed on Caryn’s delicate profile as she touched the corners of her mouth with a napkin. “Are you going for a walk?”

Her head came around slowly, a smile crinkling her eyes. “Yes.”

He leaned closer. “Would you mind company?”

Caryn went completely still, her gaze fused with his. Their faces were only inches apart, close enough for her to feel the warmth of his moist breath on her cheek. She photographed his face with the large jet-black eyes, high cheekbones, lean shaven jaw, strong chin, narrow bridge of his straight nose, and the fullness of his masculine lower lip. The sable-brown flesh covering his face was smooth, appearing almost poreless, and radiated excellent health. Her gaze lingered on his face because she didn’t trust herself to venture lower and examine his broad chest covered with a tank top or his long, strong legs revealed by a pair of walking shorts.

Her smooth forehead furrowed. What was it about Logan Prescott that drew her to him against her will? What had he done to elicit a desire she hadn’t felt in years?

Could she afford to take a chance and lower the barriers she’d erected not to permit a man in her life? Could she have a summer dalliance with this man and walk away unscathed?

Why not?
the silent voice reminded her. It wasn’t as if she was looking for anything beyond a physical liaison. She was old enough and certainly mature enough to offer a man her body for sexual gratification without demanding or wanting more. And she doubted whether Logan would want more.

“I’d love company.” Her voice was soft and hauntingly
hypnotic. She rose to her feet at the same time Logan pulled her chair away from the table.

Reaching for her hand, he led her down the steps and several hundred feet to the beach. They walked hand-in-hand without talking. They met other couples, young and old, who were also walking leisurely along the beach. Everyone nodded, exchanging smiles before continuing their journey.

Caryn and Logan walked the mile and a half to the center of the business district, then turned and retraced their steps. He waited for the return trip to release her hand and curve his arm around her waist, prompting her to do likewise. She smiled up at him, he returning it, and she was astonished at the sense of fulfillment settling into her being.

They would complete a three-mile walk in a little more than an hour without exchanging a single word, and both realized what they felt and were beginning to feel for the other did not necessitate conversation, because words could not begin to explain the invisible thread binding them together.

They returned to the house, cleared the table of the remains of their breakfast, then retreated to the kitchen to complete the preparation of their dishes for the afternoon festivities.

The smell of food and the sound of voices raised in merriment was apparent even before the large tent set up in an open field behind the small white steepled church came into view.

Logan maneuvered into an area set aside for parking alongside an assortment of vehicles ranging in style from four-wheel-drive, minivans, luxury sedans, to racy two-seater models.

Circling the Wrangler, he reached up and swung Caryn down to the grassy area. “I’ll carry all of the food into the tent.”

She opened her mouth to tell him she wasn’t helpless, but decided against it. It had taken her all of three days to come to the realization that Logan Prescott was raised in the true sense of old-fashioned Southern manners. Men took care of women, protected them, and saw to their every need. It had been a long time since she’d been pampered, not since she was a little girl and her father granted her every wish. She had nothing to lose and everything to gain for the month he remained on Marble Island. It wouldn’t make up for the abuse she had endured during her marriage, but it would help erase some of the scars.

Elaine Shelton saw her and waved. Crossing the field, Caryn stepped into the coolness of the large tent. A loudspeaker attached to a flagpole blared out patriotic songs, and she recognized a Sousa march.

Elaine smiled, extending both hands. “I’m so glad you and your young man decided to attend.”

Caryn grasped her hands, returning the smile. “We wouldn’t have have missed this for anything.”

Glancing around the large tent, she noticed a half-dozen long tables and benches set with disposable plates, cups, and utensils with decorative red, white, and blue logos. At the far end of the tent were several tables crowded with foodstuffs contributed by the residents and visitors on Marble Island.

“The men have set up three or four gas grills to keep meats warm, and there are a few portable freezer chests for the perishable dishes,” Elaine explained.

“I just took my breads out of the oven so they’ll stay warm for a while. But I think my watermelon fruit boat should be refrigerated. Logan will need the grill for his contribution.”

Elaine’s blue gaze shifted when she spotted Logan carrying a large aluminum tray with his spareribs. “You’re a lucky woman.”

Caryn stared at Elaine Shelton, a perplexed expression on her face. “Pardon me.”

BOOK: Summer Magic
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