Logan, Hunter and Ryder Lemaster enjoy the privacy of their family home on Magnolia Island, South Carolina – even more so since they outfitted the grounds and Victorian mansion as their own, private BDSM retreat. A few close and trusted friends are invited to join them for the occasional party weekend, but after finding one of them murdered after a night of pleasure with the three cousins, the Lemasters are forced to search for her killer among their closest friends.
Not all is as it seems on the idyllic island. Logan, Hunter and Ryder each succumb to that special woman who could complete him and when Melanie, Chloe and Jada each catch the attention of the killer, the cousins know they won’t rest until they discover who betrayed them all. As the murderer is revealed and secrets on Magnolia Island unearthed, the Lemaster men and their women are forced to come to grips with the betrayals surrounding them.
Publisher’s Note: This is the complete collection of BJ Wane’s Murder on Magnolia Island trilogy, comprised of the following books:
Logan drew Melanie under his protective wing the moment he rescued her from a fall off her bike. At Melanie’s persuasive persistence, they grow closer as adults, and so does a killer. When her life is threatened, Logan knows he will stop at nothing to protect her and make her his in every way.
After rescuing a woman from the storm-tossed waters surrounding his family island, Hunter grew suspicious of Chloe’s motive for being out in the inclement weather. When the truth comes out, he agrees to let Chloe accompany him back to Magnolia so she can assist in their continued search for a murderer. A threat against Chloe proves they are on to something and convinces Hunter to keep her close, for her safety and his pleasure.
An opportunity arises for Jada to further her career by investigating the murder case of a friend of fellow cop, Ryder Lemaster, on the sly. Ryder has been struggling against his attraction to Jada because he’s almost certain the IT tech doesn’t possess a submissive streak. It takes seeing another man come on to her and a risk to her life to open his eyes to what has been right before him all along.
Magnolia Island, South Carolina
The burnt orange glow of early dawn cast shadows on the rolling waves as they cascaded onto the shore before the sun’s rising cast a glow of amber light to illuminate the pale, nude body lying face down in the wet sand. It took another few minutes for the sun’s rays to change to a vibrant yellow radiance, shedding light on the dark red blood matting the young woman’s blonde hair to the back of her head, each incoming splash rocking her lifeless, prone body and taking some of her life’s essence back with the ebb tide. Lynn Baker would never see another dawn or feel the sun’s warmth again.
Six hours earlier………
Logan ascended the antebellum staircase of the Lemaster family Victorian home looking forward to finishing his thirty-fifth birthday celebration with his cousins, Ryder and Hunter. The weekend partying would be coming to an end in the morning when their ten guests would head back to Charleston, hopefully looking forward to the next time they hosted a few days of sexual fun and sun on their private island, Magnolia. During their early college days, their Uncle Jim had introduced the three of them to the safe, sane and consensual alternative sexual practices of BDSM to sow their wild oats, as he had put it, and he himself admitted to indulging in the dynamic in his younger days. To their surprise, they all enjoyed the different aspects of the lifestyle after discovering dominance came naturally to them. Over the years, they’d gained experience and garnered close friendships they tried not to take for granted.
Gaining the second floor of the three-story mansion, Logan picked up his step as he walked down the wide, wood-floored hall, ignoring the damp footprints he left on the paisley runner from checking the perimeter of the house, making sure all their guests were tucked inside for the night, either on their boats or in the house. Passing the green room, he heard the distinct sound of a paddle cracking against bare flesh followed by a low, feminine moan of either pain or arousal, or both. He figured that was Liz responding to her husband, Dan’s, ministrations. That room was a favorite of the married couple because of the padded bench that afforded Dan a nice platform to wield his instrument of choice on Liz’s delectable ass and their cruiser didn’t offer sleeping quarters.
He and his cousins always used the blue room for their ménages, and as Logan grasped the antique glass door knob, he heard Ryder and Hunter’s low murmurs and another soft, feminine cry following another loud, flesh smacking slap. He let himself in with a rush of expectancy, closing the door behind him with a click none of the three occupants on the bed took note of.
Amber glowing bedside lamps cast just enough light in the otherwise dark room for him to recognize Lynn’s blonde hair and reddened, lush ass.
“Bout time you showed up.” Ryder tossed him a wicked grin before he shifted, spread Lynn’s buttocks and sank his cock slowly inside her dark channel. A low moan from the young woman writhing between Ryder and Hunter’s cocks echoed in the room, his cousin’s low laughs telling Logan they were doing more teasing than fucking with their tandem thrusting in and out of her vagina and rectum.
“Not my fault it was my turn to do the final bed check.”
With anticipation humming through his veins, Logan stripped out of his clothes, wrapped his hand around his jutting cock and knelt on the bed. The welcome smile spreading across Lynn’s face, followed by the slow swipe of her damp tongue over her lips as she gazed upon his pulsing erection, produced tingles of pleasure up and down his shaft. Squeezing his girth to control the sudden, reflexive jerk, he took a moment to watch his cousins maneuver in and out of her slick body as she sat astride Hunter and leaned against his propped torso. Hunter’s latex covered cock glistened with the wet proof of her arousal, her bare folds hugging his shaft when he left his cock head buried inside her as Ryder thrust slow and deep with his well-lubed, covered erection. Logan loved the wet suctioning sound of her body accepting their surging thrusts and the view of pointed nipples and quivering stomach muscles.
“I was hoping you’d accept their request,” he told her, lifting his eyes to her face and that luscious mouth again as he reached out and squeezed one plump breast.
Hunter grunted as he slammed her hips back down on his cock when Ryder withdrew from her ass before he said to Logan, “Didn’t take much persuasion, just the mention of getting all three of us at once.”
“That right, baby?” Ignoring Hunter’s derisive tone, he cupped Lynn’s nape under her hair and brought her face up to meet his descending mouth. A regular player and guest, they had each enjoyed the blonde one on one in the past as well as together one other time.
“That’s right,” Lynn managed to say before he covered that teasing grin with his mouth. Pumping his cock, he delved between her lips to take possession of her tongue, stroking over and over before sucking on the appendage with his lips, much like he imagined her pussy sucking on Hunter’s cock.
A little whimper followed a full body shudder as the guys increased their thrusts, Ryder’s warning growl, “You better get on board quick,” forcing Logan to release that lush mouth before he wanted to.
“Ready to give me a little taste of your sugar, baby?”
Her breathy whisper blew across his seeping cock head as he rose. Gripping the brass bedpost as he stood on the bed, Logan lifted his right foot and braced it on the middle slat, widening his stance as he guided his cock into Lynn’s open mouth before releasing the bedpost to grip her hair behind her head. “Ah, fuck me, but you’re good at this,” he groaned when those lips wrapped around him and sucked him deep.
All talk ceased as the three of them took her orifices with deep, plunging thrusts, Ryder and Hunter picking up speed when she mewled around Logan’s cock with her sudden release, her tongue and lips voracious as she worked her mouth on him.
Keeping hold of the root of his erection so he didn’t feed her too much, he switched from shallow dips past her clinging, sucking lips to deeper, harder invasions. Swirling her tongue just under his crown, stroking that special spot that felt so fucking good, she tempted his control and forced his balls to tighten all too soon. “A little harder now,” Logan encouraged as the bed squeaked with their fucking, Ryder and Hunter’s heavy breathing and low groans accompanying their pumping hips. “Now Lynn.”
Swearing under his breath, he held her head still for his ejaculation, fucking her mouth just fast enough, just deep enough to shoot his orgasm straight down her convulsing throat. Young as she was, mid to late twenties he’d guess, her education in the Charleston clubs the past few years must have included some excellent tutoring in fellatio as she sucked Logan off like a pro. In the past few years, Lynn had joined several of their weekend gatherings and was lucky enough to be on their short list of people in the lifestyle they not only trusted, but liked well enough to open their private island and home to for two days of hedonistic pleasure. Her lush body and sassy temperament made her a favorite among the men.
Logan eased back as his cousins shifted down on the bed and cuddled her between them, Ryder eyeing him over one, softly rounded shoulder. “There’s plenty of room.”
Since he never spent the night sleeping with a woman, Logan knew Ryder wouldn’t be surprised when he shook his head as he slid off the bed. Stretching, he quirked a brow at the interest in Lynn’s blue eyes as she gazed upon his semi-erect state. “I’ll head up to my room, unless she keeps ogling me like that. You know us well enough to know a look like that will land you flat on your back for another go-around,” he warned her. When she winced, he said dryly, “That’s what I thought.”
“Night, cuz,” Hunter called out in sated drowsiness.
“Catch you in the morning.” Snatching up his clothes, he didn’t bother dressing as he let himself out.
Taking the back staircase hidden behind a narrow door at the end of the hall, Logan switched gears and went through his schedule of charters for the upcoming week in his head, ready to set aside play for the job he loved. Ten years in the Air Force, four of them at the flight academy, had gifted him with a love of flying and an outlet to chase away the demons from his stint in Iraq when they came knocking. The trust fund that came to him on his twenty-fifth birthday due to his parents’ sudden deaths right before he entered the eighth grade enabled Logan to do anything he wanted, and he wanted nothing more than to fly.
The third floor of private quarters for him, Ryder, Hunter and Jim was dark and quiet and a welcome respite from the day of vigorous activities and boisterous guests. Entering his room, he didn’t bother with lights, just fell face first across his bed. As it had been for as long as he could remember, the last image in his head before succumbing to sleep was that of an impish grin and cobalt blue eyes that had sucked him in the moment he set eyes on them over twenty years ago.
It seemed like Logan had just drifted to sleep when his phone buzzed him awake. Reaching with a blind hand toward the nightstand, he found the offending object and brought it to his ear. “This had better be damn important.”
“Get down to the south beach as fast as you can. And Logan, don’t rouse anyone.”
The catch in Hunter’s voice caught his attention and Logan sat up with a frown when he noticed the sun had just come up. No one awoke before noon when they had a weekend party going on, especially not he or his cousins. “What’s going on, Hunter?” Flinging back the covers, he snatched his discarded jeans off a chair.
“Shit, it’s bad, fucking bad, cuz. Lynn, we didn’t even know she left the bed let alone the house. God, Jim’s gonna freak.”
Heartbeat ramping into double time from the sheer distress in Hunter’s shaky voice, Logan snapped to get his attention to focus as he hobbled into his pants. “Why? What the fuck’s happened to her?”
“She’s dead, and… there’s Jim. Get your ass down here.”
He stared at his phone, Hunter’s revelation stunning him into momentary stillness, his throat closing with dread and remorse. Dead? Picturing Lynn’s pretty face lit with amusement and arousal, her flush as she climaxed, Logan couldn’t believe she was gone. Yanking a tee shirt over his head, he slid his feet into deck shoes, slipped downstairs and quietly out the back door through the kitchen. Jogging across the wide, green expanse of lawn surrounding the pool, he took the path into the woods that wound down to the south beach.
Damn it, he swore as the eerie silence of the morning added to his heightened nervousness. The family had left all but the five acres surrounding the plantation house of the almost hundred acre island untouched, and Jim had drilled safety rules into the three of them growing up. As boys, they had the run of the woods and beaches, but after the sudden deaths of their parents in a car accident the summer he and the twins turned thirteen, their Uncle Jim had become their guardian. Grief and unexpected responsibility had changed their indulgent uncle into an over-protective substitute father and he’d forbade them to wander away from the grounds without him or one of their grounds keepers along.
It wasn’t until about a year after Jim had taken up counseling veterans across the country five years ago and had begun spending less time in Charleston and on their island that the three of them had decided to outfit the house and gardens to host BDSM parties for their friends. Even though Jim rarely, if ever, indulged in the kinks he’d introduced them to, he had agreed to the minor renovations as long as they restricted their occasional guests to the center, cleared portion of the woods to avoid mishaps. That had worked until now.
The bright sun reflecting off the ocean hit Logan with blinding force as he emerged from the dense woods onto the sandy dunes. Jogging south, it took him several minutes before he made out a small group of people gathered several yards down the shoreline. Sprinting toward them, his breath caught when he saw the scantily clothed body sprawled in the damp sand, recognizing Lynn’s pale hair despite the mottled, dark splotch of congealed blood on the back of her head. Gritty sand coated her arms and legs, the thin skirt revealing enough of her buttocks to show she wore no panties under it. The mid-morning heat had already turned her fragile skin pink and blotchy. Seeing the young woman whose soft body she had so generously shared with them last night left in callous disregard to be carried out with the tide as if she weren’t worth more than the dead fish washed ashore seemed almost profane. A black wave of impotent anger filled Logan’s vision as he unwillingly recalled the mutilated body of the young Iraqi woman he had also been too late to save.
Gritting his teeth, Logan leveled an accusatory glare at his uncle and Ryder, unmindful of the sorrow etched on their faces. “Why are you standing around staring while she’s lying there? Fucking do something.”
“It’s a crime scene. We can’t do anything until backup arrives. You can’t possibly think we’d…” Ryder’s voice broke, his jade eyes snapping with ire before he looked away from him, his jaw clenched in frustration and anger.
Releasing a pent-up breath, Logan fisted his hands on his hips and glanced at Lynn again, wincing when he got a closer look at the gaping wound splitting the back of her head. As a cop, Ryder had been to plenty of crime scenes and was good at keeping his emotions under control, so he knew his cousin’s anguish was as genuine as his own. “Sorry. Jesus,” he breathed in sorrow and outrage. “Do you know what happened?”
“Someone struck her from behind.”
His uncle’s terse reply drew his eyes to Jim’s lined face, his brown eyes so much like Logan’s reflecting the bleak dejection he knew they were all feeling. “I can see that. But there’s only us and our friends on the island.”
“Exactly,” Hunter spoke up for the first time, leveling his direct gaze at Logan as he added, “And it wasn’t us.”
“No, it wasn’t us.”
Which meant one of their friends, someone they’ve known for years, someone they trusted enough to welcome into their private sanctuary, had betrayed them in the worst way possible. The burning question was, who?
As Logan and Hunter stood aside and let the Charleston police take over with Ryder doing all the talking, Jim Lemaster stood aside with Daryle and Tim, fellow veterans and friends who worked as caretakers on the island. He kept a close eye on his boys, aching for them and the pain of their loss they couldn’t hide. He didn’t know the young woman other than from the brief introduction the boys made yesterday when he arrived unannounced after forgetting they’d planned another party weekend. His schedule was so busy of late, he hadn’t kept up with them as much as he needed to.
It hurt to see them so devastated by yet another tragedy. His nephews were good men, honorable almost to a fault, and his pride and joy. He’d been devastated when he had lost his brothers and their wives so unexpectedly. Out for a night on the town while he’d stayed with the kids, a drunk sixteen-year-old had sped through a red light and none of them ever knew what hit them, including the young teen who would never make it to adulthood. At forty-three, he had been a confirmed bachelor and favorite uncle and had liked his life just the way it was. But he wouldn’t trade taking in the boys for anything in the world and there was nothing he wouldn’t do for them.
If only he could go back and change whatever had gone down last night that resulted in young Lynn’s death. But since he couldn’t, all he could do now was see that this injustice harmed no one else, especially his boys.
Shifting the hose to the next rose bush, this one wearing yellow blossoms, Melanie went up on her toes again, craning her neck to see through the hedge of yews separating the Barnes’ house from their neighbors, the Lemasters. With still no sign of Logan, she sighed in disappointment and worry before returning her attention to watering her parents’ bushes. With them spending the next six weeks touring Europe, she had been only too happy to check on the house and gardens for her mom and dad, grateful for any opportunity she got to see and speak to her childhood neighbor, friend and protector. After hearing the news this morning about the murder of a young woman on Magnolia Island, her anxiousness to see Logan again rose a notch.
She had been just six years old when he and his twin cousins, Ryder and Hunter moved in with their Uncle Jim and her infatuation with Logan began. Then again, what young girl wouldn’t become obsessed with the much older boy when he rushed into the street on their cul-de-sac as she toppled off her bike and scraped her knee?
Melanie would never forget gazing into those chocolate brown eyes through a sheen of tears, his soft voice and gentle hands as he helped her up making her chest feel funny. That odd sensation had morphed into a strange twisting near her heart when puberty hit, increasing to rapid palpitations as her teen years led her into young adulthood. Throughout the years, his cousins had tolerated her as the pesky little neighbor girl, but Logan had smiled at her with indulgence, watched out for her with a protective eye when she was playing, scolded her with soft concern when she became reckless.
As an only child, Melanie’s parents had doted on her and spoiled her with outrageous pampering. She’d had everything her little heart could desire, including their undivided attention, but she credited Logan’s influence with preventing her from becoming an intolerable brat, for keeping her grounded and aware life was not always so pleasant for others. Even though she’d been but a child that first summer, she’d been able to empathize with the grief-stricken boy and had tried to comfort him during his mourning as he had her when she hurt herself. His close relationship with Ryder, Hunter and their uncle had excluded Melanie, but over the years, she’d wormed her way into his life regardless, until now she couldn’t imagine life without him.
Bare feet sinking into the cool grass, Melanie shifted her aim and sprayed the row of lilac bushes, the summer heat and lack of rain leaving her parents’ gardens thirsty for moisture. The yards in this small, secluded corner of one of Charleston’s upscale housing areas were each close to a third of an acre and the residents all took pride in keeping them looking nice year-round. She had always enjoyed being outdoors, puttering with her mother in the gardens, listening or keeping an eye out for her neighbor. But it wasn’t until she’d returned home for the summer following her sophomore year of college that she’d realized how convenient the six-foot high hedges secluding Lemasters’ yard from theirs were.
That Saturday afternoon had opened Melanie’s eyes to more than the pleasures of voyeurism, it started a craving within her she spent the last eight years struggling with. With her parents out and not expected back until later that night, her thoughts had at once turned to Logan. It had been a very long four months since she’d seen him, and as she’d gotten in the habit of doing since moving into the college dorm two years prior, she’d gone to see if he also happened to be home visiting.
Eight years ago…
A high-pitched squeal followed by the sound of splashing drew her toward the hedge first, but it was the sight that met her eyes when she peeked through a bare section, parting the thick green branches, that glued her in place. Melanie had known for several years now she was in love with Logan, and as she passed her eighteenth year and allowed a date to get past first base, she knew what desire felt like and that she harbored a healthy dose for her sexy neighbor. But it wasn’t until she saw what the Lemaster cousins were up to that afternoon she experienced pure, unadulterated lust for the first time.
At twenty-seven, they were no longer the ‘boys’ next door but three men who looked as good in tight swim trunks as they did in butt hugging denim. She might want only Logan, but once childhood had been replaced with adolescent hormones, it hadn’t taken Melanie long to appreciate Hunter and Ryder as only a young girl on the cusp of womanhood could. The only facial resemblance between Logan and the twins was their thick, wavy mahogany hair, the three of them still sporting military cuts, at least for another few months when they would resign and return home for good. She hoped.
Logan’s dark eyes had captivated her first and kept her enthralled the past fourteen years, but she could appreciate Hunter’s dark blue gaze that held secrets some woman braver than she might unearth and Ryder’s jade eyes that reminded her of the Spanish moss that grew on the trees native to South Carolina. Those differences helped in telling them apart.
Melanie couldn’t discern eye color from her crouched position behind the shrubs, but had no trouble making out those wide shoulders, ripped abs and thickly muscled legs. Three naked women vied for points on one side of the pool net, their breasts bouncing with each jump to return the ball, their puckered nipples pointed at the guys on the other side as if begging for attention. Her young, naive heart lodged in her throat, robbing her of breath when Ryder beckoned one woman with a crook of his finger, and she obeyed without hesitation, then let him prop her over the pool edge and pepper her butt with a rapid volley of reddening slaps. Her own buttocks clenched in response to the humiliating scene, gripping her with wonder over what it would be like to be naked in front of others or treated thusly while others watched with avid interest.
She winced as she bit her tongue while trying to stifle a gasp of surprise at her response that might give away her position. Logan would be pissed if he knew she spied on them. His continued obstinance in thinking of her as a kid and determination to keep her as free of life’s cruelest realities as possible, were only two of the things barring Melanie from pushing their relationship beyond that of friends and old neighbors.
Right now, she didn’t care if he got pissed, nothing could budge her from this spot of voyeuristic pleasure even as she wondered how that woman could allow Ryder to treat her with such ignominious disregard. But the longer she watched, the more her body warmed, notably between her legs, and her initial pique on the other woman’s behalf changed to puzzling interest. The woman’s cheeks glistened bright red by the time Ryder lifted her back down into the pool, but the look she turned up to him shocked Melanie even more. The need etched on her face couldn’t be missed or disguised, leaving Melanie to ache in a way she had never felt before.
The other woman leaned into Ryder, flattening her breasts against his thick chest and drew a smile that softened his stern face, but he ignored her silent plea, spun her around and nudged her to resume her place on the women’s team. Melanie felt like berating him for putting her off even if she couldn’t understand how that painful, mortifying experience could turn her on. Surely her own tight nipples and now damp panties were because she was practically drooling at seeing Logan again and aching to press herself against all those hard, wet muscles. Yes, that had to be the reason for these new sensations that were commanding her attention.
The end of the game came a few minutes later, and they paired off as they waded out of the pool. Jealousy joined curiosity, vying for first place when Logan clasped the hand of the tall blonde with small, pert breasts and legs up to her frigging neck and led her up the pool steps. Melanie may be the only twenty-year-old virgin at her college, but she knew what went where and wasn’t sure if she wanted to watch Logan fuck another woman. She wasn’t stupid, knew he had affairs, most likely several of them, but knowing he had sex and watching him with someone when she’d give anything to have him rid her of her pesky virginity, were two different things.
Her mouth went dry when she spotted the blatant bulge pressing against his swimsuit. When Logan nudged her shoulders, the blonde bent over a chaise, bracing herself on her hands, facing the hedge Melanie hid behind. Her dangling breasts swayed as she shifted her hips, Logan’s grin one of pure delight as he responded to her tease with a resounding smack.
Melanie flinched from that loud crack but her body responded with another spate of moisture leaking into her panties. Shifting in her crouched position against the uncomfortable and embarrassing dampness, she couldn’t help but marvel at the obvious flush of excitement spreading over the woman’s face. Her eyes closed with the next round of smacks, white teeth biting down on her lower lip even as she lifted her hips to embrace the next downward swing of Logan’s strong arm and open palm.
Holy crap, she thought in awe, cupping her hand between her legs in a futile attempt to ease the ache that continued to build the longer she watched. She took a second to skim her gaze over to the other chaise where Hunter had wasted no time in mounting his date, his body jerking with hard thrusts into her uplifting hips, her legs wrapped in a tight clasp around his back as if she were desperate to keep him going. Ryder sat on the edge of the pool, his date standing waist deep in the water, her head bobbing up and down over his lap, but neither man nor his actions could hold her attention but a moment before her surveillance returned to Logan.
Melanie’s dry mouth filled with saliva as she gazed upon his naked erection and watched him glide his hand in a slow, tight caress up and down the thick length, his other hand now buried between the blonde’s legs. The way she whimpered as she thrust her crotch back against his marauding hand would have come across as lewd to Melanie before today, but seeing the pleasure reflected on Logan’s face changed everything. Despite her gnawing jealousy as he sheathed himself and replaced his hand with a single, deep plunge of his cock, she found the entire scene erotic, arousing her in a way she never dreamed possible.
She didn’t realize she’d been holding her breath until it released on a whoosh when Logan finally climaxed with a hoarse groan, his hands tightening on the woman’s hips when he slowly withdrew from her body, pulled up his swim trunks and went inside the house. Dropping to sit on the ground, Melanie ran her hands over her hot, perspiration slick face as she tried to make sense out of her conflicting emotions and aroused responses to what she just witnessed.
For the past few years, ever since she had admitted to herself Logan was the one and only man she wanted, she had shied away from wondering about him with other women. She compared every guy she went out with to him and found them lacking, thought of Logan’s mouth when they kissed her, Logan’s hands when she allowed them access under her clothes. Their touches had lit fuses but didn’t set off flames, piqued her interest for more but didn’t leave her craving. Watching her neighbors sexual play had excited her more than the sparks of pleasure she had given herself with her small pink, plastic phallus and left her to struggle with a myriad of clashing emotions.
“What do you think you’re doing, kitten?”
Logan’s irritated voice startled Melanie, sending her whipping around to gape in surprise as he stood towering over her. She blinked back tears thinking it seemed like forever since she had heard him call her that nickname in a voice laced with fond exasperation. Her heart rate jumped to double time as she scrambled to her feet and brushed off the seat of her white shorts. It took supreme effort on her part not to look down at his crotch, see if there was anything left over from his erection or if he had spent the entire, glorious hard-on inside the other woman. Her hands itched to reach out and run her fingers through the light sprinkling of brown curls across his pecs, follow the arrow of hair down his taut abs and dip her finger under the waistband of his swimsuit.
Setting aside what she wanted to do, Melanie concentrated on answering him. She knew better than to make up excuses so went with ribbing instead.
“What? No hug?”
Those dark eyes narrowed at her. “I’m more apt to turn you over my knee right now. I repeat, what do you think you’re doing?”
Her body’s quick response to that threat drew a giggle of nervous excitement despite his glower. “You’ve been threatening that reprisal for a long time.”
His low warning tone forced Melanie to quit baiting him. “Well, I intended to come over and visit if you were there, but when I saw you had company, I didn’t want to interrupt, not after I saw what you and your cousins were doing with your guests.”
If anything, her easy admittance only made Logan’s glower worse, his displeasure coming through loud and clear when he fisted his hands on his hips and growled in a low voice, “Be careful, kitten. One of these days it just might be you who feels the palm of my hand connecting with your ass. I only threaten for so long. Then I act. Now, go inside and I’ll come visit in a little while.”
That threat seemed to increase her lingering arousal and returned Melanie’s curiosity about the draw of a spanking for either party to the forefront, shoving aside her jealousy. “You always said mom and dad should’ve spanked me whenever I acted up, but I’m not a child anymore, Logan.”
“Then quit acting like one. I have a guest I need to get back to. Behave.”
Laughing, Melanie called to his retreating back, “You always say that too!” His broad, bare shoulders shook with a laugh, but he didn’t turn around as he left her yard.
Those images were seared into her brain, had left her shocked and dazed for weeks. Neither Melanie’s love nor her lust for Logan had abated over the past years despite the long months that often separated her from seeing or spending any time with him, and she knew, even after all this time, her body would sing in pleasure if he were to touch her. She wasn’t sure about the whole spanking thing, but refused to deny that part had aroused more than her curiosity.
As much as Melanie loved her job as a food critic for not only the Charleston paper but the freelance work she did for travel magazines and brochures rating restaurants in exotic vacation spots, she often resented the time her travel kept her away from Logan. Not even his refusal to look at her as anything more than the girl next door and a friend, his dogged determination to keep her at arm’s length, could diminish her feelings or her own determination to someday succeed in getting him look at her in an altogether different way. It only frustrated the crap out of her.
To her credit, she didn’t let Logan’s refusal to end the status quo of their relationship keep her from seeking temporary comfort from others for a time. She dated, when she had the time, but her time with other men always fell flat, the few that had ended up in bed disappointing. With her heart taken and her dreams plagued by images of her on the receiving end of those hard swats and equally hard fucking like she had witnessed him giving the other woman, her poor dates didn’t stand a chance. It had become so disappointing in the last few years, she left off seeking any physical satisfaction other than what she could give herself with her bedside buddy.
After hearing the horrific, devastating news that morning, Melanie had wasted no time rushing over here, hoping to catch him home. Logan had spent his teen years and a good portion of his early twenties being there for her, encouraging her when she discovered an interest in journalism and signed on for her high school paper, comforting her when her first date ended in disaster and supporting her when she added her love of food and cooking to use her Journalism degree to apply for the job as a food critic with the Charleston paper.
Knowing him as well as she did, Melanie knew Logan would keep his sorrow and anger over this young girl’s death bottled up, the same as he had when he had returned from Iraq withdrawn and moody, fighting demons he had refused to share with anyone. He had been there for her, guiding and supporting her through every major event in her life, but always refused to let her return the favor. This time, she vowed to help him through this hard time, do what she could to bring him peace of mind, and wouldn’t let him keep her from that resolve.
The sound of her neighbor’s backdoor came through the hedge and had her turning off the hose and scrambling over to the yew wall again. Her heart constricted in that tight clutch when she caught sight of Logan, his drawn face pulling at her. The day’s growth of dark bristles covering his chiseled jaw was a sexy addition to the sight of him stretching his tall, muscled body. A sigh of longing slid past her parted lips, her body warming in all those special places that started tingling the moment she saw him again. It had been almost two months since she’d last seen him, and the texts and e-mails they had exchanged weren’t enough.
“I thought you had outgrown your penchant for spying, kitten.”
Logan peered over at the hedge, a small grin playing around that ‘I’m dying to kiss again’ mouth, those dark eyes filled with pain and remorse. Without hesitation, she dashed out the side gate of their yard and into his back yard.
“Just seeing if I can still get away with it.” He didn’t look happy to see her, but when had Melanie ever let that stop her?
His short bark of laughter held as much derision as his eyes. “You could never get away with it. What are you doing here, Mel?”
Approaching him where he stood by a padded chaise, she reached out and laid a hand on the bunched muscles of his arm, his unwelcoming stance softened by the slight thawing of his face as he gazed down at her. “I’m sorry Logan. Did you know that woman well?”
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 if one of them had betrayed them in the vilest of ways. With Hunter staying on the island and Ryder returning to his loft apartment downtown, Logan 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, Logan 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 had given 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 into 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 those bright eyes. “I’m not good company right now, Mel. We’ll catch up later. I’ll call you.”
“Nonsense,” Melanie 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 Logan’s 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. Logan knew right away that was the wrong thing to say. When Melanie 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 Logan’s 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?”