Ignited by passion, p.14

Ignited by Passion, page 14

 

Ignited by Passion
 


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  “How can I consider marriage when there’s no special woman in my life?”

  Noreen’s lips quirked. “What about a special man?”

  Stone narrowed his eyes. “You’ve kept up with my past history long enough to know better than to ask that.”

  “Okay, so that was a cheap shot and I admit it. So are you telling me that there’s no woman that Rock Mason is interested in at the moment? There is no woman you would consider marrying?”

  Stone frowned. “I think I’ve made myself clear on several occasions that Rock Mason enjoys the freedom of being a bachelor too much.”

  “Is that why you’ve agreed to do that four-month promotional tour in Europe?”

  Stone frowned again, wondering how news of that got leaked to the press. He hadn’t made a decision on whether or not he would go on that damn tour and he had told his agent that. A lot depended on Madison. He would only go if she went with him. He had no intention of leaving the woman he loved behind.

  He met Noreen’s curious gaze and said, “No comment. Now if you will excuse me, there’s someone over there that I need to see.” Stone then walked off.

  Three days later Stone was in his hotel room, finally packing to return to Montana. He had spoken with his family in Atlanta several times over the past week. They had heard from Quade and were excited that there were now three additional Westmorelands. He had also spoken with Durango who indicated that he hadn’t seen or spoken to Corey since he’d left.

  Stone was anxious to get back to Madison. He missed her like hell. He glanced over at the television when he heard his name and stopped what he was doing as Noreen Baker’s face appeared on the screen during a segment of Entertainment Tonight. He crossed the room to turn up the volume.

  “As we reported last week, national bestselling author Rock Mason accepted an eight-figure deal from Hammond Publishers and with it came movie options, as well as a four-month book tour in Europe. I spoke with Rock a few nights ago at a New York bash given in his honor and he squashed any rumors that he is romantically involved with anyone, and went on to assure me that he still prefers bed ding women to wedding them. He also plans to leave for Europe in a few weeks. So any of you women out there who’re holding out for the attention of Mr. Money Maker himself, don’t waste your time. Rock Mason is as hard as they come when the discussion of marriage comes up and he intends to maintain his bachelor status for quite a while.”

  Stone switched off the television, shaking his head. Of course, as usual, Noreen had reported only part of the truth. At the moment he hadn’t made a decision about Europe. And of course she had put her own spin on what she had gleaned from their conversation.

  He crossed the room to finish packing. The cab would be arriving shortly to take him to the airport. Right now the only thing on his mind was getting back to Madison.

  Hundreds of miles away, Madison was also packing. She had watched Entertainment Tonight and had heard everything the reporter had said. Stone had been gone for ten days and she hadn’t heard from him. Although the phone lines were down, if he had wanted to contact her he could have sent her a letter or something. The postal plane delivered mail to the residents in the area at least twice a week.

  He still prefers bedding women to wedding them…

  She closed her eyes, fighting back tears. Why had she allowed things to get serious with Stone when he had told her from the very beginning what his feelings were on the subject of marriage? He didn’t want to be accountable for anyone but himself and he was going to prove it by taking off to Europe for the next four months. Any pain she was suffering was nobody’s fault but her own so she couldn’t feel betrayed in any way. He had been totally upfront and truthful with her. She had been the one to assume she had meant something to him and that each time they’d made love it meant more than just having sex. She had actually thought that—

  “You’releaving?”

  She turned at the sound of her mother’s voice. After meeting her mother’s gaze and nodding, she continued packing. Her mother and Corey had been in the living room with her when ET had come on and had also heard everything the reporter had said.

  “Running away won’t solve anything, Madison. You told Stone you would be here when he returned and—”

  “What makes you think he’s going to return, Mom? You heard what that lady said. He’s made plans to do a book tour in Europe. I made a mistake and put too much stock into what I thought he and I were sharing. End of story.”

  Abby crossed the room and took her daughter’s hand in hers. “It’s never the end of the story when you love some one. The end of the story only comes when the two of you are together.”

  Madison pulled her hand from her mother. “That may have worked for you and Corey, but then the two of you love each other and deserve a happy ending. I know how I feel about Stone but at no time did he ever tell me that he loved me, and at no time did he lead me to believe we had a future together. I made a mistake by assuming too much. I never expected to fall in love with him so quickly and so hard, Mom, but I did. Even now I don’t regret loving him. The only thing I regret is that he doesn’t love me back, but I’ll get over it. I’m a survivor, and someway, somehow, I’ll eventually forget him.”

  Abby reached out and pulled Madison into her arms. She knew that now was not a good time to tell her daughter that she knew from firsthand experience a woman could never truly forget the man she loved. She’d been there, had tried doing that and it hadn’t worked.

  She sighed as she released Madison and stepped back. “So, when do you plan to leave?”

  “In the morning. I’ve already talked to Corey and he said the postal plane will arrive tomorrow with the mail and he’s sure they won’t mind giving me a lift down the mountain and back to the Silver Arrow ranch. When I get back to Boston I’m going to contact the Institute about helping to provide students with summer lessons.”

  Abby reached out and stroked her daughter’s cheek gently, feeling her pain. For her to even think about getting on a small plane showed how desperate she was to leave. “I had hoped you would stay with Corey and me for a while, at least until the end of the summer.”

  Madison nodded. She had hoped that, too, but knew the best thing for her was to return to Boston. School would start soon and she would go and get prepared for that. “I’ll be back in December for you and Corey’s wedding.”

  Even thinking about that brought her pain, knowing Stone would probably be there for the wedding, too. He would just have returned from Europe. “Besides, you did say you’re coming home for a while in September to take care of business matters.”

  Abby smiled. “And when I do, we’ll have to do a play or something. Definitely a concert.”

  Madison smiled through her tears. “That would be nice, Mom. That will really be nice.”

  “What do you mean she’s not here?”

  Corey Westmoreland crossed his arms over his chest and met his nephew’s glare. “I mean just what I said. She’s not here. Did you actually expect her to stick around after what she heard on that television show?”

  Stone frowned. “What television show?”

  Corey’s frown matched Stone’s. “The one where that reporter announced to the whole world that you preferred sleeping with women instead of marrying them. I guess Madison felt she fell within that category.”

  Frustration racked Stone’s body and he rubbed his hand down his face. “How could she think something like that?”

  Corey leaned back against the porch’s column post. “Why wouldn’t she think something like that? Have you ever told her anything different?”

  Stone inhaled deeply. “No.”

  “Well, then. She acted just like any woman would act considering the circumstances. And that reporter also mentioned you had agreed to do some European tour and I guess Madison figured if you were planning to do that then she didn’t mean a damn thing to you.”

  Stone met his uncle’s stare. “Madison means everything to me.
I love her so much I ache.”

  Corey rubbed his chin as he eyed his nephew. “And what about all that talk you’ve done over the years about wanting to have your freedom, seeking adventure and not being responsible for anyone but yourself? Not to mention your fear of losing control of your life?”

  “My views on all that changed when I fell in love with Madison.”

  For the longest moment neither man spoke, then Stone said. “There’s no need for me to unpack since I’m leaving as soon as I can grab something to eat.”

  “Where’re you going?”

  Stone felt his pocket where he’d placed the diamond ring that he had purchased before leaving New York. “I’m going after Madison.”

  Stone saw her the moment she came out of the Hoffman Music Institute and began walking down the sidewalk. Abby had told him that, since Madison lived only a few blocks from her school, she preferred walking to work on nice days instead of driving. Besides, on any given day, parking in downtown Boston was known to be limited, as well as expensive.

  Today was a fair day. The wind was brisk but the sun overhead added a ray of beauty to the city on the Charles; the city that was the origin of the American Revolution and where buildings, parks, fields and churches echoed the city’s patriotic past. He remembered Madison once saying how much she loved Boston and he would gladly make this place his home if that’s where she wanted to be. He would move anywhere just as long as they were together.

  His heart swelled with love when he continued to watch as she came to Downtown Crossing with its brick streets. He wondered if she intended to go into Macy’s and decided that now was the time to make his presence known. He hurriedly crossed the street when she stopped to admire the fruit on display at a sidewalk produce stand.

  “Madison?”

  Madison quickly glanced up. She pressed her hand to her chest and for a moment she forgot to breathe, she was so startled at seeing Stone. “Stone, what are you doing here?” she asked, amazed at how good he looked. It hadn’t been quite two weeks since she had seen him last; twelve days exactly if you were counting and she had been unable not to do so. Seeing him reminded her how wrapped up in him she had gotten and how quickly. He was casually dressed in a pair of khaki pants and a polo shirt and she was hard pressed not to let her gaze travel the full length of him.

  He was looking at her with an intensity that made her flesh tingle and a shiver moved down her spine. “You said you would stay at Uncle Corey’s until I returned,” he said, in a deep, husky voice that only added to her dilemma.

  She licked her lips nervously and, when she remembered all the things that the reporter had said, she immediately decided that she didn’t owe him an explanation, just like he didn’t owe her one. “I decided to return home since Mom was okay,” she said, as she went back to studying the fruit.

  “I think we need to talk,” he said and she looked back at him and wished she hadn’t. She studied his features. There was a stubble of beard that darkened his chin and tired lines were etched under his eyes. He looked down right exhausted.

  “When was the last time you had a good night’s sleep?” she asked, as she continued to stare at him for a long moment. She wondered if his lack of sleep was due to all the partying he had done while in New York.

  He shrugged. “Not since trying to get back to you. I was too wired up to sleep on the plane from New York to Montana and then when I arrived at Uncle Corey’s and found you’d gone, I immediately left again and flew here.”

  She lifted an arched brow. “Why?”

  “Because I have to talk to you.”

  She sighed. “Where are your things?”

  “I checked into a hotel.” He glanced around. “Is there someplace we can go and talk?”

  Madison swallowed immediately. She had a feeling she knew what he had to say and thought that the last place she wanted him was in her home where she would always have memories of him being there. But it was the closest place and the least she could do was offer him a cup of coffee. “Yes, my condo is not far from here if you’d like to go there.”

  “Sure.”

  They walked side by side on the brick streets with little or no conversation between them. Occasionally, she would point out a historical landmark or some other note of interest. Moments later when she stopped in front of the elegant Ritz-Carlton Towers he met her gaze. “I live in the Residences, a portion of the tower that has private condos,” she said, after saying hello to the doorman. “The entrance is through a private lobby that is separate from the hotel.”

  He nodded as he followed her inside to the lavishly styled lobby that led to a private elevator. “How long have you lived here?” he asked as they stepped onto the elevator.

  “Ever since I finished college at twenty-one. My father left me a trust fund and I decided to invest a part of it in a place that I knew would increase in value. It’s located within walking distance from my job and I like the ultimate amenity of having the hotel as an extension of my home. We use the same hotel staff and any packages, dry cleaning and other deliveries I get are held until I get home. I have access to all the restaurants in the hotel, as well as all the hotel’s facilities like their spa and pool.” She smiled. “And on those days that I come home too tired to cook, I can even order room service.”

  Stone liked what he saw the moment he walked into her condo. It was spacious and elegantly decorated. He could tell the furniture was expensive and added soothing warmth to the interior of the room. “I have one bedroom, one and a half baths, a living room with a fireplace, a kitchen and a library, and it’s just the size I need,” she said, crossing the room to open the blinds. The floor-to-ceiling window provided a breathtaking view of Boston.

  His attention was drawn to the beautiful white piano in the middle of her living room. She saw where his gaze had gone and said, “That was the last Christmas gift my father gave me before he died. And for me, at fifteen, it was like a dream come true. Sauter pianos are renowned for their outstanding sound, fine touch and unique expressiveness.” She brushed some curls back from her face and added, “And as you can also see, it’s pleasing to the eye. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t admire it whenever I look at it. It’s brought me hours of joy.”

  He nodded. “Do you play it often?”

  “Yes. Playing the piano relaxes me.” She decided not to tell him that when she had returned from Montana two days ago, it had been the sound of the music she had played on her piano that had brought solace to her aching heart. “If you’d like to have a seat, I’ll fix us a cup of coffee.”

  “Thanks, I’d appreciate it.” He watched her leave the room. He had played out in his mind what he was going to say to her and now that the time had come for him to say it, he wondered if he would have trouble getting the words out. He was a master at putting words down on paper but now that it was a matter of the heart, he was at a loss for words. He needed to let her know just how much he loved her and how much she meant to him and that, more than anything, he wanted her in his life. Loving her was more than a stone cold surrender. It was a lifeline he needed to make his life complete.

  He sat down on the sofa, liking the softness of the leather. The entire room had her scent and he was engulfed in the pleasantly sweet fragrance of her. He leaned his head back and decided to close his eyes for a second. He could hear her moving around in the kitchen and in the distance he could hear the sound of boats tooting their horns as they passed in the harbor and the faint sound of an air plane that flew overhead. But his mind tuned out every thing as he slowly drifted into a deep sleep.

  “I forgot to ask how you want your—”

  Madison stopped talking in midsentence when she saw that Stone had literally passed out on her sofa. Quickly walking over to the linen closet she pulled out a blanket and crossed the room back to him. She touched his shoulder. “Stone, you’re tired,” she said softly. “Go ahead and stretch out on my sofa and rest for a moment.”

  Glazed, tired eye
s stared at her. “But we need to talk, Madison,” he said in a voice that was heavy with sleep and weighty with exhaustion. “And we will talk,” she said softly, quietly. “As soon as you wake up from your nap. Okay?”

  He nodded as he stretched out on her sofa. She placed the blanket over him and moments later his even breathing filled the room. She sighed. He was intent on talking to her and she didn’t want to think about what he had to say. He probably thought, considering the affair they’d shared, that he owed her the courtesy of letting her know that things were over between them and he was moving on.

  She didn’t want to think about it and decided to take a shower and relax and try to forget he was there until he woke up and made his presence known. But as she looked down at him she realized that, even if he didn’t make a sound, she would know that Stone was within reaching distance and for her that was not good. It was not good at all.

  Stone slowly opened his eyes as soft music drifted around him. He immediately recognized it as a piece by Bach. When Delaney had been around eight or nine, she had taken music lessons for a short time and he distinctly remembered that same classical number as being one she had relentlessly hammered on the piano as she prepared for her first recital. He slowly sat upright and gradually stood, folding up the blanket Madison had placed over him.

  He sighed deeply. He had come all this way to talk to her and instead he had passed out on her. He stretched his muscles then decided to go look for her. He needed to let her know how he felt about her and hoped she felt the same way about him.

  Stone found her standing on a balcony that extended from her bedroom. She had changed out of the slacks and silk shirt she’d been wearing to a long flowing skirt and a matching top. She was standing barefoot, leaning against the rail with a glass of wine in her hand as she looked at the city below. He was sure he’d been quiet, that he hadn’t made a sound, but still she turned and looked straight at him. Their gaze held for several moments and when a small smile touched her lips, his stomach tightened in response to that smile. “How was your nap?” she asked.

 
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