Ignited by passion, p.24

Ignited by Passion, page 24

 

Ignited by Passion
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  Tara nodded smiling. “So, how was your trip to New Or leans?”

  Funny you should ask, he thought as he slumped back against a column post. He sucked in a deep breath when another vision of Jayla floated through his mind. He envisioned his mouth finding her most sensitive areas, especially her ultra-hot spot and tilting her up to his mouth and making her scream.

  “Storm?”

  “Huh?”

  “I asked how was your trip.” She took a step closer to him and looked deeply into his eyes. “Are you sure you’re okay? Your eyes seemed somewhat dazed.”

  And my body is hard again but we won’t go there, he thought, thinking the best thing to do was go back inside and play cards and hope that this time he could keep his mind on the game. “I’m fine and I had a great time in New Orleans. I even saw Ian while I was there and he mentioned that he would be in town for that charity benefit that you’re working on.”

  A smile touched the corners of Tara’s lips. “Really,” she said excitedly. “That’s the night we’ll unveil the charity calendar for Kids’ World and everyone will get to see Thorn as Mr. July.”

  Storm laughed. “I don’t think that’s the only reason Ian is coming, Tara,” he said, thinking that maybe if he kept talking he wouldn’t have to worry about visions of Jayla intruding. “The main reason Ian’s coming is because you asked him to, but there’s another reason.”

  Tara lifted her brow. “And what reason is that?”

  A grin appeared on Storm’s face. “He figures there will be a lot of pretty, single women in attendance.”

  Tara shook her head smiling, finally getting the picture. “Well, I’m sure there will be plenty of single women there since eleven of the men who posed for the calendar are still single. Thorn is the only one who has gotten married since those photos were taken.”

  Something suddenly pulled at Storm’s memory. He remembered Jayla mentioning that she would be meeting Tara for lunch the Tuesday after returning to work. Unless those plans had changed, that meant the two of them would be meeting tomorrow. There was no way he could ask Tara about it without her wondering how he’d known. But if they were to meet tomorrow for lunch and if he knew where, he could unexpectedly drop by and pretend that he’d been in the area. For some reason he wanted to see Jayla again and if they accidentally ran into each other, she wouldn’t think he had intentionally sought her out…al though in essence, he would be doing just that.

  “So, Tara, how about if I took you, Madison and Shelly to lunch tomorrow?” he suggested. He knew Dare’s wife Shelly hadn’t returned from visiting her parents in Florida, Stone’s wife Madison would be leaving with Stone tomorrow on a book-signing trip to Kansas City, and if Tara had made other plans for lunch then he would find out soon enough.

  “Thanks, Storm, that’s really sweet of you, but Shelly and Madison will be out of town and besides I already have a lunch date. I’m meeting with a woman who’s working with me on the charity benefit. Her company has agreed to pick up the tab for all the food and drinks that night.”

  Bingo. He was suddenly beginning to feel pretty good now. Confident. Cocky. Smug. He straightened from leaning against the post. “Oh, that’s too bad. Where are you going?”

  Tara lifted a brow. “Excuse me?”

  He inhaled slowly, knowing he couldn’t appear too inquisitive. The last thing he needed was for Tara to get suspicious of anything. “I asked where are you going for lunch? It might be a place where I’ve eaten before. Perhaps I can tell you whether the food and service are good.”

  Tara smiled. “Trust me, I know you’ve eaten at this place plenty of times and can definitely vouch for the food and service being the best. My lunch date left it up to me to select a place and although I haven’t told her yet, I’m going to suggest that we have lunch at Chase’s Place.”

  His heart suddenly did a back flip and his mouth curved into a huge smile. Things couldn’t have worked out better if he was planning things himself. Tara was taking Jayla to his brother’s restaurant, a place where he ate lunch on a regular basis, so it wouldn’t seem out of the ordinary if he showed up there tomorrow. “I think that’s a wonderful choice.”

  She shook her head smiling and before she could say anything, Thorn’s loud voice roared through the air. “Storm, get back in here if you’re in this game, and you better not be out there kissing my wife.”

  Storm laughed. “He’s a jealous kind of fellow, isn’t he?” he asked, taking Tara’s hand as they walked back in side.

  She grinned and he could see her entire face light up with absolute love for his brother. “Yes, but I wouldn’t have him any other way.”

  “Chase’s Place?” Jayla asked, making sure she had heard correctly.

  “Yes,” Tara said brightly on the other end of the phone. “It’s a soul-food restaurant that’s owned by my brother-in-law Chase Westmoreland, and the food there is wonderful.”

  Jayla rose from behind her desk, no longer able to sit. She knew the food there was wonderful but at the moment that wasn’t what was bothering her. She recalled Storm saying that he routinely ate at his brother’s restaurant. She was tempted to suggest they go someplace else but quickly remembered that she had been the one to suggest that Tara select the place for lunch. She sighed deeply. “I’ve eaten there before and you’re right, the food is wonderful.”

  “And he’s promised to take good care of us.”

  Jayla raised a dark brow. “Who?” She heard Tara chuckle on the other end before answering.

  “Chase. He’s good at taking care of people. “

  “Oh.” It was on the tip of Jayla’s tongue to say it must run in the family because Chase wasn’t the only Westmoreland who was good at taking care of people. She vividly remembered the way Storm had taken care of her, fulfilling and satisfying her every need.

  She tried forcing the memories to the back of her mind. “What time do you want us to meet?”

  “What about around one-thirty? That way the noonday lunch crowd won’t bombard us. But if you think you’ll be hungry before then we can—”

  “No, one-thirty is fine and I’ll meet you there.” After ending the call, Jayla sat back at her desk. If she saw Storm again, what was the correct protocol to handle the situation? Women and men had affairs all the time and she was sure that at some point they ran into each other again. Did they act casually, as if nothing had ever happened between them and they were meeting for the first time? Or were they savvy enough to accept that they had shared something intimate with no regrets, moved on and didn’t make a big deal about it? She decided the latter would work. It wasn’t as if they had been total strangers.

  She glanced at her watch. One-thirty was less than five hours away. Although Atlanta was a big town, she and Storm were bound to run into each other sooner or later, but part of her had been hoping it was later. She had expected to see him at the charity benefit, but had figured she would be prepared to see him by then. It was more than a week since they had been together, nine days, if you were counting, and unfortunately, she was.

  She closed her eyes and exhaled a deep breath. If she saw him, she would play it cool, take the savvy approach and hope and pray that it worked.

  “Is there a reason why you’re hanging around here?”

  Storm shrugged and shot his twin a beguiling smile. “I like this place.”

  The expression he read on Chase’s face said he knew better, since he only dropped by to eat and rarely hung around to socialize. He usually was too busy pursuing women to visit with his brother for very long. His answering machine had maxed out while he’d been out of town and his phone hadn’t stopped ringing since he’d been back. But for some reason, he wasn’t interested in returning any of those women’s calls.

  “Well, if you don’t have anything better to do with your time, how about waiting tables?” Chase said, interrupting his thoughts. “One of my waitresses called in sick and we’re shorthanded.”

  Storm glanced at his watch while s
haking his head. “Sorry. I like you, Chase, but not that much.” He turned and glanced at the entrance to his brother’s restaurant and wondered if perhaps Tara and Jayla had changed their minds and decided to go someplace else since it was past lunch time. No sooner had that possibility crossed his mind, than the door swung open and the two women entered.

  His breath caught at the sight of Jayla. Because he was sitting at the far end of the counter, he knew she wouldn’t be able to see him but he could definitely see her. She was dressed differently than she’d been in New Orleans. Today, Jayla was Miss Professional in her chic navy blue power suit. She still looked stunning and as sexy as sin. Storm could feel his libido going bonkers. He swung around to Chase. “Hey, I’ve changed my mind. I will help you out after all.”

  Chase raised a suspicious brow. “Why the change of heart?”

  “Because if a man can’t depend on his twin brother in a time of need, then who can he depend on?” Storm asked, giving Chase a boyish grin.

  Chase cast a speculative glance over Storm’s shoulder and said dryly, “I hope the person you’re all fired up at seeing is the woman with Tara and not Tara. I would hate for Thorn to kill you.”

  Storm chuckled. “Relax. I got over Tara a long time ago. I just like getting a rise out of Thorn.”

  He leaned over the counter and snagged a pencil from Chase’s shirt pocket and tucked it behind his ear. He then picked up a pad off the counter. “Who’s working the table where they’re sitting?”

  “Pam.”

  Storm smiled. “Then tell Pam to take a break or, better yet, tell her to find another table to work. I got that one covered.” Before Chase could say anything, Storm stood and headed over to where Tara and Jayla were sitting.

  “We made perfect timing,” Tara said smiling. “Had we arrived any earlier this place would have been packed.” The menus were in a rack on the table and she passed one to Jayla.

  Jayla nodded as she opened the menu. She was tempted to glance around but decided not to. Chances were if Storm had been there earlier as a part of the lunch crowd he would have already left.

  After they had looked over the menus for a few moments, Tara glanced up, smiled and asked, “So what are you going to get?”

  Tara’s question recaptured her attention and she couldn’t help but return the other woman’s smile. Already she’d decided that she liked Tara Westmoreland. They had spoken several times on the phone, but this was the first time they had actually met in person. Jayla thought the woman was simply gorgeous and could quickly see how she had captured the heart of motorcycle tycoon, Thorn Westmoreland.

  “Umm,” Jayla said smiling as if in deep thought as she glanced back down at the menu and licked her lips. “Everything looks delicious, but I think I’ll get—”

  “Good afternoon, ladies, what can I get you?”

  Jayla’s head snapped up and she blinked upon seeing Storm standing beside their table. “Storm!” Without thinking, she said his name as intense heat settled deep in her stomach.

  Storm’s mouth curved into a devilish grin, and that grin reminded her of sensations he could easily elicit, tempting her into partaking in any number of passionate indulgences. “I’m not on the menu, Jayla, but if I’m what you want, I can definitely make an exception.”

  Chapter 7

  “I take it the two of you know each other,” Tara said curiously as a smile touched her lips. She glanced from Storm to Jayla.

  Jayla cleared her throat, wondering how much she should say. Before she could decide on how to respond, Storm spoke up.

  “Jayla’s father was my first fire captain and was like a second father to me,” he said, giving them his killer-watt smile. “So, yes, we know each other.”

  Jayla swallowed deeply, grateful for Storm’s timely and acceptable explanation.

  “It’s good seeing you again, Jayla.”

  She smiled. “It’s good seeing you, too,” she said, meaning every word, although she wished that she didn’t.

  “And you look good, by the way.”

  Her smile widened. “Thanks.” He looked rather good, too, she thought. He was dressed in a pair of khaki trousers and a polo shirt. And he smelled good. His cologne could always jump-start her senses. It was a good thing she was already sitting down because she could actually feel her knees weaken. Everything about Storm was a total turn-on—the rippling muscles beneath his shirt, his extraordinary butt, long legs, his too-hot grin and eyes so dark they reminded you of chocolate chips…. Had she forgot ten that she had a weakness for chocolate chips just as bad as her weakness for strawberry cheesecake?

  She glanced over at Tara and saw that she was still watching them and Jayla decided it wouldn’t be a bad idea to go ahead and place her order. She cleared her throat. “I’ll have today’s special with a glass of iced tea.”

  “All right.” Storm scribbled down Jayla’s order, not knowing and not really caring what today’s special was. The only thing on his mind was that he was getting the chance to see her again.

  He then turned his attention to Tara and smiled. “And what will you have, Mrs. Westmoreland?”

  Tara lifted a brow. “An explanation as to why you’re waiting on tables.”

  Storm chuckled. He was busted. Leave it to Tara to ask questions. She’d been hanging around his brother Thorn too long. “Chase was shorthanded so I thought I’d pitch in and help him out.”

  Tara nodded, but the look she gave let him indicated that she knew there was more to the story than that. He wondered if parts of their conversation last night were coming back to her. “That was kind of you, Storm, and I’ll have today’s special, as well, with a glass of lemonade.”

  Storm wrote down her order, then said, “I’ll go ahead and bring your drinks.” He winked at them and then walked off.

  Jayla watched him walk away. When she returned her attention back to Tara she knew the woman had been watching her watch Storm. “Small world, isn’t it?” she asked trying to pull herself together before she actually started drooling.

  Tara smiled. “Yes, it is a small world,” she agreed as she studied Jayla. Storm had been blatantly flirting with the woman, which was nothing surprising. Tara had seen Storm in action many times before. But something was different with the way he had flirted with Jayla; however, at the moment she couldn’t put a finger on just what that difference was.

  “I’m looking forward to the charity benefit,” Jayla was saying, rousing Tara from her musings and reminding her of the reason for their meeting.

  “So am I, and the committee appreciates Sala Industries agreeing to be our food and beverage sponsor. Kids’ World will benefit greatly from their contribution. The money raised from the calendar will be more than enough to make the children’s dreams come true.”

  Jayla smiled in agreement. “Doesn’t it bother you that your husband is Mr. July on that calendar?”

  Tara laughed as she remembered how she’d maneuvered Thorn into posing for the calendar. Actually, they had come to an agreement only after Thorn had made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. “No, I’m not bothered at all. It will be nice knowing other women will find my husband as sexy as I do.”

  Jayla nodded. She had seen Thorn Westmoreland before in person and the man was definitely sexy. But she didn’t think anyone was sexier than Storm. She couldn’t help but glance to where he had gone. He was behind the counter preparing their drinks and, as if he knew she was looking at him, he lifted his head, met her gaze and smiled.

  It was a smile that sent shivers all the way through her body. It was also a smile that seemed to say, I remember everything about those days in New Orleans. She couldn’t help returning his smile as she also remembered everything about their time together.

  When she turned her attention back to Tara, Jayla realized that Tara had noticed the silent exchange between her and Storm. “Umm…I, well—” she started to say, feeling somewhat embarrassed that Tara had caught her ogling Storm.

  Tara reached acr
oss the table and touched her hand. “No need to explain, Jayla. I’m married to a Westmoreland so I understand.”

  Jayla pulled in a deep breath, wondering how could Tara possibly understand when she didn’t understand her feelings for Storm. “It’s nothing but simple chemistry,” she decided to say to explain.

  Tara smiled, thinking of her reaction to Thorn Westmoreland the first time she had seen him. “Happens to the best of us, trust me.”

  Jayla laughed, suddenly feeling relaxed and thinking that, yes, she really did like Tara Westmoreland.

  Chase shook his head as he stared at his brother. “Are you going to stand there all day and stare at that woman with Tara?”

  Storm met Chase’s gaze and grinned. “I like watching her eat. I love the way her mouth moves.”

  Chase’s gaze followed Storm’s and he didn’t see anything fascinating about the way she was eating, although he would be the first to admit that she was good-looking. He turned his attention back to Storm. “Who is she?”

  “Adam’s daughter.”

  Chase snapped his gaze back to the table where Tara and the woman were sitting. “Are you saying that’s Adam Cole’s girl, all grown up?”

  “Yes.”

  “Wow. I haven’t seen her since she was in high school. He would bring her in here every once in a while for dinner.” He let out a low whistle. “Boy, has she changed. She was a cute kid, but now she is definitely a looker. I’d say she is a woman who looks ripe for loving.”

  Storm turned and glared at his brother as he leaned against the counter and shoved his hands deep into his pants pockets. “I’m going to ignore the fact that you said that.”

  Chase smiled. “Hey, man, I didn’t know things were that way with her,” he offered by way of apology.

  Storm’s glare deepened. “And what do you perceive as that way?”

  Chase’s smile widened. Storm was so used to getting a rise out of people that he couldn’t recognize when some one was trying to get a rise out of him. “You’re interested in her. That’s obvious.”

 
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