Ignited by passion, p.4

Ignited by Passion, page 4


Ignited by Passion

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  Chapter 3

  What if Mom doesn’t want to be disturbed, like Stone suggested?

  That thought ran through Madison’s mind as she studied the mountains and the ripened green pastures they passed. She couldn’t help but think of all the things she knew about her mother.

  The two of them were close and always had been, but there were some things a mother didn’t share with a daughter and Madison was smart enough to know that. It came as no surprise that she had never thought of her mother as a sensual being. To her, she was simply Mom, although she had always thought her mother was a very beautiful woman.

  Stone’s comment was forcing her to see her mother through different eyes. One thing she knew for certain was that, since her father’s death, her mother hadn’t shown any interest in a man, and Madison had never given any thought as to whether that was a good thing or not. Usually, when Abby Winters went to social functions, she attended with Ron Carmichael, a widower who had been her father’s business partner, or she would attend with some other family friend.

  Although both Durango and Stone had been too polite to state the obvious, it seemed pretty clear that her mother and their uncle Corey were on his mountain engaging in some sort of an illicit affair. And if that was the case, Madison was determined to find out how Corey Westmoreland had tempted her mother to behave in such a manner.

  She also knew that, although neither man had voiced it, they probably thought she had taken things a little too far in coming after her mother, and especially when she’d been told her mother was fine. But a part of her had to see for herself. She had to talk to her mother.

  And she had to understand, or at least try to understand. What had possessed her mother to do what she did? She had to believe there had to be a good reason.

  She licked her lips as they suddenly felt dry. When Stone had talked about instant attraction, she had known just what he’d meant. From the moment she had opened her eyes on the plane to gaze into the dark depths of his, she had been attracted to him in a way she had never experienced before. And she was still attracted to him. Every time he looked at her, she felt a funny feeling inside that started in her breastbone and quickly moved down her body to settle right smack in the center between her legs. She was drawn to Stone. It was Stone who had her breathing fast just thinking how she had touched him intimately on the plane without knowing it. She felt a sudden tingling in her hand when she thought about just where it had been. And the first time he had spoken to her, she had immediately become mesmerized by the sound of his voice.

  She sighed deeply. Considering her current state, she needed to get to the Silver Arrow, check into her cabin and pull herself together as soon as possible. She had to remember that she was here for one reason and for one reason only. It had nothing to do with Stone and everything to do with her mother.

  But…once the issue of her mother’s state of mind was resolved, she couldn’t help but think of all the very tempting possibilities.

  “You and Durango didn’t have to help with my luggage, Stone,” Madison said as she watched him place the last piece next to her bed. Once they had arrived at the Silver Arrow, the two men had been adamant about helping her instead of letting the ranch hands do it.

  The ranch consisted of numerous rustic cabins that were located some distance away from the main house for privacy. Guy Jamison, the owner, had said he would give her a tour of the ranch once she got settled. He also told her the time dinner would be served and said he was waiting to hear back from the man who’d agreed to be her tour guide up to the mountains.

  The cabin she had been given was tucked beneath a cluster of trees and appeared more secluded than the others. Durango bid her goodbye and left after helping Stone with her bags. He went to wait outside in the SUV.

  She glanced around, trying to get her mind off Stone and how good he looked standing in the middle of the room. In an attempt not to notice him, she let her gaze float across the décor and furnishings of the cabin. There was a dark oak bureau, dressing table and two night-stands on either side of the biggest bed she had ever seen. It appeared larger than king size and the printed covers made it look very welcoming and comfortable. She also took note of the matching curtains at the windows and frontier-printed rugs on the floor.

  “Would you like to join me and Durango for dinner later?”

  Madison met Stone’s gaze. The attraction that had been there from the beginning was overcharging the room, blazing the distance between them and making her heart pound faster in her chest. Should she have dinner with him? He had indicated they wouldn’t be alone since Durango would be joining them. And what if Durango wasn’t joining them? Should she hesitate in accepting his offer just be cause he turned her on? But then she had more questions for Durango about her mother and Corey Westmoreland, and he’d said she could come over to his place.

  She took a deep breath, deciding to be upfront with Stone since she couldn’t deny the obvious. “The only reason I’m here is because of my mother, Stone, and when I resolve that issue, I’ll decide if I want anything out of this trip for myself. Chances are I won’t and will return to Boston as soon as I can.”

  He nodded, understanding what she was saying. “All right,” he said and slowly crossed the distance separating them. “If that speech was to let me know you need time to figure things out, that’s fine. Take all the time you need.”

  He needed time to figure things out, as well. Why did she turn him on like no other woman he knew and why at that very moment was the need to taste her about to make him lose his mind? In the past, his writing had always taken center stage in his life. He had lived more or less through his characters, knowing their fears, conflicts and deep-rooted and often chilling adventures. Transferring his thoughts from his mind to paper had been all consuming and the need to block off everything and anyone had been essential. His only goal had been to deliver, on every occasion, what readers expected from a Rock Mason book and he, without exception, had happily obliged them. The last thing he had to spare while working on a book was time for a woman, and in the past that was something he under stood and accepted. But he knew he would be hard pressed to understand and accept anything about this situation with Madison Winters other than the fact that he wanted her. Pure and simple.

  “Can I leave you with something to think about?” he asked quietly. The afternoon light that was flowing in through the only window in the cabin was casting a shadow on her features, but instead of dimming her allure, the light brought Madison’s beauty even more into focus. He swallowed hard, steeling his resolve, only to discover that when it came to this woman he didn’t have any.

  Madison met Stone’s gaze, holding it tightly. Intensely. She wondered what he was giving her time to think about. Did he have words of wisdom to share or was there some thing else? Her mind began whirling at all the possibilities and, heaven help her, but a part of her wished there was something else. She contemplated him for a long moment, wondering how she should respond if what he had in mind was the latter. Any physical contact, no matter how casual, wasn’t a good idea since they had just met that day. Then she remembered that the first phase of physical contact had taken place the moment she had touched him on the plane, although the contact hadn’t been intentional. But still, contact had been made and she hadn’t been the same since.

  And she could be honest enough with herself to admit that her mind had been made up about Stone the moment she had stepped off the plane with him. There was some thing about him that denoted a sense of honor, something rarely seen in a man these days.

  He was the silent type with the word sexy oozing out of every pore on his body. She had never met a man like him before and doubted that she would again. For some reason she felt she could trust him, although blindly placing her trust in a man had been precisely how her heart had been broken two years ago. But with Stone she felt safe.

  “Yes, you can leave me with something to think about,” she finally said softly, after gathering
her courage for what ever was to come. She didn’t have long to wait to find out.

  He reached out and cupped her chin in his hand, letting her know his intent and giving her every opportunity to put a stop to what he was about to do if that was what she wanted. When she didn’t move or say anything, but continued to meet his gaze, while her breathing became just as erratic as his, he lowered his head to hers.

  Madison felt the pull of her insides the moment their mouths touched, and immediately she felt the heat of his skin as his jeans-clad thigh brushed against her when he brought her closer into his arms. And when he settled his hands at her hips, and with it came the deep, compelling sizzle of desire, she thought she was certainly going to lose it.

  Nothing prepared her for the onslaught of emotions that rammed through her when her lips parted and he entered her mouth and proceeded to kiss her in a way she had never been kissed before. It was a gentle kiss. It was tender. But on the flip side, it contained a hunger that made the pressure she felt in her chest too intense, almost unbearable.

  And when he deepened the kiss, capturing her tongue with his, she was grateful that he had the mind to hold her tighter because she would surely have melted to the floor. She savored the hot sweetness of his mouth as he carried her to a level where sophistication, poise and what was proper had no place. As their tongues mingled, dueled and mated, feelings and emotions she had never felt before crashed into her, smothering her in a sexuality she hadn’t known existed.

  And when he finally broke the kiss, she drew in a long shuddering breath and gazed up at him. His eyes were in tense and she knew that she and Stone had shared more than just a kiss. They had also shared an understanding. What was happening between them was probably no different than what his uncle and her mother had experienced.

  Instant attraction.

  The kind that hit two people from the first so you were compelled to do the unthinkable and act on it.

  She sighed deeply and unconsciously licked her lips, tasting the dampness, a lingering reminder of his taste. Sharp coils of desire raced through her and she knew that Stone Westmoreland was a dangerous man. He was dangerous to her common sense. Although she needed to talk to Durango, she couldn’t do it today. She needed time to clear her mind and think straight. At the moment the only thing she could think about was romancing Stone. In less than twenty-four hours he had unearthed another side of her, a side even she hadn’t known existed and the thought of that frightened her somewhat.

  “I don’t think joining you and Durango this evening for dinner would be a good idea, Stone,” she decided to say.

  No matter how desperately she needed to know about her mother and their uncle, she also needed space from this man who caused emotions to grip her that were so foreign and unfamiliar. “I want to get settled in here first and think about a few things. Is there any way we can meet tomorrow, possibly before noon? I’d like to try and contact my mother to let her know that I’m here.”

  Stone held her gaze. “Tomorrow’s fine, Madison. Just tell the lady at the front desk to phone Durango’s ranch. They have the number and I’ll be glad to come and pick you up.”

  “All right.”

  He stared at her for a few minutes then, without saying anything else, he turned and walked out of the door.

  Pushing back from the kitchen table, Stone stood to help Durango clear the dishes. “I tell you, Stone, it was the strangest thing seeing Uncle Corey act that way, like a love-smitten twenty-year-old. And I didn’t want to say anything in front of Madison, but her mother wasn’t acting any better, although it would be clear to anyone that she was a lady with a lot of class.”

  Stone shook his head. “Well, Madison is determined to find answers. I think I gave her food for thought earlier and she’s pretty much accepted the idea that her mother and Uncle Corey are involved in an affair, but she still needs to understand why.”

  Durango raised a brow as he leaned against the table. “What’s there to understand? Lust is lust.”

  Stone rolled his eyes upward. Durango definitely had a way with words. “Well, with her mother being such a classy, well-bred lady and all, lust as you see it is something Madison just can’t seem to understand.”

  Durango grinned. “Then I guess it’s going to be up to you to explain it all to her. Now if you need my help in—”

  “Don’t even think about it,” Stone responded quickly in a growl.

  Durango chuckled. “Hey, I was just kidding. Besides, you know how I feel about city women anyway.” Even with the laughter in his voice, his words echoed with bitterness.

  Unfortunately Stone did know how he felt. “Need help with the dishes?” he asked after walking across the kitchen and placing them on the counter.

  “Nope, that’s what dishwashers are for. If you want we can try reaching Uncle Corey again, but take my word for it, it’ll be a waste of time. He and his lady friend aren’t accepting calls. I truly believe they turned the damn thing off.”

  Stone decided to try calling anyway and hung up later when he didn’t get an answer. He shook his head emphatically. “You would think Madison’s mother would have tried to reach her daughter.”

  Durango raised a brow. “I thought she had. Didn’t Madison say on the drive over to the Silver Arrow that her mother had called to say she was fine and was extending her vacation for two weeks?”

  “Yes, but she left the message on the answering machine. I’d think she would have made a point to talk to Madison directly to allay her fears.”

  Durango raised his eyes heavenward. “And I’d think—which is probably the same way Madison’s mother is thinking—that at fifty years of age she doesn’t have to check in with anyone, not even a daughter, especially if she’s assured her daughter that she’s okay.” He grabbed an apple out of the basket and bit into it like he hadn’t just eaten dinner. “Do you know what I think, Stone?”

  Stone shrugged, almost too afraid to ask. “No, Durango, what do you think?”

  “I think the reason Madison is so busy sticking her nose into her mother’s love life…or lust life, is because she doesn’t have one of her own.”

  A hint of a smile played at the corners of Stone’s lips. “She doesn’t have what? A love life or a lust life?”

  “Neither of either. And I think that’s where you need to step in.”

  Stone crossed his arms over his chest and met his cousin’s direct gaze. “And do what exactly?”

  Durango smiled. “Give the lady a taste of both.”

  Stone snorted. Only someone like Durango who had a jaded perception of love and marriage would think that way. Although Stone didn’t have plans to ever settle down and marry, he did believe in love. His parents’ marriage was a prime example of it, so was his sister Delaney’s and his brothers Dare’s and Thorn’s marriages.

  “I think I’m going to spend a few hours in your hot tub if you don’t mind,” he said to Durango.

  “By all means, help yourself.”

  Less than twenty minutes later, Stone was sitting comfortably in the hot tub on Durango’s outside deck. A good portion of Durango’s land was the site of natural hot springs and the first thing he had done after building the ranch had been to take advantage of that fact and erect his own private hot tub. It was large enough to hold at least five people and the heat of the water felt good as it stimulated Stone’s muscles.

  He closed his eyes and immediately had thoughts of Madison. Maybe Durango was right about her failure to take her mother’s words at face value that she was okay. But in just the short amount of time he had gotten to know Madison he could tell she was a person who cared deeply about those she loved. She probably couldn’t help being a consummate worrier. And then maybe Durango was right again. Perhaps Madison needed something or someone in her life to occupy her time so she could stop worrying about her mother.

  Stone inhaled deeply. For all he knew she might very well have someone already, some man back in Boston. He immediately pushed that thought f
rom his mind. Madison Winters was not the type of woman who would belong to one man and willingly kiss another. And she had kissed him. Boy, had she kissed him. And he had definitely kissed her. The effects of their kiss still lingered with him. Even now he could still taste her. Durango’s beef stew hadn’t been strong enough to eradicate her taste from his mouth.

  “Hey, Stone, you just got a call.”

  Stone cocked one eye open and looked at Durango who was standing a few feet away with a cold bottle of beer in his hand. “Who was it?”

  “Your city girl.”

  Stone quickly opened both eyes and leaned forward, knowing just whom Durango was talking about. “Did she say what she wanted?”

  Durango leaned against the door with a smirky grin on his face. “No, but I got the distinct impression that she wanted you.”

  Madison nervously paced her cabin as she waited for Stone to return her call. Deciding she had walked the floor enough, she dropped down into the nearest chair as she recounted in her mind what Frank, the husband of a good friend of hers who owned an investigative firm, had shared with her less than an hour ago. In addition to that, she couldn’t help but replay back in her mind the communication she had picked up from her mother when Madison called her apartment in Boston to replay her messages.

  She jumped when she heard a knock at her door and wondered who it might be. It was late and she would think most of the guests and workers at the ranch had pretty much retired for the night. She had to remember this wasn’t Boston and that she was practically alone in an area where the population was sparse.

  She eased her way to the door. “Who is it?”

  “It’s me, Madison. Stone.”

  She let out a sigh of relief when she heard the familiar sound of Stone’s voice and quickly opened the door. “Stone, I was waiting for your call. I didn’t expect you to come over here,” she said, taking a step back to let him in. She was glad that, although she had showered earlier, she had slipped into a long, flowing caftan that was suitable for accepting company.

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