Ignited by Passion, page 5
Stone entered and closed the door behind him. “Durango said you sounded upset when you called so I thought I’d come over right away.” His gaze took in her features. They appeared tense and worried. “What’s wrong, Madison?”
She inhaled deeply and nervously rubbed her hands together. “I don’t know where to start.”
Stone studied her for a moment, concerned. “Start any where you like. How about if we take a seat over there and you can tell me what’s going on,” he suggested in a calming voice.
She nodded and crossed the room to sit on the edge of the bed while he sat across from her in a wingback chair. “All right, now tell me what’s wrong,” he said, his tone soothing.
Madison folded her hands in her lap. A part of her was grateful to Stone for coming instead of calling, although she hadn’t expected him to. She lifted her chin and met his gaze; again, like before, she felt that powerful current pass through them and wondered if he’d felt it, too.
She put the thought of the sexual chemistry that was sizzling between them to the back of her mind and started talking. “I called my apartment in Boston to retrieve my phone messages and discovered that my mother had called and left another one.”
Stone lifted a dark brow. “Really? And what did she say?”
Madison sighed. “She said she regretted that we keep missing each other but that she wanted to let me know she was doing fine and…”
Stone waited for her to finish and when she seemed hesitant to do so he prodded. “And?”
Madison inhaled deeply once again before saying, “And she plans to extend her trip by an additional two weeks.”
For a moment there was not a sound in the room, just this long pregnant silence. Then Stone slowly nodded as he continued to study her. He could tell the message had been upsetting to Madison. “Well, at least you know that she’s okay.”
Madison shook her head and Stone watch as her hair swirled around her shoulders with the movement. “No, I don’t know that, Stone. I’m more worried about her than ever. There’s something else I think you should know.”
Stone gazed across the few feet separating them. “What?”
Madison slowly stood then nervously paced the room a few times before coming back to stand in front of Stone. “I know that you and Durango tried to reassure me that your uncle is a decent man—honest, trustworthy and safe—but I had to be sure. I had to find out everything I could about him to help me understand why my mother is behaving the way she is. A friend of mine, another teacher at the school where I work, well, her husband owns an investigation firm. After you left here today, I contacted him and gave him your uncle’s name.”
Stone sat back in the chair, his gaze locked with hers as he rubbed his chin. “And?”
Madison swallowed nervously. “And, according to Frank, when he entered your uncle’s name into the database, he discovered another investigative firm, one that’s located somewhere in Texas, was checking out your uncle’s past, as well. For some reason it seems that I’m not the only one who wants information about him.”
Stone frowned and sat up straight in his chair. Anger suddenly lined his features. “Are you trying to accuse my uncle of—”
“No! I’m not accusing him of anything. Even Frank indicated that he’s clean and doesn’t have a criminal record or anything. I just thought it was strange and felt that you should know.”
Stone stared at Madison for a long moment then stood in front of her. “I don’t know what interest another investigative company has in my uncle but, whatever the reason, it has nothing to do with his character, Madison. Corey Westmoreland is one of the finest men I know. I admit he can be somewhat ornery at times and set in his ways, but I would and do trust him with my life.”
Madison heard the defensive anger in Stone’s voice al though he tried to control it. She crossed her arms over her chest and gazed up at him. “I wasn’t insinuating that he wasn’t a—”
“Weren’t you? I also think that until you talk to your mother and see her for yourself to make sure she’s not up there with some crazy mountain man, you won’t have a moment of peace.”
Unable to help himself, Stone reached out and brushed a strand of hair back from her face. There were tension lines around her eyes and the mouth he had kissed earlier that day was strained, agitated and on edge. “And I intend to give you that peace. I will take you up Corey’s Mountain myself.”
His words had an immediate effect on Madison and she released her arms from across her chest. Her heart began beating a mile a minute. “You will?” she asked in a rush.
“Yes. I would head up there first thing in the morning, but unfortunately you don’t have the proper attire to make such a trip. We need to take care of that as well as getting the supplies we’ll need. If all that works out then we can leave the day after tomorrow, bright and early. We’ll take a truck as far as Martin Quinns’ ranch, then borrow a couple of his horses to go the rest of the way on up.”
Madison tried to mask her relief. She hated admitting it but Stone was right. She wouldn’t have a moment of peace until she saw and talked to her mother herself. “I’ll make sure I get all the things I need.”
Stone nodded. “I’m going to make sure you get all the things you need, too. I’ll be picking you up in the morning to drive you into town and take you to the general store. We should be able to purchase everything we’ll need from there.”
Madison nodded. Uncertain what to say next she knew of the one thing that she had to say. “Thank you, Stone.”
Her heart lurched in her chest when she saw that her words of thanks had not softened the lines around his eyes. He was still upset with her for what she’d insinuated about his uncle.
“Don’t mention it. I’ll see you in the morning.” And without saying anything else, he crossed the room and walked out the door.
Whoever said you can take the girl out of the city but you can’t take the city out of the girl must have known a woman like Madison Winters, Stone thought, as he sat silently in the chair with his long legs stretched out in front of him and watched her move around the cabin packing for their trip.
That morning they had gone to the general store to purchase the items they would need. Getting her prepared for their excursion had taken up more time than he figured it would. When he had inventoried what she’d brought with her from Boston, he hadn’t been surprised to discover her stylish clothing—mostly with designer labels—included nothing that would be durable enough to travel up into the mountains. When they’d driven into town she had agreed with his suggestion that she buy several pairs of jeans, T-shirts, flannel shirts, a couple of sweaters, a wool jacket, heavy-duty socks and, most important, good hiking boots. He had also strongly suggested that she buy a wide-brimmed hat. He’d explained to her that the days would be hot and the nights would be cold.
He had taken care of the other things such as the food they would need, the sleeping bags they would use, as well as the rental of the truck that would carry them as far as the Quinns’ ranch.
Stone’s lips broke into an innately male smile as he continued to watch her. She was definitely a gorgeous woman but, more than that, he found her downright fascinating. He would even go so far as to say that she intrigued him, especially now when she was frowning while glancing down at herself, as if the thought of wearing jeans and a flannel shirt was nothing she would ever get used to.
Hell, it was something he doubted he would get used to, either. He had seen plenty of women in jeans in his life time but none, and he meant none, could wear them like they’d been exclusively designed just for their bodies. An other man might say that she was built and had everything in all the right places, but the writer in him would go further than that and say she was…a summer pleasure and a fall treasure whose beauty was as breathtaking and captivating as a cluster of tulips and daffodils under a spectacular Montana sky.
“Do you think I packed enough, Stone?”
“No, you’re fine,” he said coming to his feet. “I contacted Martin Quinn and he’s expecting us by noon tomorrow. We’ll sleep overnight at his place then head up the mountain right after breakfast. If our timing is right, we won’t have to spend but one night out under the stars.”
Madison raised a brow. “It will take us two days to get to your uncle’s ranch?”
“Yes, by horseback. At some point during the daylight hours it will be too hot to travel and we’ll need to give the horses periodic breaks.”
Madison nodded. She then cleared her throat. “Stone, I want to thank you for—”
“You’ve thanked me already,” he said, picking up the Stetson that he had purchased that day off the table.
“Yes, I know, but I also know that taking me to your uncle’s place is intruding into your writing time.”
He looked at her and the liquid heat that had started flowing through his bloodstream from the moment he had met her was still there. “No, you’re not,” he said, forcing himself to ignore how good she smelled. “I had planned to go visit Uncle Corey anyway while I was here, so now is just as good a time as any.”
“Oh, I see.”
Stone doubted that she saw anything. If she did she would have second thoughts of them spending so much time together over the next three days. If she really had her eyes wide-open she would see that he wanted her with a passion so thick he could cut it with a knife. The clean scent of the mountains had nothing on her. She had a fragrance all her own and it was one that reminded him of everything a woman was supposed to be. She was more than just a city girl. She was sensuality on legs and a gorgeous pair of them at that.
He couldn’t believe it had only been yesterday when he had first looked into eyes that were so mesmerizing they had taken his breath away. And since then, undercurrents of sensual tension had surrounded them whenever they were together, leaving them no slack but a whole lot of close encounters of the lush kind. He had never been this incredibly aware of a woman in his life.
“Well, I guess that’s it until tomorrow morning.”
Her words cut into his thoughts, reminding him that he had stood to leave yet hadn’t moved an inch. “Yes, I think that’s about it except for your attitude about things.”
She lifted her chin just a bit. “What do you mean?”
He rather liked to see whenever she became irritated about something. She became even sexier. “I mean,” he began slowly, deciding that no matter how sexy she got when she was mad, he didn’t want to get her pissed off too much. “Before we head up toward Uncle Corey’s mountain, you need to come to terms with what we might find when we get there, Madison.”
He watched as she averted her eyes from his briefly and he knew she understood exactly what he meant. She tilted her head and their gazes connected again. “I hear what you’re saying but I don’t know if I can, Stone. She’s my mother,” she said quietly.
Stone held her gaze intently. Logical thinking—which he knew she wasn’t exemplifying at the moment—dictated that he have something to say to that. So he did. “She’s also a full-grown woman who’s old enough to make her own decisions.”
She sighed and he could just feel the varied emotions tumbling through her. “But she’s never done anything like this before.”
“There’s a first time for everything.” He of all people should know that. Until yesterday, no woman had taken hold of his senses the way she had. He wasn’t exactly happy about it and in some ways he found it downright disturbing. But he was mature enough to accept it as the way things happen sometimes between a man and a woman. Unlike his brother Thorn who liked challenges, he was one of those men who tried looking at things logically without complications and definitely without a whole lot of fuss. He accepted things easily and knew how to roll with the flow.
Madison was a very desirable woman and he was a hot-blooded male. He had conceded from the first that getting together with her would be like pouring kerosene on a fire. The end result—total combustion. The only problem with that picture was that, no matter how hot they could burn up the sheets, on some things he had made up his mind with no chance of changing it. Getting involved in a permanent relationship with a woman was one of them. It wouldn’t happen.
Seeing the look of uncertainty on her face, he knew she was a long way from accepting the possibility that her mother and his uncle were lovers. As strange as it seemed, he had come to terms with it and eventually she would have to do the same. “I suggest that you get a good night’s sleep,” he said, moving toward the door. He intended to open it and walk out without looking back.
But he couldn’t.
He turned and reached out and pulled her to him, encircling her waist and resting her head on his chest. Some inner part of him just knew that she needed to be held in his embrace. And that same inner part of him also knew that she needed a kiss, as well.
A tenderness fed by a burning flame of desire raced through him, making his heartbeat quicken and his body go hard. She must have felt his arousal and lifted her head. Their gazes locked. Words weren’t needed, sexual chemistry had a language all its own and it was speaking to them loud and clear.
She parted her lips on a sigh and he lowered his head and captured the very essence of that moan with his mouth. The taste of her was tempting, and he immediately thought of silken sheets, burning candles and soft music. He thought of touching her all over, loving her with his mouth and his hands until she groaned out his name, then placing her beneath him, entering her, thrusting in and out in the same rhythm he was using at that very moment on her mouth. All during the previous night he’d had a hard time sleeping because his body had silently yearned for her. And he knew tonight, tomorrow night and all of the nights after that wouldn’t be any different.
After a long moment, he broke off the kiss and rested his forehead against hers. Kissing her was exhausting as well as stimulating. He could have continued kissing her forever if he hadn’t needed to breathe.
He inhaled and tried to get his body to relax, but her scent filled his nostrils making regaining his calm down right difficult. “Yeah?”
“This isn’t good, is it?”
He chuckled against her ear. “You don’t hear me complaining, Madison.”
“You know what I mean.”
Yes, he knew exactly what she meant. “If I go along with your way of thinking, that we should place our full concentration on your mother and Uncle Corey and not on each other, then I would have to agree that it isn’t good be cause the timing is lousy. But if I adhere to my own thoughts, that I feel whatever is going on between my uncle and your mother is their business and that you and I should place our full concentration on each other, then I would say it is good.”
He said the words while a barrage of emotions raced through him. They were emotions he wasn’t used to dealing with. A part of him suddenly felt disoriented. Totally confused. Fully aware.
The woman he held in his arms was as intoxicating as the most potent brand of whiskey and she had his senses reeling and his body heated. “I’m going to leave the decision as to how we should handle things up to you, Madison. I suggest you sleep on it and let me know what you decide in the morning.”
Leaning down, he kissed her again; this kiss was tender but just as passionate as the one before. He pulled back and released her, opened the door and walked out into the cool Montana night.
Clinging to the strength of the decisions she had made overnight, Madison opened the door for Stone the next morning. The eyes that met hers were sharp, direct and she immediately felt herself wavering on one decision in particular as she inwardly asked h
Of the two decisions she’d made, that had been the hardest one and, as she glanced at the strong, vital and sexy man standing in the doorway, she knew it would be the hardest one to keep. Stone wasn’t a man any woman could ignore and being alone with him for the next few days would definitely test her resolve. If she were smart she would put any thoughts of a relationship between them out of her mind completely. She had never been involved in any sort of casual affair before and wasn’t sure that type of relationship would suit her. But then she had to remember that she had thought her relationship with Cedric had been anything but casual and look where it had gotten her.
“You’re earlier than I expected,” she somehow found her voice to say. In the predawn light that encompassed him, she searched his eyes for any signs of decisions that he himself might have made and only saw the heated look of desire that had been there from the very first. And she knew if she was ever undisciplined enough to risk all and take a chance, this man would and could introduce her to passion of the hottest kind.
He was standing before her so utterly handsome in his jeans, flannel shirt, boots and Stetson. He looked nothing like an action-thriller author but everything like a rugged cowboy who made the unspoiled land surrounding Montana’s Rocky Mountains his home. But she knew there was something else about him that was holding her inter est. It was what she saw beyond the clothes. It was the man himself. There was a depth to him that was greater than any man she’d ever met. There was a self-confidence about him that had nothing to do with arrogance and a kindness that had nothing to do with a sense of duty. He did things out of the generosity of his heart and concern for others and not for show. And she felt loyalty to him. He would be true to whatever woman he claimed as his. Cedric could certainly have taken a few lessons from Stone Westmoreland.
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