Ignited by passion, p.6
Ignited by Passion, page 6
He smiled. “I thought we could grab something to eat on the way,” he said, interrupting her thoughts. She sighed, grateful that he had. She could have stood there and stacked up all his strong points all day.
She offered him a smile. A part of her was tempted to offer a lot more. He had just that sort of effect on her. “All right. I just need to grab my luggage.”
“I’ll get it,” he said, entering her cabin, immediately filling the space with his heat and making her totally aware of him, even more than she had been before. She watched as he glanced over at the luggage she had neatly lined up next to her bed. Then he looked at her and she heard him swear under his breath before moving—not toward the luggage but toward her.
“I don’t know what decisions you made about us,” he said in a low, husky voice. “But I thought of you all last night and I swore that as soon as I saw you this morning I would do something.”
“What?” she asked, trying to ignore the seductive scent of his aftershave as well as the intense beating of her heart.
Madison’s breath caught and, before she could release a sigh, Stone captured her mouth in his. As soon as their tongues touched she knew she would remember every sweet and tantalizing thing about his kiss. Especially the way his tongue was dueling with hers, staking a claim she didn’t want him to have but one he was taking anyway as he tried kissing the taste right out of her mouth. His tongue was dominating, it was bold and it left no doubt in her mind that when it came to kissing, Stone was an ace, a master, a perfectionist. She placed her arms around his neck, more to stop from melting at his feet than for support. He had a way of making her feel sexy, feminine and desirable; some thing Cedric had never done.
Moments later, when he broke off the kiss and slowly lifted his head to look down at her, she couldn’t help asking, “Got enough?”
“Not by a long shot,” he said hotly against her moist lips. Then he leaned down and kissed her again and Madison quickly decided, what the heck. Once she had told him of her decision about them he wouldn’t be kissing her again anytime soon, so she would gladly take what she could for now.
Her common sense tried kicking in—although it didn’t have the punch to force her to pull from his arms just yet. Her practical side was reminding her that she’d only met Stone two days ago. Her passionate side countered that bit of logic with the fact that in those two days she probably knew him a lot better than she’d known Cedric in the years they had dated. Stone was everything her former fiancé was not—including one hell of a kisser.
Desire surged through her and she knew if she didn’t pull back now the unthinkable might happen. But then a rebel part of her that barely ever surfaced hinted that the unthinkable in this case just might be something she should do.
She didn’t have much time to think about it further when Stone lifted his mouth again and she, regretfully, released her arms from around his neck and took a step back, putting space between them.
“I guess I better grab that luggage so we can leave,” he said, keeping his gaze glued to her face.
“That’s a good idea and I don’t think there should be any more physical contact between us until we talk,” she said softly, trying to hold on to the resolve she’d had that morning. The same resolve his kiss had almost swiped from her.
She watched as he arched a dark brow. “You’ve made decisions?”
Her gaze held on to his. “Yes.”
He nodded then walked across the room for her luggage.
“Tell me about yourself, Stone, and I would love hearing about all of your books.”
Stone briefly glanced across the seat of the truck and met Madison’s inquiring gaze. They had been on the road for over an hour already and she’d yet to tell him of any decisions she’d made. Even when they had stopped at a café for breakfast she hadn’t brought their relationship up. Instead she had talked about how beautiful the land was, how much she had enjoyed teaching last year and about a trip to Paris she had taken last month. She was stalling. He knew it and knew that she knew it, as well.
“Do you want to know about Stone Westmoreland or about Rock Mason?”
A bemused frown touched her face. “Aren’t they one and the same?”
“No. To the people I know I’m Stone Westmoreland. To my readers, the majority of whom don’t know me, I’m Rock Mason—a name I made up to protect my privacy. I should correct that and say it’s a name my sister Delaney came up with. At the time she was eighteen and thought it sounded cool.”
She nodded. “And which one of those individuals are you now?”
She nodded again. And although she had made her mind up not to go there, she couldn’t help but ask. The need to know was too strong. “And each of the times you kissed me, who were you?”
He glanced over at her. “Stone.” He then pulled off the road, stopped the car and turned to her. “Maybe I need to explain things, Madison. I don’t have a split personality. I’m merely saying that a lot of people read a book a person writes and assume they know that individual just be cause of the words he or she puts on paper. But there’s more to me than what is between the pages of my novels. I write to entertain. I enjoy doing so and it pays the bills in a real nice way. Whenever I finish a book I feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement. But when all is said and done, I’m still a normal human being—a man who has strong values and convictions about certain things. I’m a man who’s proud to be an African-American and I’m someone who loves his family. I have my work and I have my privacy. For my work I am Rock Mason and for my private life I am Stone. I consider you as part of my private life.” With that said he started the car and pulled back on the main road.
Madison blew out a breath. The very thought that he considered her part of his life at all made her heart pound and parts of her feel soft and gooey inside. “So tell me something about the private life of Stone Westmoreland.”
Her request drew his brows together as he remembered the last time a woman had asked him that. Noreen Baker, an entertainment reporter who’d wanted to do an interview on him for Today’s Man magazine. The woman had been attractive but pushy as hell. He hadn’t liked her style and had decided when she’d tried delving into his personal life that he hadn’t liked her. But she was determined not to be deterred and had decided one way or another she would get her story.
She never got her story and found out the hard way that, although on any given day he was typically pretty nice and easygoing, when pissed off he could be hell to deal with. Instead of giving her the exclusive she had desired, he had agreed to let someone else do a story on him.
“I’m thirty-three—closer to thirty-four with a birthday coming up in August—single, and have never been married and don’t plan on ever getting married.”
Madison lifted a brow. “Why?”
“It’s the accountability factor. I love being single. I like coming and going whenever I please and, with being a writer, I need the freedom of going places to do research, book signings, to clear my mind, relax and to be just plain lazy when I want to. I’m not responsible for anyone other than myself and I like it that way.” He decided not to tell her that another reason he planned to stay single was that he saw marriage as giving up control of his life and giving more time to a wife than to his writing.
Madison nodded. “So there’s not a special person in your life?”
“No.” But then he thought she was special and he had pretty much accepted that she was in his life…at least at the present time.
“What about your immediate family?”
“My parents are still living and doing well. My father works with the construction company my grandfather started years ago. He’s a twin.”
Madison had shifted her body in the seat to search her pockets for a piece of chewing gum and glanced over at Stone. “Who’s a twin?”
“My father. As well as my two brothers, Chase and Storm, and my cousins, Ian and
“Are they all identical twins?” she asked fascinated. She’d never heard of so many multiple births in one family before.
“No, everyone is fraternal, thank God. I can’t imagine two of Storm. He can be a handful and considers himself a ladies’ man.”
Madison smiled, hearing the affection in his voice. “How many brothers do you have?”
“Four brothers and one sister. Delaney, who we call Laney, is the baby.”
Madison frowned. “Delaney Westmoreland? Now where have I heard that name before?”
Stone chuckled. “Probably read about her. People magazine did a spread on her almost a year and a half ago when she married a prince from the Middle East by the name of Jamal Ari Yasir.”
A huge smile touched Madison’s face. “That’s right, I remember reading that article. Essence magazine did an article on her, as well. Wow! I remember reading it during…”
Stone glanced over at her to see why she hadn’t finished what she was about to say. Her smile was no longer there. “During what?”
She met his gaze briefly before he returned it to the road. “During the time I broke up with my fiancé. It was good reading something as warm, loving and special as the story about your sister and her prince; especially after finding out what a toad my own fiancé was.”
“What did he do?”
Madison glanced down at her hands that were folded in her lap before glancing over at Stone. His eyes were on the road but she knew that she had his complete attention and was waiting for her response. “I found out right before our wedding that he’d been having an affair. He came up with a lot of reasons why he did it, but none were acceptable.”
“Hell, I should hope not,” Stone said with more than a hint of anger in his voice. “The man was a fool.”
“And she was a model.”
Stone lifted a brow. “Who?”
“The woman he was sleeping with. He said that that justified his behavior. He believed he was actually using her so as not to wear me down. He wanted to preserve me for later.”
A dark frown covered Stone’s face. “He actually said that?”
“Yes. Cedric was quite a character.”
Stone didn’t want to get too personal, but he couldn’t help asking, “So the two of you never, ahh, never slept together?”
Instead of looking over at him he watched as she quickly glanced out the window. “Yes, we did, but just twice during the two years we were together.”
Stone shook his head. “Like I said before, he was a fool.”
Madison leaned back comfortably in her seat. She was glad Stone felt that way. Cedric had tried to convince her that just because he’d been involved in one affair was no reason to call off their wedding. A model, he’d tried to explain, was every man’s fantasy girl. That didn’t mean he had loved her less, it only meant he was fulfilling one of his fantasies. She guessed fulfillment of fantasies came be fore fidelity.
“Tell me some more about you, Stone,” she said, not wanting to think anymore about Cedric and the pain he had caused her.
She listened for the next few miles while Stone continued to tell her about his family. He talked about his brother Dare who was a sheriff and Chase who owned a restaurant in downtown Atlanta. Once again she was surprised to discover that he had another well-known sibling—Thorn Westmoreland, the motorcycle builder and racer who had won the big bike race in Daytona earlier that year.
“I’ve seen your brother’s bikes and they’re beautiful. He’s very skillful.”
“Yes, he is,” he said. “He got married last month and is in the process of teaching his wife how to handle a bike.”
By the time they had reached the Quinns’ ranch, Madison felt she knew a good bit about Stone. He had openly shared things about himself and the people he cared about. She knew he never, ever wanted to marry but was proud that his parents’ marriage had lasted for such a long time. And he was genuinely happy for his sister and brothers and their marriages.
When they pulled the truck up in front of the sprawling ranch house, Madison caught her breath. It was breathtaking and like nothing she had ever seen before. “This place is beautiful,” she said when Stone opened the truck door for her to get out.
He laughed. “If you think this place leaves you gasping for air, just wait until you see Uncle Corey’s place. Now that place is a work of art.”
Madison couldn’t wait to see it. Nor could she wait to see her mother. Stone must have read the look in her eyes because he gently squeezed her hand in his, giving her assurance. “She’s fine and you’ll see her soon enough.”
She nodded. Thankful. Before she could say anything a woman, who appeared to be in her middle fifties, came out the front door of the house with a huge smile on her face. She was beautiful and it was quite obvious she was Native American. Her dark eyes were huge in her angular face. She had high cheekbones and long, straight black hair that flowed down her back. “Why, if it isn’t Stone Westmoreland. Martin said you were coming and I decided to cook an apple pie for the occasion. I’ll share if you auto graph a few books for me.”
Stone laughed as he swept the woman off her feet into his arms for a hug. “Anything for you, Mrs. Quinn. And you know how much I love your apple pie.” When he had placed her back on her feet he turned her around so he could introduce her to Madison.
“Madison, this is Morning Star Quinn, Martin’s wife. They are good friends of my uncle Corey and their son McKinnon is Durango’s best friend.”
Madison smiled. It was easy to see that the woman had Stone’s affection and respect. She offered Morning Star Quinn her hand to shake, liking her on the spot. She seemed like such a vibrant person who blended in well with her surroundings. “It’s nice meeting you.”
“It’s nice meeting you, as well. And I’ve prepared a place for the two of you to stay overnight. I understand you are on your way up to see Corey.”
Stone nodded. “Yes. Mr. Quinn mentioned when I spoke with him on the phone yesterday that the two of you haven’t seen Uncle Corey in a while.”
Morning Star Quinn shook her head. “It’s been weeks. He’s missed the Thursday night poker game for almost three weeks now, and you know for your uncle that’s unusual. But we know he’s all right.”
“How do you know that for certain?” Madison couldn’t help but ask.
Morning Star Quinn raised a curious brow as if wondering why she was interested then smiled at her and responded. “He came down off the mountain a couple of days ago to use the phone. It seems something is wrong with his telephone, which is the reason no one has heard from him. Martin and I had gone to town so we didn’t get a chance to see him, but McKinnon was here and had a chance to talk to him. He assured us that Corey was fine.”
Mrs. Quinn then switched her gaze to Stone. “McKinnon also said he had a woman with him; a very nice-looking woman at that. Of course that surprised all of us because you know how Corey feels about a woman being on his mountain.”
Stone shook his head, smiling. “Yes, I know. In fact that’s one of the reasons we’re going up to see him.”
Tapping her finger to her bottom lip, Morning Star Quinn gazed thoughtfully at Stone. “Then you know her? You know who this woman is?”
Madison knew that, out of consideration for her mother’s reputation, Stone would not say. But she knew that Morning Star Quinn was a person that she could be honest with; and was a person that she wanted to be honest with. “Yes, we know who she is,” Madison finally answered. “The woman up there on the mountain with Corey Westmoreland is my mother.”
Nothing, Madison thought as she walked outside on the huge porch, could be more beautiful than a night under a Montana sky. Even in darkness she could see the outlines of the Rockies looming in the background and was starkly amazed at just how vastly different this place was from Boston.
She turned when she heard the door open behind her and wasn’t surprised t
Earlier he had helped her unload her luggage and had placed it in the bedroom that Mrs. Quinn had given her to use. Then later, after she had gotten settled, he had come for her when Martin Quinn and his son McKinnon had come home. She had blinked twice when she saw McKinnon. The man was simply gorgeous and had inherited his mother’s golden complexion. After introductions had been made, Stone had asked her to take a walk with him to show her around the Quinns’ ranch before dinnertime.
On their stroll, he had shared stories with her about how, while growing up, he and his brothers and cousins would visit this area every summer to spend time with their Uncle Corey. It was a guy thing, which meant Delaney was never included in those summer retreats. She usually came to Montana during her school’s spring breaks. Stone also shared with her the little escapades the eleven Westmoreland boys and McKinnon and his three brothers had gotten into. He had made her smile, chuckle and even laugh a few times, and for a little while she had forgotten the reason she had come to Montana in the first place. At dinner she had met Morning Star and Martin’s other three sons, who were younger than McKinnon, but who had also inherited their mother’s Blackfoot coloring, instead of the light complexion of their Caucasian father.
“You okay?” Stone asked quietly, coming to stand be side her.
She tipped her head to look up at him. When he placed his arms around her shoulders as if to ward off the chill in the air, she became very aware of how male he was. And the nice thing about it was that he didn’t flaunt it. In fact he seemed totally unaware of the sensuality oozing from him. “Yes, I’m fine. Dinner was wonderful, wasn’t it?”
by Brenda Jackson / Literature & Fiction / Romance have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes