Authors: Cathy Gillen Thacker
Chance grabbed the lingerie she’d left on the bed and tossed it and her evening dress into her open suitcase.
Madison lounged in the doorway, folding her arms. If he thought she was going to give up this easily, he had another think coming! She had nothing—no family, no children, no life outside the office—beckoning her elsewhere. Her job was her entire world. Signing Chance was the key to her advancement. She wasn’t letting him—or the promotion she had hanging in the balance—go without one hell of a fight. Because that vice presidency was the key to her happiness. That vice presidency would give her security like no man ever could.
“If you will just calm down, I know we can make a deal.” Madison fixed Chance with a matter-of-fact look. “Just tell me what you want. I’ll see you get it, I promise.”
“I’ll just bet you would,” Chance drawled, wishing she didn’t look so damn pretty standing there in jeans and a shirt, the blush of sun on her upturned face, the fire of her considerable ambition in her eyes.
Madison shrugged, unable to see the problem. “Then...”
Chance took a deep breath, summoning the very last ounce of his patience, then spoke in labored tones she couldn’t possibly fail to understand. “I don’t want to make a deal with you.”
Once again, to Chance’s frustration, Madison refused to back down. “Why decide now?” she asked pleasantly, pushing all the harder for what she wanted. “You can take the whole weekend to make up your mind, Chance.”
“I don’t need the whole weekend to make up my mind. I’m not doing it. Not now. Not ever,” he stated flatly. He wasn’t climbing into bed with her or the people she represented—even if he couldn’t seem to stop imagining how she’d feel beneath him or wondering if she’d kiss with as much gusto and aggression as she lived. As much as he hated to admit it, he was turned on by her confidence and drive, her take-no-prisoners personality. More damning yet, he wanted to see some of that fire turned on him behind closed doors.
Madison stared at him, incensed. “That’s a lousy attitude to have. Particularly when you haven’t even bothered to hear me—or my agency, or the people from the AMV Corporation—out.”
Maybe it was. Maybe it wasn’t, Chance thought, but that’s how it was going to be, and it was high time Madison realized it. He didn’t have to be fair. He didn’t owe her anything.
Figuring this was one city girl who had been designing events to suit herself long enough, he took her by the arms and backed her up. Ignoring her soft gasp of dismay, he closed the distance between them, aligning his body against hers, trapping her against the wall. “Just how far would you go to close this deal, Madison?” Chance taunted softly, watching her chin jut forward and her eyes turn a hot, fiery green.
She tried to shove him away.
Determined to ruffle her all-business facade, he caught her hands and held them on either side of her. “Would you go this far?” He ducked his head and touched his lips to hers, softly, evocatively.
He expected her to cry uncle immediately, of course. Realize she’d gone too far in her pursuit of him, promise to leave immediately and never darken his doorway or intrude upon the life he’d made for himself again. Instead, she kissed him.
Chance had known this woman had the potential to be trouble with a capital T the moment she had contacted him about being the Ranchero spokesperson. And that feeling had only intensified when she’d bought him for the weekend. Something about the way she had looked at him. As if he had the power to make her professional dreams come true. And that look had set forth an answering fantasy deep inside him. Only his fantasy had been about this, Chance thought, continuing to kiss her deeply and without restraint. The truth was, he’d been wondering if she would stay even after he turned her down yet again—wondering if they would ultimately act on the potent sexual attraction between them and make love before going their separate ways. Yet he also knew full well Madison Burnes was exactly the kind of career-driven city girl he had always shied away from. And for good reason. Impatient, demanding, far too stubborn and single-minded for her own good, she was the kind of headstrong woman who wanted what she wanted—now! And, as her kisses were fast proving, she would do anything to get it.
If he were smart, he’d stop kissing her this instant, Chance scolded himself sternly.
How long, he wondered, as he tangled his hands in the softness of her white-blond hair, since he’d been presented with such a challenge or been near a woman he wanted even half as much? How long, he wondered, as her fingers dug into his shoulders and she kissed and tormented him beyond his wildest dreams, since he’d ached with pleasure, just said to hell with it and thrown caution to the wind?
Her lips were soft and warm and infinitely sweet, and she kissed him fiercely, with absolutely nothing held in check. She wasn’t the kind of woman who’d give up or give in easily. Chance knew that. Yet she’d allowed him, however briefly, to overpower her and impose his desire on her. Her surrender excited him. The familiar surge of need, so long forgotten, so long ignored, came crashing back. Her lips parted, inviting him in, and her tongue sought his. No shy maiden, she gave an intense physicality to their embrace. And once he’d felt her quick response, felt her rising up to meet him, there was no stopping with just one kiss. No pretending something extraordinary wasn’t happening between them.
With her persistent phone calls, letters and gifts, her hell-for-leather pursuit of him, Madison had gotten under his skin the way no woman ever had, and with her blazing like a bonfire in his arms, he knew there was only one way to extinguish the flame. With every brush of her lips against his, every soft stroke of her tongue, every searching caress of her hands, she was compelling him to make love to her the way she deserved to be made love to, and he was damned if he could say no.
It didn’t matter that they were as different as night and day and would probably regret this the second it was over, Chance thought as he sifted his hands through the ribbon softness of her hair. Nor did he care she was probably using this as a means to an end. He wanted her with all his heart and soul. And since he had never in his entire life done anything halfway, he gave it his all.
Madison had never felt such overpowering need, such urgency. Her meticulous research had told her that Chance Cartwright, bachelor cowboy extraordinaire, was sexy and drop-dead handsome and loaded with charisma. What she hadn’t expected was that he would make her—the reputed ice queen of all time—tingle all over and feel soft and sexy and weak in the knees. She was not the kind of woman who could be swept off her feet, damn it! She was not the kind of woman who let passion rather than common sense rule her thoughts and actions. And yet, as Chance backed her up to the wall and spread his legs on either side of her, pressing his lower half ever so sensually to hers, all she could think about was what it would feel like to be held in his arms with nothing at all between them except their hot, silky skin. What it would be like to have Chance Cartwright know her as no man ever had, totally and completely. What it would be like to be possessed by him, protected, taken by him heart and soul.
His eyes locked with hers. His breathing was every bit as ragged and out of control as hers. “I want you,” he whispered huskily.
And I want you.
Madison didn’t want to think about his desire for her or hers for him. Didn’t want to remember how many nights, after getting off the phone with him, she had secretly fantasized what it would be like to be the woman—the only woman—in this cowboy’s life. She’d come to see him to get her promotion, but had ended up getting so much more than she’d bargained for. Passion. Pleasure. A break from everything that was dull and predictable in her life. Like it or not, Madison thought, feeling him grow even hotter, harder, he made her want as fiercely as he did. He made her react with everything that was feisty and feminine within her. And they were only just getting started, she knew. Worse, he was the first man—the only man—who had ever really captivated her. But none of that altered what had brought her here and kept her here still. Undaunted, she told him breathlessly, “I want a promotion.”
Chance’s deep blue eyes narrowed. His low voice burned with quiet urgency that had nothing to do with ego and everything to do with desire and a willingness to please. “Yeah, but what do you
Madison?” His mouth moved on hers effortlessly, taking complete control of the kiss. “What do you need?”
A riptide of heat flooded through Madison, pooling between her thighs.
Chance pressed even closer, so she could feel the potency of his arousal and the heat and strength emanating from his tall, sinewy frame. “Could it be me? Could I be the man you’ve been waiting for all your life?” he teased, looking more than willing to volunteer for the job if that was indeed the case. “Is that why you’re trembling?”
Madison shot him a quelling look, stubbornly refusing to pull away. How dare he imply that he could in any way be the man for her. Never mind erase the uncertainty and anxiety she always felt when it came to even the idea of beginning an intimate relationship.
She wanted this to be business and nothing more, damn it. Anything else got in the way! She glared at him. “You want to make love?” she snapped. Ignoring the ribbons of need unfurling throughout her body, weakening her knees, making her feel all fluid-limbed, she went on tersely, “Because if that’s what it will take to clear the air and get rid of this
between us, I’m all for it. So long as I get what I came here for, too, of course.”
Chance looked Madison over from head to toe and gave her an infuriating grin. “I should’ve known you’d frame it like that,” he drawled, all too aware that the fury in her eyes might have discouraged most men. But not him.
“It’s the truth.” Her whole body thrumming with pent-up need, Madison shoved away from the wall, tried to step past him, to take charge of the business between them once again.
“Is it?” Chance countered, using his body to block her way, forcing her back to remain against the wall.
Even as she denied it, she knew he could see the vulnerability in her eyes. He stepped closer and took her in his arms again. His lips moved over hers, and though Madison’s mind was still fighting him, her body had long ago turned traitor on her.
“I could have sworn it was something much more basic and inevitable,” Chance whispered, his hand ghosting over her ribs and moving ever upward toward her breasts.
“Like what?” Madison demanded, irritated by the increasing breathlessness in her low voice. She had never in her life experienced such tender, invigorating kisses, and she feared she never would again. That alone was enough to make her want to continue, to see where this would lead. And if this was what it would take to finally be able to cement the deal with him, well, that wasn’t such a bad thing, was it?
Chance inclined his head. He rubbed his thumbs across her lips, erasing the dewy residue of their previous kisses. “Like maybe the two of us were meant to be together like this.”
“You can’t believe that,” Madison scolded, letting him know with a glance she was no naive simpleton. It had to be some sort of cowboy pickup line he was using on her. But she saw, looking into his eyes, that he believed it.
“All I know for sure is I want you.” Chance slipped his hands beneath her shirt to caress her breasts. “And...you can deny it all you want, excuse it all you want...but you want me.”
That was because she had never felt passion like this, Madison thought as her nipples beaded against his tenderly caressing palms. She had never been wanted like this, so completely, so inexorably, so quickly. The past few years there had been so little excitement in her life, so little possibility of bliss on any level. To feel it now, at just a kiss or two or three, was overwhelming. And yet there was no denying it. When Chance’s lips had touched hers, he’d made her feel alive, made her feel wanted. And for the moment, anyway, he made her feel cherished. Appreciated. In a very womanly, very exciting way. As foolish and reckless as that might be, Madison realized abruptly, there was a part of her that was ready and willing to explore all that—for the sake of the deal, of course, she reassured herself firmly.
“You’re right,” Madison murmured. Why should hard-loving cowboys be the only ones who could compartmentalize their lives, worry about business one moment, pleasure the next? Why should cowboys have all the fun? “Maybe—just maybe—this is exactly what we both need here.”
There was nothing tentative or questioning about what they brought each other then. She wanted control. He understood she needed it, and he gave it to her. Then it was all raw primitive passion. Throaty moans. Her hands more bold than his.
Her lips were hot and soft, her kiss wild and sensual. Groaning, Chance deepened the kiss, meeting her tongue, stroke for enticing stroke. He swept her mouth rapaciously, leaving not a millimeter unexplored. She kissed him as if she couldn’t get enough of him. Then opened his shirt, his jeans, slipped her hands inside his briefs. Her hands were everywhere, cupping him warmly, gently exploring and caressing, touching, teasing, tormenting, until goose bumps rose on his flesh and the blood rushed through his veins.
Madison deepened their kiss even more, her tongue parrying evocatively with his. Chance groaned, the sound one of deep male satisfaction, then swept her into his arms and carried her down the hall to his bedroom. His heart pounding, he lowered her to his bed. Her eyes darkened impatiently, and she watched as he hurriedly stripped off his clothes and dropped down beside her.
“Finally,” Madison murmured.
Chance’s soft laughter mingled with hers, the intimate sound echoing through his empty house. Still smiling, her mouth swollen from their kisses, she put her hand to the side of his face and eagerly brought his lips to hers. They kissed again as he stretched out beside her, deep, hungry kisses that had no beginning and no end. And then it was his turn to unbutton her shirt, her jeans, push aside her bra and bikini panties, not stopping until she was as gloriously naked as he. His glance trailed hungrily over the soft, rounded globes of her breasts, the graceful indentation of her waist, the silken flare of her hips, moving lower still to the triangle of golden curls, long, slender thighs, sexy calves and dainty feet. She was perfect, every breathtaking inch of her.