Slow Burn

Madaris Family Novels (Volume 14)

Brenda Jackson

St. Martin's Paperbacks

Chapter 1
 
Slade Madaris opened the door and was suddenly entranced by the woman he found standing there. He inhaled. Then exhaled. He repeated the process several times before forcing himself to speak. “May I help you?”

He saw the glint of surprise in her eyes and thought they were beautiful eyes. Warm and expressive. “You aren’t Dr. Justin Madaris, are you?” she asked in a soft voice with a New England accent.

Her question made a grin tug at his lips. “No, I’m not Dr. Madaris. I’m his cousin. Do you need to see the doctor?” It wouldn’t be the first time someone had come to the front door instead of following the sign and going around the back to where Justin had built a separate facility for his medical practice.

“Yes. No.” As if to explain her hasty response, she smiled and said, “This is not a medical call. I’m here to see both Dr. and Mrs. Madaris.”

Her smile did something to Slade’s insides, actually made his heart skip a beat. “I see,” he said, watching her nervously nibble on her lip. He wondered what had her so tense. He continued to watch the torture she was giving her mouth and thought they had to be the most kissable pair of lips he’d ever seen on a woman.

Deciding he’d seen enough and any more would push him to do something outlandishly bold—something his twin brother, Blade, would not hesitate to do—like pulling her into his arms and kissing her, Slade sighed heavily, then pushed away from the door frame and took a step back. “Then won’t you come in while I let them know they have a visitor?”

“Yes, thank you.”

Skye Barclay walked into the house feeling slightly off-key. If this man was an example of how they grew them in Texas, then she had lived in the wrong state all her life. He was simply gorgeous. And his eyes were so sinfully dark and alluring that she couldn’t help the warm surge that began coursing through her.

She put his age in the early thirties, no more than thirty-two or -three, and he had to be every bit of six feet three or more and was dressed in a pair of neatly starched well-worn jeans, a belt with a wide brass buckle, and a white chambray shirt. In her opinion he was the epitome of just what a Texan man should look like, all the way down to his booted feet.

And then there was his face. The man was as ruggedly handsome as any man had a right to be. In addition to the gorgeous pair of eyes, he also had a pair of lips that made you think of stolen kisses on a hot summer night and a pair of dimples that were responsible for the shiver she suddenly felt inching up her spine. His dark hair was cut low and neatly trimmed around his head, and his firm jaw more than complemented the rest of his striking features.

“Would you like something to drink while we wait?”

The man’s question recaptured Skye’s attention. She gave him a bemused look. “Wait?”

“Yes. Justin and Lorren are out riding. I’ve sent a text message letting them know they have a visitor.”

“You did?”

“Yes.”

She glanced around feeling somewhat embarrassed. She was acting like a sixteen-year-old noticing the opposite sex for the first time, instead of the twenty-six-year-old woman that she was. She’d been too busy checking him out to notice he’d used his cell phone. The one he was now placing back into the pocket of his jeans. Doing so made the denim material stretch tight across muscular thighs. She fought to hold back the little moan that threatened to escape her throat. She’d never reacted this way to a man before. Certainly not to Wayne.

“Introductions are in order, don’t you think?” he asked, smiling and offering her his hand. “I’m Slade Madaris.”

She took his hand, and the moment their hands touched she felt a tingling sensation flow through every part of her body. She cleared her throat and said, “And I’m Skye Barclay.”

His smile deepened. “Skye?” At her nod, he said, “I like that. It’s different.”

“Thank you. My mother named me after someone she once knew.”

“And where are you from, Skye? Although I have to admit that your accent gives you away. You’re a New Englander, right?”

She chuckled. “Yes. I’m from Augusta, Maine.”

Slade nodded. “The capital city. I’ve been there once, to a political fund-raiser a few years ago with my uncle Jake.”

“Jake Madaris?”

Slade lifted a brow. “Yes, one of my grand-uncles. Do you know him?”

She figured that now was not the time to let Slade know that her private investigator had given her a preliminary report on certain members of the Madaris family and Jake Madaris’ name topped the list since he was so widely known on a national level. “I don’t know him personally,” she replied honestly. “But you don’t have to be from Texas to know who he is. Everyone knows he married Hollywood actress Diamond Swain a few years ago and they have two children.” A teasing glint shone in her eyes when she then added, “See, I’m caught up on my entertainment trivia.”

Slade thought her chocolate-brown eyes held a warmth that nearly stole his breath. “You did pretty good. Their four-year-old son is Granite and their one-year-old daughter is Amethyst.” Then without missing a beat he said, “And you never did give me an answer about that drink. Do you want one while we wait?”

She shook her head. “No, thank you. I’m fine.”

It was on the tip of Slade’s tongue to say yes, she definitely was fine and in all the right places, but he knew such a comment would be inappropriate. Because of the number of projects Madaris Construction, the company he co-owned with Blade, had acquired in the last few years, he had basically put his social life on hold. The woman standing before him was making him think that maybe it was time for it to get reactivated. Every nerve in his body was coming to life just by looking at her. In all his thirty-two years he’d never felt remotely attracted to this degree toward a woman before, and he wasn’t quite sure just what to make of it. Blade was the playa in the family, the one who assumed it was his God-given right to have any woman he wanted.

Slade studied Skye thinking her age couldn’t be any more than twenty-five and she was no taller than five feet, three inches, with what he considered a perfect face: the coloring that reminded you of dark coffee with a smidgen of cream; full lips; high cheekbones; eyes the color of rich chocolate; and copper brown hair styled in twisted curls that stopped short of touching her shoulder blades. Her makeup, if she was wearing any, was light, and instead of lip coloring her lips shone from a touch of gloss.

She was wearing a floral top and matching skirt that complemented her petite figure, and a pair of flat leather shoes that seemed more for comfort than for show—although he thought they looked cute on her small feet. There was something about her that reminded him of a prissy, prim and proper lady. It was there in the gracefulness of her walk and the correctness of her talk. She was yet to slaughter a single verb.

“Would you like to have a seat then, Skye?” he heard himself asking.

Before Skye could answer, a smiling couple practically breezed into the room. From the genuine warmth in the handsome man’s incredibly dark eyes that connected to Skye’s—which were so much like Slade’s—she immediately got a comfortable feeling. And the woman by his side, whose smile was just as radiant as her beauty, sent out an air of friendliness. Skye knew from the private investigator’s report that Dr. Justin Madaris was forty-six. She immediately thought he wore his age well. Except for the sprinkling of gray at his temple, he looked younger than his years, and he appeared to be in great physical shape.

Skye’s gaze then moved to zero in on Lorren Madaris. At thirty-six she was definitely a beauty with her nutmeg complexion, dark brown hair that fell in soft curls to her shoulders, and eyes the color of rich caramel.

The first thing Skye picked up on was that they appeared happy together, very much in love, which was evident by the way Dr. Madaris was still holding his wife’s hand.

“Hello. I’m Dr. Madaris and this is my wife, Lorren. Slade said you wanted to meet with us.”

Dr. Madaris’ words pulled Skye’s thoughts back to the business at hand. She knew that in order to make them understand the reason for her visit she would have to tell them everything, which meant revealing information she herself just recently had discovered.

Sighing deeply, she took a step forward. “Yes, I’m Skye Barclay,” she said, offering both individuals her hand and immediately feeling the genuine warmth she had detected earlier radiating from their touch. “And I’ve traveled from Maine to meet with the both of you,” she continued. “It seems the three of us share a common interest in something. Or should I say someone.”

She saw a puzzled look appear in their eyes, and a quick glance at Slade, who was standing not far away, showed that same perplexed look in his gaze as well. It didn’t go unnoticed that Lorren Madaris instinctively moved closer to her husband’s side and he placed an arm protectively around her waist. Slade had taken a step to stand closer to the couple, sending a silent affirmation that as Madarises they stuck together. When Skye thought of just how disjointed her family was, she couldn’t help but admire such loyalty.

“And who might that someone be, Ms. Barclay?” Dr. Madaris asked in a clear yet non-intimidating voice.

Skye inhaled deeply. She had rehearsed this part many times over the past few weeks, since finding out the truth of her birth and deciding to make the journey to Texas. But now that the time had come, she was feeling more than slightly nervous. What if Dr. and Mrs. Madaris were not the pleasant couple they seemed? What if once she told them of the nature of her visit they saw her as a threat to their well-ordered life?

“Ms. Barclay?”

She knew that everyone in the room was waiting for her response, and an ingrained need pushed her to give them one. “Vincent.”

It was Lorren Madaris who spoke, and the question seemed to tremble off her lips in a soft tone. “Our son Vincent?”

“Yes. Vincent Madaris, your oldest son. I recently discovered that he’s my brother.”
 

Copyright © 2007 by Brenda Streater Jackson.
All rights reserved.