Read Wild Dakota Heart Online

Authors: Lisa Mondello

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #War, #Romance, #Military, #Western, #cowboy romance, #military romance, #navy seal, #western romance, #deals in books, #Contemporary Romance, #Westerns

Wild Dakota Heart (8 page)

BOOK: Wild Dakota Heart
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A chill raced through her and Maddie longed for the warmth of Ethan’s arms. It had been years since she’d dreamed of being in them, having him hold her and kiss her the way he had just seconds ago. And now he was telling her it was a mistake.

Crossing her arms over her chest, she said, “I don’t understand.”

“I can’t…I won’t do that to you, Maddie. You’re vulnerable right now. Only a bastard would take advantage of that. You deserve more.”

As Ethan turned to leave, Maddie thought she’d die. All the times she’d dreamed of kissing Ethan, she never thought it would turn out like this, with him leaving her standing there alone. It was eerily reminiscent of the day he left the Navy.

He reached the door, but before he could leave, she stopped him.

“You’re a hypocrite, Ethan.”

He stopped with his hand on the doorknob.

“You told me I had some feelings to get over so I could move on and have a full life. You need to open your eyes to a few things.”

He gave her a sidelong glance. “What’s that?”

“How about the fact that I’m a woman, not a kid?”

Ethan stared at her from down the hallway. All the heat she’d felt moments ago was there in his eyes. “I know,” he said, his voice low. “That’s why I’m leaving.”

* * *

The walk back to his SUV left Ethan empty. He’d just kissed Denny’s kid sister.

Except…

Maddie didn’t feel like Denny’s kid sister when she’d been in his arms. And he wasn’t thinking of Denny when her body was pressed against the length of his. Every bit of her was woman, soft, sexy and desirable. And all Ethan knew was he wanted her. All of her.

He climbed into the SUV and looked back at her condo door, pulling in a deep breath to steady himself. His quickened pulse was like a timpani in his ear, pulsing through him at rapid speed.

He’d wanted Maddie. And what startled him more was it wasn’t the first time.

He thrust the key in the ignition with more force than needed and fired up the SUV's engine. It was still early enough that he could do some work on the motorcycle when he got home. But something told him he’d only sit and stare at metal parts all night.

He pulled out of the parking space and drove to the entrance of the Wingate Condominium complex. Hitting the directional for a left turn that would take him home, Ethan glanced in the opposite direction. The Nolan property was to the right.

He recalled the day he’d walked the property and saw the farmhouse in disrepair. The Realtor had long since left, but Ethan walked down to the river’s edge and sat on a boulder for at least an hour, listening to the frigid water of January breaking through chunks of ice and snow to make it down river. He remembered thinking about Logan’s farm being just a half mile further down that same stream and how nice it would be to build a life someday with someone special.

The ice storm and floods had destroyed his vision for rebuilding the property. But there was still something that drew him there. Clarity. Contentment. He’d felt those that day even though he felt frozen by the time he went back to his SUV and headed home.

The tick, tick, tick of the blinker pulled him from his thoughts. He turned the wheel and headed in the opposite direction of home, toward the Nolan property.

* * *

Ethan hadn’t seen Maddie in a few days. He’d called her house but got no answer. He’d driven by MW Oil and seen her car in the parking lot. He’d even asked his father how she was doing. But she hadn’t shown up at the house to help him with the motorcycle.

He wanted to kick himself from one end of the garage to the other. He’d kissed her. The way she felt in his arms had been so wonderful. And he knew without a doubt that if he hadn’t left Maddie right at that moment, he would have made love to her.

Frustration, he put too much force behind tightening a bolt on the motorcycle. His hand slipped and brushed up against a sharp piece of metal that was protruding too far out.

“Damn!”

Ethan looked down at the blood and grease on his hand.

“Now you’ve done it.”

Deep in his thoughts, he hadn’t heard footsteps or even a car pulling into the driveway. But Maddie stood just outside the garage door, peering in with a wide smile that took his breath away.

“Did you break it?” she asked.

He looked down at his hand and moved his fingers. “No, but I have a gash. I’m getting blood all over the floor.”

“I was talking about the motorcycle. It’d be a shame if you did, especially after all the work I’ve done on the fuel tank cap.”

“Gee, thanks.” He stood up and walked over to her until they were both standing outside the garage. In her hands, she held two soda bottles. Both were unopened.

“What’s that?”

“One’s for you,” she said, handing one of the bottles to him and then unscrewing the top of hers. Looking at his hand she said. “You need to wash that out first.”

She placed her thumb over the mouth of soda bottle and shook it. For a second, it caught Ethan off guard. But then he saw her mischievous grin and he started laughing.

“What do you think you’re going to do?”

“You need to cool off.”

She released her thumb from the mouth of the bottle just a little to allow a stream of soda pop to spray and directed the spray at Ethan. He quickly did the same and started spraying her. The two of them laughed as they chased each other around the front lawn, spraying until there was no soda left. Then Ethan ran over to the hose on the side of the house and turned it on full blast. The surprised look on Maddie’s face when she rounded the corner and he blasted her with water was priceless.

“No fair!” she screamed, laughing. “You have the advantage. I don’t have a hose.”

“You started it.” That alone was enough of a surprise for Ethan. She ran to the faucet and quickly turned the water off. The hose slowly drained of water until it was just a trickle. Ethan used the remaining water to clean out the cut on his hand.

Still chuckling, and drenched to the bone, Maddie came over to him and pulled his hand towards her to inspect it. The feel of her hands on his left him lightheaded.

She glanced up at him and smiled. “You’ll live.”

“Yeah.”

Her hair was soaking wet, and the white T-shirt she wore clung to her skin. And every bit of him wanted her as much as he had the other day when he’d kissed her in the kitchen.

“You haven’t been around.”

“I’ve been busy. I finished the artwork on the fuel tank cap.”

“You did? But you left the sketches here. How did you do it?”

“I was inspired by something else. Something more beautiful. I think you’ll like it.”

“Great. Where is it so I can see it?”

“It’s still at my condo. It needed to dry a little more before I put the final coat on it. Now I need to dry off. Thanks for the shower.”

“You’re welcome.”

She turned and started walking down the driveway to where her car was parked. “Stop by later.”

“You’re leaving already?”

“I need to take another shower to get all this sticky soda off me.”

He watched her walk away and heard her musical laugh and he was suddenly a teenager again. His heart swelled with emotion that bubbled up in his throat and threatened to choke him. The Maddie he’d always known and loved was back.

And with that thought, his heart stopped. Loved? Well, sure, he loved her. Ethan had known Maddie since she was just a little girl and he used to visit Denny at the house after school. But the love he felt now was different. And he did love her. What else could this be?

Ethan had done so many wild things in his life. He’d been on black op missions that still made him nervous to think about. He and Denny had done countless pranks throughout their childhood that had left him trembling with fear along with the excitement.

But none of that compared to this feeling. This love he felt for Maddie terrified him to the core.

# # #

Chapter Nine

 

As far as bad ideas went, going over to Maddie’s condo was as bad as it got. He hadn’t been able to shake off the feelings he’d had earlier when they playfully ran around the front yard like kids. That kind of playfulness was something he’d forgotten about. He’d been so absorbed with becoming the man Denny thought he was that he’d forgotten.

He walked up to the door, anticipation coursing through him like one of the freight trains he and Denny stupidly decided to jump on when they were thirteen. By the time they’d been able to jump off, they were already in Wyoming and they had to call their parents to pick them up. That long ride home felt like the walk to Maddie’s door.

He’d known her practically his whole life and yet…it felt like he was meeting her for the first time.

He rang the doorbell. After a few seconds, she opened the door. Her hair was tied up in the back of her head in a clip. She’d put on a light coating of lipstick that made her skin glow. She’d changed out of her wet shorts into a fresh pair of cutoff jeans and a coral tank top.

“Come in. I'm making dinner.”

“I can come back.”

She turned and gave him a look. “Don’t be silly. I was expecting you.”

He walked behind her, taking in the sway of her hips and the lightness of her step that was almost like a skip. She did that when she was happy. He’d forgotten.

“The fuel tank cap is on the coffee table in the living room. I’ll meet you there in a second. I just want to turn off the stove so dinner doesn’t burn.”

It wasn’t the first time Ethan had been to Maddie’s condo. But last time he’d only gotten as far as the kitchen where he’d kissed her. The living room was decorated much like he’d expected it would be. Light, minimal and homey. There were pictures of her family on the fireplace mantel. The one of her and Denny in high school had Ethan walking right to the fireplace to take a closer look. He picked up the picture and studied it.

Maddie came into the room. “That one was taken about a month before Denny died. Dad just gave it to me the other night. I think that one is my favorite.”

“It’s beautiful.”

Her mouth seemed to tremble as she spoke. “There’s one of you and Denny, too.”

She walked to the fireplace and pulled a smaller frame out from the crowded mantel and handed it to him. Tears stung his eyes as Ethan looked at the picture of his best friend with his arm wrapped around his shoulder.

“He loved you,” she said. “I had a hard time admitting that for a long time. You know, I really hated you taking me to the cliffs. But I’m glad you told me what really happened. I wasn’t fair to you.” She placed her hands on her cheeks as they flamed with color. “The way I treated you at the funeral. I hit you. I’m so ashamed of the way I behaved.”

He put the picture back in its place. “You were grieving. People grieve different,” he said, recalling the words Logan had said to him in the garage.

“I…just never once thought that you were grieving as deeply for him as I was. I should have known. That kind of grief never really goes away.”

“It’s okay.”

She sniffed back a few tears and then smiled. “Come see?”

Maddie led him to the table near the window where she’d worked on the fuel tank cap. Ethan knew she’d put everything into her artwork. But he didn’t expect to see the amazing picture she’d created. Instead of painting the picture that she’d originally done in the sketch, she’d surprised him.

“You changed it.”

Maddie shrugged. “You said Denny thought the cliffs were the closest thing to heaven he’d ever seen. I admit I cried a lot of tears while painting this, thinking of what he saw when he looked out at that view. But I think he would have liked this better. Don’t you think?”

“He would have been blown away by what you created. I know I am.”

Ethan crouched down to get a closer look at all the detail Maddie had put into the project. She’d put every bit of her heart and soul into this project.

“Ethan?”

He stood up with the sound of her voice. “Thank you for pushing me. I feel…so light, like this huge weight has been lifted from me.”

He smiled. “I’m glad.” He bent his head to kiss her on the cheek but she turned at the last minute and their lips met, igniting a fire so strong deep inside him, he thought he’d explode.

Maddie leaned into the kiss, holding nothing back, much as she had done when creating her masterpiece. She wrapped her arms around him, and he could have easily pulled himself away. But he didn’t want to. Something about being in Maddie’s arms felt like coming home.

She pulled away just long enough to gaze into his eyes.

“You are so beautiful.”

Her smile was so radiant, it took his breath away.

“I thought you’d never notice.”

“You weren’t paying attention. I always noticed everything about you.”

“Like?”

“You have a scar on your eyebrow from when you fell and hit your head on the coffee table.”

Her hand went to her head. She ran her fingers over the spot he was talking about. “How did you know that? You didn’t even know Denny then.”

“Denny told me he pushed you because you were taking too long jumping off the couch. He felt guilty.”

“I don’t want to talk about Denny right now.”

“You don’t?”

“I want to talk about you.”

“What about me?”

She gazed up at him, running her hands slowly up his chest and over his shoulders until she laced her fingers at the base of his neck.

“Do I really have to spell this out? Because I will.”

“We don’t have to talk at all.”

She smiled, reaching up on her toes and kissing him softly. “I like that idea. I like it a lot.”

She stepped back and reached out her arm to take his hand and his body kicked into overdrive. In all his life he’d never wanted anything as much as he wanted Maddie right now.

BOOK: Wild Dakota Heart
6.84Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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