Chapter 2 - Madison
Jogging through the park helped to clear her head. She hated leaving Lupe behind, and now she was even regretting allowing Xander to join her, but she really needed to allow the tension that plagued her a chance to work itself out.
For now, she needed time to think, and running through the brisk evening air of late autumn would allow her to do just that. Maybe it was not her finest move to come out so late. Add that to the fact that she was using the park just outside of town, and it was almost a recipe for disaster. She had argued with herself that it was the only way to ensure the peace she needed to calm herself and find her center. So she attempted to allow that solitude to pulse through the tightness that had seemed to seep into every part of her body.
In one of her hands, she clutched her car keys in such a way that they protruded just slightly between her knuckles while she carried a military grade pepper spray in her other hand. She carried them confidently, knowing full well how to use them. On more than one occasion, she had to show her skills. Usually to victims that were drunk and obstinate, and those that she would have been able to use a swift kick between his legs to accomplish the same thing. The difference? Using the pepper spray would allow them to be able to father children, whereas she would wager they might be shooting blanks a while after she used the full swing of her legs. Okay, so maybe some of them should not have been allowed to procreate, but who was she to decide that fate.
The lamps in the park were posted on alternating sides of the path, and they all emitted small lighted circles along the running path. They were spaced far enough such that the glow from one just made it to the outer edge of the next. As she ran, she watched the patterns that the lamps cast on the area that she jogged over while listening to the breeze blowing through the leaves of the trees from within the park and from those that outlined its perimeter. It was peaceful here, and beautiful.
But her father’s training clung to her like cigarette smoke does to a smoker’s clothes. Though she kept her cell in the side pocket of her lycra jogging pants, she never used headphones. Never listened to music. And always was sure to have some form of weapon on her...just in case. Be prepared...be alert.
Her feet strummed the sidewalk, and it created its own comfortable rhythm. The vibrations of it felt good running up her legs to her hips. She had taken up running years before when she was a different woman looking for a way out of a bad place. After her divorce, it had become a way of life for her.
A chilled breeze whipped through, and she turned her face up to meet it. It felt good to have the brisk stream of it blow against her while she sprinted over the concrete. Like a renewal of sorts. She let the tranquility of her surroundings soothe her.
The lands that ran parallel to the park were privately owned, and ran deep and wide. In fact, it was the same lands that border her own little investment property that she and her mother purchased together several months ago. If she were to drive north about fifteen miles from the little park, she would run into the little bar that had gone to the dogs in recent years. She believed that it would be a great investment someday, but she needed time to build it into something more fitting than it currently was. Until she could afford to make the changes, she would have to let it run as it was...with the clientele it currently had.
The plan for the bar was on track. Though it was not a windfall, the bar was making money, and she was able to start putting money aside for the renovations. As much as it pained her, the bar would have to make a lot more money to be able to do anything with the renovations before the year was up. It would not stop her from making this bar a success. It was not until she received a correspondence from Mr Maxwell’s attorney that things started to go south for her.
After only a few months of ownership, she had been notified that there were some underlying issues regarding the land titles. Was he wanting to develop his land? After more than a few decades of leaving the land undeveloped and in its natural state, would he be entertaining industry and business proposals to rent or buy sections to build on? The town had grown quicker than most had anticipated over time, and now it had become a small metropolis. It had expanded in every direction that yielded to its demands, while Mr Maxwell’s lands remained unyielding. Truth be told, the natural state of the lands was breathtaking, and Maddie had a lot of respect for the man who had withstood the economic growth and spread of the city. That is, until she remembered that this was the same Maxwell that she was being forced to take a meeting with in the morning.
There were rumors about the man, of course. Philandering, lustful, relentless, ruthless, determined, and proud were some of those rumors going around. Anytime there was a big social function in the city, he was sure to be invited and attend with one or more gorgeous women in tow. At least, that is what her roommate would tell her when he was busy gossiping about the nightlife that he was so keen to be a part of.
Xander was like having her own E! News for all the happenings in her own backyard. Though he always had magazines, articles, websites and such, Maddie was lucky to give them a cursory glance at best when he tried to pull her into his world of glitz and glam. Now she almost regretted not paying more attention to Xander and his musings, she might have been at least able to put a face to the arrogant capitalist who wanted to make her life so difficult.
Now, the cold breeze tickled the back of her neck where once it had brushed against her face. She shivered as it mingled with the sheen of perspiration there. Maybe that should have been her signal to head back, but she was still fighting the urge to punch something. But, when it blew against her back side once more, nearly pushing her forward with its exertion, a shiver coursed through her that lingered past her skin. Definitely time to head home now. That felt...eerie.
Without interrupting her jogging rhythm, she crossed one leg over the other and spun around. Her eyes had to refocus with the sudden movement, and she felt herself smash into something big, and hard.
“What the…” she started. The rest of the words falling into a big, hairy barrel of a chest. Small, rough curls of hair had found their way into her mouth from his chest as she spun around, and she was now trying her best to spit them out and back away from the offending source. The smell of earth and rotting flesh hit the back of her throat, and caught her words in its acrid flavor. Maddie gagged as she shoved away, hard.
Arms that were like vice grips held her within inches of the stench and the heat of the person who restrained her, holding the top of her arms firmly to her sides. Evaluating her situation, she remembered the keys in her hand, and the pepper spray. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are,” she said, trying her best to push against the mass, “but you better get the…” The explicative never quite reached her mouth as he grabbed hold of her hair with a speed quicker than she had known and pulled it back with a sharp force, grasping her in a bear-like hug close to his body and pinning her there. She yelped at the sudden pain at her scalp, and the ache she was starting to feel at her head being thrust back so quickly.
He was a head taller than her, and his dark hair and beard hung in clumps around his head. She hated to think about what matted the hair together in such a grisly way, especially considering the smell that still permeated the air. His close set brown eyes were dark, and a scar ran across his face over one of those eyes. The thought that he could have been an escape convict occurred to her before she settled it at the back of her mind, knowing that it was not something that would help her get out of her current predicament.
His large frame towered over her, and she felt small compared to him as he started to nuzzle his rancid beard and mouth against her neck. Touching her in such an intimate way repulsed her as she started to squirm away from the stranger. Her fingers twitched as she tried to find a way to make use of the items that she had curled tight in her hands, while her mind was berating her for not hearing such a bear of a man walk up behind her. How could she not have noticed? She had been attentive. Certainly he was too large not to have made any noise. Lupe would have been able to pick up on his scent and sounded the alarm before now.
The man at her neck inhaled deep of her and her flavor, relishing it as he moved across her very sensitive flesh. “You smell delicious,” he finally said, his voice gruff and heated. As if to emphasize his point, he pushed his hips forward, letting the bulge that lie there speak volumes to her senses. Panic and fear gripped her as she struggled more, only to realize that this caused him to become even more excited. “Where is your wolf now?” He grunted as he let the tip of his nose slither across her neck. Her skin crawled, though it was his words that made her breath catch. He knew about Lupe? She stilled her writhing, not wanting to encourage the man’s bulge, though she continued to twist her small fists, trying to get the best vantage for her attack.
Finding an angle that she thought she could maximize damage, she kept thinking that all she needed to do was startle him. Just enough to get him off guard that she could make a run for it and return to her car. Call the cops from her cell phone. Race home, run inside, climb in bed with Lupe or her roommate, and try to forget that this ever happened. When his tongue laved across her neck again, she shrieked. Her outrage bubbled inside her as she lifted her wrist back as far as she could manage and rammed the set of keys against his side.
The act was enough to shock him for a brief moment, but it was all she needed. She pushed him back enough to pull her can of spray towards his face, and spray. When the man in front of her howled with rage, another wave of fear crashed against her at its inhuman sound. “What the hell are you?”
Maddie had to get out of there. This time, when she shoved hard against the man, she rammed her foot up hard between his legs. There was no telling which bothered him most: the pepper spray that now coated his nose and throat, or the throbbing sensation in his pants. Either way, it gave her a window of opportunity that she intended to take full advantage of.
Trying to reach into her pants for her phone, she was losing valuable time. The lycra material was not as easy for her to shove her hand in and pull out the phone. She needed to focus on getting away. Running forward with everything that her legs could muster, she eventually glanced back to make sure he was not in pursuit.
There he stood, watching her. Somehow, he had managed to recover from her assault, and he narrowed his eyes on her, like she was his prey. His eyes were not normal, almost orange in their appearance as his eyes followed her with rage stiffening his body. When he lurched forward, he was so fast. Faster than she was, and he was already gaining in only two strides. How could he move so fast?
Her foot stubbed on one of the small gullies made from the concrete slabs joining, and she felt herself falling to the ground. She would not go out this way. The man would regret meeting her this night. Putting her arms forward to try to catch herself, she clutched the items in her hands with renewed fervor.
Instead of meeting with the concrete, she felt her fists and keys graze against flesh. Before she had a chance to process, she was shoved behind a solid, muscular frame with a strong, stiff arm.
Taking a moment to breathe, she could feel the warmth of this body reaching through to her. It felt odd and comforting, if one could get that from a simple touch. And yet, she knew that a six foot four man was about to flatten them both to the ground if she did not make an escape.
Maddie struggled against the arm that pinned her to him, and he shot her a warning glare. “If you run, you die.” His words were whispered, barely audible to her own ears.
The man that had been about to descend on her stopped short as he growled deep. “She’s mine! I found her first.” The words made her gut clench, and raised her ire.
Who did he think he was? She could not refrain from commenting, even though she knew she shouldn’t. “I am not yours, or anyone’s, you filthy…”. The hand that was keeping her secured tensed as it squeezed her arm, silencing her. The raw energy of the action made her gasp, and his body tensed even more.
“You have no claim here. Be on your way.” The command given rumbled deep in the chest of the man that held her. The quality and smoothness of it resonated in her, and made her very flesh tingle. What was wrong with her?
“But you can’t…”. The scarred man almost whimpered the words, like a wayward dog being chastised.
The growl that erupted from the man that now held her was menacing, and she found herself trying to retreat from it. Even the man that had given her chase was fearful, and his eyes darted around evaluating his options. It dawned on her that the man holding her captive now was more dangerous than the one that had given chase. Once again, she started to pull hard against his hold, and was rewarded with another growl. Was this a new trick men were learning around here? Whatever it was, it was creepy. Unnatural...or maybe very natural, if they were rabid dogs.
The scarred man before them trembled, and cowed. It was odd to watch a man of his size cower the way that he was. She turned her eyes up to see her new captor.
Like the other man, he was a head taller than her, but his body was more streamlined and rigid. The sweater that he wore fit his form perfectly, and sat snug against muscles that were taut and uncompromising. The bulking mass the other man had was not here, but in its place was a very hard and defined muscular frame. His hair was a tawny gold with what looked like white highlighted streaks that tinged it throughout giving it an ethereal look. The hard lines in his face as he stood rigid appeared almost sculpted and finely chiseled by the best artistic hands, and his eyes were...she gasped and the growl streamed lightly from his mouth. His eyes were gold.
The man with the scarred face looked around, uncertain. When the golden-eyed man spoke again, the coward turned his head baring his neck to the newcomer. What was this? A sign of deference? “You will leave this woman and this place, now!”
The scarred man could not scramble away fast enough. Then, she was left alone with this man who appeared so ethereal, so unnatural, and yet amazingly gorgeous.
When he turned to her, Maddie realized she was staring and her mouth was gaped. Slamming her mouth shut and averting her eyes, she pulled her arm back trying to release his grip on her. Instead of releasing her, he simply cocked an eyebrow at her attempts.
“Thanks for the assist and all, but,” she tugged hard again to no avail, “I don’t need your help anymore. If you haven’t noticed, he’s already gone.” She put her free hand with the pepper spray on her hip and nodded in the direction the other had retreated.
Never taking his eyes from her, she could feel the heat starting to well up inside her. Those eyes on her was amazing, and it was like he could see into her very soul. “And you think he was the only one who lays in wait for a taste of you?” His words were smooth, and held no humor. He inhaled deep, almost like he was taking in the smell and flavor that the air might hold on it. It was such an odd act that she frowned. She had watched Lupe doing something similar before he would start barking his warning.
Before she could think much on it, he had started to stride in the direction she once retreated to. Pulling her behind him, she tried to protest. “Wait! Stop!” Each word she emphasized by trying to wrench her arm free as he continued to propel her forward. She pulled the arm up with the pepper spray, and faced it towards him. “If you don’t let me go, I will be forced to protect myself.” She tried to exude as much confidence as she could in those words.
When he did stop, she was amazed it worked. Maddie felt empowered, until he turned those eyes on her once more. He eyed her close. “You do not need protection from me.” As he let his gaze stay on hers, he leaned in and nodded towards the little canister she still grasped in her tiny hand. “And if you did, that would be of little use to you. Just so you know.” The side of his lip curled up and his brow lifted a fraction as if to emphasize his point.
Was he bluffing? She could not tell, so she gave another tug of her arm. When it still did not budge, she sneered at him and let the contents of the canister fly.
When the contents smacked him against the face, it was like she was spritzing him with water. He growled deep inside, and moved quickly as he picked her up and threw her over his shoulder, the small, metal canister of pepper spray falling from her grasp. If her keys were not firmly wrapped around her fingers by her keyring, she might have lost those, too. “You are an obstinate, stubborn, insecure woman!” Marching off, she started to kick at him as he toted her over his shoulder.
“Where are you taking me?” She spat at him.
“Your car.” He grumbled at her, without slowing his strides.
“I can walk, you know. I don’t need your help to get to my car, I know where it is.” And that is when it dawned on her. “How do you know where I parked?”
“Main parking lot is this way,” he stated simply.
Made sense. “Then let me down so that I can walk.”
The pause in his strides made her hopeful. As she waited and wondered what he was thinking, she could feel the warmth rise up again, the heat through his sweater reaching her. A brief thought about what he would feel like pressed against her flitted through her head, and made the blush rise from her neck to her hairline. How could she be thinking like that about a man she did not know?
He let her body slide against his as he placed her gently on the ground. His hand slipped from her arm to capture hers, her other one lay flat on his chest. The rock hard feel of his body beneath her as she slid across it made the warmth that was there turn molten and it pooled in her gut, threatening to turn against her.
The eyes that gazed at her were still gilded, and it made the pool spill through her as she gasped. The sound made him stiffen beneath her touch, and she could almost see him flinch. When he leaned into her, she did not resist. The thought of feeling that generous mouth on hers made every other thought that had flitted through her mind disappear.
His mouth brushed hers, and the energy that stung her lips spiraled through the rest of her. Strong arms circled her as he pulled her against him, taking her mouth once again in his. She moaned softly into his mouth, and a low rumble spilled into hers. Pulling her up so that he could take full possession of her mouth, she moved against his excitement and revelled in the feel of it beneath the fabric of his jeans. The pool of molten liquid running through her veins spilled through to be felt at the apex at her thighs.
Never before had she been so extremely turned on by just simply kissing and touching a man. She was no innocent, but she had never felt like this. None of them had made her feel lust like this, and never in such a short time. And here, this man elicited a response from her without much effort.
His lips pressed hard against hers before he let his tongue slide against the sweetness that was her lips. When she parted them, he explored her mouth with his, and joined hers as their tongues spiraled against one another. That tongue was delectable as it thrust into hers with a possessiveness that made her body tremor without giving her mind a chance to acknowledge the affront to her resolve against men’s advances. Instead, her arms had instinctively wrapped themselves around his neck to pull herself deeper into the sensations that danced on her lips and tongue, imbibing on the warmth and flavors that had her head reeling.
The growl rumbled deep inside of him, and the robust, dulcet tones called to her feminine side as she matched his sounds of pleasure with her own. His hands moved to cup under her ass as he seated her against him, her legs instinctively wrapped themselves around his waist. When he pressed his hips into her, she clutched at him harder with her legs, her muscles straining to bring him even closer to her. She could feel his arousal against her, and what scared her most is how much she wanted to feel it pushing inside of her.
One of his arms reached up and traced a pattern across her clavicle, pulling away the lycra material of her shirt as she remained seated against him. His mouth kissed the trail his fingers left, and he nearly hummed with pleasure as he brought his mouth to descend on her once more.
Sanity had been lingering on her peripheral, and forced itself into her conscious mind, dragging her mind away from the pleasures being unloaded onto her body. Pulling away from him, she was speechless. What do you say to a man that you were about to jump his bones in the middle of a public park?
Though she had pulled away, he still held her firm against him and his muscles were strained against the clothes that he wore. Slowly, she unclasped her legs from around his waist, his arms moving up a fraction to catch her around her waist. She patted the place where his shoulder and chest met when she next spoke, almost as if she used those same motions to drive back her own raging hormones and put them back inside the box from where they broke free. “I think you can put me down now, big boy.” And boy did she mean big boy. His erection against her strained to be freed, and it felt heavenly in its width and breadth.
An indignant noise rumbled from inside of his chest before he promptly dropped her the remaining distance to the footpath below. When she landed, she stumbled back a step to steady herself. He moved away from her, and only turned to her when he was several paces ahead of her. “Coming?”
Not yet, but I bet you could do it! Her mind had briefly stepped back into the naughty thoughts that she had been having about this man, and something about him told her that he would be one that could definitely satisfy her. She could imagine that he was experienced, and clearly he knew how to make a woman wanton with lust.
Slipping one of his hands into his hair, he let out a steadying gust of air. “Look, you really need to keep those kinds of thoughts to yourself. You can only expect me to be able to restrain myself for so long before there is no turning back.”
Color flooded her cheeks, and then indignation. “I have no idea what you mean!” She huffed, as she made haste to move herself past him. There was no way that she wanted that man to see the heat that stained her cheeks and flushed her body.
“Don’t you?” The laughter rolled through him, and even the timbre of that added to those lusty thoughts. But, she could not turn around and let him see the effect he had on her. Instead, she allowed her legs to continue to march her forward. How dare he think he had some sort of carnal power over her? She was in complete control of her emotions, wasn’t she?
After several minutes of keeping a quick pace on her way back to her car, she hazarded a glance back to see if he was still following her. Although he was staying in stride with her, she was sorely disappointed to find that he did it with ease. Her smaller legs were moving at a quick pace, and she was damp with her efforts. But he looked for all the world like he was taking a stroll, and looked very relaxed about it.
“Don’t you have somewhere else to be?” She snapped at him. It was not his fault that he was in great physical shape, and that he had so much sexual goodness oozing off him that appealed to her, was it?
“Actually, yes. But I am not opposed to seeing a lady to her car, especially on a night like this.” His hands were in his pockets as he strode easily behind her.
“Men!” She whispered, frustrated at the lot of them.
“We are not all that bad, you know.”
“We are not all that bad? What? You are putting yourself in the good guy category?” Although she snorted it, she could not help but to think of what he had just done for her. He was, wasn’t he? I mean, he just saved her from that scarred, foul man, didn’t he? Not to mention that he could have had his way with her, and she might have only struggled a little...maybe. There was something definitely wrong with her! “Wait!” She nearly spun on him. “You heard me!”
He shrugged. “When you speak into the wind, it tends to carry.” The smirk he supplied with his answer did nothing to aleve her raging hormones. God, he was sexy! Even her ex did not have the ability to make her squirm like this man, and he had several years to perfect it.
Maddie’s car was up ahead, so she used the key fob without turning around. The car started remotely, and the engine turning over was music to her ears. A sense of peace washed over her before she felt a slight tightness in her chest. The stress of everything must have crept on her suddenly. There was so much riding on making that bar a success for her and her mother, and then all this. Maybe getting some shut eye was exactly what she needed before her meeting with Mr UnsatiableLandWhore Maxwell and his attorney. “Well, thank you...umm…” She stopped and held out a stiff hand and waited for a response. Waited for him to supply the missing name that would fill the blank.
Standing in front of her, he looked at the proffered hand and his lips curved in a sensual smile. Her gut clenched as he slowly reached for her hand and pulled it towards him. “Lyander,” he bent over her hand and tugged her closer before brushing his lips across hers, and then continued, “at your service.” The small escape of air past her lips had him growling again, near primal and she thought she was going to lose it.
Snatching her hand back from him, she stepped back. “Yes, well. Again, thanks for that.” She hustled to her car to avoid another scenario where she did not stop him. Would it have been so bad? Muttering to herself, she snatched at the door handle only giving enough pause for it to unlock and then threw it open. Once in the car, she closed the door sound and placed her seatbelt on. When she threw the car in gear and urged the car forward, she could not help a last glance back at the man that was both her rescuer and tormentor as he stood watching her departure. He would not be an easy man to forget.