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Ivy was down in the lobby, bags packed and nervously waiting at 5:50. She’d been told by the agency that a limousine would pick her up and drive her to the airport, but, other than that, no clues or indications—aside from
the suggestion of warm clothing—were given. At exactly 6 p.m., a black stretch-limousine pulled up in front of her building. Grabbing her bags, she pushed through the door, the cold February air gusting into the doorway as she headed out onto the sidewalk where she was met by the driver. An older man, close to his sixties, with grey hair and wearing a long navy-blue woolen coat, he reached down to grab her bags.

“Miss Hughes, I presume?”

“Yes, that’s me. Thank you!” She smiled as she handed the heavy luggage over to him. After placing her things in the trunk, he opened the door, motioning for her to take a seat.

Sliding into the back, she felt strange, the lone passenger in the back of a stretch limousine. The plush, velvet seats hugged every curve of her body, giving her the feeling of being wrapped in a warm blanket as she unbuttoned the top few buttons of her coat.

“Sit back and relax ma’am. We should be at the airport shortly,” the driver announced as he glanced at her through the rearview mirror. The small, dark window between the driver and her was then raised, closing her in the back alone as he pulled away from the curb.

Fidgeting a little, she opened the small compartments around her—a small bar stocked with liquor in one, garbage pail in another, and the third filled with cans of soda. She was too nervous to take anything. Besides, she didn’t know how long she actually had before they reached the airport. Six p.m. was right in the middle of rush hour traffic, and it could take them anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour and a half. Sitting back, she tried to relax by checking her email and her Facebook account. She even blew a little time playing Candy Crush Saga and a few rounds of Angry Birds.

As they pulled onto the airport property, she was surprised. She’d expected that they would fly out of one of the three major airports near New York City: Kennedy, LaGuardia, or Newark. Instead, they pulled into Teterboro airport, in Bergen County, New Jersey, where a small private jet was waiting for them on the runway. After clearing security, she was permitted to board the plane, where, again, she was the only occupant. She wasn’t used to such luxurious accommodations. It was thrilling and nerve wracking all at once. The plane was okayed for take-off, and after a pleasant greeting from the pilot via the plane’s intercom, they were smoothly soaring though the air.

It was a magnificent experience being catered to by the flight crew. She was given a choice of filet mignon or chicken Francese for dinner. She chose the filet—which was perfectly prepared and melted in her mouth with every bite—accompanied by fingerling potatoes and baby carrots. It was the most heavenly gourmet meal, and nothing like the airplane food she had been served in the past. Along with a lovely glass of Merlot, it was the perfect dinner, and she was surprised that, despite her nerves, she had eaten every bite. Then again, she hadn’t eaten anything else all day.

Nearly three and a half hours after take-off, their descent was announced. It was dark, and, other than land and snow, it was hard to make out anything as they dropped in altitude and landed on the small landing strip, which looked as if it were in the middle of nowhere. There was a small airport building lit up in the distance, and the butterflies in her stomach danced in full fury as they taxied toward it.

“Welcome, Miss Hughes, to Colorado, where the time is 8:45 p.m. and the temperature is a crisp twenty degrees,” the captain announced, as the plane taxied toward the terminal.

Colorado? Now this was a surprise.

This was it—the moment she’d anticipated for the past four weeks. The plane had come to a stop a short distance from where the small airport terminal stood. Slipping on her coat and gloves as the door to the fuselage was opened, Ivy watched as the airport crew wheeled the stairs up to meet it. She immediately spotted the limousine parked on the runway.

Stepping over the threshold of the plane, the wind whipped around, making her draw in a deep breath. The cold air was a sudden shock, and she laughed nervously. Descending the staircase, she held on to the rail, glad she had donned her gloves. The temperature of the cold, metal banister permeated the thin leather material upon touch. She’d definitely have to pick up something more suitable for the bitter-cold climate. She watched as the driver opened the door to the limousine and a tall, dark, broad man wearing a suede coat, Stetson hat, and Frye boots stepped out and smiled at her—a smile that almost bowled her over—and suddenly, she didn’t feel so cold. As he began to walk toward her, his cowboy gait and sexy grin made him seem as if he’d stepped off the silver screen and onto the airport runway. When he stopped in front of her, she glanced up. His big brown eyes shone as brightly as his smile.

“Perfect.”

She laughed. “Well, my mom thinks so.” Extending her hand, she smiled at him. “Hi, I’m Ivy, and you are…?”

Chapter Three

“Deacon…Deacon Brooks, and it’s a real pleasure to meet you Ivy.” His eyes pierced through the darkness like an arrow, and she could feel the impact deep within her soul. With just one look, the air around them changed. He nodded his head toward the limousine. “Your chariot awaits, Ivy.”

She couldn’t help her nervous laughter. “My chariot. You make it sound so fairytale-like.”

“Well, it’s not every day a princess as beautiful as you arrives on a white stallion.”

He motioned toward the plane, and she gasped and smiled as she read the writing on the tail wing. Underneath the logo of a horse’s head surrounded by a half-wreath were the words: White Stallion Express. In her rush to board the plane, she hadn’t taken notice.

Turning toward him, she laughed. “I hadn’t noticed the name when I boarded the plane. That’s pretty sweet.” She blushed. “Thank you.”

He chuckled back. “Thanks for thinking so. I was pretty sure it sounded a bit corny when it left my mouth.”

Holding up her hand with her thumb and index finger about an inch apart, she joked, “Well, maybe just a little, but I loved it…so you’re good!”

Deacon playfully swiped his hand across his forehead and graced her with another brilliant smile. “Phew…I was really sweating it there for a minute.” Walking the few feet to the back of the limo, he opened the rear door as the driver loaded her bags into the trunk of the car.

“Come on darlin,’ our adventure is about to begin.”

Drawing in a quick breath, she nodded, scurried across the blacktop, and ducked into the backseat, where Deacon sat—very close—beside her.

“So, where are we heading?” She glanced up at him and grinned. He had just taken off his hat, and was running his fingers through the thickest head of black hair—a little longer than the suits she was used to dealing with, but very sexy. She was wondering what it would feel like to comb her fingers through his mane when she realized he was answering her question.

“Well, for the next two nights, Access to Love has put us up in a fancy ski lodge not far from here.”

Momentarily disappointed when he said it was a ski lodge, it must have shown on her face. Reaching out, he laid the broad palm of his hand on her thigh and leaned in toward her. The minute he touched her, she felt a current run through her body.

“I’m not much of a skier, to be honest, but they do have some fun snow-tubing runs and some great walking trails.”

She felt relief and the tension leave her body at the mention of snow-tubing and trails. “That sounds wonderful. What about the rest of the weekend?” she asked. She was here for three nights, and he had only mentioned two.

“Well, I figured we could take a ride to my ranch. It’s about two hours away. I’d love to show you my property and horses.”

She smiled, noting that he hadn’t moved his hand from her thigh. “I’d love to see your ranch. It’s been a long time since I’ve been around horses; probably an even longer time since I’ve ridden one.”

Squeezing her thigh, he didn’t remove his hand. “Well, we’ll just have to remedy that, won’t we.” He grinned and nodded as he made his declaration.

The ride to the ski lodge was pleasant. He’d asked about her background and family, and she told him she’d grown up an only child in a small town just outside of Stowe, Vermont, attended Boston University, and headed to New York City after graduation to pursue a career as a graphic artist. He had been born and raised in the same small town in Colorado where he lived now. He was a third-generation horse rancher, and never had any ambition to leave or pursue anything else. He loved what he did and where he was from. He spoke of it all with such pride and reverence. It was comforting to listen to his slow drawl, and the way he spoke about his life. It seemed simple and basic, a world away from the hustle and bustle of New York City.

Pulling through the overhead iron gate, it was difficult to read the name of the lodge from the back seat of the limousine. After driving a good distance on a long, winding entrance road, obviously up the side of a mountain, passing what seemed like miles of nothing but untouched snow that glistened and gleamed by the white light of the moon, they came to a stop. The lodge was a breathtaking, enormous log-cabin-style structure. Its lobby was an open, cavernous area with the highest vaulted, beamed ceilings she had ever seen, yet its small sitting areas and multiple fireplaces made it seem cozy and comfy.

Deacon had already checked in earlier in the day and she was given the key to their two-bedroom suite. To be honest, she was relieved to know she had her own room. She’d been wondering how it was all going to be handled. After all, Access to Love had not given her many clues. Deacon brought her bags to her room as she checked out the accommodations. There was a small kitchenette, a living room with a fireplace, and a small balcony. Deacon had given her the master bedroom, complete with king-size bed and a large en suite with a Jacuzzi whirlpool tub. His room was much smaller, and had a queen-size bed and simple bathroom. The gesture on his part was very sweet.

After checking out the balcony for a few moments, and although she wanted to stay up to get to know Deacon better, Ivy decided to call it a night. She was tired from the travel and the excitement of the day, and they had a big weekend ahead of them.

“I’m really looking forward to getting to know you this weekend, Deacon.”

Tilting his head, he smiled at her. “As am I darlin’.” He took one-step closer, and her heart began to beat rapidly in her

chest.

“Is it okay if I give you a kiss goodnight? I’ll be a gentleman—I promise.” His eyes traveled to her lower lip as she drew it into her mouth and bit down on it, then nodded, giving him the okay.

She couldn’t believe she had just met him, and that he wanted this goodnight kiss as much as she did. Reaching out, he cupped her cheeks in the palms of his hands, the calloused pad of his thumb brushing over her cheekbones as he leaned in. She closed her eyes as he placed a gentle, soft kiss on her lips before pulling back.

“Goodnight, sweet Ivy. Pleasant dreams.”

Smiling, he turned around and disappeared through his bedroom door, leaving her standing there in a dream-like state, admiring the view as he walked away. What a view it was—he looked just as good leaving as he did coming—and boy, could he wear a pair of jeans.

Chapter Four

The early morning sun streamed through the sheer drapery that hung in the window. Arching her back in a full body stretch, Ivy moaned as she slowly opened her eyes. The reality of where she was made her smile as she glanced around the room. Beautiful, cream-colored bedding mixed with rich hues of gold brocade and corded edging offset rustic, dark wood furniture, heavy and masculine in style. It was simply the most luxurious bedding she had ever slept in, and she had slept soundly for the first time in days. Sudden panic had her bolting to a sitting position as she focused on the blue, digital display on the bedside clock. It was nearly quarter past nine—way later than she usually slept, or had expected to sleep this morning. Throwing off the comforter, she slid out of bed and slipped on her robe before heading out to the main room. This was certainly not the way she would have wanted to greet Deacon—rumpled from sleep and un-showered—but she felt she needed to explain this morning’s indulgence of sleeping in. Opening the door to the main area, she peeked out. All was quiet as she slowly walked toward the kitchen area where, on the counter, she found a single long stem rose and a penned note written on fine linen paper with the resort’s name,
The Cambridge Chateau, embossed on the top.

Morning Sweet Ivy,

I hope you slept well. I didn’t want to wake you. I’m down in the restaurant having coffee. After you’ve dressed, come on down for a nice, hearty breakfast. I’m looking forward to spending the day with you.

~Deacon~

Lifting the paper to her nose, not really knowing why—perhaps she wanted to see if it still held the scent of him—she drew in a deep breath as she turned toward the glass doors that overlooked the deck, amazed by the breathtaking view in front of her. The resort was literally perched on the side of the mountain. Placing the note down on the counter top, she walked over to the door and flung it open. Crisp, cool air, and the most amazing vista greeted her. She could barely catch her breath at its brilliance. Snowcapped mountains in the distance, ski lifts, and people already out on the trails reminded her that the day had already begun. Turning, she shut the door behind her and padded into her bedroom, where she quickly showered and dressed to meet Deacon in the restaurant for breakfast.

BOOK: Pursuit-of-Passion-PDF3
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